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!