Hotel Profile: The Brunelleschi in Florence

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You can imagine that our travel agency has booked thousands of clients for a vacation in Italy over the years.

Among the many hotels that we’ve recommended and clients have raved about, one of the places that receives the most praise, time and time again, is the iconic Brunelleschi in Florence.

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In the Shadow of the Duomo

This luxury hotel is located in the heart of Florence, near the Duomo. It blends modern design with elegant, ancient architecture. The hotel was reconstructed from the foundations of an ancient tower called the Pagliazza–which dates from the 6th Century c.e. and once housed Roman thermal baths–and the medieval church of San Michele in Palchetto. Sometimes it feels like your very own museum!

You certainly feel like you’re staying at the Crème de la Crème of Florence! The hotel has established itself as one of the best hotels downtown, and has won countless rewards by Forbes Travel Guide and Conde Nast—and we definitely see why.

Nearby attractions are the Uffizi Gallery, central market, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, and of course the Duomo.

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Rooms in Style and Sophistication

Rooms are variable to taste and traveling situation. A romantic suite for a couple or connecting rooms for families. If you’re staying in one of the Suites, you’ll be assigned a personal Suite Ambassador—a concierge at your disposal for any request, advice or reservations.

Ask your WIT travel agent for a room with a view of the Duomo on your next trip to Tuscany’s Renaissance capital!

The two in-house restaurants are exquisite, the luxurious Santa Elisabetta, and the fresh bistro of Osteria Pagliazza. Or if you feel like a nightcap, grab an antipasto or glass of Perrier-Jouet Champagne at the Tower Bar.

Excellent service, gorgeous furnishings, sophisticated palates, exceptional attentiveness, free Wifi, complimentary welcome aperitif, daily newspaper, breakfast included–what more could you ask for?

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Did you know? The Hotel Brunelleschi was even mentioned in the bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code. As author Dan Brown writes: 

“When can I see you again?” Langdon reeled momentarily, lost in her eyes. “When?” He paused, curious if she had any idea how much he had been wondering the same thing.
“Well, actually, next month I’m lecturing at a conference in Florence. I’ll be there a week without much to do.”
“Is that an invitation?”
“We’d be living in luxury. They’re giving me a room at the Brunelleschi.”

Why should you visit Florence over Easter?

On Easter morning (this year Sunday, April 21), Florence welcomes the Scoppio del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart. This religious festival dates back over 350 years. An ornamental wagon, built in 1622 and towering 2-3 stories high, is pulled by a pair of oxen in garlands through the streets of Florence and Piazza Duomo. Certainly, a sight to behold!

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Escorted Culinary and Art Tour of Morocco with Caravan-Serai

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Caravan-Serai is one of our favorite outfits for the Middle East and North Africa. Long-time subscribers of our blog will remember that this tour operator tailors unique itineraries for small groups. If you’re looking for trustworthy guides to Jordan, Iran or Morocco, they are one of the best.

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Intricate Palatial Latticework

Today, we’re sharing one of their upcoming tours to Morocco. Though it’s right around the corner (April is fast approaching!), this Culinary and Art Tour is one that’s very unique and shouldn’t be missed. Call WIT to book your Moroccan escorted tour today. 

503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com

WIT Agent Gavi Piper returned from her trip to Morocco a few months ago, so we’re sure she’d love to tell you all about this colorful and delightful country. Attached are some of her photos from the journey!

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Moroccan Rugs

Escorted Culinary and Art Tour of Morocco

April 18 – 27, 2019

Accommodations will be in authentic Moroccan bed and breakfast riads. A riad is a type of traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, and many have been converted to accommodations for travelers. Local chefs will be doing cooking demonstrations with all local ingredients in each of the four cities to showcase the diversity of Moroccan cuisine. Space will be limited on this special tour, so reserve your space early! 

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Arabesque Archways

Day 1 & Day 2: Arrival / Rabat

Welcome to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, also known as the White Imperial City. After assistance with airport formalities, we will be driven to a group welcome lunch. We will then check into a riad for the evening. Rabat has a rich, long history and we will learn about it in art guided tours of colonial architecture left behind, along with a culinary tour of coastal influences in a group cooking class. Local sights include Hassan tower, the splendid Mohamed V Mausoleum, the Kasbah of Oudayas and the Medina. Overnights at RIAD KALAA.

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Fes Dye Pools

Day 3 to Day 5: Fes

Three days are devoted to the sightseeing of Fez, the Medieval City, the most ancient cultural and spiritual city of Morocco. This medieval marvel has been frozen in a time capsule and houses the world’s oldest university, Karaouine Mosque, a World Heritage site. Art guided tours include a visit through the old medina to see different craftsmen still operating in the old oriental tradition Fes El Jdid & the Jewish district. We will also visit the historic Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts and Batha Museum to learn about geometric patterns that make this area unique. Hammam options will also be made available for anyone interested in experiencing a private treatment. We will have an evening cooking demonstration of Amazigh & Tunisian influences, as Fes cooks are considered the country’s most elegant and gifted. Overnights at PALAIS OMMEYAD.

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Gavi in Chefchaouen, the “Blue City”

Day 6 & Day 7: Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is called the Blue City and is tucked away high in the Rif mountains. It remained shut off from the world for almost 500 years, forbidden to Christians until 1920. Now its narrow, labyrinthine streets, decked in shades of blue buildings with red tile roofs, are open to all. Its relaxed easy atmosphere is a strong contrast to the bustling bigger city life. The art tour will include historical visits to the Medina to relax along the Plaza Uta Hammam. We will learn about the influences of the neighboring Andalucían in the unusual octagonal tower of the Grande Mosque, visit the Kasbah, & enjoy the Ethnographic Museum, stopping for a moment to enjoy the breathtaking views it offers. We will visit the falls of Ras El Maa, and delight in a cooking demonstration of Mediterranean influences. Overnight in PARADOR.

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Moroccan Zellij Tilework

Day 8 & Day 9: Tétouan

Tétouan, sometimes called the White City or The Daughter of Granada is also situated in the Rif Mountains and was built by Muslim refugees from Spain in the 15th century. It is one of only two Moroccan Mediterranean port cities and is known for its craftsmanship and musical gracefulness. We will tour the Hispano-Moorish influence in the architecture of the Medina, a Unesco World Heritage site. We will also explore Tétouan’s culinary influences from local Amazigh, Andalusian and Ottoman cuisine, brought by Algerian immigrants, in a cooking demonstration. Overnight in EL REDUCTO.

Day 10: Rabat / Depart

After breakfast, departure transfer to Rabat–Salé airport for return flight and assistance with boarding formalities. 

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Islamic Symmetrical Designs

Included:

  • 9 nights’ accommodation in bed & breakfast at selected hotels/riads
  • 4 cooking demonstrations showcasing the diversity of Moroccan food
  • A/C minibus with a qualified driver at disposal for the whole tour
  • English speaking art guide for the whole tour
  • Entrance fees to monuments with an exterior visit of Mosques
  • Taxes

Not included:

  • All personal extras, gifts, etc
  • Dinners and lunches, not included in cooking demos
  • Drinks during the meals, mini bar, etc
  • Tips for guides and drivers
  • Travel insurance
  • Airline tickets

Price per person in a double room is $2200

Single Supplement is $500

Take it from us, the price is incredible for 10 days in Morocco in excellent riads and a peek into the more unique sides of the country. 

Read More:

Conscientious Traveler: Caravan-Serai

Vendor of the Month: Caravan-Serai

Caravan-Serai Recipes: Persian Jeweled Rice

Recipes from Caravan-Serai

Caravan-Serai Sample Tour

Rice Pudding with Caravan-Serai

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Ramparts

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Travel News: Owner of Famed French Hotel may have left it to the Dogs

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Owner Of Famed French Hotel May Have Left It To The Dogs

Uncertainty surrounds the future of one of the most famous grand hotels in Europe after the property’s flamboyant owner and chief executive died at the age of 95 without an heir, amid speculation that she may have left her hotel to animals. Jeanne Augier personally ran the striking pink-domed Negresco Hotel, in the French Riviera city of Nice, for more than 60 years after inheriting it from her father in 1957. She died this week in her 96th year and legal disputes are reportedly already underway about what will happen to the hotel. In 2009, it was reported that Augier planned to leave the hotel and its profits to a new foundation devoted to animals and the poor. A great lover of dogs, she championed both causes, and she was determined to keep the hotel out of the clutches of international hotel chains. Whether dogs will inherit her hotel has not yet been determined. The Negresco opened in 1913 in Nice and quickly became a favorite with European royalty. It has more than 140 rooms, each with its own unique furnishings and French art “collection pieces.” The property has always been open to pets and guests are encouraged to bring them along. Augier famously told Microsoft founder Bill Gates that he was not rich enough to buy her fabulous hotel. In an interview with French newspaper Liberation in 2009, she said: “I must have a hundred offers a year to buy the Negresco. It’s out of the question.”

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Courtesy of Le Negresco

United Airlines Replaces Delta As World’s Second-Largest Carrier

Travelmole reports United Airlines has reclaimed the world’s number-two spot for passenger traffic. It edged in front of Delta thanks to mostly domestic expansion with capacity increases at hubs like Chicago, Houston and Denver. Capacity has been increasing by up to 6%. United recorded 230.2 billion revenue passenger miles last year, ahead of Delta’s 225.2 billion. Delta overtook United as the second largest airline in 2015. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said: “Our goal is not to be the biggest. We want to be the best and as we implement our strategy, we are looking to build on this momentum in 2019.” Following a couple of years in the doldrums after several high profile missteps, United’s share price has rebounded. While other major US airline stock values have contracted, United saw a 24% bump last year. American Airlines hasn’t released its full-year traffic results yet but is expected to remain the world’s largest airline.

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New Zealand Tourism App Adds Enhanced Reality

An “augmented reality” (AR) app is giving New Zealand visitors the chance to experience a once-famous geological formation that disappeared over 130 years ago. The Pink and White Terraces were once known as the “eighth wonder of the world” and were obliterated by the Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886. They were located 20 km from Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. In the 19th century, intrepid tourists traveled from around the world to visit the terraces, which became the most famous tourist attraction in the country. Visitors would gather on the terrace shores to experience the natural spa and health benefits that continue to be a feature in the Rotorua region. The popularity of the terraces signaled the start of organized tourism in New Zealand. Old reference photos and paintings, plus work by early explorers and scientists, have been used to recreate the terraces in augmented reality. The terraces have been brought to life again with a specially developed app launched as an eco-tourism experience. Visitors can download the free app and experience the recreated terraces on daily cruises across Lake Rotomahana to the place where the terraces once were. Users need only hold up their device to explore the site and discover its hidden secrets. The Pink and White Terraces were formed over thousands of years, as silica-rich water emerging from springs and boiling geysers crystallized into giant tiered staircases. The White Terrace covered more than three hectares while the smaller Pink Terrace was used for bathing on the lower levels.

Hawaii Issues Warning Of High Bacterial Levels At Several Beaches

HawaiiNewsNow reports high bacterial levels were detected Wednesday at several beaches across Oahu, and have even prompted the closure of a popular spot. The state Department of Health Clean Water Branch said inspectors found elevated levels of enterococci at the following beaches: Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Ala Moana Regional Park, and two sites at Queen’s Beach in Waikiki. The normal level for enterococci doesn’t surpass 130% per 100 mL. DOH officials issue alerts when levels exceed 130. Due to the elevated levels, a city spokesperson said Hanauma Bay would be closed Thursday. The upper viewing area, parking lot, and visitor center will remain open. Officials say swimming in waters with elevated bacteria counts could make you sick. Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. The most common symptoms associated with swimming in affected waters include nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache or fever. Other minor illnesses include ear, eye, nose and throat infections. But the warning wasn’t enough to keep many beachgoers out of the water here in Waikiki. “The water was nice and clean from what I could see,” said Canadian visitor John Jonker. “We didn’t see any problem in the water at all, and we never noticed anything on the shore either. Everything is nice and clean.” The advisories will remain in effect for the beaches until levels return to normal. In addition, a Brown Water Advisory has been issued for Punaluu Beach Park in Windward O’ahu.

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Turkey Has Introduced A Passenger Security Tax

Travelwirenwews reports Turkey has introduced an airline passenger security tax of 1,5€ applicable as from 1 January 2018 without any advance notification. In addition, the Turkish Tourism Minister is considering changes to the tourism strategy and marketing activities. He wants to cut the state-financed budget for tour operators promoting Turkish destinations and plans a more centralized approach focusing on high-end products.

This App Will Deliver Food Right To Your Boarding Gate

Airwise reports most people-and certainly most underrated comedy writers-agree that airline food is bad. Luckily a food delivery app wants to make sure that you never fly hungry again and won’t be tempted to eat whatever it is the airlines are serving. AtYourGate is a food delivery service that will bring you food while you loom around the boarding gate, even though you’re sitting in Row 44. The delivery team doesn’t have to bring your loaded baked potato through security, though, because for better or worse, the app only lets users choose from options within the airport. To use it, just download the app, browse the options, make your selection, and they will run it over to you, usually within 20-30 minutes. AtYourGate has just announced it is landing in the New York area, making it easier for passengers flying through Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, and Terminal 7 of John F. Kennedy International to decide whether it’s worth paying someone to bring them an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. (New York and New Jersey airport travelers who download the app qualify for free delivery on their first purchase by entering the promotion code AYGFREE. There is no minimum order requirement.) The app is still pretty new, with only New York City, San Diego, and Minneapolis St. Paul airports on board, but if it rolls out nationwide, those traveling through Portland International Airport (hello, Country Cat) or O’Hare (where Rick Bayless has a torta restaurant) may never eat airplane food again.

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A Foodie’s Guide to Greece

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We get it—after all these months of snow and rain, you need a little pick me up.

You need to get the kids out of the house.

You need sun. You need fresh air. Most of all, you need fresh food that will knock your socks off.

Greek food is prized for being soaked in sunlight: think green olives, soft cheeses, lemon, roasted meats and exceptional seafood.

But did you know that Greek food varies widely from region to region?

It’s not all just feta cheese and kalamata olives and olive oil, you know! (Ok, we’re kidding with the olive oil part. Greece = olive oil, what can we say.)

The cool thing about these regional variants is that based on your taste preferences, you can check out a different region of Greece.

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The Aegean Islands

The Aegean islands are known for a rougher terrain than found elsewhere in Greece. Ingredients are simple and limited, grapes, grains, and olives of course. Fish plays a huge role in some islands, whereas others, like Sifnos and Rhodes, have a special attachment to the humble chickpea. Santorini is all about their yellow split pea. You will find salt-cured or wine-soaked charcuterie. In parts of the Dodecanese Islands, look to the seawater shellfish.

The Ionian Islands

These are the more experimental islands, drawing on Italian influences in dishes such as the rosemary and vinegar sauce used in seafood specialties. Look for trademark kumquat liqueur and homemade ginger beer. But it’s the desserts here that are the real stars of the show—pantespani, a syrup-soaked sponge cake, nougat and sesame and honey bars.

Crete

No island is quite like Crete—a massive stretch of land, home to one of the oldest civilizations ever in Greece. They’ve had time to perfect their specialties! Here you’ll find pilaf rice mixed with chicken or beef, fresh salads, and roasted baby goat. Don’t miss out on dakos, barley biscuits prepared with fresh tomato, feta (or mizithra) and olive oil.

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Dodecanese

Though in many ways a blend of Aegean and Cretan, the flavors of the Dodecanese stand out thanks to a delicious abundance of spices. Cumin yes, sesame seeds, and the oh so lovely tahini. They consume large amounts of sun-dried fish, sometimes served with its own intestines! Dried octopus, octopus roe, dried eggs are more delicacies that are a bit unusual. Truthfully, if you’re a curious traveler and want to taste seafood you’ll find nowhere else, head down to the Dodecanese.

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Mainland Greece

The mainland has perfected all sorts of pastry pies, whether savory cooked with veggies and meats, or sweet with milk, rice, cinnamon or yoghurt. Wash these dishes down with a glass of ouzo and you’ll find yourself “When in Rome”-ing before long!

Don’t wait – book your sun-filled vacation now! WIT Travel Agent can tailor an amazing trip for you and yours in the Greek Isles. Call 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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The Government Shutdown is now affecting your airport travel

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The Government shutdown is beginning to bite the world of travel.

TSA screeners are now calling in sick with much more regularity.

At least three airports–Miami, Houston/Intercontinental and Washington/Dulles–are closing some TSA checkpoints and redirecting passengers.
– Miami: afternoon closures on Concourse G.
– Houston: Terminal B closures.
– Dulles: West Mezzanine closures.

It’s to be expected that more closures are to follow in the next days or weeks–without advance notice.

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Lines are also beginning to lengthen substantially. At Atlanta Hartsfield this morning, for example, checkpoint lines have exceeded one hour and photos posted by travelers show lines backing up into the baggage claim areas.

What can you do?

Expect the unexpected. That means showing up earlier for flights, leaving more time between connecting flights that require a second passage through security and leaving much more time after your arrival on an international flight.

And don’t forget… TSA agents are people too

Finally, please remember that checkpoint agents and customs officials aren’t receiving any compensation right now. So have a little consideration. Don’t get angry or impatient. Be polite. Say thanks. Wish them well.

If you see someplace to chip into food banks or other services that help the agents get through, feel free to make a donation. But do not try to tip or otherwise pay a TSA or Customs agent directly. They are barred by law from accepting remuneration of any kind.

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Top Posts of 2018

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Another Year has come to a close, so for today we’re bringing you the WIT Blog’s Top Posts for 2018. 

It’s been a doozy of a year – January 2018 was our top month on the blog ever! Take a look and get inspired for your own upcoming adventures in 2019!

Posts that Played the Most

Where to Spot the Southern Cross: Letting the constellations guide your travel this year?

2018 Travel Trends from our Travel Agents: See if our predictions were right!

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Embark on an Incredible Voyage on the West Coast of South America: an older post from 2015, check out similar itineraries with G Adventures

A Drive through Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland: seabirds, basalt cliffs, mountain peaks, waterfalls, oh my!

Questions to Ask before you Book an All-Inclusive Resort: The Whats, Wheres and What ifs

Itinerary: 13 days on South Island, New Zealand: How would you spend your two precious weeks in New Zealand?

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A Closer Look: Ithumba Safari Camp in Kenya: Explore one of our favorite camps in beautiful East Africa

2018 Travel Trends: Walking Tours in and out of Town: Tours we recommend on the cobblestone and the trail

6 Hacks to Get Your Luggage through the Airport: A must-read for your sanity!

Where are you going in 2019? Let us know! Leave a comment or email us at inquiry@wittravel.com.

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Travel News: Admission Charge doubles for foreigners at Chichén Itzá

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Admission Charge Doubles For Foreign Tourists At Chichén Itzá 

Authorities in Yucatán doubled the admission fee for the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá from 242 to 480 pesos (US $12 to $24) effective January 2, drawing criticism from the tourism sector. Several state tourism and hotel associations warned in a letter to lawmakers that the new fee will cause financial losses for tourist service providers and a drop in the number of visitors to the state. The president of Cetur, the Tourist Business Council of Yucatán, asserted that 90% of tourists visiting Chichén Itzá are foreigners, and that 90% of them travel from the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, meaning that the new fee will negatively impact the tourist industry in both states. Jaime Solís Garza, president of the Tourism Business Council of Yucatan, warned that if the new fee is not rolled back tourist service providers will take their clients to the archaeological site at Tulum, where the price of a ticket is 75 pesos (US $3.80). 

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Verona, an alternative to Venice just an hour away 

Venice Plans To Tax Day-Trippers In Effort To Curb Tourism

Travelwirenews reports a controversial new proposal aims to stop overcrowding in the Italian city of Venice, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. To deal with the approximately 30 million visitors it sees every year, the city is planning to start charging many tourists an entrance fee. Locals say that Venice has become a Disneyland for tourists, and the city’s future is at stake reports. Hoards pack its narrow alleys searching for that all-important selfie, but the vast majority, about four-fifths of visitors. do not spend the night, meaning the city loses out on potential earnings from hotel taxes. Now, Italy’s parliament has approved a measure that’ll allow the city to charge tourists who only come for the day up to 10 euros, the U.S. equivalent of about $11.50. The money would go toward keeping the city clean, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said, and allow locals to live with more decorum. Venetians have told us they’re concerned the daily deluge of visitors is not only straining the city’s resources and delicate architecture but causing Venice to lose its soul. Since 1951, the city’s population has plummeted to fewer than 55,000 people but it can see, on average, more than 80,000 visitors per day. 

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United Airlines Publishes A Cookbook For Its Airline Food 

Detroit Free Press reports airline food doesn’t have to stay on the plane: Business-class meals can now be made at home with the new United Polaris cookbook. This isn’t the peanuts and pretzels served in coach. United Airlines shared an image of the cookbook featuring a recipe for “coconut soup with sambal oelek chicken” with the Free Press. According to the United Airlines shop, the $29.99 cookbook features over 40 recipes from United’s executive chefs and chefs from The Trotter Project, which works to aid young chefs in the culinary and hospitality fields. On its website, United said it’s “excited to be the official airline of The Trotter Project,” bringing gourmet options for United Polaris business class passengers and premium transcontinental service flyers, plus new dishes for international economy dining. “A portion of proceeds (for the cookbook) will be donated to The Trotter Project to continue its mission of inspiring the next generation of culinary professionals,” a United spokesperson said Monday. As Travel + Leisure notes, other airlines have also ventured into cookbooks: Southwest Airlines published “Feel the Spirit, Savor the Fare” in 2006 and Delta put out a book of recipes compiled by flight attendants called “First-Class Meals” back in 1987.

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Gatwick, Heathrow Airports Order Military-Grade Anti-Drone Equipment

Reuters reports London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports have ordered military-grade anti-drone defenses worth “several million pounds” after drones caused three days of disruption at Gatwick last month. Transport Minister Chris Grayling met police, aviation and defense chiefs on Thursday to discuss the issue, The airports did not immediately comment on the report. Drone sightings caused chaos at Gatwick, Britain’s second busiest airport, last month, disrupting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people in the run up to Christmas. The incident revealed a vulnerability that is being scrutinized by security forces and airport operators worldwide. The military was drafted in to deploy specialist equipment, enabling authorities to reassure the airport that it was safe for planes to take off and land. The technology included the Israeli-designed Drone Dome system, The Times reported. Security minister Ben Wallace said last month Britain’s security forces had detection systems that could be deployed throughout the country to combat the threat of drones. Media reports suggested that the defense ministry had since removed its anti-drone hardware from Gatwick. 

 

 

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