Airport Hotels – good or bad?

TRAVEL BLOG

Love them or hate them, sometimes an airport hotel is something to be thankful for.

Looking more like a DIY store than somewhere to sleep, these unattractive edifices have their place in the hierarchy of accommodation providers. The often ugly newness of airport hotels does have its advantages though. Effective double or triple glazing, soundproof rooms, lift access, functional layouts, silent efficient plumbing and spacious rooms are just some of the benefits of these bespoke buildings.

Designed for their functionality rather than aesthetic appeal airport hotels don’t pretend to be something they are not. What you book is what you get. However, convenience comes at a price and something more salubrious and attractive can often be found closer to town for the same price if not cheaper.

Personal experience

A frequent business traveller, I have grown to appreciate the existence of airport hotels. Their locations are never glamorous. But as a solo female arriving on a late flight, or leaving as dawn breaks, I don’t really care. A brisk stroll or free shuttle bus is perfect and avoids the complications of unfamiliar further travel.

Pros

These are numerous, but it really depends on your reason for travel. For business reasons, airport hotels are a fantastic solution.
24hr check-in
Early buffet breakfasts
Soundproofing
Good plumbing
Ease of access – free shuttle services or a quick easy walk
Easy to book
Large rooms
Understanding staff
Good transport links

Cons

There are a few cons, aesthetics are the main reason not to stay. Airport hotels aren’t great for holiday travellers unless you are flight hopping. They are often out of town and far from the major sites. They certainly aren’t an option for a romantic weekend either.
Price
Uninspiring locations
Functional unattractive give rooms
Blandness
Part of a chainlack of individuality

Both as bad as each other?

Restaurants – apart from breakfast I try and avoid them in hotels, particularly in the proximity of the airport. I haven’t had a good evening meal in any yet and I have stayed in a quite a few.

Parking – they commonly charge you for any length of stay. Although deals can be found leave your car while you fly to a different destination.

WiFi – limited access, often charged and often poor. There really is no excuse for bad broadband speeds in this superfast age, especially as most are within a stone’s throw of the airport which itself has good communication networks.

Staff – some good some bad, although more pride in their place of work seems to go hand in hand with the boutique hotels rather than the airport hotel chains.

Home vs Abroad

TRAVEL BLOG

Why has there has there been a significant rise in Brits escaping to holiday abroad? When the weather is good, the UK is a green and pleasant land, which offers holidaymakers diverse landscapes, intriguing towns and stunning coastal opportunities. Steeped in history there are a million and one narratives to discover and immerse yourself in. So is it just the weather that makes us travel beyond our borders?

Who?

The stats indicate that staycations have stayed steady since 2016. Good news for the UK economy. However, according to last years ABTA figures there has also been a small but significant rise of Brits taking holidays abroad.

On average we take 3.8 holidays abroad every year. 87% of the population now head out of the country and 26% of us book early to do so. City breaks have overtaken beach holidays in popularity and the traditional two week holiday has been shunned by many. Demographically, if you live in the North West of England, you are also more likely to travel abroad for your holidays.


Why?

According to the stats, UK travellers seem to be making the most out of the temporary pre-Brexit status quo. Ease of access ahead of the imminent separation from Europe seems to be a major factor, as is the fairly stable sterling rate.

Only 12% of French travellers venture abroad. Most take their holidays within their own country. At three times the size of the UK, France offers an abundance of history, a more diverse range of landscapes and ever increasing temperatures as you travel south. But is temperature the only reason why we spend hard earned pounds abroad?  

It seems that other northern hemisphere inhabitants also feel the need to escape their native climate. The Germans seriously love travel and are huge sunseekers. Like the Brits, they frequently head for Spain. 77% of the German population and over 80% of the Dutch travel across their home borders for their holidays. France remains the No.1 destination for both the Dutch and Brits. With Italy and Portugal trailing behind and the US beginning the No.1  long-haul destination


Why not?

Putting aside the weather. Holidaying on our home territory offers a sense of familiarity. You know what you are going to get. The language, food, shops and currency don’t require extra thought or organisation. Car or plane, it doesn’t make much difference now either. Many of the budget airlines (EasyJet, Ryanair and Flybe in particular) offer amazing domestic flight deals, making the stunning far-flung destinations of Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland a quicker and cheaper option.

Although generally better quality, accommodation prices can be the slight hiccup in most staycation plans. Slightly more costly than in Europe, especially during the school holidays, prices often afford a sharp intake of breath. However, with more and more UK providers offering pet-friendly locations, the cost and emotional-benefit of taking your furry friends along tips the balance slightly.

With interesting economic times ahead of us, the inevitable Brexit fallout will undoubtedly change the trends in the travel market. For better or for worse? Who can tell yet!

 

To whom it was given – Bickford Smith Institute

ART BLOG – GROUNDWORK

Like most visitors to Porthleven, Cornwall, I presumed the dominant granite building that was iconically photographed in the first of the 2014 storms, was a church. It certainly survived the pounding destruction of the biblically proportioned waves as they engulfed its mighty clock tower again and again as if it were defended by a deity.

Well, it’s not. It is, in fact, a snooker club. The Bickford Smith Institute was originally founded as a library in 1884 but changed status in 1911 when two snooker tables were installed.

Excitingly it is now open to the general public for a three week period as the site of a Groundwork Art installation by Chris Fite-Wassilak and Sophie Mallett.

These two London based artists have introduced various sculptural and narrative elements to the decaying building, that is desperately in need of renovation. Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer and critic based in London. Sophie Mallett is a London-based artist. Her practice is concerned with forms of belonging and exclusion and through installation, she pursues a practice concentrating on the connections between history and place.

The decay of the windows caused by the corrosive sea salt has provided the inspiration for two interesting screen-printed textile cloths which now adorn the snooker tables. While the perishing wall surfaces are littered with fascinating early century photographs and stories. They are timely reminders that if this building does not receive funding for its restoration soon it’s history will be lost.

 

Francis Alÿs – The Silence of Ani

ART BLOG – GROUNDWORK – An evening talk


The beginning of June saw the end of the Steve McQueen screening by the Groundwork programme at CAST. Thankfully it also marked the opening of an equally emotive film by Belgium born former architect Francis Alÿs.

Another triumph in sound, The Silence of Ani, was commissioned for the Istanbul Biennial in 2015. Thankfully this masterpiece of black & white filmmaking has finally made its way to Cornwall for its first UK presentation. The mesmerising orchestral effect of the bird calls coupled with the graceful choreography of the children and the stunning cinematography is astounding. The rich tapestry which was technically woven by Alÿs and his team blends these creative elements to deliver a visual and auditory feast which compels you to watch the thirteen-minute film again and again.

The silence of Ani, was shot on location amongst the ruins of an ancient Armenian city, Ani, near the border of Turkey. Long since declined from its 13th-century majesty, not much much remains of its legendary 101 churches. In the film, we see the city brought back to life by bird calls, created by Duduks – ancient double-reed woodwind flutes (also on show with the film). These bird calling devices once used for hunting, play a particular relevance to the film’s metaphor of hope to readdress the more recent Armenian genocide in the area.

Alÿs worked with a composer to create a musical score for the bird calls which went through 3 different iterations. The final version was rewritten once the children were onsite and the choreographic and locational restrictions were taken into account.

Until recently Ani was used as s military site. Alÿs and his team had permission to shoot for a mere five days amongst the ruins. Unfortunately, they were hampered by bad weather during the first two days on location, so shooting time was cut down dramatically to just a few days.

Although the film was originally planned to have documentary overtones, collaboration with a composer and choreographer has given the film structure a more fictitious narrative than most of Alÿs’ other work. The sense of fantasy, despite its political overtones, was born out of a necessity to choreograph the bird calls with the abstract nature of the children movements. This unexpected evolution was something Alys did not predict but which he believes has brought its own reward.

It was Alÿs’ political statements in both When Faith Moves Mountains, shot in Lima, Peru, 2002, along with The Green Line, Jerusalem 2004,  which caught the attention of the 2015 Istanbul Biennial commissioners. Similarly, as a consequence, his work in Ani opened the doors of possibility to allow him to work on his latest project with the Kurdish refugee camps in Iraq, Colour Matching, Mosul, Iraq 2016 and Children’s Games 16 / Hopscotch, Sharia Refugee Camp, Iraq 2016.

Love-lock fever

TRAVEL BLOG

As a midsummer dream is played out on Russia’s football fields, echoes of Shakespeare’s themes of undying love are evident elsewhere in the Moscow’s iron heart. On Luzhkov Bridge, love-lock fever has spread. Rows of dedicated trees, laden with thousands of padlocks also adorn the surrounding banks of the Moscow River. This rash of public emotion is not unique to Russia either. Love declaration sites are springing up everywhere.

Romantic destinations

Verona, the backdrop for Romeo and Juliet, is seen as one of the most romantic destinations in Europe for such a purpose. Smitten visitors to this beautiful city can be seen adding a token of their own undying dedication to the gate within the courtyard in the form of a love-lock. Although undeniably the most appropriate place to make such a romantic declaration, it is by no means the only location.
If you want to declare your love in form of a small lump of metal, Dubrovnik, is one of the newer additions to the love-lock craze. Budapest, Benidorm, Lanzarote and Malta have also joined the list of bizarre destinations to show some metallised affection.

Lovelocks

Said to be inspired by ancient Chinese custom. But also reported to derive from a melancholic Serbian tale of World War I or prompted by the 2004 movie, Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo. The true origins of the love-lock tradition are uncertain.
Retailers have certainly taken notice of the trend. Love-locks with or without names are available from a variety of online retailers and on the high street via a major British catalogue retailer. Names and initials can be carved on these specialised colourful locks, reinforcing the intent of a lifelong commitment.

The power of love

What was once seen as a very personal declaration has proliferated in a variety of locations to the point of annoyance to some authorities. And the label of willful vandalism has been attached to their presence in many areas of beauty.
In the mistakenly labelled ‘city of love,’ the famous love lock bridge in Paris was dismantled after concerns of a potential collapse. A million locks of up to forty-five tonnes of metal were cited as a contributing factor. The removed symbols of everlasting love have disappeared from public view. On a bridge in Canberra, public safety was given as a reason for their removal. However, not everyone is outraged by the love-lock intrusion and some destinations have adopted their presence as a tourist attraction.

Sacha Craddock – Turner prize talk

ART BLOG 

Whilst scouting for young talent in the southwest, Sacha Craddock, independent art critic, writer and curator, took time out to talk to a select few at Newlyn School of Art. Her focus was to share her experience of curating the 2017 Turner Prize Exhibition, at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, as part of the UK City of Culture 2017 programme.

Sacha studied painting at Central Saint Martins and then Chelsea School of Art. She taught for a while at the Royal College of Art and was lucky enough to witness the early work of Turner Prize nominee Hurvin Anderson and winner Lubaina Himid. It is perhaps this connection which earned her the role of Curator for the Tate organised exhibition.

Sacha has judged many art prizes during her career including the Turner Prize in 1999 and the John Moores Painting Prize in 2008. She has written widely on Contemporary art including reviewing exhibitions of many up and coming Young British Artists. She was the only journalist to review the pre-YBA exhibition: Frieze, which featured early work by artists such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Mat Collishaw. In 1996 Craddock became chair of Bloomberg New Contemporaries, a role which she continues to hold. It was with this hat on that she reviewing the Cornish summer shows along with friend and portrait artist Jesse Leroy Smith.

George Vasey, curatorial fellow at Newcastle University and writer worked alongside Sacha to choose existing work from the artists’ collections for the exhibition. They also added existing pieces from the Ferens Gallery own collection, to contribute to the Turner Prize exhibition experience. Slight alterations were made to the building for the exhibition These included the construction of two temporary cinemas within the gallery space to screen Rosalind Nashashibi’s broken but well-edited films.

Sacha played a key role in choosing Ferens Gallery. The space for the exhibition within the walls helped her determine which pieces were included in the final show. Sacha is more than aware that the many restrictions put on a curator should not influence what is shown but it is difficult to put these restrictions aside.

Her talk frequently returned to the difficulty of joint responsibility that curators face. A responsibility to both the public and the artist. The pressure of representing the work of such high profile artists in the best possible way and honouring those intentions, whilst appealing to an audience. It was a role that although she admits to enjoying she is also not in a hurry to repeat.

St Buryan – a field trip

ART BLOG – GROUNDWORK

Another great event organised as part of this year’s Groundwork programme of art, the field trip to St Buryan held us entranced by the landscape and our guides for almost six hours.

We started our walk in the mizzle at the church that is both commonly associated with the area since the release of the psychological thriller Straw Dogs in 1971.

Previously described as the ‘wickedest parish’ of Cornwall, St Buryan hasn’t earned its reputation from the film but from its eight-year excommunication from the church in 1328 following a dispute over control of the religious matters in the parish.

It’s more fascinating history was explained byRobin Dowell and James Fergusson as we made our way across the atmospheric landscape to a renowned site littered with evidence of human activity from Neolithic times. We scoured the furrows for flint but found little with our untrained eyes as we progressed towards a number of stone crosses within the parish. The best examples of which were cited in the churchyard and on the outskirts of the village as we made our way towards the coast. The roughly circular remains of the celtic crosses which featured carved figures on the faces were pagan in origin and marked ancient crossing points.

We eventually the paths flanked by the high hedgerows bursting with the last intense hues of the bluebells and pinks of the wild campion and plunged into some spectacular waterside glades. As we a weaved our way under canopies of rare Elm the weather improved enough to make a lunch stop amongst the giant rounded rocks of ‘boulder storm beach’, St Loy. Worn smooth by the action of the sea after they had fallen from the cliff face, sometime before the last Ice Age, they made perfect pitches for a picnic. The fascinating archaeological history displayed on the beach as well as the exposed cliffs turned most of us into explorers once our sandwiches had been consumed and we poked and prodded quite happily amongst the fascinating landscape until recalled to make our return.

Within the day we spent with Robin and James, I gained a comprehensive insight into the geological, environmental, archaeological and cultural importance of the parish. The experience left me inspired by the landscape and I will definitely return at some point to explore the previously unknown coastline between Lamorna and Porthcurno. In the meantime, I will be watching the  CAST website closely for any future field trips.

Peter Doig in conversation with Matthew Higgs

ARTBLOG – GROUNDWORK

One of the highlights of being part of the Groundworks Team is having a schedule of events at my fingertips. So whilst consulting the literature for some visitors I noticed that an evening of conversation was planned with the renowned artist Peter Doig and immediately booked myself a seat.

The evening did not disappoint despite the sudden monsoon type drenching I received on my way down to the Woodlane campus. The easy conversation between curator Matthew Higgs, (director of the influential alternative art space White Columns in New York) and former colleague Peter flowed effortlessly and provided a unique insight into Peter’s career.

The two former RCA colleagues have made a special visit to Cornwall’s shores to curate an exhibition in St Just at the Jackson Foundation Gallery featuring the Afro Caribbean artist Denzel Forrester. The evening led us through Peters last thirty years as an artist and being in London at the time of the YBA movement in the 1990’s. Noted for their shock tactics, use of throwaway materials and oppositional and entrepreneurial attitude the YBA group of visual artists received an abundance of media coverage.

As an artist practising at the same time Peter’s own work was quickly recognised and he was nominated for the Turner prize in 1994 after some early exhibitions at The Whitechapel Art Gallery. His time at the played an influential factor in bringing his work into the public eye

Peter lived in London for 30 years and moved to Trinidad in 2002 after which the Tate Britain held a retrospective of his work in 2008. Born in Scotland but a resident of Canada and Trinidad for most of his childhood both have had an influential effect on his work.

In 2007, White Canoe set a record for the highest price for a piece sold by a living European artist. This 11 million price tag was surpassed by Doig’s enchanting piece Swamped,  which went to a new owner for 26 million, then again last year when  “Rosedale,” of a Toronto snowfall, went to auction and was sold to a telephone bidder for 28 million.

Peter’s visit to Cornwall is noteworthy not only to celebrate his artistic achievements but also for his involvement in the curation and promotion of Denzel Forrester’s work in St Just. From Trench Town to Porthtowan will be on show from May 26 – June 23rd, 2018.

The exhibition presents a career-spanning collection of Denzel’s large-scale paintings which explore a diverse range of themes from sewing bags with his mother to the world of London’s dub reggae clubs.

 

Dodging the pitfalls of holiday car hire

TRAVEL BLOG

If you, like me have rented a few hire cars for your holidays you may be wise to the pitfalls by now. If you haven’t then my advice would be to prepare yourself for a lack of customer service and absence of politeness at the rental desk. Which makes it essential to know your facts in advance in what can easily become an awkward situation.

Book the right fuel preferences

The holiday car hire companies will try their hardest to make more money from you and your rental agreement. One of the ways they do this is to offer a full to empty policy for your rental. Avoid this at all costs. As although they maintain they will refund you the cost of any unused fuel. They will charge you to refuel the car. This is non-negotiable and even if you return the car full, they will still charge you as part of the original policy agreement.

Avoid excess charges

One of the biggest add-on charges at the rental desk is to cover the Excess on the car in case of an accident or any damage during your rental term. Did you know that European car hire companies are fully liable for any damages to their hire cars as they are the insurance holders? This means that although they have the right to pass on this full liability to you when you hire one of their fleet, they waive their right to ask you to pay for all the damage. This is the CDW often listed as included in your rental agreement. As is Theft protection (TP)  and third party insurance (TPL). LDW which often appears on the agreement is a combination of CDW and TP.

Car hire companies can take payment from customers for some damages. This is what is termed the ‘Excess’. This varies greatly between the rental companies and is the maximum the driver will pay towards repairing damage to the bodywork, windscreen etc.

Car hire companies will offer you extra insurance to cover the ‘Excess’. And it is wise to purchase it avoid any payout for damages. However,  Excess insurance can be purchased at a much cheaper rate online and can be upgraded to include personal accident insurance, vehicle cancellation and key loss. Most bespoke excess policies will also include towing charges, which the rental company make try to make you cover separately at the rental desk.

Make sure you have a credit card

Debit cards are not accepted for the mandatory deposit on your car. So the main driver must be in possession of a Credit Card in their own name when collecting the keys for the rental car. It is also essential that the credit card also has enough funds to cover the excess/deposit payment. Without this, the car hire company will not let you pick up the car and your booking will be void. Which means if you have paid in advance you will lose your money.

Late arrivals

There is a general rule in the car hire rental business that if a car is not collected within two hours of the allocated pick up time, it may no longer be available and no funds will be reimbursed. However, it is always best to check the fine print on your policy as some companies have just an hour cut off time. Others are more lenient. So always provide your flight details with your booking and make sure you call your car hire company if you know you are going to be delayed.  Alternatively, check to see if this is covered by your personal travel insurance. You may have the opportunity claim back lost rental funds separately.

Don’t forget to print your voucher in full, including everything that is included in your policy. This help the staff know exactly what you have booked including any extra drivers or equipment. It’s one less thing they can harass you about!

Steve McQueen – Gravesend

ARTBLOG – GROUNDWORK

Gravesend (2007), a mesmerising film by Steve McQueen, was the second exhibition I recently had the opportunity to be involved with as part of the Groundwork summer programme.

Screened in a specially adapted room within the nearly renovated CAST building in Helston, this film by the acclaimed Steve McQueen is an all-immersive experience. The giant high-quality screen dominates the end of the room and showcases Gravesend perfectly. Reinforced by the booming surround sound, the twenty-five-minute experience demands your full attention as it makes the viewer shudder with the acoustic vibration.

An acclaimed director of feature films such as 12 Years a Slave, Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen is also a renowned British artist who specialises in the moving image. Steve McQueen’s Turner Prize-winning talent certainly shines through on screen. The editing, pace, colour and sound engage your senses and play with your emotions.

The mining and refining process of Coltan, a black mineral used in vital components of electronics including mobile phones and laptops, is the focus of  Gravesend.  Whilst McQueen’s minute-long second piece in the exhibition, Unexploded (2007) is his celluloid reaction to a crater left by an unexploded bomb in Basra, filmed during his time as a war artist in Iraq.

Both films are FREE to experience until the 3rd June at the CAST building in Helston, Cornwall.