In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
48 hours in Florence, Italy
Art, magnificent buildings, exquisite food and wines. What is not to like about the home of Michelangelo’s David?
Florence is well known for its fine Chianti, but while you are here, become acquainted with some other wines too. A trip to one of the many enoteche, or “wine repositories”, which often boast long lists of wines by the glass and knowledgeable staff, many of whom speak English, are a great place to start. And food, of course, plays a central part in Italian life. The city is teeming with outstanding restaurants and cafes.
Home to designers Gucci and Ferragamo, the city is all about style. The recently opened Gucci museum is well worth a visit to track the evolution of the label from its inception, when the young Guccio Gucci, a lift boy in London’s Savoy, was blown away by the glamour of the hotel’s rich clientele and decided to set up shop in Italy.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge show you how to enjoy 48 hours of fashion, food, and art in Florence.
6 p.m. – Assail your senses. Take a seat at one of the tiny wooden tables lined up on the flagstones outside Note di Vino, an enoteca on Borgo de’ Greci 4/6r, off Piazza Santa Croce, and sip away at a glass of wine as you gaze at the neo-Gothic façade of the church of Santa Croce across the vast square. Crostini, with a variety of toppings, are a delicious accompaniment to the wine as you absorb the sounds of an opera singer busking to gathering crowds in front of the church.
Scratch the surface on your first evening with a stroll to Piazza della Signoria, where you’ll be met by the imposing Palazzo Vecchio, its entrance flanked by muscular, larger-than-life statues. There’s no shortage of sculptures in this square. The wide-arched Loggia dei Lanzi displays a whole host of violent scenes whose drama vies with a nearby guitarist.
Bangkok’s new treehouse hotel
Escape traffic-choked Bangkok at a stylish new ecohotel set among the treetops on an unspoilt peninsula just a few miles from the city centre.
You couldn’t pull up in front of the Bangkok Tree House hotel in a swanky car even if you wanted to. Not only does it not really have a “front”, it doesn’t even have road access. But if flash cars were your thing, you probably wouldn’t want to stay here anyway, for the Bangkok Tree House seems to have decided to see how far it can push eco-friendliness and still offer a stylish welcome.
A bit of green awareness doesn’t go amiss in traffic-choked Bangkok. I fight my way to the Tree House through the city’s seemingly permanentrot dtit (traffic jam). Leaving my taxi at Sanphawut Pier, a few miles from the centre (to be really green you could walk the mile or so from Bangna Skytrain station), I board a ferry full of schoolchildren, young commuters and old folk with shopping bags and cross the wide grey Chao Phraya river into a different world.
Or perhaps a different century. Phra Pradaeng is a pear-shaped patch of land cut off by a meander in the Chao Phraya where, I’m told, life goes on much as it did 200 years ago. Factory chimneys and high-rises are visible across the river but here all is semi-natural swampland, fruit plantations and fishermen’s houses on stilts.
Tong, a smiling young Thai from the hotel, meets me at the ferry. Walking past orchards of papaya and coconut, within five minutes we come to a set of small bamboo, steel and glass units. These are the rooms, linked by a raised wooden walkway to the restaurant and pool. One “room” has no walls or ceiling and guests sleep under the stars.
Willie Walsh rules out third runway at Heathrow
Willie Walsh has predicted a third runway will not be built at Heathrow.
The head of the International Airlines Group, British Airways’ parent company, has become the most senior figure to voice doubts about whether Heathrow will ever be expanded.
Mr Walsh, British Airways’ former chief executive, has been fiercely critical of the Government’s aviation strategy in recent months.
His remarks at a conference at BA’s headquarters in west London last week will hearten those who oppose Heathrow’s expansion.
One option for BA and IAG is to buy other airline’s slots at Heathrow, a strategy which underpinned its purchase of Bmi.
The Government has set up a commission under Sir Howard Davies, the former head of the Financial Services Authority, to examine options on how to maintain Britain’s status as a major international hub.
Critics have warned that failure to provide additional capacity will see Britain falling behind continental rivals such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, with jobs and the economy suffering as a result.
All options including Heathrow’s expansion and the building of a new airport in the Thames Estuary are said to be back on the table.
The Davies Commission is due to deliver an interim report next year before presenting its final conclusions to the incoming Government after the next election.
A Heathrow spokesman said it wanted all options for expansion to be considered by the Commission.
The do’s and don’ts of travel
Did you know it was rude to blow your nose into a handkerchief in Japan? No, didn’t think so. Here is Lonely Planet’s guide to etiquette for travelling like a local.
Other people’s social customs can be very different from yours. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for.
It’s rude to ask people in Argentina what they do for a living. Wait until they want to bring it up in conversation.
In Japan, never blow your nose into a handkerchief. The Japanese word for snot is hanakuso, which translates to “nose sh-t”, so they don’t like the idea of anyone carrying it around with them.
Watch out Carnations are used at funerals in Germany, Poland and Sweden. Chrysanthemums are used at funerals in Belgium, Italy, France, Spain and Turkey. It’s unlucky to give odd numbers of flowers in China and Indonesia, but odd numbers of flowers are lucky in Germany, India, Russia and Turkey.
In Europe, you’ll be considered rude if you don’t take your gloves off before shaking hands. (Even if it’s freezing outside.)
In restaurants in Spain, always request the bill at the end of a meal. Waiters think it’s rude to bring it to you before you have asked for it.
In Scandinavia and Germany, you should look your fellow travellers in the eye when you are toasting. In Russia, the custom is to drink the vodka in one gulp.
At holy places in Thailand and other Buddhist countries, never pat anyone on the head. The head is sacred.