The Statue of Liberty’s crown, which has been off-limits to the public since 9/11, is to re-open to visitors on a fitting date – July 4th.
The US Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, called the re-opening a symbol of President Obama’s agenda for “a new beginning, restoring confidence in the American people, in their government, and in our place in the world.”
At first, only 30 visitors an hour will be allowed and they will be selected by lottery. The number will increase to as many as 200,000 a year as the interior of the structure is refurbished.
Currently, tourists are allowed only into the statue’s pedestal, which houses a museum, or to an observation terrace below, which re-opened several months after the 2001 attacks. Those fortunate enough to win the chance to climb to the crown will have to negotiate a narrow circular staircase of 168 steps.
‘Liberty Lighting the World’, as the statue is called, is one of the most visited monuments on earth. It was made in Paris by the French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and given to the United States by France in 1886.
by Andy Moreton
There are plenty of ‘must see’ places in the Big Apple apart from Liberty. Here at Luxique we can help you plan your visit with our comprehensive New York City guide and, of course, our selection of the finest luxury hotels in New York including the Hotel on Rivington with its stunning panoramic views.
The city council in Verona is giving couples the chance to get married on the stone balcony where Romeo is said to have wooed Juliet in Shakespeare’s play.
The 14th-century Casa di Giulietta, or House of Juliet, is one of the top tourist spots in Verona, drawing more than a million people every year.
It was once the home of the Cappello family - possibly the model for the Capulets of Shakespeare’s play; however, historians say there is little evidence linking it to the tragic love story.
Mary Handley, an English businesswoman who’s been organising weddings for foreigners in Italy for the past six years, said she was sure the Juliet weddings would be popular. “It’s extremely romantic, the weather is usually co-operative and your photos are going to be wonderful,” she said. But she gave a warning that the bureaucracy could sometimes be complex and an interpreter was required by law if the couple didn’t speak Italian.
A balcony wedding will cost citizens of Verona 600 euros (£556 / $775). Couples from elsewhere in the European Union will have to pay 700 euros (£648 / $905), while non-EU couples will face a bill of 1,000 euros (£926 / $1,293).
Tourism councillor Daniele Polato said: “We’ll be offering tourist packages just like Las Vegas does, with wedding and honeymoon. It’s a way of using the city’s artistic heritage to boost tourism.”
Despite the lack of historical fact, the courtyard beneath the balcony contains a bronze statue of Juliet. It’s the custom for visitors hoping to be lucky in love to stroke her right breast, which is now highly polished.
‘Fair Verona,’ as Shakespeare called the city, is in north-east Italy and, as well as the Romeo and Juliet connection, is famous for its summer opera season. This takes place outdoors in the Roman amphitheatre called The Arena.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you arrange accommodation at two luxury hotels in Verona – the impressive Due Torri Baglioni, which is close to the Juliet Balcony, and the elegant Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amista.
It was good to see the re-opening of some parts of the Taj Mahal Palace and Trident hotels in Mumbai after the death and destruction wreaked by terrorists on November 26.
At the re-opening of the Taj Mahal, all the 592 staff of the hotel who were on duty on that fateful day received thunderous applause from the guests.
“The Taj has been reopened, after a massive concerted effort, in dedication to all those who lost their lives in the attacks on Mumbai,” said Ratan Tata, chairman of the Taj Group of Hotels.
A memorial called The Tree of Life was also unveiled, with the names of the 31 people who were killed at the hotel inscribed at its base.
Security at all hotels in India has been tightened considerably and in the state of Goa, the authorities banned traditional beach parties between Christmas and New Year’s Eve because of possible terrorist attacks. The parties have traditionally been major tourist attractions.
by Andy Moreton
The Taj Mahal Palace, as well as other luxury hotels in Mumbai, can be booked through Luxique.
I couldn’t let this week pass without expressing the shock felt by us all here at Luxique at the devastating terror attacks in Mumbai in which so many people lost their lives.
The Taj Mahal Palace, which was targeted by the terrorists and badly damaged, has always been one of our favourite hotels in the whole of India. Since it opened in 1903, the hotel has been a luxurious base for everyone from Maharajas and kings to film stars and international cricketers. To see this elegant and much-loved hotel reduced to a smoke-blackened wreck fills us with overwhelming sadness.
The Oberoi and Trident were also attacked and we send their owner, Mr P R S ‘Biki’ Oberoi, our sympathy. He said: “We were not lax in our security, but there is a limit to what an individual hotel can do in tightening security.” He felt that the concept of hospitality would change if guests were subjected to increased security checks.
Luxique sends condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the Mumbai assault.
by Andy Moreton