Saturday snippets: 29th October 2016

By | Category: Travel news
engraving of Black Bart and his ships

Black Bart or Barti Ddu from an engravig in the 1720’s

It can’t have escaped many people’s attention that this weekend is Halloween. All sorts of suggestions have been e-mailed to me about “scary” places to go and weird and wonderful zombie parties that people can attend. Some will pub-crawl from event to event but how about a tombstone crawl?  In South-West Wales, the local tourist board has launched a trail around twenty tombs, gravestones and memorials which include figures such as legendary characters such as Merlin and King Arthur, Dylan Thomas, St David and pirate king Barti Ddu better known as Black Bart. Each of the four areas that make up South-West Wales –  Neath and Port Talbot, Swansea Bay, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire – is home to five sites; it should take around two or three hours to cover each county’s top spots, depending how often you’re distracted by scary things or are too frightened to continue. Incidentally, in case you have ever wondered the name given to someone interested in graves, cemeteries and memorials is called a taphophile!

Unusual hotels or their locations are always interesting so accommodation on St Helena, the island where Napoleon spent the last five years of his life will spark interest from many people around the world. Available from December is Bertrand’s Cottage which used to belong to Grand Marshal of the Palace Henri Bertrand and his family. It was he who brought back Napoleon’s body from St Helena to Paris in 1840. In the “cottage” there are three en-suite bedrooms and the main public areas will include a lounge and restaurant surrounded by large gardens.

Another popular hotel idea is that, according to the Financial Times, being developed by ex-footballers, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. They are planning to open up to 25 football-themed hotels across Europe and Asia.  Called Hotel Football, it already has one hotel in Manchester. The newspaper says that the duo and their backers are looking to open 5,000 rooms in the next ten years in places where there are internationally known clubs. But will a football themed hotel be like? Will there just be memorabilia scattered around or will there be rooms in colours of football clubs with rooms named after famous players instead of them having numbers? Will there be football pitches attached to each or will recreation be limited to subbuteo games?

halfpenny bridge over Dublin's River Liffey

Halfpenny Bridge in Dublin one of the many sights that virtually all tourists to Dublin will see

Ireland is having a very successful tourist year. Figures confirm that visitors from overseas grew by 12% in the period January-September 2016 – that’s almost 800,000 additional arrivals compared to the same nine-month period in 2015 – with almost 7.5 million arrivals. Just over 40% of those are from the UK meaning an additional 351,000 of us crossed the Irish Sea to visit in the first nine months of the year. There were an additional 249,000 from the rest of Europe and 187,000 from North America. According to the tourist board, Ireland welcomes 10% of all North American travellers to Europe.

The news agency, Associated Press, reported this week that archaeologists digging at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem have uncovered a marble slab said to be undisturbed since 1550. Underneath they found another slab, this time cracked and made of grey marble with a cross incised on it. Historians have pondered whether the location is the last resting place of Jesus Christ. Many visitors head to the church when they visit Jerusalem. In a city where there are dozens of sites attracting tourists, this church will probably attract many more after the excavations are complete

William Penn has links with Arch Street House

the Arch Street House has links to the founder of Philadelphia – William Penn

The US city of Philadelphia says that the UK was the source of the city’s biggest overseas tourism support in 2015 with 109,900 UK visitors travelling there. UK visitors make up more than 15% of all overseas visitors. Why do we go there in such large numbers? It is the first UNESCO World heritage City in the USA, it is the cradle of American democracy in that the famous Liberty Bell which – legend says – rang when independence was declared and it is conveniently located between new York and Washington DC without having the high hotel prices that hose cities have. Whatever the reason, Philadelphians will be actively wooing us to visit the city next year when there is another direct flight starting that of Icelandair’s from Reykjavik which will link in with the airline’s regional flights from the UK.

The Forth Bridge has been voted Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in new research by Visit Scotland as part of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016. It narrowly beat Edinburgh Castle, The Kelpies and the Glenfinnan Viaduct to take the top spot, with 30% of the votes in the survey. Other ‘wonders’ on the list include Stirling Castle, Falkirk Wheel, Caledonian Canal, Scott Monument, Bell Rock Lighthouse and Melrose Abbey. The research reveals that almost 60% of Britons have made an ‘architectural pilgrimage’ in the UK i.e. travelled just to see a famous building or architectural wonder. Six out of ten Britons said that a destination’s architecture and design played an important role when deciding where to go on a shortbreak.

We are quite used to visiting zoos when a new baby hippo, rhino or other rare species is born but would you visit to see baby stingrays? The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham is hoping you will as they have been celebrating the arrival of three baby Blue-spotted Stingrays. Native to the western Indian Ocean and eastern Pacific Ocean, the graceful creatures are a high risk species also known as Maskrays, and are currently being threatened by overfishing, exploitation and the destruction of coral reefs.  Only breeding once a year, three successful Blue-spotted Stingrays births, is quite a success for the centre.

blue spotted stingrays

the baby blue spotted stingrays

This week Thomas Cook Airlines began its first flight from Birmingham to the increasingly popular family holiday destination of Cape Verde for the coming winter having operated from Manchester and Gatwick for some time. Flybe has also started a twice-weekly service from Cardiff to Berlin which will operate until late March 2017. Following the recent announcement by British Airways that it would fly to New Orleans, it has said that it will fly from Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale in Florida as from July 5th next year.

The Scottish ferry company, CalMac hosts a tourism conference aimed at those businesses in the west of Scotland and, principally, the islands that it serves. Normally just about travel wouldn’t cover a travel trade conference but the remoteness of some travel destinations throws up interesting situations which those planning on holidaying there might not appreciate. For example the weather can maroon visitors until improvements occur. Most of us might rely on wifi access but internet connections in some places can be decidedly  ”iffy” So have some patience if you are trying to book some places. CalMac also said that they would be looking at improving ticketing over the years. One thing they could consider is greater linking with other travel providers such as airlines and train companies so that passengers could buy an all-in package.

Readers will be aware of the crackdown on drunkenness amongst airline passengers. Some research from the online travel company Sunshine says that as many as 19% of Britons would be in support of a total ban on alcohol sales in airports and on board flights. But it also claims that 63% of responders admitted to having become drunk in an airport or on a flight in the past! The poll was only conducted amongst drinkers.

Many on this side of the Atlantic will be considering a skiing holiday in Colorado, one of the US states that has some of the most well-known ski-resorts anywhere such as Aspen, Steamboat, Telluride and Winter Park. Getting to some of them involves internal flights or a drive. Now – from 7th January 2017 – there is an alternative. A two-hour long train service will link Denver to one of them, Winter Park, on Saturdays and Sundays over the winter season as well as running on public holidays so even locals can enjoy a day on the slopes.

Finally, readers will hve seen the news stories about the fire which has damaged the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter. Its claim to fame is that, although built quite late in 1769, it is thought to be the frst building in England to be called a hotel instead of an inn. For that and the reasons that people like Nelson, Queen Adelaide, Franz Lizst and Thomas Hardy stayed there people often visit the lobby and take photographs. In the 26 hours since the fire began in an adjacent building, Google has recorded over 61,000 news stories about the fire which shows the international appeal of this hotel and tourist attraction. the fire is still burrning. It is still too early to say what might survive.

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