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THE MIDDLE EAST’S BIGGEST TRAVEL MAGAZINE

MAy 2011

ROMANTIc RETREATS

Nine places to tug your heartstrings

CappadoCIa

What lies beneath in Turkey’s alien land

Produced in International Media Production Zone

ItalIan Vogue Sicily struts back into fashion

CajuN SpICe

Why Sarah Wheeler has the hots for Louisiana

Vietnam

Philip Sherwell heads to the heart of a country ripe with wonder

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Kanoo World Traveller MAY 2011

CONTENTS Travel biTes

feaTures

07 AgendA

77 thirty-second concierge

38 vietnAm

Travel news from around the globe.

Sneak a glimpse of Cambodia’s Amansara.

Philip Sherwell delves into the ancient mainland.

16 Ask the expert

78 city guide: vAlenciA

45 sicily

Escape the heat with a snow-clad retreat...

Laura Binder uncovers Spain’s lesser-known city.

Forget the stereotypes; this island’s been re-born...

18 drive time

80 city guide: buenos Aires

56 cAppAdociA

Pack up your 4x4 and master the Sahara Desert.

Fall head over hills for Argentina’s vibrant capital.

Prepare to be amazed by Turkey’s most alien terrain.

22 picture this

83 competition

63 dAmAscus

Turn to this issue’s stop-and-stare snapshots.

Win the most stylish of stays at Armani Hotel Dubai.

Adriaane Pielou is charmed by Damascus’ Old Town.

29 essentiAl selection

84 suite dreAms

69 louisiAnA

Nine romantic getaways for loved-up jet-setters.

In the lap of luxury on Kangaroo Island.

Getting back to basics in sugar cane country.

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53 THE MIDDLE EAST’S BIGGEST TRAVEL MAGAZINE

MAy 2011

On the cover: A Vietnamese woman on a punt in Hanoi. Martin Puddy, Corbis.

ROMANTIc RETREATS

Nine places to tug your heartstrings

CappadoCIa

What lies beneath in Turkey’s alien land

Produced in International Media Production Zone

ItalIan Vogue Sicily struts back into fashion

CajuN SpICe

Why Sarah Wheeler has the hots for Louisiana

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60

72

Managing Director: Victoria Hazell-Thatcher

Features Editor: Laura Binder

Junior designer: Adam Sneade

Publishing Director: John Thatcher

laura@hotmediapublishing.com

Production manager: Haneef Abdul

Advertisement Director: Chris Capstick

+971 4 364 2877

Sales Manager: Cat Steele

chris@hotmediapublishing.com

Designer: Matthew McBriar

cat@hotmediapublishing.com

+971 4 369 0917

matt@hotmediapublishing.com

+971 4 446 1558

Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. All prices mentioned are

Vietnam

Philip Sherwell heads to the heart of a country ripe with wonder

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STA TE D EN HO I EK NI WE MA DUBA AR

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correct at time of press but may change. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in Kanoo World Traveller.

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June-Dec 2010 22,620 BPA Consumer Audit Produced by: HOT Media Publishing FZ LLC

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 5


AGENDA Be informed, be inspired, be there

latin flavour

WesTin playa conchal If you’re pining for sun, sea and ivory white sands, Westin’s new Latin American resort (open May 1) is just the sun-drenched destination to flock to. Make a beeline for Playa Conchal in Cabo Velas and you’ll discover a dream-like scene of endless beach peppered with thatch-roofed bungalows. Here you’ll be met by myriad dining options; five lounges and seven restaurants means you’re ultimately spoilt for choice, but if it’s romance you’re after the decision is simple: Astrea Lounge, perched on stilts above the lapping ocean. www.starwoodhotels.com/westin

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 7


4 WAYS TO

Arrive in Style

1

Fall from the sky in Oman. Book a stay at Six Senses Zighy Bay and you can skim the resort’s rusty-coloured terrain and peacock-blue sea by paraglider, 2,000 feet high, strapped on to a Six Senses pro. On landing, check straight into one of its luxury, poolside villas – cool as ice.

2

Turn heads with a helicopter descent into Dubai via the augusta 109 executive model which will whisk you above the arabian sea before claiming a spot on the burj’s helipad. Step out and make its Sky View lounge your first pit stop and drink-in the upscale surrounds...

Desert island digs

Yearning to escape? We’ve gone hot under the collar for a private island that’s just opened its thatched doors to luxury jet-setters: Pulau Joyo. Head to the Indonesian Riau Archipelago, book one of eight beachfront villas (once the private residence of the esteemed Marden shipping family) and spend your days reclined by crystal clear waters, picnicking on powder-white sands or setting sail aboard the island’s 140-foot charter yacht. A castaway’s dream. www.pulau-joyo.com

Global Gourmet Making for Malaysia? Chef Kuan of the Movenpick Hotel Deira’s Wok In restaurant, shares his favoured eateries when in his hometown of Penang. I always visit Sarkies Corner at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel for its skewed barbecue chicken which has a fantastic aroma and makes for a truly mouth-watering bite. The restaurant is perfect if you’re seeking a peaceful, calming atmosphere. For a more unique feel, though, I love Dragon-i at Queensbay Mall; from the moment you step inside you feel like you’re in a real Shanghainese shop. While there, try the steamed meat dumpling which is full of soup and looks like a translucent pagoda-shaped jewel. Puncture the dumpling’s skin and the steaming hot soup just seeps out – delicious! Another great spot at the same mall is Sakae Sushi for its tasty yet affordable food. The kakiage, a vegetable tempura delicacy served with a special sweet sauce, is very tasty. 8

Kanoo World Traveller May 2011

3

Ride the world’s only (weird and wonderful) Sea Tractor. The hydraulic contraption is your ticket in to the Burgh Island Hotel, set on a secluded private island off Devon’s south coast. Conquer the waves with a 700foot crossing (even at high tide) and arrive at the 1929 Art Deco hotel, once frequented by Agatha Christie.

4

Blitz a Bond-worthy private motorboat (at thrillingly high speed) straight from Bora Bora airport, across 15 minutes of sparkling Blue Lagoon to a hideaway of star proportions; the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa (a former favoured haunt of Marlon Brando).


agenda | news

Market day

Box clever

Planning your next getaway? Then you won’t want to miss Arabian Travel Market’s Consumer Day on May 5. “With opportunities to book trips, win holidays, get fantastic discounts and enjoy an array of international entertainment, the exhibition offers a roundthe-world trip in less than a day”, says its 2011 organiser, Mark Walsh. What better way to map out that dream trip? www.arabiantravelmarket. com/consumers.

Packing your most precious items is easy in this brilliantly designed, quintessentially English utility case from Globe-Trotter. It has been crafted to mark the brand’s 100-year-old anniversary – now that’s what we call timelessly good style. Get your mitts on the beautiful leather creation at Go British. www.go-british.com

come stay a while Our Fine Hotels Swiss-Belhotel Doha, Qatar • Swiss-Belhotel Plaza Kuwait, Kuwait • Sohar Beach by Swiss-Belhotel, Oman • Swiss-Belhotel Resort Masirah Island, Oman

Opening Soon Swiss-Belexpress Muscat, Oman • Swiss-Belinn Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman Swiss-Belhotel Kapchegai, Khazakhstan • Swiss-Belhotel Erbil, Iraq (Opening 2012)

www.swiss-belhotel.com

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 9


in full bloom

Town and Country

Spring time heralds a picture-perfect time of year across Europe; where will you spend the prettiest of May days?

Romantic Liaisons

May’s offers from Kanoo Travel and american express Vacations AuSTRiA 8 DAYS/7 nighTS $1,463 peR peRSOn Bask in austria’s fairytale aura with a week-long tour of her most romantic cities (from Vienna to salzburg to Innsbruck and back) and revel in a five-star Viennese hotel for the duration. mAlDiveS 5 DAYS/4 nighTS $1,018 peR peRSOn Have the run of beautiful beaches, spend your nights in five-star luxury, feast on daily breakfasts and enjoy added extras, like airport-to-resort transfers by speed boat.

Amsterdam, Holland lowdown this quaint city comes alive in may when its trio of canals are perfectly calm for cruising upon, fields erupt with signature Dutch tulips and the weather’s jacket-riddingly fair. go-to spot make the most of the city’s multiple parks and squares, like Vondelpark which hosts open-air theatre performances in spring/summer. HigHligHt Keukenhof Gardens (a taxi ride out of town) is home to seven million blooming bulbs, making it the largest garden on the planet. staying tHere book InterContinental amstel amsterdam for city decadence on the riverbanks. www.amsterdam. intercontinental.com

Valnerina, Italy lowdown tuscany’s prettiest patch of countryside serves up fresh mountain breezes from the Sibllini peaks, plains ripe with poppies and spring meadows that serve as a prime pitch for hampers fat with with fresh, local fare. go-to spot Nearby Norcia, a gastronomic haven where quaint shops bulge with plump meat, sheep’s cheese and black truffles from the roaming hills. HigHligHt Pian Grande, a four-mile blanket-worthy stretch of grass that skims Castelluccio and, come late may, erupts with violets, peonies and buttercups. staying tHere try the ultra-luxe locanda Palazzone, a stone barn perched on a hilltop. www.locandapalazzone.com

One-minuTe mASTeRClASS: geRmAn I’ll have the bratwurst please. Ich nehme eine Bratwurst, bitte. Where can I hire a Volkswagen? Wo kann ich einen Volkswagen mieten? I would like to buy two opera tickets please. Ich moechte gern zwei Opernkarten kaufen bitte. 10

Kanoo World Traveller May 2011


agenda | news

Blu for you Radisson Blu opens its second Dubai hotel this month, this time in the spectacular Downtown area of the city. Make reservations here and you’ll be yards from The Dubai Mall – so there’ll be no excuses should you return home without presents for lovedones – and the world’s tallest building (and restaurant). Inside the hotel you’ll find 220 oh-so-modern rooms, 22 stylish suites and the Infiniti Lounge & Terrace, an atmospheric little spot where you can relax over a light bite while admiring the view... www.radissonblu.com

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 11


left luggage It seems there is good reason airport staff insist on asking whether you packed your bag Bath-time? yourself. A recent survey from Virgin Atlantic Heads were sure revealed passengers strangest attempts at to turn at JFK as the check-in desk, from a bag of cutlery – one family carried stolen from a previous flight – to a pocketan unpackaged bound tarantula, two bags of sea and sand bath-tub to the a lovestruck couple couldn’t bear to leave check-in desk behind, and this little lot...

Kung Fu Crew

pure cheese A gigantic wheel of cheese was one item a flyer couldn’t resist sending down the baggage shoot.

What’s your beef? One passenger thought nothing of arriving for their flight armed with a case, oh, and a dead cow...

If you’ve ever had to contend with a nightmare passenger while flying, you might want to book your next flight with Hong Kong Airlines – and let the fast-footed cabin crew take care of them instead. The airline has introduced compulsory Kung Fu training for its flight attendants in the form of ‘wing chun’ to keep the most unruly of passengers in check. That should do it.

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Kanoo World Traveller May 2011


agenda | calendar

maY

things are looking up this month; whether you’re a fitness fanatic, food enthusiast or avid film fan...

21 great wall marathon tianjin, China

Running a marathon is one thing, but mastering the Great Wall of China while you’re at it? Avid athletes have been doing just that for the past 10 years and if the challenge gets your pulse racing, don your running shoes (after some serious training, of course) and prepare for pleasure and pain as you master the tough but beautiful course – all 5,164 steps of it. It’s far from easy, but its breathtaking beauty certainly lessens the load. www.great-wall-marathon. com

1-2

painting the skies castiglione del lago, italy As enchanting as the name suggests, this international event sees beginners and pros unleash the most colourful of kites by the blue shores of Lake Trasimeno. Don’t head here without your camera – the sight of a cloud-speckled sky dotted with bright, bird-like designs makes for quite a picture. May marks the event’s final two days, so hurry... www.coloriamoicieli.com

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Kanoo World Traveller May 2011

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cannes Film Festival cannes, France Glitz and glamour hits its peak at this crème de la crème of festivals – the most famous on the planet. Get past the paparazzis flashing lenses and glimpse film stars posing like pros on yachts and beach. Unless you’re George Clooney you’re unlikely to get an invite, however, Mace Beach is a public spot where you can watch daily film screenings. www.festival-cannes.org

15-16

little river blue crab Festival south carolina, usa Head south past the tourist-clad Myrtle Beach and spend the most charming of family days in the oh-so-quaint fishing village of Little River. Locals have flocked here for the past 30 years to munch the freshest of seafare (including its namesake blue crabs), peruse handicraft stalls and enjoy the most scenic of waterfront strolls. www.crabfestival.com

25-29

Firenze gelato Festival Florence, italy If ice cream’s your guilty pleasure, this is the place to treat your tastebuds to the creamiest gelato from the motherland. Italy’s finest whip up the delicious dessert against the romantic backdrop of Florence’s most famous squares, like Piazza SS Annunziata. While workshops are popular, we’re more interested in the multiple tastings. www. firenzegelatofestival.it

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long night oF music munich, germany Whatever music gets your toes tapping, there’s sure to be a tune during this endless evening of music recitals. All manner of genres ring-out – from the Blues to fiery Flamenco and upbeat Hip Hop – at some 100 venues across the city. But, don’t fear, you won’t have to let your ears lead you – shuttle buses are on hand to whisk musicgoers between gigs. Quite a night. www.muenchner.de


AgendA | trAvel q&A

Ask the expert

Snow-topped peaks or pre-teen pampering? Our pros share their go-to spots for the months ahead...

The panel Jessica hudson co-founded The Chic Collection’s travel advisory and is tasked with sampling endless luxury hotels and resorts. Rachel hamilton is a full-time writer and the mother of two young children, Jodie and Dylan, whom she travels frequently with. James montague writes for CNN.com and The Guardian and is the author of ‘When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone’ (Mainstream).

Q

Q

I ’d love to escape the summer heat with a cool ski break – can you suggest any fitting resorts for this time of year?

You can beat the heat by heading to Hotel Aurelio (www.aureliolech.com). Part of Austria’s luxury ski scene, you’ll find it nestled slope-side in the exclusive Lech resort. Inside it’s a stylish show of art, breathtaking spa facilities and a lounge and restaurant that blend contemporary cool with exquisite cuisine and a formidable beverage list to boot. Bedrooms, meanwhile, evoke a feel of the local alpine heritage and possess enough state-of-the-art technology to make you want to stay in the warm and admire the snowy surrounds from afar. If luxury chalet living is more your thing, though, try The Lodge Verbier (www.thelodge-virgin.com). Perched in the Swiss Alps it’s the ultimate mountain retreat for active travellers: a private ice rink in your backyard will keep you cool but, if you do want to warm up, there’s a steam room and hot tub to delve into or, after a day on the slopes, why not head for a soothing spa treatment? And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s helicopter rides, heli-skiing and horse riding to try – or simply relax with a hot dish served up by a team of personal chefs. Jessica Hudson

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Kanoo World Traveller May 2011

In a world where our daughters can be more switched-on about the benefits of massages, facials and nail treatments than we are, resorts are indeed jumping on the Little Princess bandwagon. I suggest looking for spas that promote health and fun, rather than focus on image and appearance. The familyowned Turtle Cove Spa at Mountain Harbor Resort in Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains offer tailored packages, such as the Spa Princess Package and Skin Care 101 which teaches pre-teens the do’s and don’ts of skin care with a skin analysis, mini facial and some take-home tips from a specialist. Alternatively, try the Ice Cream Spa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort which has ice cream themed, scented treatments. With their ‘I’m a Boy Facial’, it even has something for budding princes! Rachel Hamilton

Image: Hotel Aurelio, Austria.

My 11-year-old daughter is a budding princess. Are there any resorts that offer spa services for children?


AgendA AgendA | RoAd RoAd tRip tRip

Drive time: sahara desert HoT, ToUgH ANd CATCH-yoUr-BrEATH BEAUTiFUl, EASE yoUr TyrES iNTo ENdlESS, goldEN SANdS...

Come nightfall, gazing upon an orange/pink sky serves as a gentle break from the day’s glaring sun. But don’t be fooled by the tranquility that this oasis campsite seemingly bestows; notoriously unforgiving, Sahara is hot around the clock in summer while in winter nights can plummet to freezing. For avid adventurers, the challenge of mastering the largest (and hottest) desert on the planet couldn’t be sweeter. Her honey sands run over much of North Africa – making her almost as big as the USA – and best braved by car (only a hardy, 4x4 will do). Embark on a taster drive (try Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt) or go for gold and cross borders to experience still nights, awesome dunes (some up to 180metres high), meandering camels and Bedouin villagers and, like these travellers of the night, set up camp to see the sun dip behind the dunes. Image: Photolibrary

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Kanoo World Traveller May January 20112011


ferrariworldabudhabi.com Delivered by Aldar

IT’S YOUR TURN TO DISCOVER ITALY

It’s the beauty of the road. It’s the magic of the Amalfi Coast. From the Alps, to the last spoonful of Gelato, at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the beauty of Ferrari is in the air. When you visit the world’s first Ferrari theme park, you’ll finally have the chance to live the Ferrari dream in ways you never imagined possible. The experience is yours like never before, with over 20 rides and attractions in the world’s largest indoor theme park.


W EAT HER IT O UT

Downtown Dubai FO R A SUMMER TO R EMEMBER

SOAk In THE ATMOSpHERE AT DOWnTOWn DUBAI THIS SUMMER. STAy In THE nEW HEART OF THE cITy AnD EnjOy THE FInEST EnTERTAInMEnT FOR All THE FAMIly. Indulge yourself with a getaway in any one of our hotels and be rewarded with complimentary access to the choicest attractions at The Dubai Mall including the mesmerising Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and a spectacular view from At the Top, Burj khalfia - the 124th floor of the world’s tallest building. Even choose to be pampered from a host of world-class dining options, championship golf courses and divine spa treatments. From luxurious and awe-inspiring to family friendly and entertaining, book now to enjoy complimentary attraction passes as well as The Dubai Mall privilege Book packed with vouchers for restaurants and shopping in The Dubai Mall. In addition, receive amazing summer rates at The Address Hotels + Resorts and Southern Sun Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels.

For reservations at The Address Hotels + Resorts, please call +971 4 423 8888 www.theaddress.com For Southern Sun Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels, please call +971 4 428 6808 www.southernsunme.com or contact your local travel agent.


AgendA | where to eAt

Where to eat

Dubai

Sun-worshipper or shade-seeker? As temperatures soar, we seek out eateries for every taste... START

By the Sea

OR

Outside

On the Sea

OR

Indoors

Meat

OR

Fish

Pierchic

JW Steakhouse

www.jumeirah.com/hotels Saunter down the pier from the beautiful Al Qasr resort and you’ll reach the height of sea-side glamour, perched on stilts above the Gulf’s waters. Jellyfish-like lights dot the ceiling, silver linens shroud tables and fish is the house specialty – for good reason, it’s delicious.

www.marriott.com Meat-lovers should make for Deira’s JW Marriott Hotel where leather chairs and wooden tables serve as the perfect backdrop to a carnivore’s dream. Take your pick of a mouthwatering list of juicy meats (Angus? Rib-eye? Wagyu?), best-consumed with a fitting beverage.

Manmade Palm

OR

Manmade Marina

Japanese

OR

British

101

Rococo

Nobu

Rivington Grill

www.thepalm.onendonlyresorts.com White decor, an overwater lounge and cool daybeds provide a St Tropez-style backdrop to tapas and Med-inspired bites while you lap up the view...

www.sofitel.com Stride The Walk to Sofitel’s Jumeirah Beach hotel for hearty Italian fare with beautiful, contemporary twists – don’t even try to resist its homemade pasta.

www.noburestaurants.com If you try one thing at this hip and happening haunt, make it the black cod – as delectable as the ebony and crimson surrounds you dine in.

www.rivingtongrill.ae Satisfy your craving with the seriously tasty fish, chips and mushy peas. Snag a table by the window and watch the Dubai Fountains as you tuck in.

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 21


Picture this

grey glacier patagonia, chile

Immaculate, razor-sharp and electric blue: if such raw beauty doesn’t draw a catch-your-breath gasp from its onlookers, the chilly minus climes that shroud it most certainly will. Up close, the mammoth expanse of pristine, solid ice sparkles in myriad shades of bright white. To see its steadfast form for yourself, make for the equally spellbinding Torres Del Paine national park (a head-turning natural zone of mirrored lakes, unspoilt waterfalls and dense forest) where it resides. There, ‘nunatak’ – a piece of land that slices the glacier in two – creates a slick surface on which to stand in silent awe. Image: Photolibrary


Picture this

avenue of the BaoBaBs madagascar

Divert your eyes to the dot-like soul meandering amid this magical African alleyway and you’ll grasp the magnitude of the trees that surge from its dirt land. Together they form the most enchanting of paths near the town of Morondava. The gentile giants surge up to 30metres in height, with the most ancient being 800-years-old, earning them the maternal name of ‘renala’ – Malagasy for ‘Mother of the Forest’. But they didn’t always stand in silent solitude; once part of a dense forest, the country’s growing population prompted a need to clear the land, leaving only the baobabs you see today. The survivors draw travellers from far and wide, all vying for a shot of their spectacular trunks and sparse, aging heads. Go at sunset when pink skies enhance thier mythical personas and be sure to get a shot of the inseperable Les Baobabs Amoureux – two lovingly intertwined trees. Image: Photolibrary


Picture this

horseshoe BenD colorado, usa

While some geological sights set deep in Arizona are notoriously hard to reach, this is yours for the taking – just watch your step, there’s no railings to spoil the view. What looks like the mythical print of an impossibly giant horse is merely a natural meander in the Colorado River, a place where ancient sandstone has whipped itself into fantastical forms. Best beheld from the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, the wide trail that precedes it leads you up a sandy hill, along a dusty pathway and, soon, you’re there: teetering atop bellowing cliffs while the bend lays some 1,000 feet beneath you. Get past its awesome size and its colour palette will strike you next; emerald-green river, rugged orange cliffs and bright blue sky all lit by the Arizona sun. Mesmerising. Just one tip; pack a wide-lens camera, you’ll need it... Image: Photolibrary


EssEntial sElEction | Romantic REtREats

essential selection

Romantic Retreats

Lose yourself in the lap of luxury, says Laura Binder, and don’t be surprised if you fall in love all over again…

Desroches Island, Seychelles Tropical, remote, unspoilt and dream-worthy beautiful, this new resort has all the goods to sweep lovesick couples off their sandal-clad feet. To get here, you’ll need to travel overhead by private charter and – when you do – look down to see the coral atoll floating on an expanse of Indian Ocean. Set foot on its soft sands and saunter to a beach suite or villa, each of which blends blue and white hues with luxe furnishings in wood, rope and pebbles for easy-going, island style. For those who really want to push the boat out, Madam Zabre Spa Retreat is the resort’s gem: three master suites harbour outdoor showers, plunge pools, salas and a butler service to boot. And, if that isn’t enough to send you into a chilled-out state, a Balinese massage in your personal treatment room most certainly will. Romance rating: Robinson Crusoe meets James Bond glamour. Spend an exquisite night dining on the beach with your partner, with no one around but your personal chef, who is on hand to cook up freshlycaught lobster before a pink sunset. Blissful. www.desroches-island.com

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 29


EssEntial sElEction | Romantic REtREats

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, UAE

Mihir Garh, India

Even the name of its location – the Empty Quarter deep in Liwa Desert (pictured) – evokes a mystery that’s hard to resist. If, like us, you’re drawn to its uninterrupted sands (get up close with a camel ride over sun-soaked dunes) you’ll be at complete mercy to its Bedouin-style charms: suites look like a scene from Arabian Nights adorned with jewel-encrusted lights, gold finishes and authentic mosaics. But, to truly immerse yourself in this pleasure palace, make for its spa where giant baths sweat with the scent of heady oils and exfoliating scrubs cleanse your skin. If it’s your tastebuds you want to treat, though, dine in the atmospheric Suhail where juicy meats come roasted in spices. Romance rating: The height of seduction. Delve deeper into the sultry desert with a stay at the Royal Pavillion – a golf buggy ride away from the main building, you’ll have complete sanctuary, a plunge pool, sun loungers, butler and king size boudoir. www.qasralsarab.anantara.com

Picture a palatial fortress standing majestically on the honey-hued sands of Marwar and you’ll be prepared for the breathtaking moment you first behold Mihir Garh (or ‘Fort of the Sun’). Get past its awesome exterior (an enchanting mix of arches, turrets and alcoves) and you’ll have your pick of nine suites, each the picture of indulgence thanks to rich coloured fabrics and lose-yourself beds. ‘Alishaan’ is the one to book for a private courtyard and plunge pool – the perfect place to immerse yourselves on balmy, summer days. But the ultimate spot for a dip has to be the infinity pool whose peacock-coloured waters look out across an endless desert. Romance rating: Heart-stoppingly good. This boutique bolthole is shamelessly regal so make like royalty yourselves with a lavish ‘royal picnic’ (a Mihir Garh tradition), served by attendants and savoured lake-side beneath an cascading tent top. wwww.mihirgarh.com

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 31


Amanpulo, Philippines It’s easy to see where Amanpulo gets its name from; meaning ‘peaceful island’ a trip here is quite literally an escape to a beautiful desert retreat. Sink your toes into the silkiest of white sands and you can tread the entirety of this low-lying coral island in an hourand-a-half (look out for the resident white-breasted wood swallows, kingfishers and gentle hawksbill turtles along the way). Emerge through a thicket of emerald green bush and you’ll behold the prying tips of the resort’s private villas. Book one – just a stone’s throw from the ocean’s mouth – and bathe in a private pool, dine on its pavilion in the warm, night air and, easiest of all, surrender your daily duties to a chef and butler. A true slice of paradise. Romance Rating: Heaven sent. Make the most of your deserted surrounds with a scuba-dive in its tropical underworld or, if you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, sink your teeth into a barbecue at stunning settings Island Cave or Shark’s Point Sala. www.amanresorts.com/amanpulo

Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, Italy When it comes to matters of the heart, the Italians certainly know how to tug your strings and this grandiose Venetian villa on Lake Garda is no exception. Sitting pretty between manicured gardens and blue shores, its fairytale façade (picture sky-high windows, turrets and gold plating) is enough to turn the sturdiest stomach to butterflies. Inside, its suites provide a melt-your-heart scene: Neo-classical paintings caress ceilings fat with cherubs; freestanding tubs long to be filled and supersized beds (with glistening lake views) are poised for your arrival. But, if you really want some alone time, reserve The Boat House – a quaint yet opulent home-from-home perched on the edge of the gently-lapping shore. Romance rating: Love at first sight. Drag yourself away long enough for a garden stroll and meander amid lemon groves and along a lantern-lit path to a croquet green or set sail on La Contessa, the villa’s boat, for a Lake Garda tour for two. www.villafeltrinelli.com

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EssEntial sElEction | Romantic REtREats

Le Meurice, France

Shompole, Kenya

Elegant, chic and hopelessly romantic – how could we possibly fail to mention the ‘City of Love’? Timeless style has graced Le Meurice since 1817 and today it flirts beautifully with contemporary trimmings (marble-clad floors, pure silk fabrics, claw-foot tubs). Rendezvousing in its divinely lavish Restaurant Le Meurice is a must here: the headturning 17th century-inspired space blends white and silver hues, gilded glass, gold-clad chandeliers, poetic art and sky-high windows (peer through to glimpse the pretty-as-a-picture Tuileries Gardens). Add the fine French cuisine (the blue lobster with asparagus jelly ice cream is to die-for, while the Pyrenees milk-fed lamb melts in the mouth) and it’s just the spot to utter ‘je t’aime’. Romance Rating: A lover’s dream. A stay here is like a scene straight from a classic movie (wander to the famous Eiffel Tower for snaps on a spring afternoon). So, don’t be surprised if he pops the question… www.lemeurice.com

Waking up never looked so good than when tinkering on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. A stay here places you at one with the wilderness: six thatched, open-air rooms form a tented oasis where canopied roofs give way to white quartz and honey-hued fig wood. Rise with the sun’s warm rays (though with digs like this, it’s hard to do so in a hurry) and tread barefoot to your private, turquoise plunge pool and gaze across a seamless horizon. While such beautiful shelter is enough to hug the heart, gather more images for your memory box with a safari at dawn or, a sundowner at Lake Natron where you can stop and stare at hot pink flamingos, break for a picnic, then spend the night in the rustic (but no less romantic) Sidal Bush Camp. Romance Rating: A natural wonder. Perfect for the adventurers among you who don’t want to scrimp on style, this retreat dishes out a heavy helping of luxury, all wrapped up in the Kenyan wilderness. www.shompolecollection.com

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EssEntial sElEction | Romantic REtREats

Argos, Turkey

Lion Sands, South Africa

Done Paris, Rome and desert island seclusion? How about spending your nights amid the nooks and crannies of a mansion set on a fantastical landscape dotted with fairy chimneys? Perfect for those pining for a unique getaway, this hotel resides in an ancient dwelling (pictured), spawned from lava and ash of the surrounding mountains. But the views (shrouded in white come winter and laden in red roses and gurgling fountains in spring) aren’t the only natural wonder here. Stone walls, snug furnishings and intimate nooks form the most bizarrely beautiful boudoirs. Our tip? Book a pool suite, where seductive alcoves give way to a personal cave pool for two... Romance rating: Out of this world; literally. Leave the comfort of your cocoon-like suite and take to the skies with a hot air balloon that skims Cappadocia’s alien terrain. Sure to take you both to cloud nine. www.argosincappadocia.com/EN

If your fantasy dwelling is less fairytale castle and more Out of Africa then this secluded spot is sure to tickle your fancy. Make for the depths of Mpumalanga where gasp-inducing, gold plains house the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, home to Lion Sands where animals roam free and busy days are spent supping cool beverages at sunset, tucking into feast-like spreads and embarking on magical game drives. But, while its lodges provide five-star creature comforts, our pick is Chalkley Treehouse. Built around a 500-year-old tree, it’s a virtual love nest: climb in, lay back on cloud-plump linens and steal slumber beneath the African stars. Spellbinding. Romance rating: Wildly romantic. Perfect for those who want to abandon city life and get back to nature. Be sure to book a lamp-lit, riverside dinner where tender meats are cooked on a blazing bush fire. www.lionsands.com/experience/treehouse.php

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From the heart Philip Sherwell visits the central heartland of Vietnam and finds a country that retains its ancient and peaceful charms even as it embraces the 21st century.

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Vietnam | SoutheaSt aSia

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I

f Hanoi is the grand old dame of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City is the brash young floozy, then Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An are the alluring mistresses you encounter along the way. Here landscape, architecture, culture and cuisine work their seduction via subtle charms rather than sensory overload. The first stop on our northsouth journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City was a side trip to the unchanging wonders of Halong Bay, where thousands of limestone outcrops rear from the placid aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The voyage, on a luxury sleep-aboard wooden junk, was an immediate immersion in oriental serenity as we glided calmly through the narrow channels past floating fishing villages where life is lived on the water as it has been for centuries. After the vessel anchored under a moonlit sky, we dined against a spectacular backdrop of pinnacles and towers that, by sunrise, seemed to have morphed into strange sea monsters emerging from the mist. These islands are pitted with caves and chambers and the morning hike to the Grotto of the Heavenly Palace was rewarded with a stunning display of stalactites and stalagmites. We then flew south to the country’s geographic and spiritual heart, Hue, the imperial capital from 1802 to 1945. And from its perch overlooking

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the Perfume River, the Art Deco comfort of La Résidence - the elegant former French colonial governor’s home-turned-hotel provided a majestic base for exploration. Just across the river is the vast citadel laid out by Emperor Gia Long, founder of the Nguyen dynasty that ruled Vietnam for nearly a century and a half until the abdication in 1945 of Bai Dai, the last sovereign. As befitting a Confucian traditionalist, Gia Long looked to China for inspiration for his Imperial City, placing a Forbidden City for his court at the heart of its concentric walls. Meandering through this inner sanctum, within thick walls still pockmarked by the vicious hand-to-hand fighting of the Vietnam War, offers an immediate and visceral crash course in two tumultuous centuries - from imperial via colonial to communist. The monuments and architecture from that heyday suffered heavy damage during the war and were initially neglected by a communist regime intent on turning a collective back on the country’s ‘reactionary’ past after 1975. But major restoration projects are now returning the site to former glories. We watched young boys fishing in its lakes with home-made rods and ate a roadside snack of quail eggs, while we balanced like awkward giants on tiny plastic stools. That evening we dined out in style on


Vietnam | SoutheaSt aSia

‘We rattled past immense forests and mountains plunging to tiny beach-lined bays and sleepy fishing villages’ Opposite page clockwise from left: Local selling fruit from a boat; Old ruin of the My Son; Double room at La Residence. This page from top to bottom: Pho Tai; Docked boats in Halong Bay.

the local speciality banh khoai (a crispy pancake of shrimp, pork and bean sprouts) with nuoc leo (a peanut sauce), bun bo (spicy beef noodle soup) and seafood with vegetables. Food in Hue is served with formality and elegance, with a tradition of ‘royal cuisine’ where as much emphasis is placed on the aesthetics of a dish’s colours and presentation as its contents and cooking. It certainly made for a formidable treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. The next day we struck out for the elaborate royal mausoleums that the emperors built for themselves among the low hills south of town. Our reward for toiling through the heat on bicycles was some glorious snapshots of rural life - as well as the final imperial resting places themselves. At the top of one notably arduous ascent, I caught my breath next to two teenage boys who were busily texting from their mobiles as they awaited customers for the recently butchered hunks of deer seeping blood on to the table in front of them. If that image illustrated how the country’s young are as enthusiastic about technology as their peers elsewhere, then the timelessness of Vietnam was etched into the wrinkles on the face of the birdlike old woman dozing beneath her conical hat in a hammock next to a roadside snack shop in front of a glorious green vista of paddy fields. It was amid this unchanging rural setting that the Nguyen kings built their mausoleums of temples, gardens, stelae and tombs. We happily lost ourselves in various sites before bobbling along rutted routes back to town where, enchanted but exhausted, we revitalised our saddle-sore bodies at La Résidence with a retreat to the spa, a splash in the pool and mocktails at the bar. Reluctantly prising ourselves from the hotel’s attractions the next morning, we made our way to Hue railway station to await the Reunification Express that snakes - at a speed that hardly merits the word ‘express’ - from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in anywhere from 30 to 40 hours. We opted for the three-hour stretch from Hue to the commercial hub of Danang, en route to Hoi An. A young man explained to us in English how much he loathed the communist regime, without bothering to drop his voice, even as two seats away a couple of uniformed army officers stared emotionlessly out the window. They were clearly unaware of his observations and would probably have cared little even if they’d heard. We rattled past immense forests and mountains plunging to tiny beach-lined bays and sleepy fishing villages. But for passengers who had seen this all before, the focus of attention was the food vendor, as she negotiated bags and legs to push a cart piled high with grilled chicken and sun-dried squid through the carriage. The bustling modernity of Danang holds little interest unless you want to see close up how wholeheartedly the country’s rulers have marched from Marx to Mammon. But we were heading for the slowpaced charms and architectural heritage of Hoi An, a 30-minute drive south that took us past the shimmering white sand expanse of China Beach, where the first US Marines waded ashore in 1965 and where luxury all-inclusive resorts and golf courses are now springing up with alacrity.

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Vietnam | SoutheaSt aSia

While Hue still carries the aloofness of its imperial roots and its northern reserve, the historic trading entrepôt of Hoi An feels like the start of the more freewheeling south. No need for a bicycle here - the old town is a grid of just a few streets packed with wonderfully preserved 200-year-old Chinese merchants’ homes and shophouses converted into art galleries, antique stores and tailors. A few miles away, there is the chance to take a break from the sights and soak up the sun on the same glorious white-sand beach that runs down the coast from Danang. And at night, the town assumes a magical air, thanks to the lines of colourful illuminated lanterns that are strung across the streets, and the restaurants along the river come alive. The next day, we ventured inland to My Son and its evocative clusters of ruined temples, built by the Cham kings between the seventh and 13th centuries, but then lost to the jungle when their dynasty collapsed. Yet even as we enjoyed the Indiana Jones atmosphere of the Unesco World Heritage Site, what was just as striking was that the relics of that ancient civilisation had survived Vietnam’s recent violent upheavals at all. For the Vietcong used the site as a refuge during the war and, as the gaping craters illustrate, US commanders unleashed a pounding by B52 bombers to dislodge them. From Hoi An, we headed south via the beaches of Nha Trang to the bustle, chaos and energy of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Our arrival in Hanoi and departure from Ho Chi Minh City book-ended the trip with its own memorable sights, colours and experiences. But it was in exploring the narrow, central heartland of this long snaking land that Vietnam had most magically woven its spell.

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Image: Shutterstock; Photolibrary; La Residence. Text: Philip Sherwell / The Daily Telegraph / The Interview People.

‘At night, the town assumes a magical air, thanks to the lines of colourful illuminated lanterns that are strung across the streets and the restaurants along the river that come alive’


sicily | italy

Sicily’S new dawn Forget the cliches – Italy’s largest island has been reborn and now offers visitors beautiful sights, places to stay and exquisite cuisine. Lee Marshall explores.

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sicily | italy

Clockwise from top left: Chef at Verdura Golf & Spa; Dining room at same hotel; Grilled king prawns; Presidential Suite at same hotel.

S

omething has been happening in Sicily – something that has nothing to do with all those local clichés, from the killer in the double-breasted suit to the decadent, impoverished aristocrat in his crumbling palazzo. The island is radiating a new confidence. Perhaps more importantly for the visitor, it has spawned a new generation of chefs, hoteliers, gallery owners and travel entrepreneurs who are helping it shake off its former bemused or predatory attitudes to foreign tourists and foreign ways. I first visited Sicily in the mid-Eighties. My wife and I fell in love with the place – not least because in March it felt like June – but the hotels we could afford on our post-student budget were (with one exception) barely habitable, and apart from one memorable country meal on the road to Trapani, the food was frustratingly

bad. We knew about the great traditions of Sicilian cuisine, the pasta con le sarde (with sardines and wild fennel), their ways with tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and citrus fruits, the ricotta-filled cannoli desserts. But, perhaps because we were inglesi, they kept trying to give us spaghetti alla bolognese. Which isn’t even a proper Italian dish, let alone a Sicilian one. At the same time the shimmering mosaics of Monreale and Cefalù, the virtually intact Greek temple of Segesta, and Palermo’s spectacular palaces blew us away. Sicily’s historic monuments are still here, thank goodness, some of them looking even better than before: the Roman mosaics of Piazza Armerina, for example, should again be visible in all their glory soon, after a stop-go restoration effort that has dragged on for years. And those nostalgic for the old Sicily will be pleased to know

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‘In Palermo, art galleries, restaurants, B&Bs and craft shops are sprouting like porcini mushrooms’

that not everything has changed. One rainy day last year I decided I would look into Ragusa’s Archaeological Museum. Inside, six people – presumably all related – manned the ticket desk. One reluctantly broke off her conversation to sell me a ticket at a price that had clearly been converted from the lira years (it ended in a bizarre fraction of a euro). The potentially interesting collection, which included some rather lovely black-figure Attic vases, was let down by poor lighting and perfunctory Italian-only labels. And when I went to sign the visitor’s book just as they were impatiently closing up around me, I saw that the page was blank. I was the day’s first and last customer. On the same trip, though, I had what still stands as the best restaurant meal I have ever eaten in Italy (and I have lived in the country for 26 years). It was in La Madia (0039 0922 771 443; www. ristorantelamadia.it) in Licata – a southern Sicilian town almost entirely unknown to tourists, for the very good reason that there’s nothing to see except jerry-built apartment blocks and huddles of men with hard faces who stare at you as you’re trying to park. Behind a nondescript door in this unlikely town, a chef called Pino Cuttaia works wonders with fresh Sicilian ingredients. Pine-nutsmoked fish (inspired, it seems, by the chef’s childhood memories of roasting pine cones over an open fire), or an ‘aubergine Parmigiana’ served in a cocktail glass with the ingredients in deconstructed

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This page clockwise from top left: Chefs at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort; Classic italian car; Local man playing a tuba in Palermo. Opposite page; View along a Palermo street.


sicily | italy

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sicily | italy

Clockwise from top left: Wild mushrooms and herbs at Nangalarruni; Selinunte Temples; Caltabellotta Olive Groves; La Verdura Golf & Spa Resort.

layers, topped with Parmesan foam, may sound like the ultimate in culinary pretension. But they taste divine; and the bill felt like a bargain. Of course, there’s more to a hospitality revolution than one fancy restaurant. What impresses me about the Sicily I’ve seen on three recent visits to different parts of the island is the way that it seems to be getting its act together on all fronts. Up in the Madonie mountains – a wild part of Sicily known for its manna ash trees, which are still tapped to produce sweet resin – I ate in a rustic trattoria called Nangalarruni (0921 671 428; www. hostarianangalarruni.it). All wooden chairs and low brick vaults, it could not have been more different from bright, minimalist La Madia. But there, too, the idea (unthinkable in Sicily even 10 years ago) that outsiders might actually be interested in eating local dishes made from strange local ingredients had taken firm root. They do amazing things with wild mushrooms such as the basilisco (pleurotus nebrodensis), which grows only on certain Madonie limestone hilltops. Once Sicily had only three kinds of hotel: stuffy grand ones for the rich, dull three-stars for commercial travellers and spartan

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sicily | italy

‘What impresses me about the Sicily I’ve seen on three recent visits to different parts of the island is the way that it seems to be getting its act together on all fronts’

guesthouses for the rest of us. Now it also has some hotels you might actually want to stay in, from Rocco Forte’s luxurious La Verdura resort (www. verduraresort.com), near Sciacca on the south-west coast, to funky designer B&Bs such as BB22 in Palermo or Casa Talia in Modica. Even scenic Taormina, for too long the reign of the tired package hotel, has an impressive new boutique five-star, the Metropole (0942 625 417; www.metropoletaormina.com) - while the town’s best located luxury property, the Grand Hotel Timeo (0942 627 0200; www. grandhoteltimeo.net), is looking good after a topto-toe makeover. Villa rentals, too – a risky, word-of-mouth business up to 15 years ago – are now widely available through reputable

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specialists and many of them are as good as anything in Tuscany, thanks to the ever-growing brigade of designconscious, pool-using Italians and foreigners who have bought properties on the island and are now renting them out. Owners of second homes have begun to realise that, besides the area around Ragusa, there’s a lot more to the fertile skirts of Etna than overdone Taormina. Rural villages such as Santa Venera are full of character, the volcanic scenery is full of drama, there are good places to eat and snazzy new boutique hotels (such as Shalai in Linguaglossa: www.shalai.it). Then there are the centri storici, the historic centres of cities such as Palermo or Siracusa. Once plain dangerous – not least because you were liable to be hit by a piece of falling masonry from a slowly disintegrating palazzo – these are now being cleaned up in every sense. Art galleries, restaurants, B&Bs and craft shops are sprouting like porcini mushrooms. But don’t worry if, like me, you actually liked the confusion and colour of Old Palermo: there’s plenty of that left. This is Sicily, after all.

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Images: Photolibrary; Shutterstock; La Verdura; Grand Hotel Timeo. Text: Lee Marshall / The Interview People / The Daily Telegraph.

Clockwise from top left: Locals playing cards; Private terrace of Verdura Golf & Spa Resort’s Presidential Suite; Classic Suite at same hotel.


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CappadoCia | turkey

GoinG UnderGroUnd John Gimlette heads for Cappadocia, in central Turkey, to explore a magical subterranean world more than two thousand years old.

Travel is sometimes a curse, and often a blessing. Just occasionally, it’s like a trip through a children’s story. Earlier this year, we found ourselves in a fable. For a week, we lived next to a little girl who shared her cave with 300 sheep. Over the centuries, her ancestors had hollowed out a pinnacle of rock. It now had so many windows it looked like a multi-storey shortbread. Through the main door I could see a donkey, and then – higher up – stovepipes, light bulbs and a Turkish flag. Here was a warren for human beings. Our own cave was more elegant but with much the same view. It looked out over a huge swathe of Cappadocia; a swirling landscape the colour of oatmeal and peaches; gorges full of pinnacles like clusters of spears; the distant cone of Mount Erciyes, lightly powdered in snow. This being a fable, the pinnacles were known as ‘fairy chimneys’ and every morning the sky was full of hot-air balloons (it’s a longestablished tradition for visitors to drift over Cappadocia in a balloon). While the shepherdess enjoyed all this with her sheep, we watched in Ottoman splendour. Our cave had been transformed. Only Lucy (our five-year old) had a bed in the rock. The rest of our suite erupted grandly out of the ground. One room was like a parliament for sultans. There were alcoves, silks, a magnificent bed, seating for 20 viziers and an acre of Persian rugs. We even had a giant sultan’s bathtub, with a sprawling view across the steppes. Ours wasn’t the only palace inserted in the cliff. A tiny underground street led away to another 30 rooms. They were all unforgettable. Some had sumptuous, subterranean drawing rooms. Others had collections of Roman jewellery or Ottoman costumes just waiting to be worn. Once, all this had been part of a village, deep in the rock. For years, it had lain abandoned after an outbreak of peace. Then, in 2001,

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Clockwise from top left: Aeriel view of Cappadocia; Pool at Museum Hotel; Suite Jacuzzi at same hotel; Cave Suite at same hotel. Opposite Page: Magical fairy chimney or ‘Hoodoo’.

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it was revived by a remarkable man, Ömer Tosun, who named it The Museum Hotel. But all this burrowing needs some explaining. Like so much that is beautiful, it began with extraordinary violence. At first, the brutality was geological. About 70 million years ago, Mount Erciyes exploded, along with two other volcanoes. They smothered the land first in shortbread (properly known as tuff) and then a wafer-thin coating of basalt. Soon, the basalt began to crack, and the elements got in, and tore the tuff away. Eventually all that was left were small blobs of basalt atop columns of tapering tuff. These are the socalled ‘fairy chimneys’ and are up to 100ft tall. Actually, geologists have a much better word for them that’s both sinister and comic: hoodoos.


CappadoCia | turkey

Unfortunately, the next wave of violence was predictably human. With so much ash and sediment, Cappadocia had become famously productive. At a time when the world’s population was 23 million, it had a city of 17,000 souls. Naturally, it was soon attracting unsavoury visitors. Among them were Hittites, Tabals, Persians, Romans (in AD17), Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans. The history of Cappadocia has been a skullcracking tale. In time, people learnt that the only way to survive was by ducking into holes. In this, the tuff was perfect. It could be cut like cake, and a good team of miners could scoop out a mansion in less than a week. The rock would then harden on exposure to air, and keep its shape for hundreds of years. ‘And that,’ said Ömer Tosun, ‘is the

‘Ours wasn’t the only palace inserted in the cliff. A tiny underground street led away to another 30 rooms. They were all unforgettable’

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great miracle of Cappadocia.’ Across the region there are now around 30 underground cities and Mustafa, one of Ömer’s guides, took us to Kaymakli, which was started in the second century as a retreat from the Romans. It was like a city designed by little boys. There were rat runs, escape chutes, bottomless shafts, secret larders and massive millstone doors that rolled into place. We spent what seemed like hours clambering around its streets. ‘And yet,’ said Mustafa, ‘you’ve only seen 20 per cent of it. This city extends eight stories underground…’. Mustafa liked these cities. My favourite was Kolonlu. To get there, we had to walk an hour down Rose Valley, scramble into a gorge, jump two streams, slink along a ledge and then

pass through a crack into the rock. Inside was a beautiful clean-cut nave filled with silvery light. I half-expected to see masons, packing up their tools, but they’d long since left, over a thousand years before. Our last few days, we headed for Mount Erciyes, the source of all the tuff. It stood astride a city called Kayseri. Extending eight storeys up – instead of eight down – modern life clearly isn’t quite as cosy as the old, but there was an intriguing museum. Among its curios, we found some ceramic ‘torpedoes’ (for burying Romans), a dried-up child, and a magnificent sarcophagus carved with the labours of Hercules. Ancient Cappadocia, it seems, was a tough place to live but a terribly elegant place in which to die.

Images: Photolibrary; Shutterstock; Museum Hotel. Text: John Gimlette / The Daily Telegraph / The Interview People.

Clockwise from top left: Dwellings in the fairy stacks; Hot air ballon ride; Suite at the Museum Hotel; Tourist walking through a dug-out passage.


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Kanoo World Traveller May 2011


damascus | syria

Centre Stage Adriaane Pielou revels in the historic splendour of Damascus’ Old City.

My guide, Abdul, is getting into his stride. ‘Damascus is the centre of the world,’ he says. ‘Just look at a map! It’s exactly at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. That is why, in the days of the Arab empire, it was the richest city in the world. All the Silk Road traders stopped here. Everyone!’ He breaks off as the waiter brings our coffee, and chats briefly to the boy (‘He’s one of my students from my Heritage Tourism class!’) while I gaze around. I’m in love. Not with Abdul, endearing though he is, and with whom I am sitting in the Damascus National Museum’s open-air café – a vine-roofed affair, with tree stumps for table supports, overlooking the museum’s straggly garden filled with ancient statues. A thoroughly knowledgeable guide is the greatest travel luxury – and Abdul is the best in the city, according to the local Madame Fixit. But it is a place rather than a person that is making my heart race. Modern Damascus looks very dull – all 1970s apartment blocks and scruffy electrical shops. The Old City, however, the ancient walled enclave around which it has grown, is something else. Dating back more than 4,500 years, it is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. It has the only street mentioned by name in the Bible –

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damascus | syria

‘It’s another world – if no longer the crossroads of the world. And in a few years it will, inevitably, have changed for ever’

Previous page: Shopkeeper with a variety of inlaid boxes outside his shop. Opposite page: Local spice seller. This page clockwise from left to right: Damascus National Museum; Damascus street cafe; Freshly picked lemons; Local fruit seller.

Straight Street, and exerts such an irresistible allure, you find yourself stopping every few steps just to drink in your surroundings: its Roman ruins and magnificent Great Umayyad Mosque, its winding alleys and anonymous wooden doors opening on to courtyards of lemon trees, its black-and-white tiled caravanserai inns, its steamy hammams, and its vast souk where men selling rosebuds, spices, silver and brocade stand behind the same wooden counters as their great-grandfathers did. It is mesmerising – and utterly safe, too, at any time of day. There is no irritating hassling from shopkeepers, either (Syrians are far too cool for that). It’s another world – if no longer the crossroads of the world. And in a few years it will, inevitably, have changed for ever. A decade or so ago, there was nowhere for visitors to stay in the Old City – nowhere with any degree of luxury, anyway. Then, in 2005, five years after President Bashar al-Assad came to power, extending a newly welcoming hand to tourists, the first boutique hotel opened. Exquisitely converted from a 19th-century house by the same Madame Fixit, May Mamarbachi, the eight-room Bait

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‘There is plenty in Damascus to fill a long weekend. The National Museum alone could occupy a day. It is revelatory’

Al-Mamlouka, with its courtyard, fountain and enchantingly tiled bedrooms, attracted a stream of eager visitors from the start. Today you have to book months ahead. Of the dozen similar little hotels that have opened, the latest, where I am staying, is the delectable Al Pasha, a palace of birdsong, rosewood furniture with mother-of-pearl inlay, and the constant, cooling sound of trickling water. Restaurants and cafés now dot Straight Street. Souvenir shops and art galleries have opened. Syrians who for years worked abroad have begun returning to capitalise on the city’s blossoming as a tourist destination, among them an interior designer who has restored the sprawling Farhi Palace to exactly how it looked when the artist Frederic Leighton painted it in 1874. That will open as a seriously luxurious hotel at the end of next year. And the most useful thing I can tell you is simply – go now, while you can walk streets that still look as they did when Agatha Christie, another eager visitor, stayed in the 1930s. If you have time, it would make sense to go for a week and tour the whole of Syria, seeing Aleppo, with its medieval souk, the romantic, ruined desert city of Palmyra, and the outrageously romantic Krak des Chevaliers, the world’s best-preserved Crusader castle. However, there is plenty in Damascus to fill a long weekend. The National Museum alone could occupy a day. It is revelatory. There, I discovered whole civilisations I’d never heard of before. In a section about the Eblan, for instance, its entrance marked by an ancient life-size alabaster figure of an indignant-looking pop-eyed man in a woven skirt, are cuneiform tablets dating from 2,250BC. ‘Excavated in 1975, Ebla’s records rewrote history,’ says Abdul proudly. ‘And they talk about ordinary matters, too. See here: For a long and healthy life, eat olives. We in Syria still say olives for breakfast give you energy all day!’ We pore over clay models of a house with courtyard and a schoolroom made 4,500 years ago. ‘I see these a thousand times and never do I tire,’ says Abdul, eyes gleaming. I tear myself away to see the ancient Umayyad Mosque. Shrouded in the abaya, I enter a massive marble courtyard where, unexpectedly, people lounge around on the ground and children play. A group of Iraqi refugees, faces etched with trauma, pass. Inside, worshippers push prayers on slips of paper into the tomb that holds the head of John the Baptist.

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Also located here is the Treasury from Damascus’s glory days (‘Ah, the third century was our century,’ Abdul sighs nostalgically), a windowless room on stilts that could be accessed only by ladder. Opposite the mosque, a ruined Roman Temple of Jupiter marks the entrance to a warren of shop-lined streets. And every step offers a vignette. En route back to the hotel, I push at a wooden door and find myself in the latest outpost of the Dubai-based high-fashion Villa Moda group. On one floor, the brocade makers who in 1952 made the fabric for the Queen of England’s wedding dress have an outlet. ‘We still make designs we made 200 years ago,’ whispers an elderly weaver. Nearby, opposite the Hammam Ammouneh (women from 8am to 8pm, men from 8pm to 8am) is a stall piled with rather more affordable olive-oil soaps. ‘The nicely packaged ones are for tourists, and the plain ones are for locals… much better quality,’ murmurs Abdul. Definitely go now.

Images: Photolibrary; Shutterstock; Bait Al- Mamlouka. Text: Adriaane Pielou / The Daily Telegraph / The Interview People.

‘You find yourself stopping just to drink in your surroundings: its Roman ruins and magnificent Great Umayyad Mosque’


louisiana | usa

Lost in Louisiana Deep in the south-west is a part of America unlike any other, a haunting region of lakes and wetlands, grand plantation houses – and secretive communities. Sara Wheeler falls under the spell of Cajun country.

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Clockwise from bottom left: A hedge maze at a local plantation; Caddo Bayou; Alligator lurking in black water.

he scent of tupelo honey drifted through the flaking colonnade. Across the cane fields, mist rose from Bayou Teche, the 125-mile-long waterway that meanders through southern Louisiana, veiling a weathered black sugarhouse. My companion, a true-born Cajun, looked out from the porch of the decaying planter’s mansion at a Mississippi kite describing a series of loops in the stifled tropical air. ‘Welcome to America’s greatest backwater,’ he said. I had driven 150 miles from New Orleans to the swamps of south-west Louisiana in order to find out what ‘Cajun’ means in modern America, beyond a coating of chilli seasoning. My companion, Marcel, had offered to show me round the old sugar plantations of New Iberia and Lafayette County. Marcel had left home for The Big Easy 20 years earlier, and made a good living as a software engineer. Highway182 crept west across the lowlands and their farm-supply outlets, piercing unbroken acres of cane. Gun racks rattled on the back of the passing pick-ups. While Marcel visited a sick uncle, I continued west to the tiny sugar settlement of Erath (pronounced ‘ay rat’), where a sign outside a two-room museum gave the phone number of the town hall. I rang it. It was 98 degrees as I waited for someone to arrive, with humidity at 99 per cent. The old-fashioned languor of the Deep South lay over the deserted street like a blanket. Shortly, a Pontiac drew up and out stepped Inez, an 86-year-old civic volunteer. The museum was full of wooden sugar boilers, carved clogs and damp-stained family photos depicting wholesome farming families with dozens of tow-haired infants. But Inez wasn’t interested in any of that. She wanted to drive me to her home and give me a jar of the warm fig jam she had made that morning. St Martinville lies on one of the Hurricane Evacuation Routes that crosshatch Louisiana. Eating Inez’s jam from the pot with my fingers, and sitting in the shade of a Southern live oak, I noted that the names on all the St Martinville mailboxes were French. The oak was bearded with Spanish moss and tightly curled fronds of Resurrection fern, an


louisiana | usa

Clockwise from top left: Fiat 1100 vintage car; New Orleans villa; Old sign at Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

epiphyte that comes back to life in tropical rain. French-speaking Cajuns came to Louisiana as pioneers, backwoodsmen and exiles twice over. Their forebears, poor Poitou farmers, had migrated to what is now Maritime Canada in 1604. The French back home wanted fur and cod, and the settlement flourished. They had named it Acadia. But when the British acquired the region in 1713, they rechristened it Nova Scotia. Acadians refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown, and in 1755, after years of harassment, George II ordered his colonial administrators to throw them out. At least half the Acadian population died during what they still call “Le Grand Dérangement” (The Great Exile), from smallpox, typhus or starvation. But from 1764, 3,000 Acadians made their home in the hot and barely populated prairies and wetlands of south-west Louisiana. The clan had adapted once; now they would adapt again. A new Acadia rose from the jungle, and the name of its hard-working people evolved from Acadian to Cadian and Cajun. They knew how to plant, fish and hunt, and the land, though inhospitable, was fertile. In time, by dint of hard work and endurance, Cajuns became the first group of European colonists to acquire and retain a distinctive North American identity. For a period in the early decades of the 20th century, ‘Cajun’ was a term of abuse. It meant white trash. But eventually the zeitgeist changed, as it always does, and ethnic revival stoked international interest in things Cajun. Local businesses rushed to incorporate the word Cajun into their names, the rest of America tuned in to Swamp Pop, and the state legislature in Baton Rouge officially designated 22 parishes Acadiana. More recently, detective writers Daniel Woodrell and James Lee Burke pioneered bayou noir. For more than two centuries, then, Cajuns have walked a tightrope between assimilation and independence. Nobody speaks French anymore, but a lilting accent of old Poitou lingers. The community, numbering several hundred thousand, remains relatively homogeneous and rooted in the region. (Marcel was the only one of his extended family who had

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‘Not quite southern and not quite western, the Cajun region remains its own place; a place apart’

left). In the American psyche, Cajuns have come to represent a brand of noble endurance; they were the bits that didn’t melt in the melting pot. Their survival in a mysterious region where alligators rear from primordial swamp evokes a tribal capacity to win through, an increasingly attractive model in our gruesomely individualistic age. Marcel, still Cajun in his heart, liked to boast about the food. At his family home, his mother ladled out crawfish etouffée, a hot gumbo of bony crawfish tails and unctuous white gravy. It was hard to get away from crawfish. The legend goes that when the Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia, the local lobsters followed. During the swim down the coast of North America, the crustaceans got thinner, ending up as the crawfish endemic in the swamps and bayous. There’s not much to a crawfish, which is perhaps why spice is the determining factor in Cajun food. Marcel had plenty of complaints about the bland meals he had been served on a recent trip to Paris. In fact, Cajun cuisine is a blend of French (a ubiquitous brown roux came via Nova Scotia), west African (okra arrived with slaves from what is now Mali) and Spanish (the region was once a Spanish colony), with native Americans contributing spicy filé powder ground from dried sassafras leaves. If truth be told, you can eat better in the restaurants of New Orleans’ Garden District. But I loved the Cajun lunch-counters strung out along the country roads. Waitresses called me ‘baby’ and the food came in paper bags rather than on plates. Not quite southern and not quite western, the Cajun region remains its own place; a place apart. It is an underbelly, south even of the Bible Belt, which by common consent starts above Interstate 10. Left to itself and isolated, the indigenous ecosystem has flourished more or less unmolested, like the Cajuns. From a shadowed glade on Bayou Anse I watched snowy egrets and roseate spoonbills

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Opposite page: Sugar cane worker. This page clockwise from top left: French-style architectural detail; Boiled crawfish with green onion; Local Cajun playing an accordian.


louisiana | usa

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‘In the American psyche, Cajuns have come to represent a brand of noble endurance; they were the bits that didn’t melt in the melting pot’

skimming the shimmering surface of a 200ft still pool while a tiny tricoloured heron fed under a sweet gum. Nothing else moved. The landscape was infused with the particular blue light of the bayous, and it could not have been mistaken for any other place in North America. And of course there are ‘gators. I never saw one, but I did see Gator Autos, outside Lafayette. Sugar has always fuelled the local economy and still does. Smallscale Cajun farmers own their land, but Big Sugar owns the refineries and funds a powerful lobby in both Washington and Baton Rouge. The Cajun wetlands marked the western axis of the antebellum industry. Many among the 19th-century sugar elite – some Cajun, and all slave-owners – built Classical Revival plantation homes at the headwaters of the Teche. After the invention of the steam sugar mill in 1840, things got very grand indeed. In New Iberia, each planter built a private landing on the bayou, and at the end of December his slaves would pack tons of crystallised sugar into hogsheads to

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be poled across to the Mississippi. The planter then set off to New Orleans, for Mardi Gras. Marcel had tried to evoke the amalgam of America and 17thcentury France that has made such an indelible impression on this enigmatic corner of rural Louisiana. Although the music and food are cause for celebration, true Cajun culture is not really about that. It is about the weight of history, and something indefinably other that has survived the centuries along with folk memories of a good roux and a clannish determination to keep going, whatever the next hurricane or government might bring. We drove back to New Orleans, ramping up the air-con. Just before we left the rural roads to join an interstate, Marcel pointed at a sign high on the bank of a drainage canal. ‘Look at that!’ he said, as if he had found what he was looking for. ‘See the K – as in Kool Aid?’ I looked up, across a patch of swamp toothed with cypress stumps. In the foreground, the sign advertised Kajun Donuts.

Images: Shutterstock; Photolibrary. Text: Sara Wheeler / UltraTravel / The Interview People

Opposite page: Southern street musician. This page clockwise from bottom left: Crawfish boil; A pepper plantation; Riverfront street car in New Orleans.


louisiana | usa

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www.VisitGoldCoast.com


concierge cambodia | Valencia | Buenos Aires | Australia

The 30-second concierge

SuddharTh Mehra, aManSara Describe the look and feel of the resort for us... Set in a private garden compound, it was previously the guest villa of Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk and has since been transformed into a 24-suite retreat. As a former royal enclave it has all the ambience of a grand home and now serves as a beautiful base from which to explore the historic sites of Angkor and the local Khmer culture.

food. There you can weave through the labyrinth-like passages, picking up local ingredients as you go, and stop by a noodle shop to see ‘nom ben chock’ (fresh rice noodles) being made. Next we drive to a country farm and gather herbs, chilies and salad before preparing lunch in a traditional kitchen (no gas or electricity!) assisted by a chef. Once lunch is cooked you can tuck in against a backdrop of the Cambodian countryside.

I want to stay in your most gorgeous suite – which should I book? One of our pool suites. We have just 12, each of which features a swimming pool that flows through the villa’s private courtyard. Request a table and chairs to be set up outside and you can dine privately here too.

Where would you recommend for dinner? Inside the resort, our Circular dining room is an idyllic place to eat beneath a soaring, seven-metre high ceiling. But, if you want to head further out, I heartily suggest a romantic, sunset dinner at Khmer Village house which is set in an archeological park studded with mango trees and date palms. There a chef prepares your meal on a charcoal fire as you sit on the veranda (lit by garden flares); all the more majestic as daylight fades. www.amanresorts.com/amansara

I have a free day; what should I do? How about an excursion to learn the art of Khmer cooking? We set off at 7.30am for ‘pasa ler’ (a big local market) which is teaming with fresh

May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 77


Spain

Visit VaLencia

Barmy for Barcelona? Mad for Madrid? Save space in your affections for Spain’s third thriving metropolis, says Laura Binder.

This page clockwise from bottom left: Valencia FC; Triumphal Arch; The city’s historic architecture; Shoppers at Mercado Central market; Classic paella. Opposite page: City of Arts and Science Museum.

W

hile her famous sisters continued to hog the limelight, Valencia emerged as the lesser-known host of the america’s Cup – twice. The 2007 and 2010 yacht race put this far-from-mediocre city on the tourist map as a must-see destination, plump with Spanish charm: warm climes linger, olive-skinned locals ooze fun, easy-going style and paella has never tasted better (this is its birthplace, after all). But Valencia is also a city with agricultural roots: the not-to-be-missed sight is not the beaches (though with palms teetering over Med coastlines they’re not to be sniffed at) but its flaming, orange blossom groves which fill the air with a sugary scent. Mid-March is the best time to see the city in bloom, though, when the vibrant Fallas carnival descends in a whirl of fireworks, parades and street parties (don’t expect to get any sleep). Recover with an idle day supping Horcharta (a tiger nut tipple) and savour the calm...

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MUST-DOS La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (1) (aka City of Arts and Science Museum) is nothing short of an architectural wonder. Outside, its eyeball-like façade looks fit for a Sci Fi film and inside it’s another (futuristic) world. Head straight for Oceanogràfic (Europe’s biggest aquarium) or try its centrallylocated science museum (it looks like a huge, prehistoric fish) which kids will love thanks to its strict ‘do touch’ policy. Markets are rich in delicious offerings here so make for Mercado Central (2) a sprawling display of stalls that each offer mouthwateringly good fare.

Sunday? Bag a bargain at Plaza Luís Casanova (3), a roaming flea market of treasures. If you’re all loved-up, take a gentile boat trip along the La Albufera’s (4) lake for a taste of Spanish romance; even sultrier by sunset. You simply can’t leave without trying the staple paella and Malvarrosa beach (5) is home to some truly authentic eateries. Set in an expanding, dockside neighbourhood, it serves as a picture-perfect setting for people-watching too. The annual festival of La Tomatina (6) sees Valencians and travellers flock to the town of Bunol where truckloads of the


ConCieRge | ValenCia SHUT UP SHOP: When it comes to shopping you’ll have to plan your spree around residents’ siestas, which means most shops are shut from 2-4pm. QUE? The correct pronunciation of Valencia is, ‘bahl-ehn-theeah’, so why not say it like a local?

Westin Valencia (11) Amadeo de Saboya, 16 46010 starwoodhotels.com/westin Dating back to 1917, this building stings of a classical Valencian era. For the lap of luxury, request the Royal Suite – a cooinducing monochrome room with black-jewel chandeliers cascading from the ceiling. Come nightfall, tuck into Med fare at Rosmarino (best eaten on its pretty terrace) and don’t stop there; the hip, purple-hued H-Club Valencia is the most decadent spot for a night-cap. Double rooms from $244.

WHERE TO EAT La Pepica (12) Paseo Neptuno 2, 6 y 8 www.lapepica.com While paella restaurants are plentiful, it’s not every day you get to eat in the same spot as

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Regarded as one of the finest eateries in Valencia and one of the country’s elite, (it was formerly named best Spanish restaurant by the National Gourmet Club) this is an envyinducing eatery to head for a slap-up meal. Mediterranean cuisine reigns supreme and its seafood is delicious: choose from a long list of caviar, gigantic prawns, lobster and more. Whatever you order, expect it to arrive in art-worthy form. Mains from $43.

6 Bunol (35km)

WHERE TO STAY Hospes Palau de La Mar (10) Navarro Reverter, 14 46004 www.hospes.com This boutique bolthole sets up the most modern residence inside two former 19th century palaces. The contrast is a sight to behold; clean lines and minimalist finishes against period features fit for a royal dwelling. Our top pick is the Junior Suite 501 for its roaming space and super-plush bathroom (be sure to take a long soak in its freestanding tub before bed). Rooms from $165.

Ernest Hemingway. Take a copy of The Dangerous Summer and relive his experience firsthand; ‘Dinner at Peica’s was wonderful’, he wrote, ‘you could hear the sea breaking on the beach and the lights shone on the wet sand’. The original owner’s family is still in charge, so you’re in for a classic cocktail of sticky, yellow rice fat with meat or seafood. Mains $29. Ca Sento (13) Calle Mendez Nuñez, 17 46024 www.casento.net

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squishy, scarlet fruit are driven in, and one riotous food fight begins. Good, er, ‘clean’, fun. Valencia is chockfull of landscaped parks fit for a fairytale but you have to see the famous Jardines del Turia (7).It sets up home in the former Turia riverbed, which ran through the entire city but was transformed into the scene you see today due to repeated flooding. Walk, cycle, picnic or let little ones loose in its kids’ playground. Football fanatic? So are the Valencians. Book a ticket and watch the beautiful game from one of the 55,000 seats at the mighty Mestalla stadium (8). Amble through the Old Quarter (9) and you’ll find yourself in souk-like streets that harp back to a bygone era. Break at an al fresco tapas haunt, treat yourself at an ice cream parlour and, if you’re all walked-out, there’s a certain charm to the area’s horse and carriage rides.

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ArgentinA

Visit Buenos Aires One trip to South America’s most distinctive city cues a long-lasting love affair for Jenni Ashdon.

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ix London, Barcelona and Paris and you’ll be a step closer to creating this sizzling hot dish of a city. For would-be visitors, the Argentinean capital serves up an experience like no other with a heady blend of flavours that even the most seasoned of travellers can’t fail to gobble up with glee. tango dancers stomp their well-heeled shoes on the cobbled streets, gorgeous residents (porteños) swagger by, while ageing street cafes, fantastic ‘parrillada’ (steakhouses), offbeat boutiques and open-air markets provide seductive scenes to indulge your weakness for food and fashion. Stroll on and find polished neighbourhoods versus shabby streets full of fervor – a contrast that’s all part of BA’s charm. Wildly beautiful and distinctly european, ragged around the edges yet full of warmth, one trip will have you hooked.

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MUST-DOS Don’t even try to resist stopping to stare at the passionate Tango dancers who stomp seductively in the streets and evoke a true taste of this sultry city. To really get to grips with the dance, visit Club de Tango (1) on Parana 123, home to an array of memorabilia as well as fab art souvenirs. Alternatively, slick back your locks and book a lesson - you’ll find plenty on offer.

on sale in the main square, while street performers vie for public attention. It’s less about the shopping and more about the atmosphere. Not-to-be-missed. You haven’t felt a surge of Argentinean passion till you’ve seen a Boca Juniors (3) football match. Fans are fanatical, their singing irrepressible and the talent on pitch some of the finest in the country. Tickets can be pricey but the incredible atmosphere is a real experience.

Sunday? Join the throngs at San Talmo’s antiques market (2). Tango music blares out, trinkets and kitsch goodies are

Get out of town (an hour, to be precise) with a day trip to Tigre (4) and stretch your legs in a classic BA neighbourhood;


concierge | BuenoS AireS

Opposite page clockwise from left: Vibrant street parade; Colourful houses in La Boca; Stadium of Boca Juniors; Street sign for Tango lessons. This page: Street dancers.

SEASONS GREETINGS: BA’s southern hemisphere setting places its seasons in reverse; summer is from December to February while winter is from June to August. WINDY CITY: Buenos Aires means ‘fair winds’ in Spanish, while inhabitants are dubbed ‘portenos’, meaning people from the port.

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beautiful colonial houses look fit for a romance novel and eateries dot streets that are flanked by leafy trees. Go to the Botanic Garden (5) while you’re there (at 170-years-old it’s something of a national monument) and amble among enchanting sculptures, multiple plants before pausing to take in a chess match between locals.

Images: Shutterstock.

Spend an idle afternoon exploring Boca’s Caminito (6) (‘the colourful buildings’) where you can take in a live tango show before perusing Fundacion Proa (7) (a modern art gallery) where the sights are not just restricted to the inside – head onto its rooftop terrace and snap the awesome vistas that unravel before you. Shop til you drop in Palermo (8). This effortlessly cool area is home to an endless array of boutique shops where you’re sure to find a one-off piece to remember BA by. WHERE TO STAY Faena Hotel and Universe (9) Martha Salotti 445 www.faenahoteland universe.com Approach this hotel’s majestic 1902 façade and it’s virtually impossible not to fall head over heels for its opulent charms. A

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step inside transports you back to old Argentina and a meal at el Mercado restaurant is a must (its breakfasts will have you out of bed in a shot), with its long table, velvet chairs and glam-rustic style. The suites, meanwhile, could break hearts; dripping in red fabrics and jewel-laden chandeliers they’re hopelessly romantic. From $116. InterContinental BA (10) 809 Moreno Street www.icshotelgroup.com luxurious and seriously sophisticated, the InterContinental serves as a soothing retreat from lively days (and nights) spent in this non-stop city. located in the Old Town (with the famous Calle

Florida shopping street just a totter away), its décor blends 1930s style with all the luxury mod cons a traveller could wish for. receive a bout of post-party pampering with a trip to its spa, where a long list of massages is sure to relieve aching loins. From $179. WHERE TO EAT Cafe Tortoni (11) Avenida de Mayo 825 www.cafetortoni.com.ar In a city that’s all about cafes, this has to be one of the best – and oldest. Pull up a dark, leather-clad pew and its decadent, richly-coloured surrounds will send you into a Parisian-style world. A rich

history and hard-to-resist setting makes it something of a magnet for tourists but, with nightly tango shows, it’s definitely worth snagging a table. Mains from $9. la Cabrera (12) Carbrera 5099 or Carbrera 5127 www.parrillalacabrera.com.ar You’ll need to call weeks in advance to get a seat at this steakhouse hotspot. But, you’ll be glad you did. Food comes in the shape of hearty local steaks and other meaty dishes that hit the spot each and every time. if you haven’t booked, arrive at 8.30pm and you may be in luck – pre-booked diners who don’t show within 15 minutes are cancelled. Mains from $15.

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concierge | book your trip

win A stylish two-night stAy At the ArmAni hotel dubAi When it comes to experiencing the height of luxury, Armani Hotel Dubai is hard to beat: set inside the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, its 160 rooms represent the most stylish in the city - no surprise seeing as they were designed by the fashion icon himself. But tear yourself away from your design-driven room for long enough to take up a table at one of the hotel’s eight restaurants (Ristorante’s soft gold surrounds make for a fine setting in which to indulge in superb Italian dishes). You’ll also want to enjoy a treatment at the hotel’s serene spa (the world’s first Armani Spa, no less), or recline by its rooftop pool which serves as a breathtaking reminder of your sky-high setting.

ThE PrizE To fully enjoy this beautiful hotel, we’re giving away a two-night stay for two in an Armani Classic room, including a daily breakfast, to one very lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning, email your answer to the question below to easywin@ hotmediapublishing.com before May 31, 2011.

Q. In which iconic building does the Armani Hotel Dubai reside? a) Big Ben b) Burj Khalifa c) Eiffel Tower TERMS AND CONDITIONS: All dates are subject to availibility and exclude UAE public holidays. Prize must be claimed within six months.

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May 2011 Kanoo World Traveller 83


concierge | australia

Suite dreamS

With panoramas like this, parting with your suite will be your only source of holiday woe. A stay here takes you to the tip of Kangaroo Island on Australia’s south coast where you’ll discover the jewel of this luxury lodge; Osprey Pavillion, where panoramic windows place you in a virtual bubble, floating atop a sensationally rugged coastline. Between that and the thicket of rich, green wilderness and irresistibly-soft white sand, it’s impossible not to surrender yourself entirely to a state of sheer desertion. While its sunken lounge serves as the coolest of spots from which to absorb your newfound surrounds, the suite’s open bathroom simply can’t be ignored: patter barefoot across its heated, limestone floors and plonk lazily in its giant, granite bath where you can inhale a horizon-skimming view. Alternatively, head to its private terrace where a plunge pool looks like a springboard to the sea. Soul-stirring stays guranteed. www.southernoceanlodge.com.au

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Kanoo World Traveller May 2011

Image: Southern Ocean Lodge

SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, AUSTRALIA


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