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August 2011

  
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31 August 2011 - Gaddafis Private Aircraft

Posted by: Alan

High flyers who think they're accessing the ultimate in aircraft frills when they settle back in their A380 first-class suites haven't flown with Muammar Gaddafi.

The level of obscene extravagance the deposed Libyan dictator enjoyed in his private A340 has been revealed after rebels took over Tripoli airport.

On Monday, the victorious fighters took turns to be photographed aboard the plane, sitting in his bedroom or on expensively-upholstered sofas.

Like everything Gaddafi owned, the aircraft is a showcase for his vulgar tastes, with armchairs bound in silver leather, red and grey carpets on the floor and nightclub-style spotlights all over the ceiling.

The A340 cost close to $100m when Gaddafi bought it in 2003.

In 2009, it was seen around the world when Gaddafi sent it to Scotland to bring home from prison the only person convicted over the bombing of the Pan Am jet which was blown apart over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988, with the loss of 259 lives.

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30 August 2011 - Tension in Hollywood

Posted by: Alan

The occasional glimpses you see on TV of the famous Hollywood sign on a hillside above Los Angeles give no indication of the tension which is reportedly building nearby.

Tourists flocking into the area to obtain close-up photos of the structure are causing growing anger among the residents of what used to be a tranquil neighbourhood.
Winding roads lead to hideaway homes enjoying panoramic vistas.

But on any given day, the lanes are filled with rental cars and tour vans - resulting in safety hazards, blocked driveways, collisions, noise and litter.

The sign, erected in 1923 as Hollywoodland and shortened during restoration in 1949, has always attracted a smattering of sightseers.

But the advent of GPS and Internet maps has made it easier for tourists to navigate the maze of narrow streets, and residents have had enough, according to a report in newspaper USA Today.

It says a recent message painted on a dirt patch and reading ‘tourists go away’ sums up the sentiments of many locals.

The head of a local residents’ group is quoted as saying: "The neighborhood just wasn’t built for this.

"We're pretty much at the end of our rope."

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29 August 2011 - Fungi to Die for

Posted by: Alan

At least 18 mushroom-lovers have been killed in accidents while hunting for their favorite fungi in the mountains and forests of northern Italy.

Mountain rescuers say eager mushroom seekers are abandoning safety procedures as they don camouflage and hunt in darkness to protect coveted troves, la Repubblica newspaper reported on Sunday.

"There is too much carelessness. Too many people don't give a darn about the right rules and unfortunately this is the result," Gino Comelli, head of the Alpine rescue service in northwest Italy's Valle di Fassa, told the newspaper.

Seventeen people have died in nine days -- six in 48 hours alone -- mostly from sliding off steep, damp slopes in the northern mountains, la Repubblica said in a story headlined "the massacre of the mushroom hunters."

Another person has been missing for more than a week, it said.

Ansa news agency said a man who had been hunting mushrooms was found dead on Sunday in the Alpine region of Valtellina.

A combination of August thunderstorms and hot weather has led to a bumper mushroom crop that has drawn the first hunters of what is expected to be a boom season.

Source: Reuters

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26 August 2011 - Poll finds the Worlds Favourite Taxis

Posted by: Alan

A survey by an online booking site has found London taxis to be the most popular in the world.

The roomy black cabs attracted 28% of the vote in a poll of 5000 travellers.

Surprisingly, New York’s much-maligned taxis system was rated second-best, with a 9% share of the vote.

Hong Kong taxis came third, with 7%.

Here are some other findings from the poll.

  • London cabs are seen to be the world's most expensive.
  • New York cabs are the most readily available.
  • Hong Kong cabbies routinely keep passengers' small change without asking.
  • Argentinians are the canniest when it comes to tipping.

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25 August 2011 - Venice City Tax

Posted by: Alan

Venice is the latest Italian city to impose a Tourist Tax (or bed tax).

Where this tax applies, guests have to pay the tax directly to the hotel - usually at the time of arrival.

From 24 August 2011, the following charges in Venice (per person, per night) will apply:
2 Star = €2.00
3 Star = €3.00
4 Star = €4.00
5 Star = €5.00

The tax is capped at a maximum of 5 nights stay.
There are also some discounts: 50% for children, 50% outside of High season etc.

Other cities that we are aware of that have also imposed a Tourist Tax include:
• Alberobello
• Florence
• Giardini Naxos
• Padova
• Rome
• Sorrento and the Sorrento Coastal area
• Venice
• Ancona

(Please be aware that there may be other Cities that we are not aware of yet)

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24 August 2011 - Scratchie Card Scam

Posted by: Alan

The ACCC has issued warnings about a new spate of fake scratchie cards and travel brochures promising the chance to win travel products.

The ACCC says Carnival Australia has also issued a warning after it was found that scams may fraudulently mention providers such as Princess Cruises, part of the Carnival group.

ACCC consumer protection arm SCAMwatch says fake offers commonly contain colourful brochures and two scratchie cards.

One card will always be a winner, usually offering a 'second' prize of $US180,000.

Recipients who call a listed phone number will be asked to pay fees or taxes via a wire transfer service.

Predictably, the 'winners' will not receive a prize and will not see be able to recoup the fees and taxes they've paid.

SCAMwatch says the latest action is targeting people in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, but people in other states may also receive letters.

It urges the public to be suspicious of any unsolicited letters, email or phone calls promising cash prizes.

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23 August 2011 - Romanian Scam

Posted by: Alan

Taxi drivers in Bulgaria are ripping off tourists by promising to take them on a day trip to neighbouring Romania – then driving them round in circles instead, according to Britain’s Sunday Mirror.

Holidaymakers are taken to a police checkpoint and told it is Romanian Customs before being dropped off at a beach a few miles from where they set off.

Police say drivers are raking in about $170 a time from unsuspecting visitors.

Source: Sunday Mirror

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23 August 2011 - Fire on Richard Bransons Island

Posted by: Alan

Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet was among guests forced to flee as fire destroyed the major property on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat in the Caribbean Monday night.

The blaze, thought to have been started by a lightning strike, burned the resort’s eight-bedroom Great House to the ground.

Ms Winslet and her boyfriend and daughter were among 20 guests sleeping in the building.

Sir Richard, his wife and son Sam were sleeping at another property about 100 metres away.

Necker Island is in the British Virgin Islands and the 4am lightning strike came during a storm caused by Hurricane Irene, which is currently playing havoc with Caribbean cruise itineraries.

Sir Richard told media from the island: "The main house is completely destroyed and the fire is not yet completely out.

"My office was based in the house and I have lost thousands of photographs and my notebooks, which is very sad.

"But all family and friends are well - which in the end is all that really matters".

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22 August 2011 - Renovation for St Peters Square in Rome

Posted by: Alan

Rome's St Peter's Square will be restored to its 17th-century Baroque glory with a major renovation project due to be completed in 30 months, the Vatican's official daily said on Friday.

Work has already begun on part of the famous colonnade designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) - the sculptor and architect behind some of Rome's best-known landmarks.

The project will restore the colours and the architectural integrity of Bernini's original design, the Vatican paper said, quoting the head of Vatican technical services, Pier Carlo Cuscianna.

The project will encompass all of the square's 376 columns and pillars, 140 statues and 1200 metres in terraces and cornices, as well as the Clementina and Gregoriana fountains and the Egyptian obelisk in the middle.

Generous sponsors are financing the project, the official said, without mentioning any names.

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19 August 2011 - Museum of Bad Art Disasterpieces

Posted by: Alan

A museum devoted to seriously inferior artworks is gaining in popularity in America.

 
The Museum of Bad Art, located in Boston, features paintings so bad that they’re attracting viewers in their thousands.
 
Executive director Louise Reilly Sacco told Britain’s Daily Mail: "We have very stringent selection criteria, much of it exactly the same as traditional art museums.
 
"Works must be original, sincere and interesting.
 
"They must communicate, or try to communicate, something.
 
"But something must have gone spectacularly wrong, too".
 

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18 August 2011 - Man to Run Marathon on Princess Ship

Posted by: Alan

 A 57-year-old British man is going to run a marathon on a Princess Cruises liner to raise money for charity.

 
Steve Eaton will undertake his run aboard Grand Princess on 22 September as it sails across the Bay of Biscay between Southampton and Cadiz, Spain.
 
This weekend he’ll visit the ship in Southampton to work out exactly how many circuits he’ll have to make to cover the required 42kms.
 
Mr Eaton has run 33 marathons, but this one will have an additional challenge. On each circuit he’ll have to climb a set of stairs at the forward section of the Promenade deck.
 
He hopes to complete the run in five hours.
 
He’s trying to raise money for the Help for Heroes UK charity in memory of a soldier killed in an unprovoked attack outside a bar in Newcastle upon Tyne after serving in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

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17 August 2011 - Australian vs New Zealand Ski Fields

Posted by: Alan

Australian skifield operators say they don’t want to get into a slanging match with NZ operators about the merits of their respective resorts.

 
The comment comes in NZ media coverage today of comments attributed to Snow Australia ceo Colin Hackworth, who’s reported to have told Australian media that NZ roads are "death-defying", flights are often interrupted by bad weather and people can’t stay overnight on the snow.
 
When the NZ Herald newspaper contacted Snow Australia for further comment, it was told by marketing manager Nigel Abbott that "it’s not about a slanging match with NZ".
 
He said: "What I would say is one of the nice things about Australia is the uniqueness.
 
"You can stay in the snow, which makes it a very unique experience".
 
The NZ Herald quotes NZ Ski, which operates several major resorts on the South Island, as saying that it takes criticism of NZ as a "fantastic compliment".
 
Chief executive James Coddington said Aussies should be "very concerned" about the NZ ski experience because they can’t compete with it.
 

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16 August 2011 - Outdoor Dunny

Posted by: Alan

 Some might question whether an outdoor toilet adds to the appeal of a B&B holiday.

 
But an operator near Camden, just south of Sydney, obviously thinks it has a certain attraction.
 
The Garden Cottage B&B is highlighting the availability of a "deluxe outdoor dunny" in promoting a package priced at $130 a couple per night, including breakfast.
 
A media release suggests that the facility will help make the stay "more novel, interesting and memorable".
 

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15 August 2011 - Police Arrest Roman Gladiators

Posted by: Alan

 Italian police have arrested 20 gladiator impersonators in an undercover sting aimed at ending a violent racket operating around Rome’s most famous tourist sites.

 
Police disguised as gladiators, rubbish collectors and members of the public raided the gang made up of seven families working with five tourist agencies.
 
The modern gladiators are accused of attacking and intimidating competitors for a lucrative business in which gladiators collect up to 10 euros (about $15) for having their picture taken with tourists in front of attractions.
 
Some of the police gladiators were beaten up by the criminal gladiators before other undercover officers swooped in!
 

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12 August 2011 - Kingston Flyer Back on Track

Posted by: Alan

NZ tourist steam train the Kingston Flyer may soon be getting up steam again.

Central Otago's historic steam train the Kingston Flyer is back on track and should be carrying tourists again by October, says its new owner.

The old steam train has been laid up for two years after the company operating it went into receivership owing more than $4.6 million.

However, Marlborough businessman, David Bryce signed a deal to buy the train yesterday saying it was too sad to see it sitting in a yard and not being used.

"I want to get it back running again," he told the Otago Daily Times.

Mr Bryce also bought the Kingston Tavern which closed after the train stopped running. He hoped to reopen the tavern next week.

He would not say how much he paid for the train but said the deal included two steam locomotives, vintage carriages, the Kingston Tavern, storage sheds, a 14km section of track to Fairlight, six residential lots and about 80ha of land.

Source: NZ Herald

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11 August 2011 - Kava to be legal in Australia

Posted by: Alan

Pacific island holidaymakers may soon be able to enjoy some genuine reminiscences of their trips when they get home, with a proposal to legalise Kava in Australia for recreational use.

The government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking at a proposal to allow access to the herbal intoxicant “when used in accordance with the traditional use patterns of the Pacific Island region”.

Currently kava is a prohibited import, with licences required to bring it into Australia for “medical and/or scientific purposes” and kava is generally available as a prescription-only medicine.

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10 August 2011 - Kates Wedding Dress Big Tourist Drawcard

Posted by: Alan

Visitors to the summer opening of Buckingham Palace are up 19% on last year, and Kate Middleton’s wedding dress is being credited with upsurge.

Since 23 July, more than 148,000 people have filed through the palace State Rooms, where the dress and accessories are on display.

The rooms are open till 3 October and palace officials believe the visitor total will easily top last year’s 413,000, when the summer opening lasted for only eight weeks.

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09 August 2011 - British PM and the Tuscan waitress

Posted by: Alan

British Prime Minister David Cameron has made peace with a Tuscan waitress who told him to fetch his own coffee.

The PM and his wife, who've just finished a holiday in the Italian countryside, were dining at a cafe in Monetvarchi when Mr Cameron bought two coffees and asked waitress Francesca Ariani to bring them to his table.

Not knowing who he was, she said she was too busy and he should fetch the coffees himself.

Subsequently, the Camerons departed without leaving a tip - a point brought to the attention of media.

But last week, Mr Cameron returned to the cafe, ordered a beer, had his photograph taken with Francesca and left a generous tip.

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08 August 2011 - Rickshaw Wars in London

Posted by: Alan

Visitors to London's West End risk becoming involved a battle which has broken out between drivers of Black Taxis and operator of rickshaws, or pedicabs.

Cabbies are accusing their rivals of being uninsured, dangerous to passengers and a menace to other drivers.

Rickshaw owners say cabbies are just afraid of competition and deliberately drive too close to them.

The leader of a union representing some of the cabbies told the Evening Standard newspaper on Friday that rickshaw users face serious injury and have no idea that they are climbing into uninsured and unregistered vehicles.

But a rickshaw driver told the paper: "If you drive carefully it's very safe for customers. Not all rickshaw drivers are good - but not all cab drivers are good."

Westminster council plans to draw up a code of conduct which would see riders agreeing to personal and vehicle safety checks and regulated fares.

It is feared there will be many more rickshaws - or pedicabs - on the streets next year, as riders cash in on the Olympics.

The council estimates there are now about 600 in and around the West End, Soho and Covent Garden.

Source: London Evening Standard

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05 August 2011 - Tacky Souvenirs in Pisa

Posted by: Alan

With the aid of stiff fines, the Italian city of Pisa has launched a campaign against trashy tourist souvenirs deemed harmful to the image of its monuments, notably its Leaning Tower.

Topping the list of offensive memorabilia: boxer shorts with a strategically placed replica of the Tuscan city’s famous tower, which on Monday landed five salesmen a fine of 500 euros ($720) each, municipal spokesman Francesco Paletti told AFP Wednesday.

The offence? Selling “merchandise harmful to propriety.” Other targeted souvenirs include an apron sporting the image of Michelangelo’s famous David nude sculpture, and underwear decorated with suggestive pictures from the ancient city of Pompeii.

“These horrors must be eliminated from the shelves of souvenir merchants,” Pisa mayor Marco Filippeschi was quoted as saying in the press, while the local church judged the items “vulgar and offensive to the faithful”.

The objects concerned “lack any respect,” the mayor said. “There are municipal rules which clearly specify what merchandise can be sold and what not: those that are disrespectful will be sanctioned.”

The cities of Pisa, Florence, Siena and two villages popular with tourists on Tuesday asked Tuscan regional authorities to grant them more powers for the protection of the urban environment.

“There is an ethic of respect for our heritage; from time to time it requires courage to remember this,” said art critic Philippe Daverio, who advocates a “no to the sale of these things on the Square of Miracles”, location of both an historic cathedral and the Tower of Pisa.

 

Source: Dawn.com

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04 August 2011 - Biggest Cruise Surge in 8 Years

Posted by: Alan

A new cruise industry report in North America shows another hefty increase in passengers.

 
The Cruise Lines International Association (the equivalent of the ICCA in Australia) says member companies carried 14.8 million passengers last year - a 10.3% increase on 2009.
 
That’s the biggest year-on-year jump since 2003.
 
However, data also indicates that passengers spent slightly less at sea.
 
The increase in numbers is attributed in part to a surge in inventory, with nine new ships entering service in 2010.
 
They included Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and NCL’s Norwegian Epic.
 
At the end of last year, CLIA members were operating 176 ocean-going vessels with a total lower-berth capacity of 307,707.
 
That’s 8% up on 2009.

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04 August 2011 - Lonely Planet Does It Again

Posted by: Alan

The Lonely Planet travel guide is under fire again over one of its blunt assessments.

 
This time it’s Tasmanians who are up in arms after the guide described the working class town of Burnie as unattractive and neighbouring Devonport as not the most glamorous spot in the state.
 
The Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council is so indignant that it’s writing to the guide’s publishers, according to the ABC.
 
And Burnie mayor Alvin Boyd is offering to take Lonely Planet author Brett Atkinson on a personal tour of the town.
 
Mr Atkinson says he was just trying to be honest.
 
"I guess it’s in comparison with the other districts of Tasmania which are so stellar. I think it’s a fair comparison," he told the ABC.
 
Source: ABC

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03 August 2011 - Tourists can visit Windsor Castle Tower after 36 year closure

Posted by: Alan

Tourists have access to Windsor Castle’s famous round tower from this week for the first time in 36 years.

 
During summer months they’ll be able to walk up 200 steps to the top of the structure and enjoy views across Windsor Castle to the London skyline.
 
Also, a new ‘Conquer the Tower’ tour will give access to inside areas of the tower, including where bowmen were stationed in Medieval times to guard against attacks.
 
The tower was closed in 1975 for major construction work, but instead of re-opening to tourists it was converted into office space for the Royal Archives.
 
 
Source: Daily Mail UK

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02 August 2011 - Australia Drops in Adventure Ratings

Posted by: Alan

A study published by George Washington University has revealed that Australia has lost some of its backpacker tourism allure after dropping out of a top 10 list of global adventure destinations.

The new survey has found Switzerland to be the No.1 adventure destination among 195 countries. New Zealand comes in position 3.

The top 10 Developed and Developing countries are as follows:
Developed Countries: Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Austria.
Developing Countries: Israel, Slovak Republic, Chile, Estonia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Jordan, Romania and Latvia.

Countries were ranked by 10 pillars organized into three factors:
• Safe and welcoming: sustainable development, safety, natural resources and health
• Adventure: entrepreneurship and adventure activity resources
• Readiness: humanitarian, infrastructure, cultural resources and image

Source:  George Washington University

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01 August 2011 - Worlds Top Restaurant Closes with a 39 Course Menu

Posted by: Alan

The world’s top restaurant served its last meal on Saturday night with a 39-course menu.

 
Spain's El Bulli, which had an almost unattainable three Michelin stars and a two-year waiting list, is being converted into the El Bulli Foundation - a non-profit organisation focused on promoting creativity in cooking.
 
"People think I should be sad but I feel the happiest man in the world," said chef Ferran Adria, a one-time dishwasher who was voted Chef of the Decade last year.
 
"El Bulli is not closing. It’s just transforming", he said.
 
The restaurant, where the average cost of a meal was more than $300 a head, is located on the coast near Barcelona.
 
It has been voted ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ five times and Adria himself has won numerous other awards.
 

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