Point Inside – A handy application for finding your way around a shopping mall

Mapping and navigation aids are nothing special on smartphones – I’ve been using a map application since the late 90’s. Thankfully, there is still plenty of room to innovate in this market, and Point Inside shows how it is done.

Point Inside is a smartphone application available on the iPhone and Android. The app provides indoor maps of 100’s of shopping malls around the country – covering over 100,000 different stores.

Now, I know we target travelers here on Gadling, but I’m sure many of us have walked into a mall looking for an ATM or bathroom, or even just tried to locate a map to help locate something else.

With Point Inside, you can use the location aware feature of your phone to determine where you are, then within seconds, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for.

The application lets you manually select stores by name, but also features quick links to dining and services (ATM’s, drinking fountains, parking, restrooms and more).

I took Point Inside for a spin a the local mega-mall, and its maps were spot on. My only minor gripe is that it is hard to determine distances on the maps, so what looks like a short walk, may actually be longer than you think.

Other than that, Point Inside is a great tool for shoppers – especially if you are at a mall you’ve never ventured through.

Point Inside is free of charge, and is available for the iPhone and Android (search for Point inside in the Market).


Daily Pampering: Luxury Avenue in Cancun changes travel shopping completely

What do you do when your wallet starts to itch? If you’re sunning yourself in Cancun, Mexico, have a car take you from your resort to the new Luxury Avenue. This new travel retail destination has brought together in one place such stores as Mont Blanc, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo and Zegna — creating a shopping experience reminiscent of South Beach or Cannes. Luxury Avenue is within striking distance of the area’s top hotels, including Gran Caribe Real, Ritz-Carlton and Le Meridien Cancun.

When you need a break from toting your bags around — or if you want to fuel up for a run through Luxury Avenue — stop by the Luxury Bar and Café on the mezzanine level; it’s open from noon to 9 PM. There’s always Veuve Clicquot on ice, but you can sip a great red instead, if that’s how you prefer to unwind. Sit back in a bright pink loveseat — courtesy of Veuve — and chill like the flute in your fingers. If you’re intent on working in the midst of this decadence, at least you’ll be able to hit the free high-speed internet access.

Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Get some relief from winter in Bal Harbour this year

Miami is the place to be for holiday shopping. So, put the snow behind you and head for Bal Harbour, where you can pick up a free fourth night’s stay for every three you book at the Sea View Hotel. Once you check in, cross the street and start melting your credit card immediately at the top-rated mall in the United States. Rates start at $537 and are valid through the end of March 2010.

The Sea View Hotel has 220 rooms with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay and an Olympic-size pool surrounded by Key West-style cabanas. If you need relief from the brutality of winter — this usually happens to me in February — plan your exit down to Miami for a few days. And remember that four nights means one of them is free.

A Canadian in Beijing: Summer Ice Skating

Here it is the heat of summer in Beijing and I found myself on ice skates last night. I looked down at the ice rolling under my skate blades in the “You Yi Shopping City” mall ice rink last night and I laughed out loud. I was wearing a light shirt and jeans and the sweat was dripping down my back. Ice skating in the summertime? I don’t think this Canadian has ever been skating without mittens on her hands! China, I keep forgetting how inventive you are!

Last night, a group of us went to a local mall to strap on skates and make some circles around the rink. It was a standard ice rink just like the ones back home, but this one was in the middle of a huge shopping mall – one of the largest in Beijing – and it’s not the only ice rink found in a mall in this city. In fact, naïve me thought that only our famous “West Edmonton Mall” in Canada had ever thought of such a crazy idea. Turns out, thanks to a quick chat with my Quebecois friends who came along, that there’s one in a mall in Montreal too. So, I guess it’s not so rare after all . . .

When we arrived, we descended down giant escalators into a wide walkway and saw gallery style railings that looked down and into the ice rink. People leaned over these railings all evening, intermittently watching the skating from above. I did the same for a moment before going down yet another set of escalators into the skating area.

Choosing skates was the first adventure. I don’t use figure skates because I’m more comfortable in hockey skates. When I asked for hockey skates, the overwhelming response was “Are you sure? They’re dangerous!” I assured the staff and my Chinese friend that I was sure and was reluctantly handed the skates without picks on the blades. It seems as though this choice is more rare here in China, especially for a woman. I explained that I thought it was more dangerous for me to have the picks on the ends of the blades because I’m not used to them and they catch the ice and could tip me forward. It all depends on experience, I suppose.

We all sat down and strapped our skates on and I was excited. It’s not every day that I get to go skating and, even though I live one hour from the longest skating rink in the world (Ottawa’s Rideau Canal), I did not make it into Ottawa for a skating day this winter. I love to skate but I had to go to Beijing to find the time!

My skates were laced and done up long before anyone else’s. I took to the ice and took a few loops to gather back my comfort on blades. I love the feeling of ice beneath me. It’s such a powerful sound, too, that slick scrape of skate blades on frozen water. The very pitch of that sound is nostalgic. Then, when I get the rhythm under me, I feel like I’m flying on the ice the way flying sometimes feels in a dream state. It’s as though you’re being carried along and not actually generating the flight, like the way your hand will catch and ride the wind when you dangle it out your car window while driving.

Like surfing the air.

I suddenly realized that I was daydreaming and ignoring my friends then, and so I went back to check in on them to find out why they were taking so long. There were some size confusions with the skates and then lots of switching between hockey skates and figure skates going on. All of my friends that came with me are male, but all but one settled on figure skates in the end.

It’s very common for men to skate with figure skates here. It’s very unusual back home, in my experience, unless they are training to be figure skaters. In fact, in Canada, I’m ashamed to say that as kids we used to differentiate hockey skates and figure skates as boys’ skates and girls’ skates, respectively. I no longer see it this way, of course, knowing that many women (like me) prefer hockey skates and/or play ice sports and many men (of all sexual orientations!) are accomplished figure skaters. Still, I realized last night that these assumptions are still in me when I found myself marvelling at all the boys in figure skates being so beautiful and graceful with their turns and spins while I roughly cut and scraped the ice at top speed, racing between people and wishing I had a hockey stick and a puck to chase.

Stereotypes are meant to be broken.

When I looked up at the posters hanging from the upper railings around the rink, I saw a maple leaf almost immediately. A picture of a local hockey team showed the kids wearing hockey jerseys with various NHL team logos. One of the kids in the front row was sporting a Montreal Canadiens jersey. I definitely felt at home in that moment and quietly complimented the photographer on placing that kid in the front row. Of all the teams to feature, I’d say that was a good choice!

There were many little kids on the ice as well — some who looked no more than four years old — and several were being coached in certain techniques by professional skaters. The center of the ice was being used as training areas as were the corner circles, thus making it necessary to skate a bit slower in order to avoid collision with the little ones. Speed could be increased as it got later, though. By around nine o’clock, the rink was clearing out and we had the last half an hour with lots of free space to mess around and practise tricks and have some races.

I had a great time. It was an unusual outing, for sure, but I enjoyed the exercise and the challenge of trying to remember how to skate backwards in a circle. The skills we learn as kids stay in our limbs, I believe, and I found my body recalling the movements and finding the steadiness bit by bit. I’ll have to go back and keep practising!

When we left, it was closing time at 9:30. Some of my friends spent most of their time off the ice, but everyone tried to skate, at least, and we all put on our shoes again in a good mood.

With the piped in Muzak still ringing in our ears, we watched the rink staff rolling large silver coverings onto the ice not unlike those used in the windshields of cars in the summertime to protect one’s interior from overheating. No zamboni and so I imagine that this technique enables the rink to maintain its frozen state, like a cooler. Still, I wonder how they do smooth the surface again? Perhaps the zamboni comes out in the mornings? I have no idea.

I woke up this morning with sore muscles and a bit of homesickness for Canada. Next year, I’m not going to miss the canal. That’s a promise to myself.

And I’ll be sure not to forget my mittens.