Fionn Davenport's travel desk

Memories of jazz in Marrakesh, stargazing in the UK and the cost of a kiss - plus great hotel deals


Readers of these pages will guess that I'm pretty excited about direct flights from Dublin to Marrakesh, and this week I've discovered that the one-time home of jazz legend Josephine Baker has been converted into a seven-room boutique hotel. Baker moved to Marrakesh in the early 1940s, and her Art Deco riad – the Arabic word for garden; also used to describe houses that open inward onto a garden courtyard – has been beautifully restored by English owners who only discovered the link with Baker after they bought it. Room rates start at €167.


The 405 square miles of Northumberland National Park and the adjoining Kielder Water, Europe's largest artificial lake, have been designated a Dark Sky Park, which ensures that the region will be protected from light pollution – basically from us pesky humans and our need to see what we're doing. With only 2,000 inhabitants, this is England's least populated national park and now, according to the Arizona-based International Dark Skies Association (the only body that can award Dark Sky status), one of the best spots in Europe for star-gazing.

From January 6th, visitors to New York can take advantage of the Broadway Week promotion, which means 2-for-1 tickets to 26 Broadway shows, including Jersey Boys, Chicago, The Lion King and Once. A standard ticket to the most popular shows can cost around $150, so the savings are considerable. This is a much better option than queuing for same-day tickets at the TKTS booth on Times Square (there are other offices at the South Street Seaport and in Brooklyn). You can find great deals on tickets right up to show time, but there's no guarantee you'll get tickets for the show you want to see.

Three US airlines announced this week that they won't allow passengers to make phone calls in flight. Delta, JetBlue and United said that customer research indicated that a majority of frequent flyers think that allowing the use of mobile phones would be a major disruption to the travel experience. The decision anticipates an announcement by the Federal Aviation Authority to relax the rules on phone use. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ruled that smartphones and tablets can be used during all phases of a flight as long as they're in flight mode, but they're also looking at "new ways to certify the use of mobile phones onboard aircraft to make phone calls."



Two years after it was surrounded by a glass screen in a vain attempt to protect it from lipstick marks, the tomb of Oscar Wilde in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris is still being attacked by “kissers”. They climb up on an adjoining tomb and lean over the screen – partly funded by the Irish Government – to plant kisses on the winged Assyrian-style angel carved just over 100 years ago by Jacob Epstein.

The kissing tradition, which dates back to the mid-1980s, had left the tomb in a terrible state, and it had to be cleaned before the screen was formally unveiled at the end of November 2011.

One of Wilde's fans even managed to plant a kiss on the angel's lips, as my photograph shows. So maybe it's time to admit defeat, much as this may distress the writer's only grandson, Merlin Holland. As an official notice on the screen says (in French and English), "the cleaning fees are exclusively paid by the family".
Frank McDonald

€99: Romantic rendezvous at Hotel Meyrick, Galway; one night B&B and 30-minute treatment. €331: 7 nights at the four-star Dolmen Hotel in Qawra, Malta, including flights from Dublin and all taxes.
€447: 7 nights in three-star Hubertushof, Kaprun, Austria, departing January 4, including flights.
€1,448: 10 nights at 5-star Zuri Varca White Sands in Goa, with flights from Dublin or Cork.

Hotel Caruso, Ravello
€600 is a lot to fork out for a pool with a view (plus a stunning suite), but the infinity pool at the Hotel Caruso in Ravello has the near-perfect view: the plunging cliff-line of the Amalfi Coast. The pool is heated, because God forbid perfection should get chilly.

B2 Boutique Hotel & Spa, Zurich
Set on the rooftop of a converted brewery, the Thermalbad & Spa's pool is kept at a lovely 36 degrees, which gets nice and steamy during cold weather. The thermal spa is set in the old barrel vaults of the former brewery. Rooms from €269; spa €44.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes

Pablo Picasso


Marlene Dietrich


Gary Cooper

all frolicked at some stage in the pool at arguably France’s most famous hotel, which was the inspiration for the Hotel des Etrangers in F Scott Fitzgerald’s

Tender is the Night.

The pool was carved into the rock with a blast of dynamite in 1914. The swim, the room and the view can be yours for about €1,000 a night.

Perivolas, Santorini
An unencumbered view of the sea anywhere on Santorini is special, but the views from the infinity pool at the Perivolas boutique hotel in Oia (just 17 suites) are so spectacular that they've become the classic Santorini photograph: the water disappearing over the cliff with a view of the caldera below. Junior suite €420.

Rocca delle Tre Contrade, Sicily
To get to the infinity pool of this restored 19th-century villa, you have to walk down a hidden staircase in the lava-stone walls, which makes the experience all the more memorable: you can do laps in full view of Mount Etna, the surrounding vineyards and the Ionian Sea. Only available for weekly rentals.