In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
London voted world’s top tourist destination
Travellers have named London – soon to host the Olympics – as the world’s best destination.
The UK capital was number one in the world, in Europe and in the UK in a survey of world travellers by the TripAdvisor company.
In the world list, New York was second, Rome third and Paris fourth.
Rome was second and Paris third in the best European destination list, with Dublin in ninth place and Edinburgh 13th.
In the list of best UK destinations, Edinburgh was second, Liverpool third and Torquay in Devon fourth.
TripAdvisor spokeswoman Emma Shaw said: “To be crowned the world’s best destination in the Olympic year by millions of travellers is a tremendous honour for London.
“It’s fantastic to see the capital recognised and rewarded by those that have really experienced the city – travellers themselves.”
Gordon Innes, chief executive of tourism organisation London & Partners, said: “This accolade couldn’t be better timed for the capital in this momentous year and we are delighted.
“It is a testament to the wonderful array of attractions, dining and accommodation that set London apart from all of these other destinations.”
Passengers sue over ‘cruise from hell’
It was a Christmas cruise that promised a “touch of luxury” and “devilishly delicious cuisine”.
But for many the reality was dirty cabins, filthy swimming pools and food so bad it left them ill with gastroenteritis, it has been claimed
A group of holidaymakers are suing the travel company Thomson for thousands of pounds after they claim the week-long trip on the liner Celebration turned into a “holiday from hell”.
They are claiming damages after alleging that their cabins were smelly, the food and drink was terrible and the dining rooms and decks were infested with insects and birds. The passengers, who paid £1,000 each, also claim that the children’s swimming pool was contaminated with human waste.
The Thomson Celebration, which has three restaurants, five bars and two swimming pools, had left Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt on Dec 23, 2010, and returned a week later, after visiting Aqaba in Jordan, as well as Port Sokhna and Safaga, also in Egypt.
The group of nine passengers claim they became ill after the swimming pool became contaminated with faeces, birds landed on outside tables, insects were present in the dining rooms and bars, and food and drink that was unsafe for consumption was served. They said that when they complained, they found staff unhelpful, and their complaints were not properly investigated.
The group allege their bedrooms smelled unpleasant, bathrooms had discoloured water and were dirty, and staff handling food failed to wear clean clothes and gloves. Food was not served at the correct temperature, fresh food was mixed with leftovers, meat was not cooked properly and diners were given jugs containing murky coloured water, it is alleged.
The 33,930-ton cruise liner can carry 1,254 passengers in 627 cabins, with a staff of 520. Thomson Holidays did not take adequate steps to limit the spread of illness on the ship, court papers say.
Jason Kerr, his wife Kelly and their daughter Saffron, were all struck down by illness on Christmas Day 2010.
Scientists learn how to reset body clocks
Shift workers and international travellers could in future receive treatment to reset their disrupted body clocks to improve their health.
Scientists are working towards developing drugs that target two genes that have recently been found to play a crucial role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythms.
Chris Liddle, an Australian scientist involved in the international study, says the discovery highlights the importance of the genes in the liver to regulate digestion at appropriate times.
Professor Liddle, from the University of Sydney’s Westmead Millennium Institute, said people with circadian disturbances, such as shift workers, tend to have higher incidences of obesity and diabetes.
He said these conditions were not necessarily caused just by poor diets, but also by the disruption of the body clock and sleep cycle.
When the two are thrown out of sync, the body may not be ready to absorb nutrition.
“You might come home from work and have your dinner at a time when the body clock has not set your liver up to process that nutrition,” Prof Liddle told AAP.
He said a disrupted body clock could take days or weeks to reset.
The study found that when particular receptors in the liver were removed, the body clock does not function properly.
“Clearly these receptors are very important in setting the liver up in the right part of the clock cycle to accept and process nutrition and to regulate digestion,” Prof Liddle said.
Sumo: martial art or fight in a pub doorway?
To some people Japan’s national sport looks like a scrap between two men in nappies. Would a live sumo tournament in Tokyo change Charlie Brooker’s mind?
The Japanese have successfully enthralled Westerners by exporting all manner of popular distractions – karaoke, manga, Super Mario Land, karate – but sumo wrestling remains, squatting stubbornly in its birthplace, refusing to leave. Valiant attempts have been made to popularise the sport outside Japan, but to little avail.
James Bond pops into a sumo stadium in You Only Live Twice, but predictably only spends a few seconds watching the action before his attention span’s dick squirms toward a beautiful female spy situated nearby. In the 1990s, Channel 4 optimistically dangled televised sumo tournaments in front of its audience, like a waiter making a cheery-yet-doomed attempt to interest a diner in the kangaroo-and-lemon pie instead of cod and chips. It didn’t catch on.
The problem is this: to a Westerner, sumo looks inherently silly. Fat men in nappies: that’s our gut reaction. Skim a languid eye over it and it scarcely resembles a sport at all. At first glance it’s an excuse to show off the participants’ bodies, with particular emphasis on the buttocks – a bit like beach volleyball with diabetic coach drivers. At second glance, all that pushing and shoving looks less like a martial art and more like a fight in a pub doorway. There is, of course, rather more to it than that, but you have to sit down and pay attention for some time before you unlock it.
Despite a string of recent match-fixing scandals denting its popularity, sumo remains Japan’s national sport, so when visiting Tokyo during one of the professional sumo tournaments, it would be churlish not to at least try to get a seat. The national stadium, or Kokugikan, is situated in the Ryogoku district: you can’t miss it during a tournament thanks to the hundreds of brightly coloured nobori flags outside.
During a tournament, the various bouts and interspersed ceremonies go on all day, and if you’re a tourist rather than a committed sumo fan, things only really get interesting in the final few hours, so plan your day accordingly.
Our seats were located up in the gods, which meant upon entering I was treated to an impressive view of the entire arena. Being largely allergic to sport of any kind, it’s easy for me to forget just how popular it is, and since I have only been to a few live sporting events in my life, I’m always surprised and impressed by their sheer scale.
The sumo tournament was no exception to the rule – I had to catch my breath as I walked in – but the surrounding air of ancient ritual gave it an additional unreal tinge. The combination of crowds, costumes and ceremony made it feel like a cross between a cricket ground, a theatre, and a cathedral.
I was determined to try to enjoy the sport itself. But first I had to get to my seat. I figured I would saunter in suavely, like James Bond had. But there were three crucial differences between me and James Bond. Firstly, he was visiting a different stadium (the current one opened in 1985). Second, Bond arrived during the summer, so he didn’t walk in wearing an absurdly huge parka coat that rendered him slightly less manoeuvrable than a dead hovercraft.