Venice, open houses and online Israel

By Lucy Miller, April 11, 2008

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has launched a new internet site which allows visitors to Israel, and those planning a visit, to ask questions and receive recommendations and information before and during their stay, with a team of licensed tour guides from the Israeli Tour Guides Association providing answers within 48 hours of a posting. The site will also feature 300 tourist attractions and 500 accommodation options and will serve as a forum for exchanging information, personal recommendations and travelogues.

If you haven’t caught up with the idea that Majorca long ago shed its kiss-me-quick image and is now a very chic, up-scale island, the music festivals taking place later this year should convince you. They include the International Sa Pobla Jazz Festival in August with free concerts in Palma’s main square; the two week-long Alcudia Jazz Festival in early September; the Opera Season, which runs until November at the Teatre Principal in Palma — productions including Madam Butterfly —and the Jazz Voyeur Festival, which will be headlined by Diana Krall on August 5. As a base, Mallorca Farmhouses offers properties of all kinds across the island, including a one-bedroom apartment in stylish Palma, from £299 for three nights, including maid service, welcome hamper and car hire (0845 800 8080).

Gorgeous Grayshott Spa and top UK nutritionist Amanda Hamilton have combined to offer a body cleansing and weight-loss programme at the health resort on the Surrey-Hampshire border. The programme blends natural therapies and supplements with an eating regime designed to provide fast weight-loss. The four- and seven-day programmes, which start later this month, cost from £1,375 per person, and include all meals, health consultations, massages, a food-intolerance test and lots more (01428 602020.

A series of new combination “passports” from Keith Prowse Attractions offer Florida’s top theme parks and entertainments from £135 for a week for an “Orlando Thrills & Spills” passport. This covers major venues such as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios, the new water park, Aquatica and the Kennedy Space Centre, while a new, two-week “Do It All”’ passport at £299 per adult (and £259 per child, aged 3-9), provides an Orlando FlexTicket with 14 days of unlimited entrance to five theme parks including Universal Studios and Sea World, access to Florida’s four main Disney parks over a seven-day period, plus seven admissions to five other Disney attractions and a dinner-show ticket (02890 23 24 25).

More serene pleasures are on offer in Suffolk, where more than 140 of the county’s leading artists will open their studios to visitors over four June weekends. Opening hours are 11 to 5, when visitors can meet artists and see work ranging from paintings in watercolour, oil and acrylics, textiles, ceramics, sculpture, glass work, jewellery and photography. (Directory with dates and venues from 01449 675513; Suffolk Open Studios).

If you are thinking of visiting the studios, and wish to do it in style, the gorgeous Maison Talbooth, in Dedham, on the Essex border with Suffolk, re-opens this weekend following a £1.5 million renovation. This includes new suites, new treatment rooms at the Dermalogica spa, outdoor pool and tennis complex. Double rooms from £190 per night with breakfast (01206 322367; Milsom Hotels).

Even more enticing cultural delights are on offer in Venice, where specialist Exsus and the Gritti Palace are offering opera packages combining a stay at the legendary hotel with tickets to opera at the stunning Fenice Opera House. A two-night package, from £1,099 per person based on two sharing, includes deluxe room, breakfast, flights, transfers, opera seats, dinner at the Gritti’s Club del Doge and lots more. The operas are Barber of Seville later this month and Britten’s Death in Venice on June 27 (020 7292 5050, Exsus).

Last updated: 3:33pm, September 10 2008