It seems that the flat-pack furniture and free pencil purveyor IKEA has copped a lot of flak for its branded hotels scheme, which is set to be rolled out in no less than 50 European locations in the next five years.
The chain, which involves a partnership with Marriott known to be known as Moxy Hotels, will open its first branch in Milan in 2014, and already I can’t hide my excitement. Here’s a little story which goes some way to explain…
Back when the Croydon branch was brand spanking new and ready to be unwrapped, I was one of several lucky families who got to try out being not-so-mystery shoppers, drafted in by the big chiefs to help the staff get to grips with the sales and refunds process. We traipsed up to Croydon and got to wander round the store, as well as being given a list of items to buy and to return. As a reward, our primary school got a lovely shiny IKEA voucher, and I was hooked on the heady smell of meatballs, hotdogs and pine wood, not to mention the promise of free tape measures and pencils.read more
Anyone with an interest in art history will obviously love Florence, but there’s so much more to it than the galleries you read about (although, let’s face it, the Uffizi is impressive – when I visited there was some kind of US military official being given a private tour and even he looked interested).
When I visited back in June 2007, it was bloody boiling, and I spent most of the time trying to track down a cool beer and some shade, but it was ultimately an incredible few days. Here are the highlights, in embarrassingly grainy 2007-style photo quality.read more
There’s nothing like dreaming big when you write a wishlist, so what better place to start than India? It’s a vast country and I’m sure I’m only aware of a small percentage of what there is to see, so I apologise if my plans involve going for the obvious rather than the hidden gems, but I’m only just getting to grips with it.
I’m hoping to visit either late in 2013 or early in 2014, with Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi being likely stopping points, but there are loads of other places I want to tick off. Here are just some of the experiences I’d like to have, the sights that have inspired me and the things I want to photograph, from the possible to the not-so-likely-unless-I-take-a-gap-year.read more
This year I’ll make my fifth trip to the Fringe Festival and my seventh trip to the city – Edinburgh, I’m unashamedly under your spell. It’s not just the Fringe that draws me in (I’ve been here in rainy October and still found plenty to do), as there’s always something new or unseen to discover. It’s constantly changing, with a buzzing art scene and some really tempting vintage shops, not to mention the art exhibitions, in particular the Printmakers’ Studios in the Old Town.read more
My hotel in Boston had enough history to qualify as a tourist attraction in its own right. It was the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, had its own clubs for 19th century men-about-town, was Charles Dickens’ crash pad during his American lecture tour, and once had Malcolm X as a staff member. But what was it like to actually stay here? I visited with my family for a four night city break, looking to see the sights.
I shared a twin room with my sister and we were lucky enough to have huge beds, a flat-screen TV, dressing gowns and a seriously tempting snack selection on offer from the minibar. We settled down to watch a news piece about a jelly bean that looked a bit like Kate Middleton and were soon really chilled out, if a little bemused about the jelly bean.read more
It’s nearly 14 years since I went to Vancouver in Canada (wow, I feel old saying that), but I can still remember so much about being there – my first trip on a plane; the time we went whitewater rafting; the mountains we casually drove and walked and caught a ski lift up in the middle of the August heat, only to find snow on the peaks and an amazing frozen yogurt stand (another first). But the longer it becomes since I’ve been there, the harder it is to recollect things clearly, which is why I’m so glad I still have the photos to look back on.read more
There’s been a lot of travel press focus on Washington DC and Gettysburg recently, thanks to the Lincoln effect (two films – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Lincoln – have recently been released), propelling American politics and the man with great taste in hats back into the travel spotlight. I started to think about the time I went to Gettysburg, during a sixth form college Politics trip to New York and Washington DC, which saw us stopping off at the famous battleground with absolutely no knowledge of its significance.read more
I love the travel blogging community – always one step ahead of technology, never afraid to try something new, these guys really are fearless. So, knowing what an intrepid lot they are, I let my imagination drift towards the future, about 100 years from now, imagining what they’d all be up to (assuming most of little old Planet Earth had been done to death). Here’s what I came up with, based on brief Twitter-style updates.
Check out my new post: discovering a new wormhole on my lunchbreak #wormholetravel
Still undecided on whether to take your Gap Decade on Mars or Jupiter? See my 3D videos
Cryogenic freezing blogger meet-up: don’t forget to request your defrost date for Independence Day in 2200, people! #Brr
So, I went back in time to the Middle Ages and made this virtual reality photo diary…
Clone holidays: what it’s really like to go on holiday with yourself and fight over the breakfast buffet
An expat’s view: why I emigrated to the Planet Zog
Read my new e-book guide on holidays for the over-120s – greycationers rule
Google Psychic: now Google can read our thoughts, what does this mean for bloggers?
Exclusive: vintage photos of the lost Brazilian rainforest
#TravJournoReq Can anyone recommend hotels in Hollywood with great flying car parking?
Street food on southern Mercury: my top ten suggestions
National Rail live debate: will trains ever run on time?
Post-Apocalypse travel seminar: how to beat the odds and survive
Whatever weird and wonderful inventions and discoveries that come to affect how and why we go on adventures, you can bet that a travel blogger will be the first to report back and they’ll give you the inside track. I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next.read more
Yesterday, whilst at a Travel Massive meet-up, I took part in what can only be described as an awesome photo project which is set to go viral. The brainchild of Mario Cacciottolo, a BBC journalist based in London, Someone Once Told Me has a simple aim: to document those words of wisdom (or anger, or affection) that have stayed with you and been etched into your brain. Having six years of experience under his belt, Mario is a great photographer with an eye for detail, but he admits it wasn’t always this effortless. “When I first started, I had this really old camera from communist Germany and I didn’t even know what an aperture was,” he says candidly. He soon learned the ropes, posting one photo a day on his website for five years, which built a huge back-catalogue of personal experiences and memories brought to life under the lens.read more
As today is Holocaust Memorial Day, I thought I’d show you the poignant memorial statue that I came across in Berlin, which focuses on Kindertransport – the process of evacuating Jewish children to safety, but sadly without their parents. What made it even more touching was that there was a little boy visiting the statue with a bunch of flowers, which he divided into small clumps and added carefully to each of the bronze children and to their suitcases.
The end of the statue’s caption is bleak but honest – it reads: Trains to life, trains to death. Whilst the children were whisked away to be taken in by British families, their relatives back home were left under Nazi rule and, most likely, transported to death camps. The horrible dichotomy of what a train journey could mean for the Jews is expressed simply but effectively.read more