Executive Destinations Magazine - Issue 3

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D E £4.00 | €4.95



Executive Destinations

LONDON Debut of section dedicated to the capital of business and pleasure

AUSTRALIA The country’s most instagrammable sights: #nofilterneeded

Cover: Le Chalet Mont-Blanc


Le Chalet 1240 Route du Coupeau, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc info@lechaletmontblanc.com +33 (0) 6 33 28 28 31 www.lechaletmontblanc.com


The roaring twenties With the new year and indeed new decade upon us, it is natural to start thinking of where we will choose to travel to in the coming seasons. If in doubt, we have some great locations for you. New for this issue, we showcase a number of products and services at the front of the magazine. These include the stunning Sennheiser HD 820 closed-back audiophile headphones, CuleM GMT watches and an app called Arbitrip to help manage hotel bookings and cut your costs. If you capturing your travels and showing them off to the world is your thing, read our guide to the most Instagrammable sites in Australia. And if you’re looking to work while you travel, then we list 12 of the top places Brits are working overseas right now. From bank manager to BBC MasterChef contestant then

champion and now restaurateur, Kenny Tutt describes his journey, including background, inspiration and how he likes to combine food and travel. Barcelona has it all – mountains, beaches, architecture and culture. And quite a good football team. You won’t be bored if you follow our advice and check out some of its top things to do. Also in Iberia, I hit the road, taking on the first leg of the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. That’s a 250km hike, just for starters. More to come next time – I’m packing my bags to do leg two at the time of writing. Our new London section features the Conrad London St. James hotel and Harry’s Bar, both come highly recommended. Check them out and enjoy the new decade

Toby Wilsdon Editor.

Managing Director Ben Chambers ben@chambers.media Editor Toby Wilsdon toby@chambers.media Feature Writer Michelle Dunn michelle@chambers.media Head of Sales Luke Chaplin luke@chambers.media Production Assistant Aaron Lloyd aaron@chambers.media Designer Nicki Chambers nic@chambers.media Published by Chambers Media Suite 5 & 6, Chapel House Worthing West Sussex BN11 1EX Tel: +44 (0)1903 952 640

The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. No part of the publication can be reproduced without the prior consent of the publisher.


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CuleM: Collectable luxury watches with a global perspective


A SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH Sennheiser’s HD 820 audiophile headphones






The travel app tailored for you


BEST FOOT FORWARD The journey of footwear company Seven Feet Apart


WORK REST AND PLAY Airbnb reveals the trendy cities Brits are working in right now



The ten most instagrammable places in Australia


CELEBRITY INTERVIEW BBC MasterChef Champion Kenny Tutt discusses life, food and travel


CATALAN CAPITAL Ten brilliant things to do in Barcelona




The Grand Hyatt Taipei is the answer to a business traveller’s prayers


DESERT DIVERSIONS Ten amazing things to do in Dubai



The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council showcases what the region has to offer


CULTUREWISE DUBAI All you need to know about doing business in Dubai



Abigail Tan of St Giles Hotels talks business, travel, family and culture


ICELANDIC COOL Highlighting the Nordic country’s coolest hotels


CULTUREWISE ICELAND All you need to know about doing business in Iceland



Italian, artisan dining at Harry’s Bar, just off Oxford Street



The Conrad London St. James, a stone’s throw from the Palace of Westminster



Tutankhamun’s treasures unveiled at London’s Saatchi Gallary



A personal insight into five of Rio’s lesser known wonders



Discovering the thriving West African business destination



Walking the first 250km of the 769km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela


2001 A BIKE ODYSSEY Part three of Toby Wilsdon’s epic Stoke to Singapore ride: Chelyabinsk to Irkutsk


URBANE DESTINATIONS Ten top trending UK city breaks beyond the capital




CuleM: Collectable luxury watches

with a global perspective

Matthew Cule

A luxury watch is a gift that should last forever, and one that you can’t go far wrong with – most people either wear a watch or would be happy to do so. As well as being useful, watches are collectable and with more than one, you can fit the watch to the occasion. Whether you’re buying for your partner, parents, grandparents, aunt



or a friend – a watch could be the perfect gift. Watch collector Matthew Cule was inspired to create CuleM Watches by his two passions – travel and luxury watches. The Swiss-made dual-time watches indicate the time in two locations, showing both local and destination time. The hour, minute and second hands indicate local time, and the destination time is displayed via the GMT 24-hour hand. This is especially useful if you travel a lot or have frequent business dealings in another part of the world. Using the case-back engraving of 24 cities and countries around the world, you can set the time to your destination correctly using GMT and BST as a reference. There are two minor caveats, however. The first is that not all countries switch to and from daylight saving time on the same dates, leaving a short period in spring and autumn

when you may need to double check local practice. The other caveat is that if your destination is not one of the 24 listed, naturally enough, you will have to match it to the location indicated on the case back. This may be more or less obvious. For example, the whole of China follows Beijing Time. However, if the country followed standard time zones, it would range from +5 hours in the west to +9 hours in the far east. This is intuitive in Hong Kong, roughly due south of Beijing, but far less so in the far east, close to the Russian city of Vladivostok. With a little common sense, none of this is too problematic and the engraving on the back of the watch certainly gives a good indication of the time in the region you are visiting. The World GMT Collection consists of three designs; The Portal, The Frame and The Lights. Each watch is available in a choice of

colours and the displays show a stunning, contemporary take on the world map. The Portal comes in blue, black, grey gold, black-steel and grey-black and has a distinctive 3D recreation of the world on the dial. The Frame is available in blue, black and grey, with a more geometric take on the world. The Lights comes in blue, black and gold with tiny luminescent dots illuminating major population centres by night. Each watch comes with two elegant Italian leather straps with quick release pins. A nice touch is the open-case back, displaying CuleM’s automatic ETA 2893-2 movement. Around this is the engraving of 24 destinations showing their correct time in relation to both GMT and BST at the appropriate time of year. Only 300 pieces were made in 2019 and prices start at €1,499 (approximately £1,325), including free shipping, worldwide. ED



A sharp intake of breath With its HD 820 headphones, Sennheiser has taken the closed-back headphone to the next level. Based on the open-backed HD 800, the HD 820 features Sennheiser’s patented “acoustic diffraction housing”, consisting of convex Gorilla Glass backs that direct sound emanating from the rear of the diaphragm into dampened chambers, reducing distortion to a bare minimum. This system is complemented by the original HD 800’s advanced materials chosen for their low weight and stiffness. I come to this not as an expert reviewer, but as one with an appreciation for sound and music,


not to mention technology and engineering. The Sennheisers score on all counts. On to the experience. As with other high-end products such as Apple devices, beautiful packaging draws you in from the moment you open the box. In this case, delve inside the outer cardboard box to find a hinged wooden container in which the headphones are nestled. Three connections are supplied – a quarterinch three-pin jack with unbalanced cable; 4.4mm five-pin jack with balanced cable and XLR-4 four-pin plug with balanced cable. Listening to these headphones, as you would expect at this level, is a

joy. They sit snugly around your ears with little discernible pressure, beyond the warm, comforting embrace of the microfibre pads As you listen to music that you know intimately, you hear details that you’ve never experienced before. A sharp intake of breath as the clarinettist moves from one phrase to the next; a hi-hat that had previously been drowned out by more prominent elements; the merest hint of vibrato on a solo violin or the bowing of the cellist drawn out to the very end of the last rich, deep note. What was once a few seconds’ silence at the beginning of an album becomes a finely tuned canvas


Discography: DJ Shadow: Endtroducing Craig Armstrong: As if to Nothing Edward Elgar: ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon Sigur Rós: Ágætis byrjun

populated by pinpricks or an ominous rumble. An echoing silence engulfs the hall, drawing the symphony to a definitive close. What was a lone voice is now accompanied by a tapestry of delicate sounds. I even caught an extra detail in the denouement of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, “There is no dark side in the moon, really, matter of fact it’s all dark.” Listening to sophisticated recordings and much-loved music on high-end equipment is a revelation. Enclosed in the privacy of over the ear headphones, all the more so. As in Plato’s analogy of the cave, listening to high-end audio equipment reveals the world in a new light, in a greater degree of detail and truth than experienced before. Unlike Plato’s cavemen, the listener does not experience pain as he steps unaccustomed into the light. Beautiful equipment playing sophisticated music sounds fantastic from the first note, and it only gets better. As your ear becomes accustomed to expecting more, it hears ever increasing detail. So should you blow £2,000 on a pair of headphones? If you are remotely willing and able to spend this kind of money on audio equipment, you really should be something of a music lover and audiophile. That or you’ve got too much money and/or something to prove. Assuming your motives are true, there can only be one place to use these highly desirable headphones. At home, in an armchair, driven by the best equipment available. In other words, not an environment where background noise is a great problem or high frequency emissions are a public nuisance. This does then beg the question why you would pay £700 extra for Sennheiser’s superb HD 820



closed-back design, over the inherently more precise open-backed variant, the HD 800. What are the downsides? Your speakers may find themselves underused, leaving your partner to miss out on the music as you listen in private. If these are your first foray into serious audiophile equipment, be prepared to spend some serious cash on the hardware to do them justice – such as the HDV 820 headphone amplifier (pictured below), designed to complement Sennheiser’s audiophile range – and perhaps even an acoustically isolated listening room. Don’t be surprised if the HD 820s leave you moved to tears by the intense experience of music at its very best. ED

HD 820 specifications: Frequency response: Nominal impedance: Sound pressure level at 1 kHz: Long-term input power: Total Harmonic Distortion: Weight: Connectors, gold-plated:


12 – 43,800 Hz (−3 dB) 6 – 48,000 Hz (−10 dB) 300 Ω 103 dB (1 Vrms) max. 500 mW as per EN 60-268-7 ≤ 0.02% (1 kHz, 100 dB SPL) approx. 360g • XLR-4, 4-pin, balanced • 4.4 mm, 5-pin jack, balanced • 1/4” (6.35 mm), 3-pin jack, unbalanced


Arbitrip co-founders Orel Jossef (left) and Benny Yonovich

Arbitrip Travel tailored for you


Customer demands are evolving across industries, with an emphasis on speed, convenience and customisation. Initially, technology opened the door to these demands being achieved in specific industries and circumstances, but over time it led to an expectation across the board.

The travel industry is no different. Travellers’ expectations have changed and travel companies have had to step up their game in order to stay relevant in a competitive market. Arbitrip, an Israeli travel tech startup, is at the forefront of meeting these novel challenges.


Find the best hotels using our Smart Discovery algorithm that helps you see the full picture 1

See verified reviews from business travellers and compare to the industry benchmark 2

Keep tabs on your company’s travel activity using our simple and intuitive dashboard

Get all the information you need, anywhere you need it 3


Started in 2015 by former IDF Intelligence Corp graduates Benny Yonovich and Orel Jossef, the company offers an online booking platform for business travellers to find the best deals on hotels. Among its clients are EY, HP, Cellebrite, Fiverr, Checkmarx and Gett. Arbitrip sets itself apart from its competitors by using a unique AI algorithm that learns individual customers’ preferences and offers personalised suggestions. This preference streamlining creates a significantly more efficient and userfriendly experience. Currently 87 per cent of the bookings confirmed on Arbitrip are selected from the top five suggestions presented by its search engine, which in turn makes the booking process more efficient and easier to navigate. Moreover, these results are all-

inclusive, meaning customers not only get discounted stays at their favourite chain hotels, but they can also enjoy boutique hotel experiences while on a business trip. One of the most interesting features of the app is its ability to reduce overall costs by automatically rebooking a client’s accommodation if a better deal appears, such as an upgraded room for the same price – something few rivals can offer. Arbitrip’s own figures state that companies using the app reduce expenses by over 23 per cent. With Arbitrip on their mobile devices, comprehensive information is at customers’ fingertips 24/7. The dashboard helps travellers and their travel managers to track their activity efficiently. An added bonus for employees (and industrial relations) is that

companies using Arbitrip can enable workers to book private holidays at business rates, offering an incentive to the best talent in their sectors. This works for both regular holidays and the increasing trend for ‘bleisure’ – the combination of business and leisure. Adding leisure days to business trips makes for more efficient use of that draining travel time and such a perk lets companies reward employees at hardly any extra cost. As the tech-savvy middleman, this innovative Israeli startup has helped dozens of companies save their employees hours of research while providing them with a personalised travel experience. Arbitrip’s method transcends some other more rudimentary models and like its algorithms, the company is constantly keeping up with the evolving marketplace. ED


Music is essential energy, it’s commercial oxygen! Whatever your business, music has the potential to make it the best it can be. That’s why introducing it could be highly beneficial to your business and could help your organisation fulfil its potential ... and turn a bar into a dancefloor, a shop floor into a fiesta or a meeting into a moment! Playing music could provide an opportunity for your customers to relate to your business, making the whole experience with your company more memorable. It could create an environment that people enjoy, define your brand and make your company recognisable, helping to distinguish you from your competition. Not only this, but music could boost staff morale, improving concentration and productivity whilst helping to make employees feel more engaged, driving collaboration with colleagues and their interaction with customers or clients.

So let’s turn it up and put the essential energy of music at the heart of your business!

Music in the workplace it’s all the rave

Turn it up! Discover how TheMusicLicence is helping businesses find their mojo.

0800 0868 801 Quote ‘Executive Destnations’



Best foot forward

The journey of footwear company SEVEN FEET APART, by Matt Bagwell It was the summer of 2016 when Ian Cartwright and I walked through the Gloucestershire countryside and asked ourselves the questions, “What would a better footwear company be like; how would it operate; what would it make and how would it behave?” Our desire to ask and answer these questions was born out of direct experience and a frustration with the inefficiencies of the traditional wholesale to retail business model where prices were disproportionately loaded over quality or service. And so, in November 2016, we took the first bold step on our journey and founded SEVEN FEET APART. We were to make footwear of very high quality and by selling it direct to consumer, offer it at fairer prices. Six months later, in May 2017, the first sneaker was sold online. Like most businesses, we set out with a vision of what we should make and, like many, we found out what people actually wanted from us as we started to sell. We launched with a formal men’s brogue – a


SEVEN FEET APART co-founder Matt Bagwell

shoe of sublime beauty and artisanship – and a casual sneaker, both echoing classic silhouettes with a contemporary twist. Quality and brilliant comfort performance was paramount. Both shoes garnered attention. Fast forward a year and with a fuller range of sneakers, we embarked on a very special project with the chef and entrepreneur, Jamie Oliver. He wanted to make a bespoke retro sneaker for his wife to mark their 18th wedding anniversary and he turned to us for help. It was a joy to steal ourselves away with someone we both admire and collaborate to deliver the perfect sneaker. We all liked it so much, we put a limited run into production. While we had started the business to address the challenges of the traditional business model and capitalise on the opportunities of D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) selling, a far more significant force was disrupting the industry we are a part of, the fashion industry. Green Ecology and Corporate Social Responsibility have evolved

into Sustainability and what may have started as a whisper has now become a global shout for change. For some companies, being responsible has shifted from a box-ticking exercise to becoming a strategic, ethical imperative. As a self-declared purpose-driven brand, we say that everything we do must be beautiful, brilliant and better. These principles can be interpreted as lower impact, cleaner, fairer and kinder. It’s why we charge ourselves to be as fair as we are in customer service. It’s why we selected only open, regulated factories as partners. Call it purpose, call it philosophy, whatever it is, we exist to make every everyday journeys better. With this being the case, we cannot stand by and accept the destructive consequences of making shoes. It is why we pursue materials and supply chain innovations. Every great journey comes with its twists and turns, hills and valleys. The quest to making a better business is no different. ED

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reveals the surprisingly trendy cities Brits are working in right now


Bogotรก, capital city of Columbia, by night


Colombia’s booming capital Bogotá tops the list of out of office locations Brits are jetting off to


hile the likes of Paris, New York and Berlin have traditionally captured our imagination as desirable places to work outside of London, it’s smaller European cities and countries further afield that are experiencing an influx of UK professionals booking a stay. Bogotá tops the list as the fastestrising city to work in, experiencing a huge 196 per cent yearon-year increase in Britons

booking a business stay, according to new booking data from Airbnb for Work.* While an 11-hour commute might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it seems more of us are jetting off on longer trips with Lima and San Jose also making an appearance on the list. While Europe is still home to many of our professional pursuits, Airbnb for Work cites a surprising variety of cities experiencing an influx of business bookings. These include sunny tourist hotspots like Venice and Marbella as well as historic cities such as Istanbul and Kraków.

Year-on-year increase in UK business travel bookings*

196% Bogotá, Colombia

Istanbul, Turkey 193%

187% Bratislava, Slovakia

Málaga, Spain

168% Lima, Peru


Marbella, Spain 162%

160% Nuremberg, Germany

Venice, Italy 160%

159% San Jose, United States

Antibes, France 155%

153% Kraków, Poland

Miami, United States

*Year-on-year increase in UK business travel bookings from year ending 1 October 2018 to year ending 1 October 2019



As remote working and flexible hours become increasingly common, there have never been more opportunities to work abroad and experience all this has to offer. With almost 60 per cent of all business bookings extending into the weekend, Airbnb for Work shares its insight into these 12 trending cities


Bogotá is fast becoming one of Latin America’s most lively and popular cities to live in and visit. Bursting with an array of events, ranging from travel to design and fashion, there is always something new to learn and discover when


Quaint, colourful and full of art, Bratislava is the perfect place to wander and relax. With plenty of museums, galleries, beautiful gardens and streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem. Compact and easily accessible, you won’t have to worry about where you’re going. Home to tech talent and many startups, it’s also a great place to learn something new.


extending a work trip, as well as free art and architecture all around. As well as being able to sample some of the best coffee, you can feast on a variety of restaurants and cuisines, while discovering some of the best views there are to see.

Hagia Sophia, former cathedral, mosque and now museum


Straddling two continents, Istanbul has always been a prime destination for professionals. As well as being the perfect place for work travel, it is also a hub for some of the most flavourful food and diversity – just walk the streets and you will understand. With historic sites across the city standing alongside iconic skyscrapers, Istanbul has the perfect mix of old and new. If pounding the streets takes it out of you, maybe you’ll find yourself relaxing at a centuries-old hammam or Turkish bath.



This vibrant city is booming with history and culture and has a perfect climate all year round, making it an attractive destination for a work trip. Public transport is plentiful but as everything is so close by, a cycle or a walk is a peaceful alternative. There has also been a growth of co-working spaces and high-speed internet, making it attractive to anyone visiting for work, especially as it has become a leading centre for conventions and activities.


If enjoying 320 days of sunshine a year wasn’t enough to draw you to Marbella, how about the beaches, the pretty streets or the

Image: Triptosia

surrounding mountain range? Bursting with museums and galleries and plentiful options to study and learn, Marbella is no longer just a getaway destination.



This vibrant city is brimming with history and culture and has a perfect climate all year round, making it an attractive destination for a work trip. Public transport is plentiful but as everything is so close by, a cycle or walk is a peaceful alternative. There has also been a growth of co-working spaces and high-speed internet, making it attractive to anyone visiting for work, especially as it has become a leading centre for conventions and activities.


Settled in the heart of Europe, Nuremberg is well aware of its accessibility as a meeting place for international companies and their employees from around the world. Therefore, money has gone into creating office spaces that are adaptable and comfortable for businesses passing through the city. Working hours are generally 8.30am to 4.30pm in Germany, giving you a full evening to explore the rich history embedded in the walls of the city.




Venice is one of the biggest tourist spots in Italy and it is also one of the most accessible, with the rest of Europe at your fingertips should you need to take a business diversion. With 117 canals, water is

woven into the fabric of the city. Focusing on the movement and sound of water can be both relaxing and aid concentration, making Venice the perfect working environment.


San Jose


high rises in the business district, San Jose is buzzing with techheads looking to create the next best app. With Google and Apple headquarters a stone’s throw away, it’s hard not to be infected by the innovative spirit of San Jose.

Home to 6,600 technology companies and the Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose is a hub of activity for people in the tech world. A sprawling metro area that is defined by its tech campuses and

Known for its million-pound yachts, beaches and extravagant holidays, it is often forgotten that Antibes is a working city with a multitude of innovative companies. Ranked the best city out of 100,000 for running a business, Antibes is a fierce competitor in the business world. What better way to be inspired to work than having the Sophia Antipolis technopole, with its 1,400 companies and 35,000 employees, a 15-minute drive away, and the luxurious seaside on your doorstep to unwind beside after a long day.

Global Destinations e xceptional s ervice - t ransparent pricinG

www.trueluxury.travel | +44 (0) 203 137 1247 | info@trueluxury.travel 208 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9PJ



When the office isn’t inspiring you, the medieval Old Town of Kraków is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of cafes that offer a peaceful working environment. Inspiration can come in many forms, whether it is ancient architecture, the mindblowing sculptured salt mines or delving into the legends of the city, one of which states that Kraków is protected by a mighty and fearsome dragon. It’s hard not to get your head down when a dragon is looming over, watching your every email.


Dubbed “The Magic City,” Miami is one of the most vibrant metro areas in the US, and it’s well on its way to becoming one of the largest international business hubs in the world. If you’re looking for a city that takes its work-life balance


One of four chapels in Kraków’s stunning UNESCO-listed saltmines, all sculpted from salt Image: Damir

seriously, Miami is a frontrunner. Recently ranked among the best for work-life balance, it’s not unheard of to finish a working day with a dip in the ocean or a trip to one of the many galleries or art centres that line the city. ED

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The ten most Instagrammable places in Australia There’s no shortage of hashtag popularity in Australia, especially for those keen to overload their Instagram feed and rack up likes. Here’s our guide to the most visually striking places worth getting your phone out for (or even your camera) by Michelle Dunn




Pink Lake/Hutt Lagoon, Western Australia No filter is needed at this almost make- believe bubblegum-pink saltwater lake near the small fishing town of Port Gregory on Western Australia’s Coral Coast. Known as both Pink Lake and Hutt Lagoon, what resembles a giant puddle of spilt strawberry milkshake measures nearly 15 kilometres long and gets its colour from the huge amounts of beta carotene-producing algae known as Dunaliella salina (the same pigment used in ice cream, makeup and food supplements). For the coolest Instagram shots, head here between 10am and 2pm – or visit at sundown to see the colour change to lilac and sometimes a shade of coppery-red. It’s best viewed from Port Gregory Road, but it’s worth forking out on

a seaplane tour to truly appreciate the extraordinary contrast with the turquoise-tinted sea and surrounding greenery. Alternatively, a buggy tour will take you up the white sand dunes (some of which are 10 to 15 metres high) and offer creative imagery of this remarkable lake from elevated points.


Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash

Stretching for 2,300 kilometres along the Queensland coast, the UNESCO-listed marine miracle is comprised of 2,900 reef systems, 900 islands and over 300 coral cays. Not only is it the most biodiverse coral reef ecosystem on Earth (and visible from space), it’s also home to 1,500 species of fish, 134 species of shark and ray and 30 species of whale and dolphin.

There are several ways to visit; fly above it, cruise over it, or dive one of its fabled sites. One of the best is SS Yongala, which sank 90 kilometres southeast of Townsville in 1911 and now lies 28 metres below the surface. Further thrills include snorkelling the Low Isles near Port Douglas, taking a catamaran cruiser to explore the Outer Reef, exploring the ancient Daintree Rainforest and sailing to Green Island to marvel at 120 species of plants and birdlife. Also factor in a visit to Whitehaven Beach – the superstar of the Whitsunday archipelago, famed for its brilliant white sands and crystal clear blue waters.





Pinnacles Desert, Western Australia

A nature-meets-art landscape located in Namburg National Park, the lunar-like Pinnacles Desert is massive on Instagram for its thousands of ancient limestone spires that rise out of the rippled golden sands and cover an area of 17,487 hectares. Nicknamed the Rock Stars of the Outback, these jagged sculptures formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago and reach up to four metres in height – with some being more wind-battered, mushroomlike and otherworldly-looking than others. If you’re exploring by foot, start at the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre to get the lowdown on the area’s natural and cultural heritage.

The surrounding area also rewards with great Instagram fodder; think wild emus, galahs, black cockatoos and friendly western grey kangaroos as well as incredible blooms of spring wildflowers between July and October. You’ll also be close to the sandy beach of Hangover Bay for surfing, Kangaroo Point for fishing and the town of Cervantes for spectacular seafood as well as natural lookouts over the Indian Ocean.


Surfers Paradise, Queensland

It’s all epic horizons, cool sundowner spots and awe-inspiring boarding action at Surfers Paradise Beach – the two-kilometre strip of glittering golden sand between the Queensland suburb of Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re hankering after panoramic shots from the SkyPoint Observation Deck on Level 77 of the iconic Q1 skyscraper or keeping it at ground level close to the breaks,


the backdrop is as blissful as it gets. Hailed as Australia’s coolest beach, there’s lots on offer besides riding the waves. Three lifeguard towers ensure safe swimming; there’s space for walking and skateboarding, and a foreshore with alfresco restaurants and buzzy markets every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night. You’ll also be just an hour from Brisbane – Queensland’s sundrenched state capital that offers photo ops galore, including taking the CityHopper river ferry, cycling the New Farm Riverwalk, abseiling the Kangaroo Point cliffs, climbing the Brisbane Story Bridge and relaxing at South Bank Parklands.


Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

The country’s second-largest reef stretching 300 kilometres halfway up West Australia’s coastline, the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef does underwater life on a dramatic scale. Not only is it home to 200 species of hard coral, 50 species of soft coral, more than 500 species of fish and six types of sea turtle, but there are also plenty of whale sharks, manta rays, dugongs, dolphins and humpback whales for your viewing pleasure. Accessing some of the snorkel and dive sites does require a four-wheel drive and a boat, however.



Sydney Opera House, New South Wales Equally worthy of your attention is the adjacent Cape Range National Park, a wildlife paradise with rocky gorges carved by ancient rivers, shallow lagoons, incredible sandy beaches, and umpteen red kangaroos, emus, and black-flanked rock wallabies. There’s also wilderness camping on offer at sites along the beachfront, but if roughing it under canvas is not your thing, diving instruction, compressed air and equipment hire are available at Exmouth and Coral Bay. Staying at these towns is also a popular way to access the reef and tours.

Designed by unknown Danish architect Jørn Utzon following a 1956 competition that attracted 222 entries, the Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 October 1973. Celebrated for its futuristiclooking white roof, shell-shaped sails and cathedral-like interiors, Australia’s most iconic structure and UNESCO World Heritage Site covers an area of 5.8 hectares and houses 1,000 rooms, three restaurants, a cafe, several bars, and seven venues (the largest is the Concert Hall with 2,679 seats). There are an estimated 3,000 events held here every year in addition to guided tours that shed light on this significant building’s

inner workings, with visits to the stages, orchestra pits, dressing rooms and green room. The Insta opportunities are brilliant from pretty much everywhere, but for superior shots head to Mrs Macquarie’s Point – the peninsula adjoined to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the only place near Circular Quay where you’ll get Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in the same photo.


Bondi Icebergs, New South Wales

pool and a smaller kids’ pool, both patrolled by lifeguards year-round. And while it’s technically not freezing (the pool temperature hovers around 16 degrees Celsius), it’s definitely a challenging swim when the sea Few places sum up Sydney’s laidback brings giant waves crashing into lifestyle like Bondi – the iconic the water. Further facilities include beach famed for its giant foaming a sauna (included in your pool swells, sweep of golden sand and admission), a gym, and towel hire. seriously cool vibe. So it’s easy If you don’t fancy a dip, head to to see the appeal of the historic the Icebergs Club Bistro for casual Bondi Icebergs, not least because fare or splash out on a meal at the it commands the best views of the Icebergs Dining Room and Bar – a swimming, surfing, bodyboarding swanky dining space that showcases and kayaking action. Maurice Terzini’s Italian heritage Located at the beach’s southern and chef Monty Koludrovic’s end, you’ll find an Olympic-size lap modern flair.





Twelve Apostles, Victoria

A series of magnificent 45-metrehigh rock stacks that rise majestically from the Southern Ocean on Victoria’s dramatic coastline, the much-photographed Twelve Apostles (there are, in fact, just seven remaining) tower above the rough waters of the Shipwreck Coast. While you’ll get satisfying Instashots from a scenic helicopter flight departing from the heliport behind the visitor centre, little beats seeing the silhouettes of these weatherbattered beauties from the dedicated viewing platform. Arriving just after sunset increases your chances of spotting the hundreds of Fairy Penguins that call this place home. You’ll also have Port Campbell National Park on your doorstep – a

jaw-dropping landscape filled with historic rock formations (London Bridge, The Arch, and The Grotto), walking trails, reefs and wrecks, and local wildlife such as wild koalas and kangaroos. Be sure to spend time on the beach at Loch Ard Gorge, walk down the 70-metre cliff face via the Gibson Steps and look out over the Bay of Islands.

Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria

9 There are few stadiums in the world more legendary than the Melbourne Cricket Ground – the spiritual home of Australian cricket as well as the Australian Football League (AFL). Known as ‘The G’ to locals and fans across the globe, it is the largest sports facility in the southern hemisphere, with a capacity of 100,024 divided into three areas: MCC members, AFL members and the public.


If you can’t make it to a game, book one of the behind-the-scenes tours that take you to the famous MCC Long Room, MCC Library, cricketers’ viewing room, players’ changing rooms and the City Terrace overlooking the Melbourne skyline. The National Sports Museum is also on site and well worth visiting for its 2,500 artefacts, interactive zones and state-of-the-art displays celebrating the country’s heroes and key sporting events. Galleries include the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Champions Racing Gallery, Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, Australian Football Hall of Fame and Backyard to Baggy Green Exhibition.


Uluru/Ayers Rock, Northern Territory

Officially known as Uluru/Ayers Rock, Australia’s 700-million-yearold monument rises some 348 metres above the surrounding desert plain. Best viewed at sunrise or sunset when this massive monolith transforms from ochre to burnt orange and then intense red, it can be visited in various ways: camel tour, self-drive, scenic helicopter ride, guided base walk with one of the tribespeople, or freefalling from a parachute jump. Scaling the site has always been controversial – the local Anangu people and other indigenous Australians have been asking tourists to abstain for years – but a law effective since October 2019 means climbing is now forbidden. However, there’s plenty to do, including booking a bush foodie tour, taking the Walpa Gorge Trail to walk through the domes of Kata Tjuta and admiring works by artists from the Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra lands at the Wintjiri Museum. Another highlight is the Field of Light art installation by celebrated British artist Bruce Munro. The attraction is open until December 2020. ED


EVENTS you won’t want to miss

Queensland World’s first digital Ring Cycle opera coming to Brisbane In a world first, Opera Australia, in partnership with the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council, announced it will stage one of its most ambitious projects to date, a brand new, fully digital production of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, in November 2020. Commonly known as the Ring, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is recognised as a masterpiece and the pinnacle in

operatic staging, attracting devotees from around the world to immerse themselves in an extraordinary musical event spread over four glorious nights. The first large scale performance of the full Ring Cycle to be held in Queensland, this production will be like none other ever staged, featuring the latest technologies in sets and lighting. resulting in the first fully digital Ring Cycle. The sets will incorporate huge, LED screens suspended from the ceiling, choreographed to move seamlessly around the stage, creating a visual landscape that will need to be seen to be believed.

Western Australia


Northern Territory

Swim with the ‘Big 3’ – humpback whales, manta rays and whale sharks

AO Chef Series returns for third year with an all-female line-up in 2020

Critically acclaimed Field of Light Uluru installation shines on until the end of 2020

Ningaloo Reef is the only place on the planet where it’s possible to spot the ‘Big 3’ in the same place at the same time – humpback whales, manta rays and whale sharks – and humpback whale interaction tours have been given the green light to continue in 2020. The tours offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact with humpback whales as they swim or rest in the temperate Ningaloo Reef waters and complement the region’s other nature-based offerings such as whale shark swims and manta ray encounters.

An all-female line-up of food icons has been announced as part of the AO Chef Series at the Australian Open 2020. Celebrating the achievements of some of the hospitality industry’s most talented women, Australian culinary icon Donna Hay, Indian based restaurateur Sarah Todd, Hobart restaurant Franklin head chef Analiese Gregory and Thai Michelin Star chef Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava will each host two lavish dinners as part of the series. The event will take place at Melbourne Park from 20 January to 2 February.

Internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s immersive installation, Field of Light Uluru, has been extended and will remain in place until 31 December 2020. The award-winning exhibition at Ayers Rock Resort opened on 1 April 2016 to critical acclaim and has proved to be a stand-out drawcard to the destination. For those wanting a special evening under the stars there is A Night at Field of Light dining experience (including transfers, or guests can arrive via helicopter or camel for an additional charge).



l e v a CELEBRITY r t life &

MasterChef Champion 2018, Kenny Tutt speaks to Toby Wilsdon about his working class upbringing and his journey through MasterChef to opening Pitch restaurant and his changing travel habits

My background

Growing up, I had quite a privileged working class life – we did and saw a lot of things. My parents have a really interesting past. They were market traders and my mum had a seafood stand. I would go around the fruit and veg and the meat sellers and I just fell in love with all the smells and tastes. My mum would get us up at four in the morning to get the best pitch. Now this is our Pitch. I’ve always been around food. We come from a big Irish family so meal times would be 20 people with everyone bringing different food. From an early age I’d be prepping everything, from making champ (Irish mash), to mum and dad teaching me how to butcher lamb. And then when I was old enough and wise enough, she’d let me loose on the gravy, which is sacred. My mum opened the first escort agency in London (the legit kind), and they accumulated quite a bit of wealth and took us all over; to Disneyland, and all the places that were seen as exotic at that time – the Algarve, parts of France and then Ireland because my mum came from there. My dad always wanted to do Route 66. I was young


at the time but they chucked us in the back of the car and flew up and down like Thelma and Louise.

On MasterChef

Before I went on MasterChef I already had about 400 cookery books and I would watch videos on YouTube. It’s surprising how much you can teach yourself if you want to. It was my wife Lucy who put me up to it. She said, “Stop being an armchair warrior, stop going on about it, just apply.” Even then I took a few days to do it. It’s a cliché but it’s such an achievement for anyone to just get there – I think there were something like 60,000 applications. It’s a long process to get on. You have an informal phone call, a telephone interview and then you go to London and plate some food in front of four people. There’s no feedback and the production team said if I hadn’t heard within two weeks, then I hadn’t made it through. Two weeks went by and nothing; three weeks, still nothing, so I had to assume that I hadn’t been successful. Four weeks after my London audition, I got the call when I was holding my newborn daughter. I nearly dropped

Kenny Tutt

the baby. I was so shocked I repeatedly asked if they were sure or they had the wrong number. The show itself was really tough, but I learned so much. It’s a rollercoaster journey with massive highs, then teetering on the edge. There are four to five months of filming – we went to Peru and loads of fantastic restaurants around the UK. And then I went on to win, surprising everyone including myself. Actually, it’s harder after the show, I really put myself through the mill because I didn’t want to turn up with professional chefs and pretend I knew what I was doing just because I’d done a TV show.

Our Pitch

I’d worked as a bank manager for about 10 years, including a year after I was on MasterChef, so opening a restaurant was a real change in calling. When my wife and I saw the venue, we thought, “Shall we just go for it?”. The building was lovely but it needed a lot of work, so we stripped


Great British Menu, he’s a cracking chef. The next class we’re doing is how to cook the perfect steak.

Eating away

For me, travel and food are intrinsically linked and I can’t book a holiday without thinking about where and what I’m going to eat when I’m away. After I met my wife, we went to Mexico, many parts of Asia and all around Europe – Bologna, Naples, Vienna. It was always me who was charged with where we ate. She wasn’t too into food at the time, but she was quickly converted. I really love it when you find the spit and sawdust type places too. That rawness is actually quite desirable. The best place I ate in Thailand was a place called Papaya, where they did the best massaman curry I’ve ever had. The owner kept a separate fridge running just so cats could jump in to keep cool. I love things like that.

Some of the best meals I’ve had, actually the food may not have been phenomenal, but it’s where you are, who you’re with, the sights and the smells. When you eat fresh sardines in Portugal or street food in Thailand, it might not be technically the best but it is because you’re there and you’re enveloped in it all. I’m a big fan of the late TV chef, Anthony Bourdain. He went to all these out of the way little nooks and crannies around the world that don’t cost a dime. I’d really love to retrace his steps. When we went to Cyprus this year we found this amazing meze place. You get a sheet of paper with all the dishes and tick everything that you want. The guy came over and he said, “No, no, no, you don’t want that.” He scribbled it all out, and said “You want this, this and this, you don’t want that, and you do want that and that.” ∧

it all back, made it a bit brighter and hired some really great staff. The first thing I say to young chefs is, you’ve got to leave your ego at the door. It’s like music or art, or wine, you’re never going to know everything. But if you keep asking questions, you will get a better understanding. That’s how I like to work with my producers too, to ensure I can offer our customers the very best. If you eat here, I can tell you where the meat comes from, which field, which farmer. We know where each fish has been plucked from. We use a company called Ashley James in Worthing; we’ve got a beautiful range of beef from Surrey and we’ve had lamb from Lancing College nearby and Huntsham Farm, in Wales. A friend of mine from MasterChef, Dhruv Baker started his own charcuterie business called Tempus. The King Peter ham he does is just amazing and it’s been a huge hit with our customers. We also love catering for different diets. If there’s a party of six, I don’t want one individual to be unable to enjoy the meal or not have enough options to choose from. For that reason, from January, we’re going to do “For the love of plants” every Wednesday. This will be four or five courses, all plant based, plus we’ll have a matched vegan wine flight and selection of mocktails too. We started a cookery school about three months ago and teaching means that I’m still learning too. We’ve done everything. This morning we took a whole turbot, I taught the class how to fillet and skin it; how to cook it and what to cook it with. And then we pair what they’ve cooked with wine as well. We do guest chef classes as well and the reception’s been amazing. We’ve had Michael Bremner, who won



You just can’t beat that, and it ended up being our best night there.

Bucket list place

Iceland. I just want to go to those hot springs. If I could just sit there for a few hours and just shut my eyes for a bit that would be really nice.

Bucket list activity

I’d love to milk a cow, but I really don’t know why.


I think it’s always good to try and look after yourself. Other than that, I’m not very virtuous, to be honest.

Virtue you admire in others

People who are really organised. They’ll get up at five in the morning, go for a run, and they’ve done four conference calls before 8am. The only Pitch restaurant in Worthing


downside is that it takes the chance out of life – the best thing you could do travelling is to get lost, then you find those special moments.

we play lots of Queen, Squeeze and Madness, a real mix. And then old school hip hop, drum and bass.

Favourite word

I’m really into rum at the moment, but I also think you can’t beat a really dry gin.

My kids and I have a bit of thing with the word “help” at the moment. They’re only small, but I’m trying to get them to say they need help with something rather than throwing a tantrum because things aren’t quite working out. I guess as adults we could also use a little of that too.

Favourite band, artist or music

I like a lot of street art and Pollock too, which is just chaos. Obviously the classics like Monet are just so beautiful and I when I look at them I just wonder how anyone could do that. Music-wise, jazz like George Shearing to relax but in the kitchen

Tipple of choice

Favourite cuisine

You’ll get a different answer every day. Some days I just want to eat a naughty treat like some fried chicken. Other days I want a beautiful piece of local fish. It’s about balance, I think.

Do, be or have.

Do. Definitely do. People have loads of great ideas and great intentions, sky diving, doing the Inca Trail… The best thing you can do is do it. You might fail, I have done many times, but you’ve got to give it a crack. ED


SKY-H IG H WI NTE R CHALET AT www.rooftopstjames.com The Trafalgar St. James, 2 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2TS



Ten brilliant things to do in Barcelona


Few places rival Barcelona when it comes to world-class museums and galleries, hip design hotels, modernista creations and an enviable collection of medieval marvels. Here are ten brilliant things to do in one of Spain’s most popular city break destinations, writes Michelle Dunn

Relax at the fantastical Parc Güell


One of world’s most surreal urban spaces, this fanciful UNESCOlisted estate is the result of Spanish entrepreneur Eusebi Güell allowing his genius architect and designer friend Anotini Gaudí to work his modernist magic on a proposed 12-hectare housing site. The project was a commercial flop, yet this whimsical wonderland filled with sculptures, spiral towers, colourful ceramic mosaics and enchanting colonnades and archways was duly snapped up by Barcelona City Council, which opened it as a public park in 1923. Highlights include the giant dragon fountain at the park’s entrance, the decorative stonework bench on the terrace, the two Hansel and Gretel-inspired gatehouses and the otherworldly series of viaducts, serpentine paths and landscaped areas. Also make a beeline for the Gaudí House Museum, the architect’s residence from 1906 until 1925 (the study and bedroom have remained largely untouched). Much of the park is free to visit, but there’s an extra charge for guided tours. www.parkguelltickets.org





Take a self-guided tour of Camp Nou The stadium of Barcelona FC, Camp Nou is the largest in Europe with a capacity of 99,786 seats – reduced to 96,336 in matches organised by UEFA. Built between 1954 and 1957, it was officially opened on 24 September of that year with a match between FC Barcelona and a selection of players from Warsaw. It has seen huge expansions over the decades, with further redevelopments likely to be completed by 2021. If you can’t secure match tickets in advance, any that remain can be bought at the ticket windows on the day. Alternatively, book a self-guided stadium tour that includes visits to the stands, field, dugout, away side’s changing room, tunnel and press room. You’ll also get access to the on-site FC Barcelona Museum, a site of pilgrimage filled with trophies, memorabilia, multimedia installations and interactive audiovisual areas celebrating the players and matches in the club’s 120year history. Tours take up to two hours and run daily at selected times. www.fcbarcelona.com/en



Marvel at Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia

One of Gaudí’s most famous works, the controversial La Sagrada Família has been under construction since 1882 – with an estimated completion date of 2026 being optimistic at best. Not that this deters the 4.5 million visitors it attracts every year – all eager to see this extraordinary UNESCO-protected modernista masterpiece, which started as a cathedral but was upgraded to basilica status in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

While several tours are available, it’s best to pay for priority entrance and then opt for the audio-guided route to go at your own pace. Standout attractions include the 18 significant towers representing figures from the Bible (there are currently eight, the others are yet to be built), Gaudí’s tomb in the crypt and the mesmerising rainbow-coloured stained glass. There’s also a 4x4 mindteasing “magic square” on the Passion façade, where the numbers add up horizontally or vertically to 33 – the age of Christ when he was crucified.

Antoni Gaudí’s Basílica de la Sagrada



Wander around the Gothic Quarter

taking a walking tour to stumble across all sorts of For history buffs with a love hidden gems and surprising of medieval and modern buildings. Another way to marvels, the Gothic Quarter’s learn about Barcelona’s rich narrow cobbled streets and past is at Museu d’Història alleyways are well worthy de la Ciutat (MUHBA) – the of exploration. collective of 13 different sites Must-dos include parking yourself on a bench in the 14th-century Plaça del Rei public square; marvelling at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (also known as La Seu Cathedral), which took nearly two centuries to build; and merrily bar hopping your way down Carrer dels Escudellers. Other essentials include strolling around the Jewish Quarter of El Call, shopping in the vintage boutiques along Carrer Avinyó and the surrounding streets and


that house permanent and temporary exhibitions, 4,000 square metres of subterranean Roman excavations, more than 35,200 cultural artefacts and a 19th-century farmhouse, merchant’s palace, and poet’s house.


Gaze at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

display that marks the closing event for Barcelona’s main festival, La Mercè. Operating hours vary depending on the time of year, but there are usually two shows every night from Thursdays to Saturdays, extended to Wednesdays to Sundays between June and

September. Each lasts for roughly 15 to 20 minutes and promises an illuminated spectacle of colour, light, motion, music and dancing waters. The fountain pumps out an estimated 2,600 litres of water every second from its 3,600 jets, all of which is recycled. ∧

Designed for the 1929 Universal Exhibition by acclaimed Catalan architect and engineer Carles Buïgas, Barcelona’s biggest ornamental fountain was painstakingly restored in 1992 for the Olympic Games and it has remained one of the city’s most visually striking (and free) attractions ever since. Located at the end of the Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina just below the Palau Naciona, it is also the site for Piromusical – a huge firework




Spend time at Fundació Joan Miró

While Joan Miró’s work appears all over Barcelona (there’s even a mural at the airport), nothing beats this adventurous and forwardthinking museum, which was designed in 1975 by Miró himself along with his close friend, architect Josep Lluís Sert. Spectacularly located on Montjuïc Mountain, it houses 220 paintings; 178 sculptures; almost 10,000 preliminary sketches, models, and notes produced by the surrealist master over the course of his life; and a fair few ceramics, textiles and graphic works. He donated most of the pieces, others came from collections owned by his wife and friends. Once you’ve admired eyeopening works such as Pair of Lovers Playing With Almond Blossoms and the mercury fountain designed by Alexander Calder for the Spanish Republic’s pavilion in the 1937 Paris Exhibition, be sure to grab a coffee and relax in the small courtyard garden filled with contemporary sculptures. There’s also a museum gift shop for souvenirs and a bookshop for arty literature and prints by up-and-coming modern artists.



Visit the Chocolate Museum

Chocolate lovers are in for a sweet treat at Museu de la Xocolata – the tantalising museum housed in the former Sant Agustí monastery just outside the city’s lush Ciutadella Park. The building was a barracks in the 18thcentury and soldiers were given 1.5 ounces of chocolate with bread every morning for breakfast. Opened in 2000 by Barcelona’s Confectioners’ Guild, the experience here is as mouth-wateringly good as you’d expect. And what it lacks in samples (just one bar at the end) it makes up

BARCELONA for with a loaded history of cocoa plants and the entire manufacturing process. There are also interesting workshops for wannabe chocolatiers who will learn to knead and taste chocolate; make sweets or cookies from melted white, milk and dark varieties and


Stroll along the iconic century market that offers Las Ramblas a huge selection fresh food

even pair it with alcohol. You’ll also find chocolatecarved art and architecture (including an impressive replica of Sagrada Família), a cafe for deliciously thick hot chocolates, and a shop selling all sorts of creations from both national and international brands.

de Colom (Columbus Monument), the old royal products, handicrafts and shipyard at Drassanes, It’s almost illegal to visit tiny but trendy places to eat which now houses the Barcelona without strolling and drink. Maritime Museum of along Las Ramblas – the Things get even livelier Barcelona, and the cleanedinsanely touristy street that in Rambla de Santa up backstreets once known runs for a nearly a mile Mònica, the section at the as Barri Xinès or China from Plaça Catalunya to end of the boulevard just Town (at one time this Port Vell. But there’s much before the seafront. Here was Europe’s largest red more to this tree-lined you’ll find the Mirador light district). pedestrian boulevard than statues, flower and plant shops, souvenir kiosks, street buskers, global fast food chain outlets and artists who’ll paint your portrait for a few Euros. Must-see landmarks include Casa Bruno Cuadros, Gran Teatre del Liceu and the scene-stealing La Boqueria – a 13th-



Take the cable car to Tibidabo

Spend the night at a design hotel

The tallest in the Serra de Collserola range at 512 metres, Mount Tibidabo (seldom used with its prefix) is visible from literally anywhere in Barcelona. Even the journey there is pleasurable. From Avinguda Tibidabo FGC Station, which connects by rail via Line 7 to Plaça Catalunya, you can hop on a Tramvia Blau Tram and then catch the cable car. At the top of the mountain, stop at the fairytale-like Temple of the Sacred Heart for its murals, mosaics and neo-byzantine crypt, and visit Sir Norman Foster’s Torre de Collserola for its 10th-floor observation deck where you can see up to 70 kilometres on a clear day. There’s also an amusement park that opened to the public in 1905 and offers retro-style attractions including the L’Embruixabruixes aerial railway, Diavolo swings, Les Tasses spinning cans and Avió airplane flight – a replica of the first aircraft to fly from Barcelona to Madrid in 1927. There’s also a Ferris wheel complete with 16 brightly-coloured gondolas and the capacity to show off the city’s views to 750 visitors every hour.

Given its obsession with art and architecture, it’s unsurprising that many lodgings are in keeping with the city’s funky and fashionable vibe. And there are few as ultra-cool as Hotel Omm, Barcelona’s first designer bolthole, which opened in 2003. Located just off the Passeig de Gràcia, it’s one of the most cutting-edge spots in town, not least for its chic rooms, buzzy lobby bar, rooftop terrace and Michelin-starred restaurant. Another sophisticated pick is The Serras, a boutique gem set on the Passeig de Colom and overlooking the swanky


yachts at Port Vell. Housed in a building dating from 1846 and whose façade was designed by Plaça del Rei architect Francesc Daniel Molina, it rewards with classic and contemporary design, incredible rooms, stupendous cuisine and luxe extras.

Also try W Barcelona, a high-tech property that ups the ante with sail-like exteriors, stylish rooms that maximise sea views from floor-to-ceiling windows, a private music studio, a glamorous pool area and a suitably trendy ambience. ED




A Grand Experience Grand Hyatt Taipei’s Grand Club is the answer to a business traveller’s prayers, by Anthony van Dyck

Travelling overseas on business can be an ordeal. Despite the potential for exotic locations, the challenges of staying at the top of one’s game while battling jet lag, extreme variations in climate, the stress of navigating airports, immigration and the flight itself can leave one feeling pretty awful even at the best of times.


Thankfully, the tremendous staff at the Grand Club on the 22nd floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei made what could have been an ordeal into a pleasure. From the moment I arrived I was made to feel not just at home, but an honoured guest. Christine Sun, head of VIP services welcomed me at reception before leading me to the Grand Club Lounge, a quiet,

well-appointed oasis of calm that immediately puts one at ease. The first thing you notice is that the clatter and hustle and bustle of normal city life, even the busy-ness of the ground floor of the hotel, is replaced by a soothing feeling of relaxation. There are newspapers and periodicals available, as well as a well-appointed coffee station,


The Grand Hyatt Taipei (centre) with the 508m high Taipei 101 in the background

Indian food experience. I wanted to save my appetite for the seafood, so I only sampled the curries on offer, but they were distinctive from each other and didn’t cut corners on the spice factor. And as for the naan bread, it was freshfrom-the-oven and continuously refreshed. I focused on the seafood and the fresh crab, shrimp, sushi and sashimi were so delicious that I ate past the point of satisfying hunger, just so I could experience as much as I could. A special note of appreciation for the small touches, like fresh wasabi, the green horseradish that complements Japanese seafood so well. Just as there are different

‘The spa was a true oasis’

various snacks throughout the day and buffets at dinner and breakfast. More on that later. I had the good fortune of being booked into the Deluxe Suite, with stunning views of Taipei 101 to the east and the peaks of Yangming Mountain to the north. The suite comes equipped with two large screen televisions, a beautifully equipped

coffee station and minibar, a guest washroom off the main living area and a beautifully appointed bathroom off the master bedroom, which includes dual sinks, an immense tub, a separate toilet enclosure and shower enclosure. On the table of the living room there were some nice personal touches, including a selection of fresh fruit and a handwritten note from the hotel manager. After making myself comfortable, I took advantage of the hotel’s swimming pool on the fifth floor. Although with clear blue skies the weather was perfect, the cool breeze made me grateful for the heated pool and plush towels supplied to all guests. I had dinner at the extravagant buffet at the Hyatt Café on the ground floor of the hotel, a decision I would not regret. If you’d like to try a little bit of everything at the buffet, you can give up that idea from the start. It’s simply impossible. The buffet has everything you could possibly want, with cuisine from every corner of the world, but I must give kudos to the hotel for its incredible seafood selection and for what was a remarkably authentic




varieties of mustard, there are also varieties of wasabi and it was encouraging to see that even in small things like this, the Grand Hyatt made excellence a priority. A matchachocolate fountain, abundant ice cream selection, pastries and cakes and toppings of all sorts were there to tempt and lead one astray. That night I slept very soundly in the exceedingly comfortable bed and with the automatic blinds down and curtains drawn, I was undisturbed by any encroaching rays of sunlight. Once awake however, I pressed a button, the curtains pulled to the side, the blinds opened and I was treated to a glorious morning vista. After getting up I made my way to the complimentary breakfast buffet at the Grand Club and availed myself of the substantial offerings. Although not as robust as the Hyatt Café offerings downstairs, this buffet had everything: a full coffee bar, selections of tea, many pastries to choose from, an egg station, fresh fruit and salad, pancakes, bacon, congee, even those traditional Taiwanese

breakfast favourites, soy milk and youtiao, the deep fried cruller-like pastry that starts the day for so many locals. And of course there was a selection of daily newspapers to read while drinking one’s morning coffee. Immediately after breakfast I had some business to attend to. Two hours

later, I came back to the room to find my shoes shined and my suit pressed, both services provided gratis to Grand Club members. Following my meeting, I took advantage of the surprisingly wellequipped health club and spa. The club has everything you could possibly need; free weights and weight stations, yoga mats and medicine balls, treadmill and spinning machines. And the spa was a true oasis, with a comfortable magazine lounge, steam room, sauna and both hot and cold jacuzzis. While it may seem like an extravagance, a savvy business traveller knows that good health and exercise are every bit as important to overcoming jet lag as a good night’s sleep or a well-cooked meal. In this respect, the Grand Hyatt Taipei’s facilities are an integral part of the experience. Alas, all good things must come to an end and when I left, there was more than a little reluctance to hit the road again. I would definitely return, next time for a longer stay. ED taipei.grand.hyatt.com




Ten amazing things to do in Dubai

Dubai has always delivered the dream for those impressed by headline-grabbing hotels, supersized shopping malls, superlative restaurants, eye-catching architecture and extravagant attractions. Here’s our pick of the ten best things to do in this glittering, futuristic and sophisticated United Arab Emirates metropolis by the sea, writes Michelle Dunn

See a show at the Dubai Opera

Marked by a spectacular set of arias, duets and Broadway staples from Spanish tenor, Placido Domingo, the 2,000-seater Dubai Opera officially opened in 2016. Located in front of the Burj Khalifa and the famous fountains in the heart of the glitzy downtown cultural area, this state-of-the-art masterpiece not only offers rich pickings from the operatic greats, but it’s also a key venue for theatre, concerts, dance, fashion shows and art exhibitions. And while the 2,000-square-metre exterior impresses with a Emirati dhow boat-like design to celebrate Dubai’s seafaring heritage, the interiors are equally mind-blowing – especially the chandelier in the marble foyer, which weighs five tonnes and features 30,000 individually-crafted glass pearls lit by over 3,000 internal LED sources.


There’s also a fabulous rooftop restaurant with five unique sections: The Main Dining Area, The Loft Bar, Raw Bar, Chef ’s Table and the Loft Terrace. If you can’t make it to one of the shows, take the

hour-long guided tour or book the 75-minute exclusive backstage experience, which is available on most days. www.dubaiopera.com


Spend the day at BVLGARI spa

You don’t have to be a guest at the ultra-swanky BVLGARI Resort & Residences Dubai to feel like a god or goddess at its 1,700 square metre spa. Designed by Milan-based architects,

Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, the facilities are every bit as bling as you’d expect: indoor 24-hour fitness centre with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment, authentic Italian barber shop, beauty salon, hairdresser and a

25-metre indoor pool with real gold leaf tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and sea views. There are also vitality pools, steam rooms, rainforest showers, ice fountains, and optional private training in weights, yoga, pilates and boxing with qualified Workshop Gymnasium instructors. But if you’re just here for the swoon-worthy treatments and therapies, there are eight private rooms where the magic happens. For ultimate splashout, book the two-hour Kahraman Treatment, the three-hour Royal Lulur Treatment, or the five-hour Majestic Hammam Journey. If you’re pushed for time, go for a 90-minute Botanical Detox Wrap, 60-minute Organic Myrtle Scrub & Wrap, or one of the signature massages or facials. www.bulgarihotels.com

Dine at Atlantis The Palm

the likes of Nobu for Japanese fusion cuisine, Bread Street Kitchen & Bar for Gordon Ramsay’s gastropub fare and Ronda Locatelli for authentic Italian cooking. Also bear in mind that advance bookings are often required and

dress codes apply more or less everywhere apart from the pool bars (smart-casual is fine, but jeans are only allowed if worn with shoes and not trainers). ∧

Some of Dubai’s best dining spots are at Atlantis The Palm, the fantastical 1539-room resort that cost £1bn to build and remains the hotel of choice for A-listers and jetsetters. There’s a total of 23 globespanning restaurants, with six Michelin stars between them. These are categorised: Celebrity, Speciality, Buffet, Casual, Cafe & Bar, and Outdoor & Waterpark. Foodies can make their way to Ossiano to sample award-winning seafood; Ayamna to try Lebanese dishes; Seafire Steakhouse & Bar for meaty delights; and Hakkasan for Cantonese specialities. Equally worthy of your attention is Shawafel for sandwiches, TBJ for burgers and The Shore for Tex-Mex classics. But what you won’t find on a half-board or all-inclusive package are





Discover the Dubai Museum

Given its urban sophistication, Dubai’s rich history as a humble creekside fishing village is often overlooked. But it’s all there to be seen at Al Fahidi Fort – the oldest building in the city and once a royal residence, barricade, weapons arsenal, garrison, and prison. Nowadays the fort is home to the Dubai Museum – the flagship cultural site that throws light on the city’s heritage. Highlights of the museum include the experience of walking through the reproduction souks, marvelling at exhibits focused on Bedouin life and admiring archaeological findings from nearby excavations. There are also detailed dioramas of ancient Arab houses, mosques and date farms; a wealth of decorative items such as paintings, pottery, jewellery and musical instruments; and a military display that includes handcrafted swords, daggers, spears and shields made of shark skin. Most standout among the exhibits is the collection of pearl merchant’s weights, sieves and scales, and the audio-visual presentations showing how much the city has transformed beyond all recognition since the discovery of oil in the 1960s. The must-see museum is open from 8:30am to 8:30pm on Saturdays to Thursdays and from 2:30pm to 8:30pm on Fridays. www.dubaicity.com/al-fahidifort-historical-landmark


Shop at the malls and souks

Shopping is taken very seriously in Dubai and few malls in the world can compare to these temples of consumerism. One of the best places to let your credit card take a battering is the Dubai Mall – the world’s second largest shopping complex, with 1,200-plus stores including flagships from the likes of Gucci, Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Cartier and the UAE’s first ever Apple. There’s also Mall of the Emirates for its high-fashion offerings (plus the only Harvey Nichols in the country), Dubai Festival City Hall for its international staples

(including IKEA), Ibn Battuta Mall for its designer goodies, and WAFI Mall for revered brands and independent boutiques. For a totally different shopping, experience, head to Gold Souk for splurging or haggling, Spice Souk for stocking up on cinnamon sticks, saffron, cumin and frankincense, and Perfume Souk for all sorts of wonderful aromatic creations. Also worthy of a visit is the Textile Souk for its bustling market charm, dazzling array of raw silks, cottons and fabrics in every colour of the rainbow and sewing accessories such as buttons, lace, and sequins.


Brave the rides at IMG Worlds of Adventure

Lovers of the white stuff are in luck at this one-of-a-kind winter wonderland, which covers 22,500 square metres in the Mall of the Emirates. Housing 6,000 tonnes of real snow, the mall has been offering icy thrills since 2005, including a mountain ride; meets-and-greets with a colony of King and Gentoo penguins; and slopes that vary in difficulty, height and gradient. The longest of these pistes is the world’s first indoor black run, which stretches for 400 metres with a drop of 60 metres. Elsewhere, there’s a ski and snowboarding school for group

or private lessons with world-class instructors, a supersized snow park with bobsled runs, tobogganing hills and a snow cavern with ice maze. Once you’ve exhausted yourself on the faux-piste, head halfway up the “mountain” to the Avalanche Cafe where you can sip Alpine-style hot chocolates with whipped cream and mini marshmallows before you thaw out outside. Alternatively, ride the Snow Bullet – a state-of-the-art zip line that soars 16 metres above the ground, propelling you 150 metres from one side of Ski Dubai to the other. Advance bookings are recommended. ∧

Opened in 2016 as the world’s largest indoor theme park, this innovative funhouse with 22 branded rides and attractions, 28 food outlets and 25 shops is not just for kids. Spanning some140,000 square metres – equivalent to 28 football fields, the theme park is divided into four themed zones (MARVEL, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure and IMG Boulevard) it offers thrill seekers some masterful stomach churners in a temperature-controlled environment – a welcome escape from the heat is always a bonus, especially when temperatures can hit north of 41°C in the summer. Big-name rides include The Velociraptor for a fast-paced rollercoaster ride that launches from the prehistoric jungles and winds its way through the desert; Predator for exciting loops, rolls and a vertical plummet; and the epic Haunted Hotel for negotiating a maze of corridors and encountering all sorts of creepy characters against a ghoulish backdrop. Once you are all done screaming, why not sit back and take in a live stage show or enjoy a movie at the futuristic 12-screen multiplex – an otherworldly space with floorto-ceiling mirror lighting and more than 5,000 metres of LED strip lighting in customised colours.

Ski and snowboard at Ski Dubai






Dive into the Dubai Mall Aquarium

There are endless marine thrills at this 10-million-litre tank located on the ground level of Dubai Mall. Not only does it house more than 33,000 sea creatures and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks on Earth, but there’s also a huge acrylic viewing panel, an underwater zoo, a 48-metre-long, 270-degree walkthrough tunnel and glass-bottomed boat rides.

Not-to-be-missed attractions include meeting the 750-kilogram Australian crocodile named King Croc and visiting the UAE’s Night Creatures attraction for giant camel spiders, Arabian toads, fruit bats, veiled chameleons, scorpions and desert hedgehogs. For the very brave, add-on experiences include Shark Feeding, Shark Snorkelling and the new Shark Encounters – a 30-minute underwater adventure including a tour of the back-of-house facilities, feeding shark babies and learning about the aquarium’s shark breeding programme. There are also speciality dives available on the PADI-approved Dubai Aquarium Specialty Course that will count towards your Master Scuba Diver rating. www.thedubaiaquarium.com

Play golf on a championship course

Given that it’s home to three of the world’s top 100 courses and host of three major world tournaments, Dubai is a high-profile destination for golfers keen to play on desert, beach and mature parkland. Some of the best places to unleash your inner Tiger, Rory or Colin are the Emirates Golf Club for its floodlit Faldo-designed championship courses; Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club for its sail-shaped clubhouse; The Els Club for its challenging Ernie Els-designed greens; and Dubai Hills by Emaar for its wow-factor skyline views. Further spots masterminded by some of the golfing greats include Jumeirah Golf Estates for its Greg Norman-designed Earth course, and the salubrious Address Montgomerie Dubai for its Colin Montgomerie-


designed course, which covers 265 acres and includes 14 lakes, 38 hectares of landscaped gardens, and 81 large bunkers. Bear in mind that courses fill out with members on the weekends and tend to be less crowded on weekdays. You should also aim to tee off at around 1pm so that you’ll be done by sunset and have sufficient time to analyse your game over a couple of drinks.

Stay at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Few hotels capture the decadent spirit of Dubai like this iconic sailshaped hotel, which has scooped a seven-star rating. No, that’s not an official thing, but a myth that has done wonders for its reputation. Set on its own offshore island rising from the waters of the Arabian Gulf and connected to the mainland by a causeway, it does OTT glamour rather well. Think a fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a private yacht for cruising along the coastline, an on-site helipad and extensive use of gold everywhere you look. There are 201 ultra-luxurious duplex suites with 24-hour butler service; five swimming pools (three outdoor, two indoor); a private beach; and a groundbreaking spa with saunas, steam rooms and an extensive treatment menu. You’re spoiled further with nine excellent wining and dining spots, including at Al Mahara for seafood specialities by British chef Nathan Outlaw, Scape for Californian-fusion cuisine, Summersalt for Cristian Goya’s Japanese creations and Skyview Bar and Gold on 27 for cocktails and skyline views. ED www.jumeirah.com


Artisan connections The UAE is a region rich in craft heritage. For many generations palm fronds have been woven into intricate patterns to make sturdy and beautiful baskets, rugs and mats, a traditional craft called safeefah that’s steeped with meaning and skill. Spanning the Middle East, north Africa and south-east and central Asia, the UAE-based Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council specialises in promoting and preserving age-old and highly specialised techniques like safeefah weaving, as well as talli hand braiding. Yet its mission is not to act as a museum but to keep craft traditions alive. Through a wide range of programmes, Irthi explores the strong craft culture in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, engaging and educating UAE-based and international makers about traditional techniques and empowering its skilled practitioners through new collaborations and market opportunities.

One such scheme is the Bidwa Social Development Programme, which employs over 40 craftswomen in Dibba Al Hisn on Sharjah’s east coast. It provides vocational training to women who work in the industry, aiming to show that craft can be a viable career in a vibrant economic sector. Talented artisans from the Bidwa programme and new recruits have teamed up with 12 global studios to develop the debut Irthi product range. There are four collections from the Crafts Dialogue programme, which fuses European and Emirati approaches to materials and techniques, and eight from Design Labs, a residencylike programme that pairs trainee and expert artisans from Bidwa with international designers to cross cultural and physical borders to create products together. The debut collection includes totem-like stools by Abdallah Al Mulla and Pepa Reverter; hand-blown glass inspired by the Emirati landscape architect and designer Dima Srouji; and vases, lamps and phone chargers pairing Italian designer Matteo Silverio’s high-tech take on

Murano glass with Fatima Al Zaabi’s expertise in merging handmade with machine pottery techniques. Reaching out to the next generation of craftspeople is also a key Irthi objective and its Hirfati Youth Programme introduces people aged between six and 18 to the craft traditions of the UAE through handson workshops and connections with practicing designers. As well as home accessories and design objects, Irthi has also cultivated its fashion credentials through its Artisan Skills Exchange Programme and the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme, launched in 2016. Azyame is an annual year-long programme that works towards developing UAE-based fashion designers, through a series of workshops that include topics like launching a brand, ethical practices and market trends, in addition to one-to-one mentorship sessions with fashion consultants and experts. The programme also provides participants with the opportunity to showcase and sell their products.




Dubai Business Culture


Approximately 80 per cent of the population of Dubai are non-nationals. As a result, exporters (at least in the private sector) are as likely to come across as many Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, US and European business contacts as they are Dubai nationals. Given this diversity and the international orientation of much of the Dubai’s commercial activities, most business contacts in Dubai will be familiar with European and American business practices and expectations. Nevertheless, there are some additional rules of thumb that will ensure a smooth path when dealing with local customers. Exporters should remember that Dubai comprises strongly religious communities in which spiritual belief is an essential part of life rather than just a question of individual choice. Muslim contacts may refer to the teachings of the Koran to justify or explain action taken or a position held in negotiations. Exporters will benefit from treating religious beliefs with the utmost respect. This means, for example, anticipating that Muslim business contacts may absent themselves at various times in the working day for prayers. Remember also that during Ramadan it is not polite to eat, smoke or drink within sight of a fasting Muslim. Honour, reputation and the concept of ‘face’ are hugely important in Arab culture. Thus, although Arabs are approachable, friendly and humorous, potentially conflictive issues may be avoided. In practical terms this focus on protecting and maintaining face involves using manoeuvres, or refraining from reacting, in order to give the person whose face is threatened a way to exit the situation with minimal discomfort. Arab culture stresses the importance of honouring guests. This often extends beyond the simple hospitality of

DUBAI western cultures and can be thought of as a matter of honour and duty. One reason for this is that the Arab Bedouins, especially those in the Arabian Peninsula, have always lived in a desert environment in which travelling nomads depended upon each other’s hospitality in order to survive thirst, hunger and sudden raids or enemy attacks. In the course of time, these essentially Bedouin customs of hospitality became common to all Arabs, including villagers and city people. The Arab belief in hospitality means that time is taken in the greeting process. Personal questions are asked as a sincere way of showing that others are important. Unfortunately, on occasion, repeated questions and enquiries about family and wellbeing might, to western ears, seem to be an invasion of privacy. English is widely spoken among businesspeople in Dubai. However, it is sensible to have business cards printed with English and Arabic on either side. Brochures and other promotional literature should always be printed in Arabic, either with or without an English translation. One frequent visitor to the gulf comments that “Business proceeds at two rates – snail’s pace and light speed.” While it is important not to make assumptions about how your counterparts will work, visitors to Dubai would do well to prepare for negotiations ranging from extremely prolonged to extremely swift. A useful way to think of such negotiations is as rollercoasters that climb slowly to the summit before falling rapidly down the other side. As elsewhere however, excessive stalling can be a polite way of saying that there is no real interest in continuing the business discussion at the present time. Given the importance of honour and face in Gulf States cultures, evidence of stalling needs to be handled sensitively. Casting doubt on the honour of your negotiating partners is unlikely to be productive. Social standing in Dubai is based on a combination of factors including country of origin, education, age, rank, tribal position and political office. However, Gulf States people will always exhibit a great deal of respect and honour to older people and those considered guests. It may therefore be appropriate for western companies to send older people on business, at least initially. ED


CEO Interview

Daredevil CEO of St Giles Hotels, Abigail Tan meets Toby Wilsdon at the company’s central London venue to talk business, family, travel and culture Abigail is preparing for the hotel’s 25-year-anniversary event when she takes time out to meet me in her seventh-floor office in the 1970s brutalist structure near Tottenham Court Road. The third generation in one of Malaysia’s most significant property dynasties, IGB Berhad, it has fallen to Abigail head the European and American expansion of the St Giles brand. Fallen is perhaps the wrong word for one who regularly jumps off buildings or takes to the skies at the controls of a helicopter. Having grown up on Penang, an island off the north west coast of peninsular Malaysia, she was a regular world traveller, visiting the UK at least once a year with her anglophile family. “There would always be a family holiday with my grandfather, who loved being around his grandchildren.


“Mum was very strict, but she always let us have our space. She was not too fussed whether we were number one in class or that we had 10 extracurricular activities. It was an idyllic childhood. “Every day I was outside running around doing sports, living a very simple life. We all started ballet but at some stage, I said, ‘Mummy, I don’t want to do ballet anymore. I want to ride horses and do kung fu.’” Alongside sport was the music. “From the age of 13 to 18, I was playing guitar three hours a day, and then writing music. “In the beginning I learned blues and rock and roll. My teacher was amazing. He knew I enjoyed a certain

style of playing, so instead of taking me into theory he just got me soloing. I became a lead guitarist and I loved it. “I did some open mic nights; late nights, carrying all my own stuff, heavy guitars… Then I went to university; I didn’t concentrate on music anymore because there were other things; friends, boyfriends, school and just life in general.” These days, Abigail and her four siblings all work for the family business in various capacities. Not only do they work within the same international organisation, they often travel together too. “I did a trip with my mum and three sisters in Seoul a few weeks ago. We hired someone to drive us around for three days and my sister said, ‘OK, let’s go to this food market.’ And the driver said, ‘No, that one has all the tourists. Let me take you to another.’ It was smaller, had better food and only locals went there.” Travelling alone is different. “When I do travel by myself, I like to have a bit of luxury. But I also love infusing travel with adventure. I can’t just lie on the beach for so many days.” No surprise for someone who enjoys abseiling, flies a helicopter, kickboxes and rides a Ducati Scrambler named Sasha. “I would love to do Everest base camp in the next two years. And that is rough, seven days, all the way up.” Scuba diving is another of Abigail’s high-octane pursuits. “Last year, I went to the Palawan islands in the Philippines, where you can dive with rays and lie alongside sleeping turtles.” Perhaps surprisingly, Abigail hasn’t been to every continent. “South

‘South America is on my bucket list’

America is on my bucket list, but I feel you need three or four weeks to just tour there.” The 100km Route of the Seven Lakes in the Patagonian Andes in Argentina has natural appeal for a motorcyclist. And then there’s the rainforest. “My cousin went on a river cruise called Aqua Amazon last year. All the guides were local and it was very personalised. They were on a little boat and one of the guides jumped onto a huge pile of twigs on the bank, stuck his hand inside and pulled out an anaconda. Just like that. “What’s nice about travel is experiencing the local culture,” she says. “You might want to see the sights but experience the secret hideouts more like a local. I try to infuse that into the hotels here too.” When the conversation turns to her role as CEO, the words family and community come up again. “The people you work with should function as family,” she says. As head of this family, Abigail feels responsible for the wellbeing of her staff and stakeholders. “In early October, we launched a programme called #Iamwell, which is our internally led programme to counter the stigma of mental illness. “It’s OK to say you’re not well,” she says, “that you’re stressed, anxious or depressed. It’s the same as saying you have the flu.” The enlightened approach extends beyond the immediate “family” of the hotel staff, to the wider community. “How do you do something good for the environment and society as well as impact and engage your local community?” Abigail asks. “Our business makes money, but we wanted to be more than that. We wanted to ask how we



Be, do or have?

I would say be because if you be the person then you can do it. What drives me is feeling productive, doing things for society, friends and family. But being is something we need to learn to do more, like taking 15 minutes per day to meditate or say “No, I don’t need to check my emails now, I’m not going to check my emails. I’m going to just be.”

Bucket list activity. Is there is anything that you haven’t actually done yet? Get my fixed wing plane licence, actually get a full helicopter licence too. I fly helicopters but I can’t take other people.

Your virtue?

I’m kind and patient and very loving.

Something to work on?

I’m a bit naive. I like it but everything needs balance. Even too much kindness.

A virtue you admire in others? I admire humility a lot.

Favourite word?

I always use the word love.

Favourite musician or artist?

I don’t have a particular genre I listen to all the time. Eric Clapton got me playing the guitar when I first started. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of country music. When I get into something, it plays in the car for months.

Tipple of choice?

If it’s a cocktail, something old fashioned. Or wine – red wine, white wine. I have a 250-bottle collection at home. I don’t drink alone – I have a shopping problem not a drinking problem.

Favourite cuisine?

“I always go back to Malaysian, especially Penang street food. If you ask me what a typical Malaysian dish is, I couldn’t answer because you have Chinese, Indian and Malay, plus all the dishes combined. When you combine Chinese and Malay, it’s called nonya food. Some restaurants have Chinese and Indian food, then the street food – you just have a mixture of things, including Indian and Malay. So there is a lot of crossover.



could impact our community, so we founded our charity programme, Hotels of Heart, about five years ago. We get the staff involved in volunteering, doing something good for the community.” Since initiating Hotels with Heart, Abigail has pushed staff, guests and even members of the media (yours truly) to go one step further – literally, off the roof of the hotel. As you would expect from a socially responsible hotelier, abseiling ropes, harness and training are all provided. This year’s abseiling event is in aid of Street Child United. Abigail explains the aims of the charity. “Street Child United arranges sports events surrounding the Football World Cup and the Cricket World Cup. Teams from all over the world travel to wherever the World Cup is happening to compete as part of the Street Child Event. The idea was to give street children and homeless youth a voice and a face. “You see so many homeless people on the street, we can’t just give them money, we want to give them the tools to avoid homelessness in the future. “We will have a six month to a year programme of homeless youth working here. At the end of that we’ll either give them a job or they’ll at least have a qualification to find a job. I’m really excited to get that rolling.” Service and community are Abigail’s core motivations, she explains. “What drives me is seeing staff or family members succeed and able to grow in their roles. At the end of the day the goal is happiness.” As for broader ambitions, projects large and small appeal. “I wanted to bring the concept of lobster roll to the UK, which I did in 2015. The lobster came from Maine and I wanted the decor to be authentic, so we had antique lobster


pots shipped over and shingles from Canada on the walls. “It opened with a bang and we had a line going around the block. But the restaurant business is tough and we closed a year later. I still love these concepts, but it’s hard to dedicate enough time alongside running a hotel chain.” It sounds like this will not be the last enterprise, large or small, that Abigail is involved in, alongside her fulltime role and daredevil pursuits. ED Sam Richards, Street Child United Young Leader

Professionals from Dave Talbot Adventures supervised the jump


’seiling down

Standing close to the edge, atop the 50-metre-high St Giles hotel in central London was a new experience for me. As part of St Giles’ Hotels with Heart initiative, I was taking part in their annual charity event, on this occasion abseiling in aid of Street Child United, an organisation that harnesses the power of sport to give homeless children a face and a voice. I’d never abseiled before and was glad to have been strapped in by the professionals at Dave Talbot Adventures. I wasn’t the first to undertake the challenge and the only way to approach the event was to put my faith in the experts. I was following St Giles’ daredevil CEO, Abigail Tan, so there was nothing to be afraid of, was there? Immediately I stepped out of the doorway, my harness was attached by twin carabiners to a cable bolted to the flat roof and once I reached the “launchpad”, I was fastened to the abseil ropes before reviewing the instructions given at the bottom. It sounded straightforward – lean back, let the rope out and walk down the side. Jumping backwards, à la special forces, was optional. Could I relax into it? The hard part was facing the instructor and stepping backwards, unable to see how close to the edge I was. “Step backwards a little. And a little more. Now lean back.” Launching myself forwards seemed like a much more attractive option. I found it in myself to trust them, edged backwards and then over. From then on, cradled by the harness as I walked down, it went remarkably quickly and without incident. Before I knew it, I was standing on a balcony close to the street below.

Back on terra firma, I spoke to John Wroe, CEO of Street Child United. “We’re really excited that the St Giles network of hotel guests, supporters and staff are joining our campaign for the rights and protection of streetconnected young people,” he said. “St Giles’ Hotels with Heart initiative, focusing on empowerment and education of vulnerable young people, is a great fit with our values.” “There are millions of children surviving on the streets worldwide. Instead of receiving support, they are often stigmatised and blamed for their situation. Many don’t have a legal identity, so are unable to access education or healthcare; they are marginalised and ignored.” So how does it work? Ahead of the world’s biggest sporting competitions, SCU organises international sports events inviting street children to be at the centre of the call for their rights. As Andile, a South African player in the Street Child World Cup Durban 2010 said: “When people see us on the

streets, we are the street boys. But when they see us playing soccer, we are people like them.” The charity’s two most recent events have been the Street Child World Cup Moscow 2018 and Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019. At Moscow 2018, 24 teams of children from around the world came together to play football in Lokomotiv Moscow’s stadium. They visited Red Square and were guests at the British Ambassador’s residence. The finals of the Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019 took place on the outfield of the main pitch at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The young people, from eight countries, also spoke at Westminster. This year’s abseil raised a record breaking £7,000, tripling last year’s total. For more information about the Abseil and St Giles’ Hotels with Heart philanthropic initiative visit:

www.stgilesabseil.com www.streetchildunited.org

Toby Wilsdon takes the plunge




Iceland’s coolest



Hótel Egilsen







cene: It’s all about the pure Nordic coolness and monochromatic interiors at this 1930s building turned sleek boutique bolthole in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. You’ll be next door to the Icelandic Opera House and within easy distance of the modernist Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. leep: Owner and designer Ingibjorg Palmadottir has upped the ante when it comes to the 38 generous-sized rooms, including six suites. All are open-plan and feature American oak flooring, contemporary works from new and established artists, oversized beds with Quagliotti linens, flat screen TVs, Bang & Olufsen Beoplay speakers and free wifi. Bathrooms have heated floors, bathrobes, slippers, Aveda toiletries and walkin showers, with some offering freestanding tubs.

tay: There’s plenty at the hotel worth sticking around for, especially at the signature restaurant-bar, which serves gourmet Icelandic cuisine as well as international fare. There’s also a shiny black bar with white leather stools for wines, spirits and killer cocktails; a reading lounge for anytime chilling; a library; and a small basement spa with a Jacuzzi, gym, and steam room powered by geothermal heat. In-room massages are available. www.101hotel.is; Hverfisgata 10, 101 Reykjavík

cene: Views of Breiðdafjörður Bay dominate at this historic boutique sleep in the small fishing village of Stykkishólmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. While there are museums and galleries nearby, a five-minute drive gets you to the geothermal pools at Sundlaug Stykkishólms. leep: The ten cosy rooms go heavy on design inspired by Stykkishólmur’s maritime history. Expect lashings of sea-blue and green hues, iPads instead of TVs and snuggle-worthy beds with organic Coco-Mat mattresses, eco-friendly pillowcases and goose down duvets. Bathrooms have power showers, L’Occitane toiletries and bathrobes. For fancier views, it’s worth booking one of the three superior double rooms overlooking the harbour, the old town and the bay. tay: Once you’re done admiring the mighty Kirkjufell mountain and the glacier-capped Snaefellsjökull volcano, head back here to grab an Icelandic beer or a cocktail in the bar. There’s no on-site restaurant, but the buffet breakfast loaded with organic eggs, Icelandic salmon, yoghurts, fruits, granola, freshly made smoothies and tea and coffee will set you up nicely for the day. Staff are super-attentive and happy to help with lunch and dinner recommendations. ∧

Northern lights Hotel Rangá

Hanging just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland does active volcanoes, spouting geysers, moss-covered lava fields, black sand beaches, bubbling hot springs and northern lights viewing like nowhere else. And it’s just as exciting on the accommodation front, not least for a new wave of hotels that are taking the luxe experience to another level. We check out the coolest places to stay in the land of fire and ice.

101 Hotel

www.egilsen.is; Aðalgata 2, 340 Stykkishólmur




Frost and Fire Hotel

Hotel Borg

cene: Overlooking the Varmá River, this chic Nordic nest is set in the geothermal foothills above Hveragerði – the charming village famed for its pubs and cafes, hiking and riding trails, flower-filled woodlands and hot springs galore. Reykjavik is just a 30-minute drive away.




leep: There are 22 rooms, all with sleek Scandi decor. Think whitewashed walls, grey hues, bright colour accents, wooden flooring, and original artworks. Mod cons include comfortable beds with crisp white linens and cosy blankets, flat screen TVs with DVD players, free wifi, tea and coffeemaking facilities, and bathrooms with bathrobes and slippers. For Insta-worthy views of the hot springs and Mount Reykjafall in the distance, book a room with a balcony.



tay: When you’re not marvelling at thundering waterfalls, beaches, lava caves, glacier lagoons, Viking-age farms and the otherworldly hills of Reykjadalur, make use of the on-site sauna, geothermal outdoor lap pool and riverside hot tubs, which are perfect for stargazing and watching the dancing northern lights. There’s also a conservatory restaurant for generous buffet breakfasts, and dinners with organic produce in addition to a bar for end-of-day drinks.


www.frostogfuni.is; Hverhamar, 810 Hveragerði

www.keahotels.is/en/hotels/ hotel-borg; Posthusstraeti 11, 101 Reykjavik


cene: Built by Icelandic wrestler and adventurer Jóhannes Jósefsson and opened in 1930 as the country’s first luxury hotel, this landmark building does Art Deco glamour on a grand scale. It’s also bagged a picture-perfect spot overlooking Reykjavik’s gorgeous Austurvöllur Square. leep: A sleep of dreams is promised in 99 rooms and suites, all with white, grey, and black hues, parquet flooring, Hastens beds with geometric headboards, Philippe Starck fittings and vintage black and white photos. Amenities include flat screen TVs, Nespresso machines, free wifi, ironing facilities, and wellstocked minibars. The monochrome marble bathrooms have underfloor heating, walk-in showers or bathtubs, hairdryers and bathrobes and slippers.

tay: While the spa with its hot tub, steam rooms, relaxation area and gym will keep you blissfully happy for hours, you’ll also find private rooms for massages, facials and body scrubs using natural products by Icelandic brand, Dr BRAGI. Equally fabulous is the country’s first outpost of Jamie’s Italian – a contemporary space in the former ballroom that pulls focus on sharing bowls, pasta and pizza, fresh salads, grilled dishes and other reworked Italian classics.

ION Adventure hotel - Natural pool Lava

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon


cene: Smack bang between two of Iceland’s headline-grabbing sights, Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, this contemporary-style hotel is perfect for nature lovers and outdoorsy types. The black sands of Diamond Beach are just a short drive away.


leep: All of the 104 spacious rooms have with rustic-chic Nordic decor with a combo of woodclad and white painted walls, carpeted flooring, yellow and blue accents, and minimalist furnishings. There are also flat screen TVs, free wifi, comfy beds with crisp white linens, tea and coffeemaking facilities and large windows


for views of the mountains, lava fields and the northern lights. Bathrooms have walk-in showers, but book a suite if you want a bathtub.


www.islandshotel.is; Hnappavellir, 785 Öræfi

Hotel Búdir

cene: A cracking base for exploring the Golden Circle route and everything that lies beyond, this award-winning design retreat is just 30 minutes from the UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park and roughly an hour from the Geysir Hot Spring Area. Selfoss is 40 minutes away.







leep: All of the 44 well-sized rooms have minimal-chic Nordic decor, modern furnishings, earthy hues, photographs or murals by Icelandic artists, and panoramic windows for striking views and possible northern lights sightings. You’re spoiled further with beds dressed with fair trade organic linens, flat screen TVs, tea and coffee-making facilities, free wifi and bathrooms with showers and Sóley Organics toiletries. The deluxe rooms and suites have minibars.

tay: Diversions are plentiful, including the outdoor geothermal pool, small sauna, and spa area for treatments with Icelandic herbs. There’s also the Slifra Restaurant for a set menu that includes Icelandic dishes such as slow-cooked Arctic char, glazed lamb shank, beef tenderloin, and catch of the day. But the real highlight is the glass-walled northern lights bar from where you can kick back with spirits and cocktails as you wait for the aurora borealis to light up the sky.

cene: It doesn’t get much more remote than this 17th-century trading post turned boutique retreat next to a sandy beach and a teeny church on a lava field near the Snæfellsnes glacier. You’ll be a couple of hours from Reykjavik and just 30 minutes from the nearest town of Ólafsvík. leep: Views of the glacier, mountains, Atlantic Ocean, or lunar-like surrounds steal the show in the 28 rooms – all with minimalist Icelandic decor, hardwood flooring, and chocolate or green-coloured walls adorned with antique prints and watercolours. Amenities include flat screen TVs, DVD players, free wifi, and en suite bathrooms with bathtubs or showers. Some rooms have cushioned window seats, while others have balconies overlooking the mind-blowing landscape. tay: Ranked as one of the finest in the country, the gourmet restaurant at this countryside hotel triumphs when it comes to imaginative Icelandic cuisine prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients from neighbouring villages. The chef ’s special menu is especially heavenly. There’s also a fireside lounge and bar offering end-of-day wines, whiskies, beers and cocktails, framed photos of the wild landscape, a golden telescope for bird watching, and plenty of snug comfort. ∧

tay: Overlooking the lava fields, the sauna is a great spot to relax after long days spent sightseeing. There’s also a superb restaurant for Icelandic cuisine using fresh local ingredients; a lobby bar for end-ofday cocktails, wine and beer; and an outdoor terrace for summer chilling. The hotel has a 24-hour reception desk manned by helpful staff who will sort tour bookings and even arrange wake-up calls for when the northern lights are visible.

ION Adventure Hotel

ionadventure.ioniceland.is; Nesjavellir, Nesjavellir, 801

www.hotelbudir.is; 356 Snæfellsnes




Siglo Hotel

Hotel Rangá



cene: Built into the fishing harbour in Siglufjörðurat on the edge of the Troll peninsula in Iceland’s far north, this away-fromit-all boutique is 24 nautical miles from the Arctic Circle. The Herring Era Museum, the Beer Spa and the Segull 67 brewery are all within walking distance.


leep: The 68 smart and stylish rooms delight with minimalist Scandi decor, wooden flooring, neutral hues, pictures from Siglufjörður’s Photography Museum, and window seats of the mountains or harbour. There’s also flat screen TVs, wifi access, coffee machines, safes and bathrooms with showers or bathtubs, toiletries and bathrobes. The suites have balconies from which you can watch the northern lights work their magic from September onwards.


tay: The freshest of fish is on offer at Sunna, the onsite restaurant boasting fabulous harbour views. There’s also the adjoining Sunna Lobby Bar for drinks, light bites and cosying up by the fireplace. The hotel owns two restaurants just a few minutes’ walk away along the waterfront: Hannes Boy for bistro delights, barbecue dishes and Icelandic specialities and Kaffi Rauðku for coffee and cakes. If relaxing is high on your agenda, there’s a sauna and outdoor hot tubs. www.siglohotel.is; Snorragata 3, 580 Siglufjörður


cene: A persuasive draw for luxury-hunters happy to make the two-hour drive from Reykjavik, this lodge-style hotel sits on the banks of the Rangá River. The majestic glaciers, black beaches, lava fields, waterfalls, and volcanoes of Katla UNESCO Global Geopark are on your doorstep.


leep: The 52 rooms and suites make the most of the scenic landscape with amazing views of the Mount Hekla volcano or the East Rangá River. All are comfortably spacious and kitted out with flat screen TVs, free wifi, tea and coffee making facilities, minibars and bathrooms with bathrobes and slippers. Suites are themed after the world’s continents and offer

more sumptuous design touches as well as balconies and upgraded room amenities.


tay: Dining is a gourmet Nordic affair in the glass-walled restaurant overlooking the river and distant mountains. There’s also a well-stocked bar for cocktails and wine, a games rooms, three outdoor geothermal hot tubs and a helpful concierge team who can arrange helicopter flights and jeep tours. Equally appealing is the hotel’s on-site private observatory that has a roll-off roof and two state-of-the-art telescopes for gazing at the stars and planets. ED www.hotelranga.is; Sudurlandsvegur, Hella, 851



Iceland Business Culture


Social and business etiquette in Iceland is like that in other western European countries (particularly Scandinavia), with occasional differences. As Iceland is a small community, access to key people is relatively easy, though it is advisable to arrange appointments in advance. Since even the largest Icelandic companies are relatively small, you may find the decision-makers in your meeting. Business meetings are usually informal and relaxed, but good preparation is important. Business cards are exchanged upon introduction. Extended small talk is not necessary and getting down to business is appreciated. During meetings and negotiations, Icelandic businesspeople do not beat around the bush. They get straight to the point – so do not be offended by their directness, which is meant to transmit professionalism rather than abruptness. Icelandic businesspeople can appear willing to spend more time discussing a situation than some other cultures are used to. This should be seen as a desire to consider every detail of a proposal, and not as a technique for delaying decision-making. Most Icelanders speak excellent English and most Icelanders doing business in a professional area will understand the relevant English technical vocabulary, but contracts may sometimes need to be translated. Icelanders like to combine business with pleasure, so establishing a friendly and personal relationship is a good approach. Business dinners are the preferred form of entertainment. It is considered appropriate to talk business over a meal. Be aware that restaurants and entertaining in Iceland may seem extremely expensive to people from many European countries. Icelanders are highly fashionable and it is normal to put lots of effort

ICELAND into the appearance. When doing business, most Icelanders dress smartly and although there may be some who dress casually, it is expected and recommended that foreign visitors dress formally and in a way that is considered appropriate for a business environment. While some cultures tend to dress up for work and dress down after work, the opposite is often the case in Iceland, although men in government, banking or business circles generally wear suits. There are no strict rules or formal dining customs that need to be observed. However, an informal social event such as a business dinner still calls for a jacket and tie. Iceland has cool, wet summers and cold winters, so even in summer, clothing should include a sweater or jacket, a raincoat, and a good pair of walking shoes. Understanding Icelandic names is important for business and social occasions. Only a small proportion of the population has family surnames, often foreign in origin. Most people have a patronymic, formed from their father’s first name with the ending “–son” or “–dóttir” (e.g. Arnar Jónsson (Arnar is Jon’s son) or Anna Jónsdóttir (Anna is Jon’s daughter). A woman does not take her husband’s patronymic upon marriage. First names are the names by which people are known and are thus generally used. Icelanders will not feel you are being overly familiar if you call them by their first names. Iceland remains a very safe country for visitors. Reykjavík is safer than major cities elsewhere although there is very occasional street crime, particularly late at night in the city centre. Visitors utilising common sense and good judgment can expect to enjoy their time in Iceland without incidents. In fact, the riskiest activity you may undertake is driving on Icelandic roads, which though well-maintained may be narrower than elsewhere with fewer stopping places. Take extra care in a hire car, particularly during icy winter days. Iceland is home to active volcanoes and if a volcanic eruption should occur while you are in the country, you should closely follow any instructions from the local authorities. Be aware that airports in Iceland, including Keflavik International Airport, may need to close in the event of eruptions. ED

OUT OF THIS WORLD UnIqUe ST HeLena An island paradise set at one of the most isolated land co-ordinates in the world, 15.9650 degrees south and 5.7089 degrees west. St Helena Island offers a most unique adventure. Surrounded by pristine oceans, diving here is second to none, with treasured marine experiences to last a lifetime. Visitors can be thrilled with pods of hundreds of playful dolphins and swim with shivers of inquisitive whale sharks. Rising from the sea, the island also boasts incredible topography that can best be experienced by hiking and walking the array of trails that meander around the island. Together with a fascinating history that includes Napoleon I. St Helena is an emerging destination in the travel arena and many opportunities are appearing following the opening of its award winning design airport in October 2017. With new and improved access St Helena is becoming globally connected and is striving to become a greenenvironmentally and blue – marine sustainable island destination with a vibrant tourism-driven economy. St Helena is now in a position to encourage investment as a new developing island-state and is on a mission to encourage investment in industries across the island. SA Airlink fly to St Helena on Saturday of each week from OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa, and the six-hour flight starts from approximately £810 return. This festive season Airlink are offering an additional midweek connection to St Helena via South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town between December 2019 and February 2020. A limited special excursion fare is also available for both Johannesburg and Cape Town routes for 10-day minimum stay between the travel period 14 January to 25 February 2020.



Ten top trending UK city breaks – outside London The UK packs in a whole lot of cities, each staking their claim as the coolest or the most cultural. Here are ten cosmopolitan hubs outside London that you definitely need to visit at least once, writes Michelle Dunn






Doing: Marvel at the Renaissancestyle City Hall, spend time at Titanic Belfast, work your way around the Troubles murals and admire the cityscape from the top of Cave Hill. Further thrills include shopping for fresh produce at St George’s Market, taking the creepy paranormal tour at Crumlin Road Gaol and downing pints of the black stuff at as many traditional pubs as possible.

Doing: Eat, drink and shop at Liverpool ONE, check out works by Rembrandt and Gainsborough at Walker Art Gallery and learn about the city’s history at the Museum of Liverpool. Also take a behind-thescenes tour of Anfield Stadium (nonmatch days only), watch a show at the Liverpool Empire Theatre and see the waterfront in all its glory from the world-famous Mersey Ferry.

Staying: Housed in a 19th-century former linen warehouse behind City Hall, Ten Square Hotel has 131 contemporary-style rooms. There’s an outstanding steakhouse restaurant for Irish reared prime-aged beef and other meaty treats, an atmospheric bar for screenings of big sporting events and live music performances on the weekends.

Staying: A handsome 1826 mansion turned boutique guesthouse in the Georgian Quarter, 2 Blackburne Terrace has scooped a fair few awards. There are just four rooms, all unique, with contemporary artworks, bespoke furniture and luxe extras. The impressive breakfasts with buffet offerings and cooked dishes are worth getting out of bed for.



Viewing: A stroll around the Albert Docks rewards with views of the mythical Royal Liver Building birds (Bella and Bertie), the fabulous Tate Liverpool, and The Beatles Story – the world’s largest exhibition devoted to the lives of the Fab Four. Fans will also love the two-hour Magical Mystical Tour for stops at Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, St Peter’s Church Hall and the Cavern Club.

Clyde Auditorium

Viewing: While Belfast is small enough to explore on foot, the Wee Toast Tour offers far quirkier sightseeing. This 15-person bike cart runs purely on pedal power and has an onboard licensed bar selling beers and prosecco (thankfully there’s a driver to steer). The city is also just a bit obsessed with Game of Thrones tours, many of which venture to filming locations further afield.




Cambridge Viewing: For stunning views of the university buildings and their grandiose lawns, stroll around The Backs (or take a free two-hour tour with a group of Footprints students, who will take you to sites such as King’s College and Trinity Hall). In the summer months, head to the River Cam to picnic on its banks, pass by the Bridge of Sighs and enjoy an afternoon of punting. Doing: Discover arts and antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, venture on a mind-expanding 4.5-billion-year journey through time at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science and take a foodie tour for a diverse mix of pubs,

delis and fish and chip shops. Leave time for Kettle’s Yard, the university’s modern contemporary art gallery that was the home of former Tate curator, Jim Ede. Staying: Close to a chunk of colleges, The Varsity Hotel & Spa offers 44 contemporary rooms with quirky artworks, a much-lauded steakhouse, a roof terrace with a summer-only cocktail bar, and a cracking riverside location. The Glassworks spa has a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, state-ofthe-art gym, and private rooms for Elemis treatments. www.thevarsityhotel.co.uk

Manchester Viewing: Take to the streets to visit the top-notch art galleries (Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery are excellent) and stroll around the Northern Quarter between Piccadilly and the Ancoats. Standout attractions include the Victoria Baths, the John Rylands Library, the Gay Village, and The Quays (covering Salford Quays, Trafford Wharf, and Old Trafford).


Staying: A former textile warehouse in the heart of the Northern Quarter, Cow Hollow tempts with exposed oak beams, marble fireplaces, antique mirrors, bronze chandeliers and bespoke works by local artists. There are also 16 well-furnished rooms,

gourmet breakfast bags, a 24-hour cafe and a cocktail bar for reliably good spirits and wines. ∧

Doing: The city is big on festivals and celebrates everything from literature and science to whisky and beer. There’s also the National Football Museum for football lovers and the Salford Lad’s Club for fans of The Smiths. Shoppers can batter their credit

card on designer offerings on King Street – or get their fix at highend stores such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.




Newcastle Viewing: Once you’ve gawped at the bridges spanning the River Tyne (22 in total), visit the cultural greats such as Newcastle Castle, BALTIC 39 Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead, and the Ouseburn Valley – an area of old warehouses turned creative spaces, music venues and cinemas. If you have two hours to spare, the Newcastle City Guides walks are free. Doing: Take a Newcastle United stadium rooftop tour in St James’ Park for unrivalled views, watch a performance at the world-famous Theatre Royal and be awed by the exhibits at the Great North Museum:

Hancock (previously the Hancock Museum). The Quay is the go-to spot for restaurants, pubs and clubs, and there’s a bustling outdoor market every Sunday. Staying: Located on the edge of Grainger Town, Hotel Indigo Newcastle has 148 sleek rooms spread across colour-coded floors. There’s also a Marco Pierre White steakhouse restaurant, a contemporary-style bar for end-of-day cocktails, wines and craft beers, and heaps of geometric decor everywhere you look. A small 24-hour gym is free for hotel guests. www.ihg.com


Doing: Take the Tolkien Trail to see where the writer lived and studied; visit Cadbury World to learn about chocolate production and manufacturing; and visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for the world’s best collection of


Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Also book tickets for a musical performance at Symphony Hall, home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Staying: Set in a landmark 1884 building in the Jewellery Quarter, Hotel du Vin Birmingham has original interiors, 66 wine-themed rooms and suites, a restaurant for French-style bistro cuisine, and an ornate bar for a varied wine menu.

There’s also a well-equipped gym and a six-room spa with a steam room and sauna. ∧

Viewing: Design lovers should make their first stop the Library of Birmingham, which cost £189 million to build and is the largest in the UK. Also explore the Jewellery Quarter for its 500-plus retailers, Digbeth for its trendy Custard Factory and the Bull Ring for over 200 shops. Another well-loved landmark is the cylindrical Rotunda, a Grade II office block turned apartment building.


tailored quality

outstanding prices


0871 911 7044



Bath Viewing: While the superstar Roman Baths get all the glory, this designated UNESCO-listed city offers more finery with architectural masterpieces like the Royal Crescent, The Circus, Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge and Prior Park Landscape Garden. This is also an excellent base from which to explore the photogenic village of Lacock and the megalithic marvels of Stonehenge. Doing: Head to Alexandra Park for amazing city views, celebrate Bath’s most famous resident at the Jane Austen Centre and visit The Holburne Museum for its dazzling arts collection. Foodies will be spoiled for

choice with Michelin-starred or AA Rosette-winning restaurants as well as gastropubs, cosy cafes and a vibrant mix of watering holes serving topnotch beer and ale. Staying: An attractive double-fronted Georgian townhouse just a short walk from the city’s main shopping hubs, Henrietta House has 21 good looking rooms with original artworks, whitelinen breakfast with delicious homemade

dishes and a self-service bar that opens during reception hours. There’s also off-street parking, subject to availability. www.henriettahouse.co.uk

Leeds Viewing: When it comes to shopping, Leeds has it covered, with the designer boutiques of Victoria Quarter, the one-off boutique offerings of the Corn Exchange and the traditional stalls of Leeds Kirkgate Market. Also take the short drive out of town to visit Kirkstall Abbey and the Abbey House Museum, not least for its tree-filled setting on the banks of the River Aire Doing: Stroll around the 280-hectare Roundhay Park, marvel at 8,500 objects spread across six themed galleries in the Royal Armouries and learn about the city’s industrial heritage at the Leeds Industrial


Museum. Also visit Harewood House for its penguin feeding experience (March to November only). For sporting fans, there’s Headingley Cricket Ground and Elland Road. Staying: An 18th-century corn mill turned boutique riverside hotel, 42 The Calls mixes features such as beamed ceilings, original machinery and exposed industrial girders with stylish interiors. There are 41 elegant rooms and suites, a breakfast room for kippers and award-winning sausages, and a rustic restaurant for upscale brasserie fare. www.42thecallshotel.com


Swansea Viewing: There’s more to Swansea than seaside charm, especially at the National Waterfront Museum, Plantasia, Swansea Museum and the various Dylan Thomas haunts that pay homage to the Welsh poet. But for unrivalled coastal thrills, The Mumbles is the much-loved headland on Swansea Bay famed for its pier, castle, and iconic stone lighthouse dating back to 1794. Doing: Watch the hundreds of boats at Swansea Marina, spend an afternoon at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, sample the delights of the awardwinning historic Swansea Market and admire the rare blooms and

seasonal displays at Clyne Gardens. If the weather’s good, hit the beaches of Langland, Caswell, Llangennith, Three Cliffs, Rhossili Bay, Mewslade, Pwll Du or Brandy Cove. Staying: A city landmark for more than 50 years, The Dragon Hotel has 106 brightly decorated rooms, a brasserie and cafe-bar for Europeaninfluenced cuisine; and a lounge for snacks, afternoon tea and anytime

drinks. There’s also an impressive spa area with an 18-metre heated indoor pool, saunas and treatment rooms. www.dragon-hotel.co.uk

Glasgow Viewing: Tempting as it is to spend all your time in the hip West End, be sure to admire Salvador Dali’s work at Kelvingrove Museum, praise the reassembled principal interiors at The Mackintosh House and follow the Mural Trail for mind-blowing street art. Also check out the monuments dedicated to Robert Burns, James Watt, Sir Robert Peel and Sir Walter Scott in George Square. Doing: Head to the Style Mile (Buchanan Street, Argyle Street, Merchant City) for designer fashion, enjoy a quiet pint on the cobblestoned Ashton Lane and explore the The Tall Ship at Riverside museum and

its Clyde-build barque, the Glenlee, berthed alongside. For unparalleled city views, The Lighthouse is the 1895 landmark that opened as Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture in 1999. Staying: Covering the top floor of a building right next to the historic Central Station, Grasshoppers Hotel Glasgow has 30 individually-styled rooms, a dining space for breakfasts and pre-bookable suppers from Monday to Thursday. Secure 24-hour parking is available close by, but it’s a no brainer to take the train. ED www.grasshoppersglasgow.com



Harry’s Bar by Ben Chambers





30 -34 James St, Marylebone, London W1U 1ER

hen my mother and I took lunch at Harry’s Bar in November, we almost walked past the establishment, with the big awnings hiding the modest sign along James Street, a five-minute walk from Bond Street. We were welcomed like old (but favourable) family and shown to our table. Although we were seated centrally (never my preferred placing), there was no need to request a different table as although it was rather busy, one didn’t feel crammed in or part of anyone else’s conversation. The spacing was just right. Harry’s Bar is an Italian restaurant of the very highest quality. My mother and I ate variations on a theme – seafood spaghetti in my case, the lobster spaghetti in hers. As avid food travellers, myself through work and my mother through retirement, we can attest to it being the very best seafood pasta in London and probably better than the delights we enjoyed in Sicily and Venice. It was incredible and I haven’t stopped recommending it since. In a more structured fashion, for starters we both went for the Callimari Fritti, where the lightly battered squid was cooked to perfection, whiteyellow, hot and beautiful.

I recommend ordering this if you love a hearty portion as even my mother was surprised when I left a couple of fried nuggets. Dessert was a struggle, but a war my stomach wasn’t going to win. I opted for the Pear and Almond Crostata, which is warm pear and almond puff pastry tart with marsala cream and caramel; while I am writing this way before lunchtime, it is a genuine effort. I am glad that I didn’t choose the sizeable profiteroles since they came out sitting proudly on the plate, gleaming with cream and chocolate. The halfmouthful I did have was delicious, however. Harry’s Bar does not scrimp on portion sizes, something often found in good restaurants. We had a very attentive waiter and waitress, who looked after us from the start. He was delighted with my choice of wine as he was native to that part of Italy. You really can’t get more genuine than that. We ate from the à la carte menu and, as hard as it would be to move away from what we ordered next time, I would like to experiment with the white truffle menu served from 11:30am to 11pm Monday through Sunday. Harry’s bar is to taste what da Vinci is to art. ED

‘Harry’s bar is to taste what da Vinci is to art’




Conrad London St. James by Ben Chambers


s a traveller from the south-east of England, I reach London through Victoria Station. The black cab ride to the Conrad from the station was extremely quick, taking under ten minutes. Arriving directly at the hotel’s impressive 19th-century facade, you are driven under the bold awning, welcomed and immediately made luggage free until you reach your room. That is, if you manage to reach your room. Walking from the checkin area you are greeted by the elegant Emmeline’s Lounge, a bright, modern, yet cosy bar named after the early20th-century suffragette and political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, where you can enjoy a well-deserved G&T or a quintessentially English afternoon tea alongside some bubbles, ideal for the weary traveller or shopper. Those travelling by tube will be pleased to know that St James’ Park station is opposite the hotel, serving both the District and Circle lines. My choice of room was an Executive Twin, providing plenty of space to relax and unwind as well as having the option to work at the large desk (option not taken), but I was well entertained with the in-room media hub, which to other luddites is a Chromecast application and the 42inch satellite HDTV. The extremely comfortable bed was made up with Egyptian cotton sheets and the bathroom was roomy and classically decked out in marble with separate bathtub and walk-in rain shower.


Thankfully there was a very wellstocked minibar and the usual but now generally expected Nespresso coffee machine. In keeping with the hotel’s modern theme, you are apparently able to check in digitally, customise your stay and access your room via a digital key on your mobile device using the Hilton Honors app, none of which I dared try. Unsurprisingly, the Executive Twin was located on the Executive Floor and a massive plus to these rooms is that one can enjoy unlimited access to the Executive Lounge, allowing a more intimate experience of breakfast, as well as the added touch of afternoon tea and evening drinks with hors d’oeuvres. This clearly wasn’t an afterthought to give the guest a little more bang for their buck; it was a tailored and classy offering, with highly attentive, hands-on hospitality and delicious morsels that was fully complimentary to the executive rooms. Conrad London St. James has many plus points, some detailed above, and its location is another. Set a stone’s throw from Westminster, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, it boasts a prime location for tourists. The Conrad Hotel is quite simply a modern masterpiece of luxury, stunning decor and service, finding the perfect balance between offering state-of-the-art facilities while remaining chic. ED 22-28 Broadway, Westminster, London SW1H 0BH


london st. james




A sense of King Tut by Ben Chambers


n offering of some 150 artefacts from the tomb of King Tut (Tutankhamun), almost half of these displayed outside of Egypt for the first time, is now on show at London’s Saatchi Gallery (2 November to 3 May 2020; tickets from £28.50, concessions available). A century after the discovery of these extraordinary objects by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, this world tour is the last time they will be seen outside Egypt.


London is the third leg of a multicity tour that is due to run until 2022. After a short introductory video, visitors pass large-scale images of the colourful wall paintings from the Boy King’s tomb before entering a series of dimly lit galleries filled with everything an ascending king requires in the afterlife. Without stating the obvious, you can expect to see golden objects as far as the eye can see. These include statuettes of the pharaoh and various

gods, including a remarkable one of Ptah, responsible among other things for opening the mouths of the deceased. There’s also the more humble stuff. A delicate case for pens and a selection of clubs and boomerangs seem inadequate provision against the perils of the afterlife. Their entombment has left these objects remarkably intact, but also preserved their shattering strangeness, colour and detail. For those who delight in more unusual objects, be on the lookout for a pair of the pharaoh’s golden flip flops and the shocking sight of two stillborn babies discovered alongside Tut, offspring from his marriage to his full sister. If there’s one thing this show tells us, it’s that if we think we truly understand that period, we’re seriously kidding ourselves. King Tut is presented as boy warrior, boy explorer, boy hunter, boy king, fearlessly navigating the netherworld, his tomb a teenage bedroom full of charged symbols. And if you feel the need to bring some of the Tutankhamun magic home with you, the gift shop offers a healthy mix of replicas and Tut-tat, including rubber duckies dressed as mummies. I’m not so sure they’ll fly off the shelves. Previously when I’ve visited Egyptology exhibitions, I’ve found them diluted by a lot of historical and geographical detail. Not at the Saatchi. Here you have a more sensual experience of the journey of the young pharaoh into the afterlife, with all its strange rituals. Reduced to that simplicity, it’s suddenly quite human, childlike almost. From a small golden bed to an entourage of slaves to accompany him, everything seems in inverse proportion to the massive power the pharaoh wielded; in death as in life. ED


www.asiagardens.es +34 (0)966 81 84 03




f you’re looking to experience life in Rio de Janeiro but are only visiting for a short time, it may be difficult to know how to make the most of the city. With countless districts, beaches and activities, you’re bound to be overwhelmed by everything the Brazilian city throws at you. Sure enough, sunbathing on Copacabana beach and admiring the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer is enough to leave your friends at home seething with jealousy, but these classic landmarks are often spoiled by the floods of eager tourists, desperate to get the perfect photo. Here are five spots you might not otherwise think to visit in Rio.

Clássico Beach Club, Urca

At the peak of Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar), Clássico Beach Club offers one of the most breathtaking views of the city that you can find, accompanied with an extensive menu of both classic and unique cocktails. At around BR$30-40 (£6 – £8) for a cocktail, the mountaintop bar is slightly pricier than the majority of Rio’s other drinking spots. Nonetheless, the moment you step onto the bar’s viewing deck, the reason becomes clear. Along the sleek glass railing, small sofas are available for guests to admire the view, creating a very

relaxed environment to enjoy your drinks. This feeling is emphasised by the surrounding trees and greenery, isolating you from the crowded, tourist-filled viewing platforms on the other side of the mountain. The drinks menu, while limited, boasts a range of local and imported beers, wines, and cocktails. The cocktail menu is arguably the most impressive, with its exciting selection leaving you torn between a quintessentially Brazilian caipirinha and a refreshing frozen daiquiri. After taking the first sip on your chosen tipple, the grace of this stunning spot really begins to sink in. What makes Clássico Beach Club even more special is that it is not

Rio de Janeiro’s Subtle Spots A personal insight into five of Rio’s lesser known wonders, by Toby Vignoles



ruined by large crowds. Though it is close to one of the most popular tourist hotspots, the luxurious bar is hard to notice if you don’t venture beyond the main public viewpoints.

Consequently, it is often very quiet, leaving you focused only on the aweinspiring view and your refreshing drink. Clássico Beach Club really is one of Rio’s best-kept secrets.

Praia do Leme, Leme

Everyone’s heard of Copacabana beach. Whether from the catchy 1970s track, or countless popular movies, if there’s one place that is synonymous with Rio, it’s Copacabana beach. However, Copacabana’s neighbouring beach, Leme, doesn’t have quite the same status. With the same luscious white sands, blue water and friendly beach vendors, Leme beach is equally beautiful to its more well-known counterpart, just without the crowds. With countless small bars or ‘kiosks’ along the beach, Leme is the perfect place for any traveller to detach themselves from the busier streets further down the coast. At the far end, a large rock formation known as Morro do Leme hosts small eateries that extend out onto the sea, presenting you with a spectacular view of the entire mile-long beach. If you’re feeling a bit more active, Leme Fort sits neatly atop this rock, which can be climbed in around twenty minutes. Of course, there’s no shame in admiring the view from the ground. While sitting on the exquisite sandy beach, you will most likely be visited by vendors offering a variety of snacks, drinks and souvenirs. Although this may seem a nuisance, beach vendors in Leme are unlikely to bother you if you are not interested. If you are interested though, then it is definitely worth trying a freshly barbecued skewer of Queijo Coalho (similar to halloumi), or a refreshing glass of Matte Limão (lemon ice-tea). Whether you’re enjoying a cocktail on the white sands, eating the local petiscos (snacks or tapas) or taking in the scenery at the top of Morro do Leme, this part of the city is a largely forgotten paradise thanks to Copacabana’s fame.



RIO DE JANEIRO Etnias, Olympic Boulevard The 2016 Summer Olympics saw major renovations throughout the whole of Rio, extending from Barra da Tijuca, all the way up to Zona Norte (North Zone). One of the most significant of these was in the city’s central port area, where the Olympic Boulevard, home to the Olympic Torch and Museum of Tomorrow, was built. The majority of visitors would likely be drawn into the museum’s intricate and futuristic design or the grandiose Olympic Torch. However, few are aware of Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra’s record-breaking mural, just minutes up the road. On the newly gentrified Avenida Rodrigues Alves, Kobra’s work, titled Etnias (Ethnicities), stretches across more than 3,000 square metres, making it the largest street art mural in the world. With the help of four guest artists, Kobra represented indigenous peoples from five continents – Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania, echoing the inspiration of the Olympic flag. The artists produced five connected pieces depicting a Supi man from Northern Europe, a Tapajó boy from Brazil, a Kayin woman from Thailand, a Mursi woman from Ethiopia, and a Huli man from Papua New Guinea. Kobra intended to show that the entire world is connected, as depicted through the powerful gaze of each character. As many of the more commercial attractions in the nearby Olympic Boulevard are more targeted towards tourists, the road that is home to Etnias is often deserted. Consequently, a visit to this part of the city is quite a moving experience and is a must-see if you are a fan of street art. When strolling down the beautifully coloured road and admiring Kobra’s exceptional artwork, it becomes clear why the Olympic Committee commissioned this work.



Rocinha Favela, Rocinha While many would associate this part of the city with gang violence and criminal activity, Rocinha is in fact home to some of the friendliest residents of Rio de Janeiro. Being the largest favela (shanty town) in all of South America, Rocinha is home to over 100,000 people. While this may appear a strange choice for a day trip, it certainly is a memorable experience to explore this neighbourhood. With storey after storey of brightly coloured homes spread up the mountainside, Rocinha is a sight to behold. Media portrayals of favelas are often very negative, so many residents of Rocinha are pleased to see tourists ignoring this stereotype and immersing themselves in the rich culture the neighbourhood affords. As a result, many of the locals are exceptionally welcoming and will be keen to spread the word of what life in a favela is really like. With an abundance of authentic and independent shops, restaurants, and bars, Rocinha is a great way to

Palaphita Kitch, Lagoa The residential neighbourhood of Lagoa sits parallel to the famous Ipanema beach and is surrounded by public parks, full of walking trails and wildlife. The centrepiece of this district, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, is a large lagoon that connects through to the Atlantic Ocean at Ipanema beach. Looking over the lagoon, you will notice swan-shaped pedal boats for hire as well as small statues of capybaras, as it is not uncommon to spot these creatures in the greenery surrounding Lagoa.

experience the typical urban life that is shared by so many Brazilians. On top of this, thanks to the neighbourhood’s distance from Zona Sul (the city centre), prices here are extremely reasonable. Why not grab a beer from a local bar and relax on the street with the locals? Or hop on a motorcycle taxi to swiftly navigate through the narrow winding streets? Or maybe spend your time hunting for some of Rocinha’s famous street art?

There is a vast amount that Rocinha can offer to tourists, and it certainly is a fantastic way to learn a bit more about authentic, Brazilian life. Of course, certain parts of the favela are off-limits to tourists, so make sure you invest in a well-respected tour guide to safely escort you through the manic streets. If the right parts of the favela are explored, then Rocinha presents itself as one of the most friendly and dynamic urban spaces that you would never think to visit.

A number of controversies have arisen around the lagoon since the 2016 Summer Olympic Games though, as the water’s pollution levels made Lagoa a dangerous location to host certain events such as rowing, and sailing. Despite this, certain spots along the waterfront of this salt-water lagoon are a must-see to anyone visiting the city. On the east side of the lake, an Amazonian-style outdoor lounge known as Palaphita Kitch serves gourmet food and drink to visitors as they bask in the beauty of the perfectly positioned sunset. Sitting

on the rustic benches facing the water, it is impossible to ignore the stunning picture painted in front of you as the sun sets over the mountains. Across the lake, two jagged rocks, known as the Dois Irmaos mountains protrude across the city skyline. On certain days of the year, the sun will set perfectly between these two rocks, casting a shadow across the water that is beautifully contrasted by the reflection of the sun’s evening rays. As you enjoy your fruity cocktail and decadent barsnacks, it is hard to think of a better spot than Palaphita Kitch for travellers to unwind. ED




Linger Longer in Lagos Pamela Watson encourages us to discover this thriving West African business destination and hub for culture and entertainment



ou’ll be fresh meat.” You will hear this daunting expression soon after arrival in Lagos, probably from a sophisticated businessman in a snappy suit, and he’ll laugh at his comment. It means: “You’ll be eaten alive.” “WAWA” meaning “West Africa Wins Again” is another side-splitting expression (at least to the person saying it) which you’ll learn as you are forced to accept some costly change of plans or even aborted project. “No wahala” meaning “no problem”, will be said when you are feeling the exact opposite. The senders are well-meaning: they want you to avoid becoming an entrée, and as success in Lagos is spiced with disappointment and oiled by resilience, the sooner you learn WAWA and no wahala and adjust your attitude (and business plan), the better for you. At times, Lagos feels like a goldrush city: from the air it is a mosaic of tightly packed rusty rooves, and at ground level a jumble of jostling vehicles and people in focused pursuit of business. When oil prices are high, fortunes can sometimes be made as easily as finding a nugget in the Klondike in 1896. And as in the goldrush era, there are “bad guys” poised to relieve you of your strike and fortune. In 2019, Lagos is in post-goldrush (oil-boom) blues and yet in many ways, this is Lagos at its best. It is a city state with industrious, creative people who are looking beyond oil to make a living and make a difference to their lives. The opportunities seem exciting and attractive, but this is still a high risk/high return environment. One must never forget that the potential for higher returns comes with higher risk. Competitive advantage and profit – and avoiding wahala and WAWA – come from understanding and mitigating the risks in your industry and your corner of the market.


You’ve heard about the exciting Nigerian art scene? Make a visit to the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Lekki. With four storeys and 7,000 pieces of traditional artistry in painting, fabric, beadwork, cast bronze and carving, the displays will impress. For the best of contemporary African art, be sure to visit Art X Lagos in early November. Launched in 2016, it is West Africa’s premier art fair, attracting local and international collectors, curators and critics.

At the other end of the spectrum, tourist destinations like Lekki market for arts and crafts or Lagos Island’s Balogun Street for fabrics and homewares will expose you to the bargaining tactics of Lagos’s best salesmen and women. Cut your starting prices to one third, stop at your predetermined “best price” and still make a good friend. Through this you’ll develop haggling skills and attitudes that will stand you in good stead in many future negotiations.

What might you discover?

Be impressed by the variety and refinement of the restaurants now open. If you were in Lagos even ten years ago, when a night out meant a choice of perhaps two sophisticated restaurants and others that were, to put it kindly, not, you’re in for a treat. World-class menus with some impressive fusion cuisine amid stylish decor and well-trained hospitality staff are on offer at RSVP, NOK by Alara, Shiro or the Sky Restaurant, among many others. And for a drink afterwards, visit the W Bar and Lounge on Lagos’s Five Cowrie Creek front or Danfo Bistro and Dives’s rooftop bar.


This requires time – your pre-investment research must be rigorous and the timeframe for your investment’s return must be longer. So why do prospecting businesspeople seeking those investment bright spots come to Lagos for three days mid-week? And stay at the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel or Eko Hotels & Suites on VI, and have breakfast meetings at The Wheatbaker hotel in upmarket Ikoyi, and never venture out after dark as their security people won’t allow it? Or worse, decide to invest in Nigeria’s market opportunities from a base in Ghana? If you are serious about investing in Africa, Lagos is its commercial capital. It makes sense to come with an explorer mindset and make yourself streetwise. Stay longer – not only to assess the markets, business plans and prospective partners, but to learn what it takes to succeed in this boisterous but risk-filled business culture. And I guarantee your research will facilitate your further ventures, and it will be fun.



For a different vibe, access the pulsating music and cultural scene. Just as Nollywood, Nigeria’s hugely influential and dynamic movie industry, dominates televisions, tablets and cinemas from Johannesburg to Kampala, Nigerian Afrobeat music has charged into the pan-African spotlight and garnered a huge global following too. It has encouraged Sony and Universal Music to set up and scout in Lagos, so during your stay make use of listing services such as www.lostinlagos.com or alternatively www.nothingtodoinlagos.com to find live events. They might be at the Eko Convention Centre or Bogobiri House, or visit the famous New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja to see a show by Femi or Seun Kuti, sons of the late legend Fela. For a relaxed scene take off your business suit and glad rags and be dropped at Freedom Park, completely safe even though in the heart of rough and tumble Lagos Island. There you’ll mix with a range of ages and socioeconomic groups and be exposed to Lagos’s newest talent, roaring with energy. But you can find more than contemporary music; if it is more to your taste, check out classical offerings or locally written and produced dance performances, plays and opera, possibly showing at Terra Kultur or the MUSON Centre. To truly get under the skin of Lagos, stay the weekend. Likely, your flattered Lagos colleagues and contacts will invite you to their club on Friday night. An evening at the Lagos Motor Boat Club or the Polo Club will let you mix with highly educated and polished local businessmen and professionals, whose experiences and views will probably change your preconceived notions, and possibly lead to new ideas and networks. Lagosians will be keen to invite you into their homes or to events.


Accept that invitation to a Saturday wedding or birthday party. It will be very long and your eardrums will suffer from the amplified music, but you will start to learn local etiquette and appreciate the importance of family, connection and unforgettable, stylish, “look-atme” fashion to Lagosians. On Sunday accept the invitation to the beach, Lagos’s secret getaway. Whether you are taken to Pop Beach Club, a vibrant bohemian venue for the young and hip, to Ibeshe Beach House, associated with the new Lagos Jetski Riders Club or to a private beach house in Ilashe, you’ll discover that endurance is a key attribute for success. During this “extra-curricular” time, you will probably be caught in a famous Lagos “go-slow” (traffic hold-up), and one of your outings will be cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”, a flooding thunderstorm or simply the failure – for a good reason – of your host to turn up. But these frustrations will prepare you for what is to come and make you more sensitive to

building options and agility in your plans and to increase your investment to support your probably too optimistic cashflow forecasts. It is doubtful you will yet be exposed to corruption, but yes, it exists, and there is no inoculation to fully protect you. But instead of it being a show-stopping deterrent, learn from your discussions at the clubs and with a wider range of contacts to make the necessary early decisions and investments which will protect you from this insidious, but well-hidden, disease. By the time you leave on Tuesday or Thursday the following week, you will be better informed and hooked. The chaos, complexity and challenges will seem surmountable. But instead of feeling like tenderised “fresh meat”, you’ll be energised by this capital of cool on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, and you will know you will be back. ED Gibbous Moon Over Lagos: Pursuing a Dream on Africa’s Wild Side by Pamela Watson (Hardie Grant, £14.99) is available now. www.pamelawatson.com



Buen Camino – the spirit of the way For more than a thousand years devotees have been walking the Camino de Santiago. Toby Wilsdon writes about his experience walking the first 250km of the 769km French Route, starting in St Jean Pied de Port close, to Biarritz


eople walk the Camino for many reasons, some more spiritual than others. Many undertake the pilgrimage at a point of change in their lives, while some do it simply because it is there. In my case, the inspiration was a Spanish colleague of my wife, who lived along the way. Whatever the motivation, spending five hours or so on the hoof every day, it would be hard not to have some kind of meditative experience. As with any repetitive activity, there is time for conversation, time for quiet contemplation, time for observation and time to just be in the moment and in the landscape. Gijon

La Coruna O Pedrouzo



Santiago de Compostela Vigo

Communicating with other pilgrims is a given, whether it is the obligatory greeting of “Buen Camino”, or longer conversations with those you meet repeatedly along the way. Leapfrogging other walkers is inevitable, meaning you will by turns recognise, then relate to and finally reminisce like old friends at stopping points along the way, sharing pilgrims’ tales, experiences good and bad. We set out from St Jean Pied de Port as inexperienced hikers who knew little about the life of a pilgrim. Fortunately, there was an almost Yoda-like figure to check us in to our


Vitoria Burgos

Astorga Palencia Valladolid


San Sebastian Saint Jean Pied de Port




first albergue or hostel. He spoke to us at length about the meaning of the Camino, how to approach it, what to make of it and some important dos and don’ts. The most significant of these were personal. “It’s not a race,” he said, “it’s your Camino, your pilgrimage, not anyone else’s and there’s nothing to prove. Some might walk 30km in a day, you may walk five.” This mentality related to body and mind, with implications both practical and spiritual. On the more practical side, this meant listening to your body, not going further or longer than comfortable and drinking lots of



Part one of our Camino – from St Jean Pied de Port to Burgos

Logrono Girona Zaragoza


to Pamplona, in the Basque country. While there were some ascents and steeper descents, the gradients were mostly shallow, and obviously on average downhill. Our first Spanish, or should I say Basque, albergue was run by a couple who spoke little English, but the husband and I both had a very basic level of French and with a will to communicate, we talked for hours about life, the Camino and Basque language, politics and culture. I discovered that the Basque country is not the easiest place for vegetarians and I subsisted on the local white asparagus and bread on several occasions. The Camino is a pilgrimage, however, and we all have our crosses to bear. It was a long slog into Pamplona, famous for the Running of the Bulls and my feet were heavy by the time we plodded into the albergue at around 7pm. The city was old and beautiful and we took our time over our breakfast of tortilla, croissant and hot chocolate in the main square. In the late morning, clouds were gathering over the top of a hill we ∧

water. The spiritual consequence was being at ease with yourself. This advice made a perfect start to the journey and we thanked him as he gave us our first stamp in our Camino credentials or passports. Within minutes of leaving the albergue at 8am, we’d learned two things. Firstly, everyone else had left before us and secondly, the last shop on the edge of town was the most expensive place to buy the ubiquitous clamshell to display on our rucksacks. There was no going back so we paid our euros and hit the road. The road in question being the 27 km one across the Pyrenees into Spain. This was something of a baptism of fire and remained our longest day throughout the first leg of our Camino. Gentle foothills rapidly turned to a steeper ascent, mostly on road, making for a slightly heavier impact on the feet and legs. The stacks of eagles, more than I’d ever seen before, rising on thermals had no such problems. As we rose above the tree line on the north face of the mountain, the road

seemed to go on forever, constantly turning corners or reaching the heads of valleys that only lead on to the next. There was literally nothing for it but to continue to Roncesvalles, however, and by the time we reached the track that took us over the summit, cloud was rapidly closing in. At 1,400 metres, there was still snow on the ground in sheltered areas and with visibility of less than 50 metres, every twist in the path became an opportunity for disappointment at the non-appearance of the peak. Eventually it came and the descent to Roncesvalles at 900 metres was much steeper and quicker, leaving us exhausted at the end of our ninehour day. We afforded ourselves a hotel in Roncesvalles, partly due to our exhaustion, but also because the albergue itself was full by the time we arrived. We ate a hearty communal pilgrims’ dinner at a table for ten, and had a comprehensive buffet breakfast in the morning (a few rolls and apples stuffed into pockets as we left). The following two days led us through the foothills of the Pyrenees

Identity politics is never far away in the Basque Country




were climbing and we speculated that we would need our waterproof gear by the time we reached the top, perhaps in an hour. Moments later it began to rain, hard, and we scrabbled to retrieve our waterproof jackets and trousers from our rucksacks before getting too wet. We stopped for lunch along with many others in a village halfway up – the cafe owners must have been grateful for the rain. We were blasted by the wind when we reached the ridge at Mirador Alto Del Perdon, where a line of turbines stretched for miles into the distance. The descent was a broad, loose shale path which was tricky in places and as hard work as the ascent in its own way, before it took us on relatively easy countryside towards Puenta De La Reina. We stayed in a small town called Muruzábal, from where we set out in the morning for the Iglesia de Santa María de Eunate, a 12th century octagonal church. Here we met a number of people who we would encounter at further points along the way, including a German woman

who had recently lost her job and an American midway through a PhD in pre-Christian religion. After a quick tour, we were on our way again by 10am. My wife’s friend Amalia lived in a village a short drive from Logroño, or in our terms, a day’s hike. It was dark and wet by the time we reached her home and I was exhausted, having been suffering from the heat all afternoon. After settling down and having a shower and a drink, the short walk to her parents’ house for dinner seemed an insurmountable hurdle, however, there was a meal prepared for us there and we pulled ourselves together and made the effort. It was well worth it. Amalia’s parents spoke little or no English but as ever, the will to communicate plus intermediaries in the form of her and her boyfriend made for a lively evening. We were still in the Basque Country and this identity was part of our discussion. Amalia’s father had grown much of the food we ate, including the signature white asparagus and salad

Vineyards are a common sight in the La Rioja region


Passing time in Pamplona

vegetables. We were made to feel very welcome, but inevitably we would have to return to Amalia’s to sleep before too long. The following day, we made our way to Logroño, where we had arranged to meet Amalia and her boyfriend, look around and experience the local food. Walking from bar to bar on the Calle Laurel, we ate pintxos – Basque snacks something


Patatas bravas

like tapas but skewered on toothpicks. Dishes we sampled included fried mushrooms, patatas bravas and the local Rioja wine. Over the next few days, we became increasingly tired and by the time we reached Navarette on day seven, we were in need of a rest day. The town was quiet and we simply stayed close to the albergue, ate good food, wrote our diaries and put our affairs in order. In the evening, I discovered Basque sopa de ajo or garlic soup. This came piping hot, eggs whipped into it and with large croutons to provide extra body. It became a staple. In mid spring, much of the landscape was covered in barley, although being in the Rioja province, vineyards were common too. One of the most notable sights was the monastery of Santa María la Real in Nájera. The site dates back to the 11th century with the monastery built on to the front of a cave, where an image of the Virgin Mary is said to have been discovered. Within the cave are the tombs of the kings of the kingdom of Nájera-Pamplona, dating from the turn of the first millennium. Our last full day’s walk was around 25 km from Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a medium-sized town with a cathedral that is well worth the visit. My major personal point of call in this town was a sports bar, where

Bar Angel, the only place to go for mushrooms, only serves mushrooms

I sat quietly at the back watching Liverpool play Barça in the first round of the European Champions League semi-final. I wasn’t sure which would be more awkward, cheering at a Liverpool goal or looking disheartened if the hosts scored. Only one of these would occur, however. There was never any question of the locals being antagonistic, but it was probably for the best that with a 3-0 loss, my team did not humiliate them. That would come at Anfield a week later, with Liverpool’s glorious 4-0 victory putting them in the final. By that time I would be safely home. We had hoped to make it to Burgos before we flew back, however a mixture of sore achilles tendons, general tiredness and a touch of laziness mixed in, meant that we walked only between 10 and 15 kilometres on each of the next two days. Our final stop on the road was Belorado, where we met a tax inspector from Madrid. Stopping in the town square, we chatted aimlessly for an hour as he told us of his work and the Spanish system of government as seen from his professional eyes. He also said much of the spirit of the Camino, mentioning the number of high profile individuals, including royalty and celebrities, who pass through the hostels incognito, all pilgrims being equal in status.

Chocolate with churros

We took a bus from Belorado to Burgos, where, in a feat of serendipity, we met up with the American and German women from the Iglesia de Santa María de Eunate. With something of a demob spirit, we wandered around the city, taking in the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos and finally, the very moreish thick hot chocolate (eat off a spoon) and churros – a deep-fried dough pastry sprinkled with sugar. Having completed around 250 km of the Camino de Compostela, we will return to Belorado for the second of three legs, to be reported in the next issue of Executive Destinations. ED The way




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Stoke to Singapore In June 2001, Toby Wilsdon set out on a cycle odyssey, crossing Europe, Russia and China to the farthest point then possible to ride to on the Eurasian continent, Singapore. We pick up his journey as he enters Siberia at Chelyabinsk


aving ridden across Europe and now traversed the Urals, we swept down into the city of Chelyabinsk in the mid afternoon, where we were due to meet Rory’s father Carrick, who was staying with family friends. As we rode into Revolution Square, in a moment of serendipity we ran straight into Carrick with hosts Victor, Natasha and their photogenic nine-year-old daughter, Kappa. We returned to their apartment, where our first appointment was with the shower to wash off a week’s-worth of road dirt. Once clean, we sat down to a feast prepared by Victor. They could have offered us anything, but this was above and beyond anything we’d eaten in weeks. Towards the end of the meal, it felt like Christmas as Carrick pulled out packages from our families, while Victor pulled out his finest vodka. Having ridden a thousand miles in 10 days, it wasn’t long before the vodka took its toll on Andy. Natasha and I tried to put him to bed at around 10, but he wasn’t having any of it. “Leave me alone with her, Tobes, I think she’s


up for it,” he said. Acutely embarrassed, we managed to get him down, but like a zombie in a bad horror film, he kept coming back for more. We spent the next few days recovering, fixing our bikes and being shown around. On our second day, we drove out to a lake to walk, eat and, naturally, drink vodka. Like much of Siberia, it was flat, wet and covered with birch trees. After building a fire to cook on, Natasha took us to a nearby village made up of traditional log-built houses (izbas) scattered randomly around the road. We knocked on an arbitrary door and were given fresh milk and smetana, a Russian sour cream that was delicious eaten on just about anything. After a few days’ rest, we hit the road again, leaving Rory to spend a little more time with his dad before taking the train to Omsk to rejoin us. Now truly in Siberia, the road was almost entirely straight and flat, surrounded by a patchwork of lakes, swamp, grassland and birch forest that must have receded for hundreds of kilometres. Occasionally, we came across beautiful girls or weathered

babushkas selling honey, cream and fruit at the side of the road, but for the most part the cycling was uneventful, leaving our imaginations to run wild. We envisioned a spoof road movie of our trip, involving among others, Tibor the gimp-masked simpleton and Rory’s dad as James Bond’s Q, popping up from behind trees to help at opportune moments. His engineering skills might have come in handy a few days later, when Andy was nearly decapitated by a scythe hanging out of the window of a passing Lada. When the weather was good, it was perfect cycling. The road was welcoming, receding far into the distance and the prevailing wind was behind us. It was warm but not hot during the day while at night it was beginning to turn cold, particularly under clear skies. The milky way was prominent against the black sky and the silence was palpable as we heard trains on the Trans Siberian Railway at least 10km away. It was a week before we met up with Rory in Omsk, having been drenched as we fought strong winds


more scantily clad compere introduced a series of dancers from the crowd, some of them keen to take yet more clothes off as part of their pitch for what seemed to be an interpretation of Russia’s got “talent”. Before I knew it, Kate grabbed me again, led me outside and firmly affixed herself to my mouth. “I like you, you like me, what’s the problem?” she said. “It would be so romantic.” Perhaps, but I’m not sure we were on exactly the same page and with nowhere to go other than my shared hotel room or her family home, it was always a non-starter. We left the club at around 5am, a little later than the others, took a Lada back to the city centre and said our goodbyes. Andy and Scott were not waiting around the following morning, leaving a note saying they’d take an easy pace and we’d catch up over the next few days. After sleeping off our hangovers, Rory and I made a leisurely departure at 2pm. A couple of days out of Omsk, Rory and I had stopped for lunch when we saw a municipal vehicle

trimming the verges. On second glance we noticed that the cuttings were wild cannabis and looking more carefully, realised that we were surrounded by seven-foot-high plants – growing freely in Siberia at the same latitude as Aberdeen. We had little choice but to fill our bags and look forward to the night ahead. Fresh, wild plants of a very low potency provided a challenge. Despite drying the greenery over our petrol stoves, we never got very far that night. Quantity was key, and it would take some creativity to work out how to get that. It was the following day before we caught Andy and Scott and that evening we finessed our processing of the wild plant. After blanching it in boiling water, we sautéed it in an entire block of butter before pouring the liquid over our rice. This time it worked. Fused to the Siberian soil, eyes fixed on the stars and with our minds loosely tethered somewhere in between, we speculated on what we would do if a farmer, policeman

for the last two days into the city. As we reached the hotel, the only other cycle tourist in the city happened to be in the reception area, and many beers ensued as we shared tales of the road. The first day in Omsk was taken up with shopping for warm, waterproof clothing as conditions worsened for the first time and by the end of the day, we were ready for a beer. A couple of girls approached wanting to “practice their English”, an arrangement we were quite happy with. Kate was a forceful brunette while Luda was a more diminutive blonde. Before long Kate was demanding that we accompany them to a nightclub at Kinoteatr Kristal that night. Kate, the more outgoing of the two, met us alone that evening – Luda had been forbidden from going out with a bunch of foreign men who would have left town by the morning. She hailed a “Lada cab” and we were sped on the way to Krystal, some distance from the centre. Once inside we found a spacious cinema with a dance floor and stage in front of the screen and ample space between rows to drink and dance. Flanking the auditorium were larger tables with easy chairs. Kate, who appeared to be on a natural amphetamine high, grabbed me, pulling me around the club at high speed before introducing the four of us to a group of men at one of the large, round tables. At least one of these was police, and we respectfully toasted a friend who had been killed in a gunfight that day. They repeatedly asked if we liked Russian girls, at which point one of the men would disappear, returning a few minutes later with a selection. In this ambiguous environment we did our best to play this down. At midnight a klaxon sounded, the stage dancers disappeared and an even




or lonely truck driver happened upon our camp. “Probably nothing for about 10 minutes,” said Scott. “By which time we’d be right royally buggered,” replied Rory. After a day in Novosibirsk, where we achieved little other than sinking a few beers and later vodkas, we left the western Siberian plain behind and moved into forested hills, encountering tight bends for the first time in weeks. In this more challenging environment, Rory’s knee was playing up again and after yelping in pain, he was forced to accept that there was no alternative but to hitch to Krasnoyarsk, 800 kilometres away. With a cumbersome bike and four heavy bags, this was not going to be with a family of four in their Lada. He would be at the mercy of Russian truck drivers. “I’m coming with you,” I said without hesitation. Clutching a copy of our newspaper report from Chelyabinsk, we approached a truck driver and having bought him lunch, loaded our bikes on to the back of his Kamaz and climbed into the A Siberian village, scattered around the road


cab beside him. A couple of metres higher and travelling significantly faster than on bikes, we were thrown all around the cab, clinging to the decrepit fittings to avoid hitting the bare metal sides. It took a couple of rides to get to the city, which we approached at four in the morning. With everywhere closed, our driver took us to the depot, where he cleaned his vehicle inside and out before driving us to a hotel on the outskirts as the sun rose over the city. Reception was closed until seven, so we went for a wander, discovered a bustling market and with little else for it, had a beer. We were initially offered the hourly rate when we attempted to check in to the Gostinitsa Kedr, giving us some indication of its true nature. Nevertheless, it was clean, of reasonable quality and had friendly staff. After sleeping until late afternoon, we went to the bar downstairs, where we met the manager, Marina and a trainee named Olga. By night, the hotel’s character changed. Regular as clockwork, a

Lada or two pulled up and a gaggle of prostitutes piled out, the higher status ones sitting in the lobby leaving the others smoking their cigarettes in the cold outside. We soon found ourselves playing pool with a couple of “biznizmen”, importing unspecified goods by road from Beijing. Alexei and Igor bought us drinks and chatted at length before inviting us to go on a Russian fishing trip the next day. Rory was unsure. We could be cautious and turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. Or we could go with them and risk being out of our depth in a situation out of our control. When Marina assured us of their good character, it was all the persuasion we needed. The following morning Igor loaded his Landcruiser with camping equipment while we were driven in Alexei’s Volga – the Russian equivalent of a 1980s Mercedes 200. It was about two hours’ driving north on the open road before we took a mud track for a few miles into a grassland by a lake. When we arrived, there were seven people in total, so the 12 bottles of


The fishing trip – Russian style

Relaxed, refreshed and with some of the vodka sweated out of our systems, we returned to the party. Now it was the turn of the traffic police (DPS) to join in, letting us play with their Kalashnikovs, which given the state of all concerned may have been risky. We partied until about three, twelve hours after we’d begun, and woke at nine with remarkably clear heads. The moment Alexei appeared, we were bundled back into the car and driven back to Krasnoyarsk. Andy and Scott arrived in Krasnoyarsk late on the tenth of September, 2001. When we met up, it was the usual emotional reunion, sharing adventures and trying to outdo each other with vodka drinking stories. The fishing trip was a knockout blow. We did another TV interview the following day, which was inevitably overshadowed by the events in New York. Other than that, it was the stock questions – “What has been your favourite country?” – “Russia”; “Have you had any fights?” – “No” (at least

not sufficient to let the media twist the narrative); “Have you been in any dangerous situations?” – “No”; and “Are you married? Why not?” Appearing on television can do wonders for your sex appeal and that night in the hotel bar there was a party atmosphere. Rory had already been flirting with Olga and it wasn’t long before Alena, a beautiful dark redbrown haired girl who worked behind the bar was taking an interest in me. We did our best to communicate with all around, showing off our diaries, maps and other paraphernalia, scribbling on scraps of paper to make our points. With the words “Russian tradition, you must,” Olga and some friends invited us to go and drink vodka at their flat. It was sparsely furnished , with little more than a table, a few chairs and a sofa in the main room. As we drank, Olga had her hands all over Rory like she did not want to let him get away, while one of her friends kept reaching for his guitar. Yesterday was his favourite song. It was his only song. ∧

vodka unloaded from the car didn’t seem too unreasonable. There was also a barbecue, bread, cheese and fruit, but it was vodka (Russian for “little water”) that was the star of the show. The Russian measures flowed at regular intervals, interspersed with the obligatory titbits and with sufficient lubrication, communication was remarkably good. In the late afternoon, a Yaz jeep appeared and a man jumped out, clutching a game bird and a flagon of milk, both still warm. Other visitors came and went, until at around midnight Igor announced, “Come, we go.” We piled into his Land Cruiser and were driven maniacally across the rough field to a nearby village. Once there, we knocked on the door of a family home and were shown to their banya (Russian sauna) – de rigueur for any home in Siberia. After a couple of rounds in the tepid and hot rooms, we emerged into the cool autumn night and, in the absence of snow, were hosed down before going inside to drink tea with the family.

The DPS or traffic police join the party




Hitching with friendly Russian truck drivers

We returned to the hotel where karaoke was the order of the day and after my number, Alena wanted to slow dance. While the others retired to one of the bedrooms to continue with the vodka, I remained with Alena and a couple of her friends, who assisted with the verbal communication. After a long while doing the books, we finally closed the bar and went outside to get a cab – only for her friends to jump in beside us. For better or worse, the vodka party was still on. Alena’s flat was clean, tidy and like Vladimir’s, relatively bare. While her friends remained at there, Alena and I went shopping for vodka, cheese, bread and caviar in the fast approaching dawn. The presence of her friends had broken my stride, and by the time they left at 7am there was little prospect of anything beyond a drunken slumber in her bed, for that night at least. We had been due to leave the following morning, but Rory and I had reason to stay a little longer, so we promised to catch Scott and Andy after a couple of days, and watched


them wobble off down the road. When Rory and I finally rode out of Krasnoyarsk two days later, we left behind two girls whose lives we’d touched and while we would quickly move on to the next adventure, they would have longer to dwell upon our time with them. It was hard to do justice to the experiences we had in Krasnoyarsk. They were simple, yet profound, mostly involving being with people and enjoying their warm hospitality. More than ever, we were aware of the traveller’s dilemma – any connections would be fleeting as deeper involvement could only mean the end of the trip, something none of us were likely to countenance. On the bikes and in the grander scheme, we lived in the moment. Our daily routine was mundane yet peppered with profoundly rich experiences and it was now time to move from one moment to the next. Rory and I were now hitting our stride. It was early autumn and the weather was on the change, pleasant in the day, cooling rapidly in the

evening. We started building fires both for fun and to keep warm and eventually put two and two together and came up with toast, which we hadn’t eaten since home. Taking our time to strike camp in the morning, we lay around cooking round after round of scrambled eggs or cheese on toast on the embers of the previous night’s fire, struck by how idyllic our situation was. What could be better than sitting in the middle of nowhere with someone you’d been through so much with, the day stretched out ahead, and playing with fire? We knew from their roadside messages that Scott and Andy were pulling away from us and we agreed that it was important to catch them before we reached Irkutsk, otherwise they would be itching to leave as soon as we arrived. For the next few days we combined hitching with riding on dirt roads, picking up supplies of unpasteurised milk, eggs, bread, cheese and beer in scattered villages and sleeping under expansive skies. Eventually, we got the long distance lift we were looking for. After a drive lasting many hours, we arrived close to Irkutsk late at night. Rather than find somewhere to stay that evening, we decided it would be better to camp outside the town and make our final approach in the morning. The temperature fell to minus six overnight, and we awoke to find a light dusting of snow on our tents. We took our time in the morning, allowing our tents to dry as the sun began to warm the world. It was a pleasant twenty-kilometre ride into town and by midday we were drinking beers in the park, dressed in shorts and t-shirts at a very comfortable 16 degrees. ED To be continued


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