something to declare

ROCK HOLIDAYS
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The Independent Travel
A likely story

"It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw."

Paul Simon gets around. A traveller who can find inspiration to write "Homeward Bound" while waiting at Widnes railway station deserves congratulation.

His subsequent song "America" is full of geographic references such as "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike". Its theme is a bus journey shared with Cathy, the lover in "Homeward Bound". They appear to be travelling from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New York; these days the nine-hour journey costs pounds 45. But the line "Michigan seems like a dream to me now/It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw" is mystifying.

What on earth was Simon doing in the middle of the Michigan rust belt? Saginaw is a sad little ex-auto city, 100 miles north of Detroit. If you do have good reason to find yourself there, Pittsburgh is only 250 miles away. Even allowing for the sluggishness of hitching in the US, where hitchers are widely assumed to be lunatics, a rate of fewer than 100 miles a day is frankly pathetic.

Perhaps that explains Simon's most mournful song, "For Emily, wherever I may find her". At that rate, he never will.

A last-minute holiday is bound to be a disaster

True, at least as far as travel arrangements go. We want a cheap week in the sun in August and choose the Greek island of Skiathos. Convenience is the first casualty of a limited budget: we catch the 11pm flight to Athens. No non-smoking seats, no sign of the vegetarian meal I ordered. A smiling rep meets us promising a coach to the port "very soon". An hour later it arrives. At the hydrofoil marina, more smiles, more waiting. Two hours' fitful sleep across the sea. After more hours of waiting, a scowling woman informs us "mistake". We are taken to a new, improved apartment with added balcony and view ... and, thank God, a bed, and only 13 hours from Gatwick.

The intervening days are blissful: sleep, sun, sea, sand and salad, in a basic but clean room. Then the journey home. Because of hydrofoil times and the budget 5.30am flight, we have six hours in Athens. To Gatwick takes 15 hours. My tan is fading ... I need a holiday.

Charlotte Smith

Bargain of the week

Many long-haul bargains are restricted to London departures. But the pounds 373 fare on SAS to Delhi (through Trailfinders, 0171-938 3366) is also available from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. You change planes at Copenhagen to join the flight to India. The fare is available for departures from 5 September to 31 December.

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