In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • News 267

    A hug question mark hung over the future of Thomas Cook this week after the company was forced to ask its bankers for new funds.

    almost 8 years ago

    A hug question mark hung over the future of Thomas Cook this week after the company was forced to ask its bankers for new funds. The problem the group now faces is how to persuade customers to keep booking despite the spate of negative news about its mounting debt and damaged share price. Cook's own High Street Travel agencies will be at pains to point out that travellers booking packages in those shops will be covered either under the ATOL (air travel organisers licence) scheme, which ensures consumers buying holidays including air travel are refunded when operators go bust – and brought home if that happens if they are abroad or – if they buy holidays including surface transport – such as coach tours – that they will be protected by the Package Travel Regulations. But despite the existence of these safety nets, travellers hit by the collapse of a travel company still face the inconvenience of reorganising their trips – and perhaps failing to replace the holidays they've been looking  forward to. On the plus side the Thomas Cook Group includes a range of brands operated under their own names, such as Cresta and Swiss Travel Service. Consumers may not immediately associate these brands with their parent company. Will Cook's be forced to slim down? Will it be taken over? The real crunch for Cook's may come in the key post-Christmas summer booking period. Then we'll discover whether there's enough consumer faith in the famous old brand to keep it buoyant.

  • Lufthansa will launch non stop flights from Manchester and Birmingham to Berlin's new Brandenburg Airport.

    almost 8 years ago

    Lufthansa will launch non stop flights from Manchester and Birmingham to Berlin when the German capital's new Brandenburg Airport opens in summer 2012. In total the airline will add some 30 new services to domestic, European and Middle East destinations from the airport, which is to be named after the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt and is scheduled to open on 3 June 2012, with the closure of Tegel airport.

  • Where’s the Snow?

    almost 8 years ago

    Across the Atlantic some ski resorts are opening early and others are due to have their lifts running in time for Thanksgiving this Thursday (November 24). In Colorado Snowmass has opened five days earlier than planned – with neighbouring Aspen due to open on Thursday. Vail is also open. While in California, skiers and snowboarders have taken to the slopes of Heavenly and Northstar. North of the border Canada's Sun Peaks opened on Saturday after receiving nearly a metre of snow in the previous seven days. Whistler opened on the same day – nearly a week earlier than anticipated – and its linked neighbour our Blackcomb will be up and running on Thursday 24 November.

  • News 264

    Birmingham `silver traveller’ wins a pampering 4 star hotel break.

    almost 8 years ago

    Lesley Jones from Stetchford, East Birmingham, has won a stay at the 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Thames side town of Marlow, courtesy Silver Travel Advisor.

    Lesley’s name was the first out of the hat in our prize draw among all new members signing up to Silver Travel Advisor during September 2011.
    Grandmother of four, Lesley (pictured here with daughter Kerry), said “I’m so delighted to have won and I will be taking my daughter for a special treat. We can’t wait to try out the hotel’s spa and the beauty treatments which are included in our prize! My partner and I love travelling, especially to the coast. We’ve been to Scandinavia, France, Germany and recently to Cyprus where my daughter married on a beach, which is why I signed up to share some of our travel experiences on Silver Travel Advisor. I was so shocked to get the news from Silver Travel Advisor as I never win competitions!”

    Debbie Marshall, who heads up the Silver Travel Advisor team, said “we were delighted to bring Lesley news of her win and we look forward to reading about her stay at the Crowne Plaza, Marlow, when she posts her review.

    Image: Lesley Jones and her daughter Kerry

  • Cruises for a maximum of four people are now available on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia.

    almost 8 years ago

    Cruises for a maximum of four people are now available on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. Two new, traditionally styled boats have been launched, each with just two en suite bathrooms and balconies. They are operated by Germany based Mekong Eyes Cruises (www.mekongeyes.com), which offers itineraries of two or three days. There are bikes on board so passengers can make excursions through jungle, rice fields and fruits plantations – and visit villages. And the on board chef gives cookery classes. Prices range from €199 – €439 for each of two people in a double or twin cabin.

  • The south west gets a new air link with Switzerland this winter.

    almost 8 years ago

    The south west gets a new air link with Switzerland this winter when Helvetic Airways starts flying between Bristol and Zurich,  From December 5 the Berne-based airline will operate three round trips a week with fares from £145. Departures from Bristol will be at 10.55am on Mondays and 1.25pm  on Wednesdays and Fridays. Homeward flights will leave at 7.40am on Mondays, and at 11.55am on the other days. 

  • Invoking the horrors of battle against a backdrop of social change, a new Museum of the Great War has opened in Meaux, north east of Paris.

    almost 8 years ago

    Invoking the horrors of battle against a backdrop of social change, a new Museum of the Great War (www.museedelagrandeguerre.eu) has opened in Meaux, some 35 miles north east of Paris. Officially inaugurated on Armistice Day by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, it features artefacts gathered by a private collector. They include many from Verdun, a theatre of war whose history is less familiar in the UK than the slaughter on the Somme. The exhibition, which includes an early tank and aircraft, leads the visitor through a period of French history which begins with the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, a humiliation for France which contributed to the causes of the First World War. 

  • News 258

    Lights, Camera, Action: England On Film

    almost 8 years ago

    From the coarse beauty of Yorkshire's moorland to the opulent exteriors of the National Trust's most lavish Stately Homes, England is one big, beautiful movie set. Don't just take our word for it – moviemakers have filmed some true classics here and this weekend sees the release of another: Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel Wuthering Heights. Here, VisitEngland showcases some of the locations featured in this film season's most anticipated releases.

     

    Wuthering Heights
    Brontë depicted the barren Yorkshire moors as a representation of central character Heathcliff's innately wild nature and this new adaptation brings the rousingly romantic nineteenth-century novel to life. Kaya Scodelario has received much critical acclaim for her role as Cathy but the film's true star is North Yorkshire's stunning moorland. Sumptuous locations, including Cotescue Park, a country house built in 1666, and Swaledale highlight the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Explore these valleys and discover the true romance of these beautiful hills. If you scratch deeper than the surface you will find a truly wonderful place that lies at the beating heart of this ultimate love story.
    Release date: 11 November 2011

    My Week with Marilyn     
    Staring Michelle Williams as everyone's favourite blond bombshell, My Week with Marilyn focuses on the week Monroe spent in England whilst making the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl. Introduced to British life, Monroe escapes the pressures of Hollywood and then husband, Arthur Miller. Filming took place on locations in and around London, including a house near Windsor, which Monroe and Miller lived in during their stay in England. Curtis used the same studio featured in The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 and Williams was reportedly given the dressing room Monroe had used at the time of the shoot.
    Release date: 18 November 2011  

    W.E.                      
    Directed by Madonna, W.E. brings together the Queen of Pop and King Edward VIII in an unconventional tale of contemporary love between a married woman and a Russian security guard. Locations include Hughenden Manor and West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire. The Manor, owned by the National Trust, was a country hideaway and home to the colourful private life of Benjamin Disraeli, the most unlikely Victorian Prime Minister. Today, you can follow in his footsteps: take a stroll through the elegant gardens and imagine feasting with Queen Victoria in the atmospheric dining hall.
    Release date: 9 December 2011
                                                                                   
    Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows   
    British director Guy Ritchie invites his audience to follow Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) across London as they outwit and bring down their fiercest and most cunning adversary, Professor Moriarty. Filmed at many iconic English destinations, from the historic Old Royal Naval College to Bourne Wood's ancient woodland, Sherlock Homes promises to be the festive season's biggest blockbuster.
    Release date: 16 December 2011  

    The Iron Lady   
    Here, Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep takes on a role of a lifetime, portraying the iconic former British Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher. In preparation for the role, Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons to perfect the pursed lips and a steely glare needed to portray this extraordinary and complex woman. The film was shot at Pinewood Studios, which recently celebrated its 75th birthday, and is credited with creating some of British cinema's most famous scenes.
    Release date: 6 January 2012

    War Horse          
    Set in Devon at the outbreak of World War I, War Horse describes unbreakable bond between a young man and his faithful horse. Directed by Steven Spielberg, filming was undertaken across England's vast counties, including Bourne Woods, Surrey, Castle Combe and Dartmoor, Devon. Spielberg himself praised the beauty of the Dartmoor countryside, commenting on the unparalleled beauty of its landscapes and skies.
    Release date: 13 January 2012      

    The Woman in Black                      
    This supernatural thriller, based on Susan Hill's novel and hugely successful West End production of the same name, tells the story of a young lawyer's encounter with the ghost of a scorned woman set on vengeance. Layer Marney Tower, near Colchester, provides the dramatic setting to this haunting affair.  Built in the reign of Henry VIII, the Tudor palace stands tall within the Essex landscape, commanding views over the River Blackwater and beyond.
    Release date: 10 February 2012    

    Great Expectations
    To celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, this lavish adaptation of Great Expectations stars some of the country's most beloved actors (Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, David Walliams, Jason Flemyng and Helena Bonham Carter) and will make great use of several high-profile locations. Fans of the legendary narrative will once again welcome the opportunity to get lost in the enchanted serenity of period film.
    Release date: 2012 (TBC)

  • British Airways will launch a daily Heathrow-Bologna service on 29 April 2012.

    almost 8 years ago

    British Airways will launch a daily Heathrow-Bologna service on 29 April 2012, with fares from £139 return. The flights will complement BA’s 20 services a week from Gatwick to the Italian city during the summer. In addition, weekly services from Heathrow to Barcelona will increase from 56 to 63, to Brussels from 39 to 46, to Amsterdam from 48 to 55 and to Rome Fiumicino from 42 to 49 from 25 March to 27 October. 

  • Reopening of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh - 1 Dec 2011

    almost 8 years ago

    The Scottish National Portrait Gallery will reopen its doors with 17 new and exciting specially chosen galleries on 1 Dec 2011. The national gallery was already the second largest collection of portraits in the world with over 3,500 paintings, sculptures and drawings, with a further 25,000 prints and around 3,000 works on long-term loan.  In addition, the Gallery is home to the Scottish National Photography Collection.  Comprising around 38,000 photographs, this outstanding collection of photographic art demonstrates how Scotland has been at the centre of the history and development of photography since the 1840s.  This has been a £17.6m project and the first major renovation in the gallery's 120-year history.  With this much reinvention, even the most seasoned art purveyor is in for a few welcome surprises.

    Among other developments, the renovation provides for the first time, full public access throughout the three floors of the building: the magnificent suite of five top-lit galleries on the upper floor has been restored to its former splendour, creating one of the finest display spaces in Scotland. 

    www.nationalgalleries.org

  • St Petersburg is to get a new luxury hotel.

    almost 8 years ago

    St Petersburg is to get a new luxury hotel. The InterContinental group will open a 119 room property there under its boutique Indigo brand in summer 2012. A 101 year old convefrted townhouse – also previously a hotel – it is is east of the city center, next to the Summer Gardens and the Stieglitz Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts. To be known as the Hotel Indigo St. Petersburg Tchaikovskiy, it is a short walk from the Hermitage Museum, the Russian Museum and the Winter Palace and within easy reach of Nevsky Prospect. Meanwhile the group plans to open the InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya by the end of the year.

  • News 256

    I walk, therefore I am.

    almost 8 years ago

    I walk, therefore I am. Well, alright, we know Descartes wasn't Greek but his much quoted premise will surely spring to the minds of travellers joining one of a series of “Philosophical Walks” in the south west Peloponnese. The walks, which will take around 1hr 30mins, have been organised by tourism officials on the Costa Navarino, in the Messinia region of Greece. University professors will lead en route discussions of the works of Greek philosophers with themes including “Socrates on madness and love” and “Plato on the physical universe”. If they call on you to keep up, they may be complaining about your mental agility rather than your fleetness of foot.

  • Like the sound of a quick break across the Channel before the Christmas madness kicks in?

    almost 8 years ago

    Like the sound of a quick break across the Channel before the Christmas madness kicks in? Brittany Ferries has announced a fare of £99 return for a car and two passengers on its routes from Portsmouth to Caen and St Malo and Plymouth to St Malo and Roscoff. You can stay for up to 60 hours and you must book by 21 November 2012 for travel until 18 December 2012. There's surcharge of  £10 each way if your trip includes a weekend. 

  • Next year's Olympic weeks could be a great time to visit Britain's tourist honeypots.

    almost 8 years ago

    Next year's Olympic weeks could be a great time to visit Britain's tourist honeypots. Attractions usually busy with overseas visitors may be much quieter than usual. Leading inbound tour operators are reporting an average downturn of 95% in bookings for travel to London during the August games, according to the European Tour Operators Association. Even in the July and August weeks before and after the Games, bookings are down by 60%. With many visitors travelling from the capital to other parts of the UK, there's bound to be a knock on effect beyond London. Tom Jenkins, the association's executive director, says: “The expectations of visitor numbers currently circulating within the hotel industry are hugely inflated. If UK businesses are basing their plans on data in some prominent visitor forecasts, London will suffer financially, as has been experienced by previous host cities.”

  • News 254

    Watch our for tempting fare deals to Vancouver next summer.

    almost 8 years ago

    Watch our for tempting fare deals to Vancouver next summer. Virgin Atlantic is to launch flights there from Heathrow. The airline will operate four times a week between May 24 and October 27, 2012  –  on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, using Airbus A340-300 aircraft. The new service promises to increase by around 10% the number of seats available between Heathrow and the British Columbia city and will provide fresh competition for British Airways and Air Canada. 

  • News 252

    Ancient mummies ans shimmering salt flats compelling enough reasons to visit Chile's fascinating Atacama Desert,...

    almost 8 years ago

    Ancient mummies ans shimmering salt flats compelling enough reasons to visit Chile's fascinating Atacama Desert, reckoned to be the driest place on earth. Stargazing is a bonus. Following the opening of the major Atacama Large Millimetre Array radio telescope facility, a hotel near San Pedro has installed its own observatory. The region's clear Southern Hemisphere skies make it one of the world's best places to enjoy the night skies. The Alto Atacama Lodge (www.altoatacama.com) has added an observatory platform with a Meade Lightbridge 16in telescope.

  • Spanish low cost airline Vueling is ti start flying between cardiff and Barcelona on 27 March 2012.

    almost 8 years ago

    Spanish low cost airline Vueling is to start flying between Cardiff and Barcelona on 27 March 2012. Initially it will operate three round trips a week, by Airbus A320 aircraft, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Meanwhile another budget carrier, Wizz air, is reported to be planning to operate a new twice weekly service between Liverpoool and the Lithuanian capital, Vilnious, from May 2012.

  • News 250

    Shanghai has a new luxury hotel with the opening of the first property in Asia under Hyatt's Andaz brand.

    almost 8 years ago

    Shanghai has a new luxury hotel with the opening of the first property in Asia under Hyatt's Andaz brand. The 28 storey, "boutique inspired", 307 room hotel is in Xiantiandi, and entertainment area in the heart of the city full of restaurants and bars and noted for restored houses in Shikumen style, a sort of architectural cross between oriental and European which were home to Chinese people in the western quarters. Rooms have views over the city. It has a spa and fitness centre with an indoor pool, and eateries with cooking ranging from contemporary Shanghai to french bistro.

  • Viking River Cruises win ‘Best River Cruise Line’ at the British Travel Awards.

    almost 8 years ago

    Viking River Cruises picked up their latest accolade as they were awarded ‘Best River Cruise Line’ at the British Travel Awards 2011 for the third year running. More than 700,000 customers voted for the awards since July 2011 and the winners were announced at a Gala Dinner in Battersea on Wednesday 2nd November.



    “We’re absolutely delighted to have won Best River Cruise Line for the third year running and what’s so fantastic about this award is that it is voted for by customers” said Wendy Atkin-Smith, Managing Director Viking River Cruises UK Limited. “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do as a company so to pick up this award again is a great honour.”



    Viking River Cruises have already won a number of awards this year including ‘River Cruise Line of the Year’ at the Cruise International Awards and ‘River Cruise Specialist’ at the Travel Bulletin Awards. 



    The British Travel Awards have categories spanning 100 types of holiday experience including transport, destination, cruise, customer service, holiday extras and accommodation.

    Viking River Cruises

  • News 247

    The Pipe and Glass Inn, in South Dalton, near Beverley in East Yorkshire has been named Pub of the Year by Michelin

    almost 8 years ago

    The Pipe and Glass Inn, in South Dalton, near Beverley in East Yorkshire has been named Pub of the Year by Michelin. The award is given to the pub which best combines factors such as character and the friendliness of staff as well as the food. The Pipe and Glass Inn is run by James and Kate Mackenzie. In 2006 they took over what was the the shell of a building dating from the 17th century and they continue to upgrade it. Rebecca Burr, editor of the Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide describes it as “a wonderfully warm pub and nothing is ever too much trouble for the owners.” Michelin's verdict is that “James’s cooking has developed markedly over the years. He is a great advocate of local suppliers and also uses produce from his own garden. His cooking may display elements of refinement as well as some original touches, but it comes with an inherent and satisfying heartiness because, above all, James never forgets that this is a pub, not a restaurant”.