Is this the greatest cycling weekend on Earth?

Is this the greatest cycling weekend on Earth?

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It’s a freezing cold morning in Antwerp and the spire of its great cathedral looms over me, and the riders waiting to start. Those who are ready are corralled in a narrow channel between two crowd barriers, while others feverishly scurry around in search of bag drops and last-minute toilet stops.

The main square in Antwerp

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lena_serditova – Fotolia

At 7am the starting gun is fired, and the sportive of the Tour of Flanders, possibly the world’s toughest one-day event for amateur riders, is underway. And, just as the final reverberations of the shot cease to bounce from the walls of the Groot Markt, it begins to rain. 

For three hours it rains like divorcing couples fight: bitterly and cold. It rains how Hollywood contract killers kill; disinterested and remorseless. It rains like Ed Sheeran releases chart-topping singles; grimly, steadily and without relent.

The Tour of Flanders is a one-day classic cycle race, probably the most prestigious on the professional calendar. The day before, the course is open to amateurs who wish to test themselves on its infamously steep, cobbled climbs – known as ‘bergs’ or collectively as ‘the hellingen’. The full course is 237km (147 miles), but there are shorter versions that feature a selection of the more famous hills. Then, with bodies bruised and mental reserves depleted, those same amateur fans can take in the following day’s racing while gorging guiltlessly on frites, beer and oompah music.

The British professional Luke Rowe buries himself on a berg

Credit:
2016 Getty Images/Bryn Lennon

The best advice anyone gave me for the sportive was to get in a group early on and ride the first 80-or-so kilometres of flat tarmaced roads in the protection of a peloton. With 4,000 riders on the course, there are plenty of big groups to chug along on the back of – with English, French and German cycling clubs all represented – but ideally you’ll find a group of Belgians. These big ox-like men hit the cobbles with gleeful abandon. They seem to float over the pavé, like spandexed hovercraft. Have they not elbows and necks? Do the nerves in their hands not jangle with every rut and furrow? Hard bastards is what they are.

Most of the key climbs are scattered around the city of Oudenaarde

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Briseida – Fotolia

After a while I feel a little bit guilty for sitting on and not contributing – it is bad etiquette in cycling to do this for too long – so I chug my way to the front and start setting the pace. Then we approach a roundabout and I get my technique all wrong. Carrying too much speed, I feather the brakes as I lean into the turn and instantly the bike disappears from beneath me. It is like the road surface has been coated in hot, runny waffle syrup. The Flandriens are not above deliberately sabotaging the course to make it more difficult – there are many stories of locals raking leaves into the gutters that run alongside the cobbled climbs to prevent riders using them to avoid the cobbles – but coming out early and daubing Candico all over the road is probably a bit too ‘Wacky Races’ even for them.

Unscathed, but feeling a little sheepish, I pick myself up and straighten all the bits of my bike that have been bent out of shape. In the time it takes me to do this, three more people fall off in exactly the same fashion. I feel less embarrassed. 

The mythical Muur van Geraardsbergen

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ALAMY

Pressing on, the weather finally starts to clear. We reach the hellingen and mercifully the cobbles here are dry. We head up the Muur van Geraardsbergen – a mythical climb reintroduced to the race route this year after an unpopular absence. You can see why it is so beloved – even on sportive day there are crowds thronging its slopes, waiting to cheer or jeer whenever a rider is defeated by its punishing combination of gradient and cobblestone.

The Koppenberg is the hardest to get up without putting a foot down. The combination of shaded cobbles that stay muddy and wet all year round with the large number of riders already walking up and blocking the road make it as much about luck as leg strength. The big Belgian boys brook no nonsense, yelling in Flemish for walkers to keep right.

The Koppenberg

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GETTY

The Oude Kwaremont, ridden three times by the pros but only once by the amateurs, is described by one participant as ‘like a mini Glastonbury’. It is lined with hospitality tents and massive jumbotrons to watch the race the following day. It has a festival atmosphere. It also goes on for bloody miles.

Finally, after 15 bergs comes the Paterberg. It is the steepest average gradient of the lot, and, maliciously, it starts after a 90 degree right turn, so you carry no speed whatsoever into the foot of it. After that it’s the small matter of 12 flat kilometres into the finish at Oudenaarde and its blessed frites.

Race day

The next day, we take a shuttle out to the Oude Kwaremont from Oudenaarde, after watching the women’s race start from there. Another stark reminder of how fiercely the Belgians love their cycling; the start of the women’s race is mobbed – in a way you wouldn’t see at many other races around Europe. Perhaps only the Aviva Women’s Tour in Britain could match it for size and enthusiasm of the crowds.

The Kwaremont is as crazy as expected. The best plan of attack is to choose a spot where the race will pass more than once – to maximise your number of seconds of ‘live’ viewing. Bike races, after all, are a notoriously poor spectacle when couched in terms of ‘total time spent vs time watching the action’. Typically a race is past you in seconds – maybe longer on an Alpine mountain climb – but the Ronde is so attritional that even the pros go slowly up the climbs and hit the summits gasping for breath. When Belgian cycling legend Tom Boonen comes past on the wheel of eventual winner, his compatriot Philippe Gilbert, he looks as though he’s about to cough up a lung.

Philippe Gilbert, en route to victory

Credit:
GETTY

The other advantage of watching Flanders vs the Grand Tours is that the bergs are so close together it is possible to run across farmers’ fields from one roadside spot to the next – thus doubling your viewing time. it’s a time-honoured tradition and one I indulge in gleefully. On the first pass, the leading group is compact and descending at speeds in excess of 70km/h (43mp/h). When I see them two minutes later across the field, Philippe Gilbert has escaped in what would become a race-winning move.

His victory sends the Belgians into raptures. The shuttle back into Oudenaarde is rowdy, full of Flemish songs, intermingled with the drunken chatter of Brits and Germans. However, unlike after a football match, everything is good natured – the lack of any real team loyalties in cycling means there’s no tribalism.

And perhaps that’s the most remarkable thing about a trip to watch a bike race in Belgium. It’s so unlike sports travel of any other kind, offering an unparalleled sense of participation (what soccer fan has ever played on the turf of Old Trafford the day before Man Utd?), free access to the competition itself (you try charging a Flandrien to stand at the side of the Paterberg and see what happens), and perhaps most importantly, a sense of fellowship between fans that exists in few other sports.

Later, after the race, I am buying my second sausage in a bun within a 20-minute period. The woman working on the stall hands it to me, and I reach for the ketchup to add a little bit more. Her husband, manning the barbecue behind her, calls out in English.

“He is American, remember they have a lot of sauce.”

“I’m English, actually.”

“It is the same,” he retorts, quick as a flash. Then adding, “You all speak not-French.” 

Touché, monsieur.

How to do it

Tom Owen travelled as a guest of Sports Tours International, one of the UK’s largest specialist sports travel companies. A three-night stay in Ghent with coach travel from the UK costs from £419pp, based on two people sharing. Entry into the Tour of Flanders Cyclo Sportive starts from £40. Sports Tours International takes thousands of participants and spectators to sports events around the world.  

They have a very small amount of places left for this weekend’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the other Belgian monument of cycling.

For more information visit http://ift.tt/RyV1nO.

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April 21, 2017 at 08:38AM

Big Metal Roadrunner in La Quinta, California

Big Metal Roadrunner in La Quinta, California

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The giant metal roadrunner watches traffic from the middle of the rotary.

A larger than life music-loving bird has found a nest in La Quinta, California. The giant roadrunner that made its debut at the Coachella Music Festival has flown a few miles west, and landed in the middle of a traffic circle.

La Quinta’s big metal roadrunner started life not as a piece of public art, but as an installation at the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Sculpted by New Mexico-based artist Don Kennell, the roadrunner held a porch swing and invited visitors to rock and roll from its oversized beak. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans, seemingly a regular Coachella attendee, saw the bird and was immediately attracted to the piece.

When Goldenvoice (the concert promoter behind Coachella) approached La Quinta about a four-year loan of one of the festival’s art pieces, Mayor Evans got behind the idea immediately. A year later, the giant metal bird landed at its new residence in the center of a rotary at Jefferson Street and Avenue 52 (but without the swing). Mayor Evans and La Quinta hope the sculpture stands as a testament to the partnership between the city and the ever-expanding festival, which has been a financial boon for the region.

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April 21, 2017 at 08:12AM

Big Metal Roadrunner in La Quinta, California

Big Metal Roadrunner in La Quinta, California

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A larger than life music-loving bird has found a nest in La Quinta, California. The giant roadrunner that made its debut at the Coachella Music Festival has flown a few miles west, and landed in the middle of a traffic circle.

La Quinta’s big metal roadrunner started life not as a piece of public art, but as an installation at the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Sculpted by New Mexico-based artist Don Kennell, the roadrunner held a porch swing and invited visitors to rock and roll from its oversized beak. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans, seemingly a regular Coachella attendee, saw the bird and was immediately attracted to the piece.

When Goldenvoice (the concert promoter behind Coachella) approached La Quinta about a four-year loan of one of the festival’s art pieces, Mayor Evans got behind the idea immediately. A year later, the giant metal bird landed at its new residence in the center of a rotary at Jefferson Street and Avenue 52 (but without the swing). Mayor Evans and La Quinta hope the sculpture stands as a testament to the partnership between the city and the ever-expanding festival, which has been a financial boon for the region.

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April 21, 2017 at 08:09AM

Hotelbeds Agrees to Buy Wholesaler GTA

Hotelbeds Agrees to Buy Wholesaler GTA

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Hotelbeds Group

Hotelbeds Group is buying GTA. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval. Hotelbeds Group

Skift Take: Hotelbeds appears determined to buy up the competition in order to retain its dominant position. What is unclear though is what happens to Kuoni Group once the transaction completes as GTA represents almost two-thirds of its turnover. Will it continue on as a smaller company or continue to be broken up?

— Patrick Whyte

There looks set to be further consolidation in the wholesale accommodation sector after market leader Hotelbeds Group announced a deal to buy rival GTA from Kuoni Group.

The new owners of Hotelbeds, Cinven Capital Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have pursued an aggressive strategy of consolidation since purchasing the company from tour operator TUI Group for $1.3 billion.

Wholesalers like Hotelbeds source rooms and other travel products before selling them on to tour operators, airlines and travel agents.

No figure has been given and it is still subject to regulatory approval but if it is given the green light the newly enlarged Hotelbeds will have a dominant position. Earlier this year it also agreed to acquire Orlando-based Tourico Holidays.

GTA is currently part Kuoni and it is unclear what the sale means for that business.

The Swiss company is a shadow of its former self having sold off its tour operating brands and been taken private by private equity firm EQT.

According to Kuoni’s most recent financial accounts, GTA made up about 60 percent of its total turnover and accounted for about a third of its total operating profit.

When the sale is complete the company will consist of a B2B group travel business, destination management unit and visa processing division. It is possible that Kuoni could continue to be broken up by its new owner.

Interestingly, the deal does not include inbound travel company MTS Globe, which GTA only bought in December last year for $59 million. The company has been taken back by its previous shareholder for a undisclosed fee.

When the deal is completed Kuoni will hold a “significant minority position” in the combined businesses. But until then it will remain a separate entity, as will Tourico Holidays.

Joan Vilà, executive chairman of Hotelbeds Group commented: “It gives me great pleasure to announce that GTA will be joining Hotelbeds Group.

“This deal brings another great bedbank to the Hotelbeds Group family, following the announcement in February that Tourico Holidays will also be integrating with us. Both of these important deals clearly underline our steadfast commitment to accelerate the growth of our business both organically and via M&A activity.”

Ivan Walter, Chief Executive of GTA added: “We are excited by the opportunity that combining forces with Hotelbeds Group brings. Our history and proven track record speak for themselves, and by coming together with Hotelbeds Group we can bring together a wealth of experience, commitment and a clear strategic focus on the B2B sector. We believe that today’s news is a milestone for the industry, and great news for our respective suppliers and customers. ”

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April 21, 2017 at 07:06AM

Nothing Compares to Prince

Nothing Compares to Prince

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April 21, 2017 at 06:43AM

Travelsky financials show stronger growth in 2016 than western peers

Travelsky financials show stronger growth in 2016 than western peers

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Travelsky’s 2016 annual report highlights the scale of the business and the range of services it is currently offering to China’s airlines, airports and agents, with a hint that it might be looking at opportunities overseas.

The 185-page densely-packed document covers topics familiar to anyone familiar with annual reports from Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport.

Comparisons between the three are possible, to an extent, although some of the terminology used by Travelsky, which is listed in Hong Kong, differs from its US and European peers. Currency fluctuations need to be factored in as well.

In 2016, Travelsky recorded revenues of RMB6,223.2 million, booking an EBITDA of RMB3,216.8 million. In RMB terms, these metrics are 13.7% and 19.5% ahead of the previous year.

At today’s exchange rates, this converts into revenues of $904 million and an EBITDA of $467 million.

When Sabre reported its 2016 results in February its revenues were $3.4 billion (up 13.9% on 2015) while its adjusted EBITDA came in at $1 billion (up 11%).

Travelport meanwhile told the US markets of a FY2016 net revenue of $2.4 billion (up 6% on 2015) and an adjusted EBITDA of $574 million (up 7%).

Madrid-listed Amadeus ended 2016 with revenues of €4.5 billion (up 14.3% on 2015 in euros, converts to at $4.8 billion today) and an EBITDA of €1.7 billion (up 16%, converts to $1.8 billion today).

So compared with its western peers, Travelsky is smaller in terms of revenues and EBITDA although its margins seems greater, and its year-on-year growth profile is stronger. Travelsky also concentrates on one market (granted, that market is China) and is very much an aviation-focused business.

The annual report conveniently outlines Travelsky’s business units. Its biggest unit is “aviation information technology services” which covers what it describes as electronic travel distribution, inventory control, computer reservation systems and airport passenger processing services.

This unit works with 38 commercial airlines in China and more than 350 foreign and regional commercial airlines. It processed 524.2 million flight bookings on domestic and overseas airlines during 2016.

Its “accounting, settlement and clearing services” is the downstream business of the above, and is the world’s largest service provider of IATA billing and settlement plans (BSPs). In 2016 this unit handled more than 800 million transactions and more than 300 million BSP tickets.

Other multi-digit metrics appear in the travel service distribution network unit, which serves as a GDS for Chinese travel agents (with connections to the global GDSs). Some 70,000 sales  terminals at 8,000 agents and distributors connect to this network, and in 2016 it processed more than 420 million transactions valued at RMB424.8 billion ($62 billion).

And there are airport IT and air freight logistics IT services as well.

Travelsky’s dominant position in China is well known, but in the report chairman Cui Zhixiong hints at international ambitions, talking about “seeking breakthroughs in overseas businesses”. Perhaps its purchase of OpenJaw was the start of something big.

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April 21, 2017 at 06:34AM

Voice getting louder in travel search and it’s all about brand

Voice getting louder in travel search and it’s all about brand

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Travel searches by voice are on the up according to some figures from Microsoft-owned Bing Ads.

The company reveals that Britons are increasingly seeking to book their hotel using the Cortana digital assistant on mobile devices with hotel searches seeing a 343% year-on-year increase in the UK.

Flight search using voice is not far behind with a 277% increase year-on-year, says Bing.

The large increases are not that surprising given that Cortana was launched for Windows 10 around the middle of 2015 and the research is pulled for the year from March 2016.

Added to that is the increased comfort level with voice with the advent of Alexa and Google’s voice search.

More interesting is 95% of the top 20 flights and accommodation searches, using Cortana, were for brands showing the different behaviour of search on mobile and using voice.

Bing points to Juniper Research from last year predicting that by 2021 more than four billion mobile assistants will be used globally.

Thom Arkestål, head of insights, EMEA, at Bing Ads says:

“We will likely see this number rise as consumers realise the potential of digital assistants to improve their everyday lives, something we are already seeing with smart home devices such as the Cortana-powered Amazon Echo, becoming integral to homes across the country.”

And, of course there’s also Google Assistant and the impact that might have as it works with Google Allo and Home services.

Related reading:

Chatbots ready to seize the IM initiative

Mobile search rates for hotels reach huge level

NB: Voice search image via Antonio Guillem for BigStock.

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April 21, 2017 at 06:11AM

Ukrainian Airlines slams on fees for every booking channel, but website is cheapest

Ukrainian Airlines slams on fees for every booking channel, but website is cheapest

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Ukrainian International Airlines is to impose a $9 surcharge on every booking made through the world’s Global Distribution Systems.

The fee on each segment made on tickets bought via Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre will come into force by the end of April 2017.

But anyone thinking this is a carbon copy of Lufthansa‘s controversial move in 2015 to introduce a €16 fee on GDS bookings should look closer.

Whilst there is an effort by the Kiev-based carrier to hit travellers using GDSs with a levy, such action is part of a wider move to force passengers to book on its website.

Other channels hit with the same $9 per segment fee include bookings made on Gabriel-SITA and Sirena, Russia’s main air ticket distribution platform.

UIA is currently banned from operating flights to and from Russia.

The GDSs and third parties are not the only channels to face a surcharge on bookings.

Any passenger booking a ticket through the airline’s own ticket offices will face a $18 fee (“service fee”) on all international return fares (the same as the GDS charge) and $5 on domestic flights.

It will impose a fee ranging from $0 to $10 on journeys booked on its consumer-facing platform, depending on the route.

UIA has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

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April 21, 2017 at 05:38AM

Travelling to US could become harder for EU citizens as visa war escalates

Travelling to US could become harder for EU citizens as visa war escalates

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The Trump administration has announced that it will review the US visa-waiver programme, which currently allows European passport holders to travel to America without a visa.

During an appearance at George Washington University this week, the secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, said rules allowing Europeans to travel to the US without a visa should be reviewed, citing concerns over terrorism.

“We have to start looking very hard at that [visa-waiver] program,” he said. “Not eliminating it and not doing anything excessive, but look very hard at that program.”

The US has said it will review its visa-waiver programme

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ALAMY

Thousands of European passport holders have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight for the so-called Islamic State and Kelly said he feared the US visa-waiver programme could be exploited by terrorists looking to carry out attacks on US soil.

“We are the Super Bowl in terms of terrorists,” he said. “That’s where they want to come.”

However, the announcement will be seen by many as an escalation of the ongoing visa war between the US and EU, which recently voted to suspend visa-free travel for American citizens.

Most EU countries are included within the US visa-waiver programme, but Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus are not. This lack of reciprocity from Washington led the European Parliament to vote to suspend visa-free travel for US citizens.

Theoretically, the US has until May to address the current imbalance – or face the prospect of its citizens having to apply for visas to travel around the EU.

In reality, making it harder for US citizens to travel around the EU – and vice versa – is neither appealing to Washington or Brussels.

“We are very concerned about the economic and political impact of a suspension of visa waiver for US nationals,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission (ETC), in a letter to MEPs.

The US tourist industry is already feeling the effects of Trump’s policies

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ALAMY

The US also has much to lose: its tourism industry is smarting from various Trump administration policies – including the two failed travel bans – which have so far served to discourage holidaymakers from visiting America.

According to Tourism Economics, a forecasting firm used by the travel industry, the US is set to see a 10.6 million decline in visitors over the next two years. The drop would cost the US economy an estimated $18 billion and about 107,000 jobs, it calculated.

Kelly’s announcement came as Emirates announced that it would be slashing services to the US due to reduced demand.

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April 21, 2017 at 05:05AM

Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: Åland Islands, Finland

Focus: Breaking Travel News investigates: Åland Islands, Finland

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While there is plenty to do in Helsinki-proper, savvy travellers to Finland should consider escaping the hubbub of the city with a trip the Åland Islands.

Situated half-way between the Finnish city of Turku and Swedish capital Stockholm, the destination is that rarest of travel curiosities – an undiscovered gem.

Well, at least to those living outside of Scandinavia.

Officially part of Finland, but self-governed and Swedish speaking, Åland is a community of nearly 30,000 people spread over 20,000 islands, only 6,000 of which are named.

It is something of a tourism paradise, with everything from wholesome outdoor pursuits such as cycling, canoeing, sport fishing and even skiing, to more sedate sailing, free-camping and golf on offer. 

Visitors must simply choose what they wish to do – as much or as little as they like.

Viking Line

Visiting in early April this year, I arrived via Åland-based Viking Line, which was an adventure in itself.

Sailing from the Katajanokka harbour on the edge of Helsinki, it is a near 12 hour journey to Mariehamn, the capital of Åland.

While that might sound like a series voyage, time on board ship flies by.

Conditions are comfortable – think cruise ship rather than ferry – with a double bed, shower, television and ample space in the private cabins.

A porthole also offers a window out onto the passing world.

Sailing is remarkably smooth: I left a pile of coins standing on my bedside dresser and they were undisturbed when I woke the following day.

On deck there are plenty of bars and restaurants on offer, while a kids club keeps the little ones entertained.

For dinner, I chose to eat at the buffet, which seemed to be the most popular option.

It is east to see why, with delicious red meats, fine fish, caviar and unchecked wine and beer all included in the price.

Considering it is €8 a pint in Helsinki, a serious drinker can cover the cost of the trip in the two hour window allowed before the next sitting.

All too quickly it was over and while it seemed the karaoke bar was just getting started, I thought it wise to head for bed at around 23:00, mindful of the 04:00 start the next day.

Prices on Viking Line are very affordable, with fares effectively subsidies by the low-cost duty free on sale in the shops on board.

Mariehamn

Arriving at Mariehamn I made the five minute journey to Arkipelag Hotel.

A smart, modern property, it offers both excellent views over the sea and easy access to the centre of the town.

Revived after a quick nap, the first stop on the agenda was the Åland Maritime Museum.

Tracing the nautical heritage of Åland, the exhibition does an excellent job conjuring up a sea- salted past.

The museum reveals the great wealth the islands have drawn from the sea through the ages, while also telling the tales of those who lost their lives to the ocean.

A must see for any visit to Åland.

Other highlights in Mariehamn include the Åland Islands Art Museum and the Cultural History Museum of Åland, both of which trace the heritage of the destination.

Islands

But it is out in the countryside Åland really comes alive, and meeting Annica Grönlund from Visit Åland, we head off to explore.

“Rush hour is from four until five past four,” she explains, as we drive alone the nearly clear roads.

Our first destination is HavsVidden, a luxurious hotel and conference centre on the northern coast overlooking the Baltic Sea.

It is here you can really see the attraction of Åland.

Private houses are dotted along the cliff, with each offering a unique sanctuary from which to enjoy the destination.

Guests can relax in the bathhouse for a while or in the famous Finnish sauna, stroll along the pier, or warm themselves in a wood fire heated bath.

There is a real feeling of closeness to nature; while modern technology is seamlessly blended into the accommodations create a wonderful hybrid.

A great place to take friends for a weekend break in order to truly escape from the world.

Stallhagen

On route to our next stop, I learn the story of Åland’s Champagne harvest.

Nearly a decade ago, some 145 bottles of the French wine dating from the 1840s were discovered in a shipwreck in Föglö, in an outer archipelago of the islands.

Owing to the constant temperature, dark surroundings and pressure, the Champagne was in excellent condition, with each bottle uncorked, tasted and classified by expert Richard Juhlin.

The man who made this discovery – Christian Ekstrom – now runs the Stallhagen brew pub, which offers a fantastic range of beers.

Most famous is an ale recreated from five bottles of beer lifted from the Föglö shipwreck along with the Champagne.

Analysed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, it has been reproduced to modern standards; with this ‘wreck beer’ is now on offer to connoisseurs.

Private Island

Of course, with so many islands uninhabited, visitors can seek out a completely private retreat.

Sviskär, for example, offers sublime relaxation on a ‘hermit island’.

Made from red granite rock, the island has a small forest lake where the water lilies flower, a meadow with many types of wildflowers, and red buildings that have been modernised with a gentle touch.

In the heart of Silverskärs lies a fisherman cottage where people lived a simple archipelago life until the 1950s.

This is now on offer to holidaymakers looking for a unique break, and is a great place to literally get away from it all.

For something a little less remote, although still very much in tune with nature, Sandosund offers both excellent camp site, as well as both a hotel and private lodges.

It is a great place from which to explore the surrounding area, on bikes, kayaks or even on foot.

Ask about the floating, wood fired sauna for the most authentic Finnish experience.

Downtown

With so much to see, guests will need more than the one day I had in Åland, many more.

But before boarding the boat back to Helsinki, there was time to enjoy a quick drink in downtown Mariehamn.

No matter the destination, however remote, there will be an Irish bar, and Åland is no exception, with Molly’s floating serenely in the Baltic on the edge of town.

For something a bit more local, try http://ift.tt/2oQRt6k ” target=“_blank”>F.P. von Knorring or Kvarter 5.

All too soon it was time to leave, heading back on board the Viking Line to Helsinki.

While it might seem to be a little remote, Åland is actually a nexus between Stockholm, Tallinn and Helsinki, offering a world of adventure in a pocket sized space.

More Information

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole

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April 21, 2017 at 04:18AM