The best of times or the worst of times to travel?
Simon Calder used to talk sense, but now he's just a mouthpiece for the travel industry. There has never been a worse time to spend money on a holiday abroad. The pound has tanked and you may not have a job when you come back.
French gîtes are a real bargain right now. Many are owned by expat Brits who quote rents in pounds. Few are yet in a position to increase their prices to take account of the weak pound so owners are presently subsidising their clients' holidays by around 30 per cent. Air fares remain cheap, prices of basic holiday purchases (food, wine, restaurants, petrol and so on) are now comparable with UK prices, so a good sunny holiday in France remains excellent value for British holidaymakers.
How I heartily agree with your comments on the unequal nature of the contract between an airline and its passengers. We recently booked return flights to Mallorca from Manchester airport, with Bmibaby – we can reach that airport easily by train from where we live, in York. Some time later we received an email saying our return flight was now four days later than planned. Needless to say, we cancelled that leg of the journey and had to rebook with easyJet, coming back to Gatwick airport with a considerably more difficult journey home to York. It seems that if we, as passengers make any changes to the booking we are punished financially, but if the airline does it: tough.
I was interested to read that another major British company, supplying travel insurance, no longer covers Cuba: Boots. I have held annual multi-trip insurance with Direct Travel for five years and have found them to be very satisfactory and good value. Then I had some information from them regarding the takeover by the American Insurance Group and explaining that Cuba (below, left) was no longer covered. I will be due to renew my travel insurance in October 2009. Although I think Direct Travel is excellent, and I don't plan to travel to Cuba, I will find a different company: I won't be dictated to by US foreign policy.
In "48 Hours in Cape Town", you have left out Camps Bay, with the best beach in the country – that is where visitors and locals flock to on hot summer days. It is a 15-minute drive from the city, and has about 30 top restaurants overlooking the beach. The Grand Cafe is my favourite. And a correction: our waterfront is named after Victoria and Alfred, not Albert, but all locals refer to it as the "V&A", or as "The Waterfront".
Chris von Ulmenstein
Outside Cape Town, Chapman's Peak Drive is still closed for repairs after heavy rains in winter. You can get fantastic views over the city and surrounds from scenic drives such as Constantia Nek, Boyes Drive and Ou Kaapse Weg. The Victoria Road from Caps Bay to Hout Bay is also simply stunning on a calm summer's evening.
Big chill at Heathrow
You were saying that Terminal 5, after all the problems at the opening, was now a rather wonderful place from which to take a flight. This may apply to the interior of the building, although I must say, that when I passed through the terminal in August it appeared no different from a boringly normal UK airport. The one thing that I couldn't believe was that the departures drop-off zone was in the open air. It beggars belief. How BAA could have designed and built a multi-million-pound terminal, and provide no proper protection against the elements for passengers being dropped-off by shuttle-bus or car? At all the major airports in the US the drop-off zone is always properly undercover.
Michael F Harris
Buenos Aires bandits
Be careful with your belongings in Buenos Aires: don't flash cash or fancy gadgets about. But apart from that it's a great city. If you are staying for longer take a day trip to Colonia in Uruguay as well, a lovely little town across the River Plate.