Something To Declare: Royal Benelux/Cape Town/Algeria
Where to go, how to save, what to avoid
Saturday 29 March 2008
DESTINATION OF THE WEEK: ROYAL BENELUX
Spring sees some important events for the monarchs of Belgium and Holland. From 19 April to 12 May, the Royal Greenhouses at Laken in Flanders are opened to the gaze of the public. Admission is €2.50 (£2); see www.monarchie.be for more information.
From 16 May to 21 September, some of the finest Flemish paintings in Queen Elizabeth II's collection will be temporarily returned to home turf, in Brussels. See www.fine-arts-museum.be for details.
Queen's Day is the biggest event in Amsterdam's calendar, But the present Queen, Beatrix, was born in January. Because that is often a bitingly cold month, she decided that her mother's birthday, 30 April, should be deployed as the national day off.
Transport and accommodation are limited, and should be booked. For details: 00 31 20 201 8800; www.visitamsterdam.nl.
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK: CAPE TOWN
The South African city that frequently tops the global popularity polls is getting a new one-stop connection from the UK. Tomorrow, Emirates launches services from Dubai to Cape Town, with links from Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. Return fares under £750 are widely available – about £60 less than typical prices on British Airways' non-stop flights. These are by no means the cheapest on the market – Air France and its subsidiary, KLM, tend to offer the lowest fares, via hubs in Paris and Amsterdam – but these new flights do have the option of a free stop-over in Dubai.
WARNING OF THE WEEK: ALGERIA
British Airways has just been promoting its Algiers services to the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. But Africa's second-largest nation, Algeria, is not yet prime territory for tourists. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against "all but essential travel to Algiers" because of a "continuing threat from terrorism".
I am a frequent visitor, because of family connections. It is evident that the fear of terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists is increasing, especially in the capital, Algiers. This threat continues towards the rural regions of the Sahara Desert in the south (pictured), where unaccompanied foreign tourists were abducted in 2003. The FCO warns: "Sustained small-scale attacks, including bombings, illegal roadblocks, kidnapping and murder, occur in many rural parts of the country."
Undeterred, a Wales-based tour operator, Fulani Travel (01341 421 969; www.fulanitravel.co.uk), offers trips to Algeria – specialising in the "classic Sahara landscape" of the south.
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