Winter sales in Paris

You might have put in long hours shopping for the perfect gifts for others over this Christmas season. That’s fun, but perhaps now you’re ready for some “me” time. Ease any trace of guilty feelings by buying something that’s been marked down to half price. Find the fabulous by venturing to Paris from Jan. 7, when five weeks of massive sales kick off.

Parisian tourist officials want to help you come to their city and spend your money. So they’ve mapped out five different shopping routes based on various styles, from classic to “world fusion fashion.” The Convention and Visitors Bureau publishes a "Shopping Book" to help you find essential addresses. And hotels and restaurants lay on the specials to further entice visitors.

Christmas celebrations in neighboring lands

Have you given your local German Christmas market a little too much love this season already? If you’re feeling that way, maybe you need to strike out across the border. I recently stumbled across a nifty little Web site offering information on Christmas-related events in the Alsace. So, if you’re in the market for a market, or Marché de Noël, in neighboring France, pay a visit to http://noel.tourisme-alsace.com/en/events/. You’ll even find an event or two stretching past Christmas day, if you are one to suffer from post-holiday blues.

If Belgium or Luxembourg makes for an easier getaway for you, a good listing of the Christmas-related events in these countries can be found at:

Good deals on flights within Europe, for those who plan ahead

Looking for some cheap air tickets? Here are a couple of good deals I have found for those residing in Germany. But you’ll need to be faster than a speeding bullet to take advantage of them.
Lufthansa is billing its upcoming fare sale as the last highlight of the year, and is once again offering round-trip flights within Europe from January through March starting from 99 euros. These sales offer great opportunities to travel to destinations that you might ordinarily pay several times that amount to reach. Some of the more far-flung places to which tickets may be available at reduced fares include: Istanbul, Turkey; Malta; or Larnaca, Cyprus. The special offer will run from Thursday, Dec. 11, through Sunday, Dec. 14, when a million extra seats will be offered at reduced prices. If you plan your travels for the first part of 2009 a bit ahead of time, you could end up with big savings.
Would you rather see green, as in the Emerald Isle? Aer Lingus is offering a 20 percent discount on flights from Germany to Ireland, as well as to the USA, if you book before Dec. 11 and fly between Dec. 19 and March 31. Some fares I saw available online included Munich to Cork from Jan. 23-26 for 84.34 euros, or Frankfurt to Dublin from Jan. 16-18 for 72.20 euros, taxes included.
We can’t leave our friends in the UK out in the cold, can we? If you’re there, but looking to warm up for a few days this winter, Iberia.com has some pretty decent fares available to the Canary Islands. Fly to Tenerife from London Heathrow in February at fares beginning at 153 pounds, taxes included, or from Heathrow to Lanzarote, from 161 pounds.

Off to the Christmas market with a package deal from German Rail

Perhaps you’ve been toying with the idea of visiting a Christmas market, but the potential of a long drive through freezing rain holds little appeal. In that case, you could do worse than to plan a hotel-inclusive weekend getaway by train. German Rail presently has several offers to some of the country’s best loved Christmas markets, including those in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Hanover, Basel, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Leipzig. For details, click here.

For example, should Basel, Switzerland, sound suitably exotic to you, you could go online and book a two-night package inclusive of a double room at the four-star SAS Radisson Hotel located just five minutes from the Old Town, breakfast, and rail transportation to and from your hometown at a cost of 408 euros for two persons. Should both travelers hold valid Bahncards, those passes that allow 25 percent or 50 percent savings on all rail journeys, 358 euros would cover the cost of the package for two. (Solo travelers might find themselves out of luck with this package, as I was unable to proceed with my theoretical booking of a single room.)

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