Archive for the Travel Category

Learning From History

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Society, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2013 by richardhowle

I have always loved history. At school I was lucky enough to have teachers who helped me understand that history is about understanding and learning, not facts and figures. Facts and figures are important, yes – but only to aid that understanding and to provide context.

This week Paul and I had a birthday break in Berlin and as we sat on tour bus going round the city (traveller tip – always a great way to get your bearings in a new city) my heart sank as the pre recorded commentary spouted pointless facts and figures about a beautiful city. “This road is 50 meters wide”. Who cares? I can see how wide it is, tell me something that will help me understand its significance to the city, tell me about the things that have happened here…..

Thankfully the whole visit wasn’t like this and a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie museum helped provide an insight into what life was like in the divided city and what impact it had on all of our lives. I have been lucky enough to visit lots of museums and exhibitions in lots of cities around the world that have helped feed my love of history and my understanding of the world that we live in. The ones that have a human edge to them, real life accounts of what life was like, such as the Museum of Occupation in Riga or the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, are the ones that are the most illuminating and informative.

However just reading about events or examining artefacts still isn’t enough. Nothing beats experiencing it for yourself. Meeting the people, seeing the locations,  watching, listening, smelling, touching – getting under the skin of a place is really what makes  history come alive.

When I was younger I was lucky enough to go to Moscow and there I visited the Moscow Arts Theatre and watched a production of Chekov’s A Cherry Orchard. I had studied it school and thought that I understood it. But it wasn’t until I saw the play in context, performed in Russia, by Russian actors with a Russian audience that I really understood it.

So whilst I have read a lot about Berlin, the second world war and the cold war, actually visiting Berlin has given me a whole new level of understanding. Seeing the city, understanding the geography and impact of the wall, visiting the museums, viewing the exhibits and displays and imagining what life must have been like. Then sitting on a train opposite an old German woman and realising that she had lived through it all, suddenly makes it real. Makes it human. What if it was you, what if it was your city? This didn’t happen to the nameless and faceless, this happened to you and I.

Berlin wall

A City Divided

This is why history is important. To help us understand what has happened, to provide context for what is happening today and to help inform our decision making about tomorrow.

Facts and figures, dates and statistics are all very good, but they don’t explain why and how. History is a real, living thing and we will do well to listen to it and to learn from it.

I Love Australia

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing, Travel with tags , on October 20, 2012 by richardhowle

I am currently  sitting in an airport lounge, a glass of Shiraz by my side waiting to fly back home from a country I love, Australia.

I am lucky that my work has provided me with lots of opportunities to travel but, although I have been in here several times before, I was last in Australia in 2008. It is a fantastic country that feels like a home from home. The setting is spectacular, the weather is fantastic, the atmosphere is relaxed and the people are polite, courteous and incredibly friendly.

Like all my previous trips this was a flying visit, in and out for a week, but I would love to come here properly, on holiday, to really get to know the place.  I am very lucky in that over the years I have made some good friends, both whilst I have been here and in London, who have always looked after me when I have travelled Down Under, shown me great hospitality – but I would really love to travel here with Paul and experience the joys of this fantastic country without having to dash from meeting to meeting.

This trip started in Melbourne, where arriving on a Sunday night ahead of a Monday morning start is a fantastic way to beat the jet lag, which I have thankfully (on the whole) managed to avoid. aka now have two offices in Australia, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney – in Melbourne I was there to do some consultancy for one of our clients,  the Arts Centre Melbourne.

It was also an opportunity to catch up with a couple of ticketing types from London who have now relocated to the city, Damian Murphy – formerly of Ticketmaster and Dawn Walker – formerly of the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was a lovely  evening, great to catch up with old friends and to visit bars and restaurants that I would never discovered as a tourist.

I was also able to spend some time with the incredibly talented Kendra Reid, who runs aka Australia, and her wonderful partner John Lloyd Fillingham. John is an old friend of Paul’s and his name has been part of our relationship for the past 16 years, so it was great to finally meet this man who Paul holds in such high regard. Another fantastic night. I was also able to catch up with Brett Haylock, the genius creative  producer of one of my all time favourite shows, La Soiree, which has just opened in Melbourne. Late night drinks with him and some of the La Soiree acts meant for a fuzzy head the next morning, but it was definitely worth it.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to depart for Sydney to spend time in aka’s newest office which is headed up by my fantastic friend, Amy Maiden. I was really excited to get there, much as I like Melbourne, I LOVE Sydney. It really is my kind of town. In my view, if you were to design a perfect city, you would design Sydney. Not only is it set in spectacular surrounding, never far from the water – it also has a really easy vibe about it. The city motto could almost be “G’day mate – do you fancy a beer”. It really is a kick off your shoes and relax type of place, even if you are there on business.

Alongside London and New York, Sydney is my favourite city in the world.

After a couple of days of  meetings, including with our clients Global Creatures (who are the producers of Walking with Dinosaurs, are producing War Horse in Australia, have just launched their new musical King Kong and are in pre production for Strictly Ballroom), my working week was over.

But I still had a day left and what a day it was. Meeting up with ex -London aka-er Yolande Phillips and her gorgeous daughter Elouise, we joined the beautiful Angela Gahan and her family to spend a day on their boat in the harbour. It was a glorious day, sun shining, temperature in the low 30’s and Sydney looking spectacular. Drinking champagne with fantastic friends as we motored through one of the world’s greatest natural harbours in beautiful weather I struggled to think if life could get any better than this. There was just one way it could be, if Paul had been there too.

The Easy Life With Easyjet

Posted in Travel with tags , on September 27, 2012 by richardhowle

When things go wrong or we are unhappy about something we shout it from the rooftops, tweet, post on Facebook, write angry letters etc etc – we want everybody to know. It feel like our own little piece of retribution for whatever perceived ill that we have been a victim of. But we don’t always make such a fuss when things go well or when we are pleased about something.

With that in mind I want to shout out about Easyjet, the oft maligned airline who revolutionised the aviation industry. I think they are really good and I am very satisfied customer.

I have been lucky enough to do a lot of travelling – a few years ago when I was lying all over the place for work I calculated that I had been in the air for a total of two whole weeks one year, so it is fair to say I know my way round a plane and have a fairly wide range of experience of the qualities or otherwise of different airlines.

And I would put Easyjet up there with the best of them. Paul and I went down to Southern Spain last week to catch a bit of sun before the long, grey autumn and winter ahead of us and we travelled there and back on Easyjet and once again I was hugely impressed by them.

We all know that they are good value, that’s how they made their name (although prices aren’t always rock bottom -our fares on the busy route to Malaga were good value, but not cheap), but the range of destinations and the frequency of flights also make them stand out. The booking process is easy (particularly for me as Paul did it!) and when you get to the airport the bag drop process is straightforward and usually without too much queuing.

At this point I would like to also shout out about Gatwick Airport, which always used to be a package holiday hellhole, but now, since it is under new management, has become a really pleasant and efficient airport – particularly the new North Terminal.

Although it does involve a fair bit of queuing, boarding is done pretty smoothly and if you consider how quickly they turn round their flights, pretty efficiently (although they are now about to start allocating seats – which may cut down the queues, but may slow down the boarding process) and it is at this point that you begin to notice the airline’s best quality, it’s staff.

In my opinion the cabin crew at Easyjet are some of the best in the business. I would put them alongside Virgin (who are brilliant) always friendly and courteous, cheerful, energetic with seemingly endless patience and who are also extremely hard working. Speedy boarding afforded me a front row seat where I was able to watch the cabin manager greet every single passenger by name, engage with them and make them feel welcome and at ease.

Easyjet is a no frills airline, they make no pretence to be anything else and for travelling short haul that is fine. In fact it is better than travelling with a “regular” airline – because if you want something to eat or drink at least you can buy it. Throughout the flight the cabin crew are visible and available to serve you and seem happy to do so (unlike some other airlines I could mention)

Finally, and I recognise that others may have different experiences, I find them reliable and punctual. I can only recall one significant delay and that was when a passenger had suffered a heart attack on the preceding service.

My only wish is that they would fly from London City as well!

So in a world of complaints and moans I am happy to give a big thumbs up with a thank you and well done to Easyjet.