Saturday snippets: 2nd April 2016

By | Category: Travel news

26c27e0e1351f39bf732a9e31ae35f52fee0504336146d261b1d2dc2d14f2224For jazz lovers, the Caribbean might be your destination this month. From the 16-24 there is the Tobago Jazz Experience and then, five days after Tobago ends, the St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival opens and runs until the eighth of May. At the Experience, Lauryn Hill, Hip Hop superstar J.Cole and others are due to appear whilst at St Lucia, Kool & The Gang, George Benson, and Shaggy are fronting. Both events take place all over the islands so you will get a chance to see the tourist attractions a swell rather than just being holed up in a dark night club which is what most associate with jazz!

Yet another destination will be robbing our holiday wallets.The Balearic Islands which include Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca have introduced a new tax effective from July 1. The tax starts at €1 a day for stays in one-star to three-star hotels and cruise ships, increasing to €2 for some four-star and five-star hotels. The tax will be halved during low season from November to April and halved after a stay of ten days but is only payable by those over 16. Andrew Ede in an article in the Majorca Daily Bulletin summarises the tax much better than I can so here is a link is to his story

The new Sousa barrel or Ovum

The new Sousa barrel or Ovum

To many, the increase in the number of UK holidaymakers opting for cruises last year was a bit of a surprise after slowing growth numbers. One reason why could be because you can now depart from so many British ports. For this coming season, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines will sail from ten ports all of which make it easier for us to start are journeys as well as meaning that currency changes don’t necessarily leave us feeling out-of-pocket. The ten ports are Southampton, Dover, Tilbury, Harwich, Falmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle, Greenock (for Glasgow), Rosyth (for Edinburgh) and Belfast.  Now all the company has to do is find a Welsh harbour they can use and they will have tied the whole UK up.

You would have thought that champagne was just about perfect. In a quest to improve – can you do that? – the French champagne house, Champagne de Sousa, is using an egg-shaped barrel referred to as Ovum. Why? Apparently tests carried out by Bordeaux University on a Graves Grand Cru Classé, in Léognan, showed that wine matured in OVUM offered a higher intensity of fruit characteristics than wine matured in classic barrels. So now you know!

3.4 million overseas visitors spent $8.45 billion visiting the Australian state of NSW in 2015 making it the most visited state in the country. Four regions posted significant growth in visitor numbers: North Coast (up 21,900 visitors or 8 per cent), South Coast (up 15,000 or 13.2 per cent), Blue Mountains (up 12,000 visitors or 13.3 per cent) and Riverina (up 5,500 or 29 per cent). It won’t surprise you to know that Sydney is still the most visited NSW destination.

Belfast is using the money that it succeeded in getting from the GREAT campaign to persuade the youth market to visit Belfast which, the local tourism board says, is a young and vibrant city. In particular it is trying to attract youth from France and Spain to visit so it has made videos in Spanish and French to target that market. To succeed it is uses French and Spanish youths already in Belfast to extoll the attractions of the city. As any tourist destination does these days, Visit Belfast has also produced a free app which can be seen at at visitbelfast.com/explore as well  as ireland.com/explorebelfast. It offers users a unique tour around Belfast and is best viewed through the Belfast virtual reality viewer. The viewer, inspired by Google Cardboard, has been made available in the target markets. So why just the French and Spanish or does visit Belfast plan to expand the idea to other European countries and maybe even England, Scotland and Wales as well?

Floors Castle near Kelso © Floors Castle

Floors Castle near Kelso © Floors Castle

On the Scottish borders at Floors Castle near Kelso, the Duke & Duchess of Roxburghe have launched new attractions for this season’s visitors to see.  There is a Kelso cycle track & forest bike park, their Victorian Kitchen Walled Garden has the opening of the Victorian greenhouses for the first time ever, there is a new red squirrel and wild bird conservation programme and a new family adventure playground. There are also some newly marked out river walks and they have a new new loyalty card program.

Down on the Somerset coast at Weston-Super-Mare, it’s time for the annual sand sculpture festival. This year there are 30 pieces of beach art on the sea front including a 26 foot tall rocket which is the centrepiece of this year’s festival. The theme of this year’s is “When I Grow Up”, aimed at capturing residents’ “childhood dream jobs”. They will also have 16 artists from overseas competing for the public vote in a championship event.

Holidaymakers journeying to Korea might want to consider a new initiative by the Korean Tourism Organization, Samsung and SK Telecom. International visitors to Korea can collect a free smart phone under the “Enjoy Mobile Korea For Free” event. The event will be held from March 15 until December 31 this year, and travellers who are interested may apply directly at the official website (emk.visitkorea.or.kr). Not everyone will be lucky though. Through a series of screening evaluations, chosen participants will be offered free rental of a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (limited to five days use) that includes free data, voice calls, incoming calls (international outgoing calls excluded) and SMS messages. In addition, KTO’s travel and tourism app is also installed.  Selected participants may collect and return the rental phone at the SK Telecom Roaming Center located at Level 1 of Incheon International Airport.

The Lion Salt Works Museum, near Northwich, Cheshire has won first prize in the conservation category at the Civic Trust 2016. The Lion Salt Works Museum is one of the last open-pan, salt-making sites in the world and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  Owned by Cheshire West and Chester Council, its four year, £10m restoration tells the story of salt through fun, interactive displays, including a ‘subsiding house’ and a sound and light show that simulates the steam from the boiling salt pans.  It is the only open-pan, salt-making site in the UK and one of the last four in the world.

part of this year's display

part of this year’s display

Keukenhof opened this week. The highlight of the theme year is a flower bulb mosaic covering an area of 250 square metres and made up of a hundred thousand tulips, grape-hyacinths  and crocuses. The flower shows portray wonderful combinations between tens of thousands of flowers and the 17th century paintings such as Girl with a Pearl Earring. New in 2016 are a Golden Age inspirational garden and a Delft Blue garden. This year Keukenhof expects 800.000 visitors from 100 countries who can visit up until 16 May 2016. There is probably a coach tour leaving from somewhere near you as this is one of the most popular outings for coach operators.

Hotels can be boring. Many functional ones are little more than boxes planted next to or on top of each other with a few other boxes to form lobbies, restaurants and spas. Most have no character Enter the “Art Hotel.” One opened in Wales last month and another opened in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.  Inspired by the 18th and 19th century paintings in Salon de Paris, the façade will act as an inverted salon displaying contemporary art, which will also adorn the hotel rooms. Twenty of the 80 rooms will be designed by top Finnish contemporary artists with a selection of artwork connecting each room. Now for the other 60 rooms?

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Finally you might remember that I got a bit hot under the collar about Cumbria launching a sheep-themed Renault Twizy hire service on St David’s Day. Now the Isle of Wight has followed suit but their Twizy’s (or is that Twizies?)  aren’t sheep motivated. They are just ordinary electric cars being used to emphasise the island’s green image. They are, however run by a company called Red Squirrel. What is about these cars and animals? The press image even has a dog staring at it.

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