Beat those jams – flying car about to become reality!

Terrafugia flying car

I have got to admit that I am a big science fiction fan. I love any film about the future and I often wonder what life will be like in a few hundred years time. If technology advances at the same rate that it has in the last 50 years then in 200 years time those people around should be in for a treat !

How people will travel or get from A to B in the future has always fascinated me. I have this hope that people will fly around in small vehicles which are guided to their destination automatically and also that these vehicles will use some sort of new propulsion system that hasn’t been invented yet !

So, I was exited to hear that maybe we are taking our first step in this direction next month when the first flying car makes its maiden flight. Flying cars have been talked about and have been seen in science fiction films for decades but now, an American company have built a prototype called the Terrafugia Transition. It’s a two seater plane that at the touch of a button converts into a road legal car. If the test flight goes well the flying car is set to hit the showrooms next year with a price tag of £132,000. It has a 100bhp petrol engine and, just like a car, has a steering wheel and brake pedals but no gears. It can fly at a cruising speed of 115MPH and can fly upto 500 miles on a full tank of fuel. On the road the flying car has a top speed of 85MPH.

There are problems though already. The insurance companies don’t know how to classify it yet and also you can’t take off from roads, you have to use an airfield, although if you live in Alaska, it is legal to take off from a road !

I have my own worries about the flying car though. For a start, many people in the UK can’t drive a road car properly so, can you imagine what it would be like if these drivers are let loose in the sky ! Then, of course you have the ‘boy racers’ who would be no doubt conducting dogfights with other flying cars. Would you still get tailgaters ? And would there be speed limits ? You would, of course, get those flying car drivers who customise their cars, so they would have bigger and louder propellers, blacked out windows and tuned engines for greater speed. How long would it be before some bright spark decided to replace the propeller with a jet engine !

And finally, what about the optional extras that might be available on the flying car ? Like standard cars I suspect that the best optional extras cost a lot more money, so I wonder if a parachute is one of those optional extras ? I also suspect that a GPS navigation system might be something worth investing in as well.

Having said all that, I just might be first in the queue !

Las Vegas – An Interview With The UK Sales & Marketing Manager of The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Bureau

As a travel agent I love having the opportunity to promote destinations that I really think everybody should visit. One of those destinations is Las Vegas. My first visit to Las Vegas was in November 2007 and it is a place I would love to go back to again. If you are thinking of visiting Las Vegas, planning a holiday to Las Vegas or if you are a travel agent looking for information then I have a fantastic article here for you to read!

Russell Meara, UK Senior Sales and Marketing Manager for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Bureau very kindly agreed to an e-mail interview with me about Las Vegas. He talks about what to see and do in Las Vegas, hotels in Las Vegas, attractions and shows in Las Vegas and things to see outside Las Vegas. See below for the interview which I think you will find very interesting.

Q1. How has the economic downturn affected the tourism industry as far as visitor numbers are concerned and the general tourism industry in Las Vegas ?

A The economic downturn is of course affecting Las Vegas and travel in general. It has definitely affected our visitor figures in the short term as our August 08 monthly figures have shown we are down by 4.3% year on year. In the long term however, we see the potential for massive growth especially in our international markets. Of the 39 million visitors who travelled to Las Vegas in 2007, international visitors accounted for 4.7 million or 12% – the UK accounted for approximately 500,000 of these – and by the end of the decade, the goal for Las Vegas is to attract an estimated 1.5 million additional annual international visitors.

Earlier this year the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) launched a new international brand marketing strategy that will expand Las Vegas’ global reach.   From July 2008, the LVCVA partnered with 12 representative offices serving a total of 75 countries spanning the globe.  The organization has enhanced its longstanding commitment to its existing eight international markets while establishing a first-ever presence in four additional countries.  

We have established three distinct market segments, providing more focus and flexibility to achieve our objectives. Major markets include Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom, which collectively account for 70 percent of overall international visitation to Las Vegas.  Primary markets consist of the European Union, Ireland, Japan and South Korea, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.  Emerging markets consist of China, Brazil/South America, Russia/Eastern Europe and India, and represent new opportunities for Las Vegas.

Q2. Have any new hotels recently opened and are any new hotels planned to open ?

A One of the most fascinating aspects of Las Vegas is that it is a city that is constantly changing. In the next 18 months the city has more than $27 billion in projects under construction or in planning stages and it is safe to say that in 2009, visitors will see and experience more in Las Vegas than ever before.

Some highlights include the opening of The Palazzo in January 2009 which, when combined with the neighbouring Venetian and Sands Expo and Convention Centre, The Palazzo gives the company the largest hotel and convention complex in the world. The Trump International Hotel and Tower opened 31 March 2008. True to the brand’s form, the property reflects the “Ultra Luxury Trump Lifestyle” in every possible fashion. In 2009, the Fontainebleau Las Vegas is scheduled for a fall debut with a $2.9 billion, 63-story resort and condo-hotel with approximately 3,800 rooms.

Also in 2009, MGM MIRAGE will debut a 76-acre, $9.2 billion dollar “urban metropolis” called CityCentre. The 18 million-square foot project calls for a 57-story condo hotel with approximately 1,543 residences called Vdara. The project will also feature two residential high-rises known as Veer Towers that will feature 337 condo residences each. There will be a  Mandarin Oriental featuring 400 hotel rooms and 227 exclusive  residences, The Harmon Hotel,Spa & Residences with 207 condominium residences and 400 hotel rooms, and ARIA Resort & Casino, CityCenter’s 61-story, 4,000-room resort casino. The resort casino will feature approximately 300,000 square feet of technologically advanced meeting and convention space as well as an 1,850-seat showroom theatre, spa, fitness centre, salon and four large pools. Eighteen restaurants will serve a diverse range of cuisines and six bars and lounges, as well as a nightclub, will provide added entertainment. An automated transit system will connect CityCentre to Bellagio and Monte Carlo. CityCentre residences are now available for purchase.


Q3. Is there a best time to visit Las Vegas as far as the weather is concerned and is there a time of year when hotel rates are lowest?

A Las Vegas offers over 300 days of sunshine a year and boasts hot summers and slightly cooler winters. There really isn’t a bad time to visit, it just depends what you want! Hotel rates tend to vary from week to week – they are lower mid week and higher at weekends when domestic visitation is high. It is best to check before you book to see whether there are any large conventions or sporting events in town as these definitely affect hotel rates.

Q4. Apart from gambling in the casinos what else in Las Vegas can you recommend that the visitor does?

A Las Vegas really does have something for everybody. From the luxury resorts on the world famous strip, to fabulous shopping malls, chic restaurants with celebrity chefs, trendy elaborately themed nightclubs and the hottest headliners, there are so many options to keep everybody entertained! There are also world class golf courses, luxurious spas and plenty of scenic getaways out to the desert within easy driving distance of Las Vegas.

Q5. What are the best shows in Las Vegas in 2009?

A The legendary performer Cher now headlines at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace alongside Bette Midler who is also performing at Caesars Palace with a show called “The Showgirl Must Go On” featuring a 13-piece band and 20 female dancers.

“JERSEY BOYS“ the Tony Award-winning musical, opened at The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino this year and the Flamingo Las Vegas recently announced that Donny and Marie Osmond are the resort’s newest headliner.

Cirque du Soleil and Luxor have announced a new show featuring renowned illusionist Criss Angel. With the opening of CityCentre in 2009, Cirque du Soleil and Elvis Presley Enterprises will team with MGM MIRAGE to debut their next resident show in Las Vegas. Based on the life and music of the iconic performer Elvis Presley, the show will feature state-of-the-art technology and captivating visuals.


Q6. What attractions can you recommend that the tourist visits outside the city of Las Vegas that are within easy reach for a day trip or overnight stay?

A There is some amazing scenery in Nevada just a short drive from Las Vegas Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon is just 15 miles west and is scenic area of rock formations and desert popular with hikers, bikers, joggers and rock climbers.

Just a three hour drive north of Las Vegas, Pahrump serves as the eastern gateway to Death Valley National Park. As the hottest, driest and lowest of all the National Parks in the USA, Death Valley is a land of extremes. Extreme sports lovers will find adrenaline-pumping hiking and cycling trails in the region’s high-desert terrain, while history buffs can explore several ghost towns in the area deserted after the gold and copper dried up.

Journey 147 miles, approx a four hour drive north of Las Vegas and you will find the Extraterrestrial Highway (Highway 375) in Sand Spring Valley. Highway 375 stretches for 98 miles and the tiny town of Rachel is a popular stopping point for UFO fans hoping to learn more about the highway and the mysterious former military testing facility, Area 51.

After a six hour drive you will arrive at the small town of Fallon, located on U.S. Highway 50, which is also known as “The Loneliest Road in America”. This 287-mile stretch of road was given this nickname in the 80’s and it is said that drivers need “survival skills” to travel the route. Drivers can download a Highway 50 Survival Guide here to help them navigate this road. Be sure to fill up your tank when leaving Fallon because the next town to the east is 111 miles away! ! A few minutes east of Fallon, you’ll see a giant sand dune rising out of the desert: this is Sand Mountain, a two-mile long, 600-foot-high dune.. It’s a haven for off-road enthusiasts, and the mountain is often buzzing with ATVs, dune buggies and sandboarders.

Q7. Are Las Vegas weddings still as popular?

A Las Vegas is known as much for its weddings as it is for its casinos. With an average of more than 120,000 marriage licenses issued annually, Las Vegas is still recognized as the world’s wedding capital so whether it’s eloping on a secret rendezvous, or planning an elaborate ceremony for hundreds of your family and friends, there is no place quite like Vegas to make it official. Since its early history, Las Vegas has been the wedding destination for a multitude of celebrity couples including Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, and Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie.

Q8. What in your opinion is the “must see” attraction in Las Vegas?

A I think the “must see” attraction in Las Vegas has to be the Strip!  You can walk up and down the world famous Las Vegas Boulevard and see so much! The Bellagio Fountains, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, the skyline at New York New York and the Pyramids at Luxor are all within walking distance of each other and are all “must sees”.

Q9. Summarise why you think people should visit Las Vegas. What makes the place so great!?

A I think that there is so much to do and it offers activities and entertainment for all tastes and budgets! You can go shopping, watch headlining acts, eat in a different restaurant every night followed by a trendy nightclub…or you can simply sit back and enjoy the excellent weather!

Is this a cure for being lonely in a hotel room ?

I saw this bit of news in the Sunday Times and I thought it was an interesting way of getting some free publicity for the company involved.

58% of business travellers said their partner or loved-one was the thing they missed most when away from home, a survey has revealed. (I wonder what the other 42% missed most?) In response, has launched a new service – Picture Pillows – that enables business travellers to send in a photo of a loved one for to turn into a bespoke pillow case.

The new service means that business men and women will be able to drift off to sleep next to their loved one or even their children when they are away from home.

This is what it could look like –

picture pillow’s new service is being trialled in the run up to Christmas and the first 100 travellers to email a picture of their loved one will receive their personalised pillow case.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, although in my case I would prefer a picture pillow of Charlize Theron or Liz Hurley !

A visit to Scarborough, North Yorkshire

I visited Scarborough last Sunday. Scarborough is a seaside resort on the coast of North Yorkshire. It is said that Scarborough is Britain’s first seaside resort and that visitors started going to Scarborough over 360 years ago. It was a cold day and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground, but despite the freezing weather there were still quite a few surfers out. It was probably warmer in the water than it was on land!

I love Scarborough in the winter as in the summer it can get very busy. The resort takes on a different look when its cold, damp and windy, but you can wonder along the beach, months after the donkey rides have finished, and as the wind batters you as it comes off the North Sea you feel windswept and refreshed and it’s a welcome change from the grime of a city.

Scarborough has two good beaches, North Bay and South Bay and there is a rocky headland between the two bays with a spectacular castle on it, which is well worth a visit.

Scarborough, in many ways is your typical English seaside resort with amusement arcades, fish and chip shops and beachfront huts selling seafood, hot dogs and candy floss, but Scarborough also has a spectacular promenade called the Marine Drive where in winter during high seas and windy weather the waves crash over the sea wall.

I took a couple of photos on my mobile phone. They are not very good photos but I think they demonstrate how grey and wintery it was on the day I visited!


Las Vegas – is there more to it than bright lights ?

I asked my wife if she wanted to go to Las Vegas to celebrate our 25th Wedding Aniversary and she said “Yes”. I didn’t know that much about the place, even though I am a Travel agent, so I don’t know why I suggested Las Vegas, so I started planning the trip. I like big and brash cities, but I wanted to know more about Las Vegas and I wanted to know if there was more to the city than just bright lights. The only way to know was to go myself. I booked flights from Manchester with BMI and United via Chicago. I booked 7 nights at the Luxor Hotel because I liked the shape of it. I pre-booked a flight from Las Vegas, on a small 20 seater aircraft, to the Grand Canyon. And, finally, I booked two seats for Celine Dion at Caesars Palace. It was November and we arrived very late in Vegas because our flight was delayed, but the next day, still feeling the effects of the nine hour time difference we set off exploring the city.

I can only describe Las Vegas as a feast for your eyes. There are neon lights, wide roads, big lavish hotels with thousands of rooms, restaurants every few yards, huge casinos, a half size Eiffel Tower, a replica of Venice complete with gondalas, shopping malls like I could never imagine, theme parks within hotels, call girls handing out their business cards on every corner and lots and lots of people.

The photograph below is a picture of the famous Las Vegas strip facing north.


Every hotel in Las Vegas has a casino and they are huge. People seem to play all night and even when we were heading off for breakfast there were people playing on the “slots”. I can see how gambling becomes addictive. I started off winning, and then got too confident and ended up losing.

This is a photograph of the casino inside the Luxor Hotel.


Las Vegas has some truly magnificent hotels. Many of them are “themed” hotels. New York New York is based on the city of New york of course, the Luxor is built in the shape of a pyramid and everything inside has an Egyptian theme. Caesars Palace is built in Roman style. The shopping mall attached to Caesars Palace is called “The Forum Shops” and is magnificent. The Paris hotel has a half size Eiffel Tower and The Venetian is Italian in style and has a replica of the Grand Canal. Just to give you an idea how huge these hotels are here is a run down of what the Venetian features – more than 4,000 all-suite luxury hotel rooms, 1.9 million square meteres of meeting space with 270 function rooms, 19 restaurants, over 80 shops in the Grand Canal Shoppes, a health spa, Madame Tussaud’s, a theatre with 1,760 seats and a 120,000 square foot casino. Finally, don’t forget the Venetian canals where you can take a gondala ride.


One of the most magificent hotels that you will see anywhere in the world is The Bellagio. This is the hotel where the George Clooney and Brad Pitt film Oceans Eleven was filmed. At the front of this huge hotel is where you will find the famous Bellagio fountain and light show which happens once an hour. This is a photograph I took of the Bellagio Hotel at night.


We stayed at the Luxor hotel whilst we were in Las Vegas. It is situated at the bottom end of “The Strip” and it is quite a walk upto where the main action is although you can catch a taxi and the monorail stops outside the Luxor which will take you two blocks up. You then need to cross the road to catch the main monorail which runs up the main part of Las Vegas Strip.


There is no doubt that Las Vegas is a destination I would highly recommend. It is not all about gambling, far from it. Las Vegas has turned itself into an entertainment capital and an “adult theme park”. Las Vegas is all bright lights, but as my photograph below shows it is also a gateway to one or two of the US’s “must see” places, including the Grand Canyon. It takes about an hour to fly to the rim of the Grand Canyon and when I arrived I couldn’t quite believe that I was there. It really is one of the natural wonders of the world and was the highlight of my holiday to Las Vegas.

Kerala – Gods Own Country

Kerala is located in the south west tip of India. It is south of Goa. You fly into Trivandrum if you are going on a holiday to Kerala. The Indian state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the whole of India. I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in Kerala in November 2007. The people are poor and some live in very poor conditions but there is no doubting that the people are friendly. The cost of living is very low by Western standards. A two course meal with drinks in a restaurant for 2 people costs about £6. Kerala is a large state and because the roads are very busy getting anywhere fast is very difficult. Allow about 4 hours to travel 100 miles ! I stayed at the Leela Kempinsky in Kovalam, which is a fantastic hotel but there are plenty to choose from. A good way to get around is by rickshaw or tuc tucs. I took this picture, below, of several outside the Leela. They charge about £1 per mile and will wait for you for several hours whilst you go shopping or have a meal if you want them to, and for no extra charge.


Every afternoon, after school, the local school children went down to the beach. One thing I noticed is that the kids are very well dressed in immaculate school uniforms. Their mothers must have cursed though, as they all seemed to wade into the sea in their uniforms !


Whilst in Kerala we visited an elephant sanctuary. You can have a ride on one if you want. I didn’t bother as they looked a bit uncomfortable to say the least. It’s not unusual to see an elephant being walked along a road in Kerala. Here is a photo of me next to an elephant!


We went on an overnight cruise on a houseboat on the Kerala backwaters. We had three crew members looking after just the two of us. Whilst cruising past houses on the waters edge we saw many Indian women washing clothes, bathing and washing their hair. I even saw several people brushing their teeth using the river water. I guess it can’t do them any harm or they wouldn’t do it.


This is a picture I took of a typical Kerala houseboat. We stayed overnight on one of these. If you go to Kerala you must go on a backwater cruise. They operate from several places but the main place is Cochin.

And finally, this is a picture of me relaxing on our cruise boat on the Kerala backwaters. Three crewmen looked after us and I felt like a VIP ! We had a driver, a cook and a thrid crewman (not sure what he did)