LETTER OF THE WEEK
Now that digital cameras are standard equipment on phones and tablets, everyone carries one. But they bestow people with the carte blanche to barge their way through crowded museums, art galleries and ancient buildings, reducing great art and architecture to backdrops for their endless selfies and vacuous group shots. Once I was in the Louvre viewing the rose granite sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Ramesses III when the chamber was invaded by dozens of people shrieking and jostling amid a continual barrage of flashbulbs. As quickly as they arrived they moved on. Call me a Luddite, but for my next trip I think I'll make do with a notebook and a pencil.
My wife and I have just returned from a four-week holiday that included a tour of Egypt, where we had a ball. There were expert guides, no queues and, for that matter, few tourists. Sure, there was security and evidence of disruptions around Tahrir Square in Cairo, but the locals everywhere were super-friendly and just begging for foreigners to visit their country once again and spend some of our Western money. Please, please don't be put off, and still go.
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
In "Umbria's Slow Pleasures" (Traveller, March 8), Brian Johnston identifies the pros and cons of organised coach tours. There is the luxury of having someone else worry about accommodation and transport. But for this convenience you need to be prepared to travel with up to 40 people, and to go only where the itinerary says. Orvieto, Perugia and Assisi? Is that it for Umbria? Such a shame to miss the cobbled streets, markets and artworks of Umbria's lovely mediaeval hill towns of Spello, Spoleto, Todi, Trevi, Montefalco, Bevagna, among others. Luckily, there's travel options to suit everyone.
I have regularly flown Cathay Pacific, Korean and Singapore Airlines from Australia to Europe, and have yet to encounter a single episode of objectionable service either on-ground or in the cabin service. But even before Qantas's recent precarious slide, the airline's on-ground and cabin service, based on my experience, has frequently been abysmal. Qantas cabin crews could aspire to the exemplary service that has become routine on the legacy Asian carriers.
-Joseph Y S Ting
I've done about 30 overseas trips in the past decade, but I don't think I've ever directly chosen an airline. Many of my trips have been tours with flights included so I have no say in the choice of carrier. On other trips I take the best price I can find, which usually turns out to be a different carrier each time (unless, of course, it's an airline with a dodgy safety record). I haven't been conned into joining frequent-flyer schemes then paying extra to accumulate points that often don't even cover the price difference. And although there are variations in service, inflight meals and comfort, these are usually not great enough to convince me to pay extra.
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