Destination: London

R.I.P. Notting Hill’s Travel Bookshop

Despite a last-minute campaign by editors and even celebrities, London’s Travel Bookshop has closed.

USA Today’s Laura Bly received an email from the founder yesterday: “The shop is currently closed—but I am going to open it and be there myself this Saturday 10th - for a final day’s sale. Then sadly, that’s it for the Travel Bookshop.”

The store was featured in the 1999 Hugh Grant movie “Notting Hill.” As we noted recently, Alec Baldwin, who appeared in the film, was among those Tweeting his support for efforts to find a buyer.

Meet Heathrow Airport’s New Writer in Residence

Novelist Tony Parsons is the latest writer to sign up for a week at Heathrow. According to the Evening Standard, Parsons will “roam around the airport, among passengers and staff, as inspiration for his 13th book which will be a collection of short stories based on his experiences there.”

“The Art of Travel” author Alain de Botton was the airport’s first writer-in-residence back in 2009. We interviewed him about the experience.

(Via @johnleewriter)

Splitscreen: A Love Story

Splitscreen: A Love Story from JW Griffiths on Vimeo.

Mesmerizing travel video shot entirely on a Nokia mobile phone.

(Via Kottke)

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Are the Olympics ‘Toxic’ for Tourism?

That’s the concern in London, where a report from the European Tour Operators Association suggests that host cities routinely overestimate the visitor bounce they’ll receive from the Games. Here’s the Guardian’s Owen Gibson:

Lord Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, has talked of 1 million “extra” visitors coming to the UK for the games.

But the ETOA report claimed that the perception that the host city would be crowded and prices expensive was likely to tarnish the view of the country as a whole.

It said its members were already dealing with the perception that the UK would be crowded and so best avoided in 2012.

For what it’s worth, London, I’m hoping to be there.

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VisitBritain Preps Londoners for Olympics Tourism: ‘Don’t Mention the War’

The country’s tourism agency has issued some, er, helpful guidelines for locals in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held in London. Among the tips? Don’t serve prepackaged jam to Germans, don’t mention the Falkland Islands to Argentinians and don’t bring up the Mexican-American War with Mexicans. In the accompanying video, a Guardian reporter takes the tips for a test drive.

Chinese Developers to Recreate Salvador Dalí‘s Hometown

Xiamen Bay is the new Costa Brava! From the Guardian:

Sources at the company said they had found a spot that was geographically similar to Cadaqués, with its gently sloping hills and protected bay. “Building work will start in September or October,” a spokesman said.

More than 100 acres of land will be used to build a near replica with a capacity to house some 15,000 Chinese holidaymakers who want to enjoy the Costa Brava experience without having to travel 6,500 miles.

The Chinese version will not have the sparkling Mediterranean, the madness-inducing Tramontana wind or as many jellyfish as Cadaqués, but the promoters say they will try to get as close to possible to the real thing.

The developers are following in the footsteps of Lyon in the desert and Thames Town outside of Shanghai, among other places.

Dali would surely approve. As the Guardian notes, “One of his favourite money-making habits was to sign, and sell-off, blank sheets of paper for prints and lithographs. As a result, he is one of the most frequently copied and forged artists in the world.”

What it Means to Travel Back to the Future

Another great piece by Peter Jon Lindberg, who returns to London and a pub he called home 20 years ago. He finds “not the workaday tavern of memory but a roomful of attractive people sipping Pinot Grigio” and lingers for “12 uncomfortable minutes.” Among his findings:

Good Lord, listen to me. I’ve become a bad novel: Aging crank revisits lost youth; cue strings, bittersweet regret. Forgive my maudlin self-indulgence. (If it’s any excuse, I just turned 40.) But really, what on earth did I expect? Only a child—a 20-year-old—could have wished London not to evolve, not to grow up.

Of course, this isn’t just about London, is it? It’s about the feeling any traveler has returning to a place he once knew as well as any: A city that seems to hold you in it, or some earlier incarnation of yourself. Going back, you become again that long-ago person, even while the city changes utterly around you. As it is I’ve spent most of my post-London life in New York, 5,000-odd days of it, such that I’ve scarcely noticed the incremental, wholesale transformation of Manhattan over the past 15 years. Yet an Englishman returning here after a decade away might feel the same about New York as I do about London: that it looks like an artist’s rendering; that “it’s all about money now”; that glamour has eclipsed grit, and something has been lost in the process; that the city no longer belongs to me, but to other, younger, wealthier, more exciting people.

London Mayor: ‘Harry Potter is Not American’

Universal Orlando’s latest theme park creation, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opens next week—and London Mayor Boris Johnson will definitely not be attending any ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Strong words from the Mayor:

I deeply and bitterly resent that Orlando is about to become the official place of pilgrimage for every Harry Potter fan on earth… Because the fact is that Harry Potter is not American. He is British. Where is Diagon Alley, where they buy wands and stuff? It is in London, and if you want to get into the Ministry of Magic you disappear down a London telephone box. The train for Hogwarts goes from King’s Cross, not Grand Central Station.

Don’t worry, London. I’m sure there are still plenty of Potter fans that will want to visit the, er, not-quite-real thing. (Via The Book Bench)

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Ash From Iceland Volcano Forces Cancellation of Thousands of Flights

Ash From Iceland Volcano Forces Cancellation of Thousands of Flights REUTERS
Airport display board in Edinburgh, Scotland, today. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)

Oh Iceland. Now look at what you’ve done.

Amazingly, the closing of air space across parts of northwestern Europe due to widespread ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland is, according to the New York Times, “among the most sweeping ever ordered in peacetime.”

Photos: ‘London for Loners’

We’ve seen what Los Angeles looks like without traffic. Here’s what London looks like on lonely Sunday nights.