Open and shut case
Here is a different kind of lost luggage story. We had just arrived back at Greenwich station, London, from a trip to Ireland. We were waiting for our son-in-law to pick us up with our luggage stacked in a bus stop shelter. When he arrived we loaded up our car and took off unaware we had left one bag behind. We had been home an hour when the phone rang. The gentleman on the phone asked if we were aware of a lost bag. We had a look and realised the bag was missing. Half an hour later he arrived with the bag, accepted our thanks, refused to take a reward and took off.
That bag contained two digital cameras and a movie camera, our passports and return tickets to Australia, some cash and a spare credit card! How lucky we were an honest person found it.
Don't drive like a flake
My advice to Graeme Miller (Traveller Letters, April 13-14) about driving in northern European winter conditions is that driving in freshly fallen snow is similar to driving in heavy rain - slow down and allow 10 times the distance for stopping; more dangerous is when snow has melted to slush and then freezes, usually overnight, creating an irregular, slippery surface - travel slowly.
Most dangerous of all conditions is black ice. This forms when a thin film of moisture on the road surface freezes and is virtually invisible. It is very slippery and, when encountered or if suspected, the best action is put the car in neutral, do not apply the brakes and coast to a very slow speed.
In slippery conditions be wary of roads with a steep camber. Studded tyres will give more traction and adhesion but can be a bit noisy on clear roads.
In response to Vicki Powell (Traveller Letters, April 20-21), I'd like to assure her that, in selecting Le Train Bleu in Paris as her birthday venue, she has chosen the perfect location. I have had two wonderful birthdays there and everything about the restaurant spells "celebration". It is a visual delight, transporting one back to La Belle Epoque, the food is "splendide" and the service is "par excellence".
We have dined at Le Train Bleu on two occasions and it is one of the best restaurants in Paris. The interior has to be seen to be believed while the food, the wine list and the service are all outstanding. My wife enjoyed her 40th birthday there and recommends that you try the smoked salmon as an entree. There are innumerable fine restaurants in Paris but no other has the ambience of Le Train Bleu.
In response to Vicki Powell's letter regarding restaurants in Paris, I would recommend Restaurant Le Taillevent, 15 rue Lamennais, 75008 Paris. The food, the service and the setting are amazing and it is a great place to celebrate a special occasion.
Advice to bank on
On a recent trip to South America I made two "discoveries" that might be of interest to readers planning a trip to Brazil and/or Argentina.
A) Brazilian banks will apparently not cash AMEX $US travellers' cheques. I tried to do so at one of the bank outlets at Rio's international airport and was referred to an AMEX exchange bureau at the far end of the domestic terminal, where I managed to cash my cheques for a fee of about $20.
B) Try to avoid changing money at an Argentinian bank, which will give you 5.1 pesos for $US1. In the streets of Buenos Aires, particularly Florida and Lavalle, listen out for murmurs of "Cambio, cambio, cambio" and you will get 8 pesos for your dollar.
You should also be aware that half of central Buenos Aires is currently being dug up and there are holes in the ground in many streets frequented by tourists.
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