Our countryside was criss-crossed by the world's original and best rail network for well over a century, to the point of being largely defined by it. People who have priced everyone else out of rural areas and who now find that their houses are going to be right next to one of the busiest railways on Earth deserve nothing but laughter from the rest of us. Railways are British. They are both a product and an expression of our landscape and of our sensibility. We led the world in everything to do with them. We could, should and must do so again.
England is too small to justify having a highspeed line. The more stops you add (to "include" voters) makes it more akin to a standard service. There is not a jot of evidence that this will reduce traffic on the roads, nor a single reason why someone who does not currently use the existing trains frequently would use the new system. We could achieve the same ends with our rail services by running longer trains more frequently. Conversely, if we wish to invest in the rail network and build new lines, then let us improve connections between areas which are currently neglected. HS2 will be afflicted by the same problems as the current system – poor management and cost-cutting aimed at maximising profit while minimising service.
I spent a weekend In Venice for carnival and it was amazing. We stayed at a small hotel near the Rialto, for about the same price as the listed ones. Eating out can be cheap: there are great places to eat just off St Mark's Square, beside the Grand Canal, that are reasonably priced with great views. Try the lamb's liver Venetian-style: dripping in red wine and not at all chewy. I fell in love with Venice and will return.
We spent a week there in June 2009 but had the feeling that we hadn't seen nearly enough. Get a week's ACTV pass which lets you ride on the vaporetti (water buses). We spent a couple of nights at the tiny Al Vagon hotel near the Rialto just to get our bearings, then moved to a family pension 20 minutes' bus ride from the centre, very reasonably priced with a huge breakfast. My tip: take the vaporetto to the island of Burano.
Weathering the storm at T5
Oh Simon, you are a drama queen. We're only talking about a few days of disruption. They had severe disruption at continental airports too. Terminal 5 is known to be a wonderful facility and BA copes very well considering.
US road trips
I joined my son travelling across the US on his gap year. I met him in Chicago and for £220, rented a basic car for 16 days. We headed across to Rapid City in South Dakota, down through Denver, Colorado and looped back along Route 66. Lots of side trips, National Parks, baseball games, micro breweries and a great store of road-trip memories.
Lanzarote flight hikes
Hold your nerve. Not easy if you're trying to nail a family holiday down, but the success rate is high. Soul-destroying to see all prices escalate at once.
Darren Parkin, editor of Canarias Brillante
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