Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Will our trips to Zaragoza ever get any easier?
Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 23 November 2012
Q Our daughter, her Spanish husband and two grandchildren live in Zaragoza - Spain's fifth-largest city and yet it's virtually inaccessible for direct travel from the UK. The fact that we are based in Northern Ireland only makes it worse. Ryanair has a service out of Stansted, but our options seem to be Belfast to either Barcelona or Madrid and complete the journey by either train or bus. Neither of these is convenient, quick or cheap. It seems to be a seriously under-serviced route for such a prominent destination. Are you aware if any of the carriers plan to address this problem?
Aidan McGale, County Tyrone.
A You will know what a beautiful and cultured city Zaragoza is - with fascinating Roman origins, a breathtaking cathedral and superb Renaissance architecture, plus the usual Spanish certainties of great food and drink. (For anyone unconvinced, see our most recent 48 Hours in Zaragoza, at bit.ly/Zara48). And since British travellers can fly non-stop to a couple of dozen Spanish airports, I agree it's strange that Zaragoza is so hard to reach. But the experience of Ryanair - which has had a four-times-a-week link for years - suggests that is all the market can sustain. It looks most unlikely, given the present weakness of the Spanish economy, that any more flights will be laid on.
I disagree, though, about the convenience of the Barcelona/Madrid connections. The high-speed train from Barcelona (through renfe.es) is fast and fabulous, while there is a direct bus link from Madrid airport (through alsa.es) in under four hours, for a fare of €18 or so. Both cities are also great destinations in their own right, worth building into a trip. And thanks to Zaragoza's position as the hub of north-central Spain, you could alternatively construct an itinerary via Bilbao or Valencia - though either of these would require a London connection.
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