Travel Desk: news, deals and destinations with Fionn Davenport

Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 01:00

Universal wizardry
Last week, Universal Orlando announced the long-awaited details of its new Harry Potter-themed attraction, which will open in July. It is Diagon Alley, a recreation of urban London with a thrill ride based on Gringott’s Bank and a hidden alley of shops (selling wands, cloaks and other Potter gear), accessed through a magic portal. Universal are expecting it to exceed the popularity of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in 2007, and has been largely responsible for a 30 per cent yearly boost in visitor numbers since 2010. But whereas the Wizarding World is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure park, Diagon Alley will open in the Universal Studios park, which means that you’ll have to buy a ticket to both parks – currently, single-day access to the two costs $136.32 (€99.68) including tax, for over-10s. But resistance will be useless: the two attractions will be linked by a train, so try telling your kids that they can’t get on the Hogwart’s Express.

Caribbean fever
A viral outbreak of chikunguya fever on the French Caribbean island of St Martin in December has spiralled into a much larger outbreak, with more than 480 confirmed cases spanning a number of islands in the area, including Martinique, St Barts, Guadeloupe and Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. The virus, transmitted via the bite of an infected female mosquito, causes severe joint pain, nausea, fatigue and rash. With no vaccine, the only recommended treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Travellers are urged to apply insect repellant containing DEET and sleep in air-conditioned rooms.

Marijuana dropbox
Colorado may have legalised marijuana from January 1st, but federal law makes it illegal for users to carry it on aircraft. The airport in Colorado Springs has introduced a drop box for passengers – to stop others going through the rubbish looking for discarded weed. Denver Airport is not so inclined to cater to smokers and has instituted a zero-tolerance marijuana policy.


Micro-guide: Berlin, your 60-second city guide
STAY Hotel Amano (Auguststrasse 43; amanogroup.de; from €90) Three-star designer hotel near the Hackescher Markt with free wifi and a nice rooftop terrace
EAT La Soupe Populaire (Atelierhaus, Prenzlauer Allee 242; lasoupepopulaire.de; dishes €9-€22) Michelin-chef Tim Raue oversees “people’s food” in contemporary art gallery
SEE Jewish Museum (Lindenstrasse 9-14; jmberlin.de; €8) Unmissable and uncompromising examination of the Jewish experience at the hands of Nazi Germany; Peter Eisenmann’s Holocaust Memorial outside has a profound impact.


Party time takes off
Millenials book at the last minute, don’t care if they’re seated next to the toilet and would pay extra for access to an open bar. These are some of the findings of a study done of Millenials (aged 18-34) and Generation Xers (aged 35-54) by online travel company Hipmunk (hipmunk.com). By contrast, 59 per cent of Generation Xers book their flights at least six months in advance, and only 18 per cent of them would pay for unlimited drinks. Studies like this are important for the airline industry, which traditionally operated on the assumption that the only thing that mattered were fares and schedules. This generation of tech-savvy passengers show that the in-flight experience is just as important.


No need to run
Ryanair’s recent Damascene conversion (brought on by falling profits?) promises a friendlier airline, and from today passengers have the choice of paying €10 for extra legroom or a seat in the first five rows; other seats will be charged at €5 (with priority boarding available for €2). Customers not wishing to pay for a seat will have one randomly assigned – on a full flight you can bet it’ll be that cozy middle seat.

Five affordable Michelin-starred restaurants
The Breslin, New York City
All the lunch main courses at this gastropub-style restaurant in the lobby of the Ace Hotel cost less than $24; Michelin has given it a star for the quality of its charcuterie and pub grub.
16 W 29th St; thebreslin.com


I Tigli A Lago, Lake Como
If you’re on Lake Como and have a yearning for Sicilian-style seafood and fish, this is the place to go. It’s all about the catch of the day – one day it might be sea bass and clams, the next lobster. The two-course lunch menu is €20.
Via Coloniola 44 I, Como; itiglialago.it


Hand & Flowers, Marlow
Thirty-odd miles west of London, in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow, is surely the world’s cheapest two-star Michelin restaurant, where a dish like smoked haddock with Parmesan approaches the sublime? Lunch is £19.50.
126 West St, Marlow;
thehandandflowers.co.uk


Onyx, Budapest
Modern Hungarian dishes such as confit oxtail, marinated rainbow trout and a goulash that picked up a Bocuse d’Or prize in 2013, are the specialties of this elegant spot . The three-course lunch special is HUF5990/€19.65.
Vörösmarty tér 7-8-H - Pest 1051;
onyxrestaurant.hu


Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong
The world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant has queues around the block, as diners line up to try its delicious and inexpensive dim sum – most of which cost HK$15-HK$25 (€1.50/€2.50). Four branches around the city, two of which have Michelin stars: Sham Shui Po, and as of this week the North Point branch, following the release of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2014
G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong


l How do Ireland’s nine Michelin-starred restaurants compare? Not too badly, if you’re willing to stick to the prix fixe lunch. Kilkenny’s Campagne has a two-course lunch for €24 (three courses for €29) while lunch at Dublin’s five starred restaurants ranges from €29.95 at Bon Appetit in Malahide, to €50 at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only two-star.


Deals of the week
€1.550: Nine nights in the Paradors of Spain, including flights to Madrid, returning from Malaga, meals and drinks. See mapotravel.ie

€525
Ski break in Meribel, Morzine or the Val d’Isère, with accommodation and transfer. March 30 or April 6; flights not included. See highlife.ie

Listen Up
For more travel news, tune in to The Irish Times Travel Show on Mondays, at irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/travel-show

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