In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Welcome to the world’s first ‘Wikipedia town’
A small Welsh town where English King Henry V was born is about to make history again by becoming the world’s first “Wikipedia town”.
Visitors will be able to use smartphones to scan barcodes at points of interest in Monmouth in Wales’ southeast from Saturday, instantly bringing up a Wikipedia page about the landmark on their phones, in whatever language they are set to.
Wikimedia UK – which works to support, develop and promote Wikimedia Foundation projects such as Wikipedia – says hundreds of articles about the life and history of the town will be available online in more than 26 languages, from Hindi to Hungarian.
About 1000 different bar code plaques and stickers now decorate its schools, museums, historical sites and even pubs.
The project – dubbed “Monmouthpedia” – has been in the works for six months, helped along by the local council’s installation of town-wide free Wi-Fi.
Local residents and businesses have created and edited articles about Monmouth that are linked to the bar codes, while other volunteers have been translating them.
Czech speakers can now learn about Monmouth Castle in their native tongue, while Fijian Hindi speakers can check out articles on the Monmouth Cricket Club, Methodist church or local Kings Head Hotel. Scholars of lesser-known languages such as Esperanto or Latin also have their pick of Monmouth-related articles.
Stevie Benton, Wikimedia UK’s communications organiser, said more than 450 new articles about Monmouth have been added to Wikipedia and nearly 150 existing articles have been improved in the past six months.
He said Monmouth was chosen for its rich cultural history – in addition to Henry V, the town also boasts a 13th-century bridge, the only remaining one of its kind in Britain.
While the project is geared at capturing “every notable place, person, artefact, flora and fauna” in the town, some less-historically notable – but equally welcome – articles have been added, said Benton.
The euro crisis and your holiday cash – the answers you need
It’s a tempestuous time in European politics, with a new president in France and inconclusive elections in Greece.
One effect has been to see the pound strengthen against the euro – a welcome sight for British holidaymakers looking forward to summer.
But what’s the best strategy to manage your holiday finances at a time of such instability in Europe? This Q&A addresses your concerns.
Q. I have booked a holiday in Greece this year, and am a bit nervous now with the talk of leaving the euro. What if this happens before or when I’m actually out there? I usually take euros in cash and my debit card to withdraw cash.
A. I am also looking forward to a holiday in Greece this summer. So I am following political developments in Athens (and Madrid, and Rome …) with interest – but not alarm. I have just bought euros for the trip, to lock in to the best exchange rate since 2008 (though it could improve still further in Sterling’s favour). But because of all the uncertainty in Greece, I took two precautionary steps.
The first was to add an extra €100 to my estimated spending; normally I rely on plastic for emergencies, but were Greece to leave the euro, electronic banking could freeze for up to a week and prevent debit and credit card transactions.
Next, I insisted on €5, €10 and €20 notes. If Greece leaves the euro, the most likely interim currency is the existing euro overprinted with a Greek delta symbol (for “drachma”), or possibly with a corner clipped. The value of the Greek euro would fall by perhaps 40 per cent. While traders sort themselves out, and before a market in the Greek currency begins, tourists are likely to pay in euros but be given change in new money. Pay for a €15 round of drinks with a €50 note, and you could get back change in Greek currency worth only €20. That is why low-denomination notes are so useful.
Move to the uptown beat in New York City’s Harlem borough
There’s something happening up in Harlem. The New York neighbourhood, best known as the heart of African-American culture, has quietly traded crime and grit for impressive doses of style and class. Not that it’s surprising. After all, with row upon row of elegant townhouses and some of Manhattan’s prettiest parks, Harlem has always looked the part. And now as safe as the neighbouring Upper West Side, Harlem is luring a cross-section of New York’s finest. Many are putting down roots and setting up businesses – with a resulting boom in restaurants, bars and boutiques.
There’s also an influx of culture, such as the soon-to-debut Museum for African Art, which is set in a striking Robert A M Stern-designed structure. And while glass-and-steel apartment towers now fill Harlem’s skyline, those brownstones remain as regal as ever. With jazz and blues still flowing from corner jam-spots and having- without doubt – Manhattan’s most diverse population, Harlem continues to prove there’s far more to Uptown than just Central Park. And linked to the rest of Manhattan by nearly half a dozen subway lines, Harlem is a world away from the Midtown madness but barely 20 minutes from Times Square.
A comfortable bed
When it opened two winters ago, the 124-room Aloft (www.alofthotels.com; 00 1 212 749 4000) was the first hotel to arrive in Harlem in almost 45 years, and the first local outpost of Starwood’s new “affordable” boutique brand. With its David Rockwell-designed interiors, the Aloft delivers Midtown style – flatscreen TVs, comfy desks, Bliss bath products – at budget-friendly prices. With its regular jazz and funk sessions, the hotel’s w, x, y, z bar brings some welcome contemporary cool to this still up-and-coming Harlem corner. And located close to West Harlem’s Morningside Park, the Aloft offers easy access to both Columbia University and Central Park. Double rooms cost from US$149 (Dh550) per night.
Spectacular delay: Berlin airport opening slides to 2013
Berlin had envisioned a spectacular June opening for the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. Now, however, it looks like the opening of the city’s ballyhooed airport may most be remembered for a spectacular – and embarrassing – delay.
The airport had been set to open on June 3, but the debut was scratched at the last minute because of unresolved fire safety and prevention issues, according to The Associated Press. Officials acknowledged embarrassment, saying they hoped to bring the airport online in August. But that hasn’t held up either.
The airport now will not open until March 2013, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit told German media today. He said the airport’s board now expects a March 17 opening.
Matthias Platzeck, the governor of the Brandenburg state that is home to the new airport, called the development a “dramatic and unpleasant situation” and says it has damaged the region’s reputation.
As for the new March 17 opening date, Platzeck says that still must be agreed upon by the major airlines that will fly from the new facility.
That will likely hinge on Lufthansa and Air Berlin, Germany’s two biggest carriers. Each carrier had announced a significant schedule expansion in Berlin that was to coincide with the opening of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
The delay now puts both carriers in difficult spots. They’ve each said they will not roll back their expanded flight schedules, in part because they’ve already promoted and sold tickets on those schedules.
However, the delay of the new airport means Lufthansa and Air Berlin will have to find a way to operate those expanded schedules from Berlin’s existing-but-smaller Tegel airport. Both the Tegel and Berlin Schönefeld airports were to be shut down and replaced by the new airport.