Whilst staying at a good London hotel pre-COVID, I left my phone charging on the bedside table. Next morning, the table surface, phone, its leather cover and paper notes within were all drenched. I looked up and discovered an air-conditioning vent above had dripped condensation onto the phone overnight. The water had seeped into the phone cover, effectively creating a bath for the phone and I was very lucky it didn't suffer any long-term damage, although I didn't know this at the time. The hotel management were apologetic and upgraded me to a better room but it's a warning to others to check the location of air-conditioning vents above tables.
John Lander, Killarney Heights, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
PASS THE PORT
Carol Thomson has every reason to be excited about her much anticipated trip to Portugal and she won't be disappointed. I found Lisbon to be the loveliest of cities, with its beautifully-tiled and wide boulevards. I really yearned to stay much longer as there is so much to love about Lisbon. Carol must also see Sintra and the Pena Palace in the hills above Lisbon, as well as the pretty coastal town of Cascais. Then there is Oporto, the second biggest city after Lisbon and another dream of a place. I will never forget the bottle of exquisite white port my friend and I polished off in one night (I didn't know white port existed). The hangover in the morning when we cruised the River Douro was quite something. I wish Carol the very best on her journey to Portugal and I'm sure she will enjoy every minute. I only wish I could join her.
Llieda Wild, Eastwood, NSW
I travelled to the US, and, while transiting through Los Angeles, I was amazed at the lengths their security went to, vetting all the passengers, before and after they passed through security. After removing my hat, belt, and shoes, I was then subjected to a patdown before I was quizzed about my movements.
"Okay," the security officer said, "you have a nice stay, now."
I replied: "Thank you very much, and I'm sure glad you guys take so much time checking everyone so thoroughly, it's very comforting."
He replied : "Yeah, well you'd have been on your way a lot sooner, if you hadn't been so chatty."
The lesson is obviously not to engage the security staff in any idle conversation, lest they make catching your flight that much tighter.
John Kruger, St Albans, VIC
Some months ago I set out at 5.55am from Roma Street Station, Brisbane, on the XPT to Sydney. As a result of recent rain, the countryside was verdant and the scenery on the half-hour through the McPherson Range ( north of Kyogle) was breathtakingly beautiful— almost alpine. The train twisted and turned through tunnels, turning back on itself to negotiate the Border Spiral Loop, a marvel of engineering.
Much more pleasant scenery followed, in particular the section from Taree to Maitland with rivers, rolling hills, small towns at which the train paused briefly. All of this in a pleasant, relaxed way, with attentive service from the on-board personnel. With this country's obsession with flying and driving, it is a great shame that there is no political will to invest in railways, and realise their potential. The train wins for me every time.
John Slinn, Epping, NSW
WET, WET, WET
A great story by Ute Junker on New Zealand (Traveller, December 4). However, a minor point about the Catlins. I think you'll find they are 150 kilometres south-west of Dunedin, not south-east as stated. You'd get horribly wet if you travelled 150 kilometres south-east.
Ross Allan, Castlemaine VIC
MEMORIES OF MEKNES
In 2013 I wanted to squeeze in a short side trip from Spain to Morocco. Marrakesh was too far and I had previously seen Fes, so Meknes (Traveller Letters, November 27) was ideal. I really enjoyed the Majestic Hotel - overall the best of that trip - for combined value, convenience and atmosphere. As far as I can tell from my notes, I spent $A40 a night, including breakfast, for a faded 1930's charm and a location just metres from the railway station. I made side excursions to the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the village of Moulay Idriss during my three night stay, as well as exploring Meknes itself. However, as a solo traveller I found I needed to take more care than, say, in Turkey. Afterwards I was pleasantly surprised to make it from Meknes to Cadiz in Spain in the one day, via rail, sea and bus.
Helen Cole, Glen Waverley, VIC
ALL AT SEA
Your account of a Mediterranean cruise (Traveller, December 4) was encouraging. The cruise company is clearly making every effort to live with COVID. Not so the travel insurance industry in Australia. My usual insurer offers cover for COVID-related cancellation costs and hospital/medical expenses overseas. However, there is a general exclusion for "a loss related to COVID-19 if any part of your trip is on a multi-night cruise". A bus tour of Turkey with three nights on a "gulet" could be a cruise in insurance terms. Congratulations to NIB who do provide COVID insurance for international cruises.
Helene, Ashburton, VIC
In response to Kathy Cree's query about SIM cards (Traveller Letters, December 4), we have for many years used the simple solution offered by the major providers. For $10 a day, you get automatic connection and daily use in designated countries for local and international phone calls, SMS and data. When you arrive in each country, you get a welcome message from the local provider and you seamlessly use your own SIM card and phone number. Friends and relatives call, SMS or email you as usual and are often surprised when you tell them where you are. A great service for the price of two, or maybe only one cup of coffee.
Heather Barker, Albert Park, VIC
In December 2019, a small group of us booked and paid for in full a trip to Norfolk Island with Spacifica Travel. When COVID hit, we had to postpone our trip several times. Recently, Air New Zealand stopped flying to Norfolk so Spacifica told us we had to re-book with Qantas and nominate new dates for 2022. Several of us couldn't come up with suitable dates so we asked for a credit for our Norfolk Island package, which Spacifica refused. Fed up after many emails, we cancelled the trip. We have lost all our money, except for the Air New Zealand airfare which is yet to be received from Spacifica.
Denise Faithfull, Haberfield, NSW
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