Nice to see you One of Europe's most glamorous hotels, Le Negresco (right and above) will celebrate its 100th birthday next month, but with January being in the depths of low season on France's Côte d'Azur, the hotel will be extending the occasion well into the summer, with events and promotions. Built on Nice's Bay of Angels at the tail end of the Belle Epoque, the hotel was seen as socially egalitarian for its time, at least by Riviera standards. A news article from early 1914 noted with approval that "princesses and actresses rub elbows and grand dukes smile amiably upon millionaire tradesmen's sons. Exclusiveness has disappeared". Known for its massive collection of art and antiques, Le Negresco is today a hotel that prides itself on exclusivity, or the promise of it. The visitors' book contains more famous names than most, and tourists wandering in from the Promenade des Anglais for a gawp get pretty short shrift. But aside from the rather misplaced "Made in French Riviera" sign over the main entrance, it seems to have avoided the temptation to overblow its own historical importance, unlike so many "heritage" hotels. Perhaps this is because the owner, 89-year-old Jeanne Augier, whose family bought the ailing hotel in 1957, isn't in the hotel business for the money. It's said that when Bill Gates, perhaps with an eye on the priceless art collection, tried to buy her out, she exclaimed: "You are not rich enough, and the memories are not for sale … I want this hotel to retain its spirit and Frenchness, and to prevent the dismantling of the last independent luxury hotel on the Côte d'Azur." For a selection of accommodation packages on offer over the coming months, visit www.hotel-negresco-nice.com/en
Back on the map The earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Northern Honshu in March last year was followed six months later by a Lonely Planet guide to Japan that was criticised for its perhaps understandably slim coverage of the region. The publisher has redeemed itself by providing a fully updated 67-page chapter on Northern Honshu, or Tohoku, which is available for free download in PDF format at www.lonelyplanet.com. This is an advance chapter from the next Lonely Planet Japan guide - which isn't due to be published until September - and provides up-to-date information on where is and isn't safe for tourists to visit, and which rail services are back up and running.
Passage to India Dragonair began scheduled flights to Calcutta last month, and Nanda Travel is already selling a guided package to India's cultural capital that takes in several of its most popular sights. Billed as a five-day package, you'll actually get four days on the ground, as day one is spent onboard your flight, which departs Hong Kong at 8.50pm and arrives in Calcutta at 11.15pm. You'll get two free days and spend two days in the company of a guide. The package price, which includes flights, fuel surcharges and accommodation, starts from HK$12,345 for solo travellers (or you can purchase flights only from HK$5,095 including fuel surcharge). For about HK$3,000 more you can upgrade to some of the city's best hotels, including the Taj Bengal and The Oberoi Grand. For more details of flight schedules and reservations, go to www.nandatravel.com and click on Kind Kolkata.
Deal of the week Christmas is an expensive time to take a holiday, but if you can get away just before or after the December 21-26 airline surcharge period, there's an affordable package to Sapporo, Japan, on offer at Farrington American Express Travel. Several hotels are available from a package price of about HK$6,000 per person (twin share), which includes three nights' accommodation and round-trip flights with Cathay Pacific. There's also potential here for a quick ski break, as Sapporo's Mount Moiwa (below) is just a short bus or tram ride from the centre of town and has a small ski lodge and several slopes, which don't feature on the usual tourist itineraries, but are ideal for families with varying skiing abilities. There are nursery slopes, a family slope for beginners, a couple of intermediate runs and a challenging ungroomed course for more experienced skiers. Equipment rental is available at reasonable prices and a cable car connects with public transport. For package details, see www.amextravel.com.hk or call 3121 3121.