Smart Traveller: Richard Branson's London guide for free

London guide by Branson

Richard Branson has revealed some of his favourite things about London in a free app released by Virgin Atlantic that provides a guide to the city. Branson says he loves Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove for their "life and vitality" and he names Assaggi and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen as favourite restaurants. He rates the new St Pancras Hotel as one of the city's top drinking establishments and the London Eye as his favourite landmark.

"It has to be the London Eye, because it reminds me of the time we played a brilliant joke on its sponsor BA [British Airways]. They were having trouble erecting it, so we flew an airship over the Eye bearing the slogan 'BA Can't Get It Up'."

The Virgin Atlantic London City Guide is available for free from the iTunes App Store. See

Pilot recalls flight nightmare

Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny's new book QF32 sold out at some book shops within three days of release and the publisher, Pan Macmillan, says a reprint is likely.

De Crespigny has written an edge-of-the-seat account of the harrowing Qantas flight he captained on November 4, 2010. Shortly after takeoff from Singapore bound for Sydney, an engine exploded and shrapnel ripped through a wing and the fuselage, destroying vital flight systems.

He has told the story of how he and the crew nursed the crippled Airbus A380 back to the ground with 469 people on board. De Crespigny says there were two big bangs before things went crazy in the cockpit with alarms sounding and red lights flashing.

"The first sound was like a backfiring car, and could easily have been a noise resulting from an engine surge. But the second boom was like nothing I had experienced before. There was no time to think," he writes.

De Crespigny told Smart Traveller last week the damage from the explosion was worse than something that could be inflicted by a hand-held ground-to-air missile. Despite the incident, he says he has faith in Qantas, Airbus and Rolls-Royce (the manufacturer of the engines).

"The fact that we came home is a compliment to Airbus for absorbing the damage and remaining in the air, to the Rolls-Royce engines that kept going and to Qantas for its procedures. It's a happy ending for everyone."

De Crespigny is still flying A380s and believes the combination of Qantas, Airbus and Rolls-Royce is one of the safest ways to travel. A badly fitted oil pipe has been blamed for the incident, although the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is due to release its report into the investigation of the flight next month.

QF32, by Richard de Crespigny (Pan Macmillan, $34.99).

Great Keppel's next look

A new $600 million Great Keppel Island eco-resort has been welcomed by Tourism Queensland's chief executive, Anthony Hayes.

"If it goes through, the new Great Keppel Island resort will bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars into the region and will be a huge show of confidence in the future of Queensland's tourism industry," he says. The proposal by Tower Holdings comes almost seven years after the group bought the island. Previous plans had been rejected as being too grandiose. The latest plan includes a 250-suite hotel, Greg Norman-designed golf course, 250-berth marina, 750 villas and a private airstrip.

Return of royalty

Cunard has announced its flagship liner, Queen Mary 2, will circumnavigate Australia again in 2014. It will call at eight ports, including Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle and Brisbane, which will each be visited twice. Pre-registration for the 2014 circumnavigation has opened and sales start on August 20. Among the package options, a 23-day circumnavigation from Sydney or Melbourne costs from $6799 a person, twin share. The ship sailed around Australia for the first time earlier this year.


Expect the unexpected

A bag-snatching monkey in Bali, a cobra bite in South Africa and a New York subway robbery by someone dressed as Mickey Mouse are among the more unusual scenarios that have resulted in travel insurance claims in the past year, in a list compiled by Compare Travel Insurance.

Outback Olympics

Running in thongs, camel dressage, waterhole swimming and a soccer tournament on a Darwin Harbour sandbar will be some of the events of the NT Outback Games on September 1. Games ambassador and comedian Mick Molloy says the event is set to be the biggest sporting contest of the year, but he may have forgotten about the London Olympics. Organisers are seeking entrants; those selected from throughout Australia will be flown to Darwin to compete. See;

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