Tourists the world over are a constant menace to authoritarian governments. In 1972 the Soviet Union was turning its back on the more liberal climate established by Nikita Khrushchev after the death of Stalin. The expanding dissident movement there kept in touch with the outside world by using willing passengers on the new Thomson Holidays package weekends. At a time when it was possible to censor every letter and every phone call, these holidays provided a secure and fast means of getting material to exile communities and to concerned human rights groups.
The UK has one of the most expensive, time-consuming and humiliating visa processes in the world and one that is clearly not fit for purpose.
"Comfortably Numb 2"
One thing we could easily do is introduce a cheap and easy British extension to a Schengen visa for lower-risk nationals with onward tickets.
In the specific case of Russia, it's worth noting that there isn't strict visa reciprocity with Russia. Russian visas last for 30 days and need to be registered in every town. British visas last six months and require no registration after entry.
We spent a week in St Petersburg – a fabulous city worth visiting for the Hermitage alone. Wouldn't be difficult to attract tourists, mostly with plenty of money to spend. But it took us an afternoon to fill in the visa application forms.
Grand Canyon in winter
My family and I drove the same route as you did on 14 and 15 March. The weather was beautiful – temperatures in the 70s. I was amazed how fast the weather changed after we left.
Eating out in Brussels
Eat a typical Belgian sandwich at the Suisse, filled with "filet américain" (beef tartare, Belgian style).
48 hours in Dublin
Dublin is about as Irish as Brick Lane is East End. For the sights, the craic, the people who will shake your hand, go to Galway, Kerry, Donegal – even Limerick.
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