Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 03.02.2012

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In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

Cockney pilots are least comforting, survey says

The Telegraph

Pilots with London accents are the least reassuring for air travellers, according to new research among fliers.

The traditional well-spoken pilot’s voice in a clipped Home Counties accent was voted the best of all in the survey of 1,000 regular travellers for the upcoming Earl’s Court Business Travel Show.

There were also a preference for certain regional accents, with the Scottish lilt taking scond place and the Republic of Ireland taking third.

The celebrity voice passengers found most reassuring was that of upper class actor Nigel Havers, followed by Sean Connery. Stephen Fry, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Grant and Ewan McGregor all made the top ten.

Cockneys came out worst, with 34 per cent of those surveyed saying it was the least reassuring accent, followed closely by the midlands accent at 25 per cent.

Despite the general regard for a Home Counties accent, 16 per cent of voters bucked the trend and said it was their least favourite.

George Clooney was the only non-British or Irish celebrity in the top ten.

Airline expert and travel writer Dave Richardson said: “There’s no doubt people want to feel safe when flying, and a clipped English accent is more likely to be reassuring than a regional one.

“I remember taking an internal flight in Russia at a time when some Russian airlines had a poor safety record, but as soon as I heard an RAF-type Englishman addressing us from the cockpit, I felt fine.

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Earliest copy of Mona Lisa found in Prado

The Art Newspaper

A copy of the Mona Lisa has been discovered in the Prado which was painted in Leonardo’s studio—created side by side with the original that now hangs in the Louvre. This sensational find will transform our understanding of the world’s most famous picture.

Conservators at the Prado in Madrid recently made an astonishing discovery, hidden beneath black overpaint. What was assumed to be a replica of the Mona Lisa made after Leonardo’s death had actually been painted by one of his key pupils, working alongside the master. The picture is more than just a studio copy—it changed as Leonardo developed his original composition.

The final traces of overpaint are now being removed by Prado conservators, revealing the fine details of the delicate Tuscan landscape, which mirrors the background of Leonardo’s masterpiece. Darkened varnish is also being painstakingly stripped away from the face of theMona Lisa, giving a much more vivid impression of her enticing eyes and enigmatic smile.

In the Louvre’s original, which will not be cleaned in the foreseeable future, Lisa’s face is obscured by old, cracked varnish, making her appear almost middle aged. In the Prado copy we see her as she would have looked at the time—as a radiant young woman in her early 20s.

Leonardo da Vinci, and particularly his masterpiece the Mona Lisa, attracts endless sensationalist theories. However, the discovery of the contemporary copy has been accepted by the two key authorities, the Prado and the Louvre.

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Hungarian airline Malev collapses

BBC News

The Hungarian national airline Malev has folded after its financial situation became unsustainable.

“At 0500 GMT… after 66 years of almost continuous operation Malev will no longer take off,” it said.

It came after the European Commission ordered Malev to repay various forms of state aid received from 2007 to 2010.

The sums involved amounted to 38 billion forints (130m euros; $171m; £108m), a sum equal to its entire 2010 revenue.

“Despite its best interests the owner can no longer provide financial resources for the operation of the airline in the wake of the condemning decision of the European Commission,” an airline statement said.

The European Consumer Organisation, which “defends the interests of all Europe’s consumers”, said the news came after Spanair’s collapse in the very same week.

“This development is yet more incontrovertible proof that the current update of European legislation on air travel must incorporate a mandatory guarantee against airline bankruptcies,” it said.

The carrier employs 2,600 people and is responsible for close to half of all air traffic at Budapest Liszt Ferenc airport.

Part of the Oneworld airline alliance, which also includes American Airlines and British Airways, Malev has a leased fleet of 22 passenger aircraft.

In 2010 it posted a loss of 24.6bn forints, although an improved 2011 figure had been predicted.

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Riches left in Costa Concordia a lure for treasure-seekers

USA Today

 In the chaotic evacuation of the Costa Concordia, passengers and crew abandoned almost everything on board the cruise ship: jewels, cash, champagne, antiques, 19th-century Bohemian crystal glassware and thousands of art objects, including 300-year-old woodblock prints by a Japanese master.

Now, a veritable treasure lies beneath the pristine Italian waters where the luxury liner ran aground last month.

Though some objects are bound to disintegrate, there is still hoard enough to tempt treasure seekers — just as the Titanic and countless shipwrecks before have lured seekers of gold, armaments and other riches for as far back as mankind can remember.

It may be just a matter of time before treasure hunters set their sights on the sunken spoils of the Costa Concordia, which had more than 4,200 people on board.

“As long as there are bodies in there, it’s considered off base to everybody because it’s a grave,” said Robert Marx, a veteran diver and the author of numerous books on maritime history, underwater archeology and treasure hunting. “But when all the bodies are out, there will be a mad dash for the valuables.”

The Mafia, he said, even has underwater teams that specialize in going after sunken booty.

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