UK currency crash: What the pound falling means for our holidays
Chalkmarks: Budapest, Hungary

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 30th September 2022

THE pound falls, flight prices to Tenerife more than double, rail strikes affect the London Marathon and the Titanic pump-house becomes a whiskey distillery. Your fact-packed, must-read weekly travel round-up…

Beer in the cathedral!

Make a run for it: The pound fell to $1.03 this week. This was a record low. It’s risen slowly but only to $1.12 – it’s still very low. The number is grim. For the first time in our lifetime the pound has come close to equalling the US dollar and some say the exchange rate could reach parity by the end of the year. This followed the Government’s not-so-mini budget on Monday. It has caused chaos across the economy, and been described by David Dimbleby as a “shitstorm”. It made the front pages all week. The BBC reported the historic news and here is the front page of the Evening Standard.

Holidays are over: A trip to the US got very expensive overnight – and to Europe and many other countries too – as sterling plummeted. A weak pound means we are £230 worse off for every £1,000 exchanged, according to The Telegraph but they say, on the up side, Americans are flocking to our shores to spend their dollars. Here, travel expert Simon Calder gave us some advice on how we can make our pounds and pennies stretch.

Where the pound goes further: We’re currently in Budapest, Hungary – and while the country is in the EU, the forint has remained, so a visit won’t blow the budget or leave you in a Huf (that’s the currency btw). It’s cheap to sightsee: the grand, high art landmark buildings are free including Buda Castle (see above), Parliament and St Stephen’s Basilica, as is walking across the Margaret Bridge over the Danube between Pest and Buda. Visiting a thermal bath is great value and so is eating and drinking out. A coffee and slice of cake though at Grand Central Cafe did set us back 3,655 Huf (£7.60). It wasn’t busy. Street food is just a few pounds, with kebabs about £2.50 (our dinner). If you want to buy cosmetics, many products are half the price you’ll find in the UK.

Which brings us to flights? According to the consumer travel experts at Which? plane fares are 42% more expensive this half-term school holiday than they were before the pandemic. Which? found prices to Tenerife had gone up the most, especially on the route from Heathrow. The average price in 2019 was £165 and now stands at £427 – a £262 difference. Elise Weber, Skytra chief executive, told Which? the increase was a combination of “rising fuel costs, pent-up demand and airport passenger caps.”

Tomorrow: Don’t travel is the advice for Saturday as 90% of train services with not run in one of the country’s biggest rail strikes. There will be no services running between London and Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham. The Evening Standard reported that new Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she wants to “work as a family” with unions to resolve the pay issues. A solution though will come too late for runners getting into the capital ahead of the London Marathon on Sunday. Network Rail has warned of limited services with further walkouts planned on Wednesday (5th October) and next Saturday (8th October). Here Sky News breaks down which operators will or won’t be running. 

Art for the people: Many newspaper travel sections this week covered the news that Antwerp finally reopened its Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen on Saturday. Better known as KMSKA or the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, this was a €100 million (£88 million) renovation, fantastically delayed, taking 11 years to complete, so naturally they wanted plenty of coverage. It houses the largest art collection in Flanders including from their favourite old masters Peter Paul Reubens and Jan van Eyck. Here it is in The Telegraph.

Boozing in the Cathedral: As Chalkmarks was not invited to the launch we found our own fun in Flanders. Known as the city of diamonds, at first we were easily distracted by the huge 100 metre sparkly gem on top of Antwerp’s Port House, and then we were dazzled by the real things in hundreds of jewellery shops, which cover around one-square mile of the city. Unfortunately, because we were on a budget we indulged in the other cultural pull: beer, which costs as little as a cup of coffee. The city has its own brewery De Koninck, with its golden ale found in all pubs across the city. We highly recommend the Triple d’Anvers, a strong blond as we heard it called. Feeling slightly snubbed by the art world, we found solace in the Cathedral of Our Lady where not only do they have four original Reubens but they also serve beer. That’s what we call a religious experience. 

National treasure: Hunter Davies, our favourite Beatles author, and the only authorised biographer of the band, has gifted more Fab Four goodies to the British Library this week. Davies, 86, has handed over 14 boxes from his private collection, which includes unseen notebooks, hand-drawn sketches, pictures and videos to the nation, for a mere £50,000. While he could have sold the items at auction for millions, Davies said he wanted the pieces to remain in London for ever. He will give a talk about the collection at the library on 11th November.

You want ice with that: The landmark Titanic pump-house, beside the Thompson dry dock, once the birth place of the famous liner, in Belfast, is set to become a whiskey distillery. The listed-building in the heart of the Titanic Quarter has turned into a £7.5 million distillery and visitor centre due to open in November. Not only have the original pump engines been preserved but it will also make single malt Irish whiskey. Richard Irwin, director of Titanic Distillers told RTE News: “We’re very excited to embrace the history of our distillery’s location to create a unique product and visitor experience in a World Heritage Site, immersed in the spirit of Belfast’s industrial and maritime past.” Hic!

In line: Windsor Castle reopened to the public yesterday – three weeks after the Queen’s death – with queues already forming outside King George VI Memorial, Her Majesty’s final resting place. Mourners wanting to see the Queen’s head stone and pay their respects are urged to pre-book to ensure entry. Berkshire Live had the story. 

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