Just the tickets: Eurovision sells out while rail fares go up!
Chalkmarks: Bretignolles sur Mer, A.Lamoureux, Vendée, Atlantic Loire, France

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 10th March 2023

THIS week we’re trialing the latest world-class AI. You may have heard of ChatGPT – it writes whatever you want. Lots of people have been grumpy about it but others are nuts for it. Schools are worried students will use it in exams but newspapers have started using AI to generate stories. So, we’re giving it a go for this week’s ‘newsletter intro in the style of Chalkmarks’. How good is it? Take it away. 

Hello fellow travellers! I hope this newsletter finds you well and itching for your next adventure. As always, Chalkmarks is your go-to travel guru, and we have some exciting updates for you. First up, we recently visited the stunning island of Santorini in Greece. Next, we travelled to Bali, Indonesia and were blown away by the island’s natural beauty and spiritual energy. Last but not least, we had the pleasure of visiting Machu Picchu in Peru. As always, we urge you to travel responsibly and respectfully, taking care to preserve the beauty and culture of the places you visit. And if you’re feeling inspired to plan your next adventure, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for tips and recommendations. Happy travels!
*PS I don’t think we can quit the day job just yet!
Let’s take a look at this week’s travel headlines.

In the white corner!

Striking news: This week, all rail strikes were called off…now, they’re back on again. The first one is next Thursday 16th March. Three more are in the diary for Saturday 18th March, Thursday 30th March and Saturday 1 April. Expect the usual disruption and delays to go head. Sky News explains what happened.

Fare deal: Flight prices could come down next year, at least, if you fly from Heathrow. On Wednesday, the air regulator the CAA told the London airport to cut its passenger charges from £31.57 to £25.43. This fee, which pays for baggage handling, security and the general upkeep of Heathrow, is paid when we buy airline tickets and is then passed on to the airport. The CAA said as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2024, the cut ‘should benefit passengers in terms of lower costs’. Angry Heathrow said ‘this makes no sense and will do nothing for consumers’ adding it would ‘consider our next steps’. Heathrow has six weeks to appeal. The Guardian had the details. 

Just not fare: On the rails, train prices went up on Sunday. The hikes were the biggest for more than a decade. Commuters were cross with millions having to pay up to £380 more for a season ticket. Overall, prices went up 5.9 per cent. Campaigners tweeted that passengers were “bearing the brunt, and the costs, of a broken system”. They warned prices between peak and off-peak tickets now varied widely. Also on Sunday 5th March Tube prices increased: Zone 1 travel went up from £2.70 to £2.80, and the maximum you can spend if you were travelling all day on TFL rose to £9.60! Jumping on a London bus went up to £1.75. The Guardian had the story.

Cue coronation chaos: King Charles’ crowning ceremony has seen hotels in the capital cash in on the May Bank Holiday celebration. While many cheaper lodgings and inns are booked up, the finer establishments are charging more. The i reported that a two-night stay at Hilton’s Westminster London Curio Collection, close to Westminster Abbey on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th May, will cost £1,273 but only £577 the weekend before. “Some accommodation providers seem to use big events to charge whatever they can get away with,” said Rory Boland, from Which? Travel magazine. Bigger question is: where will Harry and Meghan stay?

Thank god: Notre Dame will reopen in December 2024 – more than five years after the devastating blaze in April 2019. It might though take a while longer to find out why it burned down! Back then, in Paris on Monday 15th, the island of Saint-Louis was closed as flames ravaged the 1,000-year-old Gothic cathedral. Firefighters took more than six hours to bring the blaze under control as they had to ensure the stone walls did not become too heavy with water and collapse. French officials announced the iconic spire that was lost will soon start reappearing on the city’s skyline as it gets rebuilt this year. It’s thought the fire was started accidentally from an electrical fault or a cigarette. AP had the story.

Action packed: Known as the sunniest region Down Under, Western Australia is blessed with natural treasures. There’s the Outback, 7,800 miles of Coral Coastline and beaches, the world’s largest fringing reef, and one of the planet’s oldest wildernesses in the Kimberley region. It has an award-winning wine region, Margaret River, natural pink lakes plus kangaroos on the beaches and the friendly quokka. If all that wasn’t enough, Australia’s First Nations people are the oldest surviving culture in the world with a history that goes back 50,000 years. More here

Italy, yes please! How about slowing down in Sardinia or nibbling bite-sized treats on a city break to Bologna. Or Sicily? This is the largest island in the Mediterranean and the biggest region in Italy. It’s home to many of Europe’s volcanoes – Etna being the biggest, Vulcano the stinkiest and Stromboli one of the most active on earth. The Valley of the Temples is older than the Acropolis in Athens. The Aeolian islands are outrageously stunning but so few tourists make it there. And if all this is not enough, Palermo has the best pizza on the planet and in Catania they eat ice (granita) for breakfast. Irresistible! Watch this to find out where to start.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Sold out: This was the Eurovision news on Tuesday. More than 50,000 tickets for the event in May at the Liverpool Arena were bought up in just 36 minutes…or 90 minutes, depending on where you read. The website Ticketmaster even crashed due to high demand. Back in October, Chalkmarks reported how all hotel and Airbnbs had already sold out with some fans seeing their bookings cancelled and rooms readvertised at higher prices. Liverpool won the bid to step in to stage Eurovision 2023 on behalf of Ukraine due to the ongoing war. If you’ve managed to get tickets, the fun starts on Tuesday 9th May. Here’s the story from the BBC.

And another thing: So Tate Liverpool is getting £29.7 million refurb as part of the Government’s Levelling Up policy. Located in the famous Royal Albert Dock, doors will close on Monday, October 16 with plans to reopen in 2025. Time Out has the details. Tate that!

A spring in their step: The return of winter this week marked a boom for Scotland’s ski season. The Arctic blast may have brought us the coldest night of the year so far, but also much needed snow across the peaks of the five main ski resorts Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee, and The Lecht, in the east, and Nevis Range and Glencoe, in the west. Alison Grove, of Snowsport Scotland, said: “This could be our biggest week of the year… especially as so many people who would normally travel abroad to ski have chosen not to because of the cost-of-living crisis and poor snow in the Alps… this is just what we’ve been waiting for.” BBC Scotland had the news.

Cancelled: Here’s the story about Matt Hancock being cancelled for a travel and tourism gig in Qatar in June. The ex-health secretary will no longer be speaking at the Institute of Travel and Tourism event in Doha, having been highly critical of the travel industry- as revealed in the Lockdown Diaries, based on Hancock’s WhatsApp messages, published in the Daily Telegraph. Hancock had joked about quarantine hotels and criticised airlines as being “unhelpful”. Chairman of ITT, Dr Steven Freudman, said “his [Matt’s] WhatsApp messages have upset many of us in the travel industry and his presence would clearly have been a major distraction.” There’s something so pleasing about this news. Goodbye Matt.

This time last year: Do we keep travelling as if nothing has happened? Instead of questions about Covid, holidaymakers were asking about Russia and the war in Ukraine…Two weeks into the invasion and answers were uncertain…No one knew how rapidly the conflict would progress, or if it would escalate…Much of the world imposed sanctions on Russia, and global companies pulled out their operations…Travellers cancelled trips to Krakow because going to Poland ‘didn’t feel’ right…and it was taking in 1.3 million refugees…The Foreign Office recommended against travel to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the eastern border region of Moldova…The rouble plummeted…Aeroflot flew one of its last international flights from Cancun, Mexico, to Moscow…Oil prices soared…petrol hit £1.60 a litre…And, in other news, the infamous Marble Arch Mound that cost Westminster City Council £6 million was dismantled. 

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

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