Every week, our publisher draws on his globetrotting experience to pick his favourite deals from the Top 20. This time he (reluctantly) draws your attention to a Spanish castle escape, a Prague 3-nighter and a night of classical music from one of Britain’s foremost composers
£55 -- Secluded Medieval Spanish Castle Stay, Reg £97
Editorial honesty compels me to flag up this deal. I wouldn’t normally do it for the purely selfish reason that I don’t want you Travelzoo users nabbing all the rooms here and preventing me from staying. I love original accommodation. I once stayed in a little Italian hill town that had become entirely derelict until bought in its entirety by the millionaire son of a concrete-manufacturing family who brilliantly restored it to every last antique detail and opened it as a strange village-cum-hotel. Well, our Spanish castle promises an even more distant trip back in time. It was erected in the 11th century, forsooth, and accordingly you get half an hour on the rack per couple, roast peacock at dinner with bottomless goblets of wine and the chance to pour boiling oil on the enemies of your choice. OK, I’m getting carried away, but the property does appear very sensitively maintained, complete with turret rooms, original wooden beams and (I’ll leave you to adjudicate on the, ahem, taste issue here) a restaurant in the dungeon. It’s a time machine, in other words, Travelzooers, and tickets are £55!
£149 -- 3 Nights in Prague including Flights, Save £105
Beautiful, angsty people, steamy cafes and fried cheese: my main memories of Prague sound rather incompatible, but never mind that for the moment. Do, however, take advantage of this great deal if you’ve never visited the Czech capital. I think the pounds and pence side of the package speak for themselves: you could find flights alone to Prague for not much less than £149, and here you also get three nights in a central, modern art deco hotel. You’ll not only be next to some of Prague’s most important sights, Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge, but also arrive just in time for some of the most evocative, snow-sprinkled (hopefully) Christmas shopping imaginable, in the city’s sprawling year-end street markets. Now back to that cheese. Just recovering from their communist hangover, the Czechs were still a bit suspicious of things like Christmas shopping when I first visited Prague in the early ’90s. One area in which they did excel, however, was the preparation of steak-like tranches of a certain fried dairy product: a strange and deeply unhealthy dish that nonetheless, in the winter cold, obtained a narcotic-like hold on the eater (me). Prague has since welcomed capitalism with a bear-like hug, but there’s plenty of the beautiful medieval old city remaining and, if you root it out, I’m sure you could still find plenty of fried cheese.
£10 -- British Classical-Music Master at Royal Festival Hall
Speaking of cheap tickets, I’m inclined to slip a few of these to a rare and splendid-sounding performance by the British composer George Benjamin into my wallet. George who? I suspect the cause of British classical music has been hindered by its stars lacking the impressively guttural, spiky or sinuously sibilant names of the European competition. By comparison with Bach, Rachmaninov and Sibelius, George Benjamin sounds a bit like the bloke who used to run the local post office. All the more reason why you’re likely to be astounded by music The Guardian describes as “transcendently beautiful”. What’s more, Benjamin is conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, which, let’s face it, not everyone can put on their CV. And, finally, one of his pieces borrows a favourite word of mine, “palimpsest”, for the title. Look it up, and let’s see who’s the first to throw it into conversation. After all that, the measly ticket price seems like a printing error, albeit a very, very welcome one.
Simon Busch is the publisher of the UK Top 20.