My favourite spot in London is just over Westminster Bridge on the South Bank of the River Thames, steps from the London Eye. Facing the parliament buildings, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, it's an iconic view of arguably the world's greatest city with the famous green bridge – the oldest in London, open since 1862 – in the foreground.
I've been to London several dozen times over the years (lived there for a few months in '81 as a matter of fact!) and have travelled there for travel industry business a couple of times a year for the past dozen or so. On most occasions, I managed to find a way to make it to "my" spot, just to gaze, linger, and exist in the same general place in the heart of London as so many others have so for so many years throughout history; from the Romans to the Anglo-Saxons to today's visitors from around the world that make a pilgrimage there every day.
Next time I'm there – and there will be a next time – I'll take a moment to ponder the horrific March 25 attack in which a British man, supposedly with terrorist inclinations, drove his vehicle into a pedestrian crowd on the bridge, before attacking a police officer at parliament.
Sadly, that attack, which killed several people and injured dozens more, is nothing new, merely the latest in a series of atrocities that have plagued places like Paris, Brussels, Sydney, New York, even Ottawa (not to mention seemingly daily occurrences in the Middle East). And it's not the first time for London.
Yet, this incident hit home for me harder than most, which nowadays, I admit, spawn a kind of detachment that is, regretfully I think, a sign of the times. Of course, every incident now triggers a travel industry conundrum: is it safe for me to go there, should I recommend it? But intellectually we know that the chances of one sipping wine in a particular café in Paris when a bomb goes off are akin to being struck by lightening. But Westminster Bridge? In my case, I really could have been there.
Yet, I will return, perhaps a little more vigilant about what's going on around me, but return nonetheless. In the greater scheme of things, the attack was merely another historical grain of sand on a rather lengthy beach. And not all history is good history. And while I will mourn those who were lost, and lament another layer of our innocence stripped away, I'll also remember the defiant words of British prime minister Theresa May after the incident: "We will move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."
This & That
- Friends and well-wishers bid farewell to the retiring Frank and Marie LaFleche, who have been representing the Jordan Tourism Board in Canada since 2005, at an emotional event in Toronto this week. They also welcomed the new face of the board, Victoria, BC-based Deirdre Campbell of the Tartan Group.
- Niagara's iconic Maid of the Mist boat ride will launch this weekend (April 1), the earliest date in its history. Guests must board in Niagara Falls, NY. Final sailing is Nov. 5.
- Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort's new water theme park, turns on the taps May 25.
- This year's fourth annual Travel Marketplace travel conference and trade show for travel agents in Canada will feature Regent Seven Seas Cruises' President & CEO Jason Montague and Camille Oliviere, Sr. VP of Sales at Norwegian Cruise Lines, as key speakers. The event, taking place June 13-14 at Toronto's International Plaza Hotel, will also include other speakers, travel agent panels for peer-to-peer learning and engagement, and specific breakout tracks on a variety of subjects.
- With ship Godmother actress Joan Collins in attendance, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection christened its newest "super ship," the S.S. Joie de Vivre, in Paris this week and the vessel set sail on its maiden voyage along the Seine in Northern France.
- Air Canada Vacations (ACV) has forged a stronger partnership with RIU Plaza City Hotels, offering new properties in Miami, New York City, Panama City, Dublin and Berlin. And to celebrate launch of its new Europe brochure, the tour operator is offering a free night's stay with air and hotel bookings made by April 2.
- Porter Airlines' fleet has grown to 29 planes with the addition of another Bombardier another Q400 turboprop.
- Booming Los Cabos, Mexico will welcome another new five-star luxury resort this fall, Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, second in the Palace Resorts adults-only all-inclusive line after the flagship property in Cancun.
Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board in North America, tongue in cheek, on the custom-made "Where's Frank?" t-shirt given to retiring Canadian rep for the board, Frank LaFleche:
"You can never find Frank! Frank is never where he's supposed to be. Frank is usually at a bar somewhere…"