THE COLUMN THAT GIVES THE GLOBAL PICTURE
Bargain of the week

First Western National

bus X10

"We have just had a wonderful day out on the under-used and under-publicised X10 bus service from Exeter to Boscastle," write Jane and Colin Waugh, from Teignmouth in Devon.

"For less than pounds 6, it provides a day return on a comfortable coach that carries you high above the hedgerows, threading its way through small towns and villages across the moors to the dramatic, rocky north coast. For two hours each way the views are wonderful and the drivers notable for their courtesy and skill, the final hairpin bend into Boscastle being especially demanding. You can have a lovely day trip with three hours in Boscastle for splendid walking and eating, and even for shopping.

"We wouldn't recommend a grey, wet or foggy day, but sunshine and showers can produce some marvellous skies and views."

For a schedule, call First Western National on 01752 222666. Or you can refer to the new edition of the Great Britain Bus Timetable (Southern Vectis, pounds 12) (01983 522456, or www.southern vectis.com).

Recommendations from readers are welcome. Write to: Something to Declare, Travel Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; e-mail: travel@ independent.co.uk; or fax: 0171-293 2182.

Business-class bargain of the week

More signs of resolve weakening among airlines hoping to cash in on millennium flights to Australia. Lauda Air has a deal from Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester to Sydney or Melbourne for pounds 1,953 - only marginally more than the economy- class fares being charged by British Airways and Qantas. It is available from discount agents such as Quest Worldwide (0181-547 3322).

Warning of the week Mountains in Italy

The Foreign Office has issued the following warning to visitors to Italy:

"Travellers to eastern Sicily are warned that there continues to be considerable seismic activity in the vicinity of Mt Etna. It is prohibited for anyone to climb to the summit of Mt Etna unless accompanied by an accredited guide. Guides can be hired from dawn to dusk at Etna Sud and Etna Nord ski stations on the mountain itself. Guides are not authorised to take people beyond the 3,000m level. Following a serious accident earlier this year, the Mont Blanc Tunnel will be closed to all traffic for the foreseeable future.

Currency of the week: Portuguese escudo

Sterling has not enjoyed a happy couple of decades, but in the past 20 years the value of Portugal's currency has fallen by three-quarters, to stand at just over 300 to the pound. But if you happen to have a stash of the cash, at least you will have enjoyed the beauty of notes as they depreciate.

The 2,000- and 1,000-escudo notes tell the story of two mariners. The former is Bartolomeu Dias, who in 1488 became the first European to reach the Cape of Good Hope, and established a route around Africa. Former Portuguese colonies such as Angola and Guinea-Bissau owe their "allegiance" to Lisbon to his exploits.

The character on the 1,000-escudo note, Pedro Alvares Cabral, was not such an accomplished navigator - but he turned out to be a lot more fortunate. He set sail with 13 ships in AD1500, one of them commanded by Dias, to seek a route to the East Indies. The course he set was way too westward, and he accidentally landed in Brazil, which he promptly claimed for Portugal. The convoy then sailed the South Atlantic and rounded the coast of Africa, where seven of the vessels were lost; Dias was one of those to drown. Cabral, meanwhile, returned to Portugal, where he lived in some comfort for another 26 years.

Enjoy the notes while they last; in just over two years they will begin to be superseded by the euro.

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