In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Walking (and lots more) in a winter wonderland
Fancy a frosty escape? Leave your skis at home. From festivals to snow-shoeing, ice hotels to sleigh safaris, there’s plenty of excitement away from the pistes this season.
What’s the attraction?
Who needs to strap on skis to enjoy the snow? There are plenty more ways to experience the white stuff, from a night at a hotel made of ice, to mushing huskies through a silvery forest. Alternatives to skiing have been available for years through snowsports and adventure travel companies.
However, according to Amanda Ceraolo, winter activities product manager at tour operator Exodus (0845 287 7606; exodus.co.uk), this year has seen a spike in interest because the Northern Lights are due to give their best show in half a century. “We have seen a 50 per cent increase in mixed-activity holidays to the Arctic Circle,” she says. “But as this spectacle cannot be guaranteed, we make sure there are other activities on offer, too.”
This year many travel companies are chasing the Northern Lights. Regent Holidays (020-7666 1290; regent-holidays.co.uk) has organised an eight-day group tour in Iceland that mixes the major sights with a “Northern Lights Academy”, six nights of lectures and guided trips to hotspots for viewing the phenomena. From £1,245 per person, including flights from Heathrow or Glasgow to Reykjavik, B&B and activities. Back home, Wilderness Scotland (01479 420 020; wildernessscotland.com) is laying on an expert guide for a four-night walking break in the Highlands around Gairloch, which features an evening trek above the tree line to seek out the spectacle. From £595 per person, including B&B and guiding.
St Moritz was once better known for its health-promoting benefits than skiing. The tradition lives on at the resort’s newest spa, just opened at the Kulm Hotel (00 41 81 836 80 00; kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch). Around £8m has been spent on the huge space, which overlooks the Alpine resort’s lake and Engadine Valley. It has indoor and outdoor pools, salt grottos, Finnish sauna, and 13 treatment rooms, where therapists use Swiss products made from local plants. Three nights from £935 per person, based on two sharing, including flights from Heathrow to Zurich, train transfers and B&B, with Elegant Resorts (01244 897331; elegantresorts.co.uk).
Tricks and tips for an easier life on the road
When you’re constantly on the road, you have to learn every trick in the book for saving time, money and your sanity.
And USA TODAY’s Road Warriors, a panel of frequent business travelers who rack up millions of miles a year on the road, have a trove of tips on how to pack smart, stay organized and keep healthy on the road.
One of them, Bob Bender, a data warehouse consultant who lives in Lenexa, Kan., contemplates every step of his trip before he heads out his front door.
“Traveling can be stressful enough,” Bender says. “If you do a little planning ahead of time it really can relieve that stress level and make traveling in today’s environment much easier.”
By thinking through the trip ahead, he says, he knows exactly what to pack, whether to rent a car or take a cab once his flight lands, and even which restaurant he wants to check out.
Bender also makes sure he has the phone numbers of colleagues he is traveling with or meeting, carries two wallets to make sure he has cash if he loses his credit cards, and keeps all his receipts in the same spot.
“(It) does save time when I have to do expenses, but is also has do with stress factors,” Bender says. “Some of my friends that travel a lot will take pictures of their receipts and e-mail them to themselves. I carry a little scanner and scan them in at night. That way you have a paper copy and an electronic copy.”
Pack it right
Packing, of course is key, whether you want to avoid checked luggage fees or to simply make sure you’ve got the right outfit for a presentation in your bags.
British travellers remain lazy linguists
The reputation of Britons as lazy linguists shows no sign of diminishing, with a new poll suggesting that just one in ten of us make any attempt to learn the local language on holiday.
Around five per cent of those surveyed said they will try to learn a few key words, such as “hello”, “please”, “thank you”, “water” and “beer”, while a further five per cent will attempt anything more complex.
The vast majority of Britons said they only spoke their own language abroad because English is so widely spoken outside of the UK, there was “no point” in learning foreign words.
Others said they were “too shy” to attempt a foreign language for fear of pronouncing words incorrectly and embarrassing themselves.
Women were found to be more adventurous than men when it comes to learning a foreign tongue, while Britons are most likely to attempt Greek, Italian, German or Turkish, according to the poll.
“English tourists are renowned the world over for being particularly poor at languages,” said a spokesman for VIDAFX.co.uk, a travel money specialist which carried out the survey of 800 travellers. “While for many holidaymakers there really is no need as such to learn the local language it was good to report that one in 20 tourists tried their best to communicate with locals – regardless of whether they could’ve got by without doing so.”
A recent survey by TripAdvisor found that only 11 per cent of Britons can speak a foreign language fluently, compared to 70 per cent of Germans, half of Italians and French speakers, and 43 per cent of Spaniards.
Naked protesters outraged over San Francisco public nudity ban
San Francisco lawmakers have voted to outlaw most public nudity, despite protests in the famously free and easy California city – including a naked demo outside City Hall.
The city’s Board of Supervisors approved a ban proposed by Scott Wiener; its Castro neighborhood is a gay hub where so-called Naked Guys regularly hang out.
The law was approved by 6 votes in favor to 5 against at an afternoon meeting, at which Wiener said the move was long overdue.
“Free expression in the abstract is really nice… until it comes to your neighbourhood,” Wiener told the meeting. “I guarantee people would not have waited as long as we waited in the Castro.”
A small group of clothed protesters had gathered outside City Hall for the meeting, and within seconds of the law being approved boos went up, and one of the female demonstrators took her clothes off.
Police rapidly moved in with a blanket to take her off. But as they did several other protesters also undressed, some of them entering City Hall, before coming back outside, according to an AFP photographer on the spot.
After a while some five to seven naked protesters put a blanket down and one got out a guitar, playing for passersby on the City Hall steps. One held a placard reading “Nude doesn’t equal lewd.”
Wiener had said before the vote that he expected it to pass, while stressing that nudity would still be allowed on San Francisco’s beaches and at various festivals and parades.