Travel advice: when to take the family break in 2012

In Italy, for example, Real Holidays (020 7359 3938; realholidays.co.uk)
offers an apartment with a shared pool in the Marche for £673 per person
(including flights and car hire based on four sharing) for the half-term
week, but in the main school holidays it is slightly cheaper – £655
departing on July 22. Some differences are more marked. Olympic Holidays
(0844 576 2386; olympicholidays.com)
has a week at The Annabelle, in Paphos, Cyprus, departing on June 2 for
£2,817 half board (total for the family, assuming that two adults and one
child under 12 are sharing a standard twin and including flights and a
transfer from Larnaca). Depart on July 29, and the cost is much less:
£2,227.

Among the mainstream sun-and-sand operators, Thomas Cook (0844 412
5970; thomascookstyle.com)
is charging £2,412 for a family of four (total price, all-inclusive) for a
half-term holiday week at the four-star Sirenis Hotel Club Aura in Port D’es
Torrent, Ibiza, but only £2,277 departing on August 15.

But not everything has been snapped up. If you plan carefully, and are happy
to take one week rather than two, it is still worth considering shifting
your family holiday forward from July or August to June. Thomas Cook, for
instance, has plenty of examples of lower rates: seven nights at the
five-star Marti Resort Deluxe Hotel in Icmeler, Turkey, costs £2,890
all-inclusive in the June half-term and £3,020 in August.

Also in Turkey, Anatolian Sky (0844 571 9128; anatoliansky.co.uk)
still has some very competitive prices on half-term holidays starting on
June 2 and 4. A package for two adults and two children (aged between two
and 12) sharing a family room for seven nights, all-inclusive, at Hotel
Meri, Ölüdeniz and departing on June 4 costs £769 per adult and £425 per
child, compared with £1,219 per adult and £455 per child departing on July
30.

There are some exceptionally good rates in northern France too. Here the
half-term week does not attract such a big premium (often none at all) and
you are not vulnerable to high air fares. For example, Brittany Ferries
(brittany-ferries.co.uk)
has a big choice of cottages and gîtes at much lower prices than during July
and August. The three-bedroom Minez-Pempen, a 15th-century house in Le Saint
(ref: BM1229), near Concarneau, is available at £615 for a week with return
ferry crossings for a standard car and occupants. The same in high season
costs £888.

Camping, too, is exceptionally good value. Venue Holidays (01233
629950; venueholidays.co.uk)
offers a seven-night break in a two-bedroom mobile home with
air-conditioning and decking in Camping Village Le Brasilia, at Canet Plage,
in Roussillon, for £450 from June 2. This nearly triples to £1,294 for
departures from July 22 (the price is the total for a family of four,
including Dover-Calais ferry crossing).

In Spain, Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9318; classic-collection.co.uk)
says it hasn’t seen a significant rise in bookings compared with half-term
last year, and though air fares have pushed up prices, savings over peak
season are still substantial. Seven nights from June 2 for a family of four
at Insotel Club Punta Prima, in Menorca, costs from £4,079 all-inclusive,
based on a one-bedroom apartment; departing on August 10, it costs £4,730.

Islands of Greece (0845 675 2600; islands-of-greece.co.uk)
says some air fares have risen to an average of £500 per person but that
there are still some lower prices at half-term. A self-catering break for a
family of four at Villa Kamelia, Alonissos, costs £659 per person departing
on June 1, but from £799 in July or August. With GIC The Villa Collection
(020 8232 9780; gicthevillacollection.com),
a week based in Lefki Villas on the Greek island of Ithaka (two adults and
two children), including flights, transfers and self-catering, shows a big
premium for half-term (£811 per person compared with £612 for the last week
in May), but is still cheaper than in peak season (£864).

Finally, what about Britain? Given that this year marks only the second time
in British history that a monarch has celebrated a diamond jubilee, you
might want your children to stay around for the party. If so, you can still
take advantage of the Bank Holidays and lower rates. Prices for
self-catering accommodation in the June week are much lower than in July or
August, and there is still plenty available – though you will need to book
soon.

For example, Wicket Nook Cottage on the Calke estate in Derbyshire, booked
through National Trust Cottages (nationaltrustcottages.co.uk),
is still available at £567 for a week from June 2. This compares with £709
from July 28. Prices in Cornwall generally are much higher than this, but
still lower than in peak season. Premier Cottages (premiercottages.co.uk)
offers the two-bedroom Harbour House, at Rooke Cottages near Wadebridge, for
£990 at half-term, £1,090 from July 28.

  • Contact Nick by email: [email protected]

Anger in Greece as parliament to vote on bailout


ATHENS |
Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:18pm EST

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek lawmakers will vote this weekend on a controversial austerity bill that Athens needs to avoid a messy default but which is fuelling a domestic political and social crisis that has brought thousands of Greeks out on the streets in protest.

The cabinet approved the draft bill late on Friday – paving the way for a new multi-billion euro bailout and a debt-cut plan – after another day of rocky politics where six cabinet members resigned over the additional austerity demands.

Analysts expect the deeply unpopular package to be adopted by parliament on Sunday after being discussed in committee on Saturday, but the political situation remains highly unstable and a number of lawmakers have said they would vote against it.

Even after the vote is completed, the EU expects the government to specify a further 325 million euros ($430 million)of spending cuts before it agrees to the 130-billion-euro bailout.

The EU and IMF have been exasperated by a series of broken promises and weeks of disagreement over the terms of the bailout, which would be Greece’s second since 2010, and will not release the aid if they do not get clear commitments by main party leaders that the reforms will be implemented.

The uncertainty has roiled world financial markets, with stocks snapping a five-day winning streak on Friday and the euro slumping as planned wage and pension cuts in Greece hit a new obstacle.

Outside Greece’s parliament, police fired teargas at black-masked protesters who threw petrol bombs, stones and bottles at the start of a 48-hour general strike against the cuts ordered by the “troika” of international lenders.

But the street protests against the austerity – which many Greeks blame on Germany – were relatively small compared to last year’s mass rallies.

Unions have called protesters to rally again in Saturday and Sunday after they chanted on Friday: “Do not bow your heads! Resist! No to layoffs! No to salary cuts! No to pension cuts!”

The biggest police trade union said it would issue arrest warrants for Greece’s international lenders for subverting democracy, and refused to “fight against our brothers.”

EXACT AMOUNT LEFT OUT

The bill, approved by the cabinet along with hundreds of pages of accompanying documents, sets reforms including a cut of the minimum wage by 22 percent, pension cuts worth 300 million euros this year, as well as health and defense spending cuts.

But it does not spell out the exact amount of the bailout, which is left blank. Euro zone officials have said another 15 billion euros may be needed for the recapitalization of Greek banks after the debt swap.

“The government believes that sustained implementation of this policy program, complemented by debt restructuring, will put the public debt on a clear downward path,” it says in a draft letter to EU and IMF chiefs, attached to the bill.

In the same letter, the government pledges to speed up implementation of reforms in the labor, product and services markets, cut spending, and push through a privatization plan.

Technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who was parachuted into the helm of a coalition government in November to clinch deals on the twin bailout and debt-swap deals, told his turbulent cabinet earlier on Friday to accept the harsh bailout terms or condemn the nation to disaster.

“We cannot allow Greece to go bankrupt,” he said. “Our priority is to do whatever it takes to approve the new economic program and proceed with the new loan agreement.”

Greece faces bankruptcy unless it gets the funds from the IMF and European Union by March 20 when it has to repay 14.5 billion euros ($19 billion) in maturing bonds.

“It goes without saying that whoever disagrees and does not vote for the new program cannot remain in the government,” Papademos said in televised remarks.

A minister who took part in the cabinet meeting later said the draft bill was approved. The text also lays out the legal groundwork for a debt swap plan in which private sector bondholders will agree to take a real loss of 70 percent to help bring the country’s debt down.

One of the attached documents, which spells out the reforms Greece will have to undertake in return for the aid, says the target of cutting the debt to “about” 120 percent of GDP by 2020 from about 160 percent now will be achieved.

UNSTABLE POLITICS

Analysts say only a breakdown of party discipline can sink the package in parliament, where the coalition has a huge majority.

“There will most likely be a string of defections and abstentions but I don’t believe that the measures will fall short of the majority required,” political analyst George Sefertzis told Reuters.

Far-right leader George Karatzaferis, who leads the junior party in the coalition formed in November, said later on Friday he could not back the tough terms attached to the bailout and all four cabinet members of his LAOS party submitted their resignations, along with two from the socialist PASOK party.

The PASOK party, however, called on its lawmakers to vote for the bailout, even though 35 of its lawmakers protested against pressure from euro zone ministers.

“Our lenders are once again presenting the dilemma: either you take the measures or you lead the country to a default,” they said in a protest letter. ($1 = 0.7582 euros)

(Reporting by Harry Papachristou and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Ingrid Melander)


S&P 500 Posts First Weekly Decline in 2012 Amid Greece Concern

U.S. stocks declined as concern that
Europe’s plan to rescue Greece is unraveling gave the Standard
Poor’s 500 Index its first weekly loss in 2012.

Alcoa Inc. (AA) fell 4.4 percent this week and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT)
slumped 1.9 percent, leading losses in the Dow Jones Industrial
Average (INDU)
since Feb. 3, as investors sold shares of companies most
tied to economic growth. Commodity producers and financial
companies had the biggest drop out of 10 groups in the SP 500.
TripAdvisor Inc. lost 15 percent, the largest slump in the SP
500, after fourth-quarter profit missed analysts’ estimates.

The SP 500 fell 0.2 percent to 1,342.64 this week. It had
advanced five straight weeks, the longest rally in more than a
year. The measure is up 6.8 percent this year, the best annual
start since 1991. The Dow slumped 61 points, or 0.5 percent, to
12,801.23 this week, pulling back after reaching its highest
level since May 2008 yesterday.

“People were thinking the issues in Greece were nearing
resolution, and now it looks as far off as ever,” John Carey, a
Boston-based money manager at Pioneer Investments, said in a
telephone interview. The firm oversees about $220 billion. “You
still have that uncertainty overhanging the market. People may
be taking more of a wait-and-see approach again.”

The SP 500 erased a weekly gain today after euro-area
finance ministers refused to approve a 130 billion-euro ($173
billion) rescue package until Greece backs austerity measures.
George Karatzaferis, who leads one of Greece’s coalition
parties, said he won’t vote for proposed budget cuts. Concern
the European debt crisis would trigger a global recession drove
the index down 19 percent between April and October. It has
risen 22 percent since then.

Consumer Sentiment

Stocks also retreated today after U.S. consumer confidence
decreased more than forecast. The Thomson Reuters/University of
Michigan preliminary index
of sentiment dropped to 72.5 from 75
in January. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey
called for 74.8.

The SP 500 advanced earlier this week amid optimism
Greece’s government made progress on measures to secure
international aid.

“U.S. stock pickers over the last six to eight weeks have
been relatively complacent over what’s going on in Europe,”
Komal Sri-Kumar, chief global strategist at Los Angeles-based
TCW Group Inc., which manages $120 billion, said in during an
interview on “Street Smart” on Bloomberg Television. “There
is a significant decline which has to happen.”

100% in Equities

Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of BlackRock Inc., the
world’s largest money manager, urged investors earlier this week
in Hong Kong to “be 100 percent in equities.” He later said in
Beijing his call was aimed at getting cash back into the capital
markets
.

“It’s important to get cash off the sidelines and back
into the markets so people can get the returns they need and we
can get our economies moving again,” Fink said in Beijing. His
firm manages $3.5 trillion in assets. “Too many people are
underweight equities, and one of things I’m trying to do is to
get people to think about the opportunities they’re missing,
with valuations at these levels.”

Commodity companies in the SP 500 slumped 2.2 percent as a
group, while financial stocks lost 1.2 percent. Alcoa, the
largest U.S. aluminum producer, erased 4.4 percent to $10.29 for
the biggest Dow loss. Caterpillar, the largest construction and
mining-equipment maker, sank 1.9 percent to $111.75.

Travel Recommendations

TripAdvisor (TRIP) declined 15 percent to $30.04 for the biggest
drop in the SP 500. The online travel-recommendation service
spun off from Expedia Inc. in December reported fourth-quarter
profit excluding some items that missed the average analyst
estimate by 21 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. At
least three analysts downgraded the stock.

Western Union Co. (WU) slid 11 percent to $17.59. The world’s
largest money-transfer business forecast earnings in 2012 will
be no more than $1.75 a share, less than the average analyst
estimate of $1.81.

Groupon Inc. (GRPN), the largest daily-deal site, tumbled the most
since November after reporting a tax-related fourth-quarter loss
that analysts hadn’t predicted. Groupon fell 14 percent to
$21.03 after reporting a loss, excluding certain costs, of 2
cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had projected
profit of 3 cents.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Inyoung Hwang in New York at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Nick Baker at
[email protected]

<!—->


New Cultural Adventures in the Ancient Mediterranean with Peter Sommer Travels

PRLog (Press Release)Feb 10, 2012
Cultural and archaeological tour specialist Peter Sommer Travels has introduced four new itineraries for 2012, offering extraordinary journeys among the historic sites and spectacular landscapes of the Mediterranean.

Led by expert guides including archaeologists, historians and travel writers, and even the owner Peter Sommer himself, the tours (by traditional wooden boat or on foot) explore the great wonders of past civilisations while enjoying the food, culture and history of each region.

New tours offered by Peter Sommer Travels in 2012 include:

• Cruising to the Cyclades (19 May-2 June) – a quintessential Greek island experience, sailing clear blue waters on a traditional gulet to more than a dozen Aegean islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades archipelagos. Led by archaeologist Heinrich Hall, the itinerary includes glorious Santorini, laid-back Kos and mountainous Naxos. The 15-day tour costs from £3,675 pp (two sharing) including transfers, 14 nights’ full-board on the gulet, all entrance fees and expert guiding. Flights extra.

• Exploring Cappadocia (3-8 September) – an adventure among the remarkable geological formations and ancient cave dwellings of Cappadocia, hosted by historian Dr Michael Metcalfe and featuring an early morning balloon flight over Turkey’s most celebrated landscape. The six-day tour costs from £1,375 pp (two sharing) including transfers, five nights’ BB (boutique hotel), most meals, all entrance fees and expert guiding. Flights extra.

• A Carian Odyssey (8-22 September) – a gulet cruise along the magnificent Carian coastline of Turkey led by archaeologist Heinrich Hall, visiting spectacular sites such as the marbled harbour city of Knidos and the cliff-face tombs of Kaunos, with time to enjoy quiet coves, scenic walks and fine food. The 15-day tour costs from £3,425 pp (two sharing) including 14 nights’ full-board on the gulet, all entrance fees and expert guiding. Flights extra.

• A Gastronomic Tour of Eastern Sicily (6-13 October) – a culinary tour taking in highlights of Sicily’s varied cuisine and historical sites. Led by Marcello Baglioni and Dr. Michael Metcalfe, there’s a cooking class, a boat trip, a walk on Mt. Etna with a volcanologist and numerous tastings. The eight-day tour costs from £2,495 pp (two sharing) including seven nights’ BB, nine meals, all entrance fees and expert guiding. Flights extra.

The four new itineraries are among 14 different tours and gulet cruises offered in Turkey, Greece and Italy, catering for small groups of no more than 18 people. Showcased in the new 2012 brochure, they include nine itineraries aboard traditional wooden gulets, which have been refurbished to excellent standards, with spacious ensuite cabins. Private charter of the gulets – which sleep between two and 24 guests – is also possible, whether this is replicating existing itineraries or creating tailor-made trips.

Among popular itineraries returning in 2012 is Peter Sommer Travels’ signature tour In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: the Conquest of Asia Minor, a 20-day journey through Turkey, taking in the history and architecture of the cities on Alexander the Great’s epic route. A complementary 20-day tour, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: from Boy to King, explores the ruler’s early life in Greece through the ancient sites of Macedonia.

Comments Peter Sommer, Founder of Peter Sommer Travels: “We’re excited to be offering new itineraries (both gulet and land-based) in all three of our destinations: Turkey, Greece and Italy. This year, we have also added an extra date to the popular Amalfi Coast gulet tour, and we’re repeating our family-friendly gulet cruise – Cruising the Carian Coast. Our team of expert guides continues to grow but, whilst we are welcoming a number of new faces this year, we also continue to use many of the highly-popular guides from previous tours.”

For a copy of the new 2012 brochure, please contact Peter Sommer Travels on 01600 888 220 (http://www.petersommer.com)

ENDS – 10 February 2012

Note to Editors: A fact sheet is attached, detailing a further 10 gulet or land-based specialist tours and highlighting the expert guides who lead the trips.

For press enquiries or photography: please contact Helena Hamlyn or Julia Farish at Travel PR, tel: 020 8891 4440, email: [email protected] or [email protected]