Something to declare: Belgium; the Med for less; Algeria
Saturday 06 October 2007
Destination of the week: Belgium
When High Speed 1 opens from London St Pancras on 14 November, the appeal of short breaks to Brussels is likely to rise sharply – partly because the Belgian capital will be less than two hours away on Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com), and partly because access for travellers from locations north of London will improve. Yet a Eurostar ticket to Brussels offers far more than just the capital: it is valid to any station in Belgium at no extra cost.
Antwerp, fashion and diamond hub for north-west Europe, is about 40 minutes from Brussels, while Liège, the gastronomic and retail centre, is about an hour. (The offer doesn't cover high-speed Thalys links from Brussels.) Other tempting locations include Namur and Arlon in the Ardennes.
The deal is simple: you just show your Eurostar ticket to the inspector on the Belgian train. It is valid outbound on the day of travel or the following day, and inbound on the day of travel or the preceding day. So you can build in a stopover in Brussels at the start and/or end of your trip. And you needn't wait for 14 November: the offer applies already from London Waterloo.
Bargain of the week: the Med for less
November looks bleak, at least from the point of view of our leading low-cost airlines. In the 11th month of the year (and first week or two of December) airlines always struggle to entice people on board, but this year looks worse than usual. One reason is that fares have been inflated by the doubling of Air Passenger Duty; another is public unhappiness about the airport experience.
As a result, fares to popular destinations are extremely low. Monarch (08700 40 50 40; www.flymonarch.com) will take you from Gatwick to Faro on a wide range of dates for £52 return; Liverpool to Barcelona on easyJet (0871 244 2366; www.easyjet.com) is available for £41 return. Thomsonfly (0870 1900 737; www.thomsonfly.com) looks positively expensive at £69 return from Gatwick to Palma.
Warning of the week: Algeria
British Airways has revealed that it is moving its Gatwick-Algiers services to Heathrow (while at the same time relegating its flights to Warsaw to Gatwick). But Africa's second-largest nation, Algeria, is not yet prime territory for tourists. The Foreign Office warns of a "continuing threat from terrorism", demonstrated by a series of bomb attacks in different areas of the country.
I am a frequent visitor to Algeria due to family connections. It is evident that the fear of terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists is increasing, especially in Algiers. This threat continues towards the rural regions of the Sahara in the south, where unaccompanied foreign tourists were abducted in 2003.
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