In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Newcastle, as you’ve never seen it before
In a bid to uncover the region’s wilder side, Kate Simon sets off to explore on two wheels.
The sea is flat in Tynemouth today. It can barely heave a watery sigh, let alone puff up a crest of foam. On the dunes behind Longsands beach, I’m despairing of my chances of getting in the briney. “I could take you down to the beach, go through the safety procedure,” suggests Stephen Hudson, owner of the Tynemouth Surf Company, surveying the pathetic scene with me.
The rain starts to fall. We retreat to Stephen’s shop/school on the front. After riding the waves from Australia to Hawaii, it was a no-brainer for this local boy to set up business in the north-east town where his passion was kindled. “I love this beach. I long for the winter because the surf is so good here,” he says.
The shop’s walls are lined with wetsuits, a gallery of surfboards stand ready for inspection on a balcony above. Business is swift for buying kit and booking lessons, says Stephen, a testament to how popular this stretch of coast is with surfers. Yet this is the nearest I’ll get to Neoprene today.
Never mind, it’s not as though I haven’t had any exercise. To get here I’ve just cycled 15 miles from the other side of Newcastle. This burst of activity has been prompted by the north-east city’s marketeers, who are keen to convince me that this area has a greener side.
The bike ride began beneath the wings of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North in Gateshead, where I looped its feet to take in 360-degree views of the steel giant while flicking through the gears in preparation for the ride. The bike had been brought to the trailhead by Andrew Straw from the Cycle Hub, a new “cycling community centre” with shop, café and bike hire, which opened in June at Spillers Quay in Newcastle. This social enterprise is the initiative of Andrew’s Newcastle-based cycling holiday company Saddle Skedaddle and the local council, its aim being to get Geordies, as well as visitors, pedal pushing.
Flushing out the best public restrooms: Vote for your favorite
This year’s crop of America’s best restroom nominees range from a 2,000-square-foot extravaganza inside a Las Vegas casino, to five individually decorated toilet stalls in an Arizona restaurant.
Now in its 11th year, Cintas’ America’s Best Restoom Contest has become an anticipated competition among those who appreciate over-the-top (or at least out-of-the-ordinary) public facilities. Vote for your favorite loo though Oct. 26. The contest sponsor, Cintas Corp., supplies services and goods (including restroom supplies) to businesses.
But winners aren’t necessarily the most over-the-top, says spokeswoman Sabrina Zimring. “It’s about context. It’s not necessarily the most extravagant restroom, but maybe the most unusual or eye-catching bathroom in the least expected place.”
And the 2012 nominees are …
The owners of this former grocery-store-turned urban bistro sports a five-stall unisex restroom with chic style. Each of the stalls has its own theme décor and playlist. They include Italian countryside with murals of vineyards and Vespas and a “real” men’s room with a roadhouse vibe.
The 14 restrooms at this 18,000 seat auditorium are now brighter and more efficient, thanks to a recent makeover. The simple, white and black color scheme “evokes the 1920s modern style of the Hollywood Bowl’s shell and stage.”
Floral prints and bold, geometric tile, a Victorian chandelier and farmhouse drain-board sink add a touch of “nostalgia and romance” to the restroom.
Mie N Yu Restaurant
Carved, floor-to-ceiling doors enclose each stall in this unisex bathroom. The communal sink area features oversized wood barrel sinks with rock-lined copper basins.
Decked out from floor to ceiling in glass mosaic tiles, the room has a flashy disco feel. Ceramic vessel sinks and fresh flowers on the vanity complete the decor.
Colorado’s Maroon Bells click with shutterbugs
The two mountains in Colorado are among the most photographed peaks in the world, often reflected in Maroon Lake and in the fall are set off by brilliant colors. Hiking and camping are a fun part of the experience too.
Maroon Bells, Colo. — As fall temperatures begin to cool in parts of the West, sightseers and photographers flock to the Maroon Bells in the Colorado Rockies, where the aspens deliver their autumn punch. The result is a spectacular burst of yellow, orange and red that rivals — or maybe tops — anything I’ve ever seen in the West.
The Bells are actually two mountains among Colorado’s 54 “14ers” — mountains with summits that exceed 14,000 feet. South Maroon Peak tops out at 14,156, and North Maroon Peak squeaks in at 14,014; both are said to be among the most photographed peaks in the world. They rise above Maroon Lake, where their summits often are reflected in the water and set off by brilliant colors of fall.
Colorado photographer John Fielder told me these peaks “take the grand prize for creating an iconic mountain reflection. The symmetry of the twins framed by black-shadowed lateral ridges all reflected in Maroon Lake at sunrise is simply… sublime.”
My longtime partner, Gloria, and I pitched our tent in the Silver Queen Campground; at 8,460 feet, it is the closest campground to Maroon Lake. There are only three campgrounds in the immediate area so reservations are recommended. At night, the sound of Maroon Creek lulled us to sleep.
Each morning, we slid out of our warm sleeping bags and emerged into a pre-dawn fall chill that was in the high 30s. Getting up early is crucial to getting a good spot at the open end of the lake to photograph sunrise on the Bells. There can be 100 or more enthusiastic photographers, using equipment as varied as point-and-shoot cameras, 8×10 view cameras and the newest digital wonders. They start gathering at 6 a.m., but some even spend the night in their cars in the nearby parking lot to ensure a spot at lakeside.
Come snooze with me – in sky-high luxury
You could be forgiven for thinking you’re dreaming upon setting foot in this plane.
Welcome to the first Boeing 747 Aeroloft – a luxurious sleeping quarters for eight people perched above fellow passengers, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
It’s certainly miles ahead of the usual snoozing method on planes – passengers slumped to the side while crammed into cattle-class seats.
It adds nearly 37 square metres to the company’s luxury Business Jet 747-8, making it larger than the world’s biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380. It also features a changing room – perfect for those wanting to slip in – and out – of comfortable sleeping attire during the flight.
There are eight private sleeping areas, located above the main deck of the 747, between the upper deck and the back of the plane.
It’s hoped the sleeping areas will provide passengers with more comfort and space to sleep during long-haul flights.