In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Please come visit us, we’ll pay you – Niagara Falls
In recent years, Niagara Falls has thrown open its doors to casino gambling, gay weddings and a tightrope walk that, until laws were relaxed, would have meant arrest.
It even briefly considered taking in toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.
On the drawing board now is a plan to entice young people to move in by paying down their student loans.
After the city’s old strategy of industry over tourism flopped amid the decline of Rust Belt manufacturing and the disastrous Love Canal, a new economic plan appears to have emerged: Try anything.
“If you piece together a series of wins, then I think it becomes transformative,” Mayor Paul Dyster said, reflecting on efforts to reverse fortunes in a city where one in five people live in poverty and the population of 50,193 is less than half what it was in the 1960s.
More than $2 million in yearly block grants from the federal government could be in jeopardy if the number dips below 50,000.
“Less people means less attention in the government’s eyes. … You need people in your neighbourhoods,” said Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo.
The latest idea is to cover two years’ worth of student loan payments for recent college graduates who agree to live in a targeted neighbourhood. Piccirillo said the tuition program will start small, with about 20 people in the first round, but it has attracted interest from around the country.
And that’s really the point, Dyster said, of using Niagara Falls as an incubator for new ideas.
Walking tour of London’s literary pubs
Explore the watering holes of some of London’s most famous writers in the company of the ghosts of Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf on a new guided walking tour.
Neither was a famous drinker, but it was in the company of Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf that the capital’s first literary pub crawl set out from the Writers and Artists Bar in the basement of the Fitzroy Tavern (16 Charlotte Street, W1), in central London on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
The two ghosts, played by actors, kicked things off with that classic beer drinker’s team-building exercise – a pub quiz. Luckily for my team-mate, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was in my tiny repertoire of famous first lines (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities) and we won. Then off we went, up the stairs past photos of George Orwell and Dylan Thomas, who drank here when they worked nearby at the BBC, and into the bustle of Charlotte Street, the thoroughfare of the neighbourhood known as Fitzrovia, that lies immediately to the west of Bloomsbury and north of Oxford Street.
I couldn’t help thinking that it would take even a biographical scholar many months to try and work out what Dickens and Woolf might have made of each other, had they met in the afterlife or a Tom Stoppard play. Here Woolf, who had lived a stone’s throw away in Gordon Square, was played with prim hauteur, while Dickens, who used to walk daily from lodgings in Gower Street to visit his parents in Marshalsea prison, was a genial, tail-coated raconteur.
Their banter will surely warm up as they get used to the roles (our outing was a trial run) but the thespian flavour was fitting since the tour is the brainchild of another actor, Nick Hennegan, the artistic director of theMaverick Theatre company. He noticed a gap in the London walks market, which is dominated by hauntings and Jack the Ripper, and has spent the last few months working on a route and script.
Holidaymakers have £54 each in leftover foreign cash
Leftover foreign currency stashed in Britons’ homes totals over £1bn.
British homes are harbouring over £1.6bn of leftover holiday money, which equates to 2 billion euros, according to research by travel search site Skyscanner.
In a poll of 1,100 British travellers, the average haul of foreign notes and coins amounted to £54 per person in currencies ranging from Cypriot Pounds to Thai Baht.
The survey revealed that 89pc of people return home from their travels with leftover currency, with holidaymakers hoarding an average of £60 in euros and those returning from the US bring back an average of $67. This amounts to $368 million, or £237 million, nationwide.
However, one in three holidaymakers fails to remember to take their leftover currency on their next trip.
Skyscanner’s research showed that while much of the currency is left languishing in a ‘man drawer’ alongside old batteries and spare light bulbs, more unusual uses included using it to make jewellery, decorating the coffee table and even sticking them to the ceiling as a memento of their trip.
Victoria Bailie, spokesperson for Skyscanner, said: “Many travellers like to keep a few notes and coins as souvenirs but we were surprised at how big that pot of foreign cash is. Collectively, it’s enough for the UK to buy its own Caribbean island and a fleet of private jets to fly there.”
Southwest’s Facebook promotion backfires on ‘glitch’
Southwest Airlines’ effort to thank its growing number of Facebook “friends” backfired Friday when customers booking a special Facebook fare were charged multiple times for what should have been half-priced tickets.
Southwest offered a 50%-off promotion to celebrate reaching 3 million “friends” on the airline’s Facebook page. By entering a special code, customers were able to take a 50% discount for fares on a handful of dates.
But, while the fares were in fact discounted – as low as $29 each way on some of the carrier’s shortest routes – many customers were charged numerous times. Perhaps ironically, customers took to Southwest’s Facebook page with complaints that they were charged as many as 20 times or more for a single flight.
The Associated Press notes some “tweeted and blogged about the related financial hassles, which ranged from drained checking accounts and bounced checks to overdrawn credit limits and canceled bank cards.”
The Los Angeles Times quotes one irate bargain hunter as posting this note on Southwest’s Facebook page:You wiped out my checking account! Are you going to pay my bills? Put gas in my car while I wait?
Another customer is quoted by the Times as saying she was charged for six additional bookings that resulted in a total charge of $1,900.
Southwest was apologetic for the episode, which it says stemmed from a technology malfunction.
“No, it wasn’t a hack, it was just a technology glitch in our system that caused that,” Southwest spokeswoman Ashley Dillion tells AP.
Southwest says it would both refund fliers for the extra fares as well as reimburse those who suffered related banking fees such as overdraft charges.