In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Journey to the end of the Earth
Cape Horn has claimed countless lives over the centuries, but the beauty of this furthest tip of South America still captivates, says Chris Leadbeater.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel cold. The morning is chill, miserly, and the wind is drawing spray off the waves, holding it in wet hands and flinging it into faces. I am half asleep too – wrenched from my bed at an hour when the sun has not yet left his.
I also feel a sense of distance, and of awe.
The former stems from the knowledge that I am far from home, unhitched at the extreme edge of a continent. The latter comes mingled with disbelief. As it should. Awe and disbelief are the appropriate responses to standing on Cape Horn.
The southern tip of South America is several things: a rocky heap tinged with myths and legends; a sodden junction where the Pacific and Atlantic meet; a nautical graveyard that has cast a shadow on the map since it was espied by the Spanish explorer Francisco de Hoces in 1525. “Rounding the Horn” would be adopted as a way of sailing from Europe to the Far East, but the risks inherent in the route were many. The Cape’s hard teeth mark the top of the Drake Passage, the sea corridor that ebbs 500 miles to Antarctica – an enclave of icebergs and stormy evil that has claimed countless wrecks.
This dead zone bears the name of Francis Drake – the great English mariner who was blown into its grip in 1578. He reputedly pulled to land at Cape Horn, and described it as “the southernmost place on Earth”. In terms of the inhabited world, he was right – perched at a latitude of 55°S, it protrudes far further south than Cape Agulhas, the lowest point of Africa (which sits at just 34°S). But he might just as easily have said: “Here be dragons.”
Glasgow sub-crawl: a pub crawl via the city’s underground
Doing Glasgow’s sub-crawl means a pint near all 15 of the city’s metro stations. Our writer’s cut-down version visits just nine. What a lightweight!
When I was 18, I took a gap year before starting university in Glasgow. I spent most of it at a high school in Wisconsin. One day in English class, we were briefly covering synonyms when the teacher asked me what words the Scots have for being drunk. “More than the Inuit have for snow,” I said before starting a list: blootered, pished, steamin’, reekin’, mingin’, gassed, jaiked, fu’, bevvied …”
It’s possible to be all of those things and more when completing Glasgow’s (in)famous sub-crawl, a mightily booze-sodden tour of the city via its subway. Participants buy an all-day Discovery ticket (£3.80) for the world’s third-oldest underground system (London is oldest, then Budapest) and get off for a drink at the nearest pub to all 15 stations on the six-and-a-half-mile circuit. By anyone’s standards, it is a stern test of constitution, and often used as a coming-of-age ceremony for graduating students.
As these days the very idea of 15 pints makes me nauseous, and because some of the stops simply aren’t worth visiting, I recently opted for a truncated version of this Glasgow institution.
It’s wise to approach these things as a team, so I recruited prodigious drinker and fellow writer Graeme Virtue. Getting on the train at Kelvinbridge, we decided to skip St George’s Cross and start in earnest at Cowcaddens with the newly opened Jackson’s Bar (95-97 Cambridge Street). It may be a little out of the way for people in the city centre, but it’s just round the corner from the Cowcaddens station and so was perfect for our needs. Jackson’s is large, new and, with sports screens and American-sized bar meals, an altogether modern, somewhat characterless place.
Hotel offers free rooms for couples named Mary and Joseph
The Travelodge hotel chain is offering free rooms to couples named Mary and Joseph, which they say is to make up for the hotel industry “not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve … over 2,000 years ago.”
The hotel chain says a family room will be available in any one of its 500 British hotels from Christmas Eve until the Twelfth Day of Christmas (Saturday, January 5), as well as a free parking space, “provided for the couple’s donkey”.
It has become something of a Christmas tradition for the hotel chain, which has made a similar offer for five previous years.
Shakila Ahmed of Travelodge said the company had been receiving emails since August, wondering if the same offer would be available this year.
She said an average of 30 couples called Mary and Joseph had taken the hotel up on the offer in previous years.
Hotels are increasingly using name-based offers for publicity purposes. In the run-up to the Diamond Jubilee earlier this year, there was a raft of discounts and free glasses of champagne for people with a royal name.
The 13 worst tourism traps in the world
It happens to most people at some point in their travels.
You arrive at the most-hyped part of your trip, take a photo, look around, and are struck with the thought: “Is that it?”.
While some of the most popular tourist attractions absolutely live up to the hype, others are simply underwhelming.
Here are 13 tourist traps so overrated you may want to skip them altogether, according to travel website Wanderlust.co.uk.
The Statue of Liberty
For one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, actually visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York is a complete disappointment. If you’re desperate for a photo with the symbol of freedom, just hop on the free Staten Island ferry, which sails right past.
The Louvre Museum, Paris
Most tourists that make it to the Louvre are there for one reason: to see the Mona Lisa. But why? It’s not much bigger than a postage stamp, for starters, and good luck getting close enough to get a decent look. Talk about underwhelming.
Stonehenge, Amesbury, UK
This bunch of rocks in the middle of a field isn’t much more than that. You can’t get close enough to touch them, and there is nothing nearby to see – no museum, no tourist centre, and definitely no nice weather to at least make a nice day of it.