Burberry Raincoats And Other Cool Things You Can Borrow From Your Hotel

London may be known for its rainy climate but one hotel in the British capital has decided loaning out umbrellas just wasn’t cool enough for its elite clientele — not when you could loan out Burberry trench coats instead.

The Maybourne Hotel Group — which runs a number of high-end hotels in London — is placing the designer raincoats in suites so that guests can ward off the weather. Visitors can use the Burberry coats for free during their stay, but will have to cough up around $1,500 if they want to take them home.

Trench coats are just one of many luxurious perks hotels are offering to woo guests. Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of cool and surprising things on loan to travelers.If you’re staying at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, there’s no need to worry about picking up a cramped rental car. The hotel will set guests up with a nice set of free wheels — all you have to do is decide if you want to hit the road in a Porsche, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Cadillac, Mercedes or Bentley.

Earlier this year, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai announced it was letting guests play with an iPad during their stay. Of course, being Dubai, they’re not just handing out any old iPad — their blinged-out devices are plated in nothing less than 24-carat gold.

And finally, if you’re tired of everything in your suitcase, you can put together a killer new outfit thanks to the Fred Segal lending library at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel. The program lets hotel guests borrow a range of accessories such as expensive purses, necklaces and sunglasses from the upscale clothing retailer.

Have you come across any other lavish hotel perks?

Delta Speeds Passengers To Their Flight In Sports Cars

We’ve all seen (or been) those passengers running through the airport, suitcase flying behind them, as they desperately try to make their connecting flight. Now, Delta Airlines has come up with a solution to get connecting passengers to their aircraft as quickly as possible — whiz them there in a Porsche.

Passengers that are running late for their next flight have been surprised to find themselves shuttled across the tarmac in a $50,000 luxury sports vehicle. Delta says Porsche donated eight of the cars as part of a marketing campaign, and the perk helps to keep fliers happy.But don’t get too excited yet — the service is only available to super elite frequent fliers, and even then, you have to be running really late for your flight. Although that’s just a small percentage of all air passengers, those frequent fliers who travel more than 125,000 miles per year are where the airlines make a lot of their money, so ensuring those customers are satisfied is good for business.

The Porsche rides program is currently available in Atlanta, but is being expanded to New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles this month.

Hertz Launches Dream Car Rental Service For Those Who Just Can’t Drive 55

Yesterday, Hertz, one of the largest rental car companies in the world, announced the launch of their new Dream Cars service in the U.S. This new offering allows customers to rent exotic sports cars and high-end luxury models that typically haven’t been available from the company in the past, granting travelers an opportunity to explore their destination in head-turning style.

Some of the vehicles that are available for rent include the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz AMG, Porsche 911 and the SRT Viper, just to name a few. And for those who want to enjoy a luxury ride while still remaining eco-friendly, Hertz is even offering the Tesla Model S electric sedan.

The Dream Car service extends well beyond just renting an amazing luxury ride. Hertz will also send a representative to deliver the car to the customer and give them a one-on-one orientation of the vehicle as well. Customers can be met at their terminal in the airport or the car can be delivered to a location of their choice.Hertz says that Dream Cars will soon be available in 35 markets across the U.S., including such major cities as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Dallas and Chicago. As of this writing, the website lists only Florida locations such as Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach, however, so it may take some time for the service to spread out. It should also be noted that not all vehicles are available in each location, so if you’re considering renting your personal dream car, you may want to peruse the catalog ahead of time.

The website doesn’t list pricing for these high-end vehicles, but you can bet they’ll be well beyond what most of us can afford. Still, if you’re looking to splurge on your next vacation and you want to spend a few days driving around in a car that is above and beyond anything you’ve ever imagined, this is a service that can deliver that experience for you.

As for me, I’m already daydreaming about living out my James Bond fantasies with that Aston Martin Vantage.

Gansevoort Hotel Group teams up with Porsche to provide rides for guests

Talk about a sweet deal (and a wild ride).

Porsche cars and the Gansevoort Hotel Group in New York City have partnered in an exclusive new transportation arrangement for hotel guests.

Starting Aug. 15, guests at both the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and the newest location on Park Avenue South can take the 2011 Porsche Panamera 4S for a little joy ride around the city.

Both Gansevoort hotels will pick up and drop off guests at the airport for free, and cart them around to specific city hot spots, upon request. While this baby glides, we can’t promise it will get you through New York traffic any faster. But we can assure you you’ll look better in the back seat of this car than in a yellow cab.

Bolshoi in Russia: Stumbling between Devoloped and Developing

Here is a laundry list of my observations based on traveling in Russia and talking to people here. I am stating in advance that this post might offend people (believe me, I’ve already taken a ton of heat for my prior posts, even if some were meant to be tongue-in-cheek). Since the terms “first” and “third” world no longer carry the same meaning they once did (after the “second” world vanished with the disappearance of the Soviet Union,) I will use politically correct terms “developing” and “developed” instead.

I’ll also remind you, dear readers, that this is based on a relatively short trip, focused on Moscow and St. Petersburg, plus some background research into statistics.

I will start by saying that I have never been to a country where you are so frequently thrown from luxury to poverty in a matter of blocks or minutes (sorry, NYC, you’re not #1 in this regard). One minute, you think that you are in one of the most developed countries on the planet. The next minute, you feel…completely the opposite. The gap between the rich and the poor is wide in America, too. But it’s a little different here. There is no visible middle class in Moscow, so you get thrown from “high” to “low” very abruptly.

Top reasons that make Russia look like a developed country:

  • Arts. Museums have amazing collections; orchestras have fantastic musicians.
  • Design. Although related to Arts, but Russia’s young designers (interior, product, etc.) deserve their own category. They do really cutting-edge work here.
  • Prices in big cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg). Moscow is the most expensive city in the world. No really, it is.
  • Nightlife. As described in one of my previous posts, the club scene is dazzling.
  • Education. Very high literacy level (Russia’s 99.4% rate beats America’s). Russians are avid readers. Good schools (although I’ve heard rumors it’s pretty easy to buy a college diploma here).
  • Luxury. Premium cars and fashion brands are seen everywhere. Heck, an enormous Rolex ad sits opposite the Kremlin.
  • Sushi. The sushi wave has hit Russia big time. It’s good and it’s one of the most reasonably-priced things to eat.
  • Good coffee. You can get a good espresso so many places now.
  • Technology. You can pay all your bills through electronic kiosks. How cool is that?
  • Wi-Fi. It is not difficult to connect to free Wi-Fi. Even Red Square has Wi-Fi spots.
  • Personal safety. You do feel safe here.
  • Low birth rates. On par with the rest of the West, Russian women postpone having babies and only have one, maybe two. (Not saying that’s necessary good, but that it mimics the developed world.)
  • Secular society. Although religion (Russian Orthodox), is an important part of the society, it doesn’t enter politics too much. (Same here: this is not a judgment.)

Top reasons that make Russia look like a developing country:

  • Can’t drink tap water in most places.

  • Service is generally quite poor. Certainly not compatible with the cost of things.

  • Plumbing. Showers are smelly (lack of traps) and in many places you can’t throw toilet paper into the bowl, and are told to put it in the bin next to the toilet.

  • Lack of international signage. Reading Cyrillic is a must, in restaurant menus or public transport.

  • Pollution. Air is terrible in Moscow and not great in St. Pete’s. Cars still use leaded gas here. And, that gas is cheap.

  • Russian passport doesn’t exactly “open doors” to many developed countries

  • Human rights abuses. Lack of care for the disabled or physically challenged (as of last year, there was not even a law prohibiting discrimination). Gay parades are prohibited. On-going freedom of press issues. (In the interest of brevity, I will spare you the citations in this post, so please feel free to do your own research.) Foreigners must register, like in many “police states.” Foreign tourists still have to register with the police if they want to stay more than three business days. This is a pain in the butt, but some hotels will do it for you.

  • Poor healthcare. CIA estimates that 1% of Russian are HIV-positive, while Russia “is not counting.” (Official estimates are less than a third of what international bodies estimate, and Russian health officials scoff at international estimates.) Cancer treatment is virtually non-existent for those who can’t afford it, and survival rates are a fraction of those in the West.
  • Low life expectancy. An average Russian man can expect to live 59 years.
  • Smoking. Sixty-plus percent of adult population in Russia smokes. That certainly doesn’t help their low life expectancy. It doesn’t help that cigarettes are cheap. A pack starts at less than a dollar. A pack of Marlboros will set you back less than $2.
  • Opulent displays of wealth, real or fake. The popularity of excessive jewelry and leopard-print clothing cannot go unnoticed.
  • Rudeness and inability to form functioning lines. My pet peeve. I always thought Czechs were rude. It must be an East European thing.
  • High emigration rate. A high percentage of people leaving a country with no intentions to come back…it’s a bad sign.
  • No middle class. It’s either Bentley or a Lada. Or, it could also be a “Volsche“. One billionaire had an old Volga (another Russian car) put on the chassis of a Porsche Cayenne and had the car decorated with Swarowski crystals–and a picture of Stalin— at a cost of $1m. Call me biased, but this is easily as bad as whatever the Tsar had ever done.
  • And, of course, xenophobia. Russia still remains the greatest country ever. (A least that’s what you get by reading the Moscow News.)

From Russia, with love.