Lonely Planet authors are constantly travelling the globe, researching in order to update our guidebooks. Each month Lonely Planet Magazine asks them to report back about what’s going on where they are, keeping us all up-to-date.
Here’s what our authors are talking about this January:
Station turns supermarket in west London
The words 'supermarket' and 'attractive' aren’t often associated but that might change thanks to London’s new Union Market. In 2003, the old ticket hall at Fulham Broadway underground station closed when a more modern station opened next door. The Grade II listed building dating from 1905 became a chain restaurant. But now it has been restored and reopened as Union Market – an impressively stocked food hall with the odd reminder of a mass transit past.
'To the trains', a sign announces in the old London Underground typeface – today it points to the wine section. There’s a healthy focus on food miles and seasonality (around 80 per cent of produce is British), but this is no farmers’ market. Instead, it’s an attempt to make supermarkets enjoyable. Union Market hopes to expand, and with London rich in characterful but underused buildings, perhaps there’s hope for the supermarket yet.
- Rory Goulding is Editorial Assistant at Lonely Planet Magazine, and lives in London.
Sound of Music as Austrian house becomes a hotel
Did you know that there were ten, not seven, von Trapp children? Neither did I until I visited Villa Trapp, the former home of the family who inspired The Sound of Music, which is now a hotel.
Beyond the attraction of sleeping in the real Maria’s bedroom, this 19th-century mansion turned guesthouse is probably the only place in Salzburg to provide the truth behind the Hollywood legend.
'The children were disappointed by the way the film portrayed their father,' says hotel manager Christopher. 'He was a gentle-natured, music-loving man, who used his whistle as a bit of fun; a way of gathering the brood in a pre-mobile age.'
Maria was indeed a novice nun at the Benedictine abbey of Nonnberg and sent to the von Trapp family as a tutor, but that is where the similarity ends. 'The real Maria was kind but had quite a temper,' says Christopher. 'She taught the family to sing madrigals and saved them from financial ruin by renting out rooms during the Great Depression of the 1930s.'
In that same decade, the musical talent of the Trapp Chamber Choir led them to victory in the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival. Two years later, when the Nazis took over Austria, the von Trapps refused to fly the swastika and sing at Hitler’s birthday party. But instead of climbing every mountain to Switzerland, they left for the United States, where their concerts were a success well into the 1950s.
Such are the stories guests share over the highly polished breakfast table at Villa Trapp, for this is where The Sound of Music has its home.
- Kerry Christiani is currently writing the new Lonely Planet guide to Austria.
China breaks records with super-fast rail link
As I prepared to board China’s newest high-speed train at Shanghai’s Hongqiao station, I was engulfed in a surge of excited Chinese families. Once on board, camera-wielding passengers got trigger-happy each time the speedometer in each carriage topped 350 kilometres (217 miles) per hour.
The new train can speed across the 125 miles between Shanghai and the lakeside city of Hangzhou in barely 40 minutes. It clocked in a maximum speed of 416km (258 miles) per hour during preliminary tests – making it the fastest train operating anywhere. China’s high-speed rail network is now, at 4,600 miles, the longest on Earth. And government officials plan to have 25,000 miles by 2015, with routes linking up to Russia and, eventually, Europe. So it might soon be possible to board a train at London’s King’s Cross and alight – just two days later – in Beijing.
- Debbie Yong was an intern at Lonely Planet Magazine and lives in Shanghai