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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
California’s restaurants get Michelin once overabout 22 hours ago
California is first in the US to receive state wide coverage in a Michelin red guide. In total it lists 557 restaurants, 90 of them rating prestigious stars. But visitors spending more cautiously may be more interested in the 88 awarded the Bib Gourmand, which signifies good cooking at reasonable prices. Previously guides had covered only the San Francisco Bay area and, until 2009, Los Angeles. Now restaurants elsewhere are also listed – in cities including San Diego, Sacramento, Monterey and Santa Barbara and in some of the state’s wine producing areas.
Lufthansa deploys ECG equipment on long haul jets2 days ago
German airline Lufthansa claims to be the first airline to equip equipment all its long haul aircraft with the portable CardioSecur ECG (electrocardiogram) system. In an emergency this will allow cabin staff to record an ECG and send trhe results directly to a medical hotline on the ground. The airline says cardiovascular complaints represent the most common incidents in flight. If there are any doctors on board they can use a defibrillator. But, says Dr Sven-Karsten Peters, a cardiologist with the Lufthansa Medical Service, “the results of the resting ECG conducted directly onboard the air-craft provide a better basis for deciding whether it is necessary to divert a plane in order to provide medical care on the ground”.
Luxury safari camp opens in Rwanda5 days ago
Rwanda now has what is claimed to be its first luxury safari camp. Called Magashi, it has six tented suites and uninterrupted views over Lake Rwanyakazinga in the north east of Akagera National Park. The camp has been launched by Wilderness Safaris in partnership with African Parks, a not for profit conservation organisation, and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Jess Parker, Akagera’s manager says the park has seen a remarkable transformation over the past nine years, with poaching “essentially eliminated” and the return of lion and black rhino. Wildlife includes leopard and plains game, from buffalo and hippo to zebra, giraffe and impala.
Alpine cheese trail open6 days ago
Walkers in the Swiss resort of Engelberg are able to follow its new Alpine Cheese Trail this summer. It passes eight dairies where visitors with enough space in their backpacks can buy the produce. The route starts at Engelberg Abbey’s Show Dairy where you can see how regional milk is processed into cheese. Total length of the trail is around 25 miles, but it can be broken down into day hikes. More information
Electric bike rentals mushroom7 days ago
E-bikes for hire become increasingly widespread. The Swiss city of Basel introduces a rental scheme this month. Tourists using the free Baselcard, provided to those staying overnight and good for various discounts, is 20 Swiss francs per day. Bikes – the scheme is called Guestbikebasel – are available from SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) stations. French Alps, the old established Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix has launched two new circuits around Mont Blanc for cyclists of different ability levels and with sections through Switzerland and Italy. The guided tours include accommodation. Prices start at €550 or €850. Go to www.chamonix-guides.com.
Vegan hotel set to open8 days ago
A vegan hotel is set to open in Perthshire this weekend. Saorsa 1875 – the name is freedom in Scottish Gaelic plus the year in which the Victorian gothic building was completed -overlooks the town of Pitlochry. The boutique property has eleven bedrooms and a restaurant with a completely plant based menu based on local seasonal and foraged ingredients.
New Heathrow scanners should speed security checks9 days ago
Heathrow plans to install new 3D security scanners. Beside enhancing security, the technology should end the tedious requirement for passengers remove liquids and laptops from had luggage. And with travellers no longer needing to place toiletries such as perfume in clear bags the £50 million investment will also reduce plastic waste. But don’t count on any immediate benefit. The new CT scanners will be introduced gradually. In an apparently cautious statement, Heathrow says it is beginning a programme to install the new equipment across its terminals by 2022.
Sri Lanka travel ban relaxed12 days ago
Tour firms will be able to start sending customers to Sri Lanka again after the Government dropped its effective ban on holidays there. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has dropped its advice against all but essential travel there. The advice was issued after April’s massacres in which more than 250 people died. It remains to be seen just how quickly operators resume their flying programmes, however. The FCO says terrorist attacks are still likely and warns that “attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners”.
Cuban cruise ban hits 800,00012 days ago
Some 800,000 people have been hit by the US government’s ban on cruises to Cuba. The Cruise Lines International Association said the move came without warning. Passengers from around the world who have advance bookings and those already at sea have been affected. Cruise operators including Carnival and Royal Caribbean scrambled to find replacement ports of call. Norwegian Cruise Lines was reported to be offering 50% refunds to passengers on two Cuba bound ships unto and including a 2 September sailing. New itineraries for departures latter than that will be announced later. The CLIA said: “The new rules effectively make it illegal to cruise to Cuba from the US. While this situation is completely beyond our control, we are genuinely sorry for all cruise line guests who were looking forward to their previously booked itineraries to Cuba”.
Japanese hot springs gastro tours launched12 days ago
Foodie tours of Japan centred on inns called onsens, with hot spring baths, have been launched by a specialist tour operator. Following an invitation from the Onsen Gastronomy Tourism Association, Walk Japan plans to add a series of such small group trips to its portfolio. The first, departing in October, will take in Gifu and Nagano in Honshu in central Japan. The second, in November will be to Oita and Kumamoto in Kyushu, the country’s westernmost main island. Prices for four nights, excluding international flights are 298,000 and 278,000 Japanese yen respectively. Walking will be limited to a maximum of around ten kilometres a day. Onsens, which were used for Buddhist purification rites, are noted for quality cooking with seasonal ingredients and artistry of presentation.
Ancient abbey ruins transformed13 days ago
A Cistercian abbey that had laid neglected for over six centuries has been reconstructed and turned into accommodation for tourists by an Olympic gold medal winning equestrian. In 1990, Mauro Cecola, an engineer from Bologna, bought the ruins of the Abbey of San Giusto with his family from a shepherd. The abbey is northwest of Rome in the Italian region of Lazio and overlooks the Marta river valley. Built in the mid-12th century, it is now part of an organic farm. Accommodation comprises four apartments and there is a restaurant on site. Signor Checcoli won individual and team gold medals for Italy in eventing at the Tokyo games in 1964.
Historic villages recreated at French outdoor attraction14 days ago
Recreated villages from different historical periods have gone on view at the foot of the medieval Castle of Montcornet in the French Ardennes. Those represented are Gallic, Gallo-Roman, Merovingian, Carolingian and the High Middle Ages. Visitors will be able to learn about civil and military life in each era, through clothes, food, and arms, for example. There will be a grand hall dedicated to arts and crafts. The outdoor display, titled ‘Montcornu: Ardenne goes back in time’, is about one hour’s drive west of Charleville-Mézières.
Cruise ship for disabled people on maiden Rhine trip15 days ago
A river ship designed especially for disabled passengers departed on her first Rhine cruise yesterday. Johannes Zurneiden, founder of Bonn based operator Phoenix Travel, wanted to make unrestricted travel on the water possible even for people who are permanently wheelchair bound. The 122 passenger MS Viola, formerly used by the Dutch Red Cross and completely refurbished has 34 wheelchair accessible cabins. They include, for example, extra wide doors, height adjustable beds, accessible basins and showers and toilets with grab handles. Cruise ports have also been chosen for accessibility. The operator has teamed up with one of the largest German charities, the Malteser Hilfdienst, which will provide volunteer medical staff aboard the ship. It also has the support of Runa Reisen, specialists in barrier free travel. At first, Phoenix will accept bookings only for people with walking difficulties but says it looks forward to welcoming on board guests with other physical limitations.
China limits Great Wall visitor numbers16 days ago
China has set a limit on the number of visitors to the Great Wall to ease congestion. Restrictions have been put in place following concerns about pressure of tourism and safety prompted by the build up of crowds at Badaling, in Beijing’s Yanquing province, according to China Daily. The Badaling section, about 50 miles north west of the capital, is the best preserved part of the wall – and attracts the highest volume of tourist traffic. The number of visitors reached 80,000 a day during last year’s National Day holidays, Now the limit will be 65,000. Individual foreign visitors or tour firms with groups will be able to but admission tickets seven days in advance. Online bookings are available on the official website ticket.badaling.cn
Liverpool Museum tops accessibility table19 days ago
The Museum of Liverpool has emerged as Britain’s most accessible visitor attraction in a new survey. Key to the waterfront museum’s improvements were making sure disabled toilets were available and training all its staff in disability awareness. The Accessible Tourism Survey was organised by Revitalise, a national charity providing respite holidays for disabled people and carers. It was last conducted previously in 2014, when the London’s Tate Modern came top. Then only one on ten attractions were rated more than 90% accessible. Five years on the figure has improved to one in four, says Revitalise. Nearly half (45%) have trained staff to be aware of disabilities, compared with 17% in 2014. Four in five attractions provide disability access information on their websites, compared with 30% five years ago. And 28% now have hoists against the previous 15%. The charity commends the London Science Museum, which has soared 15 places to second place in the league table, for equipping three of its disabled toilets with hoists and the V&A Museum of Childhood, for equipping one. But three quarters of venues still don’t have any, even though they are indispensable for many disabled visitors. Both commended museums employed specially trained staff but less than half of all attractions had done likewise. Revitalise Chief Executive Officer Chris Simmonds said: “We’re thrilled to acknowledge the venues that have made necessary changes in their accessibility for the benefit of disabled people. We are also impressed with the efforts of those venues that not only represent the very best of our British culture, but that are making that culture fully accessible to everyone. In a message to attraction managements he added: “One in three of us lives with a disability or has someone close who does. Accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but we say it’s also the smart thing to do. Disabled people and their households spend around £249 billion each year – have you done everything you can do to make sure that they’re spending some of this money with you? The best advice we can give to venues is to involve disabled people in your plans – they know what real accessibility means and will tell you the truth about whether you’re getting it right.”
Dominica – new hiking tours launched20 days ago
Specialist tour operator Hike Caribbean is to launch two centre holidays including Dominica to coincide with the opening of walking base Jungle Bay Eco Lodge. Nearly two years on from the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Maria, Dominica’s main hiking trails are open. But Jungle Bay, on the east cost, has been closed since 2015 following Tropical Storm Erika and has been completely rebuilt. The operator, which is combining it with Antigua in a two centre ‘Hiking and Wellness’ trip, describes it as the perfect base for exploring the island on foot, with access to the Valley of Desolation, Titou Gorge and the mountain trail to Middleham Falls and Trafalgar Falls. The eight night trips start next month. Prices start at £1,699, which covers accommodation, land transport, inter island (but not international flights) and guiding.
Maldives resort to offer tree house dining21 days ago
Dining in a tree house with views of the Indian Ocean will be among the options at yet another luxury resort scheduled to open in July in the Maldives. The restaurant will be one of five at the JW Marriott on the island of Vagaru in Shaviyani Atoll, a 55 minute seaplane ride from Male airport. The resort will have 61 villas with private decks and pools, some, like its gym, constructed over water. There will be a watersports and dive centre with an on site marine biologist, an adults only pool and club, and a yoga pavilion.
New Mumbai flights to take off22 days ago
Bookings opened today for Virgin Atlantic’s new service between Heathrow and Mumbai. The airline will operate the link in its own right again from 27 October, after an absence of four years. The move follows the demise of Jet Airways’ services on the route. Virgin flights will operate daily flights by Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Outbound services will depart at 10.15am, arriving at 12.40am. London bound flights will leave at 2.55am, arriving at 7.35am.
Dead fish to power cruise ships23 days ago
Cruise line Hurtigruten is to use unwanted cuts of dead fish and other organic waste to power its fleet. The Norwegian company has confirmed plans to operate at least six of it ships with a combination of biogas, LNG (liquified natural gas) and batteries by 2021. As the 125 years old company moves to enhance its green credentials it will introduce the world’s first battery-hybrid powered cruise vessel this year. The MS Roald Amundsen is purpose built for operations in environmentally sensitive areas such as Antarctica. Norway produces significant amounts of organic waste, notably from its fishery and forestry industries.
Medieval riches to go on show as Bruges museum reopens26 days ago
One of Bruges’ brightest stars is shining brightly again as the Gruutehusemuseum reopens after a major restoration. From today 24 May) visitors will again be able to consider the city’s history through many masterpieces of medieval craftsmanship, from tapestries and lace to silver work and wood carving. The museum is housed in the former palace of Lodewijk of Grutehuse (1427 – 1492, a confidant of the Dukes of Burgundy, who amassed a fortune from the sake of gruut, a mixture of herbs used in the brewing of beer. Over three floors it will tell Bruges’ story from its Burgundian heyday, through the 17th and 18th centuries to the 19th, when its now characteristic, neo-Gothic architectural style took hold. And from the fourth and final floor to visit, there will be a fine view of the city.