Pisa peeve

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The Independent Travel
Griselda Barton of Tonbridge, Kent, writes with a Dead Albatross nomination for Pisa as the World's Worst Airport. 'Last Monday evening we arrived early enough to have something to eat before the flight. In the restaurant we were told that we couldn't use credit cards so I went to change some sterling.'

Unfortunately, the automatic currency-changing machine was out of order and the currency desks had been abandoned, says Mrs Barton.

'Back in the restaurant, the girl on the desk agreed to accept sterling - as a favour] We then tried to order, only to be told by the enormous, hirsute chef - who had been standing by, grinning all this time - that 'everything was finished' (at 8.30pm]).

'We finally persuaded him to let us have some cheese, stale rolls (but no butter), some hard green pears and a bottle of wine. However, just as we were sitting down he announced that he was going home to his wife and turned off all the lights. We marched out with our trays and had a picnic in the departure lounge.'

Barry Jones of Liverpool disputes my Dead Albatross nomination for Corfu as worst airport. 'Rhodes has to be the worst for arrivals into a baggage 'hall' with one and a half carousels, low ceiling and no ventilation. Kos is no better and the carousel is often stuck due to power cuts. When this happens, a disembodied arm passes bags through from the apron one at a time]'

Mr Jones's recipe for a painless journey through the Greek island airports is to travel in the early morning or afternoon. 'The extra cost is worth it since there are fewer flights from other north European countries and less congestion at the carousel. For example, we flew to and from Liverpool to Corfu on a Sunday afternoon with no hassle.'

For real hassle-free travel Mr Jones suggests flying with hand luggage only. 'One does not need a vast wardrobe in a consistently hot climate.'

Mr Jones provides a detailed list of contents for the best carry- on travelling. For example: 'Wear your best trousers/dress and jumper on the outbound journey (it keeps you warm in the UK too]). Take only three pairs of shoes including flip flops and trainers and wear the heaviest shoes on the outbound flight.)' Buy sun-tan lotion and toiletries locally and 'don't buy duty-free outbound, especially on the aircraft.'

To pack all your things in, Mr Jones advises the purchase of a decent 'hand-baggage-sized bag': 'Learn to pack it efficiently, ie roll (don't fold) clothes; put socks and breakables inside shoes.'

Ignore the disapproval of check-in clerks at the airport, who would prefer you to check your luggage into the hold. 'Point to the previous couple who checked in four suitcases and retired to the departure lounge with more hand baggage than your total luggage.'

PASSING OF AN ERA

BAD NEWS for Heathrow plane-spotters. I recently described (Independent Traveller, 22 May) the curious area on top of the Queens Building - in between Terminals One and Two - which is colonised by the anoraks and sundry aviation enthusiasts. The delightfully ramshackle nature of the roof- top caff and the neighbouring shop offer a refreshing contrast to the relentless commercialism of the terminal shops.

Not for much longer, I fear. Word reaches me that the Heathrow airport powers-that-be have targeted the roof-top zone as a place of 'enormous potential' and are keen to restore its 'smart and alluring' appeal. Worse is the news that the British Airports Authority is seeking proposals from a number of companies to 'theme' the area 'for the benefit of visitors'.

Is there a Fifties equivalent of the Victorian Society that can fight to preserve this grotty, unthemed slice of airport history before it is turned into some-thing perfectly dreadful called the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk Cafe?

CHEAP TRIP

THE 'my trip was cheaper than your trip' one-upmanship contest continues. Alan Mackinnon of Edinburgh chuckles at timid readers who need the help of Intourist to discover the public transport bargains of St Petersburg.

'Away from the 'helping hand' of Intourist the bargain hunter can find sweet reward. In January, I and a group of fellow students travelled 2,800 miles from Moscow to Krosnoyorsk, half- way to Vladivostok on the Trans- Siberian railway, for 800 roubles each (at that time, approximately pounds 1 - about 4p for every 100 miles.).

'I ought to point out that the queuing involved can often take as long as the journey itself. The air fare had earlier been around pounds 4, until Aeroflot clamped down on foreigners travelling on the cheap - this conveniently coincided with the growing fuel shortage.'

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