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The Independent Travel
Dias dorados translates literally as "golden days", but in practice means "between now and June, Spain's paradores are really quite empty, so we've cut the prices to older visitors try to fill them up".

The parador scheme began as a government initiative to convert historic buildings into upmarket hotels. There are now more than 70 such properties in towns and cities all over mainland Spain, and in the Canary Islands and the North African territory of Ceuta. Until 30 June, over 60s get a discount of 35 per cent on stays of one or two nights. For three nights or more, you can save 50 per cent on normal rates.

Some properties have restrictions on weekend/ weekday availability, or over the Christmas and Easter periods, but many - such as the new parador in the Andalucian town of Ronda - are offering reduced rates throughout. These start at around pounds 20 per person per night, B&B. Paradors are represented in the UK by Keytel International (0171-402 2182).

It's a tough job, but some outside broadcast engineer will be obliged to take a cruise on the maiden voyage of Minerva next spring to record Gardeners' Question Time. The new Swan Hellenic vessel is making a botanical cruise of Italy, Greece and Turkey, and an edition of the Radio 4 programme is to be recorded on board. The cruise begins in Genoa on 29 April, and prices start at pounds 2,810; call 0171-800 2200.

Who needs the Net? Sunflower Books, which publishes "Landscapes" walking and touring guides to Mediterranean destinations, has a service which may appeal to people who prefer not to travel the Internet. The publisher will provide a free update to readers who order books through Sunflower's mail order service (0171-589 1862).

Yet another operator begins sailing between Dover and Calais on New Year's Day. SeaFrance (01304 204204) promises "Unique French ambience, comfort, imaginative style and decor". Regular travellers, however, may recognise the new company's ships as vessels that are currently plying the Channel as part of the Stena Sealink fleet, striking port workers permitting.