In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Must-see Vancouver attractions when time is short
Suppose you’re going to be in Vancouver for the first time — but only for a day or so before boarding a cruise ship to Alaska or a flight across the Pacific.
What should you try to squeeze in while you’re there?
Several passengers who were in that situation asked me that during a Banff-Vancouver rail trip last May. They were from Britain, Malaysia, Australia and Korea, and I was one of the few Canadians in the coach.
I offered a few suggestions, but when I got home I contacted three tourism professionals who know Vancouver inside out. What would they recommend to a first-time visitor pressed for time? I limited them to three choices.
All picked cycling or strolling the seawall in Stanley Park and hopping an Aquabus ferry to Granville Island.
Stanley Park packs beaches, gardens, an aquarium, a pitch ‘n putt golf course and forested trails into a huge chunk of prime downtown real estate. (VisitVancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx).
Granville, centred around the Public Market, is a maze of craft shops, theatres and something like 70 places to eat, from food stands to restaurants by the water. One of the Vancouverites I polled suggested visiting the resident sake maker (“try three types of sake for only $5”), another said she loves “strolling through Railspur Alley to see all the local artisans.” (See granvilleisland.com.)
That left each with one other recommendation.
— Take in the view from Grouse Mountain. (An aerial tramway system called Skyride will whisk you to the top. (See Grousemountain.com/skyride).
— Explore Vancouver’s neighbourhoods. “The top pick should be Gastown (especially for dining) and Chinatown (the third largest in North America).”
— Visit the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. “The museum is extraordinary. They have an amazing collection of First Nations art, including many pieces by (acclaimed Heida artist) Bill Reid.” (SeeMoa.ubc.ca/.)
My suggestions to the train passengers were remarkably similar: Stanley Park, especially the seawall path; Granville Island (that Aquabus has to be the cutest thing afloat, like an brightly painted, oversized bathtub); and the museum of anthropology. (To illustrate Bill Reid’s work, I showed a British woman a $20 bill with his stunning sculpture Spirit of Haida Gwaii on the back).
To expedite sightseeing, I recommended Vancouver Trolley’s Hop-On, Hop-Off City Attractions Tour. It’s an easy and entertaining way of getting around. You can, for example, take it to Granville, get off and wander around, then hop another trolley to Stanley Park or any of several other popular spots and do the same, all on one ticket.
Cut the cost of flying – bring your butler
The world of no-frills airlines would have been lost on Bertie Wooster.
But if times became tough he could have saved himself a few pounds by bringing Jeeves along for those enjoyable sojourns on the continent.
Cheap plane tickets and huge luggage charges on no frills airlines could bring a bit of much needed relief for the distressed gentry.
This is because it will often be cheaper to travel with a butler rather than check in a second suitcase.
The pricing anomaly has arisen as a result of carriers trying to keep headline ticket prices as low as possible, while raking in the money by demanding fees for everything else.
Potential savings by bringing a friend, servant or personal porter are particularly generous when travellers book well in advance or cash in on eye-catching promotional offers of plane tickets for only a few pounds.
This is because the price of a flight varies according to market demand, but baggage charges are fixed.
Fees for second suitcases, especially heavy ones can top £100 in some cases and frequently they do exceed the cost of the plane ticket itself.
The impact this can have was discovered by WhichAirline.com a price comparison website.
For example one person flying on Ryanair to Budapest would could pay £126.99 for a return ticket if travelling alone with two bags.
Bringing somebody along to carry one of the bags brings the cost of the trip down to £113.98, a saving of £13.01.
A trip from Gatwick to Alicante with easyJet would cost £284.98 for one person carrying two bags; a second passenger carrying a case brings the price down to £252.96 return.
A historic pub crawl of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
A unique pub tour in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, gives tourists a taste of local life you don’t get on a safari.
In times of recession, they say, cinemas do well, but during a depression churches do better. For Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, that certainly appears to be true. Local historian Paul Hubbard and I are standing in front of an architectural gem of a cinema that is now a church, one that has fortunately left all the art deco trappings of the picturehouse intact. Miriam, the receptionist, tells me that they are growing fast with new sites opening every month, but down in the stalls one of the helpers tries to sell me his paintings. He’s been struggling financially since his family were evicted in a land invasion. Was he bitter?
He shrugs. “I was angry then, but not now. I prefer the city.”
Next to the nearby City Hall hawkers sit with their craft carvings and weavings waiting for tourists, but there are few takers: in fact Paul seems to be their biggest buyer, ever-eager to point out bargains: “Look, that stick is zebra wood – beautifully carved piece.”
I take the stick and also examine a six-inch-long conical basket. When I ask what it is, the lady screeches with laughter. “It’s called anumncwando.” Paul tells me. “That’s Ndebele for willy-warmer.” We move on.
Zimbabwe’s tourist business may be recovering but most visitors only connect with the safari lodges out in the bush. The opportunity then, to accompany Paul on a pub crawl that is newly available to tourists – “Maybe we should say architectural walking tour” – is irresistible. “Bulawayo has an amazing historical heritage. Look here – the Palace Hotel bar – this is where Stanley stayed in 1897,” says Hubbard. He pulls a face as we enter. “He said it was scarcely suitable for a gentleman let alone ladies.”
Inside the original dark panelling has been partly obscured by a Chinese dragon motif, but otherwise this is much as Henry Morton Stanley would have experienced it, excepting, of course, one other major difference: most of the clientele are a different colour. This bar, like others on the tour, were white men’s watering holes in a country that had racial divisions hardwired into it the moment Cecil Rhodes arrived in 1893.
Wrong type of luggage: Ryanair call police to throw woman carrying a book and scroll off their plane
We’ve all faced the dilemma when preparing for a flight. How much hand luggage can we get away with taking on board.
If your airline is Ryanair, it seems, you’d better be extra careful.
A female passenger who fell foul of their regulations was marched off a jet by police officers moments before take-off, it has been claimed.
Video posted online showing a Spanish Guardia Civil officer ejecting the woman from the aircraft at Valencia airport has caused outrage.
Spanish newspapers said she was judged to have broken the airline’s rule of only boarding with a small package, as she was carrying a scroll, which would not fit in her case, and a book.
Footage shows the Spanish woman begging to be let on board.
Passengers are heard asking how they can help and if they can place the item in their suitcases for her.
They can be heard shouting “shameful, shameful” at the officer as the woman is led off the plane.
The video was posted on Facebook by a user called Soraya Pla, who said the woman shouted out as she entered the cabin that she had tried to pay an oversized luggage fee with her credit card, but it had not been working.
She added: “Look at what we have just witnessed on a Ryanair flight, I am crying with impotence. They took her forcefully, because of a simple book and a scroll that did not fit in her bag.”
The clip has gone viral and led to calls from Spanish Twitter users to boycott the airline.
Ryanair rules state only one item of hand luggage, with maximum dimensions of 55cm by 40cm by 20cm and weighing up to 10kg is allowed per person.