High speed train travel to Geneva with no need to change stations in Paris is now possible. Eurostar passengers from St. Pancras or Ebbsfleet can switch to TGV Lyria services in Lille. Travel time to and from the Swiss city is just over 6hrs. There is a 37min wait in Lille on the way out (33mins on the homeward journey).
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Guided walks through an ancient salt lake system have been launched at Curtin Springs, a vast 1m acre cattle station 100km from Ayers Rock in Australia’s “Red Centre”. Night hikes will afford the sight of the gleaming crystals by the light of the full moon. There will also be walks around the base of Mount Connor, sometimes mistaken for Uluru, to use Ayers Rock’s Aboriginal name.
A new design and architecture centre has opened in Palm Springs, the Californian desert city 100 miles east of Los Angeles. The glass and steel building, originally designed as a bank, provides extra exhibition space for the city’s Art Museum, which houses works by artists including Picasso, Matisse and Anish Kapoor. Palm Springs has a significant concentration of mid-20th century architecture.
Johannesburg’s Westcliff hotel has opened under the Four Seasons group banner following a huge refurbishment costing around £35m. With 117 rooms and suites set in landscaped gardens on a hillside, the property was owned until 2012 by Orient Express. It has five restaurants, two outdoor pools and a spa, which is scheduled to open in January.
Rushing to catch a favourite programme on the hotel room TV on? Whoah - clean the remote. Research broadcast in the US on NBC’s Today programme suggests you should always travel with a packet of disinfectant wipes. The remote is more likely than anything else in the room to be harbouring bacteria. One of those checked using swabs during a probe by investigative reporter Jeff Rossen even carried the MRSA bug. Light switches were cleanest but nearly everywhere phones were way above the acceptable limit.
Major airlines have agreed to fly passengers home at special fares if one of them goes bust. The voluntary deal covers passengers flying from, to and within the EU. It has been agreed by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a way of heading off calls for the establishment of a fund, set up by imposing a per passenger levy, to pay for emergency repatriation. However, it is unlikely to satisfy consumer bodies and travel industry leaders, who have long argued that scheduled airline passengers should be protected in the same way as package holiday customers. For one thing the deal already exists informally. For another, there has been no official indication of just how low the so called “rescue fares” might be. And the fares will be available for purchase only up to two weeks after an airline ceases flying, so somebody out of touch could still wind up having to pay a full one way fare. The best advice is still to pay using a credit card and buy travel insurance with cover against scheduled airline failure.
Gatwick aims to halve the time it takes passengers using its North Terminal to check in and negotiate security. The terminal is to get a major makeover, including the creation of a new check in area, at a cost of £36 millions. The airport’s owners claim this facility, which will have the world’s largest self service bag drop zone, will “virtually eliminate queues”. It’s scheduled to open in two phases – late next year and in early the following year. A new security area should also be completed in 2016. A new look departure lounge with more shops and eateries is planned and the terminal’s arrivals area is to be refurbished in time for next summer. The airport’s railway station will also get an upgrade. The concourse area will be doubled and more escalators and lifts will be installed. But the work won’t begin until 2017 and isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2020.
Friday, 28 November 2014
A new five star hotel has opened in Sydney. The 140 room InterContinental Double Bay has a rooftop pool with views of the sea. It’s housed in a six storey building which was formerly home to the Ritz-Carlton, whose celebrity guests ranged from Madonna to Bill Clinton.
Worried you might be getting too old to get ski holiday insurance? A UK insurance company has just increased its upper age limit to 100. Michael Pettifer, owner and director of MPI Brokers (mpibrokers.com) says: “Last year we put it up to 90. I said we were still getting the odd customer wanting to ski at 91 or 92 – not many, perhaps ten or so - so the underwriter said ‘ok – let’s put it up to 100’.” How much will it cost? If you bought cover on line today it would cost £147.81 in France or £184.76 for a week in elsewhere in Europe.
Friday, 21 November 2014
Electric cars with GPS audio guides are now available in Lisbon. Visitors can follow a range of themed itineraries or make their own. You could follow the route of Tram 28, for example, which passes the Portuguese capital’s best known sights, or concentrate on the city’s Moorish heritage. Prices vary but these two tours cost €29 for 1hr and €34 die 1hrs 30mins respectively – with €15 extra for each additional hour. Information at www.lisbonecotours.com.
The red brick North Warehouse on Liverpool’s Stanley Dock has opened as a hotel. The Titanic Hotel is named in honour of the ship whose owners, the White Star Line, were based in the city. The line’s headquarters have already become a luxury hotel - 30 James Street – which opened recently. The Titanic promises 153 very large rooms and a spa with a pool and a gym.
Sunday, 16 November 2014
The 110 years old, Grade II listed Royal Insurance building in Liverpool has become a hotel. The opening of the Starwood group’s Aloft Liverpool follows an £18m conversion, which has removed the property from English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register. It has a fitness centre and free wi fi is available throughout the hotel.