In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Vatican may eventually limit Sistine Chapel visits
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes turned 500 on Wednesday with the Vatican warning it may eventually limit visitors to protect one of the wonders of Western civilization.
On October 31, 1512, only 20 years after the discovery of America, Pope Julius II said an evening vespers service to inaugurate the room where Michelangelo toiled for four years, much of it on his back, to finish his ceiling frescoes.
The frescoes immediately became the talk of the town and have since become the talk of the world.
The problem is that it sometimes feels that they have become the walk of the world. The Sistine Chapel is arguably the most visited room in the world.
With mass tourism growing, every year some five million people, as many as 20,000 a day in summer, enter the chapel and crane their necks upwards. Most are left awestruck.
The ceiling of the chapel where cardinals meet in secret conclaves to elect new the pope includes one of the most famous scenes in the history of art – the arm of a gentle bearded God reaching out to give life to Adam in the creation panel.
Earlier this month, Italian literary critic Pietro Citati sparked a storm by writing an open letter in a major Italian newspaper denouncing the behaviour of crowds visiting what is technically a sacred place.
Tourists, he said, “resemble drunken herds” as they unwittingly risked damaging the frescoes with their breath, their perspiration, the dust on their shoes and their body heat.
The atmosphere, Citati wrote, was anything but contemplative as the tourists ignored the Vatican’s requests for silence, composure and a ban on taking photographs.
Amsterdam’s mayor states cannabis cafés to remain open
Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops will remain open for business with foreign thrill-seekers despite the new government’s plan to restrict sales to locals only, the mayor said on Thursday.
In an interview with the leftist Volkskrant, Eberhard van der Laan said the city’s 220 coffee shops will continue to sell pot to customers even if they do not reside in the Netherlands.
A Dutch coalition government, likely to be formed under re-elected Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte, is planning to restrict cannabis sales to tourists and require residents to show identification when entering some 670 coffee shops around the country.
The new plan replaces the unpopular so-called “cannabis card” law which also stopped foreigners from buying pot but compelled locals to join cannabis cafés and having their names registered in a database.
Some 1.5 million out of an estimated seven million foreign tourists to Amsterdam make a stop at one of its many coffee shops, the paper said.
“These 1.5 million foreign visitors are not going to say: ‘Ok, then no more weed.’ They will roam across the city looking for drugs,” said Van der Laan.
This will increase the crime rate, “with fights over fake drugs and no quality control. Misery will return.”
“If tourists are banned, all the advantages of our coffee shop system will be undone,” added Van der Laan, also a vehement opponent of the now scrapped cannabis card law.
The now redundant law came into effect on May 1 in three southern provinces and its coverage was to broaden in January next year to include all coffee shops across the Netherlands.
It was introduced to curb drug-tourism related phenomena like late-night revelry, traffic jams and hard drug dealing, but its detractors say it has simply pushed drug peddling onto the streets and led to a rise in criminality.
How to get a better night’s sleep while travelling
For many frequent travelers, there’s no place like home when it comes to sleep.
The majority of 1,004 adults polled by the National Sleep Foundation earlier this year said that they’d prefer their bedroom over a quality hotel room.
Much of it had to do with bedding. For 62% of them, their pillows were better. For 56%, their sheets were superior. And for 55%, it was the mattress that made the difference.
Another 59% said their bedroom at home was just quieter.
Sleeping on planes is even more of a challenge. Good luck finding a pillow or sheets, and a barely reclining chair is a poor substitute for a mattress.
“It’s easier to sleep when you’re in the same environment that you’re usually in, one that’s quiet, dark and cool,” says Shelby Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center.
Dave Horowitz, a sales director from Hamilton, N.J., finds himself tossing and turning quite a bit on the road. “I love sleeping in my bed,” he says. “First of all, it’s nice having my wife next to me. I’m used to my pillow and the firmness of my mattress.”
There’s not much hotels can do about a missed spouse, but they have in recent years invested in better bedding and tried to limit the noise in hallways.
The Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, Va., has a Dream Menu, with a collection of services and amenities to get a good night’s sleep. Want a Bed Wedge that elevates the upper torso? A Snore-no-More pillow? An old-fashioned hot water bottle? Press the “Dream” button on the guestroom phone, and it’ll show up in your room.
The Fairmont San Francisco offers a kit with a sleep machine, earplugs, eye mask and slippers.
Crowne Plaza has a “Sleep Advantage” program. Properties have quiet zones where there can be no room attendant, housekeeping or engineering activities from Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m. And there are guaranteed wake-up calls for those who manage to get a deep sleep, or the room is free.
Hampton hotels had a “Clean and Fresh Bed” designed with a sleeker, more modern look to replace outdated blankets.
Latin America’s creepy and colourful Day of the Dead
No one quite does All Saints Day like the Latin Americans with their love of all things hyper-colourful yet black as death.
At this time each year right across Latin American, residents busy themselves with painting skulls, buying colourful flowers and cooking food to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
Celebrated all the way from Mexico City to Peru, the day is shrouded in ancient Aztec history .
When the Spanish Conquistadors first rode into what is now known as Latin America 300 years ago they wrote about the indigenous people’s strange tradition that seemed to mock the dead.
Rather than mocking the dead, the festival, dating back 3000 years, is all about honouring those who have passed.
By eating skulls made from sugar and stamped with the names of their ancestors people celebrate the lives that have been lived before them.
The invading Spaniards moved the ritual to coincide with the Christian tradition of All Saints Day, but the Aztec theme, funnily enough, refused to die and the tradition of people adorning themselves with skulls lives on.
In Mexico, as part of the ritual, relatives will visit the graves of their loved-ones that have passed on and adorn them with flowers and candles.