World Guides Travel Blog

November 2015

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.

November 28, 2015


Today is Black Friday. Yesterday, was Thanksgiving. Two very different events, you might think. What they both have in common, though, is that they are American traditions that have managed to cross an ocean. According to one major UK supermarket, the celebration of Thanksgiving in the UK, or 'Brits-giving' as it is being dubbed, is growing in popularity. It is mooted that one in six of us will mark the occasion in some way.

So, with turkey sales on the rise this side of the Atlantic, along with purchases of puréed pumpkin and sweet potatoes, you've got to wonder who exactly is engaging in a spot of 'Brits-giving'. It makes sense to include the 200,000-odd Americans who live and work in the UK. Then there are those Brits who have worked in the USA and have brought the tradition back home with them. The Internet, social media and the movies can probably all be implicated somewhere along the line.

Which is rather ironic, really, considering that Thanksgiving can be traced back to the English Pilgrims who famously sailed from Plymouth to the New World in a boat called the Mayflower. In 1621, they celebrated a particularly good harvest at their Plymouth Plantation and invited the Native Americans who lived locally to join them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Although there is much debate as to whether turkey was actually on the menu that day, the consumption of a roast turkey on Thanksgiving Day is pretty much set in stone. These days, over 50 million of the birds are served up in the USA alone.That is certainly a lot of turkeys this side of Christmas.

Posted by Sue at 12:43:52 on 28/11/2015

November 23, 2015


Many years ago, I spotted a print in a local picture framer's shop. It was a photograph of the explorer Shackleton's boat the Endeavour trapped in ice on that fateful expedition of 1914 to 1917. I wish I'd been able to buy the print, but it was way beyond my pocket at the time. I was reminded of it this week, though, with the opening of a brand new exhibition of photographs from the expedition to mark a special anniversary - it is exactly a hundred years since the Endeavour sank beneath the ice of the Weddell Sea in Antarctica.

The epic struggle of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew has long fascinated people. Now, an exhibition of photographs at the Royal Geographical Society in London will offer a whole new insight into the life of the men on that expedition.

Bearing in mind the dreadful conditions they endured, it is remarkable that any of the photographs survived at all. They were taken by Frank Hurley, the official photographer for the expedition. Of the original 400 negatives taken on the journey, Hurley was forced to destroy a large number. Nonetheless, those on display today feature a wide range of subject matter, from the crew going about their everyday lives before the Endeavour sank, to their bid to stay alive, even though the odds were against them.

Visitors to the expedition, which will run until February next year, will also be able to see a number of personal artefacts belonging to Shackleton and the crew, including a bible inscribed by Queen Alexandra when she visited the explorer on board the Endurance.

Perhaps what fascinates me most about this particular Antarctic expedition above all others is the fact that, although it could have ended so tragically, all but three of Shackleton's crew made it to safety. When they reached the uninhabited Elephant Island, the decision was made to take a small boatload of men to attempt the 750-mile journey to South Georgia. Once there, Shackleton was able to raise the help needed to rescue the rest of his stranded crew. It is a remarkable story that is re-told by some remarkable photographs.

Posted by Sue at 11:16:14 on 23/11/2015

November 14, 2015


The West African nation of Sierra Leone received some good news this week.The country has gone for forty-two days without a new case of Ebola, which in World Health Organisation terms, means that it is Ebola-free. For Sierra Leone, there is an opportunity to rebuild its nascent tourist industry, stunted not just by the outbreak of the disease but also by years of civil war. For tourists, it is a welcome opportunity to explore a country that is still largely untouched by mainstream tourism.

Visitors who are looking for the 'off-the-beaten-track' holiday experience will still be able to find untouched tropical beaches, a plethora of flora and fauna, and a landscape that is rich in history.

Top of the list of things-to-do has to be a walking tour of Freetown, the country's capital and home to the Big Market, the city's railway museum, its majestic cotton tree, and St. George's Cathedral. Other destinations include the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected rainforest island, as well as the Banana Islands. There are also opportunities to explore Sierra Leone's colonial past with a visit to the former British slave fortress known as Bunce Island.

Some tour operators have already made plans to reinstate trips to Sierra Leone. And some hotel chains are looking at the country with more than just idle interest. In fact, the first Hilton hotel is being built there as we speak. Whilst the British Foreign Office at least is still warning visitors to think before they travel, it seems that Sierra Leone is once again open for business.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that this and other parts of West Africa will see hordes of tourists flooding through the airport gates. Travel in this part of the world has always been the preserve of small groups of adventurous travellers, so it is more likely to be a trickle - well, for now, at least.

Posted by Sue at 11:14:42 on 14/11/2015

November 6, 2015


Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, LondonEight decades on and the world's most popular family board game is still teaching people a thing or two about geography. As a child, the British version of Monopoly helped me to form a very particular view of London, a city that we didn't venture into all that often. Back home in our front room, we competed to build up the biggest stash of cash, passing 'go' to get to the Old Kent Road or Whitechapel Road, those cheap-as-chips 'brown' streets. On many a rainy day, we fought over the coveted 'dark blues' of Mayfair and Park Lane.

As the years have gone by, curiosity has got the better of me and I've delved further into the background of some of my favourite properties. The orange set, for example, made up of Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street, have had long associations with law and order. All were home to police stations at some point in time.

Of the game's four stations, Fenchurch Station is perhaps the least well-known. It still exists today as one of the smallest railway termini in London. The yellow set are all connected, too. Coventry Street is a small road that links Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square, all of which are in the West End of London. By the time Monopoly reached Britain's shops, Coventry Street was a place where you went to have a good time; it was home to several nightclubs, one of the famous Lyons Cornerhouses and the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Back in 1935, the creators of Monopoly (around which there is been a fair amount of debate and controversy) can't have envisaged just how far their board game would reach. It may have started life in America, but today, virtually every country in Europe has its own version and it is played in over a hundred countries round the world. Special editions have been dedicated to James Bond and even The Beetles. A motorbike racing version is soon to be launched in Spain. It is all a long way from the Old Kent Road.

Posted by Sue at 16:09:35 on 6/11/2015