The romantic rub There's no shortage of romantic locations across Italy, from Venice to Florence. But one of the most famous, the courtyard of the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet's House, in Verona, has, in the cold light of day, all the romantic allure of the buffet line at an airport hotel. The balcony above, and the statue of Juliet below, bathe in the obnoxious odour of bubblegum, which herds of tourists use to stick unimaginative love notes to the surrounding walls, and the 42-year-old bronze statue itself suffers the indignity of having its breasts rubbed by self-conscious Romeos in the hope of some semblance of a future love life. Such misguided molestation has led to the appearance of a hole in one of Juliet's more erogenous regions and so the city authorities have decided to relocate the statue to a museum and replace it with a copy. It's unlikely that the 250,000 visitors who enter the rather seedy courtyard (above) each year will be unduly deterred by the move, since many seem unaware even that the location has no proven connection with Shakespeare's fictional couple. If you're visiting the Veneto region this year, save yourself a wasted day and consider more appealing, and indeed romantic, locations nearby, such as Padua or Vicenza.
Far and wider Flying with Air France via Paris has long been one of the easiest and cheapest ways of travelling between Hong Kong and much of continental Europe, albeit with the downside of rather cramped conditions aboard the Boeing 777 aircraft that the carrier operates between here and the French capital. The 10-seats-across layout of the economy-class cabin, which seems to be a perennial highlight of dismal online passenger reviews, will be a thing of the past come summertime, however, when Air France switches to the double-decker Airbus A380 (above). The Superjumbo will be used on Flight AF187, departing Hong Kong at 12.50am, four times a week from May 27, and then daily (or nightly) from June 9 until October 25. The Air France A380, also to be used on the return flight, AF188, contains 516 seats in four cabin classes: nine seats in La Première (first class), 80 in business, 38 in premium economy and 389 seats (eight across) in economy.
Qingdao choices Starwood Hotels & Resorts will be opening a brace of properties in Qingdao, Shandong province, at the end of this month - the Westin Qingdao (right) and the Sheraton Qingdao Licang. The former, with 321 rooms, is located downtown, overlooking (on a clear day, presumably) the Olympic Sailing Centre, while the 259-room Sheraton is at the back of the city towards Mount Lao. Promising "a blend of modern and natural experiences", the Sheraton is located a few minutes' drive from the Qingdao International Horticultural Exposition, which runs from next month to October (see www.qingdaoexpo2014.org for details). For opening rates at both hotels, go to www.starwoodhotels.com.
Deal of the week A good option for a last-minute break in Japan, Cathay Pacific Holidays' Osaka Promotion package starts from HK$3,060 per person (twin share) for round-trip, economy-class flights and two nights' accommodation at the Sunroute Umeda, a small business hotel in the north of the city (top). The more centrally located and rather snug BlueWave Inn Yotsubashi is offered from HK$3,120 but from only HK$3,160 you can stay at the Sheraton Miyako, which is an older but larger hotel with a convenient location for trains to Kyoto and Nara, and the airport bus. Visit www.cxholidays.com for a long list of other hotels available for a package price of less than HK$4,000 and for online reservations. Extra nights are offered for a few hundred dollars more, and tickets are valid for up to seven days, in case you want to explore the region further, but you must be back in Hong Kong by April 1 at the latest.