Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 15.02.2012

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

‘Black-hole’ resorts: Turn up, tune out, log off

The Independent

‘Black-hole’ resorts where mobiles are banned and the internet is anathema are set to be huge this year.

There you are basking on a sun lounger beneath an azure sky, just the sound of the lapping sea and a cold beer for company when the heart-sinking rumble of your BlackBerry signals another joyless missive from the world of problems. The idyll shattered you trudge back to the hotel where the giant plasma screen in the lobby updates you on the latest global disaster or the plummeting stock market.

Defeated, you return to your room, flick on British satellite television and fire up the laptop. You may as well be at home.

It is a scenario all too familiar to the modern traveller. There was a time when we went away to get away. You don’t have to be too much of an ageing hippy to recall the small thrills of the pre-travel blog world when finding a handwritten letter or postcard waiting at some far-flung post restante felt like being contacted from outer space.

Now of course, wherever you go your friends, family and boss come too, instantly, courtesy of digital technology. But things could be about to change.

A recent article in The New York Times by influential travel writer Pico Iyer entitled “The Joy of Quiet” identified a growing desire to silence the incessant babble of the information age.

“In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them …. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug,” he observed.

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Mobster museum opens in Las Vegas

The Guardian

City celebrates gangster roots with collection of murder weapons – and bullet-riddled wall from St Valentine’s Day massacre.

In one room, a ghastly wall of bloody, uncensored photos showcases the mob’s greatest hits. In another, visitors are taught to load a revolver. And for when a gun just won’t do, an oddball collection of household items – a shovel, a hammer, a baseball bat and an icepick – show the creative side of some of America’s most notorious killers.

On the 83rd anniversary of the St Valentine’s Day massacre, Las Vegas honoured one of its earliest relationships with the opening of a museum dedicated to the mobsters that made the desert city. There are tommy guns, money stacks and a bullet-riddled brick wall from the 1929 massacre that saw Al Capone seize control of the Chicago mob.

Las Vegas has long been enamoured with its gangster roots. Its long-time former mayor played himself in the mob flick Casino, and hotels often promote their nefarious origins. But the publicly funded, $42m Mob Museum represents a new level in Sin City’s lawlessness devotion. Even the local FBI agents are in on it.

“We wanted to make sure the truth came out,” said Ellen Knowlton, a former special agent in Las Vegas brought on board to legitimise the downtown attraction.

It’s the second mob-themed attraction to open in Las Vegas in the past year. The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino on the Las Vegas Strip quickly shut down because of slow ticket sales and other problems. It is scheduled to reopen later this year under the name Mob Attraction Las Vegas.

City officials say their version will perform better because it’s an authentic examination of what made Las Vegas an international symbol of debauchery and excess. The museum is housed in a former Depression-era federal courthouse where the seventh of 14 US Senate hearings on organised crime was held in the early 1950s. The trials, watched by 30 million people, introduced the mob to most Americans.

But critics argue the government-backed attraction is a waste of tax dollars at a time when Nevada tops the nation in foreclosures and unemployment.

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Air passenger forced to check hand luggage is robbed of £100,000 in jewellery

The Telegraph

Wealthy Rita Lamberg, who told airport staff she was carrying £100,000-worth of jewellery in her hand luggage was robbed of the stones after being ordered to put her bag in the hold.

Ms Lamberg, 69, a part-time poker player, was stopped at the boarding gate at New York’s JFK airport and warned that her handbag was too large to carry on with her on her flight.

She persuaded security staff to let her take the bag on board by explaining that it contained jewellery worth $160,000 (£101,000), and that she did not want to let it out of her sight on her journey to Las Vegas via Pheonix, Arizona.

Gate staff allowed her to board the US Airways plane, but before take-off an airline worker approached her and ordered her to hand over the bag so it could be stowed in the hold.

When Mrs Lamberg and her boyfriend landed in Phoenix, where they were due to change planes for Las Vegas, they collected the bag from the luggage carousel – but it appeared to have been ransacked.

Jewellery including a ladies’ diamond-encrusted Rolex watch worth $40,000 (£25,000), a 6-carat diamond ring set in white gold worth $60,000 (£38,000), and a $25,000 (£16,000) diamond ring with blue sapphires, were all missing.

Mrs Lamberg, a psychotherapist from Long Island, New York, who had been traveling to take part in a poker tournament, has offered a $10,000 (£6,400) reward for the recovery of her jewelry.

She admitted that tipping airport staff off to the contents of her bag may not have been wise.

“I told the gate attendant: ‘Listen to me, I have more than $100,000 worth of jewellery here,'” she said.

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Whitney Houston’s death site added to Hollywood tour itinerary

LA Times

Monday afternoon, not quite 48 hours after the discovery of her lifeless body in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel, Whitney Houston and her death site were added to the tour-bus itinerary of Dearly Departed, the Tragical History Tour.

“We didn’t add it yesterday because there was a lot of madness at the hotel,” said Scott Michaels, owner and founder of 7-year-old Dearly Departed. “But this is what we do. And it’s not far off our current route.”

Michaels said the hotel, at 9876 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, “is not far from Bugsy Siegel’s place. And Ronni Chasen was right there too.”

Siegel, a notorious gangster, was shot to death June 20, 1947, while reading the Los Angeles Times on a couch in the home at 810 Linden Drive, Beverly Hills.

Ronni Chasen, a veteran Hollywood publicist, was shot to death early Nov. 16, 2010, while driving near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

The Dearly Departed tour, a 2½-hour narrated bus ride that usually costs $40 per adult, was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the Hollywood & Highland center in Hollywood. There were six guests booked on the 13-seat bus, which was expected to pass the hotel without stopping at around 2:30 p.m., Michaels said.

The company runs one to five tours daily, depending on the demand, and blustery weather usually hurts business, Michaels noted.

Making the addition is simple, Michaels said: “We’ll be turning onto Wilshire Boulevard and the hotel will be on the left.” Guide Richard Sebastian was expected to give the facts of Houston’s death, noting some of the questions that remain unanswered, like the toxicology report.