Perhaps in advance of its 50th annniversary this Friday, the ETA exploded a car bomb in the town of Palma Nova on the idyllic Balearic Island of Mallorca. Mallorca is part of Spain and located off the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona. As opposed to yesterday’s bombing of a civil defense barracks in Burgos, Spain, this attack took the lives of two police officers.
Mallorca is especially popular with British tourists and is a staple of the cruise line industry, whose ships usually port in Palma, the capital of the island, for a day of fun and adventure. However, due to the bombing both the airport and the sea port were closed for a short period of time, presumably in an attempt to apprehend the terrorists. Travel to the area has been disrupted, so check with your transportation provider about schedules. See this report from the Times Online of the UK for more information.
We suggest that all visitors to Spain exercise caution, but especially over the next five days, since the ETA may be attempting to capitalize on its anniverary by making a statement about its ability to attack anywhere in Spain at any time. The Spanish Tourist Office has indicated that Mallorca and Spain remain safe locations for tourism, noting that the targets of the ETA have been associated with the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) of Spain and not areas of interest to tourists.
The ETA, a terrorist group of the Basque separtist movement is thought behind an explosion at a Civil Guard barracks in Burgos, Spain. Although there were no deaths, there were approximately 50 injured (mainly by flying glass from the windows broken in the explosion). See the BBC for details. Last month, the ETA was responsible for an bombing in Bilbao where there was a fatality.
Travelers in Spain, in general, and in northern Spain in particular, should exercise caution and avoid government buildings during their travels.
If you are planning to travel in eastern Spain, Corisca, Sardina, Sicily or near Marseilles or Athens over the next few days, you might want to read this article and browse the BBC’s map of the alarming spread of wildfires in southern Europe. Wildfires are common in southern Europe at this time of year, but the season appears off to an extremely widespread start.
We read an interesting article on Reuters today about airlines considering installing power plugs and internet connections at the expense of in-flight entertainment systems. It appears that so many travelers are now sporting their iPods, iPhones, laptops and DVD players that airlines may be considering adding power plugs and letting passengers bring the entertainment they prefer, rather than supplying in-flight entertainment systems. Apparently, installing and maintaining the in-flight systems is quite expensive, while wiring all of the seats in a plane with power outlets is more economical option.
In some ways this sounds OK, but I have mixed reactions. I am getting tired of all of the electronics that I seem to need to lug on our travels. In addition, I usually rely on in-flight entertainment to keep me up to date on all of the movies that were released but not worth paying to see first-run. On the other hand, if I could power-up my laptop during a long flight, I would likely prefer to see the movies on its quality screen rather than the cumbersome to use, low resolution 5″ seat back monitor found in many planes.
Seems like flying is becoming “do it yourself”. I suppose they will be handing out flapable wings soon. After all, this is the industry seems to be pondering whether people might be interested in standing the entire duration of a flight for a lower cost or paying to pee. Where do they get these ideas?
Those of you considering flying on Mexico’s new batch of cut-rate airlines should read this
news item from USA Today. Several of the discount airlines have been “grounded” for safety violations or non-payment of fees. A second article in USA Today lists the airlines that have been grounded and some of the safety infractions involved in their grounding. It also includes a list of Mexico’s discount airlines that are still flying.
We feel obliged to note that several of the grounded airlines believe the actions against them are motivated by political considerations within Mexico’s federal government.
For the meantime, if you need to fly within Mexico and decide that you want to travel a “home-country” airline, Mexicana and Aeromexico, two of the country’s major airlines, are still flying and might be good choices for your transportation.
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department issued a press release concerning the potential for travelers to China to be quarantined due to exposure to the H1N1 flu. If you are considering a trip to China, you should read this document, regardless of your nationality. You could be quarantined if your seat was near that of a passenger who had an elevated temperature when tested after arrival. Now might not be a good time to visit China. Part of the text of the release by the U.S. State Department follows:
“July 09, 2009
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the quarantine measures imposed by the Government of China in response to the 2009-H1N1 pandemic that may affect travel to China. This Travel Alert updates the June 19, 2009 Travel Alert in order to address the potential for quarantine of unaccompanied minors. This Travel Alert expires on September 30, 2009.
In May 2009, China implemented a policy that allows it to quarantine arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms if they are arriving from a country which has cases of 2009-H1N1, including the U.S. Although the overall percentage of Americans being quarantined remains low, the seemingly random nature of the selection process makes it almost impossible to predict when a traveler may be placed into quarantine. Travelers with even a slightly elevated body temperature risk being placed into hospital quarantine, while passengers sitting in close proximity to another traveler with fever or flu-like symptoms may be taken to a specially-designated hotel for a quarantine of approximately seven days, even if they show no symptoms themselves.
The Department of State has received reports of minors traveling without a parent or adult guardian being taken into quarantine upon arrival. Some of the children were under 10 years of age. Parents considering sending their children unaccompanied to China are urged to consider postponing their travel until the quarantine policy ends or until 2009-H1N1 Influenza subsides. In addition, there have been some instances where children have been separated from their parents during quarantine because only the parent or the child tested positive for 2009-H1N1 or exhibited symptoms. Travelers are advised that Chinese health authorities have not issued a country-wide policy on keeping family members together in quarantine, and the practice of keeping young children with their parents or guardians varies by quarantine facility. In some hospitals, parents have been denied access to their children who were in isolated quarantine. In these situations, there exists the possibility of Chinese medical personnel administering medications to minors without parental permission.
The Department of State continues to receive reports about poor quarantine conditions, including the unavailability of suitable drinking water and food, unsanitary conditions, the lack of telephone access, the absence of English-speaking staff, and limited availability of English-language interpreters.
Travelers to China are reminded that all foreign travelers, including U.S. citizens, are obliged to follow local procedures regarding quarantines and any other public health-related measures. The U.S. Embassy is unable to influence the duration of stay in quarantine for affected travelers. The Chinese government will not compensate people for lost travel expenses. Travelers to China are urged to consider purchasing travel insurance to protect against losses in the event they are quarantined.”
Sorry for the lack of news lately, but our teams have been…traveling! Yep, we travel summer, winter, spring, and fall. In fact, we’re on the go just about anytime we can arrange it. And right now is a great time to plan a getaway.
While the airlines and cruise industries seem to be having serious problems due to the state of the economy (e.g. airline ticket revenues are down 25 percent for the first half of the year and many of the big boats are sailing with a lower occupancy than last year), sometimes there are silver linings to be found in “dark clouds”. We have noticed that several major airlines are still discounting tickets to Europe and there are some amazing cruise deals to be found for touring Mexico and Alaska. At this point, it looks like discounts on travel fares and accommodations may last into the fall.
While we realize that it is difficult for families to travel once school starts again in September, if you have the opportunity you should consider a vacation this fall to take advantage of the lower levels of leisure travel and the discounts that seems to be resulting from this phenomenon. Autumn is a wonderful time to tour Europe, although the weather can get “iffy” in northern Europe in late November and December. If you are thinking about soaking up the sun, Hawaii is great in the fall, as is coastal Mexico. Of course, the Greek islands can be magnificent in September and October, although you need to make sure that your favorite place to stay has survived this year’s slow summer travel season.
In other words, our advice is “GO”, whenever you have the chance. While travel is our business, it is also our avocation. We find travel educational, relaxing, enjoyable and important to our well-being. There are so many places to go, so many interesting places to discover and so many wonderful people to meet that we are already anticipating our turn to enjoy the world of travel. When will it be your turn?
Yep. We know. You want to wait just a little bit longer. Maybe next year? Maybe the economy will improve? If that is your position, we think someone may be giving you bad advice. We all hope that the economy improves, but we can guarantee you that as the economy improves, the price of travel will rise accordingly. Now is the time that you should be able to find bargains that you may never, ever see again in the world of travel.
If you are going to be traveling in Italy this week, you should be aware that the G8 Economic Summit is being held in the earthquake devastated town of L’Aquila in central Italy. Some are not fond of the G8 Summits and consider the countries involved to be responsible for numerous economic problems and globalization, which they despise. Most G8 Summits are accompanied by some degree of civil unrest and there has already been a demonstration in Rome and minor police action in L’Aquila.
The Summit will run from Wednesday through Friday. Our advice is to avoid L’Aquila (it is, by the way, still having earthquakes). In addition, if you will be traveling in central Italy, be prepared for traffic problems as well security inspections (approximately 15,000 police will be on duty in and around L’Aquila).
Our advice – avoid central Italy for the rest of this week.
Several items caught our eye recently. For those of you traveling to Greece, there is a new ban on smoking in public places, although there is some disagreement on how effective it will be since over forty-percent of the Greek population like to light-up now and then.
In Odense, Denmark there has been a curious turn of events. The Hells Angels have taken a stand against Muslims and immigrants in Denmark who hate, so the Hells Angels state “…the Danish culture and way of life.” Under the guise of rescuing the country from what it calls the “jackal mentality”, the Hells Angels are recruiting new gang members to help them with this task. Police believe that this is really a turf war in disguise between the Hells Angels and immigrant gangs for the control of drugs and other illegal activities. Note: there have been daylight attacks by the immigrant gangs in Odense, Funen, sometimes involving innocent people just wandering by.
Next, they must be having a good time on the island of Crete, since today it was hit with a magnitude 6.7 earthquake offshore of Iraklion, but it appears the quake was not felt by anyone asked.
For those of you in the U.S. American Airlines is having an air sale to Europe, but tickets must be purchased by July 15 for travel into the fall. See American’s website for details.
Finally, although not as newsworthy as more important things happening around the world, our new Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Rome is proving very popular with our readers. If you have not yet seen it, take a look at ThereArePlaces to try it for yourself.