In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Nearly one in five cruise holiday customers cannot swim
Nearly one in five cruise holiday customers cannot swim, according to a survey.
Most of the non-swimmers do not think being able to keep their heads above water is important, the poll by bonvoyage.co.uk found.
Of those attaching no importance to swimming ability, most are unconcerned as they know lifejackets are available, with 52% of the non-swimmers saying they feel “completely safe” even when surrounded by water.
A total of 1,562 tourists who had taken a cruise holiday were surveyed, with 19% saying they cannot swim.
A third would happily learn to swim if it became a requirement of a cruise holiday, while 24% would refuse to learn.
A total of 11% had taken the plunge and learned to swim, simply because they were taking a cruise.
Bonvoyage.co.uk cruise development manager Stephanie Curtin said: “It was quite surprising to find out that some people who go on cruise holidays don’t actually know how to swim.
Admiralty Arch to open to public for first time as luxury hotel
Admiralty Arch will be transformed into a luxury hotel and restaurant with views over Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, after the iconic gateway was sold to Spanish developers for £60 million.
The majestic arch, built in 1912 as a memorial to Queen Victoria, will be open to the public for the first time ever, after decades languishing as an office block for civil servants.
After a competition among private bidders, ministers will today announce the new owners as Prime Investors Capital, run by Spanish developer Rafael Serrano.
Ministers have sold 80,000 square foot space on a 99-year leasehold on the condition the arch and its interior will be restored to its original glory based on the designs of its architect, Sir Aston Webb.
Under Government control, the Grade One-listed building lost much of its grandeur, while the office space was considered too shabby for civil servants to remain there.
The new owners have also had to show they can deal with the security requirements of keeping a building nestled in the heart of Whitehall and so close to Buckingham Palace safe from terrorism.
Having signed deal, they will now seek planning permission to turn the building into a hotel with 100 rooms, with a panoramic restaurant and bar at the top.
The new owners hope to attract more than 50,000 guests a year to the hotel and more than 50,000 visitors for the views.
Ministers decided the building could be better used as a tourist destination last year, though it had hoped to raise at least £75 million from the sale.
However, sources said they would not necessarily sell to the highest bidder, as they were keen to have a sensitive and secure re-development of the site.
The block had been empty since Cabinet Office officials moved into the Treasury and was costing about £900,000 a year to run.
Francis Maude, a Cabinet Office minister, said he hope the new owners would “bring the arch back to life”.
48 hours in Riga, Latvia
A city of the medieval Hanseatic league of trading nations with a mix of Latvian, Germanic and Russian cultures, Riga has a rich 800-year history and a vibrant modern buzz.
A trip to the Latvian capital is an opportunity to see world class art nouveau buildings, join trendy locals in top eateries and take a trip down the memory lane of Soviet history.
After arriving, you have a choice of several good hotels, from the top end Neiburgs Hotel favorite of German tourists or the Grand Hotel in the medieval Old Town, the boutique Hotel Bergs in the newer center, which has hosted celebrities such as Lady Gaga, or bigger chain hotels like the Radisson Blue Hotel Latvija.
Riga is split into two central parts favored by tourists – the historic Old Town near the river, and the newer center, which includes the Art Nouveau district, as well as the main shopping streets.
5 p.m. – The first excursion is to the Old Town, starting from the square at the top end of the area nearest to the river Daugava. Here you will see a statue of French medieval epic hero Roland, who was a symbol of justice in northern German towns and which the German-dominated Riga burghers decided to erect in 1897.
Roland, along with several other buildings, was destroyed during World War Two and the city council has gone to great lengths and expense to try to re-create the pre-war feel.
The statue, City Hall and the House of the Blackheads, a guild house for unmarried German merchants when the Baltics were dominated by a German-speaking elite and ruled by the tsars in St. Petersburg, have all been restored. Today the House of the Blackheads is the temporary office of the Latvian president as Riga Castle undergoes reconstruction.
Take a leisurely walk around the Old Town, savoring more than 800 years of history that has been influenced by Riga’s former German, Swedish and Russian overlords. Riga has been back in the hands of the Latvians themselves since independence was regained from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
Of particular note are Cathedral Square (Doma Laukums), with the Dom cathedral on one side, the building housing Latvian Public Radio on the other. Another corner features a newly restored old bourse building that now houses a contemporary art museum.
From here, take any of the streets and let your feet guide you – you will see tiny, cobbled streets, little squares, many with small bars or restaurants, several old churches and Riga Castle. In the days when Latvia was ruled by the tsars, Riga Castle was the residence of the Russian governor.
Revealed: Where to find the world’s best coffee
Where can you find the best coffee fix while on the road?
Well, you could sip on a rich, black coffee in Turkey, or head to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to indulge in some of the tastiest and priciest brews in the world.
Or you could just make a short trip down to Melbourne to experience what the “coffee capital of Australia” has to offer.
These are the ultimate cities for coffee-lovers, according to US website Huffington Post.
Turkey’s Tea (cay) – a rich, black coffee, has been an inspiration to other coffee-loving cities around the world. The coffee beans are roasted and ground into a fine meal before being boiled with water and often sugar in a cezve (pot). The grounds are left to settle in the glass before being served in a small tulip-shaped glass.
Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
This stunning city is home to the world’s tastiest – and most expensive – brews. it has the ideal climate for the Kona coffee crop, with its volcanic soil and gently fluctuating weather conditions. It’s packed full of coffee farms, with many travellers “tasting” their way around the island. According to one traveller: “The farther off the beaten path you go, the better the coffee you’ll find.”
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Where better to visit for a coffee hit than Addis Ababa, known as “the birthplace of coffee”? Experiencing a coffee ceremony is a must. Ethiopians invite some lucky guests into their homes for one of the lengthy rituals, which involved the roasting, grinding and brewing of the beans in a clay pot. Sugar, or sometimes salt, is added to the coffee.
While some travellers love to moan about the quality of coffee in Paris, there are some great cafes around, such as La Caféothèque. Paris also offers a magical atmosphere like no other city, with its open-air seating, cozy tables and aromatic espresso shots.