In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Message in a bottle travels from England to Australia
A little girl on holidays threw a message in a bottle into the sea.
When the bottle left her hands at the end Bournemouth Pier in southern England, she hoped it would reach her aunt who lives on the island of Gernsey in the middle of the English channel.
Days, then weeks, then months went past and Jasmine Hudson heard nothing. She thought the bottle must have been eaten by a shark.
And then one day a letter arrived in her post box. It came from Largs Bay in South Australia. After five months at sea the message in a bottle had finally hit land. It had travelled more than 16,000 kilometres. It was picked up by Barbara Richards as she walked along the beach collecting shells with her brother.
She took the bottle home and jumped onto Google. After confirming that the address in the bottle was indeed real, Barbara wrote Jasmine this message.
“Dear Jasmine, As fate would have it we have been introduced to each other by your message in a bottle, Bournemouth Pier looks very interesting. I searched online on the computer to find out what I could, yes the pier exists and yes your address was there too. Your message in a bottle took five months to float up on Largs Bay Beach in South Australia. My name is Barbara. My brother Colin and I were walking along the beach for some exercise collecting shells and reminiscing about our childhood when I saw your little bottle. I scooped it up and we drove home with it where we opened it. I must share with you that I was so excited to find a message in a bottle.
Four seasons fun in Ellicottville, N.Y
Ski destinations often struggle to keep visitors coming when the white stuff isn’t around. Ellicottville, N.Y., is no exception, but they may have found the perfect formula for making sure the fun times never stop at this picturesque resort town.
Just three hours south of Toronto by car, the road to Ellicottville is a scenic drive through upper New York State. The last stretch along US 219 South can be particularly breathtaking with the fall colours blazing on both sides of you.
As you approach the Village of Ellicottville, you’re likely to notice a buzz in the air. Festivals of all kinds are always livening up the streets around the boutique shops and trendy cafes that are open year-round. On Oct. 6-7, the village’s oldest and largest street party takes over the downtown as the annual Fall Festival kicks off a lively weekend of unique foods, art and crafts, carnival rides, live entertainment and more.
Other notable events on the go this fall include the 9th-annual Beer and Wine Festival at nearby Holiday Valley resort on Nov. 10. And on Nov. 13, Ellicottville serves up the holidays a month early with a day-long celebration of Christmas that turns the downtown into an idyllic scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
But if fall colours, beer and Father Christmas aren’t your scene, you can always head up the ski hills for some off-season extreme fun. The Sky High Adventure Park at Holiday Valley ski resort makes good use of the area’s natural terrain with 1.6-hectares of zip lines, challenging wood bridges and rope courses. The entire course is suspended from the majestic trees that line the ski hills and anyone from age seven and up can join in the fun.
Safety harnesses keep everyone from a precipitous fall, and there are courses rated for beginners right up to expert. And as adventurers soon find out, it’s not strength or agility, but balance and nerves of steel that will get you to from Point A to Point B the quickest. The cost per person is $45 for three hours of tree top challenges (kids and adults pay the same).
Along with the aerial park, Holiday Valley also features a Mountain Coaster that offers a thrilling ride down a twisting and turning track from the top of the Spruce Lake chairlift. Up to two people can ride in each coaster car and you can adjust the speed of your descent with levers on both sides of the car. Children must be at least three-years-old and 36-inches-tall to ride with an adult, or eight-years-old and 42-inches-tall to ride alone.
The coaster costs $8 for a single ride but you can save some money by buying all-day passes or combo deals for the Sky High Adventure Park and Mountain Coaster. The aerial park closes Oct. 8 but the coaster runs through the ski season as well.
My Kind of Place: Cafe culture now rules Belgrade
Serbia’s capital has been steadily building up a buzz as one of Eastern Europe’s liveliest cities. It has certainly had a turbulent history over the past 7,000 years – not forgetting its most recent troubles in the 1990s – but it’s always been able to bounce back. While its position at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers made it a target for invaders in the centuries past, nowadays those two waterways draw visitors to the energetic nightlife found in the 200-odd floating restaurants and bars known as plavovi.
Cafe culture rules in the old town, Stari Grad, where tables are wedged into most available spaces in the handsome squares and 19th-century boulevards. A stroll past the shops and cafes of pedestrianised Knez Mihailova will lead you eventually to Belgrade’s heart, the stately fortress of Kalemegdan overlooking the two rivers. Here, beautifully landscaped gardens surround ancient Roman ruins, Ottoman forts and Austrian gates, as well as museums, restaurants and a zoo.
Across the Sava is the attractive suburb of Zemun with its distinctively western architecture that befits this former outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cobbled streets, galleries and small cafes fill the centre where the daily food market takes place, and its animated riverside scene makes you feel as if you’ve landed in a seaside resort.
A comfortable bed
Smart boutique and design hotels have been replacing the less salubrious stalwarts of the communist era. Belgrade’s first boutique hotel, the four-star Beograd Art Hotel (www.belgradearthotel.com), has sleek, modern interiors and is in the heart of the city in Knez Mihailova. Doubles start at 16,248 Serbian dinars (Dh634). Recently renovated Le Petit Piaf (petitpiaf.com) is in the historic district of Skadarlija, where 19th-century writers, poets and musicians turned the pretty cobbled streets into a spirited bohemian quarter. Contemporary doubles start at €84 (Dh380).
New ‘ostrich pillow’ offers respite from jet lag
A company claims to have found the ideal product to help travellers counter the ill effects of jet lag and long-haul flights.
The Ostrich Pillow is a new portable device that its inventors say will “enable power naps anytime, anywhere,” including in airport lounges and on planes.
Stuffed with synthetic material – “for maximum performance and lightness”, according to its inventors – the distinctive-looking pillow has a hole in which to put your head, and a mouth hole designed to allow its wearer to breath easily. It also has two side holes where you can store your hands – if napping at a table in a library, for example.
The concept was developed by Kawamura-Ganjavian, an architecture and design studio with offices in Madrid and Lausanne.
Among other products, the company has also been responsible for developing the “ear shell” (a “sound enhancing device” that is attached to the ear), and a solar plug for charging portable computers.
The Ostrich Pillow has been described on the technology web site CNET as like “a giant garden squash gone soft”, while another reviewer for the Digital Trends website wrote: “We can only wonder how the pillow holds up on sweat and heat retention”.
Its creators argue that it genuinely works, saying: “We have tried it in airports, trains, aeroplanes, libraries, at the office, on a sofa and even on the floor and it’s really wonderful.”