Fun Stuff

Stay at Sting’s, Cook where Julia cooked?

Thinking of where to fly to this summer? This round-up I did for NBC News of famous homes you can hang in may give you some ideas.

Fire Dragon

La Pitchoune, the 3-bedroom cottage in Provence where culinary icon Julia Child and her husband, Paul, spent their summers, is currently available on Airbnb for a minimum 5-night stay for $628 a night.
Known informally as La Peetch, in spring 2017 the cottage will begin hosting week-long cooking classes for six students at a time. In addition to “courageous cooking classes” in Julia Child’s barely-changed kitchen, the all-inclusive sessions include meals, wine, daily yoga classes and local excursions. Price: $3,250 per person.

At Il Palagio, the 16th-century Tuscan villa owned by the rock star Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, “guests can spend days touring the fields and the wine cellar, and nights drinking [the estate-made] “Message in a Bottle” Sangiovese over a meal prepared by the villa’s chef,” says Bruce Wallin of the Robb Report, “And, of course, this being Sting’s place, after dinner you can open up the onsite recording studio and cut a track.”

While there is no weekly-stay requirement, the 9-bedroom, 10 bathroom villa must be booked in its entirety and, as it is “one of the most exclusive and luxurious villas in all of Italy,” according to booking site TuscanDream.com, “is priced accordingly.” How much? You’ll have to call.

In London, groups of up to 16 people can book private tours of the Tower of London that are followed by a private viewing of the Crown Jewels with the Chief Exhibitor and dinner in the Queen’s House. Organized by IfOnly, a site that creates unusual and extravagant experiences, the tour and dinner costs $11,565 per person and benefits the Save the Children charity.

Too rich for your budget? Here are less-expensive ways to stay and/or play at the homes of other famous folks.

George Washington's Mount Vernon - All the President's Pups walking tour

At George Washington’s Mount Vernon, just south of Washington, D.C., visitors and their dogs can join the “All the President’s Pups” tour for a walk around areas of the property usually off limits to guests. (Price: $7 in addition to admission, with is $20/$17 when purchased online; pups: free). Foodies might enjoy the Dinner for the Washingtons walking tour, which visits the mansion’s gardens, food storage cellar and greenhouse. (Price: $$7 in addition to admission)

Garden tasting tours (vegetable tasting included) and archeology walking tours are some of the extra options offered at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA (day pass and house tour: $25), while a locally-sourced Summer Farm Dinner series ($85 to $125/person) is offered at Taliesin, fame architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and 800-acre architectural campus in Spring Green, Wisc.
At Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home in Scottsdale, AZ and now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, there’s a garden walk tour, a private collections tour, a tour for photographers, a family-friendly junior architect tour and an evening tour during which a fire-breathing dragon makes an appearance.

Of course, there’s always Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion and sprawling estate in Memphis, which draws over half a million visitors each year.

The basic mansion tour at Graceland ($38.75) satisfies some fans, but the Platinum ($42.50) and Entourage VIP ($75) tours offer a plethora of extras, including admission to Elvis’ automobile museum and an ‘archives experience’ that allows visitors to see some artifacts not seen on the traditional tour. For those who want to get even closer to the King of Rock and Roll, the 450-room Guest House at Graceland is opening this fall with a four day, star-studded celebration that will include live concerts and celebrity appearances from October 27-30.

(My story about staying at and visiting famous people’s homes first appeared on NBC News online.)

Air Carnival at O’Hare & Midway Airports

ORD air carnival

Send in the clowns – well, at least the stilt walkers and the balloon-animal makers…

This summer Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports are bringing back the Air Carnival – a program designed for children but certainly entertaining for all.

Air Carnival will feature face painting, balloon sculpting and stilt walkers at various spots in the terminals each week, as well as music, free food samples (including cheesecake and cotton candy) and appearances by Ronald McDonald, Mr. Potato Head and Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Disney’s popular movie, “Frozen”.

MIDWAY BALLOON SCULPTING

The Air Carnival will take place each Thursday in Midway Airport and each Friday in O’Hare from June 16th through August 12th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Air Carnival kicks off today (Wednesday, June 15) at Midway with The Chicago Blues All Stars playing in the Midway Boulevard food court starting at 12:30 p.m.

You can see the full schedule for Air Carnival activities scheduled at O’Hare here and at Midway here.

Cereal Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan

cereal festival

If I could fly anywhere today, I might choose Battle Creek, Michigan, where the annual Cereal Festival takes place June 10 and 11, 2016.

The festival celebrates the city’s heritage as the birthplace of America’s flaked cereal industry and kicks off tonight with a parade in downtown Battle Creek – the Cereal Capital of the World.

Saturday morning, everyone – perhaps 70,000 people – can sit down at the world’s longest breakfast table, where hundreds of volunteers will be serving a breakfast of … cereal.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (evidently a big fan of breakfast cereal), shredded Wheat, created around 1893 in Denver, was the first “enduring” breakfast cereal in the U.S and today 11 of the 69 breakfast cereal manufacturers in the U.S. have Michigan addresses.

Battle Creek’s Kellogg’s and Post companies are the most well-known cereal makers and overall the cereal industry generates $9.8 billion of product annually.

On the road and craving cereal?

There’s a branch of Cereality – where dozens of hot and cold cereals are on the menu – at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal C, Gate 6. Hours: 5:30 a.m. till 9 p.m.

Pep Cereal

More ice-cream at CVG Airport

What’s better than at an airport kiosk dispensing small batch, handcrafted ice-cream?

CVG  GRAETER'S

It was great that Graeter’s Ice Cream had a kiosk at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) but now there’s 657 square foot Graeter’s storefront in CVG’s Concourse A serving up decadent pastries, candy and ice cream.

Bonus: the storefront is open daily from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

CVG GRAETER's INSIDE

CVG recently announced another sweet airport amenity: miniature therapy horses will be visiting the airport on a regular basis.

CVG Pony 2

Good work CVG!!

Westjet & others celebrate April Fools’ Day

In the spirit of the April Fools’ Day holiday, yesterday Virgin America shared its “new” logo.

Today, WestJet and others join the fun with RALFH – a replacement for airplane food carts:

Cheapflights brings up Hipster Air , an airline “for those who badly want to be in the know – but who don’t want others to know it. It guarantees that no airline will try so hard to not look like it is trying so hard.”

Hipster air

And Seattle’s Museum of Flight once again rolls out a unique April Fools exhibit. This year – it’s the Sopwith Camel airplane flown by World War I flying ace, Snoopy.

Museum of Flight snoopy

“The famous aircraft has never been seen in public, and until recently, historians have believed it among the thousands of fighter aircraft lost forever in combat over France nearly one hundred years ago,” the museum said in a statement that refers to the aircraft as “one of the greatest finds of the century.”

More fun to follow…