Saturday snippets: 27th April 2019

By | Category: Travel news

After the damaging fire to Notre Dame in Paris, the Duke of Rutland has contacted other members of Historic Houses (an association and the largest collection of independently owned historic houses and gardens in the UK)  and 179 members have offered oak from their estates to help rebuild the wooden structures that were lost in  the fire. Those supporting the plan include Belvoir Castle, Llanover Place, Scone Palace, Castle Howard, Holkham Hall, Powderham Castle, and Firle Place but you can find a full list by clicking here. Previously members had provided oak from their estates after lightning caused a fire at York Minster and the wood was used to replace structures that were destroyed at the time

If you are near Portsmouth today or tomorrow and are attracted to tall ships then the US Coast Guard ship Eagle in in harbour. Always a visitor draw, tall ships just seem to have an elegance that other ships don’t have. Although it is in the dockyard for two days, deck tours of the ship will only be available from 11:45 am – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Eagle has a height on 90 metres (295 feet and is the only active square-rigger in the United States government service. The tall ship is now used as a floating classroom for future coast guard officers. Access to the tall ship is free but there is the usual entry price to the docks.

The Eagle which is Portsmouth Historic Dockyard this weekend. Image – US Coast Guard

I lived in Surrey for many years but I can’t say I remember Surrey Day. The reason? It is a new celebration and this is the first of what organisers hope will be a regular event. To be celebrated on May 4th in association with BBC Surrey and Surrey Life magazine, visitors are promised street parties, music, activities and food. Among the events taking place are a street party at the mysterious beauty spot Silent Pool featuring Albury Organic Vineyard and friends; the lighting of a beacon at Priory Farm accompanied by street food and live music; a pop-up food market at The White Horse in Dorking; and a guided walk along Surrey’s special national trail – the North Downs Way. Other highlights include free entry for Surrey residents at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, in Compton and the chance to have a private visit to the ruins of the National Trust’s Clandon Park before restoration work begins in 2020.

Many readers will have seen this but for those who haven’t, an astonishing picture has come from Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It shows two female orphaned gorillas called Ndakazi and Ndeze, standing upright behind a ranger and looking some would say coyly and others would say enquiringly at the camera. Apparently some gorillas will copy human actions/ these two live in the Senkwekwe Center which is an enclosed sanctuary for orphans and in which they have lived since infancy. Tomorrow, one of the people from the park, Angèle, will be running the London Marathon for Virunga! There is still plenty of time to support her: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/VirungaMarathon

The astonishing picture from Virunga National Park

It seems appropriate given Dundee’s heritage with games development (it was here Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings were developed) that the V&A Dundee has an exhibition and interactive experience called Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. It opened last week and runs until September 6th. Given that gaming is now bigger than the film and music industry out together and estimated to be worth about $135 billion in 2018, it is surprising that more exhibitions haven’t been given over to such an important industry.

Thomas Cook Airlines is to provide customers the option to check-in luggage from home and thus avoid airport queues. It will cost of course, £30 per bag is the starting rate and the service is operated by AirPortr. Families can check in up to four bags from £40 and are given a three-hour pick-up slot. The snag is that the service only operates for Gatwick at the moment. It means that when you get to the airport you will just go straight to security, If you use the service, the next time you see your baggage will be at your destination.

According to a BBC report, the Scottish snow sports industry has had one of its worst winters on record with only 9,600 skier days whereas a good season might generate a quarter of a million skier days. This is the second poor season in three years. Is it just a run of bad luck or climate change?

The Scottish government has decided again to postpone its replacement for Air Passenger Duty (APD) which it is calling Air Departure Tax. Readers might remember that the government pledged at the last election to abolish the tax. It hasn’t managed that citing problems with getting EU approval but this seems a bit of an excuse given that the British/Northern Irish governments managed to reduced APD in the province to zero and the Republic of Ireland government did away with their equivalent completely. No wonder some in the Scottish travel trade are beginning to wonder whether the Scottish government is quite so committed to removing it.

Finally, the appalling atrocities that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday continue to have an effect as police round up suspects and more weapons are located. TUI has repatriated all its customers and will not sell holidays on the island until at least May 12th. Kuoni will not sell holidays until at least May 21st. Estimates vary as to how many Britons and Irish might be holidaying in Sri Lanka at the moment but it could be as high as 8,000. Whilst there is a British embassy in Colombo, there is no Irish one. Any Irish citizen can approach any EU embassy for assistance however or there is an honorary consul that Irish nationals can contact.

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