Well, it is going to be a challenging week for travelers in Europe. Many of the train worker unions in France and other countries will be striking today against new railroad competition rules being addressed by the EU. See this article in the Local for more details on the potential problems in France, which are expected to be especially severe around Paris.
A work stoppage by rail workers in Portugal has stopped most rail travel in that country and will be followed by a nationwide general strike on November 24th. See this article in Euronews for more details.
Meanwhile in London, thousands of students are expected to protest this week in regards to cuts in support for the country’s higher education system. Although the students are usually well-mannered, they have been joined by trouble makers in the past and the same is expected this week. See this article from Sky News for more details.
If you are in France or Portugal, check locally to see the impact of the strikes and the potential for disruption that may follow later this week. If you are going to be in London this week, avoid Trafalgar Square and other city areas that are commonly used for demonstrations. Inquire at your hotel about local conditions before venturing out.
We noticed a travel article in the New York Times today whose author indicated that travel to some countries in Europe could be a bargain this year because of difficulties related to the global economic downturn. The article targeted (the links here are to our descriptions of the best places to visit in these countries) Greece, Ireland and Portugal while indicating that Spain may be the next economic trouble spot.
Travel during hard economic times is not without its problems. Flight schedules may be limited, public transportation spotty, critical services may be limited and there may be public demonstrations reflecting the tensions between the government austerity measures and the its citizens’ views of the world.
The upside is that costs may be down, tourism venues should be less crowded and you may be able to find bargains of one sort or another almost every place you visit. In other words, if you intend to travel to any of the countries mentioned, this spring could be a great time for a visit at reduced rates. As always, make sure bargain travel is just that – an opportunity that delivers value for a reduced price.
There are so many airline strikes popping up that you need to scorecard to keep track of the action. Both British Airways and Air France are to be struck by trade unions starting March 28 and lasting through the 31st. Portuguese pilots are scheduled to be on strike from March 26 to March 31, making quite a run-up to the Easter weekend. For more information than you will likely want to know about these strikes and their potential, see this detailed article from the Telegraph.
When sitting on a sunny beach, the last thing we think about is safety, at least as long as we are not in the water. Similarly, when we are on vacation and driving a car, we drive defensively, but rarely worry about anything other than the drivers on the road. During this last week, we learned that we need to be a little more “”aware” when on vacation.
Earlier this morning a portion of a cliff above the beach in eastern Albufeira ( a coastal town southern Portugal between Portimao to the west and Faro to the east) collapsed and two people, who were sunbathing, were killed by the landslide. The cliff area apparently was well-signed indicating that it was unstable. See the BBC for more details and a video.
We have hiked along beaches with signs warning that the cliffs were “dangerous”, but we had always considered that this was a warning not to climb or hike up them. While cliffs certainly add to the beauty of a beach, we now realize that we had better pay more attention to those warning signs.
Last Saturday, near Aspen, Colorado a man driving his family home from vacation was killed when a briefcase-sized boulder fell off a mountain and through the windshield of his car (see KansasCity.com for more information). At the time, the vehicle he was driving was on a steep downhill and his wife, from the passenger seat, managed to stop the vehicle before injury to her and her family. We’ve driven mountain roads numerous times and read the signs warning about the possiblity of falling rocks, but for some reason always visualized them as something that we could see and combatting them would require defensive driving, swerving and braking. For some reason we had never thought that perhaps we would not even see the rock that might threaten our car.
So, when you are on the road or at the beach, be prepared for the unexpected. It’s probably not what you want to hear, but it is a safety practice that you should think about when you travel.
Our heart goes out the the families of those who lost thier lives in these terrible accidents.