Destination of the week: Malta

Destination of the week: Malta

The Virgin Mary is venerated for her powers of intercession throughout the Catholic world, but few nations believe they have quite so much to thank her for as Malta. The end of the Ottoman siege of the Mediterranean island in 1565; the withdrawal of the French after a two-year occupation in 1800; the end of the Axis Powers' siege in 1943; they all took place on 8 September, the feast of the nativity of the Virgin. The celebration culminates in a feast in honour of her role in the country's survival.

The festa is held in three Maltese parishes - Senglea, Mellieha and Naxxar - and Xaghra, on the neighbouring island of Gozo. There is also a fiercely competitive annual regatta held in the Grand Harbour in the capital, Valletta.

For more information contact the Malta Tourist Office (020-8877 6990;

Sarah A Smith

Warning of the week: flying in Russia

Following the terrorist attacks on two aircraft last week, the Foreign Office took the unusual step of warning British travellers against flying on domestic airlines in Russia (below). The official advice has now softened to "Be aware that security on Russian internal flights is not as high as that for international flights." Since 1990, there have been 22 fatal crashes involving aircraft from the former USSR.

A leading tour operator, Neil McGowan of the Russia Experience, says: "None of our trips include domestic flights in Russia. Regrettably, the circumstances

under which much of Russia's domestic air travel operates leave a lot to be desired. By contrast, Russian train journeys offer excellent value, comfort and reliability. They form the backbone of the transport options featured in our trips."

Bargain of the week: post school-holiday Channel savings

Now that the holidays are over for most children, the cross-Channel companies have cut fares sharply. Norfolkline (0870 870 10 20;, a low-cost shipping company that sails from Dover to Dunkirk, has an extremely attractive offer: it is selling unrestricted crossings from for £89 return, for a car and five people. If you travel on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, the fare increases by £10. The journey takes two hours, compared with just 35 minutes through the tunnel. Eurotunnel (08705 35 35 35, has a £100 return fare covering a car plus its occupants, for travellers prepared to leave Folkestone after 5pm and travel back from Calais before 11am. Hoverspeed (08705 240 241; goes one pound better with a three-day return on its SeaCat from Newhaven to Dieppe, available at £99 return if you go in the afternoon and come back in the morning.

Fares are quoted for bookings made online; prices are higher if you buy by phone.

Simon Calder