Arrivals/Departures: You like canned music? Meet the Spamettes

Spam; female pilots; Poetry in promotion; visiting Spain; ties; passports
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The Independent Travel

What's hot

Fans of canned luncheon meat will soon be making pilgrimages to the new Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, which opens on 15 September. The 16,500sq ft museum is close to the Rochester headquarters of Hormel, the company that introduced Spam to the world 64 years ago.

And what delights await the visitor paying homage to the processed meat? Visitors enter the museum lobby beneath a wall of Spam (3,390 cans of it) and exit the museum beneath a 5ft replica of a Spamburger. Inside they can join a simulated Spam production line (hard hats, rubber gloves, hairnets and earplugs supplied). The Spam kitchen will be hosting renditions of the Monty Python Spam sketch ad infinitum, or catch Spam: A Love Story in the theatre. Those who have revised their Spam trivia can take part in a quiz – disturbingly enough Hormel will produce the six billionth can of Spam next year. Festivities start on 14 September with the Spamburger Tailgate Party. The doors open the next day to the sounds of the Spamettes, employees singing Spam's praises.

Things are not going quite so smoothly for the Skyscraper Museum in New York City, the world's "foremost vertical metropolis". Dedicated, as you would expect, to high-rise buildings, the museum was due to close on 20 September and relocate to a permanent home in the new 35-storey Ritz-Carlton hotel this autumn. However, delays have forced the museum to postpone its re-opening until early 2002.

What's not

Only 2.5 per cent of commercial pilots are female, a statistic which makes the House of Commons – where 17.9 per cent of the MPs are women – look positively well balanced in gender terms. Harriet Quimby, the first woman to earn a pilot's licence, took off 90 years ago but since then there seems to have been very slow progress, although the picture is marginally brighter in the US where almost 6 per cent of commercial pilots are female.

Why should this be so? First, becoming a commercial airline pilot demands considerable financial commitment. Full training, from finding out what an altimeter is to your commercial pilot's licence, costs about £50,000. Second, there is the justifiable perception that it is an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry.

Some airlines are doing more than others. According to Claire Walker of the British Women Pilots' Association, while Malaysia Airlines refuses to employ female pilots, British Airways, despite last week's news of job cuts, is keen to encourage more applications from women. About 120, or 4.8 per cent, of British Airways' 2,500 pilots are female.

Poetry in promotion

During the past year British tourism organisations have become accustomed to moving quickly. The most recent example of this new-found dynamism has just been published by tourism units in south-west England. It's a pre-emptive guide to the rural locations featured in the film Pandaemonium, directed by Julian Temple, which goes on general release this Friday. The film chronicles the relationship between the poets Coleridge (Linus Roache) and Wordsworth (John Hannah); and Somerset is the backdrop to much of it. "The English landscape that inspired Coleridge and Wordsworth will play a central role" says Temple. "Not only the Lakes but also the lesser-known, secretive beauty of the Quantocks, the Somerset levels, the Mendip caves and the foreshores of the Bristol Channel". Music to the ears of Somerset councils. The splendid Hestercombe Gardens and the Quantocks village Nether Stowey, where Coleridge lived in a cottage, now owned by the National Trust, also make appearances.

Warning of the week

In the wake of recent car bombs at Madrid airport and Salou, the Foreign Office has warned visitors to Spain to be aware of increased terrorist activity directed against the tourist industry. Since 24 July, five car bombs have exploded in or near resorts, airports, railways and hotels. The attacks have caused widespread disruption and already one travel agent, Bridge Travel, is reporting that its short-break bookings to Madrid have fallen by 50 per cent compared with this time last year.

Ties go back in the closet

Men's ties, as symbols of Western decadence, have been under-the-counter merchandise in Iran since the 1979 revolution. There has been a gradual relaxation of restrictions in recent years, but in a return to more hardline attitudes, restaurants in Tehran have been ordered to refuse to serve diners sporting ties. Women wearing make-up can also expect a frosty reception.

Passports and patronyms

As British passport holders become accustomed to strolling through EU immigration controls with a flourish of their passport, spare a thought for the Icelanders.

Passport laws state that children should have their own passport and not be added to their parents'. The problem is that the Icelandic surname system, in which children are known as the son or daughter of their father (for example Björk Gudmundsdöttir, daughter of Mr Gudmund) means that no members of a family have the same surname. Iceland's parents have been advised to carry their children's birth certificates when travelling abroad.

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