Back by Royal appointment: Palaces reopen and rail strikes return
Chalkmarks: Bruges, Belgium

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 23rd September 2022

It’s getting cold, people are asking when the clocks go back (it’s on 30th October) and rail strikes are back. Welcome to autumn and the beginning of the new Carolean era. To cheer ourselves up, we are in Bruges for the weekend (see above). Our programme of events involves a boat trip on the pretty canals, climbing the steps of Belfort bell tower, having a few drinks at ‘t Brugs Beertje and scoffing a chocolate tasting plate at De Proeverie. We’ll then move on to Antwerp for some diamond window shopping. A girl’s best friend. More on that next week. For now, here’s what made the travel headlines. 

TGIF! 

Nothing has changed: Rail strikes are back. Postponed during the 10 days of mourning for the Queen, they restart on Saturday 1st October. Drivers from the union Aslef and members of the RMT will walk out next Saturday causing gridlock on the network: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Northern Trains, Southeastern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands are among the operators that will be affected. Aslef boss Mick Whelan said they didn’t want to go on strike but the train companies had forced their hand. He said: “With inflation now running at 12.3% – and set, it is said, to go higher – these companies are saying that drivers should be prepared to work just as hard, for just as long, but for considerably less.” 

It goes on: Aslef has planned a second strike for Wednesday 5th October and RMT has another in the calendar for Saturday 8th. The BBC had the story.

Taxing times: Wales could become the first nation in the UK to introduce a holiday tax. The new tourism levy will charge overnight visitors a ‘small contribution’ to help pay for the upkeep of beaches, parks and paths. Some businesses say it will put off visitors, who will go to England. On Tuesday the Welsh government opened a public consultation into the idea. They say Greece, France, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and the US state of California already have a tourism tax. If passed it could come into effect in 2024. BBC Wales News tells us what it’s all about.

Greece is the word: Congratulations to Greece. Athens has been named the cheapest city break in Europe by Post Office Travel Money. Not only have prices in the city fallen since 2021 but the research showed that the cost of two-nights in a hotel, taking in meals, transport and attractions came to £207. Lisbon took second place at £218. Costing twice as much were Stockholm, Sweden, and Paris, France. Nick Boden, head of Post Office Travel Money said: “Our advice to holidaymakers is to do their homework and check prices before booking.” Such as flight prices which didn’t seem to be part of the study! The story in the Guardian was retweeted by the Greek Embassy in the UK.  

Inside story: Like a Greek myth, the city of Athens draws you in. It’s warm, it’s sunny, it’s ancient… yet modern. It has beaches, and a port, which is perfect for island hopping. It really is a classic at just four hours from the UK.  Plus it’s the oldest capital in Europe, the cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy. Its ancient temples and ruins lie scattered around the city alongside remnants from the Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires. Then there’s the food, the countless cafes, and the blue Aegean Sea. It’s is full of everything you want.

A taste of Italy. For those longing not only to eat but to learn how to cook authentic Italian cuisine there are numerous schools in Tuscany that teach how to prepare antipasti, soups, risotto, gnocchi and of course traditional pizza and pasta dishes. We found Gourmet on Tour, which offers a hands-on experience with professional chefs. Situated in Villa Lucia in the valley of Vorno – close to Pisa – in Tuscany, they also offer wine tastings and guided tours to nearby cities. It’s a recipe for happiness. We tried it here.

Cost-of-travelling crisis: The price of taking the Tube to Heathrow has risen. Travellers heading to the airport via Zone 1 will now pay the peak rate fare £12.80, instead of £10.80, if they take the newly opened Elizabeth Line. For those thinking they’ll jump on slower Piccadilly Line, fares are cheaper but have also gone up to £5.50, from £3.50. Even buying an Oyster Card has got more expensive, now £7 from £5. London Mayor Sadiq Khan signalled that extra money is going to help repay the government which has bailed TfL out during the pandemic. He said the Heathrow route was chosen to have the least impact on commuting Londoners.

Foodie adventure: Mamma Mia. Pull up a stool, dangle your legs and get stuck into aperitivo. It’s not wrong to start a weekend break in Emilia-Romana, Italy, sipping a glass of Prosecco but it’s the perfect excuse to revisit the classics: Campari, Cinzano, the bright orange Aperol and even a sparkling Lambrusco. Bellissima. Italy is also a top spot for great food. From the moment you step off the plane, it’s ragu, lasagne, Mortadella ham, green olives and nearby Modena is home to Balsamic, delicious drizzled over gelato.  Here’s what we got up to when we went. Read all about it.

By royal appointment:  While the Royal Family remains in private mourning this week, the royal palaces and residences are reopening. Following the late Queen’s funeral on Monday, the doors have already opened at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and The Queen’s Galleries at Buckingham Palace in London. Windsor Castle will reopen next Thursday 29th September.  

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