Volcano Won't Get In The Way Of Brits' Vacations

The volcano in Iceland has gone quiet for now, and planes are back in the air. But spooked Britons are planning to vacation closer to home this summer.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The Icelandic volcano which wreaked havoc on air travel has fallen out of the headlines in America. But geologists in Europe warn that the eruptions may not be over.

Essayist Diane Roberts is spending a couple of months in London. She says people are still nervous about summer travel plans.

DIANE ROBERTS: In Britain, everybody is obsessed with the weather. Britain is an island. If you want to get off it at some stage, the weather has to cooperate.

Lately, everybody has been anxiously scanning the skies. Not for spring rain or unseasonable snow, though they had some of that in Scotland on the first day of June, or even the rambunctious winds that knock the blossoms off the chestnut trees. Everybody is watching for volcanic ash - airplane-grounding, vacation-ruining ash from Iceland.

Iceland is only 800 miles away. The scientists say that Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that blew on April 14th, has paused. Which makes it sound like somebody has taken the remote control and hit that little button with the two vertical stripes. But paused is not dormant - it may just be playing possum.

Then there's Katla, the volcano next door. She's bigger, she's badder. The Icelanders call her Angry Sister. She has a habit of erupting the same year as Eyjafjallajokull. Ah, something to look forward to.

In the meantime, the British are trying to figure what to do about their summer holidays. They're used to flying off to the Maldives or Orlando, or at least Tuscany. Now they're getting skittish. The skies are clear at the moment but what about in two weeks? What about in July or August?

Under the threat of the volcano, people aren't sure they should even try to fly. How long can you camp out on an airport floor, eating Cadbury cream eggs and bacon-flavored crisps before you start to hallucinate?

To avoid volcano-precipitated hassle, lots of my British friends are busy convincing themselves that their own country offers much for the discerning traveler. Instead of the Indian Ocean, perhaps the Lake District, about which Wordsworth and Coleridge waxed poetic. Disney has nothing on Legoland in Windsor. And how can San Gimignano compare with the Yorkshire resort of Scarborough? Scarborough boasts a castle, a miniature railway, a broad sandy beach and the whole North Sea to swim in.

Who needs Bistecca Fiorentina and a glass of Brunello di Montalcino when you can have fish and chips washed down with a pint of Newcastle Brown?

HANSEN: Diane Roberts will be back teaching creative writing at Florida State University this summer, unless the volcanoes won't let her leave London.

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