"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore"
André Gide, French author
FLYING

I remember my Gran giving me a small red plastic suitcase full of toys for my first long haul flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles, aged five, collecting cups and glasses with a trolley on a flight from there to Hawaii a couple of years later, and seeing Afghanistan flicker in the darkness on the way from Moscow to Delhi in 1987. 

Flying regularly from then on, I've flown 127 airlines, many now long gone, and others transformed almost beyond recognition. I've been lucky enough to be on the first flight of the Boeing 787 from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and to experience glorious business class service and food on Etihad, BA, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian and others.

And no matter which airline, wherever I'm flying to, or in which cabin, I look forward to the next flight...


















STATUES LARGE AND SMALL
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A waterlogged statue shows General MacArthur permanently returning to the Philippines...
posted by Richard Green on 23/05/2017
 

The statue marks where General Douglas MacArthur returned to liberate the Philippines on 20th October, 1944 

General Douglas MacArthur was a man who liked to roll his trousers up and get stuck in, and this unusual statue of him striding ashore is at the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park between Palo and Tacloban on Leyte Island in the Philippines. 

The background to seven soldiers wading up the beach goes back to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1942. MacArthur fled the country ignominiously for Australia and in the unlikely setting of Terowie train station in South Australia, he made the famous speech that included the line - 'I came through and I shall return'. A self-centred and vain man, when he seniors in Washington asked him to tweak the line to the less egotistical '...we shall return', he rufused.

The famous photo of MacArthur wading up the beach, as snapped by Gaetano Faillace. Photo MacArthur Memorial Museum

His forceful personality became a symbol of resistance against the Japanese, and especially so for the people of the Philippines. Indeed, MacArthur pushed for the country's liberation as a priority - ahead of dislodging the Japanese from Formosa (now Taiwan) for example. 

MacArthur won the argument and US troops landed on Leyte on the 20th of October 1944, while he watched on from the USS Nashville. The beachmaster was too busy to send a landing craft to the general, and so MacArthur opted to wade. This resulted in the most famous photo of the campaign. Taken by Gaetano Faillace, MacArthur's personal photographer, it also shows Philippine President Sergio Osmena (to MacArthur's right), Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo (at his rear), and Richard K. Sutherland on his left.

Locals pose amongst the twice life size ensemble of statues

The Japanese counter attacked three days later, and what followed was the largest nval battle of the war - in which a combined Australian and American force thumped the Imperial Japanese Navy so badly that the Japanese navy largely remained in thier home port bases for the rest of the war. 

MacAurthur was promoted to the rank of five star general of the US Army in December; one of only four people to achieve the rank in the Second World War. He then lead the invasion of Luzon and the Battle of Manila, and would have been key in the invasion of Japan had not the country capitulated after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

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A spot of maintenance at the Landing Memorial

MacArthur ruled Japan after its surrender through the conduit of Emperor Hirohito from 1945-1948, and saught to protect the emperor from subsequent war crimes prosecution, despite MacArthur enforcing sentences on around 4,000 other Japanese citizens. MacArthur enacted land reform and encouraged trades union membership, in an attempt to strengthen Japan as a bulwark against the spread of Communism. 

After the North Korean invasion of the south, MacArthur was appointed Commander-in-Chief of UN forces, and devised the Incheon landings, an amphibious surprise assualt that took place over four days in September 1950. It established UN forces deep into what before it was North Korean territory.   

The Japanese didn't see the back of MacAurthur until he left Tokyo on 11th April 1951 

Despite flying over the area himself to check that the Chinese Army wasn't building up in the vicinity, in fact they were, and attacked the UN/US forces in November. Within weeks the US?UN forces were pushed out of North Korea, and Soeul fell in January 1951. MacArthur was caught by intercepted communications of wanting to attack Chinese territory as a means of freeing the Korean peninsula, but this was a step too far for President Truman, who relieved MacArthur of his command on the 10th of April 1951.

He flew to Washington D.C. and addressed a joint session of Congress, drawing some 50 standing ovations. He went on a nationwide speaking tour, returned to the Philippines in 1961 to receive its Legion of Honour from its president, and then spent his final years with his wife in a penthouse suite in New York's Waldorf Astoria. He died on the 5th of Paril 1964, and was laid to rest inside the rotunda of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial, the former city hall of Norfolk, Virginia.    

One more thing...MacArthur is commemorated in the USA with schools, bridges, barracks, tunnels, and 'Long Island MacArthur Airport' named after him. And MacArthur Park in Los Angleles was renamed in his honour too, and with a statue/memorial to him. There are more conventional statues of him; including outside the MacArthur Memorial museum in Norfolk, Virginia; and at the US Military Academy at West Point. The Philippines even has two settlements named after him, and another statue where the Luzon landings took place. South Korea has a statue at the Jayu Freedom Park in Incheon; Japan has one at the Atsugi Naval Air Station, and Indonesia's Zumzum Island is commonly known as MacArthur Island, owing to the general spending time there in the war.

Not quite a sailor's corn pipe, but an eccentric smoking device nonetheless. Photo MacArthur Memorial museum

The Missouri Meerschaum Company is based in Washington, Missouri - known rather grandiosely as the 'Corn Pipe Capital of the World', and sells a 'MacArthur Classic Corn Cob Pipe' for USD$13.59. The deep bowl and long step gives a 'cool smoking experience' apparently.  

One more thing...another example of a partly submerged statue was London's 'RisingTide' by UK-born Jason deCaires Taylor. Famous for statues that are entirely submerged, including the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park of the coast of Greneda, Taylor unveiled a sculpural ensemble as part of the 2015 Totally Thames Festival. The four horses and 'riders' were only completely visible for a couple of hours each day, at low tide, when in fact it was possible to walk around them on the exposed pebbly river bed. 

Jason deCaires Taylor's Rising Tide near to low tide in 2015. Photo Maureen Barlin/Flickr

Hamburg has its 'Mann auf Boje' too, which appears to stand serenly on a buoy in the River Elbe. It was unveiled in 1993 and is a work by German-born Stephan Balkenhol, who often uses wood to carve human figures. The perfect place to see it from is either on a river cruise, or from the splendid Strandperle beach bar/restaurant. Read more on MyBathroomWall.

Balkenhol took part in the 1992 Doubletake programme in collaboration with London's Hayward Gallery, which involved placing his Figure On A Buoy on the River Thames between Hungerford and Waterloo bridges. The figure drew unexpected reaction from onlookers, some of whom contacted the emergency services. This culminated in a bloke leaping off a passing river cruise in order to enact a 'rescue', who perhaps unsurprisingly had then to be himself saved, after which the work was removed ahead of time. 

puzzle Fitting Leyte into a holiday: in truth the island of Leyte is a marginal destination for tourists, who head for the beaches of Borocay and Palawan, the rice terraces of Luzon, and the chocolate hills of Bohol. Yet a few hardy surfers and military history buffs do come here for the excellent waves and WWII legacy. Nearby Guiuan for example, was once home to the largest petrol boat base in the world. The region was devastated in the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan. 
31 Getting there: the Memorial Park is seven kilometres from Tacloban City Airport, and easily visible if you happen to be sitting on the left hand side of the plane on landing (when the wind is coming from the north). The airport handled just over a million passengers in 2016, and has flights to Manila with Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Philippine Air Asia; to Cebu with Cebu Pacific, and to Davao with Cebu Pacific. 
weather When to visit: the high season here is the dry season, which runs from November to April. The wet season is May to October, but the rain tends to be in the form of short short showers. Typhoons are threat to the country, especially between August and January. Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 and caused huge damage and considerable loss of life in Tacloban and Leyte Island. The airport was destroyed, and to commemorate the Typhoon and its aftermath, Pope Francis visited the area in 2015 and held an open air mass on the runway which drew a crowd of half a million.
35 More info: see Philippine Tourism
30 Visa and safety: always check your government's travel advice before booking, and ensure that your travel insurance is valid in this part of the country. See the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.

FAVOURITE HOTELS
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Surfing, Horse riding, rafting, golf and sailing: five of the best sporty hotels...
posted by Richard Green on 21/05/2017
 

Surfing in the Maldives

The Six Senses Laamu in the southern Maldives you can mix luxury lounging with some serious surfing - and you’ll likely have the breaks all to yourself. There are four wave breaks within five minutes of the resort, including the gloriously consistent Yin Yang - a reef break that produces hollow barrels for experienced surfers and safe deep-water walls for beginners.

International Surf Day at the Six Senses Laamu. Photo Six Senses Laamu

One-on-one tuition is on hand if you are a novice or want to hone your style. An International Surfing Day is held around the summer solstice, with competitions, celebrations of surf culture and a Lobster Barbecue. The surf season is April-October, www.sixsenses.com/Laamu

Horse Riding in the USA

Discover the great outdoors on horseback at the superlative Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. There are vast tracts of wildflower meadows, high-country lakes and grassy ridges to explore, plus more than 50 horses to choose from, and a tremendously experienced crew of wranglers.

The gorgeous rolling countryside around the Rock at Ranch Creek. Photo Rock at Ranch Creek

The riding lessons for children and adults. And for a day out of the saddle, the resort has a four-mile stretch of private creek with some of the best fly fishing in the state. The Ranch at Rock Creek

Adrenaline on Bali

Bali is best known as an idyllic relaxation and pampering island, which the COMO Shamhala Estate – just outside Ubud - caters for magnificently. But the island has a wilder side too, with volcanoes, jungles, canyons and some raging surf.

Rafting on the Ayung River. Photo Como Shambla Hotel 

So the estate has devised a devilish programme of activities to test guest’s strength, endurance, and appetite for adrenaline. It means mountain biking to the rim of a 1,700m high volcano, hiking through three jungle gorges, canyoning over rocks and through vegetation and waterfalls, surfing the big breakers of the Bali Sea, and diving on exquisite reefs. Como Shambla Estate

Sailing off Antigua

Balmy temperatures, strong breezes and an inveterate yachting culture have made Antigua the sailing capital of the Caribbean. And there’s no better place to learn the ropes of a 40ft yacht than at the discreet and exclusive Carlisle Bay hotel.

From dinghies to privte yacht charters, Carlisle Bay is the place to sail. Photo Carlise Bay

Its ‘Ondeck’ three-day sailing courses run from picturesque Falmouth Harbour, just a 15-minute drive away. You’ll cover all you need to know about yachtsmanship, with plenty of time at the helm, and a RYA Start Yachting certificate at the end. The courses are suitable for adults and children aged 11 or over. Carlisle Bay

Golf in Sicily

The crisp-lined modernism of the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort is the ideal base at which to pep up your game of tennis. It’s set in an inspiring 230 hectares of little-visited southwestern Sicily and provides top notch private coaching using six floodlit clay courts.

A shot on the 16th hole. Photo Verdura Resort

And away from the courts you’ll discover an arrestingly minimalist spa, 60m infinity pool, four outdoor Thalassotherapy pools, two Kyle Phillips–designed 18-hole championship golf courses, and nearby is the charming town of Sciacca and the ancient ruins of Agrigento. Verdura Golf & Spa Resort


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
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Why the original Disneyland is still the best, even after 62 years...
posted by Richard Green on 11/05/2017
 

The original Disneyland in Anaheim, Los Angeles, was the cherished dream of Walt Disney himself – who designed, opened and ran it. From that July day in 1955 till now, it’s still a place where children and adults excitedly stream through the turnstiles for a cracking day out. Even if you don’t do theme parks, don’t have kids, or become nervous around large costumed mice, this is the most authentic of theme parks, and largely because of that I'd say it is the best too.

Walt and his mouse greet visitors to Disneyland; a statue unveiled in 1993. Photo Disneyland

When Walt Disney bought the 160-acre orange grove in Anaheim, the Santa Ana Freeway aside, it was a semi rural area. The park has though long since been enveloped by sprawling LA. It was very much his brainchild, and he was closely involved in all aspects of the project, from the five distinct 'lands' right down to how far away to place the bins from food outlets.

It’s smaller than the global offshoots in Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai, but aside from the holiday weekend squeezes, when it does get extremely busy, it feels more intimate than the other parks.

Over 500 million visitors have strolled down its iconic Main Street since it opened, and spread out across the 34 hectare park you’ll find the original Sleeping Beauty Castle, which is loosely based on the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, and looks taller than its 23m thanks to forced perspective where features at the top are deliberately made smaller, and a suite of terrific rides like the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle, based on Bavaria's Neuschwanstein original. Photo Disneyland

Many of the historic old rides here are perfect for younger children and aren’t replicated in any of the newer parks, like the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage (actually remodelled from the original 1959 ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ ride, which featured a certain Captain Nemo), and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (which isn’t wild to anyone over nine years old, but is utterly charming however), and Tarzan’s Tree house (former faux forest perch of the Swiss Family Robinson).

Walt loved mechanical toys and kept a robotic bird caged in his office. His extraordinary imagination gave this concept flight in the Enchanted Tiki Room. It’s an amusing feel-good take on the Tiki craze that swept the USA in the 50’s and 60’s, where Polynesian styles and culture were all the rage. People wore Hawaiian shirts, drank at thatch hotel bars, and surrounded themselves with seafaring bric-a-brac. The 225 Audio-Animatronics creatures of the Tiki Room have been restored, but the master of ceremony Macaws squawk in their original 60’s voices.

Just a blurred few of the half a billion people to have strolled down Disneyland's Main Street. Photo Disneyland

The original Pirates of the Caribbean ride is unbeatable. It starts peacefully in a night-time bayou, before the boat you ride in passes under a skull warning that ‘dead men tell no tales’ and descends a modest flume to a subterranean world of broadsides, Jolly Rogers and pillaging. It’s astonishing to think that the spectacularly successful film franchise was based on the original Disneyland ride, and not the other way round, and if anything the original ride’s theme tune is even catchier than the film’s.

Yo Ho Yo Ho, a spin-off-movie-franchise-life-for-me. Photo Disneyland

A visit to Disneyland isn’t all about nostalgia either – The Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, themed on the history and culture of the state. And within it, Cars Land and Buena Vista Street opened in 2012; the former homage to the Disney-Pixar film, and the latter a representation of 1920’s LA. The next big opening is a dedicated Star Wars Land, but no date has been confirmed for that yet.

Any trip to LA’s Disneyland is to experience the wonderful world of Walt Disney’s imagination, but to discover this in more detail the park runs excellent ‘Walk in Walt’s Footsteps’ tours that lasts 3½ hours and include a private lunch or dinner on the terrace of the Disney Gallery.

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Reasons to be cheerful: the original Disneyland is more intimate than the other parks, and that Walt Disney himself was so heavily involved in the design only adds to the sense of history. If you stay at a hotel inside the park you are walking distance from the attractions. 

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You can't always get what you want: the park is less spread out than the newer ones, and with narrower paths it heaves on holiday weekend, and especially at Thanksgiving. Also traffic around the park can be very heavy in the LA rush hours, as day-to-day commuters use the freeways and roads skirting the park.

puzzle

Fitting Disneyland into a holiday: the park has four hotels - great for hassle free access to the park, but a tad pricey. Disneyland is a 65-kilometres from Santa Monica and 50 kilometres from Long Beach - when the freeways are behaving, that’s fair enough, but be sure to avoid the rush hours. I'd say Santa Monica, Venice and Hollywood make good bases for a stay in the city.

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Getting there: the closest airport to the park is John Wayne Orange County Airport - see My Bathroom Wall for other airports named after famous people, including George Best, Indira Gandhi and Cristiano Ronaldo. John Wayne Airport is a 20 minute drive from the park, and has mainly domestic flights - airlines include Southwest, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta. Most international passengers arrive at the busy Los Angeles International Airport, which is just under an hour by car.

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When to visit: LA is a year round destination, which doesn't really see extremes in temperatures. The best time to visit is from March to May and September and November, when temperatures are in the 60-70 range. Summer sees temperatures in the 80s and heavy smog levels, while winter is a little chilly and rainy.

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More info: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/, and Visit Aneheim 

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Visa and safety: always check your government's travel advice before booking, and ensure that your travel insurance is valid in this part of the country. See the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.

 


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
   4395 views   
Which is a good cable car to ride during a summer break in Switzerland?
posted by Richard Green on 07/05/2017
 

Summer panorama from the summit of the Schilthorn, at 2,970 metres. Photo Schilthorn Piz Gloria

Switzerland has many great cable cars that are knockout during the summertime too. The views are every bit as stunning/terrifying, the hiking superb, and there's better chances of enjoying clear skies outside of winter too. And the gondola operators have worked at making their rides year round attractions, with exhibitions, restaurants, lookouts, and hiking trails. So if you are heading to Switzerland this summer, here are six fabulous gondola rides to chose from. 

Schilthorn is the most famous cable car in the country, thanks to Bond and Blofeld doing their thing in the 1969 film, On her Majesty’s Secret Service. The 360-degree views are outstanding (or terrifying, depending on your attitude to being suspended thousands of feet from the ground from a wire), and particularly so out across the wall of peaks to the south. You can see the Jungfrau, Eiger, and if you are lucky, even Mont Blanc.

The Piz Gloria is the summit's centrepiece revolving restaurant - it appeared as Bond villain Ernst Blofeld's mountain top H.Q.. Today it cash's in on its Bond connection with a small Bond exhibition that includes a helicopter simulator and a cinema showing clips from the film, and a menu that offers a James Bond Brunch, James Bond Spaghetti, and an 007 Burger.

The summit is 2,970m above sea level, and the lower gondola station is in the village of Stechelberg, about 18 kilometres south of Interlaken. See Schilthorn Piz Gloria

Titlis Rotair: is a large rotating gondola that climbs to its 3,020 metre summit. There are four eateries at the top - fine dining to snacks, as well as magnificent views and a year round Glacier Park, where you can ride a modern six-seater chair lift called the Ice Flyer, walk through the glacier itself inside the Glacier Cave, or whiz down the ice Snowtubing.

The Titlis Rotair rotating gondola. Photos EngelbergTitlis

Thrill seeking should also walk out over the Titlis Cliff Walk - a suspended narrow walkway at the summit that's 500m above the ground. There's tobogganing too (with a moving walkway to take you back to the top), plus hiking, mountain biking, a Via Ferrata, and boat hire on the Trübsee.

The via ferrata in summertime. Photo Engelberg Titlis

The cars start from Engelberg, which is 35 kilometres from the central Swiss city of Lucerne. See www.titlis.ch

Klein Matterhorn: Zermatt is the cute gateway town for viewing the country's most iconic peak, the Matterhorn. This uniquely craggy mountain has been drawing visitors and climbers since before the opening of its first hotel in 1838. The mountain itself was conquered in 1865 by an ill-fated expedition in which four of the seven man group fell to their deaths on their decent.  

The gondola ride here will push your nerves to their limits, as it's the highest cable car ride in Europe. The upper station is just 60 metres below the mountain’s 3,883 metre summit and the area around is branded as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. 

A gondola with the Matterhorn in the background. Photo Zermatt Matterhorn

A tunnel and escalator that's built into the rock leads from the top to the highest sightseeing platform in Europe, from where you can see 38 four-thousand-metre peaks. And if you fancy tackling your own 4,000 metre peak, then it's just a 2.5 hour hike to the top of the Breithorn (4,164m).

Gazing at the imposing south face of the Matterhorn in summer. Photo Zermatt Matterhorn

The cable car system starts in Zermatt, which is close to the Italian border in southern Switzerland, is about 230 kilometres east of Geneva. See www.zermatt.ch

Mt Säntis: is the the cable car to head for if you are in eastern Switzerland. There are fabulous views over Lake Constance from the summit station. It’s not as high as many of the other Alpine peaks, but what it lacks in height it more than makes up for in prominence, and on a clear day from its summit you can see six countries - Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy. 

Unimpeded views at the summit. Photo Santis der Berg 

There is a restaurant that serves traditional Swiss cuisine, and on full moon nights, a special evening ascent with meal and music. There are sunrise ride deals too, every Sunday in July and August. And the normally restrained Swiss pin their largest national flag - which measures 120x120 metres - for their national day in 2009. Unfortunately it was torn and destroyed by the wind. 

The usually unchauvanistic Swiss pinned the world's largest (Swiss) flag here in 2009. Photo Santis der Berg 

The summit is 2,502 metres above sea level, and the car starts in Schwägalp, about 100 kilometres east of Zurich and 70 kilometres south of the German city of Friedrichshafen. See www.saentisbahn.ch

Pilatus Kulm: opened in 2015, the so called 'Red Dragon' aerial cableway runs to the top of Mt Pilatus and gives fabulous views of Lucerne and its eponymous lake. It's also the destination of the world's steepest mountain railway (proceeds at an angle of 48% in places), so it makes sense to travel up in the cable car and then down by train, or vs. vs. 

The snazzy new gondolas of the 'Dragon Ride' from Fräkmüntegg to the Pilatus Kulm. Photo Pilatus Luzern

By the summit station is the venerable Hotel Pilatus-Kulm that was built in 1890 and recently restored. A young Queen Victoria rode up Pilatus on a horse in 1868, and the hotel's Queen Victoria Restaurant honours this. And staying in the hotel means you are in poll position to watch the dawn break over the Alps. 

Richard Wagner was one of the famous guests of the summit hotel. Photo Pilatus Luzern

The car starts at Fräkmüntegg and ascends in one sweep to the 2,132 metre summit at Pilatus Kulm. See http://www.pilatus.ch

One more thing...Tin tobogganing is a summer craze in Switzerland, and the one near to the base station of the cable car is the longest, at 1,350 metres. See Rodelbahn Fräkigaudi

Stanserhorn: it had to happen I guess, but some bright spark has invented an open top gondola, and the one at Mt Stanserhorn is the world's first. Tagged the CabriO, its gondolas are double decked, allowing you to stand inside as normal, or to stand on the roof.

A bit too 'Where Eagles Dare' for my taste, but terrifically innovative. Photo Stanserhorn CabriO

There is a star shaped revolving restaurant at the top that takes 43 minutes to swivel you around a 360 degree panorama of central Switzerland.

View from the top. Photo Stanserhorn CabriO

The summit is 1,850 metres above sea level, and the cable car is easily reached from Lucern, about 27 kilometres away. See Stanserhorn


FAVOURITE HOTELS
   5184 views   
Snowshoeing in Vermont, and a stay at the sublime Twin Farms luxury lodge...
posted by Richard Green on 07/05/2017
 

An Autumnal view of the Twin Farms lake, 'pub' and main building. Photo Twin Farms

Three days of snow-shoeing in subzero temperatures through wintry Vermont, followed by a stay at the superluxurious Twin Farms.

THE PAIN...
It was midday, I was about to trek into the forest and the mercury was pinned to a breathtaking -22C. With night-time and wind-chill factored in, -52C was forecast, and incessant weather advisories urged keeping all pets and relatives indoors. I was well prepared, though, with a tin of Fisherman’s Friends, a biography of Shackleton, appropriate clothing and Brent, my local guide.

While Brent locked up his 4WD and I tried some manoeuvring in the shoes, two snow-mobiles appeared. One of the riders removed his helmet and said in a drawl: “Hi, fella, you one of the rescue party out lookin’ for those two guys missin’ on the mountain?” “No,” I said, “I’m a tourist from the UK trying out snowshoeing for the first time. Would you like a Fisherman’s Friend?” But before I could open the lid, they had sped away, shaking their heads.

Snowshoeing and cross country skiing by the lodge. Photo Twin Farms

Unlike clown boots and flippers (the other comedy footwear greats), snowshoes have evolved: no longer tied-on tennis rackets, they’re ultralight and fiercely cramponned. That said, it still feels like your feet are fixed to tea trays. Surprisingly soon, though, I was striding out quite comfortably.

The only sounds were the swish-tharumph of our footsteps and the eerie crack of frozen trees being snapped by gusts of wind. But it was the extreme cold that screamed the loudest. A cold so brutal that it gave me ice-cream headaches, and smacked my ears like I’d been Tango’d by a giant sorbet. Snowshoes let you tramp off trail over any terrain, but they’re not swift, and after what seemed like an ice age, we’d only made five miles. Eventually, we reached the cosy- looking hut, but were soon sapped of exertion’s warmth in the ferocious cold. A frying pan of snow on top of the log-fuelled stove took 45 minutes just to melt, and all that for a boil-in-the-bag spaghetti the texture of regurgitated baby food. I “slept” fully clothed, cocooned in a sleeping bag and blankets, and was disturbed through the night by crying coyotes and longing dreams of Christmas jumpers past.

The sumptuously comfortable 'Log Cabin', one of 11 themed cottages. Photos Twin Farms

THE GAIN...
It was a 20-minute drive from snowshoes to no shoes, and within minutes of entering my chalet, I was bathrobed and barefoot. It was the most super-sumptuous interior I’ve ever seen — a delightful balance of furnishings, art and lighting, with an oversized log fire already lit. And everything, from hearth rug to bath tap, as warm as a New England muffin.

Typical bathtub and fine-bathing accessories. Photo Twin Farms

Gliding into the giant tub of hot water through cliffs of foam, I immersed myself in the ultimate bathe. As the Bose boomed out the soul-soaring soundtrack from The Mission, I traced spirals in the air with my hand-blown Simon Pearce goblet of vintage port, periodically popping morsels of Vermont cheddar into my mouth.

Relais & Chateaux assure only exquisite cuisine. Photo Twin Farms

The view of the sun-streaked, snowy forest perfectly capped the sublime sensation. I’d been out there, in the grip of nature’s frozen vice, and as the aches dissolved, I had the urge to repeat my survival mantra one last time. I plucked up the rubber duck and asked: “Would you like a Fisherman’s Friend?” Twin Farms is a revelation — the 11 cottages and four rooms are each exquisitely themed, the food and wines are outstanding, and the staff are there for your every need (when I went ice-skating on the pond, a bonfire was lit and a tray of piping-hot chocolate and cookies magically appeared).

The miracle hot chocolate man. Photo Twin Farms

I wondered how deep the snow would need to be before I was stranded here for another night, or two or three ...

Perhaps the most comfy bed I've ever slept in, in the 'Log Cabin'. Photo Twin Farms

I travelled as a guest of British Airways and Twin Farms

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Reasons to be cheerful: The 20 rooms are spaced out across several old farm buildings - the main one dating from 1795 - and ten cottages, themselves in 300 acres of meadows, forest, and ponds.

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You can't always get what you want: Twin Farms doesn’t come cheap, from £790 for a suite, or from £1,220 for a cottage, but does include three gourmet meals per day (and wines from the 26,000 bottle cellar), an open public bar, games room, fitness centre, spa treatments, and Japanese-style Furo.

puzzle

How to fit Twin Farms into a trip: the wonderful Winvian is 145 miles southwest of Boston, in sleepy northern Connecticut. Fifteen architects were let loose on 18 cottages, which range from elegant to extraordinary – including a restored 1968 Sikorsky Sea King helicopter, or huge Stone Cottage with a Flintstone inspired fireplace, or a Beaver Lodge with a stick-and-twig dam effect hanging over the bed. If on a budget you can hunker down for a lot less at Blueberry Hill Inn - a lovely timber framed mansion in the Green Mountain National Forest with a sunny conservatory and cosy doubles from £79. Or in north Vermont is the luxurious Stowe Mountain Lodge, with doubles from £139.

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Getting there: Twin Farms is 140 miles northwest of Boston near the little town of Woodstock, Vermont. Boston Logan Airport handled 33 million passengers in 2015 and has flights across the USA, and to Canada, Mexico and Europe. Flights to London are operated by British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. Air France flies from Paris, Lufthansa from Frankfurt and Munich, Swiss International from Zurich, and Alitalia from Rome. JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit fly to many domestic destinations.

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When to go:

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More information: see Twin Farms, and for more information on the state see  For more Visit Vermont.

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Visa and safety: Always check your government's travel advice before booking, and check that your travel insurance is valid in this country. See here for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice


LIVERY OF THE MONTH
   5624 views   
Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon livery takes 'flying fish' to new heights...
posted by Richard Green on 05/05/2017
 

A Boeing 737 sporting the original 'Salmon-Thirty-Salmon' livery of Alaska Airlines. Photo Alaska Airlines

One of the strangest aircraft liveries yet is the 120-ft long Alaskan pink salmon that was painted on the fuselage os a Beoing 737-400 in 2008 by Alaska Airlines. The fishy fuselage was crated in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and is oficially called - with an inexcusable pun on the type of plane it adorns (namely a Boeing 737), the 'Salmon-Thirty-Salmon'.

 

It was reprised on a newer aircraft too in 2012, when a slightly bigger plane was painted. This version includes salmon pink lettering on the word 'Alaska' on a fish that is 129 feet long, on a 737-800. It also has a scaly flourish showing fish scales on the winglets. 

Fish scales painted onto the winglets of the 737-800 - the upwards flick of the outer wing is 2.4 metres tall. Photo Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines carries nearly 12,500 tons of seafood annually, which represents about half of all Alaskan exports. The fish heads from its home state to markets across the USA, Canada and Mexico. Of course the key when handling perishables is speed, no disruptions, and a consistent temperature throughout the journey.

Side view of the salmon fuselage on the 737-800. Photo Alaska Airlines

A short video showing how the giant salmon was painted onto the side of the plane

How can Alaska Airlines work for you?

Getting to Alaska: Alaska Airlines flies to ten Alaskan destinations from it's hometown hub at Anchroage's Ted Stevens International Airport.

The frequent flyer club: Alaska Airlines isn't a member of an alliance, but does have codeshare agreements with a number of carriers. Its frequent flyer programme is called Mileage Plan.

A few facts: Alaska Airlines can trace its history back to 1932, when Linious "Mac" McGee painted 'McGee Airways' on the side of his Anchorage-based seaplane. By the mid 30s it had merged with Star Air Service to become the largest airline in the state, with 22 aircraft. Aquisitions continued, until the Boeing 727 joined the fleet in the mid-60s. The airline capitalised on the US deregulation of commercial aviation in 1979, and deftly moved to a more low cost model in the 90s. 

Alaska Airlines route map. Photo Alaska Airlines

The company has 156 planes - all Boeing 737's - and an average fleet age of nine years. Today the airline flies throughout Alaska, and across much of the western USA - with hubs in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. It also flies to the Hawaiian Islands, Florida, the north east, Mexico and Cuba.

In December 2016 Alaska Airlines made a bold aquisition of Virgin America, and has announced that the Virgin brand will disappear in favour of Alaskan, probably by 2019. Virgin America had 64 aircraft and flew to 24 destinations in the US at the time of the take over.

One more thing...Livery-wise, Alaska Airlines already has a distinctive paint job, in the form of a stylised Alaskan portrait on the tailplane of each of its planes. It represents the company's roots and is the face of an Eskimo - incidentally the more usual term for the indigenous people in Alaska, as against Inuit used elsewhere.

 

Alaska Airlines regular livery with an Eskimo face on the tailfin. Photo Alaska Airlines

For further information see Alaska Airlines


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
   5472 views   
How to survive a flight delay...
posted by Richard Green on 02/05/2017
 

Bored and frustrated passengers enduring a delay. Photo Flickr/Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuno

A long flight delay is a heart-sinking ordeal: fraught with frustration, jangled nerves, and expense. Fear not though - with the right attitude and a little resourcefulness, there are ways to improve a bad situation. Here's how you can come through a delay unscathed.

Before the airport: add your contact details to the booking and download the airline’s app to get SMS alerts in case of a delay. Unless told otherwise, check-in for the original scheduled departure time, as airlines switch aircraft around and a delay can suddenly shorten. Arriving at the airport in good time helps, as passengers arriving first get rebooked onto other flights first, before they fill up.

Keep your cool: stay calm and be nice to airline staff and you’ll have more chance of help anywhere in the world, but in Asian and Middle Eastern etiquette it’s essential not to loose your head.

Make the most of the airport: if you are delayed in Singapore’s Changi Airport, you can take a stroll in the butterfly garden, swim in a rooftop pool, or catch a movie in a 24-hour cinema. Wherever you are, ask about facilities at an information desk or search the airport’s web page. You’ll probably have to stay airside (the part of the terminal past security), but shop browsing and a nice meal can help.

One of several relaxing garden areas at Singapore's Changi airport

Packing: pack essentials in your hand luggage as you won’t have access to hold luggage once it’s checked in. Toiletries and a mobile phone charger are good to have handy, and n array of diversions if travelling with children. If it’s a long delay and your carry on bags are bulky, use left luggage.

Speak to your airline: ticket desks become besieged in a bad delay, so try speaking to your airline by phone and follow it on twitter too.

Buy lounge access: many airports have pay-to-use lounges, and Priority Pass lets you use 1,000 of them for £15pp per visit (plus £69 annual fee). Or try Plaza Premium Lounge, Executive Lounges, and No 1 Lounges.

The Premium Plaza Lounge at London's Heathrow Airport. Photo Premium Plaza

Leaving the airport: it’s not advisable to leave an airport during a delay because the delay may be unexpectedly reduced. However, if airline staff give you the go ahead (and have your phone number) a nearby attraction or meal can be a godsend. Munich airport’s Visitor Park has a viewing mound overlooking the runways, historic aircraft and a children’s playground, and Hong Kong has a nine-hole golf course a short walk from the terminal (nine-eagles.com).

Catch up on sleep: in an overnight delay, your airline might pay for accommodation. With shorter delays, you can book airside hotel rooms by the hour at some airports – like Dubai, London Gatwick and Heathrow – while Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Delhi, Dubai and Hanoi have high tech sleeping pods. See sleepinginairports.net for useful tips on the best places to nap across hundreds of airports.

A room in the airside Aerotel at Singapore's Changi Airport. Photo Premium Plaza

Insurance: check that your travel insurance covers expenses incurred on a long delay before booking into the swankiest airport hotel. If flying in the European Union and you experience a non-weather related cancellation, or delay of three hours or more, you may be entitled to compensation of between €250 and €600pp. EU Claim simplifies the process and takes a commission from successful claims.

Avoiding delays: early morning flights tend to have better punctuality, as the aircraft has probably overnighted at the airport. Plus weather type delays that effect a number of flights build up through a ‘ripple effect, which can amplify through the day. Beware of the last flight of the day: if it is cancelled there's no chance of a later one.


STATUES LARGE AND SMALL
   5579 views   
Delhi's Raj era statues have been coralled into its dusty and forlorn Coronation Park...
posted by Richard Green on 01/05/2017
 

Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Marquis of Willingdon; and Charles, Baron Hardinge of Penshurst. Photos My Bathroom Wall

Scruffy, dusty and deserted, Delhi's Coronation Park is a neglected and forlorn patch of land in the north part of Delhi. Mangy dogs scratching themselves in the heat may be the only company you'll find inside the unloved statue park these days, but sometimes lads play cricket on the adjacent fields. Hard to believe that the Raj era statuary in the park once commanded prime positions on the city's grandest thoroughfares - the largest of King George V for example was once on the city's most impressive street, the Rajpath, and inside the stone gateway that now stands empty.  

The King George Memorial on Delhi's Rajpath; with King George (1936-1961), and sans King George today

The British ruled India for the best part of 300 years, and to show Indians, Britons, and the world, how the Imperial British Raj was the natural order for then and all time, King George V travelled to Delhi in 1911 to attend the Delhi Durbar and his coronation as Emperor of India. It also marked the moving of the capital of British India from Calcutta to what was to become New Delhi. 

The 1911 Delhi Durbar, which saw the crowning of King George as Emperor of India. 

Three giant jamborees took place here - in 1877 to mark the proclamation of Queen Victoria becoming Empress of India, in 1903 to mark the succession of Edward VII and his wife Alexandria as Emperor and Empress of India, and lastly the durbar of 1911 to mark the coronation of George V. The latter saw a tented camp that covered around 10 square miles and accommodate 25,000 people, plus paved roads, water mains, and a train station with 10 platforms.

The obelisk marks the spot where the royals received homage from Maharajas from across India. 

The largest statue in the park id of George V by Charles Sergeant Jagger (1885-1914), which stands six metres high atop a 13 metre plinth. It was purported to have been a gift from the Maharaja of Kapurthala, and pedestal was designed by Edward Lutyens no less - the man responsible for the master plan of New Delhi.

Statue of George V - from pride of place inside the India Gate, to scruffy park in north Delhi

It's easy enough to get a taxi driver to take you to Coronation Park, but don't expect niceties in the way of a visitor's centre, a cafe or museum; there is occasionally talk of sprucing the site up with a landscaped park and visitor's centre, but as yet this hasn't come to pass.

Red stone plinths support some of the city's Raj-era statues at Delhi's Coronation Park. Photo Flickr/Hemanshu Kumar

The neglect sort of sums up the rather awkward relationship that modern India has with its British colonial past. So for now and the foreseeable future, the unmarked statues of the British Raj-era great and good stand marooned in a dusty patch of land in a little visited part of the city.

One more thing...This short clip from the 1911 Durbar shows HH The Maharaja of Baroda presenting himself before the King Emperor. The way in which he did it kicked up a storm. For starters, he wasn't wearing his full bejewelled regalia of state, and worse still from the point of view of the British, he makes just one measly bow, instead of the required three (and of the wholehearted variety). Then he walked off with his back to the King, instead of retreating backwards.

His daughter claimed in her autobiography that he had missed rehearsals and so wasn't aware of the protocol, but as the Maharaja's were famous sticklers for ceremony and protocol - and given that he had previously attended the durbars of 1877 and 1903, it seems only reasonable to assume his slight was intentional. So most likely it should stand as an act of anti-British defiance along India's road to independence. 

 

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Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport is 15 kilometres southwest of New Delhi and handled almost 58 million passengers in 2016. Air India Air India destinations include Birmingham, Chicago, Dubai, Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Madras, Melbourne, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rome, Singapore and Sydney. And also British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly to Heathrow, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, Emirates to Dubai, Finnair to Helsinki, KLM to Amsterdam, and Qatar Airways to Doha. 

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Coronation Park is by the Burari Road about 10 kilometres north of Old Delhi. For info on the city see Delhi Tourism, and for India in general there's Incredible India


 
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