Trouble spots

This week's advice from our man in the Foreign Office

Egypt: "Since 1992 attacks on tourist targets have caused the death of two Britons and several foreigners and injured some 50 others... Visitors should be vigilant, especially in upper Egypt, and are reminded to behave and dress discreetly."

Congo: "British nationals should consider whether their journey is essential before travelling to Congo... violence and banditry is on the increase particularly in Pointe Noire port and in Brazzaville.

Mauritius: "Multi-party elections will take place on 20 December. Be vigilant and avoid political gatherings or demonstrations."

India: "An increasing number of foreigners are being arrested for drug offences. Visitors should be aware that there are severe penalties for possession of narcotic substances."

Foreign Office travel advice is available on 0171-270 4129, on BBC-2 Ceefax page 564 onwards, and on the Internet at

Visitors' book

Costa Sur hotel, Ancon beach, Cuba

Great people in Cuba, but sack her in the shop - R Hamson, England

Excellent hotel, lovely people - Simon Cason, England

Please inform tender people about mosquitoes and sandflies. God bless all Cuba - John Gimmelly

I am very glad the air conditioning has always worked - Janet, Hailsham

Andres is a wonderful barman, the food is excellent, the shop is crap - Donna, England

Bargain of the week

These days there seems to be one new airline starting flying within the British Isles every month. This week the newcomer is AB Shannon (0345 464748), whose route between Gatwick and Shannon begins on Thursday. An escape to the west of Ireland costs pounds 80 return (incl. tax).

True or False?

Your average Parisian cafe is run by your average Parisian

False. The next time you step off the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord, thread your way past the station and head for a cafe au lait somewhere on the Boulevard de Magenta. The chances are that the patron hails not from Paris, but from the departements of Aveyron or Cantal - the region known as the Auvergne.

When putting together Those Cafe Days, a five-part radio series for Radio 4 (starting Friday 15 December at 8.50pm), I became intrigued by a sort of cafe mafiosa. Out of the rustic Auvergne grew a tightly-knit group of merchants who traded in wine, coal and coffee. They became known as Les Bougnats - literally, coal merchants. They still are. In their premises it was possible to drink something as well as buying fuel.

For any promising young lad from the Auvergne, a quick chat to an older cousin in Paris would mean a reasonable loan on some premises, some cheap coal, equally cheap wine and Bob's your oncle: a sort of Mafia with froth on top. Les Bougnats, even today, have their own bank as well as newspaper, l'Avergnat de Paris, where the only situations vacant are for - you guessed it - waiters.

Simon Parkes