Billy Bulletin May 19-25: Rockefeller's Dancer, Passenger Bill of Rights, Branson's Supersonic Plans
The Billy Bulletin appears every Thursday with news about travel and the cities we cover, to help our readers and passengers navigate the week ahead.
What’s happening across Billy-land this week? A big ballerina, book launch and Branson’s big plans …
Visit to the Rockefeller Center and you’ll discover an inflatable ballerina has done a grand jeté onto the scene. The 45-foot (13½-metre) sculpture is the work of widely celebrated artist Jeff Koons (he of the giant metal balloon dogs). Its purpose is far from whimsical: As Time Out New York tell us, the installation is meant to remind us that it’s National Missing Children’s Month (the National Missing Children’s day itself is May 25).
Visit the city’s Olympic Park sometime in the near future and you may be picked up by a tiny, 10-passenger driverless bus. Montreal’s STM transit agency is experimenting with automated little pod-buses and expects to roll them out soon. Philippe Schnobb, head of the STM, told Radio-Canada: “"We're going to continue to hire drivers. We're going to keep watching the technological developments. We'll think about it.” Still, at this rate they might arrive before spring 2017 truly takes hold.
When George Washington wasn’t busy generalling and presidenting, he was making hooch at his estate – specifically, wine, cider and whisky. (This is all explained in thorough and interesting detail to visitors of Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, we happen to know.) This weekend the historic site about a half-hour drive from DC reconnects with its boozy past with the Spring Wine Festival and Sunset Tour. The popular annual event takes place each night this weekend. Wine, and a mansion full of priceless and irreplaceable historical artifacts? What could possibly go wrong? Only VIP tickets are left, and if you want some, act quickly. (And do not invite Nicolas Cage, he tends to tear the place up.)
Volcano Bay, Universal’s new and vaguely tiki-themed water park, opens Thursday May 25 in Orlando. While water parks are fairly predictable even when they’re great (Splashy log ride? Check. Lazy river? Check.), there’s one piece of innovation here: The use of wristbands as a payment system. Volcano Bay’s Tapu Tapu wristbands will look familiar to past users of the MagicBand, which Disney introduced in 2013 so people could pay for food, enter their hotel rooms and more. However, as the Associated Press reports: “Unlike Disney’s wristbands, Universal’s Tapu Tapu wristbands have screens on which visitors can get text alerts or see images, and they also vibrate.” Neato.
High-profile Toronto (and Montreal) restaurateur Jen Agg’s much-talked about memoir, I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, has dropped. Be ready to keep up with Agg’s straight talk about the restaurant business and sharply honed thoughts about the role of feminism there, and everywhere. (We’re hoping for bathroom decorating tips too, to be honest.) Meanwhile the author has some sound advice about where you ought to buy the book if you’re in Toronto.
Canada’s federal government has introduced a bill of rights for air passengers to Parliament. According to the CBC the proposed legislation “includes measures to prevent airlines from charging parents for the privilege of sitting next to their young children. The bill also requires carriers to have standards for transporting musical instruments.” Musicians across the land will break out in song when it’s finally against the law to mangle guitars.
Finally, Richard Branson and a startup called Boom Technology have unveiled plans for a new supersonic jet airliner. Aviation geeks have of course yearned for a successor to the Concorde ever since its 2003 retirement. Branson and Boom see a market for 1,000 supersonic aircraft by 2030, which would allow (deep-pocketed) passengers to zip from New York to London in just over three hours, or Los Angeles to Sydney in just under seven. The consortium plans to get its new supersonic jet airliner tested by 2020 and flying passengers by 2023. We think that timeline sounds unrealistically fast – too supersonic to be believed.