Sport A snowboarder flies through the center ring of the Olympic Rings, triggering an explosion of snow and ice off the rings during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Almaty, Krakow, Lviv and Oslo are the others hoping to stage the games

Why airlines pinch more than an inch of leg room

The UK's first no-frills long-haul service is not the meanest in terms of space, says Mark Rowe

AirAsia X to fly no frills from London to Kuala Lumpur

The inaugural flight of a new budget service connecting Europe and Asia jets off from Stansted for Kuala Lumpur today, providing a rare note of optimism in the recession-whipped aviation industry.

Simon Calder: Anyone for a midnight plane from Stansted?

Travel polls can be compelling, not least because a holiday hit parade that inspires visions of sea, sun and cities provides a welcome escape from gloom, doom and despondency. Not always, mind; when, last Wednesday, I searched for a bed on LateRooms.com, I happened upon the company's "Top Destinations". The top 10 began enticingly enough with Madrid and Seville in 10th and eighth positions respectively. Yet Florence – that gracious Tuscan city, overflowing with fine food and finer art – was pipped for top place.

Ikea hackers: The do-it-yourself design mavericks transforming boring flat-pack furniture into unique works of art

Andy has made a dish drainer out of two CD holders; Jim has turned a colander into a lampshade; Eugene has created a banquette out of kitchen cabinets and Chris has lined his bathroom floor with outdoor decking. Resourceful, imaginative, thrifty and sometimes a little bit weird, Andy, Jim, Eugene and Chris are all “Ikea hackers”, part of an internet-linked group of interior-design mavericks scattered across the globe whose common interest is the redesign or customisation of Ikea furniture.

City tycoon in surprise exit from broker Numis

Spencer raises £16m from sale of stake he had pledged against loans

<i>Independent</i> website to show Al Jazeera news

The Independent has announced a new online partnership with Al Jazeera English for news bulletins from the broadcaster to appear daily on the Independent website.

Independent site announces partnership with Al Jazeera

The Independent has announced a new online partnership with Al Jazeera English for news bulletins from the broadcaster to appear daily on the Independent website .

24-Hour Room Service: The Majestic Malacca, Melaka, Malaysia

As the centre of the 15th-century sultanate founded by Parameswara, a Sumatran prince, the city of Melaka is considered to be a wellspring of Malay culture and customs. Malacca (to use the old British spelling) was awarded Unesco World Heritage status earlier this year – a point that the Malaysian hotel chain YTL has made the most of in the latest addition to its upmarket group.

Government steps up pressure over stranded Britons

The Government is doing a tremendous amount to help Britons trapped in Thailand by anti-government protests that have closed Bangkok's international airport, Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell said today.

Something to declare: Thailand; Kuala Lumpur; city breaks in vision; maps and guides for less

Where to go, how to save, what to avoid

No-frills airline connects UK to Asia for under &#163;100

Travellers will be able to fly to Asia for under £100 on a new no-frills service from London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is a city that thinks big. Any vestiges of its history are almost imperceptible among the forest of glass, steel and marble that now constitutes the city centre. Until 2005, the Petronas Twin Towers were the world's tallest buildings. Sprinkled around them are cavernous, glittering shopping malls, more skyscrapers (notably the long and lean Menara KL Tower) and big, brash hotels – among them the 22-storey Hotel Maya.

Kenyon calls for tighter contract rules

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has called for stricter rules to create greater stability in teams and ensure contracts between players and clubs were honoured.

Afghan Olympic athlete does a runner from Italy

Mahbooba Ahadgar was never going to win any medals in Beijing – her best times in the 800m and 1,500m events were so slow it was likely she would have finished a minute or more behind the winners. As an Olympic Solidarity scholar, her role was to bring the lustre of women's athletic prowess to her war-torn country, and prove that the Olympic ideal can shine brightly even in Kabul.

William Upchurch: Baptist missionary to China

Motor-cycle scrambler, chemist, musician, shopkeeper, missionary, pacifist, soldier, minister and centenarian, in China William Upchurch saw and recorded at first hand the Xi'an coup of 1936 and crossed paths with the American radical journalist Agnes Smedley, whom he met as she was marching to the front. He also spent time with General Peng Dehuai of the Long March who was later imprisoned by Mao, and had dealings with many Chinese preachers including the local Pastor Sun, whose long beard, as he described it in his memoir, A Prevailing Wind (2007), consisted of six two-foot-long hairs, one of which came away in his hand as he was being arrested by Red soldiers.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable