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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
New transatlantic premium economy takes off25 days ago
United Airlines is the latest airline to launch a Transatlantic premium economy service from London. The service will make its westbound debut tomorrow aboard Boeing 777-300ER from Heathrow to San Francisco. Called Premium Plus, it comes with increased legroom as part of generally more spacious seats that recline further, upgraded meals – served on china – bigger seatback entertainment screens and noise cancelling headphones. The airline says “the odd flight” has already operated from Heathrow with the new seats on the Heathrow route. But the service, which is now available daily on some departures to San Francisco. hasn’t been bookable on flights departing before this week. Other advantages over normal economy include special check in access and priority boarding. This comes at a premium price, of course. Lead in return fares with one checked bag in normal economy start at £1,607.72 compared with £424.72 in normal economy. Premium Plus will be extended to other UK routes later.
Sri Lanka: holiday travel ban28 days ago
Britons with holidays planned in Sri Lanka have been plunged into confusion following the Government’s decision to ban all but essential travel there. Tour operators have begun scrambling to arrange alternatives for customers, though at the time of writing they had no idea how long the ban would last. Besides switching to other destinations, travellers will now have the option of postponing trips or receving full refunds. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We will keep this decision under close and constant review. My first priority will always be the security of British citizens living and travelling abroad. In its revised advice to travellers the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.” Though the extent of any further threat was unclear, security had been stepped up across the island. “A State of Emergency and night-time curfew remain in place. The Sri Lankan authorities have made a number of arrests in relation to the attacks, and security operations are ongoing, including controlled explosions of suspicious packages and vehicles, and temporary evacuations of buildings.”
Hotel where young Victoria stayed to get facelift28 days ago
Llangollen’s Royal Hotel, which once played host to Princess – later Queen – Victoria, is to close next January for a major upgrade. The plan is re-open it later as a luxury property with a spa and, subject to planning permission, a rooftop terrace with 360 degree views of the glorious countryside surrounding the North Wales town. The hotel has been bought by a local hospitality group which has already revived the local Three Eagles Restaurant and turned nearby Tyn Dwr Hall into a luxury wedding venue. The group has joined forces with a Wrexham businessman to create what owner Matt Wells sees as “a destination hotel” adding a new touch of quality to the town’s accommodation options. The Royal, which stands on a bank of the River Dee, is perhaps Llangollen’s most recognisable building. Under its former name, the King’s Head, it was listed in a 1752 commercial directory. The young Victoria stayed there with her mother, the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, in 1832.
Opening date set for Lakes airport29 days ago
Carlisle Lake District Airport will welcome its first scheduled passengers for 25 years when it opens on 4 July. After an eleven month delay Scottish Airline Loganair will launch flights between the airport and Southend, Belfast City and Dublin. It will operate four times a week to and from Southend and five on the Irish routes. Besides serving the Lakes, the airport will provide a gateway to south west Scotland and the Pennines.
Warning on illegal holiday booking small printabout 1 month ago
Beware the booking conditions set by travel firms based outside the EU. Their small print may be may be illegal. That was the warning from Noel Josephides, on behalf of AITO (The Specialist Travel Association). The warning came as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) urged UK holiday and travel businesses to ensure their terms and conditions were fair and that they were “up front and clear” with travellers about charges, especially when customers cancel. Mr Josephides is a director of AITO and chairman of ABTA. Both are among the trade bodies partnering with the CMA in its campaign. He said there were “far too many companies attempting to market illegally to UK consumers from outside the EU and we must fight back”. Many of these firms had clauses in their small print absolving them of any responsibility for the behaviour of their suppliers, such as coach transfer operators. The CMA was particularly concerned about legally unfair terms that allowed operators to retain large deposits or impose cancellation fees that far exceeded the cost of a cancellation to them.
Isle of Man gets direct Heathrow linkabout 1 month 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.
Kubrick exhibition to openabout 1 month 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 decadesabout 1 month 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 opensabout 1 month 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 walksabout 1 month 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 routesabout 1 month 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 showabout 1 month 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 plannedabout 1 month 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 launchedabout 1 month 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. The trip costs £4,695 with an £800 single room supplement.
Publisher starts providing free travel e-guidesabout 1 month 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 launchedabout 2 months 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 offerabout 2 months 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 lastabout 2 months 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-openingabout 2 months 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 - warningabout 2 months 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.