In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Where children are guests, not pests
Once upon a time, the most stylish accommodation was always the least child-friendly. No longer. Europe now has plenty of chic hotels for all ages.
What’s the attraction?
Gone are the days when hotels merely tolerated smaller guests. An increasing number have cottoned on to the fact that parents don’t want to compromise on comfort or style and prefer not to be corralled in the furthest corner of the dining room. With Easter looming, there are plenty of family-friendly options in Europe. A good hotel will offer a kids’ club, family-friendly rooms that are child-proofed to keep toddlers safe (no sharp corners or expensive, breakable objects), children’s meal times, baby listening services, babysitting and, for older children, plenty of facilities and chances to find new friends. It makes all the difference.
A little luxe
The British chain of Luxury Family Hotels (luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk) strikes a balance between providing everything for a stress-free stay, with a bit of style for the grown-ups. Having sold the collection seven years ago, its founder Nigel Chapman recently regained control and is giving two new properties – New Park Manor, in the New Forest, and Thornbury Manor, near Bristol – the LFH makeover. Until they open, the most recent addition is The Polurrian Bay Hotel (01326 240 421; polurrianhotel.com) on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula. Doubles start at £185, B&B. Children under 16 sharing with parents can stay for free (maximum two).
Spread over a sprawling reserve and fringed by five miles of shallow seas, the Sani Resort (sani-resort.com) on the Kassandra Peninsula in Halkidiki, Greece, consists of four hotels. The Sani Beach Club is aimed at families and there is an impressive array of services including the Ofsted-registered Melissa’s crèche (starting from €28 per session) and complimentary kids’ clubs, as well as beach buddies who will take care of children on the beach while you go for a dip. New for this year is a range of activities including bird-watching. ITC Classics (01244 355 550; itcclassics.co.uk) has a week for four from £2,299, half-board, with flights.
One night in Alcatraz
A temporary hotel opens today in London’s King’s Cross, offering guests the chance to experience life as it was inside the notorious San Francisco prison. Adrian Bridge checks in.
It may not be everybody’s idea of hotel heaven, but anyone who has always wondered what it would be like to spend a night in the notorious Alcatraz prison will for the rest of this week have a unique opportunity to find out.
A meticulous recreation of four of the cells in America’s most famous penitentiary has been created in the heart of London and from today guests – sorry, prisoners – will be able to check in – and be locked up for the night.
In addition to being extremely cramped (5’ by 9’) the cells contain just a basic bed, a tatty-looking mattress, two tiny shelves and a prison-style sink and toilet. And inmates will be required to follow a regimented routine which will include being photographed on arrival (see picture below), getting kitted out in prison-style uniforms, engaging in reforming activities such as model-making and tailoring and eating an evening meal from metal trays and cups.
Hotel staff will comprise trained “guards” who will blow loud whistles at key points of the evening, who will insist on being addressed as “Sir” and who will keep watch over the locked cells following “lights-out” at 23.45.
The “Hotel Alcatraz” experience in London’s King’s Cross has been created to coincide with the screening on television tonight of the first episode of “Alcatraz”, a new crime/thriller series centred on the island prison close to San Francisco and from which famously (though perhaps incorrectly), it was said no-one ever escaped.
All efforts have been made to ensure that those who do sign up for a night get a proper feel for the way of life endured by some of America’s most hardened criminals (including Al “Scarface” Capone, and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud) – but there will be a few concessions to modern-day comforts.
Arty Alesund: A city that rose from the ashes
Fourteen European cities have been identified as having significant collections of Art Nouveau — a decorative style of art and architecture popular from the late 19th to the early 20th century — but few compare with the Norwegian city of Alesund.
Sure Vienna has the Secession building and Brussels has the Horta Museum — the workshop and home of Art Nouveau’s most talented exponent Victor Horta — but Alesund’s appeal is the sheer number of Art Nouveau buildings — more than 800!
Most are in the compact city centre, which exudes architectural harmony and special charm that attracts thousands of visitors every year. A good starting point is the top of Aksla Mountain (drive up or climb the 418 stairs) which affords an outstanding view of Alesund and the Sunmore Alps. The west coast city of 42,000 residents is home to one of Norway’s most important fishing harbours, and two adjacent fjords (Geiranger and Naeroy) which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Along with the picturesque setting are Alesund’s architectural gems. Buildings — many lining the narrow Canal Alesundet — graced with turrets and spires. There are windows framed by colourful leafy and floral motifs, and doorways topped by ornamented creatures representing both real and mythical beasts.
Looking at it today, it’s hard to imagine Alesund’s history is rooted in tragedy. It began in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 1904, when a fire raged through the town destroying 850 homes and leaving 10,000 people (out of a population of 12,000) homeless. Incredibly, only one person died, though there might have been more if the warder hadn’t let the inmates out of the prison. (“Come back tomorrow!” he reportedly shouted as prisoners fled for their lives.)
Despite the catastrophic loss, help came quickly and from unexpected sources. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who often vacationed in the fjords near Alesund, immediately sent several ship-loads of provisions and building materials. Widespread unemployment in Norway at the time also worked to the town’s advantage, as skilled architects, carpenters and other craftsmen streamed into town looking for work. They found it, and over the next three years completely rebuilt the town in the modern building style in Europe at that time.
Art Nouveau developed at a time when Europe was transforming from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one. With its aesthetics often rooted in nature, Art Nouveau had influenced not just architecture but also interiors, furnishings and art. The style took on slightly different forms and even different names (Glasgow Style, Modernisme, Secession) in various cities.
Norway also had its own version, influenced by characteristic Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) style in Germany, where many Norwegian architects were trained, and by Nordic motifs. A year after the rebuilding of Alesund began, Norway broke away from its political union with Sweden, and a new nationalist sentiment inspired much of the architecture.
Airline to trial anti-jet lag headsets this month
Flying long-haul could soon become less exhausting with the trial of a revolutionary anti-jet lag headset set to kick off at the end of the month.
The world-first trial by Finnish airline Finnair will involve sending light into the brain via the ear canal in a bid to cure jet lag – a temporary sleep disorder caused by multi time-zone travel
Finnair vice president Jarkko Konttinen said the introduction of the Valkee bright light headset would be an “interesting and beneficial experience” for air travellers.
“Finnair is an innovative airline and we actively look for new ways to improve the wellbeing and comfort of our passengers,” Mr Konttinen said.
“The bright light headset simulates the effects of daylight by channelling bright light through the ear canal to very close proximity of the tissue in need of treatment, in the brain.”
They may be onto something – Harvard sleep physician Lawrence Epstein, co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, says bright sunlight or blue light delivered at the right time – early in the day if you’ve travelled east and later in the afternoon if you’ve travelled west – can quicken adaptation.
Jet lag is a physiological condition suffered by many passengers which is mainly caused due to the brain’s inability to adjust to the change in time zone while travelling on long distance flights.