In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Record leap from edge of space gives skydiving a lift
When Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner made his four-minute, 24-mile plunge over the New Mexican desert Sunday — the highest and fastest skydive in history — most viewers tagging along virtually were probably thinking, “he’s crazy.”
But for wannabe parachutists, the stunt was one more reason to put jumping out of a perfectly good airplane on their bucket lists.
“Obviously, your first-time skydiver isn’t going to do anything like that,” says Nancy Koreen of the United States Parachute Association (USPA). Most novices start with a tandem jump, which costs $130-$250 and lets students experience freefall from 13,000 feet (about a tenth as high as Baumgartner’s jump) while tethered to an experienced instructor.
But although the F.A.A. requires that any jump from more than 15,000 feet above sea level include on-board oxygen, some skydiving companies tout higher-altitude thrills.
Skydive Santa Barbara claims it offers the “highest tandem jump in the world”: $399 from 18,000 feet, including a minute and a half of freefall. And that’s a mere platform dive compared with Incredible Adventures’ tandem HALO (high altitude, low open) jump. For $3,495 per person, you can leap from 30,000 feet and experience up to two minutes of freefall. (Note: male jumpers “should be clean-shaven so oxygen masks fit snugly.”)
A good safety record notwithstanding,skydiving accidents do happen, of course. An 80-year-old grandmother wound up hanging on for dear life (and becoming a YouTube sensation) last year when she slipped out of her tandem harness.
Suffolk’s “curious county” campaign draws fire
A plan to promote Suffolk as the “curious county” has come in for fierce criticism from local MPs.
The campaign, announced by VisitSuffolk last month, includes a strong social networking element with Twitter users encouraged to use the hashtags #proudtobecurious and #curiouscounty.
However, the idea has met with little support from MPs within the county.
Dr Therese Coffey, the MP for Coastal Suffolk, said: “Curious County does not give a very clear message about Suffolk. It is often used as a euphemism for something that is not quite right.”
The MP for Waveney, Peter Aldous, also expressed reservations, saying, “I don’t really understand the slogan, I’d say it was rather curious in itself,” while David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, was the most openly critical.
“There is nothing curious about what we have to offer,” he said. “This slogan is idiotic and meaningless, if not potentially dangerous for the tourism industry.”
Chris Waters of Condiment, the Ipswich-based communications agency that was behind the idea, defended the initiative, saying it was supposed to show there was more to the county than its traditional attractions.
He told the East Anglia Daily Times: “There is still the fish and chips at Aldeburgh, the wonderful setting of Southwold and all the superb countryside.
“But we wanted to show there is much more to Suffolk – like the arts and cultural festivals that are growing and becoming more important every year.”
48 hours in Rome
In Rome one can still indulge in la dolce vita without breaking the bank, even in times of austerity.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you skip the crowds, dip into daring ice-cream (anyone for pecorino cheese flavor?) and of course, spend evenings in the piazzas watching the world go by, just as the Romans do.
5 p.m. – Rome’s 2,000 year old Pantheon is the perfect place to start. Originally built as a temple to the gods in ancient Roman times, it is one of the city’s oldest and best-preserved landmarks and still used as a church.
6 p.m. – Look no further than the cafes in the square, where you can admire the Pantheon’s glorious facade over an aperitivo.
For a pick-me-up after a long journey, tucked up a side-street, Tazza d’Oro is one of many establishments claiming to serve the best coffee in Rome and you can buy beans there too.
7:30 p.m. – Dinner. You should make it your mission to avoid the ever-expanding number of tourist traps in the city’s historic sites and the area around the Pantheon is no exception.
Make your way through bustling Piazza Navona, stopping to admire Bernini’s dramatic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, to La Montecarlo on Vicolo Savelli 13, where simple but delicious Roman food is still served at a reasonable price.
For those counting the pennies, Il Forno Roscioli on Via dei Giubbonari 21 is deservedly one of the most celebrated “pizza al taglio” spots in town.
Alternatively, pick up one of Aristocampo’s famous panini con porchetta at Campo de’ Fiori and sit on the empty flower market stalls and watch the evening unfold.
Some of the capital’s best nightlife is here — just be prepared for an early start in the morning!
9 a.m. – A true Roman might insist on a lie-in, but with much to see head out early for Cafe de Paris on fancy Via Veneto, where Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” was filmed.
With tragedy worthy of the director, two years ago it was shut down after falling into Mafia hands and police revealed it had become a front to launder money. It now sells wine and other produce grown on lands confiscated from the mob.
High life: Would you spend $200,000 on a plane home?
Most people can’t wait to get off a plane after spending hours cramped in a cattle-class seat.
But Bruce Campbell just can’t get enough of the high life. Bored of bricks and mortar, the 62-year-old US engineer has spent a decade and $US220,000 ($214,000) converting a Boeing 727-200 jet into his dream home.
As he nears the end of his project he’s put a call out for any Australians who want to join him in creating another bigger and better plane home.
“I’m looking for a location and partners for a far more intelligently and elegantly executed Airplane Home v2.0 project,” Mr Campbell said.
“If anyone would like to see a beautiful Airplane Home in their community, they should contact me.”
Mr Campbell bought the plane back in 1999 for $100,000, with additional logistical costs of $114,000. But he says it’s all been worthwhile, as living in the plane full-time is “exhilarating”.
Tucked away in the woods of Oregon, US, the plane has been converted into a bedroom, lounge and office with its rows of seats ripped out.
Mr Campbell cooks his meals in the former cabin-crew kitchen and has also built a shower in the main cabin area. His possessions are stacked up in the cabin.