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Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 29 May 2002
This summer, you will have the choice of rolling down the Rhine quickly or slowly. The stretch of railway that parallels the left bank of the river between Cologne and Mainz in western Germany provides one of the most beautiful train journeys on the Continent. It is also the trickiest bottleneck on the German inter-city network, with trains taking three hours from Cologne to Frankfurt. But a parallel high-speed route is shortly to open. It will cut the journey time by two-thirds – and free up the line for people who appreciate the scenery.
"With more capacity on the line, we are hoping tourist trains will stop at the Lorelei [Rock], and passengers will be able to get off and take photographs," says Rudolf Richter, director of Deutche Bahn UK. "It's our objective to use special scenic trains."
You can travel from London Waterloo to Brussels on Eurostar, and change there for Cologne. The total journey time is around seven hours, and the price is only £85 return through German Rail (0870 243 5363).
For the pretty part of the journey, take advantage of the various unlimited travel deals available locally. The best is the Schönes-Wochende-Ticket: five people can travel together, anywhere in Germany, for a flat fare of €28 (£17.50) on either Saturday or Sunday.
The new line between Cologne and Frankfurt will open in August with a shuttle service taking 58 minutes between the two cities, and will be integrated into the European high-speed timetable from 15 December.
Some trains may run from Frankfurt to Brussels, providing connections with Eurostar to London – and a much faster terrestrial link between Europe's leading financial centres.
British holidaymakers who were hoping for a brand-new ship on their trips to Normandy this summer will be disappointed. The new vessel Mont St Michel will not now enter service between Portsmouth and Caen until September, after the end of the school summer holidays.
Brittany Ferries had previously hoped she would be sailing in time for the summer rush. Instead, the ageing Quiberon is being moved from the Plymouth-Roscoff route to shuttle between Portsmouth and Caen. A faster way to reach Normandy is aboard Brittany Ferries' new Vitesse fast craft, which entered service last week between Poole and Cherbourg. The trip takes two hours and 15 minutes.
Parma, Giuseppe Verdi's home town is getting a connection with Luton from 1 July. A new Italian airline called Ciao Fly (0800 169 1687, www.ciaofly.com) is flying twice daily on weekdays and once a day at weekends between Luton and Parma. Fares start at €71 (£44) return; a test booking made for a weekend in July resulted in a fare of €151 (£94). The airport is described as Parma-Milano, though Italy's financial capital is 70 miles away. This beats even Orio al Serio airport (30 miles from Milan), served from Stansted by Ryanair (08701 569 569, www.ryanair.com), close to Bergamo and well placed for access to Locarno in Switzerland.
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