Travel Desk: news deals and destinations with Fionn Davenport
Best suite in the world . . . at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, yours for €12,265 a night
Check out the best hotels in the world
Best Anything lists are invariably subjective, but the gongs dished out to hotels by the World Travel Awards matter a great deal . Getting nominated in the first place – never mind winning – is publicity gold.
The 2013 winners were announced in Doha last November, but they’ll reap the benefits in 2014 as their already established cachet grows. And, just in case you missed them, the big winners were Kempinski Hotels (kempinski.com), which won Leading Hotel in Europe (the Ciragan Palace Hotel in Istanbul) and Europe’s Best Business Hotel (Berlin’s elegant Hotel Adlon). Top prize went to the Banyan Tree in Bangkok (banyantree.com), which was awarded the World’s Best City Hotel. Other notable winners included Paris’s only French-owned five-star hotel, Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière (lucienbarriere.com; Best City Hotel in Europe) and Funchal’s Hotel The Vine (hotelthevine.com), a contemporary bolthole on the Portuguese island of Madeira, which won Europe’s Best Design award for the second year in a row. And, just because these things matter, the Best Suite in the World was in the ridiculously opulent Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi (pictured), also managed by Kempinski. It can be yours for only €12,265 a night.
Is the time when most of us book our holidays with one of a handful of giant online travel agents (OTAs) closer than we think? According to global travel market researchers PhoCusWright, the growth of OTA bookings in Europe exceeds that of overall bookings by a considerable margin: online bookings rose by 10 per cent in 2013 and are predicted to rise by 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively in 2014 and 2015 (compared to 3.6 per cent and 3.8 per cent increases in overall bookings over the same period). Hardly surprising then that the big players have made moves to consolidate their positions. Following the acquisition of travel metasearch engine Kayak.com for $1.8bn by giant OTA Priceline (the parent company of booking.com) in 2013, Expedia forked out €434m for a majority stake in hotel search engine site Trivago, which claims to offer consumers search results of more than 650,000 properties from nearly 150 websites.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has announced a new, easy-to-navigate website (dfa.ie) to go with the new passport design that launched last September. The redesigned website allows you to navigate through from tracking your application to a revamped travel advice section. It is encouraging citizens to sign up to the Passport Renewal Reminder service, which sends a reminder email three months ahead of renewal. If you sign up this weekend (January 24th-26th) your name will be entered into a draw to win a holiday for two in Turkey, courtesy of Sunway Travel.
FIVE AFTERNOON TEAS IN LONDON
The list of historical patrons is impressive, from Kipling and Bram Stoker to Arthur Conan Doyle and Churchill. There are 17 teas on offer, along with sandwiches, scones and cakes. Winston probably opted for the version with the glass of Ruinart Champagne.
£41.50-£51.50, served 2pm- 6.30pm Mon-Thu, from noon Fri-Sun;
33 Albermarle Street.
Claridge’s declares that it hosts “quite simply, the most elegant afternoon tea in town”. There’s even a children’s version of afternoon tea (£25) with vanilla fairy cakes and brownies instead of the raisin and apple scones with Marco Polo jelly and clotted cream.
sittings at 3pm, 3.30pm, 5pm or 5.30pm;
Brook Street, Mayfair.
The afternoon tea crowd book well in advance to sit in the Promenade, where they’re served sandwiches with the crusts cut off, homemade scones and then the cakes and tartlets – macarons, financiers and praline pyramids.
served every 45 minutes,
Park Lane, Mayfair.
Fortnum & Mason
The posh grocer has been in the tea-serving business for the guts of three centuries, so it knows a thing or two about how to make its guest feel like they’re in a historical time-warp. Afternoon tea is served in an upstairs dining room.
served noon-9pm Mon-Sat, to 8pm Sun;
Winner of the Tea Guild’s prestigious award for best afternoon tea in 2013, Belgravia’s Goring Hotel got its tea Oscar for its selection of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, served with a selection of teas that met the Guild’s standards. You can while away the afternoon by a fire in the lounge or on the terrace – one of the few London hotels to offer an al fresco afternoon tea.
£37.50 (Bollinger afternoon tea £47.50),
served 3pm- 4.30pm daily;
15 Beeston Place, Grosvenor Gardens.
And all that jazz...
Christina Aguilera, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire and Santana are just some of the names that will perform during the 45th edition of the Jazz & Heritage Festival (to give it its proper name) in New Orleans, along with homegrown favourites such as Allen Toussaint, Aaron Neville and the Queen of New Orleans Soul herself, Irma Thomas. The festival (nojazzfest.com) runs over two weekends, April 25th-27th and May 1st-4th and single day adult tickets cost from $50 (€36). If you’re planning a visit (and it’s well worth it), book your accommodation now. Highly recommended is Chimes B&B (1146 Constantinople St; chimesneworleans.com; rooms from $230) in the Uptown/Garden district, just three blocks from the St Charles Avenue street car stop. It’s a classic New Orleans home, packed with antiques. Flights via Atlanta are from €915 return. Book at delta.com
Micro-guide: Abu Dhabi
STAY Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi (Fatima Bint Mubarak St; leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com; from €120) Super-plush but moderately priced five-star near the Corniche
EAT Amici (Viceroy Hotel, Yas Island; meals about €80) Excellent Italian food on a lovely terrace
SEE Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque – pictured above – (17 Rabi Al-Awwal; szgmc.ae; admission free) the most aesthetically pleasing building in the whole emirate
PLAY Yas Links Golf Course (Yas Island; yaslinks.com; green fee €120) One of the best courses in the Middle East
Deals of the week:
€1,425: 11 nights in India and Nepal, including Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and Kathmandu. April to September, includes flights and rail transfers. See gohop.ie
€1,419: 8 days 5-star Rhine cruise through the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland. March 23rd from Amsterdam. Flights not included. uniworld.ie
€558: Four nights at the 3-star Reykjavik Lights hotel, departing April 24th. Includes flights and transfers. See wtg.ie