Category Archives: England

Travel News: New Harry Potter Exhibit

harry potter travel.png
FCC To Return To Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Federal Communications Commission head Ajit Pai says he’s doing something many consumers may actually agree with for a change: making it harder to talk on the phone while on an airplane. The FCC yesterday announced that it’s killing an FCC proceeding that would have opened the door to allowing phone calls during commercial flights. In late 2013 the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and in 2014 the FCC lifted restrictions on in-flight phone calls over WiFi (but not yet cellular) with an ongoing eye on removing the restrictions entirely. The move wasn’t a popular one among consumers, and former FCC boss Tom Wheeler took a lot of heat for the decision. “I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” said FCC boss Ajit Pai in a statement. “I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Notice 
John Ollila of Loyalty Lobby.ccom reports Delta Air Lines has been tinkering with the number of SkyMiles required for partner awards that seems to have gone up anywhere from 15% to 20% without any prior warning from the airline. Delta Changes Partner Award Mileage Requirements Without Any Prior Notice On April 7, 2017. This change was first noted on a FlyerTalk post where a member noticed that the number of SkyMiles required for an award had changed from 70,000 to 85,000 (transatlantic partner award in business class).
harry-potter-933064_640
New Harry Potter Exhibit Will Feature Never-before-Seen Manuscripts and Drawings
A new exhibition at the British Library later this year will offer never-before-seen pieces from author J.K. Rowling. The exhibition, titled “Harry Potter: A History of Magic,” will open at the library in October, taking visitors through a fascinating collection of wizardry books, manuscripts, magical objects, and original materials from the Rowling archives. The exhibition will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US), delving into the origins of the story. The display will take magic lovers through medieval manuscripts covering everything from potions and herbology to caring for magical creatures. Visitors will also be able to gaze at original drafts and drawings by both Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, ranging from drawings of a mandrake for the illustrated edition of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” to an early handwritten draft of Rowling’s “Sorting Hat” song, according to Pottermore. There will also be original manuscripts and editorial notes from the series’ publisher, Bloomsbury. The exhibit runs from October 20, 2017 through February 28, 2018, though tickets are already for sale on the library’s website.
 
BA May Drop Free Meals On Long Haul Flights 
The Sunday Times reports that British Airways is apparently mulling bringing paid food and beverages for long-haul coach as well as short haul coach flights. British Airways recently enhanced away complimentary snacks, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in short and medium haul economy and introduced paid products. Now long-haul British Airways passengers are in line for the “improvement” to services known as paying for your own food and drink. The airline could start charging long-distance flyers for a menu drawn from the aisles of Mark & Spencer, BA’s boss, has revealed. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Cruz said that after “a rough start” customers now welcomed the chance to pay for M&S food on European flights. 
 
Caribbean Princess Added Family Areas, Connecting Rooms, New Mini-Suite Category
New offerings for families, including the Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, upgraded Movies Under the Stars, Princess Luxury Bed and connecting staterooms have been added to Caribbean Princess during a two-week drydock at Grand Bahama Shipyard, just ahead of the vessel’s summer Europe and fall Caribbean seasons. The ship has also been wired for the Ocean Medallion Class cruising that will be available starting with its 2018 summer Caribbean season. Camp Discovery, the reimagined youth center created in partnership with the consumer products arm of Discovery Communications, joins the line’s Discovery at Sea program. For ages 3-17, this caters to specific age groups with three center themes. The Treehouse, formerly Pelicans, is for ages 3-7 and offers a bright, whimsical forest and animal-themed area including hands-on activities. The Lodge, formerly Shockwaves, for ages 8-12, is inspired by the great outdoors, and offers sports activities and places for kids to explore, hang out and lounge. The Beach House, previously Remix, for ages 13-17, is a contemporary surf-themed lounge. New youth and teen center programming includes ‘MythBusters’ science activities with hands-on challenges, featuring show star Tory Belleci. In addition, new Camp Discovery destination-themed programs focusing on Europe and the Caribbean to immerse young cruisers into the culture, nature, and customs of this region. Eighty-seven connecting staterooms catering to family travelers have also been added. A new HD Movies Under the Stars outdoor movie screen will offer a higher resolution picture with double the image quality of previous systems. This will give concerts and movies more sound power, truer color, extreme wide angle viewing and smart contrast/brightness for optimal viewing any time of day. 3,200 new Princess Luxury beds and luxurious linens have been installed. In addition, Caribbean Princess will introduce Club Class Mini-Suites, the new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities and exclusive dining. This elevated mini-suite category offers perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options as well as priority embarkation and disembarkation.
 
TripAdvisor Users Vote Emirates World’s Best Airline
Users of the online travel site TripAdvisor have voted Emirates airline their favorite carrier on a top 10 list that’s dominated by Asian airlines. In the 2017 edition of their Travelers’ Choice Awards for Airlines, Emirates received high marks as the best overall carrier in the world, taking the title of both Best First Class experience, and Best Economy Class. After Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Brazil’s Azul airline, JetBlue and Air New Zealand round out the top five spots on the list. The top-ranked major airline for North America is Delta Air Lines. 
bruges-1508380_640
 
Belgium And Italy Have The Highest Taxes For Tourists
According to statistics gathered by Kayak, Belgium and Italy are the tourist destinations with the highest tourist taxes. Travelers who decide to visit Brussels are required to pay approximately 42, 56 or 70 euros for a seven-night stay in a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel respectively. In the case of Italy, Rome is in the lead with a maximum tax of 49 euros for the same seven-night stay. Next in line is Florence, Venice and Milan with an average of 35 euros. Except in the case of Venice, where only the first 5 days are charged for, in the rest of Italy’s cities, the tax is charged for the first ten days. The lowest taxes are found in Lisbon. Other European capitals, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and Vienna, calculate the tax according to the cost of the room and not according to the category of the establishment. In these cities, the percentages reach 6%, 5% and 3.2%, respectively. 
Malibu’s New Ryokan Opening
You don’t need to travel to Japan for an awesome night at a Japanese-style inn. Nobu Ryokan Malibu, the first in Nobu Hospitality’s Ryokan Collection, will open on April 28, 2017. Located next to Nobu Restaurant Malibu, Nobu Ryokan Malibu will combine modern comforts with a Ryokan-inspired building. Read more here. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Airlines, England, Europe, UK

Wales: Year of Adventure

landscape-1570417_1920

Many are lauding Wales as a top destination this year and it’s no wonder: the country is celebrating its “Year of Adventure” in 2016! This small state is often overshadowed by its louder neighbors, but with no good reason! Whether you’re into cultural or action escapades, Wales has it all and more for the traveler among us.

Wales is a playground for adventure travelers, with a wealth of fun and adrenaline-packed activities like surfing, rafting, biking, hiking, and zip-lining. The country is proud to feature two prominent adventurers, Bear Grylls and Richard Parks, who are official Adventure Ambassadors for Wales in 2016.

llangollen-844748_1920

Llangollen

Or for the more peacefully inclined, why not stop by at one of Wales’ Michelin restaurants for some award-winning lobster? Two thousand and sixteen is also a year of food and drink festivals from Cowbridge to Pembrokeshire.

Step into Dylan Thomas’ boathouse or follow the footsteps of King Arthur–his spirit is still alive and well on these moors. You’ll definitely want to be in Cardiff town the weekend of September 17-18, soon after Dahl’s centennial birthday, when the city will erupt in a gigantic celebration of his life and work, with displays, characters, singers, and dancers.

waterfall-1562405_1920

Our Agents at Willamette Intl Travel are intimately familiar with Wales and can arrange an idyllic vacation for you and yours. Whether you’re a couple or a family, you can count on us! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for more information.

Reading List for Travelers bound to Wales: Pick up a Book before you Go!

51KslpCjAsL._AC_UL320_SR202,320_


Jan Morris, The Matter of Wales. Half-Welsh travel writer Morris immerses herself in a fiercely nationalistic portrait.

P.H. Jeffery, Ghost, Legends and Lore of Wales. Excellent introduction to Welsh myths.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, Wales – A History. A spirited history of Wales from one of the land’s most beloved writers.

Bruce Chatwin, On the Black Hill. An entertaining novel of twins on a farm.

John Davies, The Green Bridge. A collection of 25 short stories that give you a broad spectrum of Welsh authors in the 20th century.

Leave a comment

Filed under England, Europe

Conscientious Traveler: Celebrated Experiences

Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler—our monthly series in which we showcase one of our fantastic partners with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. This month, we feature Celebrated Experiences.

Celebrated Experiences offers customized trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. They curate perfect vacations with castles, boutique hotels, country hotels, small bed & breakfasts, and apartments (breakfast always included!). Itineraries can be highly personalized, with themes ranging from Gardens; Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Film Locations, History, Culinary, Genealogy — plus chaffeurs and guides.

Their team personally inspects each property they book, and they constantly review, add and drop properties, ensuring great stays for our clients. Their destination experts and entertaining guides have walked the villages and explored off-the-beaten path locales in order to anticipate each guest’s need and wish. They are a marvelous travel company and just celebrated their 25th Anniversary. 

Stay in a 12-Century castle in Tuscany, Italy

Wake up in Ballynahinch Castle in the heart of stunning Connemara, Ireland

Treat yourself at the luxurious, award-winning five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Golf on its own private island near Loch Lomond in Scotland

Celebrated Experiences’ unique philanthropic program donates a dollar for every hotel room night! We at Willamette Intl Travel are proud to partner up with such great companies that take the time to give back. As 2016 was their most successful year ever, this year they are donating more than $23,500 to important causes!

Foundations include Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and The Alzheimer’s Foundation. They also donate $500 to the favorite cause of each member of their team, including:

  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Pediatric Cancer Foundation
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation
  • PAWS Atlanta
  • US Navy Memorial
  • Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
  • Children’s Miracle Network  

Every little bit helps and no booking is too small!

Call Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about these exclusive properties: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Accommodation, Conscientious Traveler, England, Europe, Family Travel, Ireland, Itinerary

Jim in London and Paris

Our agents recently organized a great trip for our client Jim D to London and Paris. Read on for his hilarious inside look into what these iconic cities have to offer. 

Did you know we post client feedback on our Testimonials page? Click here to read more excellent comments!

I am happy to say that my trip went quite well, thanks in great part to the subtle details which had already been taken care of by your agency. The flight that started things off (my first!) was very pleasant, and less grueling than I had expected; hats off to Delta Airlines for the great service. It may have helped that the flight was only about half full, so everyone had plenty of elbow room, and the amenity-to-passenger ratio was in our favor.

I loved the Radisson Blu Vanderbilt Hotel, not only for the cordial service (and special free breakfast!) but also for the great location. After checking in I immediately trotted off to the Natural History Museum, followed by The Victoria Albert and the Science Museum (Must… Stay… Awake…). I found a good chip shop in the neighborhood and then went off in search of Harrod’s department store, which I had heard was a near-mythological monument to commerce. I wasn’t disappointed. Every room was like a different land! Food, Perfume, Clothes, and a toy department (LAND!) where I would like to live, please. I think the stuffed toy giraffe they had cost as much as a real giraffe. While exploring Harrod’s I came across my favorite amusement ride in London, The Egyptian Escalator.

The following day I rode the London Eye, spending the extra money on a fast-track ticket, saving me at least an hour of line-standing; totally worth it. The Tate Modern and the Winston Churchill War Room Museum were also on the docket, with lots of walking- Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral- followed by an excellent take-away cheeseburger in the hotel room, a change of clothes, and the discovery that 6pm on a Friday night is kind of a busy time to take the Tube to the West End. Into the breach, indeed. “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown”, at the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Ave. in the West End, was excellent and I recommend it. A solid and entertaining production in a space that seats less than 800. Theatre heaven.

Saturday’s first mission was to go to the sandwich shop featured in the BBC America TV show “Sherlock” (On North Gower St. in Camden, posing as Baker St.), but it turned out they were shooting the show on that day so I was out of luck. Next I walked to The British Museum, where I spent the afternoon gaping at their astonishing collection of artifacts, in a building I would have loved even if it was empty. By this time I was having so much fun just walking and people watching that I walked all the way back to the hotel, through Piccadilly Square and past Harrods, where of course I had to go in and ride the Egyptian Escalator a few more times. London struck me as a thriving, bustling, culturally bountiful city, and I enjoyed it very much. The next morning I checked out of The Radisson Blu Vanderbilt and got myself over to St. Pancras Station, and onto The Chunnel, which was as comfortable and modern as I had hoped.

My biggest misstep happened upon my arrival in Paris. A cabdriver (who intercepted me- and spoke excellent English- before I even got to wherever the line of cabs outside actually was) convinced me that a cab ride to my hotel was going to cost a small fortune, that it was a long way, and that the rate was set, that any other cab would cost the same amount. If I were to do it again I would say “thanks anyway” and try a few more cabdrivers, and also look into the Metro situation. But I took the ride, and, to his credit, he did point out all of the important landmarks to me on the way to the hotel. And, this gave me my first chance to use the emergency-sentence-finisher I had prepared for just such an occasion: “Well, that didn’t go very well, but it’s okay, because I’M IN PARIS!”

After checking in at the hotel (The Aramis Saint Germain- cozy, well appointed, pleasant and helpful staff), I set out to walk down to the river, taking care to remember what my good friend John Smith had passed on to me from a Frenchman he had met: Parisians think that Americans smile too much, and they find it annoying. So I was trying my best to appear sullen and world-weary, but that didn’t last very long. Everything in Paris was so beautiful, and so French, that I kept laughing. I mean, somebody actually rode by on a bicycle with baguettes in the front basket. Come on!

Down by the Seine, I visited the Musee d’Orsay, yet another museum housed in an extraordinary  building. The view from the roof of the museum gave me good ideas about where to go next, and it wasn’t until I was on the right bank, and crossing back over again, that I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I had been so preoccupied in the preceding hours that I had kind of forgotten to look for it, so it caught me by surprise and I may have actually yelled “Eiffel Tower!” out loud.

Monday was reserved for said Eiffel Tower (which closed for undisclosed security reasons right before I got to the front of the line), and also for a lovely walk along the river to Notre Dame Cathedral. Then I wandered across the bridge to explore a cluster of buildings and discovered that it was the Louvre, and that it was open on Mondays (closed on Tuesday). I went in to say hi to the Mona Lisa, and then down below ground to see the old Roman ramparts; beautiful and fascinating.

Tuesday morning I overslept due to new-smartphone-related complications, but eventually got myself all the way out to The Palace of Versailles, which I wanted to see with my own eyes just to get a sense of the kind of gross imbalance of wealth distribution that would cause an entire country to revolt. As I roamed around the palace (Hall Of Mirrors!) and its expansive grounds, I thought, “Yeah, this would do it”.

Then back to Notre Dame to go up in the towers this time, where the gargoyles were a highlight of the trip. Tuesday night I was able to convince personnel at three different stages of access to the Eiffel Tower that they needed to let me in with the previous day’s pass because I had been shut out the day before. I’m glad I went back- nighttime was better, I think.

Wednesday was mostly for Montmartre neighborhood, which I enjoyed very much. I took a bus out there but walked back to maximize my Parisian experience before an early bedtime and an ungodly early wake-up.

The transfer to the airport went smoothly. The flight to Amsterdam was a little bit late so things were a bit harried on arrival but they held up the flight to Portland for us and all was well once on board. I returned to Portland with 3 stamps (!) in my passport and a desire to get out and get some more stamps as soon as possible. Thank you for everything. I would love to be kept informed of the various tours the agency conducts, and I will be in touch when I figure out where I should go next.

~~~ JIM D.

Willamette Intl Travel works one on one with clients, delivering personalized and memorable travel experiences. Book your summer and fall trip to Europe today! Contact us to discuss the best options that fit you and your family’s travel style. Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com

Recently returned from a trip planned by the Wittravel team? Tell us all about it! We love to hear your comments, and maybe it will even end up on our testimonials page!

Leave a comment

Filed under England, Europe, France, UK, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

All Aboard the Chunnel!

photo credit Mike Knell, creative commons

photo credit Mike Knell, creative commons

On May 6, 1994, Eurostar’s channel tunnel, or “Chunnel” as it is colloquially known, officially opened from England to France. It is a modern marvel of engineering—it took eleven drilling machines and 13,000 people six years and 4.65 GBP billion to install it. At 31.34 miles long, it is the second longest undersea tunnel in the world. Its lowest depth is 250 feet underwater!

Since it’s opening in 1994, millions of people have enjoyed the convenience and comfort of this fast zip from London to Paris. If it’s not on your travel bucket list, it should be!

Tickets for the Chunnel are released about 6 months prior to travel date, and it can start as low as $65 if you grab yours early! They also have senior fares available. A regular one-way ticket may cost around $120-180. There are 3 classes on board: standard, comfort and business. Standard class is family-friendly, with access to a buffet car with snacks. Or if you’re traveling in comfort class, your journey will include a light snack and first class seats. Want to travel in style? Business class comes with a 3-course meal and your choice of fine spirit on board, plus access to the exclusive Eurostar lounges at St. Pancras or Gare du Nord stations.

Did You Know?

–         A contest was held to determine where to place the Chunnel.

–         Both the British and French started digging from each side at the same time, but they didn’t quite meet in the middle—the English side tunneled the greater distance.

–         French engineer Albert Mathieu was the first engineer to propose the tunnel in the 19th century, and his plans included an artificial island half-way across for changing horses.

–         Much of the chalk marl bored on the English side was deposited at Lower Shakespeare Cliff in Kent, now home to the Samphire Hoe Country Park.

–         One of the eleven boring machines remains buried under the Channel. Another was sold on eBay for £39,999 in 2004.

–         Up to 400 trains pass through the tunnel each day, carrying an average of 50,000 passengers, 6,000 cars, 180 coaches and 54,000 tonnes of freight.

–         The lining of the tunnel is designed to last for 120 years.

–         Shuttle trains are 775 metres long – the same as eight football pitches.

–         The Queen and President Mitterrand were the honored guests on the inaugural ride. The royal party travelled from Waterloo to Calais at a sedate 80mph. The presidential party sped to the coast from Paris at 186mph.

 

Willamette Intl Travel designs and books train itineraries all over the world. Our rail expects can explain the nuances of train travel and book Eurail tickets, rail passes and city passes. In a hurry? We can issue your tickets in-house with just a day’s notice! Make an appointment today, call 503-224-0180.

Leave a comment

Filed under England, Europe, France, Travel by Rail, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

Diamond Jubilee

photo by Elliott Brown

The festive air is flooding into London as crowds flock to this year’s Olympics and Jubilee. Hotels and flights are swelling up to no vacancy, and all the UK is busy with preparations. For those of us abroad, we can at least enjoy the festivities from a stress-free distance.

But what is a Diamond Jubilee and how will the Queen be celebrating?

The practice of Jubilees dates back to antiquity, when Hebrews observed a year of rest and universal pardon every 50 years. It was eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire and Christianity as a time of remission and holy pilgrimage.

Elizabeth II is the only British monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee with the exception of Queen Victoria in 1897. It marks 60 years into her reign. Following tradition, festivities will be held in London and throughout the Commonwealth. The Royal Mint has issued a £5 coin with new portraits of the queen, to be minted for only one year.

Fun Fact: The flambéed dessert Cherries Jubilee is said to have been invented by Auguste Escoffier who prepared the dish for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration.

PROGRAM OF EVENTS

2 June: The Queen will kick off her celebrations by attending the Epsom Downs’ Investec Derby Festival, featuring horse races and the greatest flat race in the world.

3 June: A flotilla of one thousand boats will accompany the Queen’s ship in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which floats down the Thames River. Tickets are still available to the festival in Battersea Park—a great vantage point from which to view the on-sea pageant.

4 June: The Queen and some of her family will attend a concert at the Buckingham Palace, broadcasted live on BBC One, Radio 2 and on big screens across London. Later that night, thousands of beacons will be lit around the UK and the greater Commonwealth.

5 June: The Queen will attend a national service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She and her family will continue via processional route from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace.

Did you know that the British Monarchy has twitter? You can follow the Diamond Jubilee via live tweets @BritishMonarchy. Or to wish the Queen a good Jubilee, write to:

 

            Her Majesty The Queen

            Buckingham Palace

            London SW1A 1AA

 

Are you celebrating the Jubilee? Comment below and tell us how!

Leave a comment

Filed under England, Europe, Features, UK