IT'S time to come out from underneath your umbrella after a long winter, and Venice Carnival 2014 is probably the best excuse at this time of the year for letting your hair down – or putting it up for a series of balls.
Ball gowns and Venetian masks are de rigueur at Venice's legendary carnival, which kicked off yesterday and continues with a programme of balls for just over two weeks, until Tuesday, March 4. The Serenissima Grand Ball will be entirely dedicated to Giuseppe Verdi, the Italian composer of opera, and takes place next Saturday. La Dolce Vita Grand Ball is a burlesque ball which will take place on the piano nobile (more commonly known as the noble level) of the 14th Century palace Pesaro Papafava, on Thursday, February 27.
A gothic palace will be illuminated entirely by candlelight on Friday, February 28 for the Baroque Grand Ball. You can travel light – every conceivable mask is on sale on the streets of the sinking city.
Bacteria buster will combat sickness
MANY a promising holiday has been ruined by a dodgy tummy, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 80pc of all travel diseases are caused by contaminated drinking water.
According to the US Center for Disease Control, in the region of 10 million people develop traveller's diarrhoea each year.
SteriPEN is an ultraviolet, handheld water-purification system which utilises UV light to destroy bacteria, protozoa and viruses, quickly and effectively from water.
If you get a thrill out of spotting a celebrity on the streets of Dublin, then you'll be bowled over by the number of famous faces you're likely to see while holidaying in Hawaii.
So where else are the stars likely to visit in 2014, should you feel like planning your annual getaway around a bout of celebrity spotting whilst relaxing on the beach or sightseeing in town? Lady Gaga and Jessica Alba are fans of Tokyo. If you pop over to New York you should keep a look out for its famous residents, including Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, and Richard Gere.
It's lightweight and easy to pack, and can be easily taken to exotic cities and vibrant beaches in far-flung places. Prices start at around €50.
Love is in the air
Thinking of popping the question? Then you'll be interested in the list of a top romantic spots up and down the country that has recently been compiled by www.discoverireland.ie.
In no specific order, they include Whitefriar Street Church where the shrine of St Valentine is the star attraction. Howth Head is on the list for its breathtaking views of Dublin Bay, though you should wait for the weather to improve. Or the stunning surroundings of Malahide Castle and gardens are worth a visit..
The Japanese Gardens, above, in Kildare offer a stunning backdrop of oriental charm. There's always Glendalough if you're feeling more soulful.
The beauty of Avoca in Co Wicklow was immortalised almost 200 years ago by poet Thomas Moore. Other top romantic spots include 18th Century Castle Durrow in Laois, and Ireland's only tree canopy walk at Lough Key in Co Roscommon.
So lack of the ideal location is no excuse!