with Stephen McCarty
One of Melbourne's most treasured heritage hotels, the Victoria, in the city centre's Little Collins Street, has completed an A$8 million (HK$50 million) makeover designed to bring the 19th-century property into the 21st century.
The renovations have brought a contemporary look to the hotel without destroying its heritage ambience. Ninety small rooms have been replaced by 57 larger, modern ones with en suite bathrooms, internet access, plasma television screens, air-conditioning and new furnishings. Additions also include a rooftop gym, swimming pool, sauna and spa complex offering guests views of the city.
The Victoria Hotel was established in 1880 by a former premier of Victoria state, James Munro. It remains the largest three-star hotel in Australia. Rooms cost from A$79 a night. See www.victoriahotel.com.au.
Qatar Airways is offering three packages targeting the ancient wonders of Egypt. Available for travel until September 28, the four-day packages start at HK$6,620 per person for the Hong Kong to Luxor deal, and HK$7,330 per person for Hong Kong to Cairo or Alexandria.
Prices are based on three nights' twin-share accommodation, with breakfast, at an upmarket hotel and include return economy-class flights via Doha, return private airport transfers and all hotel taxes and service charges.
Egypt offers a raft of ancient sites. In and around the capital, Cairo, attractions include the Pyramids of Giza, Saladin's Citadel, the Sphinx and Cairo Tower. The city is also a shopping haven, with spices, perfumes, gold, silver, carpets, brass, copperware, leather and glass all good buys.
Luxor, frequently referred to as the world's greatest open-air museum, offers access to the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor itself (left). Itineraries also feature the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. For a taste of luxury, visitors may float over the ruins of Thebes in a hot-air balloon, or take a trip down the River Nile in a felucca.
Profoundly influenced by European culture, Alexandria is a large port city stretching along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is home to the Attarine Souk, a Roman amphitheatre and Qaitbay Fort. Visitors may stroll along the seafront corniche, exploring museums and markets, or take to the nearby bays and beaches. For more information on the packages, call 2868 9833.
Deal of the week
A three-night package to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, starting at HK$3,690 per person and based on two people sharing, will be available from Farrington American Express Travel until September 30. The hotel at this basic price is the D2 (www.d2hotels.com). Also on offer are the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi (above; www.mandarinoriental.com) for HK$4,590 and the Four Seasons (www.fourseasons.com) for HK$5,450. Return, economy-class flights are with Hong Kong Express Airways. Breakfast is included at the D2 only. For details, call Farrington American Express Travel on 3121 3000 (Hong Kong) or 3121 3900 (Kowloon), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting package number L2007FSP0087.