Saturday snippets: 2nd of May 2015

By | Category: Travel news
Cleaning Day - who would have thought that tis could be a tourist attraction! (c) Jussi Hellsten

Cleaning Day – who would have thought that tis could be a tourist attraction! (c) Jussi Hellsten

With the thought that almost anything can become a tourist attraction, you might fancy a trip to Helsinki in Finland for the 23rd of May. This is “Cleaning Day,” I kid you not, a jumble sale when householders turn out the cupboards and bottom drawers and sell it. A carnival atmosphere develops and locals look foorward to the event. But tourists latched on to the idea and now people come from far and wide to ferret through all the items and pick up a bargain or two. If you were to stay over in the city for a while you could join in Helsinki’s 460th birthday celebrations which will be taking place on the 12th of June.

The Munda Biddi Trail is one of Western Australia’s most appealing long distance off-road cycling experience. The track extends over a thousand kilometres from Mundaring in the Perths hills to Albany in the south and is the longest off road cycling track in the world. That alone attracts cyclists who want to return home and be able to say that they have ticked that off their cycling bucket list.. Starting in Mundaring, the trail meanders through scenic river valleys and the magnificent forests of the state’s south west. Natural pathways have been enhanced for a  cyclists by purpose built track for much of the way. The Munda Biddi uses a network of bush tracks, firebreaks, and disused railway beds. Five star hotels may not be dotted along the track but, for those cycling for more than just a single day, there are purpose built shelters spaced a day’s ride apart or you can stay in country towns along the way.

I can’t seem to leave Western Australia this week. Those of you looking for a whale-watching tour with guaranteed sightings might want to consider the Bremer Canyon off the coast of Western Australia. So far the expeditions have had a 100% killer whale viewing success rate. The canyon is home to enormous numbers of killer whales – in excess of 100 have been spotted on any given day – giant squid, sperm whales and masses of sea birds. The expeditions took place in February and March this and will be returning in February 2016. Expeditions cost £185 per person ($350). www.whales-australia.com.au  Or if you prefer sharks as company, you can go to Ningaloo Reef in the same state where you can swim with whale sharks. They migrate to Western Australian shores between March and August each year to feed on plankton and krill, however sighting were made as early as mid-February this year.  Last year was a record year for whale shark tours with a total of 1,133 taking place, and a whale shark sighting success rating of 92%.

Just across the channel in France, the Pas-de-Calais region wants you to visit what they call the ‘Grand Site des Deux-Caps.’ This is one of the fourteen ‘Grands Sites’ in France all famed for their they beautiful coastal landscape that stretches 36km along the country’s northern coastline. This year to egg us on the Deux Caps Art Festival has commissioned local and international contemporary artists to create unique works inspired by the region’s impressive natural sights. And one is from Edinburgh, Kenny Hunter, a sculptor. The three main themes of the Art Festival are; Nature (be it wild, preserved or tamed), Man (in particular the farmer, landscape architect and the fisherman) and Heritage (war, fishing, and building).

Nile boats - some 200 aren't operating because of a lack of tourists

Nile boats – some 200 aren’t operating because of a lack of tourists

According to the German travel trade publication, FVW, quoting the new Egyptian tourism minister – Khaled Ramy –  flights into to the Red Sea centre of  Hurghada is full and Sharm El Sheikh, nearly so. He expects a 15% increase in visitors from the German marke. What this means is that discouted holidays to those destination are less likely than last summer for us as well as the Germans. Cairo, Luxor and the Nile are still seeking a recovery so that is where the bargains will probably be for summer and winter this year.

How often can you stay in a castle unless you are super-rich or really push the boat out? And how many castles have been so altered that you fail to appreciate what life must have been like for those early owners. In the Italian region of Liguria, a 15th century castle, is available for a stay. Fieschi – Senarega Castle – which has lain abandoned for decades, now has four basic bedrooms available. The small castle is located in the hills behind the city of Genoa in the rural village of Senarega. Dating back to the 15th century, it was originally used for hosting aristocratic funcions as well as a defence base. Following this it acted as a prison and from the 1830’s to the 1980’s as a school until the eventual abandonment of the site. The interior and exterior of the castle have been renovated to offer four bedrooms from £49 per night for a double.

Jet 2 is trialling a new service just at Manchester Airport. Called “Twilight Check-in.” it enables passengers to drop their luggage off at Jet2.com’s and Jet2holidays’ check in area at Terminal One between 3pm and 8pm the night before their flight.  All they have to do is make sure they have checked-in online beforehand, then they just turn up the following day for their flight safe in the knowledge their bags will be securely waiting for them at their destination. If successful it will be implemented throughout the airports jet 2 uses. From the passengers point-of-view, anything that makes flying easier is to be welcomed and any problems could be sorted the evening before. On the other hand, it involves two trips, to sets of parking charges and time that might have been spent doing other things.

Falmouth where tall ships have also gathered before racing

Falmouth where tall ships have also gathered before racing

In just over a month’s time. on 6th June,  over seventy yachts will sail out of Falmouth Bay for the start of the Red Ensign AZAB 2015, the largest ocean going race leaving Britain this year.Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the event was established by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club in 1975, and takes over 70 competitors to the Azores and back again to Falmouth. Tens of thousands of people will go to Falmouth to enjoy the sight of so many vessels. But on on yacht this year will be the youngest competitor ever, Lucy Campbell from Helston, who at 16 years old will sail with her father in their boat Zulu Warrior.

The fire at Clandon House, the National Trust property in Surrey earlier this week has robbed us of one of the tourist attraction of the south east of England. Popular with visitors because of the location and wonderful collection of textiles, furniture porcelain and the construction of the house itself, it is not yet known how much can be saved. Anyone seeing the television pictures might be forgiven for thinking that only the shell and nothing else survives. No doubt at some stage the Trust will tell us what did survive.

There was a story in the Daily Mail this week saying that Network rail had spent £1.3 million on domestic flights. The newspaper intimated that this was a bitter pill given that Network Rail is responsible for our track bed and relations with the train operators. Shouldn’t they set a good example and only use rail? But being publically owned surely they had responsibility to buy the cheapest mode of transport – which were flights? The argument should really be about why air is cheaper and what can Network Rail and the companies do to make pricing more competitive.

In the Northern Ireland Assembly this week, I was taken with an off-hand comment from the MP, Danny Kinahan, who suggested that there was no tourism policy in Northern Ireland for the countryside. In presenting a petition for development along the Sixemilewater River to be reconsidered he said that the valley and river outside Antrim should be part of the tourism policy promoting country sports and the countryside. No comment from Tourism Ireland so far.

at the last Biennale in 2013

at the last Biennale in 2013

To Italy where two major events occur this year. Although I have flagged it before, just a quick reminder that Expo 2015 in Milan has opened with 140 different countries being there. Some 20 million visitors are expected over the next six months so make sure your accommodation is booked before you arrive. Guess what? Hotels prices have increased in the city above and beyong the normal summer rates. On top of that, a day ticket costs €39. And In Venice, the contemporary art show that only happens every two years – the Biennale – will open next week. That will run through summer and autumn and, although there is a particular part of Venice that houses the Biennale, there are other areas of the city where some of the countries arrange exhibitions. Also in Venice the new attraction, Aquae Venezia 2015 opens on Monday as a side event of the Expo. As its name suggests, this is dedicated to water and its impact and importance to our lives.

And another reminder. If you are flying from today and taking a child under 12, there is no need to pay Air Passenger Duty (APD) for them. If you have previously paid, claim a refund from the airline or travel agency from which you bought the airfares. Some airlines have suddenly introduced an administration charge. If this happens when you claim, let us know and we will do some naming and shaming.

Finally, yet again, the European Commission has failed to decide on the revised version of a directive on packaged holidays. The directive is long overdue and was thought originally to tighten up controls on those in the industry and what coverage consumers would get in the event of a problem. Did the Commission seek industry support prior to its initial thoughts? It doesn’t look like it since lobbying from the industry has spotted more flaws in Commission thinking making a directive  – and protection for us – even further away.

 

 

 

 

 

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