Something to declare: Maine; East Africa; Dover-Calais
Saturday 29 September 2007
Destination of the week: Maine
Beautiful fishing villages, dramatic mountain scenery and the greatest outdoors in the eastern US: those are some of the attractions of Maine. But at present the north-easternmost state in the US is accessible direct from Britain in only three unhelpful ways.
First, aboard a flight that is obliged to refuel at Bangor airport in Maine before continuing its westbound journey; passengers are not allowed to disembark. Second, on a flight that is diverted because of an air-rage incident or a medical emergency. Third, when the Department of Homeland Security orders a transatlantic aircraft to land because of suspicions about a passenger. As the peace campaigner, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), discovered when he was taken off a flight from Heathrow to Washington, the US authorities do not allow suspects to wander off and explore this remote state.
Maine is unlikely to find itself as a fully fledged international destination from the UK any time soon – but starting next summer it gets the next best thing. In May, Canadian Affair (020-7616 9184; www.canadianaffair.com) launches flights from Gatwick to Fredericton, the provincial capital of New Brunswick – and close to the border with Maine and the rest of the US. Fredericton, itself an attractive city, is an excellent location to begin a circuit around Maine; most Canadian car-rental agreements will allow you to take a car across the US border.
The new link also provides an alternative to Halifax as gateway to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and is the best option for British travellers to Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.
Warning of the week: East Africa
"A number of al-Qa'ida operatives and other extremists are believed to be operating in and around East Africa," says the US government. " Increased security at official US facilities has led terrorists to seek softer targets such as hotels, beach resorts, prominent public places and landmarks."
In particular, says the State Department, terrorists may target civil aviation. Following an unsuccessful rocket attack on an Israeli aircraft departing from the Kenyan city of Mombasa five years ago, UK airlines have stepped up their security procedures at both Mombasa and Nairobi, the capital.
Bargain of the week: Dover-Calais
The shortest route between England and France used to be the most expensive sea crossing in the world. Thanks to the increased competition from the Channel Tunnel and "no-frills" operators such as Norfolkline, it is now one of the cheapest – especially off season.
The two main operators, P&O Ferries (08706 009 009; www.poferries.com) and SeaFrance (08705 711 711; www.seafrance.com) are both offering promotional fares of £30 each way for a standard car plus its occupants, regardless of the length of stay. To help you plan, P&O has introduced a special short-break website, www.POgetaway.com, describing the leading attractions in northern France and western Belgium and a calendar of events. SeaFrance has set a deadline on its deal of next Thursday, 4 October, and points out that the lowest fare is "available on very restricted dates and times".
Tip of the week: passport charges
Check when your passport expires: if it is any time within the next nine months, then you should renew it by Wednesday. You will be credited for the remaining time and you will avoid the sharp rise in passport fees that takes place on 4 October. Identity & Passport Service: 0800 056 6654; www.ips.gov.uk
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