Saturday snippets: 31st October 2015

By | Category: Travel news
Will overseas visitors think we are so great if they can't get to Docklands because of the DLR strike?

Will overseas visitors think we are so great if they can’t get to Docklands because of the DLR strike?

Next week is World Travel Market, the time of year when travel professionals from around the world gather in London to talk travel, forecast what the trend will be and generally sell to British suppliers. Some 50,000 people will clog the way to Excel in Docklands so the advice is to stay away unless you have to. Expect to read in the national media or what’s happening particularly since a DLR strike is planned. The timing could be better if you wanted disruption especially as some 100 plus tourism ministers will be around. As will I. Expect on Monday to see in Just about Travel images of how different destinations will be portraying themselves and then stories all of next week.

If, by the end of next week, I have had enough about holidays and destinations then here could be a remedy for me. Oliver’s Travels has launched a new helpline for holidaymakers suffering post-holiday blues. The company says that the free helpline is available to anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms and features audio recordings of ‘classic holiday sounds’ from a vibrant Moroccan market to the sound of crickets in the Tuscan hills. I think I’ll just settle for a decent cup of tea, peace and quiet and my own bed!

birds in the Tagus estuary

birds in the Tagus estuary

Or I could settle for another holiday but one where I can relax. At this time of the year, the Tagus Estuary in Portugal sounds appealing. It is the country’s largest wetland and the best spot for bird watching enthusiasts. Covering over 14,000 hectares, the area’s bird list includes over 250 species, such as greater flamingos, little bustards, cetti’s warblers and short-toed eagles. From November to January each year, the Tagus Estuary receives over 120,000 additional aquatic birds from northern Europe which, trying to escape the cold winter months, make the mouth of the Tagus River their temporary home. During these three months, up to 100 species can be spotted in a single day. All I’ll have to put up with is the noise of the birds and nobody talking to me about “undiscovered, “hidden gem” or the next “celebrity holiday hotspot.” Sounds blissful.

Although I have written about skiing in these columns, snowmobiling has remained a mystery to me. It is big business in the US state of Maine which offers more than 14,000 miles of spectacular snowmobile trails. The best known is the well-marked Interconnected Trail System that stretches more than 3,500 miles and, yes, I did write 3,500 miles. Many of the trails are maintained by the more than 280 snowmobile clubs across the state. Numerous outfitters, camps and resorts provide complete rentals, from helmets and sleds to parts and fuel. Prime snowmobiling areas include Jackman-Moose RiverMoosehead LakeRangeley Lakes and Aroostook County.

The French tourist board, Atout France, has changed its website to The new name should enable consumers to find the site with ease which is more than the old one did. When will destinations opt for sensible names instead of ones where you have to remember words like “Visit,” “Destination or some other word that you have to use in search engines first.

Who should join the great and good with a plaque in Scotland?

Who should join the great and good with a plaque in Scotland?

Historic Environment Scotland (the new name for Historic Scotland and RCAHMS) are asking the people of central Scotland which figures from history they would like to see celebrated with a commemorative plaque. Nominations are now open for the national Commemorative Plaque Scheme. Now in its fourth year, the scheme has seen diverse figures from Scottish history remembered – from famous inventors like James Watt and John Logie Baird, to less well-known figures, including the Edinburgh Seven who pioneered education for women. Famous Scots are nominated by the public using an online form, then celebrated by the installation of a plaque on a building connected with their achievements. This year is again an open theme, meaning that nominations will be accepted for any persons whose life and achievements have made a significant difference to Scotland. The closing date is 31st of January 2016 and you can submit nominations by going to

If you have visited London this summer you might have spotted taxis promoting Nashville in the US state of Tennessee. 160 taxis have been carrying advertisements for the city’s Jack Daniel’s Bash on Broadway: New Year’s Eve in Music City. Five of the Music City taxis will offer free rides, on Nov. 2 for three hours at Piccadilly Circus. Starting in December, the NCVC-produced documentary, For the Love of Music: The Story of Nashville, will begin airing in the United Kingdom for a full year. The award-winning film depicts Nashville’s evolution into the most diverse music scene in the world, making it a must-see destination for all music fans.

some of the Chicago skyscrapers. 10 storeys wold be small today.

some of the Chicago skyscrapers. 10 storeys wold be small today.

Did you know that this year marks the 130th anniversary of the world’s first skyscraper? You might guess that it was in New York but it is in Chicago. The Home Insurance Building, was erected in 1885 and was comprised of 10 storeys and rising to a height of 138 feet. Today 10 storeys would be dwarfed by the other skyscrapers in the city such as the Willis Tower at 103 storeys (formerly, Sears Tower) and modern glass and steel buildings like the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

In airline news this week, after nine years Ryanair will resume flights from Newquay airport after Cornwall Council scrapped its £5 airport development fee. The low-cost carrier will start twice weekly flights from Newquay to Alicante and Frankfurt Hahn from April 2016, three days after the tax is scrapped. Next summer, Ryanair launches six new routes from Manchester going to Bratislava, Bremen, Brindisi, Carcassonne, Limoges and Malta. It also plans to offer more flights on existing routes including Alicante, Barcelona, Dublin, Faro, Ibiza, Madrid, Milan B, Rome, Valencia and Warsaw. Expect to see a rival to Ryanair and easyJet if Lufthansa has its way. Last week it positioned its subsidiary, Eurowings, as the cornerstone of its low-cost flight plan. Based at Cologne-Bonn airport it isn’t yet flying from the UK or Ireland but it will have to at some stage if it to take on its bigger rivals. Qatar Airways will operate a new service between Birmingham and Doha from 30th March next year giving those in the Midlands the opportunity to use Doha as a hub instead of Heathrow, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. There will be eight flights a week, including two flights on Saturdays.

Staying with the aircraft related business for a moment, Oliver Colville MP asked the government how it was getting on in assessing the possibility of opening Plymouth Airport which, readers will remember, closed some time ago. Guess what? No news yet. And that is fairly typical of parliament these days. Unless the government wants to tell you then it seems to be like getting blood out of a stone. Take the extension of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. The government was keen to trumpet the expansion yet gave nothing away on how it was thinking about regional airports in the UK having different rates of air passenger tax. Wait for the Autumn statement on November 25th seemed to be the stock answer.

In remembrance poppies at the Tower of London

Remembering fallen soldiers.. Crowds in a procession around the Tower viewing the ceramic poppies © Nadia Lawes

Finally, and that often means a look at a survey,Leger Holidays have come up with one of those surveys that seems to show the appalling knowledge that some of us possess. Given the remembrance events of WWI have been well publicised over the last 18 months or so, Leger’s research claims that nearly 30% of us are still unaware that the war started in 1914. What is worse is that 50% of people say they know nothing about WWI at all. 6% claim never to have heard of WWI. Can this be true. Are we so ignorant of our near past? Usually I would query the research but as it replicates previous research in 2009 and 2014. The newer research shows that the percentage responses have dropped. What are our schools teaching? Given that money is available, how many schools have taken their students to WWI battlefields in Belgium and France?

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