Saturday snippets: 29th December 2018

By | Category: Travel news

The Christmas shutdown into Paddington is due to the electrification of the line when these 125’s will soon disappear to be replaced by Hitachi electric trains

For travellers it has been an odd year. As the uncertainty of Brexit rolls closer there is anecdotal evidence that some people are deterred from holiday in EU countries next summer yet research suggests we aren’t bothered. Whatever happens it looks as though it will be possible to travel and move freely within the EU area for another year or so.

That is unlike travel in the UK when the Christmas period has been beset by more engineering works than I can remember in a long time. Trying to get to London after Boxing Day this week for the re-opening of offices on the 27th was an almost impossibility from East Anglia, Wales and the South West of England if you wanted to go by train. It is often said that the reason there is so much engineering at the time of the year is because it is quiet. Is that really the case? It is one of the busiest times at our airports so do all those people drive? Or merely stay away until the lines re-open?

After Boxing Day, you feel as though you need to get out and about to try and walk off some of the Christmas festival excesses. A walk in the countryside is free but try wandering around some of the heritage sites and you’ll find many closed for Christmas and Boxing Days and some are also closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Why? Many unmanned sites are free to visit in the winter so why couldn’t the custodians just unlock the gates and late people view the sites as they seek a walk after lunch or a morning stroll on New Year’s Day to clear the old year out of their systems? I have to confess our local castle grounds were open for people to walk around and over thirty took advantage of it on Boxing Day. How did they manage to get in? I have the key!

Another place that people like to walk is in the Scottish Cairngorms.  For those where the walk is too much there is CairnGorm Mountain’s funicular railway. Or there was. It has been out of action since the end of September and now we are told it won’t be running for much longer. Given that the skiing season is open in the Highlands this may deter some since the railway is used by 300,000 people a year, a large number of those using in winter. Repairers have been delayed due to bad weather and they still have to work out how to mend it. In the meantime all local businesses are up and running and awaiting your visit. You’ll just have to walk or find another method of transport to save your legs!

After the drone incident at Gatwick, the government announced that detection systems are now able to be deployed throughout the UK to combat the threat of drones. The argument will continue over why they couldn’t be installed earlier. From next November (why not earlier?) all drones weighing more than 250 grams will have to be registered. My question remains. Criminals are unlikely to register so how does the government plan to cope with that. The UK is not alone in installing significant anti-drone equipment. Australia will install (starting next month) sensors to automatically identify the aircraft and their pilots. And it will also register drone users.

Staying in Australia, there is no way that sailing would attract a hundred thousand people but in Sydney, six times that number turned out on Boxing Day to see the running of the 74th Sydney-Hobart yacht race. (It was won by Wild Oats XI for the ninth time.) Being in Sydney to watch the dozens and dozens of yachts  sailing on the harbour as they are seemingly pestered by an even greater fleet of onlookers and spectators is one of the great scenes for anyone lucky to have been there on the day.  I have managed to see it once or twice and it isn’t a scene you’ll forget easily. But then neither is the sight on the same harbour when Sydney sees in the new year. On that evening the numbers will double and treble over those for Boxing Day.

France 24 had a brief news story earlier this week pointing out that the Louvre is hoping that 10 million people will have passed through its doors during 2018. To me that wouldn’t be surprising given that the Louvre is possibly the most famous museum in the world and a must for visitors. What surprised me was when the reporter said that only 29% of the visitors were French. It is overseas visitors that make up the vast number of visitors. Why not that any French? One answer is because the French are put off by the crowds and the impossibility of seeing all the exhibits in one visit.

volcanos may look intriguing but they are dangerous. Should tourists be allowed to get so close that they can be in danger?

No sooner had there been warnings about the danger of volcano tourism – the practice of visiting live volcanoes to witness the dazzling colours and extreme power unleashed – than Indonesia was beset by an underground volcano that caused a tsunami which killed over 430. Almost at the same time, Mt Etna on the Italian island of Sicily began erupting and covered nearby villages with ash. An earthquake followed. Given disasters like this it show how dangerous volcanic eruptions can be and why people should only venture as far as the local law enforcement authorities allow. Bear in mind your travel insurance will probably not cover you either.

Finally, may I wish all our readers a very happy new year and may 2019 bring all you want of it. The problem with that is that we don’t know what Brexit will bring the traveller and holidaymaker. All we know is that Chris Graying, the Transport Secretary, has told us that we can ‘book with confidence’ if the UK leaves the EU with a no-deal agreement for there is a proposed agreement that for a period of twelve months all will remain as it is at the moment with regard to flights and flight access. As for what 2020 might bring, maybe I’ll know more when I write this section next year.

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