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From SEA .. to CITY; 2-in-1 breaks that combine a relaxing beach holiday as well as a city stopover WANT to explore some of the world's most beautiful cities but can't drag yourself away from the beach? Relax back on your lounger as GILL WILLIAMS shows you how to combine sun and cities this autumn...

Byline: GILL WILLIAMS

1. CUBA: Varadero.. two hours' drive to Havana

MUSIC and passion are very much in fashion when you spend an evening at the Tropicana nightclub in Havana. It's a high-kicking city with some of the best jazz in the world, skinny dancers and fat cigars.

Hire a 50s yank tank for a guided tour of Old Havana, a World Heritage Site dating back to the 16th Century. The quarter is stuck in a timewarp with the sort of really old Spanish colonial buildings the US wishes it had. Find out about the local tipple at the Havana Club Rum Museum and see cigars being rolled at a local factory. Havana is about two hours away from Varadero - do-able as a day trip although better explored at leisure by staying the night.

Varadero may be newish to British holidaymakers but it's been in the tourist biz since the 30s when Mafia boss Al Capone used to brown his knees on the beach.

HOLIDAY INFO: Next summer Direct Holidays sells two weeks' all-inclusive in Varadero from pounds 566pp when two share. The tour operator also sells excursions to Havana. Go to www.directholidays.co.uk

2. C ROATIA Cavtat.. 15 minutes' drive from Dubrovnik

CAVTAT and its big sister Dubrovnik are only 11 miles apart so you can spend the day on the beach then have a night on the town.

Dubrovnik was almost totally rebuilt after the bombardment by the Serbs during the early 90s' Balkan war. Today it looks much as it would have in Lord Byron's day when the mad, bad lad nicknamed it the City of Light. Enter the city through the Pile Gate into the Stradun, Dubrovnik's grand promenade. Visit the Boots of the Middle Ages - the Franciscan monastery that's been in business dispensing cure-alls since 1391. If you arrive early in the day, visit the market in the Gunduliceva Poljana square. The city has dozens of small restaurants - order local dishes such as risotto with wild truffles washed down with Dalmatian wine (expect to pay about pounds 12 a head). But avoid, if you value your tomorrows, the killer local hooch called Slebovitz.

Cavtat is another historic town with hotels built around shingle or rocky beaches and deep coves. Stay at the Hotel Croatia in Cavtat which has its own supervised kids' club running until October, extensive watersports, a gym and fitness centre. The hotel is 10 minutes outside the resort.

HOLIDAY INFO: A week's half-board at the four-star Hotel Croatia from September 27 costs pounds 569 through First Choice, 0870 750 0001 or www.firstchoice.co.uk

3. PORTUGAL Cascais.. 30 mins train to Lisbon

DON'T be surprised if you see King Juan Carlos of Spain and his family sprawling on the loungers when you take a late summer holiday to the resort of Cascais in Portugal. The Spanish monarch grew up in this Portuguese fishing village (his dad probably wasn't working the nets).

The town was the summer haunt of the Portuguese royal family from 1870 when they first parked their sun umbrellas on the sand. Today it is a lively resort with a pretty beach and just a few minutes' drive from the casino at Estoril. Stay in the former palace, the Hotel Albatroz, right on the harbour where rooms have right-royal views.

Lisbon is just a short train ride along the coast, so you can get there for a night on the town. Invest in a Lisboa Card (adults pounds 9.40' pounds 4.20 kids for one day - go to www. askmelisboa.com) that lets you ride on public transport, gives admission to museums and up to 50 per cent discounts on city attractions. Take a vintage tram up the hill to find a little restaurant in the medieval Alfama quarter near St George's Castle (free admission). Do as the locals do and linger over a slow lunch of sardines followed by acorda - a seafood and bread stew that's become the Portuguese national dish. Expect to pay about pounds 15pp.

HOLIDAY INFO: A week's B&B at the five-star Hotel Albatroz from November 1 with flights and private transfers costs pounds 879pp through Castaways, 01737 812 255 or www.castaways.co.uk

4. SPAI N Salou.. 1.5hrs train to Barcelona

ONE day you're burying Dad up to his neck in sand and the next you're sipping sangria and watching the world stroll by along Las Ramblas.

Two-centre holidays combining Salou and Barcelona are easily do-able. The resort along the Costa Dorada is only an hour-and-a-half away from the city by local train with off-peak fares averaging pounds 11 adults and pounds 6.60 kids, one-way. The combination works particularly well for families. Ride (if you dare) the Dragon Khan rollercoaster at Universal's Port Aventura theme park in Salou. The coaster is one of the scariest in Europe with eight inverted loops. Then cool off plunging down the Silver River Flume when you visit Salou's Caribe Aquatic Park (all through www.portaventura.es). Dust the sand off your feet for a day trip to Barcelona. Hop on and off the tourist bus that stops at attractions like Gaudi's wacky Sagrada Familia and the Olympic Village (pounds 13.50 per day adults/pounds 8.50 kids through www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com).

Take football fans to FC Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium and perhaps catch a glimpse of World Player of the Year Ronaldinho (pounds 7.50 through www.spainbookers.com).

HOLIDAY INFO: Next summer, a week's self-catering for four in a one-bedroom apartment with Direct Holidays costs from pounds 260 per person including flights. Go to www.directholidays.co.uk or call 0870 242 2404.

5. E GYPT Sharm-el-Sheikh.. 2hrs by air to Luxor

NOW'S the time to visit Egypt with one of our pounds buying about 11 of theirs. That means that with an average meal costing about pounds 4 you can afford to trade up to four- and five-star hotels on the Red Sea coast and along the Nile.

Apart from the predictable belly dancers and camel rides common to both resorts, you would be hard-pressed to find two destinations more different in style than the slick Sharm and ancient Luxor. Sharm el Sheikh started out as a divers' hangout where fishing boats ferried scubie-dos out to the coral reefs of the Ras Mohammed National Park. However, Sharm el Sheikh today has grown into a mainstream holiday resort with a promenade, dozens of Western-style restaurants and evening shows (don't miss the amazing whirling dervishes).

Luxor's big push for tourism began somewhat earlier when the city was known as Thebes. Hire a horse and carriage for just a few pounds to clip-clop along the riverbank to the temples at Karnak. At dusk, board one of the traditional boats called feluccas to sail across toward the western shores.

HOLIDAY INFO: Two weeks' combining seven nights' B&B at the five-star Sofitel Karnak in Luxor and seven nights' B&B in Sharm at the four-star Sonesta Beach Resort, with flights from Gatwick to Luxor and domestic Egyptian flights costs pounds 839pp from September 11 or 18 through Discover Egypt, 0207 407 2 111

CAPTION(S):

Laze on the beach at the resort of Varadero' then see old American cars in Havana' Spend the day on the beach in Cavtat and a night in Dubrovnik' Cascais is a lively beach resort... go to Lisbon for exciting nightlife' Dust the sand off your feet in Salou for a day trip to Barcelona' Explore coral reefs in Sharm-el-Sheikh then visit the city of Luxor' Star spotting Ronaldinho' Pictures: DIRECT HOLIDAYS/ HOTEL CROATIA/ ALAMY/ CASTAWAYS/ REX/ GETTY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Sep 3, 2006
Words:1271
Previous Article:INSIDE GUIDE.
Next Article:BETWEEN THE SHEETS; We check 'em out before you check in SWINDON CENTRAL PREMIER TRAVEL INN.


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