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New York hotel charges guests $500 for bad online reviews

- August 5th, 2014

Before you post that less-than-stellar hotel review online, you may want to check the hotel’s website for their policy on charging for negative reviews.

It sounds unreal, but a hotel in New York state has come under fire for just that. As Page Six reports, the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y. had posted a policy regarding wedding guests on their website, stating “that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not. If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event… and given us a deposit of any kind… there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review… placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

Union Street Guest House’s owner Chris Wagoner said the policy was meant as a joke, though Yelp.com user Rabih Z. said the hotel had emailed him twice in 2013 threatening to charge him $500 for a bad review posted by a wedding guest.

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The Union Street Guest House has since edited their website to remove the policy, but this hasn’t stopped the people of the Internet from posting a slew of mocking, negative reviews to the hotel’s Yelp page.

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Battle for title of Canada’s top washroom returns for fifth year

- July 31st, 2014
Valleyview Shell Super Station

2013 winner: Valleyview Shell Super Station, Alberta.

The battle to name the king of all Canadian washrooms has returned for a fifth year.

The contest, sponsored by Cintas, a Canadian company that sells work uniforms and restroom supplies, sees members of the public go online to vote for their favourite public washroom, in hopes of it being crowned Canada’s top porcelain throne-room.

“This contest is fun but it also conveys a critical message that restroom hygiene matters – for good health and good business,” Leslie Molin, Cintas’ senior marketing manager, said in a statement.

Last year’s winner was Valleyview Shell Super Station in northern Alberta. What restroom will reign as Lord of the Latrine this year? See the top five finalists, chosen by Cintas’ team of editors, below and cast your vote at bestrestroom.com/canada through October 2014.

Patria, Toronto

Patria, Toronto

Patria – Toronto, Ontario

Cintas says: In sharp contrast to Spanish-inspired brown and red hues that string the dining room walls at Patria, the washroom features clean white marble from ceiling to floor, and simple elegant fixtures. Golden faucets and mirror accents give the washroom a regal atmosphere, adding to the overall European experience.

Calgary Zoo

Calgary Zoo

Calgary Zoo – Alberta

Cintas says: Amongst giraffes, hippos, lions and gorillas sit the Destination Africa washrooms at the Calgary Zoo. The park takes visitors across the globe, from Africa to Eurasia, with lavatories to match in each locale. Each circular hut serves as a loo, complete with wall-to-wall tribal décor for a true glimpse into African culture.

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood – Niagara Falls, Ontario

Cintas says: The glamourous décor of the Planet Hollywood restaurant reminds guests of their favourite Hollywood classics, and the experience continues with a visit to their flashy washroom. The ladies’ room mirrors are “framed” with a pair of giant, hot pink, zebra print sunglasses, turning every woman into a star with a glance at her reflection. Meanwhile, in the men’s room, guys are doing a double take when they see what’s staring back at them. Cobalt blue sharks open wide to reveal mirrors between their terrifying teeth.

Shaw Club Hotel

Shaw Club Hotel & Spa

Shaw Club Hotel & Spa – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Cintas says: Style and radiance come together in this lavish loo. Upon entering the ladies’ room, guests are greeted by a modern glass infinity sink and simple stainless steel fixtures. The stalls feature large glass doors which fog up for privacy when the door is locked! Here’s the science behind it: sandwiched between the two panels of glass is a mixture of polymer and liquid crystals. A constant electrical current keeps the crystals in line and the glass transparent. But when the door handle is locked, the current is stopped, the crystals fall, and the glass looks clouded.

Vancouver Airport

Vancouver Airport

Vancouver Airport – British Columbia

Cintas says: Located in the C-Pier, Domestic Terminal of YVR, travellers find a clean, modern place to freshen up during their journeys. The washroom walls are covered in shades of blue, red, and yellow mosaic tiles and wave-shaped blue flooring winds down the curved corridor leading guests to their choice of bathroom stalls. White tile surrounds the hands-free sinks and towel dispensers, creating a cohesive and modern atmosphere.

Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince George to spend summer vacation in Scotland

- July 21st, 2014
Prince George. (Reuters)

Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince George. (Reuters)

Prince William, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince George will spend their summer vacation at the Queen’s Scotland estate of Balmoral, US Weekly reports.

The royals will likely head to the Scottish castle soon after Prince George’s first birthday on July 22, which will be spent at the Cambridge’s apartment in Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth is even expected to attend the tiny prince’s party at Kensington, though the monarch has made it a summertime tradition to gather the royal family at Balmoral.

Balmoral Castle. (Fotolia)

Balmoral Castle. (Fotolia)

Queen Elizabeth can be seen with a young Princes William and Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Zara Phillips at Balmoral Castle in the below BBC video from the early 1990s.

More Royal Travel:
Prince William and Kate’s top 10 travel destinations
Where the Royals travel as children
Duchess Kate and Prince George on Mustique vacation
Prince William, Duchess Kate on Maldives second honeymoon

US Weekly reports that young royals often spend time at Balmoral learning to ride or shoot, though George is still too young for those activities.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Anne are also expected to vacation at Balmoral this summer. The family often starts the day together with a large breakfast, followed by a picnic lunch, afternoon tea and formal dinner at night.

Is George Clooney planning a destination wedding at Downton Abbey?

- May 28th, 2014
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. (AFP Photos)

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. (AFP Photos)

Hot on the heels of Kim and Kanye’s wedding celebrations at four castles across three European countries, George Clooney is reportedly planning his own destination wedding in a castle: England’s Highclere Castle, a.k.a. Downton Abbey.

The Daily Mail reports that Clooney and his fiance, Amal Alamuddin, will wed in September and, after touring the property together, have decided that Highclere would be the perfect venue for the nuptials. Rates for renting Highclere start at $25,000 and include the services of an award-winning chef.

George Clooney, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman at 'The Monuments Men' premiere. (WENN.com)

George Clooney, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman at ‘The Monuments Men’ premiere. (WENN.com)

Clooney starred with Downton‘s Lord Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville, in  The Monuments Men and reportedly turned to his co-star to arrange a tour of Highclere.

George became close friends with Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Robert Crawley, when they did Monuments Men together last year,” says the Daily Mail’s source. “When he saw his bride-to-be’s reaction to the spectacular Victorian castle, set on 1,000 acres of parkland, he began making some discrete inquires about having their wedding performed there.”

Highclere Castle is the real-life home of the eighth Lord and Lady Carnarvon when it’s not acting as Downton Abbey in the hit ITV/PBS television series. It has been the home of the Carnarvon family since 1679.

Highclere Castle. (Courtesy VisitBritain)

Highclere Castle. (Courtesy VisitBritain)

Lady Mary Crawley stops on the steps at Downtown Abbey as she prepares to wed Matthew. (Courtesy ITV)

Lady Mary Crawley stops on the staircase at Downtown Abbey (Highclere Castle) as she prepares to wed Matthew. (Courtesy ITV)

Looking for a new vacation home? Dracula’s Transylvania castle up for sale

- May 13th, 2014
Bran Castle. (Fotolia)

Bran Castle. (Fotolia)

If you’re in the market for a new vacation home and don’t mind that the home’s previous occupant was the undead king of vampires, you’re in luck! Britain’s The Daily Mail reports Dracula’s Transylvania castle is up for sale.

Bran Castle, one of eastern Europe’s most popular tourist attractions with 560,000 visitors each year, is being sold by the current owner, a Romanian archduke, for $86 million CDN.

Archduke Dominic and his family care very much for the castle and it’s in far better shape now than it was when run by the government,” Mark Meyer, lawyer at the New York-based firm handling the sale, told The Daily Mail. “If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will look at who they are, what they are proposing and will seriously entertain the idea.”

Some believe Dracula author Bram Stoker based the Gothic castle in his 1897 novel on Bran Castle and the attraction markets itself as the home of Dracula, though more recent evidence suggests Stoker had another Transylvania castle in mind when writing his novel. There are also no major connections between Wallachian ruler Vlad the Impaler, thought to be the inspiration for Stoker’s Count Dracula, and Bran Castle, though Vlad did travel through the area on occasion.

Statue of Vlad the Impaler. (Fotolia)

Statue of Vlad the Impaler. (Fotolia)

Bran Castle. (Fotolia)

Bran Castle. (Fotolia)