Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Food Halls at Harrods - But Do They Have Char Siu?

Within the same hall that includes the Fromagerie, is the Charcuterie and Traiteur sections. Charcuterie is defined as a store where pork products, hams and pates (a spread usually made of finely chopped liver) are sold. This includes a variety of sausages and biltongs (strips of dried meat). Traiteur is a fancy term for a delicatessen or caterer. Choose from a selection of caviar and terrines (an oblong molded dish served cold usually consisting of pressed meat, game, fish and/or vegetables). Harrods sells a Jambon Iberico Ham Sandwich for 15 British Pounds (US$30). The ham is not currently sold in the USA pending FDA approval. Harrods advertises it as a "cured leg of ham, from Guijelo, Spain, produced to century-old traditions. Made from the meat of free-ranging acorn-fed iberico pigs, cured naturally. With an astonishing sweet and complex flavour and a melting texture." Oh yeah, there is a Chinatown in London. Better you find char siu there.
Charcuterie Counter

Traiteur Counter

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Food Halls at Harrods - Smile and Say "Fromage"

The fourth post about the Food Halls at Harrods is the room you'll probably roam into next. This Fromagerie, Charcuterie and Traiteur room will likely increase your French vocabulary by two or three words. Let's start with the fromage section. Fromage simply means cheese of which there are four main groups: sheep, cow, goat and blue. The most expensive cheese at Harrods is Truffle stuffed Brie priced at 69.90 British Pounds per kilo. That's alsmost $140 dollars U.S. for a little over 34 ounces.

Breath in these creamy views of the fromage bar and counter. The product in the last picture below are some of the velvety butters from Europe. Don't even mention the words Velveeta or Country Crock when roaming the varied selection.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hope You Can't Hear Me Now

Here's a subject most of us wouldn't dare think about. But imagine going on a vacation in the U.S. where there is no cellphone signal for any wireless company network. Forbes LLC states that more than 230 million Americans, 75% of the population, use cellphones and made 2 trillion minutes worth of calls on them. A joint effort of Forbes and American Roamer, a company that makes coverage maps for wireless carriers, found large signal-free areas as well as small holes in the sum of all networks in places like national parks. They found that each of these places have stuff to do except chat on a cellphone. In the map above, the areas of white or lightest shades of blue is where there is zero or weak wireless reception.

So if you feel your significant other is married to their cell phone maybe it's time to divorce them from their phone and stop by one of the following places. Actually some of these are places many would consider visiting.

- Yakutat, Alaska (pictured right, a fishing town popular with visitors in the Gulf of Alaska surrounded by mountains, population 680).
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
- Olympic National Park, Washington
- Sequoia National Forest, California (Only an hour's drive outside L.A. but with spotty coverage on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains.)
- Baxter State Park, Maine
- Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
- Adirondack Mountains, New York
- Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Antelope Wells, New Mexico
- Pyramid Lake, Nevada (pictured below, located just outside of Reno; known for the pyramid rock formations and fishing)
- Round Spring Cavern, Missouri
- Great Salt Lake, Utah
- The Montana-Idaho Border
- Eastern Park County, Wyoming
- Tillamook County, Oregon
- Death Valley, California (National Park Service warns on their website "do not depend on a cellphone" in case of emergency.)
- Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming
- Andes, New York (About three hours northwest of Manhattan, the Catskill Mountains help to make it cellphone free.)

Just because there is no wireless service, the research showed there may be internet connection. For example, a lodge in Yakutat Alaska offers computers with internet access and a Wi-Fi router for guests toting laptops. But knowing how some people heavily depend on and are addicted to their cell phone, they may choose going without water rather than going without a cell phone.

The Food Halls at Harrods - No Starbucks Here

Every kind of coffee or tea (of course, this is England you know) can be found in this hall. The aroma that fills the area makes you wish for a hot cup right there and then. Can't decide, ask one of the uniformed clerks. Check out the unusual coffee bean dispenser (pictured at right). You won't find one like that at Starbucks. Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world next to water. Every British man, woman and child drinks nearly four cups of tea every day. India, however, produces the most tea in the world which are primarily the black tea varieties of Darjeeling (expensive when the product is 100% Darjeeling), Assam (an ingredient in Irish blend and goes best with milk), and Nilgiri (India's most famous and plentiful specialty black tea).

The Food Halls at Harrods - Sweet Thoughts

The Food Halls are located on the ground floor of the store. Most visitors arrive via the London tube at the Knightsbridge station. The organization of the store may seem maze-like but floorplan maps are available. Upon entering the doors closest to the Knightsbridge station, just keep walking forwards through a couple of halls filled with beauty/apothecary products and you'll find yourself in the Egyption Room. Unique and ornate products matching the room's theme is available here but make a left and you'll find one of the many entrances to the food halls. The entrances are unassuming but wait till you are inside the first of these ballroom-sized halls.

The first food hall you'll encounter is filled with fine chocolates & confectionery, exquisite celebration cakes and tins of teas and coffee from around the world. The Hopeful Traveler has a real sweet tooth and this place is pure heaven. The one thing that T.H.T. won't purchase here or anywhere else abroad: what else, chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Here is a sample of sweet images. By the way, the fruit and veggies pictured right below are all made out of marzipan (an almond & sugar confection).

One tip of advice when shopping at Harrods: if you're planning to charge your purchase the cashier may offer to charge your card in American dollars rather than in British Pounds. If the clerk cannot offer you the exchange rate at that time, you are probably safer charging in British Pounds and letting your credit card company apply their normal processing fee which is included in the percentage of the exchange rate.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Food Halls at Harrods - Rooms for the Senses to Savour

The next few posts will be devoted to one of the Hopeful Traveler's favorite spots to visit in London: The Food Halls at Harrods Department Store. Harrods covers 4.5 acres with over one million square feet of selling space. The store has 40 elevators (or rather, "lifts") and over 12,000 lightbults on the famous terracotta facade, 300 of which are changed a day by the store's electrical engineers. Some say the store is pure "magic" making a visit to this store an experience to remember.

As a teaser, here are shots of the store's facade in evening. Stay tuned as the Hopeful Traveler reveals some delicious photos of the Food Halls next.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Year of a Million Dreams

All you Disney fans, be on the hunt for this print ad campaign that will surely make you want to return to the Magic Kingdom. To lure you to the parks for The Year of a Million Dreams campaign, Disney recruited famed photographer Annie Leibovitz to interpret some famous Disney fairy tales for print using the likes of a pop princess, an acclaimed actress and soccer stud. These are the first three photographs appearing in magazines (click on each photo for a high-resolution image to save as a desktop wallpaper; click 'back' on your internet browser to return to this page):

Actress Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella sporting a Harry Winston Tiara valued at $325,000 and an authentic glass slipper ("Where every Cinderella story comes true")

Soccer star David Beckham rides a white stallion as Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty ("Where imagination saves the day")

An Alice in Wonderland trio: Pop star Beyonce Knowles as Alice, country singer Lyle Lovett as the March Hare and actor Oliver Platt as the Mad Hatter ("Where wonderland is your destiny")

In The Year of a Million Dreams promotion, Disney invites you to the Magic Kingdom where you may be able to live out your Disney dreams. Disney has previously announced that over a million extra-special dreams will be randomly awarded during the promotion. It's possible that a Disney cast member might tap you on the shoulder to invite you to be a special guest that night in the new Cinderella Castle Suite at Disney World or the new Mickey Mouse Penthouse at the Disneyland Hotel; you may receive a Dream Fastpass badge to enjoy Disney attractions with little or no wait; or you may have the chance to win a Grand Marshal World Tour trip to Disney parks around the world. The promotion ends Dec. 31, 2007. More info at

If you visit during the promotion you'll be among the first to experience the newest attractions and entertainment. Among them is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland replacing the defunct submarine ride in Tomorrowland; and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Disney World's Epcot updating "The Seas" pavilion where you cruise around in a clamobile alongside a giant aquarium.

The advertisements first appearence are in the March issues of Vogue, Vanity Fair, W, GQ, Conde Nast Traveller and The New Yorker. It's possible a total of ten or twelve different shots could be developed using the likes of Peter Pan and the Little Mermaid (to date no official announcement on additional print ads). Knowing Disney's benchmark for making an honest buck, they'd be smart to develop these advertisements as commercial prints. If that traders beware of print traders.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Terminal Playground: A Transit Lounge to Nowhere

Look at the image above (click on any of the photos for a close-up view; click back on your internet brower to return to the home page). Can you guess the airport terminal? In real life this terminal existed only for the filming of the Steven Spielberg directed movie "The Terminal". Tom Hanks stars as a stranded visitor in a NYC airport. The Hopeful Traveler watches this movie for the set as much as for the story. The attention to detail and production design makes one hope that this terminal really existed in contrast to the cramp and tired terminals that exist in reality.

The entire three-story set was built as a free-standing piece of real architecture in a massive hangar in California that was used to repair 747 airplanes. The set included 60,000 square feet of genuine granite flooring and most notable, four working escalators; the first built exclusively for a movie set. The movie set was a feasible alternative due to the security and time constraints of filming at a live working airport.

The more realistic aspects of the set were the 35 retailers within the terminal. Part of the fun is spotting these stores and restaurants all designed to the retailer's standards and with an inventory of actual products.

Try and watch the movie and spot these retailers:
- Duty Free, Verizon Wireless, Dean and Deluca, Discovery Store, Brookstone, Cambridge Sound Works, Hugo Boss, La Perla, Hudson News, Borders Books, Paul Mitchell, Godiva, Swatch, Harry and David's and Origins.

Around the food court of the movie set, looks for these eateries:
- Burger King, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Baja Fresh, Panda Express, Nathan's Famous, Au Bon Pain, Yoshinoya, S'barro's, Krispy Kreme, The Daily Grill and Starbucks.

Among real airport service companies, you'll find American Express Foreign Exchange, Citibank (ATMs) and Smarte Carte.

The movie press materials state that some of the food outlets, such as Starbucks, were staffed by actual employees. Where extras minded the store, they were given training sessions as if they were actually working behind the counter. Interesting fact: All the retailers agreed to build replicas of their stores without knowlege of the role their shop may play in the film.

Adding to the realism were the main flight information board and monitors which displayed actual flight schedules from the International Terminal at JFK International Airport.

The most prominent airline featured in the film is United Airlines for which the character played by Catherine Zeta-Jones is a flight attendant. There are also a couple of prominent scenes on the third level of the set which is the UAL first-class lounge.

One thing that the set decorator had to be mindful off: Any of the magazines at the retailers or any extra was holding could not have the image of the stars, Zeta-Jones or Hanks. Obvsiously why would a flight attendant or a stranded visitor be on the front of People magazine.

Why does the Hopeful Traveler enjoy the film? The main character has a reason for visiting NYC. He has a realistic purpose and accomplished it in the end. But along the way he experiences an adventure and meets people he will never forget.

"The Terminal" (2004) is available on DVD from Dreamworks Video. A bonus disc featuring material about the making of the movie is available on the hard-to-find three-disc collector's edition. More info about the film including 3D Virtual Tours of the set can be found at Photographs: Dreamworks

Plastic in the Air

Plastic will be invading the airline cabin. Plan on having at least one credit card accessible during your flight. Technology has made it easier for more airlines to accept credit and debit cards to pay for inflight services such as drinks and meals.

These airlines are currently cashless: Frontier Airlines, AirTran Airways, Allegiant Air (all three do not service the Hawaii market) and Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines stopped accepting cash on its trans-Pacific flights two years ago and in January 2007 expanded the policy to its interisland flights.

So far none of the nation's big airlines have gone cashless but they are likely considering it. American Airlines has tested a program of accepting credit/debit cards on select flights. Delta is testing the cashless system as well and is expected to roll it out companywide over the next year.

Like some savvy restaurants or retail stores, battery-operated handheld devices for card processing will allow flight attendants to swipe your card, obtain your credit information, make the charge and return your card in about the same time it takes to make change.

It all works to everyone's advantage. Passengers are able to conserve cash, especially when traveling to their vacation destination, and still able to buy things on board. Flight attendants will no longer have the hassles of getting change, extra paperwork and general money handling.

For airlines, the system will cut down on theft. But the bigggest benefit for airlines is probably an increase in revenue since there is an attractive ease to using a credit card for passengers to say, buy a drink or two. Can someone say "in-flight breathalyzer"?
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