Home Archives 2011 June 22

Daily Archives: Jun 22, 2011

Maps are better than ever!In the past couple of months, our Development Team here at FlipKey has launched a number of new site features, and we are so excited to share them with you! These updates and new features have impacted nearly every aspect of the website, and provide a much improved user experience for the entire vacation rental community – owners, property managers, and travelers.

The most noticeable changes involve site-wide aesthetics and structure. The look and feel of the site has been completely overhauled to make the properties shine. We reorganized property listing pages, removing the tabs that used to hide pertinent information and making it easier to navigate the important information in each listing. The new page layout makes it easier for travelers to evaluate the important property details at first glance.

Less visibly, the team has been working hard to improve search speed and accuracy, and anyone who has searched for a property recently will have noticed that results come back faster than ever.

Another big improvement is the new photo browsing experience, complete with a lightning-quick photo viewer; larger, high-quality images; and support for video. The photo viewer displays thumbnails of all of the available photos, and allows users to click on any photo and see it enlarged up to twice its former size in high quality. The upgrades to the photo section really help to make each listing “pop,” and significantly enhance the look and feel of the listings. If you uploaded smaller images to your listing before, then now is the time to add your most recent, high-res shots to your listing!

 

New Review Summary on FlipKey

We also added a new review summary. Due to the substantial number of reviews collected on individual properties, we saw a need to aggregate review data in a way that would be really helpful to travelers. The new review summary provides visitors with high level breakdowns of feedback left by verified guests to help paint the big picture of guest sentiment. We also added the ability for travelers to mark reviews as “helpful” so that future travelers will be able to see what feedback was most helpful to travelers in the past.

Two of the most recent upgrades to the site included the new and improved mapping function as well as the option to add a video of your property. The new maps show much more detail than before and feature nearby attractions and restaurants local to each property. The map thumbnails can be clicked to show an enlarged map, offering travelers a better feel of the area they might be visiting. The option to add video is just another way for owners to showcase their properties, and really offers travelers the closest experience with the property that they can get without actually coming to visit!

We are always looking to make improvements and additions to our website, so expect that as the months go by, we’ll have more exciting updates to share with you! In the meantime, if you have suggestions, we’d love to hear those as well.

Taryn Collins is a FlipKey owner services specialist and vacation rental marketing expert. Her bi-weekly blog, Ask FlipKey, aims to answer the difficult questions that vacation rental owners and managers ask every day. Submit your questions in the comments!

Roasting Red Peppers in San SebastianI’m not very big on vacation, and yet I love to travel. What seems to be a paradox is actually quite logical in my mind: staying in a hotel, running around trying to see as many monuments and museums as possible… it causes me more stress than anything else. The kind of travel I like involves really getting to know a place, taking it easy and living in my destination.

My first trip to San Sebastian was a two-day pause on a whirlwind backpacking trip, but I was immediately captivated by the Basque architecture, thriving nightlife and, of course, the tapas or pintxos culture, and I knew I would have to return. When I decided to truly visit and get to know San Sebastian, I took two months out of my time in Paris, enrolled in a language school, got a freelance writing job, bought a surfboard, and stayed in an apartment in the Amara neighborhood: I didn’t want to be a tourist; I wanted to be a donostiarra.

One of the major reasons I love exploring new places in this way has to do with the people: I love getting to know the locals, sitting at my local bar and chatting with the regulars. I developed my own haunts in Amara and San Sebastian, enjoyed glasses of txacoli wine, followed my surf instructors on their regular night out in the old town… but no matter how much I tried, I found that integrating isn’t always easy in the somewhat self-segregated and exclusive Basque region.

An area that defines itself as other: neither French nor Spanish, neither fully a metropolis nor fully a beach paradise, San Sebastian is a contradiction of itself. The people look at everyone as an outsider, and to be allowed into the group is nearly impossible: gastronomic societies, groups of surf buddies, giant families of cousins and siblings hanging out in bars and restaurants until late in the evening are not immediately welcoming to tourists and travelers from abroad.

I was lucky, then, during my travels and wanderings on the wide avenues of San Sebastian and the exploration of its surf beach in Gros, to meet Jon Warren, an English transport to San Sebastian who founded San Sebastian Food, a company which allows you to delve into the heart of San Sebastian culture by getting to know its food. When I met Jon, he was just getting started, and he was happy to lead me to his favorite hidden pintxos bars, to introduce me to chef friends he knew, and to take me on tours of the Rioja wine country to the south.

Today, he’s created a real business out of it: he has spent the time and effort getting to know the people and options in the area, setting up an office and culinary center in the middle of the old town, the perfect place to stop by, meet people and see where you should be going. Via pintxos bars, cooking classes, and more, San Sebastian Food takes tourism to a deeper level, and the people you meet along the way – chefs, bartenders and fellow pintxos lovers, not to mention Jon himself – make all the difference.

When I was in San Sebastian, Jon and I became friends, and knowing my love for food, he invited me on a day trip to Tolosa, where we sampled dozens of specialties like alubias, a variety of black bean, sheepsmilk cheese, and foreign fruits I had never seen before. But the most memorable were the red peppers.

Pepper Cart in San Sebastian Market

Peppers are a huge part of Basque and Spanish cuisine, but I had never seen anything quite like the pepper-roasting machine set up in the middle of the Tolosa market: kilos of piquillo peppers were thrown into a rotating roaster, popping out at the other side charred and black, to be wrapped up in plastic bags and taken home to jar. I watched as local women filled carts with several kilos of peppers, surely to bring home and prepare with the help of daughters and cousins. Maybe I was slightly jealous; maybe I just wanted to be part of it. Either way, I purchased some and brought them home, and, riffing off of one of my favorite pintxos from my local bar, I made pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao.

Recipe: Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Bacalao

Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds roasted piquillo peppers, the skins removed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 whole
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 250 g. salt cod, rehydrated
  • 1 T. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. If your peppers were fresh, carefully remove the stem and seeds without ripping the pepper, so that it retains its cone form. Peppers can also be purchased already seeded in glass jars at the supermarket. Reserve 10 of the best-shaped peppers, and dice the rest.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and a hefty pinch of salt. Sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Add the diced red peppers. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add water by the half-cupful until the peppers have fallen apart and formed a chunky sauce, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. At this point, you can purée some or all of the sauce using an immersion blender, or leave it chunky.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the cream, salt cod, potatoes and other clove of garlic (whole) in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cod has broken down and has a creamy texture. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break down the cod completely. When the clove of garlic has completely broken down and been incorporated into the mixture, it’s ready (about 30 minutes). Season with black pepper.
  5. Using a spoon, stuff the cod mixture into the reserved peppers, and carefully place into the sauce. Cook, covered, until just heated through, and serve with bread.

Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia