Travel Editor Stephen Scourifeld finds all is quiet on the flying front as he makes a seamless journey from Perth to Nice
The four pages in the centre of a recent edition of Saturday's Travel are most unusual. They are full of stories written by students of Notre Dame University Australia’s travel writing & photography course. The course, run by Mignon Shardlow, is part of the journalism program. We have had a growing relationship with the university’s course, thanks to Mignon, who asked us to get involved. The idea came up that each student would prepare outlines for two stories, and I went to class to hear them pitch those stories and give instant feedback. Colleague Mogens Johansen ran two sessions teaching the fundamentals of travel photography. It is a true team effort — “the team” being us, Notre Dame University Australia and the students.You can read all the stories here.
If you believe everything you read, Perth Airport when I was there recently was most unusual. I arrived early for an Emirates flight to Dubai and on to Nice in the south of France, but found no one in the “checked in online” queue. There was no one in front of me at the passport checking machines. I went straight through security, and found I was very early for the flight, which left on time.
We arrived in Dubai, bang on time, I went straight through to the next departure gate in 20 minutes (with three hours in hand) and flew on over Crete and summer-singed Italy to Nice, on the French Riviera. As we have been saying, the majority of difficulties with air travel have been with domestic flights.
Face masks are still worn at Dubai International Airport and on Emirates flights. And I’m happy with that. Hand sanitiser is handed to all passengers on the flight to Nice.
Thought . . . having two seats empty next to you in economy is always a better win than being in business class.
I’m in Nice with 39 fellow travellers on our Travel Club Tour and, as you read this, on the Viking Heimdel river cruise ship heading between Arles and Lyon.
Heimdel is named for the all-seeing, all-hearing Norse god — an ever-vigilant guardian. I’m glad to be here with our readers, and partnering with Viking Cruises.
‘TAG’ THAT BAG
With all the stories of misdirected or “lost luggage”, Apple AirTags have been hard to find in Perth. But here they are, dangling in packs of four in the duty free shops of Dubai airport. AirTags use ultra-wideband technology and Apple’s existing network of devices to help you track down lost (or stolen) items. They’re easy to set up if you have a current Apple IOS and don’t need charging — the CR2032 battery should last a year before it needs to be (easily) replaced. AirTags don’t include a GPS chip like your iPhone — Apple has used its proprietary U1 chip to create a peer-to-peer network, tapping in to 1.65 billion global Apple devices — but if someone else’s AirTag finds its way to your belongings, your iPhone will send an alert. After converting from dirham to Australian dollars, they’re about $170 for a pack of four. Slip one in each suitcase.
If you can find them locally, they should be $45 for a single AirTag and $149 for a four-pack.
PARADISE & HELL
Chinese travellers are notable for their absence in the wider world — something I’ve noticed in France and recently in Italy and Dubai. They are still largely “at home” as China pursues its zero-COVID policy. They’ve been travelling within China, but more than 80,000 were left stranded in the popular resort of Sanya after a coronavirus outbreak prompted a lockdown. Authorities cancelled all flights and trains out of “China’s Hawaii” and travellers have to present five negative PCR tests over seven days before being allowed to leave.
The head of US low-cost carrier JetBlue is trying to hire many more staff than the airline needs. Robin Hayes says that’s the only way to compensate for the rate at which people are leaving the industry. Airports and airlines have found it difficult to recruit enough staff as global travel demand has surged.
France is in its third summer heatwave. Nice was 30C on Monday. While France’s drought website, Propluvia, and even the local Ville de Nice website aren’t very enlightening about restrictions, we West Australians know how to be frugal with water, and I’m doing just that, of course. Let’s always try to key ourselves in to local conditions and behave appropriately, not like entitled tourists.
ICE IS HOT
Ice has become a hot commodity in Spain, thanks to the combination of scorching weather and soaring power bills. Ice makers haven’t produced their usual stockpiles, facing higher costs and being uncertain over how many visitors would return to Spain this summer. But tourism has really bounced back and bars are running low on cubes for sangria.
ENTER THE DRAGON
The fee to visit two of the main islands of Komodo National Park in Indonesia suddenly increased 18 times, to just over $250. Locals are worried that the increase will keep tourists away, and went on strike. Indonesia is home to about 3300 komodo dragons and the Government says the price hike is to preserve habitat.
MERLION IS 50
Singapore will wish its Merlion a big happy 50th birthday on September 15. The Merlion is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, and the island state’s official mascot. A month-long golden jubilee celebration is planned.
+ The Merlion Statue at the Merlion Park (near One Fullerton hotel) will be lit up from September 15 to 30.
+ Merlion “hunters” can explore the island to discover all six official Merlions through the ‘Merli-Go-Round x Merlion 50th edition’ game on the Singapore Travel Guide app.
+ The Merlion can be found at National Gallery Singapore’s latest exhibition “Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore”.
+ The Singapore Airlines Singapore F1 Grand Prix 2022 is from September 30 to October 2. I’ve been twice — not just for the race, but the festival built around it. This year’s entertainment includes the Black Eyed Peas, Green Day and Westlife. singaporegp.sg/en