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Among the many and profound losses on September 11, 2001, was the destruction of one of New York’s most treasured restaurants—Windows on the World. I still vividly remember the extraordinary experiences I had dining on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. And an enthralling new book, The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World, by veteran writer Tom Roston, brought those memories (and so many others) back to me.
Within ten pages, I pushed aside everything else I was doing and read the book for hours, because Roston has written something far more illuminating and edifying than a chronicle of this ridiculously audacious achievement, feeding people a quarter of a mile in the sky.
Ask any native New York baby boomer what was the exciting era of this city, and without hesitation, almost everyone will say “the ‘70s.” Long before everyone started singing “I Love New York,” the only people who wanted to be in this town were those who lived here, because it was dirty, crime-ridden, rough and broke. It was also thrilling, exciting, and frankly pretty damn fabulous, because the people who chose to live in this city were arrogant enough to believe they could do anything against all odds. That’s why, while the Federal Government refused to bail out the city’s financial crisis (instigating the famous Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead”), those Twin Towers were on the rise, and a restaurateur with bravado to spare figured he could give these gleaming structures a gustatorial crown that would be the envy of all.
Since you really can’t tell the story of the creation of Windows on the World—which opened in 1976—without understanding both the odds against its success and the maniacal drive to make it a reality, Roston has crafted the most detailed, all-consuming and thoroughly spellbinding portrait of my hometown during this daunting, delirious decade that I’ve ever read.
Roston was aware that “as a storyteller, one of the great challenges here was the everyone knows the ending. Then how do you hold people’s attention? By telling people everything that happened before. I was astonished that when I looked into it, it’s a story that has never been told.”
And what Roston reveals is a story about incredible characters: The brilliant and sly P.T. Barnum-esque showmanship of Windows’ driving force, Joe Baum; the tyrannical but effective manner of his chosen manager, Al Lewis, of whom Roston writes “his son called him the meanest man in town”; the handsome and imposing maître’d, P.T. Eggar, who made a fortune getting his palm greased for those most-desired tables by the window because as Roston notes, “he was selling real estate”; as well as the untried but inspired sommelier, the private club manager who kept his money in his sock, and a host of others who were responsible for Windows on the World becoming the highest-grossing restaurant on the planet.
Roston believes it’s also “a story of immigrants. Over thirty languages were spoken in the restaurant. So many came so far because to work here was the chance of a lifetime.”
And it’s a tale of architectural wonder. How do you alter a unique, but rigid structural design to achieve panoramic views? How do you get gas up 107 floors? You don’t. Then how do you cook? And it’s a history of New York’s growing sophistication with food. “Now we toss it off, but back then whoever heard of coconut shrimp?” Baum wanted chef Michael Lomonaco’s menu to astonish as much as the view.”
But most important, Roston revels in the fact that it’s a story about a city that boasts something even more hypnotic than its skyline—the people who make this city come alive. There is the aerialist Philippe Petit, who tightroped across the top of both buildings and “not only humanized the structures but turned these previously unloved buildings into an attraction.” The great food critic Gael Greene’s all-important cover story in New York Magazine, then the most influential periodical in town, calling this what is now the title of this book. “I couldn’t believe how this restaurant absorbed all the trauma and the triumphs of this city. How people trapped at the restaurant handled the blackout of 1977 (they had a blast and ate for free), the first bombing of the building in 1993, and the celebrities as diverse as John Lennon and Henry Kissinger who came and were either loved or loathed by the staff.
And it’s a tale of tragic sorrow, of a city forever changed by the loss of, not the restaurant, or even the buildings, but of thousands of loved ones. “I’m so grateful that the victim’s compensation fund rallied to help the families of the seventy-three people who lost their lives working at Windows,” Roston says.
But as he admits, knowing the awful ending gave him an inspiration that makes this book such a compelling read. “When you hear a memorable eulogy, it’s because it’s about how a person lived, not how he or she died,” he adds. “The waiters, the chefs, the builders, the famous and the fierce, this incredible cast of characters created something so kinetic on the 107th floor of this building. This restaurant was destroyed 18 years ago, far enough away that it counts as history for so many too young to remember, but close enough to get firsthand accounts, and still so fresh in the minds of so many. Everything about this place reflects New York’s culture at a time we should never forget.”
And now we won’t. If you love this city (and if you don’t, better not tell me), grab this book. Thanks, Tom.
I am the author of ‘The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance’ and ‘100 Unforgettable Dresses.’ I was fashion director at InStyle Magazine and the New York Times Magazine. I’m also a restaurant critic, consultant and designer of The Hal Rubenstein Collection on HSN. Native New Yorker and pretty nice guy.
“Windows on the World” was a landmark restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Martha Teichner reports on the search for its missing employees. (This report was from a DVD included with the tenth anniversary edition of the CBS News/Simon & Schuster book, “What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video.”)
Mirazur, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the resort town of Menton, on the French Riviera, has been awarded the coveted title of World’s Best Restaurant and Best Restaurant in Europe 2019. The other top positions were given to restaurant Noma , @nomacph, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo, Spain.
This is the first time in the award’s 18-year history that a French restaurant has received the top prize. Mirazur took over the No.1 position from Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy. Mirazur appeared as No.3 in 2018 and No. 4 in 2017.
In this year’s event which is considered the biggest night of the international culinary world, 26 countries from five continents won a place in the list of World’s Best 50.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has been ranking the top 100 fine dining destinations around the globe every year since 2002, with the winners chosen by a panel of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs and food writers.
Mirazur’s selection “is a testament to Chef Colagreco’s love of local produce, most of which is grown in the restaurant’s three-tiered garden just meters from the dining room, complemented by a stunning French Riviera backdrop,” explained the organizers.
“This year we are thrilled to see Mirazur claim the No.1 spot after rising through the ranks since making its debut on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at No.35 in 2009, it’s been brilliant to witness its progress,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “This has been a wonderful, progressive year for the list as a whole, with so many new entries from all corners of the globe.”
Spain got the biggest number, with seven restaurants in the World’s 50 Best, many of them in the Basque country. including three in the top 10: Asador Etxebarri (No.3); Mugaritz (No.7); and Disfrutar (No.9).
The USA got second place in the number of restaurants with six in the list, including Cosme (No.23) in New York, which is helmed by The World’s Best Female Chef 2019, Daniela Soto-Innes, and two new entries: Atelier Crenn (No.35), and Benu (No.47), both in San Francisco, California.
This year Denmark has two at the top-five honors for the new incarnation of Noma (No.2) and Geranium (No.5), both in Copenhagen.
Peru also makes the top ten list with entries from Lima including Central (No.6), once again voted The Best Restaurant in South America, and Maido (No.10). Mexico claimed two spots in the upper echelons of the list: Pujol (No.12), which is named The Best Restaurant in North America, and Quintonil (No.24), both in Mexico City.
The UK, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand and Russia are also each represented with two restaurants on the list.
Alain Passard of Arpège in Paris, France (No.8), won the Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm, voted on by the world’s leading chefs in the list and awarded to a peer who has made a significant impact to the culinary world in the past year.
The Art of Hospitality Award, sponsored by Legle, went to Tokyo’s Den (No.11). The restaurant is highly regarded for its holistic approach to service. Other Asia-based restaurants in the list include Gaggan (No.4), in Bangkok, which is closing next year, named The Best Restaurant in Asia, and Odette (No.18) from Singapore.
The Test Kitchen (No.44) from Cape Town is The Best Restaurant in Africa.
UK, which has seen its share of top 50 establishments drop from four to two.
Only four restaurants at least partially led by women — New York’s Cosme, Slovenia’s Hisa Franko, Colombia’s Leo in Bogota and Atelier Crenn — made the list of 50.
When Marguerite Mariscal started interning for Chef David Chang in 2011, Momofuku was about to open up in Australia. Toronto came next, and with all the momentum, the budding restaurant group then took on funding from outside investors for the first time.
Soon after, Chang recalls, “there was a lull.” An era of “complacency” ensued. His next big project—Nishi, a take on Italian food made solely with Asian ingredients—opened in 2016. What Chang calls “a real painful moment” followed. The New York Times wrote that Chang’s usual magic was showing “a little wear.”
“It was, honestly, all my fault. I wasn’t a good enough leader, and I didn’t prepare us to be successful. I wasn’t doing my job. I was, quite frankly, all over the place. It was fear of change, fear of growing up, fear of taking chances,” Chang recalls. “I had thought that what’s good for me is going to be good for the company. And I swore to myself that I was never going to do that again.”
But Chang says Mariscal worked tirelessly against it, proving herself during hard times. She hopped on the line to prep before service, worked the door at private events without being asked and helped out when the in-house reservation system wasn’t working. “She’s probably the most respected employee we have in the whole company, because there is nothing that she won’t do herself, if needed. You can’t say that for a lot of people. You just really can’t,” Chang says. “As she got promoted and had more and more say, I realized she understands Momofuku better than me sometimes, maybe more. She’s seen the highs, and she’s seen the very lows.”
Now Chang is stepping aside to focus on media and work with Momofuku’s next-generation chefs, along with spending more time with his newborn son. And Mariscal, a New York native and member of the iconic Zabar’s family, will become Momofuku’s first official CEO at just 29 years old.
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“I’m not tasked as being a steward of the brand. Dave wants me to basically be a custodian of change. He wants to make sure that I’m the person who is making sure that we’re moving forward,” says Mariscal, who was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 food and drink list in 2018. “If I don’t, if things don’t change, if we progress on the kind of trajectory that we are now, that’s failure.”
Previously Momofuku’s creative director and chief of staff, Mariscal is now in charge of an empire that includes 14 locations, from critically acclaimed Majordomo in Los Angeles to the revamped Noodle Bar location recently opened on New York’s Upper West Side. There’s a new, potentially scalable, concept, too: a Momofuku-inspired Asian convenience store called Peach Mart, with a new flagship inside the shops at Hudson Yards. (And it’s Hudson Yards’ billionaire developer Stephen Ross who backs RSE Ventures, the owner of a minority stake in Momofuku. There are also some other small private investors.)
“For us to grow, the most Momofuku thing is to break with what we are already doing, not try to distill it and franchise it. It’s really figuring out how do you scale without losing what made Momofuku successful in the first place, but at the same time, knowing what made us successful is not going to work moving forward,” Mariscal adds.
She is also taking charge of Momofuku’s growing consumer packaged goods business, which started selling its own Korean chili Ssam Sauce in select Whole Foods locations in 2015. Last year, Momofuku’s partner Kraft Heinz initiated a relaunch, and it now can be found in 3,800 locations nationwide, as well as Amazon. Momofuku says sales increased 38 times from 2017 to 2018 but declined to provide specific figures.
Mariscal says the company is already planning to launch two more products: a fermented chickpea paste called Hozon, featured in Nishi’s signature ceci e pepe, and Bonji, the soy sauce alternative made from fermented grains, not soybeans. Momofuku has previously sold these to other restaurants and distributors but never to customers.
“It was proven really early on to me that Momofuku was a meritocracy. There really isn’t a lot of red tape,” Mariscal says. “We encourage people to come in, learn the systems and then make recommendations as to how to make it better. We have no sacred cows.”
This past fall was pretty hectic for Zhang Yong. His popular restaurant company, Haidilao, was entering the public stock market, and he was also determined for the business to keep up its frenetic growth. A second Hong Kong location of Haidilao was debuting, and shortly after its doors swung open for the first time, Zhang dropped in for an inspection. As he walked through, servers and cooks rushed out to meet him, eager to greet Zhang da ge, or “big brother Zhang……..”
Admit it: You often dream of quitting your job, ditching it all and moving to paradise. Guess what? That dream could be a reality. In 2018 and 2017, I looked at the best places in the world where the cost of living is so affordable that you can quit your job, retire early and stop working. These are places that are considerably cheaper than in the U.S. — and where life is a whole lot easier. For 2019, I tapped into International Living, which releases an Annual Global Retirement Index, a list of the top places to retire around the globe. And this list isn’t just for retirees:
As food experiences become more important in travel, people are spending significant amounts of time researching what they’ll be eating before booking vacations. To track this trend, TripAdvisor gathered information on the top food cities in the world—that is, the tourist destinations where local cuisine is the biggest draw.
Rome took the number one spot, with another Italian city, Florence, coming in second. Third was Paris—quelle surprise—and Barcelona and New Orleans rounded out the top five. The list included each city’s most-booked “food experience.” In Rome, that was a food tour of the Prati district; in Florence, it was a cooking class and market tour at a Tuscan farmhouse. (According to their data, food tours are the fastest growing experiences category on TripAdvisor based on amount spent, which increased 61% last year versus 2016.)
“Travelers are increasingly interested in getting local insight on their destination, and food tours and cooking classes a great way to do that,” said TripAdvisor spokesperson Laurel Greatrix, in a statement announcing the list. “Guides can be a great resource for finding hidden gems or local favorite spots, and can create an unforgettable part of your trip. Coming home with a local recipe or a new favorite restaurant is the best souvenir.”
As for methodology, the best food experiences were ranked using an algorithm that considered “bookings, traveler reviews, and traveler ratings.”
See the full list below of top food city alongside the most-booked food experiences.