Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield takes us through another week in travel
FLY IN THE OINTMENT
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission believes a lack of competition in Australian skies has led to higher domestic airfares and poorer service. (I can almost hear you saying “I could’ve told you that.”)
ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb says: “The pent-up demand for air travel that characterised the industry for most of last year is starting to ease. Consumers appear to have become more price-sensitive as cost-of-living pressures have increased.” (Yep, I can almost hear you again.)
Easing demand has been bringing domestic airfares down in 2023. The price of discount airfares fell 14 per cent between February and May.
TRAINS MADE EASY
Rail Europe has added the Mont-Blanc Express and Leman Express in the France and Switzerland border region to its list of train journeys. They are on its website and app. As this is one of the busiest areas in Europe, it is helpful to be able to more easily pre-book France Rail and Swiss Travel Passes, and get seat reservations. This can now be done on the one platform, or as point-to-point tickets.
Jointly run by SBB and SNCF, the Mont-Blanc Express is a narrow-gauge mountain railway connecting Martigny and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains. It runs through the picturesque, afforested Trient Valley, gorges and pretty alpine villages. The 56km route takes just over two hours, at an average speed of 24 km/h.
The Leman Express is one of the biggest regional cross-border rail networks in Europe. From Geneva and Coppett in Switzerland into France (to Annecy, Evian-les-Bains, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains), the network has 45 stations across 230km of routes. Up to 50,000 passengers a day travel on it.
RISE & FALL
Reader Sue Hendry has responded to my recent comments about Victoria Falls in Africa, and my fear about finding the right spot to stand on train platforms in Europe, particularly in France.
On trains, Sue writes: “Having returned a hire car at the Avignon station, and having learned about being in the right place on the platform, we awaited the train to Lyon. The train arrived, we jumped on, and there was someone sitting in my seat! A short discussion ensued as the train started off. We had misjudged the time by a couple of minutes and we were on the direct Grand Vitesse to Paris. We ’fessed up to the conductor, who decided not to fine us for being on the wrong train.”
On Vic Falls, Sue writes: “Your descriptions of Victoria Falls brought a tear to my eye — thank you for the memories! Our parents first took us to Victoria Falls overland from Khartoum in 1954 (thank goodness my mum kept a diary).
After Sudanese independence, we moved to Northern Rhodesia, and visited the falls more than once, particularly in the early 70s. Hubby and I had our honeymoon there in 1983, and we took our two daughters there in the early 90s. Thank you for pointing out the lengths that Zambians and Zimbabweans will go to acquire an education and to care for their children. ‘It is about the heart’.”
YIN & YANG
And reader Marion Brown is spending some time in the Champagne region of France, but would like to do a tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco first. My advice …
Personally, I’d just concentrate on Spain and Morocco. I think the combination, connections and contrasts of the two is the heart of the experience. I like the purity, and yin-and-yang of this. Portugal is a different sort of proposition. And I think Collette’s 13 days of Spain & Morocco tour (from $4999 per person) covers most of what Marion will want to experience. It has great connection to locals.
But, if Marion wants to stick with the plan for all three countries, it’s hard to go past Insight Vacations’ Treasures of Spain, Portugal & Morocco for one, complete answer. The 17-day tour is from $5628 per person. Good quality, proper experiences, central hotels.
For a similar feel to that Spain-Morocco connection, I like the idea of combining travel in Japan and South Korea, too. My Cruises has a bit of this combination with a 12-night “Land of the Rising Sun” voyage on the cruise ship Celebrity Millenium. In Japan, there are two nights onboard, with time to explore Tokyo. The ship then visits Kobe, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, before ducking over to Jeju Island in South Korea, and returning to Tokyo. It is from $3990 per person, including return international flights from Perth to Tokyo, onboard dining in a range of venues, an onboard beverage package, wi-fi and prepaid gratuities.
Book by June 30, 2023, for multiple 2024 sailings. 1300 924 585 and mycruises.com.au
In our print pages of Saturday and Sunday Travel, we have been celebrating spring in England in this coronation year. And now there’s a bit more to celebrate. The black-veined white butterfly was first listed as a species in Britain in 1667, during the reign of King Charles II, and was officially listed as extinct in Britain in 1925. But, after nearly a century, they have been spotted again, in fields and hedgerows on the outskirts of London. For those of us who know them, they look a bit like a cabbage white.
ZERO TO HERO
Hurtigruten has announced plans to build a zero-emission expedition cruise ship. Next someone will invent a renewable ship with no engine, a wooden hull and canvas sails.
Call me crazy.