Something to declare: Versailles; Lake Trasimeno; taxi-drivers in Budapest; Costa Rica
Saturday 26 March 2011
Tip of the week: Versailles wakes up
From next Friday, 1 April, summer takes effect at the Château de Versailles – enabling visitors to dodge most of the crowds when exploring the magnificent creation of Louis XIV south-west of Paris. The palace continues to open at 9am (with queues starting to form from 8.30am), but closing time extends by an hour to 6.30pm. And the gardens remain open until 8.30pm. So you could turn up at around 4.30pm, when numbers are thinning out, enjoy the palace in relative solitude for a couple of hours and then explore the surroundings. More information and ticket sales: en.chateauversailles.fr.
Destination of the week: Lake Trasimeno
This beautiful Umbrian lake, the fourth largest in Italy, offers a compelling rural escape, with opportunities for horse-riding, walking and cycling. It has plenty of history, notably in the shape of the medieval walled hill town of Panicale (where the church of San Sebastiano has two fabulous Perugino frescoes) and Citta della Pieve, Perugino's birthplace. And for a week from 1 July, the extra draw is the Trasimeno Music Festival, created by the pianist Angela Hewitt. The cultural specialist Martin Randall Travel (020-8742 3355; martinrandall.com) has organised an eight-day trip that includes seven concerts in a castle, a Benedictine abbey and the Chiesa di San Domenico in Gubbio. The music is interspersed with excursions to places such as Assisi. The price of £2,850 includes BA flights between Heathrow and Pisa, local transport, most meals and accommodation at a four-star hotel in the medieval hill village of Castel Rigone, overlooking Lake Trasimeno.
Warning of the week: Taxi-drivers in Budapest
Watch your change, says the Foreign Office, when paying a cab fare in the Hungarian capital – particularly if you use a 10,000 or 20,000 forint bill: "Take extra care when receiving banknotes as some that are no longer valid are still in circulation". The British embassy in Budapest has reports of "some taxi drivers deliberately passing these notes to tourists – as well as notes from neighbouring countries that are not valid here." The visitor is also warned: "Never ask a taxi driver to recommend a bar or club. If a driver offers to take you to one, or you are approached on the street with an invitation to enter a club, treat that advice with extreme caution."
Bargain of the week: Farewell to Costa Rica
The third attempt by a UK firm to make a profit out of flying us to Central America is about to end: Thomson will not be continuing its link from Gatwick to Liberia, serving the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, beyond April. But anyone looking for a cut-price break over Easter can benefit from very low prices. The final outbound departure on 19 April is currently selling at £738 for a week's four-star all-inclusive. This part of north-west Costa Rica is well-placed for trips across the border to Nicaragua: well worth forgoing a night or two to explore more deeply.
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