In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Happy hour again: Paul Heaton tours UK pubs on his bike
Ex-Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton is going on a tour of Britain, cycling from gig to gig. He tells Laura Barton why he can’t write lyrics unless he’s in Hull – and tunes unless he’s in Gran Canaria.
It’s just after lunch and the King’s Arms is heaving. There are people milling about the corridor, propping up the bar, and chattering excitedly at the foot of the stairs. Why the crush, the mood of anticipation? Since late last year, this Salford pub has belonged to Paul Heaton – and this afternoon he’ll be playing a gig in the theatre upstairs.
As the crowd files in for the support act, Heaton and I head around the corner to a quieter pub, where the music plays brightly from some distant speaker. This is the first gig of Heaton’s pub tour: an excursion that will see him cycling from venue to venue, covering 2,500 miles over 40 days, in honour of his 50th birthday. This will be followed by a run of shows – at London’s Barbican, Sheffield Lyceum, Birmingham St Paul’s and Salford Lowry – that will see him perform with various other singers The 8th, his eight-chapter narrative pop song about the seven deadly sins. Heaton, born in Cheshire and brought up in Sheffield and Surrey, will follow The 8th with his greatest hits, including material from his time with the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, as well as solo work.
With a half-century under his belt, it seems a ripe time to appraise Heaton as one of our finest songwriters: his music reveals an exuberant ear for melody, his lyrics a keen eye and a brilliant wit. And he carried that gift from the Happy Hour days of the Housemartins, through the million-selling Don’t Marry Her days of the Beautiful South, to such solo work as 2009’s magnificent album Acid Country. Heaton’s skills manifested themselves early – as a schoolboy, he yearned to be a new Spike Milligan. “I used to keep quote books,” he says. “If anyone said anything, I wrote it down: things about teachers, poems and rhymes. I used to show them to people and make everybody giggle.” He smiles quietly. “And then punk happened.”
Fired up by Elvis Costello, the Clash and the Jam, he set about adapting his writing to mirror theirs, although there was one problem. “I didn’t really know what they were on about,” he explains. “I sort of understood what [the Clash’s] White Riot was about, but it was a different language. It was political, analysing things I didn’t realise existed.”
When his older brother formed a band, Heaton pestered them to let him join. “My brother and John, the bassist, had a more working-class attitude than me. They wanted to get jobs and get married young. My brother started lorry-driving and John became a telephone engineer. I didn’t want to do that. I only wanted to be in a band.”
Heaton had left school with no real qualifications. “I’d lied to my parents and told them I was taking O-levels and I wasn’t. I was taking CSEs. The only O-level I was taking was English Language and I missed the exam. I misread when it was. Idiot.” He got a job with a company called Industrial Newspapers. “They produced papers like the Foundry Times and Temperature-Controlled Storage and Distribution. I worked in accounts. I did it for two years because I felt my Dad wanted me to. But when I handed my notice in, he said, ‘If you’re going to do music, do it.'”
By now, Heaton was in another band – singing and playing trombone with Norman Cook and two friends. They were busking and making good money, so Heaton was shocked when he learned they were all quitting to go to university. “I’d never known anyone who’d been to university, no one from our family, no one from my school. I thought it was a real sell-out. At the time, to me, it was the sort of thing snobs did. And we was punks. How can you go through punk and go to university? I was gobsmacked.”
It was time to leave Surrey. “I wanted to move back up north because the university thing had given me a bit of an anti-southern feeling.” He found himself in Hull, though didn’t warm to it immediately. “I’d become a bit Surrey: not so much the accent, but I was quite an eager little beaver. And Hull is quite sarcastic and retiring. It’s not like Sheffield and Leeds, which can be outgoing and brassy.”
Made in China: an Austrian village
HUIZHOU, CHINA – A $940 million Chinese clone of one of Austria’s most picturesque villages, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hallstatt, recently opened its doors to visitors in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong amidst some controversy.
In a nation known for its skill in manufacturing knock-offs ranging iPhones to Hermes Birkins, the replica village is perhaps the most ambitious attempt at Chinese reproduction yet.
The “Made in China” version of the lakeside European village known for tourism and salt includes an exact replica of its church clock tower, European style wooden houses and other properties that will be sold to investors.
The project, conceived by a Chinese mining tycoon, initially sparked outrage and surprise among some Hallstatt villagers, who weren’t at first aware of the attempt to copy their unique, centuries-old home.
Half an hour’s ride away from the gritty city of Huizhou, close to China’s “world factory” of the Pearl River Delta, China’s Hallstatt hopes to become a new tourist attraction.
Disney-themed photo spots are scattered around the village’s main plaza, which is modeled after Hallstatt’s marketplace.
“The moment I stepped into here, I felt I was in Europe,” said 22-year-old Zhu Bin, a Huizhou resident. “The security guards wear nice costumes. All the houses are built in European style.”
Taking up one million square meters (yards), cranes and construction sites spread across barren hills above the gabled houses, promising an expansion of the current town.
Despite the initial mixed response, local authorities in Hallstatt have since softened their stance, seeing a rare, marketing opportunity at the heart of one of the world’s fastest growing tourism markets.
“It was not so controversial. We were only surprised that a small village in Austria was built, and now we are very proud that it happened,” said Hallstatts Mayor Alexander Scheutz, who flew with an Austrian delegation to mark the official opening and signed documents promising future cultural ties.
Visitors and journalists filming on site last Friday were asked to leave shortly before Scheutz’s unannounced visit.
Director of Tourism Hallstatt, Pamela Binder, said Hallstatt had made peace with its Chinese replica.
“First we were a bit insecure. Why did it come to replicate Hallstatt, and then we became lucky and proud,” Binder said.
17 great food markets around the world
Cultivate your love of travel by feasting at a local market. Whether you wish to gormandize in southern France or graze in Santa Fe, markets offer travelers a sampling of a destination’s freshest bounty in one central place. From bustling bazaars to down home farm stalls, this crop of food markets will stimulate your appetite in places around the world.
Known primarily as a flower market, the famous open-airCours Saleya in Nice also sells ingredients, like plump red tomatoes, for perfect Nicoise-style meals; go early to avoid the tourist crowds.
Within the ancient city walls of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Medina of Marrakech, this traditional souk (more like a maze of multiple souks) makes up one of Morocco’s largest markets and delights shoppers with spices, oils, and olives.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
Santa Fe, N.M.
After starting out as a group of farmers selling produce from the backs of their trucks, the Santa Fe Farmers Market now hosts more than 150 vendors in a LEED-certified building in the Santa Fe Railyard.
Ver-o-Peso market hall in Belem (in northern Brazil) is the ideal spot for merchants to sell their Amazonian-sourced products like the prized acai berry.
Along the Reuss River, with the town’s iconic Chapel Bridge as a backdrop, Lucerne’s Wochenmarkt is often touted as Switzerland’s best farmers’ market; shop for nuts, fruits, and mushrooms for recipes from the market’s own cookbook.
Boring town makes a very Dull decision
What do you do when you have too much time on your hands?
The residents of the US town of Boring have tried to liven up their lives by voting to join forces with another oddly-named town – Dull in Scotland.
The Boring Community Planning Organization in Oregon approved the gesture to pair with the Scottish village of Dull overnight in a bid to boost tourism.
It hopes the sale of “Dull and Boring” T-shirts and road signs will be irresistible for visitors.
The Oregonian reports the Boring declaration as wishing “continued freedom, successful commerce, safety and prosperity for each community and its residents”.
The 72-year-old great-grandson of the town namesake, Bob Boring, said he liked the partnership with Dull.
Boring has a population of more than 10,000, to Dull’s 84 residents. While Boring is “quite an industrial place”, Dull is tourism-focused with guest lodges and Highland Safaris.
The towns forged an unlikely link when Elizabeth Leighton, who lives in Aberfeldy, near the Scottish village, was on a cycling holiday in the US and came up with the idea of joining the communities.
A street party to celebrate the move has been planned for June 23.
“The party will show that we are neither dull nor boring,” Marjorie Keddie, chairman of Dull and Weem Community Council, told PA.
“We are also excited at the prospect of a new road sign, which will say something like ‘Dull, in association with Boring’ or ‘in sisterhood with Boring’.”
“I’m sure it will stop a few people in their tracks for photos.”