Something To Declare: New Zealand; driving through France; Latin America via German; Fraser Islandá
Saturday 10 July 2010
Destination of the week: New Zealand
Forget Boris Johnson: Kiwi cyclists have an even better champion of the bicycle. This month, New Zealand's prime minister, John Key, launched the first sections of the New Zealand national cycleway – set to become a 3,000-kilometre (1,875-mile) collection of bike trails stretching the length of the country.
The first two stages are on the stretch between the North Island towns of Ruapehu and Whanganui. The easier option is the 11km Old Coach Road day ride; the other is the more challenging 40km Mangapurua Track within Whanganui National Park.
Warning of the week: Driving through France
Today is the first official "black" day of the summer on the motorways of France, according to the government agency that predicts traffic levels on key French arterial roads. France attracts more foreign tourists than any other country, and in addition six out of 10 French people spend their main summer holiday in France. Based on previous driver behaviour, the agency, known as the Bison Futé ("clever buffalo"; bisonfute.equipement.gouv.fr/en ) forecasts congestion levels graded "orange", "red" and "black" (the worst) on more dates this summer.
The most difficult days are likely to be three and four weeks from today: the two worst days of the year in terms of traffic are predicted to be Saturdays 31 July and 7 August – when many British motorists are likely to be on the roads. Particular trouble spots are the A86 around Paris, and several motorways heading south and west from the capital: the A6 to Lyon, the A10 to Bordeaux and the A13 to Caen.
Switching to trains may not be feasible: long-distance, high-speed trains to the west and south coasts of France from Montparnasse and Lyon stations in Paris are heavily booked.
Bargain of the week: Latin America, via Germany
Lufthansa is seeking to boost Latin American bookings for the first half of next year with a short-term seat sale to four great cities, if you are prepared to change planes in Frankfurt.
The very best deals through lufthansa.com/en are from Birmingham or Manchester to Bogotá (£355 return), Mexico City (£388) and Sao Paulo (£449, a fare also available from Edinburgh).
Fares from Heathrow are slightly higher than these, but London passengers also have the option of flights to Caracas at £327 return.
These prices apply to departures from 14 February to 10 April 2011. You must book by midnight on Tuesday, 13 July, but it is likely that many of the seats will sell very quickly.
Tip of the week: Driving on Fraser Island
A main attraction of the world's largest sand island, off the east coast of Australia, is riding in a 4x4 along the beach. But serious crashes happen around once every two months.
After recent accidents that claimed three lives, the Queensland government has imposed new rules: vehicles must carry no more that eight occupants (including the driver) and a 80km/h speed limit is enforced.
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