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The Independent Travel
Visit Gaud's stunning city on the cheap

I was born in Barcelona but know nothing of it as I left at a very early age. I'd like your advice on cheap places to stay, and the cost of travel from London, and within Barcelona. I would like to take a two-week break during the peak summer season; my budget is pounds 350.

Marcos M Scriven

Imperial College, London

The Travel Editor replies: The Barri Gtic, the Gothic quarter, offers some of the cheapest and most characterful places to stay. This central area is just east of La Rambla, one of Spain's most famous and lively streets, and comprises a medieval warren of narrow, winding streets, buzzing plazas and wonderful 15th-century architecture. There are a number of good hostels, so it's really a matter of wandering along the street and seeing what takes your fancy. Many of these friendly lodgings are family- run and cost around Pta3,000 a night (pounds 8). If you would like to book something in advance (not a bad idea in the peak season) it is best to contact the Spanish Tourist Office (tel: 0171-486 8077) for information. You could try Hostal Fontanella (tel: 00 34 93 317 59 43), a small, immaculate place on Via Laietana 71, with rooms from Pta2,900, or Hostal Galerias Malda (tel: 00 34 93 317 30 02) which has one of 21 of its rooms set in a turret; from Pta1,000.

The best way to get around Barcelona is by metro. The five lines will cover most of the places you're likely to visit and a single ride costs Pta130. The tourist offices give out maps with the metro and bus routes on them.

EasyJet (tel: 0870 60 0000) flies from Liverpool and London Luton, from pounds 49 each way. This fare is subject to availability, so it is best to book as much in advance as possible. Debonair (tel: 0541 500300) currently has returns from pounds 170, and British Airways (tel: 0345 222111) from pounds 190.

Swollen feet are blown up out of all proportion

Is there any method for preventing the swelling of feet and ankles during flights? I suffer from such severe swelling, particularly on long-hauls, that I find it very painful to walk for several hours after landing.

Gladys Croaster


Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Swollen legs after a long-haul flight are quite a common experience, though rarely as severe as you describe. The reason for the problem is a result of the prolonged hours of immobility, and could equally occur during a long coach journey. It is actually movement of the legs that is largely responsible for returning blood to the heart, so it is not surprising that people develop swollen legs and ankles if they sit still for long enough. Elderly people may be particularly prone to problems of circulation in these circumstances.

One problem that has come to light is that this poor blood circulation may contribute to the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the legs in some susceptible people. There is the potential for such clots to break away and move to the lungs, which could prove fatal.

The standard advice is to try and take frequent, short walks around the plane - not that easy to arrange in a crowded economy-class area. Also you could try frequent leg exercises which help to keep the blood circulating. If these methods fail to work then see your GP for special stockings, which need to be fitted correctly for your leg size.

Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 60p a minute).

No need to be Amazonian to see the jungle

I read somewhere that there is a cruise ship which goes to the mouth of the Amazon where one can see the confluence of two rivers. It's supposed to be a tremendous sight. And as the Amazon is not too far (is it?) from the former French prison, Devils Island, is there any way of combining the cruise with a visit to Devil's Island? What time of the year is it best to go?

Peter Tallentire

By e-mail

The Travel Editor replies: Avoid taking your holiday during the rainy season, between January and June. The classic Amazon boat journey taking in the "meeting of the waters" (the confluence of the yellow Rio Solimoes and the black Rio Negro) is a five- or six-day journey from Belem on the coast to Manaus in the heart of the jungle. If you want to make this journey independently there are tour operators running these trips from both towns.

Journey Latin America (tel: 0181-747 8315) has a four-day cruise which takes in "the meeting of waters". The price is pounds 1,171 per person and includes full-board cruise-boat accommodation, all transport and tours.

Devil's Island off the coast of French Guyana is 600 miles away from the mouth of the Amazon - and travel from Brazil is tricky. If you have time to spare this would be possible as an independent traveller. Trips Worldwide (tel: 0117-987 2626) can organise a holiday combining the Amazon and French Guyana. You can't get on to Devil's Island as the currents are too dangerous, but you can stay on the island where the prison HQ once was. Five nights at the Hotel Amazon in Cayenne, with a day trip to Isle Royale, costs pounds 420 per person. For more information, contact the Caribbean Tourist Organisation (tel: 0171-222 4335).