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The town at the 'end of the world' – an expert guide to Ushuaia

Why go?

Part frontier town, part Antarctic embarkation point, Argentina’s southernmost city is an intriguing and rather extreme place to visit. With a couple of good museums, a wildly beautiful national park, delicious seafood and a mountain backdrop – snow-capped even on some summer days – it can easily fill a day or two.

Cruise port location

On the north bank of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is one of those cities that looks to the water; the cruise terminal is just a pier, with space for two medium-sized (around 1,400 berth) cruise vessels, plus a couple of smaller ships. With some 36 Antarctic-bound ships visiting in a 2018, plus seven other visiting ships – making 284 visits between them – it has grown from being an oddball stop to a major tourist destination in its own right.

Can I walk to any places of interest?

You can walk to almost every place of any real interest, though the streets get steeper the further north you go. Most museums, places to eat and hotels are located in the easy-to-navigate gridded city centre four to five blocks from the port; the airport is on a peninsula just to the west – 12-14 minutes by taxi.

Getting around

Taxis are useful and very affordable if you want to get to the airport, national park, or anywhere further afield, or if you need to get to one of the out of town hotels to stay or for a meal, such as Las Hayas. Otherwise, boots are all you’ll need and a decent coat and hat to keep out the chilly breezes.

Hotels

Ushuaia has some quite swanky hotels, partly in response to demand from well-heeled Antarctica travellers. Las Hayas is a large Alpine-esque resort hotel with a pool and comfortable if somewhat chintzy rooms and suites. Situated just above the city, it has good views over the Beagle. Arakur – a member of the Leading Hotels of the World club – is quasi-industrial on the exterior but the rooms are stylish and modern. On a dramatic outcrop, it enjoys superb views. Down on, or near, the seafront there are lots of hotels a short walk from the cruise pier, including the mock-half-timbered Villa Brescia and slightly smarter Albatros and Lennox hotels.

Tierra del Fuego national park is not to be missed Credit: Getty

What to see and do

Ushuaia is probably more interesting on paper than in reality. Once you’ve seen its two main museums and had a nice seafood lunch, go and enjoy a walk along the front, looking out for seabirds. If you have a day or two, then visit Harberton estancia and/or the national park. There is some hiking, but it’s not fully developed yet.

What can I do in four hours or less?

Ushuaia is the capital of the “Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and Southern Atlantic Islands” – though no one recognises the last two bits except Buenos Aires. Before it became a tourism honeypot, it was a mission station (English and Italian priests came to convert the local Yamana), a penal colony, and was the naval base used in the 1982 conflict. These days it trades on its “End of the World” status. A short visit – usually prior to embarking, but also as part of an excursion on non-Antarctic cruises – should include the Maritime Museum, which is inside the old prison, where the exhibitions cover prison life, sailing history, marine life and Antarctica. Azamara does a spooky-ish night visit to the prison museum. Also excellent is the “Museo del Fin del Mundo” – yes, that means End of the World – spread between the former National Bank HQ and Government House, which completes the picture with exhibits relating to the Yamana.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers horseback riding near Ushuaia, which is an excellent way of stretching a few new muscles and seeing something of the mountain scenery that frames the city.

Ushuaia’s mountains are something to behold Credit: Getty

What can I do in eight hours or less?

With more time, you should definitely spend a couple of hours in the Tierra del Fuego national park – great for hiking and birding (look out for the large Magellanic woodpeckers); to get there you can either take advantage of the narrow-gauge “Train at the End of the World” or just hop in a cab.

If you’re embarking on a cruise up the Beagle you might want to avoid river excursions; otherwise, check out the boat trips to the bird-filled islets in the channel and to Estancia Harberton, a historic homestead. Azamara offers kayaking in the Beagle on a five-hour excursion. Regent offers its passengers a combined Beagle catamaran trip with a train ride to the national park and also offers the option of a five-hour hike to the foot of the impressive Martial Glacier.

Eat and drink

Locally caught spider crabs are served in cosy restaurants throughout the city, and you should also have a sample of the grilled Patagonian lamb. Fish-lovers might want to try the locally caught mero (Patagonian toothfish) and the squid is superb. Northern Patagonia produces some good wines now and there are excellent craft beers, too

Ushuaia seen from Martial Glacier Credit: iStock

Don’t leave Ushuaia without…

There’s a lot of tack marked “fin del mundo” – stuffed penguins and the like – but the leatherware and sheep’s wool items are good (and useful if you’re heading south), as are the kits for drinking yerba mate green tea – gourd, bombilla (straw), tea-caddy and carrier. Though tax-free, Ushuaia is expensive for Argentina.

Need to know

Flight time

Ushauia is three and a half hours non-stop from Buenos Aires with Aerolineas Argentinas. There are also flights to Calafate, the town closest to the famous Perito Moreno glacier.

Safety 

Ushauaia is a small and neighbourly city – a town, really. Crime is very low and there are port authorities and police.

There are plenty of “end of the world” souvenirs to pick up in Ushuaia Credit: iStock

Best time to go

The season here is the austral summer – November to April. It can still be cool, even cold, but days are long and there are long periods of rain-free and sunny weather.

Closures

Some shops close Sundays but kioskos for snacks and food and drink can be bought seven days a week. Museums close on Sundays, too, though the Prison Museum is open every day.

'Irish lessons', rancid Guinness and dismal pay – what it's really like working in an airport pub

Don’t act like you’ve never set foot in one. I don’t believe you. Nobody does.

We’ve all been there. The airport delay. The irritation with Terminal life. The clinging desire to do anything, absolutely anything, to avoid another bout of leafing through that copy of The Atlantic in the magazine kiosk that you have no intention of buying.

You need a Proper Drink. And the airport Irish pub has seen you coming my weary friend. Once you’re in its grasp, there’s no way you’re getting out of there without being at least a tenner lighter.

Let’s call the typical pub ‘Seamus O’Shenanigans’ shall we? They’re all over the world, smelling slightly of chip fat and farts in airports from Bogota to Brisbane. There’s even a few in Ireland.

We know they take our money when we’re at our most vulnerable. But what else goes on at these, the strangest of all hoax hostelries? 

Temple Bar in Dublin: an actual Irish pub Credit: iStock

I met a woman who, in exchange for her anonymity being retained, was recently able to give me the low down on life behind the reproduction wood counter at a ‘Seamus O’Shenanigan’s’ type Irish bar in an American East Coast airport. Some of the following will surprise you. Some you will find grimly predictable. All of it is true:

Staff are supposed to know about Ireland, but don’t

“The pub I worked at for a year is part of a chain that runs a few Irish pubs in US airports. When I started the job, my manager decided to give our team an informal fifteen minute talk before our shift started one day about Irish history. Unfortunately, the ‘lessons’ seemed to be taken from a copy of the ‘National Enquirer Book of Irish History’ with a few too many pages ripped out. Hence he gave us references about 'orange-people marches’ and 'Terry Adams’ from the IRA. The sad thing was, absolutely nobody called him out on his ignorance.”

Don’t worry about drinking too much

“We were always told that there is no such thing as being too drunk in one of our pubs. It doesn’t matter how hammered you are, our instructions were to keep serving and then, quietly, call airport security to deal with the problem.”

Irish decor, direct from Malaysia? Credit: iStock

The Guinness gets worse by the day

“It’s impossible to keep the Guinness tasting anywhere near as good as you’d find in a proper pub as, in airports, surprisingly few people actually order it. Chiefly because I suppose it’s not the ideal pre-long haul flight tipple. The reason the Guinness in fake Irish airport pubs often tastes so bad is simply because the barrel hasn’t been drunk quickly enough and we staff aren’t allowed to tip it away. So it just sits there in the barrel tasting worse and worse with each passing day.”

Even in an airport Irish bar you get regulars

“The rest of the staff and I would give them nicknames too. 'Pittsburgh Pervy Pete’ was a regular in our pub. And there was one customer, an actual Irishman, who would often try to inject the pub with some authenticity by singing 'It’s a long long way to Tipperary’ after a few Bushmills. I think he died.”

All the 'Irish’ décor comes from Malaysia

“Or China. Either way, none of it has ever been anywhere near Ireland. I’m constantly amazed at how many people would come into the pub and ask if we got the ‘old’ beer advert prints from a thrift store. I felt like saying ‘yes sir, James Joyce and Brendan Behan go trawling round the car boot sales for us as often as they can.’”

 Tipping will go down very well

“The hours are long, the pay is dismal and only about a quarter of the customers are even remotely what I could consider to be polite. If you feel like tipping in an airport Irish boozer, please don’t put a few extra percent on your card. Just slip us a crumpled note or a few coins. That way you know we’re taking that money home. Otherwise, it either gets divvied up between us all (including the staff who least deserve it) or we simply don’t see it at all.”

Customers leave behind more stuff here than anywhere else in the airport

“Because they’re usually more drunk here than they would be at a Burger King or a perfume counter of course. Staff are supposed to hand it all in but I’ve gone home with perfume, cigarettes and a lot of duty free bags full of Scotch. I wasn’t so interested in the dentures, the (full) funeral urn or the three foot high cuddly leprechaun though.”

What went wrong at India's second largest airline?

Barely six months after the high-profile launch of Manchester’s first direct route to India, the immediately popular service to Mumbai has been halted.

Jet Airways, the Indian carrier behind the flights, says the suspension is temporary and that the connection will be up and running again by May, but the crisis currently consuming India’s second largest airline looks like there might be more severe consequences.

This week the founder of the beleaguered carrier - India’s oldest private operator - stepped down as chairman of the company, paving the way for potential investors to address more than $1billion worth of debt.

The situation at Jet Airways has been brewing for some time but now appears to be coming to a head, with the airline forced to cancel thousands of flights while two thirds of its 119-strong fleet remain grounded (of which seven are 737 Max) due to non-payment of rental fees.

“Jet Airways has made certain proactive adjustments, bearing in mind short time non-availability of some aircraft in its fleet,” a spokesperson said, in relation to the Manchester to Mumbai route.

“The airline is taking all possible measures to minimize guest inconvenience, including offering a full refund for the affected guests as well as exploring re-accommodation possibilities on other airlines.” The airline’s Mumbai service to London Heathrow continues to run.

Manchester to Mumbai, pictured, is pencilled in for a May return Credit: istock

In the Nineties and 2000s, Jet Airways was a standard bearer for Indian aviation. It was one of the first private carriers to form after India liberalised its economy and at its peak was running 600 domestic and 380 international routes.

So what has gone wrong inside a carrier that has seen, over the last nine years, its passenger numbers more than double to 27.2 million, its fleet grow, its load factor increase and its revenue swell?

In the rawest terms, Jet Airways has registered vast losses in seven of the years since 2010.

“[India] is a very challenging environment and so airlines struggle for profitability,” said John Strickland, director of independent air transport consultancy JLS Consulting. “There’s a lot of competition for traffic in and out of India. There’s Air India - that struggles on - and there is competition from the gulf carriers.

“We’ve seen low cost carriers developing in India, too, European carriers taking traffic, Asian carriers. Certainly the competition is tough and it’s predominantly a price-led market.”

Indeed, the largest airline in India is budget outfit, IndiGo, boasting around 39 per cent market share and flying dozens of domestic, south-east Asia and Middle Eastern routes, while international passengers are as likely to fly to the subcontinent on their own carrier - British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, for example - as they are an Indian airline.

Add to the competition, high fuel costs thanks to government taxes and India becomes a very difficult place for an airline to succeed.

The travails are in spite of the region being one of the fastest-growing in terms of passenger numbers. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air travel demand is set to treble by 2037, with 500 million people flying to, from or within India. But in a report last year, Iata said: “The financial struggles of India’s airline industry put the stable development of connectivity at risk.”

IndiGo is India’s largest airline Credit: istock

Unfortunately for the likes of Jet Airways and Air India - which is still state owned - the huge growth of passenger numbers in India has been fuel to the fire for low-cost airlines. A report last year produced by Routes Online found budget carrier GoAir to be the world’s fastest growing airline, increasing its capacity for the first quarter of 2018 by nearly a third, from bases in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Kochi. IndiGo was in ninth, growing 19 per cent.

Another study across 2015 and 2016 showed IndiGO to be the fastest growing carrier in the world, increasing its capacity by 27 per cent in 12 months. Last year, it announced a record profit of $348million.

The vast and growing market in India was one of the attractions that drew Etihad into investing in Jet Airways, today owning a 24 per cent stake.

“Right now there’s been discussion as to whether Etihad will invest more, but why would they invest more if they’re not seeing a return?” said Strickland.

As Jet Airways searches for a financial solution to its problems, the word from Manchester is that its forays into the north of England were remarkably successful. “One of the best-performing new long haul routes we have launched in recent years,” said Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport.

“We have been assured the Manchester-Mumbai service will be reinstated at the earliest opportunity and look forward to continuing to work with our partner Jet Airways.”

One assumes the return will be at the start of May, as promised, but only time will tell.

Will success of historic London-Perth route help usher in an era of ultra long-haul flying?

One year on from its launch the historic Qantas service from London to Perth, the first scheduled non-stop flight between Britain and Australia, has been hailed a roaring success.

“Almost every flight is full,” according to the airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce, raising the prospect of a direct link between the UK and other Australian destinations, such as Sydney and Melbourne, in the near future.

How popular has the route been?

Very. Qantas says QF10’s average passenger load factor (PLF) is 94 per cent. The flight uses a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with 236 seats - split between economy, premium economy and business class - so that’s just 14 empty seats, on average, for each service.

It’s the sort of PLF other airlines dream of. The International Air Transport Association reports that the global PLF average was 81.4 per cent in 2017, while the likes of Emirates and Etihad recorded figures of 77.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent, respectively.

“There were a lot of expectations around this flight, both within Qantas and the broader community, and frankly it’s exceeded them,” said Joyce. “It turned a profit almost immediately, which is rare for new services because they have start up costs and it normally takes time to build demand. A year of operating this route shows that a hub in Western Australia connecting Australia to the world works really well.”

The success of the route hasn’t been the only pleasant surprise. Journey times have often been shorter than expected. Qantas allows 17 hours to cover the 9,009 miles from Heathrow to Perth, and average journey times have been 17 hours and 1 minute. But the Dreamliner has completed the distance in as little as 16 hours and 19 minutes. The return leg is quicker, thanks to prevailing winds, taking 16 hours and five minutes on average – but the run has taken as little as 15 hours and 15 minutes.

Who is flying on the service?

More Australians than Britons are taking advantage of the historic non-stop flight. Around three in 10 passengers come from the UK, compared to six in 10 from Down Under. The remainder are a variety of nationalities.

This is what business class looks like Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

A few other facts and figures have been published regarding the service:

A total of 450,000 meals have been served on the route. The most popular dishes in business class have been Cone Bay barramundi and beef and Yorkshire pudding, with red wine being favoured. Economy class passengers prefer white wine and have been particularly keen on the Guinness and beef pie with mash.

The most watched movie so far has been Mission Impossible: Fallout, our film critic’s “blockbuster of the summer”, while the favoured TV shows have been Ballers, Billions and Modern Family.

Most glued to the in-flight entertainment system has been, on average, those passengers sitting in seat 56F. Collectively, they have clocked up 9,134 hours of viewing, 100 more than any other.

But most glued to their seat was one unnamed gentleman who did not leave his business class seat for the whole 17-hour journey. He was taking part in a study to monitor in-flight behaviour and reportedly said he was so comfortable in his flat bed that he felt no need to move (yes, this sounds suspiciously like a marketing hoax from Qantas – but we’re assured it’s legit).

A premium economy cabin on the Qantas Dreamliner Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

How do passengers rate the experience?

Telegraph Travel’s Annabel Fenwick Elliott used the service earlier this year, testing both the economy and premium economy cabins (thanks to an unexpected upgrade). The meals were above average, she said, the Dreamliner’s cabin comfortable, and the long journey time far preferable to disembarking somewhere in the Middle East and hanging around an airport for several hours. Best of all, the prices are competitive. Read her full review here.

Economy class. What most of us are used to Credit: Qantas Airways Limited/Brent Winstone

So what’s next for Qantas?

Last year Qantas said it hoped to launch direct flights from London to Sydney, a 20-hour, 10,573-mile marathon, by 2022.

It is part of “Project Sunrise”, the airline’s plan to fly non-stop to any city it chooses. Qantas has challenged Airbus and Boeing, the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturers, to redevelop their existing jets and help it usher in a new era of ultra long-haul travel. A version of Boeing’s 777 or Airbus’s A350 could be used to fly from London to Sydney, while routes from the UK to Melbourne, and from Australia to Paris, Rio, Cape Town and New York have also been mooted.

The success of London-Perth should only stiffen its resolve to make Project Sunrise a reality.

'Disdaining tourists is the last permitted snobbery – I'm sick of self-satisfied travellers'

As the Easter holiday season lurches into view, it’s time to defend tourists. They need it. They’ve been under attack for generations.

“Of all noxious animals… the most noxious is a tourist,” wrote the clergyman-diarist Francis Kilvert in the 19th century. Scarcely anyone has had a good word before or since. The tourist, reckoned Evelyn Waugh, was “a comic figure, always inapt in his comments [and] incongruous in his appearance”.

I sense heads nodding. This is the received wisdom among the cultivated. Tourists are those who arrive in hordes or, better yet, “teeming hordes”. They overrun places, ruining them. They may favour those little in-town sightseeing trains, water parks and restaurants with menus bearing photographs. They may even go for a full English in foreign parts.

Such considerations evoke shudders at dinner parties, where no one admits to being a tourist. They are all travellers. They don’t do pedalos, the Costa del Sol or, Lord help us, coach tours. They are forever off the beaten track, seeking the authentic – on the assumption, I suppose, that it’s hidden. “Benidorm?” screeched one (now distant) friend, when I mentioned what a smashing time I’d had there. “Why not Morecambe, or Sodom and Gomorrah?” She was a socialist, so one might have thought her to be on the side of happy masses.

But no. Disdaining tourists is the last permitted snobbery, a coded way of distancing oneself from the uncultured classes. And it drives me beyond bonkers to incoherence – so I shall try to settle down.

No one admits to being a tourist at a dinner party. They are all travellers Credit: GETTY

Examined calmly, there is no conflict between tourism and travelling. Just as one may eat one day at McDonald’s and the next beneath Michelin stars, so one may both romp about the beaches of Lloret de Mar and trek through the Sarawak rainforest (or visit the Hermitage Museum). These experiences are not mutually exclusive.

But the shudders remain, and the scorn pours forth, resolving into phrases such as “tourist trap”, “tourist tat” and, daftest of all, “touristy”, as if the term itself signified a conspiracy against good taste. As if we weren’t all tourists most of the time. So, well, the case for the defence:

Exploitation

Tourists are renowned for fouling up places in their teeming hordes. Almost by definition, however, travellers are the alien presence that gets there first. If they didn’t wander off to unexplored spots, writing and talking on their return, the rest of us would be in ignorance, and tribesmen worldwide remain in primitive purity. But, thank heavens, that’s not going to happen. Colin Thubron opened up the Silk Road brilliantly, Eric Newby went through the Hindu Kush and Bruce Chatwin did an entrancing job on Patagonia. Some readers were inspired to follow. (What did the writers expect?) This is OK, as long as numbers remain limited, wear boots and may be termed “travellers”. But, at some stage – generally around the opening of the first Holiday Inn franchise – volume transforms travellers into tourists.

Patagonia. No Holiday Inn yet Credit: GETTY

Then people get very upset. (Hear them moaning about throngs at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat.) But why would, or should, travellers – authors or otherwise – deny such obviously enriching experiences to others? There is no evidence – merely the arrogance of travellers – to suggest that the quality of appreciation is any the less because tourists arrive mob-handed. A tarmac road and a souvenir shack are small prices to pay for widespread pleasure.

And if they don’t like it, travellers have, anyway, only themselves to blame: they were the trailblazers. One final point: certain destinations positively benefit from hordes. I’m thinking of, say, Carcassonne or the Colosseum in Rome. In their heydays, such places throbbed with people and commerce. That was their point. Today’s abundance of tourists and traders isn’t denaturing the surroundings; it’s quite in line with original conditions. And it’s also financing the maintenance.

Economics

In Norman Lewis’s Voices Of The Old Sea, he recounts a stay in a remote Costa Brava village in the postwar years. It is on the hinge between a fishing past and tourism future. Superbly non-didactic though he is, Lewis can’t disguise his regret at this turn of events, at the loss of isolation, of ancient ways and village values. It has to be said, however, that isolation, old ways and values had led the villagers pretty miserable lives – overcome with superstition, uncertainty, poverty and cats.

Catch of the day in Nazare, Portugal Credit: getty

No surprise, then, that, with some residual reluctance, villagers embraced the tourism development – going to work in the new hotel, opening guest rooms of their own and running pleasure trips in their fishing boats. Obviously, they lost something in the process, but they were going to lose it anyway. They gained financial security and a foot in the world. Their descendants doubtless have health insurance and flat-screen TVs, just like you and me.

It is easy to romanticise herdsmen and the haulers-in of nets when you’re only passing through – even if, like Lewis, for quite long periods. Then you go home, and they’re still trading single goats and lugging fresh water from five miles away. By wishing to leave the world thus untouched, travellers do sweet FA for economic development. By contrast, tourists – with all their varying needs – bring cash in buckets.

According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, international tourism accounts for five per cent of world GDP and one in 12 of all jobs. More pertinently, it’s the primary source of foreign earnings for dozens of the globe’s least developed nations. And it’s a business with a heavy need for labour.

Of course, there are complications to the economic equation, but none of these is resolved by keeping tourists away. Quite the contrary. The traveller may well say he preferred the locals when they were colourful and genuine. They may well reply that the traveller can cast off seeking scarce sardines whenever he damned well wants.

Fun

A few years ago, French television (I live in France) ran a documentary following a group sledding around Mongolia, eating yak. This looked to me like the worst holiday ever. They maintained, though, that they were having a wonderful time. I was thrilled for them – until, as people invariably will in such circumstances, one started blathering about how this was a real experience, far better than the second-hand superficiality of the tourist holiday. Now, as far as I’m aware, there’s no moral or qualitative hierarchy of holiday pleasures. Flying to Alicante is in no way inferior to flying to Ulaanbaatar. It’s just a different departure gate.

If people wish to go sledding in Mongolia or, as an acquaintance of mine once did, motorcycling to China (he annoyed me plenty, too), that’s fine, dandy and a matter of personal taste. Just don’t let them look down on my holiday activities, which have included playing brandy-fuelled, midnight crazy golf in Benidorm, frolicking with the children on the sand at La Grande-Motte and launching myself at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach. The sledders and biker enjoyed themselves; I, too, had a ball; none of us was a better person for it, just happier – and that’s all there is to say.

I have a suspicion, though, that my cultured friends – indeed, cultured people in general – have a hankering for popular pleasures. Just listen to them speaking, or writing, about visiting Disneyland. They do so reluctantly, for Mickey and other “manufactured fun” are clearly not for them. Then they are astonished that people as clever as they are should enjoy themselves so prodigiously. It’s guilty pleasure, of course, because they really should be in the Louvre. Well, now, – and here’s a scoop – you can do both! I’ve done it! Granted, I did the Louvre first. Even The Raft of the Medusa might disappoint after the rush of Big Thunder Mountain.

Would you rather visit a theme park or look at religious art? Be honest now… Credit: GETTY

Conviviality

Tourists like one another. Travellers apparently don’t like anybody. They appreciate their genuine experiences so much that they resent sharing them. The presence of other visitors at the temple, mountaintop or jungle clearing compromises the authenticity. Their own presence, curiously, does not.

And they grow especially huffy if the other visitors are fellow Britons. How often have you heard people saying: “I avoid Brits like the plague on holiday”? The sentiment has a long pedigree. The clergyman-diarist Kilvert, quoted in the opening paragraph, went on to write: “And, of all tourists, the most vulgar, ill-bred, offensive and loathsome is the British tourist.” (He must have been a riot to go away with.)

I’ve never understood this national self-loathing. I’m generally delighted to run into other Britons, especially in spots where I don’t master the language (in other words, almost everywhere). They represent the possibility of conversation, a considerable relief from pointing at stuff and smiling stupidly.

Nor do other nations usually hate us. Granted, folk get fed up in some of the Mediterranean clubbing HQs, but that accounts for very few of us. In an anecdotal poll of tourism professionals I did across the south of France a year or two back, the British emerged as the clearly preferred foreigners (“So polite! Enthusiastic! Uncomplaining!”). I hear similar sentiments almost everywhere I go.

Why do so many Britons practise self-loathing? Credit: GETTY

And, while travellers are busy standing off from humanity, tourists are having a high old time together. The purest expression of the tourist experience is, perhaps, the coach trip – reviled by all, except anyone who has ever been on one.

I have had the best of times on trips throughout Europe. There’s no room here to detail the benefits, except one – and that’s built-in good company. I’ve lost count of the occasions I’ve been in a hotel bar after a fine day, sharing most convivial moments with fellow passengers. Across the bar, lone-travelling couples have looked on, as jealous as hell.

We coach-trippers have been moved by the Alhambra or Delphi or Les Baux-de-Provence. We’re doing our bit for the hotel trade, quite a lot for the bar trade and generally are an economic good. So, of course, are the lone couples. The difference is that now we’re having a jolly tourist evening, and they evidently aren’t.

“The tourist is the other fellow,” concluded Evelyn Waugh, nicely undermining his previous diatribe. Then again, no. The tourist is me. I feel no shame.