Where are you going to?
By HAROLD CHAMPION
WITH dark warnings of economic depression well in mind one may well ask whether a holiday abroad can really be afforded this time. It's the same old question we discussed last year and the year before when more people than ever —since 1939—decided to chance it (and blow the expense!). But this year? Leading travel agents tell me they see nothing to disappoint them so far. Maybe we've all decided to have a last fling.
In fact, there seems to be little change in prices so far. Switzerland and Italy will be some 2 to 3 per cent. more expensive than last year. Austria is still cheap—one of the cheapest of all con- tinental countries. Yugoslavia is certainly cheaper than in 1956, when prices went up too much and the exchange rate was rearranged too late. But with the dinar at 1,150 to the £1, as it now is, hotels range from 10s. to £2 per day.
A 5 pec.cent. rise in hotel rates makes France just that little bit more doubtful than last year (but for goodness sake don't take Paris as the norm!). Spanish fares have been changed in minor ways, but there is no appreciable increase in general price levels for tourists compared with the last year or two. (Only visitors who dis- covered the Costa Brava seven or eight years ago will raise their eyebrows at current costs and deterioration in service.) Travel agents offer the most economical tour- ing by virtue of special trains and aircraft chartered to carry their clients in groups. That does not necessarily mean that your holiday must be spent in a sort of rambling club. When you get to your chosen spot you can ignore your fellow-travellers all the time if you want to, though it must be said that it will be difficult to get away from the English language and the con- tinental interpretation of British taste in food and drink if you stay at travel agents' appointed hotels. All the same, if it's blue skies and warm seas you're after with a minimum of expense . . .
So I observe that one reliable firm offers holi- days in parts of Switzerland, France and Italy, including air travel, at 10 per cent. less than these same holidays cost in 1956. And by means of chartered aircraft the over-all cost of trips to Barcelona, San Sebastian and Palma is somewhat similarly reduced. Germany? Prices little changed.
The dark cloud which descended upon British motorists soon after the Suez crisis depressc-' also the spirits of executives of airlines specialising in ferrying cars to the Continent. Today they are more cheerful. Having reduced rates by some 10 per cent., Silver City Airways, for example, look forward to breaking records this year. For no British motorist need lip)deny himself the fun of taking the car to the Continent, however long rationing may continue in the United Kingdom.
The position in tourist countries is as follows: Austria—no rationing. Plenty of petrol at about 4s. per gallon. Fortunate Austria produces enough oil for all her needs. Germany—no rationing. All the petrol you want at about 5s. per gallon. Holland—no rationing. Private motoring on Sundays has been banned, but this does not apply to vehicles registered abroad. Petrol stations are usually closed on Sundays, but there's no limit to what you can get on weekdays. Italy—no rationing : plenty fir everybody. Tourist petrol coupons up to thirty, litres a day can be obtained from the Swiss Bank Corporation (11c Lower Regent Street, SW1) or from Italian Automobile Club offices at the Italian frontiers enabling visitors to buy their petrol at 4s. 10d. or 5s. 7d. per gallon instead of the normal prices of 7s. or 7s. 6d. per gallon. Luxembourg—no rationing, but supplies are limited. Spain—plenty : no rationing. Portugal—no rationing, limited sup- plies. Sweden and Switzerland—no rationing, limited supplies. Yugoslavia—plenty for all.
The situation in France is somewhat different. Rationing has clamped down on the French, but foreign visitors spending not less than two days in France receive allowances according to, destina- tion and size of vehicles. On the outward journey it is possible to buy forty-five gallons. This, is based on an average consumption of four and a half gallons per day.
SOME SUGGESTIONS The Balkans Now—where to go. Let us take a look at a more distant place first : Yugoslavia. The snag here, of course, is the fare, and, perhaps, the time consumed in travel (which, however, can be minimised by flying. The Yugoslav national air- lines will have restarted their London to Bel- grade and Zagreb- services by the time most people take their holidays). Once there, a very modest sum will buy you a wonderful holiday in the sun. Playing safe, I suggest Slovenia and the Dalmatian Coast—where, in Dubrovnik, a Class 'A' hotel will cost you rather less than £2 per day; but this, for Yugoslavia, is a' some- what sophisticated area. You can find a modest, clean, painstaking pension for something like 10s. per day.
If you seek something quite different from this, Yugoslavia has it. Montenegro and Macedonia are beautiful, hospitable, cheap— but' not very easy of access. The best way is to sail down the coast to Dubrovnik and find your way from there. There are hotels now in Yugo- ' slavia which can hold their own with anything in Italy in the same price bracket, notably the Park Hotel on Lake Bled, the Bonavia in Rijeka, the Bellevue in Split and the Villa Argentina in Dubrovnik (the last is Category 'A,' somewhat expensive but brilliantly managed). You won't find anything like this in Montenegro. But down there they'll certainly welcome you with alniost embarrassing warmth.
Scandinavia Several airlines, British European Airways and the independent Eagle Airways among them, have worked out a new scheme of 'package tours' HOLIDAYS AND TRAVEL in connection with travel agents. Agents quote an inclusive sum for air fare and accommodation. Scandinavia ranks high on BEA's list, and in view of the somewhat long and often troublesome sea crossing and the inconvenience, for southerners at least, of embarking at Newcastle, air is a par- ticularly convenient way of getting to Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The Caribbean My most vivid recollections of travel in the sun are of the British Caribbean, in which vast area I include (if the Bahamas Government' will allow me!) Nassau, on the island of New Provi- dence. The fare being what it is, £315 first-class return by BOAC, one would hesitate even to breathe a suggestion of a holiday there were it not for the fact that so many people from the United Kingdom make the trip that in the height of the season one often has to be 'wait-listed' by the airlines.
Nassau is an open-air place. The bathing, either from Paradise Beach or from the hotels' private beaches, is second to none, perhaps, in the world. And if your tastes run to fishing, this is the part of the world where hunters of game-fish—amberjack, barracuda, bonito, grouper and thd rest—find their own special 'sort of paradise! But prices are high.
France But I return to haunts nearer home—to France, where prices tend to rise but, outside Paris, a reasonably cheap holiday can still be enjoyed. I observe that a BEA flying tour to Nice, Cannes, Biarritz and similar resorts need cost no more than about £54 (I take an average) for a ten days' holiday (£60 approximately for a fortnight). My own tastes run rather to the simplicities of Brittany—to Dinard, for example, where last season I found a pleasant hotel which gave me a room, with bath, and three good meals for the equivalent of 26s. per day. The best way of get- ting there is to fly Eagle Airways. It involves about an hour's flying, time and costs £14 14s. return.
Belgium appears to have a reputation for expensiveness. It is true that the Belgian franc ranks as 'hard,' or at any rate" pretty "firm, cut- rency, but comparing value with value I do not find it more expensive than Britain. So reckon to pay along the coast just about what similar accommodation would cost at an English seaside resort, remembering that at Knocke, Le Zoute and Albert Plage prices tend to be somewhat higher than at Blankenberge or Ostend. Before the war these latter' places were usually regarded as the more plebeian, but I would not say that is true toda3i. The coast suffered very severely during the war, but it is now almost completely rebuilt. The hotels and pensions are modern in design and equipment everywhere and, as in France, it is seldom one comes across a place where the cooking is indifferent.
Spain Thus it seems that there is some financial balancet wherever one goes. Take Spain, for instance, as a somewhat more distant destination : let it be admitted that your fare to Barcelona from London will be about £20. Yet hotel expenses need not 4, s 14 amount to more than 30s. per day and can be much less if all that is looked for is modest accommodation of pension character.
Despite its increasing popularity I still recom- mend that sunny region, particularly the part of it nearest the French frontier—Fornells, where there are the best langoustes in Europe, or Tamariu where they serve a suquet on the beach (a suquet being a lavish mixture of small fish cooked no later than an hour after they are caught), or C'alella or Cadaques.
Eagle Airways are opening a new route there this year. From London Airport they fly to Perpignan and, thence, operate coaches to the Costa Brava resorts. The journey takes about ten hours, compared with at least twenty-four by boat and train. The fare is £32 10s. return, including meals on the aircraft and all luggage handling.
More distant still is Portugal—not inexpensive to reach but where, outside resorts like Estoril, it is still not costly to stay. In Lisbon good accom- modation can be had for as little as 25s. per day, with excellent food and free wine. Throughout the country—as in. Spain—there are government- supervised rest houses—ponsadas—or private estalagens (or guest houses) providing comfort- able accommodation and wholesome food and free wine. Try Sintra, a village described as a little Eden by Byron and situated a short distance from Estoril. Or Cascais, farther down the coast. Or, if you are looking for gaiety and sophistica- tion, Estoril itself, where, after all, a first-class hotel need not cost more than 50s. per day inclusive.
Italy needs a book, not one paragraph, in an article. I content myself, therefore, with men- tioning my own favourite district—Como, Mag- giore, parts of Lake Lugano, with Milan for a final shopping fling. These lake resorts become somewhat crowded with British tourists during July and August, but they're none the worse for that; and, anyway, June and September are delightful months.
As an example of high season costs I recall a lunch at the Ristorante Pizza, a mile or so past the funicular in the town of Como. It is a lake- side garden, very expensive-looking in a film-star sense. My companion and I decided to enjoy ourselves even if it cost our last lira. A five-course lunch, exquisitely cooked and served, with a litre of Chianti, the whole preceded by two ap6ritifs each, cost me the equivalent of 30s. The like could not be obtained anywhere in Britain for less than twice the price.
It is pleasant to stay at Brunate at the top of the funicular. There are several hotels up there, two at least of which charge something like £1 per day. The funicular maintains a twenty- minute service to Como.
One country above all others offers cheapness with very high standards today: Austria. So cheap is it, indeed, that I never ceased to be astonished when I toured the country from Inns- bruck to Vienna and southwards to Carinthia late last season. I achieved the reputation of being something of a spendthrift among my Viennese friends, I fear, when I told them my lunch one day cost me the equivalent of 30s. for a guest and myself. But I had eaten a meal obtain- able in Britain only at top-flight West End of London restaurants where I should certainly have spent not less than £4, for we drank plenty of wine and did not stint ourselves at the liqueur stage. Yes, I give you Austria—Carinthia, the Tyrol and (for a short stay) Vienna—with the warmest recommendation in the world.
It remains possible in 1957 to go abroad with- out leaving the British Isles. Dublin is little changed from the days when I was a student on College Green : now as then it is a city of esprit where English is the common tongue (despite the pretence of being bilingual). There are stately squares, good restaurants and charming people. Farther afield, take a look at Galway—mountains and salmon fishing—Cork, for Blarney Castle, and, on the way, Avoca.
Now I come to a form of holiday that has reached a top place in popularity since the war —the continental coach tour. I confess that I was sceptical about the value of this kind of excursion as a holiday—until I tried one for myself. This must be said: coach-tour organisers were inclined to make their clients cover too much ground a year or two ago. They took the view that what most people wanted was to visit as many countries as a coach could reach in the space of a week or fortnight, so, in the catch phrase of a current radio programme, it was `all go.' No doubt that still pleases a good -7CF many travellers, why not? But a rather slower-moving clientele is being catered for by most of the touring companies this It 4) year. There are longer stops en route, a more prolonged stay at the destination. As I see it, one of the principal advantages of these, tours is that from start to finish you can relax. Your accommodation is booked every- where, your baggage is handled for you, en route the noteworthy spots are indicated by a courier and the coaches are comfortable. Another attractive point, of course, is the Cheapness.
Cooks have a reasonable programme: for 56 guineas you can drive from Calais or Boulogne to the French and Italian Rivieras via Bourg-en-Bresse and the Route des Alpes to Nice, where a couple of days is spent, then on to San Remo via Menton, Bordighera and Ospeda- letti, returning to Calais by way of Aix-en- Provence, Nevers and Paris. That takes fourteen days altogether. What it comes to is that the coach-touring companies' brochures should be carefully studied, the route chosen, finances examined—then wherever you choose to go the same standard of comfort and service can be relied upon whichever company you give your business to.