Thursday, 29 January 2009

Travel Talk this Friday

Listen in this Friday to the Duncan Barkes programme on City Talk FM for my weekly travel talk slot. This week we will be discussing:
Holiday Company offers 'chav free' breaks (read the story here) and following the subsequent uproar online (read more here). 
Jeremy Head covered this story well this week on his blog Travelblather with Your Holiday is Guaranteed chav free.
Another tour operator responded by making a counter offer; read more here.
We'll also talk about how Twitter could revolutionise the way we travel; read more here.
Send me your comments about these stories and I'll get them on air.
Live from 10.15am tomorrow. 

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Travel Journalist

I know what you're thinking. Save it. I've heard it all before. Contrary to popular opinion, travel journalism is not all cocktails at dusk and red carpets to presidential suite. 
Don't believe me? Well, two of my freelance colleagues both today published material on their blogs that sums up rather well the sometimes grim reality of life as a travel writer. Read the Glamour of Travel Writing from David Whitley's 1001 Travel Writer Tips, then follow it up with Graham Bond's A Guide to Guidebook Writing. Read 'em and weep. 
I've had my own fair share of nightmare assignments, whereby I've worked like a dog for a fee that was, frankly, an insult. I've learnt the hard way to say 'no' more and choose the work very, very carefully. But, in the current climate, can freelancers still afford to say 'no'?
I'm holding out for now. But over to you ...

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Northern Baroque

I'm not a big fan of heavy metal with my breakfast. A Baltic blast of Europe's The Final Countdown doesn't exactly aid my digestion of the luke-warm scrambled eggs at the Klaipeda Hotel. But maybe it's appropriate. Vilnius, with its Unesco-listed Old Town and array of Baroque churches, has been counting down for several years and now its moment has finally come as the new European Capital of Culture (a title shared with Linz, Austria). The Culture Live programme promises over 900 events with 60 per cent of them free. But is Vilnius really ready for the long-awaited cultural jamboree?
Dalia Bankauskaite thinks so. The Executive Director of Culture Live owes a big debt of thanks to Phil Redmond and the team behind Liverpool 2008 for their advice on running the event - and how to keep it in the €100m budget just as recession bites.
"Quality and visibility are the key to a successful Capital of Culture," she tells me over a bowl of beetroot soup in a downtown Vilnius cellar bar. "Cultural education is often dilapidated in a developing country, but we want it to be culture by the people for the people."
Nice sentiment. But will anyone actually go? The plummeting pound means that Lithuania is not as cheap as it used to be to us Brits. And, by way of supreme irony, the national airline, Lithuanian Airlines, went bust this week, leaving the UK without direct flights to Vilnius.
Around 50,000 people braved sub-zero temperatures in Cathedral Square for the opening ceremony, but many of the best events are not scheduled now until mid summer.
I previewed Culture Live for the Observer and will report back later this year on just how Vilnius is doing.