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London is the second most booked international destination by North American travellers

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Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London
New flights routes and events such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park are attracting American tourists to visit London in 2022

London continues to be one of the top destinations for global travellers, with the UK capital reporting its strongest hotel occupancy numbers and flight bookings since the pandemic. The “it” destination celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this past spring with record crowds, top-notch entertainment and royal family sightings. Visitors from North America continue to outpace other international markets, ranking London among the top destinations on their travel bucket list.

According to the latest Traveler Insights Report from Expedia Group Media Solutions, London was the third most booked destination globally in Q2 and the second most booked international destination by North American travellers. London also ranked as the number one booked destination for travellers from the Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. Separate research from ForwardKeys reports that North American travellers are showing a strong appetite for visiting London this Autumn, with flight bookings up by 227% compared with the same time period last year.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations were a major draw for US visitors, with data from Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), the group that oversees six royal palaces across London and the UK, revealing that visitors from the US made up 45% of total ticket sales for the iconic Tower of London in June, up 27% compared to pre pandemic sales. According to STR data, London’s hotels saw their highest bookings in June 2022 since July 2019, with a reported 83.1% occupancy.

The second half of 2022 is poised to continue to see strong visitor numbers from North America with lots of exciting events, festivals, exhibitions and cultural activities for visitors to look forward to. Travellers to London will be able to enjoy cultural and sporting events such as Frieze London, NFL in London, the London Marathon, and concerts by major artists such as Drake, KISS and Swedish House Mafia. Furthermore, London is set to welcome visitors to the city during the most festive time of the year, to partake in events such as Christmas at Kew, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio, the Great Christmas Pudding Race or shop at the many holiday markets and winter pop-ups around the city.

“London has been brimming with energy and excitement and it’s fantastic to see visitors from all around the world returning to our city. So far, 2022 has been a massive year for London which saw us celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, as well as the return of major sporting events, festivals, theatre shows and our world-class museums and galleries. We’re seeing a huge pent-up demand for North American travellers to visit London this fall and winter, with lots of opportunities for visitors to enjoy some of our world leading cultural and festive activities for the rest of this year.”, says Laura Citron, CEO at London & Partners, which runs Visit London.

A number of airlines have recently launched new air routes to London, with British Airways becoming the first airline to offer a direct route to London from Portland adding a new route for visitors from the west coast. The airline company also resumed flights from Pittsburgh and San Jose to cater to increased demand. And in the first week of August JetBlue flew its inaugural flight from Boston to London. Meanwhile, United Airlines also launched a new Boston to London route in March while increasing frequency of flights to London from Newark, Denver and San Francisco after data showed that London was one of the most booked international destinations, particularly amongst business clientele. In November 2022 Virgin Atlantic will launch its new Tampa to London route just in time for the holiday season. According to latest flight data, on average there are over 100 flights a day from the US to London.

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Cannes opens with French comedy and honorary award for Meryl Streep

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Actress Juliette Binoche hands an award to Meryl Steep
Meryl Streep receives a honorary Palme D’Or from Juliette Binoche | Photo: Andrea Rentz

The 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival officially opened last night with Quentin Dupieux’s Le Deuxième Acte (The Second Act), and an honorary Palme d’Or awarded to American actress Meryl Streep.

Presented Out of Competition as a world premiere on the Croisette last night, May 14, this four-part comedy was also released in all French cinemas on the same day. The film stars Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel and Raphaël Quenard playing squabbling actors filming a movie produced and directed by artificial intelligence.

The opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes, hosted at the  Grand Théâtre Lumière, also had American actress Meryl Streep as a guest of honour.

Streep received the Festival’s Honorary Palme d’or, 35 years after winning the Best Actress award for Evil Angels, her only appearance in Cannes until last night.

“My mother, who is usually right about everything, said to me: ’Meryl, my darling, you’ll see. It all goes so fast. So fast,″ added Streep. “And it has, and it does. Except for my speech, which is too long,” said the three time Oscar award-winning actress.

Last year French Film director Justine Triet won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or for her murder mystery film “Anatomy of a Fall” becoming the third female filmmaker ever to win the prize, which was first awarded in 1955. 

The 77th Cannes Film Festival is set to run until May 25th, when the Palme d’Or winners will be revealed, 2024.

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Exhibition in Madrid reveals science and technology behind Pixar’s films

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Exhibition in Madrid reveals science and technology behind Pixar’s films
The Science Behind Pixar can be seen at CaixaForum Madrid until 8 September.

CaixaForum Madrid is currently hosting The Science Behind Pixar exhibition, created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. The exhibition is divided into eight sections, corresponding to the steps in the process Pixar uses to transform an idea into a film. With specific examples from some of their most famous films, the public will be able to experiment with the techniques behind the modelling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, animation, simulation, lighting and rendering of animated films.

This is the third collaboration between the ”la Caixa” Foundation and Pixar Studios. In 2015, Pixar: 25 Years of Animation, represented a thorough review of this pioneering company’s work in computer animation in its 25 years of history. Subsequently, Pixar, Building Characters (which has travelled to five CaixaForums since 2020) focused on the visual design of the Pixar characters to best transmit the story and fit in with the other elements of the film. Now, the eight sections of The Science Behind Pixar will give visitors an insight into every stage of the technical process used by Pixar’s artists and computer scientists

The aim of the new exhibition is to peel away, layer by layer and in a way that is attractive for all audiences, the scientific, computer and mathematical concepts that lie behind our favourite Pixar characters. To do this, the exhibition is organised into eight sections, each of which explains in depth one specific step of Pixar’s technical process: Modelling, which allows characters to be created in 3D; Rigging, in which the virtual bones, muscles and joints are developed; design of Surfaces and Sets; Animation, which brings the story to life; Simulation, which provides automated movements; Lighting, which enhances the emotional impact, and Rendering, which turns 3D scenes into 2D images.

Throughout 815 square metres in CaixaForum Madrid, visitors will learn about all these steps that Pixar pays passionate attention to in order to bring its worlds and characters to life. Dozens of interactive and audiovisual elements will reveal what is hidden behind Pixar films, from the first-ever computer-animated feature film – Toy Story – which opened over two decades ago, to the release of Turning Red.

To better understand the science and maths that go into creating the worlds and characters of Pixar’s films, visitors will see audiovisuals and hear first-hand from members of the studios’ production teams. They will also be invited to experience different roles within the production pipeline, through screen-based activities and physical interactive elements.

In the Sets & Cameras section, for example, visitors will discover how camera placement and angles created a bug’s-eye view for A Bug’s Life; in Modelling, they will try their hand at creating a digital sculpture from an artist’s sketch and in Lighting they will use lights to solve challenges similar to ones Pixar faced in creating underwater scenes with virtual light in Finding Nemo. The exhibition route also includes human-size recreations of many Pixar film characters, such as Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story), Dory (Finding Nemo), Mike and Sulley (Monsters, Inc.), Edna Mode (The Incredibles) and WALL·E (from the film of the same name).

Throughout the months that the exhibition will remain at CaixaForum Madrid, the ”la Caixa” Foundation will be offering various activities to bring the art and science of Pixar closer to all audiences. In addition, the general public can take a guided tour and families can choose between the family tour and the animated stories workshop-tour, where visitors can make a short, animated clip to understand all the phases of the creative process after visiting the exhibition.

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Switzerland wins Eurovision song contest with non-binary singer

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Non-binary singer Nemo, winner of the Eurovision 2024
Singer Nemo performed ‘The Code’ for Switzerland | Photo: Alma Bengtsson

After the very last set of scores had come in, The Code, performed by rapper Neno, was announced as the clear champion of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 with a points tally of 591 and a lead of 44 points. 

Croatia finished in second place with Rim Tim Tagi Dim by Baby Lasagna on 547 points. The other spot on the podium finish went to Ukraine, ending up in third place thanks to alyona alyona & Jerry Heil with their song Teresa & Maria, on 453 points.

Scores on the night were awarded in two stages, as is traditional at the Eurovision Song Contest. The first results to come in were from the juries, followed by the reveal of the public vote.

Once the initial points from 37 juries had come in, Switzerland already had secured the lead on the scoreboard with 365 points.

Nemo is the first nonbinary artist to win Eurovision.

“I’m mostly just really grateful for this experience and all the friends I’ve made along the way. This was one of the most queer representations we’ve seen at Eurovision which was amazing, I want to shout out all the other queer artists this year,” said the artist who was born in Biel, a small bilingual town in Switzerland.

Nemo’s triumph in Malmö is Switzerland’s third win at the Eurovision Song Contest to date, following victory by Lys Assia in 1956 and Céline Dion in 1988.

Switzerland first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, winning the very first edition of the competition, which it also hosted. 

It has been a controversial year for the song contest festival launched in 1956. For weeks, the question of whether Israel should be allowed to compete or not while engaged in a military conflict in Gaza dominated the media surrounding the event and attracted pro-Palestine activists to the Swedish city of Malmö. Eden Golan, a 20-year old singer representing Israel, was booed during a dress rehearsal; It has been reported that she was confined to her hotel room, while in Malmo to perform at Eurovision, after a series of threats against the Israeli delegation. Hours before the grand final, on May 11th, Dutch rapper Joost Klein, who represented the Netherlands, was disqualified from Eurovision 2024 over what the organisers described as an “incident” involving a female member of the production crew.

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