Traveldesk: Five reasons to return to Paris and a South Africa U-turn

Fionn Daven port round up the week’s best travel deals and news

Despite the terrible events of November 13th, Paris has struck a defiant chord and is redoubling its efforts to remain Europe’s most-visited city.

Despite the terrible events of November 13th, Paris has struck a defiant chord and is redoubling its efforts to remain Europe’s most-visited city.

 

SOUTH AFRICAN U-TURN

South Africa has agreed to reverse its restrictive child visa regulations following a downturn in tourism numbers. The onerous measures introduced in June meant anyone arriving into the country with a child under 18 needed an unabridged birth certificate to prove parenthood, while single parents needed notarised permission from the absent parent to show consent.

The rules were brought in to tackle child trafficking, but have instead hit tourism to the tune of up to 100,000 visitors in 2015 alone.

The looser regulations allow travellers with children to have guardianship details printed in the minors’ passports, while the consent of a non-travelling parent is no longer mandatory (but still “strongly advised”).

FIVE REASONS TO RETURN TO PARIS

Despite the terrible events of November 13th, Paris has struck a defiant chord and is redoubling its efforts to remain Europe’s most-visited city. Here are five things worth visiting the city of light for this winter.

Fairytale palace Château de Vaux le Vicomte (weekends only until January 3rd; vaux-le-vicomte.com; €17.50), 55km southeast of Paris, in Maincy, this year celebrates the 400th anniversary of its creator Nicolas Fouquet with extra festive flavour, including a 14m ferris wheel, merry-go-round and family show.

Hot chocolate The best places to try the Parisian take on a cup of cocoa include Berthillon (29-31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 75004), Jacques Genin (133 rue de Turenne, 75003) and Jean-Paul Hévin (3 rue Vavin, 75006). For a truly decadent hot choccie, try Ladurée (75 avenue des Champs-Elysées).

Paris on ice The famous rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville (December 18th to March 1st; admission free, €6 to rent skates) is the busiest, with queues of up to two hours. The rink at the Christmas Market on Place de Concorde (until January 3rd; €10 incl skates) is also popular, or try gliding on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower (December 8th-February 15th; €4 tower access, free to skate).

Picasso Until the end of February, the Grand Palais (3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008; grandpalais.fr; €15) is hosting Picasso.mania, placing a selection of Picasso’s best known works against those of artists including David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Martin Kippenberger, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

Terraces Winter in Paris means festively decorated temporary terrace cafes and bars. The most elegant are at the Peninsula Hotel (19 Avenue Kléber 75116; paris.peninsula.com), the Hôtel du Collectionneur (57 Rue de Courcelles 75008; hotelducollectionneur.com) and the BHV department store (36 Rue de la Verrerie 75004; Thursday to Saturday) overlooking the Marais.

NO PEOPLE? NO PROBLEM

Munich’s new “hassle-free” Hotel Buddy (Sonnenstrasse 2, Munich; hotel-buddy.de) has comfort beds, wetroom showers, up to 300MB of free wifi – and no staff. The 75-room property has an entirely automated check-in and management system that operates on cloud technology. The concept is similar to checking into a flight online, which is designed to offer passengers minimum fuss and wait time.

With room rates from €60, the lack of personnel (except cleaners) means the owner can pass the savings on to the customer, but whether it proves to be a model for the rest of the hotel industry remains to be seen.

VIVA ITALIA!

Las Vegas is celebrating Italian cuisine this month with the third edition of the Ultimo Food Festival from December 20th-23rd. Hosted by the Venetian and Palazzo hotels, the festival has rolled out an impressive list of superstar chefs to showcase their skills, including Jérôme Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Ming Tsai.

Tickets for the festival’s six culinary events can be bought à la carte, starting with the Bocuse d’Or competition to pick the US representative for the international competition in Lyon in 2017 ($25) and climaxing with the sumptuous $1,000-a-plate Grand Banquet prepared by four chefs.

See venetian.com/entertainment/events

JETBLUE PARTNERS WITH AMAZON

Passengers on JetBlue can now access streaming entertainment from Amazon. The airline’s 150-plus fleet is already equipped with Fly-Fi, free broadband internet and the fastest on any airline.

Its deal with Amazon will allow subscribers to Amazon Prime unlimited access to a menu of thousands of films and original programming;

non-members can rent or purchase titles from the same list.

JetBlue, which has a codeshare deal with Aer Lingus, serves more than 80 destinations in North America.

GET AWAY AT HOME

Some good seasonal options are available in the capital. Trinity City Hotel (trinitycityhotel.com) has a Shop ’n’ Drop package that includes B&B accommodation for two and a 10 per cent discount at the Kilkenny Shop from €153 per room. Not too far away, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel (radissonblu.ie) on Golden Lane has a Shop in Style package that includes B&B accommodation, a three-course dinner and free parking from €210pps, valid until the end of January. For some pampering, the Merrion Hotel (merrionhotel.com) has a post-Christmas one-night B&B package from €249.50pps that includes a 55-minute treatment at the Tethra Spa.

MICRO-GUIDE BOLOGNA

STAY Bologna nel Cuore (Via Cesare Battisti 29; bolognanelcuore.it; room from €100) Two rooms and two self-catering apartments in a friendly and central B&B.

EAT Drogheria della Rosa (Via Cartoleria 10; drogheriadellarosa.it; meals €35-€40) Old pharmacy converted into a top-class trattoria that serves well-made local dishes.

DO Museo della Storia di Bologna (Via Castiglione 8; genusbononiae.it;admission €10) Excellent interactive museum covering the city’s rich and storied past.