Category Archives: Lifestyle

EU welcomes American tourists

Brussels 20.06.2021 Americans are admitted to visit the European Union again, vaccinated or not. The European Council has updated its list of countries whose citizens and residents should be allowed to travel freely to the bloc’s of 27 states, and the United States is finally on it.

But before you purchase ticket, be aware there may be catches. In fact, there could be 27 different combinations of them. While the updated list published Friday is a recommendation on who may be granted entry based on their home country’s health situation, each EU government makes its own border decisions.

This includes what nationalities to admit, whether to require PCR test or rapid antigen coronavirus test upon arrival, and whether quarantine is mandatory. And while the European Commission, the EU executive branch, emphatically urges countries to coordinate such rules with their neighbours to ensure mobility, that plea has often fallen on deaf administrative ears.

The European Council has officially recommended European Union member states to lift restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.S. That’s welcome news for the many Americans that have been holding out hope of taking a post-pandemic European vacation this summer.

Several others were also added today to the E.U.’s so-called “white list” of nations, territories and special administrative regions from which leisure travel is allowed: Albania, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan.

This latest move by the EU institutions have a long way toward restoring Transatlantic travel in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, something which airlines have been pressing U.S. and E.U. officials to actively support as vaccination rates improve on both sides of the Atlantic.

Still, it’s important to note that the Council’s recommendations aren’t legally binding and that each member state is responsible for implementing these guidelines.

Bloc members can also choose to impose added regulations as they see appropriate, including quarantine, testing or vaccination requirements.

Spain welcomes vaccinated tourists

Brussels 07.06.2021 The Spanish government has published the new requisites for travellers arriving in the country from outside the European Union and countries associated with the Schengen free-travel area. (Image: Valencia, Spain).

As was expected, the text released in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Saturday states that from today, passengers from risk zones will be permitted to enter Spain if they have been administered the full doses of a Covid-19 vaccine approved by either the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), more than 14 days prior to arrival.

No proof of vaccination, recovery or diagnostic test will be required from tourists from low-risk zones, said the government in a release, although everyone will still have to fill out the travel form available on Spain Travel Health (SpTH).

Once the European Union’s Digital Covid-19 pass goes into effect on July 1, this will also enable travellers to prove their immunity to the coronavirus if they are required to.

“At ports and airports there will be two control points. Whoever comes from countries or zones not included on the list of risk zones will have access to a quick control with the QR code obtained from SpTH. And once the EU Digital Covid-19 certificate goes into effect, whoever has this document will also have access to this quick control,” says the government statement.

Portugal: tourists leave for UK

Many upset British travellers were heading home on Sunday, June 6, from a shorter-than-expected holiday in the Algarve, Portugal, before a 10-day quarantine comes into force early next week due to rising coronavirus infections.

Britain said last week it was removing Portugal from its “green list” of countries that do not require quarantine on return because of rising COVID-19 case numbers and the risk posed by coronavirus variants detected in Portugal.

Portugal had been placed on the green list just weeks earlier, but from 0400 GMT on Tuesday 8 Juin it will shift to the “amber list”, meaning returning Britons will need to quarantine for 10 days and take two COVID-19 tests.

In the Algarve, the favourite Portuguese destination of British holidaymakers, Faro airport had long queues on Sunday afternoon as more travellers decided to shorten their holiday to avoid quarantine.

Faro airport had 55 flights scheduled to the UK on Sunday, with a capacity to transport more than 10,000 people, compared to fewer than 20 flights from Lisbon airport, according to information on the website of Portugal’s airports operator ANA.

The president of Portugal’s hotel association AHP, Rui Martins, said the UK’s decision “will seriously compromise the entire summer”.

“Hotels, particularly in the Algarve and Madeira Island, have started to see massive cancellations,” he said.

Ruinart Champagne and Cécile Gray design

Brussels 02.06.2021 “The gesture and the patience are common points between the one who works the vine and the craftsman who works the material” – French designer Cécile Gray said.

This month, Ruinart Studio invites Cécile Gray to imagine a beautiful, yet useful creation reusing Ruinart’s materials. The former architect chose to focus on the cork wire and poetically demonstrates the value of each element that contributes to savouring champagne.

At the intersection of different disciplines – basketry, jewelry making, weaving and embroidery – and with an heightened sense of detail, Cécile Gray delicately assembled the muselets that hold the champagne cork in place, forming a picnic basket.

EU river cruises restart

Brussels 28.05.2021 Five more river cruise lines have announced summer 2021 restart dates, as the European Union moves toward approving international travel for vaccinated passengers.

Scenic and Emerald Cruises, river lines owned by Australia’s Scenic Group, will restart their Europe season with sailings on Portugal’s Douro River beginning in late July. Uniworld will be restarting in Italy and France. And AmaWaterways will restart in Portugal on July 3, with more sailings throughout Europe later in the month.

Meanwhile CroisiEurope announced restart dates for river and canal cruises on a number of European rivers, starting with Portugal’s Douro River on June 7, and followed by the Gironde and the Seine on June 30, in France.

Scenic and Emerald Cruises, river lines owned by Australia’s Scenic Group, will restart their Europe season with sailings on Portugal’s Douro River beginning in late July. Uniworld will be restarting in Italy and France. And AmaWaterways will restart in Portugal on July 3, with more sailings throughout Europe later in the month.

Meanwhile CroisiEurope announced restart dates for river and canal cruises on a number of European rivers, starting with Portugal’s Douro River on June 7, and followed by the Gironde and the Seine on June 30, in France.

On Scenic and Emerald, all guests must be fully vaccinated and the cruises are open only to U.S .and UK residents, the company said. The lines are popular with residents of Australia and Canada as well, but currently those countries are restricting international travel.

Scenic Azure will begin operating 11-day sailings on the Douro on July 30. Emerald Radiance will restart its eight-day itineraries on the river on July 31. Both ships will sail from Porto, Portugal, through November.

Scenic Group said its ship would operate under protocols established by a dedicated Health & Safety Steering Committee, and that the company had also been working with the Cruise Lines International Association and Portuguese authorities on health guidelines.

Christie’s: $25-35M Sakura diamond

Brussels 22.05.2021 The Sakura diamond a massive 15.81 carat purple-pink internally flawless gemstone is expected to gain between $25-35 million when it goes on sale at Christie’s in Hong Kong on Sunday, May 23.

The rare stone is set on a simple platinum ring and has been classified as internally flawless, meaning that any blemishes are only visible under close magnification. It has also been classed as being “fancy vivid,” a measure of intense colour achieved by only 4% of pink diamonds, according to a press release from Christie’s, the auction house organising the sale.

Chairman of Christie’s jewelry department, Vickie Sek, said in a phone interview with CNN that the stone is “exactly” the shade of a sakura flower. She added that it is “very rare” for pink diamonds to be classified as internally flawless, as they usually contain “a lot of graining.”

The Sakura -named after the Japanese word for cherry blossom, due to its vibrant hue -is the largest purple-pink “flawless” diamond ever to appear at auction.

Italy: Draghi reopens tourism

Brussels 14.05.2021 “Our goal is to reopen Italy for tourism, domestic and international,” Italy Prime Minister Mario Draghi said as he answered questions from Parliament on Wednesday, May 12.

“The pandemic has had vast economic effects on the tourism industry and we’re working to get it going again as soon as possible and in maximum safety.”

While the first step is to vaccinate as many residents of Italy as possible before the summer, Draghi underlined, he also indicated that Italy would revise its strict rules on entering from overseas.

Italy could be ready to welcome back Americans with limited restrictions this summer.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio recently announced that the country’s quarantine requirement could be lifted for eligible travellers arriving from the United States as early as June.

The mandatory five-day quarantine when entering Italy doesn’t seem to bother some of the enthusiastic tourists, who said all you need is a negative PCR test and respect of the restrictions.

The significant influx of visitors was noticed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Tuscany. Out of the 21,000 visitors last week, only 10% were foreigners and the rest Italians travelling from other parts of the country, the Gallery’s director Eike Schmidt said.

Foreigners living in Italy are taking advantage of having the country to themselves to travel around at lower prices, with shorter queues at museums and less problems over booking of fancy restaurants.

EU railroad travellers rights

Brussels 03.05.2021 Under the new rules adopted by MEPs on Thursday, train passengers will be better protected when there are delays and cancellations or when they face discrimination. EU railroad travellers rights

“We have very good news for those travelling by train, as we managed to secure the same minimum passenger rights all over the EU when it comes to re-routing, spaces for bikes, through-tickets and the rights of passengers with reduced mobility. These are important advances in making rail travel more convenient and passenger-friendly”, said EP rapporteur Bogusław Liberadzki.

On Thursday, April 29, Parliament approved the agreement with member states on the revised rules on rail passengers’ rights. The rules will guarantee that passengers can be re-routed and receive help when there are delays and cancellations. Access and assistance will improve for people with reduced mobility, and there will be more dedicated spaces for bicycles.

Helping stranded travellers
If there is a delay of over 60 minutes, passengers can choose either to be fully reimbursed for the cost of the ticket, continue on their journey or be re-routed under comparable conditions, but without facing additional costs. They must be able to travel in the same class as their original ticket. Train travellers will be able to organise travel on a different route themselves and get reimbursement for a new ticket if the rail operator does not communicate re-routing options within 100 minutes from scheduled departure.
The re-routing obligations will apply even in the event of force majeure and if necessary, meals and refreshments will need to be provided, and accommodation costs will be reimbursed. [
The new rules will also give more clarity on what can be considered a force majeure, which would exempt rail companies from paying compensation for delays or cancellations. In addition to extreme weather conditions and major natural disasters, the new rules now include major public health crises or terrorist attacks. Rail staff strikes will not be covered by this exemption.

Assisting people with reduced mobility
Travellers with reduced mobility will have more flexibility when making travel arrangements, as they will be obliged to notify the operator of their travel plans only 24 hours in advance (under current rules, they have to notify the operator 48 hours in advance). Where an accompanying person is required, they shall travel free of charge. Travellers with reduced mobility using an assistance dog shall be given a guarantee that the animal can travel with them.

Refurbishing trains for more bicycles
In an effort to provide more sustainable mobility and comfortable alternatives, all trains must be equipped with dedicated spaces and racks for bicycles, with at least four bicycle spaces on each train.

COVID19: EU travel Certificate

Brussels 29.04.2021 Today, the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position on the proposal for a certificate to reaffirm the right to free movement in Europe during the pandemic. The MEPs agreed that the new “EU COVID-19 certificate” – instead of Digital Green Certificate, as proposed by the Commission – should be in place for 12 months and not longer.

The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or, alternatively, that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection. However, EU COVID-19 certificates will neither serve as travel document nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement, MEPs have underlined.

The legislative proposal covering EU nationals was approved with 540 votes to 119 and 31 abstentions, while the one on third-country nationals passed with 540 votes to 80 and 70 abstentions.

The vote took place on Wednesday, April 28, with results announced on Thursday morning. Both Parliament and Council are now ready to begin negotiations. The aim is to reach an agreement ahead of the summer tourist season.

Following the vote in plenary, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur, said: “We need to put in place the EU COVID-19 Certificate to re-establish people’s confidence in Schengen while we continue to fight against the pandemic. Member states must coordinate their response in a safe manner and ensure the free movement of citizens within the EU. Vaccines and tests must be accessible and free for all citizens. Member states should not introduce further restrictions once the certificate is in force.”

No additional travel restrictions and free COVID-19 tests
Holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to additional travel restrictions, such as quarantine, self-isolation or testing, according to the Parliament. MEPs also stress that, in order to avoid discrimination against those not vaccinated and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free of charge testing”.

Parliament intends to ensure that the EU certificate works alongside any initiative set up by the member states, which should also respect the same common legal framework.

Member states must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for persons inoculated with a vaccine authorised for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) (currently Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen), MEPs say. It will be up to the member states to decide whether they also accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use.

Data protection safeguards
The certificates will be verified to prevent fraud and forgery, as will the authenticity of the electronic seals included in the document. Personal data obtained from the certificates cannot be stored in destination member states and there will be no central database established at EU level. The list of entities that will process and receive data will be public so that citizens can exercise their data protection rights under the General Data Protection Regulation.

Affordable vaccines allocated globally
Finally, MEPs underline that COVID-19 vaccines need to be produced at scale, priced affordably and allocated globally (AM 21). They also voice concern about the serious problems caused by companies not complying with production and delivery schedules. (AM 22)

COVID19: dogs attention-seekers

Brussels 25.04.2021 Changes in people’s lifestyle habits during the coronavirus pandemic have been reflected in their pets, a Japanese survey has shown, with many participants saying their dogs seek extra attention with more people regularly at home.

A recent study by dog information website “Inunavi” found that a total of 56 percent of owners say their pets’ behavior has changed from before the pandemic.

The online survey conducted in March by the website garnered responses from 694 people who own dogs ranging in age from puppies to 18 years old.

“Changes in owners’ lifestyle habits such as working from home are proving somewhat stressful (to their dogs),” a representative from Inunavi said, urging owners to better look after their pets’ emotional and physical well-being.

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