Pole position! Krakow and Reykjavik are our favourites for city breaks
Chalkmarks: Amsterdam, Netherlands, February 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 9th February 2024

WE KNOW what you’re thinking: we don’t travel enough. You’re right. So, we’re off. We’re heading to Bordeaux, where the number one activity is drinking wine. And like you, we don’t drink enough claret. We also don’t spend enough time in chateaux. So we’re going to be quite busy putting these things right. The top destination is La Cite du Vin. After that there’s 6,000 wineries to visit. What’s not to love? The best thing about wine is that there are no trends to follow, no TikTok algorithm to make us dizzy. The wine capital of the world has been the same for more than 150 years. This is the new us: we’re going to learn about grapes, appellations, classifications and pairings. We wonder what goes with a crème brûlée? We’ll report back. And we will enjoy ourselves responsibly. Cheers! Let us return to this week’s travel headlines. Here they are…

Start here!

Urgh, so 2023! This year the travel playbook has been torn up! Britons have ditched their favourite city breaks Amsterdam and Barcelona for Krakow, Prague and Reykjavik. Kelly Cookes, at Advantage Travel Partnership – a group of independent travel agents – said travellers were responding to cost and curiosity. She said: “Amsterdam and Barcelona are still up there, but are not driving the same kind of volumes. Krakow is mainly price-driven. We see Prague in there quite a lot because of price. People want to try something different and they’ve done a lot of those traditional Amsterdams, Barcelonas.” They also said holidays to Cyprus this year were “eye-wateringly extortionate.” Simon Calder at the Independent had the scoop.  

Taking to the skies? Then step on the scales. Masters of the airlines, Finnair, are getting personal. On Wednesday it announced passengers would be weighed with their luggage before boarding to help ensure the flight took off safely. It said the data they were using to estimate passenger load was out of date and are asking people boarding flights at Helsinki to volunteer anonymously to get weighed so they can update their calculations. Six hundred people so far have stepped up. Sky News has more.

Out of the country: All hail the January holiday! Loadsa peeps took a winter trip to Spain in the first month of the year. According to Monzo, the bright-orange debit-card company, travel spending rose 12 per cent on last year with the top destination being Spain with holidaymakers jetting off on Ryanair. Travellers also to made it to Australia, the US and the UAE.

Fly-guys: easyJet has been filling two planes a minute at peak times since the start of the year. Ryanair says its bookings are up five per cent on this time last year. Saga says business is expected to rise 20 per cent. And, On the Beach is up 27 per cent on last year. And while demand is high, some airlines are yet to increase capacity which is still below pre-pandemic levels – running up to 20 per cent lower than demand. Wizz Air boss József Váradi told the FT: “The real issue is that we think there is a lot more demand than what we are able to deliver.”

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!

Elsewhere in France: I’ve died and reached the city of heaven. No, I haven’t. I’ve just been on the piste in the French Alps. One minute I was standing up, the next I was on my back looking up at domes of soft, white powder. It was mid-morning in Les Contamines-Montjoie at the foot of Mont Blanc and this was my first skiing lesson. This is a great place to learn for nervous nellies like me.  Some would rather it was kept hush hush unlike nearby skiing mecca Chamonix – one of the most famous for advanced skiers. Just across the Swiss border – an hour from Geneva airport – Les Contamines’s billed as a Scandinavian-style resort, which means you can tick off Nordic sports such as ski jumping, snowshoe walking, biathlon, ice climbing and telemark skiing. There’s also ice-skating, snowboarding and Arctic dog sledging. Here’s one of Europe’s best kept skiing secrets.

New attraction: It’s been a minute, at least, since anyone thought about the Roman Empire – and this could be the first mention in 2024. But this week, Rome unveiled a huge statue of Emperor Constantine who ruled from 306 to 337. He was the first to covert to Christianity and named New Rome or Constantinople (now Istanbul) after himself in 330. As if Rome didn’t have enough going on they’ve added this must-see 13-metre (42.6 feet) statue with Emperor Constantine draped in a golden tunic, holding a sceptre and orb, that overlooks the city. If you can’t get to Italy, there are plans to build another one in Bishop Auckland in County Durham! AFP has the snaps!

Starry-eyed: Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait will be on display at the National Museum Cardiff from March as part of a selfie exhibition. Usually housed in Paris the painting dubbed the “original selfie” will be in Wales until January 2025. In a swapsies agreement, The Blue Lady aka La Parisienne by Renoir will head across the Channel. The BBC has the story.

This time last year: Just the ticket! Rail pricing gets a much needed overhaul Train ticket prices were getting overhauled to end the 55 million fares on offer … The BBC reported that LNER – which runs trains from London to Edinburgh – would continue its trial of selling single tickets only, which cost half the price of a return … Another radical change being tested on LNER, were fluctuating ticket prices based on demand … The then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned the 10-week passport wait, brought in during the pandemic, would remain due to “demand” … The cost of applying for a new, blue Brexit passport went up to £82.50 from £75.50 … Forget KFC, it was Bourbon whiskey that was booming in Kentucky … The numbers of drinkers looking for an “amber adventure” on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail soared to 2.1 million in 2022 – the same numbers that visit distilleries in Scotland each year … More exciting details of the three-day celebration for King Charles III’s Coronation were revealed … The BBC One Show announced ten thousand tickets to be won for the free Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday 7th May.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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