10 JULY 1964, Page 36

Consuming Interest

Travelling Hopefully

By LESLIE ADRIAN Modern travellers, often limited in the amount of luggage they may take, need to be more selec- tive. They could do worse than follow the advice of a well-travelled doctor, who takes a basic first-aid kit, an insurance policy to cover medical costs, and spends the money he saves on ex- pensive placebos by taking a nightly glass of cognac, or the local equivalent.

His ministry of the interior for grappling with gyppo gut, Mediterranean colic, Malta dog and similar sub-tropical ills is streptotriade tablets. Most GPs, he assures me, will write a prescrip- tion for these if asked nicely, and if they think that they are suitable for the individual asking.

The rest of the kit is simple and compact. None of it comes in fragile containers and all of it can be •bought freely over the chemist's counter. For aches and pains, some soluble codeine compound tablets. Bicarbonate of soda, to be used as a paste on burns or as a solution (one teaspoon to a pint of water) for rinsing eyes or mouth. An ounce of calamine mixed with another of cetromide makes a useful antiseptic cream that will soothe the irritation caused by cuts, sunburn and insect bites—though for bites an antihistamine cream is more effective. Two milk of magnesia tablets will tackle indigestion, four will relieve constipation. Add a few safety pins, a large triangular bandage, a pair of scissors, some porous dressings (Airstrip is a good one), two half-ounce packs of compressed cotton wool and an iodine pencil, and you can take care of almost anything short of a broken limb—or a hangover, and that's best dealt with the night before.

After the thrill and worry of driving around a petrol-starved country like Bulgaria, where you fill up your tank at every rare opportunity, the clamour and colour of the Western European highways with their clusters of Shell, Esso, BP, Total, Agip and half a dozen other competing outlets is like Cinerama after sitting through Battleship Potemkin.

Not surprising that every oil company is look- ing for a way to establish brand loyalty. BP, for instance (the company that everyone seems to forget is largely owned by the Government), has developed a most useful Tourist Information Service in France, staffed by intelligent and attractive young ladies capable of answering every query under the sun. They are sited in most large cities and on all the key routes into neighbouring countries—in Biarritz and Mont- pellier on the highways into Spain, for example. A list will be sent free on request to the BP Touring Service Manager at Shell-Mex and BP Ltd., Strand, London, WC2.

I only wish they had remembered to put one into my plastic tourist kit, with which they so generously presented me at the press con- ference at the Savoy Hotel. It contained a gramophone record in Spanish and French, with only seven plugs for BP out of thirty-four phrases; a vacuum flask looking remarkably like an overgrown aerosol pack; a guide book to eighteen countries; a road map of France and Italy; an invaluable ready reckoner to convert pounds into pesetas, Centigrade into Fahrenheit, gallons into litres and anything else you need from hat sizes to tyre pressures. All this and a transfer for your windscreen for only 10s.—a selection of eighteen international road signs arranged to face inwards and a large advertis- ment for BP outwards. They should pay us.

Anyone whose idea of the perfect holiday is one that is decided on the spur of the moment will have discovered that this is a very poor century for putting the principle into practice. Come high summer and it is almost impossible either to get where you want to go or to find anywhere to stay when you get there, owing to all those canny souls who made their bookings this time last year.

The travel question is one that each has to solve for himself, but an accommodation prob- lem becomes much simpler with the help of an invaluable agency, the Hotel Booking Service (5 Coventry Street, WI). The agency asks only for details of place, type and price-range of hotel wanted and then deals with all the paper work involved, for anything from bed and breakfast to full pension in a first-class hotel.

It has operated with complete efficiency on four occasions for a friend of mine; twice for overnight stays in Calais and Lyons, booked at short notice in the height of the season, once for a series of hotels in a drive down to Rome, and once for a week's stay in St. Raphael It also has the advantage that the bill is paid in advance in this country so that, in the event of being robbed or losing everything in a spin of the roulette wheel, there is no danger of having to wash hotel dishes for six months or so.

There is a small service fee which includes the bank transfer charge—for instance, 12s. 6d. on a bill of 11 6s. 3d.

With the high cost of meals on Continental trains (well worth it, but expensive none the less), it is worth noting a service offered by Italian Railways which strikes the happy mean betwee° a full meal in the restaurant car (1,810 lire, exclusive of wine) and crumpled sandwiches brought from home which have suffered the vicissitudes of a twenty-four-hour journey. This is the Vassoio-Espresso, a cold tray meat, brought round to the compartments. For 1,00' lire, which includes the tip, the tray offers 3 mixed hors d'oeuvre, cold meat or cold chicken with salad, fresh fruit, biscuits and cheese, plo a small bottle of wine, beer or acqua minerale, according to taste. The meal is well balanced and attractive to look, at, and the chicken, to judge by the taste, mos( definitely non-battery. I feel that the Compagnia carozze-Letti have a thing or two to teach BEA „about serving cold tray meals. If a train company can manage tbese things successfully, there seems no good reason why an airport kitchen can't.

Also available on Italian trains, of course, is a constant supply of cold drinks, sandwiches

and piping hot coffee brought up and down the train at half-hour intervals. French Railways are not so good at this, but every, station has its vendor of drinks served ice-cold from a refriger- ated trolley—British Railways please note: luke- warm orange squash is a poor substitute.