Part of Nero’s Golden Palace, a popular tourist site in Rome, has collapsed.
A large piece of the vault ceiling, which topped one of the corridors linking the many halls and chambers of the sprawling complex, crumbled and fell to the ground – possibly because of water seepage. No-one was injured.
The city’s, Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, said he was very worried, and ordered an investigation to determine the exact cause of the collapse. The site, which is situated in central Rome not far from the Colosseum, was cordoned off as sand bags were placed to support the remaining parts of the corridor’s walls.
Nero built his ornate palace, the Domus Aurea, after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. to use as a party villa rather than a residence. Covered in part by gold leaf, it also had walls decorated with semi-precious stones and frescoes.
The incident has raised fresh concern about the state of one of Rome’s most prized archaeological treasures. It was closed in late 2005 for more than a year after the culture ministry said it couldn’t guarantee the safety of visitors and staff.
The site superintendent, Luciano Marchetti, said the collapse needed to be seen as a warning – more finance for the site’s upkeep was urgently needed.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of heading for The Eternal City, Luxique can offer you an unrivalled choice of luxury hotels in Rome – both traditional and modern.
It seems that after heralding something as ‘The Best Job in the World’, you just sit back and wallow in the worldwide PR coup that’s bound to be engendered.
So here’s another one from the Republic of Ireland. A travel agency is looking for a couple with luxurious tastes to test out the most romantic wedding and honeymoon destinations around the world and stay in beautiful luxury hotels.
The couple will be paid 20,000 euros (£18,000 / $27,000) and will be asked to blog their experiences and write for the Irish Times once a month.
“It’s been sort of crazy,” said Rosemarie Meleady, managing director of RunawayBrideAndGroom.com, describing the response to the new promotion. “We’ve had applications from Korea, China, Macedonia, Croatia, India and Saudi Arabia. They’re coming in about five every hour – I’m working around the clock.”
Hopefuls looking to stay in beautiful luxury have until April 7 to apply for the ‘horrendous assignment’ – as the company teasingly calls it – which starts mid-May.
The travel dream job craze exploded on to the scene in January 2009 when Australia’s Tourism Queensland announced it was seeking someone to be caretaker for six months on a paradise island in the Great Barrier Reef (see previous articles).
That post attracted 34,000 applicants and was won by Ben Southall from Britain.
by Andy Moreton
Many tourists love swimming with dolphins, but it seems the feelings may not be mutual.
Researchers from Newcastle University in the UK say human interaction with dolphins is tantamount to harassment, preventing them from nesting, feeding or nurturing their young.
The team watched dolphins for a period of 40 days off the East African island of Zanzibar and found that, in the presence of the tourist boats, the animals became unsettled and spent much less time resting, foraging and socialising.
The scientists concluded that swimming very close to the bottlenose dolphins and trying to touch them was incredibly stressful for them.
Dr Per Berggren, who led the research, wants regulations imposed to limit the popular pastime, at least in Zanzibar. “The local community is dependent on tourism but unless the activity is regulated, the animals will leave,” he said.
“The problem is that any change needs to be tourist-driven. Many visitors will pay drivers extra in tips to steer their boats in close, herding the dolphins so they can dive right in amongst them. Our message is, keep your distance and put the dolphins first.”
by Andy Moreton
Nepal has begun a campaign to attract gay tourists.
Gay honeymooners are being invited to take a trek through the Himalayas, and there are also plans to host the world’s highest same-sex weddings at Everest base camp.
Travel analysts say Nepal wants a slice of the multi-billion dollar gay tourist market to help pull it out of poverty. Attitudes in the conservative Hindu nation have changed radically: five years ago, police were beating gays and transsexuals in the street. Now it has an openly homosexual parliamentarian and appears to have enshrined gay rights in a new constitution.
Tourism is one of the main drivers of Nepal’s economy – it was worth about $350 million (£230 million) last year. Government officials are determined to double tourism to one million visitors next year.
It’s reckoned that gay tourists will be far more lucrative than the backpackers who stay in cheap hotels and travel on shoestring budgets. “They do have a lot of income … they are high-spending consumers,” said Aditya Baral, spokesman for the Nepal Tourism Board.
Nepal would have a huge advantage in this field because its neighbours in South Asia are not seen as gay-friendly destinations.
by Andy Moreton
Nepal is one of the most fascinating countries on earth and Luxique can book you a hotel to match – Dwarika’s in Kathmandu. One recent guest described it as ‘a heaven of comfort, peace and elegance’
It was way back in October 2008 that I reported on the campaign to free Sammy the Shark from her tank in the lobby of Atlantis, the spectacular luxury hotel in Dubai.
I hear now that she’s finally been returned to the waters of the Gulf, from where she was first picked up.
The freckled whale shark, which is an internationally protected species, was a top crowd puller, but also attracted unwelcome publicity for the hotel after animal rights groups demanded her release. A Facebook campaign attracted 26,000 entries. The American actress Pamela Anderson was among the celebrity lobbyists who branded the shark’s capture cruel, and pushed for her to be set free from the luxury hotel in Dubai.
However, Atlantis said all its marine life was cared for to the highest standard and that valuable research had been carried out while the creature had been in captivity.
It said Sammy had been tagged for monitoring and research before being set free.
by Andy Moreton
Book a luxury hotel in Dubai city through Luxique – we have 11 of the very best.
I’ve just got back from a short visit to Melbourne, Australia and return to a subject I touched on more than two years ago – trams.
In a modern city fizzing with fashion, great nightlife and elegant dining, you’d think trams would stand out as a bit passé. Not a bit of it – they’re part of the fabric of Melbourne, providing a convenient and environmentally friendly way to get around. And one route – the City Circle tram – is free, dropping you off close to various visitor attractions.
I loved Melbourne – it has everything you’d expect from a major city, plus a beach area (St Kilda) only a tram ride away. The Eureka Skydeck provides the best views of the city, the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) tour is a must if you’re a cricket fan, and the best free attraction in my opinion is the Royal Botanic Gardens – a glorious place to spend some leisure time.
My only regret is that I was too early for three major events in the city: the International Flower and Garden Show (March 24–28), the International Comedy Festival (March 24–April 18) and, of course, the Formula 1 Grand Prix (March 28).
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of heading Down Under, Luxique offers six luxury hotels in Melbourne, all with their own special features.
One of the most popular attractions in the Prague Castle complex is being closed for a year-long renovation from the beginning of May.
The Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) is a narrow alley lined with candy-coloured one-room houses from the 16th century.
Frantisek Kadlec, the Director of Prague Castle’s tourism department, said: “The houses are in poor technical condition and need heating and electricity upgrades, so there will be a full reconstruction of the entire lane.”
Named after the goldsmiths who once lived there, the Golden Lane is now home to souvenir and craft shops. But for many visitors the highlight is No. 22: the tiny home where Franz Kafka lived from 1916 to 1917 and wrote some of the short stories for his collection The Country Doctor.
After the lane’s renovation, nine houses will become part of an exhibition on life in the Golden Lane through the centuries.
Some shopkeepers, though, are unhappy. “There will be no compensation for us because every shop worker has a contract that expires in April,” said Pavel Kouba, who works at the lane’s Old Clock Store. Kouba said none of the shops had been consulted about the closure.
“It is a shock for all of us, and we will have to find new premises. We are dependent on tourists, and competition is high, especially in this time of economic crisis. Nobody consulted us.”
by Andy Moreton
If you’re destined for the Czech capital, take a look at Luxique’s city guide and great selection of luxury hotels in Prague.
South Beach, known colloquially as SOBE, is like nowhere else and is also home to some of the most unique luxury hotels in Miami. Trend-setting, affluent and vibrant, it has a distinct up-market Latino flavor. White sand and azure ocean beneath a cloudless sunny sky, the eclectic mix of pastel Art Deco hotels along Ocean Drive, beautiful people strolling arm in arm in the latest fashions, this is what South Beach is all about. It is an escape from reality, at least for the time you are there! Once the home of drug barons and Mafioso, it is now an idyllic retreat for the rich and famous, as well as the migratory flock of snowbirds who return year in, year out.
Along with the palm-fringed beachfront, South Beach offers fabulous designer shopping from Lincoln Road to name-dropping Collins Avenue. Armani, Kenneth Cole, Benetton, Sephora, Ralph Lauren, Diesel….they can all be found here on these narrow streets. After dark, restaurants, bars and nightclubs buzz with music and you pay more for valet parking than most people would pay for cocktails, but hey, there is only one South Beach! See and be seen is the name of the game. After dining out in style at one of the many Michelin starred restaurants such as the lovely Casa Tua, or Palme d’Or, walk though romantic Lummus Park beneath the stars and then retire to your chosen luxury hotel in Miami for a nightcap in the bar.
Once again there are too many wonderful luxury hotels in Miami to list, even on the short stretch of Ocean Drive. If you are looking for Art Deco inspiration consider the newly renovated Hotel Victor, right next door to Casa Casuarina, better known as the Versace Mansion. This delightful boutique hotel has retained some of its finest Art Deco features in the extensive lobby and bar. Right on the beach is the Raleigh, which has retained all its 1920s charm including the uniquely shaped swimming pool. With designer shops at the front, and the boardwalk and beach to the rear, everything is conveniently close by. Rather more hip and trendy but one block back from the beach is the Shore Club Miami, a true celebrity hang-out. Designer-cool rooms by British designer David Copperfield, and managed by Ian Schrager, creator of the boutique hotel genre, this contemporary style hotel is a far cry from the 1930s in which it was built. The Casa Grande is quite the opposite.This refined luxury hotel in Miami invites guests to truly relax and feel at home. Last but certainly not least, checkout the Pelican; owned by Diesel it is a temple to OTT décor and zany fashion. Wherever you choose to stay you are unlikely to be spending long within its four walls.
by Luxique Luxury Hotels
Hawaii, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, is considering adding another attraction to its sun, sand and surf – casinos.
Up to now, gambling has not been permitted in the state, but faced with a big budget deficit and a tourist industry battered by the recession, lawmakers are trying to push through legislation to overturn this.
Supporters of the move say casinos would draw much-needed new money and jobs into the long-troubled, tourism-dependent economy. Tourists from the mainland could skip Las Vegas to sunbathe on pristine beaches and take a turn at the roulette tables.
Opponents say the islands’ reputation as a family-friendly destination would be tarnished and that social problems such as crime would increase. “ People don’t come here to be shut up in a casino to gamble,” said Dianne Kay, President of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalised Gambling. “It would be sad if we destroyed the beautiful ambience we have here.”
Hawaii is one of only two US states with no legalised gambling – the other is Utah.
by Andy Moreton
With or without gambling, Hawaii is a fabulous place to visit. Check out Luxique’s range of luxury hotels in Honolulu, Maui and Hualalai.