Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 04.06.2012

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

Ask the Captain: Are airport runways flat?

USA Today

Question:  Are runways flat? From what I’ve noticed they are not. Also, some appear to have an angle or slope. Take for example San Jose Costa Rica International airport (SJO); even the terminal running parallel to the runway is on an angle. If you walk from gate 1 up to 21 it’s an uphill walk. Is that normal? Some other runways appear to go up and down at different points.

Answer:  No, runways are not flat. They are crowned to help drain water off the sides during rain, and often one end of a runway is higher or lower than the other. When preparing takeoff performance calculations, pilots include the slope of the runway. Taking off uphill causes performance degradation while downhill is a performance enhancement. Airplane flight manuals include the maximum runway slope allowed. A few runways have “humps” when a part of the runway will rise then descend. This makes for challenging landings.

Q:  Captain, can you explain what the different signs we see out the window while we’re taxiing to the runways denote? They seem to mark taxiways but I’ve always wondered about the different color-coding and whether it relates to specific runways or plane sizes, etc.

— joeduffus

A:  Airport signs are carefully designed to help pilots determine their location. Runway signs are white on red backgrounds and are numbers; taxiways are yellow on black and are letters. There are other painted markings showing hold lines and the edge of the airport movement area.

The signs that are the most visible to passengers are taxiway signs showing different taxiways around the airport.

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Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen joined by new male statue

For almost a century, Copenhagen’s iconic Little Mermaid statue has perched alone on a rock in the harbour, wistfully pining for the prince she has been promised – and now she will finally get her man.

The city of Helsingoer, or Elsinore as Shakespeare wrote, will on Saturday unveil a suitable companion to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale mermaid, in the shape and form of HAN (HIM, in Danish).

The stainless steel young male figure, made by sculptors Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, is to perch on his own steel rock in a similar pose in Helsingoer harbour, watching the fleets of luxury liners that pass through the Oeresund Strait on their way to the Little Mermaid.

“Saturday will be an exciting day. I look forward to seeing people’s reactions when they actually see him,” Helsingoer mayor Johannes Hecht-Nielsen told AFP.

HAN has been given a prominent place in front of the 600-year-old maritime city’s new Culture Yard, where until a few years ago yachts and ships were built for the wealthy and the world’s biggest shipping companies.

“It’s a beautiful sculpture and it has lots of curious details – like the eye that blinks and the mirror effect,” Hecht-Nielsen said.

While Hecht-Nielsen and the town’s 25 counsellors do not regret their decision to choose a shiny, naked, flipperless merman, the choice has not been without critics who would rather have seen a statue commemorating the now defunct shipyard’s illustrious past.

“The shipyard is the past and culture is the future,” Hecht-Nielsen said.

At a cost of around three million Danish kroner ($A516,306), the city is hoping its new acquisition will attract an increasing number of tourists.

The Little Mermaid, inspired by a character in Andersen’s 1837 fairytale of the same name, is a 175kg statue by Edvard Eriksen.

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Double your fun in London and Paris

Toronto Sun

France is the world’s No. 1 tourist destination but there is no denying that Merry Old England is the hippest place on the planet this year.

Not since the Brit-pop invasion and the swinging days of Carnaby Street has the country known for its “keep calm, carry on” pragmatism been so cool. A year-long tsunami of fun and mostly free events celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympic Games has made London the place to be in 2012.

But why restrict a visit to one fantastic city when you can have two? A strong Canadian dollar coupled with a lower pound, and an even lower euro, make a combined London-Paris getaway more-affordable than ever — even if you splurge on a few “royal treatment” experiences.

Here are a few ideas on things to do in both cities from a recent visit:



The night before she walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey and became the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and her family stayed at The Goring, a quintessentially English hotel long favoured by the royal family, politicians and visiting dignitaries. Located in Belgravia — close to Buckingham Palace, shopping, theatres and Victoria Station — it has 69 individually decorated rooms and suites, including a recently redone “Royal Suite,” where Middleton “may or may not” have stayed on the eve of her wedding to Prince William. Odds are good she did occupy the royal suite but staff of the five-star Goring are models of discretion when it comes to guest privacy — royal or otherwise.

A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the multi-award winning Goring was the first hotel to have central heating and a bathroom in every bedroom. Today it has a lovely lush garden, a wonderful restaurant and a clubby bar-lounge inspired by Chateau de Malmaison (one-time home of the Bonapartes) with leather chairs, gilded ceiling and swagged curtains.

But the best thing about The Goring is its service — impeccable, attentive, but never snooty as befits a 102-year-old hotel still run by the family that built it.


— Kensington Palace has a new permanent exhibition — Victoria Revealed — on the life of Britain’s longest-ruling monarch who was born and raised there.

The exhibit paints an intimate portrait of Victoria’s unhappy childhood and her 63-year reign from her first day as Queen at age 18, to her wedding to Prince Albert and their happy family life, to her grief over Albert’s death, and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Items displayed include paintings, sculpture, clothing — including Victoria’s black silk baby shoes, her wedding dress and mourning clothes — and snippets of handwriting from her journals.

Visitors get a sense of the great love shared by Victoria and Albert through the music he composed for his young bride to be, sketches the newlyweds made of one another, and jewellery he designed for her.

We also caught Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, the special exhibit of images by the royal photographer spans three decades of her majesty’s life. Starting in 1942, the photos show the progression of the Queen from young princess to the confident monarch we see today. Subject matter includes Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, her state visits to Commonwealth countries, and childhood photos of Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, as well as photos of other members of the royal family.

While the V&A exhibit wrapped up in late May, it is travelling to other venues in the U.K. for the rest of the year. Versions will also be shown at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria (until Sept. 3) then at the McMichael Canadian Collection in Kleinburg.

I’ve visited London several times but on this trip I took a walking tour from Trafalgar Square through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall to Buckingham Palace with Viv Haxby, an excellent Blue Badge Guide. The services of a guide like Haxby can enhance any visit as these veritable fonts of knowledge will not only provide the history of the glorious buildings you are seeing but also dish some delicious gossipy tidbits about the people who inhabited them long long ago.


Diamond Jubilee celebrations peak this weekend but many Jubilee-related events continue throughout the year. Add to the roster, the annual arts-focused City of London Festival June 24-July 27, the London 2012 Festival June 21-Sept. 9, the Olympic Games July 27-Aug. 12, and the Summer Paralympics Aug. 29-Sept. 9, and it’s easy to see why this party may not wind down until Christmas. During my visit, the city was literally buzzing with anticipation.

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Around the world in 92 days … by bicycle!

The Guardian

Mike Hall is on course to end his World Cycle Challenge in Greenwich on Monday, smashing the record by 14 days.

Amid all the jubilee pomp it could be an easy occasion to miss: at some point on Monday afternoon a dusty and extremely exhausted-looking cyclist will pedal his bike across the meridian line at Greenwich, south-east London. If you do spot Mike Hall, give him due reverence. He will have just ridden round the world in a little over three months.

Hall, a 31-year-old from Harrogate, Yorkshire, is about to become the prime exponent of the increasingly popular pursuit of competitive global circumnavigation by bike. If all goes well and his weary limbs return him to Greenwich, he will have set a new world record by a significant margin.

Hall set off on 18 February as one of nine riders taking part in the grandly titled World Cycle Racing event, and is several thousand miles ahead of the handful of competitors who remain. Under the rules of the record, days spent in airports or planes are not counted, meaning Hall will have ridden the requisite 18,000 miles in 92 days, an average of almost 200 miles a day.

This shatters the existing 106-day mark, set in 2010. If that is not enough, the previous record holder had support vehicles carrying his supplies, while Hall carried everything with him on his bike as he rode through Europe, Turkey, India, Australia and to New Zealand before heading back via the US.

The round-the-world record has only become prominent in recent years. A key figure was Mark Beaumont, the Scottish rider who in 2008completed the trip in 195 days, taking 81 days off the then-record. His next ride, down the Americas, became a BBC documentary.

Speaking to the Guardian on the west coast of France shortly before his return, Hall said part of his secret was travelling very, very light: even when packed with its oversized saddlebag his bike weighs little more than 16kg (35lbs). This, he explained, has its drawbacks: “I’ve got one set of kit, which I wash, well, a bit infrequently. The problem with washing the kit is that I’m up and away by five or six in the morning and a lot of the time it’s just too cold to put wet kit on. I’m only sleeping for four or five hours so it’s not enough time for it to dry.”

His last few months have been particularly gruelling, Hall explained: “Typically I try and get on the road for six or just after. I normally set myself a target of 3pm for the first 100 miles, which usually means I do the rest by about 10pm or midnight, with food stops.

“The hardest was the States. It’s so long. Two weeks into this four-week stint and you can’t see the beginning or the end. It’s the motivation which is the problem, and it becomes hard to push yourself.”

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Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

Not meaning to brag, but here goes. I can say I’m a travel expert and have spoken at multiple travel conferences and trade shows.

I enjoy travelling all over the world but my big passion is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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