Saturday snippets: 13th September 2014

By | Category: Travel news

418-440-246-Sunderland-Illuminations-(dark-background)-jpgThe Blackpool Illuminations have already been turned on by Peter Kay, attracting tens if thousands of visitors but they aren’t the only lights you should see.  Sunderland Illuminations will light up Roker and Seaburn from 27 September to 2 November. Visitors to Roker Park will see Lewis Carroll’s classic tale ‘Alice in Wonderland’ being retold by larger than life light installations depicting classic scenes and characters from the 19th century novel. The characters themselves will come to life every weekend to tell stories and help visitors explore the park’s magical spaces.

Just in time for October half-term, Warner Bros. is expanding its Studio-Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. It will unveil a new section devoted to the Dark Arts, encompassing Horcruxes and other sinister wizarding artefacts, in what is the Studio Tour’s first permanent addition since opening. There will be the full set which became the headquarters of Lord Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The mannequin of captured Muggle Studies teacher Charity Burbage will be suspended above the set, while a life-like model of Voldemort’s loyal 20-foot snake Nagini will sit on the mahogany table, which will be framed by the costumes of the rat-like Peter Pettigrew and Potions master Severus Snape. It opens on October 14 and will surely attract back to the north London location the hundreds of thousands of people that have already visited the attraction.

100th million visitor

the 100th million visitor at Europa-Park

Another place attracting a massive number of visitors is Europa-Park in Germany. They have just welcomed their 100th million visitor. Not in one year, but over the 39 years that the theme park has been open. The moment finally arrived on last Monday. At virtually the same time, Europa-Park was also Europe’s first theme park to be named “Best Amusement Park in the World” at the 2014 Golden Ticket Awards. None of the other well-known theme parks such as Chessington,  Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland or Port Aventura has ever won so now wonder that Europa-Park was cook-a-hoop at being Europe’s first theme park to have been named “Best Amusement Park in the World” by an American specialist panel.

When Just about Travel publishes stories about destinations abroad we try to provide links to the website. Many times those sites are only in the language of the country and we try to say so. More and more are providing English language pages and here is news of another one. Germany’s south-western region of Brandenburg, the Elbe-Elster-Land, now has an English language section. Unlike some there is more than one page so categories like Cycle Tours, Industrial Culture, Culture & History, Countryside & Nature and Fit & Active have been translated into English along with accommodation links.  To locate the site go to and click on the Union Jack logo.

What visitors expect to see in the Netherlands

What visitors expect to see in the Netherlands

In 2013, I was lucky enough to go to Keukenhof which is just outside Amsterdam. The tulip and flower festival that is held for just a few weeks each March is a carpet of colour but for the rest of the year Keukenhof is closed. Apart from the weekend of the 10-12th of October when it re-opens to give visitors the chance to buy bulbs and see the autumn colours. In the pavilion dozens of bulb growers will offer their products for sale, including many exclusive species. Information is also supplied first-hand about planting and nurturing different kinds of bulbs. Over the coming months a total of approximately 7 million flower bulbs will be planted in Keukenhof Gardens in readiness for 2015 when the theme will be “Van Gogh” to coincide with the 125 anniversary of Van Gogh’s death in 2015.

I can’t say that bags and purses appeal to me a great deal but I have a wife, a daughter and two nieces who seem to own hundreds between them.  They cannot be alone so I draw attention to Amsterdam’s Museum of Bags and Purses. Starting next Monday, they have an exhibition entitled  Forever Vintage, looking at vintage and retro handbags in which lots of people seem to be interested judging by the high prices they command in retro shops and auction sites!

Cruising - the appeal of warm seas and faraway places? Or just the comfort of the ships?

Cruising – the appeal of warm seas and faraway places? Or just the comfort of the ships?

As the cruise shows come around again – this weekend it is on in Manchester – there is some surprising “research” from which says that as many as 30% of passengers don’t leave their ship during at least one of the ports of call. 6% don’t leave the ship at all! I remember that Ronnie Stevens in the old Carry on film – Carry on Cruising – always headed for the bar and had a drink relating to the country the ship had just docked in. He never left the ship either but I though people like him were myths. Apparently the reasons for not leaving include bad weather, uninteresting ports of call and because one member of the party threw a hissy-fit and didn’t want to go. Rather spoils the point of cruising in the first place doesn’t it?

Staying with “research,” Holiday Hypermarket claims that one of their surveys shows that after taking a holiday, tired and stress built up and another holiday is required just eight weeks after the last one ended. That means we need seven holidays a year. In should be so lucky but then I don’t own a holiday company looking to persuade people that they need more holidays!

Many readers will be planning their October half-term breaks and the US might be on your list. One possibility could be attending the World Championship Punkin Chunkin which takes place in the Delaware city of Dover from the 24th until the 26th of October. Pumpkins are hurled by catapult for charity. Spectators can witness the innovative, ingenious and downright odd inventions of over 70 teams as they propel pumpkins over 1,000ft using a mix of human and mechanical power in attempt to throw the furthest.  You might remember the old Channel 4 programme, Scrapheap Challenge, where one year they took a team from the UK to compete.

pumpkin chuckers

and just because I couldn’t resist their logo

I don’t remember them faring as well as the more ingenious American hurling inventions though! Adult tickets are $10 per person, per day and children under 10 are free.

As part of European Heritage Open Days this weekend there will be thousands of properties open. In Northern Ireland alone, over 400 properties will open their doors, free of charge, so that people can get a unique chance to have a look inside.   Titanic Foundation will be opening the doors to the Drawing Offices  – usually closed -and welcoming local artists.

Finally, in Cumbria today is the opening of  C-Art which looks at some of the UK’s most picturesque landscape and Cumbria possesses a large slice of that. Running until the 28th of September over 150 artists, designers and independent galleries will open their doors to the public and numerous art and craft workshops, demonstrations and special exhibitions will take place. The 2014 event will also see artists taking their work and art practice outside of their studios into unusual and extraordinary locations. Visit for more information.


cruise ships in port

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