Let's go / Best bets
Walk sunny Spain
If you’re getting tired of the dark, winter weather of northern Europe, try going for a walk in sunny Andalucia, Spain. Walk Andalucia, a British company based in Spain, is offering walking trips Jan. 22-26 and Feb. 26 to March 2.
The cost is 450 pounds (about $720) and stays the same for those who are traveling solo — no single supplement! The price includes flight from England, transfers, four nights’ accommodations in Moorish houses in the village of Torrox, Spain, walking itineraries, breakfasts, picnic lunches and evening meals. The cost without the flight is 375 pounds.
The company is also offering a seven-night painting vacation for 599 pounds (no single supplement) Jan. 13-20 and March 7-14. The package includes instructors, easels and lightweight folding chairs. You provide the talent and brushes. Paper and canvasses are for sale at the site.
Other tours are offered throughout the year. Details at www.walk-andalucia.com.
Vacations to Go offers discount and early-bird prices on cruises around the world. On last-minute cruises, the company says, it can offer up to 75 percent off the brochure price.
For example, under the link "90-day Ticker," a 12-day last-minute cruise of the Mediterranean leaves Barcelona, Spain, on Jan. 4. The price begins at $599 per person (double occupancy) for an inside cabin (down from the brochure price of $2,039) to $1,699 for a suite (down from $4,639). The cruise stops in Rome, Athens, Izmir, Cairo/Alexandria and Valletta, Malta, before returning to Spain.
As the season warms up, the prices rise, but you can still get good deals. Under "Find a Bargain," a five-day cruise of the Norwegian fjords departing April 24 from Bergen, Norway, for example, begins at $1,224 for an inside cabin (down from $1,749) per person, double occupancy, to $1,742 for a suite (down from $2,489). Ports of call include Kirkenes, Honningsvag, Hammerfest, Tromso, Harstad, Trondheim, Kristiansund and Molde.
The Web site, www.vacationstogo.com, also offers river cruises, singles cruises, information on cruise ships and ports and other tours. It also has information on cruise discounts for groups.
The joy of Vienna
Vienna is offering a special "Viennese Joie de Vivre During Advent" package through Dec. 24 for those who would like to enjoy the magic of its Christmas markets in front of the Belvedere Palace and on Maria-Theresien-Platz.
A double room in a category B hotel costs 302 euros (about $378) for a double, 205 euros for a single and includes two nights with breakfast, the Vienna Card for free rides on the city underground, bus and streetcars for 72 hours and additional discounts, Christmas punch and a Christmas village mug. A category A hotel costs 354 euros for a double, 240 for a single. To book a room at those prices, go to http://www.wien.info/article.asp?IDArticle=17740 and click on "Online booking."
If you want a little more action while there, you can head to Austria’s biggest disco, located on the Riesenplatzrad in the Prater. The Praterdome bills itself as one of the best nightclubs in the world. It’s open Thursdays through Saturdays to those 18 years and older. Inside, you’ll find four dance floors and 12 theme bars. Details at www.wien.info/article.asp?IDArticle=17858, or at the Praterdome’s Web site, http://praterdome.at (in German).
Best betsBELGIUM: One of Brussels’ more beautiful city districts, the Sablon, illuminates its streets with Christmas lights and opens its art galleries and antique shops from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday during its annual Sablon Nights Festival. Calling itself the district of art and trade, the area creates a magical cultural atmosphere with music, exhibitions and refreshments. Organizers recommend visitors leave their cars at the car parks at Sablon Poelaert by the Palais de Justice and Albertine and ride to the affair in free horse-drawn carriages. Find more at www.sablon.org.
CZECH REPUBLIC: The Battle of Austerlitz, the first of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s major victories, took place on Dec. 5, 1805, on the battlegrounds around Tvarozná, not far from the cities of Slavkov and Brno. His forces defeated the joint armies of Russia and Austria and gained major control of Europe in the conflict, also called the Battle of the Three Emperors. To mark its 203rd anniversary, more than 1,000 participants from throughout Europe will re-create the military world of early 19th-century Europe on the former battlegrounds Friday through Sunday. Among the highlights are a military camp, parades and marches, battle re-enactment on Saturday, musket competition, devotional service at the Peace Monument on Sunday and fireworks. Web site: www.a-tout-prague.com/en/news/austerlitz-2008-preliminary-program/.
ENGLAND: There’s something for everyone at this year’s Sail, Power and Watersports Show, which runs through through Sunday at Earls Court, London. The show is exhibiting hundreds of boats, including yachts, dinghies, powerboats, sports boats and rigid inflatables. In addition, you’ll find information on deck and boat equipment, sail makers, boat clothing, club memberships and training, boat art and food and drink. At the boat auction you may find that vessel at the price you’ve always dreamed about. The show is open until 9 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost 14 pounds (about $20) for adults, free for those younger than 16. Details at www.earlscourt2008.com.
AUSTRIA: St. Nicholas’ sidekicks in Austria, the devilish Krampus, will hit the streets of Salzburg on Saturday for the first of the annual Krampus runs. While the jolly saint carries gifts to good children, the Krampus carry switches to hit the legs of bad ones (and adults!). Dressed in fur with ugly masks or painted faces, the creatures sprint through the town and create more noise with their cowbells and clanking chains than harm with their switches. This year there are 10 runs: on Saturday, twice on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, three times on Dec. 5, and once each at Dec. 8 and 21. For the times and locations, go to www2.salzburg.info/sehenswertes_3759.htm.