In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Post Olympics holiday exodus starts
The long-awaited start of the summer holidays is expected this week with the travel industry bracing itself for a surge in bookings after the Olympics.
With the Games having captured the public’s imagination, many Britons are taking their holidays later than usual.
Two years ago there was a similar exodus when England was knocked out of the World Cup.
British Airways sought to capitalise on the mood encouraging passengers to stay at home and enjoy what has turned out to be a glut of gold medals.
The airline is now pushing holidaymakers to enjoy what it described as a “sizzling September” with offers including £100 off European holidays.
The first sign of the delayed great British exodus will be at Heathrow, which expects to deal with 116,000 departures tomorrow, compared with 95,000 on an average day.
While the numbers are initially being swelled by departing athletes, families and supporters, daily departures from Heathrow will hover around 110,000 for the rest of the week.
According to research carried out by the price comparison website, Travelsupermarket, more than 3million Britons have delayed their holiday because of the Olympics.
“By mid-August we’d expect most people to have booked their annual summer holiday or at the very least have something booked,” said Bob Atkinson, the company’s travel analyst.
“However, with the huge amount of us planning to go on post-Olympics breaks, many of which haven’t even been booked yet, this year is going to be a particularly late summer holiday season.”
Bulgarian capital shows past to modern tourists
Bulgaria hopes to draw tourists intrigued by ancient tombs, mosaics and sewage systems later this year, thanks to engineers excavating a new line for the Sofia metro who stumbled across a street of prime real estate – from the 4th century AD.
Beneath modern Sofia lie the remains of Serdica, a lively, cosmopolitan city where Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, lived for a year while looking for a new capital for his empire.
City officials plan to put an array of Roman remains on display in the next month, from bath houses to mosaics and tombs, and hope this will attract foreign tourists and help revive the Balkan nation’s struggling economy.
Some 750,000 foreign tourists a year visit Sofia, and the opening of the new Roman attractions should increase this number, says Rumen Draganov, head of Sofia’s Institute for Tourism Analysis and Assessment.
“We expect about 320,000 tourists to visit the new sights in the first year alone,” he said. Bulgaria, the poorest member of the European Union, earns some 1.7 billion euros, 5 percent of its gross domestic product, from the 8.5 million tourists a year who flock to its Black Sea and mountain ski resorts.
Until recently archaeologists wrongly regarded countries such as Greece, Italy and Turkey as the only classical areas worthy of study, said Philip Kiernan, Professor in Roman Archaeology of U.S. Buffalo University.
“Serdica was a major metropolis and contains the physical remains of Thracian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine cultures – so it should not be any less significant,” he said.
“It’s time to stop thinking about cities like Serdica as being peripheral to the classical world, and take them for the important sites that they really are”.
Eat on the wild side
Ramsons, sorrel and water mint are all on the menu for rookie forager Tom Cox – but first, how to eat a raw nettle. It’s a paradise in the Welsh mountains…
There aren’t really any short cuts when you start foraging for wild food: no substitute for getting right out there, in the thick of a hedgerow, and learning by trial and error. Me? I’m still just below the novice stage.
There’s probably no better illustration of this than the text message mix-up I have with Adele Nozedar, who has been helping me forage high on the hillside above the Welsh town of Llangattock, just after she bids me farewell. “LOADS of ramsons on the lefthand side of the verge as you come down the hill,” she writes. “R” is close to “D” on a keyboard so, assuming she’s made a typo, I tear off down the hill, with visions of damson gin.
It’s only later that I remember the damson season is still a couple of months away and, having consulted Adele’s beautifully illustrated, beginner-friendly new wild food guide, The Hedgerow Handbook, realise that “ramson” is another word for wild garlic, which Adele has earlier recommended to me as a flu remedy and garnish for soup.
The 20-square-mile patch of the Brecon Beacons where I’m staying has been called Wales’s wild food mecca. It’s a place of witchy legends, spectacular craggy vistas and unusually verdant foliage. Self-deprecatingly, Adele refers to herself as “just a hobbyist” in the foraging world, but within a quarter of a mile of the old quarry-worker’s cottage where I’m staying, she manages to find water mint, yarrow and sorrel, and also shows me how to eat my first ever nettle (by pulling it from beneath the leaf, folding it inwards, then neutralising the sting between my molars).
In the 1980s, Adele fronted the synth pop band Indians in Moscow – who had minor hits such as “Jack Pelter and His Sex-Change Chicken” – then went on to an A&R job at a major record label. In 1994 she forsook the music business for a former water authority building halfway up a Welsh mountain, three miles from any neighbours, which she purchased from a bearded Elvis impersonator. “I knew I needed to move when I was living in a flat on the Archway Road, collecting dog hair and realised I had enough for a Tam o’Shanter,” she tells me.
Would you brave the world’s scariest hotel pool?
Now this is a pool with a view!
The Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao’s glass-bottom pool partly hangs over a 24-storey drop, making it appear to be suspended in mid-air.
Offering a birds-eye view to the street below, the pool gives guests the feeling that they are swimming in the sky.
The 30 metre-long and 6m-wide pool was designed by Singaporean company Chan Sau Yan Associates and is the first of its kind in China.
“We wanted to provide our guests a unique swimming experience, and let them feel they’re vacationing even in a bustling city,” a spokesperson from InterContinental Hotels Group, parent company of Holiday Inn, said.
It appears to be pleasing guests so far.
“I felt as if I was flying in the sky – I could also enjoy the beautiful scenery of Pudong from here,” a swimmer told CCTV.
And don’t worry – the bottom of the pool is constructed with toughened glass.