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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Islay hotel nears openingabout 18 hours ago
A long planned luxury hotel in a converted 18th century farmhouses on Islay, the whisky distilling island in the Inner Hebrides, is expected to open in June. The Machrie Hotel is part of an estate bought out of administration in 2011 by former BBC chair Gavyn Davies and Baroness Sue Nye, who had worked as an advisor to then Prime minister Gordon Brown. But development of what had been a relatively modest property into a complex of 47 rooms, suites and lodges had proved a lengthy process involving a new water supply connection. The property, which will have a small spa, is on a pristine, seven miles stretch of beach. There will be a restaurant and bar promising views of its associated golf course and ocean.
QE2 opens as floating hotel2 days ago
The former Cunard liner QE2 opened today as a floating hotel in Dubai. Moored at Mina Rashid, the ship is about 20 minutes by taxi from Dubai Creek and the Dubai Heritage Museum – and 25 minutes from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with its 125th floor observation deck. Launched in 1967, the liner made the Atlantic crossing 812 times, carrying celebrities, including Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth Taylor, Buss Aldrin and David Bowie. She was retired in 2008 and arrived in Dubai the same year, but the then plan to convert her hit the buffers as a result of the global financial crisis. Extra hotel rooms weren’t needed. Today saw what the hotel industry calls a ‘soft opening’, with five of a planned 13 restaurants and bars open. Reservations are at https:/www.qe2.com.
Spa on rails set for launch2 days ago
A clay wrap of local flowers and coca leaves will be among the treatments on offer aboard Belmond Andean Explorer from next month. A spa on rails is set to open aboard the luxury sleeper train that winds its way through Peru between Cuzco and Arequipa. The train follows one of the world’s highest rail routes, with sightseeing calls on the way, including a stop at Lake Titicaca. Passengers can book the whole two night journey in either direction or spend one night on board, starting or finishing in Puno.
Justice and injustice to be weighed at new Dorset museum3 days ago
The Shire Hall in Dorchester, where Thomas Hardy sat as a magistrate, is set to open on 1 May as a museum whose theme will be justice – and its diametric opposite. It was there in 1934 that the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried for of swearing a secret oath to protest about their meagre farmworkers’ pay. Their conviction and harsh sentence of transportation gave fresh momentum to the fledgling trades union movement and such was the public outcry that they were pardoned and allowed to return home two years later. Another who stood trial there was Martha Brown, whose hanging – Dorset’s last in public – was witnessed by Hardy and who is said to have been his model for Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Visitors to the museum will learn more these and hen other stories though interactive displays, and explore the courtroom and cells. The opening exhibition will look at the history of the US Civil Rights movement and protest in the UK. As pat of this a group of young people, working with museum staff and the Dorset History Centre, will mount a display dealing with protests in Dorset, including the 1912 wildcat strike over changes to pay and conditions by women at Gundry’s net and rope factory.
Etihad to axe Edinburgh flights4 days ago
Etihad is to suspend its service between Edinburgh and Abu Dhabi at he end of September. The airline said that the move was one of several adjustments that they are making to their network in 2018 in order to improve system profitability. In a statement the airline said it was committed to the UK market with services to and from Heathrow and Manchester. It was working with travel agents to notify passengers already booked to fly after 30 September and switch them to alternative flights.
On foot through orange groves – new packages launched7 days ago
New hiking breaks in a relatively unfamiliar area of Spain have been introduced for next autumn and next spring by Ramblers Walking Holidays. North Valencia’s orange growing Castellon region offers a variety of routes along undeveloped stretches of Mediterranean coast and through the natural parks and protected landscapes of Serra d’Espada, Serra d’Itra and the Desert of Palms. Customers will be based in the coastal town of Benicassim and walks will be led by local guides. Prices for the seven night Orange Blossom Coast tours start at £1,195. That covers flights, transfers, breakfasts, and dinners in the hotel or at local restaurants, guiding and local transport. Departures are in October and November this year and March and April 2019.
Long haul flights: shake up in the air8 days ago
Budget long haul travel faced a shake up today with British Airways’ parent IAG confirming it was considering a takeover offer for low cost carrier Norwegian. The news emerged soon after BA began selling new hand baggage only fares on flights to Austin (Texas) Boston, Denver, Dubai, Hong Kong, Oakland, Philadelphia, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and Singapore. Fare start at £143 one way to Dubai, £175 to Boston and £185 to Oakland. They must be booked as part of a round trip but you can use them one way and pay a fare including checked luggage on the other leg, enabling you to buy a bagful of shopping, for example. Passengers booking them aren’t able to choose seats in advance. Meanwhile IAG has bought a 4.61% stake in Norwegian “intended to establish a position” from which to initiate discussions about the possibility of a full offer. But it added that “no such discussions have taken place to date, that it has taken on decision to make an offer at this time and hat there is no certainty that any such decision will be made”.
Canal boat taster trips on offer8 days ago
Free taster trips on canal boats will be on offer this weekend at 19 locations across the UK. The open day is the latest to be set up by the Canal and River Trust with Drifters Waterways Holidays. No advance booking is necessary. Details of locations (15 April – 11am – 4pm) are at www.canalrivertrust.orh.uk/trycanalboating. Gareth Stephens, the Trust’s national boating manager, said: “We believe that waterways have the power to make a real difference to people’s lives and that sending time by water makes us all healthier and happier”.
Durham gets new hotel9 days ago
A new hotel has opened a short step from Durham Cathedral. With 83 bedrooms, the Hotel Indigo occupies the Grade II listed Old Shire Hall, which formerly housed the office of Durham University’s vice chancellor. It has a fitness centre and incorporates a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill. The Indigo brand is part of the InterContinental (IHG) group.
Baroque opera house to re-open10 days ago
Bayreuth’s baroque Margravial Opera House, which attracted Richard Wagner to establish his festival in the town, is scheduled to re-open next week after a five year restoration by the Bavarian Palace Department. It was built for Margrave Friedrich von Brandenburg-Bayreuth and his wife Wilhelmine – primarily at her behest – between 1744 and 1748. The theatre’s magnificent interior was designed by the Italian architect Guiseppe Galli Biniena. With its extravagant carved and painted decoration it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though it first drew Wagner to Bayreuth it proved unsuitable and a newer opera house was built for the festival, which began in 1876.
Philadelphia ups tourism game11 days ago
With a major new exhibition of 20th century American art opening next week and just launched Aer Lingus flights from Dublin now offering connecting UK passengers US immigration clearance before departure, Philadelphia is upping its appeal to tourists. The exhibition, opening on 18 April at the city’s Museum of Art, looks at the responses of American artists to rapid change in the country in the forty years to 1950, a period covering the impact of motor transport on the urban landscape in painting and photography and the rise of the abstract. It will include work by artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, John Marin and their champion – O’Keeffe’s partner – the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In another development, a pier on the Delaware River, unoccupied for some three decades, is to open this spring with a new market, restaurants, bars – and artists’ studios in shipping containers. Cherry Street Pier, built in 1919, will also house venues for the performing arts. Behind the development is the not for profit Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. The project is the latest of a range of developments opening up the city’s riverfront for residents and tourists.
Tourist card offer will cut Basel city break costs14 days ago
Basel probably isn’t the first choice that leaps to mind as a city break destination. In a move to boost its appeal, guests at the Swiss city’s hotels will now receive the BaselCard which covers free use of public transport, internet access at 17 Wi-Fi hotspots and a ferry ride. It also saves visitors 50% of the admission price at the city’s many museums and the zoo and the cost of a two hour sightseeing trip by bus, a walk tour of the old town, scheduled Rhine cruises operated by Basler Personen Schifffahrt and box office tickets at Theater Basel.
Famous 1950s racing engine to roar again15 days ago
The lost roar of a supercharged 1950s BRM will be heard again at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in May. It will be the first time the car’s complex engine – described as ‘powerful but highly strung’ – has been started in public since a painstaking rebuild by Hall & Hall, a motor sport specialist in the market town of of Bourne in Lincolnshire, where the BRM (British Racing Motors) Formula One team was based. The car in question, driven by Reg Parnell, won its first two races at Goodwood in 1950. But though it was exceptionally powerful for the time, the car’s V16 engine proved problematic and there followed a string of failures. In 1952 BRM withdrew its V16 powered cars before a race in Turin, leaving Ferrari with no effective competition, and the racing authorities ran the rest of that year’s events under Formula Two rules. The start up is scheduled to take place at 3pm on 19 May, during the museum’s Autojumble event.
New Scottish islands ship16 days ago
Scottish small ship cruise line Majestic has ordered a fourth purpose built vessel – due to be delivered in time for its summer season next year. Already named Glen Shiel, she will sail on ten day itineraries to the west coast of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda and Wester Ross. Construction starts tis month on the Isle of Bute. The ship – broadly similar to the line’s existing Glen Etive – will incorporate significant use of brass and hardwoods ‘to achieve the character and comfort of a 1930s gentleman’s yacht’. She will accommodate up to 12 passengers including two single travellers – in seven en suite double or twin cabins.
Facelift for hotel legend17 days ago
James Joyce worked on Ulysses there. Picasso and Matisse were among its residents. General de Gaulle, who later decreed it be used to house concentration camp survivors after the liberation, spent his honeymoon in the hotel as a young officer. Now the Lutetia – on the Left Bank in Paris – is about to begin a new chapter in its history, re-opening on 15 May after a four year, multi million euro renovation. The project has aimed to blend its original architectural features, created in 1910 as Art Nouveau gave way to Art Deco, with contemporary design. Forty rooms have been sacrificed to make space for large suites. The remaining 184 have been redesigned with dressing rooms and bathrooms with natural light. A former salon will now be an interior garden and a spa and swimming pool have been added. Art Deco stained glass has been restored. Opened by the owners of the Au Bon Marche department store (now Le Bon Marche) its façade was designed in Art Nouveau style, with reliefs of vines and grape clusters. It was later owned by the Taittinger Champagne family and is now part of the Israel Alrov Group. Those who have lived, worked or entertained there have included Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, Andre Malraux and Samuel Beckett.
Stansted to get Ukraine flights18 days ago
Low cost flights between Stansted and Ukraine are set to start in autumn. From the end of October Ryanair will operate five round trips a week to the capital, Kiev, and three to Lviv, a city in the west of the country – about 43 miles from the border with Poland – whose historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site with many will preserved buildings in renaissance and baroque style.
In the footsteps of the Durrells21 days ago
With ITV’s gently popular drama The Durrells now in its third series, tour operator Prestige Holidays has launched tours of its Corfu backdrop. Customers on the six day trips will be accompanied, for part of the time, by Lee Durrell, widow of the naturalist Gerald, who will give talks on the life and conservation work with her late husband, author of My Family and other Animals. The tours will take in Corfu’s Old Town, Mouse Island – one of Gerald’s favourite boyhood haunts – the seaside own of Kalami, Mount Pantokrator and White House, home of his brother – the writer and poet Lawrence. There will also be an excursion to Saranda and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint, in Albania. The tours will depart on 29 April and 2 May and will cost from £1,649 per person. including flight from London and five nights in a four star hotel with b&b, four lunches and four dinners.
Cruise customers to get virtual personal assistants22 days ago
Passengers on MSC Cruises new mega ship Bellissima will be provided with Amazon Alexa-style devices in their cabins. In what is claimed to b e a first for the cruise industry they’ll be able to asked for services and information. The device is described as “a conversational voice-enabled artificial innovation that can communicate, learn and intelligently predict guests’ needs to make relevant suggestions”. The technology has been developed in partnership with Samsung subsidiary HARMAN International. Bellissima, which will carry up to 5700 passengers, is currently under construction at St Nazaire in France. She is scheduled to christened in March next year in Southampton. The ship will spend her inaugural season cruising the Western Mediterranean before moving in winter to the United Arab Emirates.
Travellers name Heathrow T2 world’s best23 days ago
Heathrow’s Terminal 2 has been voted the world’s best in the latest annual traveller satisfaction survey by the online ratings and review website Skytrax. Also known as the Queen’s Terminal, it opened nearly four years ago, partly on the site of the original T2, which dated rom 1955. Munich’s T2 was second, followed by Singapore Changi’s T3 and Heathrow’s T5. Changi was named best airport overall, followed by Seoul’s Incheon and Tokyo’s Haneda. Asian airport swept the board in the best baggage delivery category, with Osaka’s Kansai coming top, followed by Haneda, Incheon, Taiwan’s Taoyuan and Tokyo’s Narita. Zurich was best of the rest. The annual survey was launched in 1999. The following year 1.02m people took part. By 2015, says Skytrax, the number had soared to more than 13m.
Cardiff gets Venice flights24 days ago
Flights from Cardiff to Venice were scheduled to take off today. Regional airline Flybe will operate the route twice a week until September 9, with departures on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Midweek outward services will leave at 11.10am, arriving at Marco Polo airport at 2.30pm. Homeward flights will depart at 3.30pm, arriving at 4.40pm. Departure times on Saturdays will be at 6.30am from Cardiff and 10.15 am from Venice, arriving at 9.45am and 11.40am respectively.