Brochures of the week

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The Independent Travel
If you are planning a short break in the New Year, and fall into the category of "discerning traveller" (ie plenty of cash), you should pick up Simply Travel's Brief Encounters brochure.

Covering diverse destinations such as Istanbul and Brussels, Paris and Prague (as well as a few rural retreats, including Andalusia and Ireland), it promotes some of Europe's most exclusive hotels. Most of the establishments included fall into what Simply Travel calls the "historical luxury" category: this means you'll be falling asleep on a giant bed surrounded by antiques. However, what makes their selection so appealing is that mixed in with these grand old set-ups are hipper places such as the hotel Quartier Latin in Paris, which is styled by Didier Gomez, a well-known interior designer. The brochure also gets bonus points for being clearly designed and with thorough, clearly written reviews for all of the hotels. Even the photography goes beyond the normal cliched shots of bedrooms (the cover is a sensuous photograph of a Venice canal, right out of Don't Look Now. The cheapest deal, however, is pounds 160 for two nights in Bruges, staying at the Hotel du Pauw on a bed-and-breakfast basis, based on two people sharing and travelling by Eurostar. Thomson CityBreaks also has its 1998 brochure out, selling stays in Europe (Salzburg, Paris, Warsaw, Cork, Barcelona) and North America (Toronto, Washington, New York). Although all the information is here, and even though many great hotels are listed, the brochure is chaotic and off-putting. The pictures of the hotels are so tiny, you would wonder if they are trying to hide something and much of the copywriting is just plain naff (who uses phrases like "swish interiors" or "the view from the Art-Deco style breakfast room is bound to raise a toast or two"?). But then perhaps the cheapness of it all is a deliberate ploy to underline the bargain prices (two nights in Paris, including a flight, starts at pounds 99).

Simply Travel 24-hour brochure line: 0181 995 9323; Thomson CityBreaks: 0171 200 8900.

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