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Open Jaw: 'Colchester has huge charm'

Where readers write back

Firstsite museum in Colchester

Colchester can boast one of Britain's best parks, its earliest and most complete Roman city walls, the largest surviving Roman gate and our only Roman Circus. Pevsner described Colchester as the most impressive town in England for the continuity of its architectural interest. Firstsite continues that tradition.

Simon Taylor

I agree that the town planners did us no favours with the ring road, but if you are prepared to walk and look, there is huge charm in the town centre with 2,000 years of history, and a fascinating collection stretching back to the Romans in the castle. As well as Constable country, out of town we have the stunning Beth Chatto Gardens and Colchester zoo. Worth a weekend of anyone's time.

Melissa Shales

Swap BA frequent flyer points for a survival course

I will never forget watching a Horizon programme that featured an interview with a woman who survived the Manchester runway fire in 1985. She described people waiting patiently in their seats as the plane filled with smoke and flames, while others were getting bags out of overhead lockers.

Another accident covered in the programme was the Estonia ferry disaster in 1994. One of the few survivors described how people sat at their tables in the bar, steadying drinks as the ship healed to 45 degrees in a few seconds. The survivor sprang for the exit and escaped as the ship capsized.

People don't die through panic: they die through inertia and by queuing while others are doing stupid things like collecting bags. I won't be hanging about if things go wrong.

"Arbuthnot Worsthorn"

What surprises me is that airlines get customers for this. I get the idea of fear-of- flying courses that are run for anxious passengers, but to pay more than £100 to have the safety briefing explained to you seems a triumph of marketing over common sense.

A safety manager for a leading European airline

The safest seat is one that faces backwards, with its back against a bulkhead, which is at the back of the aircraft and next to a proper door. Why? In a rearward-facing seat against a bulkhead, your head and back will be supported. During a crash the plane's tail end also often breaks, getting left behind the main wreckage. This makes it easier to scramble clear. But remember: modern airliners are very, very safe, and their turbofan engines are incredibly reliable.

Mark Swanepoel

Tenerife: rugged good looks

I've lived in Tenerife for many years, and people still don't believe it until they see it, so seared on the British public's mind is the ugly image of mass tourism. In fact, you only skimmed the surface with Nicholas Roe's article. As I am sure you know, Tenerife has mystical laurel forests, rich regional wines and traditional village fiestas where all are welcomed. Happily, the companies you mention are doing a lot to change opinions.


easyJet 'free' flights

If time of arrival is based on seatbelt-off times, I can see pilots killing the seatbelt lights as they whizz into an airport with seconds to spare. Also, the target audience is very restricted (only business travellers), as is the duration and timing of the offer. Traditionally, this period is a low season – so it just seems to be a sales ploy to fill otherwise empty seats.


Dagenham to Havana

In Simon Calder's look at Cuba's changing automotive landscape, the line-up of cars photographed in 1958 in front of President Batista's palace are not all from Detroit. Amazingly, among the Yankee behemoths is a diminutive Ford Prefect, a British export built in Dagenham. If it's still running today, that would really be a story.

Alan Bunting

Seduced by the island of Samos

My friends and I were seduced by an article in your travel section about the Aegean island of Samos a few years ago: how it was unspoilt, like the Greece of old and not tainted by mass tourism. We have just returned and can confirm that it's a really pretty island with a life of its own.

The people were delightful, the food magnificent and to cap it all off, we stayed at the Armonia Bay Hotel, which is in a magnificent position with views of the bay below and Turkey in the distance. It's great when something turns out as you hope. We want to go back to Samos next year and are keeping our fingers crossed that Ryanair and easyJet don't announce direct flights in the meantime.

Eddie Gosney