Countries, Culture, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

EU Freedom of Movement and Mdina

Sure aren’t we all Europeans (sore point!) anyway, and thanks to my old pal Vincent for flagging up EU Freedom of Movement and Mdina.

I’d challenged the €5 charge mooted for Venice and as is our wont here we’ve been sharing our own experiences where we are.

And guide par excellence and photographer without peer Vincent has clued us up.

On the debate that raged in Malta regarding The Silent City.

The city was populated by Phoenicians in the 8th Century.

And it grew to three times its present size, taking in neighbouring Rabat.

Saint’s island: St Paul

It also plays a key part in the St Paul story.

When the apostle was shipwrecked on Malta in 60 AD, the governor of Melite, the Romans’ name for the island, greeted him.

And in return, he cured his sick father.

And unsurprisingly the locals took to this new religion and stayed with it ever since.. 

Keep it in the family

It’s oh so quiet: Mdina

Mdina was the capital of Malta throughout the Middle Age until the arrival of the Order of St John.

And his story is all around one of Europe’s great cities, Valletta in 1530.

There was a revival in the early 18th century and several Baroque features were introduced although it didn’t lose its medieval character.

It remained too the centre of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities.

And property is largely passed down from families and from generation to generation.

On the whole it retains a calming quiet feel which freezes it in time and which marks it out as The Silent City.

You’ll want to check out the ruins of the Domvs Romana, with several well-preserved mosaics, statues.

And other remains and the podium of a a Temple of Apollo.

Not the answer

The Maltese Archipelago: And an earlier Jimmy

The argument is that overtourism is threatening that.

But again like the Venice debate this strikes me as anti-libertarian, and my fear is that who would make money out of this.

And whether it would all go back into the protection of the site as it will no doubt be argued.

Malteser Vincent tells us that the Mdina charge idea was largely shot down.

But that the 300 residents have a concession.

They are allowed to drive their cars into the city while non-Mdinaites need a permit.

Bubbly Bugibba 

And that would be me: Malta, ya dancer

Malta, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, was where I made a certain young lady the Happiest Woman in the World.

When I bent down to tie my shoelace.

And she screamed yes.

Back then we were both working for the newspaper arm of Thomson.

And as well as Malta being highly recommended we got a discount.

We’ve stayed loyal to TUI, its successor ever since, and have never been let down.

And so, without further delay, let us offer you four nights self-catering in the Sunseeker Holiday Complex in Bugibba.

For £177pp, down from £191pp.

You’ll be leaving London Gatwick on Monday, March 7.

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far

Is it just me or do you think Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far?

Because the very idea of charging to be allowed into any city feels anti-libertarian.

Yes, we all know the arguments… over-tourism, the city sinking, but is economic selectionism really the answer?

Make no mistake here, Venice truly is one of the world’s great cities.

And I was entranced from the moment I emerged from the throng off the train into its alleyways in the early Noughties.

City’s hidden delights

Fast city: Venice

Now to put this into context… I’m just a city boy, born and raised in Jordanhill (apols to Journey).

And I love the energy and life Venice brings.

Like everyone else I have taken in the must-sees St Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge and the Campanile.

And why wouldn’t you?

But I also spent our first evening exploring the Arsenale and went onto branching out from the packed centre.

While I also sailed out to the island of Murano, where glass-makers ply their trade just like their forebears did centuries ago.

Neighbouring Burano  is known for its brightly coloured fishermen houses which acted as a beacon, and its lace traders.

And I also took in the Isola di San Michele where Venezians buried their dead.

In The Ghetto

Hidden away: The Ghetto

But it is the Ghetto in Cannaregio which really captured my attention.

The Ghetto is where the city’s Jews were kept out of the city

And it was here (the foundry area) where the Doge Leonardo Loredan and the Venetian Senate sentenced the Jews to live.

They were only allowed to enter the city at certain hours.

Rules, rules, rules

Watch for the traffic: On the gondolas

Now there is no suggestion Deputy Mayor for Tourism Simone Venturini is motivated to exclude any of us for anything other than over-tourism reasons.

‘The aim is to discourage one-day tourism, hit-and-run tourism,’ he explained.

‘Arriving in one day and leaving in the same day, tiring and stressing the city, and encouraging slower tourism instead.’

And to debunk a myth there won’t be turnstiles, you’ll book ahead online.

Watch your back

Venice fans: With the gang from Padova trip

But still how will entry to the city be manned and how do they plan to control congestion at the entry point?

I’m worried here, and have been for some time, that the ’emergency’ restrictions foisted on us all over Covid will persist as we emerge out of the pandemic.

Because isn’t that just the way of our leaders. 

And as I often try to remind people wasn’t Income Tax brought in as a temporary charge to cope with the Napoleonic Wars.

Who is that masked man (and woman)? The Biennale

All of which neatly brings us around to the man who ended the restrictions for the inhabitants of the world’s first ghetto, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Now we know that the City on the Canal has its own unique challenges and that during the Black Death they pioneered masks.

You know the bespoke ones they sell throughout the city’s alleyway souvenir shops.

 But Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far.

So what do you think? Let us know and we’ll share.

 

 

America, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

150 years of Yellowstone

Some take it for granted but as we mark 150 years of Yellowstone it is worth reprising the words of a Ranger who was asked what he would do if he had just one day in the US National Park.

‘Cry’ was his rather laconic but revealing message.

‘Twas Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the North, who opened Yellowstone National Park, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, on March 1, 1872.

Although we prefer to mention the work our very own Scottish explorer John Muir did there and elsewhere in the States which earned him the mantle ‘Father of the National Parks.’

But it is important to acknowledge that the Native Americans (Red Indians in 19th Century parlance) had been there for 11,000 years.

Thanks a million

Is that a bear coming? Yellowstone

No wonder our Ranger of course would weep if he was only offered one day in Yellowstone.

Because there are 2 million acres of the park.

And while we’ve all heard of Old Faithful, you’ll also want to take in Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake.

One million of us visit Yellowstone every year (in a Covid-free year) and with that amount of space you’ll never feel congested.

And here are some useful tips for our visit.

Yellowstone tips

The Big Country: The Great American West

The entrance fee for each of Wyoming’s national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton) is $35 per vehicle to visit for one to seven days. Entrance fees for other National Park Service sites, such as Devils Tower National Monument, vary.

Reservations are required to camp anywhere within Grand Teton National Park and open six months prior to the date you wish to camp. Book early to reserve a spot.

Reservations are required within certain campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park. Plan ahead and reserve campsites early.

Backcountry permits are required to backpack within national park boundaries.

Pets are only allowed where vehicles are allowed in national parks and must be kept on a 6-foot leash. Pets are prohibited on trails, pathways, and swimming in any park waters.

The wildlife is wild. Do not approach, chase or feed animals, and stay in your vehicle if you’re stuck in a wildlife jam.

Grizzly bears reside in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Stay safe by carrying bear spray, being alert, making noise and traveling in groups of three or more.

Masks are required on all federal lands when social distancing isn’t possible.

How to get there

Sweep of nature: In Wyoming

There are smaller airports around Yellowstone but we’d advise the old Road Trip around the Great American West.

And we’d suggest the eight-hour 532-mile drive from our favourite Denver in Colorado.

Bandanaman and the Bandanettes In Denver

In an RV mind, and not the rodeo which we’ll tell you more about soon.

And a shout-out too for bespoke Travel providers G Adventures who are offering eight days Jackson to Yellowstone National Park from £2399. Valid on Jun 19 2022

So get your 150 Years of Yellowstone up and running. You’ll cry with joy.

 

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Sustainable Tourism

Ambassador for the seas

What would qualify you to be an ambassador for the seas? An empathy for those who live in it, obvs.

Doh! But it’s taken Ambassador Cruise Line to put the fishies first.

Ambassador has teamed up with marine conservation charity ORCA and they have launched the first cruise line anti-whaling campaign. Ambassador’s CEO (and

I guess we call him Ambassador then) Christian Verhounig has written to the Faroese Prime Minister Barour a Steig Nielsen that…

If there are recurring incidents of the dolphin hunt that took place last September that he will reconsider Ambassador’s three future sailings to the islands.

The cruise line is also keeping an eye on the Faroese’ commercial whaling policy and will reserve the right to cancel such ports of call.

A little more conservation

The big ship: Ambience

Ambassador is going even further by deciding not to include any oceanariums or experiences that include captive marine mammals.

ORCA will also be placing two Ocean Conservationists onboard Ambience in 2022 and 2023 on 11 sailings.

The Ocean Conservationists will visit countries such as Iceland, Greenland and sail the Iberian coast, Black Sea and Irish Sea.

Two of the 11 cruises will be Ambassador’s multi-generational cruises in the summer of 2022.

Playtime: Our friends where they belong

ORCA will be providing a multi-generational focused education programme.

They will also be working with families to teach them about the marine environment.

And this will involve them in some conservation projects on the ship.

The charity will also have a permanent presence on Ambience.

With a dedicated enrichment area which will include activities about whales and dolphins.

Watching the Orcas

Talk to the animals: In Orlando

Now in the interests of full disclosure I have sat in the stands at SeaWorld in Orlando and watched the orcas perform.

And I will only say that you should make up your own mind of where you stand on this.

Only to add that the keepers I met who looked after the critters must have been very good actors.

Because they looked to dote on their charges even down to taking the penguins home at night.

Although I did feel they had more space to waddle around off the coast of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

Introducing the Ambassador

Marquee Theatre: The Ambassador’s party

The premium-value cruise line is the first new British chain of ships to be launched since 2010.

Ambassador which is aimed at the 50-plus market (and I’ll imagine myself in those sailing shoes) will sail from London Tilbury.

The first ship, Ambience, will sail next Spring and is designed to carry up to 1,400 guests in 798 cabins.

After completing its inaugural season in Spring the cruise line plans to extend sailings from additional regional ports.

With the inaugural voyage a short break cruise to Hamburg on Wednesday, April 6.

And yes, that’s a city where it’s all about the party animal.

And so we are glad to have met your acquaintance Sir and believe you are the perfect Ambassador for the seas.    

Africa, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

Ellen and Rwanda

What do you get the woman who has everything… yes, that’s my Scary One, but I’m talking here about Ellen and Rwanda.

With Herself about to celebrate a landmark I’ve been racking my brain about what to get her.

Fine dining: Bisate

Not that I can stretch to Portia De Rossi’s largesse.

In establishing The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda for her wife.

Ellen’s pad

Birthday surprise: Portia and Ellen

And as I’m wanting to celebrate my own birthday a few days later than The Scary One, I’m not suggesting She is turning 60.

The Ellen Campus is going from strength to strength and is the focus of our growing interest in Eco and Nature tourism.

Now the best recommendation for where to stay surely comes from the Hollywood golden couple.

Lodge with us

Peak time: Bisate Lodge

And that would be Bisate Lodge.

Now I do like a hotel with an oul volcano view.

And I experienced just that in Mount in Tenerife in my walk through the ages.

And, of course Tenerife is more Western African landscape than Iberian Peninsula.

So when you’re in Rwanda, do like the locals, of which Ellen and Portia are now among the number.

And base yourself around the volcanoes.

Craters and lazy craters

Good hair day: The gorillas

Bisate Lodge is 5 star (obvs) and you will look out over the extinct (aaaw!) Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes.

This is where Fossey ran her research station Karisoke, dedicated to saving mountain goats from extinction.

Hike through the rainforest, up to nearly 3,000 metres, to visit Karisoke’s haunting ruins and Fossey’s grave, next to her beloved gorilla, Digit.

And my Scary One doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll rest for eternity with this hairy Scots gorilla!

On a roll: The big fella

Rwandan gorillas, now numbering more than 1000 throughout the Virunga massif, await you.

Bisate Lodge for March-May is $1750pps.

Who to fly with

The pioneer: Dian Fossey

And I will, of course, always flag up my friend Meseret and Ethiopian Airways as the guys to fly with.

And when you so get out to see Ellen and Rwanda be sure to tell them this Scottish gorilla says hi.

 

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Countries, South America, Sustainable Tourism

Where to drink the water

And all the focus on COP26 just along the road in Glasgow has got us all thinking about water, the source of life… and prompting us to bring you Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And particularly when we think back on how we were always warned against drinking the water when we were abroad (mostly in those days, Spain).

Sup up: And something to clench your thirst

The fact though is that Spain is safe to drink from the tap and so there is no need to buy plastic bottled water from the supermercato.

Even better, of course, is to find yourself a stream in the country, and better still if you can stumble upon a Camino along the way and follow it through the Santiago.

Water of Rome

Flask resort: Flasks are always better

The same applies incidentally in Italy where you’ll find crystal clear streams on your Via Francigena into Rome.

La Citta Eterna, of course, prides itself on its water.

The fountains which are around every corner and in every piazza.

But also the beautifully adorned taps with carvings of Romulus and Remus and their wolf mother which proliferate around the city.

Wolf down the water: With La Famiglia underneath the wolf and Romulus and Remus

In the cloying humidity of a Rome heatwave you’ll be glad of a tap to fill up your flask.

And didn’t Silvio Berlusconi just know it when our guide told us that he wanted to start charging the locals for the water… something not even Benito Mussolini dared try.

Back to our friends at Globehunters and they reflect that the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan have the best water.

All of which means that you need to take more care in south-eastern Europe, much of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America and it pains me to say the Caribbean (although ‘rum is mi only medicine’ there).

Holy water

Water of life: In the Pyrenees

There are, of course, parts of the world, those where Our Lady has visited, where the water is straight from Heaven.

And yes, I know, that all water comes from the heavens, although a politician in Ireland when I was living there didn’t.

When he railed against the idea of water charges by saying just that ‘that it was’t as if water fell from the heavens’.

The Maryest of Marian sites is, of course, Lourdes, where the Pyrenees water in Cauterets is among the purest and spirited of anywhere.

So be sure to sup from the streams and the waterfalls.

Your own water

Wait for it: Guinness and its magic Irish water

It was always a matter of great pride that your own country had the best water.

And this has always been credited as the magic ingredient of Ireland’s famous Guinness stout.

And Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y.

So now we’re all back out on the road then look out for the taps in towns, and the streams and waterfalls in the country.

And fill up your flasks.

Ditch the plastic

Heat map: Of where is best to drink your water

It also tastes better when it’s not out of a plastic bottle.

And the fishies in the seas, my old pal Mother Turtle Vanessa in the Maldives, and our future generations will thank you.

Be warned too that now we’re all travelling again I’m hardly going to stop here with Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And I’ll back with more Holidos and don’ts… in the blog that’s not all blah, blah, blah.

Well, at least, not the type of blah that will destroy our beautiful blue planet.

 

 

Countries, Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable Air Travel

It’s worth remembering as the world leaders arrive in Glasgow for COP26 that they have flown here which is what we’re talking about here in Holidos and Dont’s of Sustainable Air Travel.

And so is all the virtue signalling and grandstanding over air travel just a distraction from the question we should be asking… 

Why are governments not acting to clean up our skies and instead blaming it on our air carriers?

And why is more not being done to improve the operational aspects around airports.

So that we can improve queuing, runway congestion and airplanes hovering around airports because they cannot land?

Pointing fingers

Bumpy times: But we will succeed
Scapegoating a sector which knows better than anyone that we need to transition to zero carbon flying is not healthy.
 
Nor should we ignore the fact that the skies are vital arteries in feeding the very developing world which world leaders claim to be their every waking concern.
 
Think about it?
 
Air travel is the catalyst for improving the livelihoods of families and the foreign exchange earnings of many developing states and developing countries.
 
All of which came out at WTM, the World Travel Market conference which kicked off in London today…
 
An important counterpoint to what is going on a couple of hundred of miles up here in Glasgow.
 

Trust the science

And we will get off the ground: And soon
 
Well, as we’ve become used to hearing over these last couple of years… let’s trust the science.
 
The latest research reveals that international aviation is responsible for 3.5% of anthropogenic climate forcing, less than Russia more than Japan.
 
In March 2020, the respected German consultancy Roland Berger forecast that if other industries decarbonise in line with current projections, aviation could account for up to 24% of global emissions by 2050.
 
Unless there is a significant technological shift.
 
There is an ongoing debate about carbon offsetting and Sustainable Aviation Fuel from biofuels and waste.
 
And these are favoured solutions because they facilitate business as usual and do not require a technological shift.
 
In January, the Fuelling Flight Project, which includes easyJet, IAG, Air France and KLM, pointed out the ‘risk of massive capital investments in things that increase emissions compared to fossil fuels and/or that become stranded assets.’
 
They called for higher sustainability requirements to be set by the European Commission.
 

The options

And get back in the air: With our favourite cabin crew
And so to the options.
 
Electric is the buzzword and the airline industry is actively working on battery-powered electric flights.
 
But equally hydrogen has its benefits.
 
Hydrogen can fuel aircraft in two ways.
 
It can be burnt in an engine or used in a fuel cell that combines hydrogen and oxygen.
 
And that will produce electricity, heat, and water or to make drop-in synthetic sustainable aviation fuels (synfuels).
 
Power-to-liquid fuels (PtL) or synfuels are drop-in replacements for fossil-based kerosene and require no significant aircraft or engine changes.
 

Down to Zero

So let’s fly again: And, yes, long-haul is allowed
In September, Airbus revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could be flying by 2035.
 
So as we focus on climate change in Glasgow and Travel inevitably takes a kicking…
 
We here will continue to focus in Holidos and Dont’s on Sustainable Air Travel.
 
And, of course, we’ll keeping Messers Johnson, Biden, Sarkozy et al’s feet to the fire up here in Glasgow.
 
And ask, for example, do they even know about the speekbom plant in South Africa which might just save the world.
 
Maybe they should get in touch.