In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Ghouls rule during Halloween in Michigan
John Colone has been to hell. He very nearly came back in a body bag.
Hell for him was the Tet Offensive, a surprise attack launched by North Vietnam against South Vietnamese and American forces in 1968.
“I was shot five times and left for dead. I woke up with (a dead soldier’s) name tags on my toes,” he says.
Colone came back to America — and settled in Hell. That’s Hell with a capital H. It’s a hamlet a little ways northwest of Ann Arbor, in eastern Michigan, a place Colone has made the Halloween capital of North America.
Tourism peaks in the weeks leading up to Oct. 31, but it’s not just a fall phenomenon.
“It’s Halloween 362 days a year here,” Colone says. “We’re closed Christmas Day, New Years and Easter Sunday.”
“Closed” means the two stores and the wedding chapel he runs. The stores are crammed with every conceivable piece of “hellish” doodad.
In the ice cream parlour — named, naturally, Screams — patrons build their own sundae, served out of a coffin, with toppings like bat droppings (chocolate chips), toenail clippings (coconut flakes) and bug legs (coloured sprinklers).
In a jar nearby is what looks like a bloodied hand. It’s labelled “The hand of the last shoplifter.”
And you can buy bumper stickers (“This car has been to Hell”), tiny baseball bats (“a bat out of Hell”), little white spheres (“snowballs from Hell”) and a hundred other devilish items. And, yes, more T-shirts than you can imagine.
Only John Colone could make money from empty bottles. He collects them, slaps on labels “Dehydrated water from Hell,” and sells them at a buck apiece.
Robin Hood attraction planned for Nottingham
A new £13 million Robin Hood-themed visitor attraction is being planned for Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham.
The 40-acre sitem based on the legend of the man who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, will feature a medieval castle, dungeons and a tournament field for jousting.
“Discover Robin Hood” is expected to open in spring 2015 if the plans, currently being drawn up by Discovery Attractions, a company which has worked with attractions including Madame Tussauds and Alton Towers, are accepted by Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Visitors will be able to dress up in armour, navigate a maze filled with talking trees and take part in activities including archery and cooking with wild food. There will also be theatre performances.
It is hoped that the project will create around 100 jobs and help protect the forest for future generations. The first phase of the development would see a new visitor centre, café and shop opened in the summer of 2014 to replace existing facilities.
John Cottee, chairman of the culture committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This will put Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood’s legendary home, back on the map. We hope to excite and educate visitors from all over the world.”
NYC’s open hotels get double dose of business
Hotels in Lower Manhattan that lost power as a result of Hurricane Sandy have been scrambling today to relocate guests, while those still in operation uptown face strong demand from stranded travelers and displaced locals.
Andy Labetti, general manager of The Benjamin, says his hotel is inundated with requests for rooms tonight from corporate clients and a new breed of customers: desperate commuters.
“What they want to do is get to work tomorrow,” he says, referring to people who live in New York’s suburbs. “With the uncertainty of the trains, bridges and tunnels, they figure they’ll sit in five hours of traffic tomorrow, so tonight, my phone’s blowing up.”
The 209-room hotel’s also packed with travelers whose schedules were ripped apart by the closed airports. “We have a lot of people who can’t leave,” Labetti says.
If you do succeed in snagging a room at the Benjamin, expect to pay peak rates starting at around $399 a night.
At the Four Seasons New York, all 368 rooms are sold out, says spokeswoman Tiffani Cailor. She says rooms for Wednesday night are available, starting at $995 a night.
The Sheraton New York, the third-largest hotel in Manhattan with 1,780 rooms, has been sold out most of the week, says Kai Fischer, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
“We had a group that cancelled over the weekend with the impending storm, but we were quickly able to replace all of those rooms with other guests who wanted to get in ahead of the storm,” he says.
On any given day, the hotel normally sees 400 or 500 guest departures, but with the lack of transportation into and out of the city, he says that number’s been fluctuating at only 50 to 70 departures per day.
At the Westin Times Square, general manager Terry Lewis says the hotel’s packed with guests who can’t fly back home, plus local families who are either flooded or without power in their homes. Many are bringing their pets with them.
The world’s most haunted hotels
Like your holiday a little bit spooky? Try staying at these hotels and see if you can spot a ghost.
Guests staying in the Fresco room at Hotel Burchianti in Florence, Italy, reportedly felt a presence watching them and an icy breath on their faces. They say the ghosts of dead children skip down the halls while a woman sits knitting in her chair and a maid does the cleaning in the early hours of the morning.
At London’s Langham hotel guests report seeing the figure of a man in military dress standing by the window of the fourth floor. It’s said the man is the ghost of a German Prince who jumped out of a window before the start of World War One. And if you really believe in ghosts you may be able to see former guest Napoleon III in the basement.
In Scotland it’s said the ghost of Lady Catherine can be found at Dalhousie Castle, Edinburgh. Lady Catherine reportedly died of a broken heart. Tourists say she can be seen at night rustling her skirt, scratching and tapping on tours. Staff and guests have reported feeling someone tapping on their shoulders or pulling their hair, only to turn around and see no-one there.
But possibly the most spooky hotel experience could be at the Skirrid Mountain Inn in Wales. Here the ghosts of former convicts who were executed by hanging from a beam at the inn are said to have haunted the property since 1110. Guests claim to have felt a rope being tightened around their necks as they slept.