London's new landmarks

New in London

Joining the line-up of London landmarks are the 330-metre Shard skyscraper near London Bridge and a cable car that crosses the Thames at a height of 90 metres. The Renzo Piano-designed Shard has an observation deck on the 72nd floor, which opens in February. Advance tickets cost £24.95 ($38) for an adult.

The Emirates Air Line cable car travels between Greenwich peninsula (near the O2 arena on the south side, reached via North Greenwich Tube station) to the Royal Docks (near ExCeL London). It takes five minutes each way. Each car holds a (squeezy) maximum of 10 passengers and there is surprisingly little sway as the cars pass smoothly beneath the line's massive support towers. En route, passengers see the changing face of east London. Tickets cost £4.30 for an adult if bought from the on-site ticket office. London's Oyster card can also be used (£3.20).

See theviewfromtheshard.com; emiratesairline.co.uk.

The Emirates Air Line crosses the Thames.
The Emirates Air Line crosses the Thames. 

- Tim Richards

Sleepers in Seattle

The train that takes passengers deep into Canada's wilderness, Rocky Mountaineer, will be joined by a service departing from Seattle in the US in August next year. The Coastal Passage route will connect the largest city in the US north-west to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the onward journey to the Canadian Rockies.

Many travellers combine an Alaskan cruise docking at Seattle (or Vancouver) with a rail journey. Australians book 40 per cent of the seats on Rocky Mountaineer routes and it's predicted about 37 per cent will be on board to or from Seattle. The three-night Banff-Seattle Coastal Passage journey departs August 21, 2013, and costs from $3007.

See rockymountaineer.com.

White outlook at Perisher

Lunch on the deck of Guthega Alpine Inn on a blue-sky day is the kind of reward every skier needs and this year's early snowfalls at Perisher have made those expansive views of the range as pretty as ever.

Perisher's new digital ticket system has put an end to long lift queues, and snow conditions are excellent for beginners and intermediate skiers.

Advanced skiers are hoping for another 50 centimetres of snow on Perisher Mountain and other key runs, but Happy, Pretty and Centre valleys each have excellent coverage, and Interceptor to Blue Cow, down to Pleasant Valley and to Roller Coaster is in great shape. Guthega's trails are covered in snow with lovely long runs and trails to Burning Log, while short runs such as Mother-in-Law, the Screw and Hanky Panky are in great form. See perisher.com.au.

Qatar tops airline awards

For the second year running Qatar Airways has been voted No.1 in the Skytrax World Airline Awards, with Asiana Airlines and Singapore Airlines taking second and third places respectively.

Qantas slipped from No.8 to No.15 in the world award category but took first place for premium economy. Virgin Australia ranked No.12 in the world award category but won best airline and service in the Australia-Pacific region. Jetstar won the Skytrax award for best low-cost airline in Australia-Pacific. Etihad Airways won three top prizes in first-class categories and Cathay Pacific won the world's best business-class award. Skytrax surveyed 18 million flyers for the awards.

See smh.com.au/travel; worldairlineawards.com.

Oliver checks in

England's second-largest airport, Gatwick, is the first in the world to have a Jamie Oliver restaurant, bakery and bar. At the North Terminal, the restaurant is serving pizza from a wood-fired oven, salad and brownies to take on board. Bread is baked throughout the night and served as toast with home-made jams to early-morning passengers.

See jamieoliver.com/italian/gatwick.

KL to Kathmandu

Backpackers rejoice, AirAsia X has begun twice-weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu. Tickets cost from 399 ringgit ($120) one-way (until August 31), which should leave scope in the budget for a room with private bathroom and an extra plate of dhal bhat. Flights depart on Tuesdays and Thursdays. See airasia.com.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

- with Tim Richards

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