August 25, 2014

Struth! Is this the world's most remote hotel?

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says those looking to a holiday on which to get away from it all should look no further than Spain's El Hierro Island in the middle of the Atlantic –  long considered "the end of the world" until Christopher Columbus did the unthinkable one day and sailed past it to discover America.

The smallest and most south-western of the Canary Islands, El Hierro is a rocky outcrop regularly shaken by earth tremors and volcanic eruptions, and battered by regular Atlantic storms.

But despite its isolation and weather, more-adventurous tourists flock to it for walking holidays, scuba diving and to enjoy its quietly peaceful crowd-  and traffic-free pleasures, the biggest town having fewer than 2000 residents.

And those who can get in, opt for the tiny Punta Grande Hotel that has just four double rooms (none with phone or TV,) a breakfast room and lounge but no bar. Guests wanting a drink have to walk several hundred metres into town from where the tiny hotel – originally a circa-1800 Customs Office that checked ships arriving from America into Europe – clings to an exposed natural rock breakwater.

And its unusual rustic décor comprises items salvaged largely from shipwrecks over the years: portholes, lanterns, old charts, a diver's suit and hand-operated diver's air-pump, compasses, ships' name-plates and ominously, lifebuoys.

Friendly and welcoming – but just don't expect to sit outside the day you've done your hair.


[] YOU won't get much more remote than this – the tiny Punta Grande Hotel on the farthest tip of most south-western of the Canary Islands. (


August 18, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a London literary time warp.


David Ellis

YOU'D think that London's replica of Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre, to which tens of thousands flock annually, would be the result of patriotic fervour absolutely British to its boot-straps.

But you'd be wrong. When the idea was put to them, the Brits appeared little interested in the concept of a "new Globe," possibly because it was not with a Pom at the helm, but rather with an American – actor and film director Sam Wanamaker who put over 20 years of his life into the project.

Wanamaker spent months precisely locating the site of the original Globe, and when he discovered an abandoned brewery and brothels over it, joyfully offered to buy the eye-sore from the local council, clear it and create a replica Globe Theatre that would revitalise that part of the Thames between Southwark and Blackfriars bridges.

The council, alas, shared none of his enthusiasm: for while it'd ear-marked brewery and brothels for demolition, it planned to replace them with a lovely new garbage transfer depot – a more-obvious attraction Thames-side, and so near to the very heart of London, than a copy-cat of Shakespeare's theatre of 400 years past.

But it had not reckoned on the fact it was dealing with Sam Wanamaker, who had been visiting England for 15 years since going there in 1949 to star in the film Give Us This Day. When making another movie in 1951 he decided to call London home, although he frequently returned to America to act in and direct some 50-plus movies and TV shows there.

With a healthy disposable income and an insatiable passion for Shakespeare's works, Wanamaker set about finding the site of the original Globe, and drawing-up in his mind's eye just how a replica would look on the site of the old.

That first Globe, built in 1599, burned down when a spark from a stage cannon set fire to the thatch roof. When a new Globe opened over its remains, the-then Puritan Parliament closed and demolished it in 1644. Even the foundations were buried to remove any memory "of the ribald behaviour of such a dreadful place," as one MP described the Globe in Parliament House, "one frequented by all manner of vagrants and lewd persons…with the noise of drums and trumpets greatly disturbing Divine Services."

When he found the derelict Bankside Brewery on the site of the original Globe in the 1960s, Sam Wanamaker had excavations done that discovered some of the theatre's remains under an adjacent house. But that house was Heritage Listed, and through sheer bloody-minded persistence he finally persuaded the council to drop its garbage depot plans, and for the site to become home to his "New Globe" theatre – albeit 220m off the actual site of the original.

With no plans of the original and only haphazard historic sketches, Wanamaker and the architect Theo Crosby came up with what they considered the original looked like, even using quotes from Shakespeare himself, such as from Henry V: "Or may we cram within this wooden 'O'…."

Today we know that the old Globe was not a true circular building, but a 20-sided one of 31m diameter (100ft.) And when he wanted to put a thatch roof over part of his replica, just as the original had had, Wanamaker again ran foul of the council: since the Great Fire of London in 1666, thatch-roofed buildings had been banned in the city – but again Wanamaker triumphed…although at the cost of millions of dollars for a sprinkler system.

Originally 3000 patrons would cram into the old Globe, and those who could afford it would be seated under the thatch roof; the remainder (dubbed "groundlings") paid a penny each to stand in open weather in front of the stage.

Today's 3-storey replica Globe has seating and standing for just 1,700, and like the original has not a single bolt in it, the whole held together by mortise and dowel. And as in the original, flags fly above it to indicate the kind of play being currently staged: red for history, white for comedy and black for tragedy.

Sadly Sam Wanamaker was never to see his dream New Globe theatre finished: he died of cancer four years before the Queen officially opened it in 1997.

Visiting and booking:



[] INSIDE the New Globe Theatre today, replicating largely how it was in The Bard's day. (London Sightseeing Guide)

[] HOW the New Globe looks from the outside today. (Ciaodomenica)

[] SQUEEZED onto the banks of the Thames just 200m from the original, the New Globe appears miniscule amongst its neighbours. (HiddenLondonTours)

[] EARLY sketch of how the original Globe Theatre looked. (British Tourist Authority)

[] THE Bard himself from an early sketch. (WikiMedia)

Struth! Couldn't swing a carafe in world's smallest hotel.

WORLD'S smallest hotel and coffee shop in Copenhagen's
trendy Stronget district. (Matthew James Harrison)
 IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says owners of Copenhagen's smallest coffee shop have now had their second venture recognised by the Guinness Book of Records – a hotel that's the smallest in the world with just one room.

The Central Hotel & Café comprises the street-level coffee shop that squeezes just five seats indoors and a couple more than that outside (including one regularly set-up on the roadway in-between cars parked at the kerb,) and above that the "hotel" whose sole room measures a mere 2.48 X 3.1 metres (8ft X 10ft.)

But guests are treated surprisingly well in that tiny space: there are fresh flowers, fruit and wine on arrival, it's got a double bed with the best of linens, ensuite with shower, a well-stocked mini-bar, flat screen TV, stereo with iPhone connectivity, and free Wi-Fi.

And breakfast is also included – either at the Granola Café that the Central owns half a block away in Copenhagen's trendy Stronget district, or delivered from there to your room.

The building opened as a private house in 1905 and during WWII was converted to a shoe repairers. Sometime in the 1980s it became the coffee shop downstairs, and a goldsmith occupied the upper room that's now the hotel.

And that one room is currently booked most nights through until end-September at 240€ a night including the café brekkie for two. To enquire contact

August 11, 2014

Struth! Serious monkey trouble bites Delhi

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says young actors who've played the part of feisty langur monkeys in village stage shows in India, are being retained by the government to play make-believe langurs in capital New Delhi to scare-off red-faced macaque monkeys that have become a major violence and health problem.

Tens of thousands of macaques roam freely in New Delhi, brazenly stealing food from tables, shelves and even refrigerators in homes, shops and restaurants, and in one school yard recently slapping youngsters about their faces and bodies to make off with lunchtime food and drink.

And so aggressive were five macaques that attacked a terrified woman preparing   dinner in her home last month, that police called to rescue her had to beat the animals off with bamboo poles.

Even the capital's Parliament House is not immune from attack, with the macaques snatching files from the hands of politicians and bureaucrats in offices and corridors in the belief they are food.

Now with treatment for monkey bites second-only to dog bites at New Delhi's hospitals, the government has retained 40 young people to lope langur-like amongst the macaques, thrashing their arms and making the shrill sounds of angry langurs – that are the macaque's major natural enemy – in the hope of scaring the little red-faced critters back into the jungle.

If this doesn't work, the next step could be to have park rangers fire-on the macaques with rubber bullets.

August 04, 2014

STRUTH! Annie get your gun

 IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says it's 154 years this month since Phoebe Ann Moses was born in Darke County, Ohio, going on to become one of the most popular entertainers of 19th and 20th century America.

Who, you are likely asking? Start thinking Annie Oakley, the sharp-shooter extraordinaire who could hit a playing card edge-on from 30 paces, and blast the glowing end off a cigarette held in the lips of husband and fellow American West showman Frank E Butler from the same distance. And who once also shot a cigarette out of the mouth of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II when he saw her show while visiting America – to the heart-stopping horror of all in the Kaiser's entourage.

Annie nonchalantly blasted holes through playing cards thrown over the heads of outdoor audiences across America, could shoot moving targets backwards while aiming through a mirror, and once beat marksman Frank in a highly-publicised charity shooting competition.

And when the 1.52m (5ft) Annie met famous Chief Sitting Bull in 1884 while performing in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, he was so impressed with her skills that he bestowed upon her the Native-American name "Little Sure Shot."

Annie Oakley (the Oakley came from a suburb of Cincinnati she once visited) and Frank Butler were married for over half a century. She died on November 3 1926 – and heart-broken husband Frank just 18 days later on November 21. 





[] POSTER promoting sharp-shooting 1.52m (5ft) Annie Oakley as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. (WikiMedia)


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