Women try to smuggle dead relative onto flight

We talk a lot here at Gadling about annoying airline passengers, from the guy who smashes our knees by reclining his seat back as far as it can go, to the self-righteous fellow who simply must convert us before the plane lands.

Two women in England have them all beat–they tried to smuggle a dead body on board. The unnamed women were stopped at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport on Saturday as they wheeled their “sleeping” relative up to the gate for a flight to Germany. Airport officials became suspicious and when they began to ask questions about the 91 year-old man, the duo’s story quickly unraveled.

By covering the man with a blanket and putting sunglasses on him, they apparently thought they could slip by security. Perhaps they were inspired by the Australian who got a bag labeled “bomb” past security or the United flight that had a stowaway scorpion.

The two suspects, who the police have identified only as women aged 41 and 66 from Oldham in Greater Manchester, have been charged with failing to report on death and have been released on bail pending an investigation and, most likely, a trial.

A look inside Liverpool’s Beatles-themed hotel

A zip and link bed and art by Shannon at The Hard Days Night Hotel
The Hard Days Night Hotel
is a Beatles-lover’s must-see, located right in the heart of Liverpool’s city center, just around the corner from the famous Cavern Club. I recently had the opportunity to visit said hotel, which Scott Carmichael told you about back in May (Liverpool Hard Days Night Hotel offers the real Beatles experience).

It’s easy to walk right by the hotel if you don’t know where it is (I did several times), so watch for the sandwich boards for Blake’s, the adjoined cafe. The anonymity of the exterior isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it keeps the onslaught of tourists from entering the hotel (and wandering the guest floors — each of which is locked by keycard for safety), and helps maintain an air of exclusivity for their glamorous Bar Four.

The hotel itself is a four-star luxury property overseen by General Manager Mike Dewey, with whom I had a brief chat and a tour. “We’re a luxury hotel first and foremost,” he said, “but it’s important for an independent hotel to have stuff that’s a little different. To be different is more difficult than you’d think.” I believe part of the struggle he’s referring to is how to keep your hotel in the “luxury” realm while fully expressing a theme like The Beatles. One expects tons of kitsch the moment they walk in the door — but that’s not really what you get. The theme work is surprisingly tasteful, from the enormous murals of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their respective namesake suites to the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” montage in Blake’s, where breakfast is served.

Sir Peter Blake himself has actually visited the hotel and the restaurant which bears his name. “He loved it,” said Dewey. “He was very accommodating, willing to sign anything.”

Beatles photos and memorabilia appear all over the hotel. Many rooms feature unique Beatles artwork by Shannon, and even the staircases are lined with photos of the Beatles’ glory days. What I found most impressive were the details, like the scores of … scores (sheet music) hanging from the lighting fixtures in the lobby and a “Rupert the Bear” emblazoned rug in the Paul McCartney suite — McCartney featured the bear in his 1984 music video for “We All Stand Together” and also created him a cartoon vehicle called “Rupert and the Frog Song.”

Two things you’re certain to find at The Hard Days Night Hotel are bullshit-free service (Dewey said his only rules are “wear your uniform and be nice to people”) and like-minded Beatles fans. “In most hotels,” said Dewey, “Sunday through Thursday you look after business people, and Friday and Saturday you look after leisure people. Here, we do leisure seven days per week.”

What, not eight?
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This trip was paid for by VisitBritain and VisitLiverpool, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

New York City bargain destination perfect for a 3-day weekend

New York City may be the most expensive place to live, but if you like to walk; it’s a bargain to visit. Arrive by Friday late afternoon, and by Sunday evening you can knock off most of the must see places and eat without spending much money. By the end, you’ll know a good bit of what makes this city so grand.

I recently tested out this method with a friend of my daughter’s who is a high school exchange student from Germany. She wanted to see New York and I’m always up for a trip. We did stay with my brother, but I do have two budget hotel suggestions that have been used by people I know.

When going to New York, have a point of orientation. Mine is Union Square located at East 14th Street and Broadway. Union Square is a hub where the subway station below ground offers trains in every direction and the park above is a gathering place of street vendors, a community farmers market and people out for a stroll depending upon the season and the day. In December, there’s a wonderful holiday market with creative, high quality items from around the world.

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This is where we began our New York jaunt on a Friday morning about 10 a.m. after arriving at LaGuardia from Columbus in time for the first bus into Manhattan. (The shuttle bus from LaGuardia drops passengers outside Grand Central Station. We took the #6 subway downtown to the Union Square stop. The roundtrip bus ticket is $21,)

Day 1

From Union Square, after dropping our things at my brother’s), we walked down Broadway to Ground Zero, a place I had been avoiding ever since September 11. The walk led us through Washington Square Park, New York University and the gallery district of SoHo. Along the way, we window shopped and admired the architecture. The American Thread Company, 260 W. Broadway is one that caught our eye in particular. The building gave me a chance to point out the city’s industrial past and imagine life in NYC during the late 1900s.

Ground Zero is now a bustling construction site where it’s possible to peek through the fence to see the progress of the new girders. Along the outside fence are building plans. As devastating as the area feels, there’s also a sense of renewal and hope.

The other World Trade Center buildings are still bustling with commerce. The 3 World Financial Center-American Express Building is a wonderful mix of office building and shopping mall. With Christmas approaching, Santa was busy listening to children’s wish lists. I couldn’t help notice how the holiday lights, poinsettias and Christmas tree inside the building inside were such a contrast to what occurred outside eight years ago. From the top of the steps in the atrium, there’s an excellent view of the construction site.

The American Express building also has a small display of the history of American Express. I particularly enjoyed the brochures that were developed to entice people to travel to far off places. On the second floor, above where the museum is located, notice the four murals. Each is of a major city in one part of the world. Venice, Istanbul and Rio De Janeiro are three of them. I think the 4th is Hong Kong. The title plate was behind a barrier so we couldn’t read it. People who work in the building who I asked about the mural didn’t know either.

From here we walked along the river to Battery Park where we purchased tickets to Liberty and Ellis Island. The walk on this end of Manhattan will take you by lovely apartment buildings and public spaces. Of note is the right before you arrive at the ferry terminal for the Statue of Liberty. There is construction site fencing around most of it, but the quotes from famous people added uplift to the day.

After a short wait, we were on an early afternoon ferry headed for the Statue of Liberty. The $12 ticket purchased at the booth operated by the National Park Service covers the ferry ride to Liberty Island and Ellis Island which includes the museum. We arrived at Liberty Island with enough time to walk around Lady Liberty and spend a few minutes in the gift shop before taking the next ferry to Ellis Island.

By this time we were starved, so after seeing the free movie about the history of Ellis Island’s past as the gateway for immigrants, we bought lunch at the café. A bowl of chicken soup cost $4.50.

By 4:00 p.m. we were back in Manhattan heading to Union Square to meet up with my dad and my brother, then off to the Museum of Modern Art-MOMA. On Fridays from 4:00-8:00, the museum is free. To get from 2nd Ave. and 14th Street, two blocks from Union Square, we took a taxi–$17 including a tip.

From MOMA it’s a short walk down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center and across the street from there is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. During Christmas, be prepared to be jostled a bit while you look at the center’s Christmas tree and watch the ice skaters. Give skating a pass. It is not budget travel.

Next stop, back to Union Square via subway where we headed to Chat ‘NChew, 10 East 16th St. for a late dinner. Chat ‘NChew’s specialty is comfort food. I ate the red beans and rice-a dish under $5.

Day 2

First stop, Union Square’s holiday craft bazaar where I bought non-alcoholic glugg for $2.50 before we headed to the School of Visual Arts Gallery via subway which took us to Chelsea. The walk was the chance to see the transition from a working class neighborhood to a warehouse district that has been changed to gallery spaces.

From there we walked to the Empire State Building on 34th Street, passing Madison Square Gardens and Penn Station along the way.

Before getting in line for our tickets to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, we ducked across the street to buy a slice of NY style pizza for $3.50. I had the spinach and feta cheese variety. When I forked over the $20 admission to the Empire State building, I swallowed the ticket price by seeing it as a contribution to preserving American history. The Art Deco architectural details are splendid.

We were blessed with a clear night so I was able to point out various buildings and bridges. Look for Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. The Chrysler Building is obvious.

Next was a walk past the Macy’s windows decked out for Christmas on our way to Times Square and Broadway. As always, there’s a surprise on some corner in New York. The biggest one this time was at Broadway where the annual Santa pub crawl was in full swing There were hundreds of people dressed up like Santa Claus milling about in the midst of .the flashing neon.

After our Christmas spirit fix, off we headed back to Union Square and a walk to Hollywood Diner at 16th Street and 6th Avenue. If you’re with another person, split the appetizer platter. The mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and chicken fingers cost us less than $6 a piece.

Day 3

After breakfast on-the-go at Chomp on 14th Street near 2nd Avenue where a small cup of coffee and a bagel is $2 we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art via the # 6 train. The museum has a suggested admission price of $20 for adults, but you can pay what you want.. Don’t feel cheap if you pay less. I do. For a trip through the best of the world’s cultural and artistic riches, here’s the place. My favorite exhibit was The Amercans, photographsby Robert Frank who created a photo essay of his travels across the United States from1955 to 1956.

At the other side of Central Park from the Metropolitan is the American Museum of Natural History. We stopped here long enough to see the atrium where part of the movie “Night at the Museum” was filmed. The two large dinosaur skeletons make an impression. Since I had been here two weeks before and we were limited on time, this stop was brief.

The walk through Central Park took us past the Delacorte Theater, home Shakespeare in the Park in the summer. We stopped long enough to take a picture of a couple who had just become engaged. They made a fetching site and asked us to take their picture when we passed by.

Next on the list was The Dakota where John Lennon was killed. The building is not well marked. The entrance is on off of Central Park West.

From here it was on to Grand Central Station where we stopped by the holiday crafts show, the whispering wall and the train museum. The whispering wall is by the food court on the ground floor. Look for two arches in an entry way. If one person stands on one end of an arch and another person stands at the other, you can hear each other talk, even if you’re whispering. Face the wall for it to work.

Next stop Chinatown and dinner at the Shanghai Café. on Mott Street. There were four of us. We had an order of steamed pork dumplings, chicken lo mein, chicken fried rice and a broccoli dish. The bill came to $24. From Chinatown, we headed up Mulberry Street through Little Italy. In a few blocks we came to Umbertos Clam House where we split a carafe of red wine and the high schooler had a cappuchino. The bill came to about $25, as much as dinner. No bargain, but a lovely way to end the evening. The half carafe would have been plenty.

With an early afternoon flight, we headed to the bus stop at Grand Central for the 11:00 a.m. (or thereabouts) bus and had enough time to go to the New York Public Library. Because you can’t take luggage inside, I waited outside for my high school friend to visit. She proclaimed it to be the most wonderful library she has ever seen and marveled that it was free. The library has rotating exhibits so it is always worth a stop.

So there you have it. New York City on the cheap. In all we, spent about $18 each on subway rides. I lost track.

For an inexpensive place to stay near Union Square, try Hotel 17 or the Seafarers International House..

The only place on the high schooler’s list that we did not see was Tiffany’s but we did see Tiffany stained glass windows at the Metropolitan. She also hoped to see the Naked Cowboy, but all those Santas made up for it.

Amsterdam Hilton celebrates John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton,
Talking in our beds for a week.
The newspaper said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.

Christ you know it ain’t easy…

– The Beatles, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”

That’s one of my favorite Beatles songs, and both John Lennon and Yoko Ono helped to make the Amsterdam Hilton one of the world’s most famous hotels, if at least for rock ‘n roll fans, when they picked the spot to camp out in bed for seven days during their honeymoon in 1969.

Right now, the hotel is in the middle of a special exhibition celebrating the famous couple and their “Bed-in for Peace,” during which they gave interviews, from bed, to scores of international journalists and furthered the anti-Vietnam movement that was really getting going in ’69.

There are photo exhibits, music and literary events planned through March 29 at the Amsterdam Hilton.

If you’re in town, go check it out.

Budget Travel: Liverpool, UK

Beautiful shot of Albert Dock by Pete Carr
Summary
: Liverpool. It’s not London, and that’s why it’s not nearly as expensive. But with the old-timey glamor of Albert Dock, a history rich with music, maritime lore, and football (soccer) glory, and a proximity to Chester and Port Sunlight Village, Liverpool is no second rate vacation destination. It’s a first rate European city and an exciting place to visit!

Getting in: The John Lennon International Airport is where it’s at. If you can’t get straight there from where you live, find a trip to Amsterdam, then EasyJet it over to Liverpool. It may take you out of your way, but the savings will likely be worth it, and taking a train from London with all your luggage is a major pain after a long flight. Plus, a layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport can be a pretty good time! Check out the facilities/amenities here.

Where to stay
: Gadling recommends that you stay at the Britannia Adelphi Hotel. This places you just uphill from all the best shopping and dining, near the train station (which you’ll need if you want to take day trips), and walkable to Albert Dock and the city’s cathedrals. The prices are reasonable and the rooms are lovely. There’s also a Marriott nearby if you are looking to cash in points.

What to see: Liverpool’s blue collar roots are well disguised in the trendy City Centre area. We recommend a walk down Bold Street to get you started with shopping, especially the trendy Karen Millen shop. While you’re there, you can eat a very cheap, delicious, healthy vegetarian meal at the exquisitely painted Egg Cafe (and gallery).

The Philharmonic Pub on Hope StreetReady for a pint? Head up to the Philharmonic Pub for a classy, relaxed atmosphere, and, if you can, catch whatever’s playing that night at The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall across the street! Note: The locals don’t say the “H” in Phil*H*armonic, and they will make fun of you if you do — that, or have no idea what you are talking about.

Now you’re on Hope Street. You might notice that at either end of the street, there is a giant cathedral. Visit both! The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (Roman Catholic) looks a bit like a spaceship, or like it might impale any falling angels, but is quite lovely inside. The Liverpool Cathedral (Anglican) is even grander, and definitely worth a tour (you can see all of Liverpool from the top), or at least a stroll through the lovely, probably-haunted graveyard. Hope Street also runs into Mount Street at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where you can catch — or pick up fliers for — all kinds of local music, theater, dance, and more. LIPA was started in 1996 by Sir Paul McCartney and has been spitting out West End stars and more ever since!

If you’re a soccer fan, don’t miss a tour of the Liverpool Football Club museum and stadium. Ask at your hotel for transportation arrangements.

And naturally, if you’re a Beatles fan, don’t miss the Magical Mystery Tour! The tour is run by primary school classmates of The Beatles, and is funny, informative, and a great way to see a lot of Liverpool. It ends at the infamous Cavern Club, which is still alive and well.

Another great way to see Liverpool is the Yellow Duck Marine Tour. The guides on the duck boats are hysterical, and they take you around Albert Dock, where you can also visit a lot of Liverpool’s chicest clubs, the Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, or just get your caricature drawn for a couple of pounds.

Lastly, if you want to get that posh British feeling, take a day trip to Chester. You can get there by train in about 45 minutes and spend the whole day eating crumpets, perusing parfumeries, and walking the wall that covers the entire perimeter of the city. Better still, stop in Port Sunlight Village on your way down. The village itself looks like something you might see in miniature form in a store-front display around Christmas, and it is home to The Lady Lever Art Gallery — a gallery you can totally do in a couple of hours which happens to be my personal favorite throughout the entire world. Don’t miss the basement full of Masonic artifacts.

A trip to Liverpool is worth your time, and, especially in comparison to London, really easy on your wallet!