Author: Yan Baczkowski

How to rebuild a Gothic masterpiece like Notre Dame

As the ashes settle in the embers of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the laborious restoration process can begin. Rebuilding will take years, possibly more than a decade. Yet, for a Gothic masterpiece that famously took 107 years to construct, and stood for centuries more, this may simply mark the latest evolution of a building that has been reshaped many times in its 850-year history.
Those looking for hope amid tragedy will be heartened by president Emmanuel Macron’s assurance that the French will “rebuild together,” and the fundraising efforts that reached $670 million within 24 hours of the blaze taking hold.
These generous early donations suggest that funding, the most difficult part of any major restoration project, may not be hard to secure. Assuming the necessary financial support comes through, how exactly will the process be carried out?

Safety first

As with any fire-damaged building, safety will be the principal concern. The main structure (and two bell towers) may have been “saved and preserved,” according to French authorities, but parts of the cathedral could still be at risk of localized collapses and falling debris.
Before distinguishing between the salvageable from the unrecoverable, immediate steps will need to be taken to prevent further damage, according to architectural historian and broadcaster, Jonathan Foyle — not least, a temporary roof.
“It’s already a wet building because of the water that’s been pumped on it, so they’re going to need to provide some kind of cover from the elements,” he said in a phone interview.
Firefighters spray water as they work to extinguish a fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris early on April 16, 2019.
That’s no small task in itself, said the head of the Group of Companies for the Restoration of Historic Monuments in France, Frédéric Létoffé, “This will require a lot of work since, beyond shoring and reinforcement, it will be necessary to build a scaffolding with an umbrella to be able to cover the entire roof that went missing, to ensure protection against weathering” he told reporters in Paris.

Securing the building

The first priority for restorers will be installing a temporary roof on the building, according to architect John Burton, a surveyor of conservation works at other English Gothic churches Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. This will help experts carry out a detailed inspection of the site — in particular, how much of the structure is secure.
“Gothic structures are all about balance,” said Burton. “The building stands up by all the components being compressed together.” The flying buttresses that once carefully supported the entire building could now be out of balance, he said.
After protecting the building’s remains, restoration teams will begin assessing the level of damage. That process itself could take years, he said.

An army of archaeologists

In order for French authorities to make any decisions about how to rebuild they will need to better understand how the medieval cathedral was constructed.
“The stripped roof and upper masonry will reveal aspects of the building’s history which probably haven’t been understood,” Foyle said. “Notre Dame has virtually no building records. We know (that construction) started in 1163 and was basically completed by about 1240, but there are no building accounts.
“Evidence for the evolution of that building is in the physical fabric, so you’ll need an army of archaeologists all over it to better understand which parts they’re repairing and what they belong to.”
Peter Riddington, an architect at Donald Install Associates, who worked on the restoration of Windsor Castle after it was damaged by fire in 1992, suspects one of the more immediate steps will be to carry out some archaeological work.
“What was extremely useful for us (at Windsor Castle) was there was an archaeological sift of debris,” he said during a phone interview.
Investigators might decide to divide up the floor area into a grid, and assign a team to sift through every square, Riddington said. They’d pick up anything that might be useful — either items to reuse in the build or to be copied to make models.
“This sort of process could surface thousands of trays full of valuable debris and objects,” he said.
Once the “forensic” part is over, Burton said, specialist committees will likely be set up to assess each of the elements — from stained glass to gold plating. It will then be down to a master architect to bring the overall design together.
Riddington recalls their being various “committees of taste” involved in the process during the Windsor restoration. “My guess is they will need to have a committee of taste to make decisions on even the most fundamental things like, what is the cathedral, once restored, going to look like.”

Another episode in ‘creation, destruction and repair’

The goal of restoration is not always to replicate the past. Modern tastes and technologies may influence how damaged structures are re-imagined. Take, for instance, the recent restoration of the Cutty Sark, a 19th-century British clipper, renovated at a cost of £50 million ($65 million) following a devastating blaze. A contemporary glass structure, housing modern facilities, was added to the base of the vessel, a tourist attraction in London.
Authorities may wish to stay faithful to earlier renditions of cathedral. But it’s also possible that France takes a bold new direction with one of its most iconic national monuments.
“We’re assuming, maybe wrongly, that the cathedral will be restored as it was (before) the fire but that isn’t the only way to go,” said Riddington. “The cathedral has had fires in the past and it’s been rebuilt in different styles over the years,”
Indeed, the spire that collapsed to gasps from stunned onlookers Monday evening, was itself a break from the past, having been built during a sweeping 19th century restoration. Its designer, the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, made his spire taller and more elaborate than one that had existed previously.
That restoration also resulted in other significant changes to the cathedral’s facade and interiors. “Notre Dame is not a building that has been fossilized in time, Foyle said. “It has not remained static since the early 13th century.”
“It’s not something that had been perfectly preserved which was totally destroyed last night. You might (instead) see this as a traumatic episode in the long history of cyclical creation, destruction and repair. It’s lived through wars, it’s lived through reformers, and this will, I think, prove to be another episode.”
Discussions will no doubt long and emotional as those involved attempt to navigate through the erly phases of restoration. For Burton, it’s important to acknowledge what happened through the process and new designs. “We don’t want to build a replica of Notre Dame so it looks like it looked 800 years ago. We want to respect the fact it’s been in a fire and leave traces of that — it’s all part of the history of the building.”

Skilled craftspeople

Many skilled laborers and craftspeople including masons, carpenters, joiners and carvers will all have to be recruited to work on this large-scale project.
John David, a master mason with over 45 years of experience, was heavily involved in the restoration of York Minster, the largest cathedral in Britain. The minster, a Gothic gem that is one of the largest in Europe, was severely damaged in a 1984 fire.
“What I’ve heard a number of times today is people saying ‘we can’t do this anymore, we haven’t got the craftspeople to do it.’ We have. We have plenty, and we have plenty of people who can train others.”
He sees an opportunity for France now to train up their next generation of skilled workers.
“They will need more people, the job won’t be done very quickly, perhaps ten to 12 years,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for them to train craftspeople not just for Notre Dame but for other buildings and disasters. This isn’t the last.”

How Can the Tourism Industry Recover Faster from a Natural Disaster?

Tourism is a very sensitive sector and is one of the first, if not the first, to be hit hard during natural disasters. And yet, these have become more and more frequent recently. What can destination leaders do to mitigate the negative impacts?

The devastating tsunami in 2004, the deadly earthquakes taking place all around the world, and the hurricanes that hit with increasing magnitude and frequency, have had a major impact on the tourism economies of these destinations. The tourism sector is the first to pay the high price, apart from the catastrophic and frequent loss of human life.

The economic impact problem is exacerbated as it hits small businesses which provide ancillary services such as food and recreation. Sometimes that actual damage is minimal – but the non-stop news cycle footage of these occurrences in real-time, leaves an indelible impression on the traveler’s mind.

According to a report (European Environment Agency, 2018), Europe is facing an annual economic loss burden of €12 billion as a result of extreme weather events. Hurricane Katrina forced over 18,000 businesses to close permanently. It took over a decade for New Orleans to climb back up to its pre-Katrina visitation of 10.1 million tourists.

Some problems, while occurring on an annual basis have taken on a more devastating impact in recent years due to global climate change. Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency earlier this summer because of the Red Tide. This naturally occurring phenomenon has been made worse in recent years by its combination with man-made pollutants and creates an annual estimated economic loss to the tourism industry of over $82 million (Limitone, 2018).

But even with these problems, tourism authorities and Destination Management Organizations want visitors and local residents to know that their stakeholders are open for business. They need to be able to update information, in real time, across every distribution platform.

Facebook might help you “check-in” but Google certainly won’t update the open status of a beach, hotel, or restaurant in real time. A 24-hour “Breaking News” onslaught about hurricanes and flooding do not come back a week later and report who is open for business, and where they are located, and DMOs are too understaffed to undertake this Herculean task.

Built into the Outdooractive system are a number of tools that allow, at the touch of a button, our partners to inform potential visitors of the actual status of not only trails & routes, but of businesses as well. Our latest development allows our partners to close off, or issue warnings, regarding entire sections of a destination so that everyone – visitors, stakeholders, media – can know, in real time, what’s open, what’s closed, and how the situation will evolve.

Our current conditions technology allows destinations to mitigate the negative impact that an emergency situation can have by providing a transparent picture of what is really happening on the ground and in the communities that are affected – or not.

 

A-typical place to visit

via Daily Prompt: Typical

“Game of Thrones” fans who have long dreamed of visiting its mythical Seven Kingdoms can now get the ultimate Westeros experience thanks to a new hotel in Lapland, Finland.
HBO Nordic (which, along with CNN, is owned by Time Warner) has teamed up with Lapland Hotels SnowVillage to construct a “Game of Thrones” themed hotel made just of snow and ice.
Located in the resort of Kittilä, which is 200 kilometers (almost 125 miles) above the Arctic Circle and around 90 minutes from Helsinki, the destination is made up of 24 rooms — 10 of which are suites for guests staying overnight.
Guests also receive a guided tour inside the SnowVillage, a buffet breakfast in the log restaurant, and a diploma to commemorate their stay.
Travelers can book an overnight visit at the snow hotel or simply take a day trip to the SnowVillage, which covers an area of about 20,000 square meters.
The village is open for visitors daily and has a cinema, a chapel, an arctic bar that serves drinks in glasses carved from ice, and a restaurant with frozen dining furniture and a menu featuring reindeer steak.

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source: cnn

#yanbaczkowski #yan baczkowski

How to avoid visa problems this summer

If you travel abroad this summer, look out for visa trouble.

Chinese, USA and Shengen European visas in passports

No, not the credit card variety. I’m talking about visas, as in travel permits.

Visas are a hassle. They’re expensive, complicated and arguably unnecessary. Worse, they can be a formidable roadblock — at times, an insurmountable obstacle — for summer travelers.

Consider the visa war between Europe and the United States. You can fly to Europe without any kind of paperwork, except for your passport. But a dispute over visa reciprocity just bubbled over in Brussels, endangering that arrangement.

Basically, the United States is wary of allowing Croatians, Cypriots, Bulgarians, Romanians and Poles to come to America unless they have a visa. The European Union wants all EU citizens to be treated equally and allowed visa-free travel to the USA. European legislators recently passed a non-binding resolution to impose visa requirements on Americans, starting next month.

No question, visa uncertainty is in the air this spring. But there are remedies.

First, know who requires a visa and what could go wrong. As of now, Europe is visa-free. Brazil, China, Russia and India are the major countries that require visas for American visitors, according to James Wolf, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in immigration law.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s, folks.

Timing is also important. Applying for a visa can be a lengthy process, so you need to start thinking about it well in advance of your vacation. You should usually do visa applications about six to eight weeks before travel. The application forms can be lengthy, and the requirements are often absurd. Brazil, for example, requires you to fill out an appointment form first, then your passports have to be sent into the embassy for the actual visa.

 

How about the uncertainty with Europe?  It’s really hard to predict that outcome. Unless the United States caves in and agrees to the EU’s reciprocity demands, you may need a visa to visit Paris this summer. If that happens, it will probably add 60 euros to the cost of your vacation— that’s the cost of a short-term visa to Europe from countries that require one.

Unfair? Not really, Americans love to think that the visa regulations of other countries are unfair. But take a closer look. When the United States raised the visa fee for Chinese travelers, China raised the visa fee for Americans.  When the United States began taking its time with visas for Brazilians, the Brazilian consulates in the USA slowed down their processing time.

What is unfair, to some, is that visas are even required.

Visas are basically a deterrent to travel. They put a damper on last-minute travel, raise the cost of your trip and needlessly complicate the already confusing task of planning travel.

Cut the red tape, and you open the gate to tourism, and all the commerce and cultural benefits it brings. How can that be a bad thing?

Avoid these visa misunderstandings

• Mind your expiration dates. Both visas and passports have an expiration date. Be aware of them, and make sure you don’t overstay. Almost every country in the world requires six months’ validity remaining on your passport for entry, as well as applying for a visa, so check your passport expiration dates prior to applying for a visa. Some countries will allow you to bring in a valid visa that is affixed to an expired passport as long as you have a new valid passport and present both of them together.

• Take the right photo. When submitting your visa application, you usually need at least one passport photo. Countries are specific about their requirements (no sunglasses, no hats, specific formatting). Pro tip: Never staple the photo to your application,. It could void the entire application.

• Remember, a visa isn’t a guarantee of admission. Travelers assume a visa is a permit to enter the country. This is quite far from the truth.  The immigration officer at the point of entry of the country concerned is the ultimate authority and determines if you will be allowed to enter or not.

The TripIt App Will Now Tell You When to Leave for the Airport

aerial-shot-lax-airport-gettyimages-567874077It won’t tell you what to pack, though—sorry.

The app makes it easy (and secure) to store important travel info like copies of your passport; organize all your itineraries and confirmation documents in one—beautiful—dashboard; and snag open seats on the last flight out. As of today, the app has a “Go Now” feature for TripIt Pro users that takes some of the stress out of getting to the airport.

“Go Now” suggests—surprise!—the best time to leave for the airport based on a traveler’s current location, flight status, and local traffic conditions, and then reminds the user when it’s time to leave for an upcoming flight. Those using the app can even view a countdown clock, which shows them how much time they have left to leave for the airport. (And here we thought the app was supposed to help decrease stress.) The feature becomes available 24 hours before a domestic flight, and uses the standard guidance of arriving 90 minutes before your flight takes off.

Courtesy TripIt

Why manually set an alarm on your phone when TripIt will take care of that for you?

TripIt is available on iOS and Android, and while the app organizes travel plans in one place for free, a subscription is required for TripIt Pro ($49/year after a free 30-day trial), which offers additional features like refund notifications, real-time flight alerts, point tracking, and the “Go Now” functionality.

Five travel services worth paying for

When it comes to travel, most of us are looking to save money, but what we should be looking to do is save time and improve our experience. Sometimes it’s worth it to shell out a little more for extras that can make travel easier, faster and better. From services that will help you speed through the airport to those that will allow you to snag the best dinner reservation, here are five extras worth paying for:

Passport and visa services: Frequent international travel requires visas, which mandate numerous consulate visits and take up hours of precious work time — and that’s not including all the time spent muddling through paperwork to get everything in line to apply. The same goes for renewing a passport. The express way to get it all done is to hand off all the work to visa services that are registered with the U.S. State Department. It might cost a couple hundred dollars, but you’ll save yourself a ton of stress, and for some countries you can have a visa in hand within 24 hours. Some road warriors consider the arrangement fundamental for a business traveler.

Global Entry: Once you have the fast lane back into the U.S. you never want to go back, and fortunately with Global Entry you never have to. Apply and pay the one-time $100 fee and (after an interview) you’re (hopefully) approved. Also, Global Entry automatically includes TSA PreCheck, which allows you to go through airport security with way less hassle. If you were thinking of applying for PreCheck, which costs $85, you might as well pay the extra $15 for Global Entry, which allows you to painlessly go through immigration when you return to the U.S. from an international trip.

VIP airport services: The secret’s out that frequent travel isn’t all that glamorous, no matter which Instagram filter you slap on it. But one way to feel like a jetsetter is to hire some VIP treatment — Gateway Meet & Greet is one example — that can get you to and from your destination quickly (including expedited check-in) and extras like VIP lounge access.

Travel agent: Even though these days travelers have the power to do all the trip research, planning and booking on their own, travel agents are still the only ones who can access or create special deals in many cases. They are working and interacting with key tourism industry players day in and day out, so they’ve got the relationships and leverage to bargain. Plus, travel agents have insiders’ knowledge that can result in getting you access to destination highlights you wouldn’t otherwise know existed.

Travel concierge: A travel agent can get you there, taking care of flights and hotels, and a concierge can take you the rest of the way. There are all types of travel concierges from cultural to luxury, but most specialize in getting you into a destination with tours (whether they lead them themselves or arrange them), tickets to shows, dinner reservations and all the fun stuff tailored to your interests. A good one will get you local prices when they otherwise might have been inflated, and take care of all the logistics. And with more people going the route of vacation rentals and opting for lodging that doesn’t come ready-equipped with concierge services, this service can be especially helpful.

GBTA: Travel ban cost USD185 million in lost business

President Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries has cost the travel industry about $185 million in lost business, the Global Business Travel Association says.
GBTA estimates that was the amount lost in the week following the executive order which is currently on hold pending yet more legal wrangling.
The association said travel business grew 1.2% in the preceding week and dipped by 2.2% after the ban was announced.
A previous survey by GBTA found about 30% of members expect to see less overseas business travel during the next three months and almost as many believe low demand could linger for the rest of the year.
On Thursday a federal appeals panel refused to reinstate the ban, saying the administration had offered ‘no evidence’ that anyone from the blacklisted countries had committed at terrorist act in the US.
Minutes later Trump fired off yet another Tweet: “See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!”
That likely means next stop the Supreme Court.
The GBTA fears more uncertainty ahead and lost business if the ban is eventually reinstated.
 “Upholding the travel ban will clearly cause a rippling effect through the travel industry, ultimately hurting the economy. It also unleashes travel disruption like we saw when the order was first implemented,” GBTA’s executive director Michael W. McCormick told The Hill.

American Airlines ditching seat back screens on new jets

American Airlines’ premium economy seating onboard their 787-9 has seatback monitors for passengers. The airline announced Tuesday it will not have the seatback monitors in the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it receives this year.

With more passengers bringing iPads, phones and laptops on board, American Airlines says it will not have seatback monitors for in-flight entertainment on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft it receives later this year.

The Fort Worth-based carrier said it plans to keep seatback screens on its widebody aircraft – like the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 – which are used on international routes. However, the airline appears to be reevaluating its in-flight entertainment for domestic routes.

“Every customer with a phone, tablet or laptop will be able to watch free movies and TV shows from our extensive on-board library, as well as free live television channels, all without purchasing an in-flight Internet connection,” American said in a memo sent to employees on Tuesday.

The airline expects to receive 4 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2017 without the seatback screens. American added that it plans to take delivery of 40 Boeing 737 and Airbus A321 aircraft this year that will arrive with seatback monitors and power at every seat.

Last year, the carrier announced it was upgrading its in-flight Internet connections to a faster, satellite-based service. With the faster service, passengers can stream video content from providers like Netflix or Amazon.

“It makes sense for American to focus on giving customers the best entertainment and fast connection options rather than installing seatback monitors that will be obsolete within a few years,” the airline said, noting that more than 90 percent of its passengers already bring a device with them on board.

Basic economy: Are the savings worth it?

More airlines will be offering basic economy seating, but will you buy these tickets? This Q&A may help you figure out when it’s worth it.

Briefcase in the plane

What is basic economy?

Think of it as the opposite of premium economy class: You get less but you pay less. The cheaper, fewer-frills seats are a tactic for big legacy airlines to compete with low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier.

Which airlines offer basic economy?

Delta is the leader here; it began introducing basic economy seating in 2012 with a big expansion a couple of years later. Last week, American announced its basic economy will go on sale in February (“select routes” only). United will begin offering basic economy service sometime this year but no start date has been revealed yet. However, a few details about these frill-free cabins have been trickling out.

What won’t you get in basic economy?

It depends on the airline but here’s what you do without on Delta:

  • No seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate.
  • If traveling as a family or group, you may not be seated together.
  • No eligibility for same-day changes or ticket refunds (outside the post-booking 24 hour grace period).
  • Basic economy passengers board last and cannot even pay for early boarding.
  • No paid or complimentary upgrades or preferred seats, even for elite miles members.

Both American and United have released one controversial lost frill that so far Delta has avoided: American and United will not allow basic economy passengers to use full-size carry-on bags. They will allow one small item that fits under the seat and that’s where it must stay because basic economy passengers have no access to overhead bins. And when they say one small item, they mean it: Those planning to board with a laptop, a purse and a backpack or some other small clothing bag will have choose one; the rest must be checked, and yes, there’s a fee for that.

Is basic economy worth it?

So far, we only have Delta fares for comparison purposes; here are some round-trip fares found Jan. 9 for travel in March. The first price is basic economy, the second is regular economy.

  • Boston to Salt Lake City: $267 and $277 (save $10)
  • Atlanta to Chicago: $135 and $157 (save $22)
  • Los Angeles to Newark: $314 and $344 (save $30)

Is it worth it? Passengers opting for no-frills fares are not going to get rich off the savings but sure, it’s worth it so long as you don’t care where you sit, when you board or what you pack. Families of course could save even more but may have a harder time justifying basic economy because of the seating and boarding requirements. On the other hand, unlike Spirit and Frontier, Delta’s basic economy does provide customers with free soft drinks and snacks, and allows regular carry-ons for free.

As for American and United, some will surely be watching the cheaper fares closely to see if they will be worth the inconvenience of the no carry-on rule, as well as the baggage fees.