Saturday snippets: 9th May 2015

By | Category: Travel news
roses at Blenheim

roses at Blenheim

Next month at Blenheim Palace, the Rose Garden should be at its best. The Rosary might only be 140 feet in diameter but the beds of roses pack so many different colours and types so that in some ways it seems bigger than it is. On the other hand, being able to see so much in a small space gives you an overview of how roses have developed which is hard to find elsewhere. For 255 years the garden has been attracting admiring glances and you can expect Blenheim to be as busy as ever as coach parties, gardening groups and enthusiastic growers head on the annual pilgrimage.

Staying with gardens for a moment, yesterday was the 70th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day. Many remembrance events take place this weekend including one at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Sunday where a short service will be followed vintage-style street party. The street party, which is designed to help visitors remember those who served both at home and away during World War II, will include a variety of entertainment reminiscent of the VE Day celebrations in May 1945.There will be 1940s style music, entertainment and food, a pop up vintage and handmade goods market organised by Curly Magpie, flag making and games for children, and World War II memorial guided walks.

A further sign that tourism will benefit from warmer relationships between Cuba and the United States is a yacht race. In just over a week’s time, the first sanctioned race between Florida and Cuba will take place. The Havana Challenge will also include racing between US and Cuban sailors off the Malecon oceanfront boulevard. US visitor numbers to Cuba have risen hugely this year which could preface an increase in hotel prices for Cuban holidays from here next year.

the new Orlando Eye

the new Orlando Eye

Also in Florida, a new attraction has opened for those holidaying in Orlando this year. The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds Orlando and SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium are at I-Drive 360, a new dining and entertainment destination on International Drive Orlando. Standing at 400-feet high, The Orlando Eye is the tallest observation wheel on the U.S. East Coast. Similar to London’s landmark, the Eye provides a perspective of the area including nearby theme parks and attractions, the downtown Orlando skyline, lakes and lush landscape, and, if the day is clear, Cape Canaveral on Florida’s East Coast.

I feel that I have to mention Roger Brown, a Swansea man who – unfortunately – died of cancer recently. But he left his fiends saddened and pleased as he gave them £4,500 provided that they used the cash for a European city break. Off to Berlin they went opting for a hop-on hop-off tour of the city.  But what they do whilst in Berlin? At every historic landmark on the tour they got off and each landmark there was a bar – this is Germany after all. At each bar, they toasted Roger and thanked him for his generosity. What a lovely send-off.

According to a survey by 30% of global travellers regard wi-fi as the most popular hotel amenity meaning that 70% do not. Of Brits surveyed, 28% preferred free wi-fi to a free breakfast. Have these people a poor sense of priorities? A good breakfast sets you up for the day; free wi-fi  just reminds you that work is ever-present!

the fun of the wild west at Royal Gunpowder mills

the fun of the wild west at Royal Gunpowder mills

Attractions are building up to the second bank holiday of the month and my inbox is getting crowded. But fireworks always attract so let me mention Royal Gunpowder Mills in Essex. Over the bank holiday weekend they will be revealing what America’s wild west was like – or what they like to think it was like – in 1892 during the Johnson County War. Not only will there be reconstructions but actual guns of the time will be available to view. Needless to say as baddies take on goodies a few buildings may get damaged during the pyrotechnics!

Edinburgh Airport must be feeling that it has edged ahead of its rival, Glasgow, in being the premier Scottish airport. Qatar Airways has decided to upgrade the frequency of flights from the airport into its hub at Doha to one every day. That is a vote of confidence in the airport and shows that the year old link which just ran on five days a week has been successfull in  attracting passengers.

Another piece of research, this time from John Lewis, highlights the top overseas wedding destinations. Actually it doesn’t. What it shows is the top destinations for people who bought wedding insurance from the financial arm of the retail group. And if you don’t have a John Lewis within a hundred miles of you as is the case with me, then your realise it isn’t that representative after all. Italy, France and Spain fill the top spots on their list, the same as it was in 2014. The USA has dropped down a bit (the strength of the dollar?) whilst Ireland has risen. (euro weakness?)

The Tourist board for Mauritius is to encourage us to holiday on the island by appealing to families. The tourist authority says that the island often gets overlooked by families in favour of nearer destinations which is true. They suggest that it is due to a lack of awareness which is probably also true. But it is also due to the length of the flight (about 12 hours minimum) and the ability of children to cope with that and the perceived view that Mauritius is an expensive destination. To remove the latter idea, the tourist authority has arranged accommodation discounts and offers of up to 30%.

I must mention a press release that I received within two hours of the resignations of Clegg, Farage and Milliband yesterday after the election results. The online travel agency,, suggested different parts of the world where the former party leaders might holiday. That was quick work!

Eurostar trainsThis week, Eurostar launched its new year-round service direct from London to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille in the south of France. Fares start from £89 return to Lyon and £99 to Marseilles making it competitive with air if you are lucky enough to get those prices. And it takes just about 6 hours to get to Marseilles so travelling by air doesn’t save you much time given all the hassle of airports. You don’t have to turn up early on the return leg because check-in, security and immigration checks will take place at Lille Europe. You will however face those on the outward journey so check-in is 30 minutes before the train departs from St Pancras. The train doesn’t run every day so check first
Last week I mentioned that things were stalling on the agreement for a new package travel directive from the EU. The change in booking habits in the last five years has been huge and the 25 year old obviously was built for a different time and  fails to address booking habits  Almost as soon as I had written that and moaned about the delay an agreement was reached which will replace the 25 year old existing rules. But don’t get excited. Those in the know in Brussels think that this will take two years to get through the EU parliament before it becomes law. And then it has to be adopted by the UK government so I might be drawing my pension before I explain what it means to the likes of you and me!

Finally, this has been Sun Awareness Week where we have been reminded that whilst the sun boosts our happiness feeling, it also can be dangerous if we do not take precautions. The announcement last Monday that skin cancer was on the rise should remind those of us who like beach holidays to be aware that we should cover up –at least with a higher factor sun cream.





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