Archive for May, 2012

5 Fast Food Abominations

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on May 30th, 2012

… that You’ll only Find in Europe

Centuries old cobblestone streets, al fresco sidewalk cafes, and UNESCO classified historical sites most likely come to mind when picturing European cities and towns. While traveling, have you ever felt a bit let down upon sighting the big, glowing golden arches prominently displayed amongst old world charm? Your chances of escaping fast food chains while abroad from the States are pretty slim. While you certainly don’t have to dine at any of these establishments during your international trip, you may be taken aback by some of the menu items if you decide to stop by one of these restaurants for some familiar fare. Decide for yourself if the following 5 fast foods look appetizing or if they make you shake your head in disbelief.

The Crown Crust Pizza | Pizza Hut in the UK

Recently I spotted a write-up online about hotdog and cheeseburger stuffed pizza crust, and I couldn’t help but click on the post, as my curiosity got the best of me. I decided to check out the UK Pizza Hut site as well, and I happened upon across this new seasonal specialty, the Crown Crust. Meatballs and pockets of cheese circle this creation. It was concocted in honor of the ‚ÄúGreat British Summer.‚Äù

McHeikauser | McDonald’s in Germany

Gyros are a typical street food in Europe, and it is common to see large spits of meat twirling over a vendor’s counter. They may contain chicken, pork, beef or mutton, depending on the European country. To celebrate the Tour de France, McDonald’s in Germany came out with the McHeikauser. It is supposed to resemble a gyro from Greece, as far as I can tell with the aid of Google Translate. Lettuce, tomato, onion, mozzarella, and Ceasar salad dressing are placed atop a pile of seasoned pork pieces, and these ingredients are served in between a big piece of Ciabatta bread.

Dark Vador Burger | Quick in France

Quick is a fast food chain that originated in Belgium and is essentially Europe’s version of McDonald’s. For the premier of the 3D Star Wars Episode I, the French franchises featured a double cheeseburger on a jet black bun, and yes, it was called the Dark Vador.

Meatball Pie | Goody’s in Greece

Greece’s most popular restaurant to stop in for a quick bite to eat is Goody’s, and the Greek company has grown to surpass the sales of McDonald’s. I don’t speak Greek, but Goody’s roughly translates to mean meatball pie (I used Google Translate once again). The meat in question doesn’t come with a description on their website, so perhaps it is hamburger? This sandwich boasts onions, tomatoes and French fries wrapped in pita bread. The menu page also advises that it comes with a choice of tzatziki sauce or mustard.

Mega Pocket | KFC in Hungary

While perusing KFC’s Hungarian site, I stumbled across the Mega Pocket. It may not appear too out of the ordinary at first glance, but the potato theme seems to be overdone. Fried or grilled chicken comes rolled in a tortilla with lettuce, tomato, cheese, spicy mayo and potato patties. The picture showcases a value meal with french fries and a soda.

I admit that I have frequented some of these food establishments while in my travels, and I even bought a cheeseburger at McDonald’s in Quito, Ecuador once just for a slice of American cheese that I happened to be craving. After several months away from the States, it’s amusing the things you will do when a little homesick. What about you? Once your flights to Europe have landed, do you see yourself trying out one of these fast food gems that aren’t available in the US?

 

 

 

1-800-FlyEurope Interview with TSA

By 1800FlyEurope in Destination Highlights | on May 15th, 2012

There are always two sides to every story, and the TSA has graciously allowed 1-800-FlyEurope to get their position on some of the looming criticisms against the agency.

As of late, new TSA horror stories seem to be making media headlines on a weekly basis. With all of the bad PR buzzing around the internet, TV, and newspapers, you may be a bit apprehensive about what to expect when it comes time for you to pass through the security checkpoint for your upcoming flights to Europe. Ann Davis, TSA Public Affairs, kindly spent some time speaking to 1-800-FlyEurope about some of the hot topics that have gone viral in the U.S. media as of late. We hope that the following interview will help to shed some light on TSA’s present struggles and give you a better understanding of passenger rights.

What is the TSA (Transportation Security Administration)?

The US instituted the TSA after the events of September 11, 2001 shocked the nation. Initially it was a component of the Department of Transportation, but in 2003, the federal agency became part of the Department of Homeland Security. The TSA has authority over pretty much everything related to public transportation, such as aviation, ports, rail, highway and even pipelines (although I imagine travel through US sewer systems may not be ideal). The main focus of the TSA is to keep the traveling public safe.

What are the most common reasons people are delayed at the security check point?

Travelers are generally held up at the gate because they aren’t familiar with the current screening standards and/or items that are not permitted in carry-on luggage. It is also vital to allow yourself enough time to park and board your flight. Be aware of peak and off-peak hours. In preparation for a trip, visit TSA’s website, call the TSA Cares hotline for those traveling with disabilities or medical conditions at 1-855-787-2227, or the TSA contact center at 1-866-289-9673 for questions about ID, screening, firearms, security and more.

What is the number one conflict that TSA agents are confronted with on a daily basis?

Our agents are frequently questioned about the necessities of our policies. In the same breath Ann gives me a staggering statistic for the number of fire arms that were confiscated at airport security checkpoints in the US last year. In 2011 TSA agents prohibited the transport of 1200 firearms from being taken inside the plane’s cabin via carry-on bags.

What should someone do if they feel they are being treated improperly? All the stories that I have read seem to portray an unhappy passenger who has video taped their TSA conflict and upon arriving at their destination, they then post it publicly on Youtube for the entire world to see. There must be something that someone can do to try and resolve an issue at the security check point?

Every security check point has a supervisor on staff, called Screening Managers. If you feel that your questions and/or concerns aren’t being answered, request to speak with the Screening Manager.

What is the TSA’s stance on their security agents being perceived as aggressive and lacking compassion?

The TSA trains their officers to treat passengers with respect and with professionalism. The job is a very tough job, and in the recent months the TSA has been moving away from treating travelers as if one size fits all. Specifically, screening techniques have been modified for children under the age of 12 years old and those over the age of 75 years old. There are even 14 airport locations throughout the US that have initiated an expedited screening process for frequent travelers; this isn’t a free ride through the check point by any means, as random security checks are still performed.

More Tips and Resources to Review before your next Flight:

 

Carry-on Items

photo courtesy of TSA

  • You need to be aware of what you can and can not take into the plane’s cabin. Certain items may be permitted, but only as checked baggage. For example: knives and liquids over 3.4 ounces. If you try to pack a prohibited object in your carry-on bag, it is going to hold you and everyone else up in line.
  • Make sure that you are familiar with the 3-1-1 guidelines for carry-on liquids and gels.
  • When packing your carry-on, layer you items neatly. This enables the TSA to scan your luggage more quickly and easily. If everything is bunched into your bag in a heap of clutter, the X-ray device won’t give security a good image of the contents, and you will likely be pulled to the side so that your things can be sorted through manually.
  • If you are traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them, or put the item(s) in a gift bag.
  • It is best to carry-on larger electronic devices, because these need to be individually examined by TSA agents (they are too dense to be scanned through luggage). Keeping this in mind, pack laptops and game consoles so that they are easily accessible able to scan through the X-ray machine separately.

How to Breeze through the TSA Security Checkpoint

 

  • Have your boarding pass and an acceptable ID ready to hand over to security.
  • Wear slip on shoes. Don’t forget to put on socks, or else your toes are on parade for everyone else to see.
  • Skip belts with metal buckles and empty the coinage from your pockets.
  • If traveling with children, educate yourself on TSA’s modified screenings. Let your little ones know what to expect, and if they are particularly young, consider running a mock security check with them.
  • Does the idea of going through the AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) creep you out a little? There have been many updates to the imaging software the AIT uses, and TSA screeners now only see an ambiguous figure on their monitors. However, you may opt out of this method for another type of security procedure, which will most likely involve a pat down and metal detector wands.

If you have any doubt about the TSA screening process, contact their customer service department well in advance to your travels. Don’t let a misunderstanding or conflict put a hindrance on your travel plans.

 

5 of Europe’s Most Riveting Skyscrapers

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on May 1st, 2012

Throughout the world, every urban setting has its own distinct cityscape, recognizable by the unique negative space in between high rises and the sky, almost comparable to the identifying characteristics of a human finger print, except that skylines are in a continuous state of change. Each panorama has prominent features; the structures that make up these vistas are of various contrasting heights and shapes. Some cities boast architectural pieces that not only stand out from the skyline but also have become symbolic to their local community and government. Below are five intriguing skyscrapers that can be found throughout Europe.

Link√∂ping, Sweden | Plantagon’s Vertical Farming

Many of us buy our produce at the local grocery store without giving much thought as to how much mileage your cantaloupe has racked up before it reaches the cart. Beyond this, you may wonder which chemicals your fruit may have been exposed to before you take the first bite. One city in Sweden has taken it upon them selves to try and solve these dilemmas and plan for the future. The ground breaking ceremony to begin construction of an immense greenhouse skyscraper was this past February. Plantagon’s philosophy to why they are creating the vertical farming dome is pretty straight forward; they want to harvest organic crops for their community and to do so in the most eco-sustainable manner. The planning and technology behind the plantscraper is much more complex. The legumes will rotate and spiral throughout the glasshouse using a system that involves double helix ramps.

Prague, The Czech Republic | Dancing House

Nestled in amongst predominantly Baroque architecture is Prague’s beloved Dancing House. The project was designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Initially, the new structure was not well received by the city and even considered a bit controversial. When looking at the towers, you get the sense that there is an underlying grace between these two buildings, and this is because they are supposed to be representative of the famous dancers, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Prague has grown to embrace its unique Dancing House, and there has been a gold coin fabricated by the Czech’s mint to commemorate the seemingly swaying structures.

London, England | 30 St Mary Axe “The Gherkin”

After the original building was damaged beyond repair in 1992, London knew that they wanted to rebuild something special in its place. Affectionately called “the Gherkin,” the city certainly obtained a one of a kind landmark upon finalization of construction in 2003. It stands 40 floors tall at 591 feet, and resembles, well, a pickle.

Malmö, Sweden | Turning Torso

At a soaring 54 stories and 623 feet high, the Turning Torso is Scandinavia’s tallest building. These statistics are impressive alone, but it is the spiring of the building’s frame that is its most awe-inspiring feature. The residential high rise was designed by Santiago Caltrava, of Spain, who was inspired by a sculpture of the human form. Specifically, the natural curvature of the spine when twisted 90 degrees is what Caltrava took and applied to the tower. Completed in 2005, the Turning Torso has since become a symbol of Malmo and is listed as one of Sweden’s 7 wonders.

photo courtesy of Resident on Earth

Wolfsburg, Germany | Autostadt CarTowers

At first glance, the two glass towers situated on Volkswagen’s Autostadt (Car City) site may not seem too out of the ordinary. However, it’s what’s inside each 20 story edifice that attracts a lot of attention from VW fans. Autostadt is an ultra-modern theme park and center where customers may pick up their brand new vehicle (it isn’t mandatory). This is where it gets interesting, inside each CarTower are 400 individual spaces dedicated to housing the autos until they are ready to be shipped to a dealership or picked up by a client. If you so desire, you may take the tour of the cylindrical high rise garage to receive your new, 4 wheeled purchase. Watch it get plucked from its holding space, lowered, and delivered to you, its first owner.

Before you set out on your next flights to London or Prague, do a little research on the destination(s) you’ll be visiting. This way you can be familiar with its layout and skyline before you arrive. It certainly will make the landing experience more significant, too, as you may be able to identify some of the major landmarks from the sky.

 

photo courtesy of Plantagon | Plantagon Greenhouse Building B1 View 1 (Type for Linköping, Sweden)

 

 

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