Destination of the week: West Africa opens up this winter

Two new West African cities join the British Airways network from Heathrow when the winter schedules take effect at the end of October: Freetown in Sierra Leone gains a link, while a new flight to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, will make access to Africa's westernmost city much easier than the current routes via Paris or Banjul in Gambia.

The flights will be operated by British Mediterranean on behalf of BA (0870 850 9 850; BMed currently flies to a wide range of Middle Eastern, Asian and African destinations. "It's a break into West Africa that's very important to us, and we hope to expand further into the region," said Jonathan Grisdale, the airline's commercial director. The airline has had to revise its schedules due to its flights to Beirut being cancelled in the present conflict.

Across at Gatwick, Astraeus (01293 568666; is expanding its West African network with new flights from Gatwick and Manchester to Sal, in the Cape Verde Islands. The timing coincides with the start of the dry season in this former Portuguese colony off the coast of West Africa. Flights to the islands are expected to take around six hours - although coming home the Manchester service will have to stop to refuel at Banjul in the Gambia.

By Simon Calder

Warning of the week: British bathing habits

May I offer the final word on French swimming pools, where baggy trunks are interdit and only Speedo-style briefs are allowed?

As a French pool attendant explained to me, the baggy type of trunks are likely to have been worn all day, sometimes for several days, before hitting the pool. In contrast, the briefs will be put on specifically for a swim and taken off afterwards; thereby, yes, greatly reducing the amount (and provenance) of germs.

For the same reason, you cannot reach a French swimming pool from the changing rooms without crossing a disinfecting pédiluve, or footbath, and you may notice that the attendants wear minimum footwear reserved for use around the pool.

Even after close to 30 years in Britain, I still cringe seeing local bathers able to walk straight back from the toilet into the pool, supervised by attendants in socks and outdoor trainers.

By Yves Salat