Category Archives: UK

NEW: Celebrated Hotels for Celebrated Travelers

celebrated hotels for celebrated

The British Isles are ever-popular among our clients, so it’s no wonder that we’ve chosen to work with some of the finest tour guides and accommodations to curated memorable trips.

Celebrated Experiences offers tailor-made itineraries to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales — and yes, also Italy.

CE takes pride in hand-picking the most delightful hotels, castles, and country B&Bs through the UK, Ireland and Italy. Their selective staff has over 250 annually inspected hotels. Just earlier this month, CE announced some new properties at their fingertips.

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EDINBURGH: The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

The Principal always makes a splash in vibrant New Town, boasting a multimillion-pound restoration and refurbishment. Don’t miss the immensely fashionable Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, BABA. When we book the Principal for our guests, we make sure they enjoy a bottle of house champagne and canapés – because what is style without champagne? You can also try your hand at the free Gin or Whiskey Master Class!

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COTSWOLDS: The Lygon Arms

With new owners and management, the Lygon Arms is all about timeless service, blending old traditions with new renovations. Originally built as a coaching inn, the hotel is over 500 years, located in that quintessential Cotswolds village, Broadway. Booking with Celebrated Experiences, your agent at WIT can guarantee an upgrade at time of booking – and a spot in the exclusive Cocktail Making Class with the Bar Team!

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ROMA: Palazzo Scanderbeg

This 15th-century palazzo is just steps from the Trevi Fountain. Originally built by an Albanian noble, this old palace boasts 11 rooms and suites, most of which are 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchenettes, 24/7 concierge, and all the amenities of a full hotel. We can promise a Welcome bottle of sparkling wine when we book a Celebrated Experience at this exceptional hotel – because why shouldn’t we celebrate all our clients?

For More Celebrated Experiences, call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under England, Europe, Ireland, Italy, UK

Hotel Profile: The Ampersand

ampersand in London

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Make 2018 extra special with a stay at the Ampersand in London.

Winner of multiple awards including World Luxury Hotel Awards and Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List, we at Willamette Intl Travel are absolutely in love with this hotel. The Ampersand is a hit with all of our clients who we’ve recommended to stay at this elegant boutique hotel in South Kensington. Just south of Hyde Park, and within walking distance of Harrods, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and of course the tube just across the street, all of London is well within reach.

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London was absolutely wonderful.  The Ampersand Hotel was really perfect, great location, great room – I would highly recommend to other travelers to London. 

—Our client Karen Q.

Built in 1888, the Ampersand Hotel boasts original Victorian features—from high ceilings to haunting gargoyles—and a modernist flair that attracts patrons looking for that special, atmospheric je ne sais quoi. At the Ampersand, guests can choose among 111 luxury hotel rooms, each designed with five themes in mind – botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy. Their eclectic interior harks back to the Victorian age of discovery and curiosity. Dubbed by various patrons “whimsical,” “stylish” and “modern,” sometimes you just need a luxury hotel with a dash of the creative and humorous.

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The on-site restaurant Apero appeals to both guests and locals, with relaxed Mediterranean fare. In the Drawing Rooms, guests can enjoy delicious desserts and savory treats from cream cheese planet mousse to passion fruit macaroons and prosecco mint jelly. Look for the all-day coffee and tea menus and the classic hearth fire. Hosting a private dinner party? At the Wine Room, enjoy private dining dedicated to their cellar of fine wines. There is also a Game Room, Gym and Library to round out your London stay.

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Families are also welcome at the Ampersand, with a range of facilities just for parents traveling with children. Their rooms, studios, and suites in the Deluxe category accommodate either a fold-away bed or an interconnecting room. All suites come with a small kitchenette, and in their restaurant Apero, there is a children’s menu available. Children of ages up to 4 receive a complimentary continental buffet breakfast. Kids will certainly appreciate the proximity of fossils and the cool whale skeletons at the Natural History Museum!

The Ampersand is a member of the Imperial College Environment Society, which is devoted to sustainable hotel practices such as recycling, proper disposal of food waste and the use of biodegradable cleaning materials. The hotel also raises donations each year for the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British Heart Foundation.

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Filed under Europe, UK

Travel News: New Pilots in Demand

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World’s Airlines Need To Train 70 New Pilots A Day Over Next 10 Years
The world’s airlines need to train 70 new pilots a day over the next 10 years to meet growing demand, CAE study says. Pilots are aging and the profession has lost its appeal, leaving airlines to scramble to find the 255,000 new bodies needed. A new report just released by CAE, a Montreal-based aviation training company, says about 255,000 pilots must enter the global commercial aviation profession in the next 10 years in order to meet growing passenger demand and replace retiring pilots. According to the CAE’s Airline Pilot Demand Outlook, rapid airline fleet expansion and substantial passenger growth combined with high pilot retirement rates means that airlines will need to train 70 new pilots per day to meet global demand. Growth will also require 180,000 first officers to be trained to airline captains, more than in any other decade, the report says. 
 
Venice Cruise Traffic Plateaus For Now
Ongoing vessel tonnage restrictions in Venice have capped cruise traffic for now, with a limit of 96,000 tons. In 2017 the classic Italian port is looking at a forecast of 473 calls and just over 1.4 million passengers, which is down from 2016. Next year looks set to be similar to 2017. Meanwhile, government officials are still working to lock down an alternative route for larger ships to reach the port facilities. Future growth will need to depend on the identification and availability of a new alternative route for ships to reach port facilities, thus allowing large ships to use Venice again. The port spokesperson said that they want to increase their weekday call portfolio. VTP offers 10 terminal choices.
Frankfurt To Impose A Tourism Levy On Leisure Travelers
TR Newsletter reports The German city of Frankfurt is hoping for a new tourism levy to add several million euros to the city. All leisure visitors of Frankfurt will pay the fee per night starting next year. The tourists will have to pay the so-called tourism fee in their hotels or accommodation in addition to the room rate. The Mayor and Chamberlain Uwe Becker said that the tourism levy should be between 1.50 and 2.50 euros per person per night. The exact amount has not yet been fixed. Despite the fact that businesses travelers will not pay the new levy, it will annually take in millions to the town hall. Approximately, 30% percent of the almost nine million overnight stays in the city account to leisure travelers. A revenue of six million euros per year is, thus, likely to be easy to achieve. Since the new levy is a contribution and not a tax, the revenues will not be included in the general budget, but only used for a specific purpose. The revenues should be used to improve the tourism infrastructure and expand marketing of Frankfurt. A large part of the proceeds could benefit the marketing activities of the urban tourism and congress society.
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G Adventures Is Expanding Into Coastal Norway
G Adventures is expanding into coastal Norway in 2017, in addition to its programs in Antarctica and the Arctic, according to the 2017 Expedition Cruise Market Report. The adventure travel company also has a presence in the Galapagos and bought the Swan Hellenic brand in January, in addition to other travel brands Just You and Travelsphere. In Antarctica, the season is at its maximum length, according to Heller, starting in mid-October and running through mid-March on the company-owned Expedition, a 134-passenger ship.
 
 
Trondheim Targeting Offseason and Homeporting Buildup
A renovated runway at Værnes, the international airport in Trondheim, will be open in time for the 2018 cruise season. This will lead to the re-introduction of Pullmantur using Trondheim as a turnaround port. “We are expecting 79 calls for 2017 with 130,000 passengers, which will be an all-time high,” said Maria Kühnl, cruise coordinator. “Among them will be 10 off-season calls and five overnight stays. “Trondheim is the ideal port to start or end a cruise in Norway. We are located in the heart of Norway from which you can either go south or north. We can accommodate thousands of visitors and have proven that we can handle big turnover operations”
the port is keen on building both winter and over-night stays. The port has plans to add new bollards to its cruise quay to handle larger ships, and plans are in the works to extend the parking area for shore excursion buses.
 
Heathrow Loses Its Position As Europe’s Largest Airport
Travelmole reports Amsterdam’s Schiphol has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for direct flights. According to the Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Schiphol has risen from sixth place in 10 years. It put the reason for its growth partly down to the rise of low-cost carriers, which now make up 21% of its direct flights. Heathrow’s growth, on the other hand, has been constrained by a lack of capacity. Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Istanbul Ataturk airport make up the rest of the top five airports for direct flights. ACI Europe’s airport industry connectivity report found that for the second year in a row, direct flights are growing at a faster rate than indirect and connecting flights. It said this reflected the expansion of low-cost carriers on both short and medium haul markets and ‘the relative retrenchment of network carriers’. ACI said that over the past 10 years, 99% of the growth in passenger traffic of the top 20 European airports has been delivered by low-cost carriers. Low-cost carriers have moved into larger airports and hubs, and they are now making inroads into the long haul market. Europe’s airports will see 87 long haul routes being operated by low-cost carriers this summer, up from 14 just four years ago. The next step – which Ryanair has just started experimenting, is to offer feed to network carriers or even develop their own connecting product. Frankfurt still boasts the highest number of connecting flights, followed by Amsterdam, Dallas-Fort Worth, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Atlanta. Abu Dhabi has been the fastest-growing hub since 2007, followed by Delhi and Guangzhou.
 

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Filed under Airlines, England, Europe, Germany, News, Norway, UK

Travel News: New Harry Potter Exhibit

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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).
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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. 
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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. 

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Filed under Airlines, England, Europe, UK

Travel News: Scotland’s New Independence Referendum

Our Hearts go out to Stockholm…

Alaska Airlines Announces New Long-Haul Service From Portland And Los Angeles

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America today announces new daily, nonstop service between Portland, Oregon, and New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport beginning Nov. 6; Portland and Detroit beginning Aug. 30; and Los Angeles and Philadelphia beginning Sept. 1. This added service provides flyers greater access to two New York metropolitan area airports – JFK and Newark. JFK is the country’s busiest international gateway, and is a prime jumping off point for customers traveling to Europe and beyond on Alaska Global Partners including British Airways, Icelandair and Condor. Members of the Alaska Mileage Plan can earn and redeem miles when flying on one of Alaska’s global airline partners to over 900 destinations around the globe. With the new service to Detroit, Alaska Airlines will offer the only daily, year-round nonstop service from Portland to the Motor City, home to auto industry giants such as General Motors and Ford Motor Company. The new Los Angeles-Philadelphia flight builds on the 27 new markets the combined airline has added from California, since merging with Virgin America in December. Virgin America previously served this market from April 2012 to October 2014.

Scotland Formally Requests New Independence Referendum

A letter informing Prime Minister Theresa May of the Scottish government’s official request to hold a second independence referendum has been delivered to Downing Street. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signed the Section 30 letter requesting transfer of powers to Holyrood on Friday morning. May’s government has already said it will decline the request, however. “As you are aware, the Scottish Parliament has now determined by a clear majority that there should be an independence referendum,” Sturgeon wrote. “The purpose of such a referendum is to give people in Scotland the choice of following the UK out of the EU and single market on the terms you negotiate, or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and build a genuine partnership of equals with the other nations of the UK. On Tuesday Scottish MSPs voted 69 to 59 in favor of requesting another referendum, which would be held sometime between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Britain Triggers Brexit

Forbes reports on the how in which the EU and the UK must begin the complicated process of untangling from each other’s affairs. With Great Britain triggering Brexit negotiations, the many strands to be unwound from the tightly woven UK-European Union carpet apparently will include Europe’s highly popular low-cost airlines, including Easyjet and Ryanair, as well as traditional carriers as their ability to fly as freely as before could be sharply restricted once the UK is on its own. Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that she intends a “hard” exit, meaning leaving the single market and moving her country outside the purview of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and therein lies the problem for the aviation industry. The ECJ has ultimate jurisdiction over European aviation law, and the UK would have to agree to the unlikely scenario of submitting to its authority. It’s just one of the literally innumerable economic, financial, business, judicial, social, and cultural sectors, to name a few. in which the EU and the UK must begin the complicated process of untangling from each other’s affairs. European Commission negotiators reportedly have warned British airline officials that post-exit, the U.K. airlines as currently structured would have to curtail various services, including flights between European cities. In that scenario, they would be restricted to flights between British and European cities only. Lead the full article here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidschrieberg1/2017/03/28/airlines-and-their-passengers-expected-to-suffer-serious-disruption-as-britain-triggers-brexit/#7a484fc1b187

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The End Of The line For American Long-Distance Trains?

CNN reports that US passenger rail travel is subsidized by federal funding. The threat of budget cuts has been hanging over less profitable lines for a number of years. Amtrak CEO and President Wick Moorman says that budget cuts could potentially impact 500 communities. These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and State-Supported services. It is not known yet if the proposed budget will be approved by Congress, or even how those cuts might be implemented. But from the 1950s onwards, many railroads have been driven out of business due to the rise of the motor car and of the airline industry. The long-distance lines might well be running out of track. Amtrak operates 15 long-distance trains across the nation and these routes offer the only Amtrak service in 23 of the 46 states served. In fiscal year 2016, numbers on Amtrak’s 15 long-distance lines were up 3.7% versus the year before, with close to 4.7 million riders. Should cuts to long-distance funding go ahead, the money could be directed instead to the busier Northeast Corridor lines, which served close to 12 million riders in fiscal year 2016.

American Cruise Lines Announces Name for 2018 Coastal Cruise Ship

A new coastal cruise ship coming from American Cruise Lines in 2018 will be named American Constitution, the line announced last Thursday. The name for the 175-passenger ship, which is currently under construction at the company’s shipyard, Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., is inspired by the USS Constitution, the US Navy’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. It will continue the company’s hallmark of having larger-than-average cabins with private balconies, as well as multiple lounges. American Constitution will be a sister ship to American Constellation, which will launch in May 2017. American Constellation is sailing a new itinerary for the company, Grand New England, which visits small Northeast ports such as Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Itineraries for American Constitution have not been released, but the company said that it’s expanding in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska next year. Full details on the 2018 schedule will be released soon.

U By Uniworld Changes Age Range To 21-45

Uniworld is launching a new brand, U by Uniworld, designed for ages 21-45. The starting price for one week on U By Uniworld is $1,699 per person, based on double occupancy, significantly lower than Uniworld’s all-ages luxury river cruises. Described as “semi-inclusive,” U fares include free Wi-Fi, one shore excursion each day, breakfast and dinner but no lunch. Another difference is that excursions will be active, with some taking place at night. Options include an evening bike ride along the Danube, a “Midnight in Paris” stroll, a canal cruise in Amsterdam, vineyard hikes and a street art walk. Many of the cruises are also timed to coincide with events such as Oktoberfest and the Sziget Festival. Drinks packages will be sold, with pricing yet to be finalized. U By Uniworld cruises will be operated on the renovated 116-passenger ships, River Baroness and River Ambassador. They will also feature onboard activities such as silent discos, yoga, and painting, cooking and mixology classes. The sun deck will receive a new “cafe-bar” venue, as well as an open-air movie screen. Another new feature being planned is a smartboard where passengers can leave messages about meeting up for drinks or going ashore together. The company is also looking at ways to help passengers connect before their cruise, most likely on the website or social media. The last-minute move to slightly older passengers was a response to listening to customers and travel agent partners. U By Uniworld is aimed at “young professionals who have a bit of money, who want to travel, and want to meet and hang out with people like them. U By Uniworld bookings open next week, and sailings will start early 2018 (dates to be confirmed).

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 New World-Class Attraction Coming To Old Port Of Montreal

Starting this June, Montrealers and visitors to the city can soar to a unique vantage point between the city and the river on Montreal’s Observation Wheel. Designed especially for Montreal, this new attraction, already under construction on Île Bonsecours in the Old Port, will generate significant tourism and economic benefits for the metropolitan region. The wheel will be the highest observation wheel in Canada and third highest in the United States and Canada , rising 60 meters above ground, with a view stretching 28 km. It will be in in operation year round, whatever the weather, from 10 am to 11 pm. There will be 42 temperature-controlled gondolas that can seat 8 comfortably, during three revolutions, for a total of 15 minutes. The Old Port is a unique, must-see destination for visitors and with this new observation wheel, created through a major private sector investment on this federal site, the city will once again be at the forefront creating unique activities that complement Montreal’s tourism offers.

Tourisme Montréal’s Passeport MTL Is Now Available

Tourisme Montréal is relaunching Passeport MTL, a single card for discovering Montréal’s top attractions. The card gives users access to 23 attractions and unlimited public transportation using the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) network, which includes the 747 bus that runs between Montréal-Trudeau airport and downtown.

Valid until March 31, 2018, Passeport MTL represents more than $300 in admissions to the 23 attractions: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, McCord Museum, Grévin Montréal Museum, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, are just a few of the attractions. You can get the passport here:

https://antispam.roaringpenguin.com/canit/i.php?z=1&m=3447856d&f=101260913&rlm=nexicom-net

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, UK, UniWorld

Islands Series: the Orkneys

Tired of this heat and seeking a cooler harbor?

This week we’re taking a look at islands where you can stay cool in the summer, big and small. Islands where you can still enjoy a cup of piping hot coffee or tea without sweating away in your windbreaker!

So you’ve been to England, you’ve seen Bath and Stonehenge in all their glory–you’ve even did a train up to Edinburgh and checked out the incredible Sterling Castle. What’s next to explore in the UK? How about a week in the slightly stranger, much more tranquil, Orkney archipelago?

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The Orkney Islands include about 70 islands just off the coast of Scotland. With its sloping valleys and stark green moors, the islands–much like its Faroe neighbors to the north–give off a wild and somewhat mythical atmosphere that tends to draw the more curious of travelers.

The locals tend to be hospitable and thoughtful, with the pragmatism that comes from centuries of survival in a challenging environment. Officially, the native tongue is English–but the pronunciation tends to differ between districts, and much of the lexicon has close roots to Old Norse.

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There’s loads to see and do on the islands, most notably for avid history fans. Visitors interested in Orkney’s vivid Viking heritage will surely find Maeshowe intriguing. This tomb contains the best collection of Viking runes outside of Scandinavia, and is located 14 km west of Kirkwall. Travelers can also investigate the prehistoric ruins of Skara Brae, arguably the best-preserved ancient village in Western Europe and inhabited well before the Pyramids were built–as well as the stone circles at Brodgar and Stenness. Other (and relatively more recent) historical attractions include the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral, an elegant medieval church on the islet of Streymoy, and the Italian Chapel, built by prisoners of war in WWII.

Try to visit in the summer, when the weather is tolerable, or during one of the spirited town festivals. The Orkney Folk Festival is a lively event in May of folk music, dance, song–the towns erupt with ceilidhs and fiddle concerts. Or stop by during midsummer for the St. Magnus Festival, a distinguished celebration of the arts. But, if you happen to come in the winter or cusp season, you may get a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

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Locals love giving guided walks and tours of their famous sites. Join a guide around the WWII Naval Base near the bay of Scapa Flow. Whisky enthusiasts will delight in Highland Park, the world’s most northerly Scotch distillery. Outdoorsy types will find a home in the Orkneys, where there are ample valleys and cliffs to hike or cycle, and the multiple bays make for great sailing, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. Visitors will also find 9- and 18-hole golf courses–where windy turf can prove quite the challenge.

Travelers can even bring their kids without worry–there are lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy–from secluded beaches, to diverse marine wildlife, to farm museums and swimming pools.

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Did You Know? Some great opportunities for scuba divers abound in the Orkneys. You can dive down to the remains of the German WWI Imperial Fleet, scuttled in Scapa Flow.

How to Get There: The best way to access Orkney is by plane, via Flybe from major airports in Scotland, or by ferry.

Our Agents would love to help you beat the heat! Call us up to chat more about next year’s options to the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroe Islands or other misty, spellbinding destinations.

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Filed under Europe, Family Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel by Ship, UK

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

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