'It's like having cartoons all around you': A 10-year-old's review of the Cartoon Network Hotel


The first thing Dimitri wants you to know is the suites are ginormous. 

a group of people posing for the camera: Dimitri Woodall takes a photo with characters from the Cartoon Network show "Gumball", December 6, 2019.

Scratch that. 

“The whole hotel is ginormous, Mom. But the suites are ginormous and amazing,” he tells me. 

Full disclosure here: Dimitri is my 10-year-old son. My assignment was to check out the new Cartoon Network Hotel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a 159-room hotel next door to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park. 

I know Cartoon Network, but I don’t know Cartoon Network. So, I decided to tell the story through the eyes of an expert and a proud member of the hotel’s target audience. Dimitri was thrilled with the opportunity to see the hotel before the Jan. 10 opening and had no idea what to expect. 

a sign on the side of a building: This is the sight that eager customers take in before entering the Cartoon Network Hotel, December 6, 2019.

He told me not to start this review at the beginning. People don’t need to know that he said “Wow!” or “Whoa!” each time he walked into a new space in the hotel, he said. 

These are the most important things people need to know about the new Cartoon Network Hotel, according to Dimitri: 

1. There’s a TV on every bunk bed. Imagine falling asleep every night with a TV right at your feet, watching Cartoon Network or any other channel you want. “It was cool. It’s unique compared to other hotels, where there’s usually just one TV in the room. This hotel has a TV for each kid on the bunk bed and another one for the grown-ups.” 

2. This is a hotel for kids. Other hotels, with their formal wallpaper and “grown-up lobbies,” are geared toward adults. “You can bring your whole family here, but it’s really to make kids happy. There’s an arcade, two pools, a bunch of food and a gift shop with toys. Usually gift shops just have protein bars and stuff.” 

But because parents probably want to know about prices, they are $169 per night for a standard room with a queen bed and bunk beds or $359 per night for a suite. For more information on rooms or to book, go to cartoonnetworkhotel.com 

a store filled with lots of furniture: The Cartoon Network Hotel store is filled with your favorite cartoon characters, December 6, 2019.

3. There are virtual reality games where you get to be in the game. “You can make a hamburger or catch a squirrel. “I didn’t actually do either of those things, but I tried.”

4. “There are more rooms than people think. It looks smaller from the road, but it’s huge, and there’s an indoor and outdoor pool.”

5. There’s so much to see. “I love all the art on the walls. It’s so cool. It’s like having cartoons all around you, even on the shower curtains. Most hotels have pictures of flowers or a city, but this place has a lot of cartoons. Kids will love it.”

6. The workers are really nice. “You know how at most hotels the workers always talk to grown-ups? Well, here they are really nice to kids and ask how you’re doing and if you’re having fun.”

7. Dutch Wonderland is next door. “I bet that will be really cool to stay here when the park is open. But even in winter you can see the big rides from inside the breakfast room at the hotel. It’s really cool.”

8. There’s a cafe and a kitchen. “There are basically two restaurants, and one of them has really good cake.”

Dimitri had some questions after he toured part of the hotel. 

“What is the limit on staying here?” he said, in various forms, numerous times. At different points, he told me he wanted to stay for two weeks or two months. Erik Resnick, a senior vice president at Cartoon Network, said 300 days was probably a good limit to start with. 

“Can you have birthday parties here?” The short answer is yes, you can have a birthday party in the Cartoon Network Hotel, equipped with themed cupcakes or cake. They’ve already had calls from as far as Alaska for birthday parties. 

a bedroom with a bed in a room: Every room in the Cartoon Network Hotel has a specific show theme, December 6, 2019.

Another important thing Dimitri wants you to know is that he got to meet “the real artist” behind the hotel designs. Dimitri marveled at the black-and-white sketches on the walls and colorful shower curtains full of characters, and he loved learning more about them. 

Tyson McAdoo, associate art director for the Cartoon Network, told Dimitri he found inspiration in the original sketches for the shows. Those are the sketches an artist makes before the show is fully brought to life. He used that early art to design the Lancaster hotel. 

“I thought it was really cool because he was also around 10 when he liked Cartoon Network and got interested,” Dimitri said. 

He said there’s just one more thing he wants everyone to know: 

“Parents, let your kids come here.” 

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: ‘It’s like having cartoons all around you’: A 10-year-old’s review of the Cartoon Network Hotel

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The Easy Rider route still offers a unique insight into America's soul

Be a freewheeler! It’s 50 years since Easy Rider, but the route the characters rode, from LA to New Orleans, still offers a unique insight into the soul of America

  • Route 66 is a must-drive or ride for those who want an epic American road trip 
  • As seen in 1969’s Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper 
  • The film became a cult classic – and for good reason, Jeremy Taylor discovered 

The donkey has a sticker on his forehead that reads ‘do not feed me anything’. 

Oatman mules look harmless enough but this old Arizona mining town on America’s Route 66 is a rich seam of unlikely attractions for anyone on an epic road trip.

I’ve just arrived at Fast Fanny’s store in Main Street where they offer everything from T-shirts to shotguns. It’s the latest bizarre halt on my journey to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Easy Rider – one of Hollywood’s most iconic road movies.

Jeremy Taylor and Richard Bradbury tackle a section of America’s famous highway – Route 66

Oatman is a living ghost town that now thrives as an ‘authentic Western experience’. It’s also a Mecca for bikers. Easy Rider was a cult classic that turned lead actors Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper into the coolest superstars on the planet back in 1969 – their hippy-esque, free-wheeling film a box office sensation.

And inside Oatman’s ramshackle motorcycle museum I’ve stumbled across a replica of Captain America – the film’s famous chopper bike that came to represent the counter culture of Sixties America. It may be old but the chrome fittings still give off a rebellious sparkle.

Characters Wyatt and Billy rode their Harley-Davidsons almost 2,000 miles from Los Angeles to New Orleans in the movie. Their stash of money from an ill-fated drugs deal hidden in a fuel tank.

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper ride through the desert in a scene from Easy Rider

I’ve saddled up with photographer Richard Bradbury on two hired Harleys. Our week-long ride has been mapped out to follow some of the locations featured in the early part of the film.

Wyatt and Billy slept rough on their journey and got into all manner of scrapes. I’m looking for adventure but prefer more traditional accommodation – if only to ease the back pain of several days’ hard riding.

Our trip started a week earlier, planning a route in the famous Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The upmarket restaurant is a favourite with the glitterati of Hollywood, and once a hide out for Hopper and Fonda, too. Our bikes have already been delivered to the nearby Waldorf Astoria usual form of hotel, where the transport is a limo.

The start point is Manhattan Beach, where leather-skinned locals vie for the best sunbathing.

Jeremy Taylor sits on his Harley-Davidson at Manhattan Beach in California, his starting point

It would be tempting to stay and soak up the Pacific breeze, but like Billy and Wyatt, we’re on a journey. Soon our bikes are zooming north on Highway 14, past Palmdale and Lancaster to Mojave, near the gateway of Death Valley National Park.

The Oasis at Death Valley was once a tourist destination for wealthy Californians who wanted to experience the uniqueness of desert the desert, where temperatures have reached a record 56.7c.

The extreme climate means most travellers visit only in the winter. Death Valley was the location for many of the iconic scenes in Easy Rider, too. And with Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild soundtrack blasting through my helmet headphones, Bradbury and I are living the dream.

Cruising south again past 20 Mule Canyon and skirting the Nevada border, we stumble across the Amargosa Hotel. Back in the Sixties, the late Marta Becket created a fully operational opera house here, miles from anywhere. Lacking an audience, she hand-painted characters on the walls and often danced to an empty auditorium.

Oatman’s motorcycle museum is the current home of the stars and stripes bike from the film

Death Valley was the location for many of the iconic scenes in Easy Rider

Jeremy rode past Joshua Tree National Park, the inspiration for U2’s seminal album

Three hours later we arrive at Café 247, where the T-shirt logo reads ‘In The Middle of Nowhere’.

The classic roadside diner features walls smothered in oily automobilia from the golden age of American muscle cars. Outside, another replica of Captain America is fixed to the roof.

Further south again is upmarket Palm Springs, a playground for LA’s rich and famous. Bradbury and I collapse on our beds at boutique hotel Villa Royale, with our fly-splattered bikes resting in the parking lot. There’s a heated pool and a glitzy bar.

The next day we head east, past Joshua Tree National Park, the inspiration for U2’s seminal album. Then it’s north again to Needles, passing ghost towns such as Oatman that were left to crumble in the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. Big skies and huge scenery just add to the drama.

Our final destination is the Pony Soldier Inn at Flagstaff – 200 miles further east on busy Interstate 40. Buffeted by lorries and trucks, we arrive at Wupatki National Monument and visit the Indian ruins where Billy and Wyatt famously camped for the night.

We’ve travelled more than 1,000 miles and met some interesting characters. Easy Rider may be 50 years old and less cool for the younger generation, but there’s still time to get your motor runnin’ and head out on the highway … 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Hire a Harley-Davidson in LA from £70-a-day, eaglerider.com. Bon Voyage offers a tailored 15-day 50th anniversary tour from LA to New Orleans from £5,125, bon-voyage.co.uk. Jeremy Taylor stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, waldorfastoria.grandluxuryhotels.com, The Oasis at Death Valley oasisatdeathvalley.com and Villa Royale, Palm Springs, villaroyale.com (visitpalmsprings.com). Book a table at The Polo Lounge, Beverly Hills Hotel, at dorchestercollection.com. 

 

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Cabin crew member warns passengers to avoid ‘disgusting’ habit during flights

Flight attendants would do everything to ensure their passengers have a smooth and relaxed journey.

From providing food, drink and any necessity on board, the cabin crew staff want to make flyers feel comfortable at all times.

But there’s one thing they won’t tolerate on a flight and it’s a pretty disgusting habit some passengers might have.

An anonymous cabin crew member admitted that travellers should never walk around the plane cabin barefoot in an open forum on Reddit.

The reason why is simple – you don’t know what you’re stepping in.

Let’s say you’re taking a trip to the loo and you walk on something that’s quite nasty, it's something that happens quite a lot.

The flight attendant, who has worked on long haul for six years, urged: “Please do not ever walk into a toilet with bare feet.

“I promise you, nine out of 10, that is not water on the floor. The toilets are often absolutely disgusting and get deep cleaned only at the end of a route.

“For us, this could be from one side of the world to the other… imagine how lovely they are at the end of a 12-hour flight with 200 people using them.”

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And this isn’t the first cabin crew member to warn travellers on walking barefoot on a flight.

Another flight attendant said: “So many incidents occur on the plane that every day passengers don’t see or consider.

“My last flight an elderly man accidentally s*** on the floor, stepped in it, and walked on like it was nothing. Do not walk around barefoot.”

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New York’s high-rise jails: what could go wrong?

It looked like a gigantic tombstone, a monumental rectangular slab looming over the streets of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan, blocking out most of the sky. The great grey hulk was punctuated by tiny slit windows, each marking one of the 1,400 prisoners that would be stacked inside the vertical human storage facility.

This dystopian vision of a future Gotham was an image of one of New York’s proposed new high-rise jails, released earlier this year to cries of dismay, when mayor Bill de Blasio announced sweeping reforms to the city’s criminal justice system. It depicted an outline idea for one of the four new jails planned for the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, intended to replace the crumbling, violent, and roundly condemned jail complex on Rikers Island, nicknamed the “Guantanamo of New York”.

The height of the new jail towers was later slashed from 45 storeys to a maximum of 29, but the damage had been done. The images of these brutish concrete silos symbolised a rack’em and stack’em approach, attracting criticism from both prison reform advocates and the communities in which these fortified slabs were to be planted.

If properly designed to integrate with their surroundings, however, could there be an upside to this new generation of city-centre correctional facilities?

There is good reason to welcome the decision to close Rikers Island, a motion that was finally passed by the city council in October after months of heated public hearings. “A mass-incarceration model that stains everything that it touches,” was the verdict of former state chief judge Jonathan Lippman, who headed an independent commission into the city’s justice system in 2017. One former inmate-turned-campaigner described it as a “factory of despair”.

Situated in the East River, across from LaGuardia airport, Rikers Island has been a dumping ground for generations. It was used for military training during the Civil War, before it became a landfill site in the late 19th century, when mountains of ash from coal stoves gave it a surreal glow by night, smouldering like a volcano in the river. The first jail was opened in 1932, with a planned capacity of 2,200, but within a few years it was already holding 3,000 inmates. The island’s landfill and jail expansion continued to swell, until its peak of 20,000 inmates in the 1990s. It developed a sordid reputation for systemic violence and brutality, dogged by repeated scandals. In de Blasio’s words, it is a “crumbling, expensive, urban shame”.

But its closure, and the $8.7bn (£6.6bn) plan to build four new replacement jails by 2026, is no easy task. For a start, the proposals are predicated on a dramatic drop in prisoner numbers, from the present 7,000 to just 3,300 – the lowest since 1920. Elizabeth Glazer, director of the mayor’s office of criminal justice, says the target is eminently achievable.

“This is a decarceration plan,” she says. “There’s been a real change in how we think about the purpose of punishment, how we treat people, how to develop a relationship between officers and incarcerated.”

She says that over last six years the city’s jail population has dropped by 40%, while crime rates have also fallen, making New York the safest and least incarcerated big city in the United States. Some, such as Chinatown’s Ling Sing Association, question the need for new jails at all. Their plan calls for razing the existing facilities on Rikers and building a new state-of-the-art complex that would include hospital and mental health facilities, gyms and athletic fields, work-training centres and an area for farming. Abolitionist campaign group No New Jails has proposed closing Rikers without building a replacement at all.

Holding large numbers of prisoners in high-density urban sites comes with constraints. Putting a high-rise jail in a built-up location means the windows have to be small, to prevent overlooking, while staircases, elevators and mechanical services have to be beefed up. Outdoor space is inherently limited. At a time when the incarcerated population is rapidly ageing – with prisons becoming some of the largest providers of elderly care – the logic of arranging a jail across multiple storeys is questionable.

“Two of the most important things needed by prisoners are privacy and freedom of movement around a site,” says Yvonne Jewkes, professor of criminology at the University of Bath, whose work has focused on the social and psychological effects of prison architecture. “It’s hard to imagine there’s going to be a huge amount of movement on such a small footprint, while privacy is likely to be an issue in these dense locations.”

She cites the example of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Chicago, built in 1975 as an icon of brutalist incarceration, which stands as a 28-storey triangular wedge in the middle of the city. With 5-inch-wide windows and a small rooftop exercise yard, it shows the grim architectural consequences of stacking prisoners high on a limited plot. Similar MCC towers were built in San Diego and New York around the same time, and they have rarely been copied since. “A high-rise dungeon in Manhattan’s financial district” is how Jeanne Theoharis, professor of political science at Brooklyn College, describes the MCC in New York, where many Muslim terrorism suspects have been held in inhumane conditions for years without trial. What guarantee is there that the replacement jails won’t just replicate these conditions and multiply the problems of Rikers four times over?

Some hope comes in the form of initial research by the Van Alen Institute, a non-profit architecture and urbanism organisation, which was charged with coming up with proposals for healthier and more rehabilitative jail infrastructure as part of the 2017 commission. The work brought together architects, environmental psychologists, criminal justice experts, former detainees and community members from across the boroughs to help inform what a new generation of “justice hubs” could be like.

Rikers 2.0: inside the battle to build four new prisons in New York City

“Accessibility came out top,” says Jessica Lax, a director at the institute. “Rikers was totally inaccessible by design, making it very difficult for family members and lawyers to get there. Many former inmates we spoke to found the process of being taken on and off the island so horrific that they didn’t want to go to court.” She says smell and sound were other key factors, with Rikers known for its repulsive cocktail of urine and rotting food, and its echoing cacophony of banging and yelling.

Their principles for what a decentralised jail network should look like focus on proximity to courthouses, to allow for faster due process and better access to lawyers, and emphasise improved post-release services to help former detainees return to a normal life. Crucially, the facilities can be used by both prisoners and local residents, to increase community connections and reduce the fear and stigma surrounding jails. Their proposals include dedicating multiple floors of the justice hubs to things such as libraries, community gardens, art studios, exercise facilities, medical clinics and social services – to be used at different times by both inmates and the public.

It is a radical conception that could help reduce stigma and aid rehabilitation. As Jewkes puts it: “Society tends to turn prisoners into dangerous ‘others’, and prisons are shrouded in myth and mystique. We should always try to make jails feel more like part of the community. Incorporating facilities that other people could use would help to break down some of the ideas about ‘them and us’.”

Still, there is no guarantee that the Van Alen Institute’s justice hub ideas will be taken forward. So far, the city has appointed corporate architecture giant Aecom, and consultants Hill International, to assist with developing the briefs, while detailed requests for proposals will be issued in early 2020.

‘By the time you’re through security you’re almost naked’: Rikers Island – a cartoon

“We will ask for the best and most capable designers in the world,” says Jamie Torres Springer, first deputy commissioner for the city’s department of design and construction, insisting they will prioritise high quality design. He won’t be drawn on details. “We’re currently articulating our goals and converting them into guidelines for our design respondents,” he says. Requests to speak to Aecom were denied.

Glazer says the new prisons will be “truly civic assets, both inside and outside,” with “a lot of thought given to external retail space and the kind of community space that might be appropriate at each site.”

The Bronx site, she says, will include affordable housing too. At the rate the city’s prison population is dropping, it might not be too long before the new jails are themselves converted into fortified apartment blocks.

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Strikes on Britain’s railways are forcing commuters to fly to work

As the longest UK rail strike this century enters its second week, some passengers are switching from train to plane in an effort to reach meetings in London.

Members of the RMT union walked out on 2 December in a long-running dispute over the role of guards.

They plan to continue the stoppage until the end of the year – apart from general election day, 12 December, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

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South Western Railway says it is running slightly more than half its normal timetable – but on some less busy routes, trains are being replaced by buses.

For four stations on the West of England line – Pinhoe, Cranbrook, Whimple and Feniton – the earliest possible arrival at London Waterloo using the emergency timetable is just before 1pm.

The trip involves a bus to Honiton and two trains from there via Salisbury.

Normally there are two early-morning trains on the line, which start from Exeter and reach London Waterloo at 8.46am and 9.21am respectively.

While GWR runs trains from Exeter St David’s to London Paddington, the journey involves backtracking to the Devon city and facing high peak fares.

With Exeter airport convenient for affected towns and villages, some rail commuters are switching to the Flybe flights to London City airport in the east of the capital.

Robin Barker, an exhibitions director from Whimple, found it “cheaper and easier” to fly from Exeter airport than to take the GWR train.

He found an air fare for £87, which undercut the rail trip of £140.

“There’s a total lack of any thought in the emergency timetable,” he said.

The Waterloo line is also used by travellers from Exeter who can pay £80 for a peak-time single rather than £133 on GWR, for a journey that takes around one hour longer.

But the only train that runs through from Exeter to London Waterloo leaves at 5.10am – and runs without stopping through the four Devon stations.

Test bookings by The Independent found that, for bookings made at 8pm the night before, the 7am flight on Monday from Exeter (arriving at 8.10am) was selling at £209. 

For Tuesday, the fare is £103.

The standard one-way fare for all trains arriving before 11.39am is £133.

Booking for Tuesday, the lowest peak fare was an advance ticket at £125 – £22 more than the plane.

The RMT union insists the strike is solely “in defence of passenger safety and accessibility,” and that members are striking in pursuit of an assurance that “the guard will have an integral and guaranteed role in the despatch process”.

The general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Cutting the guard out of the despatch process reduces the second person on the train to little more than a passenger in the longer term which would give the company the option of axing them altogether at some point down the line.”

South Western Railway says: “We have promised that we will keep a guard on every train and that our guards will have a safety critical role. Both things the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.

“We will do everything possible to get you where you need to go but ask that you leave more time for your journey and check before you travel for the latest information.”

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Woman tipped out of wheelchair by man wearing reindeer slippers on train

A man allegedly tried to steal a disabled woman’s wheelchair from her on a train, a video has captured.

The woman was sitting on the train in Phoenix, Arizona, US, when she was tipped out of her seat.

Footage captured the moment the man stood up before grabbing ahold of the woman.

He pushes her towards the doors as she desperately attempts to hold onto the bars and screams for help.

The man grabs her hands to yank them away before dumping her out of the chair and onto the floor.

He then runs off the train while pushing the wheelchair.

CCTV on the platform captured the man making a run for it after fellow passengers attempted to uphold him.

Following a manhunt, Austin Shurbutt, 26, was taken into custody.

He was seen running from the scene wearing reindeer slippers after witnesses intervened and retrieved the wheelchair last Friday.

The incident took place as the train pulled into the station around 3.40pm on Black Friday.

He was arrested a week later after an appeal that was shared widely across social media.

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Shurbutt also had two outstanding warrants and faces charges of robbery, kidnapping and assault.

Sgt. Jamie Rothschild with Silent Witness said: "Everybody who saw this video pretty much had the same reaction which was 'I can't believe what I'm seeing and am I really seeing that'."

It comes after a woman in a wheelchair claimed Ryanair refused her the chance to travel.

She alleges that she was told her chair was too big to fit in the hold of a Ryanair flight and was refused the chance to travel.

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Delta Eliminates Middle-Seat Upgrades


Members of Delta Air Lines’ Medallion loyalty club will have a new option for upgrading seats, including avoiding the dreaded middle seat in Comfort+.

an airplane in the sky: Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 takes off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City

Previously, Medallion members could request an upgrade but it would be at the whim of the airline where you sat. Could be an aisle seat, could be by the window … or could be a middle seat which, well, no matter what level or section of the airplane that is better than Economy, it’s still a middle seat.

According to the respected airline industry blog The Points Guy, Delta has been testing a new policy for a year. Now, elite fliers can specify what kind of seat they’d like to be upgraded to if it is available.

As the blog noted, upgrades to a Comfort+ middle seat have long been a major complaint for SkyMiles Medallion members.

“Following nearly a year of testing, Delta is launching the ability for all Medallion Members to choose their seat preferences on a flight-by-flight basis for complimentary upgrades to Delta Comfort+, ultimately resulting in a better upgrade experience for this loyal group of customers,” the airline said in a statement.

Here’s the way it will work. Once your itinerary is ticketed, passengers who qualify for complimentary upgrades can specify if they’d like to be upgraded into an aisle, window and/or middle Comfort+ seat. Passengers will not have to worry about a ‘second choice,’ so to speak. If their request for an upgrade cannot be granted, passengers have the right to withdraw the request.

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Pound to euro exchange rate: Sterling ‘gains ground’ ahead of Thursday’s general election

The pound to euro exchange rate is 1.1897 according to the latest data from Bloomberg at the time of writing. Sterling has started the week in a strong position ahead of the General Election on Thursday. 

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Looking at the data exclusively for Express.co.uk, Michael Brown, Senior Market Analyst at Caxton FX said: “Sterling remained well-supported on Friday, and has gained ground this morning – breaking above the €1.19 mark for the first time in over two years – as markets become increasingly confident that Thursday’s general election will return a Conservative majority.

“Of course, the election will likely be the sole driver of the pound this week, with all eyes on the result, which will become clear early Friday morning.

“Sterling is set to gain ground if the Tories win a majority, due to the certainty it would provide on Brexit; while the pound will likely face headwinds if there is another hung Parliament.”

It has been a good week for sterling, with the pound surging to a two-year high last week.

This makes now a good time for holiday makers to exchange their pounds for euros.

The Post Office is offering 1.1473 euros to the pound for sums between £400 and £499. For sums over £1,000 it is offering 1.1699.

However, some anaylsts have warned there could be a late surge of support for Labour, which could affect sterling hugely.

Polling expert Sir Jon Curtice said: “We do have to bear in mind that probably Boris Johnson needs a bit more than a six point lead before we say yeah he’s clearly all home and dry.”

He added: “Then there is a high probability that we will get a minority Labour administration charged with the task of applying for an extension and going for a second referendum.”

So what does this mean for travellers getting ready to head to Europe?

The likelihood is that any dramatic political developments will have an effect on the pound – either positively or negatively.

In a best case scenario holidaymakers will get a pleasant surprise and benefit from positive rates, though as in recent weeks, this could also mean losing out on a substantial sum.

The best thing to do is stay as up to date as possible on political happenings, and consider any upcoming events which could result in negative backlash.

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  • Pound to euro exchange rate: Election polls boost GBP

Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of international money specialist, Equals (previously known as FairFX) shared his top tips.

He said: “If you’re heading abroad for a winter break or even if you have a trip planned in the new year you should consider buying your travel money while the pound is doing well or you could risk getting a lot less for your money by waiting.

“The run-up to a general election has always been a volatile time for the pound, and this election is proving to be no different.

“But with the outcome of the election set to have a huge impact on how Brexit plays out, there’s even more at stake for the pound which means it’s more vulnerable than ever.”

Meanwhile Rob Stross, CMO of WeSwap emphasised the importance of planning ahead.

He said: “In light of this uncertainty, it is always best to exchange money as early as possible.

“Last minute travel money purchases, in locations such as at airport bureaux, are always likely to lead to less bang for your buck as merchants are able to offer whatever exchange rate they like, knowing holidaymakers have no choice but to accept.”

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Latest travel and lifestyle news from WA ·

Latest travel and lifestyle news from WA

Jessica Mauboy to headline Ord Valley Muster’s Kimberley Moon Experience

The Kimberley town of Kununurra in WA’s North West will welcome some of Australia’s biggest musical performers in May 2020 for the annual Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster. Indigenous singer-songwriter, and one of Australia’s most successful female artists, Jessica Mauboy, will headline the Muster’s pinnacle event – the Aviair Helispirit Kimberley Moon Experience on May 16, alongside former Noiseworks and INXS lead singer Jon Stevens. Award winning duo Busby Marou will also take to the stage, alongside up-and-coming Indigenous singer-songwriter Emily Wurramara. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 10 day festival – taking place from May 17 to 26 – will take over Kununurra and surrounds with a wide variety of unique experiences, including Comedy in the Park hosted by Harley Breen, Aboriginal culture and dance, food events, wellness sessions, the popular local talent quest Muster Idol, a country rodeo, and fireworks. There will also be a special event to commemorate the anniversary celebrations, and a new Ord Valley Muster Closing Night Party on May 24. The popular event coincides with the launch of direct flights between Melbourne and Kununurra operated by Alliance Airlines and bookable through Virgin Australia, which start on May 15, 2020. Tickets to all the Muster events are now on sale.

Perth’s historic Royal Hotel now open

Built in 1882, The Royal Hotel reopened its doors on November 16 following a major renovation driven by the man behind The Standard in Northbridge, John Parker. The original heart and soul of Perth, the iconic corner pub – located on Wellington and William Streets, opposite Yagan Square – is set to become a great Australian pub once again. Featuring a corner saloon on the street level, two bars, a private dining room, karaoke room, event/function space, and wraparound verandah overlooking Yagan Square on the first level, the hotel’s history and charm has been retained where possible, with its floor to ceiling beams, wooden floorboards and arched windows. Local craft beers are complemented by a selection of old-school brews including Swan Draught – a nod to a time when the building was owned by the iconic Swan Brewery. The menu is pub food reimagined, led by head chef Chase Weber from The Standard and sous chef Shane Middleton, formerly of Santini Bar & Grill at QT Perth.

Novotel Perth Murray St set to open

Accor and Fragrance Group Limited will open the brand new 431 room Novotel Perth Murray St this month, the largest Accor hotel in Perth. Scheduled for a soft opening on December 19, the hotel is ideally located right in the heart of the Perth CBD. It will feature a spectacular 12th floor fitness and spa facility, including a pool, steam room, day spa and sauna; four bars and restaurants; four meeting rooms and a conference room for up to 120 people; and spacious modern rooms.

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

FRINGE WORLD Festival program release

Tickets for all 700 FRINGE WORLD Festival shows are now on sale, with events being held at almost 150 venues in Perth. There are loads of new shows added to the line-up, including the international music sensation The Choir of Man and award-winning arthouse circus Casting Off. Returning favourites include Fuego Carnal, WA homegrown heroes YUCK Circus, while the chilling hit SÉANCE returns, with another new experience, FLIGHT. The 2020 festival will also feature a new FRINGE WORLD Hub, Girls School. Located in the historic 1930s Old Perth Girls School Building, the new hub will offer a big program of shows, outdoor food vendors and a secret bar. The annual festival is the third largest Fringe festival in the world, and will run over four weeks from January 18 to February 17, 2020.

Emergence Creative Festival line-up announced

Early bird tickets are now on sale for the 2020 Emergence Creative Festival, held in the Margaret River region from March 25 to 27. The festival attracts professionals and emerging creatives from the disciplines of music, film, photography, advertising, gaming, digital and visual arts to WA’s scenic South West for three days of keynote speakers, hands-on workshops, incredible pop-ups and satellite events. The first round of speakers has been announced, and includes an exciting line-up of local and international creative professionals, such as Briony Benjamin and Clare Gerber from The Social Parade, Dave Bowman from Google Zoo, Claire Davidson from Facebook Creative Shop, and Guy Munro from Australia’s first voice experience agency VERSA. The early bird offer ends December 13, and tickets can be purchased via the website.

Perth’s outdoor cinemas

Perth’s balmy summer evenings offer the perfect setting to watch a movie under the stars. With a range of unique venues dotted across the Perth region, choose from a city roof top experience at the Rooftop Movies in Northbridge, pack a picnic for an evening on the grass at the Moonlight Cinema in Kings Park, Lotterywest Films at University of Western Australia’s Somerville Auditorium, or choose from various locations at the outdoor Telethon Community Cinemas.

FOOD AND WINE

Taste Great Southern release chef line-up

Winner of the inaugural MasterChef Australia series, Julie Goodwin, will headline Taste Great Southern 2020, taking place from March 26 to April 5. More than 25 chefs and presenters including 2019 Masterchef Australia finalist Derek Lau, celebrity cook and Denmark local Anna Gare, nationally renowned native ingredient forager Paul Iskov of Fervor, and Amy Hamilton from Albany’s award-winning restaurant Liberte, will cook at more than 30 events around WA’s Great Southern region. Julie Goodwin will appear at the Women of the Region dinner in Albany, the Denmark Night Markets, Shop Local/Eat Local Albany Farmers Market, and Lunch by the Lake at the Lake House Denmark. Derek Lau will be the celebrity presenter at the Albany Wine and Food Festival on April 4, which will include a new contemporary music festival on April 5, Southern Sets. Tickets to the events are now on sale.

Fremantle heritage site transforms into The Old Synagogue

Located at the southern entrance to Fremantle’s iconic Cappuccino Strip, and next door to the Fremantle Markets, The Old Synagogue has been transformed into a world-class dining, bar and entertainment precinct. Home to four individual venues, it features multi-storey modern Asian restaurant, Tonic & Ginger; Mr Chapple’s, a scenic rooftop bar focusing on WA craft beer; a basement cocktail bar L’Chaim; and The Arbor, a multi-level beer and wine garden with an alfresco and rooftop deck. Paying homage to its history as a Jewish house of worship, the 117 year old heritage building was the first synagogue built in WA.

Perth’s new sips and bites

Rokeby Road in the inner-city suburb of Subiaco has welcomed Dilly Dally, a neighbourhood restaurant offering accessible Italian food. Seating up to 200 patrons on the ground level, the menu features pizza, flatbreads and small plates, alongside a strong wine-list with organic and lo-fi wines, and has been established by Patrick Ryan and Jeremy Prus, part of the team behind Perth city’s Lalla Rookh.

Dumbo Gelato – a fun, Australian-style Gelateria – has recently opened at Perth’s Scarborough Beach. Made with organic milk from Margaret River Dairy, the gelato features classic Australian flavours such as cheese and vegemite, milo milkshake and lamington. Sorbets and vegan options are also available.

The inner-city hub of Mount Lawley will welcome the opening of The Deli on Clifton & Central this month. Owners Tim and Veronique Willing have revamped the site’s original deli with a French aesthetic, whilst retaining its Australiana exterior. Coffee will be made with the in-house blend, with a rotating selection by Australian and international coffee roasters. The menu will feature granola, house-baked croissants, cakes and sourdough bread, with future plans to extend to an evening service with a Paris-inspired wine bar.

The Victoria Park Hotel, located on the doorstep of Perth’s CBD in nearby Victoria Park, has been recently refurbished and now features a fresh, bright and open style, blending modern and heritage architecture. Head chef Andra Nunes has drawn on his Brazilian roots to create a menu centred on grazing, grilling and cuisine infusions, and a new cocktail menu features classics and concoctions using the signature botanical gin The Vic.

Dune Distilling Co. launches with two WA inspired gins

Dune Distilling Co., located at Caves Road Collective in the Margaret River region, has officially launched with two distinctive gin releases – a Signature Gin, and a limited release Volume: Yallingup pink gin with a uniquely Australian flavour. The Signature Gin features local navel oranges and zesty lemon rind, paired with coriander seeds and juniper. Davidson plums give the limited-edition Volume: Yallingup gin its distinctive pink hue, paired with local native ingredients salt bush and lemon myrtle. The gin’s labels feature the works of up-and-coming WA artists Sara Winfield and Sally Foord.

Accolades for Swan Valley’s RiverBank Estate

Family owned and operated RiverBank Estate Winery recently took home three trophies at the 2019 Singapore Airlines Swan Valley Wine Show awards. Located in the Swan Valley, just a 25 minute drive from Perth CBD, the awards included the Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine for the Eric Anthony Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2017, Trophy for Best Non-Greater Perth Zone Wine for the Eric Anthony Chardonnay 2018, the Media Award Trophy for Most Successful Producer, and the Award for Best Rose of Show for the Rebellious Rose 2019. The venue was also recently named Small Producer of the Year by leading wine writer Ray Jordan in The West Australian’s 2019 Wine Guide, and Best Small Cellar Door in the Swan Valley 2019 by Peter Forrestal in Gourmet Traveller.

TOURS, ATTRACTIONS AND ACCOMMODATION

New summer experiences for Rottnest Island visitors

Located a 30-minute ferry ride off Perth’s coastline, Perth’s own island playground Rottnest welcomes a range of new activities and tours for the 2019/20 summer season, including:

A daily seaplane commute to the island with Swan River Seaplanes
A new skydive and transfer package with Skydive Geronimo
Two new sunset cruises, including one on a 12.5m catamaran, with Charter 1
A ‘Hooked on Rotto’ fishing cruise with Rottnest Cruises
A new refreshments caravan at the West End – Lexi’s on Rotto
A new one-stop shop and concierge service at the Salt Store
An aquatic playground at North Thompson’s – Aquaplay

Tjukurba Art Gallery in Wiluna

The Golden Outback town of Wiluna, which is the start of the Canning Stock Route and gateway to epic outback adventures such as the Gunbarrel Highway – has recently welcomed the opening of Tjukurba Art Gallery. Translated to mean ‘dreaming’ in the local Martu language, the Aboriginal art gallery provides artists with a space to embrace creativity. Co-located with the Canning-Gunbarrel Discovery Centre, it offers a rich authentic experience where visitors have the opportunity to meet and chat with the Martu artists, who paint on location in the gallery, and still live a semi-traditional lifestyle. All works displayed are for sale, and each painting comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.

Raddison Red to make its Australia debut in Perth

Raddison Red hotels is set to make its Australian debut in Perth. Opening in 2022, the hotel will offer 129 rooms, a restaurant, function rooms, swimming pool and rooftop bar. With a focus on local art and culture, the hotel will also provide opportunities for guests to interact with their fellow travellers, with inspiring hangouts and communal work spaces. Located in West Perth, opposite the Harold Boas Gardens, the hotel will be in close vicinity to sport and entertainment venue RAC Arena and one of the world’s largest inner-city parks, Kings Park and Botanic Garden.

Rock lobster tours off Perth’s coastline

Blue Juice Charters has launched Rock Lobster Catch and Dine Tours in Perth. Departing from Hillarys Boat Harbour, guests can catch and cook their own WA rock lobster, and experience pulling in cray pots on a commercial fishing charter. They can also choose to take home their catch to enjoy, or have it cooked straight from the ocean with a Seafood & Champagne BBQ at Hillarys Marina. There is also the option to charter a private boat to Rottnest Island to dine on freshly caught rock lobster, topped off with premium WA beer, wine and sparkling. Rock Lobster Tours start from $190 per person, and are available now until the end of February.

Orca expeditions to commence in early 2020

The small coastal town of Bremer Bay in WA’s South West is home to one of the largest known congregations of orcas in the Southern Hemisphere. Every summer more than 150 orcas and other marine predators such as sperm whales, pilot whales and sunfish visit the Bremer Canyon to feed on an abundance of prey. Visitors can witness first-hand the excitement of spotting these incredible creatures in the wild on a whale watching tour with Naturaliste Charters – which run from January to April, and Whale Watch Western Australia – which run from January to March. The all-day expeditions depart daily, and include meals, beverages, and on-board commentary by a Marine Biologist.

EVENTS

  ATP Cup January 3 to 8 | RAC Arena | Perth

Current world number one and 19-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal will visit Perth for the first time when he represents Spain at the inaugural ATP Cup. Nadal will be joined by five of the world’s current top male tennis players, including US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev from Russia, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. With six days of incredible tennis launching the global tennis season for men, the ATP Cup is one of the most highly anticipated events in world tennis. The exciting format will see Perth’s RAC Arena host eight countries over 12 day and night sessions

  Perth Festival February 7 to March 1 | Perth | Perth

As one of WA’s premier cultural events, Perth Festival is a feast of cutting-edge performances and activities for all ages. Experience some of the world’s best national, international and local acts expanding across contemporary theatre, dance, music, film, visual arts and literature. Festival highlights for the 2020 program include Bungul – celebrating the music of Gurrumul and Yolgnu culture, beloved musical Bran Nue Dae, acclaimed circus ensemble Circa’s new show Leviathan, Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio, Tim Winton’s Australian classic Cloudstreet; and the festivals penultimate event – Highway to Hell, a celebration of Perth city and its conntection to Aussie band AC/DC, which will see Canning Highway transform into the world’s longest stage.

  NRL Nines February 14 to 15 | Perth | HBF Park

The National Rugby League (NRL) Nines is an exciting festival-style two-day tournament of rugby league. It will be the first time the NRL Nines will be played in Australia, with all 16 of the men’s and four of the women’s NRL clubs coming to Perth to play at HBF Park. The Nines are played before the start of the NRL season in a fast-paced format with fewer players on the field, giving the stars more room to show off their skills.

  ICC Women’s T20 World Cup February 22 to 24 | WACA Grounds | Perth

The ICC T20 Women’s World Cup is coming to Perth in 2020. Nine of the top 10 women’s teams will compete at the iconic WACA Ground, including defending champions Australia when they take on Sri Lanka on February 24. With five matches played over three consecutive days, it’ll be the ultimate festival of cricket experience.

  Sculpture by the Sea March 6 to 23 | Cottesloe | Perth

One of Perth’s largest free public events, Sculpture by the Sea, sees Cottesloe Beach transform into a spectacular sculpture park with more than 70 works on display from artists across Australia and the world. Exhibits from some of the world’s top sculptors are displayed against a backdrop of one of the city’s most popular beaches.

  FIFA Men’s World Cup Qualifier March 26 | Perth | HBF Park

Perth is set to host a FIFA Men’s World Cup Qualifier match at HBF Park when the Australian Socceroos take on Kuwait in Round 2 of the qualifiers. Tickets to the public go on sale on Tuesday, December 10 at 9am AWST. Perth will also host Round 3, the final round of qualifiers, in 2021.

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Great Savings for Solo Travellers on the Yangtze in 2020 ·

Great Savings for Solo Travellers on the Yangtze in 2020

China’s landscapes are vast, its history and monuments epic. Complex and energetic – this is a country which must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

And the Yangtze River, the world’s third longest river at 6,280 kilometres (3,900 miles), is its symbolic lifeline. Flowing from Tibet to Shanghai and cutting through the dramatic mountains of the Yangtze River basin, the river’s fortunes are inextricably entwined with those of the country itself. Historically, the Yangtze served as a divider between northern and southern China, a natural barrier against invaders, and a waterway for transport and commerce. Today, the river basin is the country’s heartland, home to 500 million people – a tenth of the world’s population.

One of the best ways to experience the Yangtze is by boat. And the luxuriously appointed Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer is hard to beat. Exploring the very best stretches of this immense waterway, this elegant vessel introduces a new standard of cruising in China. More intimate and luxurious, with the largest cabins and suites on the river, all with private balconies and floor to ceiling picture windows, as well as the highest crew to passenger ratio on the river of 1:1, the atmosphere is more private club than cruise ship.

A highlight of any cruise aboard the Yangzi Explorer is a visit to the most celebrated stretch of the Yangtze – the spectacular Three Gorges. Qutang Gorge, famous for its rolling waters and sheer cliffs, is the shortest and narrowest of the three, while Wu is characterised by majestic forest crowned peaks. Xiling, the longest, finishes at the Three Gorges Dam, the largest construction project ever undertaken.

Complementing the natural beauty of the river is a rich program of shore excursions and shipboard activities, which highlight the wealth of China’s cultural tradition as well as the river’s history and ecology. Tai Chi classes, Chinese cooking and silk embroidery are just some of the diversions available, while children are well catered for too with kite flying, mask making and calligraphy on offer. In between activities the fitness centre and Huang Ding Spa beckons so you can be sure to look your best wherever the cruise takes you!

SPECIAL OFFER

Solo travellers, if you have ever harboured the idea of sailing down China’s mighty Yangtze River, now is the time to do so. Take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats’ waiving of the single supplement on Shoulder Season Bookings in 2020, with prices starting from just USD1,325 per person for 3 and 4-night sailings during 8 – 26 March 2020, 31 May – 3 September 2020.

Even better if you book and pay in full three months before any 2020 sailing, you will also receive a 25% discount, plus a free cabin upgrade.

Terms and conditions apply. 25% discount offer not applicable to Jade, Mandarin, Celestial and Imperial Suites

About Sanctuary Retreats.

Sanctuary Retreats’ collection of luxury safari lodges and river cruise ships bring the boutique experience to guests with the added promise of authenticity. Each property is completely individual in its design and operated around the philosophy of ‘Luxury, naturally’. All have the same aim: to allow guests to have a “real” experience and enjoy a more natural kind of luxury in properties that have a strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The Sanctuary portfolio includes safari camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as river cruise ships on the Nile, the Yangtze and in Myanmar.

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