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Sunday, 2 February 2020

Holidays With Man's Best Friend


Dear Readers,

Here we are again.  It’s Sunday afternoon, and really, the best time to think about holidays and travel, lying on your sofa, dreaming of your next trip.  Picture the scene:  there you are, on your sofa, and guess what?  Lying next to you is your best friend.  Cat or dog (or hamster, rat, gerbil, goldfish…we digress).  You’re thinking of your next trip, when they snuggle into you as if to say; “and me?”  The question is:  can we really leave them behind?  Is it fair?  What are your thoughts, dear Readers?

Until relatively recently, your Hapless Blogger wasn’t a great animal person:  having been brought up with cats, who as we all know are hugely independent, and sometimes grace you with their presence, others, not.  I was forced to take on a dog.  Not just any dog.  A big, very needy dog.  Suddenly poof!  Independence gone!  And since this dog was so needy, kennels was not an option.  And since this dog was so big, neither were relatives.  So what do you do?  Not go on holiday ever again?  Nope, you take them with you.

Today, we’re exploring the options for you and your best friend, be it to remain in the UK (no pun intended) or to take him abroad with you.  Now, dear Readers, a little disclaimer here as your Hapless Blogger isn’t entirely sure on the new rules for pet passports, having just Brexited, but we’ll update the details when we have them.

Let’s stay in the UK for a moment.  Interestingly enough, pet-friendly holidays have grown exponentially over the past few years.  As the demand for more and more pet-friendly accommodation has increased, and with the advent of Air BnB and Home Away (et al) the opportunities for pet-friendly accommodation has grown.  Some of the loveliest options, however, are and have been for a long time, offered by the caravan industry.  Now, dear Readers, we’re not talking about a tin box on Camber Sands anymore, no no, we’re talking about a luxury lodge overlooking a gloriously deserted beach, with a hot tub, watching dolphins.  Pardon me?  I hear you cry.  Yes indeed, and you can bring your dog!  Although I’m not so sure he’d enjoy the hot tub…

Image result for fishguard bay resort

One such place in the UK is Fishguard Bay Resort (www.fishguardbay.com).  Ok, it’s a bit a trek to get there (and don’t forget to plan stops, because as we all know, having a dog is a bit like having a child:  they need loo stops, and often a bit of a walk to stretch their legs).  This place is found in the far reaches of West Wales.  The Fishguard bit gives you a clue, I guess.  However, once there (beware of the narrow lane down to it) you will be glad you traversed the country (just don’t do it on a Bank Holiday weekend).  Honestly, Readers, if you ever wanted to really get away from it all, and take Fido with you, this is the place.  You come round the bend at the top of the lane, and there before you lies the most idyllic site, surrounded as if a peninsular with the bluest sea you’ll ever see from these shores. 

Image result for fishguard bay resort lodges

Once in, if you haven’t experienced one yet, Readers, you have to have a look:   these luxury lodges are something else.  More like luxury apartments, they have wrap-around decking with gates and fencing so that Fido can’t escape, and hot tubs built into them.  In you go to your luxury apartment, where although some argue it’s basically two caravans knocked together, quite frankly, dear Readers, who cares?  It’s beautiful.  Sympathetically designed with the sea in mind, each lodge is dressed just as you would dress your own home by the sea (https://www.therange.co.uk/).  All you need to do for Fido is bring his bedding.

The reason, to be honest, we picked this one to talk about is also the scenery.  One of the objects of bringing Fido with you is to take him, and you, for lovely long walks.  You see, even if it’s just you and Fido, you both benefit hugely from the fresh, sea air and exercise.  It’s right on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and from the resort you can walk down to a little beach.  If you’re lucky enough, you’ll see dolphins right from your lodge.  What a sight to see them frolicking in their natural environment.  Fortunately, following the theme of dog-friendly holidays, you’ll find this whole area geared up to such.  Apart from High Season, the beaches are all dog-friendly (in High Season, you can take them to either end), quiet and clean.  If you really want to treat Fido, you can take him for a doggy ice-cream (dog friendly, not dog-flavoured, clearly).  You’ll find beautiful ice-cream parlours all over the vicinity, thanks to the close Welsh-Italian roots.  For a Monday to Friday in May you’re looking at about £350.

Image result for aberdunant hall

Another great spot is Aberdunant Hall (www.aberdunant.com).  This is just a bit further up the country, towards the picturesque Porthmadog in North Wales.  The owners are dog-lovers themselves, and actively encourage dog-loving owners and visitors to the site.  The place itself is out of this world, with the most beautiful restaurant and excellent food.  It is an excellent base for all those magnificent dog-walks to be found in North Wales, along with the most magnificent beaches.   As their blog points out, especially going on holiday with your best friend, it really is much easier to say in the UK, not just because your best friend might get stressed out with the travelling and possibly quarantine, but also because he needs his suitcase too, and it’s a lot easier to just bung it all in the car!  For a Monday to Friday in May you’re looking at about £378.

If you didn’t fancy Wales, but still wanted a beautiful beach for you and your best friend to enjoy, then why not pop to Par Sands in Cornwall (www.parkleisureholidays.co.uk)?  This real treat of a location has the aforementioned luxury lodges, and is right on a beautiful, quiet, Cornish sandy beach.  Indeed, those Daphne Du Maurier fans will relish the fact that several of her books were based in this area, as she stayed for a large period of her life on the Menabilly estate, and this is where she took inspiration for probably one of her most famous:  Rebecca, and one of your Hapless Blogger’s favourites, My Cousin Rachel. The beach is utterly dog-friendly and simply ideal.  If you wanted to stay there with your best friend Monday to Friday in May, you’re looking at about £280.

However, the time has come, dear Readers, to leave these fair shores.  Now, as we mentioned earlier, we’re going to have to put a little disclaimer on this one, as we don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of pet passports but for the moment, it’s been very easy to apply for one.  You even have to take his picture bless him.  For the interests of stress-levels, we’re not suggesting you take him on a plane.  As a dog-lover myself (now) dear Readers, it’s not fair, I don’t think, unless you really have to, to put him through sitting in a cage in the hold of a plane.  For UK airlines, unless they are a guide dog, they can’t sit with you and I don’t know about yours, but mine has separation anxiety and screams the place down when left alone, so all I can imagine him doing is screaming his way over the Atlantic or wherever, and that would be no fun for anyone.  Having said that, there are times when you need to transport your pet on an aeroplane, and during the course of our research, we came across a company called PetAir (www.petair.com) who will do everything for you, including collecting your pet from your home, booking his flights, sorting his documentation, taking him to the airport and checking him in, making sure he’s safe in his custom carrier in the hold and ensuring his safe passage the other side.  However, dear Readers, things can happen, so as another disclaimer, I would say only if you’re moving, not just for a holiday.

Image result for dog on ferry

However, once you have got his passport, when not leap in the car and nip on the Eurotunnel or ferry to Europe?  What fun!  Although mark you, on ferry journeys (apart from www.balearia.com) you still have to house him in kennels if it’s overnight, so for very sensitive friends, it’s still better to either take a short trip from say Dover to Calais, or to drive).  Your Hapless Blogger’s best friends take their best friend skiing every year, driving through France to Switzerland.  Another wonderful way to holiday with your best friend, without traumatising him or leaving him behind.

To summarise?  With such lovely choice in the UK, perhaps it’s less stressful for your best friend (and you) to staycation?  Although, from personal experience, taking your dog to Europe is as rewarding for you as it is for him.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Space, Man...cont...



When you’re starting a new year, it’s difficult to decide where to start in terms of travel trends.  What we wanted to do was uphold the values we extolled in our pre-blog blog…or plog, if you will:  what we do not want to do is bang on about New Year new you.  So we’re going to save all the health trends and get-fit trends for another time…


Something we want to continue to do this year, as we hopefully achieved last year, is to take you away.  To transport you to a different place and, as you’re reading this blog on a Sunday afternoon on your sofa, take you away from the ordinary without you having to move a muscle.


As it’s been in the news recently, indeed, as we write, we decided to re-visit Space…because, why not?  It was our first ever Travel Trend (https://www.traveltrendsbyglobalgreathotels.co.uk/2019/01/space-man.html) Are we going to Space or are we not?  Are we any further forward 12 months later?  So buckle up, astronauts, have a click on this to get you in the mood:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YwFvmnbj3E and let’s see what’s occurring!


In our previous post, we noted that things were getting close and indeed it looked like Branson was going to win the newly discovered ‘space race’.  However we came to the conclusion that just going 50 miles up into the atmosphere to achieve weightlessness and possibly to spin a couple of somersaults wasn’t actually what we meant when going into space, and yes, you would be officially classed as an astronaut but still, it wasn’t really going the whole hog.  We decided that Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon) Blue Origin ship (the New Shepard) looked the most impressive, with enormous windows so that you could observe the Blue Planet itself at its best, but you weren’t going any further either.  We also concluded that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was the most authentic, with actual trips round Mars planned. 


How about now?  Who’s winning the race?  It cannot be lost on anyone observing that really, when you think about it, it’s not Russia v USA anymore, but it is a race amongst three of the world’s biggest billionaire entrepreneurs…Should we be worried?  Or shall we just go on a Space Holiday and enjoy it because there’s nothing we can do about it anyway…


Virgin Galactic:

 Image result for richard branson space suit

In typical Branson style, he has forged on and in a massive way.  During the last 12 months he has merged with a company called Social Capital Hedosophia holding company owned by Chamath Palihapitiya…an early senior exec at Facebook (make of that what you will) with a $800 million investment in Virgin Galactic.  Did you know, as an aside, that Branson actually has two space companies?  Didn’t realise that…the other one is called Virgin Orbit and intends to provide orbital commercial small satellite launch capabilities…who knew!  This merger triggered Virgin Galactic to become the first commercial space flight company to be listed on the stock market.


The time-scale is now set for set for the second half of this year if it is stuck to and Branson has recently debuted the special space suits that the passengers will wear.  The price has gone up slightly, as we noted before it was £170,000 but now reports say it’s $250,000 which today means £192,000…guess those new space suits are expensive…


The guest list has also gone down to 600 from the 700 we reported last year, but there is a waiting list of 3,700 people.  In terms of the money, based on the level of high net worth individuals and realistic figures, the company is projecting that by 2023 revenues will exceed $590 million.  Branson, in typical Branson style, is in all fairness, still reported in the press to be saying that he intends, within the next decade, to bring the ticket price down to the £30k mark…so there’s hope for the rest of us yet!

Image result for richard branson space travel


On that note, and it is worth nothing this here:  it must be remembered that air travel was once the preserve of the top 1%, so let’s not be too critical of space travel.  As air travel is now open to everyone and anyone, so, potentially, will space.


Blue Origin:


Did you know that last year Jeff Bezos became the richest person since people began writing it down?  He is now worth over $150 billion.  Who cares?  Well, what it means for his company, Blue Origin, is that he can pump at least a billion dollars into it from Amazon every year, and that is what he is doing. 

Image result for blue origin


Are we any further forward than we were last time?  The short answer is ‘not really’.  Yes, tickets are expected to cost the same roughly as Virgin, and yes the list is about as long, and potentially it will happen by the end of this year, but Bezos is characteristically tight-lipped.


What is interesting, and perhaps this is where the War of the Worlds theme comes back in, is that Bezos, like Tesla, is branching into far more complex projects.  We mustn’t forget that Branson, equally, has Virgin Orbit, Bezos has another project going on.  This one bases itself in the theory that since the earth is running out of resources, we, as the human race, seriously need to get out.  Ergo we will all be living in space, and will visit earth like one does a national park, looking at it as a place for relaxation and holiday, rather than living here and battering the hell out of it as we are currently doing.



Image result for spacex

Right, well Elon Musk (apart from that disastrous practical demonstration on the Cybertruck https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q3uaepRCl4) has moved on since our last post.  Sure his excited passengers are still clamouring for their trip which is still planned for 2023 and has even acquired a hash-tag since we last reported:  #dearMoon and it is still as we observed last time:  a real space trip.  Six days rather than the 90 minute offerings of Virgin and Blue Origin, and they will genuinely complete a singular circumlunar trajectory around the moon which I think we can all agree is what we think of when we think of ‘going into space.’  Bottom line, all is still on course for 2023.

However, what prompted us to have another look at his subject today is that today is the very day that SpaceX are doing something very important:  they are today launching a live safety test that will destroy the rocket.  Why?  Because they have been hired by NASA to build rockets and capsules to carry astronauts into space, rather than NASA doing it themselves.  Today, SpaceX are trialling a sort of modern-day ejector capsule which can remove astronauts from an exploding rocket on take-off, a source of huge past problems, hence seeing them on their way to make space travel inexorably safer.  As we type they are experiencing some weather difficulties, but the time is set for 2pm local time.
Image result for spacex

We’re not talking about tourism any more, though.  SpaceX, who have teamed up with Boeing, are now effectively private companies heading up the latest innovations within NASA.  Is this a good thing?  Will Bezos soon be involved too?  Does it matter?

All these questions lead us round to perhaps the fact that a year on, in real terms, we’re not actually any further forward and indeed, we come to the conclusion that is identical:  for a realistic and what technically is a visit to space, the first missions will probably happen in the latter part of this year with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.  Branson, typically still throwing the bone that in 10 years or so we might all be able to afford it.  But the fact remains, you’re going on a 90 min jaunt to get a bit weightless.

SpaceX are maintaining their programme for our Japanese billionaire and his artist friends in 2023 to take them round the moon which is precisely what the majority of us think of when we think of space travel, for an undisclosed sum.  The question is, will SpaceX abandon all this in favour of the commercial gain of being in charge of NASA’s rockets? 

Who knows, it’s Space, man.