Saturday snippets: 6th December 2014

By | Category: Travel news
Gingerbread Leeds Castle

the two metre scale model of Leeds Castle – all made from gingerbread

Being an old humbug about Christmas, I wouldn’t usually start a column mentioning it but news from Leeds Castle made me change my mind. Why? Because they have created a two metre scaled model of the castle out of gingerbread. It took 80 eggs, 10kg butter, 10kg sugar and 72kg icing and opens to the general public today. Running until the 23rd of December, there is also a 2.5 metre long gingerbread Doll’s House based on Leeds Castle. In total, the Gingerbread Castle and Doll’s House took 550 hours to make. There will also be gingerbread decorations to match the history of the room. The hand-made gingerbread decorations will include Royal symbols such as the pomegranate for Katherine of Aragon in the Queen’s Gallery and the Tudor Rose symbols in the Henry VIII Banqueting Hall. And yes, there is a Christmas market as well Personally, I’d just settle for scoffing the gingerbread!

Santa is supposed to be plump, even fat to the point of being obese. They certainly couldn’t run – at least not very far. But In Greece they have decided that, tomorrow, 500 people will dress up in a Santa suit and take part in a symbolic race for the restoration of the playgrounds of Athens. The first Athens Santa Run will be held in the centre of the city and each participant will pay 10 euros to go towards the special cause. The race starts at 11:30am and the route will be approximately 2.5K . I bet the real Santa couldn’t run that far!

Did you know that Alabama was the America’s most BBQ-crazed state?  The award came from USA Today which said it had the best and ninth best BBQ restaurants in the US.  BBQ is so big in Alabama, each community throughout the state has a different approach to the quintessentially American dish. The northeast is known for its slaw-smothered sandwiches, the north’s BBQ chicken is traditionally drenched in a tangy, mayonnaise-based special white sauce and Birmingham’s 500 BBQ restaurants (and counting) are famous for thick and rich sauces.  By the way, the state has decided that 2015 is the year of the Alabama BBQ.

Last Monday a new civil aviation regulation came into giving the Civil Aviation Authority the power to insist that both airlines and airports comply with European regulations to provide special assistance to passengers with a disability or reduced mobility. It’s called the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014 which really slips easily off the tongue. If you have a problem (and we regularly hear from readers about problems they have faced, quote this at the official you complain to.



Hungary has begun a promotion so that anyone books a stay at more than 50 of Budapest’s 3,4 or 5 star hotels will get 4 nights for the price of three or three night for the price of two. To increase the temptation to take a short break there, there are also discounts on many other attractions including Legenda Danube sightseeing cruises, Giraffe Hop on Hop off bus tours and Aquaworld theme park plus free entry into one of the city’s traditional baths, the Gellért, Lukás, or Rudas. The discounts are only available when booked in conjunction with the accommodation through the Budapest Winter web site.

Given the go-ahead this week and called “the most expensive (about £175 million) footbridge in the world”, the Thomas Heatherwick designed garden bridge will stretch between the South Bank and Temple station in London. Plants, bushes and flowers will adorn the bridge which, personally, I think will turn it into one of London’s top tourist attractions just as the London Eye has become. But it won’t open until 2018. Why so long away?

Talking of green issues, were you aware that Heathrow Airport has won the title of greenest business of the year at the 2014 West London Business Awards? It isn’t just based on what Heathrow plans to do like reducing ground based but its efforts to urge the  introduction of next generation aircraft with lower emissions. It already operates one of Europe’s largest airside electric vehicle fleets; introduced hybrid buses around the airport, and has reduced NOx emissions from every source since 2009, for example, from airside vehicles by 28%, and from heating plants by 70%.

Not only is Heathrow green but it is getting into the Christmas spirit too. It will hand out sweets that taste of Christmas classics to those flying on Christmas Day. The airport wants to make sure the 100,000-plus passengers flying on the day do not miss out on a Christmas dinner, so will offer sweets tasting of turkey, stuffing and Christmas pudding. Yes, I had to read this story twice but that is what it really does say. Maybe it has bought some of the food the astronauts take with them. I think I would prefer the real thing in one of their restaurants instead of thinking I was chewing a sherbet lemon and finding out it was sage and onion stuffing!

Travelling to Heathrow from the west by train usually puts you at the whims of points failures and engineering maintenance so you allow extra time, usually only to spend a lot of time reading the novel that you planned to take to last you through the trip. British Airways and First Great Western have joined forces so that you can buy a single train/flight ticket. The big advantage for passengers is that if the train is delayed for whatever reason and you miss the flight, BA will automatically put you on the next available one. A free night’s accommodation will be thrown in if the next flight is the following day. Any other airlines and rail companies care to follow this example?

the Cirque show this year at PortAventura

the Cirque show this year at PortAventura

PortAventura and Cirque du Soleil have signed a 5 year agreement to establish a summer touring base for the world famous Canadian entertainment company in the resort. The deal envisages that Cirque du Soleil’s big top will stage a number of different touring productions, the first of which will be “Amaluna”, which arrives in Europe for the first time next year. The partnership began with “Kooza” in July and August 2014, making PortAventura Resort the first European resort to host a Cirque du Soleil touring show.

The Canadian province of British Columbia will launch a three year marketing plan to persuade us that it is Super, Natural British Columbia.® It will focus on nature at its core and showcases the power of British Columbia’s wilderness, and the emotional connection that it makes with travellers.

For those who are planning a skiing holiday in France this winter there are some new flights available that you might be interested in. easyJet will have a once weekly flight from Aberdeen to Geneva as well as eight flights a week from Luton to Lyon. BA links Gatwick to Grenoble twice a week whilst Norwegian has a single weekly flight linking the two. Flybe has a single flight each week linking Cardiff with Geneva and Inverness with the same city.

In Amsterdam, in Holland, a light festival that lasts until January 18th began last weekend. Different from other light festivals, this one is a cultural festival of light and water which puts the history of the city in the spotlight. Light sculptures by contemporary international artists will illuminate the centre of Amsterdam and buildings will be lit in either traditional ways just illuminating the architectural features or artistically.

Finally to Medora, a city in the US state of North Dakota. This weekend they are celebrating their “Old fashioned Cowboy Christmas.” Personally, I know little of the eating habits of cowboys other than from I learnt watching westerns on TV but it seemed to consist of lots of coffee and beans. But they began this celebration yesterday with oyster stew. Yes, oyster stew. Now I know there is a cocktail called the prairie oyster as a hangover cure and lots of cowboys drank a lot of whisky in those old films but is it really an old fashioned (traditional?) Christmas meal to have oysters? Incidentally, the city website says that Medora was founded on April 1st 1883. Could that have something to do with having such a “traditional” Christmas feast?






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