- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter landmarks, from train stations to castles

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Jump on a broomstick (or a plane) and head to the United Kingdom to visit landmarks associated with Harry Potter.

With the latest film installment in the series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” now in theaters, the Scotland-based travel-search Web site Skyscanner.com has come up with a list of places that will be sure to enchant Potter fans.

Skyscanner’s list starts with King’s Cross Station in London, where Platform 4 was used for filming Harry and his friends’ departure on the Hogwarts Express. There’s even a sign for Platform 9¾ in the station in honor of the story, with a luggage trolley magically disappearing into the wall.

Goathland Station, a real station in North Yorkshire, England, was used as the film set for Hogsmeade Station, and Alnwick Castle was used for some of the exterior shots of Hogwarts during a flying-lesson scene, according to Skyscanner.

The reptile house in the London Zoo was used for a scene in a previous movie where Harry realizes he can communicate with snakes, Skyscanner said. Other sites where scenes from the movies have been filmed include Bodleian Library at Oxford for some of the Hogwarts interior shots, Leadenhall Market in London for Diagon Alley scenes and the Strand in London for Gringott’s Bank scenes.

Edinburgh is another important stop for devoted fans. It was here that J.K. Rowling completed the first book in the series, often writing in cafes such as the Elephant House.

If you can’t make it overseas any time soon, hold on until next year when Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure is planning to open a Harry Potter theme park called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Lonely Planet offers guidance for travel with children

OAKLAND, Calif. — Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler traveled widely with their offspring from the time the children were babies.

They’d been to so many countries in the developing world that when they first took the children to Europe, their daughter “found it hard to believe that she could drink water from the tap in every country we visited.”

That’s one of the anecdotes offered by Mrs. Wheeler in the foreword to Lonely Planet’s “Travel With Children: Your Complete Resource” ($20), out this summer in a newly revised edition, the fifth since the book was first published in 1985.

“Travel With Children” acknowledges that the term “family travel” may conjure up images of “sulking teens glued to their phones” or “your baby keeping all the other plane passengers awake.” The book offers advice on how to minimize problems by picking the right destinations, remaining flexible, and involving kids in planning and problem-solving,

The book includes destinations on every continent, with sections on the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Australia, India, Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa and Israel among others. There are also separate sections on “Before You Go” preparations, traveling with teenagers, traveling as a single parent, adventure trips, camping, living abroad and even travel games.

The book’s emphasis on international travel may seem somewhat exotic to Americans who are less familiar with destinations outside North America and Europe. Its top 10 list for beach holidays, for example, includes Costa del Sud, Sardinia; Cottesloe, Australia; Durban, South Africa; Karon Beach, Thailand; Kauai, Hawaii; Aitutaki, Cook Islands; Noosa, Australia; Tavira, Portugal; Sayulita, Mexico; and Sanur, Bali.

But other sections offer recommendations that may seem less intimidating, such as the “Top 10 City Breaks” list: Oaxaca, Mexico; Istanbul; London; Los Angeles; Vancouver, British Columbia; Lisbon; Copenhagen; Singapore; Sydney and Rome.

Food fests in the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Trinidad

WINTER PARK, Fla. — Food, wine, sunny skies, golden sand and the turquoise sea — now there’s an inviting combination for a food festival.

The August-September issue of Caribbean Travel + Life Magazine lists a year of food fests, starting with the Puerto Rico Wine & Food Fest in San Juan on Aug. 28-29. The Taste of Barbados, an island-wide event, is scheduled for Oct. 7-11, and the Conch Festival at Blue Hills, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, takes place Nov. 28.

Looking ahead to 2010, the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience in Christiansted is scheduled for April 13-17; the Trelawny Yam Festival in Trelawny, Jamaica, will be in April; the Taste T&T in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, is held in May; the San Pedro Lobsterfest at Ambergris Caye, Belize, takes place in June; and the Portland Jerk Festival in Portland, Jamaica, is held in July.

Top snorkeling spots from Coastal Living

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s so easy, a child can do it, and it requires little more than a strap-on face mask with an air tube, a pair of flippers and clear water.

Snorkeling is a great activity for summer vacations, and the July-August issue of Coastal Living magazine lists 10 great places in the United States, Caribbean and Central America where you can try it.

The list starts with Dean’s Blue Hole at Long Island, Bahamas, followed by Buck Island, St. Croix; Crystal River in Florida; and the Rockhouse resort on the shores of Negril, Jamaica.

Coastal Living’s recommendations also include Pigeon Cay, Honduras; Stingray City, Grand Cayman, which the magazine says “may be the most popular snorkel site in the world”; and Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize. Other places cited by the magazine are Bimini Islands, Bahamas; Lover’s Cove, Catalina Island, Calif.; and Papalaua Wayside Park, Maui, Hawaii.

Coastal Living offers these tips for beginners: Get fitted properly for comfortable gear at a dive shop; invest in a neoprene mask strap because it adjusts more easily than a silicone strap; use mask-defogging spray; take a lesson; snorkel with a buddy for safety and to make sure you don’t miss anything; and rinse your gear in fresh water when you’re done.

Outer Banks travel guide looking for visitor photos

MANTEO, N.C. — The Outer Banks Official Travel Guide could feature you next year.

The visitors bureau for the North Carolina coastal region is seeking publicly submitted photos for the 2010 travel guide. The photos might include scenic landscapes, community events, family photos or weddings on the beach.

Those whose photos are selected will get a photo credit inside the guide and on the online version.

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau will publish 475,000 copies of the its travel guide.

Photos must be in by Aug. 31. For details, look for the “Submit Your Photos” link on the bureau’s home page.

Plan unveiled to create village of shops, eateries on Jekyll Island

JEKYLL ISLAND, Ga. — A proposal to attract more tourists and meetings to Jekyll Island includes plans for a village of shops and restaurants.

Mike Chatham, the project’s lead architect, told the Jekyll Island Authority board the plan showcases the island’s pristine beach while creating a bustling downtown hub like what visitors might see in Savannah, Ga., or Charleston, S.C.

“If you’re a meeting planner, you want a location where you have other things to do and walkable amenities,” Mr. Chatham said.

Giving state-owned Jekyll Island a major makeover has been a priority in recent years as more tourists and convention groups have forsaken its musty hotels and aging attractions in favor of other beach getaways. Tourism has fallen from a peak of 2.1 million visitors nearly a decade ago to 1.49 million in fiscal 2008.

Previous plans raised howls of protest over the sheer scale of new construction as well as proposals for $500,000 condos and an upscale hotel. A state law mandates that the island be accessible to Georgians of “average income.”

Those upscale attractions were dumped from the plan in October, when the board agreed to slash overall construction by two-thirds and chop the overall cost of the project from $352 million to $100 million. The new proposal was unveiled in July.

Construction is scheduled to begin on Jekyll Island in December, with the new convention center and other attractions completed in 2012.

West Virginia’s Greenbrier planning to open casino by fall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Greenbrier’s new owner says he plans to open a small casino at the four-star southern West Virginia resort by fall, and he wants the dice rolling and cards being dealt at a full-scale gambling operation by April 1.

Jim Justice also unveiled architectural drawings for a casino, shops and restaurants featuring sushi and steaks that would be built under the resort’s front lawn. Gambling guests would reach the operation via staircases and elevators near the hotel’s front entrance.

The approach “won’t take away from anything,” including the Greenbrier’s architecture, Mr. Justice said.

Mr. Justice, a businessman with interests in coal and agriculture, bought the Greenbrier out of bankruptcy for $20.1 million in May. He contends that adding a tasteful casino will help restore profitability and the coveted five-star Mobil Travel Guide rating the Greenbrier lost in 2000.

St. Louis airport offers interactive exhibit about the city

ST. LOUIS — Lambert-St. Louis International Airport has opened a new interactive exhibit to let visitors learn more about the city as a travel destination.

The feature is called “Windows on St. Louis.” It’s a glass-walled gallery where six cultural attractions have filled the windows with art and memorabilia.

Touch-screen computer technology allows people to take a digital tour of the Gateway Arch grounds. Other sections highlight celebrated museums, neighborhoods and a cathedral.

The exhibit will remain at the airport through December.

Airlines flying to Kenya hire private security

NAIROBI, Kenya — Many airlines flying into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport have hired private security firms to guard passengers, cargo and aircraft rather than rely on the Kenya Airports Authority or local police for protection.

Although United States and Kenyan authorities said there is no immediate threat of terrorism to the airport or to airlines operating there, previous incidents have raised concerns. Kenya has been hit with three major terrorist incidents over the past 11 years.

The question of security at the Nairobi airport was raised again when Delta Air Lines abruptly canceled an inaugural flight from Atlanta to Nairobi in June after the Transportation Security Administration refused to sanction the route.

Aviation experts say private airport security guards are common in war zones around the world, but rare in relatively stable nations such as Kenya. Still, national carrier Kenya Airways is among those using a private security firm at the Nairobi airport.

On June 2, Delta Air Lines canceled its first scheduled flight from Atlanta to Nairobi following a last-minute order from the Transportation Security Administration division of the U.S. Homeland Security Department.

Senator says White House doesn’t prohibit Las Vegas trips

LAS VEGAS — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said a recent letter from a top aide to President Obama shows there’s no “informal federal policy” against government meetings and conferences in Las Vegas.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in a letter to Mr. Reid that federal agencies are not prohibited from booking events in Las Vegas.

Mr. Emanuel’s letter said value, not location, should be the basis for booking a trip.

A Reid aide said Mr. Emanuel was responding to a June 26 letter from Mr. Reid claiming that agencies including the FBI, General Services Agency and Bureau of Indian Affairs had canceled recent Las Vegas meetings.

The issue dates to a comment Mr. Obama made in February that critics say damaged the city’s convention business.

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