In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Plaza premium heathrow min

    Aerotel by Plaza Premium Heathrow T3

    Heathrow terminal gets hotel

    about 1 month ago

    A hotel has opened in Heathrow’s Terminal 3. The Plaza Premium Group’s Aerotel is only a few steps from check in and guests are able to book any length of stay from six hours up. It has two floors with 83 bedrooms, round the clock check in and a lounge serving all day breakfast and Chicken Tikka Masala. It offers six, nine, 12 hour and overnight stays starting at £50. Until 31 December there’s a 30% discount for guests staying nine hours or longer. And across the Atlantic a Grand Hyatt has opened on San Francisco airport. The $237m luxury property is connected to all terminals via its own station on the airport’s automated AirTrain system. It has 351 rooms, a fitness centre, a restaurant and a lounge and bar that also serves food.

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    Dorset Coast - Selworthy

    Steps to fitness – new adventure walks

    about 1 month ago

    The trend towards checking the number of steps you take on Fitbits or other devices is reflected in a new initiative from one of Britain’s longest established travel firms. HF Holidays has launched new adventure walking holidays including short breaks that demand 50,000 paces over three days or 100,000 over four. They are available on the Dorset Coast and in the Peak or Lake Districts, the Cotswolds, Northumberland and the South Downs and cost from £369 or £515 respectively with full board accommodation at one of the firm’s country houses. Other new walks in the adventure programme include a “Ben Nevis Challenge” and winter walking with leaders from the Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre.

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    Visitors will be able to leaf through guides and other old books

    Grumpy letters from Scott and Ruskin in new exhibition

    about 1 month ago

    A letter from Captain Scott, complaining about a map of the Antarctic, will be on display to the public for the first time in an exhibition opening on Friday. The somewhat tetchy missive was addressed to Stanfords, cartographers and long established retailers of maps, guides and travel literature. It appears Scott’s ego was pricked by the inclusion of Ernest Shackleton’s name with his own at a point marking what was then the furthest point south reached by explorers. He wrote: “According to all precedent, this coupling of Mr. Shackleton’s name with mine implies dual leadership, and it is not in accordance with fact”. Besides, he noted, the name of Scott’s other companion, Edward Wilson, was omitted. However, he was clearly mollified by a reply from Edward Stanford, offering to “omit Lieut. Shackleton’s name in the next printing”. Though this and letters from other high profile customers were dug out for Peter Whitfield’s 2001 history of Stanfords, they otherwise lay tucked away in boxes until the firm moved its London headquarters and shop to new premises not far from Long Acre, near Covent Garden, where it had traded since 1901. Among them, also born of grumpiness, is a plea from John Ruskin, who had deplored the arrival of a railway in the Derbyshire Dales with the famous lament that “every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton". Writing in 1887, he asked Messrs Stanford & Co: “Have you any school atlas or any other sort of atlas on sale at present without railroads in its maps? Of all the entirely odd stupidities of modern education, railroads in maps are the infinitely oddest to my mind”. It was signed “Ever your faithful servant and victim J Ruskin”. Other items on view include a letter of thanks for mounting some maps, from Florence Nightingale, and a 1937 invoice sent to Winston Churchill at Chartwell, for four shillings in respect of a road map of Yugoslavia. Remarkably, visitors will be able to leaf through old books, such as a fascinating atlas published to mark Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887. Stanfords was founded in 1853. The new shop in Mercer Walk is part of its sixth headquarters since then. The small but fascinating exhibition is in nearby Langley Street. Some of the exhibits are on loan from the British Library, The Mercers’ Company – Stanfords’ new landlords – and the Royal Geographical Society. Admission is free. There could be more gems to unearth from the firm’s own archive. Chair and CEO Vivien Godfrey, whose father and grandfather were chairmen, says: I think we have got the cream”. But she adds there are many more books of correspondence to be explored, “so it’s possible we might come across more letters from famous customers”.

  • Silver skier min

    Silver skiers prefer quiet slopes

    about 1 month ago

    Quiet slopes are among the strongest magnets for silver skiers and snowboarders, a new survey shows. Just over half (51%) cited them as an important element in choosing a resort, compared with 41% of those aged 25-44 and only 31% of 16-24 year olds. The research, organised by the Ski Club of Great Britain, closely followed publication of results from a questionnaire to readers by the US website seniorsskiing.com, asking them what annoyed them most on the slopes. Its founders were surprised by the number who complained about rude, dangerous and out of control skiers and snowboarders, “risk takers who don’t turn on groomers (prepared pistes) and those who show “complete disregard for slower skiers”. The website is aimed at skiers and boarders aged 50 plus. The average age of Ski Club respondents was 48, indicating that a significant number were well past the half century milestone. They are likely to spend more than other age groups on their wintersports holidays and have a stronger preference for staying in hotels than in chalets or self catering, the survey shows. When deciding where to go they are much more concerned about the efficiency of the lift system and, unsurprisingly perhaps, much less bothered about bars and nightlife. The message to resorts on both sides of the Atlantic is clear. In order to attract and retain their biggest spenders they need to do more to reduce the risk of collisions by policing the slopes.

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    Sea Containers London

    Top accessible hotels named

    about 1 month ago

    London’s Sea Containers Hotel, on the South Bank of the Thames, has been named the capital’s most accessible place to stay. Specially commended in the inaugural Blue Badge Access Awards was The Beaumont, in Mayfair’s Brown Hart Gardens. The Kings Head in Cirencester took top spot in the boutique category and luxury Yorkshire self catering destination Cottages in the Dales was voted top venue by visitors to disabled access review site Euan’s Guide. The awards, which stem from a collaboration between Blue Badge Style, whose website reviews and offers tips on stylish and accessible places for disabled people, the Bespoke Access Awards and the Leonard Cheshire charity.

  • Roger bray cairo

    Image courtesy Jules Verne

    Cairo to the Cape – luxury package launched

    about 1 month ago

    Travel on a steamer once owned by Egypt’s notoriously self indulgent King Farouk and a train billed as the “world’s most luxurious” is included in a new Cairo to the Cape package launched by tour operator Jules Verne. Customers on the 34 day journey will spend 13 days on the Nile, aboard the privately chartered SS Misr, which was originally built for the Royal Navy and launched in 1918. Later they will spend a further eleven days travelling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Cape Town on Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa, with its wood panelled suites and elegant, updated pre-1940 dining cars. For the rest of the holiday, except for two night flights they will stay in hotels including Cape Town’s Mount Nelson. Along the way there will be visits to ancient Egyptian sites, and lectures by an Egyptologist and, on the train, by a historian. There will a day trip to Zanzibar, game drives and a stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Departure will be on 13 September next year and prices, as you might expect will involve a raid on the kids’ inheritance. They start at £17,495 a head.

  • Grand hotel d'angkor

    Cambodia's grande dame hotel re-opens

    about 1 month ago

    Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, which has played host to celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, President de Gaulle, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Margaret, has reopened after a six months refurbishment. Spotlights points and USB charging stations have been added in its 119 rooms and suites and bathrooms have been given a major makeover, with the installation of separate rain showers. A new restaurant – named 1932 after the year of its original opening – will be launched officially next month. The hotel, which was taken over in the 1970s by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, is in Siem Reap, close to the spectacular 12th century temple of Angkor Wat. Designed with strong art deco influences, it retains its wrought iron and wood lift.

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    El Salvador - bird watching on Lake Suchitlan (courtesy Explore)

    Guerrillas turned guides – new El Salvador tour

    about 1 month ago

    The former guerrilla stronghold of La Cinquera, where former fighters and their families act as guides, is included in a new tour of El Salvador launched by adventure travel specialist Explore. The rainforest village was a base for the FMLN, one of the main left wing factions during the Central American country’s long civil war in the 1980s and now one of its principal political parties. The community has established a grassroots tourism project that creates a living museum of the conflict, with the associated aim of protecting the surrounding forest from illegal logging. The eleven day trip also includes an optional boat trip on nearby Lake Suchitlan, where over 200 bird species have been recorded, a lesson in the making of the Salvadoran pupusa – thick flatbread with a variety of stuffings ranging from cheese to refried beans, a walking tour of the capital, San Salvador and a hike up Santa Ana Volcano. The trip costs from £1199 excluding flights.

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    Deal to acquire Cook's travel agencies signed

    about 1 month ago

    All of Thomas Cook’s 555 High Street travel agencies have been acquired by Sunderland based Hays Travel after a deal was struck with the Official Receiver and KPMG. John Hays told the BBC it was difficult to give cast iron guarantees that all the shops would remain open. Talks with individual landlords are continuing and there may be some towns and cities where Cook’s shops have been operating in competition with Hays’ existing agencies. But it was expected the vast majority would survive and with them the jobs of most of Cook’s 2500 retail staff.

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    Manchester Airport offers home bag check in

    about 1 month ago

    Passengers flying from Manchester Airport can now check in bags from home and collect them at their destinations. The service is available to travellers on flights with “partner airlines”, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Finnair. Baggage is processed in a dedicated facility away for the terminal check in areas. The service is being operated in partnership with Airportr, which already offers it at Heathrow and Gatwick. Passengers may book it via airport’s website. They choose a 3hr collection slot from home, work or a hotel, and can follow the progress of their luggage thanks to the use of electronic tags. Prices are £20 – £30 for one bag and £7 for each extra bag.

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    Delay payouts – airlines “pull the wool over passengers’ eyes”

    about 1 month ago

    A staggering 92% of passengers in a new survey said they ran into an initial brick wall when they claimed delay compensation from airlines. They were told initially that they couldn’t claim, when in fact they could. The survey was conducted among 1949 travellers by Bott & Co, a firm of solicitors specialising in seeking such redress. It said: “the overarching theme of participants’ answers is that airlines continue to pull the wool over passengers’ eyes to get out of paying due flight delay compensation. Airlines do not have a valid defence when flights are affected by everyday factors or where reasonable measures could have been put in place to limit or avoid disruption. But they seem to have a hard time accepting this”. The survey showed just over one third (68%) of travellers were still in the dark about their rights under EU regulation 261/2004 at the time their journey was disrupted. Sixty per cent were told they couldn’t claim die to “extraordinary circumstances”. And 38% of airlines failed to respond to claims within the mandatory four weeks. The Brussels rule lays down a scale of compensation depending on the lengths of the flight and delay. Amount range from €250 for a hold up of 3hrs or more when the flight is up to 1500km to €600 for a delay of over 4hrs if the distance is over 3500kms.

  • Underleigh house

    Top UK b&b named

    about 1 month ago

    A 19th century farmhouse in the Peak District National Park has been named the UK’s top b&b in this year’s Good Hotel Guide awards. Underleigh House, in Hope, has four bedrooms. An inspector for the guide’s latest edition describes “a wonderful breakfast” served in a beamed, former shippon, or cattle shed. It included “a huge array of marinated dried fruits, home made muesli, freshly squeezed orange juice, local black pudding and eggs”. At the opposite end of the scale, The Airds Hotel in Appin, on Loch Linhe, near Glencoe, emerges as Scottish luxury hotel of the year. It is “a place of indulgence” says the guide, with “superb West Coast produce” for dinner. Other winners include the Angel in Abergavenny (Welsh hotel of the year), Old Downton Lodge in Ludlow (best country house hotel), and The Quay House in Clifden, Connemara (top Irish b&b).

  • Plateform 10

    Plateforme 10

    Swiss arts and design centre set to take off

    about 1 month ago

    The first museum to move to a major new arts and design complex is scheduled to open in the Swiss city of Lausanne this weekend. Called Plateforme 10, the ambitious project, which will incorporate extensive public spaces, shops and restaurants is on the site of former locomotive sheds. The Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts will open there on Saturday 5 October. The building will also house Toms Pauli Foundation, a museum of ancient tapestries and modern textiles, and the Félix Vallotton Foundation, which is dedicated to the eponymous, Lausanne born painter and printmaker. The Musée de l’Elysée, which is dedicated to photography, and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts – will move there at the end of 2021.

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    US safety authority to rule on airline legroom

    about 2 months ago

    Will US airlines be compelled to provide more legroom? And will that run off on European carriers? The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is expected to announce a ruling on minimum measurements for seat sizes – and the gaps between rows – by the end of this year. But its decision will be based as much on passenger safety as comfort. The FAA will carry out live tests in November to determine whether extra space is needed to ensure travellers can evacuate aircraft safely in emergency. It will use 720 people of different ages and sizes. Its deputy administrator Dan Elwell told a House of Representatives sub committee: “Americans are getting bigger and so seat size is important but it has to be looked at in the context of safety and that requires testing.” Europe’s air safety authority will be watching the results with interest but if changes are ordered on either side of the Atlantic it is likely airlines will be allowed a fairly long period in which to adjust.

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    Malawi trek

    Big game and trekking in Malawi – new package

    about 2 months ago

    Mountain trekking and big game spotting in Malawi is the intriguing combination of ingredients in a new package from Cumbria based tour operator KE Adventures. The two week holiday starts on a private reserve near Blantyre, with bush walks to encounter giraffe, zebra and antelope. That’s followed by a five day trek to the Sapitwa summit of the Mulanje Massif, then three nights in Lilongwe National Park, where game includes elephant, hippopotamus and the recently introduced cheetah and lion. The trip finished with two days on the shores of Lake Malawi. With three departures planned in each of 2020 and 2021, it costs from £3,045, including flights from Heathrow.

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    Axamer-Lizum - photo courtesy Innsbruck Tourism

    New pass covers city and slopes

    about 2 months ago

    An innovative new pass covering 13 ski resorts plus transport and admission to attractions in Innsbruck has been launched for this winter. Ski areas and resorts include the Stubai Glacier, the Patscherkofel above Igls, Axamer Lizum, Neustift and Kuhtai. Off the slopes the pass covers entry to three indoors pools, plus diversions such as Swarovski Crystal Worlds – the Tyrol’s most visited attractions, Innsbruck’s Imperial Palace, Ambras Castle, Alpenzoo, and Bergisel ski jump. For prices visit Ski plus City Pass.

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    BA's new Club Suite

    BA set to launch new biz and premium economy cabins

    about 2 months ago

    British Airways is scheduled to launch its upgraded business class and World Traveller Plus cabins on some long haul flights from 1 October. New ‘Club Suites’ with lie flat beds in business promise doors for greater privacy, 40% more storage space and 18.5 inch entertainment screens. World Traveller Plus – the airline’s premium economy class – will have new cabin furnishings, improved dining and high speed wi-fi. The cabins will be available on the airline’s new A350 aircraft, four of which will be in service by then. They are also being retrofitted on two Boeing 777s. From the start of next year they will be added progressively on long haul aircraft across the airline’s network.

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    Residenzschloss Dresden by SKD David Brandt

    Dresden’s royal apartments set to open

    about 2 months ago

    The reconstructed eighteen century state apartments in Dresden’s royal palace, the Residenzschloss, are scheduled to open to the public on Sunday 28 September. The rooms were designed 300 years ago by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a great patron of the arts who had been inspired in his youth by Versailles. They were opened in celebration of the 1719 marriage of his heir, Electoral Prince Friedrich August to Archduchess Maria Josepha, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor. They were destroyed during the Second World War but some of the furnishings had been removed for safekeeping. The included the throne, previous gold pilasters from the Audience Chamber and many paintings. The reconstruction has been made easier partly through reference to engravings and drawings of the wedding celebrations.

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    Daxing Airport interiors (Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International License)

    Huge new Beijing airport set to open

    about 2 months ago

    Beijing’s giant new Daxing International Airport is scheduled to open on Monday 30 September. British Airways will shift all its direct flights there on 27 October. Daxing was designed to cope with a huge increase in flights that had threatened to overwhelm capacity at the current Capital International Airport. Passengers will travel the 30 miles or so to and from the city centre via new expressways, a new metro line and a high speed rail link. Trains from Beijing West station will take around 20 minutes. The airport will serve an expected 72m passengers a year by 2025. It will open with four runways for civil flights, serving an expect That could eventually rise to seven. Daxing will be first in the world with double deck departure and arrival platforms. Its departure lounges will open to five courtyards, designed in traditional Chinese style.

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    easyJet by Wikimedia Commons

    EasyJet to launch new Edinburgh flights

    about 2 months ago

    Low cost airline easyJet is to launch flights between Edinburgh and Birmingham. The service will start on 29 March next year with 13 departures a week. The airline says seats will go on sale in the coming weeks. The move follows its announcement that it will start flying from the Scottish capital to the Italian city of Verona in December.