Something to declare: Valencia, Shark attack and Cherbourg cheer

Destination of the week: Valencia

Today, the fastest train to this fine Mediterranean city from the Spanish capital, Madrid, takes nearly four hours. From tomorrow, when the high-speed line opens, the journey time falls to 95 minutes. This will open up the options for an easy two-centre trip combining Valencia with Madrid, using easyJet flights out to one city and back from the other, with the train ride between. The full fare for the one-way trip is €80, compared with just €25 for the slowest train (taking over six hours).

Valencia (above), Spain's third-largest city (after Madrid and Barcelona), is at its most chaotic during the annual Fallas festival in March, when effigies are burned in the streets. Its superb ancient and modern architecture, great cuisine and beach just a tram ride away are worth exploring at any time.

See for our latest 48 Hours in Valencia.

Bargain of the week: Sleep from £9

Travelodge (travelodge. aims to fill off-peak beds right through next year with what it says is its biggest-ever room sale. The starting point is £9 for a room sleeping two adults and two children (or three adults). The firm says 100,000 nights will go on sale at £9 at 6am on Wednesday 29 December. Another 900,000 rooms are priced at £15 to £25. Experience suggests the highest availability at low rates is at hotels on fringes of less popular cities and towns.

On Monday 20 December, 171 Holiday Inns in Britain will sell some rooms at £20.12, for stays between Boxing Day and 9 January (0871 942 9223;

Warning of the week: Shark attack

To reduce the risk of a shark encounter while swimming or snorkelling, don't swim at night, or dawn or dusk, because those are the times when "sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage". That is some of the useful information offered by George H Burgess, director of the Florida-based International Shark Attack File in his "Advice to Aquatic Recreationists". Lone swimmers, he says, are more vulnerable than those in groups. You should stay out of the water "if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating".

Your appearance can also cause problems: avoid brightly coloured costumes (because sharks are particularly adept at seeing contrast) and don't wear shiny jewellery: "the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales". Finally, if you still judge it safe to enter the sea, "Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements."

Tip of the week: Cherbourg cheer

Back by popular demand: the Brittany Ferries (0871 244 0131; link between Poole and Cherbourg that ended earlier this year is to be restored at the end of February. It will use the same conventional ferry, the Barfleur.

On the Irish Sea, meanwhile, Stena Line's ferry route from Fleetwood to Larne is due to close on Christmas Eve.

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