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Malta: 74.33 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Luton to Luga.

Consisting of seven islands, the Republic of Malta is popular with tourists because it offers nearly year-round sunshine, sporting opportunities and an exciting nightlife, along with 7,000 years of history.

Start on Malta Island with a visit to the city of Mdina, the old capital of Malta. This medieval town is a quaint, pedestrians-only walled city atop a plateau commanding magnificent views of the island.

Next, visit the capital, Valletta, a U.N. World Heritage city. Its 320 monuments make it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. Notable attractions include St. John’s Cathedral; the Grand Harbor, with its Upper Barracca Gardens dating to the 1600s; Lascaris War Rooms; and the Grand Masters Palace. Take a few hours to shop the city’s side streets, teeming with shops offering jewelry, antiques, books and more.

In the northern region, visit “Sweethaven Village,” where the movie “Popeye” was filmed in 1980. Tourists can visit the film set, take a 15-minute boat trip, watch animated films, explore the park featuring rides and games and visit the bar, restaurant and souvenir shop.

Venture off to Gozo and Comino, the other two inhabited islands of Malta, for more adventures. On Gozo, tourists will find Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses alongside lush fields with flowering herbs and some of the Mediterranean’s best diving sites. Comino provides ample opportunities for sailing, snorkeling, wind surfing and fishing, while the isle’s Blue Lagoon offers idyllic swimming in turquoise water.

Next month — Feb. 23-25Tours, France: 29.99 pounds round tripFly Ryanair from London Stansted to Tours.

Begin your visit of Tours in the Old Town, strolling among half-timbered medieval houses lining streets dating to Roman times. You also will find Place Plumereau filled to the brim with cafes and nightlife.

Stop at the Cathedral St. Gatien to admire the mix of Roman, Gothic and Renaissance architecture and beautiful 13th-century stained-glass windows that illuminate it. Inside the cathedral is the elegant 16th-century tomb of the two children of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne.

Tours’ main historical museum, the Touraine Archeological and Historical Museum, was home to a 15th-century silk merchant and is lavishly decorated inside and out. From there, visit the Musee de Compagnonnage to explore the work of rope makers, wood turners and clog makers. Alongside is a museum devoted to wine.

Visit the Fine Arts Museum within the old Archbishop’s Palace where works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Degas and Delacroix are displayed along with a sculpture collection.

For stylish shopping, visit the busy main street, Rue Nationale, with plenty of department stores and dozens of smaller shops, or historic Rue Colbert with its many specialty shops.

Tours is nestled at the junction of the Cher and Loire rivers and is a good base for exploration of the Loire chateaux country. The chateaux of Chenonceau, Blois, Amboise, Cheverny, Azay, Villandry and Chaumont are all within an hour’s drive.

Airfare prices include estimated taxes and are courtesy of the Web site www.skyscanner.net. Prices were verified as of Monday afternoon when Stars and Stripes UK went to press. Deals are not guaranteed to be available; restrictions may apply.


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