Saturday snippets; 18th March 2017

By | Category: Travel news

Cherry blossom time in the old Japanese imperial capital city of Kyoto

In Japan, the season of cherry blossom is nearly upon us. The latest forecasts of when the blossom will be fully at its best is that, in the south of Japan, it should start at about the 25th of March and reach the most northern parts of the country by early May. The number of overseas visitors to Japan just to see the avenues and parks fully of blossom always surprises me as it numbers in the many tens of thousands. As for the quality this year? We’ll have to wait a bit longer for that to be known

Even if you were no fan of boxing, you couldn’t help to notice the man who called himself “the greatest.” Last year after a long struggle with illness, Muhammad Ali died. In Las Vegas – a boxing mecca for fans, the Bellagio  Gallery of Fine Art ( in the Bellagio Hotel) opens a new exhibition at the end of this month about the man who danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee, his extraordinary life and the legacy he leaves boxing and civil rights.

steam train on the NYMR

Noth Yorkshire Moors Railway. Image ©NYMR

Next weekend the North Yorkshire Moors Railway welcomes Royal Scot to its patch. The reason It is there to help the heritage railway celebrate 50 years since the formation of the charitable trust that runs the railway. As an aside Royal Scot celebrates an anniversary of its own as it is 90 years since it was built for the LMS – London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The engine has another travel link. It was once owned by Butlin’s! It will be at the railway until April 2nd but will steam on just seven days.  Tickets for Royal Scot are now on sale, with adult prices starting from £30 and children £15, with a family ticket (2 adults & 2 children), available for just £64. Groups (20+) can also take advantage with adult tickets from £27 per person.

Arizona has designated of 24 new National Historic Landmarks, to include the Painted Desert Community Complex located at the northern end of Petrified Forest National Park. The  complex is the largest and the best expression of the ‘Mission 66’ program which addressed postwar national park needs for up-to-date facilities and improved visitor experiences while limiting impacts to natural resources. The designation will help protect the complex as an important example of mid-century modern architecture and as operational headquarters of Petrified Forest National Park for decades to come.

light show in Baltimore

Part of the Baltimore Light Show in a previous year. It’s called “Voyage.”

Baltimore hosts the largest light, music and innovation festival in the USA and it is fast approaching. Called Light City, the inner harbour area of the city will have 23 large-scale light art installations, 35 concerts and more than 200 performances from March the 31st until April the 8th. Being the largest attracts a lot of people. Some 400,000 went last year and its fame is growing so much so that more international artists join. This year the UK is represented as well as six other countries all trying to outdo each other in their use of light and music.

On Tuesday, there was a debate in the Scottish parliament about accessible and social tourism which coincided with Scottish Tourism Week. Over 10% of the value of Scottish tourism to the economy is from those with at least one family member having a disability, a significant amount by any criteria. It was pointed that about 250,000 families in Scotland are unable to take a short break because they cannot afford the cost or are unable to take time off because of caring or other commitments and that there is increasing funds and support for those families to have a break. One of the key points – in my opinion – was raised by Jeremy Balfour and reinforced by Fiona Hyslop, the cabinet secretary responsible for tourism, who said, “It is about training and attitude, and about how we make sure that people intervene appropriately and see things from the customer’s perspective”

Cays Beach in Tobago

In January next year, the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) is due to become law in the UK. It means that retailers will be forbidden from passing on credit card charges to their customers. Airlines, tour operators the Trainline  and others who, at the moment charge a fee of anything from about 2% to a quoted sum, will have to stop. Of course they won’t absorb the cost, there will be increases elsewhere to cover it so look out for newly-engineered words in the terms and conditions to hide the monies that they have been banned from charging elsewhere.

I don’t think this will greatly affect visitors but I mention it for information in case readers find it confusing in the short-term. Trinidad and Tobago is shuttering the tourism Development Authority because it will be replaced by two regulatory authorities, one overseeing tourism standards for Trinidad and one for Tobago. The new agencies will focus on each of their strengths since some markets are interested in Tobago,’ such as Europe and Scandinavia whilst others are more interested in Trinidad.

Joradn Trail - first part

opening the first part of the Jordan Trail © Ali Barqawi

Unlike some other countries in the area, 2016 marked another strong year for visitor numbers to Jordan with UK numbers up by 7% over 2015. The UK is still the largest source of European visitors to the country. The discovery of a new tomb in Beit Ras and a new 650km walking route, the Jordan Trail, should mean even more Britons and Irish will travel there this year. On top of that, the re-opening of Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, as a protected environment for some of the Middle East’s rarest species should stimulate those interested in wildlife.

Abuja airport in Nigeria has closed for six weeks to allow repairs to the airport surface. In the meantime anyone travelling there will be flown to an alternative airport but where? Kaduna airport is suggested but many airlines, British Airways included according to Reuters, refuse to fly there citing security concerns. Anyone flying into Kaduna will travel on buses for the 160 kilometre journey to Abuja accompanied by armed guards. The reason? Kidnappings have taken place on this road. If you are going to Abuja, check with your airline before booking.

This month, the National Media Museum in Bradford will be renamed the National Science and Media Museum. Why? The museum says it wants to focus on science behind photography, film and television. It will also open a new £1.8m Wonderlab gallery featuring 20 permanent exhibits including a “time twister” screen, which virtually separates visitors’ heads from their bodies, (why would you want to do this?)  a waterfall that visitors appear to make hover in mid-air with their hands, and a musical laser tunnel. The Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that carried Tim Peake to the International Space Station and back to earth will also go on display at the museum in September. It will be the first time it has left London since it was acquired by the Science Museum Group in 2016.

Level plane

the colours of the new IAG brand – Level.

At the end of this month, the National Army Museum opens to the public with its first temporary exhibition, “War Paint: Brushes with Conflict,” which explores the changing relationship between art, conflict and the truth.

IAG, the owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling is launching a new long-haul, no-frills airline Initially based in Barcelona, the airline named Level  –  will start flights in June to Buenos Aires in Argentina, Los Angeles and Oakland in USA and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Barcelona was chosen because it is Vueling’s base airport and from elsewhere in Europe it can feed passengers into the new airline. Leaving aside why anybody would call an airline Level, (but then United Airlines had a no-frills one called Ted) this must be IAG’s counter to other long haul, no frills, entrants like Norwegian, Scoot and possibly Lufthansa’s growing us of the Eurowings brand. How long will it be before Level comes to Ireland? More interestingly, how long before it comes to the UK or is it IAG’s plan to just use the airline in EU countries until it finds out what the impact of Brexit will be?

American in its old livery. When it did serve free food to domestic passengers

Barely three weeks ago, I mentioned that the US airline, Delta, was reintroducing free food and drinks for economy class passengers on its domestic network. Now American Airlines has decided to do the same as from May 1. What I like are the comments of one Fernand Fernandez a vice-president of the airline, who said “Some of our best customers fly our trans-continental routes and we want to give them a top-notch onboard experience. Providing complimentary meals in the main cabin is yet another step we’re taking to enhance our service in this competitive market.” So why did they stop in the first place?



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