Something to declare: Chicago; Nantes; Bangkok; Scandinavia's capitals
Saturday 10 April 2010
Destination of the week: Chicago
The greatest American city? From an architectural perspective, the answer is certainly Chicago. And visitors this summer have the opportunity to get an expert insight into one of the city's icons: the elevated railway, or "L".
The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers more than 80 tours. These range from a river cruise (with "date night" trips on Thursday and Friday evenings) via Victorian Chicago to Lincoln Park Zoo. But the highlight for 2010 is "Elevated Architecture: Chicago's Loop by 'L'". This new train tour explores downtown Chicago from the perspective of its elevated trains, which runs 20 feet above street level.
Dates and prices for the "L" tour have not yet been finalised, but should be available soon at architecture.org or by calling 001 312 922 3432.
To reach Chicago in May, Trailfinders (0845 050 5871; trailfinders.com) is offering four nights at the W Chicago Lakeshore plus non-stop British Airways flights from Heathrow for £589, based on two sharing. This is £110 cheaper than buying the flight and hotel separately. And as the deal is classed as a package holiday, you qualify for protection or rebooking in the event of disruption, such as any future British Airways strike.
The fare from O'Hare airport into the city on the "L" is $2.25 (£1.50).
Tip of the week: Nantes back on the route map from Gatwick
Flybe has stepped up its summer invasion of France. Flights from Gatwick to the western city of Nantes, the gateway to southern Brittany, start on 15 July. GB Airways formerly flew the route. A test booking made for the first departure, returning a week later, gave a fare of £80 return.
Warning of the week: Emergency in Bangkok
"Tense and uncertain" – that is how the Foreign Office describes the political situation in Thailand. In response to anti-government protests in the capital, the newly issued travel advice says "the Thai government has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and some of its surrounding provinces. This will prohibit gatherings of five or more people in some areas and may restrict travel."
Many protesters are based at one of the main road junctions in the tourist hub of Sukhumvit. "Many shops and businesses in the area are closed and there is severe traffic disruption at the rally site and surrounding area."
The Foreign Office also warns of recent grenade and bomb attacks targeting government and military buildings: "In view of the possibility of further attacks of this sort, British citizens are advised to exercise extra caution when travelling in Bangkok."
Bargain of the week: Scandinavia's capitals
Book a return flight between now and the end of April between Heathrow and Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm, and you are entitled to a 24-hour City Card for Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm. This will entitle you to free entry to many museums and attractions, plus free public transport.
You must pick up the pass on arrival at the airport (for Copenhagen or Stockholm) or city centre (for Oslo), on production of a printed copy of your e-ticket itinerary.
The value of the City Card is around £30 – but the crucial question is, how much are the air fares? The Independent Traveller looked at SAS departures online at flysas.com from Heathrow on Friday morning 23 April, returning the following Monday afternoon. To Copenhagen the lowest fare was £128 return; to Oslo, £171; and to Stockholm, £150.
The corresponding lowest fares at ba.com on British Airways' flights from Heathrow, were £132, £206 and £191 respectively .
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