World Guides Travel Blog

January 2012

This is where we let you know all about what's going on with our website and the world of travel, with destination reviews, current travel news and topical travel-related stuff to discuss with your friends. Please let us know if you want to comment on anything - Contact us.

January 28, 2012


Olympic fever in the UK is rising. Today's handover of the Olympic Village to the organisers begins the six-month countdown that will culminate in what is hoped to be the greatest show on earth. Well, since the 2008 Beijing spectacular at any rate.

Apart from a sense of relief that the building work is on schedule, what's largely emerged from news reports today appears to be a whole raft of statistics. They include how many bed sheets need to be tucked in (64,000), sofas unwrapped (11,000) and coathangers hung up (170,000). And we mustn't forget the wardrobes to hang them in (9,000). Perhaps more remarkable are the figures for food consumption during the Games, including loaves of bread (25,000), potatoes (232 tonnes) and milk (75,000 litres).

Whilst figures like these might raise more than a smile, they do also serve a purpose. They help to bring home the fact that the Olympics is a truly huge event for Britain - as it is, indeed, for any host country.

Sadly, I won't be there in person to watch any of the events. Instead, I'll be looking forward to being ensconced in my living room with my TV and the prospect of watching the athletes (16,000) do their stuff.

Posted by Sue at 10:57:34 on 28/1/2012

January 20, 2012


Photo of the Forbidden City in BeijingNext Monday is the start of the Chinese New Year. It's the most important traditional festival in China and is celebrated all over the world. This year, the festivities will welcome in a particularly auspicious year - the year of the dragon. Occupying the fifth position in the Chinese Zodiac, the dragon is seen as the mightiest of the signs and a symbol of success and intelligence. Little wonder, then, that more babies are born in dragon years than at any other time.

In China and other countries with a strong Chinese population, having a dragon baby can be a dream come true. But there are also more down-to-earth implications. Twelve years ago, in the last year of the dragon, a bumper birth rate led to pressure on hospitals and a run on nappies. By the time the junior dragons got to school, they faced tough competition from all those other dragons, especially in exams to get into the top schools.

Whilst a younger generation may be starting to view traditional astrological beliefs with some scepticism, there are many who are still firm believers. You can't help but be fascinated by Chinese astrology - well, it certainly hooked me in for quite a while. It appears that famous dragons include movie star Bruce Lee, Sigmund Freud, Florence Nightingale and two members of the Beetles, John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

According to the horoscopes, 2012 will be especially lucky for all those dragons out there. It looks like it's going to be a good year then...

Posted by Sue at 16:24:50 on 20/1/2012

January 13, 2012


Photo of Loch Ness in the summerThis time of year always brings something of a dilemma. It starts with all those holiday adverts on TV over the Christmas holiday, where you find yourself briefly tempted by river cruises and all-inclusive sun lounging next to a perfect azure-blue pool. A family debate ensues. Somehow, you end up agreeing on a destination, despite what seems to be an impossibly varied 'wish list' from various family members.

I'd like to say that I'm through the process and have embarked on the final task of booking. Sadly not. We're still at the debate stage. It's a close run thing between a 'foodie' camping holiday in France (which will invariably involve a lot of cheese) and a Scottish log cabin break (which will involve plenty of healthy walking and less healthy idling around with a good book and refreshments). At the moment, the Scottish option seems to be winning.

Apparently, I'm in good company when it comes to opting for a Scottish summer holiday. A new survey has found that this most northerly part of Britain attracted 8% more visitors during the first part of 2011. Most of these were those enjoying a 'staycation', although Scotland is, by all accounts, particularly popular with North American visitors at the moment.

So where in Scotland should we head? As a family, we're unanimous in our desire to head west to the Highlands and Islands. Scotland's hills and mountains have been tempting us since we negotiated the steep rocky paths of Snowdon and Cader Idris a couple of years ago. The Lochaber area seems a good bet, with Ben Nevis as its main attraction. It's also known as the 'outdoor capital of the UK'. Even the prospect of heavy summer downpours doesn't seem to deter us. That's what cosy log cabins are about - you can really feel like you're living the great outdoors whilst still having somewhere to dry your wet walking gear afterwards.

Scanning the Internet reveals a wealth of luxury cabins, some of which come complete with a woodburning fires, ample supplies of kindling and an outdoor heated tub. The kids get very excited. There's mention of spectacular waterside or forest locations with amazing views. That's the grown ups sorted then.

Decision made? Not quite.

Posted by Sue at 18:48:54 on 13/1/2012

January 6, 2012


Photo of the Baluarte Bridge during constructionIt's not just 'big bridge' aficionados who are likely to want to visit Baluarte Bridge (Puente Baluarte) in Mexico, recently crowned the world's tallest suspension bridge by the Guinness Book of Records. It's anyone who wants to move around Mexico with considerably less hassle than before. The recent inauguration of Baluarte Bridge means that the road trip from the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan to the central city of Durango will be reduced by around six hours. More to the point, it will eliminate the need to brave that incredibly dangerous road known as the Devil's Backbone, which winds tortuously through the mountainous terrain of Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental.

The original road along the Devil's Backbone first opened to traffic in the 1940s. It took 15 years to build back then, with just mules to help the construction workers. The building of this bridge - the most challenging part of the whole project - has taken four years. It comes in at an astonishing 403 metres / 1,322 feet tall and has been controversial to say the least. Needless to say, it cost a great deal of money, with estimates in at some 20 billion Mexican pesos. In fact, as a way of commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence from Spain, it could look a little pricey. However, Mexican officials hope, naturally, that it will do much to unite the north and south of the country, and boost tourism in the region. More bridges, numerous tunnels and general road improvements are all in the offing. This giant engineering makeover is expected to turn what was once the riskiest of Mexico's roads into one of its safest.

The bridge is undoubtedly an awe-inspiring sight. Claims that even the Eiffel Tower - no small structure, itself - would fit neatly underneath its central span don't seem in the least bit ridiculous. So I'm sure there'll be few who can resist a peek on their next trip to Mexico. And few who won't be tempted to head further afield than they'd originally planned - well, just because they can.

One final thought. The Baluarte Bridge may not hold onto its record for long. Already an even higher one is being built in China. It looks like it may surpass the Mexican's engineering feat.

Posted by Sue at 21:29:38 on 6/1/2012