Something To Declare: A villa holiday; roads of France; flights in the autumn
Saturday 19 August 2006
Destination of the week: a villa holiday
Shrug off the stress and uncertainty of foreign travel - head for West Sussex to see two of the finest examples of Roman villas in Britain. Historians use the term "villa" to describe a Roman country house or substantial farm complex. By the 3rd century AD, some villas in Britain had become as grand as their counterparts in Italy, with lavishly decorated marble and mosaic floors. Their occupants, who were well-off Roman or Romano-British families, had adopted Roman standards of living, with bath houses, gardens and underfloor heating systems.
Bignor (01798 869259; www.pyrrha.demon.co.uk; open daily 10am-6pm; admission £4.35), on the northern edge of the South Downs near Petworth, is thought to have been surrounded by a 2,000-acre estate. There is a series of beautiful pavement mosaics: one, with geometric patterns, is the longest in Britain.
A half-hour drive away near Chichester is Fishbourne (01243 875859; www.sussexpast.co.uk/fishbourne; open daily 10am-6pm; £6.50). Discovered as recently as 1960, it was more a palace than a villa, with over 100 rooms, a colonnaded courtyard, formal garden and even a private harbour.
Highlights include stunning mosaics and the recreated garden (including a Roman potting shed with horticultural tools).
By Fred Mawer
Warning of the week: roads of France
Next weekend will see the autoroutes through France exceptionally busy; the usual end-of-August return of Parisians from the south to the capital will be amplified by British visitors heading for the Channel ports.
The French authorities have got prediction down to a fine art: if your command of the language is adequate, look at www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr. And even if you can't read French, seek out the "Prévisions de trafic" menu from which you can click on "Calendrier Bison Futé". This calendar uses a colour-coding system to predict traffic levels: green for "normal" to black for "exceptionally busy".
Bargain of the week: flights in the autumn
The financial traumas suffered by many British airlines over the past nine days are still reverberating. The big problem now is to encourage people to book for next month, when the school holidays are over and planes look worryingly empty.
All the low-cost operators are likely to have short-term seat sales. Expect particular bargains on shorter routes, where road or rail presents a viable alternative to flying. And watch out for a "fire-sale" by British Airways for millions of seats this winter.
As always, November will be excellent in terms of low fares and plenty of availability.
By Simon Calder
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