Saturday, 20 December 2008

Stuttgart's Christmas Market - Festive Photos

So, it's the time of year that the Sandwagon wraps itself up warm in a tinsel decked garage to see out the bleak mid winter. We'll be back again in the New Year, looking forward to all of the weird and wonderful travel news we'll come across, rather than the run of the mill bandwagon stuff. In the meantime, here's some festive images straight from Stuttgart to get us in the mood for Christmas Day.

Have a very merry festive season everyone.

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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Amsterdam - 4 random reasons to love this city. Just incase you need them

Heaps of the coolest, cosy bars, complete with cuddly cat bouncers.

Vast varieties of canal side buildings that keep architecture high on the city break agenda.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes, but best of all, ornate bikes.

Getting lost in the maze of Dam's streets and finding some ivy bunting.
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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Does travel writing style rule over travel writing substance? Check these out

As a follow up to my previous post Travelling without a safety net, I really wanted to talk about the online and offline writing that informs and inspires this travel sandwagon.

It's quality travel ponderings that are wonderfully written and illustrated, rather than bandwagon factual content, that gets me excited. Endless lists of predictable restaurant reviews are surplus to requirements when you trust your eyes, ears and instincts to lead you around a new destination.

And as for the important details, including police station addresses, transport hubs and opening hours, I still trust the traditional travel publishers to get it right. A copy of a guidebook or a quick surf on Lonely Planet gives me instant information gratification. If that fails then I'm happy to head to the tourist information office once I'm in situ. Does anyone actually believe that ploughing through 1001 user generated comments on Milan's dialing code is good use of their pre-travel research time? It's worth accepting that sometimes travel information can come as easily as trusting a paid travel writer.

So, on with the Sandwagon travel writing roll of honour. Check out these sources of travel inspiration:

Online inspiration

My Marrakesh {a place for lifestyle and design} and the bemused tales of an American family's quest to build a guest house in Marrakesh.

Road Junky ... written to make you think, laugh and get a rough feel for a country. For the inspired, independent traveler. The person who can just get up and go. The person who is moved by what he/she sees. The dreamers.

Itchy Feet Magazine an online travel magazine published six times a year, committed to sharing travel tales and experiences from all over the globe.

Miss Expatria 'The Internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction,' comes to you from the other side of her dreams, and she is telling you it is worth it.

A Good Man in India An honestly written, insightful Travelogue.

Fully Booked Events with an edge in New York. Parties, press events, launches, shopping events. For those who are not invited...get invited for free.

Best in print

Le Cool Changed My Life Guidebooks Hardback beauties, refreshingly free of generic guidebook pagination. In their own words, 'LE COOL works with local editors, writers, photographers, illustrators and designers to create unique books that truly reflect the experience of each city.' Just brilliant.

H.V. Morton's classic journeys Respect to Methuen for re-releasing these travel gems. Morton introduced me to a new age of travel - a bygone age. Trust me; wandering cities with an appreciation of the past is far more rewarding than clinging to your internet connection and reading another inarticulate, subjective s user generated review.

Do you agree that travel writing style does rule over substance?

This post is all about inspiration, not information - so which sites, books and magazines inspire your travels?
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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Ryanair's Inflight Magazine Two Minute Guide to Bologna - information update

The age-old issue with travel guides, features and magazines is the waiting, waiting and more waiting between editions, until there's an opportunity to update an annoying snippet of outdated information.

Printed words, especially about cities, run the risk of being riddled with inaccuracy literally the day after they've been written. Pubs close and are replaced by restaurants, banks close and are replaced by pubs, museums that were last week's top freebie tip start to charge an entrance fee, bakeries become nail bars and hotels go bad, bankrupt or up in flames. That's just the urban life cycle, it happens and it's exactly why guidebooks include disclaimers about the accuracy of their content. But disclaimers don't make an editor feel any better about the travellers who, armed with their material, will certainly experience disappointment.

This is where the digital age does indeed rule. Long live the net and the instantaneous edit button. Horrah.

I'm posted now to help the editorial team of Ryanair's inflight magazine and any travellers to Bologna who fancy some jazz with their after-dinner espresso.

Ryanair's Two-Minute Guide to Bologna, on page 115 of the current inflight magazine, lists Cantina Bentivoglio as the 'top jazz venue in town with shows nightly from 10pm'.

I headed there on Sunday to find that the management were currently re-evaluating the 'nightly' jazz rule. After I'd peeled off scarf, gloves, coat and jumper, the waitress shared the news with me; 'tonight is their (jazz bands') night off'. It was a real shame, but we settled for drowning our sorrows in a bottle of red wine and good conversation.

We didn't try the food at Cantina Bentivoglio but it certainly was popular with the exclusively Italian diners. The ample dishes that arrived to nearby tables made me wonder if we'd missed out on more than the jazz that evening.

Sandwagon's tip: contact Cantina Bentivoglio before you head there for jazz, just to make sure that there's a show. Use the contact details on their own site.

I've emailed the Cantina for updates and I'll keep you posted when I hear from them.
Posts in a similar vein are:
Paris' Mona Lisa Museum Pass Turns 20
Sarajevo: City of briefcases not bayonets, backpacks not berets
101 Weekends in Europe. Interview with author Robin Barton
Quality Copenhagen. Monocle Magazine, me and thee
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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Travelling without a safety net

My Life Before Travel Guides
Before working for a UK travel guides publisher, I was well travelled and knew my stuff but I never fully subscribed to guidebooks. I did read them; for example, the entire Rough Guide to the USA, in preparation for my very first job in the travel industry. Prior to landing that job, I also spent a month lugging around two random inter-railing guidebooks, plus a copy of Thomas Cook's European Timetable. Those guidebooks were, for no particular reason at all Let's Go Europe and Katie Wood's Europe By Train. When I first started to travel, I wasn't loyal to any particular publishing brand, and to be honest the only reason that I read guidebooks was for background information and any pertinent destinational warnings.

My inter-railing trip didn't end in disaster just because we didn't follow the guidebooks' hints, tips and suggested itineraries. Even though we tried to call listed hostels, to book a bed in advance of our arrival in a new city, more often than not we either forgot to call (too busy having fun), the hostel didn't pick up or the published number was out of date. This was no worry. In the 90s, backpackers didn't arrange all of their travel in advance, online, so we simply rocked up straight from the station and always landed a safe place to sleep.

The main reason that we neglected our guidebooks on that trip was not because they sucked, but because it was more fun, and just as effective, to collect pointers and tips from fellow travellers as we arrived at consecutive train or bus station. Those waiting for the next train out of town were always more than happy to pass on where they'd just stayed, eaten, visited or enjoyed.

We weren't reckless inter-railers either. We just preferred to heed the warnings of less fortunate travellers that we met, rather than rely on the wise words of our printed 'bibles.'

Talking to other travellers has always been sensible
The popularity of user generated content strengthens the case for what every traveller knows in their hearts: that speaking to a person who’s just been in the same boat, plane, hostel or bar can't be beaten. It's fantastic that pages and pages of user generated travel content exists these day. But I do worry that it’s often irrelevant and out of date by the time you actually need to apply it to a real life travelling situation.

I'm still more likely to respect and act upon the opinion and recommendations of a backpacker who's sat beside me at the hostel bar - full of warnings after having survived a sticky situation - rather than the musings and rants of a faceless online reviewer, or a flippant online guru who aggregates travel ‘content’ for their site without editorial moderation. Such sites often smack of working more in the interests of their page rank than in the interest of circulating travel karma.

I’m not just a cynic, but a professional editor with a duty to question the source of published travel information. Readers should always question the source of any travel content and also the motivations of the contributor and site publisher. It’s so much easier to trust that the backpacker sat beside you in Amsterdam has actually visited The Red Light District recently. He/she has nothing to gain from sharing their insights with you, other than a warm glow inside and perhaps a friend for life. The online content provider may not have visited and may not really care how their content will now play out in your travels, as long as you've hit their page, stayed a while and improved their analytics profile.

Guidebooks can be really useful
Maybe we were just plain lucky on that inter-railing trip not to need the nitty-gritty health, safety, crime and medical information that differentiate guidebooks from travel literature and glossy travel features. Maybe we missed out on a myriad sights, memories and must-dos because we didn't plan our itinerary around an author's recommendations. But on the flip side, perhaps we made more of our time in Europe because we didn't join a bar-crawl at the base of the Spanish Steps like main other inter-railers do, or because we didn’t bypass Monte Carlo like many do because it's not the typical shoestring stop off.

Blissfully unaware of recommendations and guidebook facts, we just relaxed with our own agenda, followed our instincts and trusted in 'us'. Rather than be influenced by 'Best of' lists and 'Top Tens,' we spent nights in whichever bars looked and sounded like good fun, and we made a beeline for the major sights when we came across them.

Do travellers really need guidebooks?
Travel can be just as, if not more, rewarding when you don't take along a guidebook as a safety net. But travel publishers are in business because they do the hard work for you. They vet the writers (experienced travellers) and have procedures in place to ensure that details are as up to date as they can be. Travel guide publishers make money because the inspiring, informed voice of a travel writer can be just as valuable a travel companion as the great guy or girl you hook up with at the diving school in Dahab. You just have to interact with their recommendations in a different way to how you’d interact with an actual, physical being sat beside you.

Depending upon your destination, there’s always some background reading to do before hitting the road. And if I'm heading off the beaten track, I'd much more confident reading the succinct advice of an objective, experienced travel writer living in situ than the subjective snippets that are sprinkled across various blogs, review sites and online forums, or aggregated into a central site by a canny web guru.

Once the logistics of travel and transfers are behind you, leave your travel guidebook in your hostel room and just hit the streets, wander, talk to people and follow your own instincts. Perhaps put out a Twitter for suggestions once in a while and just play it all by ear. Take in the major sights by all means - I'm not suggesting that missing out on The Last Supper in Milan, for example, does you or the city any justice - but find your own sights too. Refer to your printed or electronic guide in times of absolutely boredom or desperation. Your memories will be more colourful and your post-trip conversation infinitely more interesting for it. And if you too are a travel blogger, your travel content will surpass generic, SEO ridden travel drivel in the quality stakes.

So, Sandwagon reads and respects traditional travel guides and travel writers, but also loves to go it alone and trust the recommendations of other travellers in the same boat. Meeting a traveller in a destination and learning from them is different to reading user generated content online. Without editorial moderation, online content may be out of date, totally fabricated or written by someone whose opinion you wouldn't trust if you met them in the flesh.

Are you cynical about online travel content?

Will we always rely on a travel safety net of some sort?
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Around The World Clipper Race - Are you and your wallet up to the challenge?

Ultimate travel experience anyone?
If you, like me, are looking for a travel experience to eclipse all other options next year, Clipper's Around the World Race takes some beating.

Circumnavigating the world by sea actually becomes a possibility for us land-lubing folk, but only if you've the stamina and a hefty amount of cash to invest in a once in a lifetime experience.

Put it this way, you'll certainly have a unique travel story to tell, silencing the bores who roll out the Sydney and West Coast Australia backpacker trail tales time and again. Zzzzz

Want to know more?

David Cusworth, Recruitment Manager for Clipper Ventures whetted my appetite with the following:

'The race visits some great locations - Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, China, California, Canada... It is a competitive race - with the crew pushing the boats and themselves further than they thought possible.

'You will get cold, wet and tired. But you will find out so much about yourself - how you cope under pressure, how much you can really take, what's really important in life. You also learn about other people - about what can be achieved when a team bonds together, how you can support other people and they can support you, how you can keep each other going when you think you can't take any more'.

Number rarely make me smile, but these Clipper numbers did...
The Clipper Race involves
134,400 TEA BAGS, 6,000 LOAVES OF BREAD, 12,000 ONIONS,

So you're up for it and want to apply
First things first, make contact with Clipper here

You'll then hear back from David personally with further information, prices and a more detailed questionnaire to fill in.

There's a £100 entry fee (£75 refundable if you're not successful), as well as selection interviews. Serious stuff!

This is not a cheap trip

The Round The World Race
Includes training package as below plus 5 extra days training free of charge £31,950

Individual Legs, training package (compulsory)
To include 19 days pre-race training and branded crew clothing pack £2,950
Leg 1 UK – Western European port – Brazil £4,660
Leg 2 Brazil – South Africa £3,900
Leg 3 South Africa – Western Australia £4,175
Leg 4 Western Australia – Singapore – China £4,650
Leg 5 China – Hawaii – West Coast of North America £4,175
Leg 6 West Coast of North America – Panama – Caribbean £4,280
Leg 7 Caribbean – East Coast North America – Home £4,660
(via Western European stopover)

Recruitment is taking place in Yorkshire, Singapore, California, New York – and possibly Ireland – in the coming months.
So, is anyone else still tempted to apply and start saving?
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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Around The World Flight or Clipper Around The World Ocean Race? Registration For 09/10 Now Open

If you like your travel a little more extreme than an around the world flight with Quantas, why not sign up for the Clipper Ocean Race 09/10? It's the trip and challenge of a lifetime. And because this is the only around the world boat race that allows novices to enter, hairdressers, piano teachers or students have as much chance as the next of getting accepted onto a Clipper team. Full training is provided.

The options
Race for a week, individual legs or complete a circumnavigation

The route
Setting off from the Humber, UK on 13th September 2009 and visiting 14 worldwide port stopovers over the 10 months voyage, this really supersedes the stock itineraries that high street travel agenst put together everyday. You'll round the Cape of Good Hope, race to Australia and sail the Panama Canal. There's more to brave than the backpacker hostels of Bangkok as you take on the icy of the North Pacific and then the heat of the tropics.

The latest stopover to be announced is California, following the leg from China.

Clipper Crews are been recruited now for 2009/10
Click here if you're up to a travel challenge (plus a low-carbon one at that)
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Friday, 14 November 2008

Sustainable Travel & Tourism - can travel change its ways before it's too late?

Today's travel industry, media and consumers have some serious issues to get their heads around
Firstly, the majority of travellers are pondering the affordability of travel full-stop. Can we really afford to dream, escape, explore as much as we'd like or are used too?

Facing up to the reality of that question, the industry has had to become even more savvy, focusing on low-cost alternatives to their more indulgent travel experiences. They're also having to take 'baby steps,' as a representative of a well-known car rental company put it, to maximise dwindling PR and Marketing budgets via social networking sites, blogs and web 2.0 applications. Rather than splash out on glossy print ads, they're having to investigate how to up their brand's presence for free, online.

So we are faced by the reality of smaller travel companies and independents that are fighting for their financial life and clinging on by their fingertips to stay connected to the changing online world.

They have to face these issue right now, and that's before we even touch on the immediate need to start saving Planet Earth.

Let's park web 2.0 for a sec to focus on facing the long-overdue strategic solutions needed to enable sustainable tourism across the board
Again, the industry is dragging its heels on this. Nearly 30 years ago, I remember receiving a Friends of the Earth hardback annual from an environmentally-aware Santa. Acid rain, global warming and the threat of extinction have haunted me ever since. The areas of the travel industry that I've worked in haven't been operational enough to take a management stance over providing low-impact accommodation or initiatives in the local community, where the focus now needs to be. But I must have some peers who are decision makers, hoteliers, local government planning officials and construction companies. Don't they see that building golf courses on the edge of Marrakech or seabed dredging in Dubai isn't healthy or sustainable in the slightest? What are they doing to ensure that travel and tourism doesn't continue to contribute to the destruction of natural and local life?

I can't fathom how 30 years have slipped by and the message of eco-awareness is still having to be hammered home? And why the travel industry had a World Responsible Tourism Day this week, in 2008? Better late than never, of course.

I'd put this to all decision makers in the travel industry
You think the Credit Crunch is a problem? Are alarm bells ringing because you don't have a blog? Why not squeeze one more thing, beyond these concerns, into your business plan for the next ten years. Make it a genuine, measurable and committed plan for Sustainable Tourism. Take everything that you heard at World Travel Market's World Responsible Tourism Day on board: today, this year, not in another 30 years.

Here's three reasons to celebrate World Responsible Tourism Day
- The pleasure and pain of Mark Edwards' environmental call to action Hard Rain
- The BBC's Stephen Sackur's understandable confusion with Minaz Abji's linguistics, when he described the sustainable tourism agenda in regards the hotel business as a Tsunami. Minaz, - Executive Vice President, Host Hotels & Resorts, a company that partners with Marriott®, Ritz-Carlton®, Westin®, Sheraton®, The Luxury Collection®, Hyatt®, Fairmont®, Four Seasons®, Hilton®, and Swissôtel® - we were all left wondering this: why the negative connotation?
- Sri Lanka tourism's pledge to be carbon neutral by 2018

Hard Rain
pulled at the industry's heart strings, while WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery took on the travel industry's purse strings, commenting,

“Businesses suffer from the misconception that responsible tourism strategies can mean taking a hit on profits."

“If responsible tourism activity is integrated with a well orchestrated business plan, it can have a positive impact on overall performance and has resulted in some highly successful businesses reaping the benefits of responsible tourism."

“A clear signal has now gone out to the world that responsible tourism must be at the top of the agenda, but this definitely does not mean the industry has to forgo profits.”

“Businesses suffer from the misconception that responsible tourism strategies can mean taking a hit on profits."
Read more!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Travel Blogcamp, London 2008 - pints and pondering

What a perfectly timed event this was, following a heavy day at World Travel Market 2008 that began with endless queues at Canning Town and ended with an annoyingly dead mobile phone. Blogcamp 08, superbly arranged by Darren of Travel Rants fame, was the day's highlight. With views across the Thames from the Blackfriars pub, coupled with chat over a pint and far more fascinating bloggers than I'd expected to find, being a British travel blogger suddenly became very enjoyable.

Who came to play?
Darren of Travel Rants played host and chair
Guest speakers
Alex Bainbridge – Musings on travel ecommerce
Karen Bryan – Europe a la Carte
Molly Flatt – STA Travel Buzz
Kevin May – Travolution

Also, PR and Marketing representatives from the travel industry including; Mr & Mrs Smith, TUI, Holiday Autos and Lonely Planet. Freelance writers and SEO providers including Jeremy Head and Mark Hodson, other bloggers and social networking success stories such as Marco van de Kamp of travelersfortravelers

My take on events

All four speakers gave great overviews of their personal take on blogging and I thank them for that. But because I strongly believe that there are few hard and fast rules to this wonderfully liberating publishing medium, and because bloggers by their nature do not passively consume content, I'd say that the most interesting moments arose as the audience began to engage vocally with the themes being presented to them.

Standout themes
Multiple-authors. Rehashing stories. Where does writing stop, blogging begin, journalism end and PR stick its nose in on the action? Blogging as a marketting tool for travel companies. Aggrigated content.


Maybe the difference between Sandwagon and these speakers is that my blog exists purely for expression's sake and to share my love and expertise of travel, the industry and travel publishing. At the moment, I cherish the editorial freedom that monetising my blog may compromise. Plus I'll never be comfortable using so soulless a term as 'content' to describe what I produce online. I'm a traveller, a collaborative member of a community that shares information and a writer with a professional editorial background; at this point in time, not a blogger looking for pay per click bucks.

Feelings on the train journey home

The blogger v journalist v PR debate depressed me somewhat. Why the need to pigeonhole ourselves and in fight? We are all bloggers first and foremost because of the medium that we use. The shades of differences between all of our blogs are based on our individual experiences, personal and professional. We should respect the qualities, experience and causes that individuls bring to the table.

My one big hope for all those involved in Blogcamp is that we don't allow an elite to be created and that commercially successful blogs are elevated above all of those who just love to write and share about an industry they know and love very well. Because if we do that, we're no better than the newspapers, publishers and industry leaders whose editorial constraints we sought solace from by migrating our musing online.

What's next?

For Blogcamp - because I've always envied the collaborative approach of the web development world; their online conferences, their sharing of new applications and know-how, I really do hope that we can organise Blogcamp 2. Darren, I'm sure that Lonely Planet would be more than happy to sponsor it (!) and that we'd all be happy to regroup again.

For Sandwagon - I'll continue to write about travel from a travel writer and editor's perspective. Coming away from World Responsible Tourism Day, I'm more inclined to use my blog to celebrate those in the industry who are working to protect a world in danger, rather than pushing to make lots of cash. Although, I wouldn't turn down enough to buy another pint of Staropramen.

Read the ongoing buzz about Blogcamp at the following links:

Reflections on travel Blogcamp at

Hoorah for heated debate at STA Travelbuzz

Travel Blog Camp, London at Roaming Tales

Busy week at WTM08 at Travel Musings on ecommence

Travel Blogcamp at Mr & Mrs Smith

At Travel Blogcamp at Heatheronhertravels

Travel Blog Camp at

Travel Blog Camp Write up at Trailbeater
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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

World Travel Market 2008 - first thoughts from the fair extraordinaire

If you have never visited World Travel Market before or are completely and utterly new to the internal workings of the travel industry, don't worry. Once I've unpacked, re-grouped and deciphered my notes, I'll be sharing a full run down of what this beast WTM actually is and what it means to the thousands of travel industry delegates who travelled to London's Excel from all corners of the world.

Notes from the press conferences and seminars will also follow.

So.....this feels as good a time as any to put my Sandwagon thoughts and opinions into context. I love to travel but I'm no epic adventurer. Rather than pack up my life and hit the road at 18, I studied and spent - as so many students do - a summer of inter-railing abandon in Western Europe. That experience of the infinite glee that independent travel gives a person of any age made me commit to a life in the travel industry. I'd never be rich. I couldn't face being a lawyer, a banker, another graduate management scheme wanna be. After travelling for just one month, making money seemed so soulless in comparison to sharing the joy of travel and enabling ordinary folk like me to travel, any damn which way they chose and could afford.

So I worked as a Specialist Sales Consultant for a long haul tailor made travel company (nope, not the student-centric one), before working as a travel agent for a small specialist business. Next, I fulfilled my dream of combining my love of travel love and increasing expertise with my love of words, confirmed by an English Degree. I became a Creative Copywriter, then an Editor, then a Managing Editor for one of the top two travel companies in the UK. 50/50 chance of guessing which; they both begin with Th...

I'm telling you this because, firstly, giving context to the voice behind a blog is important. And secondly, I have nothing to fear. I would never slate the travel industry or any of my former employers. The travel industry, just like travel publishing, can be hugely demanding for its employees. (I'm no sniper-type Blogger. I just want to share understanding and the latest news.) Margins are minimal, expectation is maxed but the passion common to each and everybody present at WTM makes working in and for the industry a given. Once your in, you're hooked. Some days it's even (heaven forbid) enjoyable.

World Travel Market is a wonderful coming together of the most passionate people there are. It's a chance to do business, face the big issues that challenge the industry and its consumers, network, buy ex-colleagues a beer and basically share the love.

That done, here are my first objective and editorially sound observations of WTM:

Transport Trouble ruined my well-researched plans for Tuesday. Out of action sections of the Dockland's Light Railway, coupled with lots of pushing and shoving onto London buses took the edge off my first morning's joy.

Press Lounges that were kindly sponsored by the Greek Tourist Board. A free cuppa, a cloakroom with smiley attendants, lots of desk space and mobile phone chargers. All very well received

Informative, Inspiring Press Confereneces and Seminars Press and business delegates alike came away with notes, ideas to pursue and fresh motivation with which to face these troubled times.

Blogcamp organised by the award-winning Travel Rants blog, proved that bloggers can face the real world and speak to a crowd in person, rather than through the internet. I felt a huge sense of pride for all UK bloggers in attendance. About 80 people chatted and debated the ins and outs of this blogging adventure that we're all on. Even some big names in travel sent out their PR and Marketing bods to learn a trick or two. Are the speakers experts? I'm not convinced that there are any best practice blog rules. This is the internet; do as you please, in any way you please. But don't do and be damned.

Simon Calder taking the stand to inspire would-be podcasters, before flying off to Salamanca.

Orissa Discovering more about the Indian state described as Scenic.Serene.Sublime

Opulent Exhibition Stands Kazakhstan, I loved your tented up-top meeting room. Taiwan, I filmed your puppet show for posterity!

World Responsible Tourism Day Debates especially Stephen Sackur giving hoteliers a roasting on behalf of the planet. 'The Great Towel debate' rumbled on and on.

Hard Rain by Mark Edwards A sound and vision portrayal of the ills we do our planet. Did everyone in the audience take a call to action from it? Sandwagon definitely did.

Much, much more to follow over the coming days.

Tell me, which bits of WTM 2008 stood out for you?
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Sandwagon's Latest Travel/Travel Writing Twitterings - NEW on the site

It's worth keeping an eye on my page for the constantly updating Twitterings. Twit Bits from the travel world as my barefeet pad up to them, curiosity-giddy. If you're a Twitterer yourself (and why the hell aren't you, if not?!) follow me and I'll follow you. We've all got a take on travel and I want to hear everyone, not just the big name bloggers (does that constitute a contradiction in terms?) Sandwagon Twitter link Read more!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Today at World Travel Market 2008

The show began at London's Excel yesterday and Sandwagon entered the fray today. Having made it through 1 hour 30 minutes worth of London's best transport action; packed tubes all the way from Kings Cross, confusion at Bank (even though we all knew in advance that the Dockland's Light Railway wasn't running from there, due to engineering work)and, once we arrived at Canning Town, the longest bus queue I've ever had the pleasure of jostling through, the wonders of the world, via the wonders of the travel industry were final spread out before me.

It's 15.38 and so far I haven't even stepped onto the exhibition level! I've attended a press conference held by PATWA, learnt how to create Podcast and discovered that Lonely Planet are launching a NEW open development platform for the guide book world.

Headlines from WTM will be reported via my Twitter feed for the rest of the day. And here is the rest of it.
Read more!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A new Cultural Venue for a Midland's city - Curve, Leicester, UK

Leicester's eagerly anticipated performance venue, threw open its doors yesterday to give locals a sneak preview behind its signature curved glass facade.

Pensioners and parents with young children alike braved a cold, grey November Saturday afternoon to inspect the £65-million Curve venue that replaces the much-loved Haymarket Theatre.

Supporting Curve’s theatre-for-all-ethos, the day’s events were completely free and 25 people at a time took turns to tour behind the scenes of architect Rafael Viñoly’s state-of the-art venue. Those waiting patiently in queues that stretched along the curved glass-panelled window were entertained by a steel band and stilt-walking courtesans. Purple branded balloons and paper flags were also handed out to create the ‘family gala’ atmosphere that organisers had hoped for.

Groups were led through the Studio Theatre and then headed up to an airy mezzanine level that one middle-aged Leicester man described as feeling just like a modern football stadium. The mezzanine overlooks Orton Square, which was inaugurated earlier that day. Next, young and old threaded a path along backstage corridors, not yet full-fitted and decorated, below stage and into the orchestra pit. A full stage-sized rehearsal room and a two-storey high dance studio later, and each tour grouped came to the main auditorium to sit down in brand-new seats for a question and answer session.

Fireworks closed the day, before visitors ebbed away from what is the centre-piece of Leicester’s new Cultural Quarter in the Rutland Street area of the city. A local dance teacher commented that, “the facilities are amazing, but I hope that studio hire rates aren’t too expensive for dance schools to afford.” Others craned their necks to look up again at the great glass wall before heading into the city centre. Curve’s first show, Lift off, opens on 11th November.
Read more!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Worldwide Weddings - Globetrotting Brides wanted

Visit Written Road for details of how to share your knowledge of weddings around the world. Be honest girls, don't we all commit to memory every whitewashed, sun-drenched church by the sea or on a tranquil lake that we come across? Or is that just me..?

Just for future reference.... this is St Mary's Church, Lake Bled
Pic © Thomson Lakes

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Friday, 31 October 2008

Too spooked to stay in the hotel that inspired Steven King's The Shining?

Wheeeere's Johnny? At The Fairmont Algonquin, New Brunswick, Canada.

If you like your bed to go bump in the night and prefer to get your exercise ghostbusting around hotel libraries, this press release from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts might be of interest. Click here for “Spooktacular” Tales and Travel Getaways to Celebrate Halloween. Read more!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

World Travel Market - did 2007's Travel Trends Come True?

Predicting travel trends must be a fun occupation. So, Lord of the Rings is being filmed in New Zealand...that's definitely going to encourage visitors to by-pass Oz or push the boat out on a Downunder twin-centre holiday.

Or, now that everyone is a budding Jamie Oliver in the kitchen, surely we'll all want to take as authentic a cookery class as possible; demand for pizza masterclasses in Naples and curry courses in Kerala must be through the roof?

2007 was going to be the year that pets would see more of the world and Halal tourism would really take off. This press release, introducing a session on travel trends that's taking place at the forthcoming World Travel Market, makes really interesting reading. Click here to see if travel predictions made in 2007 have been lived out in the year's travelling antics.
Read more!

About SandWagon

In June 2007, SandWagon set off on its bumpy journey with this as its Mission Statement.

Rather than taking the predictable bandwagon route, SandWagon is committed to providing as wide a spectrum of travel news, reviews and inspiration as possible. It won't downgrade readers' worldwide exploration to a list of names to tally up and brandish competitively, nor will it won't plod with the crowds to just the must-see places.

I accept that travel trends exist and from time to time they'll influence the articles you find here, but the SandWagon’s route around the world is fundamentally laissez-faire. There's no fixed plan and SandWagon's travel articles aren’t tethered to market forces, fads, fashions or the locations of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

I'm committed to writing from the the back of the SandWagon - barefoot and free of preconception, curiosity-giddy with the wind in my hair and my eyes fixed on the horizon - and I hope that you'll come along for the journey.

Subjects covered
Subject matter on SandWagon is diverse and the possibilities for posts is intentionally open ended. We do like to cover emerging destinations; responsible tourism; the natural world; travel literature; travel publishing; guidebooks; news and reviews; resources for travellers and travel writers.


SandWagon is keen to hear from contributors across the globe who want to help us push the travel bandwagon into the nearest ditch.
Contact me at
Read more!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Written Road - my latest post goes live

Having worked in the travel industry since the year 2000, and now having become a blogging addict, a certain event in California was certain to grab my attention. Read more about the travel industry Bloggers' Summit at Written Road Read more!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Class not crass – Australia's 'where the bloody hell are you?' binned for Baz

Sandwagon bids farewell to Australia's, 'So where the bloody hell are you?,' tourism campaign, which was at best arrogant and at worst considered offensive. And it's fair to say that whilst it succeeded in getting potential visitors' attention, it didn't really lay claims to their hearts.

So, the Aussie's have called upon their talented son Baz Luhrman to deliver some epically themed adverts befitting his epic homeland. The ads and the entire tourism campaign feature themes and straplines, all with undeniably awe-inspiring backdrops, that have been crafted to stoke the 'finding yourself' fire that demands regular rekindling in the souls of travel addicts...

Admittedly 'Come walkabout' does make me think of sticky floors and cheap beer, in those green and yellow Aussie-styled bars that are scattered across the UK. But only for a few seconds... until the advert's string music kicks in and the camera pans out on a dreamy, romantic scene. Take the billabong ad above; its far too familiar human theme, set in the country's Kimberley region, really did make me shiver. It reminded me of past travels that gave me the chance to find myself again. And it set me dreaming of trips to come; before I let life and relationships degrade into a blur of deadlines and working and doing and ticking off to-dos.

Yep, I'm probably being a little too soft about the ads, but aren't all travellers perpetually on the hunt for the next destinationally-inspired chill along their spine that makes them feel alive?

Australia may well be on the Sandwagon travel agenda for early next year!

The ads air in the UK tonight and are tied in with Baz Luhrman's new movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman.
Read more!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Travel TV Show Alert - World's Greatest Cities on ITV Tonight

Griff Rhys Jones gets under the skin of three of the greatest cities on earth for a new three part documentary series. Tonight showcases New York, New York. Catch the show at 9pm on ITV1

For Griff, New York, London and Paris are the cities closest to his heart...

“I love a lot of cities that are not included in this series, like Rome and Edinburgh, but I love the three we are covering most of all. New York for its style and warmth, Paris for its taste and chic, and London for its grubby soul.”

So what makes a city ‘great’?

“A great city is inexhaustible, it keeps throwing new sights, new people, new tastes and new sounds at you, but I’m drawn to places which have many, many layers of history. Anything which is huge scale and uniform tends to ultimately be dull. So London is a good example of a city which is made up of dozens of different parts and experiences as you walk through it. Ultimately it’s people and their pride in their environment that make a great city work. If there’s no place where people can express themselves, either by trimming the hedges or building extraordinary skyscrapers then the city has no soul.”

A few things took Griff by suprise.

“I was surprised at how quickly New York changes its character. People now live on Wall Street because so many banks left it after 9/11. The printing area is now a fashion area and the West Side is changing its spots daily. I was surprised by how funny and helpful the Parisians were once you stop being a tourist. We had the best laughs with French people and I wasn’t expecting that.

The one thing that made me laugh the most in Paris was when I drove a 2 CV around the Arc de Triomphe where all the rules of driving are temporarily abandoned!”

He had a few hairy moments as well. .

“When I was working as a window cleaner at a 30 storey building in New York, I did get moderately scared when the guy who was teaching me didn’t seem to know how the safety equipment worked!

However, the most terrifying thing I did was to take part in an inline skating event in Paris. They do it every Friday and the streets are closed to traffic to enable the people to skate around the central streets in safety. We did it on a Wednesday for some reason, into the rush hour traffic. I had never inline skated before and feared at every moment that my skates would clip one of the many drains and potholes and that I would fall under the wheels of a Parisian bus!”
Read more!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Frommer’s Travel Guides New for Apple iPhone® and iPod® Touch

A perfect pairing of America's best? Next time you're hitting the streets of New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, you can couple the sleek and simple design of Apple's latest gagdets with the latest in essential travel information.

Storing the city guides directly to your device gives you access to info on the move, without having to connect to the net and trawl through ad-ridden content. Frommer’s for iPhone also features local travel tips, restaurant and hotel reviews, and bonus features such as location-based services, interactive maps, and web and phone links. Turning the pages of a printed guide is now replaced by instantly accessible information at the flick of a finger, using the unique touchscreen interface.

“Frommer’s [an imprint of Wiley Publishing, Inc] is the go-to resource for millions of travelers every year,” said Larry Olson, Vice President and Marketing Director, Professional/Trade, Wiley. “There’s no doubt technology is changing the way we travel, and by partnering with Modiality [a market leader in transforming premium, branded learning and lifestyle content for personal handheld media players] to bring Frommer’s to the iPhone, we are positioning our content to appeal to the most savvy pleasure and adventure seekers in the marketplace.”

Click here
to view a demo of the digital travel guide

The digital ediions of the 2008 Frommer’s New York, San Francisco, London and Paris guides are available for purchase and download on via the new Apple App Store and on iTunes for $9.99. Additional Frommer’s guides are scheduled for release in late 2008.

Image ©Frommers/Wiley Publishing, Inc

Read more!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Sandwagon's Spruced Up Design

Sandwagon has been live, traversing the bumpy terrain of travel news and reviews, since June 2007. The old style site did us proud, but as it was definitely due for a revamp we've gone for a much snappier layout.

Those lengthy, entire posts that hogged the whole page have now been replaced by taster paragraphs that showcase the latest stories at a glance.

And we've also applied a cleaner design for a wind-in-the-hair look and feel that suits the Sandwagon travel philosophy perfectly.

Here's a glimpse of the the old style site, just for old time's sake. "So long," to the sand dunes where I set off on this journey.
Read more!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Sun Salutations on the sand? Book a Yoga Holiday at The Yoga Show, London

Dedicated and aspiring Tree, Warrior and Crow practitioners will find 'All Things Yoga Under One Roof' at The Yoga Show - held at London's Olympia, from 11am Friday 31st October until 6pm Sunday 2nd November.

Sandwagon will be chatting with the holiday companies on show, reporting back on the latest yoga destination trends. I'll also be perusing the assembled yoga mats and equipment, well-being products and techniques with far-flung origins.

Earmarked for special Sandwagon attention are;
Yogatraveller -fun yoga holidays and retreats worldwide
Free Spirit Travel - who've run yoga holidays for 15 years
Yuva Yoga Holidays - eco centre on the Turkish shore
Camp Paradiso - transformational experiences in the land of miracles (Lourdes, France)
Ayurveda Retreat - an oasis offering treatments, training courses and yoga

See you there...

1 day passes Friday Adults £7 Concessions £5 / Saturday & Sunday Adults £10 Concessions £8
2 day pass Adults £16 Concessions £12
3 day pass Adults £22 Concessions £18

Buy them on the door or at The Yoga Show website

Opening Times:
Friday 11am-6pm Saturday/Sunday 10am-6pm

Image ©
Read more!

Time Out - 2 for 1 Passes for selected London Galleries this October

I did work for a competitor of Time Out Guides but it's their books and magazines that I count as the ultimate must-haves. They're my favourite publisher of city focused stories, listings and journalism , and in my opinion living in the Big Smoke without a copy of Time Out London is like hotdogs without the onions or bacon sarnies devoid of sauce.

Time Out London's things for Free listings saved the day so many times when I was completely skint, but intent on making the most what our glorious capital has to offer. I knew that I wouldn't be living there forever, so every day's explorations counted.

Over the last 40 years, Time Out has covered more London art exhibitions in more venues than anyone else in the capital. To celebrate their birthday, they're offering 2 for 1 entry to the finest art in the capital this October.

Download your voucher
to gain 2 for 1 entry to all ticketed exhibitions from October 1-31 at:

- V&A, including Cold War Modern: Design 1945 - 1970
- Hayward Gallery, including Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms
- Design Museum, including Design Cities
- Zoo Art Fair October 17 - 20
Read more!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Trip Advisor to Donate $1 million to 5 Worldwide Organisations - Vote Now

This morning I opened an email from Trip Advisor's Founder and CEO, Steve Kaufer. Expecting a marketing mail shot or newsletter on top spas or the highest-rated beach hotels, I was pleasantly surprised to read the following note from Steve,

'For years it's been our mission to help travelers around the world plan and take great trips. Now we want to help the places and people that we encounter when we travel. On November 12th, we'll be donating $1 million to 5 great organizations that help these places and people.
Just as we believe in the power of the collective wisdom of our travelers, we believe in the power of your opinion.
Please vote – tell us where the $1 million donation should go.'

Steve wants us to 'think of the $1 million as a pie.' The heftiness of each pie portion heading to each organization depends on how many votes it receives. More votes = more money.

He'll be harnessing the power of the collect voice that's made Trip Advisor what it is: THE place that you always check out at least once before pre-booking any hotel. Steve's turning that collective voice - the urge to be involved in the world of online travel, to make your personal globetrotting experience heard - towards 5 voting buttons for 5 well-known organisations that help keep the world the way we love it.

It's a difficult choice (see below), but one softened by the fact that all will benefit to some extent. Head here to cast your vote.

The 5 chosen organisations to vote for are;
- Conservation International: Ecotourism
- Medecins Sans Frontieres: Emergency relief
- National Geographic: Exploring and sustaining authentic places
- The Nature Conservancy: Environmental protection
- Save The Children: Aiding children around the world

If you're not already a Trip Advisor member, you'll need to register in order to vote. So, yep, you'll be added to their mailing list. But I guess that's not too much to ask if something good comes from it all, is it?
Read more!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

European Region of Culture Campaign – Cornwall bids for success

Sandwagon is backing Cornwall to be the first to achieve Cultural Region status.

Following the success and resulting media, thus tourism exposure, enjoyed by the most recent bevy of Cultural Capital cities(Liverpool, Cork and Genoa), regions of Europe want in on the accolades. And, as a Cornish creative think tank asked in 2006, why shouldn’t they? Hence, EROC (European Region of Culture Campaign) was born.

Cornish-led EROC has spent the last three years lobbying influential European decision makers and challenging them to see that regions have just as much valuable and attention-worthy culture as any city. Yes, cities have always been hotbeds of cultural activities. Writers, musicians and artists have ever flocked to the metropolitan melting pots such as Paris, Prague, Barcelona and London. But just as urban artists race towards cities, there’ll always be freedom and fresh air-seeking creatives spreading outwards, to be inspired by the sea and the mountains.

The European Union’s Culture 2007 Programme must agree, because they've recognised Cornwall’s application to become the first European Region of Culture with a £350,000 funding boost.

So what exactly is on offer, culturally, in county Cornwall?

Miranda Bird, director of the European Regions of Culture Campaign Organisation (Erocco) sent me the following cultural goodies to enjoy ...after your early morning surf and before hat mid-afternoon pasty.

Future Shorts, 8pm, 18th Acorn Theatre Penzance: local film collective presents new international short film directors

Future Shorts, 18th Sep @ 8pm Acorn Theatre Penzance: local film collective presents new international short film directors

19th September @ 8pm Acorn again – local contemporary dance company C Scape present new piece referencing Cornish mining

Leach Pottery
St Ives has recently been refurbed and is gorgeous - you can see potters working, look at Leach’s Japanese kiln, and spend money in the lovely shop if ceramics is your thing.

No Such Thing as Society
13th September - 1st November at The Exchange (in Penzance)
Curated by David Alan Mellor and drawn from the collections of the Arts Council and the British Council, the 33 photographers capture an era of huge social change that has led to the Britain we know today.

Visual Arts Forum: After Hours Thurs 18th September @ Newlyn Art Gallery 7pm

Creative Collaboration: Paula Orel, Curator of Plymouth Ats Centre in conversation with artist Steven Paige.

The Taming of the Shrew, 7.30pm Tolmen Centre Constantine: local theatre company starts their autumn tour in one of the most atmospheric village venues – a former Methodist chapel where audiences sit in the pews!

The St Ives September festival is on, and the IMS Prussia Cove Concert series too.

The Falmouth Art Gallery show looks rather lovely – “Ancient Landscapes, pastoral visions”. It starts 20th September.

Visit Culture Cornwall for more
Read more!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Travellers Tales - Latest Masterclass News

Many thanks to Jonathan Lorie for keeping us all posted on the latest availability of his travel writing and photography courses.

MARRAKECH TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY WEEKEND - a winter sun weekend in the exotic souks and elegant riads of Africa's most colourful city in November: 7 places

ALHAMBRA TRAVEL WRITING WEEKEND - join the editor of Wanderlust magazine and author Chris Stewart in the Alhambra Palace in October: 1 place left.

LONDON COURSES - beginners weekends and NEW advanced masterclasses in travel writing and photography in November.

CELEBRITY EVENINGS IN COVENT GARDEN - with travel writing and photography experts from the Times and the BBC to answer your questions plus a special evening of gorgeous underwater photography. First one on September 30...

Deals and discounts available at the website Read more!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux - Book of the Week BBC Radio 4 & Iplayer

Retraces his own steps Read more!

Monday, 1 September 2008

LEAVE THE HANGER! New travel job added

Read more!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Lonely Planet Guidebooks on Nokia Mobiles - Bookseller article

They tried to sell city guidebook content that was downloadable to Sony PSP... which never seemed like the most sensible idea for the backpackers they were aimed at – the self-same savvy backpackers that wouldn’t feel overly comfortable pouring over their pricey gaming gear in some of the world’s less salubrious transport hubs. Even the side streets off Milano central station feel like too dicey a place for whipping out your PSP for some necessary map scouring ... and now comes news of a mobile tie in with Nokia. This is something I'm feel far more comfortable trying and relying on in those sticking logistically- challenging travelling moments.

Stephen Palmer, c.e.o of Lonely Planet Publications, commented to "This deal makes Lonely Planet content available regardless of time or place. It will help answer all those questions which travellers frequently have, such as 'What should I explore today?', or 'Where should I go for dinner tonight?'"

Victoria Arnstein reported the full story at Read it here.
Founded in 1997, the latest version of was launched in January 2007. The website provides daily news and comment about the book business. Read more!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Travel Books to Buy - North Korea, Beijing and Shanghai

Flipping through the latest Rugged magazine , I came across two travel books that I'll soon be adding to my collection. If you like your books to satisfy your curiosity for the world a little more than the Do this and Die, Best of, Blue List and 1001 Tourist Traps fraternity do, I'd suggest taking a look at these too.

North Korean Posters The David Heather Collection
Seldom seen by the outside world, North Korea’s propaganda art colours the cities and countryside with vibrant images of brave soldiers, happy and well-fed peasants, and a heroic and compassionate leader. More than 250 of these posters are collected here for the first time.
ISBN 978-3-7913-3967-2
Order from Prestel
£12.99/US$ 25.00


Morning Sun
Andreas Korner, Gao Yi: Beijing-Shanghai
This project illuminates the different facets of two Chinese cities in flux – Shanghai and Peking, both on a path to becoming booming megacities. The authors keep track of personal perceptions, enjoy chance encounters and discover life on the fringes, all of which give an insight into the by-products of social change in China.(English and German text)
ISBN: 978- 3939181101
Available from Bildschoene Bucher
€35 Read more!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

THE GUARDIAN - Summer Holiday Travel Writing Competition

Scribes at the ready...

...competition details here. Read more!

LEAVE THE HANGER! New travel job added

Read more!

Travellers' Tales - Jonathan Lorie Interview plus Three Classes Announced

Travellers' Tales run creative master classes and on-location weekends which are perfect for aspiring and improving travel writers alike. Three classes were announced this week, running in November 2008.

The editor of Wanderlust magazine takes a class on Travel Writing for Magazines, while Steve Watkins of BBC Books fame runs through the practicalities and technicalities of Travel Photography for Magazines. Both master classes run this November 17th - 19th in London.

Also, back by popular demand, there's a Marrakech Weekender complete with riad accommodation and sultry, spicy inspiration of the Moroccan kind. Steve Watkins is the expert photographer on hand and Jonathan Lorie is the experienced voice of travel magazines. This course will be held from November 21st to 24th.

Jonathan Lorie, when asked how much of a traveller writer's success depends upon their raw talent and how much comes from hard work, determination and practice, said,

"You don't need to be a genius to produce publishable articles for the travel press. You need to know how to go about writing a structuring an article, and what editors are looking for. Those are things that can be taught, and we see people on our courses - beginners even - make amazing leaps with the right input from experienced professionals like our tutors."

"Writing a travel book is a bigger undertaking and more demanding. You do need more of a feel for words and for storytelling. But again, we find there are plenty of people with ideas and talent who just need to know how to go about things - how to channel their natural creativity properly - that can take you a long way."

I also asked Jonathan if, having spent the last few years running the creative classes, he believes that there's a traveller writer in every traveller. To which he replied...

"Most travellers love to share their stories and experiences, and this lends itself naturally to travel writing. The enthusiasm is the basis for great stories! But writing for the page is different from telling a story out loud - it needs more structure and style - so travellers need to learn to be writers as well. That's where Travellers' Tales can help aspiring writers save a lot of time and frustration."

And in terms of success stories?

"We regularly hear success stories from our past students getting articles published around the world. We do give people the tools to do the job : then it comes down to how much time and energy they put into making a go of it."

To book a Travel Writing master class with Jonathan and his expert tutors, visit the Travellers' Tales website. .

There's also more at yesterday's post on Written Roads - the travel writers' resource. Read more!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Henry Rollins Spoken Word - an engaging, enraging traveller

Sandwagon skidded across mud to the Indoor Stage at the Summer Sundae weekend fringe festival, (De Montfort Hall, Leicester, UK), where a two thousand-strong audience was treated to a Rollins' spoken word performance of the highest order.

America's outspoken singer-songwriter, actor, writer and prolific traveller took us on a journey through US politics and then across the world to, amongst other places, Cambodia. Rollins shared details of the hideous history of torture, death and human debris he witnessed there, in the rooms of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (previously Security Prison 21), and also at the edges of a Killing Field.

Littered with laughs yet rising and flowing from one despicable global catastrophe to the next, Rollins' brutally honest and powerful performance steeled me to travel for the sake of seeing, as he has, and for telling, as he does, to combat ignorance. It was a powerful reminder that the myriad opportunities that we have to travel shouldn't be wasted in fun, games and total self-indulgence.

He closed his set by asking the audience to make each others acquaintance, then to exchange email addresses and experiences - because lasting change can only be achieved through global citizenship, not via the next newly elected Prime Minister or President, as too many of us still believe.

Books based on Rollins' travel journals include:
Do I Come Here Often? (1998); Smile, You're Traveling(2000)

I recommend catching a performance and making up your own mind about Rollins' style and the substance of his performances.

Henry Rollins Spoken Word Tour 2008 dates:
Aug 10 - Glee Club - Birmingham, UK
Aug 11 - Glee Club - Cardiff, UK
Aug 12 - IndigO2 London, UK
Aug 13 - Komedia Brighton, UK
Aug 14 - Pukkelop - Hasselt, Belgium
Aug 15 - Biddinghuizen - Lowlands, The Netherlands
Aug 16 - Highfield Festival - Erfurt, Germany
Aug 18 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 19 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 20 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 21 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 22 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 23 - Leeds Festival (13.30)- Leeds, UK
Aug 24 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 24 - Reading Festival (13.30) - Reading, UK
Aug 25 - The Gilded Balloon 'Edinburgh Festival' (22.45-00.00)- Edinburgh, UK
Aug 27 - Junction 2 - Cambridge, UK
Aug 28 - Academy - Oxford, UK
Aug 29 - The Assembly in Leamington Spa
Aug 30 - Academy - Liverpool, IL
Aug 31 - Stradbally Manor 'Electric Picnic' - Portlaoise, Ireland

Recountdown Tour 2008

Henry’s hitting the road with a brand new election time talking tour. See Rollins' official website for dates and details. Read more!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Written Road - a real resource for aspiring travel writers

Pie in the sky or obtainable over time?

Aspiring travel writers the world over may well be asking themselves the same question over and over again as rejection emails hit their inbox, or worst still, they hear only silence.

Have faith! SandWagon definitely falls in the 'obtainable over time' camp. Commissions and pay cheques may come painfully slowly as you straight, but there's no harm in building up industry contacts, confidence and writing experience over a few years. And this is the viewpoint I'll wax on about in my new weekly guest writing slot for Written Road - the inside scoop on the travel publishing world.

I'll be joining the blog's editors and two co-writers on a mission to bolster the confidence of other would-be article and guidebook writers. I've also charged myself with offering a insight into the UK travel publishing scene.

There's no denying that travel writing is a competitive field but it's also one in which networks such as Written Road can benefit the majority. Never underestimate the power of recommendations, shared contacts and experiences.

Visit Written Road every Friday for The Pipes' Post Read more!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Independent on Sunday/ Bradt Travel-Writing Competition 2008 - Winner

And the Winner is...

...Kate Megeary for 'The Perfection of Improvisation'

Read Kate's winning writing at the Bradt site Read more!

Start saving up - Virgin Galactic Rolls Out Mothership 'Eve'

(click to enlarge image)
If there's one trip that I'd sacrifice all others to make, it's a trip into space: to the moon and back or perhaps a mere a circumnavigation of our planet Earth. And listening to Richard Branson as he stood beside his Mothership at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, I'm convinced that it's worth shelving all future city break and beach plans to bank the cash for a £100,000 ticket.

Yesterday, 'Eve' - named after the tycoon's mother - was received, in all her twin-fuselaged glory, by invited VIPS and the media. Speaking to the BBC, Branson looked forward with characteristic, unfaltering belief to ten or twenty years ahead when day-trips to the dark side of the Moon and back will be available from a lunar-luxe hotel.

A statement from Virgin Galactic describes Eve's rollout as representing, 'another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to launch the world’s first private, environmentally benign, space access system for people, payload and science'. WhiteKnightTwo (Eve's official name) is both visually remarkable and represents ground-breaking aerospace technology. At 140 ft, the wing spar is the longest single carbon composite aviation component ever manufactured.

We all know that when Branson really puts his mind to something, he succeeds in the end. So start saving. I can't think of a better way to mark my 50th birthday than taking the ultimate journey into space.

More, in brief:

WK2, designed Burt Rutan, is a carrier aircraft that will ferry SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts, science packages and payload on the first stage of the Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space experience

WK2 has a maximum altitude of over 50,000 ft

It is expected to take its first flight in the fall of 2008

Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engine - powerful, economic and efficient - WK2 is a mold breaker in carbon efficiency

WK2 will be able to support up to four daily space flights

SpaceShipTwo, clearly visible but heavily shrouded during Eve's roll out is well on its way to completion and awaits its own roll out in 2009

The full Virgin Galactic website will be live to browse on 29th July 2008 Read more!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Keeping the holiday feeling - Life's a Beach (Virgin Books)

Today has been the hottest day of the year so far in Britain. But rather than head off with the crowds to the North Norfolk coast or inland and upwards into the breezier altitudes of the Peak District, I've been rooted indoors, working at my laptop. If I wasn't still wearing my white bikini top in an attempt to keep the Turkish beach holiday feeling, beneath a white vest, plus flip flops, I'd be seriously worried that the Sandwagon had deserted me.

Today has been the least 'wind in my hair, bare feet on warm sand' it could have been....but I tried to bring some holiday feeling to it. I've been doing the same for years. Until the chance comes along for me to live life as one long, blissful series of sun soaked adventures, I'll content myself with reliving the best bits at home.

Sandwagon's top tips for year-round holiday highs:

Bikinis and beachwear usurp lounge wear - you don't have to live by the sea to enjoy the laid-back beach lifestyle. When at home, ditch pjs for kaftans and bikinis. Instant mood enhancement.

Cook and/or eat outside at every given opportunity - Picnic daily, ideally by the nearest river, in a rolling field or on a handy high spot. Downgrade BBQs from birthday events and summer parties, to pragmatic everyday cooking option. Just make sure that healthy grilled fish and vegtables form the majority of meals, keeping fatty burgers and booze binges for the once-in-awhiles.

Bare feet or flops whenever the urge takes - nothing feels like summer, holidays and freedom like letting fresh air wrap around your toes.

New from Virgin Books, and on the same subject, comes Life's a Beach. Alexandra Massey shows how a few small changes can help you feel happier, more relaxed and able to enjoy that holiday feeling all year round. If the advice works for you, that's £6.99 very well spent!

Buy Life's A Beach: Keep that holiday feeling all year round (Virgin Books)
By Alexandra Massey Price: £6.99
Published: 05-06-2008
ISBN: 9780753513934
Format: Paperback

Read more!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Quality Copenhagen - Monocle Magazine, Me &, next, thee

The German King of steins and sausages is dead, according to the urban boffins at Monocle Magazine. Long live the Danish King of architecture and design. This month's offering from the sporn of Wallpaper* sees Munich, demoted to the second best city behind wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. And, as scientifically dry as the trailer to Monocles' Global Quality of Life Survey is, a more low maintenance, barefoot and free SandWagon simply has to agree ... with their 'urban theorists' and editorial staff sitting at clinically clean desks, surrounded by tasteful wooden office furniture, designer-bespectacled blah blah blah...

Monocle's dedicated researchers spent the last 12 months, surveying - quantitatively and qualitatively - the world's cities to see how they stacked up in terms quality of life. Everything was considered, from crime statistics and average hours of sunshine to the availability of booze.

Anyone who has spent more than a day in London - witnessing the snot in their tissue turn blacker with every Tube trip - would, unstandably, 'pah' at the very idea of urban quality of life. 'Pah', get rich in The City...move to Cornwall, take to Tuscany.... But stop first and try Copenhagen on for size: Danish city of houseboats and bicycles, car-free streets, huge salads and Baltic Sea breezes. Copenhagen is indeed a city that makes you feel glad to be alive for the simple reasons, and its happy citizens seem to embody the concept of Lifestyle and a life immersed in style. Read more!

Monday, 19 May 2008 - watch the runway from the web

Where to start writing a review of Initially, I imagined this site's prime target user would be plane spotters, scanning the site rather than loitering on the viewing deck watching the comings and goings of planes all day long.

The traditional plane spotter would be impressed, I'm sure. The Flight Status search option alone aroused levels of excitement in me (non-spotter) not seen since I was introduced to Netvibes (see post). With the Flight Status search you can view flights by airline name and flight code; route or destination or arrival airport.

Flight Status search is also perfect for anxious mums waiting for teenage travellers to touch down on the other side of the globe, or be picked up by Dad at the Arrivals gate, tanned, skint and having found themselves. And super savvy loved ones - have strayed from their laptop - can set up a Flight Alert text or email, letting send reassurance the second Daniel's plane - plus tail lights - have landed in Spain.

So out of interest, I searched the status of all Departures from London Heathrow between 18.00 - 21.00 today: five pages of scrolling later, I'd viewed airport gateway codes (with link to airport details), flight codes (in multiple if a code-sharing flight),carrier names and equipment (model of plane), terminals, scheduled against actual departure times (in real-time) and status (landed, en route, on time or running late)for flights departing to destinations worldwide - everywhere from Amsterdam to Zurich. Yes, a cyber plane-spotter was born!

There's more. The Flight Tracker application - using Googlemaps - lets you see the latest position of each flight along its course: which city, town, village or ocean the plane is flying over in real time. As the map refreshes, Positional Information shares details of the flight's exact Latitude; Longitude; Speed; Altitude; Bearing; miles (KM) from destination and from origin. Click here to see a random flight in action

Flights Status and Tracker are just two options in just one drop down menu (Flights)

There's even more. Check the following tabs for these travel resources...

tab includes Flight Availability search engine (powered by Kayak), Frequent Flyer promotions drop downs
AIRLINES tab including Airline Scorecard and Airlines of the World drop downs
AIRPORTS tab including Airport Information, Delays by Airport, Airport Chatter, Security Wait Times (currently just US airports) and Airport Parking drop downs
COMMUNITY tab including Forums and Travel Directory drop downs

Visit , explore and be amazed by the depth of information available.

About (from the site)
Conducive Technology Corp. is a leading provider of worldwide flight performance information to the global travel and transportation industries. Our FlightStats platform delivers real-time and historical flight information that lowers travel-related costs and improves the travel experience. With unique products that can deliver value at each stage of a travel transaction, to both business and consumer audiences, FlightStats is poised to benefit as travel management evolves. Read more!