Blackpool may not have the most winning name but there’s a reason it draws in seven million visitors a year, says our publisher in his roundup of this week’s Top 20
£45 -- Blackpool Victorian Hotel w/Dinner, Wine & Upgrade
If a modern marketing executive had come up with the name “Blackpool” for a seaside holiday resort, he probably would have been taken away for a quiet chat about whether this was really the career he wanted to pursue. But what’s in a name? The less superficial traveller will look beyond to find the real, idiosyncratic charms of an enduring fun spot on the northern British coast. But first he or she will probably gaze goggle-eyed at this deal: If you consider that, for £45 a night, you get a 3-course dinner, breakfast and a bottle of wine, the room itself -- also thrown in -- begins to look as if it’s free. All of which means you'll have more money to spend on Blackpool’s bold and, yes, sometimes brash attractions. Chief among the latter are the 145 amusement rides clustered on Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach (although neither amusement nor pleasure will be yours if you’re stuck with me on one of these contraptions) -- an astounding seven million visitors a year can’t be wrong. A retro counterpart of this cacophonous hotspot is Blackpool Tower, built in 1894 to attract attention to the town and retaining a wonderfully ornate rococo ballroom, where you’re meant to spin around at a far more sedate pace, thank you very much.
£75 -- Berlin Stay for 2 w/Upgrade & Dinner, Reg £146
Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s bunker, the Stasi Museum. Think of this fascinating city and you tend to think of clash-of-civilisations sort of stuff, and if not that then maybe mullet haircuts and currywurst (try it, surprisingly good). What you are less likely to be thinking of is a stay in a tranquil riverside hotel overlooking a 16th-century baroque castle, but that’s precisely what we’ve found. The pentahotel Berlin-Köpenick perches on the banks of the River Dahme, a tributary of the Spree that runs through Berlin and helps make this one of the greenest parts of an already pleasantly verdant city. Consuming a good part of the view is a great white wedding cake of a building that would accommodate a good half-borough of flat-dwelling Londoners now but, 500 years ago, was a mere hunting lodge for one Joachim II Hector of Brandenburg. Oh, and the deal? Well, for £75, including not only an overnight stay, but also an upgrade, breakfast and a 3-course dinner for two, you’ll have most of your needs satisfied for an unbeatable price. But don’t forget the pleasures of the city itself, only a 20-minute metro ride away. Thanks largely to its cheap rents, Berlin attracts interesting if impoverished creative types from all over the world: Combine these artistic inhabitants with the city’s moving and enthralling history and you have an addictive urban mix that you can dip into and out of as you like from your peaceful enclave on the Dahme.
£399 -- Azores: Exotic Island Holiday, Save over £230
Weeks is how long it would have taken the hairy, armour-clad Portuguese settlers of the Azores to sail to the islands from the European mainland in the 14th century or thereabouts (the real founding dates are shrouded in sea fog) -- and that’s if they made it without perishing from scurvy or at the end of a pirate’s blade. Now you can fly there in three and a half hours and stay for a week -- all, astonishingly, for less than £400. Well, you can, dear reader, because you know about Travelzoo -- an away-from-it-all holiday like this would cost normal travellers more than half the price again. If you go, your experience will be rare in another sense because the Azores really are remote, not only from other landmasses but culturally, too. McDonald’s outlets, chain cafes and iPod-leaking crowds are not the norm. Religious festivals celebrating the Cult of the Holy Spirit, with a pleasingly archaic, heady feel, predominate here. The Azores are also among the best places in the world for whale-watching: not surprisingly, considering they’re just pinnacles of rock poking up from the cetaceans’ vast Atlantic playground.