Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 03.04.2012

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

Spend the night in a chocolate factory

The Telegraph

Temporary “chocolate suite” in Yorkshire contains edible furniture and Wonka-esque accessories.

A chocolate shop in Yorkshire is offering sweet-toothed travellers the opportunity to spend the night in their factory during Easter.

The “chocolate suite” – on offer from today until April 8, courtesy of the Little Chocolate Shop in Leyburn – features edible furnishings, a chocolate fountain and a fancy dress box filled with Wonka-esque accessories, aprons and toques.

Guests will be free to watch chocolate being made in the factory, before ending their stay with a chocolate breakfast.

However, they are advised to be out of bed by 10am, when the factory begins accepting visitors on regular tours. The chocolate furnishings, which include plants and ornaments, are restocked each day.

Jim Hogg, general manager of The Little Chocolate Shop, said: “Easter gives us all a great excuse to indulge in chocolate, so why not immerse yourself totally during the holiday? Any family or chocoholic will have a totally unforgettable experience, and we’ve stocked up on extra chocolate to meet demand.”

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Google adds live London Underground updates to Maps

The Guardian

Google has added real-time London Underground service alerts to its Maps tool in a move that is hoped to ease travel chaos during the Olympics.

Google has added real-time London Underground service updates to its Maps tool ahead of what promises to be a testing summer for the city’s public transport network.

Anyone planning a journey using either Google Maps or its mobile cousin, Google Transit, will now see live alerts and be presented with alternative routes when their trip is likely to be affected by problems on the Underground.

Commuters can also choose to view detailed service information for all routes passing through any given Underground station.

As well as keeping Londoners abreast of unexpected delays, Google is including details of planned engineering works in the service, making it easier to plan weekend trips.

Millions will descend on London this summer for the Olympic and Paralympic games, and travel chaos has been widely predicted, but Google’s new tool should ease pressure on the London Underground.

Londoners have been able to plan journeys using public transport using Google Maps’ “Get directions” function since July last year, but until now the data used to provide journey times came from Transport for London (TfL)’s timetables.

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Once-reclusive Myanmar becoming huge tourist draw

USA Today

Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, is shedding its pariah image after a brutal, decades-long military rule that sparked a tourism boycott. The country’s sudden popularity has created a run on hotels, higher room rates and waiting lists for flights, the AP reports.

Pro-democracy crusader Aun San Suu Kyi’s win of a parlimentary seat in elections over the weekend may further fuel demand. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner had endorsed the travel boycott, which was lifted last year with Sui Kyi’s blessings, in light of promised reforms by Myanmar’s ruling generals.

Tourist arrivals rose by 20% in 2011, according to the Myanmar Times, though the 816,000 tally is dwarfed by the 19 million tourists who visited neighboring Thailand.

A number of U.S.-based tour operators are for the first time offering tours to the once-reclusive nation. Demand forOverseas Adventure Travel’s Burma tours is so great, the Boston-based company has increased its 2012 departures from 40 to 61 and is hoping to schedule more.

Similarly, Intrepid Travel began taking bookings for its Burma trips in November and sold out by late February. The Australia-based operator added additional departures and has availability.

The tourist track appears to have changed little since I visited in 1997. Itineraries include Yangon (the capital once known as Rangoon); Mandalay, the nation’s second largest city; Bagan (nee Pagan), site of thousands of ancient temples; and Inle Lake. Visitors typically fly between locales because of limited road infrastructure.

But that’s likely to change. In the biggest town on Inle Lake, for instance, there were just five guesthouses 15 years ago, the London Independent reports. Today, there are dozens, along with a Swiss-owned restaurant.

Still, the country remains locked in another era. It has a cash economy, foreign cellphones won’t work, and Starbucks, McDonald’s and Western chain hotels have yet to appear, the AP notes.

During my long-ago visit, I found Burma mesmerizing and mysterious. And a bit sad and a little scary, too, knowing of the human-rights abuses by iron-fisted military leaders. But the people were lovely. The surroundings were among the most exotic I’ve experienced.

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Heavens above, it’s a bridge network in the skies

Now this is a new way of reaching for the skies – and you won’t want to trip on the way.

An architect is hoping to install a walkway with a difference that will connect buildings high up in New York City.

The Sky Network project by architect Tiago Barros was entered as part of a competition and is being exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York until July 15.

Under the plan, a multi-layered bridge system would be constructed attached to surrounding buildings

The idea would allow the city to keep growing while improving pedestrian flow in the streets below – no cars would be allowed on the bridges.

“It allows the city to grow vertically with time, proposes new street levels of urban flow and high quality life for pedestrians,” Mr Barros said.

The bridge system is laid out on top of the original New York 1811 grid plan.

The areas near the anchor points will need to be developed while vertical pathways will be built inside the buildings. The lightweight structure would also have motion sensors to light up the street below.

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