Something to declare: Seattle; dangers in Mauritius; awards of the week


Destination of the week: Seattle

Nirvana: the name of the Nineties grunge band also describes the appeal of the north-western corner of the US where Kurt Cobain and his fellow musicians came to pop prominence. Seattle is one of America's most agreeable cities.

Besides a superb harbourside location, Seattle is home to the outstanding Experience Music Project (part-cultural centre, part-shrine to local hero Jimi Hendrix). The city is also a springboard to a string of beautiful islands and the dramatic Olympic Peninsula. And, from June, Seattle becomes easier to reach thanks to a new link from Heathrow on Northwest Airlines (08705 074 074; www.nwa.com).

The Minneapolis-based airline is the latest US carrier to take advantage of the "open skies" agreement, which comes into force next summer. The treaty allows unlimited access between Europe and America as long as the airline can get slots at its chosen airport.

Northwest is leasing slots at Heathrow from the Air France/KLM group, one of its partners in the SkyTeam alliance. From the end of March it is shifting its existing daily Gatwick-Minneapolis flight to Heathrow Terminal 4, together with one of its two Gatwick-Detroit departures. The Seattle service begins in June, and will duplicate the current British Airways link.

At present BA has good availability in June on its twice-daily flights from Heathrow to Seattle at a fare of 558, with connecting flights on airlines such as Delta and United at around 500. Average fares are likely to fall when Northwest starts competing "wing-to-wing" with BA. Fares to Vancouver may also be affected, since the main city in western Canada is only three hours by road or rail from Seattle.

It was thought Northwest might open up an entirely new route, to Memphis a major hub for the airline. At present, the airline does not think that a link to the final resting place of Elvis Presley would be profitable, but Nat Pieper of Northwest told The Independent, "in coming seasons we might connect Memphis and London".



Warning of the week: Mauritius

Even a tranquil Indian Ocean island such as Mauritius has its "Dangers and Annoyances", according to the new Lonely Planet guide (14.99): "Favourite haunts for thieves are the beaches. Ile auz Cerfs is a particular hot spot." Taxi drivers may tell you that your chosen shop or restaurant is closed, because they "can earn up to 30 per cent commission" from rival enterprises. Some officious resort security guards may tell you that stretches of sand are private, but in fact "all beaches below the high-tide line are public property".



Awards of the week: 'The Independent Traveller'

Christmas has come early for the travel desk of The Independent, which this week won several prestigious awards. Our "48 Hours in Lisbon" was selected as best Newspaper Travel Article by the Association of Travel Organisers to Portugal, and Simon Calder was judged Travel Writer of the Year at the ceremony at the Portuguese Ambassador's residence.

The Italian State Tourist Office awarded the National Newspaper of the Year title to The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, for the "number and quality of travel articles on Italy". Frank Partridge was also honoured in the national newspaper category for his "Complete Guide to Sardinia", which appeared in The Independent Traveller in April.

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