Friday, February 25, 2011

Blanket Pack (or Comfort Kit) on American Airlines

American Airlines was one of the first airlines to charge for a pillow and blanket. One year later, the charge remains and can be considered permanent.

On an American flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Honolulu I decided to purchase a blanket pack to see what you get for eight dollars. The pack includes a fleece blanket made of 100% polyester and an inflatable neck pillow in a clear zipper case. The case could be used for toiletries as noted on the pack's tag which calls the combo a comfort kit. With careful folding of each item, it's possible to repack the two items back into the case. A coupon for $10 off a $30 purchase at Bed Bath & Beyond is included.

The blanket is surprisingly soft and unfolds to the the standard size of blankets that were once free in the coach cabin. As for the pillow I much prefer to have a regular pillow for my back rather than the one for my neck. So now I have both for future flights but they are also two more things to pack.

The comfort kits are sold in the coach cabin of domestic flights over two hours and on some international flights. The latter includes flights to and from Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America. The blankets and pillows remain complimentary in premium-class cabins and all cabins for other international flights. Remember the cabins are cashless so keep a credit card handy. The flight attendants can print a receipt if you need one.

JetBlue and US airways also charge for a blanket-and-pillow set. They both charge $7 but US Airways includes eye shades and earplugs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Villa at Vignamaggio: A Setting for William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" on Film

(images credit: Villa Vignamaggio)
The previous post presented a "movie to travel by" in the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The motion picture was filmed at the Villa at Vignamaggio in the Chianti countryside of Tuscany. The villa is open for agritourism (agricultural tourism) which offers visitors the opportunity to experience traditional Italian country life and immerse themselves in the Italian countryside.

These photos from the villa's website shows the production designers had to do very little to turn the Italian countryside and villa into a beautiful setting for the Branagh film.

More info at The website offers all the details about the Vignamaggio oil, wine, accomodations and spa. There is also a history of the villa which dates back to the 14th century. The website can be read in English, Italian or French.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Movies to Travel by: Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

left to right: Michael Keaton (Dogberry), Robert Sean Leonard (Claudio),  Kate
Beckinsale (Hero), Keanu Reeves (Don John), Emma Thompson (Beatrice),
Kenneth Branagh (Benedick) and Denzel Washington (Don Pedro)
Thompson and Branagh
Thompson and Beckinsale lead the cast in the film's opening.
(all images: MGM)
Combining the Tuscan countryside and an Italian villa as the setting for a film adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," actor & director Kenneth Branagh brings a lively and lusty film to the big screen.

This 1993 film resets the story from Sicily and exclusively uses the Villa of Vignamaggio and its surroundings as the backdrop. The Italian garden is put to good use in several scenes including the single-shot music-filled ending that finishes with a panoramic shot of the property and mountains. Adding to the scenery is a string of stars that includes Denzel Washington, Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton and Kate Beckinsale.

The beginning moments of the movie puts the entire countryside on display starting with a painting that dissolves into a view of the actual villa and hills to the actors lazily enjoying a picnic in the vineyards leading to the men galloping along the open fields all ending with the entire cast meeting in the courtyard of the villa. The score by Patrick Doyle bookmarks the film with a rousing opening and a finale ending in song.

In between sun-kissed scenes in the gardens is the drama that is Shakespeare's play. Roger Ebert says in his three-star film review: "The story involves two sets of lovers, the first Claudio (Leonard) and Hero (Beckinsale), are destined to be almost torn apart by the treachery of others. The second, Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Thompson), are almost kept apart by the treachery of their own hearts. The plot is driven by the kinds of misunderstandings, deceptions and cruel jokes that work only in a stage comedy."

See it and you'll lust after the Tuscan countryside especially through the cheerful lens of Branagh's direction. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray editions.

The Villa of Vignamaggio is open as an agritourism attraction and known for its wines and olive oils. See the next post for more photos and info about the villa.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...