Lord of Leisure Bounces into New Business

CAMBRIDGE - Steve Falco has hung off cliffs and been smacked by paintballs, all in the name of earning a buck.

Now the 37-year-old entrepreneur is turning his talents to another leisure-time pursuit.

The Cambridge native has launched Grand River Inflatables, which brings bouncers, slides, monster trucks, obstacle courses, jousting pits and the like to schools, churches, birthday parties and company events.

Inflation is now his friend not his enemy.

Grand River Inflatables bounced into existence last winter when Falco joined forces with Nancy Schappert, a St. Catharines resident who has operated Niagara Inflatables in that area for the past nine years.

Falco, who started a rock-climbing business eight years ago, then followed it up with a paintball venture four years ago, had gotten to know Schappert at various leisure events over the years.

The pair decided there was an opportunity to open an inflatables business in this area.

"This past year we just decided, let's put everything together. Let's come up with a new identity that's suitable for the region that we're in. So that's why we came up with Grand River," Falco said in an interview at the storage facility on Franklin Boulevard where he keeps much of his inflatable equipment.

Though the pair are co-owners, Falco runs the day-to-day business out of his home while Schappert is on board as an investor.

When he started Ultimate Climbing in 2003, Falco would often set up his climbing walls and bungee trampolines next to inflatable games and equipment. They were sometimes dirty, taped together or unkempt.

He was not impressed - until he met Schappert. Her equipment was shiny, new and staffed by clean-cut university students working during the summer.

"It gave me a totally different picture" of what the inflatable business could be like, he says.

Over the past winter, the pair spent plenty of time planning the new business to be ready for the peak spring season. They sent brochures to schools, spent money on a new website and networked with companies and community groups to get the word out about Grand River Inflatables.

A visit to the International Association of Amusement Parks annual trade show in Florida in November helped acquaint them with the latest inflatable equipment.

Falco's goal has always been to run his own company and have fun doing it at the same time. He started working at his dad's rendering company while still attending Glenview Park Secondary School, then went on to work for his uncle's headhunting firm.

One day he saw an ad for a rock-climbing wall in a magazine. He started making phone calls to potential customers and within a day, two companies called him back. Six weeks later he was on his way to Utah to pick up his first rock-climbing wall from the manufacturer.

He kept his headhunting job for the first few years, but now this lord of leisure and ambassador of amusement devotes his full energies to Grand River Inflatables, plus the rock-climbing and paintball ventures.

Grand River Inflatables has five full-time employees during the busy warm-weather months, but expands to as many as 20 workers for special events such as Canada Day at Riverside Park in Cambridge.

The busiest times are May, June and September, but Falco's goal is to pump up the indoor business to schools, churches, companies and malls in the winter.

Car dealerships have even been known to move out vehicles and bring in inflatables for special events, he says.

While the local school board currently bans large inflatable equipment inside schools for safety reasons, Falco says he has plenty of other safe indoor games to keep students amused.

When fully inflated, his Monster Truck stands about 30 feet high, so having it property secured to the ground is essential, he says. Elsewhere, people have been carried away by slides blowing down a road or inflatables picked up by a gust of wind, he says.

So far, he and Schappert are on track to recoup their initial startup investment by the end of next year, Falco says.

Within five years, they're hoping to inflate the business fourfold and grow into such areas as London, Stratford and Hanover.

Grand River Inflatables

Address: 9 Julianna Cres., Cambridge, Ont.

No. of employees: 5

Website:

www.grandriverinflatables.com

.

Phone: 519-957-9731.

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Superliners Offer More Choice - .au
Royal Caribbean's 'Radience of the Seas' at port in Sydney Harbour. Picture: SuppliedSource:SuppliedAS SYDNEY celebrates the arrival of the biggest superliner to call the Harbour City home in Radiance of the Seas (pictured) this month and its owners plans to send an even bigger ocean liner potential cruise passengers can look forward to great deals and new itineraries.Suddenly it is about choice for you, not the line, as lines such as Royal Caribbean International, P&O Cruises, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival, Cunard and more offer new itineraries, new deals and new prices.At the same time, operators are quietly urging the NSW Government to fast-track infrastructure improvements to allow bigger and better ships to call Australia home, possibly including turning the Garden Island naval base into a cruise terminal.Bear in mind cruise ships are floating resorts quite happy to steer to places like China as home ports if demand and infrastructure is there. At the moment they see Australia as a huge market that will deliver lucrative deals for local guests and a massive payoff as thousands of Americans and Europeans come south to enjoy Australian, New Zealand and Pacific waters provided the infrastructure works.That's why this month Sydney became home for a season to the Royal Caribbean International liner Radiance of the Seas, the biggest ship to call Australia home for a season.Launched in 2001, and undergoing a massive multimillion-dollar refit in May before its Sydney sojourn, it is the largest ship to make Australia its home port for the 2011/12 cruise season. Its not-so-smaller sister Rhapsody of the Seas already has given locals a taste of RCI style.At 293m long, Radiance of the Seas carries about 2100 passengers, with features including a basketball court, mini golf, dedicated cinema, kids' swimming area with waterslide, nine-deck atrium, sea-view glass elevators and 12 dining venues.The ship also offers Royal Caribbean's signature rock climbing, along with an adults-only solarium, spa and fitness centre, children's Adventure Ocean club, Casino Royale and Broadway style theatre.There is also the massive outdoor LED video screen overlooking the main pool area, the English-styled Quill & Compass Pub among many eating options, which have doubled during the refit, plus a variety of kids' clubs facilities.Radiance of the Seas' season highlights include five 14 and 16-night cruises to New Zealand and two 12-night cruises to the South Pacific; a seven-night Tasmania itinerary, sailing on February 12 next year, with overnight stops in Melbourne and Hobart; two opportunities to circumnavigate the continent by combining a new 16-night Top End voyage from Sydney to Perth (Fremantle) with an 18-night southern return voyage to Sydney via southern Australia and New Zealand.This time next year Sydney will greet RCI's Voyager of the Seas built at a cost of $US500 million ($A491 million) and measuring 311m long and 48m wide, about twice the size of most cruise ships now based in the region.With 1556 staterooms, it can carrying up to 3840 guests and facilities range from an ice rink, inline skating track, rock-climbing wall, nine-hole mini golf course, golf simulator, full-size sports court, three swimming pools, six whirlpools, a teen disco and an Adventure Beach water park.The 11 dining venues include the three-storey, 1920-seat main dining room which will be the largest restaurant in Australia and 13 lounges and bars, a 1350-seat theatre, spa centre, wedding chapel and art gallery among other facilities.While all this sounds exciting, RCI president Adam Goldstein in Sydney to talk to authorities about the future noted Sydney needs far better facilities to deal with existing cruise traffic, let alone the new generation of ships.After talks with ministers and bureaucrats about shortcomings at the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Darling Harbour, he was cryptic about whether Garden Island should become a cruise port, but noted there was not enough enthusiasm for Sydney the great harbour city to become a great cruise hub which in turn would spread the wealth to all other Australian ports of call."Americans and Europeans want to come down here in international ships like ours Sydney has to be a robust hub of the cruise wheel and I don't think the leadership in NSW has fully taken that on. It is a great opportunity."Originally published as Superliners offer more choice
Yorkshire Cavern Opens to Tourists Who Dare to Drop In
THIS weekend is one of only two all year where you can be winched into the 300ft deep Gaping Gill, a huge underground cavern in the Yorkshire Dales.Here, JAMES ELLIS tests the winch and recommends four other bank holiday adventure ideas in Yorkshire.Imagine sitting on a chair as the floor gives way below, and starting a slow descent into the unknown.Then throw in a fast-flowing waterfall that's twice as high as Niagara, and the fact you have no idea where you're going, while getting sprayed with freezing cold water on the way.If that sounds like some kind of horror film, it's what the good folk of the Craven and Bradford pothole clubs do for fun.And thanks to them, there are two weekends a year when the rest of us can have a go.Gaping Gill is an underground cave so massive it could house St Paul's Cathedral.It is located halfway up Ingleborough (Yorkshire's second highest peak) and only accessible by the best abseilers.That is until the local cavers host winch meetings on the late-May and August bank holidays to allow anyone else to have a go - no experience required. Descents cost £15per person.Remember Total Wipeout, the TV game show that pitted people against each other on ginormous inflatable obstacles over a lake?Well now you can do the same at Sheffield Cable Waterski's Aqua Park, which opened this month. The biggest in the country, it's set on a lake in the pretty Rother Valley Country Park. Obstacles include a 27ft floating trampoline, a 9ft climbing wall and a giant ladder that leads to an equally giant slide.Sessions at the park start from £15 per person.Billy Connolly fans take note - if you want a totally different way of seeing the Dales, jump on the back of a motorised Boom trike with Yorkshire Trike Tours.Driver/owner Jason holds themed trips exploring the gorgeous countryside, including offerings based on the 2014 Tour de France route and James Herriot locations.On the way, Jason offers expert commentary to two passengers on the back via Bluetooth headsets. Tours start from £50 per person.So yes, the Yorkshire Dales are hilly, but they're nothing like the Andes, which is what makes trekking with llamas past dry-stone walls and over farmland such a unique experience.They aren't strong enough to ride, so a trek is a little more like taking your llama for a long walk.Don't believe all you read - they don't spit at people, but there is a gentle hum as they go about their business following you uphill and down dale. Treks start from £30 per person.Tim Barber is a rare breed, an approved Blue Badge guide who specialises in tours around Yorkshire.His private Fossils And Sea Monsters tours start in Scarborough before exploring the Jurassic Coast and discovering dinosaur fossils that are more than 150 million years old.Once you know what to look for, there's the chance to scour the cliffs and see if you can find your own fossils.The half-day tours are taken in his 4x4 and include pick up, drop off and snacks. Tim's tours start from £300 for four people.For these and more Yorkshire adventures, see liveeveryminute.co.uk.
Santa Baby's Billion-dollar Christmas: Let's Add Up the Cost
You've seen this one before, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" story that tallies up the cost of all the bizarre gifts offered in the song. It's a tale as old as time: Some guy gives his significant other a steady stream of trees, birds and leaping lords over nearly two weeks - an expensive proposition and almost certainly an unwelcome one. (That the gifts are so terrible and cumbersome makes us assume the giver is a man.)It's one way to think about the evolving cost of life in the wealthy West. But it falters in part because none of this is relatable. No one aspires to receive eight milkmaids, let alone 40. No one wants all those geese.So, let's aim higher.In 1953, Eartha Kitt recorded "Santa Baby," a song that is a testament to the more capitalist tendencies the season can evoke. Over the course of a dozen sultry stanzas, Kitt asked for the sorts of gifts that any luxury-seeker could imagine: nice cars, fancy homes and a few blank cheques. Talk about true love.So let's figure out just how much fulfilling her Christmas wish list would cost."Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me ..."Sable: $88,000So a sable is a small weasel-like animal, as you may know, that mostly lives in Russia. Kitt is not requesting a pet. She wants its fur, fashioned into a coat.We'll start by noting that, in this analysis, we are not going to skimp. You could probably roll up to the Goodwill in Beverly Hills and stumble across a weathered sable that you could take home for $100 or so. But the point of this exercise is extravagance.Sable coats are some of the most expensive furs you can buy - especially, we are told, when they come from elusive wild sables in Siberia's Barguzin region, which can run into the six figures. The most expensive sable we found was a Russian sable short coat from Neiman Marcus, which will set you back $88,000 (all figures U.S.).One item off the checklist."Santa baby, a '54 convertible too, light blue ..."Convertible: $1.75 millionKitt's song was released in 1953. So we have a problem, as we are considering this in 2018: Is she asking specifically for a 1954 convertible or is she actually asking for the most recently available model?No reason not to consider both.For example, an extremely appealing 1954 Jaguar XK120 is available in the Netherlands, painted a very lovely shade of light blue. It can be yours for the low price of $157,950, including the $1,500 required for it to be shipped to New Jersey, helping Santa avoid fitting it on his sleigh.If Kitt was looking for the most expensive convertible she can buy today, things get a lot more expensive awfully quickly. The most expensive car one can buy appears to be a Rolls-Royce Sweptail, which sells for $13 million, but it isn't a convertible. The Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet is, but it's a concept car. So let's stick with something more practical like a Ferrari 812 Superfast. It retails for about $1.75 million, for which cost you get a very slick sports car but not a windshield. (Buy your own! How much could it be?)The cars are sold out for 2019, but what good would Santa's elves be if they couldn't fulfil a Christmas wish?"Santa baby, I want a yacht and really that's not a lot ..."Yacht: $455 millionIn concept, a yacht is what a layperson might call a sailboat. But we're thinking luxury here, which means superyachts, those massive water wedges that look like a Carnival cruise ship's little cousin. The Azzam, for instance, is a 590-foot long vessel that costs $600 million to build.But instead of picking that up from the president of the United Arab Emirates, let's get a little more topical to the news. Let's hook up Kitt with the Serene, a 439-foot boat that was formerly owned by a Russian vodka tycoon and now belongs to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Its amenities include an indoor climbing wall, a children's playroom, a spa, several swimming pools, an underwater viewing room, two helipads and a conference room, in case you need to have a business meeting in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Convenient.Mohammed bought the vessel in 2015 for a reported $458 million. He (or someone) also ran it aground near Egypt last year, so let's knock a few million off for that. "Santa honey, one thing I really do need, the deed / To a platinum mine ..."Platinum mine: $461 millionOne interesting aspect to compiling this list is you learn random things, such as the indigenous range of the sable and that most of the world's platinum production is in South Africa. (The industry that has the most use for platinum? Car manufacturers.)Platinum mines, like any other real estate, I suppose, do come up for sale on occasion. One did in South Africa a few years ago, a deal was finalized in the winter between Anglo American Platinum and Siyanda Resources. The cost? Siyanda paid 400 million South African rand up front and a stake in output for the next decade totalling no more than 6 billion rand.This gets a bit tricky, since I'm not sure whether the "Santa Baby" recipient plans to mine the platinum to generate revenue or what. But let's go with that 6 billion rand sale price, which makes it $461 million. "Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex and cheques ..."Duplex: $17.95 millionKitt lived mostly in the New York City area, so we figured it made sense to find a nice duplex somewhere in Manhattan. (Unlike much of the country, where a duplex is a house that's been split into two units, a Manhattan duplex is an apartment that spans two floors in a building.)Such a home is available in the penthouse of a building on Central Park South, along 59th Street at the southern end of Central Park. Among its amenities are an onyx chandelier, a wood-burning fireplace, a terrace overlooking the park and a bathtub that does the same. Penthouse 16 has "been featured in numerous films, TV shows, documentaries and photo shoots," the Zillow listing indicates, "including NBC's 30 Rock with Whoopi Goldberg (EGOT), Showtime's Billions, HBO series Vinyl with Martin Scorsese (d)irecting on location, ABC movie Madoff starring Richard Dreyfus, Dreamgirls with Jennifer Hudson, Obama's re-election campaign video featuring Ricky Martin and Did You Hear about the Morgans starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant."Another thing you learn writing about the song "Santa Baby" is that Whoopi Goldberg has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT) awards.Cheques: FreeAs for the requested cheques, this one seems fairly simple. Santa hands over some cheques he got free from the bank.Honestly, it's not even clear that these cheques would do much good. Does Santa have cash reserves? Does he need them? What would he spend money on? If your answer is "paying the elves," well, I have some grim news for you. Pacific Standard did some analysis and determined those elves might be working as slave labour. It's a rough gig, living at the North Pole, surrounded by reindeer, having to cobble together Italian sports cars using carpentry tools.Anyway, that article also speculated Santa takes cookies from houses, repackages them and sells them online, so take all of it with a grain of salt."Come and trim my Christmas tree / With some decorations bought at Tiffany ..."Ornaments by Tiffany: $24,400We all know what Kitt's getting at here. She wants to see her Christmas tree shine with sparkling ornaments of the diamond and silver variety.Well, unfortunately for Kitt, Tiffany has branched out since 1953 and now sells Christmas ornaments at its stores. There are 14 designs, from snowflakes to bells to a little sled, ranging in price from $65 to $300. How many ornaments do we need? Let's assume it's going in our Manhattan duplex, where the walls look to be about 10 feet high. We're told that a 10-foot tree can hold 120 to 160 ornaments.So let's just say we get 10 of each of the Tiffany ornament designs for a total of 140 ornaments."Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing, a ring ..."Ring: $71.2 millionKitt's last request is a simple one: A ring. So let's go all out.Meet the Pink Star, a 59.6-carat oval-shaped flawless pink diamond. At nearly half an ounce in weight, it's one big rock to carry around on your finger.It's now known as the CTF Pink Star, having been purchased at auction in 2017 by the chairman of a jewelry company Chow Tai Fook. He called Sotheby's and said something like, "I will pay $71.2 million for that diamond," and Sotheby's said, "You got it," and that was the deal.Now, Santa is going to buy it and give it to someone for Christmas.That is the end of Kitt's list. The rest of the song is exhortations for Santa to hurry up and come through with the goods.So what's the total? To fulfil Kitt's requests would cost, by our estimate, just more than $1 billion. Most of that - more than $900 million - is the platinum mine and the yacht.It's a lot of money, certainly. But at the end of the day, which would you rather have, an apartment overlooking Central Park or 12 pear trees? If you get a sudden hankering for a bunch of drummers drumming, ask them if they've ever seen a climbing wall on a yacht. How could they pass up an opportunity like that?
At Democratic Convention's Street Fest in Charlotte, Funnel Cake and Campaigning
CHARLOTTE - There were the electric cars, the climbing wall, the sustainable village and all the other things that Democrats like to show off on display at CarolinaFest, the street festival that kicked off the Democratic National Convention here Monday.And then there was the real purpose of the event, at least for President Obama's campaign."You want a free bumper sticker?" a young Obama worker shouted to people passing the president's campaign booth, standing three feet above them like a 21st-century carnival barker. "Text 62262 and you can have one. Did you do it? Perfect! Here you go."In the space of a few hours, organizers had passed out hundreds of bumper stickers, collecting just as many cellphone numbers and - they hope - new recruits who could help replicate the grass-roots force that grew out of the convention in Denver four years ago. Others trolled the crowd, estimated at 30,000, with clipboards looking for would-be voters to register. And volunteers asked for signatures to support women's initiatives and Obama's health-care law."There are a lot of volunteers passing by," said Samantha Steiner, 27, a Charlotte resident and registered independent who is not sure who she will vote for in November. "I don't necessarily identify with the Democratic Party, but the festival has allowed me to find ways to participate."CarolinaFest was meant to be many things for the Democratic Party. It was a classic Labor Day street party, with water-ice stands, funnel cakes and bouncy slides. It was a public-relations parade intended to portray Democrats as inclusive (it was free and open to the public), compassionate (it featured dozens of good-works demonstrations) and fun (who doesn't like a climbing wall?).The festival was interrupted twice during the day by short-lived but torrential downpours, and it was cut short by the threat of severe weather. James Taylor, the headline performer, was singing when organizers called it a night in the early evening.In some cases, the politics and the party were an odd mix.At one end of the festival, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer was spotted walking down the street in a suit and button-down shirt, taking in the scene.At the other end, organizers with the North Carolina AFL-CIO beckoned passers-by with a provocative offer: "Free hugs from union thugs!""You ready for a hug?" Lora Banner, a Teamsters member and United Parcel Service worker from nearby Gaston County in a blond up-do, asked one man who had strayed closer to the tent. "Come on over here!" She put her arms around him.Irritated that the Democrats chose to hold their convention in North Carolina, considered a non-union-friendly state, many labor groups scaled back or yanked their financial support for the event. The state AFL-CIO, however, opted to reach out for the folks on the street. By 4 p.m., a team of volunteers including schoolteachers, firefighters and other card-carrying union members estimated they had doled out about 400 hugs - and handed out cards showing how huggees could find a photo of their embrace on the organization's Web site."We thought it was a good way to show that union members are not scary people," said MaryBe McMillan, secretary treasurer of the state group.Even one of the centerpiece debates of the election campaign played out as street festival fare. Gagandeep Mangat, a radiologist from St. Petersburg, Fla., stood beside an RV belonging to Patients Over Politics, an initiative led by physicians in support of the Obama health-care law. "We are a group of physicians who want to make sure that people understand why it is important that we have this law," he said.As he tried to explain, he was interrupted by a California woman who wanted to know whether he supported adding a "holistic medicine component" to the law. Mangat emphasized the importance of simply preserving the law. "If we have the law then we could add anything to it," he said. Though the group is officially non-partisan, the doctors, who drove the RV from the Republican convention in Tampa to Charlotte, are also embarked on a voter registration effort they hope will help preserve the law. "This started because as doctors we were so frustrated that our health-care system was not working for the patients," said one of the group's founders, Alice Chen, an internist from Los Angeles, "and the only people talking about it were either policy people or politicians." Even the most lighthearted features of the festival carried a political, or at least cultural, message: A "Peace In, Peace Out" yoga booth. A "Youth Soccer for Social Change" game underway in a parking lot. "Naturals for Obama," a support group of black women who don't straighten their hair.Looming over all of that was a message from the Charlotte Diocese - a banner across the exterior wall of St. Peter's Catholic Church reading: "Protect the Unborn, defend marriage, safeguard religious liberty." Amy Argetsinger, Ann Gerhart and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.
Dining Rooms, Private Balconies and Whirlpools: Inside Quantum of the Seas' Stunning Two-storey Suit
They are the kind of palatial suite that wouldn't look out of place in the penthouse of the world's grandest hotels.In fact, these are the luxury berths that feature on the breath-taking Quantum of the Seas cruise ship.The two-storey loft suites feature private balconies and their own dining rooms, and come with a dedicated concierge service, while the spectacular Royal Loft suite comes with its own whirlpool.However, the luxury rooms don't come cheap.An eight-night stay in the Royal Loft Suite for a Bahamas cruise costs £7,499 per person - almost £1,000 each a night.The trip departs from Cape Liberty in New Jersey and calls at Port Canaveral in Florida, and Nassau and Cococay in the Bahamas before returning to Cape Liberty.The rooms cost £133,000 each to build.Touted as the world's first smartship, Quantum of the Seas is the most high-tech cruise ship in the world, boasting wristbands that serve as room keys, speedy wifi and a skydiving simulator.Royal Caribbean International's brand new ship is one of the most luxurious in the world with 18 decks and room for 4,905 guests, and is one of the most luxurious vessels in the world.At 1,141ft long, Quantum Of The Seas is the length of 41 London buses and longer than five Boeing 747s. It's the third largest cruise ship in the world. It is 2.5ft longer than the Great Pyramid of Giza is tall.Its most striking feature is the unique North Star, a jewel-shaped glass observation capsule suspended from a giant arm that lifts passengers over 300ft above sea level.The passenger pod, similar to the capsules on the London Eye, offers 360-degree panoramic views of the ocean.In addition to a skydiving simulator, the 1,142ft ship boasts a surf simulator, rock climbing wall and multiple venues for live performances.Billed as 'the world's most futuristic and advanced ship', Quantum of the Seas is the first in Royal Caribbean's new Quantum class of vessels.Built at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg Germany, it has more than 2,000 guest rooms and an area known as SeaPlex, the largest indoor active space at sea, complete with a flying trapeze, basketball court and three firsts for a cruise ship - bumper cars, roller skating and a food truck.It has the fastest internet speeds at sea using a new generation of mid-Earth orb satellites, and smartphone apps that allow guests to plan their shore excursions, book restaurant reservations or set up spa appointments.On Sunday the ship began its voyage from Southampton to a port near New York.After spending its inaugural season in North America the 168,000-tonne ship will relocate to Shanghai in the spring. An eight-night Caribbean holiday is priced from £879 per person.Decks four and five are lined with elegant Las Vegas-style restaurants, bars and shops selling everything from pints of beer and slices of pizza, to champagne and diamonds.Level 16 boasts iFly - the world's first skydive simulator at sea - as well as North Star, a five-star spa, a surf simulator, and a climbing wall.Deck 15 is where guests can find swimming pools, sunbeds and hottubs - as well as a pool-side bar playing music and serving drinks throughout the day.Inside, the ship's awesome architecture is complemented by a multi-million dollar art collection - from a huge butterfly wall by the glass lifts, and on-board galleries, to the 30ft-tall magenta polar bear made from stainless steel triangles standing proud on the ship's exterior deck.
Ardmore, Tennessee Area Attractions
Located in south-central Tennessee, along the Alabama border, Ardmore is a small town with a sister city just south of the border, Ardmore, Alabama. The area is a diverse tapestry of rural America with apple farms, small town festivals and great hiking and biking areas. While there are no major attractions in Ardmore, there are several in the local area.US Space & Rocket CenterFor those with a fascination for rockets and space travel, there are few places in the United States that can compare to the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Center is 30 miles to the south of Ardmore and offers visitors the chance to view the Saturn V rocket up close, explore the inter-workings of the astronaut cockpit and enjoy a variety of interactive and enriching experiences. There's an IMAX theatre, a g-force accelerator and a Mars climbing wall, where guests can grasp a better understanding of the final frontier. US Space & Rocket Center1 Tranquility BaseHuntsville, AL 35805(800) 637-7223spacecamp.comMill Creek Park‎There are areas in Ardmore to enjoy the outdoors, including Ardmore City Park, but for a true taste of the south-central Tennessee area, Mill Creek Park‎ in nearby Elkmont, Alabama offers an excellent outdoor experience. There are premium RV facilities and you can have a front row seat for many native birds and wildlife species known to the area, including turkey vultures and red-tail hawks. The park features over 200 acres of hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife and wild flowers and a large wetlands area. Mill Creek Park‎28861 Veto RoadElkmont, AL 35620(256) 732-3686millcreekrv.com‎Tims Ford State ParkLocated in Winchester, Tennessee, less than an hour to the north and east of Ardmore, Tims Ford State Park offers an abundance of outdoor activity on beautiful Tims Ford Lake. Like many state parks in the south, you'll find that Tims Ford has cabin rentals ,as well as camp sites and boat rentals to explore the waters or try your luck at fishing. There's spectacular scenery, tons of wildlife and, for those looking for more modern amenities, you'll find a golf course and recreational facilities located in the park and around the lake. Tims Ford State Park‎570 Tims Ford DrWinchester, TN 37398-4136(931) 962-1183Article Written By Patrick CameronPatrick Cameron is a freelance writer with 10 years of diverse experience in consumer goods branding, promotions and retail communications. He works out of his home in Denver, Colo. He received his Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.
Poor Door': 90K Apply for Affordable Units with Separate ...
Monday was the deadline to apply for the 55 units. Now, the Housing Partnership, a nonprofit group that's screening applicants, will randomly select those to be interviewed in order to verify their eligibility based on income, family size, disabilities, and other criteria, according to reports. While wealthy residents will be able to enter the building from its designated front entrance, affordable housing tenants will be required to go in through a back alley. The affordable two-bedroom units require tenants to not earn more than $50,304 a year for a family of four. The most expensive rent for one of those 55 units is $1,082 a month. These apartments will be lower in the building - 'street views' - with access to a community room and bike storage.READ MORE: 1 in 3 US families classified as 'working poor,' higher for minorities The building, on Manhattan's gilded Upper West Side, will also include about 219 luxury condos that will sell for $1 million to $25 million apiece. These units will come with views of the city skyline and much more. Condo residents will have access to a pool, bowling alley, rock climbing wall, a golf simulator and a screening room.Last summer, New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development approved plans for the 33-story high-rise, which was designed by Extell Development Company. Extell did not comment on Monday's application deadline. The 'poor door' arrangement, while not novel in America's most expensive city, has drawn accusations of income segregation amid ongoing discussions of the New York's steep income inequality."This 'separate but equal' arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side," Linda B. Rosenthal, a New York State assemblywoman who represents the district, said last July to local news outlet West Side Rag."A mandatory affordable housing plan is not license to segregate lower-income tenants from those who are well-off. The developer must follow the spirit as well the letter of the law when building affordable housing, and this plan is clearly not what was intended by the community."READ MORE: Income inequality increasing in major US cities apartments, while critics say that actively blocking some rent-regulated residents from using facilities acts as a clear signal for them to move out. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticized 'poor door' complexes."We oppose so-called 'poor doors' and will change the necessary rules so that when affordable housing is provided on-site, we will not allow separate entrances based on income," said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the mayor. Some city developers have claimed that new amenities are there to attract tenants willing to pay higher prices for apartments, while critics say that actively blocking some rent-regulated residents from using facilities acts as a clear signal for them to move out. New York City is a hotbed for income inequality in an America increasingly divided by uneven wealth distribution. The median rent in New York City for a newly-listed one-bedroom apartment in January 2015 was $3,000 per month, the second-highest sum after San Francisco.READ MORE: America's wealthiest families smash income ceiling, middle-class left far behind As RT previously reported, one-third of New Yorkers spend at least half of their annual income on housing. What's more, only one percent of the city's population is responsible for earning about 45 percent of its income, as of 2007. One in 25 New Yorkers is a millionaire, according to a July 2014 study, which ranked the Big Apple fourth in the top 20 global cities for high earners. The city also remains a prime favorite for the super-rich, as it's one of the top five cities for housing billionaires.
Bed & Breakfasts near Dingle, Ireland
In the opinion of some, Ireland's Dingle Peninsula is the most beautiful place on the planet, and it is the perfect getaway from the stresses of city life. It offers a huge number of activities for the outdoor devotee: from walking and hiking the inlets and harbors to bird watching; from golfing, fishing and horseback riding to discovering 6,000-year-old archaeological ruins. A visitor can witness the wildlife of the Blasket Islands, try his hand at the largest climbing wall in Ireland or learn to play a whistle or drum at a traditional Irish music school. Whatever you've come to Dingle to enjoy, you'll delight in staying at one of the many excellent bed and breakfasts, which typify the warmth, intimacy and hospitality Ireland is known for.O'Neills Bed and BreakfastO'Neills Bed and Breakfast is a "shouldn't-miss" spot if you want to stay in Dingle Town proper. The hosts, Mary and Stephen, will make you feel welcome from the moment you arrive, and guests can get a good feel for Irish culture there. You're just a two-minute walk to all the authentic pubs and great Dingle restaurants, but far enough away to feel the peace and quiet of living in a small Irish town without being surrounded by tourists. The breakfasts are superb, the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs a regular favorite, but the fare also includes local, fresh-caught fish, cereals, fruits and yogurts. The rooms are very clean, comfortable and spacious, and the off-street parking in back of O'Neills is a convenient bonus. With O'Neills as a home base, you'll be near everything you've come for.O'Neills Bed and BreakfastJohn StreetDingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland353 (0)66 915 1639Email: /oneills/Hazelbrook Bed and BreakfastHazelbrook Bed and Breakfast is a working sheep farm just a short walk from Dingle Town's great restaurants and pubs. At Hazelbrook, the sheep and horses are part of the experience, surrounding the house and grounds. Hosts Patricia and Mike are welcoming and warm, and guests find themselves coming back year after year. The rooms are very comfortable and clean, and the Irish breakfasts here will make you feel spoiled. This down-to-earth, clean and friendly bed and breakfast will give you a taste of the authentic Irish countryside experience, and you'll start missing it the moment you leave. Hazelbrook is convenient to Dingle Town with none of the bustle, and only a few-minute walk to the big rocks overlooking Dingle Bay. Hazelbrook Bed and BreakfastMilltown, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland353 (0)66 915 1589 Email: dinglefarm.comThe Lighthouse Bed and BreakfastThe Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast offers panoramic views of Dingle Harbour and the peacefulness of the peninsula countryside, yet is only an easy 15-minute walk to Dingle Town. The charming owners, Mary and Denis, will give you great tips on dining and things to do in town, and are always ready to chat. The rooms are comfortable, the views extraordinary and the breakfasts, of course, superb, including scrambled eggs and Irish bacon, salmon, black and white pudding, along with choice of fruit, cereal and yogurts. The Lighthouse breakfast, and watching the sun and clouds chase each other across the harbor sky, make a great way to start your day.The Lighthouse Bed and BreakfastThe High Road, Ballinaboula, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland353 (0)66 915 1829Email: /index.htmResourcesArticle Written By Jan LevineJan Levine is a published writer living in Oregon. She has a background in math, a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Cal Berkeley and is a recent Master of Business Administration graduate. She has worked extensively in non-profits, and also as an assistant director in movies and television.
The Home Front: Investing in Backyard Retreats
With housing prices at high levels in many parts of the country, there's been increased interest in backyard design, says Toronto interior designer Sarah Keenleyside, co-host of HGTV's new show Backyard Builds. Insteadof purchasing vacation homes or cottages - something that just isn't realistic for many people these days - homeowners are looking at building getaways outback, Keenleyside says."Tohave that retreat in your own backyard is a better way to invest right now is what we're seeing," she says.In Backyard Builds, which airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Keenleyside and her "total babe" of aco-host, contractor Brian McCourt, design and build creative indoor structuresfor homeowners intheir outdoor spaces. (Season one is focused on backyards, but they have plans to expand this reach.)Working with budgets that start at $20,000, the pair aimto use every square inch of homeowners' backyards to make them as useful as possible. Oneexample of this is the "postage stamp"-sized Toronto backyard - roughly 40 by 20 feet - that they turned into a cake decorating studio, soccer pitch and large entertaining deck."Itblew their minds," says Keenleyside. "The homeowners were like 'we did not think there was room for one of these things in this backyard, let alone three'."Keenleyside has been working as an interior designer in Toronto (Qanuk Interiors Inc.) for 15 years and says what she loves most about this show is that it's not about "reinventing the kitchen one more time" or "redoing the bathroom one more way", but instead creating something "brand new, every time" and travelling down a road neither she nor McCourt have been down."I think you discover more surprises in a backyard than you do in a home," she says. "Like in a home, we're so used to renovatingold turn-of-the-centuryhomes we can anticipate what'sbehind a wall. You can't always anticipatewhat's going on in someone's backyard so that was somethingthat was really interesting."McCourt says the show is called Backyard Builds because it's not focused on landscaping and decks; those come last. Rather, their focus is on building structures, such as the impressivetreehouse village they builton a property where the owners had an acre of forest."Thefamily has kind of a coolstory," says McCourt. "I guess they were bothdivorced and both had kids and bought this house together and moved in together and promised the kids they would build a treehouse."The project came with a big ask, which they met, says Keenleyside, and included a yoga space for the mother; a treehouse designed as both a family cabin and place the parents could use for a romantic getaway; a "kids-only cabin" and additional activities, like a zip line and climbing wall."Weeven ran electrical to that one," says McCourt. "Which was like half an acre of trenching, so they could enjoy the treehousesat night."Though it was a challenging project, the pair say it was one of their favourites because it let them tap into their childhood fantasies of treehouse building."We weren't allowed to use the words Ewok village," Keenleyside says. "But that's what it felt like. It was this amazing escape in the backyard."Taking it back to town, one of the Backyard Builds episodes mirrorsthe growing popularity of using shipping containers in residential construction, with Keenleyside and McCourt installing one in a family's backyard to serve as an office for a father."They havethree kids and he works from home," says McCourt. "So how awesome is it tohave your own home office in your backyard? You walk out, go to your office, no commute, but also no kids screaming in the background. It's kind of thebest scenario."