Grown-up Travel Guide News Update – 30.12.2011

In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel

M25 coach tour proves a surprise hit

The Telegraph

A Sussex-based coach tour operator has announced a second date of a day-trip around the M25, the 117-mile motorway orbiting London.

The M25 has been voted the most hated place in Britain by listeners of Radio 4, and frequently features in polls of the country’s worst places to drive. Yet one enterprising tour operator has decided to challenge prevailing perceptions by offering a coach tour right around it.

Brighton & Hove, a coach operator based in Sussex, feels that this 117-mile stretch of motorway is something worth celebrating.

It is now offering a new journey around the London Orbital, a trip it feels will appeal to “lovers of modern coach travel”.

The tour was originally planned only for October next year but has proved so popular with customers that the operator has just announced an extra date in March.

Sights on the tour, which travels up the A23 and M23 from Brighton before joining the M25 at Junction 7, include urban landmarks such Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five, Lakeside Shopping Centre, and the “magnificent” Dartford river crossing.

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USA Today travel writers’ favorite places for 2011

USA Today

“What’s your favorite place?” That’s a question USA TODAY’s leisure travel writers get a lot. Answers vary by year, but here are spots Laura Bly, Jayne Clark and Kitty Bean Yancey enjoyed most in 2011, along with best places stayed and lessons learned.

Enjoy, and happy travels.

Laura Bly

Favorite destination: Iceland

Most tourists come to this barren, delightfully bizarre outpost during the summer, when its raw landscapes are softened by wildflowers and long days give way to convivial nights fueled by such delicacies as fermented shark meat and an aptly named brandy, “Black Death.”

But after two brief midwinter encounters here — including a magical rendition of the northern lights — I can’t imagine a better time to visit. Prices drop with the temperatures, and hotels fully booked in summer have plenty of rooms. And when you’re hurtling through the mid-afternoon darkness in a snow-laced gale, Icelanders’ tales of trolls and elves seem even more believable.

Favorite hotel

Though I was too busy hoisting microbrews along the Colorado Beer Trail to wander its historic grounds, take in a concert or sample the world-class hiking a few steps away, I was thoroughly smitten by the Colorado Chautauqua.

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Weirdest travel incidents of 2011

Toronto Star

This was the year the U.S. Transportation Security Agency changed its official motto from “Not on my watch,” to “Get your freak on, girl!”

By now you’ve probably heard about the TSA inspector who took time out from leering at images in the new full-body scanners to leave a handwritten note commenting on a passenger’s choice of, um, vacation accessories.

If that had been the strangest incident in travel during 2011, we would have chalked it up as a fairly normal year. But this was also the year military jets were put on high alert because a commuter-airline pilot was taking too long in the bathroom. It was the year of radioactive tourist attractions.

It was, to sum it up, the year travelers the world over got their collective freak on. Some highlights:

But he did wipe down the sink as a courtesy to the next passenger

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Airline alert as volcano spews ash into sky

A volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has sent up an ash cloud that is prompting scientists to increase the alert level for commercial aircraft traffic.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory said satellite images showed Cleveland Volcano had spewed ash 4572 metres into the air in a cloud that moved east-southeast.

US Geological Survey scientist-in-charge John Power called it a small explosion.

“It’s not expected to cause a disruption to big international air carriers,” he said.

But the event drew strong interest from air carriers.

“Any time you put an ash cloud up into the atmosphere, the airlines, the air carriers, air freight companies – it’s a major concern,” Power said.

The ash cloud was significant enough to raise the alert level from yellow, representing elevated unrest, to orange, representing an increased potential of eruption, or an eruption under way with minor ash emissions or no emissions.

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