T H E U K ’ S B I G G E S T I N D E P E N D E N T T R AV E L M A G A Z I N E
THE WINTER SUN SPECIAL
WINTER SUN . P38
Hummingbirds, Costa Rica
coxandkings.co.uk/costa-rica To speak to an expert or request a brochure, call 020 3813 5112 quoting ESCM
FACE TO FACE WITH
Costa Rica The small country of Costa Rica is one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth. A nature-lover’s paradise, Costa Rica’s landscapes range from smouldering volcanoes, cloud forests and coffee plantations to pristine rainforests and beautiful beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Natural Splendours of Costa Rica 11-day tour from £1,745 • View the Arenal volcano from your superior hotel • Discover the wetland habitat of Caño Negro • Explore the hanging bridges of Monteverde • Cruise the canals of Tortuguero • Small group size – maximum 26
THE MOUNTAIN IS YOURS Celebrate a fresh year with fresh snow this winter
Enjoy New Year in the mountains at crystalski.co.uk
ATOL protected. For more information please see our booking conditions.
D E PA R T U R E S 16 18 23 28 33
MEANS OF ESCAPE INSTANT ANORAK JUST LANDED UK CITY FOCUS SHORT STAY
D E PA R T U R E S
GLORY DAYS: Danny MacAskill on top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle was captured by Chris Prescott on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The picture, featured in the Living the View Adult Class of the Take A View Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2015, shows the trials cyclist balanced on the knife-edge summit of the Cuillin Ridge.
Photograph by ###
D E PA R T U R E S
HEAD FOR KITES: The Classic View Adult Class category in the Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards included David Tiplingâ€™s Aerial View of Saltmarsh and Tidal Creeks, taken in North Norfolk. The image was captured using a modified box kite that falconers use to keep the birds in, which was launched into the sky. Minus the falcons, obviously.
Photograph by ###
SKY’S THE LIMIT: Marcus McAdam’s picture The Table was captured at the Heart of the Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland. The small figure pictured is McAdam’s friend, who gives the dramatic image a sense of scale. It was featured in the Living The View Adult Class category of the Take A View Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2015.
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Photograph by ###
D E PA R T U R E S
GOLDEN BROWN: Captured by Chinch Gryniewicz, this picture, titled Balance, has been featured in the 2015 Landscape Photographer of the Year awards in the Classic View Adult Class section. Taken at Rhossili Bay in Wales, the picture shows the golden plume of a receding winter rainstorm on the beach. For more like this, check out Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 9 (AA Publishing, ÂŁ25) and visit take-a-view.co.uk
Photograph by ###
Direct aisle access. Because you can’t always choose who you sit next to. Experience Prestige Class, the most comfortable way to fly. Relax in the privacy of our spacious Prestige Suites, knowing that direct aisle access guarantees you’ll never disturb anyone, or more importantly, be disturbed. And with a larger screen and more advanced AVOD, it’s like having your own home entertainment system in the air. Fly the only Business Class that puts you first. Disclaimer Prestige Suite available on new aircraft, to be progressively rolled-out on new long haul fleet deliveries. Korean Air reserves the right to substitute aircraft, product variant does not form part of any contract.
Reservation : 0800-413-000 (UK) 00800-0656-2001 (UK & Ireland) Ticketing : 020-7495-8641 (UK)
D E PA R T U R E S A sailing holiday means you can reach parts of the sea that others can’t. Taking a dip in balmy waters is nice, but doing it with only coral for company is even nicer.
Fancy channeling your inner Jay Z and sailing the high seas on a superyacht? Of course you do. And now you can, with Zizoo. Now, where did we leave that bottle of Cristal...
JUST LANDED WHAT’S NEW IN TRAVEL
BOAT PARTY ZIZOO BOAT CHARTER
ROOM AT THE INN INN PLACES Back in the day, pubs and inns were places for weary travellers to down some ale, rest their horse and catch some shut eye. Cracking idea, we think, and Inn Places, a newly launched website featuring pubs and inns with rooms in the UK, is providing some great long-weekend inspiration. The site features anything from stately coaching inns to cosy 17th-century country pubs with very appealing post-session beds. Beer and sleep – we’re sold. innplaces.co.uk
OUTSIDE THE BOX HORSEBOX HOTEL If you’re hankering after the good old days of shovelling shit out of your pony’s stable (what? you didn’t do that? No, neither did we), then this might just satisfy your nostalgia. The Hobbit Box is a newly converted horse box bedroom located near the picturesque Suffolk coastline and bookable through One Off Places. On the box’s glamping site you’ll also have the chance to try whittling and bushcraft sessions (your guess is as good as ours), while your accommodation is of the cosy-andrustic rather than freezing-and-damp kind. Time to hit the hay! (Sorry.) oneoffplaces.co.uk
First you could borrow someone’s home, then their dog, and now their boat. Zizoo is a new online booking platform for people who love ogling superyachts and catamarans but don’t have the salary to own one. Now you can charter someone else’s boat for a fraction of the price, while channeling the A-list lifestyle (with less champers and more cava – but when we’re wearing a captain’s hat, we ain’t complaining). It’s one of a new wave of boat-charter sites; book now for discounts for 2016 sailings. zizoo.com
GO PRO SHERPA GEAR The Nepalese Sherpa people are the real heroes of Himalayan mountaineering, and technical clothing brand Sherpa – itself Sherpa-owned – aims to give something back. The Paldorje Education Fund for Sherpa children receives a donation from the sale of every product, including the brand’s new, high-performance Shakti jacket. £240; sherpaadventuregear.co.uk
T R AV I S R I C E
Photo by: Travis Rice
MANAGE + SHARE
GOPRO APP + GOPRO STUDIO
D E PA R T U R E S
SOUL SEARCHING SOUL & SURF SRI LANKA Anyone who’s tried to squeeze into a wetsuit knows it’s a traumatic experience. So instead of learning to surf in the chilly waters of England’s south coast, how about hopping on a plane to the new Soul & Surf outpost on the sun-drenched shores of southern Sri Lanka? Along with twice-daily surf lessons (including video analysis) the retreat includes yoga and meditation sessions, canoe-based river jaunts and pretty plush accommodation at Duwa Villas. From £775pp based on two sharing a room. soulandsurf.com
DOGBUDDY A HOLIDAY FOR YOUR DOG According to ABTA, over 70% of us are opting for far-flung holidays over the staycation. All fine, until your dog gives you the sad-eyes treatment. Don’t fret, though, because new dog-sitting app DogBuddy is here; a one-stop-shop of sitters who’ll look after your pooch while you gallivant around the world. The site, and new app, features a map with sitters in your location, and each profile includes pictures of the sitter’s home and their daily rate. Along with that, there are vets on 24/7 standby and you can receive pics of your dog on his own jollies. #selfie #pugalicious uk.dogbuddy.com
REAL EYE-OPENER NEW SOUTH SUDAN TOUR Travelling independently in South Sudan isn’t impossible, but it’s logistically very tricky. That’s why Native Eye Travel, a company specialising in intrepid and responsible trips, has launched a group tour to ‘Africa’s forgotten world’; a nine-day trip that explores the world’s newest country, from the boomtown capital of Juba to the remote homelands of the Mundari tribes. It’s not an easy journey, but one that will be both fascinating and rewarding, and unlike any other trip you’re likely to take. £3,175pp. nativeeyetravel.com
Learning to surf may not be the easiest of tasks, but your perseverance will pay off when you get to recover from a day of being bashed about by the waves at Duwa Villas.
Go on a voyage of discovery with Native Eye Travel, who can expertly guide you through parts of the world that may otherwise prove a little inaccessible.
GET OUT OF TOWN NEW QUEENS HOTEL Dutch Kills isn’t as morbid as it sounds – promise. In fact, it’s an emerging ‘hood in Long Island City, Queens – that outer borough of New York that you definitely need to visit. The newly opened design-centric Boro Hotel is 108 bedrooms of industrial-chic, and its location means you can explore beyond Manhattan but still reach the sights by subway. From £120pn. borohotel.com
South Tyrol seeks winter lovers looking for the Alps’ best-kept secret. South Tyrol seeks you.
Discover more about So uth Tyro l at suedtiro l.info/ dolomigh ty
a ch 4
Discover Italy’s beautiful hidden gem, with breathtaking views set against the dramatic backdrop of the Dolomites. 300 days of sun shine and guaranteed snow on more than 1,000 km of slopes means South Tyrol offers a truly unique skiing experience. Exquisite food and wine, delivered with friendly local hospitality, make the après ski as perfect as the setting. Come and see how Italian flair and German precision combine to create the ultimate winter holiday. www.suedtirol.info/dolomighty
12/18/11 4:46 PM
1/4/12 10:29 AM
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WEIRD WORLD Things you never knew you loved. This month: drinks with Will Ferrell (sort of ), teddy tours and a new way to flirt NEW YORK, US
MEANS OF ESCAPE
Think the travel industry doesn’t cater for catobsessed cruise lovers? Think again, people… #23 MEOW MEOW CRUISE
and large bodies of open water being a combination made in feline hell, but you will be able to parade pictures of your kitty to cruise-goers who may actually appreciate them. That’s a big ‘may’, however. Guests on the Meow Meow Cruise (the next one’s in March) will have to share the ship with normal cruise-goers, who, if they show appropriate interest, get to join in the Meow Meow karaoke and Meow Meow trivia. Fingers-crossed they’re not dog people – then the claws could really be out. e
JAPAN Imagine going on holiday and leaving Big Ted behind! Thankfully, Unagi Travel has the answer. For $40, they’ll send your teddy on a tour of Japan, to see Mount Fuji, bathe in an onsen, ‘eat’ sushi and maybe meet some teddies of the opposite sex and have a series of ill-advised romantic liaisons in cheap Tokyo hotels. Keep up with pictures online, because #picsoritdidnthappen, obvs.
SLOVAKIA If your normal flirtation methods aren’t working, try adopting a tactic used by men in rural Slovakia*. Every Easter Monday men travel to the homes of women they fancy and… whip them. On the bum. If the woman’s keen on her admirer, she’ll then invite them in for vodka (oi-oi!). A gentler version involves drenching them in ice-cold water. Nice. *Never take our relationship advice.
Photograph by (Slovakia) Robert Nemeti / Barcroft Media
Are you that person who’s always pushing pictures of your disinterested cat on your even more disinterested colleagues? If so, we’ve found the puurrrrfect holiday for you. The Meow Meow Cruise (no, not that Meow Meow) is a four-day floating extravaganza for cat owners who love their kitties so much they must join other similarly inclined people to talk about them while voyaging the Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take your cat with you, what with terrified animals
Weird or wonderful? It depends how often you plague your friends with Anchorman quotes. If that’s something you do then you may want to check out ‘Stay Classy New York’, a new Will Ferrell-themed bar in NYC. There’s Burgundy posters galore and a drinks menu saturated in Ferrell quotes (Smelly Pirate Hooker anyone?). Ours is a scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch.
Think of it as a really comfortable ski lift. With drinks, food and friendly service. Our airline doesn’t just take you to your ski holiday. It’s part of it. That’s why we ensure you feel the joy of living from the moment you step on board. Here, you enjoy the kind of quality, convenience and comfort that SWISS is known for. This is when your holiday starts.
Price quoted on hand luggage only fare per person, including airport taxes and surcharges, departing from London Gatwick to Geneva (advertised route is operated from 18.12.15 until 9.4.16). Price is correct at time of production, subject to change and exchange rate variations. Availability is limited. For some payment methods a charge of £4.50 may apply.
NEW MOON RISING THE C9 MOONPHASE
Mankind has looked to the moon to tell the time for over 34,000 years and now, with the introduction of our in-house modification, Calibre JJ04, we are proud to join this tradition. With the continuous setting of this new complication the transformation of the moon is perpetually accurate with a tolerance of just one day in 128 years.
E XC LU S I V E LY AVA I L A B L E AT
It may seem an unlikely thing to celebrate, but radish-carving is big news in Mexico. The Night of the Radishes festival is all the proof we need
12 TONS of radishes (the equivalent weight of 12 polar bears) were harvested for last year’s event alone
SEE MORE AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
...started the festival in the mid-18th century. They found some strange-shaped spare radishes in a field and brought them to the Oaxaca market to sell
pesos (around £600) is awarded to the winner of the most originallycarved radish
DECEMBER The date the Night of the Radishes carving event takes place in Oaxaca, Mexico
The amount of time the event lasts, as after this the radishes start to wilt (as would we)
HOURS Is the wait time to see the masterpieces, despite the threeline system for passing each stall
The year the Night of the Radishes competition was formally recognised by the mayor of the city, and it’s happened every year since
D E PA R T U R E S
HEAD TO HEAD DUBAI, UAE
DISAGREE? HAVE YOUR SAY AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
RAS AL-KHAIMAH, UAE
Nickname: City of Gold
Nickname: Headland of the Small Hut
Expats, people who can’t stand the heat, people who can stand the heat, nightlife lovers, camels, sports fans. 8/10
Camels, adventure enthusiasts, holidaymakers looking for a fly-andflop trip, those who want a change of pace from Dubai. 7/10
WHAT TO SAY
WHAT NOT TO SAY
WHAT TO SAY
WHAT NOT TO SAY
“I’m really into tall buildings. Can anyone here help?”
“This taxi’s too hot, can I catch a lift in your Lambo?”
“Ras al-K’s like a chilled out Dubai. I’ll be back next year!”
“Anyone fancy a big night out?”
EAT & DRINK
EAT & DRINK
Make the most of the desert setting and take a 4x4 safari or sandboarding trip. When back in the main city, stroll around the historic Al Fahidi district or check out the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building. 9/10
Dubai does glitz and glamour very well. For something a little more understated, try Desert Palm, a boutique property set by four polo fields. Big kids should check into the Atlantis. Waterpark and beach? YES. 9/10
If you have a spare £500 floating about, head for brunch at Jumeirah Al Qasar – it’s officially the most expensive in the world. You don’t? Oh. Then head to the Dubai Mall for a Shake Shack burger. In fact, go regardless. 8/10
Jazirat Al Hamra is one of the oldest coastal villages in the UAE and gives a good glimpse of the pre-oil era. Take an off-road drive to Jebel Jais, one of the highest peaks in the emirates.The Pearls Museum is also interesting – honest. 7/10
For all-out glamour, the Waldorf Astoria is a sprawling, palacial structure with gleaming marble. For a very different approach, you can nab an apartment to yourself on Airbnb – loads come with pools. 8/10
The Banyan Tree serves up an elegant take on Arabic cuisine. If you’re not staying there, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimi offers a variety of cuisines in an opulent setting – try the Lexington Bar for oysters. 8/10
AND THE WINNER IS… Dubai – those waterparks sealed it
HANNAH SUMMERS IS…
THE TOURIST FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW
But then, with not much else to do in the Rockies, my only option was to give it another go. This time I picked a harder trail – go big or go home etc. – and one that I thought would keep me interested (a remote teahouse was marked on the map, and if anything piques my interest, it’s talk of motivational snacks). Holy moly, pick the right trail and those Rockies will deliver. Forget zig-zagging back and forth along a forest path – this route had me scrambling along cliff edges, jumping over rivers and crawling on my hands and knees through sleet to the summit. My geography teacher would be proud after all: it turns out things look pretty good from a height, particularly the otherworldly meeting point of six towering glaciers. As for me? Perhaps I need to learn to give stuff a second, or third, chance. Next up: algebra. e
Photograph by Mark Boardman
I blame my geography teacher for turning me off hiking. It was on one of those outdoorsy school expedition things, initially branded as ‘fun’ – four days of map-reading, camping in a musty tent in the pissing rain, hiking from point to point for the glory of an unremarkable medal. Except I never actually got the medal. Shortcuts across cow fields didn’t sit well with the school geography department – so just like that, my group was disqualified from the expedition and sent Canada’s Rocky back to London, tails Mountains, on the between knackered western border legs. My hiking career of Alberta, and includes the national was over before it had parks of Banff, a chance to get going. Jasper, Waterton I wasn’t exactly Lakes and Kanansad about it. Walking? askis Country.
Now that’s practical. It gets me to work, it saves me money, clears my head. But hiking? It’s walking for people who can’t run, isn’t it? An old person’s sport (if you can call it a sport). And there’s something frustratingly tedious about it – it all just takes so long. And don’t get me started on inclines. As a Londoner, my views on hiking didn’t pose any particular problems. But for someone who likes to travel… well, it starts to limit your destinations, and if you want to see stuff in the middle of the Canadian Rockies – as I did last month – you’re going to have to tackle a hill or two. The first one was average, at best. Three hours of adding and removing layers, huffing and puffing uphill with just trees to look at. And what about the bears I’d been promised? My cocky teen self was right: hiking = lame.
Discover Costa Rica with TRAILFINDERS Fly non-stop from the UK with British Airways
ENCHANTING COSTA RICA BESPOKE TOUR © Tony Northrup - Fotolia.com
Costa Rica Tourist Board
15 DAYS/14 NIGHTS
11 DAYS/10 NIGHTS FROM £1,799
• Direct British Airways flights • 14 nights accommodation • Shared transfers & experienced tour leader
Costa Rica Tourist Board
Experience this charismatic country’s real way of life, stay with a local family and get your hands dirty on a nearby farm. Uncover jungle gems, hot springs, waterfalls, a live volcano and white sandy beaches – all set to a sizzling salsa beat.
Discover the natural beauty of this enchanting country from lush valleys to the picture-perfect cone of the Arenal Volcano, mystical cloud forests and tropical beaches. • Direct British Airways flights • 10 nights accommodation • Shared transfers & shared guided sightseeing • 10 breakfasts
ards 2015 Aw
’Best Travel Company’ Awarded maximum ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ for customer service
Tailormade Travel Worldwide 020 7408 9014 First & Business Class Travel 020 7408 9011 trailfinders.com Prices are per person based on twin share, valid for selected May/June departures and subject to availability.
© Eduardo Rivero - Fotolia.com
CLASSIC COSTA RICA SMALL GROUP ADVENTURE
D E PA R T U R E S
WHITE DESERT ANTARCTICA UNLEASHED
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Trips to White Desert include epic hiking; cosy pod accommodation; close encounters with 6,000 penguins; arrival on a luxury jet, naturally
The world’s fifthbiggest continent is home to 90% of all the ice on the planet – that’s around 29 million cubic kilometres. Only 2% of the Antarctica surface is not covered by ice.
COLD COMFORT SUPER-LUXE ANTARCTICA
VISITOR STATS LESS THAN 200,000 PEOPLE HAVE EVER VISITED ANTARCTICA
ON THE GROUND THE CONTINENT HAS THE LOWEST RECORDED TEMPERATURE EVER: -90˚C IN 1983
Few of us have the money, fortune and time to take a trip to Antarctica – and even fewer get to stay at White Desert’s luxury camp, where £45,000 will get you an 8-day trip that even takes in the South Pole. If that’s out of reach, an insight into what it’s like to be there isn’t – thanks to White Desert’s new website, which brings a bit of Antarctica to you. Imagery alternates between light and dark according to the season (24 hours of light in the summer and total darkness in the winter), while there’s also rare drone footage of the South Pole landscape – from iridescent blue ice tunnels to polar plateaux. Think Antarctica’s just a flat, white wilderness? Think again. This is some of the most surreal and revealing footage you’ll see. And if that doesn’t draw you in, the pictures of 6,000 penguin chicks might. white-desert.com e
IN FOCUS EDINBURGH
Streets steeped in history, worldfamous festivals and, um, a kebab shop with its own DJ – when it comes to culture, Scottish capital Edinburgh ticks all the boxes (and a few more besides)
DRINK EVENTS Prices may go through the roof during some of the city’s many big events, but these are a great time to see an already lively place come even more alive. Nowhere else in the world throws a New Year’s Eve party quite like Edinburgh, and Hogmanay consists of large-scale open-air concerts, torchlight processions, DJ sets and fireworks, naturally (edinburghshogmanay.com). A number of films have been set on the streets of Scotland (check out the film map online), and the Edinburgh International Film Festival (edfilmfest.org.uk) in June is a chance to celebrate the best new films from around the world, including cuttingedge independents. For the rest of the summer there’s the Jazz & Blues Festival in July – a two-week long party with live music – and perhaps the city’s most famous event, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s the world’s largest arts festival, with over 2,500 shows. Be warned: go once and you’ll want to go back every year (edfringe.com). For something less well-known check out Hidden Door – a multiplatform festival making the most of the city’s derelict spaces and hopefully returning in April 2016 (hiddendoorblog.org). Wee Dub is a reggae and roots weekender in March 2016 (weedubfestival.co.uk), while the Beltane Fire Festival in April is a combination of Celtic tradition and body paint.
Thirsty? Pop into nightspot Red Squirrel (redsquirreledinburgh.co.uk), a cool bar and restaurant with a huge emphasis on craft beers from Scotland and beyond. It’s dark, and you can expect beards aplenty, but a sneering hipsters’ haven this is not: the cocktail list is bang-on (try the Bloody Mary, especially), there are some absolute gems among the beer selection (the Franciscan Wells Chieftan IPA was a favourite of ours) and the kitchen serves up quality burgers and smokehouse-style meat dishes. If you’re up for something a little more intimate, it’d be a crime not to check out Usquabae (usquabae.co.uk), a self-proclaimed “whisky bar and larder” on Hope Street: great food is accompanied by more than 400 bottles of whisky, ranging from approachably priced to pretty punchy (the guy next to us at the
bar ordered a dram of pre-war Macallan for £200). The bar staff are friendly, not pushy, and eager to help you find a few whiskies that suit both your palate and your wallet. A must-visit destination. Blue Blazer on Spittal Street is a cosy, unassuming boozer with a good selection of backbar spirits and beer on keg, while Bramble offers liquor alongside old-school hip-hop (bramblebar.co.uk). For more beer, the Hanging Bat has ale lovers swooning over 20 kegs and 100 craft beer bottles, while the urinals are also made out of beer kegs (thehangingbat.com). Waste not, want not and all that.
D E PA R T U R E S
STAY 24 Royal Terrace is one of the newest hotels in the city (24royalterrace.co.uk); located at the foot of Calton Hill on a street once named ‘Whisky Row’ (due to the number of whisky merchants who worked there), it’s an ideal location for exploring the city, and the 16 art-clad rooms are pretty damn fine, too. For something super swanky, the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian (or the ‘Caley’ as it’s affectionately known) is a former Victorian railway hotel that sits in the shadows of Edinburgh castle – HELLO views (waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com). For a historic building without the hefty price point, check out Nine Nelson on coolstays.com. The Georgian apartment sleeps nine people (split the cost and you’re laughing all the way back to king-size beds), and its location on a cobbled street in the heart of New Town is one of the city’s most sought-after areas. Strapped for cash? Motel One is a cheap but stylish chain hotel that does an efficient job (motel-one.com), or Haggis Hostel – a comfy hostel with sturdy bunks – is perfect for people set on making travelling friends during their time in the city (haggishostels.co.uk). We’re sold on the name alone.
Photograph by ###
If you’re the person waiting longingly for Burns Night to come around again so you can get your haggis fix, you’ll be best off starting the day at Urban Angel in New Town – you can add haggis to any dish on the extensive breakfast menu (urban-angel.co.uk). Vegetarians don’t panic; Hendersons is a vegetable institution (bistro, cafe, restaurant – choose your setting) that’s been churning out the good stuff since 1962 – there are cakes, plus a mind-boggling selection of salads, pies and quiche. It doubles as an arts venue, so check out the website for details (hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk). New to the city is Barnacles & Bones (@eatbnb), a crab shack-inspired joint run by Liverpudlian Hal Prescott. Prescott uses locally-caught crab (did you know the majority we eat in the UK comes from Canada?) and offers a simple menu of crab with lemon or Scottish shortrib beef cooked in sherry gravy. Both are served with tarragon chips, or if you’re
hankering after something healthy, quinoa or salad. Find him close to St Mary’s Cathedral in a grey and yellow converted Police Box. For seafood with a seat, try the well-priced Mussel Inn on Rose Street (mussel-inn.com), or if you’re really pushing the boat out and going formal, you can’t miss the Pompadour (thepompadourbygalvin.com). It’s the Galvin Brothers’ gig at the Caledonian hotel, where a sophisticated seven-course degustation menu tastes as marvellous as the grand setting, and at around £120 with wine, it’s a relative steal. Fans of GBBO, or just the sweet stuff, should check out Love Crumbs (@hellolovecrumbs) – Edinburgh’s cakeonly shop (no soups, sandwiches or time wasters, please). Peruse its Twitter and you’ll see why we’re keen. For something less artisan, the Clam Shell, er, kebab shop, is your go-to for a deep-fried Mars bar. Finally – because we have to end somewhere – round off your night at Cafe Piccante (cafepiccante.com), a latenight chip shop with a disco ball and DJ.
PARTY Dance? Rock? Jazz? Horrendous/hilarious 1980s cheese? You won’t be short of party options in Edinburgh. Check out the Prohibition-inspired Speakeasy bar at Cab Voltaire (thecabaretvoltaire.com) on the perennially lively Cowgate, or Electric Circus (theelectriccircus.biz) for contemporary music and seven karaoke rooms (you’ll see multiple hen nights and stag parties alongside hardcore clubbers at this multi-functional venue). The 175-capacity Bannerman’s is a pub-come-rock venue for avid gig-goers located in the backstreets of the Medieval, once Plagueridden, Old Town. Discerning music lovers should try the Voodoo Rooms
(thevoodoorooms.com), an all-inone cocktail bar/restaurant/gig venue with rock, soul and jazz, while The Caves, in Cowgate, is a two-floor warren of vaults and archways that hosts live music in a setting that was once the stables for the French Cavalry (unusualvenuesedinburgh.com). The Bongo Club (thebongoclub.co.uk) is a favourite of nostalgic Edinburgh University graduates, but it’s not just one for youths spilling beer and copping off – the 450-capacity, charity-owned venue is a cultural hotspot with rockabilly nights, techno nights, stand-up comedians and a brilliant burlesque night: Confusion is Sex. Alrighty then. For something grimier, try Garibaldi’s (or Gari’s) with it’s light-up dance floor. Trust us – just go with it.
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D E PA R T U R E S
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The Improverts – the city’s long-running improvisational comedy troupe from Edinburgh Uni – perform on Friday nights at Bedlam Theatre. Tickets are a fiver and you’d be a fool to miss out if you have a healthy sense of humour (bedlamtheatre.co.uk). Carlton Hill and Arthur’s Seat are two great opportunities for views of the city, with a bit of a workout thrown in thanks to steep inclines to tackle (don’t let that put you off). If you’re going to do one, Arthur’s Seat is the remnants of a volcano that erupted between 350 and 400 million years ago; at 823 feet above sea level, it’s pretty cool. The towering castle is the city’s number one visitor attraction, and it’s worth joining the elbow-to-elbow tourists for a chance to look at the home of the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Mons Meg (one of the world’s most famous guns), the hammerbeam roof of the Great Hall and the sprawling magnitude
of the castle’s walls, turrets and towers. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery opened a few years back and is one of the city’s most iconic buildings and provides a comprehensive overview of Scotland’s past and present – sculptures, paintings, photography and more (nationalgalleries.org). New for this year are tours of the Real Mary King’s Close – a warren of underground streets and spaces, and a must-do for those who loved pre-GCSE history (if you can handle a costumed character talking you through the tales of the city – it’s not for everyone; realmarykingsclose.com). For insider insights into the city, check out Trip4Real – a website offering days out with Edinburgh residents, involving anything from whisky to dancing, or both, depending on how much of the first goes down (trip4real.com).
Mary Portas’ Living and Giving shop for Save the Children is packed with designer gear at knock-down prices – think leather Ralph Lauren trousers and one-off handbags (maryportas.com). The historic and picturesque centrally-located Grass Market is a great place for vintage shopping – try Armstrongs vintage clothing emporium for antique uniforms, 1920s dresses and quirky accessories (armstrongsvintage.co.uk). Just off the historic Royal Mile you’ll find the Frayed Hem (facebook.com/thefrayedhem), where the walls are lined with very affordable vintage pieces that go beyond a faded sweatshirt with Mickey Mouse on the front. For local and independent clothes designers, try Godiva in West Port (godivaboutique.co.uk), or for indy comic book creators, big kids should head to Deadhead Comics (deadheadcomics.co.uk), home to a weird and wonderful collection of big-name comics and some rare under-the-radar finds. You’re doing Scotland wrong if you leave without bringing back a bottle or two of whisky. It may be touristy, but The Whisky Trail in the Royal Mile is a den of single malts and more, drawing from all parts of the country (thewhiskytrail.co.uk). If you’re really keen, book onto one of its whisky journeys, where you can taste your way through several top-notch drams.
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D E PA R T U R E S
SHORT STAY CORNISH CLASS You won’t know you’re down the road from Newquay at the tranquil and stylish Watergate Bay Hotel, says Krista Faist
Photograph by (centre) Seb Oliver; Kirstin Prisk Photography Ltd
Think of Newquay, and ‘peaceful’, ‘idyllic’ and ‘romantic’ probably aren’t the first words that come to mind. But head three miles along the coast and you’ll find Watergate Bay, a small slice of Cornish paradise that’s home to a glorious beach and the Watergate Bay Hotel. The latter’s home to several restaurants (one of them Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall), a spa and a surf academy – its owners call it “après-ski by the beach”.
The hotel’s Living Space lounge has panoramic views of the bay and is a great spot for a morning coffee or post-dinner drink. Zacry’s offers a two- or three-course set menu each night for dinner, with a menu focused on contemporary American cuisine with local seafood and grilled meat. Of course, Fifteen is just around the corner and serves traditional Italian with (even more) panoramic views of the bay.
The rooms The hotel has plenty of room options, but if you’re feeling adventurous, or with a larger group, the Beach Retreat properties are a winner. We stayed in Winnow, one of 20 self-catered houses located just above the hotel. Winnow has four large bedrooms and a great room connecting a large and well-equipped kitchen, perfect for cooking group meals. Decor is simple with coastal vibes, so as to not distract from the gorgeous views of the headland and valley, seen from the glass front and long private balcony.
Nearby Unless you’re looking to join a hen do in Newquay, you really have everything you need at Watergate Bay. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the Beach Hut before suiting up for a lesson at the Extreme Surf Academy next door. The academy accommodates everyone from newbies to seasoned pros, and you can book a half- or full-day lesson depending on how energetic you’re feeling. Finish your stay with a treatment at the hotel’s Swim Club spa, with its selection of treatments and Cornwall’s longest indoor (and infinity) pool. Grab a glass of champagne and watch the sunset from one of the outdoor wooden hot tubs and for a brief moment, you’ll feel thousands of miles from England. e
WATERGATE BAY HOTEL ADDRESS WATERGATE BAY, CORNWALL, TR8 4AA PRICE FROM £145 PER NIGHT FOR A DOUBLE
DISTANCE 3.5HR BY TRAIN WITH A SHORT TAXI OR 60 MIN FLIGHT WITH FLYBE
Head three miles up the coast from Newquay and you’ll find a small slice of idyllic Cornish paradise NEAREST STATION NEWQUAY INFO 01637 860 543; WATERGATEBAY.CO.UK
H O T E L OF T H E MO NTH
IN ASSO CIAT ION WITH
From Broadway to boutiques, you can’t beat New York for variety. Enjoy a three-night break at The Westin New York at Times Square from just £599pp with British Airways 34
P ROMOTI ON
ew York is that rare breed of city that’s almost irresistible, where glitz and glamour sit cheek by jowl with creativity and steely grit to create a unique destination. But in a place where almost anything is possible, how do you choose somewhere to stay? Housed in a 45-storey prism, which splits a beam of light into a rainbow of colours over Times Square, The Westin New York at Times Square ticks all the right boxes. The elegant rooms and suites overlooking the skyline or Hudson Bay are kitted out to the highest standard from the tech to the bathroom, providing an oasis from which to explore. Start your trip by channelling your inner New Yorker with a vigorous workout in the state-ofthe-art fitness centre, relaxing with cockails in Bar 10 or indulging in Aberdeen Angus fillets and lobsters from Maine in Shula’s steakhouse – and this is before you even step outside the hotel. Perfectly located for forays into the city, The Westin New York at Times Square is a short walk from Broadway and Hell’s Kitchen, New York’s culinary melting pot. You can sip coffee on the steps of the
OVERLOOKING TIMES SQUARE, THE WESTIN NEW YORK AT TIMES SQUARE TICKS ALL THE RIGHT BOXES Met and watch the sunset from the High Line before heading to a bustling bar, drink in the views from the top of the Empire State building or visit the Statue of Liberty. The list of things to do is endless, but finding the right hotel for your NYC city break is easy – The Westin New York at Times Square has it all. ◆
How To Book Three-night city breaks at The Westin New York at Times Square start from just £599pp. To book, and for more information, visit THE DEAL
DETAILS: Terms and conditions apply. Availability may be very limited. Price includes return British Airways flights from London Heathrow and is based on two adults sharing for selected travel between 8 January and 26 February 2016. Book by 30 November.
Photograph by Calle Montes / Getty Images
38 WINTER SUN 48 TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 56 TAHITI 64 SOUTH KOREA SKI 70 MOROCCO 76 EURO NIGHTLIFE
Photograph by ###
Remember the sunshine? We’re having trouble recalling how nice it feels to recline under its warming rays too. Time, then, to head off in search of bluer skies, a kinder climate and yes, we’ll admit it, a tan...
WINTER SUN WORDS BY HANNAH SUMMERS
Photograph by ###
omewhere in the world, the sun has got his hat on and he wants to play with YOU. Whether you’re an avid hiker, hardcore sunbather or fancy yourself as a bit of a surfer dude, we’ve found a place where the sun is shining. Play nicely now…
For an otherworldly vibe
Classic: Lanzarote, Canary Islands It may be known as the ‘island of 100 volcanoes’ but there are actually 300 volcanic cones on the easternmost Canary Island. The result is a stark, black-lava landscape of hills. Lots of them. That means the island should appeal as much to avid cyclists (pros come here to train), wine gluggers (the landscape lends itself to some unusual vineyards in the middle of the island, where vines grow in black lava cinder holes) and beach enthusiasts (head to Papagayo for fine white sand backed by cliffs). It may suffer a rep as a package destination, and there is a lot of that, but it’s also a favourite of boho Scandinavians, and we always strive to be as cool as them. HOW: Cool Stays offers a number of pretty farmhouse villas with pools on the island, including Finca Malvasia – which is set in the middle of volcanoes and vineyards – from
MEXICO’S RIVIERA MAYA IS A SUNWASHED MEDLEY OF EPIC CORAL REEF, WHITE SAND AND RUINS 40
£109pn. coolstays.com; Monarch offers return flights from £110. monarch.co.uk
Alternative: Cape Verde Four hundred kilometres off the coast of Senegal and halfway to Brazil you’ll find Cape Verde. This cluster of ten islands offers everything from nightlife to hiking and deserted beaches – the perfect place to sip on some of the local sugar cane liquor, grogue. Use Sal island (largely package holiday and golf resort territory) as a starting point and hop to neighbouring islands, where African culture is embedded in ancient towns, and dramatic beauty comes alongside cultural vibrancy. HOW: Maximise your time and the islands by enlisting the help of an expert. Cape Verde Choice puts together itineraries from £1,200pp for seven nights. capeverdechoice.com
For south-east Asian parties Classic: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Our first trip to Koh Phangan was a blur of shakes (there’s even a tasty mushroom flavour…), whisky buckets and turquoise neon paint. There may have even been a naked congo line. That’s what the Thai island may be known for, but ten years later we revisited, when there was no full moon and found secluded bays and water the colour of… oh, that neon paint again. You’ll find cheap beach huts alongside cool hotels here, and the island remains unspoilt compared with the likes of nearby Phuket. For long lazy days on the beach interrupted by ice-cold Chang beer, fiery green curry and wild all-night parties, this has long been the ticket. HOW: Anantara Rasananda is a peaceful retreat on a white sweep of sand; the bed-to-private-
with eight nights from £850 including accommodation and some activities. gadventures.co.uk
For Latin-tinged Caribbean Classic: Riviera Maya, Mexico
Mexico’s most famous stretch of coast is a sun-washed medley of epic coral reef, white sand and ancient ruins. The Riviera Maya on the Yucatan peninsula (which you access by flying into Cancun), has appealed to A-list celebs and backpackers for years. Visitors flock to the ruins of Tulum – a showstopper site of ancient stone atop a cliff, while Coba, a Mayan city covering Tulum was once 50 square metres of a Mayan fortress jungle, is slightly furcity, as well as a ther under the radar. key trade centre (mainly for turquiose When you’re done and jade), and an with the cultural stuff, important site for kick back in a beach the worship of the bar with an ice-cold ‘Diving God’. bottle of Mexican lager – with lime wedge in the neck, natch. HOW: Posada Margherita is a pretty, and pretty rustic, boutique guesthouse. The best bit? The airy setting, right on that beach. Nightly rates from £40pn. posadamargherita.com; Virgin Atlantic offers return flights from £620pp. virgin-atlantic.com
expect variety, as well as American big-portioned generosity). Party lovers should opt for Miami Beach and South Beach – a showy parade of hot, oil-slicked bods where the streets are marked by bold and bright beach huts (they’re all different, and all photo-worthy). Leave the sand at dusk and bar-hop/people-watch by Lummus Park for generous margarita-based happy hour deals. HOW: The 1930s art deco Freehand Hotel is an über cool hostel for a ‘new generation of travellers’ – ie ones who want to save dollar with dorms but won’t forgo on style, or cleanliness; bunks from £25 a night per person. thefreehand.com; British Airways offers flights from £620 return. ba.com
Alternative: San Diego, US America’s capital of craft beer has over 100 breweries (and counting) – between them they managed to win 14 medals at last year’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival. It’s known for its west coast-style IPAs and double IPAs – guzzle with your burritos, enchiladas and tacos – the city’s close proximity means both the local mentality and food has a heavy central American influence. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach offer old-school vibes while La Jolla, ‘the jewel of San Diego’, has varied scenery, from dramatic 300ft cliffs to reefs
Alternative: Puerto Rico
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: The rather lovely Anantara Rasananda is a calm hideaway on lively Koh Phangan; Lanzarote’s Finca Malvasia offers a chic alternative to the island’s big resorts; welcome to Miami...
pool-to-sea view is about as good as life gets. Nightly rates from £215. anantara.com; Etihad offers flights from £580. eithad.com
Alternative: Boracay, the Philippines
Photograph by (MIami) Image Source
Boracay has been riding a wave of hype over the last few years, and for good reason – it’s great for kitesurfing (many say it’s the best place in Asia for the sport), excellent for diving, and there’s no finer stretch of powdery white sand to shake your tail feather on. The Philippines receives around an eighth of the number of visitors the UK does, but people are clocking on, and quickly. If Boracay’s emerging party scene on White Beach doesn’t take your fancy, there are 7,000 other islands to choose from. Decisions, decisions… HOW: G Adventures offers a range of group island-hopping trips to the Philippines,
New low-cost direct flights to Puerto Rico from London with Norwegian Air have opened up these islands to budget-conscious travellers looking for that heady combination of Latin culture and sun, sea and sand. Head to Old San Juan, where pretty old houses and tree-shaded plazas are enclosed in massive city walls (the fortress here is also mighty impressive). If activities are more your thing, then the interior of the island is covered in lush rainforest and scattered with waterfalls, while at night, the coast’s Laguna Grande is lit up with glowing microscopic plankton – you’re best off paddling through it in your kayak. Then, of course, there are the beaches – 1,200 of them, in fact. HOW: Boutique hotels are yet to make their move into Puerto Rico, so opt for your own apartment via airbnb.com; Norwegian offers one-way tickets from £179. norwegian.com
For US food, nightlife and beaches Classic: Miami, US
Miami’s a sprawling city packed with Cuban culture, art, pastel-hued art deco buildings and food so good you’ll be planning your next meal, and the next, for the duration (it ranges from fancy restaurants to Cuban canteens, so
– a mile-long crescent that lends itself to active beach lovers, who can pick from surfing, Stand-up paddleboarding and more. HOW: This is road-trip territory, so chuck your gear in a car and head along the coast. My American Roadtrip offers 14 days from £1,499 including flights and car hire. theamericanroadtripcompany.co.uk
Classic: The Maldives
Photograph by JBfotoblog
ABOVE: It’s true – the Maldives really is as stunning as everybody says, and Reunion Island (RIGHT) is pretty easy on the eyes too
More than 1.3 million people travelled to the Maldives last year, hypnotised by startling white sands, clear water and private villas. If you’re serious about your beaches and like them manicured, swept and lined with equidistant sunloungers all facing the same way (towards the sun), then the vibe at the majority of the Maldives’ resorts will suit you just fine. While the resorts are the most visited destinations for honeymooners and smooching couples, more intrepid travellers should make the effort to see the archipelago’s non-commercialised islands – where rich culture is about as far as you can get from your infinity pool. Though
The Maldives is the smallest country in Asia, and 99% of it is water. Unsurprisingly, there’s an incredibly diverse array of sea life, with more than 2,000 species of fish.
if you choose to stay and swim, we won’t judge you one bit. HOW: Taj Exotica Resort & Spa suits sunbathers and restless sunbathers (activities galore). Kuoni offers sevennight stays from £2,370pp including flights and accommodation. kuoni.co.uk
Alternative: Reunion Island Nothing says ‘romance’ like breaking into a sweat at the top of a volcano. Hold your horses, we’re talking hiking here – something you can do on Reunion island, 500 miles off the coast of Madagascar. You’re not going to catch much of a tan doing that, so kick back at this Indian Ocean island’s most luxurious resort, aptly named LUX* Saint Gilles, where colonial-style buildings are set within lush gardens. The location, right on the calm, coral-sheltered lagoon of L’Hermitage beach, will have you swigging cocktails alongside a very fashionable French pedigree clientele,
TRAVELLERS SHOULD MAKE THE EFFORT TO VISIT THE MALDIVES’ LESS COMMERCIAL ISLANDS
but there’s enough privacy to escape other guests when you fancy it. Maldives what? HOW: Seven nights from £1,290pp on a B&B basis. luxresorts.com; Air France offers return flights from £680 return. airfrance.co.uk
For closer-to-home sun Classic: The Algarve
Algarve residents will proudly remind you of two things: the region is one of the biggest producers of cork (yes, the cork in your wine bottle), that’s manufactured into anything
Photograph by ###
designed by Travellers for Travellers
Photograph by (Lord Howe) OOK Die Bildagentur der Fotografen GmbH / Alamy; (Cyprus) Getty Images/Flickr RF
from iPad covers to business card holders. The other? Three-hundred days of sunshine a year. Sure, come winter it’s not the kind of temperature that’s going to turn your skin mahogany, and there may be the odd rain shower, but the temperate off-season climate is ideal if you’re craving some shorthaul vitamin D and fancy exploring more than just the sea in this part of southern Portugal, The region is scattered with pretty colonial towns and mountain villages – good luck finding anywhere more photogenic. HOW: The Conrad Algarve is a luxe, open yearround hotel; the heated swimming pool will come in handy, too. conradalgarve.com; easyjet offers return flights from £45. easyjet.com
Alternative: Cyprus Cyprus is the sunniest island in the Med, and its location, not so far from the Middle East, means it’s as balmy as you’ll get without hopping on a long-haul flight. In fact, mid-winter temperatures of around 18ºC (a shade lower on the coast) make it the perfect destination for an active break. Cyprus in the milder months is ripe for exploring, and the island’s packed with compelling culture, so pop your head into the 16th-century Ottoman fortress, feast on halloumi and rice pudding and check out the staggering number of archaeological sites, including the sprawling Tombs of the Kings. These sites are distributed across the south of the island (Greek Cyprus), while If you’re keen on history, the Tombs the north (Turkish of the Kings will Cyprus) has plenty impress – some of to offer visitors with the underground burial sites date more time on their back to the fourth hands: see both and century BC. So just you’ll experience two be careful, ok. very different, equally intriguing cultures. HOW: Check out Airbnb for apartment stays. airbnb.com; easyjet offers return flights from £90. easyjet.com
ABOVE: Lord Howe Island is part of Australia. It just happens to be 400 miles away from it; BELOW: Cyprus is the Med’s sunniest island
For the really long haul Classic: Fiji
Fiji’s been nailing the tourism business for decades, with its sizzling and impressive combination of sun-drenched beaches, rainforest and lively cities. For those who like spending their time in the water, there’s world-class surfing, diving (and freediving), white-water rafting and sea kayaking. The other draw is, of course, the beaches – try the pristine shores of Qamea, where not only will you find flawless curves of sand, but also the elusive lairo land crab. The flight time – just shy of 21 hours – is worth it. Plenty of opportunity to stretch the legs on arrival, too. HOW: Trailfinders will help you find the best flight prices, routes and accommodation, with options to tag on elsewhere too. trailfinders.com
Alternative: Lord Howe Island, Australia Officially, Lord Howe Island is part of New South Wales in Australia, although its location – almost 400 miles off the country’s coast in the Tasman Sea – combined with the virtually untouched rainforest interior, give it a rustic Robinson Crusoe vibe. Wildlife lovers will get their fill – along with over 90 coral and 500 marine species, the island is home to hundreds of birds (some of which travel as far away as Siberia to migrate – remember that next time you’re out for a long run/complaining about a long flight) and some of the resident animals, including the large forest bat, are only found on the island. Australians in particular love the island, and considering they’re not exactly short on pretty beaches in Oz, that says a lot about Lord Howe’s sandy stretches. HOW: Pinetrees Lodge – a relaxed, private lodge option – offers five nights from £885pp all inclusive, pinetrees.com.au; Qantas offers return flights to Lord Howe Island from £1,200, qantas.com
For urban South America (with added beach) Classic: Rio, Brazil
You’ve seen the pictures right? If parties are as high on your agenda as tanning, then you can’t beat a week lapping up the caipirinhas and sunshine in Brazil’s hottest beachside city. The famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema are both vast and rammed with bronzed people wearing next to nothing, and people watching is almost as essential as a game of beach football. If you’re looking for a bit more excitement than you’ll find on the red-hot sand, then head over to the legendary carnaval in February for epic block parties.
THOSE WHO LOVE WATER WILL FIND PLENTY TO DO IN FIJI, FROM SURFING AND DIVING TO RAFTING 45
For straight-up beach
Classic: Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Most hotels and hostels will be able to tell you where to find the best parties each day. If the budget won’t stretch to that time of year (you’re likely to spend, spend, spend in Rio, and Brazil ain’t cheap), then any time between now and April (when the temperature is usually up in the high twenties) will do nicely. HOW: Save your pennies for the caipirinhas and rent an Airbnb – Copacabana for the beach or Lapa for the parties, airbnb.com; British Airways offers return flights from £650, ba.com
Alternative: Cartagena, Colombia
Alternative: Oman Mountains? Check. Desert? Check. Beach? CHECK. Whatever your ideal winter sun holiday involves, Oman in the Middle East wraps it up into one warm, handy and spectacular-looking package. The country makes for a surprisingly good DIY road trip – petrol’s cheap and big 4X4s navigate mountain territory with ease. If you’re keen to do more basking in the sunshine than poking your head out the passenger window to catch some rays, then head to the Musandam Peninsula, where dramatic cliffs tumble down into calm azure water. The remote enclave (better reached from Dubai airport than Muscat) is home to some of the best diving in the Middle East – it also offers incredible marine biodiversity, including the odd whaleshark and sun fish. HOW: ITC Luxury Travel offers seven nights from £1,965pp including flights. itcluxurytravel.co.uk e
ABOVE: Oman has far more to offer than just desert and beaches; BELOW: Copacabana in Rio could be the ultimate urban beach
Photograph by (Copacabana) Christian Adams
Cartagena’s efforts are more subtle compared to Rio’s more obvious seduction techniques. The attractive old town is a maze of cobbled alleys, 13km of city walls and more bougainvillea than a whole posse of grannies’ gardens combined. The city will soon draw you in with its sensual Latin American charm, numerous open-air restaurants and plaza parties, while the beaches make the most of the Caribbean setting. Try a day trip to the Rosario Islands or head south to Bocagrande, the sophisticated ‘Miami of Colombia’, where it’s more about swanky cafés than donkeys and carts. If you have time and can extend your trip, December to April consider the four-day are generally the guide-led hike to the driest times in Cartagena, with tem- Lost City. The uphill peratures hovering ramble to the around the mid to ancient, jungle-clad ruhigh twenties. What’s ins is both scenic and that you were saying about winter? fun. Crossing multiple fast-flowing rivers with your backpack on your head? No biggie. HOW: Latin America specialist Last Frontiers offers 12-night trips to Colombia including the five-day lost city hike from £1,196pp including flights and accommodation, lastfrontiers.com
BOCAGRANDE IN CARTAGENA IS KNOWN AS THE ‘MIAMI OF COLOMBIA’, WHERE IT’S ALL ABOUT SWANKY CAFES
Back in the day, Sharm was a small Egyptian town that only hardcore divers knew about, but the promise of year-round sunshine and a short flight time (around four hours) has brought tourists in their droves over the last few decades. And who can blame them? Sometimes holidays don’t need exploration, meticulous planning (beyond your next cocktail) and day trips: they just need a lounger, a good book and turquoise water to cool off in. That’s what you’ll find in Sharm, and along with five-star hotels, there’s plenty of apartments to rent, for those not keen to succumb to the all-in bars and buffets. British Airways has just launched direct flights to the destination, and with brands such as W hotels opening there over the coming years, it seems this classic option is getting hot again. Well, ‘hot’ as in ‘cool’ – the thermometers will always sit in the thirties. Toasty! HOW: British Airways offers return flights from £180, ba.com; five-star hotels line the beaches – it’ll come down to how you like your interiors, and maybe price. Options at lastminute.com.
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The annual carnival in Trinidad is one of the Caribbeanâ€™s most distinctive cultural events; a riot of colour, noise and dancing that can trace its roots back to the 18th century.
TWO ISL ONE NA 48
LANDS ATION Photograph by Richard Elliott
The twinned Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago may be separated by just 30 miles of water, but theyâ€™re worlds apart in terms of culture and appearance, finds Hannah Summers 49
LOCALS CRAM INTO A YARD AND DANCE IN THE BALMY HEAT IN FRONT OF A 30-STRONG STEEL BAND 50
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Street art in Tobago; Port of Spain, Trinidad’s lively capital; it’s Scarborough, but not as you know it – Tobago’s version is a little bit… sunnier
‘Liming’ – the local word which basically means hanging out, having a beer, and eating – is a tradition I could quickly become accustomed to. ‘Limes’ come in various forms. My first is at a typical Trini house, where I join Bustling and 55-year-old Andrew friendly, Port of Welch (I’m hazarding Spain is one of the a guess at his age, Caribbean’s leading cities. Must-sees as for the duration include the Royal of the trip he claims Botanical Gardens, he’s 28) and his and International Waterfront Centre. middle-aged mates, who’ve gathered at a BYO affair, where tables wobble under the weight of home-cooked crab curries, rotis and Stags (the locally-brewed ‘beer for men’ – according to the label, at least). Out on the street, liming can be a lot rowdier. We swing by the capital, Port of Spain, for band practice, where locals cram into a yard and dance in the balmy heat in front of a 30-strong steel band group performing a questionable rehashed version of Michael Bolton’s (already questionable) ‘Can We Be Lovers’. For a younger scene, there’s St James – ‘the suburb that never sleeps’ – or the famous Avenue, a kilometre-long strip of clubs, which are essentially small, neonlit bars. I settle on a stool in one called
Tequila (where, ironically, it’s only rum that flows) while calypso music – the iconic beat which originated on the island in the mid-20th century – blares, and party-goers gyrate their hips at me in a wildly suggestive manner. “That’s called ‘wining’,” Andrew tells me, sensing my mixture of awe, horror and confusion. “Very common move here.” The lingo lessons continue as we explore the country’s street-food scene. Forget hipsters, pretty cocktails and the repurposed warehouses that we’re accustomed to in London, this is nonexclusive, cheap food as it was intended. Come dusk, the car park at Queen’s Park Savannah – a grassy plot of land that
Photograph by (street art) Hannah Summers; (Port of Span) Ian Brierley / Getty Images; (Scarborough) Robert Harding World Imagery RF / Alamy
umper-to-bumper traffic. Again. Not that I’m complaining – this is traffic with a view. “These women,” says Andrew, my guide, pointing to a group of joggers jiggling around in Lycra, “they run every night, trying to lose weight for a costume that will still be too tight. A Trini carnival costume must be too small and too skimpy, or it’s deemed ill-fitting.” If Trinidad conjures up brochureesque images of swaying palms, turquoise water and piña coladas, then something, somewhere, has gone wrong. Located just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, the country has spent years revelling in a very lucrative oil and gas industry, a business that has given it the somewhat unflattering, and largely unknown, label as the most industrialised nation in the Caribbean. That’s not to say it’s unappealing, though. Oh no, this is a place where life is about living: live it, or leave. Take the February carnival that these ladies are prepping for – it’s a raucous country-wide party that puts Rio and New Orleans’ efforts to shame. Then there are the food markets, where locals gorge like it’s their last supper. Hell, even the road signs are in on the act: “Embrace life, wear a seatbelt,” they command me. It’s impossible not to embrace life here.
claims to be the world’s biggest gym, and roundabout – is transformed into a party of 50 stalls, where anyone from lawyers to lads settle down for lively picnics by their souped-up cars (the Trinis take huge pride in gleaming alloys, lowered suspensions and shimmery purple paint jobs). It’s here that I try what’s surely one of the least photogenic but best-tasting street foods going: doubles. “They’re the mischievous little cousin of roti,” Andrew says, before asking the stall’s owner for “doubles with everything, slight.” Within seconds I’m handed two floppy, pancakeesque circles splatted with curried chickpeas (beige), mango chutney (beigeish), a bit of chilli spice (that’s the “slight” part), tamarind sauce and cucumber: a sloppy brown heap that Andrew urges me to scoop up by hand. Roti are pancake-like We stall-crawl, flatbreads, and one joining grannies of Trinidad’s staple and children foods. They come in all shapes and tucking into heavilysizes and are eaten battered chicken at breakfast, lunch wings slathered in and dinner, and as snacks, too. a luminous buffalo
sauce, foot-long, deep-fried fish and freshly made rotis. One tent has a 20-strong queue leading back through the car park. “This is Dr Fresh,” says Andrew, introducing me to the stall’s owner, who gives me a wink while hurling ingredients into four shaking blenders that are working overtime to blitz tropical, icy concoctions. “His shakes come packed with pineapple, soursap, warnings and disclaimers.” And generous glugs of rum, by the taste of it. Talking about food and drink seems to engage the Trinis in intense chats, and I soon realise that lustily comparing notes
on the last meal, and the next, is the best way to make friends with my fellow food “peongs” – that’s Trini slang for obsessives. Our edible marathon continues at Look Out, another car park/stall hotspot that’s earned its name due to the views of the twinkling capital lights in the This deep-fried distance. Here, locals street snack was sit in the trunks of introduced to their pick-up trucks, Trinidad by Indian migrants in the 19th snacking on hefty century, and the chunks of barbecued name is derived from jerk chicken, ‘fuluri’, a Bengali pakora-like dish. creamy corn soup made with coconut milk and chili, boiled chicken feet and my favourite – pholourie – saffron-flavoured batter that’s plopped into a boiling vat of oil, and crisped-up into squidgy, deep-fried balls that are served alongside a doublefigure strong selection of zesty chutneys. Despite the crowds and queues, it’s a chilled atmosphere: the noise of the sizzling barbecue comes with a power-ballad backing track from the local radio station – as we wait in line, the 70-year-old corn soup mama, Ms Erlyn, cranks up the volume of Oleta Adams’ ‘Get Here if You Can’. If you’re going to get anywhere, make sure it’s Maracas Bay. A 60-minute winding drive from the capital, it’s the most accessible – if not the best – beach on the island. Families gather on a long, wide stretch of sand flanked by palms and shallow water, but surprisingly, that’s not the main reason to visit. This is a food-
FROM TOP: There aren’t many ‘Caribbean perfection’ boxes that the rugged beach at Castara Retreats doesn’t tick; and the bedrooms at the resort aren’t bad either
loving nation after all, and one block from the sand, a long line forms at Richard’s Bake & Shark, a stall that serves one of the country’s most famous dishes – deep-fried shark (crispy, meaty, sensational) stuffed inside deep-fried bread and loaded with tamarind sauce, mango chutney, garlic sauce and salad. Prime bikini fodder. Perfect, then, that Trinidad’s easygoing
IN TOBAGO THE VIBE IS INFECTIOUSLY SLEEPY, WITH DESERTED STRETCHES OF GOLDEN SAND 52
little sister is an island boasting some of the Caribbean’s best beaches. Just 30 miles (a 20-minute flight) away, I find that Tobago is the ideal place to kick back after a few days exploring Trinidad’s bustling liming scene. Here in Tobago, the vibe is infectiously sleepy; a lost-world ambience created by wild, deserted stretches of sand and lush rainforest – a backdrop that inspired the island of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Almost 300 years on, the landscape’s similarly rustic. If you’re seeking a turndown service, manicured sands and an all-in bar then you’ve come to the wrong place. But then again, that’s what makes it so right. Tobago has largely escaped the Caribbean’s influx of American resort hotels – instead, a handful of boutique guesthouses scatter the shores, one of them being Castara Retreats – 12 deeply loved wooden lodges that dot the tree-packed hillside of the fishing village of Castara. Open-air bedrooms mean you fall asleep to distant calypso notes from the village bar and wake up to the sound of playful birds and gentle waves lapping the shore. It overlooks Around 470 species one of the prettiest of birds have been bays I’ve seen in the recorded in Trinidad Caribbean, a view so and Tobago, including hummingirresistible that by birds and flamingos. 7am I’ve abandoned Birdwatching tours my four-poster bed to are available to help you spot them. float on my
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Photograph by Hannah Summers
ABOVE: Tobago offers a sleepier pace of life than Trinidad, with deserted beaches and over 120km of coves to explore. You might have baby turtles for company if you’re lucky
THE ISLAND’S BEST-LOVED LANDMARK IS NAMED AFTER EXFOOTBALLER DWIGHT YORKE back in the tranquil sea, while a couple of friendly dogs guard my belongings and a few intrigued fisherman haul nets around me on the blissfully empty beach. You could spend weeks exploring Tobago’s 120km of coves, from Englishman’s Bay – where the English reportedly first landed on the island in the 18th century, and now a come-hither sweep of sand without a soul in sight – to Turtle Beach, where baby leatherbacks hatch from their eggs from July to September.
If lethargy-guilt kicks in, the small island (24 miles long, six miles wide) is easy to explore by road. Mr Brown, my Tobaganborn driver takes me across it, swinging the car around empty, winding lanes where warm rain drenches trees that make up the oldest protected rainforest in the Caribbean. Continuing on we spot defunct coco plantations (due There are several to be resurrected endangered species over the coming that depend on years because of an Pigeon Point’s unique habitat unexpected demand to survive. These for Tobago’s fine include Hawksbill chocolate), past turtles and over 100 types of fish. roadside blue and pink houses and rum shacks and on to the capital of Scarborough (yes, after that Scarborough, because the English wanted familiar names when they first arrived) – a town where colourful street art is accompanied by a vaguely fast-paced lifestyle. In relative terms, anyway. Meanwhile at Fort King George on the top of the island, you’ll gather a true sense of Tobago’s interesting and varied history: the land was tossed more than 30 times between European powers from the 16th to the 19th century, a time when the economy was based on the export of rum, sugar and cotton. The now-peaceful fort also offers the best views over the island, out across the beaches and over the Tobagans’ most cherished landmark. “That’s our stadium,” the museum guide tells proudly, leaning against a shiny old cannon, “we named it after the Tobagon-born Manchester United superstar Dwight Yorke.” Jokes about Yorke’s X-rated romps will
fall flat in Tobago (I tried, you have been warned), but aside from that, the Tobagan people are always up for a laugh and a lime. At Pigeon Point, the island’s beach-lined pay-to-enter Nature Reserve, I meet Duane Kenny, a 36-year-old Tobagan who spends his days surfing and teaching watersports. He takes 15 minutes talking me through the basics of stand-up paddleboarding – bend knees, keep paddling, don’t look down – before he releases me to unsteadily navigate this spectacular part of coastline. It’s harder than he made out, but seeing Tobago like this – the leisurely pace, no crowds, skimming across the water at sunset – suits the island down to a capital T. As we drag our boards back up onto dry land, Duane points at the beach bar, gestures the internationally recognised hand signal for a bottle of beer and throws me a question: “Wanna lime?” In Trinidad and Tobago, the answer is always yes. e
GETTING THERE For more information visit gotrinidadandtobago.com; British Airways offers return flights from £555pp, ba.com; a week at Castara Retreats costs from £525pp, castararetreats.com; book stand-up paddleboarding via standuppaddletobago.com and Trinidad street food tours at banwaricaribbean.com
WELCO TO THE DAREDE ISLAND MORE GREAT TRIPS AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
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Photograph by ###
Banish thoughts of loved-up honeymooners and take a fresh look at French Polynesia, as a new breed of adventure travellers seek their thrills in this remarkable and remote destination, says Laura Millar 57
f all the places to be stuck, paralysed with fear, halfway down a waterfall, and dangling from a couple of ropes attached only to a (hopefully) sturdy tree, this could be a lot worse. It’s my first ever experience of canyoning – a spectacular way of descending gorges, ridges and rapids, involving some serious equipment such as harnesses, metal clips and helmets – and many Brits attempt it in some of the chillier parts of our country, from Scotland to Wales. But I’m endeavouring to do it down a 30m drop in the tropical, humid interior of the Tahitian island of Moorea, surrounded by lush, dense forest, ringed by jagged mountains. I’d launched myself gaily off the edge under the infectious encouragement of my traditionally tattooed local guide, Herve. “It’s really quite easy,” he tells me nonchalantly. He would say that – I’ve never met anyone so at one with nature, as he bounded up the steep path towards the
waterfall pointing out various medicinal plants used regularly by locals, plucking papayas from trees for snacks, and even uncovering what sounds like a rather mild form of marijuana, the kava root, which Tahitians have brewed to prepare a heady ritual beverage for centuries. “We drink it at special ceremonies,” he explains. “It instills in us a feeling of wellbeing and positivity.” Half an hour later, and I could really do with a big old Canyoning offers a bowl of that kava different viewpoint juice. Temporarily of Moorea, as you distracted by the get up close and personal with some premature feeling of of the island’s most jubilation at having dramatic vistas. If seemingly conquered you can open your eyes, that is. my fear of heights, I lose my footing (you have to walk backwards, crablike, down the wet surface of the rock, your legs at right angles to your body as you’re supported by the harness in a sitting position), and bounce, inelegantly, off the hard surface. My feet find a handy ledge and then decide
I WALK BALKWARDS, CRABLIKE, DOWN THE WET SURFACE OF THE ROCK. THEN I LOSE MY FOOTING
Moorea is one of French Polynesia’s most popular destinations, but beyond the beautiful beaches there are high-octane adventures available for adrenaline junkies.
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Cooks Bay and the mountains of Moorea; black pearls are a prized French Polynesian export; as is vanilla; sunset at the Tiki Theater in Moorea
to stay on it, no matter how often my brain tries to tell them to get on with getting down the rest of the waterfall. But the indignity of having to be carried back up by Herve, possibly slung like a sack of potatoes over his manly shoulders, is enough to spur my lifeless limbs into action, and I manage to scramble, somewhat awkwardly, all the way to the bottom. Canyoning: done. As somewhere to tick off a selection of the most intrepid, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, French Polynesia – an archipelago of 118 islands which are scattered over an expanse of more than 1,200 miles in the South Pacific – probably isn’t the first destination that springs to mind. For a start, it’s quite a long way away. Almost ridiculously so, in fact. Just when you think you can’t bear the inside of a plane any longer after the 11 hour flight to LA, you’ve got to face another eight hours before you reach Papeete, the capital of the French protectorate’s biggest island, Tahiti (although the warm welcome when you get there, draped in floral garlands Hawaiianstyle, is just charming). For another thing, it’s somewhere most people associate with loved-up honeymooners, gazing into each other’s eyes over ludicrously themed cocktails on implausibly picture-perfect islands like Bora-Bora. Surely all there is to do is lounge around on the regulation white sand beaches, occasionally cooling off in water so crystal clear you can practically count the individual grains of sand? Well, yes, if
you must, but islands like Tahiti, Moorea (a 20-minute ferry ride away), Raiatea (a halfhour flight from Papeete) and its neighbour Taha’a, offer much more than that. Largely formed by volcanoes over millions of years ago, their interior landscape remains rugged, wild and unspoiled – perfect Raiatea and Taha’a for adventurous are enclosed in one exploring. After my coral reef, and at canyoning session, one time may have been one island. Herve leads me to a Nowadays, bustling series of rock pools Raiatea couldn’t be and water chutes, more different to sleepy Taha’a. which he claims are good fun to slide down. This time, I agree with him; leaning back on the edge, arms crossed over my body, it’s roughly akin to launching myself down the slippery slide of a waterpark, and I land in ice cold water, a welcome hit of refreshment in the sticky heat. All the hiking, canyoning and watersliding feels like a full-body workout; I’d recommend you be at least moderately fit if you do this (and quite possibly have a mild death wish). On Tahiti, Herve regularly takes groups of people (with possibly a stronger death wish) to the island’s lava tubes – dark, underground, water-filled tunnels carved out by the long-gone lava flow, which criss-cross the inside of the mountains. As he explains that these expeditions are regularly used by the French Army for training, I politely decline his offer to come and try it for myself. I do, after all, know my limits,
Photograph by (Moorea aerial) Chad Ehlers / Alamy; (boats) C. Leleu; (pearls) age fotostock / Alamy; (vanilla) Hemis / Alamy
ABOVE: Despite its relatively low altitude (2,949ft), Mount Rotui on Moorea offers those seeking adventure a pretty challenging climb, thanks to its particularly rugged terrain
worried; they mind their own business, sailing past without coming within touching distance, which is probably just as well. I’ve had quite enough adrenalin-inducing experiences for one morning, frankly, and moreover, it’s time for lunch. If you are fond of fish (eating them as well as looking at them), French Polynesia will surpass your expectations. Whether raw – the local speciality is poisson cru: chunks of fresh tuna tartare dressed with coconut milk, lime juice, chopped cucumber
WE’RE SURROUNDED BY GRACEFUL STINGRAYS AND FLEETS OF VIBRANT PARROT FISH
and tomato – or cooked, like the firm, meaty mahi mahi, particularly good as a fish burger – you’ll be in piscine heaven. Washed down with a local Hinano beer, you’ll be good to go again in no time – and I was. My next destination is Taha’a; less for adventure, and more to discover what French Polynesia is typically famous for: vanilla, and black pearls. A 45-minute boat ride from Raiatea, it’s one of the smaller islands, with pretty, pastel-coloured houses fringing the coastline and exotic flowers growing by the roadsides. Taha’a produces around 70% of French Polynesia’s vanilla, which is exported all over the world, and is reckoned by top chefs to be the best to use (trumping that from Madagascar and Indonesia). One kilo can cost around €300 (£218), and it’s prized for its sweetness. At one of the island’s dozens of vanilla plantations, Taha’a is often manager Fredo talks referred to as me through the ‘Vanilla Island’ , production process. thanks to the heady scent from the prized When they’re picked, crop – which grows mature vanilla pods there in abundance look like long, fine, – that wafts over the entire island. green beans; they take between one and two weeks to ripen and turn black. Then they’re dried outside in the sunshine for three hours a day, every day for two months before sweating in a wooden box for another two months, by which time they’ve developed their recognizable, brown, leathery, wrinkled appearance.
Photograph by Matteo Colombo
and they don’t include sloshing around inside narrow, rocky passageways with water up to my chest and just a head torch for illumination, no matter how Lara Croft it would look. But I feel that Herve is at least slightly impressed with what I’ve achieved so far, and we part, with him entreating me to return and give it a go next time. Maybe. Moorea is more sparsely populated than Tahiti (its population is only around 18,500, whereas there are around 20,000 inhabitants in Papeete alone). It’s pleasant and peaceful, with a firm focus on nature activities; everything from diving, to dolphin and whale spotting tours. But my next experience involves getting a little more up close and personal with a breed of fish I’d seen several times circling somewhat menacingly around the overwater villa at my hotel, the Moorea Hilton: the blacktip shark. I encounter them properly after a trip out to sea to do a helmet dive. The ebullient French instructor, Vincent, from Aquablue (contact.aquablue.free.fr), explains how the equipment works: it’s a modern version of the way people used to dive before they developed portable tanks. A heavy, weighted helmet is placed over With an average your shoulders, and length of 5ft, black you descend into the tip sharks are considered fairly modest water as a tube pipes in size compared to oxygen into it. Due to other species. That the laws of physics said, it’s probably (which I steadfastly wise to keep a safe distance... refuse to believe in until I’ve seen at least five other people head down the boat’s steps), the pressure from outside means the water doesn’t enter the helmet. And once I’d got over the slight freaking-out stage which followed Vincent coaxing me into the water, it’s a jaw-dropping experience. We’re surrounded by graceful, flapping stingrays, who keep coming up to be stroked on their wings like puppies, the occasional ugly grouper fish, with its mouthful of singularly terrible, Austin Powers-like teeth, and fleets of brightly coloured parrot fish, trigger fish, and clown fish, darting smoothly around us. Back on the boat, Vincent steers us to a shallow patch of water, where you can swim, or snorkel, among the blacktips, and as we approach there are already dozens zipping along past us. Blacktip sharks, Vincent explains, are actually quite timid around humans; the only time they become aggressive is if food is involved, when, in their frenzy to feed, they can attack. Despite his reassurances, I enter the water with some trepidation, but I needn’t have
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TAHITIAN BLACK PEARLS ARE SOME OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE AND SOUGHTAFTER IN THE WORLD
ISLAND ADVENTURES Rooms at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa start from approximately £164 per night, based on two sharing. To book, visit hilton.com Rooms at the InterContinental, Tahiti, start at around £480 per night based on two sharing; to book, visit tahitiresorts. intercontinental.com or call +(689) 40 86 51 78 Rooms at Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa start from £528 per night, based on two sharing; to book, visit letahaa.com Return economy fares with Air Tahiti Nui from London to Papeete, Tahiti via LAX start from £1,450 including taxes. For further information and reservations contact 084 4482 1675 or visit airtahitinui.co.uk For more info, visit tahiti-tourisme.co.uk
the more expensive they are; and once the pearl has been removed, the oyster can be re-implanted and go through the pearlproducing process another 20 times or so. Resisting the temptation to fork out over £100 for a decent-sized orb, I bag a smaller one for about £30. Then it’s back to the hotel to prepare for the epic journey back to Britain. Before I go, I snorkel around the charmingly named Coral Garden, a stretch of water situated between the atoll Le Taha’a Resort is built on, and the tiny islet next to it.
By now, I’m fully aware that just about anything can be extreme here, and that appears to include snorkeling. There’s a very fast current which starts at the end of the islet, which propels you at speed through the outcrops of coral reef below the water, an exhilarating joyride better than anything you’d experience at Disney World. Glimpses of colours – electric blue, neon orange, iridescent greens – flash past as I rocket through shoals of fish, giggling with delight. Tahiti – it’s been a death-defying thrill. e
Photograph by Philippe Bacchet
Ironically, that’s when the flavour is at its most intense, and the pods can then be sold whole, or be turned into extract. (I try some that night at the aptly named Vanilla restaurant at my hotel, the Le Taha’a Resort and Spa, in the form of a subtle vanilla sauce which dresses a slab of mahi mahi). Tahitian black pearls are some of the most expensive and sought-after in the world, and many pearl farms will let you see how they’re cultivated. It’s almost surgical, as the oysters – they use a breed called Pinctada because they produce the distinctive dark colours from silver, to gunmetal grey and coal black in their shells – are implanted with a ‘nucleus’; a perfectly round piece of stone, like a marble, around which the pearl will form. They’re then injected with a Tahitian pearls are grafted piece of flesh French Polynesia’s from another, donor largest export, oyster; this is what accounting for over 55% of the country’s causes the pearlannual exports. producing oyster They’re priced depending on colour, to start coating the nucleus with the size and quality. nacre (the crystalline substance that forms the shell of the pearl). It sounds unsettlingly Frankenstein-like, but apparently the oysters don’t feel a thing, and 18 months later they’re cracked open to reveal a shimmering, round pearl. The bigger they are, and the thicker the coating,
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LET THE GAMES BEGIN Photograph by ###
Ahead of the arrival of the Winter Olympics in 2018, Ben Clatworthy travels to South Korea and discovers a winter sports scene thatâ€™s quite unlike any other 65
poor workman always blames his tools – or so the old adage goes. But here it’s certainly the case: the snow is bulletproof, my skis (old, blunt and way too short) sliding uncontrollably as I awkwardly hack my way down the mountain. And things are about to go from bad to worse as a piste-basher is heading straight towards my out-of-control self. Thankfully, we avoid collision, and once in the groomer’s wake, I can’t help but ponder on just how surplus to requirements it is on a ski slope, so solid, so icy, that even a 12-tonne beast of a machine can’t dent it. Welcome to skiing in South Korea. It’s an unlikely place for a winter holiday, especially as the fact you could ski here was virtually unbeknown to most outside the country until a few years ago, when it beat Munich and Annecy in the battle to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. In fact, there are 17 resorts, although most cater exclusively to the domestic market with just a handful of ski lifts and few accommodation options. I find myself there in early 2015, almost three years to the day before the 2018 opening ceremony, to discover what’s on offer in this bizarre skiing destination. My adventure starts at Phoenix Park, the resort – a two-hour drive east of Seoul – that will host the freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions at the games. It’s a striking juxtaposition: vast wilderness meets a purpose-built resort with all the hallmarks of a 1980s planning disaster. At the base, tired-looking buildings cluster around the only gondola and the main ‘ski house’, where there’s equipment rental, sports shops and a canteen, which, although it resembles a school hall, serves wonderful Korean noodles for around £8. Once we’ve had our fill and negotiated the rental shop (“You want one ski or two?” asks
WE MUSE ON OUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SKIING IN KOREA: IS IT SAFE TO SKI WITH A SELFIE STICK, AND WHY DOES EVERYONE?
Photographs by Korea Tourist Organisation
the technician – read: college student with a holiday job – before reeling off even more deadly serious yet ridiculous questions) it’s time to join the mêlée on the mountain. Looking up from the base, the slopes resemble little white ribbons, cut in to the dense forest that otherwise covers the mountain. There’s a mix of very slow chairlifts, the type found in France 20 years ago, and a single gondola, which – irony not lost – serves the ‘Mont Blanc’ peak. Once turning, we quickly discover that in spite of the resort’s bold claims of 22 pistes, once you discount areas where a slope divides, you’re looking at more like ten proper runs. The longest is Panorama, which measures an “impressive 2.2km length” and descends from the top of the
ABOVE: With 31 slopes, Yongpyong is South Korea’s largest ski resort, and will be the main venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics BELOW: Watch out for skiers with selfie sticks at the Phoenix Park resort...
gondola back to the bottom. But size isn’t everything: in terms of terrain, the resort reminds me of Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, (a domestic market resort itself) where the freestyle events were held at the 2010 Vancouver games. We spend our afternoon pootling about the place, musing on our first impressions of snowsports in Korea (is it safe to ski with a selfie stick, and why does everyone?) and admiring the vast wilderness that spans as far as the eye can see. Later, I meet Lee Jongbin, the resort’s assistant manager. He’s excited by the prospect of the Olympics, and says the money will be welcome in upgrading the facilities, but also agrees “there’s a lot of work that has to be done before we can have the games here”. “At the moment we have one hotel, which will be completely refurbished by 2018,” he tells me. “And a second one is going to open [this season] in 2016.” Whistle-stop tour (and ski) complete, it’s on to our second resort: Yongpyong, the country’s largest, with 16 lifts and 31 slopes.
Located in Daegwallyeong-myeon province, the resort will be the main sporting venue for the games. It’s also here that a temporary Olympic stadium, capable of seating some 50,000 people, will be constructed. Yongpyong caters best for the international market, with several apartment blocks, and the Dragon Valley hotel – the resort’s most upmarket accommodation. Here you can opt to stay in a traditional Korean ondol room (blankets on a heated floor), or a spacious western one. There’s also two restaurants: Doraji, serving beautifullyThe temporary styled Korean stadium at dishes, most notably Yongpyong will cost around £50million to Yukgaejang (spicy build, and will host beef and spring both the opening and onion soup), while closing ceremonies for the 2018 games. the Chalet offers international fare. The next morning, ski-suited and booted, we’re ready to tackle the ‘Olympic-standard’ steeps. The ambience at the resort’s main day lodge is strange, and there’s a hustle and bustle that’s more akin to a
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ABOVE: Skiing in South Korea isn’t confined to daytime, and as the sun sets, slopes such as these at Alpensia resort remain open
commuter railway station than a leisure destination. At the top of an escalator, a resort worker, decked in hi-vis garments, shouts a long sentence at us in Korean, before simply translating as “skiing” and pointing nonchalantly towards the door. Outside on the mountains things are no different. Huge advertising hoardings flank the sides of the pistes, and tinny classical music – ranging from wartime concert hall to last night of the Proms – rings out from battered loudspeakers, interspersed by inaudible safety announcements. The experience is surreal yet unbeatable. We spend the morning tearing around the rainbow sector, which will be used for the Olympics and is served by a high-speed chairlift, allowing us to get some miles under our skis.
Photographs by Korea Tourism Organisation
APRÈS SKI CONSISTS OF BOWLING, BILLIARDS AND KARAOKE UNTIL THE WEE HOURS
On the lift I get chatting to a student from Seoul, kitted out with a tatty jacket, and tracksuit bottoms. “I hadn’t skied until last year,” he says. “I’ve only been to the small places near the city, but my friends said here is best, so I drove over.” He’s not staying overnight because “it’s too expensive” but says the trip was worth the drive. Most people return to the base at lunchtime, but for keen beans, there’s one on-mountain lunch option: Dragon Castle, a proper sit-down affair at the resort’s 1,458m summit, serving tasty food – the succulent stir-fried beef tenderloin and rice comes highly recommended – at reasonable prices. Full, and feeling a tad lethargic, we spend the afternoon moseying around the more gentle red and gold zones, both of which have wide easy breezy slopes, served by a series of fast and slow chairlifts. By now it’s late in the afternoon, and our thoughts are turning to the après-ski. Except skiing here doesn’t end when the sun dips behind the peaks of the Taebaek Mountains, because – like most things in South Korea – the sport is as much a hobby enjoyed under moonlight (well, powerful floodlights), as one by sunlight. There’s a brief hiatus in activity in the late afternoon, while the snow groomers work their magic, but once complete, it’s all systems go until 9.30pm (or even later at some slopes). Only then does the après-ski kick off, underground at the resort’s emporium of bars and arcades, where the bowling, billiards and karaoke Night skiing is a carry on to the wee popular option in hours. So too does South Korea, and free-flowing Class the floodlit slopes of some resorts – beer, sloshed down including Yongpyong with countless soju – are open to the shots – vital for those truly dedicated until midnight. in need of a little
extra musical confidence. The vibe will come as a shock, and you’ll feel 15 again, but for novelty value it cannot be beaten. There’s no denying it, a trip like this isn’t going to interest everyone – it’s a 12hour flight – but if you’re visiting Seoul in winter, it’d be churlish to pass on a skiing experience so removed from what we know. There might not be long pistes, glitzy bars or restaurants, but it’s not about that here. Yes, I’ve skied loftier, ‘greater’ resorts, but in skiing the Korean Olympic resorts, I found stations that had a quirkiness that cannot be rivalled in any ‘conventional’ skiing territory. Seeing how other cultures adapt to any sport is fascinating, and more so when the country is preparing to host a Winter Olympics. Except, you wouldn’t know that. Preparations have, somewhat worryingly, barely started. It’s causing quibbles at the IOC, but if you’re a skiing adventurer, the Koreans’ poor organisation has bought you some time: once the world’s spotlight turns on, skiing here will lose its unique appeal, and that will be a real shame. So hurry – you best beat the Olympians. e
NEED TO KNOW GETTING TO SOUTH KOREA Ski Safari (skisafari.com) offers bespoke trips to South Korea. An eight-night tour of Yongpyong and Seoul costs from £1,280 per person, including flights with British Airways and transfers, based on two sharing. For information on skiing and more, visit gokorea.co.uk
Wintersports Korea... home of the 2018 Olympic Games! For the full list of UK Tour Operators offering the best Wintersports Holidays, Stopovers and Tours to Korea see;
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www.GoKorea.co.uk Email: London@GoKorea.co.uk Tel: 020 7321 2535
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G IN LL
KEEP O RUNNIN ES UT RO
Photographs by Kirsten Kortebein (Trans Atlas Marathon)
ON NG Photograph by ###
The rocky terrain and high altitude of the Atlas Mountains may not scream â€˜marathon territoryâ€™ but, undeterred, Dominic Bliss heads to Morocco to take part in a race with a difference 71
t just two years of age, in the middle of the desert, Lahcen Ahansal was circumcised by a man with pair of scissors. It was standard procedure in his nomadic Berber family. “One after the other, we are called upon to stand in a sand-filled basin,” he remembers in his biography. “The man proceeds to pull on the foreskin, and then with one swift movement, cuts off the skin with a pair of scissors and without sterilisation of any kind. Screams resound through the valley.” Nowadays, aged 40-something (he’s not exactly sure since his mother, like many Berber parents, omitted to note down his date of birth), Lahcen is one of Morocco’s most famous and decorated athletes – a record ten-times winner of the infamous Marathon des Sables desert marathon. But as a child he roamed The Marathon the southern deserts des Sables – or of Morocco with Marathon of the his family, herding Sands – takes place in the Sahara goats, sheep and Desert and, at 156 dromedaries from miles long, is the one meagre grazing equivalent of six regular marathons. site to another. All the key events of his young life – his birth, the sheep sacrifice for his naming ceremony, and of course his circumcision – took place in the desert. There are still hundreds of thousands of nomadic Berber people in North Africa. Even in the 21st century they live a life their ancestors from centuries ago might recognise – aside from the odd mobile phone, pair of sunglasses and electric torch. Lahcen has these nomadic traditions very much in his blood. Thanks to his athletic success, he now owns properties in Germany, and the Moroccan cities of Marrakesh and Zagora, but his feet are
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: The Atlas Mountains – tricky to traverse at the best of times, particularly when you’re running; Around 30 brave souls attempt the race
THE TRANS ATLAS MARATHON IS A BRUTALLY TOUGH 285KM RACE OVER UNFORGIVING MOUNTAIN TERRAIN
permanently itchy. “I can’t stay in one place for more than one month,” he tells me. “I have problems settling down anywhere. I’ll be a nomad for the rest of my life.” Along with his brother Mohamad (who himself has won the Marathon des Sables five times), Lahcen organises running races. Their latest venture is the Trans Atlas Marathon, an ultra marathon across the backbone of Morocco’s High Atlas range. It’s a brutally tough 285km race split into six day-stages, with competitors forced to negotiate unforgiving mountain terrain, mostly above an altitude of 2,000 metres, sometimes as high as 3,400 metres, and with a total ascent and descent of 14,000 metres. In a moment of madness, I (a keen but by no means expert runner) have decided to accept an invitation to compete in the 2015 race. Fortunately I’m not required to run all of it. The Ahansal brothers can see my limitations and have allowed me to dip in and out of the different stages as I like. In spite of this get-out-of-jail card, I’m still nervous as I line up at the start of the first stage with the 31 other runners – mostly semi-professional Moroccans plus a handful of keen European amateurs like
Due to the lack me. Our mountain of oxygen at high odyssey starts in a altitudes, running tiny village called in the mountains is doubly challenging. Zaouiat Ahansal Many athletes (there’s a family prepare by training connection with the at altitude to Ahansal brothers), acclimatise. 1,600 metres above sea level. Recently arrived from London, I’m nowhere near sufficiently acclimatised to the altitude, which becomes quickly obvious as we run, jog and speed-hike up goat tracks and across high, dusty plains. The air was thin at the start line, and is positively skinny by the time we cross the three big mountain peaks – the highest at 2,892 metres. However fit you are, if you’re not used to running in the mountains, this altitude saps your body, your mind, your spirit. At one point I’m reduced to a pathetic shuffle up the rocky path, my head aching and dizzy, my nausea extreme. It feels like a cruel mixture of fever and the kind of hangover when you swear you’ll never drink again. But once I breach the mountain peak, the worst of my altitude sickness evaporates. Up here the trees are few and far between. Those that can grow are gnarled, stumpy, well-suited to the tough climate. It’s spring so the ground is dry and gritty, interspersed with short, scrubby plants that scratch your ankles as you jog by. Look up from the trail (ill-advised since it’s so uneven that you risk twisting an ankle) and you’re surrounded by barren but beautiful terracotta-coloured mountains, some pointed, some rounded, some plateaued on top with scree falling As well as unusual down the sides. I species of plants could easily be in and trees, the Atlas Mountains are home Arizona or Utah. to unique breeds of Then suddenly animal, such as the I spot a goatherd, imaginatively named hiding from the wind Atlas Mountain Badger. inside his hooded
Photograph by ###
ABOVE: The unforgiving terrain proves a challenge for even the most experienced runners, but the donkeys are pros (BELOW)
djelleba, bored with endless days spent surveying his flock. The sight of 32 suffering runners certainly livens things up. He’ll be telling his friends about us for months. With 33kms down and 20kms left to go, the trail starts heading downhill. It’s not long before the barren plains give way to lush, green river valleys, and terraces of crops. By this stage I’m firmly at the back of the field with the stragglers. Lahcen is with us, too – it’s his job to take up the rear and ensure no one gets left behind. Wearing a fluorescent jacket and carrying his radio and first-aid kit, he sings as he jogs confidently over the rocks behind us. Darkness has fallen by the time we reach the village of Agouti, Agouti village our first night’s is located 1,800 stopover. Dazed metres up in the and exhausted, I Atlas Mountains, and while you stumble across the couldn’t exactly finish line to some call it buzzing, it’s a vigorous backpopular destination for desert campers. slapping from the other competitors. Dinner is soup, rice and some dodgy-looking mutton stew. Over the next six days, our sustenance won’t get any better than this. Every night of the race – except one when we camp in the mountains – we stay in basic dormitory accommodation in a different high-altitude village, our luggage transported for us by van. The villages are tiny, a few hundred inhabitants at most, and with only the most basic amenities. No one owns cars or motorbikes. I never see any buses. Occasionally I spot a beaten up
FOR SIX GRUELLING DAYS THE RACE GRINDS ON OVER BARREN MOUNTAINS
old bicycle, or a lorry that would make an MOT tester blanche. The standard form of transport is donkey. If you’re farming, a donkey carries your harvest. If you’re housebuilding, a donkey carries your bricks. If you’re visiting a neighbouring village, a donkey carries you and your wife. If you get appendicitis or a heart attack, a donkey carries you to the nearest tarmac road and (hopefully) mobile phone reception where you can call for an ambulance. Each village has its tiny shop – normally just a cupboard with a hatch and a stock of dried and tinned products. Nothing fresh as it takes so long for supplies to reach this high into the mountains. Sometimes there’s a souk in the larger villages where farmers sell their wares. A mile away, Lahcen points out three wooden poles strapped together in a pyramid. He Although it varies explains that this is from region to where the butcher region, traditional slaughters the goats Berber cuisine includes meat and or sheep when vegetable tajines, villagers buy them. couscous and Another standard bourjeje, a kind of pancake. Berber tradition. For six gruelling days the race grinds on, taking runners over barren mountain peaks, across lonesome plains, and through lush river valleys. We pass through the villages of Ait Ali n‘Itto, Tighza, and Imi n ‘Taddert. At long last we reach the finish line of the final stage. While rearguard Lahcen is last to cross the line, in a convenient bookend, it’s another Lahcen – Lahcen Zardi, a 35-year-old baker – who is the race winner. I talk to both Lahcens later that final evening. Lahcen Zardi hopes his 2015 Trans Atlas Marathon trophy will help him realise his dream of becoming a professional ultra marathoner. Lahcen Ahansal, on the other hand, ever the nomad, has itchy feet again. He’s spent all week babysitting the race stragglers and he’s desperate to move on. Just before he leaves, I ask him if he thinks he will ever settle down in one place. “No way. Even if I was a millionaire and I had my own palace, I couldn’t stay in one place,” he says without hesitation. “I don’t need that. That’s death for me.” Hours later he’s gone. That’s the great thing about being a nomad. As soon as you get tired of a place; as soon as people start to bore you; as soon as life gets you down, you just grab your pack and hit the road. e The next Trans Atlas Marathon takes place 20-30 May 2016. To register, visit transatlasmarathon.com or call 01672 500 555.
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BRIGHT CITY LIGHTS RE
HE W TO NK
If your city break agenda includes more bar-hopping than gallery crawling, try these European cities for size, says Ten Lifestyle’s Alex Dalzell
seedy, no-go part of town, the whole area’s been given a makeover and it’s now full of excellent restaurants, burlesque clubs, live music venues and decent clubs. Tucked away under the arches of a bridge, Music Box plays a full spectrum of music and has live bands most nights of the week, before DJs take over until 7am. The multi-room art space Penseo Amor has an even more varied line-up, while the John Malkovich-owned Lux is as close as you’ll get to a super club in Lisbon.
Where to eat The city’s proximity to the Atlantic manifests itself on the menu of pretty much every dining spot, meaning the Portuguese capital is a seafood lover’s dream. The first port of call should be the family-run Cervejaria Ramiro for the legendary seafood platters accompanied by fresh crusty bread and rich garlic butter. Be prepared to queue, but it’s worth it. For a similarly down-to-earth experience, join the locals at Taberna Rua das Flores, which rustles up small plates of exquisitely cooked fish and shellfish – the seared razor clam and pork shoulder is indecently good. Even Lisbon’s most cutting-edge restaurants channel a rustic, bistro feel, and local lad Manel Lino’s Tabik serves delicate plates of contemporary Portuguese cuisine which are heavily influenced by his time spent in the world’s best kitchens. Other places making waves include Feitoria in the wonderful Altis Belém hotel and SeaMe, which adds an Asian kick to all its dishes. Where to drink You’ll want to drink a lot of coffee just for an excuse to gorge yourself on custard tarts and there’s no better place than the cavernous Pastéis de Belém, which has a near-constant stream of warm pastel de nata coming from its ovens. Do as locals do: dust the tarts with icing sugar and cinnamon and wolf down in two bites. For evening drinks, head to the lively cobbled lanes in Bairro Alto and sip local wine in Artis Bar; enjoy rooftop cocktails at Park and soak up the bohemian vibes at Majong, one of the area’s oldest bars. Where to party Bairro Alto’s always been the go-to place for a night out, but Cais do Sodré down by the docks is giving it a run for its money. Once a
Where to eat This city has been getting a lot of good press recently, and rightly so. Just a short hop from Brussels, it’s a place that’s going through some fast-paced reinvention and its food scene typifies the change. There are a handful of young chefs responsible for the modernisation of Flemish cooking, and Olly Ceulenaere is well known among Ghent’s foodie circles. His restaurant, Volta, is housed in a really cool old turbine hall and the seven-course tasting menu is one of the most progressive in the city. If you struggle to get a table here, try his bistro, Publiek. Jason Blanckaert is another chef following a similar vein and his place, JEF, serves hearty portions of slow-cooked food and there’s a well-priced wine list. The posttheatre tapas evenings every Friday – when the chef uses leftovers to create ingenious small plates – are hugely popular and showcase his talent. Then there’s Pakhuis, with its industrial dining room, while the futuristic Belga Queen has a menu that spans Belgian culinary history. Where to drink There’s always a danger when visiting any Belgian town that you could spend your entire trip ensconced in a cosy pub – or ‘brown café’ – slowly making your way through the endless list of potent beers. Although you’d miss out on a lot, there are worse ways to spend your time. In Ghent, there are loads of characterful pubs to call home for an afternoon, including the waterfront Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant, which has 125 varieties and a terrace overlooking the canal. Alternatively, pull up a stool at the barrel tables at Herberg de Dulle Griet. The walls and ceiling are covered in odds and ends and it’s been a popular drinking spot for centuries. From here, stumble on to Trollekelder for more Trappist tipples or discover new flavours at ‘t Dreupelkot.
YOU’LL GET SIDETRACKED BY WAFTS OF GRILLED MEAT IN ISTANBUL Where to party After Antwerp, Ghent’s nightlife scene is the most happening in the whole of Flanders and there are new bars and clubs popping up all the time in outer neighbourhoods like Sint-Amandsberg, Gentbrugge and Muide. The scene revolves around a mix of genres but there’s a strong electro leaning and places like 019, Gouvernement, Kerk Gent and in De Ruimte are always failsafe options on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. For midweek parties, check out the varied programme at Vooruit arts centre – an art deco space that’s been at the forefront of Ghent’s cultural movement for more than two decades.
Where to eat When you’re walking through Istanbul it’s all too easy to get sidetracked by wafts of grilled meat from street-side vendors and end up eating on the hoof. However, there’s so much more to the city’s cuisine than kebabs – as delicious and convenient as they might be.
Istanbul has spawned a raft of young chefs who are turning the national cuisine on its head. To taste what this creative bunch are up to, book into Maksut Askar’s Neolokal restaurant – a glass box of a space that deconstructs Turkish cuisine. Another show-stopper is Alancha, which cunningly blends New Nordic technique with Middle Eastern flavours. For a serious meat fix, order the lamb shoulder for two at Nopa. It’s grilled for 12 hours over oak, which gives it a sweet, earthy flavour. For fine home cooking try Münferit – it’s an atmospheric spot which locals want to keep quiet, but word is slowly getting out. The meze is spectacular and the best place to sit is on the candle-lit terrace.
Where to drink Every Saturday night the streets around Taksim Square throng with people popping into the hundreds of bars and restaurants for ice-cold bottles of Efes beer and steaming pots of mint tea. Simply following the crowd will lead you to some great local drinking spots. To sample the city’s best craft cocktails, you have to work for your drink. Finding Alex Waldman’s unmarked bar on Gönül Sokak, off the main Istiklal Caddesi throughfare, is tricky, but once you enter the tiny basement bar you’ll never want to leave. There’s also Fenix, a destination drinking spot that’s got one of the most beautiful terraces in the city. Where to party Given the balmy nights and Istanbulites’ unending stamina, the nightlife scene in the city is big. Like, really big.
Beyoglu is one of the best areas in the city for meyhanes – Turkish versions of taverns. As well as plates of meze, you’ll find bottles of raki – a traditional, strong aniseed liquor.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Pratersauna is an old-school Vienna institution; Hotel Sacher in Vienna; Reina on the Bosphorus in Istanbul is an all-in-one bar, restaurant and club
There are plenty of parties along the banks of the Bosphorus and anyone familiar with Supplerclub will find the same formula of upbeat dining and dancing at the Istanbul arm. Nearby, there’s Sortie – an open-air restaurant and club – and Reina, based at the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge, has several bars, terraces and dancefloors to explore, each with its own distinct vibe. If you want to tap into the more traditional side of things, check out one of the many meyhanes (Turkish taverns) that host live fasıl bands. The upbeat folk music is more toe-tapping than four-to-the-floor dancing, but places like Zarifi and Galata Meyhanesi still get pretty lively, proving that even the oldies party in Istanbul.
Where to eat No time of year’s better suited to Austria’s hearty national cuisine than winter, and you’d do well to begin any trip by ducking into a traditional gasthaus like Pöschl for plates piled high with kalbsbutterschnitzel (veal schnitzel) and wiener würstchen (sausages); or head to Schilling for its excellent böhmische palatschinke (a dessert pancake with plum sauce). If you want to see what happens when chefs kick this traditional cooking into the future, try Skopik & Lohn for delicate
plates in a wildly artistic dining room. Konstantin Filippou’s eponymous restaurant is doing similarly creative things with native ingredients. Another of note is the family run Mraz & Sohn, which teams a casual bistro vibe with seriously ambitious cooking.
The über-cool Austrian nightclub, Pratersauna, combines retro 1960s interiors with more contemporary decor and art. It’s the place to see, and be seen, in Vienna.
Where to drink The Viennese coffee house, like the English pub, is an institution deeply ingrained into the very fabric of life. Vienna’s already slow pace of life hobbles to a halt inside these grand spaces of brass, marble and golden light. There are dozens of types of coffee to choose from – many piled high with whipped cream – but locals stick to mokka (espresso) or melange (cappuccino) and while away the hours with a good book or some juicy gossip. Café Sperl, Café Central and Café Mozart are some of the classics. For something with a little more punch, the best cocktails can be found at Loos American Bar. It’s a temple of chic, where the decor has changed little since the days when Sigmund Freud drank here. The subterranean Barfly’s Club is just as
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atmospheric but has moved with the times when it comes to drinks – the smart bar staff will guide you through the novel-sized menu of 480 cocktails.
Where to party It’s only relatively recently that historic, sophisticated Vienna built a clubbing
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FROM ABOVE: Samuel Beckett Bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin; the bar at Chapter One at the Dublin Writer’s Museum
Photograph by Chris Hepburn; Getty Images
scene worth hunting out, meaning things still feel very underground. If you’re into electronic music the area around Prater – a large public park close to the Danube – is where you’ll find Fluc, housed in a former underpass, and Pratersauna in, you’ve guessed it, a former sauna. Head down the tow path and you’ll see the queue for Grelle Forelle – a mysterious spot that doesn’t allow photography inside and invites some top The Danube is international talent to Europe’s second-lonits DJ booth. gest river, which Live music isn’t travels through ten countries and several just found in the cities, including opera houses and Budapest and concert halls that Bratislava as well as Vienna. pack the streets of this pretty and historic city – although while you’re here you really should pack your formal garb and take in some Mozart. Touring bands stop off at WUK, where the musical spectrum is broad, and Arena, a former slaughterhouse that embraces all aspects of Vienna’s counterculture.
Where to eat The rolling hills of Ireland are blessed with some of the best produce in Europe and, over the last decade, Dublin’s restaurant scene has caught on. The idea of the gastropub took a while to reach the Irish capital, and most boozers still don’t sell decent food because, quite frankly, it’s all about the Guinness. However, head past the pumps at L. Mulligan Grocer to the small upstairs dining room and you’ll be treated to some of the city’s most exciting cooking. For rustic Irish cuisine, book into the candle-lit Le Bon Crubeen close to the banks of the Liffey, or for a modern spin on the classics head to the Brasserie at the Marker Hotel in the Docklands. If Michelin stars are your benchmark there are four restaurants to choose from, but Chapter One in the Dublin Writers’ Museum is the best, although most locals are now making reservations at the Hot Stove nearby. Where to drink Whether it’s Shanghai, Stuttgart or Seattle, you can guarantee there’ll be an Irish pub bedecked with shamrocks and Guinness memorabilia, serving badly poured pints of the black stuff. While ‘brand Ireland’ gets exported across the globe, it goes without saying that the only place you’ll get the authentic experience is inside one of the country’s countless pubs. For authenticity, The Long Hall is one of the oldest bars in the Irish capital and the interior has changed very little since the first pint was pulled here in the 1860s. Other classic spots include Mulligan’s and Palace, which have both been popular hangouts among the city’s famous writers and thinkers over the years.
FOR RUSTIC IRISH CUISINE, BOOK INTO THE CANDLELIT LE BON CRUBEEN Where to party Admittedly, sinking pints of Guinness is more likely to send you to sleep than out on the town, so mix it up with a livener or two at the Octagon Bar in the U2-owned Clarence hotel in South Quays. From here, head downstairs to the Liquor Rooms – a dimly lit basement den that serves punchy drinks and welcomes vinyl-only DJs at the weekends. To carry on late into the night, check what’s going on at the Button Factory. A recent refurbishment has taken away its grungy edge, but the impressive programme of DJs and its faithful crowd has kept the legendary spirit alive. For a similar vibe, try Lost Society, an intimate club spanning three-floors of an 18th-century townhouse. e Ten Lifestyle Concierge is the world’s largest lifestyle concierge provider. For more information: 0845 020 5270; tengroup.com
Wild At Heart In Abu Dhabi, you’ll find action and adventure to complement the famous cultural heritage, luxury and long sandy beaches. Find great deals with British Airways
here else on earth but Abu Dhabi could you come face-to-face with a gazelle, watch the sun set among shifting sand dunes, and take a ride on the fastest rollercoaster in the world? The capital of the United Arab Emirates is a place where one of the largest sand deserts on the planet, the Empty Quarter, sits alongside cutting-edge architecture, and where relaxing is just as easy as thrill-seeking. Whatever you choose to do, no visitor to the city should miss the chance to gain an insight into Abu Dhabi’s rich cultural heritage, starting with the ‘Oasis City’ of Al Ain. Just 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements. No less impressive – but considerably more modern – is the spectacular Sheikh Zayed
Grand Mosque, where up to 40,000 worshippers can gather in a setting that includes one of the world’s largest chandeliers, lighting that reflects the phases of the moon, plus an astonishing 82 domes and over 1,000 columns. There’s natural beauty, too, not least in the Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali, where the enormous dunes constantly shift, changing the landscape from one moment to the next. While taking in the desert’s beauty is stirring enough on its own, the Empty Quarter’s also a haven for the adventurous. Take in the scenery from the bumpy seat of a 4x4 dune-basher, surf on the sand, or even try your hand at falconry. Back in the city itself, adrenaline junkies will find plenty of action at the Yas Marina Circuit – home of the twilight Formula 1® Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – where you can get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin
or Mercedes-AMG. If you’d rather be driven than drive, try the world’s fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa, at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. With world-class hospitality, incredible restaurants and abundant wildlife, too, you’ll never run out of things to do in Abu Dhabi – so you’ll just have to keep going back. ◆
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CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Abu Dhabi is filled with wildlife, including gazelle; take a trip in a traditional dhow; the shifting dunes are spectacular on foot; the domes of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
ABU DHABI IS A PLACE WHERE ONE OF THE LARGEST SAND DESERTS ON THE PLANET SITS ALONGSIDE CUTTING-EDGE ARCHITECTURE AND LUXURIOUS CONTEMPORARY RESORTS
Where To Stay ABU DHABI’S TOP HOTELS
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara Built to resemble an Arabian fortress, this spectacular resort offers luxury to go with the sweeping desert views. St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Get close to wildlife, beaches and mangroves at this award-winning resort on the desirable Saadiyat Island. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Also on Saadiyat Island, this resort is a contemporary sanctuary, adjacent to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Emirates Palace One of the most opulent hotels in the world, located on the beautiful beaches of the Corniche.
How To Book A three-night stay in Abu Dhabi, including flights and accommodation, starts from £459pp. To book, visit: ba.com/abudhabi
DETAILS: Terms and conditions apply. Availability may be extremely limited. Price is per person and includes return flights from London Heathrow based on two adults sharing 3* accommodation at Centro Yas Island for three nights on a bed & breakfast board basis for selected travel between 6 June 2016 and 4 July 2016. Book by 30 November 2015.
Taiwan’s beautiful island scenery, exotic culture and delicious food are ripe for discovery. Here’s how you can win an incredible 11-day trip with Cox & Kings…
espite breathtaking scenery, exotic cultures and hospitable people, the island of Taiwan remains a relatively unexplored treasure. All of which makes it the perfect destination if you’re looking for more than just the average holiday. Thanks to Cox & Kings, the world’s longest established travel company, we’re giving away the chance for two lucky readers to see the wonders of Taiwan first hand on the 11-day Beautiful Island tour. With 250 years of experience to call on – along with youthful vim, vigour and innovation – Cox & Kings has distilled the best of Taiwan into a mouthwatering itinerary. The tour of the island – located in
the heart of Northeast Asia – begins in the vibrant capital. In Taipei, ancient history meets dazzling modernity – not least in the skyline-dominating Taipei 101 tower, designed to resemble a stalk of bamboo. Next, you’ll pass through tea estates, via plunging gorges and temples, before arriving on the tranquil shores of Sun Moon Lake, where lush green mountains loom behind a large blue lake. You’ll even travel into the mountains and on to the ancient city of Tainan to spend the night in the largest Buddhist monastery in the country. Finally, after joining the monks for morning prayers and visiting local villages famed for their crafts, you’ll return to the bright lights of Taipei. For a chance to win two places on the tour, see right. ◆
DAZZLING MODERNITY MEETS ANCIENT HISTORY IN TAIWAN
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Cox & Kings’ Beautiful Island tour takes in the spectacular Sun Moon Lake; tea fields in the mountains of Alishan; Taipei’s skyline, with the Taipei 101 tower dominating; the entrance to Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei; the Tiger Dragon pagoda in Kaohsiung City
We’ve teamed up with luxury tour and tailor-made travel experts Cox & Kings to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of places on the 11-day, nine-night Beautiful Island tour in Taiwan, departing 10 March, 5 May, 6 October and 3 November 2016. This amazing prize includes international flights, UK departure and overseas airport taxes, accommodation for two people sharing a twin or double room, plus most meals and local transfers. The tour is based in four- and five-star accommodation and is fully escorted throughout by a local tour manager from arrival in Taipei. For more information go to: coxandkings.co.uk
HOW TO WIN For a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer one simple question. To enter, and for full terms and conditions, go to escapismmagazine.com/ competition/taiwan.
HAT’S THE WAY I LIKE IT: No one rocks the juststepped-out-of-a-plane look well, and that’s why a decent hat is our travel essential. See page 88 for more gear for looking good on the go.
88 GIRLS 90 GUYS 93 GEAR 98 REAR VIEW
Photograph by ###
If you’re trying to adopt that Scandi-cool look, then a visor just ain’t gonna cut it. Becksöndergaard, a Copenhagen-based brand, is your new go-to for accessories.
FOR MORE GEAR IDEAS VISIT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
CLOSE FOR COMFORT Choosing what to wear on the plane shouldn’t be an arduous task, but balancing comfort and smart gear can be tricky. Help is on the way!
The greatest synergy of comfort and style we’ve ever seen (excluding our 1992 Reebok Classics), these Italian-made high tops work for sightseeing and cocktail drinking.
11 8 10
2. BECK SÖNDERGAARD, Hancock hat, £39. Designed for an off-duty look, it’ll suit your head more than your suitcase. becksondergaard.com
3. ALPHABET BAGS, Travel pouch, £20. Avoid the “I’VE LOST MY PASSPORT” panic and store your important docs in this. alphabetbags.com
4. AIGLE, Canady parka, £250. A water-resistant parka may not be handy on a flight, but when you land back in Blighty? Oooohhhh, yes. aigle.com
5. BAUM UND PFERDGARTEN, Mahuri blouse, £100. Tight clothes on a flight = travel fail. Keep it baggy. baumundpferdgarten.com
Photograph by ###
1. DELAGE PARIS, Bowling bag, £680. You’ll need a sturdy bag to transport your laptop and, er, bowling balls, in your hand luggage. delage1905.com
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM 6. NYDJ, Jeggings, £139.95. Super stretchy for maximum movement in your seat, no matter how you travel. nydj.co.uk 7. JOHNSTONS OF ELGIN, Cashmere scarf, £199. An investment piece that’ll last far longer than your holiday. johnstonscashmere.com
You know you’re in safe hands when you slip on a shirt made by a Copenhagen-based fashion duo. Check out Baum und Pferdgarten for more ice-cool Scandi-inspired gear.
8. CELTIC & CO, Merino top, £65. This loose-fit merino wool top will keep you cosy, not sweaty. celticandco.com
9. QUAY AUSTRALIA, Monroe sunglasses, £25. Hide those bleary jet lag eyes behind some massive shades. quayaustralia.com
10. WITHINGS, Activité pop watch, £119.99. Tracks your activities, vibrates to wake you up AND tells the time. Genius. withings.com 11. CARLO PAZOLINI, Hightops, £265. About as stylish as trainers get. Leather and rubber = smart and comfy. carlopazolini.com
Photograph by ###
★ G UYS ★
A CASUAL VACANCY The thing about travelling is that at some point you’re actually going to have to travel – we know! Here’s all the the kit you need for looking good on the go…
1. ALBAM, Hooded smock in redcurrant, £239. Based on US naval-issue kit but made in England. All the AngloAmerican expertise, none of the zips. albamclothing.com 2. PASSENGER, Axeman navy sweater, £59.99. So autumnal it probably sheds leaves and moans about how much earlier Christmas starts every year. passenger-clothing.com
3. CHERCHBI, Blake overnighter in Herdwyck tweed, £465. Enough room for a weekend away; enough style for a lifetime of compliments. cherchbi.co.uk
Photograph by ###
4. PASSENGER, Friday Vibes bobble, £17.99. Nothing says “I think you’ve got the temperature balance wrong again” like wearing a bobble hat on a plane.
The Blake bag is made with wool from hardy Herdwyck sheep, reared in the Lake District. The wool’s spun into yarn in Ireland, woven in Wales and finished in Scotland.
5. UNIVERSAL WORKS, Scarf in navy merino moss, £49. Use this warm and handsome merino scarf to cover up that unsightly gap between your head and torso. universalworks.co.uk
8. HAMILTON & HARE, Grey sweat cuffed jogger, £85. Leave everyone wondering whether you’re an off-duty elite athlete or a professional slacker. Don’t worry – we won’t tell. hamiltonandhare.com
6. OAKLEY, Polarized Latch, £160. An all-new style from Oakley is always worth a look, and the Latch doesn’t disappoint. Hide tired eyes from public view and keep the low winter sun in check. Win win. oakley.com
9. HAMILTON & HARE, White cotton waffle pocket t-shirt, £45. Supersoft, slim white tee for any holiday eventuality. With a handy pocket for storing money, biscuits or small animals. The choice really is all yours.
7. VILLAIN, Paul shirt, £78. With a herringbone-meetsSpace Invaders print, this is as good for the flight as it is for the bar. Plus, if anyone stares at it for too long their eyes will go all funny. villain.uk.com
10. MERRELL, Emergy, £79.99. These hybrid trainers bridge the gap between the trail and the city, with supreme comfort and heritage looks. They’ll go on all day – can you? (Us neither.) office.co.uk
7 Photograph by ###
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
walk in peace
Read our story at
★ G EAR ★ WHEELIE HANDY TUMI combines great design with cutting edge technology. The Alpha Bravo collection, including this carry-on bag, has been designed for ease and style on shorter trips.
Wait, what? You don’t want to lug your bag around? We don’t blame you. Forget backpacks, just glide it along the floor instead.
Photograph by ###
1. TUMI, Alpha Bravo carryon, £630. This sturdy and expandable four-wheeled carry-on comes with interior pockets for maximum organisation. uk.tumi.com 2. ANTLER, Liquis B1 cabin case, £149. A polycarbonate shell means this keeps your
gear protected while weighing next to nothing. Easy-glide wheels make the journey to the gate a doddle. antler.co.uk 3. LULU GUINNESS, gold lips spinner case, £195. For a carry-on case with as much sass as you, this is the one. luluguinness.com
★ G EAR ★
GIANT STEPS: The Comporta has a super-light and comfortable sole, Stead’s waxed leather upper, and old-school D-rings and ski hooks. The looks are retro but the performance is bang up to date.
LOAD OF OLD COBBLERS
Photograph by ###
Casual boots styled like retro hikers are a big deal for winter; Oliver Sweeney’s Comporta is a winner. £249; oliversweeney.com
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Just 40 minutes from the Cairngorm Mountain base station Muckrach Country House Hotel is a 4 star boutique hotel. A Victorian Shooting Lodge restored to its former glory, where contemporary meets Victoriana. 13 uniquely designed bedrooms with contemporary Porcelnosa-tiled en suites, chandeliers, fabric wallpaper and Hypnos beds. Drying room facilities available. Muckrach has Coffee Shop & Restaurant, open 7 days a week from Breakfast to Dinner. Menus created by Head Chef Muller offer freshly prepared meals created using the best ingredients from Scotland’s larder and local producers. During the day the Coffee Shop menu serves homemade soups, sandwiches, cakes and Afternoon Tea. By night enjoy a brasserie-style menu, presented with passion by the team of Chefs, combining the best seasonal and regional produce. www.muckrach.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | 01479 851227 #muckrach
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The island of Saint Lucia is bursting with natural beauty, wildlife and some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, but there’s culture, adventure and fantastic cuisine, too
t’s hard to conjure up a vision of paradise more breathtaking than Saint Lucia, with its lush rainforests, dazzling blue waters and the iconic twin Pitons that soar out of the ocean. If these are the things that draw you there, it’s what you’ll discover when you get to Saint Lucia that will keep you coming back – whether you want to switch off or go on an adventure. You can have a virtual twin-centre holiday, too, thanks to a north and south with very different characters, while accommodation ranges from intimate boutique hotels to luxurious resorts. The south of Saint Lucia is dominated by the lush, mountain landscape. The adventurous can
THERE’S PLENTY TO DO IN SAINT LUCIA, WHETHER YOU’RE AFTER RELAXATION OR ADVENTURE
hike to the top of the tallest of the two Pitons, or tour the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano and take a mud bath in the hot springs. You can even take to the skies and see the rainforests by aerial tram or helicopter. The north is the island’s entertainment hub, centered around the bustling bars and restaurants of Rodney Bay. On Friday night head to nearby Gros Islet for a street party or the fish fry at Anse La Raye. And if you’re there in May, Pigeon Island stages the annual Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, where local and international artists play jazz, R&B, soul, reggae, pop and calypso. You can have any holiday you want in Saint Lucia – from action to relaxation and everything in between – and it’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. We’ll see you there. ◆ To learn more about Simply Beautiful Saint Lucia, visit saintluciauk.org or call 020 7341 7000. Follow us on
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (SaintLuciaUK)
FROM TOP: The south of the island is lush and mountainous, with the twin Pitons dominating the vista; snorkelling and diving are world-class; relaxing with views across to historic Pigeon Island in the north
AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW This image is called Bye Bye Gravity, though photographer Jovana Milanko took it in Bali rather than outer space. She got the shot while twisting in the water and looking at the perfectly calm surface through the viewfinder. “It seemed surreal and dreamy, as though the water surface was the border to another world,” she explains. When her partner, Dusan, jumped in, she snapped quickly and captured the moment he broke the surface. “It looked to me as if he was entering another dimension.” e
Photograph by Jovana Photograph Milanko; Stocksy by ###
ENTER TO WIN
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HOW TO ENTER WHAT’S INCLUDED • • • •
7-night full board cruise on Queen Victoria Return flights and transfers 4-night stay at the Borgo San Luigi (Tuscany) including breakfast Tuscany tours including visits to Castello di Brolio and Castello Banfi along with wine tasting and guided tours of Chianti, San Gimignano,Val d’Orcia and Montalcino
To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic Mediterranean Cruise and Tuscany wine tasting experience, simply go to escapsimmagazine.com/ competition enter your details and answer a question to be entered into a prize draw. See website for full T&Cs.
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Escapism Magazine - Issue 24 - The Winter Sun