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Travel News: European-Jitters Edition

Can cut-rate fares overcome a European terror alert?

Happy Columbus Day weekend! We kick off travel news this week with a downer—the State Department’s alert, issued on Sunday, about travel to Europe in light of a current terrorism threat. While the statement doesn’t go as far as suggesting travel plans be canceled or postponed, it does recommend that U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the U.S. embassy and check in at the State Department’s Web site for more information and travel tips. The countries most widely believed to be at risk of an attack are England (severe), France (high), and Germany (high).

That being said, it’s hard to resist Europe when presented with cut-price luxury seats. American Airlines has an outstanding offer on business-class flights to Europe over Thanksgiving and Christmas, starting at $586 one-way from New York to London Heathrow. Considering that business-class flights usually run around $3,000 each way, this is really a steal (and a chance to travel in style and get those cool little toiletry bags that we always have to beg other, richer people to give us). Sadly, none of the flights go from Washington, so you’ll have to shuttle to JFK, but at these prices, we think it’s worth it. Other standout upgraded fares: JFK to Paris for $685 and Madrid for $710 over Thanksgiving, taxes and fees not included (a $586 fare means a return business-class flight direct from New York to London will end up costing around $1,450, less than we paid for a disastrous coach US Airways flight to Rome with two stops this summer).

While the mysterious Michelin reviewers haven’t yet acquainted themselves with the fine restaurants of our fair city, they just released their 2011 dining guide for New York. It includes 57 restaurants with one or more stars, including the usual suspects (Per Se, Daniel, Jean Georges) as well as a few newcomers (Marea, A Voce Madison). If you’re looking for more wallet-friendly options, Le Guide Michelin also released its list of Bib Gourmand restaurants, meaning places where you can dine on two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. New York has more restaurants in this category (95) than any other city on the world. Take note, K Street expense-account haunts.

One national travel deal we noticed this week: Southwest Airlines is offering a four-night getaway from Washington to Vegas, return airfare and hotel included, starting at $219 (the same or less than flights alone usually cost). Upgrade deals are also available to five-star hotels such as the new Aria Resort & Casino, starting at $397 per person, breakfast included. Thanks to Travelzoo for the tip.

Closer to home, there are few places more beautiful in the fall than Virginia, with the Blue Ridge mountains, wineries, and historic towns only an hour or two away. is a good resource for deals and events happening in the state, along with information and special promotions. If you’d rather stay in Washington and learn some local history, the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program offers walking tours of Capitol Hill most weekends, led by historian Anthony S. Pitch. See the link for more details.

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