Wax figures of Lady Gaga have been unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London – and at seven others worldwide.
As befitting the pop diva’s style, the wax figures feature her in eight different outrageous outfits. The London one has her in a Philip Treacy-designed telephone hat with ‘a Giorgio Armani Privé midnight blue outfit with pagoda-style shoulders and vertiginous heels’ (my fashion adviser tells me).
The other figures are in New York, Las Vegas, Hollywood, Amsterdam, Berlin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
In Amsterdam, the wax Gaga sports a conical towering pink and white hairdo, teamed with a white boxy jacket, a nude bodysuit and huge platforms. In Shanghai, she is wearing thigh-high patent boots and a Bowie-esque black lightning stripe over one eye.
The Gaga-fest was kept strictly secret and kept under wraps until the moment all could be revealed. The General Manager of Madame Tussauds in London, Edward Fuller, said: “The demand to include Lady Gaga has been overwhelming and we are more than happy to oblige.”
by Andy Moreton
If you’re going Gaga, Luxique offers a selection of luxury hotels in each of the eight cities.
The French have had to concede that London offers a better experience for tourists than Paris.
The Paris-Il-de-France Regional Tourism Committee commissioned a survey to explore ways to boost international visitors. To the surprise of many, London was placed ahead of five other European cities, including Paris, Rome and Berlin.
The report found that tourists liked London better than other cities for its taxis, restaurants and landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
The city was given an impressive score of 82 out of 100 for the welcome it offered visitors from abroad. Paris – officially the world’s most popular tourist destination in terms of number of visitors – tied in second place on 79 with Amsterdam.
So what’s so wrong with Paris? Well, public transport is considered poor, with tickets difficult to buy and the Metro looking increasingly old and dirty.
Paris hotels – which have shot up in price in the decade or so since the introduction of the euro – were also found wanting, with a total mark of 74 per cent, compared with 89 per cent for London.
One fault that was found with Londoners was that so few were able to speak a foreign language.
by Andy Moreton
Paris or London? Do both! Luxique can direct you to the best luxury hotels in Paris and London – and at the best available rates.
For travellers tired of traditional sightseeing tours, one Berlin guide is offering something altogether different: a jolly jaunt round the city’s public lavatories.
Anna Haase wanted to take visitors to Berlin off the beaten track, and came up with the novel idea of showing them some of the German capital’s most famous toilets. She also wanted to draw attention to the lack of conveniences for tour groups in Berlin.
As she takes groups around, she tells them about the history of the toilet’s development from Biblical times to the present day and shows them WCs ranging from the oldest and most primitive to the newest and most technical.
Highlights include a visit to a toilet block dating from the late 19th century and a trip to the Kaiser’s fully restored bathroom at the Potsdamer Platz square.
Ms Haase says the toilet tours are in demand, especially from clubs and societies, as well as from people with a specialist or professional interest in the topic. “At first people tend to turn their nose up [!], but then they are generally surprised at the interesting facts that they learn about on the tour,” she said.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique will be flushed with success when it finds you the perfect luxury hotel in Berlin.
The ancient wall painting fragments that caused a feud between Egypt and the Louvre Museum in Paris (see my article Luxor Relics Repatriated ) have been returned to Cairo.
The five frescoed pieces – believed to be from a 3,200-year-old tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor – arrived by air last week.
French officials had maintained that the Louvre had acquired the fragments, known as steles, in good faith. But Egypt’s antiquities department said the Louvre bought the fragments in 2000 and 2003 despite knowing they’d been stolen in the 1980s. It broke off ties with the museum in October, saying they would be restored only when the fragments had been returned.
Egypt is stepping up demands for the restitution of many relics, including the Rosetta Stone, on display in the British Museum, and the bust of Queen Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
“Everything which was stolen from us should be given back,” said Zawi Hawass, the head of the antiquities department.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re travelling to Luxor to see the wonders of the Valley of the Kings, take a look at Luxique’s two selected luxury hotels: the Old Winter Palace and the Hotel La Moudira.
My seasonal award for the most thoughtful travel gesture this holiday time goes to Air Berlin.
The airline – the second biggest in Germany after Lufthansa – is allowing passengers to take their Christmas trees with them on flights at no extra cost. Customers can take trees of up to two metres (six feet) in height until Christmas Eve on condition they notify the airline at least 24 hours in advance.
Titus Johnson, Air Berlin’s manager in the UK and Ireland, said: “Most of the demand for this comes from our German customers – it seems they can’t bear to be parted from their trees at Christmas. After all, it was Queen Victoria’s [German] husband, Prince Albert, who brought the tradition with him to England in the first place.”
The trees will, of course, go in the hold, not on the empty seat on the aisle. I’d love to witness the scene at the baggage carousel!
by Andy Moreton
There’s going to be a new film festival on the international calendar to rival Cannes, Venice and Berlin.
The Spanish island of Majorca is hoping A-list celebrities will flock there when it launches its festival in April 2011. It wants the event to provide a new cultural attraction for tourists and put Majorca on the map in the arts world.
The festival organiser is David Carreras, a well-known Spanish film director who’s been living on the island for five years and is anxious to showcase its beauty to the world. “The island is stunning, we have beautiful scenery and it would be perfect to hold an international event like this,” he said.
Side-shows such as concerts and food demonstrations would run alongside the main festival, said Carreras. His ultimate aim is for a film studio to be built on Majorca in 2015.
The island already has an impressive list of celebrity residents and visitors, including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Claudia Schiffer and Jack Nicholson. The film industry has already done wonders for the likes of Cannes and Venice, and Majorca is hoping it will help the island branch out from offering just beach holidays.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can arrange the best possible rates at nearly 30 luxury hotels in Majorca, including the including the famed Residencia in Deià. It was voted by readers of the Condé Nast Traveller magazine in 2008 the most popular leisure hotel in Europe and it was where Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber held his lavish 60th birthday party.
The leading business publisher, Forbes (of ‘Rich List’ fame) recently announced its experts’ pick of Europe’s most luxurious hotels.
Among them are the following six which are available to book at the best rates through Luxique. Alongside is a snapshot of the jury’s verdict:
• Le Meurice Paris: ‘Modern elegance, with the opulence of Versailles.’
• Claridge’s, London: ‘The destination of choice for the world’s celebrities and royals.’
• Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, St Jean Cap Ferrat, France: ‘A legendary hotel that epitomises and exudes old-world glamour, while simultaneously offering modern amenities for today’s discerning traveller.”
• Hotel Adlon Berlin: ‘An historic masterpiece, in a prime location, provoking a sense of awe upon arrival.’
• Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, Budapest: ‘Behind the opulent and grand façade lies the fully restored 19th-century spa where guests can enjoy anything from a mud or seaweed bath to an array of full-body wraps.’
• Villa d’Este, Lake Como, Italy: ‘A much-vaunted palazzo hotel that has dazzled royalty, celebrities, billionaires and chic in-the-know jetsetters for more than a century.’
by Andy Moreton, with acknowledgements to Richard Carnell of Forbes.com.
As well as being an historic event, the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall earlier this month brought a welcome tourist boost to the city.
More than two million visitors made their way to the German capital – a new record for the city. Hundreds of thousands of Berliners and guests took part in the celebrations at the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Around 2,800 international journalists were accredited for the event and images were broadcast around the world.
The head of Berlin’s tourism organisation, Burkhard Kieker, said Berliners had been able to show the guests what they had done with the city in the 20 years since the fall of the Wall.
“The fact that the world loves this new Berlin is confirmed by the steadily rising numbers of visitors – even in the thick of the global economic crisis,” said Mr Kieker.
“The appeal of Berlin as a site of freedom, as a focal point of European history and a city where people can live together in a climate of tolerance and openness will continue to grow in the future,” he added.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re intending to see the city’s transformation for yourself, take a look at Luxique’s carefully-selected list of luxury hotels in Berlin, including the famed Adlon, recently described as: ‘An historic masterpiece with an unrivalled location, exceptionally attentive staff, Michelin Star restaurant and immaculate interior.’
It’s the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next month, and the occasion will be marked by various events in the city.
When the East German government built the wall in 1961, it didn’t take into account the ingenuity shown by those who were prepared to take any risk to try to escape the oppressive communist system.
While some flew over the barrier in hot air balloons and others were smuggled in secret compartments in cars, several hundred took advantage of the soft, sandy soil under Berlin to tunnel their way to freedom.
Now, that secret tunnel network has become one of the most popular attractions for tourists and locals alike. And their guide is often Hasso Herschel, who, in the 1960s and 1970s, helped dozens escape through the secret tunnels, some of which he dug with his own hands.
Mr Herschel, who escaped to West Germany with a forged passport in 1961, dug several illegal tunnels under the wall, the first in September 1962. It’s reckoned that about a fifth of the estimated 71 projects were successful. Often they were discovered by troops or secret police before they could be used. Others collapsed, were flooded or buried by loose soil.
Details of the underground tours can be found at http://berliner-unterwelten.de/
and for information on the city’s anniversary celebrations, go to http://www.mauerfall09.de/
by Andy Moreton
Whether visiting for the anniversary celebrations or at any other time of the year, Luxique can guide you through the best of the luxury hotels in Berlin.
The currywurst is something of a national dish in Germany and it’s become so revered that it’s just got its own museum.
A currywurst is a pork sausage that’s fried, chopped into slices and served with lashings of a special curry and ketchup sauce. It’s served at many a street-side kiosk on a cardboard plate with a plastic or wooden fork, together with bread, chips (fries) or potato salad.
The currywurst has been Germany’s favourite snack since 1949 and to mark this 60th anniversary, the 5 million euro (£4 million / $7 million) currywurst museum opened earlier this month – right next to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
Visitors are greeted by a human-sized currywurst puppet and a replica Berlin sausage-stand, before embarking on an interactive tour which traces the dish from its humble origins to the present day. The museum hopes to attract some 350,000 visitors a year.
Not everyone’s crazy about the dish being honoured in this way. At a media preview, demonstrators from Germany’s Vegetarian Society gatecrashed the exhibition, sporting pig snouts and arguing in favour of a vegetarian alternative.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique has some mouth-watering deals at some of the best luxury hotels in Berlin.