British Airways, Safe for Now?

June 27, 2010 on 10:35 am | In London travel, UK Travel, air travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | 1 Comment

According to the Wall Street Journal, Unite, the union representing the cabin crews at British Airways have decided to postpone a vote on further strike action against the airline in order to consider a new offer from BA.

It still remains possible that the BA crews will strike in August, but the airline has taken various steps that they believe will allow them to operate all longhaul flights, as well as a substantial portion of the shorhaul flights from London Heathrow.

If you plan of flying British Airways during the next month or two, be sure to check with the airline to determine that you reservations are still intact.

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This Week’s Strikes and Other Impediments to Travel

May 19, 2010 on 9:20 am | In Europe travel, Greece Travel, London travel, air travel, international travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, volcano travel warning | Comments Off

Another general strike against the government’s austerity plans is scheduled in Greece for tomorrow (Thursday). The prognosis is that the strike will disrupt public services and most transport, except air travel. Read about it at Kathimerini

Also, in the same publication is an article indicating that hotel occupancy in Greece is down 10 percent. In turn, the hotels have responded with price cuts reported at the 10 percent level. We suspect that bargains may be struck by those inclined to haggle (and it could be a prolonged haggle).

In the UK, the situation with the BA strike appears unsettled. Although the strike was banned by the courts, it still caused 20,000 cancellations yesterday and will likely have the same influence today. In addition, the cabin crews are seeking to have the courts overturn the injunction on striking. See this updated article in Bloomberg – Business Week for more details.

The Iceland volcano caused problems over the weekend for flights in the UK and Ireland and yesterday in the eastern Mediterranean. Britain and Ireland have relaxed the rules for flying in “ash cloud” situations. Read this article from The New York Times for more details.

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Europe Held Hostage by a…Volcano!

April 15, 2010 on 8:33 am | In Copenhagen travel, Denmark travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Germany travel, Ireland travel, London travel, Netherlands travel, Paris Travel, Scotland travel,, Travel Safety, air travel, england travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings, travel weather warning | 1 Comment

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano (located near the island’s south coast, approximately 149 kilometers (92 miles) southeast of Reykjavik) has the potential to cause much damage to the country and the world’s climate. Today, however, the volcano’s cloud of steam and smoke, spread across Western Europe and the UK by prevailing winds, has become a major hazard to air travel.

Many of the airports in Europe, particularly those along the western coast zone of Europe, have closed in response to the threat that the volcanic cloud poses. Concentrations of volcanic ash and dust can decrease visibility during flights at higher altitudes and damage or cause engine shutdowns in jet-powered aircraft at any altitude.

For detailed information on the event and the response, see this article in the Wall Street Journal.

For some great photos of the volcano and detailed information on the eruption,see this excellent presentation from the Detroit Free Press.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland has created a major problem for all air travelers in Europe, as well as those planning on flying to Europe. The length of the eruption and the wind patterns can vary and there is no easy way to tell when air traffic will resume normal patterns. If you are planning on traveling to or in Europe in the next week, be sure to contact your airline, well in advance, to see what information they can offer. If you are in Europe and trying to return home, this will be a frustrating week, as volcanic eruptions are one of those situations beyond the control of the airlines or anyone else.

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Britain Raises Terror Threat Level

January 24, 2010 on 9:29 pm | In Europe travel, London, London travel, Terrorism and travel,, UK Travel, United Kingdom, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

The goverment of the United Kingdom has raised the country’s Terror Threat Classifcation from Substantial to Severe. The Severe ranking indicates that an attack is highly likely. The reason for the increase in classiciation is that a government meeting on Yemen and Afghanistan is being held in London next week. Although there is not intelligence that an attack is being planned, the government is being cautious and indicating that an attack is likely. See this article in the Gulf Times for more information.

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Abbey Road and the Beatles Turn 40

August 7, 2009 on 7:34 am | In London, London travel,, UK Travel, United Kingdom, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

If you are a Beatles fan, take a look at this article from the BBC on the 40th anniversary (this Saturday) of the Abbey Road Album and its endearing cover.

Abbey Road and the “zebra” crossing continue to attract large numbers of visitors, who queue-up and parade across the cross walk as was done by the Beatles for the cover of the Abbey Road album, their last. The street is very busy, so if you do this make sure there is a break in the traffic.

For more information on Abbey Road, see the ThereArePlaces London Guide for a map and other information.

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TripAdvisor Poll Has It Wrong

May 5, 2009 on 3:27 pm | In Copenhagen travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Germany travel, Ireland travel, Italy travel, London travel, Paris Travel,, TripAdvisor, Uncategorized, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

Today, we saw the results of a poll by the website TripAdvisor representing the sentiments of their members on travel in Europe. (We have attached links to each city mentioned here in case you want to take a look at our recommendations on these destinations.) 

According to the 2,376 people surveyed, London is the most expensive, has the worst-dressed citizens and is the dirtiest city in Europe.  The headline of the article claimed that London had the worst cuisine in Europe, but in the poll it was voted second behind Paris (by one percentage point), and ahead of Rome (by four percentage points). How London could be the worst, when it was not voted the worst seems like editorial malpractice.    Somewhat curiously, in a poll by TripAdvisor held on March 13, 2008, London was voted as the best European city to visit, although it was cited as being the most expensive and the dirtiestParis was evaluated as overrated and expensive. 

Brussels and Zurich were rated as among the most boring European cities, while Venice was crowned the most romantic, although also very expensive. 

Apparently there is a silver lining to every dark cloud as the voters loved London for its numerous free attractions (most of its major museums for instance), while Paris was cited for having the best food and best-dressed people.  Dublin fared well as a friendly place, as did Amsterdam and Prague (the best bargain). Copenhagen was voted as Europe’s cleanest city.  Barcelona was rated as having the best architecture, while Warsaw was rated as having the ugliest.

We don’t know about you, but if we had the chance to hop on a flight today for any of these cities, we would happily do so.   In large part, the quality of your travel experience depends on your doing the research to find the place that is right for you.  If you do not like art, fashion, history and great food, or the French, you will hate Paris.  Most of us find it a joy to visit the City of Light and would recommend it to others.  London, too, is a fantastic place to visit and we have never had a bad time while exploring the complex entity that is London.  We have found that street food in London is greasy and poorly prepared.  However, if you are willing to pay the price, London has some of the best restaurants in Europe. 

One final observation – we tend to fill out review forms when we have had a bad experience.  If the restuarant’s service was poor, we let them know.  If the flight was delayed and the service was cruddy, we let them know.  Conversely, when things go well we also let them know, but would likely not fill out a form to tell that that our experience was just as it should have been.  In other words, we take polls for what they are worth – very little.  But, they do make life interesting. As does travel.

Pasted below is the data from the TripAdvisor Poll, in case you do not want to read the release.

    Best Free  
    Attractions:             1. London (35%)    2. Rome (9%)       3. Barcelona (9%)
    Most Over-Rated:     1. Paris (25%)     2. London (12%)    3. Dublin (6%)
    Most Under-Rated:   1. Krakow (7%)     2. Bruges (6%)     3. Edinburgh (5%)
    Locals:                     1. Dublin (15%)    2. Amsterdam (14%) 3. Edinburgh (8%)
    Least Friendly:          1. Paris (36%)     2. London (17%)    3. Moscow (6%)
    Most Boring:            1. Brussels (14%)  2. Zurich (9%)     3. Dublin (6%)
    Most Tourist   
    Traps:                     1. London (30%)    2. Paris (15%)     3. Rome (10%)
    Most Romantic:        1. Venice (29%)    2. Paris (21%)     3. Rome (11%)
    Most Expensive:       1. London (23%)    2. Paris (19%)     3. Venice (8%)
    Best Bargain:           1. Prague (16%)    2. Amsterdam (9%)  3. Istanbul (8%)
    Best Nightlife:          1. London (27%)    2. Amsterdam (17%) 3. Barcelona(11%)
    Cleanest:                 1. Copenhagen (9%) 2. Zurich (8%)     3. Stockholm (7%)
    Dirtiest:                   1. London (36%)    2. Paris (9%)      3. Athens (7%)
    Best cuisine:            1. Paris (18%)     2. London (17%)    3. Rome (13%)
    Worst cuisine:          1. London (10%)    2. Moscow (7%)     3. Warsaw (6%)
    Architecture:            1. Barcelona (15%) 2. Rome (14%)      3. London (12%)
    Architecture:            1. Warsaw (8%)     2. Berlin (7%)     3. Brussels (6%)
    Best Public 
    Parks:                     1. London (50%)    2. Paris (7%)      3. Barcelona (6%)
    Best Dressed:          1. Paris (26%)     2. Rome (23%)      3. Madrid (8%)
    Worst Dressed:       1. London (20%)    2. Dublin (6%)     3. Moscow (6%)

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French Fishing Strike Cancelled

April 16, 2009 on 7:30 am | In Europe travel, France Travel, London travel, Normandy, UK Travel, strikes, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

The French Fishermen whose strike had closed the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne earlier this week have called off their strike action effective immediately.  Ferry service from Dover to these port has resumed and is slowly returning to normal. The proposed strike action against the Eurostar  has also been cancelled.

While this is good news for travelers, it appears that “negotiations” between the fishmermen and the government of France are ongoing.  It is a time honored tradition in France to strike when the government does not come through with the goods and many expect the situation with the fishermen to be a potential hotspot for some time to come (at least, until a settlement is agreed).  For now, however, you can take the ferry to or from the Continent.

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Dover Ferry Halted by French Fishing Fleet Strike

April 15, 2009 on 7:32 am | In Europe travel, France, France Travel, London travel, Normandy, UK Travel, strikes and travel | Comments Off

The P&O ferry from Dover to Calais, a popular route between the UK and  Europe, has cancelled its scheduled runs due a blockade by French fishing boats at the port of Calais.   In addition, the strike has now closed the ports of Boulogne and Dunkirk. The French fishermen are locked in a dispute with the EU over fishing quotas, which have been implemented to prevent overfishing.  The strikers have announced their intention to block the Eurostar and Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) on Thursday of this week.

The backup on trucks trying to reach Dover and the continent from the UK side has been so massive that sections of the M20 (Motorway) in southeast England have been closed.

It is unclear how long the French fishermen will keep at this action.  For detailed information, see this article at the BBC.  For additional information, read this AFP article at Google News.

Neither Dover nor Calais are places that a traveler wants to be stuck for any length of time.  If you are considering a Channel crossing, flying might be the best bet during the strike by the French fishermen.  The Chunnel is another alternative, but as noted above, the fishermen seem to have targetted it, as well.

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London Anxious About The G-20 Meeting in April

March 21, 2009 on 8:57 pm | In Europe travel, London, London travel,, UK Travel, United Kingdom, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

April 1st and 2nd might not be the ideal time to visit London.  The Group of Twenty Economic Meeting (The G-20 Meeting) is scheduled for April 2 and international leaders are expected to arrive on April 1.  As you may know, this meeting often attracts those disenchanted with Globalism, including groups that are often referred to in the press as anarchists.  While we don’t know exactly how to classify the protestors, we do know that the protests associated with these meeings (wherever  and whenever they are held) often descend into violence.  We urge travelers to avoid London during the G-20 Meeting. 

A number of groups are planning protests and London’s Metropolitan Police believe that the protests will stretch the police force to its limits, according to an article in the Times Online.  Although the formal G-20 meeting will be held at a site in the Docklands, there is some fear that the protests in the City of London (on the 1st) may be difficult to control.  See this article in the International Herald Tribune for more information.  In addition, the G-20 is the first international meeting that will be attended by American President Barack Obama and his presence may attract protestors related to U.S. foreign policy. 

If you have a vacation scheduled in London on April 1 and 2, we recommend relocating to the countryside as an alternative.  After all, Bath, the Cotswolds, York, Wales and the Southeast are waiting for you and can be reached by car or train. 

If don’t want to change your plans, you might consider taking day trips from London on the April 1st and 2nd.  If you elect the day trip option, be sure to depart the city very early in the morning and return late at night. See our London Guide for a list of enjoyable daytrips just outside the city, although we do not recommend the daytrip to Greenwich during this period. 

If you are determined to stay in the London, we recommend that you avoid public transportation during the G-20 meeting and check the local news for updates.

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It’s Time For A Visit To The United Kingdom!

March 15, 2009 on 11:27 am | In Europe travel, London travel, Scotland travel, UK Travel, United Kingdom, Wales Travel, country travel information | Comments Off

One of the world’s most interesting travel destinations is the …United Kingdom.  Yes, that’s right.  Unfortunately, it seems as if the UK has fallen out of favor with some travelers, but we find it a delightful place that is full of unique attractions, interesting cultures and beautiful landscapes.  What’s more, for many visitors the language is relatively easy to understand (remember we mentioned the language, not the accents).

If you have not been to the UK, you should take a look at our Guide to its best places to visit. We even have a separate guide that explores the wonders of Scotland.  In addition, we recently added a new piece on the Best Castles to Visit in Wales, England and Scotland.

     Caerphilly Castle in Wales

We have to admit that we always look forward to the time we can grab in London, as we never tire of its museums, galleries, pubs, shopping and assorted things to do.  It is a great city for walking and wandering and you every time we visit we find something new.  As many times as we have been in London, you would think that we would not be candidates for taking one  of the many “walking” tours offered, but we always find a new topic of interest to us and the guides are usually very informative and uniquely comical.

Outside of London, we find ourselves drawn to the beautiful Cotswolds, Bath and its Roman heritage, the Lake Country, York and its unique Viking heritage.  For some unexplained reason we are almost magnetically attracted to the many archaeological sites along Hadrian’s Wall.  In addition, Wales, its castles and unique coastal villages also seem to send us a beguiling message to visit as soon as we can. 

As for Scotland, well visiting Scotland is a reward in itself.  The sights, the culture, its painful, self-destructive history (including the story of Mary Queen of Scots), all intertwine to make a most interesting visit.  However, we usually spend as much time hiking around the Scottish countryside as we do anything else. In spring, summer and fall, Scotland can be a glorious place to visit.

Maybe it is time for you to think about visiting the UK?  We think it would be well worth your time to visit this dynamic collection of nations.  If you have kids, the UK is one of the easier places to tour, it offers a great deal of information about things and places they have likely heard in school and it is a kid-friendly destination.  Of course, it will give your kids a great deal of ammunition to ping you about concerning their adventures while you were driving on “the wrong side of the road”! If that worries you, we even have advice for “driving on the left“.

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