In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
World music: The beats of the globe
Whether you’re in Wiltshire or West Africa, exploring the global music scene is now much less complex than the beats you will encounter.
What’s the attraction?
For many people, world music is only as old as Paul Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland, but it has always been out there. In recent years, those fed up of seeing the latest fad at expensive, corporate UK festivals have started heading overseas in search of alternative, authentic musical culture.
“World music” is a hotly disputed term, of course, but at its best it’s music rooted deeply in ethnic or local culture. Far from being a niche sub-genre for sandal-and-sock wearers, it encompasses all manner of rocking, rolling fusions. While it’s relatively easy to travel independently to some countries and to major music festivals around the globe, joining a guided tour means you can go to small provincial festivals, forget the logistics and focus on the music. And, if you can’t time your trip to coincide with a festival, you can always hop down to Lisbon for a fado-themed weekend, to Santiago in Cuba to get an insight on the son-music scene beyond Buena Vista ,or InterRail your way around the Gypsy music scenes in the Balkans.
To the source: West Africa
Music aficionados reserve special admiration for West Africa. From Senegal to Benin to Ghana, there’s an incredibly diverse range of traditions and rhythms. Anyone who has listened to Fela Kuti or Koo Nimo will recognise deep within the pulse, the source of American blues, rock and bluegrass. West Africa Discovery (westafricadiscovery.co.uk) runs a 12-day Benin, Ghana and Togo festival tour with full board, from £1,350, excluding flights. Departures in January and December 2013.
Giant’s Causeway visitor centre opens
The Giant’s Causeway’s new state-of-the-art visitor centre has opened to the public.
The National Trust centre, which sits alongside the attraction on Northern Ireland’s north Antrim coast, was unveiled on Tuesday.
The building is part of an £18.5m investment in the Causeway, and takes inspiration from the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s 40,000 hexagonal basalt stones, which emerged from the sea-bed following intense volcanic and geological activity 60 million years ago.
It illustrates the story of the stones and the legend of Finn McCool and Benandonner: two giants which reputedly created the Causeway during a mythical battle.
The roof of the building is planted with local grasses, to allow it to integrate with the area, while nearby trails and pathways have been upgraded to offer improved access for families.
Exhibitions and audio guides have been added and the new centre will now have longer opening hours during the summer.
“It was extremely important for us to create visitor facilities worthy of this unique, legendary visitor attraction,” said Heather Thompson, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland.
Faulty instruments on doomed Costa Concordia ship
The Italian cruise ship which crashed in January killing 32 people was reportedly sailing with its sealed doors open, unapproved maps and faulty instruments.
Some of the technical apparatus on board the Costa Concordia had been broken since January 9 – four days before the tragedy on the Italian island of Giglio, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported, citing leaked documents from the inquiry.
The report quoted a response from ship owner Costa Crociere saying that it was not aware the sealed doors were open, that the maps were the captain’s responsibility and that the glitches did not stop the ship from sailing.
A court hearing is due on July 21 at which the full results of technical analysis will be revealed. Captain Francesco Schettino and eight others including three executives from Costa Crociere are under investigation.
The giant ship hit rocks off Giglio on the night of January 13 with 4229 people from dozens of countries on board.
Schettino is accused of delaying the evacuation and then abandoning ship before everyone had been rescued.
The black box was also reportedly out of action at the time of the impact, meaning investigators have to rely on a computer that was switched off at 11.36 pm and may never be able to piece together the exact events of that night.
Emails cited by Corriere della Sera showed the ship had been due in for repairs on its technical instruments after it reached port on January 14.
Try Irn Bru, leave the square sausage, advises Japanese guide to Scotland
A new guidebook has some blunt tips for Japanese visitors to Scotland, including avoiding football fans and council estates.
Keep away from football supporters and square sausage, and never, ever refer to a Scottish person as English. That’s the blunt advice for Japanese visitors to Scotland in a new guidebook that looks beyond the predictable round of golf and a stroll along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Not all the advice in the Insider’s Guide to Scotland is prohibitive, however. It recommends Mackie’s honeycomb ice-cream and ginger marmalade, as well as Irn Bru. Lorne sausage, though – which is sliced and flat, and also known as square sausage – is best avoided.
The Japanese-language book, published by the Edinburgh-based Luath Press, notes the attraction of pub crawls, even urging visitors to get “merrily drunk” on whisky. There is advice, too, on pub etiquette: buy rounds, and if in a group, ensure there is enough in the kitty.
But it is cautious on interactions with the locals, which can be fraught with misunderstanding: referring to a kilt as a skirt is surpassed in its potential to cause offence only by calling the locals English, it says.
Travellers expecting Japanese standards of service will be disappointed: “Please do not expect to have the same quick, polite and accurate service here to compare with Japanese service at shops, restaurants and hotels. Be patient anywhere in Scotland – it is not Japan.”
The list of dos and don’ts represents a cultural minefield for inexperienced travellers, particularly those ignorant of the finer points of Scottish football. It implores readers not to approach “men in green or blue football tops” and to steer clear of council estates. Don’t be surprised, it adds, when the first sign of rain does not produce a flurry of umbrella-opening.
Akiko Elliott, one of the authors, said the book was designed to be honest but affectionate. “I believe more Japanese will find the nature and culture of Scotland interesting and fascinating,” she told the BBC. “Until now the emphasis of Scottish tourism was on visiting historical sites or playing golf, but younger people are showing a keen interest in other aspects of Scottish life.”