Friday, 27 June 2014

Extreme weather museum opens

A museum providing insights into the notoriously severe weather experienced on the 6288ft summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire has just opened after a major re-vamp. It was there that the world’s highest wind observed by man speed was recorded in 1934 (a higher speed has since been recorded remotely). The anemometer used to measure that blast is among the exhibits at Extreme Mount Washington. Visitors can learn how rime ice forms and use simulator which allows them to “drive” a snowcat up a road to the summit. In favourable weather – generally May to October – you can drive, hike or take the cog railway to the top.

New hop on, hop off tourist bus in Vilnius

The Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is offering a new hop on, hop off bus service. With 24 or 48hr tickets, the route has six stops near main tourist attractions and hotels. There’s also an audio guide service on board. Tickets, which can be bought on the bus, at the Vilnius City Tour agency or at the city’s tourist information centre, where you can also book a walking tour of the old town. They cost from around £11.50.

Warsaw gets new hotel

Warsaw has a new hotel. The 300 room Hampton by Hilton is close to the Polish capital’s main railway station and not far from heart of the old town, which was reconstructed after the Nazis blew it up. Free wi fi access is available throughout the property.

Stansted move for Cyprus Airways

Cyprus Airways is to switch its Larnaca flights from Heathrow to Stansted from mid-September. The move follows the sale of the airline’s Heathrow take off and landing slots to American Airlines.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Spain car hire firms under fire

Car hire fuel “rip offs” in Spain have come under fire from Which? The watchdog organisation has teamed up with Spanish consumer group OCU to demand companies charge fair prices in line with those available at local garages – and stop requiring customers to pay for a full tank when they drive off – and failing to refund them for unused fuel when they return the car. Six out of 10 Which? Members said this so called “full-empty” policy was the only option available to them and 72% thought they had paid prices higher than those at local garages. Which? says that in many cases travellers hit by this practice are unable to use a tankful. Someone hiring a Fiat 500 in Mallorca, for example, would need to make the round trip from Palma airport to Puerto Pollenca nearly seven times. It commends Alamo, Enterprise and AutoReisen for operating a full-full policy, where customers are asked to return the car full so they don’t pay for unused fuel.

Japan walking tours specialist launches in UK

A travel company specialising in tours of Japan on foot is now selling holidays in the UK. Hong Kong based Walk Japan which primarily appeals to travellers over 50, offers 11 itineraries of various lengths, including a six day circuit if Mount Fuji and an 11 day hike along the ancient Nakasendo Way - crowded in the 17th century with merchants, pilgrims and samurai - between Kyoto and Tokyo.

Denmark's Viking sites are "must see"

Lonely Planet has included Viking Denmark – and umbrella label for places linked with those fearsome old explorers – on its latest list of “must see” destinations in Europe. Others on the list include the Outer Hebrides and Plzen in the Czech Republic, birthplace of pilsner beer. On the Viking trail the guidebook publisher’s recommendations include visits to Roskilde, where five of their ships are displayed in the Viking Ship Museum, the Viking ship grave and museum on the island of Funen – and  the town of Ribe – founded around 700 as a Viking marketplace.

New river cruise guide

A new guide which compares and rates European river cruise ships is now available. It’s been compiled by Douglas Ward, who has written the annual Berlitz guide to cruising at sea for the past 30 years. The new guide – Berlitz: River Cruising in Europe – costs £14.99.

Friday, 13 June 2014

New cheap flights from Gatwick planned - travel news

More Gatwick cheap flights planned
Low cost airline Norwegian is to launch new flights from Gatwick to Berlin and Warsaw. Starting on September 15 it will operate six flights a week on both routes, promising fares starting at £29.90 and £34.90 respectively.

Watch bison return to wild
Tour operator Wildlife Worldwide has launched trips to witness the reintroduction of the European bison to the Southern Carpathian mountains in Romania. The continent’s largest land mammal was hunted to extinction in the wild by 1927. But in mid-May 17 bison were taken to an acclimatisation zone in the remote Tarcu Mountain Reserve. Ten more will be introduced during the summer. In early September the first bison will be released into the wild, becoming the first to roam these mountains since the 18th century. One aim of the project is to create business opportunities for local people, some of whom have already been trained as rangers and guides. Though the trips will concentrate on the bison, customers will also learn about and go in search of other wildlife, including brown bears. The five day packages, take place between mid-June and September and cost from £1495 including flights.

New Jaffna tours
The return of tourism to Sri Lanka’s war ravaged Jaffna Peninsula has gathered pace with the news that leading long haul operator Kuoni is dipping a toe in the water there. It has been included in its new Indian Ocean and Arabia brochure (covering the period September 2014 – December 2015). Customers will spend two nights in the city of Jaffna during a new tour (Definitive Sri Lanka) with only two departure dates. Alternatively they can go there on a private car and driver itinerary. Accommodation is at the Jaffna Heritage hotel – which is vegetarian and doesn’t serve alcohol.

Wheelchair for air travellers
A new wheelchair which can be stowed in an aircraft’s overhead locker has been developed by Staffordshire based manufacturer RGK. The TIGA fx is designed to fold front first. RGK, was founded by Russel Simms and Greg Eden, who met while playing wheelchair basketball for the Birmingham Bulls.

The Inca Trail in comfort
If you can cope with the exercise and altitude, Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can now be tackled in relative comfort. UK travel firm Exsus is offering trips in what it calls “VIP style” – with big tents, hot water bottles, hot showers, slippers and a turn down service. “Gourmet” meals come with “fine wines”. It goes without saying that all the gear is carried by porters. It’s even possible to book an accompanying masseuse – at an extra cost. The tour also includes a visit on horseback to the saltpans of Maras and travel on the Hiram Bingham train to Cusco. It costs from £5195, including flights, based on four people travelling.

Provence farm becomes luxury hotel
A former farm in Provence has become a new five star hotel with its own gold course. Domaine de Manville sits in a valley beneath the medieval village of Les Baux in the Alpilles region. It has 30 rooms, 9 villas, a spa, pool and a restaurant on a 100 acre estate. Rooms can be booked through Small Luxury Hotels of the World. A double in mid-September, for example, costs around £260.

Sightseeing at the double
Cruising too sedentary for you? Crystal Cruises is now offering excursions on the run. Passengers are being invited to join guided 5-10 kilometre jogging tours of European port cities and beauty spots – along the canals of Amsterdam, for example, taking in some of the great sights of St Petersburg or setting off on paths by Loch Lomond. Reflective safety gear and refreshments are provided.

Iceland link for Birmingham
Icelandair is to launch flights between Birmingham and Reykjavik next year. From February 5 it will operate two round trips a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, using Boeing 757 aircraft.

Stroll along the prom – at sea
Two new ships promising “sea level promenades” have been ordered by MSC Cruises. Passengers will be able to walk right around them, says the company, stopping, perhaps, at shops and restaurants on the way. The ships – project name “Seaside” -will also have terraced balconies and lifts with sea views. Costing around £570 million each and carrying up to 5300 passengers, they are scheduled for delivery in late 2017 and spring 2018.

Quebec landmark hotel refurbished
Quebec City’s landmark Chateau Frontenac hotel, which opened in 1893 and overlooks the St Lawrence river and the Plain of Abraham, which Wolfe defeated the French forces under Montcalm, has just emerged from a million refurbishment. The re-vamp encompassed all 611 rooms, public areas including the lobby and ballroom and a newly built spa.

Over 50 and a keen traveller? Go to