Travel desk: news, deals and destinations with Fionn Davenport
Visiting Tibet as an independent traveller is becoming easier
VISITING THE ROOFTOP OF THE WORLD
Visiting Tibet as an independent traveller has long been tough due to restrictive travel permits and limited entry points but new itineraries from UK travel agency Rickshaw Travel’s China specialists China Travel Plan (chinatravelplan.co.uk) are making independent travel that bit more manageable.
Tours include a two-day trek to Lake Namtso at£235 (€281) each and a 10-day private Jeep tour of Tibet from Kathmandu, including visits to Lhasa, Shigatse and Lao Tingri at £1,585 (€1,899) each. There’s also a five-day Jeep trek to Everest Base Camp from Lhasa for £1,168 (€1,400) each.
They will also arrange the Tibet travel permit and/or Chinese visa.
NORMANDY LANDINGS TOUR
June 6th marks the 70th anniversary of the second World War D-Day landings in Normandy, which will draw extra attention to the beaches of northern France. Group Tours International, which specialises in historical tours, has a four-day, anniversary tour that will visit all of the landing beaches; the cemeteries at Ranville, Le Cambe, Bayeux and St Laurentand associated museums.
Early booking price €749 includes flights, three nights’ accommodation and a guided coach tour. For more see gti-ireland.com
WINTER OLYMPICS WARNING
The US state department has issued a travel advisory warning for athletes and spectators travelling to Sochi, in Russia, for the Olympic Winter Games, which start on February 7th.
It comes on the back of two December suicide bombings in Volgograd, about 600 miles northeast of Sochi. The International Olympic Committee says it is confident Russia will host “safe and secure” games, but the US state department is concerned about terrorist groups calling for attacks.
The alert also raises concerns about Sochi’s “untested” medical infrastructure and the possible threat to LGBT travellers in a country where “discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread” and “harassment, threats and acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals have occurred”. It highlights the sharp rise in violence against the LGBT community since a law was passed “banning the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” in June 2013.
FIVE MID-RANGE PARISIAN RESTAURANTS ( for rugby fans)
Ireland kick off their Six Nations challenge in Paris on March 15th. Here’s five outstanding restaurants that won’t break the bank.
With three Michelin stars already under his belt, chef Yannick Alléno of Le Meurice brings classic French dishes to a strictly midrange market. Lunch costs around €30, dinner under €50, including wine: a steal at twice the price. 25, rue san Victor, 75005; yannick-alleno.com
Bistrot Paul Bert
Strictly for the carnivore, serving hearty meat dishes in a brisk, no-nonsense manner: this is very much a local favourite, furnished with flea market antiques and featuring an original zinc bar. The food is incredibly rich, the wine list is one of the best in the city. 18, rue Paul Bert, 75011; lunch under €34, dinner under €50
Robert et Louise
A lot of places lay claim to make the best steak in Paris, but this teensy restaurant in the Marais unquestionably delivers one of the very best. There’s only a handful of tables upstairs, in full view of the wood fire oven; there’s also room in the basement. No reservations, just show up. The €12 lunch menu is excellent. 64, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003; robertetlouise.com
Bistrot du Peintre
A Belle Époque bistrot with a 1902 art nouveau bar and a nice outdoor patio, it’s easy to forget this place also does excellent food. The menu specialises in solid campagnard cooking from the Auvergne,homemade foie gras, duck confit and juicy sirloin, none costing more than €14. 116 ave Ledru Rollin, 75011; bistrotdupeintre
Steak-frites is a Parisian staple. Virtually everywhere does it, but none better than this inauspicious bistro in the 14th arrondissement. Apparently it’s because they’re one of the few in the city to serve properly aged beef, which is then cooked to barely beyond bloody (this is France, after all). Nab a booth by the window and tuck in. 8 rue des Plantes, 75014
VIRGIN ATLANTIC TO CHARGE FOR SEAT RESERVATIONS
From April 1st, long-haul economy passengers on Virgin Atlantic will have to pay £25 to reserve a seat. The fee is being rolled out on a route-by-route basis, beginning with London-Las Vegas. It only applies if you want to book a seat before the 24-hour online check- in window. The charge will be applied on services to the rest of the world from May.
Today marks the inaugural sailing of the weekly Dublin to Cherbourg ferry service. The 500-capacity Epsilon departs Dublin Port at 3.30pm every Saturday, arriving in Cherbourg on Sunday morning at 11.30am.
Return sailings will leave Cherbourg at 5pm on Sunday and arrive in Dublin on Monday morning at 11am.
The price is competitive: a high-season journey for four passengers (two adults and two kids) in a saloon car will cost €209 each way – which is much better value than buying four return flights – and you can fill the car full of wine.
MICRO GUIDE: Athens
STAY Periscope (22 Haritos St; yeshotels.gr; room from €88). Award-winning minimalist hotel in Kolonaki district
EAT Sardelles (15 Persefonis, Keramaikos; from €21). Sensational seafood dishes
SEE Benaki Museum (Koumbari 1; benaki.gr; €7). Private collection from Bronze Age to the 19th century
DRINK Booze Cooperativa (Kolokotroni 57; boozecooperativa.com). Hipster café by day, trendy bar by night
€449: See Andre Rieu at Le Zénith in Paris on March 12th. Price includes flights and three nights B&B at Mercure Paris La Villette. travelfox.ie
€739: Three-night St Patrick’s Day extravaganza in Chicago, including flights and accommodation. thomascook.ie
€989: Six-day Classical India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) with Shandon Travel, including 4-star hotels, transfers, guides and flights from Dublin or Cork. Travel247.ie