Saturday snippets: 26th March 2016

By | Category: Travel news

545090_num1136140Suggs – who I didn’t know comes from Hastings – headlines, alongside the rest of Madness, the official opening of Hastings Pier after the disastrous fire that we reported a few years ago. It has cost £15 to rebuild the pier and it will be open from late April before that official opening that Madness will attend. First opened in 1872 the 272 metre long pier enjoyed many years of popularity but the gradual decline in the British seaside in the 70’s and 80’s led to poor maintenance and declining visitors. The pier was closed in 2008 and a devastating fire in 2010 practically destroyed the superstructure.

The publicity people at Universal Orlando Resort are at it again. They are drip-feeding information about the new summer attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong. They start, “Massive winged beasts that hunt from the skies. Serpentine predators that burrow through the earth and attack from below. Giant insects that infest the jungles. These are just a few of the deadly creatures you’ll encounter on  Skull Island: Reign of Kong.” There is still no opening date but if you want to see a preview, click here or go to

 Floral Guernsey. Picture: Chris George Photography +44(0)1481 714091

Floral Guernsey. Picture: Chris George Photography

The Channel Islands Heritage Festival began yesterday and continues until 10 May. The six-week festival, in its second year, takes a maritime focus honouring the Islands’ coastal significance and naval traditions with a full programme of exclusive openings, guided walks, family adventures and coastal tours. Many events and activities will be held at maritime heritage sites around Guernsey and the isles of Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm. There will be at least 55 events and activities, 42 guided walks, four cycling tours, two coach tours, three boat tours  and 11 exhibitions that can be visited and enjoyed over the 45 days. Highlights will include the exclusive opening of the rooftop of Guernsey landmark Fort Grey, display of the Roman shipwreck The Asterix, pirate-themed family adventures at Sausmarez Manor and a series of guided walks, cycle rides and boat excursions.  The 2016 festival also marks the 150th anniversary of Victor Hugo’s novel, Toilers of the Sea, which was inspired by and set in Guernsey where Hugo spent 15 years in exile from 1855.

For decades Taiwan has been known as an electronics hub. Now, Taiwanese designers and artists have established themselves as an emerging creative force. As a result many disused industrial sites around Taiwan have been renovated and given a new purpose. These sites, often referred to as cultural-creative hubs, have become big visitor draws and provide another sightseeing opportunity for tourists the tourist board suggests that “must-sees” for 2016 include Kaohsiung’s Pier-2 Art Centre, Taipei’s Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

  The DAWN RUN and Jonjo O'Neill Statue at Cheltenham racecourse  Photo HEALY RACING.

The DAWN RUN and Jonjo O’Neill Statue at Cheltenham racecourse

Last week included St Patrick’s Day when it seemed the world went green. This year’s Global Greening was the biggest of any St Patrick’s Day in the seven years of the Tourism Ireland initiative. Across the world, an amazing 240 icons in 45 countries went green. Among the 100-plus new sites this year were 7 World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York, the Nelson Mandela statue in Johannesburg, the Roue de Paris (Big Wheel) in Paris and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have selected one image closely associated with the Irish – the statue of Dawn Run at Cheltenham Racecourse. There tens of thousands of Irish, just a couple of weeks ago, came over for the racing.  The tourism board doesn’t mention how many rival destinations went green with envy at the estimated €10 million plus publicity was engendered by this brilliant marketing stroke.

According to the Scottish Maritime Recreation and Tourism Survey, marine recreation and tourism is worth £3.7bn a year to the Scottish economy. It said that £1.3bn is spent on activities such as wildlife watching, sailing, kayaking, surfing and angling and a further £2.4bn is spent on general recreation and tourism such as coastal cycling, beach combing and short walks. General marine and coastal recreation, including beach activities, was found to be the most popular.

Yesterday the National Museum of Flight In East Fortune in Scotland opened two more hangers for visitors to explore. More than 30 aircraft, including a Spitfire, went on display following a £3.6m redevelopment of the two World War Two hangars at the site. One hangar at the East Fortune site in East Lothian will display military aircraft, while the other will house commercial and leisure planes. Visitors will approve of the refurbishment because it includes heating for the first time! Highlights of the military hangar include the oldest surviving Harrier jump jet, which was the world’s first vertical take-off combat aeroplane, and a rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163B-1a Komet – the fastest aircraft of World War Two.

Whilst the National Museums in Scotland are open over Easter there is no such joy in Wales. Due to industrial action, the Big Pit Coal Museum in Blaenavon will open at 1pm but there will be no tours underground on either Friday or Monday. The National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre wil be closed on Saturday as will the National Waterfront Museum’s galleries. Some buildings at St Fagan’s National History Museum, in Cardiff, will be closed on Sunday as will the National Slate Museum in Llanberis. Finally, the Adventures in Archaeology exhibit and galleries will be closed at Cardiff’s National Museum Wales on Monday. The National Roman Legion Museum in Carleon remains open over the Easter weekend. The strike may be called off in which case check the links we have provided.

Jamelia at the photo-booth. Did she get an Easter egg as one of the first 250?

Jamelia at the photo-booth. Did she get an Easter egg as one of the first 250?

Easter is a time of Easter eggs which you might think was stating the obvious. And it is. But most will be as gifts or as art of Easter egg hunts at heritage sites, attractions and fun fairs. But how about at an airport, Birmingham Airport. There, on Thursday, Jamelia – a local girl – took the first photograph inside a Qatar Airways photo-booth. It is linked to the inaugural flight next week from Birmingham to Qatar. This weekend you can take your photograph and everyone who uploads it onto social media using the hashtag #BHXTogther will be entered into a competition to win two business class tickets to any destination that Qatar Airways fly to.  And the eggs? The first 250 passengers who have their photograph taken in the booth will also receive a special limited edition Qatar Airways chocolate egg.

If you are holidaying in the Caribbean this Easter, the Bahamian festival of Junkanoo takes place. No, not the traditional Christmas one but a summer variety. The Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival season kicks off Easter Monday (28 March, 2016) with non-stop culture and entertainment until May 7th. On Grand Bahama events are scheduled from 14-16 April and on Nassau from 5-7 May. Blending art, culture and music, local and international entertainers join the Junkanoo groups to parade through the streets. The summer festival is not complete until visitors experience a Junkanoo Rush-Out. Whether it’s the children’s rush or the big parade. Expect lots of music, colourful costumes and a great deal of fun!

Finally, major engineering works are taking place in the Severn Tunnel from 12th September until 21st October this year.  I mention this now as it will affect those holidaying in Wales – or in England if you live in Wales. It will mean a 40 minute diversion from Swindon via Kemble, Stroud, Gloucester and Chepstow to Newport where you will re-join the main line. It does give passengers the chance to see the Severn estuary from the Welsh side as the railway runs alongside giving views across to England. If this shutdown didn’t occur the boffins estimate that the work would take up to four years and electrification would be years late so, all things considered, inconvenience for six weeks seems preferable – apart for those poor commuters who go every day from South Wales to Bristol for their work. They will be taking the bus each day.

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