Something to declare: Fez, Morocco; Christmas crackers; Cruise deals from Cook; Hotels in Spain
Saturday 28 November 2009
Destination of the week: Fez
Morocco is a nation with a wealth of fine cities, but Fez – the birthplace of Imperial Morocco – exudes magic and magnificence. It is also the most complete medieval city in North Africa. Yet Fez is more than a vast museum; it is also a thriving community.
The city is the first stop on the the 15-day "Highlights of Morocco" tour from Explore (0845 013 1537; explore.co.uk), which also includes Meknes, the Southern Oases, Merzouga Sand Sea, the Dades Gorge, Essaouira and Marrakech.
Fez is the city featured, along with Zaragoza, in "48 Hours In..." on Travel Channel at 9pm on Wednesday, 2 December. Travel Channel is available on Sky 251.
Warning of the week: Don't go crackers with Christmas presents
There may be 26 flying days before Christmas, but the leading airport operator BAA is already warning travellers not to pack Christmas crackers either in checked bags or hand luggage, "Due to their explosive and sharp content". Notices at Stansted airport warn travellers that crackers will be confiscated Any that are seized are not destroyed, but are sent to local charities.
Travellers using Stansted's leading airline, Ryanair, should not be too extravagant with their pre-flight purchases. The airline has told The Independent that it will deploy additional staff to monitor boarding gates during December and enforce strictly its hand-luggage limit of one 10kg bag. The airline warns that:
"Passengers who arrive at boarding gates with more than one piece of hand luggage will be asked to place all items in one bag."
Anyone who is unable to do so will have to pay a £40 charge to check each additional bag into the hold. Passengers who refuse to comply will be denied travel.
Tip of the week: Cruise deals from Cook
"We won't be beaten on price," says Cruise Thomas Cook, which is staging a Cruise Week until 6 December, with exclusive prices such as short-break cruises to either Cork or Paris from £299 per person.
Bargain of the week: Hotels in Spain
On the average night last month, more than half the hotels beds in Spain were empty, according to figures released this week by the National Statistical Institute in Madrid. In addition, British travellers to Spain fell by 15 per cent in the first 10 months of the year compared with 2008.
As a result of the slump in bookings, average rates have fallen sharply, especially in Madrid (by 12 per cent) and the province of Catalonia (including Barcelona, down 9 per cent). This means some spectacular bargains even for impecunious Brits: through LateRooms.com, a double room the four-star El Coloso in the centre of Madrid is available for under £50 a night. The site shows this as a staggering 91 per cent reduction on the "rack rate", though you should be aware that hotels in Madrid typically show an extremely high maximum price to allow them to cash in on strong demand during special events.
Plenty of availability, too, on the Spanish beaches: Hotels4U.com has a rate of less than £50 a night at the three-star Ambassador Playa in Benidorm – including breakfast, lunch and dinner for two.
In contrast, rates in Andalucia (including Seville, Granada and the Costa del Sol) have fallen by only 3 per cent, and those in Galicia (destination for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela) are barely changed on a year ago.
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