Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 17.04.2012

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

Why are we still so fascinated with the Titanic?

LA Times

It could be the blockbuster film, the human angle or technology’s limits. Nowhere does it resonate more than in Halifax, Canada, where some of the victims are buried.

Simple, says the gravedigger. It’s about the movie.

No, says the academic. It’s about the money.

Absolutely not, says the model-ship builder. It’s about people.

This is what happens when you ask why the sinking of the Titanic continues to fascinate us. The question has a special resonance in Halifax, a rainy, foggy port and capital of Nova Scotia that inherited perhaps the nastiest of all Titanic tasks. It was the seamen of Halifax, nearest major port to the sinking, who were sent out to collect corpses and wreckage in the days after the Titanic went down on April 15, 1912. Putting to sea with cargoes of ice, coffins and embalming fluid, they collected more than 300 bodies, buried many of them at sea, sent about 50 for burial elsewhere and buried the rest here.

“I can remember before that movie come out, there wasn’t very many people coming to visit the burial sites,” said John Rooke, a gravedigger and longtime Haligonian, as residents of Halifax are known. (“That movie,” of course, is James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster.) As he spoke, a hard rain pounded the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where 121 Titanic victims are buried.

People come here to see the rows of markers all with the same date of death: April 15, 1912. And the curious have other places to explore as well.

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Long queues as Eiffel Tower lifts out of order

Eiffel Tower visitors face longer queues than usual to ride to the top, as two of its three public elevators are out of order during the busy spring season, the tower’s operating company said.

One elevator fell unexpectedly — with no one inside — during a routine inspection, while another has been under renovation for two years, reducing capacity in the normally high-traffic Easter period and deterring visitors.

“It’s difficult to gauge,” said the tower’s managing director Nicolas Lefebvre in an interview with AFP, but estimated they were seeing 20,000 tourists per day in a holiday period that normally has 25,000.

Those determined to reach the top are having to wait at least a half hour longer than usual, which on a cold and drizzly Wednesday evening did not sit well with some.

“It’s too bad it wasn’t better organised,” said Berta Bourdon, 64, who lives in Paris and had taken her visiting nine-year-old granddaughter to the tower without knowing about the longer lines.

“I wouldn’t have come if I’d known,” she said. “You can do a lot of things in two hours instead of waiting in the cold.”

Having already waited for 40 minutes, granddaughter Mia from Berlin passed the time munching on French fries and clambering the crowd-control barriers, while Bourdon made friends.

“I’ve been chatting with those behind and in front and with the little one,” she said.

The two idle elevators are in the tower’s west and north legs — on the side closest to the Seine river — while one on the south is reserved for customers at the tower’s Jules Verne restaurant, leaving just the east.

Lefebvre expects the routine inspections on the north elevator to finish at the end of April but adds that it may remain closed for longer if inspectors find renovations are needed.

In the meantime, tourists have to contend with a queue that on Wednesday snaked the length of the square beneath the tower — or take the stairs, which one mother-daughter duo visiting from California declared “too hard”.

“It’s a bummer to wait, but it should be worth it,” said student Ida Zirakazadeh, 15, who was in Paris for the first time.

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Algeria to develop tourism to diversify economy-minister

Reuters Africa

Algeria plans to boost investment in the tourism sector with the aim of attracting some 3.5 million tourists per year starting in 2015, the tourism minister said on Monday, in an effort to move its economy away from reliance on oil and gas.

Though the North African country boasts unspoiled mountains, a long Mediterranean coastline and spectacular deserts, foreign visitors did not exceed 2 million last year, according to the minister. Many were put off by a civil conflict that raged through the 1990s, fear of attacks by Islamist extremist groups, a lack of tourism infrastructure and bureaucratic visa rules.

“The Algerian authorities have ambitious plans to launch the tourism sector, aiming to raise the accommodation capacity from 90,000 beds to 160,000 beds in three years,” Tourism Minister Smail Mimoune told Reuters.

Speaking on the sidelines of a regional tourism conference on the Tunisian island of Djerba, Mimoune said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Algerian-based North African franchise of al Qaeda, did not pose a threat to those plans.

“We aim to receive 3.5 million tourists (per year) in three years and hope that income from the sector rises to $600 million in the same period,” he said.

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Italian museum starts burning artworks in protest

An Italian museum has begun burning its collection of contemporary artworks in a singular protest against harsh budget cuts that have left many cultural institutions out of pocket.

The Casoria Contemporary Art Museum near Naples held a bonfire in its grounds for the first torching of a painting by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who was in favour of the protest and followed it on Skype.

“Our 1000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the indifference of the government,” Museum director Antonio Manfredi said.

He plans to burn three art works a week in an initiative dubbed “Art War”.

Manfredi last year announced he had written a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for asylum, saying he was fed up with mafia threats and the government’s failure to protect Italy’s rich cultural heritage.

He said he would take his entire museum with him if the asylum was granted.

Manfredi never received a reply from German authorities but the famous Tacheles squat in Berlin offered “artistic asylum” to the museum and hosted an exhibition in May 2011 of some of the museum’s works against the mafia.

“If a government allows Pompeii to fall then what hope does my museum have,” Manfredi said, following a number of incidents at the world-famous ancient Roman city buried by a volcanic explosion in 79 AD.

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