In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Spirits linger year-round in eerie Edinburgh
It’s Halloween. The ghosts and goblins are out — especially in Scotland’s capital, a city with more than its fair share of spooky tales and places. Beyond the iconic attractions — Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum and the Royal Yacht Britannia — are several horror-themed pubs, a very scary graveyard, and streets and alleys where creepy serial murderers and villains from days gone by once plied their trade.
Popular year-round, you can learn more about these places on an informative guided walk with Sandemans New Europe Tours, which covers several of the city’s highlights — and lowlights. If you’re really lucky, Alan Sharp — author of A Grim Almanac of Edinburgh — may be your guide.
BURKE AND HARE
This pair’s horrible deeds were committed almost 200 years ago but their story is still recounted today. The tale of two Irish immigrants who made a living selling corpses to medical schools in 1820s Edinburgh was turned into a film — 2010’s black comedy Burke And Hare — and a hit musical Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare by Canadian Joseph Aragon. The play was first staged at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in 2009 and more recently by Theatre 20 last month at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre.
The first body the pair sold was of a man who died of natural causes, but the money was so good they got hooked and began hastening the death of unsuspecting innocents. In all, they murdered 16 people before authorities cut a deal with William Hare to rat on his friend and collaborator William Burke.
Hare was released. Burke was found guilty and hung. Walking tours of the city will point out streets and pubs with a connection to the murderous duo.
So many unusual experiences have been reported at this cemetery that it was once featured on TV’s Scariest Places on Earth. Some visitors say they have emerged with injuries, such as cuts, bruises and bites after walking through one section of the grounds known as Covenanters’ Prison. In a different part of the cemetery, the restless spirit of “Bloody” George Mackenzie, buried in 1691, has been blamed for similar injuries. In the 1800s, grave-robbing was a problem in Edinburgh and Greyfriars still contains features designed to deter resurrectionists: Enclosed vaults with protective stone walls or iron railings, and mortsafes — low ironwork cages built over gravesites.
Thomson to launch Dreamliner flights to Phuket
British holidaymakers will be able to fly direct to Phuket on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from next year.
Thomson Airways will launch a weekly service from Gatwick to the popular Thai resort in November 2013, with both Thomson and First Choice offering holidays that include travel on the groundbreaking aircraft.
No other tour operator or airline currently offers direct flights to Phuket – bookings will open on November 15.
A spokesman for TUI, which owns both Thomson and First Choice, said: “We are thrilled that we are able to offer an exclusive, direct flight to Phuket on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner and we are confident that our customers will love the destination and the hotels we will be operating to.”
Thomson Airways will become the first British airline to fly the 787 next May, on routes from Manchester, Gatwick, Glasgow and East Midlands to Florida and Mexico.
It has ordered 13 Dreamliners in total, and recently ran a competition asking Twitter users to name its first one.
The winning suggestion, which earned one user a free flight on the new aircraft, was “Living the Dream” – other tweeters were quick to criticise the winning choice as “boring” and “lame”.
The real wacky races: The weirdest ideas for a new way to get to work
A “lido line” to allow commuters to swim isn’t the strangest idea – wait until you hear about the bouncing bridge…
A few days before the city was saturated by the force of Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers took to the city’s High Line walkway in autumnal shirt sleeves. Tourists shuffled along while querulous New Yorkers grumbled over their flat whites-to-go. The High Line has had two innovative incarnations: first as a raised railway which threaded through warehouses from 1934 to 1980, then latterly as a tree-lined pedestrian path above the choking traffic.
The High Line’s success has inspired a new generation of dreamers bent on transforming the way we travel around our cities. “We love the High Line, it’s our main inspiration,” agrees Y/N Studio’s Alex Smith, who came up with the recent Lido Line proposal to allow commuters to swim to work along the Regent’s Canal. “Our idea offers Londoners a new way to traverse the city.”
Across the Channel meanwhile, you couldn’t imagine a more French way to cross the Seine than by bouncing over it on trampolines. Sartre would have loved Atelier Zündel Cristea’s joyously barmy scheme for a Parisian bridge you bounce across.
The Trampoline Bridge and the Lido Line aren’t quite as close to April Fool’s Day territory as they seem. We never got the hoverboards we were promised in the movies. But ideas such as railways running under our feet or trains flying on magnets were similarly scoffed at. Yet London had the first Underground by 1863 and Birmingham ran the first Maglev in 1984.
Capsule hotel: Living like a giant in Japan
Tokyo is known for being densely populated and crowded. Living space is at a premium; hotel rooms are small or expensive or both.
Enter the capsule hotel, where a tube-like pod barely bigger than a coffin offers a bed for the night at low cost.
The capsule concept has been around for at least 30 years, starting out as lodging for businessmen working or partying late who missed the last train home and needed a cheap place to crash.
And judging from the dark suits and ties of the patrons entering and exiting the Capsule & Sauna Century Shibuya in Tokyo, the cramped beds remain largely a businessman’s special.
But budget travelers and other folks curious about a unique lodging experience use them too. So I decided to try it on a trip to Japan this fall, along with a visit to the hotel sauna.
At 5 foot 10 and 175 pounds (about 1.8 meters tall and 70 kilograms), I am almost exactly average size for an American.
But in Japan, I felt oafishly big. In a sushi restaurant, I nearly knocked over all the patrons trying to squeeze past to my seat.
On the metro, my heft encroached on to a second seat, often meaning the only open seat on the train was the one next to me.
The pajamas thoughtfully provided by some of the other hotels where I stayed left me feeling like a sausage.
The Century capsule hotel exacerbated this feeling.
I felt cramped from the moment I checked in, when I traded street shoes for hotel slippers too small for my feet.
The sole elevator serving 10 stories was slightly larger than an airplane bathroom.