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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Isle of Man gets direct Heathrow linkabout 19 hours ago
Direct flights between Heathrow and the Isle of Man have taken off for the first time in 17 years. Regional airline Flybe has launched daily services using 78 seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft. The move follows the re-opening of Flybe’s base on the island. Southbound flights depart at 1.50pm, arriving at 3.10pm. Northbound services leave at 5.05pm, arriving at 6.25pm. The airline’s summer schedule also includes flights linking the Isle of Man with Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
Sri Lanka bombs: confusion for travellers2 days ago
Travellers with imminent bookings to Sri Lanka were left in doubt about their plans today as the appalling death toll wrought be the weekend bombs rose to almost 300. Free cancellation or a switch to other destinations would normally be automatically available only if the Foreign Commonwealth Office advised against travelling there. At the time of writing it had not done so. But at least two tour operators have already suggested customers may talk them about their trips,leaving open the possibility that they may be able to make alternative arrangements. TUI posted a statement saying it was making contact with customers currently in Sri Lanka and encouraging guests in resort to let our team know they are safe, as well as their family and friends. “For customers who wish to speak to us about their upcoming holiday to Sri Lanka we would ask them to call us on 0800 009 3833 or 0203 636 1994. We can also confirm that all excursions in Sri Lanka have been cancelled until further notice.” The airline Emirates said its flights to Colombo were operating normally. “However, customers who booked tickets on or prior to 21 April have the option to change their booking (by up to 7 days) or can request a refund.”.The Sri Lankan authorities have declared a nationwide curfew. The FCO earlier issued an emergency telephone number (020 7008 1500) for Britons worried about friends or relatives. Bombers hit three hotels in the capital, Colombo – the Shangri-la, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury.
Kubrick exhibition to open2 days ago
Film buffs will know that a disused gasworks in London’s Docklands became the shattered Vietnamese city of Hue for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. On Sunday 28 April an exhibition celebrating the celebrated American director’s work opens at the capital’s Design Museum. It will delve into his creative process through objects, projections and interviews and explore his relationship with Britain. He spent much of his life here and used locations including a Wandsworth underpass in A Clockwork Orange, for example, and a whole range of other UK backdrops, among them Blenheim Palace and Petworth House, in the ravishing 18th century adventure Barry Lyndon. Dr Strangelove was shot at Shepperton and scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey were filmed there and at the former Borehamwood Studios.
Wine pageant to be staged for first time in two decades5 days ago
The Fête des Vignerons, a spectacular theatrical celebration of wine last performed 20 years ago, will be staged in the Swiss town of Vevey this summer. With its origins in the Middle Ages and with a cast of local actors and musicians, the pageant will take place in a temporary arena on Lake Geneva with seating for 20,000. At the end of the 18th century, what had begun as a parade became an official ceremony to reward the best growers and labourers. On two occasions the score was composed by Gustave Doret. The event’s organisers are the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winegrowers). They decide how often it takes place, but it is not more than five times in a century. Away from the show, Vevey’s streets will be full of live music, food stalls and open wine cellars, with particular emphasis on the local Chasselas wine. The event runs from 18 July until 11 August.
Remote tropical escape hotel opens6 days ago
A new hotel has opened on little known Sumba Island in the Indonesian archipelago. The Lelewatu Resort Sumba stands on a cliff, overlooking a private lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Its 27 villas, set in ten hectares of land with jungle beyond, have wooden interiors designed in local style, hand woven ikat fabrics, marble baths and private pools. There are nine beaches close to the property, which has two restaurants, a spa, and activities on offer include yoga, horse riding and hiking. The island is about a one hour flight east of Bali. Reservations may be made through Preferred Hotels and Resorts. Prices per villa start at £710 per night – including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a complimentary minibar.
Website describes Vilnius walks7 days ago
Vilnius Details of 23 walking routes in and around the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, have been posted online by the city’s development agency. Designed for independent travellers, they range from explorations of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its Baroque architecture, to a hike along the banks of the River Neris. Walkable Vilnius provides descriptions of sights along the way and allows users to filter routes by time, from 1hr to 4hrs plus. And for those wedded to their Fitbits and other fitness devices, it even includes the number of steps you can expect to make on each walk.
German walking routes8 days ago
A 22 kilometre hiking route taking in seven modest summits has been officially re-opened in the northern Black Forest. The 7-Berge-Weg is one of ten new walks, ranging from three to 25kms, recently certified by the German Ramblers Association. Best walked between April and October its altitude range from 394m to 583m. It starts in the village of Nagold, northeast of Stuttgart. Among the other walks is the 25km circular Niesetalweg in eastern Wesphalia, which starts at Marienmunster Abbey and the Rundweg Bussard (Buzzard), an 8km regional foodie route in the Bavarian Forest National Park.
Ancient monastery plan goes on show9 days ago
The earliest architectural drawing of a monastic compound has gone on public view for the first time in the Swiss city of St Gallen. The Plan of St Gall dates from the decade between 820 and 830 AD and depicts the whole Benedictine complex, including churches, houses, kitchens, a brewery. It has caused controversy among academic, with some arguing it is a plan of how such a monastery should look if the Benedictine Rule were strictly adhered to. The original parchment drawing is now on show at the Abbey of St Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the mid eighth century AD, which has remarkably beautiful Baroque library.
New Greenland cruise planned12 days ago
An exploration of west Greenland is one of two new cruise itineraries unveiled by Aurora Expeditions after the operator asked customers where they would most like to go. Its new ship Greg Mortimer – due to be launched in October – will visit the llulissat icefjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and Greenland’s capital, Nuuk. Passengers will take Zodiac excursions in search of whales, encountering icebergs and glaciers. The cruise departs 18 May, 2020. The other new itinerary, starting on 2 June, is a circumnavigation of Iceland, also with a chance of spotting whales, taking in Europe’s largest glacier, plus the bird life and reindeer population of Vatnajokull National Park. Both cruises are for eleven days and start from £6,300 per person, based on two sharing.
Ring Cycle package launched13 days ago
Wagner’s Ring Cycle is the focus of a new tour to Chicago launched by specialist tour operator Travel for the Arts. The itinerary includes main floor prime seats at each of the four performances – Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Sir Andrew Davis will conduct a cast including Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, Eric Owens as Wotan and Brandon Jovanovic as Siegmund. There will be a backstage tour of the city’s Lyric Opera and an opportunity to meet Sir Andrew and cast members. Also included are an architectural boat trip and a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s former home and studio. Flights depart on 26 April and return on 4 May. Flights depart on 26 April and return on 4 May. The trip costs £4,695 with an £800 single room supplement.
Publisher starts providing free travel e-guides14 days ago
Rough Guides has begun providing free ebooks with each printed version. The company has been publishing them from some time but previously customers had to choose which they wanted. The digital versions, which will provide exactly the same content as the printed guides, can be downloaded to e-readers, tablets and phones. The first to become available – this month and in May – cover (or will cover) London, Croatia, Rome, Barcelona, Las Vegas, Iceland, New York City and Venice and the Veneto.
Palma app to ease tourist pressure launched15 days ago
An app that shows cruise visitors which popular tourist hotspots are overcrowded is on trial in Palma, Mallorca. It gathers information from the port and the city’s WiFi network to track to flow of visitors and create a ‘heat map’ showing the most congested areas. Designed by the city’s tourist board in collaboration with its council, the Balearics Port Authority and the University of the Balearic Islands, it is undergoing a trial with passengers on the cruise ship Costa Diadema before a full launch planned for Easter. It come with international tourist honeypots increasingly concerned with pressure visitors, with Venice and Dubrovnik among those moving to limit numbers.
Spectacular opera offer16 days ago
Tour operator Inghams is offering a free Verona opera ticket per person with holidays booking this summer on Lake Garda. The deal applies to package of seven nights or more between 13 July and 31 August . This year’s productions in the city’s spectacular, open air, first century arena, include Verdi’s Il Trovatore, La Traviata and Aida. Bizet’s Carmen and Puccini’s Tosca are also on the bill. For further details on performance dates, visit: www.inghams.co.uk/destinations/italy/city-breaks/verona/verona-opera. Unsurprisingly, the offer come with terms and conditions. Seats are unnumbered and may run out, though you may be able to upgrade them. And some performances will be available only to customers staying n the east side of the lake..
New airport for Istanbul fully open at last16 days ago
Istanbul’s much delayed new airport is now fully operational. With potential to expand to six runways it will be capable of handling 90m passengers in its first phase and eventually 200m.There will be biometric checks at gates, robot guides on hand to help passengers and the complex incorporates a 446 room hotel. The old Ataturk Airport opened for commercial operations in 1953 and has been coping with far more passengers than its planners envisaged. The new one, which has been handling a few flights since October, is expected to take over its name.
Newt’s sex life aids gardens re-opening19 days ago
Leonardslee Gardens, the popular Sussex attraction, will re-open this weekend, thanks partly to the desires of a great crested newt. Checks by Natural England have confirmed that the newt, which lived in one of the gardens’ large greenhouses, has moved on in search of a mate. It was, however, not the only factor that delayed the re-opening. For example, some 10,000 trees needed to be catalogued and checked for potentially dangerous branches and ten miles of paths, some of which had become overgrown and muddy, needed to be rehabilitated. Though a restaurant opened there recently, the gardens have been closed – and until a couple of years ago neglected – since 2010. They have been described as the finest woodland gardens in England. Spread over 200 hilly acres, with seven lakes – or at least ponds –they are especially spectacular in spring when rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, magnolias and bluebells are in vivid bloom. The gardens, which formerly attracted some 50,000 visitors annually, were acquired in 2017 by Penny Streeter, a British born, South African based entrepreneur who owns vineyards south east of Cape Town, and near the gardens in the shape of Mannings Heath Golf Club and Wine Estate. A vineyard being planted at Leonardslee will, it is claimed, be the only one in the UK to grow pinotage grapes South Africa’s signature variety.
New passport checks at Greek airports may up waiting times - warning20 days ago
British travellers have been warned to to arrive at Greek airports with time to spare from Sunday (7 April) when new passport checks will take effect. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office says police will begin implementing “systematic” checks for all European citizens travelling to or from destinations outside the Schengen area, including the UK.. “Increased waiting times at passport control are possible on departure from and arrival into Greece; you should ensure you arrive at the airport in good time. The Greek move reflects a 2017 Schengen Borders Code regulation and is not connected with Brexit. But it could provide a glimpse of what travelling will be like for UK holidaymakers if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
Robot parking trial confirmed20 days ago
Gatwick has confirmed that robot valet parking will be tested in a trial starting later this year. The airport’s management has signed a deal with Stanley Robotics. Passengers will leave their cars in an area near the South Terminal entrance. An electric robot vehicle will gently lift the wheels of the car and take it to a space in a secure car park. Artificial intelligence will enable it to optimise space by parking as tightly as possible. As the system is connected to flight information the robot will automatically return the vehicle to the area where the returning passenger checked it is. The traveller will then receive a text showing where to collect it.
Flybe cancels dozens of flights21 days ago
Flybe cancelled dozens of flights today, blaming a range of problems including “base restructuring” and a shortage of pilots. The cancellations, including five from Belfast City Airport and four from Birmingham, came shortly after the regional airline launched a new year round service between Heathrow and Newquay, on the north coast of Cornwall. It had switched the operation from Gatwick. Earlier this year the regional airline was taken over by Connect Airways, which was set up by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Air. Flybe said in a statement: it “sincerely apologises to all our customers and partners affected by the current flight cancellations. Whilst 95% of Flybe flights are operating as per normal, we do recognise the impact of today’s cancellations. We are doing our best to mitigate the impact of the current situation that has arisen due to a combination of factors including seasonality, pilots’ end of leave year, Easter holidays, base restructuring and the shortage of pilots across the industry that Flybe has highlighted over recent months. We have already identified several mitigation actions and will be issuing further updates throughout the day. All those affected have been emailed and advised they can re-book for travel on an alternative flight or apply for a full refund. Customers are advised to regularly check our website for more details”. This week Stobart Air launched another new route to Newquay – a summer service from Southend – with seats bookable through Flybe..
Liverpool's Liver Building opens to public for first time22 days ago
Liverpool’s iconic Royal Liver Building opens to the public for the first time tomorrow. Visitors will be able to access the tenth floor balcony. They will learn about the history of the city and the building, with its rooftop “Liver Bird” statues, through an audio visual presentation in the riverside clock room. And they will take in sweeping views from the 15th floor clock tower. Construction of the waterfront building began in 1908. One of the first in Europe to be built using reinforced concrete, it opened in 1911. Two years ago it was bought by a Luxembourg based investment group which set up a company with the aim of turning it into a visitor attraction. The tour, which is suitable for those aged seven and over will take around 70 minutes and is limited to groups of 14 people. Bookings must be made for specific time slots
Whitby Abbey ruins re-open23 days ago
The imposing Gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey on the north Yorkshire coast, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, were set to re-open today after a £1.6m revamp. The work has included a newly designed museum and permanent exhibition and the addition of a coffee shop. Though the first monastery was founded there in the 7th century, the existing ruins are those of the Benedictine abbey built in the 13th century, after the Norman conquest. The new exhibition charts the abbey’s history and its impact on writers and artists such as Tolkein, Turner and Lewis Carrol.