In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
World’s strangest tourist attractions
Forget the traditional iconic tourist attractions. To see a whole other side to a city, check out these strange, weird, and downright creepy sights. From cockroaches to gnomes, there are attractions devoted to anything you can imagine—and things you don’t want to think about. Read on for our top 10 picks from around the world.
The Gnome Reserve
You may have seen animal reserves before, but what about a home for garden gnomes? The Gnome Reservein Devon, England, has more than 1,000 gnomes scattered free-range-style around the park’s four acres. (The antique gnomes are confined to the on-site museum.) Visitors can pose for pictures with the statues, using the provided fishing rods and gnome hats to blend in. Dogs are welcome to visit, but they must be on leashes so they don’t scare the gnomes.
Go underneath the beauty of Paris—deep into the city’s bowels. The Sewer Museum (Les gouts de Paris) offers a firsthand look into the sewage system of The City of Light. Educational exhibits are located atop grated walkways, through which you can see the drain water rushing along. You will be inside a working septic system, so don’t expect it to smell like a Parisian patisserie down there.
Market Theater Gum Wall
Named the second-germiest tourist attraction in the world by TripAdvisor, the Market Theater Gum Wall has been collecting germs and chewed gum since 1993. Theatergoers waiting in line for the Market Theater’s box office started sticking their gum on the wall here in Post Alley (some even getting creative and molding their discarded chews into sculptures). No matter how many times it was cleaned, the collection kept coming back, so workers eventually gave up trying to clean off the wall, instead embracing the gum and turning the wall into an official attraction.
Paris most expensive city for a Club Sandwich
A Club Sandwich in a Paris hotel costs almost twice as much as one in London, New York or Moscow, according to a global league table of the popular hotel snack.
The French capital has been named as the most expensive city in the world for a Club Sandwich, according to Hotels.com, which calculated the average price across 30 hotels in each of 26 major cities around the world.
The classic chicken, bacon, egg, lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich costs £20.43 in Paris, where prices range from £33.44 in a five-star hotel to £13.72 in a two-star hotel.
The second most expensive city was Geneva, where a sandwich costs £20.10 on average.
This compares with an average £11.55 sandwich in London, a £10.45 sandwich in New York and a £10.11 one in Moscow.
London was ranked the tenth most expensive city in the league table, making it cheaper than cities including Copenhagen, Rome and Tokyo but more expensive than Hong Kong, Berlin and Amsterdam.
The cheapest of the 26 cities in the so-called Club Sandwich Index (CSI) is New Delhi, where the average Club costs £5.91.
Alison Couper, an executive at Hotels.com, said: “Paris may well be the gastronomic capital of the world, but at an average of £20.43 per Club, travellers may be better off sticking to a Croque-Monsieur.”
Hotels.com took its prices from 10 five-star, 10 four-star, and 10 three-star hotels in each city.
Airfare pricing a moving target
When you’re shopping for an airline ticket, it can seem like you are aiming at a moving target. You see an ad for prices that start at a certain fare, but you can’t seem to get your ticket to go that low. It’s not your imagination: The target is moving.
The rules today allow an airline to change the fares on a flight up to once an hour, says Alexandra Arguelles, director of product management for Amadeus North America in Miami, which builds the technology that operates many of the airlines’ and travel sites’ booking systems. Fares are in so-called buckets, which are dictated by the airlines’ revenue management software, she says.
If you are flying on a week trip between San Francisco and Boston, for example, you could pay anything from $289 to $824 roundtrip if you travel anytime over the next four months, according to an analysis for Reuters by the suburban Los Angeles-based airfare shopping site CheapAir.com. That $289 fare is only available on five of the possible 120 departures days.
On one Delta Air Lines route between New York and Miami there were 17 different economy class fares, ranging from $109 to $733 one way, the analysis found. Between Denver to Las Vegas, United Airlines UALUN.UL had available 18 different economy class fares, ranging from $63 to $1,165 one way.
“It’s like playing the stock market buying an airline ticket,” said CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee. There’s no way to pinpoint it. There’s no one who can tell the best strategy or the best date to buy. It changes so frequently.”
On average, the cheapest fare for a flight will be sold about six weeks before departure, according to a study by the Airlines Reporting Commission, which processes transactions for the travel industry. “If you know far in advance you’re going to take a trip, check the fares every week, or more often. Wait for the prices to drop,” Klee said. “At that point, it’s important that you pounce on it when you see a good deal.”
Because only so many fares are available in each price category, he points out that buying, say, four seats at a time, could result in a higher fare since the system will default to the lowest price that has four available slots. So, you could get two or three of the seats at a lower fare, but only if you booked them one or two at a time – risking not buying enough tickets to get everyone on the flight. In those situations, you might want to use a traditional travel agent or the dial-in customer service line like the one offered by CheapAir, he suggests.
Meet 95-year-old Keith Wright – Australia’s oldest backpacker
At a time when a trip to the local bowling club would be an adventure, 95-year-old Keith Wright is preparing to set off on his latest journey – a two-month trip around Europe.
The pensioner, from Burleigh Heads on Queensland’s Gold Coast, began travelling independently 10 years ago after his wife passed away.
He had always wanted to go to Gallipoli in Turkey for Anzac Day so he decided to sell their house and put the extra money towards a holiday.
He lives on a budget and saves every penny so he can head overseas every second year, staying in hostels and two-star hotels. He also travels to Victoria once a year for the Melbourne Cup.
He has been to 23 countries and 109 cities – his favourite being San Sebastian in Spain.
“It’s such a relaxed lifestyle, you have the surf beach and the safe beach and nobody’s in a hurry,” he said.
At the end of this month he heads back to San Sebastian on his eighth trip to Europe.
He will also visit Madrid, Paris, Munich and Vienna on a hop-on hop-off independent rail journey, with a special side trip to London to see his favourite Aussie horse, Black Caviar, race at Royal Ascot.
He has budgeted $9000 for the trip.
Mr Wright prefers travelling independently and recommends other elderly travellers try it for themselves.
“They should get away and do it independently like I’m doing it,” he said.