August 3, 1997

Seattle’s Not Wet! If You Want Wet …

From Wire Reports
 

Seattle wet? Ha!

With a measly 38 inches of annual rainfall, the Emerald City can’t even brag about being the dampest U.S. metropolitan area. (That honor goes to New Orleans, thanks to 59 inches of precipitation a year.)

The world’s wettest towns, according to the July issue of Escape magazine, are as follows: Buenaventura, Colombia, 265 inches a year; Monrovia, Liberia, 202; Pago Pago, American Samoa, 196; Moulmein, Burma, 191; Lae, Papua New Guinea, 182; Baguio, Philippines, 180; Sylhet, Bangladesh, 175; Conakry, Guinea, 171; Padang, Indonesia, 166; and Bogor, Indonesia, 166.

Too crowded?: Westminster Abbey, one of London’s most popular attractions, plans to charge a 4-pound (about $6.90) admission fee during August in an effort to thin out the crowds.

All English monarchs since William the Conqueror have been crowned in the abbey, and many are buried there. Church officials blamed the overcrowding in part on day-trippers using the Channel Tunnel rail service.

Until now, admission was free.

But if the new fee works, church officials may make it permanent. Worshipers will not be charged.

Half-pints half price: Major U.S. airlines have instituted fare discounts of 50 percent for children age 2 or younger who travel with adults and occupy their own seat, using their safety seat. American Airlines began the move last month, and other carriers followed rapidly.

Children under 2 may still be taken aboard free, although no separate seat is guaranteed for them. They are called “lap children” in airline parlance because unless a vacant seat is available, they are held by adults; they are the only passengers permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration to ride unbelted for takeoff and landing.

Airlines offering the 50 percent discount are American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Trans World Airlines, United and US Airways. The discount is applied to bargain excursion fares, but not to so-called “status” fares: military, government and group.

‘Good Will’ Japanese style: Visitors to Japan who want some inside help during their visit can check out the country’s “Good Will” guide service, available at no charge in more than 35 cities and districts.

The guides are often students or retirees who speak English well and have volunteered because they like to meet foreigners and show off their cities.

According to the Japan National Tourist Organization, guests customarily spend a few hours with, and buy lunch for, their guides. But the guides also are available for advice or consultation by phone.

The tourist office has a list of Good Will Guide Group contact numbers in Japan, available by calling (212) 307-6754. The same information can be found on the Web at www.jnto.go.jp

Michelin invades Asia: Michelin has published a Green Guide to Thailand, its first venture into Asian travel. The 295-page book uses the Michelin system of rating sights as “interesting” (one star), “highly recommended” (two stars) and “very highly recommended” (three stars), and covers the present capital, Bangkok, and the ancient capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, along with the country’s mountains, beaches and islands. The price is $20.

Rove the Green Mountains: For thrill-seeking vacationers, the Equinox in Manchester, Vt., is offering a chance to put a Land Rover through its paces across rugged Green Mountain terrain. Modeled after a similar program in Great Britain, the hotel’s Land Rover Driving School offers group and private lessons from one hour to a full day in school-owned Land Rovers, with a maximum of three guests in a vehicle, plus instructor. All drivers must show a valid license and proof of insurance.

The menu of programs begins with a private hour ($120) on the driver-training course, which has ascents, descents and side tilts. Other driving challenges include creeping over boulders and powering out of bogs. After an hour or so on the course, the novice off-road driver can graduate to trail drives. Currently the maximum trail outing is two hours ($315 for up to three people).

The school operates year-round. A one-night stay at the Equinox, plus a lesson and two-hour trail drive, costs $554 for single occupancy, $664 for double occupancy, with a $10 nondriving partner supplement. Reservations: (802) 362-4700.


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