Affordable Luxury

Toilet Restaurants Aim for a Crappy Experience

Oh, if you are wondering, each Modern Toilet restaurant does have proper bathrooms. They are very well marked to prevent patrons from making the horrible mistake.

We can’t imagine the marketing meeting during which some one pitches the concept for a toilet-themed restaurant — and the others at the meeting approving of the idea. And yet presumably such a meeting has happened. More than once. There are at least three dozen (!) restaurants on planet Earth where toilets and urinals, poop and potty talk, are the central attraction. What’s more, those restaurants are so flush with success that a couple of new ones open every year.

Sounds delicious! Where can I find these toilet restaurants? we’re sure you are asking yourself right now (because we’re in tune with our readers like that). Here’s our review at some crappy dinning experiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany, Portugal and California:

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Yotel NYC

When Spot Cool Stuff was arranging a tour of the Yotel New York, a hip boutique hotel two blocks from Times Square, we suggested to their press representative that we meet her in the lobby. She wrote back: “I’ll meet you at Mission Control.”

That would not be the last time we would be reminded that, at Yotel, things work a little differently.

Yotel got its start in Europe as an in-airport pod hotel for passengers in transit or pre-positioning themselves for early morning flights. Their New York City property is Yotel’s first foray outside of an airport. Though, the hotel’s inspiration still comes of a romanticized version of luxury airliner travel. As such, Yotel New York does not have a lobby, it has the aforementioned “Mission Control.” Instead of rooms it has “cabins.” Instead of staff it has “crew.” The VIP section is “first class” and the shared kitchenette on each floor is the “galley.”

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The World’s Best Bakeries

Spot Cool Stuff loves finding good bakeries on our travels. Spontaneously coming across one while exploring a village or city neighborhood can make an ordinary walk special. But some bakeries are special in their own right and worth purposefully seeking out — either for the quality of their baked goods or for their interior design or for the atmosphere of being there or for some combination of all those.

Below is our review of eight such bakeries. We hesitate calling them the “best,” since the world has many bakeries and we’ve only been to a relatively small handful. But each of our selections has some superlative feature that’s well worth a detour when traveling nearby.

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Bora Bora’s Best Budget Accommodations

Spot Cool Stuff recently published a review comparison of the best Bora Bora luxury resorts. As we mentioned in that review, each of the nine resorts would looked at was spectacular in its own way. Each featured amazing views and impeccable service. Each also had nightly rates somewhere between expensive and exorbitant. So what’s a budget traveler to do?

Contrary to image of Bora Bora as a destination only for the well healed, the tropical Pacific island can definitely be enjoyed on the cheap. There are a handful of B&Bs and small family-run pensions where couples can stay for under €100 (or even under €50). Among those, Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite is the wonderful little Sunset Hill Lodge.

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See Cirque du Soleil—For Free

Want to see Cirque du Soleil? A single ticket to a live performance of the impossibly acrobatic dancers will set you back as much as £85 in London. You’ll have to part with S$148 in Singapore. In Las Vegas, you’ll pay $359 for a center seat vaguely close to the front of the stage. But in Quebec City, Canada you’ll pay C$0. At current exchange rates, that works out to US$0, €0 or ¥0.

And there’s no gimmick. You don’t have to win a contest, hear a sales pitch for a timeshare or creatively acquire someone else’s ticket. Anyone can show up at a Cirque du Soleil performance in Quebec City and watch it—for free.

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The Most Luxurious Orlando Hotels with Free Wifi

One of Spot Cool Stuff’s biggest travel peeves: Hotels that charge for in-room wireless internet. We somewhat understand budget no-frills hotels adding an optional internet fee, but it is usually those very hotels that don’t. The hotels that typically charge the most for internet access are those that already charge the highest room rates. What sort of luxury experience is that? To Spot Cool Stuff it is the equivalent of a hotel putting an electricity meter outside every room and charging their guests extra for their power usage.

For whatever reason, hotels and resorts in Orlando are especially prone to charging for internet access. We’ve found hotels in Central Florida that charge up to $30 per day! Fortunately we’ve always found a few hotels that offer an upmarket experience, that are convenient to Orlando’s theme parks and attractions and that provide free wifi. Here are the three best:

Update: Amen! The Walt Disney World Resort has recently announced that it will start offering free wifi. Hopefully this means that other Orlando-area resorts will follow their lead.

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The Best Socks for Travel
(and the time between trips)

Travelers spend big money on upgraded airline tickets and medium money on upgraded luggage. Yet, for only a few extra dollars (or pounds or euros or yen or somoni) an upgraded experience can be had on an arguably more significant piece of travel gear: socks.

Travel (save for the armchair variety) tends to involve a lot of standing and walking and being outside. And a surprising percentage of one’s physical comfort starts with one’s feet.

For the previous few months Spot Cool Stuff has been trying out different socks; some were provided to us and others we purchased ourselves. The central take-away from this sock testing frenzy: Don’t purchase generic socks, or at least not exclusively. There’s an impressive variety of socks on the market, produced by several dozen small- and medium-sized manufacturers. Spending a bit more on their socks is worth it, especially for travel.

As for specific sock suggestions, here’s a review of some of our favorites:

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Indoor Caravan Camping

When you visit Berlin will you stay in an artsy boutique hotel? In a low cost hostel? In a trailer park?

The wonderfully cool thing about The Hüttenpalast is that the accommodations are all three of those—at once!

At Spot Cool Stuff we’ve reviewed more than our share of unusual hotels. But rarely have we found one that offers such an unconventional experience with such a relatively high level of comfort at such a relatively low price.

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