Monday, March 16, 2009

The Disappointment of a Dublin City Guide

As I mentioned the other day, I bumped into Jerry Springer in Dublin. You may be surprised and a little disappointed to hear that I'm not going to dwell on Jerry - I'm far more interested in discussing Dublin.

Forget that I spent most of the weekend ill in bed, being very brave, because when I finally managed to get out and about there really was very little to get excited about. Yes I enjoyed the Guinness Factory, which has fantastic views over the city, and was intriuged by Kilmainham Jail, which has played such an important part in the country's recent political history, but other than these two "sights" there was very little to Dublin other than a wide range of rather sad looking pubs and bars. It's all about the Craic, they say; I'd suggest that it's only about the flaming Craic.

However, this is not what Ryanair's online city guide suggested. You could probably call me a fool for taking a Ryanair flight (and I'd agree) and damn right demented for thinking that any literature that they produce would be worth reading. However, having failed to read the small print on the original flight offer (which cost me an extra £80 - still seething) I thought that I'd address this fact and take advantage of their small print on the city itself.

The Dublin City Guide was woefully inadequate, not so much in terms of quantity of content, but more in terms of its quality. I knew I'd made a mistake when my €15 taxi from the airport to the centre of town weighed in at nearly €30. From then on in I was advised to visit that, go shopping here and listen to live music there. Thank God I was in bed for most of my stay; it meant that I was limited to no more than a day of misinformation and chasing rainbows. 

Since my return (and yes thanks, I feel a lot better now I'm back) I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to find some decent quality online city guides and applications. One of my favourite at this early stage is Schmap. They've produced a desktop application, which covers each sight and location in a city in considerable detail, drawing on other established sites for much of their information. But it works and I think that it is definitely one to watch - I know that we are.

Until next time, StrollOn...

Friday, March 13, 2009

When you can't face flying from London...

..go regional. Recently I've been in touch with Guy Skinner, the Director of, on the hunt to find out more about the UK’s other major International Airports. For too long I’ve made the long, expensive and time consuming journey up to London in the belief that the Capital’s airports, in particular Heathrow and Gatwick, represented the only real options when it came successfully escaping our wind-swept shores.


Better than simply quoting figures at me and trying to big up the current centre of his Universe, Birmingham, the kind Mr.Skinner sent me the following literature explaining what’s going on where amongst the UK’s top regional travel hubs. Although not the most entertaining read that I’ve given you to date, it is nonetheless informative and worthwhile stuff – it might just save you a couple of quid when you’re next thinking of jetting off abroad.  


Before I throw the good stuff at you, here’s a quick description of what Flights from Birmingham actually do. They are a flights guide, offering a resource of relevant information on the routes and destinations operated by airlines from Birmingham airport. The website details up to date information on the routes including frequency, flight times and journey times. It also offers helpful information for travelers on airport location, transport links, shopping and conference facilities, whilst enabling users to book parking, car hire and hotels. The site also posts regular blog posts outlining news about Birmingham Airport, about fare sales, new routes and information about the Airlines that operate from the Airport.

Now you know what Guy and the team do, it’s time to let you catch up on the best of the rest, from Blackpool to Exeter…


London versus the rest

Traditionally, the catchment areas around the UK`s largest cities have always determined the growth of the country`s main airports. However just recently for the first time the number of passengers being handled by Britain`s regional airports exceeded 100 million. Growth has surpassed the likes of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and whereas back in 1990 only Birmingham and Manchester could offer daily scheduled flights to over 12 destinations outside the UK, today this level of service is achieved by no less than eight regional airports. If we take the five regional airports that have experienced the fastest growth in terms of passenger numbers in recent years, it is clear to see that their success can be largely explained by the introduction of services by no frills airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and Flybe.


Blackpool airport has a large catchment area and is not only gateway to Blackpool itself but the rest of Lancashire and the Lake District. This is a 3 runway facility recently acquired by Balfour Beatty`s Regional & City Airports group. An important base for flights by Ryanair, and Manx2, Blackpool has experienced rapid growth both in terms of passenger numbers and routes. 


Bournemouth currently flies around 900,000 passengers a year to over 60 destinations worldwide and by 2015, this number is expected to rise to 3 million. Demand has resulted in extensions to the terminal buildings and the construction of a new arrivals hall as well as improvements to the surrounding roads and expansion of its car-parks. The increase in passenger numbers has largely been down to the introduction of flights by Ryanair and Thomsonfly.


Norwich airport has been undergoing significant extensions since the late 1980s but has recently become a central hub for low-cost carrier Flybe and now handles 460,000 passengers a year. Recent improvements have included a £4.2m million investment including a brand new arrivals hall, a refurbished departure lounge and separate facilities for domestic and international passengers.


Exeter is the fastest growing airport in the South West. Currently handling over a million passengers a year, the facility is now being expanded to cope with 1.9 million passengers by 2015. Exeter is an important hub for Flybe who operate important routes across the UK, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal.


At Liverpool airport, both Easyjet and Ryanair have built up successful European networks and have consistently introduced new routes, while new budget airline Wizzair has just begun flights to Poland. Liverpool`s facilities have expanded significantly along with the increase in passenger traffic which grew by 500,000 in 2007. The airport now handles around 5.5 million passengers a year.


So there you have it. No more need to spend hours searching for flights in and out of London’s Heathrow or Gatwick; instead look closer to home for those top deals to some of Europe’s finest and most affordable destinations. Although, if you are after a wider choice of flights passengers then boys from Birmingham advise you to rely on the more central airports. Birmingham to Rome flights for instance are now available with a number of different airlines including KLM, Lufthansa and Air France, offering flexibility and choice to anyone looking for a short break to this fantastic city.


Wherever you decide to go, remember to take one of our mp3 city guides with you - they make traveling that just much more enjoyable. If you don't believe me have a listen now by visiting our audio experience page.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Time to focus on London

The Naked Guide?  When I first met Monumental Adventure’s Flora Montgomery I was prepared. She was not your average former film actress - she had starred in Basic Instinct 2. Now I’ve never seen this sequel, but if it’s anything like the first I’m absolutely certain that there must be the odd bit of bare flesh on display.  Whether or not it’s Flora’s, I am relieved to be able to say that to this day I still don’t know.

But when we did finally manage to catch up I was aware that she was just the tonic that the world’s faltering Tourist Industry currently needs. Focussed and motivated but with an obvious and sometimes wicked sense of fun she has put together quite a company – there really is nothing else quite like it out there.

You see, what she’s trying to do is make us all more aware of the cities around us; the sights and sounds that we take for granted day in, day out. She has started by covering, in quite considerable quality and depth, London, New York and Beijing. She’s called in a few favours from the likes of Tracey Emin, Joanna Lumley and Tom Hollander and together with her team she had produced a unique collection of videos of world famous monuments, decaying cemeteries, colourful markets, medieval pubs and even a statue of a gorilla, and this is just in London.

The videos are beautifully shot and give you a taste of what the monument or location is about. Soon after my first visit to the website I headed off to the Whispering Gallery at St.Paul’s Cathedral followed by a rather morbid afternoon at Nunhead Cemetery. Both were fantastic experiences – it was just a shame that neither Flora nor Tom Hollander were there to hold my hand.


Which is where we come in, surely?  Surely. Because this is when there would be some considerable value in having an audio guide to hand. Most of these are not major attractions - certainly nowhere you’d find an on-site guide, either human or audio. How fantastic would it be to watch one of these videos and then, having decided where you’d like to visit, download the corresponding audio guides so that the experience could continue long after you left your computer?

We thought “very”, which is why we have setup a new in house initiative. Starting with London, we’re making all our audio content available as individual, site-specific guides. Essentially you’ll be able to choose what sites, locations and monuments you want to download onto your MP3 player, pick’n’mix style. No prescribed routes or set packages, you alone will be in charge of your own sightseeing destiny.

If you sign up to our feed or even go to our website and subscribe to our website we'll be able to tell you when the new service is available, which should be soon - very soon indeed.

In the meantime, StrollOn... 

A World of Audio guides, Walks and iPods

About StrollOn

Hello and welcome to StrollOn, where we produce audio guides and audio tours of London, Paris and an ever-expanding list of major european cities. We have also developed our free city overviews and "Hot spots" (individual audio commentaries for individual sights and attractions). Whichever product interests you we simply ask that you select the relevant audio guide or audio tour on our website and download the mp3 files onto your iPod or other mp3 player, thereby turning your iPod into your "GuidePod".

As you will see from the this blog, we are a new company, providing recently developed products on our website. We've set up this blog so that we can tell you all about us as you join us from our infancy. And we are actively looking for feedback, both on the website and the blog. We don't want you to help us simply to become the biggest, but we do want you to help us become the best walking audio tours company.