World Guides Travel Blog

July 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.

July 27, 2012


Photo of the London Olympic Stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation towerFrom today, like millions of other people, I'll be glued to my television screen. I may come up for some fresh air in a few weeks' time. In the meantime, though, it is definitely a case of 'don't call me' - at least not when the Opening Ceremony is on, or indeed any of my favourite events. London 2012, here I come.

I can remember watching the Olympic Games on a very small screen when I was a kid. One year in particular - 1972, Munich - the television in question was playing up. I'm not quite sure what went wrong, but during a memorable athletics' final, I clearly recall the runners' heads crossing the line quite a few seconds before their legs. It made it really hard to work out exactly who had won. Needless to say, my parents bought another television in time for the next showing of the Olympics.

Whilst I really enjoy watching the action from the comfort of my own home, there is a part of me that wishes I could be a real-life, on-the-ground witness to this greatest show on earth. That way, I could get to soak up the electric atmosphere and the noise of the crowds for myself, not just in the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome or the Aquatics Centre, but whilst I'm on the road. After all, when again will we get to experience travelling on London's 'Olympic Route Network' or venture into a 'Games Lane' on the motorway?

In the absence of Olympics' tickets, I'll happily pull up an armchair and settle down. Apparently, there are going to be around 2,500 hours of sporting action available for the watching. Which should be enough for even the most dedicated follower of all things Olympic. London is certainly going to be busy this month.

Posted by Sue at 16:57:29 on 27/7/12

July 21, 2012


Photo of birthday cake in the shape of the worldIt was a family birthday recently, and so I was talked into making a birthday cake, in the shape of the world. I thought I would share my creation with the world, seeing as I am a travel writer and write about so many different countries! I'm not sure that the continents are particularly accurate and my geography is perhaps a little haphazard.

My southern hemisphere kept compressing with all that gravity and when we lit the candle at the North Pole, there was definitely a case of global warming...

Posted by Sue at 11:42:04 on 21/7/2012

July 18, 2012


Photo showing Namibia's Epupa Falls, on the north-western side of the countrySeveral decades ago, I spent some time in North and West Africa. The trip entailed the small matter of negotiating the Sahara Desert. It wasn't an easy journey, let's just say. I remember only too well the constant search for water, the sheer effort involved in making it safe to drink using a rather primitive filter, and the subsequent self-imposed rationing of the said clean water. I've never taken a decent glass of the stuff for granted ever since and, likewise, have never forgotten that for many Africans it is never as easy as just turning on the tap.

So, I was pleased to read the news that came out of Namibia this week. It seems that ancient treasure has been unearthed in this the driest of Africa's sub-Saharan countries - a new and substantial underground source of water. There are already predictions that the watery discovery could satisfy many of northern Namibia's fresh water needs for the next 400 years, which is quite a claim considering around 800,000 people live in this area.

This year's UN figures on the subject of water show that, between 1990 and 2010, efforts to bring drinking water to the poorest communities in the world led to some two billion people being better off. That still leaves an estimated 783 million people waiting for it to happen to them.

With figures like these, the Namibian aquifer, which apparently contains water that is up to 10,000 years old, may seems like a mere drop in the ocean. The impact it could have in Africa, though, is huge.

Posted by Sue at 09:00:20 on 18/7/2012

July 14, 2012


Photo of summer rain clouds gathering above StonehengeYou know you're obsessed with the weather when you spend nearly the whole week explaining to a visiting German friend that it doesn't normally rain this much in England. Especially not in July!

According to British meteorological statistics, more rain has fallen in the UK this June than any other in recorded history. In fact, there seems to have been barely a break since a brief spell of hot weather back in March.

The truly awful weather has led to serious flash flooding in various parts of the country. Even summer solstice rituals at Stonehenge didn't escape a drenching - the event was the soggiest in years by all accounts. And a flickering Olympic flame has had to survive heavy downpours as it made its way around the highways and byways of Britain.

Unbelievably, more rain is forecast for the month to come, brought here by Atlantic weather systems. Olympic event spectators are being asked to prepare for the adverse weather conditions. Personally, I'm holding out on old English folklore that says whatever the weather on 15th July - which is denoted as St. Swithin's Day in England, will prevail for the next forty days. St. Swithin was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester who had a reputation for being able to bring about a miracle or two, even after his death. Fingers crossed.

Posted by Sue at 15:00:16 on 14/7/2012

July 11, 2012


World Guides screenshotHave you noticed our latest improvement to the site navigation of World Guides?! Well, we have been working hard to write some US state pages, so that we can sensibly group all of our 121 detailed American city guides by state, to make it easier to find additional destinations within the same state. For example, from the Los Angeles guide, simply click on the 'California' link at the top (just above the title) and you will open up the California state page, with a useful state map and links to a total of 15 city guides for this particular state.

On the way next are pages for English counties, Canadian states, French territories, Spanish provinces... you get the idea! We hope that you find this addition useful in navigating your way around our growing site, which is now close to 12,000 hand-written, original pages. And of course, you can always use the search box if you are looking for something in particular. Please let us know what you think...

Posted by Martin at 18:58:29 on 11/7/2012

July 7, 2012


Photo of past Tour de France cyclistsAs someone who's about to venture into the world of two wheels with more than just a trip to the shops in mind, it is with keen interest that I've been following this year's Tour de France. What have I learned? Well, that you should never accuse a racer of riding a 'bicyclette' for a start. It is definitely better to stick to the customary 'le vélo'. And that no one - absolutely no one - wants to be picked off by the 'broom wagon', known in Tour lingo as the 'voiture balai'. Above all, although, I've come to understand that the Tour isn't simply a cycle race. It is a tale of triumph over adversity, of endurance beyond belief. It can even make grown men cry.

The Tour de France began over a hundred years as an attempt by a Parisian newspaper to drum up better circulation figures. The first race threw up some great stories of derring-do that kept readers well and truly hooked. Since then, millions of spectators have lined up at the roadside each year to watch their heroes toil over hostile terrain in the pursuit of the ultimate sporting accolade. They wait for hours just to catch a glimpse of the peloton as it flashes past. It is that kind of race.

This year's tour is the 99th installment. Riders will cover 3,479 km / 2,162 miles in 21 days, including a prologue in the city of Liege. After a few days in Belgium, the route heads through northern France. From there, it climbs into the Alps, via the Vosges, and the riders encounter some exciting mountain stages. Then it is down to southern France to the Pyrenees, with even more climbs to look forward to. A rapid time trial in Chartres later and that just leaves a final triumphant ride around the streets of Paris and the opportunity to try on a certain yellow jersey for the overall winner.

The high mountain stages will undoubtedly be the most gruelling. These are the sorts of hills that just seem to go up and up and up. They're where champions are made. They're undoubtedly the most exciting to watch, with lots of potential to witness some titanic battles between the top riders.

Each year, the race attracts controversy in some form or other. Usually, it is relating to performance-enhancing drugs, a subject that has dogged the Tour de France ever since its earliest days. Like I said, it is that kind of race.

Posted by Sue at 12:46:32 on 7/7/2012