In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Bad joke prompts Alaska airport evacuation
The main terminal of Anchorage’s largest airport was evacuated Sunday after a man made comments about a bomb, which he later said were meant to be taken as a joke.
Police at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport took the matter seriously and arrested Peter Friesema on charges of making terroristic threats and disorderly conduct. Friesema was jailed at the Anchorage Correctional Complex with bail set at $5,000, airport manager John Parrott said by email.
The incident began shortly after midnight. A man checking in for an Alaska Airlines flight “made a statement about a bomb in a bag,” Parrott told the Anchorage Daily News.
“That caused us and the airlines, the TSA, the airport police, to have to evacuate the building, the terminal,” he said.
Many passengers were not dressed for freezing temperatures on a night that saw snowfall but they were ordered outside the terminal. Some huddled in doorways to keep warm.
After 1 a.m., airport shuttle buses took passengers to another terminal but could only carry a dozen people or so at a time from the hundreds who waited in the cold.
To give people more places to warm up, the rental car center also was opened, and its buses were used to transport passengers, Parrott said.
Hobbit tourism scatters more of Tolkien’s magic across New Zealand
For millions, the Lord of the Rings films turned the country into Middle-earth. As the premiere of a second trilogy approaches, tour operators are ready for another bonanza.
This time last year, New Zealand was under the spell of the Rugby World Cup, with host nation enthusiasm going a long way to realising the organisers’ vision of a “stadium of four million”. In 2012, the big event features hairy feet of a different sort, with the New Zealand-made filmThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening with a world premiere in Wellington, the home town of director Sir Peter Jackson, in six weeks.
A decade after Jackson’s three-film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ringsemerged to critical and popular acclaim, the countdown to The Hobbit – in its film form, also a trilogy – began last week in earnest. In earnest and in fact: Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown unveiled a giant clock, complete with an image of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, counting down the minutes to the 28 November premiere.
The clock sits atop the Embassy Theatre, the handsome 1920s cinema that will host the screening. A bevy of international stars, led, it’s safe to predict, by Freeman, will return to Wellington to walk the red carpet down Courtenay Place. The last time the 500m carpet was unrolled, for the world premiere of The Return of the King in 2003, about 120,000 people came to watch the procession. Organisers expect a similar turnout this time. “It will be a real carnival atmosphere,” promises Wade-Brown.
There is nothing subtle about efforts to piggyback. The national tourism slogan “100% Pure New Zealand” has become “100% Middle-earth”, while in the days leading up to the premiere Wellington will be “renamed”, Wade-Brown announced last week, as “Middle of Middle-earth”.
It would all no doubt bewilder Tolkien, who conjured up his Middle-earth from Oxfordshire in the 1930s, and never travelled as far as New Zealand.
Coming soon to the discerning traveller: the ugly tour
There are two types of beauty spot. Marilyn Monroe had a famous one. The other is the area or view approved by the creaking mechanisms of our culture as “beautiful”. For example: Beachy Head, Long Mynd, Chesil Beach, Wharfedale. In France, maps use an icon suggesting pleasantly pulsating sightlines to indicate their points de vue.
Conventionally, the purpose of travel is to consume beauty, to enjoy pleasing points of view. So, indefatigably contrarian, I have been thinking about ugly spots. Here is a rich source for rumination. Identifying hideous cities is one of journalism’s clichés. Every so often, folk make a list of the places people dislike most. There is rarely much debate. Luton, Corby, Thamesmead, Plymouth Civic Centre, the old Birmingham are routinely stigmatised.
But we have to be cautious about what is and is not beautiful and ugly. Evelyn Waugh wrote a hilarious corrective to sight-seeing consensus:
“I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset; the mountains almost invisible in a blur of pastel grey, glowing on the top and then repeating its shape, as though reflected, in a wisp of grey smoke, with the whole horizon behind radiant in its pink light, fading gently into a grey pastel sky. Nothing I have ever seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting.”
The only certain thing in the history of art is that tastes change. What is admired in one generation is predictably reviled in the next. Michelangelo was once thought coarse, Shakespeare a rustic buffoon.
Revealed: The strangest things left at hotels
Toothbrush? Check. Mobile phone? Check. Snails…? Do’h!
Travellers have left behind some bizarre things in hotel rooms, according to a survey by lastminute.com of 500 hotels around the world.
While many nick the towels, shampoo bottles and bathrobes, other guests forget some of their strangest items.
The snails were left behind in a Budapest hotel room, while $10,000 in cash was found hidden in a US hotel.
Hotel staff in Washington, US, were startled to discover a live snake in a room.
Then there was the man who left his wife behind in Prague, and just as bad: a guest who forgot his mother was with him and left without her.
A dog was left behind by its owner in Milan, a wedding dress was forgotten in New York and a police officer left his gun and badge in a Las Vegas hotel room.