Give us a break

TRAVEL Jill Crawshaw's guide to late-booking holidays where children are rarely seen - or heard
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The Independent Culture

"CHILDREN not welcome" may cause family hackles to rise but the words can be sweet music to others. So, for the latter group, Castaways offers a number of suitable hotels in Majorca. They are usually situated on top of a cliff, miles from the beach, with landscaped gardens, no play areas, and are full of antiques. Some spell it out: "Unsuitable for children".

Perched high up on the dramatic north coast - bathing only from private rocky coves reached by courtesy bus - two hotels in Deya, the Es Moli and the Residencia, offer quiet, luxurious holidays spent pottering around the village or reading in the gardens. A week's bed and breakfast costs pounds 624 and pounds 772 respectively.

High up in the mountains, the 17th-century Hotel Hermitage, in Majorca's loveliest village, Orient, was originally a Spanish duke's country house. A week's b&b there costs pounds 722; while a week at the Palacio Ca Sa Galesa, a tiny 17th-century palacio in the shadow of Palma's great cathedral in the medieval quarter, costs pounds 619. Both prices include flights.

Similar treasures can be found in Italy. Wagner got his inspiration for Parsifal from the hilltop eyrie of Ravello; Oscar Wilde, Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo found solitude there too, most often staying at the 12th- century Hotel Palumbo, where a week's half board with Citalia costs pounds 779 including flights.

In Taormina in Sicily, a Mediterranean resort since Roman times and one of the most beautiful, a week at the San Domenico Palace, formerly a Dominican monastery dating from the 14th century, costs pounds 1,269 half-board; however, there are less expensive villa hotels and apartments also available from both Magic of Italy and Citalia.

Castaways 01737 812255; Citalia 0181-686 5533; Magic of Italy 0181-748 7575


Travel by Eurostar, the fast and convenient way to Paris (assuming the strike is over), is combined with free entry to the exhibition of Cezanne paintings, watercolours and drawings at the Grand Palais, in Time Off/Cultural Cities' three-night break. Starting in October, it costs pounds 275 per person including Eurostar return tickets, three nights' b&b in hotel accommodation, and metro passes.

A three-night break to Amsterdam, with return scheduled flights from Heath-row and b&b hotel accommodation, costs pounds 295; the price includes a half-day tour with a specialist guide to discover the history of the city and its canalside houses, and a visit to the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.

From September onwards, the same company offers the chance to see the "Trophy Art" exhibition at the Hermitage, St Petersburg. Works by Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Picasso and Matisse, most of them taken as war booty from German collections, are among paintings on show. The three-night break, which costs pounds 595, includes scheduled flights from Heath-row, b&b hotel accommodation, the exhibition, city tour and theatre performance.

Time Off/Cultural Cities 0171-235 8070


A series of tours through famous wine-growing regions are on offer from Arblaster and Clarke. From 22-29 September, they follow on foot the course of the Rivers Loire and Indre from Samur to Chinon, stopping at chateaux on the way and crossing the Loire by traditional punts on the way to tastings. The walking is gentle, with a back-up coach for the footsore - or just plain lazy. The price, from pounds 599 per person, includes three nights' stay in chateaux and two in hotels, with breakfast, the ferry crossings between Portsmouth and Caen, four picnic lunches with wine and one dinner.

Also in late September, a four-night tour visiting the Rioja vineyards in Spain costs pounds 699, including flights to Bilbao, b&b in a four-star converted monas-tery, and "copious" Riojan meals.

Arblaster and Clarke 01730 893344


After a wine tour, why not a healthy (but far from hairshirt) option? Bupa, the health insurance company, has linked up with Equinox to provide a range of breaks in pampered settings as far apart as the Channel Islands and the Caribbean. Three nights half board at the Hotel de France in Jersey, with flights from Gatwick, use of the fitness centre and free car rental, costs pounds 303; two nights at the fashionable Hotel Normandy in Deauville costs pounds 239 b&b, including car ferry, shuttle fares and use of the fitness centre, sauna and solarium; and a week's half board in Menorca's luxury apartotel, the Pueblo Menorquin, costs pounds 389, with free access to the island's health spa.

Equinox Bupa Travel Services 01444 414040


Lower autumn fares to the US from September onwards make quick trips to American cities more viable - and four nights may well be enough of high-rolling Las Vegas, where Funway offers a break for pounds 528 (pounds 408 in November), flights and room only, no meals. As an antidote to all this, you can take a flight over one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon, lasting 4-5 hours and costing pounds 90.

Also from Funway, four-night breaks in the country music mecca of Nashville cost pounds 475, with discounts on riverboat cruises and a wide variety of musical attractions.

Other US cities are on offer from Jetset. Three nights in New York costs pounds 499, with a "Night on the Town" add-on of pounds 33; Boston, a popular autumn choice, is pounds 459 for two nights; and New Orleans pounds 629 for three nights.

All these prices are based on flights and hotel accommodation only; no meals are provided.

Funway 0181-466 0333; Jetset 0161 2366603


The Akamas Peninsula in the south-west corner of Cyprus is the island's most beautiful area, an unspoilt region of wild gorges and valleys. Waymark's walking and sightseeing tour is based on the village of Droushia, with rambles across the island each day to remote communities linked only by paths and mule tracks, or to the beach at Lara, where development is forbidden to allow turtles to nest. Other visits include the Roman theatre, catacombs and the little Byzantine churches that dot remote peaks in the countryside. The 14-night holiday costs pounds 595, including return flights, half-board accommodation with meals in local tavernas, and a guide.

Waymark Holidays 01753 516477


Autumn offers from Swan Hellenic, the cultural holiday specialists, are designed for those looking for a stimulating break accompanied by experts in considerable comfort. A five-day trip to Lake Como, which includes travel and accommodation, plus all tips and entrance fees, costs pounds 975, with visits to Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo, the island of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, Villa Monastero and Villa Melzi, famous for its collection of plants. Also costing pounds 975 is a six-day visit to Spain, based around Granada and concentrating on Andalucia's Moorish heritage. Five- and six- day trips exploring the art and architecture of Berlin and Prague are pounds 875 and pounds 960 respectively.

Swan Hellenic 0171-800 2300


Now for a holiday that really is murder. At the 14th-century Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter on the weekend of 13-15 October guests are invited to solve the mystery of the goings-on at a local music society. The price is pounds 175 per person and includes two nights' accommodation with breakfast and dinner each day and Sunday lunch - plus the murder, of course.

Royal Clarence Hotel 01392 319955