Here we are again: British motorists complaining that they received a fine from Italy and suggesting that this is a scam aimed at tourists. Steve Humphrey received a fine [for a motoring offence in Alghero, Sardinia] because, with all probability, he went through an area a traffico limitato (restricted traffic zone).
Italian towns are very often mazes and, in a bid to control traffic flow and pollution, many central areas are closed to non-residents' traffic. There are always signs to indicate the restricted areas and the times the restrictions apply. I can understand it is not easy for a foreigner driving on the wrong side of the road to keep track of road signs in a unfamiliar language, but ignorantia legis non excusat. The Independent Traveller would do better to advise readers to inform themselves about driving in foreign countries, rather than pander to the misconception that law enforcement is a conspiracy against law-abiding Brits.
I also transgressed in Alghero, and received a letter demanding a substantial fine over a year later. I wrote explaining that I'd made a mistake entering the prohibited zone and would they waive the fine? That was eight months ago; I have not heard anything more. So if this is a tourist sting operation it seems remarkably inefficient.
Beware rip-off Florence!
In the centre of Florence I changed $300 [worth about £200] of traveller's cheques at a bureau called "Best and Fast Change". I received only €174 [worth about £160]. It turns out that, besides €4.90 commission, the company has a "service charge x 0.199", which might sound innocuous but in fact means a fee of 19.9 per cent. At this point I had already signed the traveller's cheques and they had stamped them. Too late – I know I should have checked the charges first. In more than 30 years of using traveller's cheques, mainly in US dollars, throughout the world, I have never encountered such a high charge. An American tourist I met in a restaurant said he too had been ripped off with a charge of 17 per cent.
Ten-point plan to end the BA cabin-crew dispute
Simon Calder's solutions are deeply flawed and reflect badly on his appreciation of the dispute. An intransigent, lamentably ill-informed minority of cabin crew have failed to realise the ultimate conclusion of their selfish actions.
If BA has enough money to buy other airlines and new routes, if it has enough to pay its shareholders a fortune and its executives a massive pay packet for so many years, then it surely has enough to dip a little deeper for its staff.
I fly for BA. So far, this dispute has cost me money, friendships and my girlfriend (she had principles, I seemingly don't). This is the first article I have read that cuts right to the heart of the matter. It's like a husband and wife going through a divorce, shouting and screaming at each other, going through with a toothcomb who gets what. I hope common sense prevails.
The militant union headbangers need to understand that the management runs the company. Handing back travel perks would undermine their authority, and is certainly not "the lesser of two evils".
Please keep to the travel writing and leave the propaganda to Willie Walsh.
Traveller's Guide to the Dordogne and the Lot
I live in the north of the Lot. You should avoid the first two weeks of August as nearly all the tourist places are very, very busy. I would concentrate on the Lot where it is not as commercial as the Dordogne.
Walking and cycling routes include the St James Way that leads to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, passing through Rocamadour and Montcuq (famous for meaning "my bum", and being voted on to the French edition of the Monopoly board game).
My life in travel
This weekly feature does sometimes contain useful travel tips and insights. But after repeated reference to the US, bits of Europe (primarily France and Italy), Australia and New Zealand, the rest of the world seldom gets a decent look-in.
Take Asia, for example: what about the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan and the Karakoram, the "Stans" of Central Asia, the Russian Far East, India and Indonesia? There must be people in the public eye who've ventured to these parts.