Wonderful, wonderful Belfast. This city is so vibrant, the people so friendly. I live on the Isle of Man and the buzz here about the Titanic Belfast exhibition is truly amazing.
A lot of potential visitors will latch on to Titanic, visit and spend money. The return on expenditure could be quite impressive. The visual demise of the shipyard meant that Queen's Island and around became a mournful and blighted wasteland, so I think the regeneration is a good thing.
It amuses me how Belfast's tourism is centred on a poorly built ship that sank and caused one of the biggest maritime disasters in history. Millions are being spent regenerating the area where Titanic was built while other areas of the city are crying out for such attention.
Car rental "rip-offs"
I too fell victim to the airport upgrade, in which the tired traveller is persuaded to pay a fortune for a slightly better vehicle. I went to Florida with my son, having booked a fly-drive holiday with Virgin over here. When we arrived to pick up the car, I was informed that I should upgrade to a larger model as the one I had booked would be too small. "Mister Naive" here agreed and received a hefty bill for doing so. I later protested, but in vain.
So far, I have been lucky and not been caught out by these contracts. But you should add a cautionary note to the call for reading the small print. To read all of it one needs to be very self-confident and have good knowledge of legal gobbledygook, plus a good number of friends armed to the teeth to ward off fellow travellers in the queue behind, who are equally eager to get their car and start on their way, too.
Stansted or Southend?
Stansted provides more choice to Europe than any other airport in the world, flying to around 150 destinations this summer. It has been named the most punctual European airport for departing flights. With the newest trains serving any UK airport from the rail station directly below the terminal building, we can get you to Europe on-time with the minimum of fuss.
Mark Davison, head of media relations, Stansted airport
The California feature reminded me of a trip I made in 1999, taking in the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas – all by rental car. I flew from Manchester via Amsterdam. My suitcase reached San Francisco 24 hours after I did. KLM paid for a shirt and trousers, and delivered my case by taxi to a hotel in Fresno.
Thanks for mentioning the flights on US Airways from Manchester via Philadelphia – lots of good connections for us folk "up north".
David L Burnley
Nice to see Salton Sea talked about, as it's been long neglected. In one of its previous incarnations, known as Lake Cahuilla to the Native American tribes of the area, it was much bigger and deeper.
As you approach, you start to see "bathtub rings" on the hills. By the time you're at the Salton Sea, those bathtub rings are high up on the cliffs on the surrounding hills. It's a rather uneasy feeling, but really quite cool to see.
Head east along Box Canyon Road towards Interstate 10 and the eastern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, and it's full of amazing sandstone canyons carved from the wind and rain. West to Anza Borrego and the mountain communities of eastern San Diego county.
Much as I love Wales, there are indeed some smashing locales in the California desert.