Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 14.05.2012

In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

Poland best for good value luxury accommodation says survey

The Independent

Poland provides the best-value five-star hotel accommodation, according to a survey.

Polish capital Warsaw is one of seven European destinations in the top 10 most affordable luxury hotel list compiled by

Based on average room prices per night last year, Warsaw’s five-star hotels cost just £84, with Marrakech in Morocco the next best value (£90).

Other comparatively-affordable five-star hotel room rates were in Budapest (£105), Tallinn in Estonia (£112) and Berlin (£114).

In contrast, the most expensive five-star rooms were in New York (£340), followed by Paris (£326) and Tokyo (£292).

London five-star rates in 2011 averaged £225 – making the UK capital the 12th most expensive luxury hotel destination.

But London was still cheaper than destinations such as Geneva (£287), Venice (£254) and Washington DC (£254).

Hotels. com chief marketing officer Nigel Pocklington said: “Britons looking for a taste of the high life but working to a budget don’t have to travel far to find some great deals.

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Angel at the airport gets booted by American Airlines

He is the man who flew too much. Steve Rothstein bought a golden ticket from American Airlines in 1987, granting him a lifetime of unlimited travel.

He clocked more than 16 million kilometres and 10,000 flights. He used his power to fly hopeless strangers home, a friend to the Louvre, and a priest to Rome to meet the Pope.

He hopped planes to other cities just for a baseball game or a sandwich.

Everybody, even American’s CEO, knew his name.

“[I] became a hero at the airline,” Rothstein, 61, an investment banker in Manhattan, US, said. “I could just show up and get a seat.”

But in 2008, American Airlines accused him of fraud and snatched his bottomless boarding pass.

American is reviewing its AAirpass program to find ways to terminate some of the 66 high-flying contracts that are costing the company millions of dollars a year.

Rothstein, then living in Chicago, bought his AAirpass for $250,000 ($249,582), plus a companion ticket for $149,749 more.

“I could go someplace and I wouldn’t even have to think about it,” he said. “Just make the reservation and go.”

He travelled 18 times in July 2004 alone, jetting to Nova Scotia, Maine, London, Los Angeles and Denver.

Once a business meeting in Miami was postponed for a day, so he took a junket to Caracas.

He booked flights under fake names such as “Bag Rothstein” if he didn’t know who his companion would be – a practice that the airline later used to accuse him of fraud.

Because of the AAirpass, his daughter went to boarding school in Switzerland. He took his son to dozens of nationwide sporting events.

Some days he flew to Providence, Rhode Island, home of his alma mater, Brown University, just for a baloney-and-Swiss-cheese melt from a place called Geoff’s.

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Rio hotels are the world’s most expensive

The Telegraph

Rio de Janeiro has overtaken Sydney as the world’s most expensive major city for a hotel stay, according to a new study.

The average cost of a night in the Brazilian city during the first three months of 2012 was £192.88, nearly 50 per cent more expensive than during the same period last year.

HRS, a hotel booking website which carried out the research, attributed the sharp rise to Brazil’s strong economy and improved infrastructure ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. It added that this year’s Rio Carnival also attracted a record number of visitors.

Room rates rose in the majority of destinations analysed by HRS, including Britain. London witnessed a 4.33 per cent increase, pushing average nightly rates above £100, and prices rose by 12.55 per cent in Liverpool – from £63.37 to £71.57.

Prices rose by more than a quarter in Miami, to £98, and by around a fifth in Mexico City, to £85.

Moscow’s hotels remained Europe’s most expensive, with a hotel room costing around £122 on average, followed by Zurich, where they cost just over £116.

The cheapest destinations to feature in the study were Bangkok, Prague and Beijing, where a hotel typically cost just under £50 a night. Budapest, at £52, provided similarly good value, while rooms in Vienna were £74 on average.

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Eiffel or eyesore? London’s Orbit tower completed

USA Today

Critics say it looks like a roller coaster gone badly awry. Fans say it’s a landmark to rival the Eiffel Tower.

London got a towering new venue Friday, as authorities announced completion of the Orbit, a 115-meter (377- foot) looped and twisting steel tower beside London’s new Olympic Stadium that will give visitors panoramic views over the city.

Some critics have called the ruby-red lattice of tubular steel an eyesore. British tabloids have labeled it “the Eye-ful Tower,” “the Godzilla of public art” and worse.

But artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, who designed the tower, find it beautiful.

Belmond, who described the looping structure as “a curve in space,” said he thought people would be won over by it.

“St. Paul’s (Cathedral) was hated when it was begun,” he said. “Everyone wanted a spire” — but now the great church’s dome is universally loved.

He said if a groundbreaking structure works “it starts to do something to you and your concept of beauty changes.

Kapoor noted that Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower was considered “the most tremendously ugly object” by many when it was first built.

“There will be those who love it and those who hate it, and that’s OK,” Kapoor said of the tower, whose full name is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, after the steel company that stumped up most of the 22.7 million pound ($36.5 million) cost.

“I think it’s awkward,” Kapoor said — considering that a compliment. “It has its elbows sticking out in a way. … It refuses to be an emblem.”

A little awkwardness is to be expected when you ask an artist to design a building. Kapoor, a past winner of art’s prestigious Turner Prize, is known for large-scale installations like “Marsyas” — a giant blood-red PVC membrane that was displayed at London’s Tate Modern in 2002 — and “The Bean,” a 110-ton (100-metric ton) stainless steel sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Even for him, though, the scale of the Orbit is monumental.

He says the structure can only truly be appreciated from inside — something most of the public will not have the chance to do until 2014, when it reopens as the centerpiece of a brand-new park on the site of the 2012 London Olympic Park.

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Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

Not meaning to brag, but here goes. I can say I’m a travel expert and have spoken at multiple travel conferences and trade shows.

I enjoy travelling all over the world but my big passion is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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