The Travel Desk: news, deals and holiday ideas
Paris to Barcelona, Marrakesh; a night in Valhalla and Lisbon for a day
High-speed train between Paris and Barcelona
From December 15th, double-decker high-speed TGV trains will run from Paris Gare de Lyon to Figueres, Girona and Barcelona. Centre to centre will take six hours and 17 minutes, which seems a lot compared to flying, but not if you take in getting to the airport and all the queuing and waiting around that turns a 45-minute flight into a half-day saga. To kick off the service, tickets cost from €59 (if booked advance). capitainetrain.com
Lisbon for the day
December 15th marks the last day of Lisbon Architecture Triennale (trinaldelisboa.com), a symposium that brings together architects and designers to muse on what the cities of the future might look like. Besides the obvious sights (the Belém Tower, the Castelo São Jorge and the wonderful 15th-century Manueline Monastery of Jerónimos), it is worth taking a trip on the wooden tram No 28 (above), which rumbles and rattles its way through Lisbon’s prettiest streets. For traditional Portuguese grub, Solar dos Nunes (Rua dos Lusíadas 68-70; solardosnunes.com) does meaty stews, excellent fish soup, and partridge cooked in a cataplana.
A night in valhalla
Nothing quite says Christmas like a huge dance party, and Amsterdam is obliging with the second edition of Valhalla (valhallafestival.nl), on December 21st, at the RAI convention centre.
This mammoth space will host to some of Europe’s best electronic dance music, from Floorplan to German techno producer Tensnake, plus back-to-back sets by Eats Everything and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. It will also have a rock stage, a 1920s-style Cotton Club, and weird and wonderful circus acts. The party runs from 10.30pm-7am and tickets cost €49.50 online.
When it’s all over, don’t miss the masterpieces of the recently reopened Rijksmuseum (Jan Luykenstraat 1; rijksmeseum.nl) or the harrowing tour of the Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 267; annefrank.org). Don’t bother with the disappointing and overlong tour at the Heineken Museum or the Tulip Market, which has the feel of a €2 shop on water.
Need a place to stay? Between Art & Kitsch (Ruysdaelkade 75-2; between-art-and-kitsch.com) is a lovely B&B randomly but effectively decorated by its well-travelled owners. It has doubles from €85.
Get ready for Marrakesh
Of the nine new routes from Dublin that Ryanair announced a couple of weeks ago, the most exciting one for me is Marrakesh.
Finally, a direct route to Morocco’s most intoxicating city – the dusty alleys of the Medina, framed by mud-baked walls and protected from the sun by colourful awnings, seem to have changed not a jot in a thousand years, when Berber traders first began selling their wares on the Djemaa el-Fnaa, still Africa’s busiest square.