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
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CUBA ÂŁ849 7NTS, ALL INCLUSIVE
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*Prices are per person based on 2 adults travelling on 13 June â€™16 and sharing 7 nights standard accommodation on an All Inclsuive basis at the Bella Costa Hotel in Varadero, Cuba with All offers are subject to availability and standard booking conditions please see www.virginholidays.co.uk for full details. Offers valid for the relevant division of the Virgin Holidays Group only, Virgin Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club unless otherwise stated. When booking by telephone or in-store a non refundable booking fee applies. Credit Card payments will incur a 2% charge
return economy flights from London Gatwick and include all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges, which are correct as of time of print and are subject to change. for definition visit www.virginholidays.co.uk/ourfamily. Offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other special offer, promotion or discount including the Frequent of the value of the transaction. Calls cost no more than calls to geographical numbers (01 or 02). ATOL protected (2358) and ABTA (V2043) for Virgin Holidays
Torres del Paine, Chile
T R AV E L E X P E R I E N C E D
coxandkings.co.uk/chile To speak to an expert or request a brochure, call 020 3813 5112 quoting ESCM
FACE TO FACE WITH
CHILE Chile stretches from the desolate Atacama desert in the north to the glacier fields and untamed wilderness of Patagonia in the south. Between these striking extremes, the country offers snow-capped volcanoes, crystal-clear lakes, winding fjords, ancient forests and verdant valleys dotted with vineyards. As well as this pristine and spectacular scenery, visitors can encounter indigenous communities and bustling city culture.
Splendours of Chile
15-day tours from £3,595 • View the Torres del Paine mountains from your superior hotel • Watch the sun set over the Atacama desert • Set sail on a private boat on Lake Todos los Santos • Visit a traditional Patagonia estancia for a quincho lunch • Small group size – maximum 26
ATOL 2815 • ABTA V2999
EDITOR’S WORD IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE, PERHAPS I’D BE WRITING THIS FROM ONE OF THE TURRETS OF MY GOTHIC CASTLE IN BELARUS ED ITO RIA L
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Our editor Jon Hawkins won Travel Feature of the Year (regional publication), and our associate editor Hannah Summers won Young Travel Writer of the Year at the 2015 Travel Media Awards.
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f you live in London and you’ve been on holiday, there’s a good chance that at some point on your travels you’ve had a browse in the window of a local estate agent and a little bit of you has died. You’ll have realised – unless you were in Monaco, New York or Geneva, where buildings are made of actual diamonds and caviar – that, for the price of a shed on the outskirts of Watford, you could buy a 14-room manor house surrounded by ancient vineyards/your own island/the biggest swimming pool in Macedonia. In an alternate universe, perhaps I’d be writing this from one of the turrets of my Gothic castle in Belarus, or from my tumbledown shack on the beach in Barbados. Sadly, though, I’m not – I’m in an open-plan office in London: no turrets; no beach; no fair. But every now and then it’s worth reminding ourselves how much of a good thing we’ve got going on right here on our doorstep. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing this month for our UK special [page 34]. We’ve scoured the country for the best trips, the coolest boltholes and the places you might have ignored before but need to wake up to. Like Hull, for example – which in 2017 will be the UK City of Culture (no laughing at the back). As our writer says on page 44, it’s a place where “everyone’s called ‘love’, food portions are gargantuan and it’s all but impossible to find a pint that costs over £3.” Sounds like our kind of town. So you can take your Macedonian swimming pools, your 14-room mansions and your Gothic castles – I’m staying in Britain. Unless someone’s offering that Bajan beach house, in which case see you later… e
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DEPARTURES What’s new this month, including sailing trips, the latest flights and new piers in old seaside towns 10 . Photography 14. Just Landed 18. Means of Escape 21. Instant Anorak 22. The Tourist 25 . UK City Focus: Belfast
EXPERIENCES From skinny dipping in Denmark to kicking back in Brazil, via the best of good old Blighty 34 . Best of the UK Caving, eating, soaking yourself in pools of water – this is the UK’s best 45 . Hull, UK Yes, you read that right. Our writer discovers the UK City of Culture 2017 48 . Skagen, Denmark Braving a Scandinavian winter swimming festival, starkers 54 . Costa Verde, Brazil Twinning rowdy Rio with the chilledout wilderness of coastal Brazil 60 . Okavango Delta, Botswana There’s no better way to see the Okavango Delta than from a canoe 66 . Great Barrier Reef, Australia You can see it from space. If that’s not possible, just go to Australia instead
CHECKLIST Looking good takes effort, so we’ve put in the hard work for you. You’re welcome 86 . Guys 88 . Girls 91 . Gear 98 . Rear View
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D E PA R T U R E S 14 18 21 22 25 29
JUST LANDED MEANS OF ESCAPE INSTANT ANORAK HEAD TO HEAD CITY FOCUS SHORT STAY
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ELECTRIC DREAMS: This otherworldly shot offers a unique view into the world beneath the waves. George Karbus captured the image in waters off the coast of Ireland, during an exceptionally warm summer that attracted hoards of ethereal jellyfish to the area. It came first in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competitionâ€™s Under Exposed category.
Photograph by ###
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TWO LEGS GOOD: During dry season, animals in Zimbabwe struggle to find food. In the quest for sustenance, some elephants have learnt to stand on their hind legs, enabling them to reach luscious branches, as seen in this photograph by Nick Dyer. Outdoor Photographer of the Year: Portfolio One, ÂŁ25, Ammonite Press. opoty.co.uk
NANCY GONZ ALEZ Photo by: Nancy Gonzalez
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JUST LANDED WHAT’S NEW IN TRAVEL The Iguazu Falls are a spectacular sight, but you’ll appreciate them much more after a short flight, as opposed to a multi-day coach journey...
REACH NEW HEIGHTS IN BRAZIL AZUL AIRLINES’ NEW FLIGHT The problem with Brazil is it’s just so damned big. You’ll want to make the most of your trip there, and thankfully you can now save time and avoid those multi-day bus journeys. A new internal flight from Azul Airlines now links the oh-so-cool coastal town of Florianópolis (hello, 42 beaches) with that stonking great mass of falling water – the Iguazu Falls. Leave your accommodation and flight plans in the good hands of Bespoke Brazil. bespokebrazil.com
INTO THE BLUE SET SAIL WITH INTREPID TRAVEL
SEASIDE REVIVAL HASTINGS PIER REOPENS Unless you’re ridiculously young, you’ll probably remember the fire that all-but destroyed Hastings pier in 2010. Since then, the structure has been renovated from the ground up, and it reopens this month with a lineup of gigs and events to celebrate. Head down from London and you’ll be visiting a town that’s also home to the World Crazy Golf Championships every October. Do holidays get better than that? Almost certainly not.
Photographs by (Brazil) Michael Runkel/Getty; (Hastings) LOOK Die Bildagentur der Fotografen GmbH/Alamy
If you’re looking to channel Enya’s Orinoco Flow and sail away (sail away, sail away), how about doing it with Intrepid Travel? The company’s new sailing trip around the jaw-droppingly gorgeous islands of Sardinia and Corsica lasts seven days, and you’ll drop anchor at pristine bays full of nice beaches and, er, goats. You won’t have to worry about any tedious logistics – there’s a skipper and crew for that, silly. From £930pp. intrepidtravel.com
5 (BILLION) STAR ACCOMMODATION
HAVANA & VARADERO STAY AND CUBAN CRUISE BOOK DIRECT WITH VIRGIN HOLIDAYS
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HARD AS NAILS CHIA LAGUNA HALF TRIATHLON Nothing says ‘badass’ like completing an Iron-distance triathlon. Or half-Irondistance, at least, which is exactly what Sardinia’s Chia Laguna Half Triathlon is – all 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run of it. It takes place on Sunday 16 April, and before you say, “sounds a bit much like hard work to me”, consider this: we’re doing it. As a team, admittedly, which isn’t cheating – it’s just sharing the pain. Rest weary limbs at the Chia Laguna Resort. halftriathlon.eu; chialagunaresort.com
THE WOW FACTOR DARE TO BARE PURE PODS IN KIAKOURA Love nature? Love cool design? Love wandering around your room starkers on the off-chance that the neighbours will catch a glimpse? Us too. That’s why we’re excited about the launch of two new Pure Pods in Kiakoura, New Zealand. The pods are made completely from glass, allowing you to make the most of Southern Cross star views, the Pacific Ocean and New Zealand’s native bush (lol). purepods.com
Glass-walled Pure Pods are a brilliant way to really see your surroundings, as well as for your surroundings to see you... Happily, they’re all in very remote places.
NEWLY LAUNCHED BARGAIN FLIGHTS TO AMERICA Who said LA is just for rich, tanned celebs? Pah! Wow Air, Iceland’s low-cost airline, is launching flights to the city from £139 one way this summer. If that’s not your scene, you may prefer booking onto one of its new flights to San Francisco, for the same bargain-bucket price. You’ll be travelling via Reykjavík in Iceland, where you can stop off for up to seven nights, meaning you could, in theory, have a break within a break. wowair.co.uk
JUST THE TONIC If you’ve ever spent any time in chaotic, bustling Marrakech, you might find the idea of going there to relax a little far-fetched. A recently launched four-night trip to Marrakech with Tonic Retreats might change all that. The trip includes accommodation in a luxury boutique riad, twice-daily rooftop yoga, a yoga workshop, all food (think wholesome but delicious) and a few tours too, all for a rather reasonable £500. Beginners and pros welcome. Book ahead with ryanair.com for greatvalue flights. tonic-retreats.com
Photograph (LA) by Tetra Images/Alamy; (Morocco) by Pavliha
RELAX YOUR MIND ON A YOGA RETREAT IN MOROCCO
FIND YOURSELF WITH MALIK DOWN ON ANTIGUA’S HEAVENLY DARKWOOD BEACH
MALIK’S A LOCAL YOGA INSTRUCTOR. MOST AFTERNOONS YOU CAN FIND HIM ON DARKWOOD BEACH, PRACTICING HIS YOGA, RELAXING AND MEDITATING. AFTER ALL, THERE’S NOWHERE BETTER TO FIND YOURSELF THAN ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA.
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D E PA R T U R E S
WEIRD WORLD Featuring cabbage worship, sacred goat bathing, and a wife-carrying competition LEINFELDENECHTERDINGEN, GERMANY
MEANS OF ESCAPE
Visit Aspen and eschew skiing in favour of steering a homemade raft down a slope. In fancy dress
Skiing? FORGET IT. Why hurtle down a slope on two thin planks when you could slide down it in a tiny self-built raft in fancy dress, with hundreds of people watching, cheering and, er, jeering? That’s exactly what we asked ourselves as soon as we first heard about the legendary Schneetag competition. The event (pronounced ‘schknee tog’, and meaning ‘snow day’ in German) takes place in Aspen, Colorado, every April. In this grown-up version of sports day, teams of four create rafts, put on ridiculous-looking
outfits, perform a little skit at the top of a mountain, then slide down a slope and across an icy, 18m x 6m pond. The team that manages to get the furthest across the pond takes a victory as prestigious as winning an Oscar, an Olympic gold medal and Crufts all at once. Tempted? You’ll need to know the rules: only teams of four qualify and the raft must weigh less than 400lbs, including the weight of the team’s nominated pilot. And remember, it’s not the taking part that counts – it’s the winning. e
CANARY ISLANDS, SPAIN Goats: look great, smell terrible. Fact. The locals in the Canary Islands must agree, because once a year they herd loads of them into the sea and dunk them in. Baño de las Cabras is actually an ancient ritual in which the goats are cleansed in the seawater, which locals believe to be beneficial and purifying. More so, apparently, than Pantene 2-in-1.
SONKAJÄRVI, FINLAND Here’s a way to reignite the passion in any marriage: invite your other half to Finland’s annual wifecarrying championships, where competitors race along a 250m track. The champion for five years running is Finnish athlete Taisto Miettinen, who has also written a book about corporate tax minimisation arrangements. No matter which way you look at it, that’s one hell of a CV.
Photographs by (goat) Desiree Martin/Getty; (wife carrying) Wille Markkanen
#27 SNOW RAFTING
If you’ve ever wondered how good you are at carrying cabbages (what, you haven’t?), head to the Filderkrautfest cabbage festival in Germany. Taking place every October, the festival includes cabbageshredding comps, cabbagehauling races, cabbage burgers and live music. Music? What’s even remotely cabbage-y about that?
T R AV ELT E X A S.C OM > T HING S T O DO > L I V E MUSIC
T E X A S L I V E MH UE RS ITCH R I L L S
© 2016 Offi ce of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism.
ND OT EXPLORE IT A AT
TR AVELTE X AS.C
INSTANT ANORAK For nearly 400 years, men dressed as devils have been jumping over infants at ‘El Colacho’ baby-jumping festival in Spain
16 2 0 was the year the first festival took place, and it’s happened every 12 months since
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descend on the sleepy rural village, which usually has a population of around 500 people
days after Easter, is when the festival takes place. It lasts for a whole week
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100s of flower petals are sprinkled over the blessed children following the jump
babies take part in the event, held in the streets of Castrillo de Murcia, northern Spain, each year
300 rows of babies are lined up in blankets, meaning up to ten tots can be ‘blessed’ in one hurdle
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HEAD TO HEAD JAMAICA
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Nickname: Land of Wood and Water
Nickname: Bim or Bimshire
Rastafarians, sprinters, tourists in tie-dye, hippy expats after some sunshine and good vibes, Bob Marley pilgrims. 8/10
Rihanna, Simon Cowell (bear with us), rum lovers, legendary West Indies cricketers, British tourists, sailors. 8/10
WHAT TO SAY
WHAT NOT TO SAY
WHAT TO SAY
WHAT NOT TO SAY
“Lively up yourself!”
“I shot the sheriff. (And also the deputy. Sorry about that.)”
“Actually, go on then – I’ll have one more rum punch.”
“Rihanna? She’s the St Lucian one, yeah?”
EAT & DRINK
EAT & DRINK
Near Kingston you’ll find Nanook, a suburban treetop/ social hangout with jamming sessions, pop-up restaurants and yoga programmes. It’s a very cool startup incubator for ambitious entrepreneurs on the island. 9/10
Catch some zzzzz at Mount Edge, a pretty guest house built into the Blue Mountains near Kingston. If you prefer the beach to lush green slopes then try Jack Sprat at Treasure Beach, a boldly coloured hostel right on the sunny sand. 9/10
Jelly coconut water is a local favourite – try it at stalls near the airport. Head to the shores for local dishes including steamed snapper with okra and a chilled Red Stripe. Locals drink rum in their gardens – nab yourself an invitation. 7/10
Rum was born in Barbados (or at least that’s what the Bajans will tell you), so head to a distillery and hear about it from the source. St Nicholas Abbey is craft rum at its craftiest, while Mount Gay is the oldest and biggest. 8/10
Little Arches is a charming little boutique hotel on the south coast, with just 10 rooms and an award-winning rooftop restaurant. Tamarind, on the West coast, is a smart, laid-back hotel on a dazzling white beach. 9/10
Rum shops are the Bajan equivalent of pubs; places to drink, talk sport and politics and play dominoes. Try John Moore Bar in Weston for an amazing beachfront setting. The Friday night fish-fry at Oistins is noisy, tasty fun. 8/10
AND THE WINNER IS…
It’s a dead heat in the Caribbean sun
HANNAH SUMMERS IS…
THE TOURIST BRRRRR-ILLIANT PACKING
an ice-climbing lesson that first day to see my Quebecois, winter-savvy, hardy ice-climbing guide wearing the same Helly Hansen base layer as urbanite me. (Photos followed.) And I also know that in conditions like these, my amateur layering of non-cotton fabrics (cotton is the devil in the cold) was spot on. The only time I ever felt close to hypothermia-induced death was hurtling down the slopes of a snow park in a rubber doughnut at 70mph. And that was worth the intense, windinflicted burning pain in my exposed face, obviously. Of course, my new-found knowledge comes at a price. Eight nights in Canada = six lost items: one glove, two hats, one scarf (RIP purple cable-knit snood) and one bra. Don’t ask, because I don’t know. Packing for cold climates I’ve absolutely nailed. Keeping hold of my layers? That’s a whole other issue. e
Photograph by Mark Boardman
Ahhh, travel: an opportunity to broaden your horizons, gain some life perspective and learn new things. I’m not talking culture. Culture? Pah! This is way more serious: I’m talking packing, or the small, relatively undiscovered, distant sub-section of packing: layering. Yep – next time you’re planning a trip to a place where it’s -35ºC, come to me first. No one knows the niche art of wearing loads of clothes like a Londoner thrown into a Quebec winter – months so cold that Before it became the air is more than the go-to fabric 20ºC colder than the for weatherproof ice-packed river. outdoor gear, Gore-Tex had an But not just any even less sexy use. It clothes – and that’s launched in 1971 as a lesson number one. filler and sealant for industrial pipes. Canada in winter is a
place where synthetic fabrics are king, where your running kit (the tightest Lycra you own) is your first vest and your catwalk-ready woolly beanie is worn over two (TWO) more hats. I panicked before this trip – I haven’t checked a bag into the hold since 1992, and I wasn’t going to break that glorious run for one week in Quebec. So I consulted people – a colleague (outdoorgear-geek who never goes outside), my boyfriend (lover of merino wool and Lycra), and a friend (who’s relocated to Canada) about what to pack. And then I annoyed them. What’s a mid-layer? What’s a shell? What’s Gore-Tex? What’s Polartec technology, neoprene and wick-away fabric, and what do they actually do? And most crucially – in what order do I wear these mysterious items? I still can’t answer any of these questions. Not properly, anyway. But I do know how good it felt when I turned up for
EXPLORE THE WORLD IN THE LAP OF LUXURY…
EARLYBIRD OFFER – Enjoy an exclusive saving of £240 per couple when you book before 30 April The Insight Vacations difference These outstanding escorted journeys bring you award-winning comfort and style paired with the highest levels of personal service. Including luxury hotels, gourmet dining and exclusive experiences, Insight Vacations journeys are handcrafted to bring you the full authenticity of each destination. Their luxury coaches have fewer seats, business class legroom and a professional and friendly Tour Director with in-depth local knowledge.
Country Roads of Croatia Escorted Touring Holiday – 14 days from £1,849 Including flights, expert Tour Director & local guides, 4 hotels in the best locations, exclusive included sightseeing and a selection of gourmet meals Days 1-2 London to Zagreb Enjoy a welcome drink at your hotel in Zagreb, your home for the first two nights. Get to know the area on a tour with a local expert guide. Days 3-4 Zagreb to Opatija Detour into Slovenia to visit the worldfamous caves of Postojna before continuing onto Opatija. The following day, take a tour to Istria and visit the well-preserved 1st Century arena at Pula. Day 5 Opatija to Plitvice NP Enjoy the scenery of the Adriatic coast on the way to Plitvice National Park. Day 6 Plitvice NP to Split Travel through sun-drenched resorts to the historic port of Split and join a local guide to get to know the area.
ards 2015 Aw
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Days 11-13 Korc˘ula to Dubrovnik Journey to the walled town of Dubrovnik, your home for the next 3 nights. Join a guide to explore the stone-paved streets inside the 16th Century bastions of the old town, relax by the pool or take an optional tour to Cavtat.
Prices are per person based on twin share, subject to availability & valid for selected April departures.
Number of nights Coach Ferry Flight
Day 14 Dubrovnik Enjoy a relaxing morning and after breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Tailormade Travel Worldwide 020 7408 9014 First & Business Class Travel 020 7408 9011 trailfinders.com
Days 9-10 Brac˘ to Korc˘ula Journey to the beautiful Peljesac Peninsula stopping amid age-old vineyards to learn about the art of winemaking, before continuing on to Korc˘ula, an island of exceptional history and culture.
Simply hand over your responsibilities, along with all your cases – everything’s taken care of.
’Best Travel Company’
Days 7-8 Split to Bol, Brac˘ Cross the azure waters to spend 2 nights on the island of Brac˘, famous for its marble, olive oil and wine.
For one wanting a better way to France
Set sail from Portsmouth Close to home yet a world away, France offer discoveries around every corner. And, there’s no better way of getting there than sailing from Portsmouth, a short and easy drive from London. You can sail by day, cruise overnight or take our high speed service to a choice of destinations. On board you’ll enjoy award winning levels of service and comfort whilst we save you the long drive through northern France. Reserve this year’s sailings now for a deposit of just £35.
Visit brittanyferries.com/london or call 0330 159 6764 Terms and conditions apply.
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2016 is officially Belfast’s Year of Food and Drink, so it’s the perfect time to plan a visit. But there’s much more to this Northern Irish port city than just eating and drinking...
EAT Adventurous foodies have had Belfast on their radars for a while now, thanks in no small part to the presence of Michelinstarred Ox Belfast, and Howard Street, where you can try international cuisine in a relaxed and unfussy setting. So it’s appropriate that 2016 is Belfast’s Year of Food and Drink, and for fans of those two things, there’s no better time to visit. If you’re tight on time and can’t spend hours lingering in restaurants, try a twohour food tour of local producers, from Leggygowan Farm to Hannan Meats. It starts every Saturday at St George’s Market – one of Belfast’s oldest attractions, built between 1890 and 1896. If even two hours is too long, make a flying visit for coffee beans, cakes, jewellery, art and a lot more. Belfast does burgers with love – try particularly rich, meaty versions
SLEEP at the Barking Dog in the student ’hood. It feels pretty gourmet for what’s essentially a pub, and the patties are stuffed with slow-cooked beef shin before being topped with cheese, rocket and caramelised onions. For the best of Northern Ireland in one meal, try James Street South and its Taste of Ulster tasting menu, featuring east coast scallops, County Antrim beef fillet and Glenarm salmon. Breakfast should be a feast, and if you’re going full Irish – which you certainly should – get to Rhubarb for huge mugs of tea served with bacon-stuffed soda bread, or Maggie Mays for heaving plates of soda bread, potato bread and sausages. If you need a caffeine hit after all the carbs and protein, try Established Coffee – a hipsterish café with healthy dishes and latte art galore.
To be right in the middle of the action, the Europa hotel is hard to beat – it’s not just the location that counts here, the luxe interiors are a bargain for the hotel’s price point. For something smaller, the city’s first boutique hotel is the 22-room Ten Square – it’s located in the Grade I-listed Yorkshire House, a former linen warehouse built in 1862. If you’re not staying, join the city residents at the restaurant and bar for a cocktail or steak. Slightly out of the centre in the Hollywood hills you’ll find the Culloden Estate and Spa (pictured, above), an elegant, turreted old bishop’s residence with a huge spa and views over Belfast Loch. Have a wander around the grounds and be sure to check out the on-site pub for traditional Irish food – from pies and Irish stew to scampi, with a Guinness on the side, natch. If you’re after a hostel, Vagabonds is a fun and popular choice, and just a 15-minute walk from the city centre.
Photograph by ###
For old-style Irish pubs, beer crawl in the Cathedral Quarter. The Duke of York, one of our favourites, is hidden down a cobbled alley – sip your creamy stout or whiskey on a tiny stool in the wood-clad room, or outside on one of the red benches with flowers dangling over your head. The nearby Dirty Onion has live music going seven nights and
two afternoons a week – hear traditional stuff, or tunes with a contemporary twist. Elsewhere, Filthy McNasty’s is a great shout for chic cocktails, strange decor (expect mannequins dressed as lamps) and a hidden beer garden with heaters out the back. Continuing with the cocktails, you’ll find the
most sophisticated joint at the Merchant Hotel, with a decent soundtrack at Bert’s jazz bar and a chance to keep the night going at on-site Ollie’s nightclub. If craft beer’s more your scene, try the Woodworkers, then head next door to Lavery’s – the city’s oldest bar – with DJs, sport and live music on rotation.
Fans of regeneration projects – and big ships – should head to the gleaming Titanic Quarter, a new waterfront area celebrating the birthplace of RMS Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. The impressive Titanic Museum takes you through the story of the ship and its fateful trip – which sounds gloomy, but is absolutely fascinating. The city is packed with galleries, from Red Barn in the city centre for images of Belfast past and present, to Belfast Exposed, which features art and photography from Belfast and beyond. For an impartial view of Belfast’s troubled history, don’t miss the black taxi tours. They’ll take you around the political murals and the famous peace lines, and fully explain the political and cultural events that have shaped the city’s past and present.
If it’s local produce you’re after, you can’t beat St George’s Market (again) – particularly on the weekends when you’ll find traders including Paddy’s Antiques (selfexplanatory), Andy Paraskos (for vinyl) and art traders in their double figures. Avoca is a favourite of city residents for its cute Irish homeware, clothing and a café that’s great for Irish cooking and home baking (the scones with a cup of tea are especially celebrated here). Liberty Blue on Lombard Street is a Belfast institution, where you can get your hands on statement jewellery and vintage dresses. If you’re more into music, try Good Vibrations – a legendary store founded in the 1970s – or Dragon Records, where you’ll find plenty of rare seven-inch records. Be sure to satisfy all your retro clothes needs at Viva Retro, an eclectic shop stocking old band t-shirts and floral tea dresses.
D E PA R T U R E S
GETTING THERE 2016 is Belfast’s Year of Food and Drink – visit Tourism Ireland for suggestions while in the city, tourismireland.com. Hastings Hotels offers a double room at the Culloden Estate and Spa from £144 b&b, and at the city centre Europa from £76 per room, per night b&b, hastingshotels.com. EasyJet offers return flights from £45, easyjet.com.
Like a rocket to Stansted Airport
Quicker than coach or car – just 47 minutes by train Get your skates on to Stansted Airport this Easter. Trains every 15 minutes with free Wi-Fi and plenty of luggage space.
Cracking value from only £8.00 each way stanstedexpress.com Average scheduled journey time 47 mins every 15 mins between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport. Price per person, each way when booked online in advance, or when 4 travel Standard Class return. Online advance offer fares subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.
STA5072 Rocket Escapism 128x190 aw1.indd 1
Li ke t he hot e l, ou r off er i s ext r aor di nar y. . . 5★ T HE R E SI DE N CE MAURI TI US Save 7 NIGHTS
£1,249 Including flights, half board & private transfers Situated on the east coast of the island on almost a mile of powder white sand, this elegant colonial style hotel, inspired by turn of the century plantation houses, offers a tranquil escape. Calming interiors dotted with oriental antiques and a butler assigned to each room provides a restful and indulgent atmosphere. • Gorgeous white sandy beach • Fabulous dining • Stunning Sanctuary Spa • Colonial style décor • Butler assigned to every room • Free kids’ club ards 2015 Aw
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Tailormade Travel Worldwide 020 7408 9014 First & Business Class Travel 020 7408 9011 trailfinders.com Price is per person based on twin share, subject to availability and valid for selected May & June departures.
Wow, what a trip! SO well organised with an amazing leader and superb staff. It’s not a simple ‘walk in the park’… but it is well within the capabilities of most people. If you are thinking about doing this trip - you should do it NOW! The views are amazing, the people and their culture you meet along the way amazing, and the way Exodus have set up and organised the trip is amazing… Ken Plumb, Everest Base Camp • November 2015
Because 97% of our customers would recommend us to a friend
CULTURE • TREKKING • CYCLING • FAMILY • WINTER ACTIVITIES • WILDLIFE • POLAR • #JOINTHEEXODUS
D E PA R T U R E S
SHORT STAY A PAST MASTER For a slice of quintessential Cotswolds charm and history, head to the Old Swan & Minster Mill, says Aby Dunsby The Basics
Photographs by (bedroom) Stephen Hyde; (food) Neil Hanson
Slap bang in the middle of cute Cotswold village Minster Lovell and set along the bubbling river Windrush, is the 15th-century Old Swan & Minster Mill. The award-winning boutique hotel is geared-up for maximum R&R, with 65 acres of gardens and meadows – perfect for woodland walks – and a snug indoor set-up that’s all about evenings spent in front of the log fire, glass of wine in hand.
in the Minster Mill, or potter around the picture-book gardens with your pooch – the hotel is dog-friendly.
The Food If you’re not prepared to eat your weight in food, you’re not taking the Cotswolds seriously. Luckily, the Old Swan serves classic, delicious food cooked with fresh, local ingredients. Our hearty rack of lamb came with carrots glazed with local honey, while the crayfish in our fish pie were caught in the nearby river. The enormous sticky toffee pudding is a must, if your jeans can stretch to it.
The Rooms The close-to-600-yearold inn and adjoining mill were given a fresh makeover by new owners in 2010, with the result being 16 historic timber-framed bedrooms at the Old Swan and 44 more modern and affordable rooms in the Minster Mill across the road. All come with quirky, homely touches, including hot-water bottles (when you need them) and carafes of sloe gin by the bedside. Wander past the grand paintings and gleaming figures in armour to the unpretentious but excellent spa located
Nearby A long (and hilly) bike ride is a great way to see some of the villages that dot the area. Rent a hipster Pashley bike from the hotel before pedaling over to Bibury, once described by poet William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”. When you’re done snapping its sweep of thatched riverside cottages and narrow streets, carry on to charming Burford and park up for a cream tea at Huffkins. Yep, more food – this is a mini break after all. e
OLD SWAN & MINSTER MILL ADDRESS MINSTER LOVELL, OX29 0RN PRICE FROM £155 PER ROOM PER NIGHT, B&B
GETTING THERE TRAINS TO NEARBY CHARLBURY TAKE AROUND 1HR 15, OR IT’S 70 MILES BY CAR
All rooms come with quirky touches, including hot-water bottles and bedside carafes of sloe gin INFO 01993 774 441; OLDSWANANDMINSTERMILL.COM
H O T E L OF T H E MO NTH
IN ASSOC IATION W I TH
Arabian Delight At Jumeirah Dar Al Maysaf in Dubai, you’ll find an idyllic hideaway complete with sun, sand and sundowners served by your own butler. Book your trip with British Airways
ander among the palm-fringed waterways, tranquil gardens and sand-coloured towers of Madinat Jumeirah, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a desert oasis. It’s a feeling that will only grow when you reach the exquisite summerhouses of Jumeirah Dar Al Maysaf. Fresh from an extensive refurbishment, the villas take inspiration from the Arabic courtyard houses of old, each complete with its own majli, or living room. You’ll be able to make the most of the elegant space when you enjoy your daily sundowners, served by your own personal butler.
With such luxury to hand, you may never feel like leaving your paradise hideaway – but if you do, there’s plenty to explore around Madinat’s sprawling complex, which you can undertake on foot, by golf buggy or by abra boat. It’s home to more than 40 restaurants, too, so you’ll find something to suit everyone, whether you want Italian or Mexican cuisine, a formal buffet or a casual poolside snack. If it’s shopping you’re after, the resort even has its own labyrinthine souk, showcasing the best of Arabia with more than 80 shops, bars and restaurants. Of course, you’ll also be able
to soak up the sun, cocktail in hand, on Dubai’s longest private beach, or leave your worries behind with a treatment at the award-winning Talise Spa, where there’s also a fitness centre with tennis and squash courts. If that’s not enough, you’ll be right next door to Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Wild Wadi Waterpark – to which you’ll have unlimited access during your stay, keeping both kids and adults entertained. And when, if ever, you’re ready to come down from cloud nine, Dubai International Airport is only 25 minutes away. ◆
P ROMOTI ON
How To Book Three-night stays at the Madinat Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf start from just ÂŁ699pp. To book, and for more information, visit ba.com/madinat 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 sharing on a half-board basis for selected travel between 6 June and 16 June 2016. Special offer available for bookings made between 6 June and 30 September 2016. Book by 15 April.
SAVE 40% AND GET FREE HALF BOARD AT THE MADINAT JUMEIRAH DAR AL MASYAF
THE PALMFRINGED WATERWAYS AND TRANQUIL GARDENS ARE A DESERT OASIS 31
MIND-BENDING: The winding Okavango River in Botswana. Like the beginning of EastEnders, but with fewer Cockneys.
34 BEST OF THE UK 45 HULL, UK 48 SKAGEN, DENMARK 54 COSTA VERDE, BRAZIL 60 BOTSWANA 66 GREAT BARRIER REEF Photograph by Frans Photograph Lanting by / Getty ###
NO PLA LIKE HO 34
ACE OME Photograph by ###
Fancy crawling through caves? Or perhaps lying on sandy beaches is more your thing. Whatever type of trip you’re after, the UK has it covered. Here’s our pick of the best… 35
Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire Paper: remember what that is? If you’re anything like us, an over-reliance on Google has left your map-reading skills in tatters. You’ll be keen to resurrect them, no doubt, and brush up on your compass technique while you’re at it. And where better than the undulating fields of Llanarthney in Wales? Join Hawk Adventures’ two-day extreme walking break and you’ll get a crash course in mountain navigation. Then take on the slopes and summits of Garreg Lwyd and Foel Frait by starlight, followed by the caves and waterfalls of the Carmarthenshire countryside the next morning. If that sounds a bit tame, try the new UK trip from stellar expedition outfit Secret Compass. The clue’s in the name – the gritty details are hushhush, but what we can tell you is that you’ll be taking part in an adrenaline-fuelled jaunt across the ridges and peaks of the Brecon Beacons National Park. What are you waiting for? It’s Wales’s Year of Adventure after all. HOW: Hawk Adventures offers two-night extreme walking weekends from £200pp, hawkadventures.co.uk. Ramp it up a bit The park is home to with a Wales-based South Wales’ highest mountain, Pen Y adventure with Man. The rolling Secret Compass landscape is also from £250pp, the stomping ground of tiny wild Welsh taking place from ponies – now that’s a 16-18 September,
reason to visit.
Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District Once you’ve honed your skills above ground, take things to a deeper level and head into the damp, dark recesses of the UK with a new caving course from Lost Earth Adventures. Burrowing deep beneath the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District, you’ll be kitted up in bang-on-trend caving gear (boiler suits, head lamps, helmets) before
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Head for a home-grown holiday in Whitstable; the Outer Hebredes; Scarborough; or the Peak District
slithering and crawling your way through the ancient limestone passageways, rock formations, underground rivers and tight crevasses of middle England, including the ominously named ‘suicide cave’. It’s a bargain, too – a full-day adventure costs from just £35. We love a cheap dirty weekend. Who’s with us? HOW: Lost Earth Adventures offers full-day courses from £35pp, lostearthadventures.co.uk. Sawday’s offers a collection of cosy cottages and farms to get your well-earned kip in afterwards,
Outer Hebrides Scotland may not immediately conjure up images of white-sand beaches and turquoise water, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in the distant Outer Hebrides. Forget about those balmy Thai islands and whisky buckets this year and instead try the Scottish islands with, er, whisky flasks. You’ll be paddling your way by sea kayak through one the UK’s most remote and picturesque spots, with wild stretches of deserted sand on the islands of Uist and Harris acting as your wild, wind-swept campsites each night. Confidence on the water would be handy, but your ability to Eskimo roll – that’s flipping yourself upright again should you capsize – is not required. Errrr, phew? HOW: Wilderness Scotland offers five-night kayak and camping trips from £825pp including all meals and equipment, wildernessscotland.com
Head for the coast…
Whitstable, Kent The transformation of Whitstable from sleepy Kentish seaside town to must-visit destination for trendy Londoners who want to eat Michelin-starred food in a pub
overlooking the sea (turns out it’s not too much to ask) has been swift. If you’ve yet to visit, join the throngs – they’re on to a good thing. There’s a thriving arts scene, and plenty of galleries to explore, plus a castle and the historical harbour where you can buy lots of delicious things at the fish market. And speaking of fish (well, seafood), Whitstable is perhaps best known for its Oyster Festival, which takes place from 23-29 July, and attracts around 80,000 visitors, all keen to join the festivities celebrating the love-’em-or-hate-’em shellfish. Back on the beach, it’s pebbles only, miles and miles of them, punctuated by wooden groins and the odd stretch of brightly painted beach huts. HOW: Travel by train from Cannon Street to Whitstable for £29.70 return, nationalrail.co.uk. Book into a 150-year-old fisherman’s hut on the seafront from £75 B&B,
Photograph (main) by Michael Marsh / Getty; (top right) Günter Rungenhagen / Getty
IN WHITSTABLE MICHELINSTARRED FOOD, SERVED IN A PUB OVERLOOKING THE SEA, ISN’T TOO MUCH TO ASK
Scarborough, North Yorkshire Looking for a coastal destination with some serious ‘traditional seaside’ credentials? Grab your bucket and spade and head to Scarborough, which has been attracting fish and chip-loving holidaymakers in their droves since the 1600s. While the first wave of visitors to this north Yorkshire beachside town were lured by the supposed healing properties of its thermal waters, people now head to its sandy beaches (of which there are four) to indulge in traditional seaside pursuits such as rock-pooling, donkey rides and losing 50 quid’s worth of 2ps in an arcade. Away from the shore, there are the ruins of 11th-century Scarborough Castle to explore, a Sea Life Centre and – opening this summer – a new Alpine-themed waterpark called Alpamare, which will have a heated pool (should the notoriously un-tropical North Sea prove to be just a bit too bracing). Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking are all available, and you can learn to surf, too, before rewarding Alpamare means your efforts (or ‘alps to the sea’, and rebuilding your the new waterpark pride) in one of the will be bringing Alpine cuisine to pubs overlooking the the shores of the harbour. Oh, and as north of England. the song says, are you It’s a match made in calorific heaven. going to Scarborough Fair? Your answer should be yes, as this three-day art and music festival is returning after an 18 year hiatus, from 27-29 May – with a line-up including Everything Everything, Billy Bragg and Lianne La Havas.
HOW: Travel with Virgin Trains from King’s Cross to York, before catching a connection to Scarborough, nationalrail.co.uk. Stay in a windmill at the, er Windmill B&B.
Pentle Bay, Isles of Scilly At first glance, Pentle Bay looks a bit more Tobago than Tresco, but this pictureperfect sandy stretch on the Scilly Isles’ second-biggest island is much closer to home. Located 30 miles south-west of Land’s End, the beach is backed by dunes, which give way to fine white sand and very clear, turquoise-tinted waters. Aside from its obvious aesthetic credentials, Pentle’s secluded location – it’s on the opposite side of the island to where the boats come in – make it a peaceful place to spend a few hours, too. Over on Tresco’s north coast, the terrain gets a bit more rugged, should you need reminding that you’re not in the Caribbean after all… HOW: Fly to the Scilly Isles from either Exeter, Newquay, Penzance or Land’s End from £140 return, islesofscilly-travel.co.uk. The New Inn is a popular place with both islanders and tourists. Rooms from £60 per night, tresco.co.uk
FOR PROPER OLD-SCHOOL LIVERPOOL BOOZERS, SINK SOME SUDS AROUND THE CAVERN QUARTER Start a party…
In 2007, the
HOW: For a Beatles-inspired bedroom try the Hard Days Night hotel, nightly rates from £72 per room, harddaysnighthotel.com. For functional yet cool try Aloft Liverpool, with nightly rates from £65 per room, starwoodhotels.com. Book in advance with Virgin Trains for the cheapest tickets, virgintrains.co.uk
Glasgow If there’s ever been a place that’s synonymous with having a good time, it’s Glasgow. Don’t believe us? Well, the facts
HOW: EasyJet flies from London Gatwick to Glasgow from £55.98 return, easyjet.com. Citizen M is centrally located, stylishly decked out, and good value for money, with rooms from £71 per night, citizenm.com
Follow your stomach…
Aldeburgh, Suffolk With a stellar reputation for farming, fishing and brewing, it figures that you’ll eat and drink well on a trip to Suffolk. But just how well? Let’s start with the cider. Not just any old cider – the much-celebrated Aspall’s and Adnams are brewed here, although the latter is better-known for its beers (and rather nice they are too). Dingley Dell pork is another wildly successful Suffolk export, and you can also find locally-produced salami, wine, and cheese. Basically, all the good things. Such is the high level of produce coming out of this part of the world, there’s a festival dedicated to all its
ABOVE: Guernsey’s gorgeous and full of good things to eat. Sold. BELOW (l-r): Glasgow’s Barrowland; Suffolk is famed for farming
lovely bounty – the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival, which is held in the Snape Maltings (appropriately constructed for malting barley to brew beer). The festival – which takes place from 24-25 September – will bring together 90 of Suffolk’s best food and drink producers. All you need to take is your appetite. HOW: Get the train from Liverpool Street to Ipswich from £66 return, before catching a connection, nationalrail.co.uk. Secret Meadows take camping to a new – and luxurious – level, from £89 per night, secretmeadows.co.uk
Guernsey, Channel Islands When you think about it, of course Guernsey should be home to fantastic food and drink – being
Guernsey was once home to big, big names, including writer Victor Hugo who penned Les Misérables. Good book, shame about the musical. And the film…
Photograph (main) by Chris George; (pigs) Getty
Horseshoe pub tried Liverpool, Merseyside to do away with its Liverpudlians don’t pie menu. An online just party, they petition followed, with 65,000 hits. PARTY. Preparations 90% were in favour start early (heated of the pie. The other rollers on the 10%? Dead to us. train up north is a prerequisite) and bar crawling in mega heels is standard. Tough enough to join them? Try Alma de Cuba, a converted church with a Latin vibe, or Berry & Rye, a moodily lit speakeasy-style place hidden behind a nondescript black door. For proper Liverpool boozers, sink some suds around Mathew Street – also known as the Cavern Quarter – where you’ll also find live bands and regulars nursing pints. If you’re anything like us, your night will end with cheap rounds of Jägerbombs in Heebie Jeebies. Please, don’t make us grow up.
speak for themselves: Scotland’s liveliest city is home to the longest pub bar in Europe, found in the 170-year-old Horseshoe, slapbang in the centre of town. Glasgow isn’t all about old-school pubs, though – head to the bohemian West End area, and specifically Ashton Lane. It’s a cobbled backstreet strewn with fairy lights and lined with quirky independent bars including The Lane, which has the Grosvenor cinema attached (yes, you can take your drinks in). Back in the thick of it, basement venue King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut – where, in 1993, a music exec called Alan McGee first laid eyes on a new band who went by the name of Oasis – still offers a varied line-up of gigs most nights of the week, as does the legendary Barrowland. Over in the swish Merchant City, beautiful people head to the likes of Tellers at the Corinthian Club, where you can quaff cocktails under chandeliers. Still going strong? Head to Subclub, the longest-running underground dance club in the world, with one of the best reputations. And if you’re feeling peckish on the way home, try one of Glasgow’s specialist late-night foods, such as the ‘pizza cone’ (sorry not sorry).
in between the UK and France means, in theory, it should have the best of both. Like a brie-filled Yorkshire pudding, or something. But anyway, we digress – this little Channel Island is full of good things that are edible and quaffable, and the Guernsey International Food Festival proves it. From 23 September to 2 October, this celebration of local produce takes place, highlighting the exports we know about – fabulous seafood and all the lovely dairy products from the island’s famous cows – to the ones we might not be quite so familiar with: locally-brewed beers and cider. Don’t leave without trying a couple of local specialities, either. Guernsey Gâche is a fruity, citrus-studded sweet bread, while a Guernsey Bean Jar is a stew of beans, beef shin, ham hock, onions and carrots that’s cooked in (you guessed it) a jar. Yum. You can also take a Tasty Walk – a route designed to help you uncover some of the best local foods and sights. HOW: Travel by ferry with your car from £99 per person return, condorferries.co.uk. Hotel Ziggurat is a new boutique hotel with rooms from £70
Manchester When you hear ‘Manchester’, football and music might be the two things that first spring to mind, but this lively city is home to a food and drink scene that’ll whet the appetite of even the most jaded of palates. There’s a few exports from London – that’ll be Dishoom, Iberica and Hawksmoor – which is all well and good, but it’s the places specific to Manchester you should head for. From high-end British dining at Simon Rogan’s The French and swanky place-to-be-seen Manchester House, to a mind-boggling array of brews at hip hangout Pont Street Beer House, all food and drink bases are covered in the city, and its casual dining scene is about to get a boost with the arrival of B.Eat Street – a brand-new ‘street’ filled with food stalls, bars and cafés in the central Deansgate area that’s due to welcome diners any day now. Over in the Northern Quarter, local favourite Solita – home of the Big Manc burger – is a must-visit for fans of American fare, while the First Floor Bar at Cane & Grain is a stylish New York speakeasy-style
destination serving fantastic cocktails. HOW: Travel with Virgin Trains from London
to Manchester Picadilly from £72 return, virgintrains.co.uk. Roomzzz aparthotel combines boutique hotel with serviced apartment, from £99 per night for a studio, roomzzz.com
Kick back and relax…
St Ives, Cornwall St Ives is as pretty as a picture, so it makes perfect sense that it’s home to a Tate gallery, which is re-opening this May. Away from the winding streets of the centre of town, the refurbished Tate overlooks St Ives’ sandy beach and provides a serious dose of culture on a textbook stretch of Cornish coastline. Away from the art, the town centre offers an impressive array of artisan producers selling their wares – head to one of the traditional bakeries (our fave, Ferrell SH & Son, looks like it’s been on its corner spot since the dawn of time) to grab a saffron bun or five, choose an ice cream a from Willy Wallers, or pick up a pasty from Pengenna’s and stroll to the harbour-front to watch the boats bobbing. A half-hour drive down the coast is Gwithian beach, a stunning expanse of golden sand where you can take a lazy (or strenuous, depending on your energy levels) walk through the dunes and nature reserve, before retreating to the Red River Inn for a steaming bowl of Cornish mussels and a locally-brewed beer, or head to Bamaluz beach, a pretty and secluded spot next to St Ives that’s the perfect place in which to get away from it all.
Bath, Somerset Nothing will make you relax more than sopping your way through warm pools of water. No really, the Romans didn’t build their ancient baths for the fun of it – the Roman Baths were not just for functional cleaning, but for soothing the limbs after a long day of spear-throwing and wrestling. The thermae pools of Bath are a destination in themselves, but for maximum privacy and chill factor, book yourself into the Gainsborough Bath Spa, the first and only hotel in the UK The Roman Baths to have access to were built in 70 healing thermal AD as a space for bathing and socialwaters. Your spa ising. They are some journey will begin of the best-preserved with a consultation Roman ruins in the before you’re sent off world – and they’re right here in the UK to heat up in sauna, steam room and spa pools in a bath circuit that replicates the city’s former residents. Elsewhere the enormous Georgian-style bedrooms (high ceilings, bay windows) will be hard to drag yourself away from – but do try, as Bath does chilled city breaks exceptionally well. HOW: The Gainsborough Bath Spa offers nightly rates from £289 per room per night, thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk. Book travel via
ST IVES IN CORNWALL IS PRETTY AS A PICTURE, SO IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE THAT IT’S HOME TO A TATE GALLERY
Photograph (main) by Ian G Dagnall / Alamy; (Beachspoke’s) Tony Timmington
HOW: Travel to Penzance with Great Western Trains, then hire a car and drive to St Ives, gwr.com. Push the boat out at Beachspoke’s Black Moon cottage, which sits on the seafront between St Ives and Gwythian. Prices from £200 per night, beachspoke.com
FROM MAIN: Bath’s thermal waters, and streets, are relaxing; Beachspoke’s Black Moon cottage has some decent views…
9 & 13 Newburgh St, Soho, London, W1F 7RS
or trains to Brockenhurst are even quicker. Canvas Retreats, from £295 for a weekend. canvasretreats.co.uk
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Barging down the Oxford Canal, but in a nice way; the New Forest has tons to explore; Centre Parcs
Bring the whole family…
Oxford, Oxfordshire Pack up the kids and your finest sailor suit (strictly optional), and head to Oxford for a canal cruise on a barge. Ok, so ‘cruise’ might sound a bit grand, but actually, meandering down Oxford Canal’s 78 miles of pretty waterways, flanked by rolling countryside, weeping willows and quaint villages, sounds pretty much like the good life to us. Younger ones – and yes, probably older ones too – will get excited at the novelty value of sleeping below deck on a barge, and can spend the days above deck pretending to
HOW: Trains from Paddington to Oxford start from £27.50 return, gwr.com. Prices start from £595 for a 3-4 night break, collegecruisers.com
The New Forest Can camping ever actually be an enjoyable experience with kids in tow? Will sleeping under a blanket of stars (or, as is much more likely, drizzle-soaked canvas) ever measure up to a week’s all-inclusive at a Spanish beach resort? Of course it will. Or at least it will if you go down the ‘glamping’ route. Canvas Retreats will tailor-make your camping break in the New Forest, and their tents will blow your mind – and, even more importantly, your family’s. Not only are their bell tents enormous, but they come complete with a kitchenette, lounge area, carpets and (insert drumroll here) beds. Yes – real, sturdy, comfy beds, made from actual wood and made up with Egyptian cotton sheets and feather duvets. You can use your pimped-out pad as a base for bike rides, trekking on horseback, and exploring the New Forest’s 219 square miles of epic countryside, where Before the Norman you might bump into conquest in 1066, the one of the resident forest was known pigs, cows or ponies. as ‘Ytene’. Alt-guitar HOW: It’s about a two-hour drive from London down to the New Forest –
band Great Ytene – some of whom hail from the area – take their name from this Anglo-Saxon word.
HOW: Travel by train with Thameslink Great Northern from St Pancras to Flitwick and get 10% discount on your ticket. See thameslinkrailway.com for details. Centre Parcs Woodland Lodges are great for families. Prices start at £499 for a weekend break, based on a family of four sharing. centreparcs.co.uk
Photograph (main) by Jon Bower / Getty; (below) Dave Porter / Getty
A BARGE HOLIDAY IS GREAT FOR FAMILIES AS EVERYONE CAN MUCK IN – NAVIGATING, COOKING AND PLANNING
be pirates (or is that just us?). What makes it a particularly good outing for families is that everyone can muck in – navigating, cooking, planning and offering obligatory cheery greetings to anyone you sail by (it’s a sociable kind of affair). Once you’re on board, you’ll be gliding past an everchanging scenic backdrop – and if you get tired of that, moor up alongside a country pub for a lazy lunch. It’s a recipe for family holiday success.
Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire Ahhh, Centre Parcs, the place that childhood holiday dreams were made of (what, you DIDN’T want to spend a week splashing about in a pool that was in a futuristic-looking dome that itself was in the middle of a forest? What. Ever). This self-catering holiday haven’s formula is still going strong, and the latest destination to join the Parcs’ family is Woburn Forest near Milton Keynes, where you can spend the week embarking upon all manner of pursuits, from quad bike safaris to raft building, via laser-clay shoot outs (and what isn’t improved by lasers and clay?), pottery painting and meeting baby owls. But what sounds particularly exciting, even to those of us who haven’t qualified as a ‘child’ since the early nineties, is the site’s Subtropical Swimming Paradise, which looks like the Walkie Talkie’s Sky Garden, but on the ground, surrounded by trees, and much, much more fun. It’s so extensive that it has its own map, which will guide you to the indoor rapids, outdoor pool, flumes, a canyon ride, mini jet skis… We could go on, but space is limited. And we need to go and find our armbands. e
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Somerset near Bath, England Stay in traditional, English luxury with a touch of elegant glamour.A unique country house hotel, adorned with original antique furniture, sumptuous fabrics and glistening chandeliers, yet a warm welcome and homely atmosphere prevails, creating an idyllic homeaway-from-home.
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RAISE HULL Photograph by Steve Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo
Unloved and ignored for decades, the city of Hull is staging a dramatic rebirth thanks to creative locals, sublime pubs and a host of giant toads, says Rob Crossanâ€‰ 45
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Things to see in Hull include the Humber Bridge, Holy Trinity church, The Deep aquarium, and the marina
I WANDER BACK INSIDE TO A MUFFLED HUM OF BONHOMIE. A MAN AT THE BAR IS SHOWING CUSTOMERS HIS GLASS EYE
Cotswolds for so many, now contain dozens of immaculate yachts in the harbour? Why are the streets of Newlands Avenue crammed with chic pavement bistros, live music venues, gelato cafes, galleries and vintage stores? And why, to the shock of so many, is Hull the place that’s been awarded the title of UK City of Culture for 2017? “The isolation does, I think, hugely work to our advantage”, says Rick Welton, creator of the Larkin Trail and one of many passionate locals turning the city into one of the more unlikely success stories of the north. The trail takes you to the main sites in the city associated with the writer who, in the 1980s, apparently turned down the role of Poet Laureate because he couldn’t be bothered with the work and publicity. As we stand in the new marina, surrounded by handsome old warehouses now converted into restaurants serving tapas, oysters and linguini, it’s impossible not to feel Hull’s geographical uniqueness and begin to understand that, in a nation whose high streets now seem identikit from Aldershot to Aberdeen, this is one of the few cities left that still feels utterly distinctive. “We’re still pinching ourselves that we got the title of City of Culture,” admits Paul Schofield, a local tour guide, as we meander around the university’s gleaming
Photograph by geogphotos; Mike Kipling Photography / Alamy Stock Photo; Craig Roberts Getty Images
he toad is staring at me quizzically. Sitting on its haunches, and covered entirely in a garish mosaic, it’s hard to associate this handsome (and admittedly, entirely fibreglass) creature with the work of one of the 20th century’s most maudlin poets; a man who spent his life in a city which, both geographically and culturally, has long seemed about as far away from the vibrant creative hubs of the UK as it was actually possible to get. Yet here the toad, one of 40 that have all been individually designed by local artists, sits on a grassy square behind an expanse of cocoa and olive-coloured waters. Seemingly as wide as the Amazon river, this estuary yawns outwards underneath scudding, marbled clouds spilling soft colour onto Hull, a city that according to one local poet had the feel of something approaching a town at the end of the world. “When your train comes to rest in Paragon Station against a row of docile buffers, you alight with an end-of-the-line sense of freedom.” So wrote Philip Larkin, the modest, self-effacing genius of 20th-century English poetry whose stanzas (including his iconic lament to the act of having a job – called Toads), even 30 years on from his death, are still lauded for their art of turning the mundane into the monumental. Later that afternoon, draining my amber ale outside the stout, battleship-shaped edifice of The Minerva pubic house on the old dock front, Hull University I wander back was central in inside to a muffled the bid for City of hum of bonhomie. Culture. Notable alumni include There’s a man at the John Prescott, Roy bar showing other Hattersley, Roger customers his glass McGough and Anthony Minghella. eye. Somebody shouts ‘cheers’ with enthusiasm as the wind outside gasps and scurries around a flock of smokers. The fact that Larkin, a librarian in the city’s university, made Hull in East Yorkshire his home for over three decades seemed, for many years, to be a perfect fit. Gloomy, post-industrial, windswept and unloved, Hull, like so many cities in the north of the UK, seemed to be infused with a sense of quiet yet terminal decline that matched perfectly with Larkin’s tales of empty trains, gas heaters and windy parks. So why then does this city, a one-syllable reason for never venturing north of the
new art gallery, which contains works by Stanley Spencer and Henry Moore. “We’ve always been a little different here. The accent is unique, the atmosphere is different. We’re an old port city so we’ve always been very accepting of visitors. It’s only recently though that we’re getting the attention we always thought we deserved.” A mere two-and-a-half hours direct from London King’s Cross by train, Hull seems to have found, through a mixture of accident and design, a way of blending the past and the present in a manner that feels both natural and astonishingly affable. The hospitality alone is enough to make any Londoner feel they’ve travelled to a different planet. Everyone is called ‘love’, food portions are gargantuan and it’s all but impossible to find a pint that costs over £3. And the pubs themselves are strong contenders for being some of the most atmospheric and original in the country. Straddled around a narrow street with the wonderful name of Land of Green Ginger, there are ancient taverns with a wealth of history such as Ye Olde White Harte, where amid creaking floorboards, oak-panelled walls and ancient beams lies the Plotting Room, where the decision not to let Charles I and his royalist troops into the city was a major turning point in the lead up to the English Civil war in 1642. It’s a five-minute walk from here to the tiny cobbled lane of the city’s original High Street, where one of Hull’s other great local heroes once resided. William Wilberforce – the town’s MP whose bill presented in parliament resulted in the abolition of
slavery in 1833 – lived here, and his highwindowed, red-brick Georgian home is now the fulcrum of the Museum Quarter, complete with Slavery Museum and Streetlife exhibit. Diverting as all this civic pride is, Hull’s real charm comes from a more ineffable place. There’s something in the vast expanses of Head to Hull’s the Humber with Museum Quarter the faded blur of to explore the rural Lincolnshire city’s history, and encounter sea in the far distance monsters and a that creates a sense life-sized woolly of belonging. It’s a mammoth. Entry to everything is free. feeling that here, far away from the standard UK travel itinerary of Roman ruins in Bath, dreaming spires in Oxford and twee tea shops in the Cotswolds, lies the real essence of England; a city at the edge of our small island that, with both stoicism and determination, has produced both great things and great people. As Larkin himself once wrote, Hull is “a city that is in the world, yet sufficiently on the edge of it to have a different resonance.” And he probably never even saw the bloke with the glass eye. e For more info on visiting Hull, walking the Larkin Trail and on the UK City of Culture 2017 build-up go to visithullandeastyorkshire.com. Rob stayed at the Holiday Inn Marina (hihullmarinahotel.co.uk), where doubles start from £186 including dinner and breakfast. Virgin Trains East Coast (virgintrainseastcoast.com; 03457 225 333) run from London Kings Cross to Hull with fares from £94 return.
Chris Peacock channels his inner Viking in Denmarkâ€™s northernmost town of Skagen, joining the locals for a freezing plunge in the sea. Sense of humour: essential; clothing: optional
Lettering illustration Photograph by Ben by ### Tallon; photo by Chris Peacock
ABOVE: While the water at Sønderstand isn’t exactly balmy, thousands choose to take the plunge; BELOW: Hardy swimmers gear up...
blonde Danish woman turns to me, smiles and slips off her gown. Several more robed figures take their cue and strip off, oblivious to the film crew and camera watching them. In the blink of an eye I’m surrounded by dozens of naked Scandinavians, standing casually among piles of discarded clothes while waiting eagerly for the action to happen. There’s nothing for it but to take a deep breath, drop my towel and join them. You’d be forgiven for thinking this fleshy scene was the start of some orgiastic Scandi skin flick but it’s far less sordid. It’s Denmark’s first and only winter swimming festival in the sleepy seaside town of Skagen (pronounced Skain) in northern Jutland. It’s here that crowds of hardy locals get naked on a bitter, windswept beach before plunging into an ice-cold Baltic Sea. In a town better known as a summer haunt for Denmark’s rich and famous – even its royals – Skagen’s annual Vinterbader Festival takes place over a cold, dark January weekend with around 280 gutsy winter swimmers, together with
MANY BELIEVE THAT WINTER BATHERS HAVE LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE, AND ARE BETTER EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH STRESS
local TV news crews, descending daily on Sønderstrand beach to enjoy a mass morning frolic in frigid waters. But this all begs one question: why? It’s no secret that Danes are regularly touted as one of the happiest nations on the planet, but lesser known perhaps is their love of winter swimming. In fact, Denmark has 80 official winter swimming clubs with over 20,000 registered members, and such is the popularity of splashing around in cold water here that many have long waiting lists. “Winter bathers The physical are social people challenges of who love to meet and winter swimming share in our fantastic are obviously greater than those nature,” says Mette associated with Hust, chairman of taking a dip in your Skagen’s Icebreakers local pool – speak to a pro first. swimming club and organiser of the event, now in its fifth year and largely attended by Danes and Norwegians. Mette, like many other cold-water Skagen swimmers, believes that while some do it for the physical challenge most are drawn to connect with nature, enjoy a sense of camaraderie and, most importantly, to feel alive. “I try to swim in the sea every morning as it makes me feel energised and ready for the day,” says Icebreaker Rita, who admits her daily plunge is something of an addiction, but one with benefits. Fervent fans like Rita believe winter bathers have lower blood pressure, are more resistant to cold weather and are better equipped to deal with stress – not to mention the flood of endorphins that comes following a brisk winter dip, which can last for several hours. While the exact science of winter bathing is sketchy, the appeal of testing your mettle in a stark coastal setting in the depths of winter is oddly persuasive. And so I find myself at 8am on a wind-battered beach in Skagen with a motley crew of scantily clad swimmers ready to brave the biting sea. We’ve gathered at a campsite in Grenen, a long sandbar north of Skagen and
famously where the North and Baltic seas meet in dramatic fashion – a classic snapshot here is to have a foot planted in each ocean. Surveying the crowd, it’s clear that winter bathing is far from a young man’s game, with the average age well into the fifties. But these are veteran cold-water swimmers, getting into the zone with a vigorous warm-up of squats and lunges. Suitably fired up, I join the bathers making their way to Of all the seas you the water, where one can choose to swim by one they shrug off in, it’s fair to say their dressing gowns the Baltic isn’t one of the warmest – it and cold-foot it into has been known to the water. freeze over entirely. On the advice So a hat is a really good idea. of Rita I keep my hat firmly on as the naked body loses around 50% of its heat through the head, and cold water can be a killer if submerged for too long. I also decide to keep my modesty in tact with a pair of swimming togs, which is just as well as I’m mobbed by a Danish camera crew the second I get out of the water. The presence of a sole Englishman has piqued their interest but exposing myself on national TV is a tad more than I bargained for. Before I take the plunge I watch how the
MY FOOT TOUCHES THE SEA AND I FEEL THE URGE TO JUMP ON TO DRY LAND, BUT I GRIT MY TEETH AND PLOD ON IN 52
ABOVE: Grenen, where brave souls limber up for a dip; BELOW: Skagen’s history museum (well it is only a small place) and countryside
pros do it. The quick dippers splash both feet in the water and run out. The cautious waders walk in up to their knees, wait a few seconds then glide out to their middle. The casual paddlers float on out as if the sea was a hot tub. Then there’s the frantic splasher, sprinting in and flailing around to keep warm. I opt for the latter technique, aiming to get in and out as quick as possible. The second my foot touches the sea I feel the urge to jump on to dry land, but I grit my teeth and plod on in while desperately waving my arms around. It’s an ugly, slightly manic approach but does a surprisingly good job in acclimatising to 3ºC water before it actually becomes bearable. I’m in for what feels like several minutes but is really no more than 15 seconds before my body turns scarily numb. I call it a day and head back to the ‘warmth’ of dry land – only 2ºC more – and wait for the much talked-about post-plunge high. After the shock, screams and numbness, it’s clearly invigorating feeling your blood circulation switch back on, and knowing your body is being perked up with a hit of endorphins. I see why so many Danes are hooked on winter bathing. There’s the buzz itself, but also the act of immersing yourself in nature and feeling part of it. After braving the Baltic I stand on its shores with a sense of calm, which lasts for the rest of the day, and almost feel tempted to pop back in for another dip. But the prospect of soup and schnapps in a warm tent is calling me to camp, where nowdressed bathers are raising a toast to their communion with the cold. Would I do it again? Without a doubt – but there’s far more to Skagen than winter bathing. Come summer this finger of land
jutting out from Denmark’s northern tip springs back into life with droves of tourists, drawn by sun-soaked beaches and quaint old neighbourhoods filled with yellow houses and white-picket fences. But it’s not all cutesy seaside charm. Skagen has a rich bohemian history with scores of artists living and working here since the 19th century, charmed by its ever-changing light, cinematic skies and rugged landscape. It’s also somewhere celebrated for its dreamy summer sunsets, so much so that crowds gather on the beach with bottles of wine and applaud the evening show. Whatever time of year, it seems, you can’t help but stop and raise a glass to Skagen, where you can have fun with or without your clothes on. e skagen-tourist.dk
GREEN Photograph by Kuba Barzycki/Shutterstock Photograph by ###
Caipirinha-fuelled carnivalia in Rio, or an eco-conscious escape in the Brazilian wilderness? Estella Shardlow finds you can in fact have the best of both worlds... 55
’ve a feeling we’re not in Copacabana anymore,” I remark to the stray dog strolling past me on the sand. The hulls of the wooden fishing boats may say ‘Rio de Janeiro’ but that sprawling, chaotic city – its beaches busy with volleyball players, bikini-clad poseurs and men with iceboxes hawking quejo, limonade, água – couldn’t feel further away from the tiny village of Picinguaba. Here, my only other company on the beach is a trio of overall-clad fishermen harvesting mussels by the water’s edge. Yet Rio and São Paulo are both less than four hours’ drive away – a stone’s throw by Brazilian standards. Like much of Brazil, this stretch of coast – the first place the Portuguese dropped anchor 500 years ago – is not exactly pretty so much as breathtakingly lush and wild. Thick jungle spills down to meet the jade sea, all that green The cobblestone broken only by a 3km streets of Paraty strip of sand and a have been preserved smattering of houses thanks to a rule stating that no cars painted in tropical are allowed down fruit shades, as if this them. As a result, might trick the jungle expect to see quite a few horse and carts. into letting them remain. There’s just one hotel in town, and fortunately it’s a brilliant one. The boutique Pousada Picinguaba has an infinity pool overlooking the beach and a hammock on the balcony of each room – both good places to chill out between boat trips to nearby islands, kayaking or caipirinha mixology workshops. Drive half an hour up the coast and you’ll arrive in Paraty, the picturesque colonial town where cobbled lanes and brightly painted, shuttered houses leave
a bittersweet taste; the state of São Paulo grew rich on sugar and slaves, plying the latter with cachaça to make them more submissive. My guide Harry points out four churches that served the different factions of a strictly divided community – “rich whites, whites, slaves and freed slaves” – and a stable-like building where arrivals off the slavers’ ships were kept. It’s a sordid past that’s hard to reconcile with the beautiful surroundings. When Brazil’s sugar economy crumbled in the late 17th century under competition from the Caribbean, attention turned
THICK JUNGLE SPILLS DOWN TO MEET THE JADE SEA, ALL THAT GREEN BROKEN ONLY BY A 3KM STRIP OF SAND
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT CAIPIRINHA SERVES TWO ◆◆ 2 limes ◆◆ 10 ice cubes ◆◆ 4 dessert spoonfuls of very fine
white sugar ◆◆ 2 shots of cachaça
1 Slice the ends off your lime and discard, then cut the fruit into eight pieces, taking care to remove the bitter pith in the centre of the fruit. 2 Place in a cocktail shaker along with the sugar and gently muddle. The key here is to press down slowly and for just long enough to release the juices (listen out for a squishing sound). Over-muddling will make the drink too bitter. 3 Add a shot of cachaça and the ice cubes. Shake well. 4 Pour into a short tumbler and top with a slice of lime.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: The lush tranquility of Paraty couldn’t feel further from the buzzing streets of Rio (BELOW); Paraty’s historical buildings and streets are well preserved; as are the beaches...
Photograph by ###
instead to gold, and then to coffee. Fazenda Catuçaba is one of many former coffee plantations you’ll spot in the state’s rugged, high-altitude interior, but the only one that has been transformed into a sustainable tourism retreat. Hotel would be the wrong word for this place – it’s a working organic farm with 450 hectares of land and the relaxed, communal feel of a homestay. Baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables sit beside antique scales and silverware on rustic wooden tables in the dining room, while mid-century seating surrounds a log-burning fire in the lounge. The 19th-century telephone on the dining room wall is indicative of Catuçaba’s take on technology: there’s no mobile phone signal and Wi-Fi is patchy. Instead, the idea is to switch off and enjoy simpler pleasures, such as horse riding, tree planting, hiking, lake swimming, cookery classes, and tucking into epic meals. Breakfast alone consists of banana bread, pão de queijo (a kind of cheesy dough ball that you’ll find everywhere in Brazil), jams, cheese and juices – all of it homemade – plus honey from the Fazenda’s beehives and eggs from
the resident hens. They’re even set to start harvesting their own coffee crop next year. Of course, ‘eco’ is a fashionable prefix these days, but there’s a very real need for this sort of project here: 85% of the Atlantic Forest, in which Catuçaba stands, has been destroyed in the past 500 years. Consider that it contains a similar level of biodiversity as the Amazon, despite being a fraction of the size, and the loss is even more worrying. Across the border in Minas Gerais state, the team at Reserva do Ibitipoca is on a similar mission to undo a lot of the damage done by deforestation, hunting and urbanisation. The luxurious lakeside ranch where guests stay (think: weekend retreat of that Brazilian billionaire you happen to be mates with) is just the tip of a very big, very green iceberg; a 4,000-hectare nature reserve of The Atlantic Forest waterfalls, forested contains around valleys, lakes and 20,000 species of quartzite quarries. plants, and 52% of the tree species While resident found there are conservationists endemic to the area, are hard at work on along with 92% of the amphibians. their breeding
GETTING THERE Original Travel (originaltravel.co.uk; 020 3582 4990) offers 15 nights in Brazil from £4,795 per person. This includes three nights B&B at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, a Rio city tour, three nights full-board at the Reserva do Ibitipoca, three nights half-board at Fazenda Catuçaba and four nights half-board at Pousada Picinguaba, plus transfers. Return flights from London Heathrow to São Paulo cost from £576 with TAM Airlines. Book via tam.com.br; 0800 026 0728.
ABOVE: A moment of calm on Rio’s Ipanema Beach before the Olympics arrive in town this summer; BELOW: Escape the madness of the city in rural Brazil. Peaceful Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais is a Unesco World Heritage site
night at the grandest granddaddy of Rio hotels, Copacabana Palace. It’s home to the most famous Carnival party, the Magic Ball (for 2016 there’s an Olympic theme, naturally), as well as suites that dwarf my entire London flat, and the 4km beach on its doorstep will be the site of the Olympic beach volleyball arena, plus marathon swimming, triathlon and Paralympic marathon events this summer. There’s really nothing to be done but order a caipirinha and let the madness begin. e
Photograph by ###
I SHED MY URBAN INHIBITIONS FOR A HACK ON A SNOWWHITE MARE AND A DIP IN A NATURAL POOL
The roll-call of programme for the celebrities who have critically endangered stayed at the flashy Muriqui monkey (no Copacabana Palace hotel is long, and mean feat due to includes Princess the Houdini-esque Diana, Elton John, elusiveness of the Bruce Springsteen and Marilyn Monroe. only local female) and reintroducing regionally extinct species, I shed my urban inhibitions for a hack on a snow-white Anglo-Arabian mare, an ice-cold dip in a natural pool, and a pre-breakfast birdwatching trip. For those of us accustomed to seeing nothing more than scruffy pigeons, Ibitipoca’s hummingbirds, saffron finches and palm-sized electric blue butterflies are well worth the early start. After a few days in this eden, drifting between yoga classes and the sunken outdoor Jacuzzi, the prospect of returning to Rio is, frankly, a bit terrifying. The brutalist jumble of terracotta and grey, the traffic and the noise – how would I handle it? Well, one strategy is to throw yourself into the other extreme with a
designed by Travellers for Travellers
WORLD Photograph by ###
Forget chugging along in an open-top safari vehicle; the best way to see the animals of Botswana’s Okavango Delta is by dugout canoe. Lizzie Pook takes to the water. Just nobody say ‘crocodile’... 61
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Hippos – quicker than they look; mekoro canoes float down the Okavango; a fish eagle living up to its name; water antelope race through the wetlands
he slumbering hippopotamus is roughly five metres away, half submerged in the water like a small island. If I had a stick, or an oar, I could almost certainly lean over and prod its leathery folds of flesh. But I don’t really want to be waking a 4,000lb hippo from its sleep – perched precariously, as I am, in the bow of a dugout mokoro canoe, which just so happens to be rapidly filling up with water. I’m in Botswana, on the Okavango Delta, an immense body of water that starts in Angola and thunders through northern Botswana, before sinking into the Kalahari Desert sands. The colossal landscape, stretching for some 10,000sq miles, is made up of a vast series of channels – running
from aquamarine and squid-ink blue, to mossy green and vermilion – that snake and pool around the Delta’s thousands of tiny islets and rugged floodplains. Locals have been using mekoro, traditionally crafted from the wood of the indigenous jackalberry or sausage trees, to travel the sprawling swamps for thousands of years. Funny then, that the one I’m in seems to be about as watertight as a sheet of A3. As well as a way to work, the Delta is also the means Sausage trees are of survival for the so-called due to the hundreds of wildlife distinctively shaped species (including fruit that hangs from them. Don’t the glamorous ‘Big be tempted to camp Five’) that inhabit anywhere near – the this marshy land, 5kg fruit drops unexpectedly... from the tiny pied
THE DELTA IS THE MEANS OF SURVIVAL FOR HUNDREDS OF WILDLIFE SPECIES
A bird’s eye view
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Cape buffalo stampede through the Okavango Delta; mokoro canoes float down the Okavango; a fish eagle living up to its name; hippos – much quicker than they look
Photographs (bufflao, canoes) by Danita Delimont/Getty; (hippos) Vincent Grafhorst/Getty
kingfisher – dozens of which dive-bomb the water around me with a satisfying ‘plop’ – to the not-remotely-tiny Nile crocodile. It’s the latter, probably lurking ominously beneath our canoe, that currently concerns me. Well that, and the sleeping hippo, which is now making baritone ‘laughing’ sounds not unlike Disney’s Ursula the Sea Witch. “Are the hippos dangerous?” I ask Modise, our guide from the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (who is pushing 70, but remains stronger than most props in the England rugby squad). “Yes,” he says, cheerfully. “If he wakes up he will probably chase us and try to turn the boat over. But it’s OK, I have my gun.” I turn to see him waving his ngashi (the pole used to propel us forward) above his head with a wide, toothy grin.
Thankfully, Modise steers us away from the hippo and we continue our exploration along the Delta’s glassy waterways. Now, I have the chance to relax – the rocking of the canoe (which I am still bailing out with a small sponge) having a strangely calming, albeit mildly nauseating, effect. Marauding predators aside, the Delta is an incredibly serene and undeniably beautiful place to be. As we silently glide past the tiny cattle egrets that are decorating the shoreline, and the curious-looking spoonbills that seem to eyeball us as we pass, it’s no surprise, I think to myself, that the mokoro is becoming an increasingly popular method of safari in this part of the world. How else could you have this view? The soundtrack is almost otherworldly, too: the shrieks, squalls and whoops of birdsong; the chattering of monkeys; and the screaming of huge fish eagles that are flying overhead (I look up and notice one of them trying to cart off a glistening fish that is almost twice its size.) Modise points out the monochrome backs of a herd of zebra grazing in the distance, and nearby a family of warthogs bury their heads beneath the water, each of them emerging in turn with a crown of tangled weeds. My peaceful vista is shattered suddenly, when our boat begins to lurch violently. I turn to see a herd of elephants emerging from the thick bush and crashing into the water just 20 metres Despite their behind us. It’s an hefty, barrel-like exhilarating sight – physiques and not often do you find stumpy legs, hippos can be surprisingly yourself eye-level nippy, and are with an elephant foot considered one – but also a pretty of Africa’s most dangerous animals. bloody terrifying
Botswana is home one. I notice that to one sixth of the the bull, who towers world’s elephant imposingly above population. The annual flooding of us, appears to have the Okavango Delta only one tusk. Not attracts thousands that that makes him of them to pass any less menacing. through the region. But fortunately, he doesn’t appear to be paying us any attention. So I allow myself a breath, and the herd makes its way onto the bank at the other side of the water, trumpeting loudly as they go. The elephants have made me feel slightly uneasy, and I start to wonder what else we might ‘come upon’ inadvertently. I ask Modise if there are likely to be any crocs around this particular area. “Yes,” he nods. “Very big. Very large.” I start to whimper. “You know,” he continues, undeterred
Messing about on the river Having had my fill of big game (and mild peril), the next day I travel by plane to the
ABOVE: Wattled cranes thrive in the Okavango Delta’s marsh-like habitat; TOP: Elephants travel to the area when food and water are scarce in other parts of Botswana
Moremi Game Reserve, deep in the heart of the Delta. Here, the channels – forged by wallowing elephants and buffalo – are narrower and shallower, providing an arguably more ‘relaxing’ mokoro ride. From my base at Chief’s Camp – a luxurious eco lodge which can proudly boast some of the most enthusiastic and clued-up guides you’re ever likely to meet – I’m taken out by Noriah, a true ‘Delta-man’, who has been piloting his own (fibreglass) canoe since he was a small boy. Right here, at the core of the Delta, the mokoro journey is a wholly different experience. As we punt leisurely through the calm water, cormorants air their wings like cloaked emperors, and Jurassic-looking herons bury their beaks in their shoulder feathers. Lilac-breasted rollers float down
I LET OUT A SMALL SHRIEK OF JOY WHEN I SEE A HYENA LUMBERING ALONG
to tree branches and huge dragonflies skim the surface of the water. It would all be rather relaxing if we didn’t keep colliding with the tightly knitted spiders’ nests that straddle our path. They cling to my face like limp Silly String and the dislodged creatures skitter and whirl around the bottom of the boat, darting up my trouser legs, burrowing into the sweaty creases behind my knees. Still, I’m more preoccupied with scanning the overhanging tree branches for leopards, and let out a small shriek of joy when I see a hyena lumbering along in front of us. To our right, a family of baboons scuttle around a tree trunk to get a better look at us, and a herd of impala bolt past in a flash of faun, startled by something deep within the undergrowth. Someone once told me that travelling in a mokoro was one of the most relaxing things they’d ever done. Well, maybe I have the nerves of a flannel, but I’d have to dispute that. However, there is no denying that this is a unique and Thanks to its unforgettable way diverse ecosystem, to take in one of the landscape and most diverse and the huge array of endangered species incredible-looking that it attracts, the ecosystems on the Okavango Delta planet, and I can think is a Unesco World Heritage Site. of no other way that you can immerse yourself in such an unspoiled landscape without breaching the peace with a noisy motor or helicopter rotor. Just keep half an eye out for those hippos. e Chief’s Camp offers mokoro trips as part of its all-inclusive package; prices from £533. sanctuaryretreats.com/bostwana-camps-chiefs
Photographs by (cranes) Bill Raften/Getty; (elephants) Theo Allofs /Getty/Minden Pictures RM
by my quiet hysteria. “Crocodiles are the only animals that can digest our teeth and our nails; that’s why there are never any remains when people fall in the water.” At that precise moment, something grabs hold of my hand. “Gaaaaaaaah,” I shriek, shooting upwards until I’m upright, bent kneed and swaying in the flimsy canoe. It’s a snake, I’m sure of it. Or some other leviathan. Modise begins to laugh. I look down. On my hand is a frog. A truly tiny frog, not even a toad. It’s a quite beautiful little silvery thing that, without a fuss, springs quietly from my trembling hand and onto a nearby reed.
PTG R AIL AND CULTURE HOLIDAYS
For a copy of our free colour brochure please contact us at: 01235 227 288 or visit our website at ptg.co.uk PTG Tours Limited, Boston House, Downsview Road, Wantage, Oxfordshire, OX12 9FF
THE LIFE AQUATI 66
Janelle Butterfield discovers the Great Barrier Reef by land, sea and sky and finds a whole new way to holidayâ€Ś
Photograph by ###
t’s 7am on a Tuesday morning, and rather than the usual chorus of dustbins being emptied outside my north London flat, I’m woken by a wholly unfamiliar soundtrack of waves lapping and birds tweeting. But this isn’t an expensive alarm clock programmed with the sounds of nature (although for a minute, I do wonder) – this is the real deal. Lying in my ‘swag’ tent on top of a pontoon 50km from shore, I’m being woken up by the Great Barrier Reef. Looking out from my makeshift bed, all I can see for miles is azure water, glistening in the early morning sunshine – and I’m not the only one up and about. As well as the menagerie of tropical birds that are circling It’s not all about overhead, a closer what goes on under inspection of the the water in this surf reveals swarms natural paradise – there are around 215 of colourful fish and different species of several turtles lazily bird you might spot meandering past the flying over the Great Barrier Reef area. precious coral. It’s at this point that I realise just how far from home I am: 10,000 miles to be precise; and unless space travel becomes more viable, I’m unlikely to be this far away again. Like Dorothy looking out on the land of Oz (how very apt), suddenly everything seems to have been ramped up into technicolour, as though I’ve been squeezed through an Instagram filter and come out of the other
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Nemo! Or, if you’re going to be specific about it, one of the reef’s resident clownfish; the Beach Club hotel is a suitably stunning base; Hardy Reef, one of the Whitsundays’ most popular snorkelling sites; diving with a grouper fish
COLOURFUL FISH AND TURTLES MEANDER LAZILY PAST THE PRECIOUS CORAL 68
WHERE TO STAY HERON ISLAND Fifty kilometres from shore and still fairly underdeveloped, this island plays host to hundreds of birds, fish and turtles (although incidentally, not a single heron). Less than a square mile in size and rural in its feel, this small archipelago isn’t a world away from when it was discovered in 1843 – there’s not even mobile reception, enforcing a blissful digital detox. Sir David Attenborough visited the tropical island while filming his recent BBC series on the reef, becoming enchanted (and somewhat distracted) by the swarms of birds that have set up home here. Well if it’s good enough for him… From £170 per night. heronsland.com
Photographs (reef) Peter Walton/Getty; (grouper) Jonathan Bird/Getty
side. No wonder they call it Down Under. This is just one of several ‘pinch myself’ moments that have happened over the last 24 hours – and they keep on coming. What I failed to think about when signing up to a trip that takes in one of the most naturally beautiful landscapes on Earth, is that I’m quite partial to being on terra firma. Flying is endured, rather than enjoyed, and my idea of exploring open waters abroad is often the hotel’s infinity pool (strictly the shallow end, mind you). But a few days in nature’s playground and I’ve been totally sucked in; my initial hesitance to snorkel has given way to a bona fide diving session and while I cling to my instructor for dear life for the entire duration (thank you, Scott), it may just be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Special mention to the grouper fish; many of whom, at over five feet long, were giving me a run for my money in the size stakes.
Spanning over 2,000km in length and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef has long been a go-to destination for keen divers and nature enthusiasts, but a recent boom in tourism has unearthed more visitors keen to take advantage of the region’s bucketlist of activities, while enjoying the tropical temperatures and laid-back Aussie vibe. Getting around has become quick and easy thanks to regular (and cheap) domestic flights, as well as boat trips connecting the islands, and while I never had Australia down as a foodie destination, I’m soon eating my words The Great Barrier – and all the fresh Reef is longer than seafood in sight. the Great Wall of Chatting to China, as big as the UK, Switzerland and locals, expats and Holland combined, tourists, it’s clear I’m and the only living thing on Earth that’s not the only one visible from space. who’s been hit
If it’s unadulterated luxury you’re after, the One & Only Hayman Island is the stuff that postcards are made of. White sands and swaying palm trees are par for the course, with five-star service and haute cuisine to boot. Frequented by couples and honeymooners, the island paradise also offers champagne hampers for sunsets on the beach and a suite designed by Diane von Furstenberg. From £286 per night. hayman.oneandonlyresorts.com
HAMILTON ISLAND Neighbouring Hamilton Island (just a 50 minute boat ride from Hayman or a 90 minute flight from Brisbane) has recently undergone a multi-million pound makeover courtesy of owners, the Oakley family. The largest of the inhabited Whitsunday Islands, the picture-perfect resort houses six varieties of accommodation as well as a plethora of activities and dozens of places to eat, drink and be merry. Head to the island’s highest point, One Tree Hill, for a cocktail overlooking the bay and try the pan-Asian cuisine at the resort’s Coca Chu restaurant. From £170 per night. hamiltonisland.com/au
ABOVE: Sails Restaurant on Hamilton Island, with Catseye Beach beyond; BELOW: The floating viewing deck at Agincourt Reef
GETTING THERE QUEENSLAND CALLING The 74 tropical islands which make up the Whitsundays, to the north of the Great Barrier Reef, are so called because they were discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770 on what he believed to be Whitsunday – the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun (Pentecost) in the Christian calendar. However, it’s now widely believed that since the advent of the international dateline, he actually discovered the islands on a Monday. Which is slightly awkward. Janelle travelled to the Great Barrier Reef with Tourism and Events Queensland (queensland. com) and Austravel (0800 988 4834, austravel.com). Austravel is offering an 11-night Great Barrier Reef holiday to Queensland from £2,395 per person. The offer includes three nights at Heron Island, off the Gladstone Coastline; one night at The Point Bargara; one night at Marina Shores in Airlie Beach; two nights at One&Only Hayman Island; three nights at the Reef View Hotel on Hamilton Island and one night back at Marina Shores. This offer includes return international flights from London Gatwick with Emirates, car hire and all transfers to the islands, and is based on departures in June 2016.
Photograph (Agincourt) by Richard I’Anson\Getty\Lonely Planet Images
MAKE LIKE ROBINSON CRUSOE AND ENJOY YOUR OWN, PRIVATE BIT OF PARADISE
by a sudden urge to explore all that this corner of the globe has to offer. To say there must be something in the water here is an understatement, as everyone waxes lyrical about the freedom of such an outdoors lifestyle – not hard to enjoy when temperatures rarely drop below the mid-twenties. And true to form, despite my previous land-lover status, on I plough, boarding seaplanes and helicopters without hesitation, where once I’d have been quaking in my flip flops. Returning to earth, the crowning jewel of the reef is surely the impeccable and unspoilt beaches – many of which have been awarded National Park status in their own right. Far from Seaplanes are the battling for towel easiest way to get space with fellow around, but also holiday-makers, the an essential way to fully appreciate sheer number of them how vast the Great means you can make Barrier Reef really like Robinson Crusoe is (and capture that killer shot for Insta). and enjoy your own private bit of paradise. Lazing on the pristine white sands, it’s not at all uncommon to spot a wallaby hopping between the palm trees, while by night turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs. Back in my own natural habitat – relaxing pool-side with a piña colada – I’m pleasantly surprised to find the views from land are just as stunning without the adrenaline rush, but like any intrepid explorer, it’s not long before I’m ditching my sun lounger in favour of a kayak and heading back out into the reef in search of my next discovery… e
Fly London Heathrow to Cairns. Economy return from £869*. Selected departure dates apply; see below for details. Offer ends 21 March 2016 unless sold out before. Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef - it’s where rainforest meets the reef. Adventure is brought to you by encounters with nature, as diverse and exhilarating as the region itself. Snorkel in a marine wonderland, kayak on the stunning ocean, or for the more adventurous, take a reef skydive from 14,000 feet. Cairns and Great Barrier Reef is a region of many options. And thanks to Qanta the Spirit of Australia, you're sure to enjoy every moment Qantas, of the journey there.
Book your ﬂights now at qantas.com *Prices based on payment at qantas.com. For bookings made through Qantas Telephone Sales a fee of £20 per passenger per booking applies. Flights are via Dubai and Sydney or Melbourne. Prices correct as at 02 March 2016 but may fluctuate if carrier charges, fees, taxes or currency change. Depart between 25 March 2016 and 30 June 2016, and 1 November and 30 November 2016, Sunday to Thursday. An additional £20 applies for Friday and Saturday departures. Offer is subject to availability at the time of booking. Some changes permitted at a charge. Offer period may be extended at Qantas’ discretion. Other conditions apply. Qantas Airways Limited ABN 16 009 661 901.
UNDER THE SKIN
I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H
PAGE 74 Varadero
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Rickety rum shacks, endless sandy beaches, salsa clubs and faded colonial mansions – Cuba’s got it all. This is your instant guide to a country where old and new combine to create a holiday destination like no other
Contents 74 FIVE REASONS TO VISIT CUBA NOW 76 A RUM LOVER’S GUIDE TO THE COUNTRY 78 WHERE TO STAY IN BEACH AND CITY
F I V E REASON S YOU NE E D T O VISIT C UBA NOW
Cuba’s Calling Always wanted to visit this atmospheric collision of tropical beauty, history and culture? Don’t wait – there’s no time like the present
It’s easier than ever to get to In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone’s talking about Cuba right now – and with good reason. This is an island that’s part Caribbean, part Latin American, and part tropical idyll. It’s a living and breathing relic of different times, but just as fascinating as it has ever been. It’s also never been easier to find the Cuba you want, from the indefatigable energy and faded glamour of Havana to chilled-out tropical beach resorts – or better still, both. Direct flights with Virgin Atlantic bring it all within easy reach.
There’s history everywhere You’ve seen the pictures of battered old American cars and tumbledown mansions – now see it and experience it for real. In Havana, these tantalising tastes of past times provide the backdrop to a city that’s going places fast, while in colonial Trinidad, the pace of everything is slowed to a gloriously laid-back vibe that you can’t help but be drawn into. Camagüey, in the centre of the island, was one of the first villages founded by the Spanish in the 1520s, and its atmospheric squares and buildings drip with history.
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You can mix beach & city
It’s all about the music
Havana is one of the great Latin American cities – with charm, energy and a beautifully dishevelled style all of its very own – but Cuba’s beaches are world-class too. Near pretty, laid-back Trinidad you’ll find Playa Ancón, where a long sandy beach (there’s three miles of it) meets crystal-blue sea, while the 20km strip in the bustling northern resort town of Varadero has everything you’d expect from a Caribbean island beach. Marea del Portillo in the south east has a stunning mountain backdrop and epic reef and wreck diving.
With a population drawn from a melting pot of cultures, Cuba’s music is varied and vibrant, from salsa, rumba and son to jazz, reggaeton and hip hop. Havana is crammed with venues for catching it live – for jazz in a suitably sultry basement, try La Zorra y el Cuervo, or Jardines del 1830 on a Friday night for salsa under the stars.
You’ll burn off the rum easily
Even rum-phobics might find themselves swept along by Cuba’s endless daiquiris, mojitos and Cuba libres, but there are plenty of ways to clear the head and see the country at the same time. Las Terrazas is a short trip from Havana; it’s a verdant biosphere where hiking trails bring you face to face with lush forests and abundant birds. Divers will be in heaven around the island, with unspoiled coral gardens teaming with marine life.
High Spirits They take their rum pretty seriously in the birthplace of the mojito, the daiquiri and the Cuba libre. Here are the best places to get your fix…
o matter where you go in Cuba, you’re never far from what’s often considered the country’s finest produce – rum. Whether you’re keen to embark on a rum tour, learn its history at the new museum of rum or just sip cocktails in a peaceful square, Cuba’s got all your rum-loving wishes covered. The colourful Caribbean country has been producing the liquor since the 16th century, and it’s now firmly established as one of the finest rum producers, with brands including the world-famous Havana Club. Styles range from white rum, typically used in cocktails such as the Cuba libre, mojito and daiquiri, to various dark rums that are aged in oak casks for up to 30 years. Here’s where to find it and drink it…
Bars Havana, Cuba’s capital, is crammed with historic bars selling the best rum in the country – try it neat with a chunk of ice, or as an expertly crafted, refreshing cocktail. Ernest Hemingway fans should head to La Floridita, a bar located in La Habana Vieja, the older part of the city and the iconic American writer’s favourite hangout. If that doesn’t appeal, the country-famous daiquiris just might. Alternatively, Bar El Dandy, a cool bar decorated with distressed posters and murals, serves food alongside the rum, while staff parade their “Hemingway did NOT drink here” t-shirts with pride. On the southern shore of Cuba is the perfectly preserved cobbled town of Trinidad – go there for local fare including lobster-stuffed plantains, which are served alongside £2-a-pop rum cocktails in the ivy-clad courtyard setting of Restaurante Sol Y Son. If you prefer the beach to city hangouts, check out the pristine shores of Playa Paraiso, known as Paradise beach, also located in the south of Cuba. The combination of sugar-white sand, turquoise water and laidback rum shack will have you feeling the holiday vibes in no time.
Shops Havana Club may be the best known of Cuba’s rums, but browse the shelves of the convertible peso shops and you’ll find a tempting selection of lesser-known varieties – perfect for bringing back home. For something sweet and dark, look out for Ron Cubay, or Ron Palma Mulata is a great white rum. Some of the finest Cuban rums include Havana Club Gran Reserva and Santiago de Cuba Extra Anejo – which was apparently a favourite of Fidel Castro. Cuban locals are always keen to share information on their country and culture, and barmen will offer advice on different blends and styles – while mixing you up a heady concoction, of course.
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Distilleries & Museums If just drinking rum isn’t enough for you, try learning about it, too. Havana’s Museo del Ron is a journey back to the origins of the famous drink. It will give you a realtime experience of the rum-making process in a renovated 18th-century ‘solar’ – a colonial townhouse – while explaining the process, from sugarcane field to copper distillery to glass. Of course, there’s then a chance to sample the Havana Club rum in the on-site tasting room. Try a classic mojito, or a cata vertical – a sampling of various Havana Club rums, from the youngest to the oldest. The original Bacardi factory was located in Cuba in the 19th century, and you can still see the site in Santiago de Cuba, one of Cuba’s prettiest cities. The Bacardi bat symbol even originated at this particular factory, thanks to the extended family of bats living in the building’s rafters. Be sure to swing by the rum bar for a tasting session. It’s not all factory processes, though. Take a short train ride outside of Cuba and you’ll find the Manaca Iznaga Estate in the Valle de los Ingenios – sprawling acres of fields and outbuildings where you’ll be able to get a sense of the scale of the sugar cane fields that were operational in the 19th century.
T H ERE’S A PLACE J U S T FOR YOU Five Virgin Holidays resorts, five different adventures. Whatever you want from a Cuban trip, there’s somewhere with your name on it
Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa, Varadero
Set on one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Varadero, the Royalton Hicacos Resort & Spa is the perfect place to soak up Cuba’s warm Caribbean sunshine. Laze on a lounger next to one of the three pools, or stroll the powdery white sands of its beach on the famous Hicacos peninsula. The adults-only property has a choice of excellent restaurants on-site, meaning you can try international and Cuban cuisine, and enjoy cocktails in the hotel’s jazz bar. If you like to keep active, you’ll love windsuring, diving or sailing in the warm crystal-clear water.
HOT PI CK
Iberostar Parque Central, Havana Where better to base yourself in Cuba’s capital city than right in the heart of the action? The majestic Iberostar Parque Central looks out over El Capitolio and the Gran Teatro, with the buzzing old town just a short walk away and a dizzying choice of bars and restaurants nearby. The hotel itself has three restaurants and two bars, and two rooftop pools where you can escape the bustling city streets and soak up the incredible views.
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Melia Las Americas, Varadero If you love relaxing on a beach as much as playing golf, try Melia Las Americas, an adults-only hotel with a prime location next to Varadero Golf Club, Cuba’s only golf course. By day, get a round in or opt for a massage on the pristine beach, listening to the gentle lapping of the water. By night, there’s a range of elegant restaurants to enjoy, with Italian, Japanese and Cuban cuisine.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is one of the country’s most famous hotels, and one that’s seen the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill. And who can blame them? Located in the Vedado district, the hotel offers harbour, sea wall and city views, restaurants offering delicious Cuban cuisine, elegant suites and a huge outdoor pool for cooling off after a day exploring the city.
For an easy beach holiday for all the family, try the Paradisus, located on Blue Beach in Varadero. There’s so much choice here – whether it’s dining in one of the six restaurants (complete with 24-hour, all-inclusive bar), lazing at one of the many outdoor pools or getting active with tennis and kayaking. Children (and parents) will love the kids’ club, which will keep them busy and excited all day long. The fun evening entertainment is sure to please the whole family, too.
Discover Cuba with Virgin Holidays at… virginholidays.co.uk/CubaEscapism or call 034 4557 4321
In A New Light Whether you've got a thirst for culture, a taste for luxury, or a craving for adventure, you'll find it all in Qatar, where old and new come together in spectacular style
atar is an intriguing, exciting mix of contrasting sights, from sleek skyscrapers and glittering malls to historic, colour-soaked souks and sun-scorched desert plains. Few places in the world are experiencing such fast-paced development, and Qatar is a country that’s constantly evolving while also keeping a proud hold on the traditions of its past. Qatar’s blend of old and new is sure to thrill at every turn, spanning from dune-filled desert to bustling Doha, from modern buildings to traditional Qatari architecture. The capital perfectly exemplifies the fusion of past with present: step beyond the city’s elegant new towers and you’ll discover the sights and sounds of the Souq Waqif – the country’s most famed and vibrant marketplace, where you can haggle for traditional garments, spices and handicrafts underneath its iconic stone arches. The traditional souq’s labyrinth of narrow alleys is also home to dozens of buzzing, spicescented local restaurants, and art galleries, while
more surprising attractions include its falcon shops and horse stables. For a dose of Qatari history, there’s Al Zubarah, one of the country’s Unesco World Heritage-listed sites, which acted as a large commercial and pearling port in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its crumbling fort still remains, offering beautiful views of the old coastal city from its battlements. Art lovers arriving in Qatar via Hamad International Airport will catch a glimpse of the famous Lamp Bear – this playful modern installation is a 23-foot yellow teddy bear sculpted from bronze by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. More traditional art attractions include the hugely impressive Museum of Islamic Art, spanning 14 centuries of artwork, and the spectacular Qatar National Museum, which opens in the next year and has been designed by French starchitect Jean Nouvel to resemble a desert rose emerging from the ground. If you can prise yourself from the wonders of the city, you’ll find a wealth of activities for
IF YOU CAN PRISE YOURSELF FROM THE SPECTACULAR HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS, YOU’LL FIND A WEALTH OF ACTIVITIES FOR ADVENTUROUS TRAVELLERS
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Qatar Essentials DIALAFLIGHT
Five nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha on a bed and breakfast basis, including flights with Qatar Airways, from £1195 per person. 0844 556 6060; dialaflight.com THE HOLIDAY PLACE
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Doha's Museum of Islamic Art is a serene and spectacular wonder; hitting the dunes in a 4x4 is a great way to explore the desert and the best way to reach the remarkable Khor Al Adaid, or 'Inland Sea'; old and new combine to dazzling effect
Five nights at the St Regis Doha on a bed and breakfast basis, including flights with Qatar Airways, from £1,219 per person, selected dates from June to September. 020 7644 1760; holidayplace.co.uk
adventurous travellers, right on Doha's doorstep. Take to the azure waters for activities including paddle-boarding, diving, fishing and kayaking in the tranquil mangroves – or for some real action, head for the dunes. Just an hour from Doha, desert safaris and tours offer a chance to see the otherworldly, ever-changing landscape. You can take lunch in the desert, go dune-bashing in a 4x4, or even ski down sandy slopes. Perhaps the most remarkable sight of all is Khor Al Adaid, or 'The Inland Sea', where a vast ocean creek flows deep into the desert, offering spectacular views and a sense of pure, unfiltered tranquility. It's just reward for the adventurous – Khor Al Adaid can only be reached by a 4x4 trip across the undulating desert terrain. If you'd rather watch the action than be part of it, Qatar's array of sporting events might be more to your taste. The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is held at the beginning of every year in Doha as part of the European Tour, and the world's best tennis players arrive for the men's Qatar ExxonMobil Open in January and women's Qatar Total Open in February. For fans of two-wheeled racing, there's the Moto GP Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, while cycling's Tour of Qatar – won this year by Mark Cavendish – passes through each February. The country has a proud tradition of breeding Arabian horses, and there's always a packed calendar (and packed crowds) at the Al Shaqab Racing and Equestrian Club during race season. Or for something with a uniquely Qatari flavour, why not join the locals in Al Shahaniya for the loud and colourful spectacle of camel racing? However you fill your time in Qatar, from exploring historic sites to bouncing over desert dunes in a 4x4, this is a destination you’ll find hard to forget. ◆ For more information, visit: qatartourism.gov.qa
Mauritius Is All Yours Preskil Beach Resort in Mauritius sits on its own peninsula jutting out into the turquoise sea, where luxury, hospitality and nature combine. Book your stay with British Airways
magine having your own private slice of tropical paradise, with a jaw-dropping mountain backdrop, glistening white sand and a welcome dose of luxury. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Preskil Beach Resort in Mauritius. Set on its own private peninsula in the south-east coast of the island, this magical resort blends traditional Mauritian hospitality and high-end service with a private-island-like setting that offers pure, unfiltered escapism. Surrounded by turquoise waters and fringed by 750 metres of white-sand beach, Preskil Beach Resort melts seamlessly into the lush, undulating landscape, with Creole-influenced buildings that sit alongside swaying palms. You’ll find luxury at every turn but that, too, is understated and natural – from the elegant rooms set among verdant tropical gardens, many with spectacular views, to the three restaurants, which range from tables on the sand at Tapas Grill & Beach Bar to sophisticated contemporary style at Charka Steakhouse & Bar. Spices – the resort’s main restaurant, offers a taste of food from around the world from breakfast to dinner. In between delicious meals, why not take advantage of the huge range of complimentary watersports, including waterskiing, windsurfing, glass bottom boat trips, canoeing and snorkelling. Diving is available for a supplementary fee. Travelling with the family doesn’t have to mean sacrificing fun, relaxation and luxury. Interconnected rooms are available, and there are kid-friendly additions throughout, from a mini club with activities for 3-11s, to kids’ menus and a babysitting service. The grown-ups, meanwhile, can make the most of the indulgent and tranquil Ylang Spa, with five individual rooms, three Duo massage rooms (two with Japanese bath), body
wrapping and a hairdressing salon. And despite its exclusive location, Preskil Beach Resort is far from isolated. In just a short time, you could be discovering the delightful fishing village of Mahébourg, with its souvenirpacked market and laid-back pace, or swimming in the azure sea of the Blue Bay marine reserve. The airport is also a 15-minute drive away, though the resort is largely undisturbed by noise. That said, leaving is the last thing you'll be thinking about when you’re at Preskil Beach Resort. It’s a place where you can leave all your worries behind, and simply focus on enjoying your own, private Mauritian sanctuary. ◆
How To Book Seven-night half-board holidays at Preskil Beach Resort start from just £1,029pp. To book, and for more information visit ba.com/preskil
DETAILS: Terms and conditions apply. Availability may be very limited. Price includes return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and is based on two sharing on a half-board basis for selected travel between 9 June and 27 June 2016. Book by 5 April 2016.
OFFER: STAY FOR SEVEN-NIGHTS, PAY FOR FIVE; OR PAY FOR SEVEN NIGHTS, STAY FOR TEN
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PRESKIL BEACH RESORT BLENDS TRADITIONAL MAURITIAN HOSPITALITY AND HIGH-END SERVICE WITH A PRIVATE-ISLANDLIKE SETTING. IT’S PURE ESCAPISM 83
MAKE THE DAYS COUNT...
25 Specialist Shops Nationwide Free Summer Catalogue Out Now
www.ellis-brigham.com Photos: Striding Edge, Helvellyn
Visit an Expert Instore | Contact an Expert Online | Chat to our Experts on Twitter & Facebook
CHECKLIST 86 GUYS 88 GIRLS 91 GEAR 98 REAR VIEW
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LOOK MUM, FOUR HANDS!: Farer’s Carter GMT watch is a classic travel tool – with an extra hand (the blue one) that tells you the hour in a second time zone. You’ll want the Carter to go everywhere you go. See more on page 86. £420; farer.com
CHECKLIST ★ GU YS ★
THINGS ARE HEATING UP… We’re not quite ready to dig into our summer wardrobe just yet, but these versatile pieces will help you spring into brighter weather without sweating it out or cooling down.
1. SIR PLUS, cashmere-blend jumper, £85. The contrasting elbow pads use recycled fabric off-cuts. sirplus.co.uk 2. EASTPAK, Plica two-tone backpack, £60. Old-school style; new-school gear lugger. menlook.com 3. AIGLE, Laike jacket, £230. When the weather looks bad, you’ll still look good – and, crucially, dry. aigle.com
5. UNIVERSAL WORKS, Newark bomber, £165. Casual jacket for changeable Spring weather. universalworks.co.uk
Finisterre’s Anatis jeans are made in Blackburn, and have a fluorocarbon-free and biodegradable finish that mimics the water-shedding properties of duck feathers.
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4. NUDIE, Monty five-panel recycled cap, £48. Lowtech, high-impact headgear. nudiejeans.com
6. FINISTERRE, Anatis jean, £95. Water-repellent raw denim. finisterreuk.com
7. PERCIVAL, classic shirt in blue, £87.50. In soft brushed cotton. percivalclo.com 8. HENRI LLOYD, Ecton t-shirt in blue, £35. Micro-floral print means flower power. henrilloyd.com
9. FARER, Mallory watch, £360. With super-tough PVD-coated steel case. Grrrr. farer.com 10. EYTYS, Mother sneakers in burgundy, £90. You know they’ve got sole. oki-ni.com 11. KIRK ORIGINALS, Formentera in Havana, £255. Oversized aviators for wouldbe pilots. kirkoriginals.com
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8 MORE TRAVEL GEAR AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
★ G I R LS ★ Black, navy, khaki – you’re doing spring jackets wrong if you’re still cruising around in those colours. Darling sells a range of pretty, statement coats for your next break.
SPRING INTO ACTION So, the forecast is sunny with brief showers, freezing cold while boiling hot and snowy with blue skies. We don’t know how to predict the weather, but we do know how to dress for it.
2 1. DARLING, biker jacket, £95. Yeah, yeah, the weather’s bound to be gloomy – doesn’t mean your jacket has to be. darlingclothes.com 2. MAISON SCOTCH, jumper, £169.95. Looks summery, but will actually keep you pretty warm. Clever stuff, that. scotch-soda.com 3. HALLHUBER, predistressed skinny jeans, £89. No need to skid around on your knees to wear in the denim. hallhuber.com
4. KNOMO, Harewood slim tote-pack, £219. Use this twoin-one tote as a backpack to ease your shoulders on longer trips. knomobags.com
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5. DARLING, Leilani top, £45. Flowers on your top to match the blossoms on the trees. Maybe. darlingclothes.com
7. ERIC BOMPARD, leopard-print stole, £210. 100% cashmere for minimum itch and maximum style. eric-bompard.com
6. OBEY, City Moto jacket, £195. 100% leather suede jacket in seductive oxblood red. obeyclothing.co.uk
8. ANTHROPOLOGIE, All Black Tux slip-ons, £118. Because tying your laces is hard work. We’d know. anthropologie.com 9. SPC COLLECTION, leather clutch, £95. With go-faster stripe to match your speedy lifestyle. spccollection.com
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Probably not one to sling on when there’s a rainstorm coming, but it’s a purple suede jacket – you weren’t expecting it to be practical as well as beautiful, were you?
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
The Children’s Bike Specialists
Lightweight • Child-specific design • Exceptional quality Speak to an expert adviser on 01584 856881 • www.islabikes.co.uk
FIT FOR (DUAL) PURPOSE Patagonia’s Black Hole 60L duffel bag serves as a hardy, water-resistant gear-lugger that’s also easy to sling on your back for whatever adventures await.
Carrying options include webbing handles with a snap closure, and haul loops at either end that facilitate linking multiple bags. Basically, it’s REALLY handy.
Made from 900denier polyester ripstop fabric, the duffel will keep your possessions safe and dry, plus there’s the option to lash additional gear to the outside.
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1. PATAGONIA, Black Hole 60L duffel, £85. This weatherresistant holdall protects your gear from the elements, is tough enough for baggagehandler treatment, and it’s comfy to wear, too. patagonia.com
The Gore-Tex lining of the AKU Superalp GTX boots will keep your feet dry in all hiking conditions. Alternative colours for men are also available if you’re suffering shoe envy.
STEPPING UP TO THE MARK Finally, a pair of hiking boots that don’t look like they’ve been stolen from a 60-year-old geography teacher... These bad boys perform as brilliantly as they look.
1. AKU, Superalp GTX for women, £199.95. Whether you’re trampling through the snow in Canada or hiking the Italian Dolomites in the sunshine, these boots are made for walking. aku.it/en
Photograph by David Harrison
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The new IMS3 Exoskeleton sole of the Superalp GTX is crafted to balance lightness with performance. In simple terms, they won’t weigh your feet, or backpack, down.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
LES MONARQUES LAST OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME A LUXURY HOME OWNER IN EDENARC 1800 – GUARANTEED INCOME AND TAX SAVING – +33 (0)4 79 22 00 16 – firstname.lastname@example.org A H IG H -E ND P R O JE C T B Y
www.edenarc1800.com Conception: www.clairdelune.fr – © T. Shu, B. Nollet/Les Arcs, Graph Synergie
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Sea Change For a trip to the continent that’s easier, more enjoyable, and gives you the freedom to travel under your own steam, why not hop aboard at Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries?
f you don’t fancy starting your holiday hanging around an airport or queuing to get on a train, consider setting sail with Brittany Ferries, which operates services to seven destinations in France and Spain. With Portsmouth just a two-hour drive down the A3 from London, you could be sailing away to the historical sites of Normandy, Brittany’s 700 miles of coastline or the cosmopolitan Spanish city of Santander in no time. There are countless benefits to travelling to France and Spain by ferry. Not only can you take your own car, so you can pack as much as you like (or, perhaps more importantly, buy as much as you like while you’re there), but the exciting experience of cruising over the waves means your holiday starts as soon as you’re onboard, whether you choose to sail by day, cruise overnight or take a high-speed service. The Brittany Ferries cruise ferry service includes a wide choice of restaurants, bars, greatvalue shopping, cinemas and comfortable cabins, while the high-speed service to Cherbourg, France has a sailing time of only three hours. On arrival, you have the freedom to travel to your onward destination at your own pace,
while enjoying your surroundings - whether that’s pretty St Malo (direct services to this port city are available) or the Loire Valley, which is an easy drive from the ferry port and full of historic towns, architecture and, of course, fantastic wines. Venture further, and you can sail to Santander or Bilbao, the perfect jumping-offpoints for a break discovering northern Spain. You could traverse the Cantabrian coast – with its beautiful beaches and the dramatic Picos de Europa mountain range – or visit San Sebastian, a beautiful, must-visit city for foodie travellers. Wherever you choose, make your journey there as enjoyable as possible onboard one of Brittany Ferries’ ships. Bon voyage... ◆ For more information on booking your next trip, go to: brittanyferries.com/london
A private luxury beach villa which combines natural beauty, priceless seclusion and unparalleled luxury into a getaway destination. Watamu, Kenya www.shwariwatamu.com email@example.com
BOTSWANA ELEPHANT STUDY & OKAVANGO EXPERIENCE Live in a remote field camp in Botswana where you’ll investigate the impact of the trophy hunting ban on elephant and predator populations. Then head deep into the Okavango Delta to discover one of Africa’s most astounding ecosystems. Experience available from 2-12 weeks, starting at £2,900 including flights from London.
www.conservationafrica.net T. +44 (0)1454 269 182
❖ To advertise in this section please call 020 7819 9999
CHANNEL ISLANDS and the ISLES OF SCILLY JERSEY
ISLES OF SCILLY
4 L’Horizon Beach & Spa 4 nights from £439pp March to 27 May 2016
4 Duke of Richmond Hotel 4 nights from £439pp March to 31 May 2016
Tregarthen’s Hotel 4 nights from £569pp March to 31 May 2016
L’Horizon Beach Hotel and Spa is a beautiful 4 star hotel located on the shores of one of Jersey’s most scenic bays - St Brelade’s. Enjoy a treatment in their fantastic spa followed by their infamous afternoon tea on the terrace. You will be able to truly relax at this contemporary hotel whilst being close enough to explore the rest of what Jersey has to offer.
One of Guernsey’s most popular hotels, this stylishly modern hotel is just a short stroll from the island’s capital St. Peter Port. With individually styled rooms from contemporary to classical. The Leopard Bar and Restaurant serves fine quality cuisine and has a large conservatory and terrace for alfresco dining. The hotel also has an heated outdoor pool with sundeck.
Tregarthen’s Hotel has some of the best views of any hotel on St Marys and is located just a few minutes walk from the main town. A hotel rich in history and has long been a favoured hotel amongst high profile visitors. The award winning restaurant overlooks the harbour and specialises in local seafood dishes and you can enjoy a cocktail on the garden terrace.
• Return ﬂights from London Gatwick • 4 nights accommodation in a Classic Inland View Room on Bed and Breakfast • Free upgrade to an Executive Seaview^ • Price includes one free night offer • One complimentary 3-course meal on night of arrival • Return private airport transfers Fare based on 18/03/16
• Return ﬂights from London Gatwick • 4 nights accommodation in a Classic double room on Bed and Breakfast • Free upgrade to seaview double^ • Price includes one free night offer • One complimentary deluxe afternoon tea for two • Return private airport transfers Fare based on 20/03/16
• Return ﬂights from Lands End • 4 nights accommodation in a Standard Room on Bed and Breakfast • Return private airport transfers
Why Prestige Holidays ? We are specialists in package holidays and tailor-made itineraries to the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly. We offer a wide range of accommodation options from castles to glamping and everything in between. This programme started over eight years ago and
Upgrade to a sea-view room at a reduced supplement - ask for details Fare based on 21/03/16
has gone from strength to strength as British holiday makers choose to re-live the great British holiday. All of our travel consultants have personal experience of these islands and will happily help you create your perfect itinerary from a short break to a longer multi-island stay.
Please call us now on...
Booking conditions apply - based on twin occupancy. All fares & benefits subject to availability at time of booking & may be changed or withdrawn at any time. Book by 31st March 2016. ^Upgrades subject to availability.
TRAVEL LIGHT AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW
Photograph by Frode Sandbech/Red Bull Content Pool
What happens when you combine a thrill-seeking athlete, the Northern Lights and super camera technology? Look left! The flying object is Horacio Llorens, a Spanish aerobatic paraglider. In January 2016, he scoped out the Aurora Borealis above Tromsø, Norway from the windpummeled seat of his paramotor. “The 200cc machine gave me the chance to climb whenever I wanted – or get out of trouble if I needed to,” he says. Think we’ll stick to terra firma on this one, ta. e redbull.com
Meet the Great 8
ot only can visitors see more than 1,400 (or one-third) of the world’s coral species here, but it’s the best place on earth to experience the ‘Great 8’. It’s the underwater equivalent to an African safari, and a trip to the Great Barrier Reef wouldn’t be complete without ticking off these “Great 8” iconic marine encounters: 1 2 3 4
Clownfish Sharks Manta rays Maori wrasse
5 6 7 8
Potato cods Giant clams Turtles Whales
Journey to Queensland in style, with the true Spirit of Australia The Q in Qantas proudly stands for its place of creation – Queensland. 95 years later, and there’s still no better way to experience the real Australia
antas’ inception began in Queensland in 1920, with three ambitious war heroes, two planes, and one dream: carrying customers from Brisbane to Darwin. They had no idea that what started as a simple, honest love for the Australian outback would grow into an achievement of jumbo proportions. With this experience comes excellence. And having flown continuously for over 95 years, you’ll notice quality in everything Qantas does. Journey to Queensland with Qantas today and you’ll experience the awardwinning Qantas A380, which flies twice daily from London Heathrow; once to Sydney and once to Melbourne, both via Dubai. On board you’ll find four cabins: First, Business, Premium Economy and
Economy. Whichever you choose, you can be sure of comfortable seats, outstanding hospitality, and delicious food and wines. Touch down in Australia and you can connect to over 25 destinations across Queensland, thanks to Qantas’ unrivalled domestic network. Be sure to book the Qantas Walkabout Pass with your International tickets to save on domestic flights within Australia or New Zealand. With more than 20 destinations to choose from, including 12 in Queensland, it’s the ultimate way to see more for less. Great holidays start with a great journey. Great holidays start with Qantas. For the latest fares to Dubai, Australia and New Zealand, make qantas.com your next destination.
Qantas A380 Economy
Brisbane’s warm welcome begins the moment you board Fly London Heathrow to Brisbane via Dubai. Economy return from £759*. Selected departure dates apply, see below for details. Offer ends 21 March 2016 unless sold out before. Flights between Dubai and Brisbane are operated by Emirates. Fly to Brisbane and discover a modern and vibrant city, the gateway to Queensland and all its wonders. Set around the Brisbane River, the city is geared up for outdoor living and making the most of the warm and sunny climate. Whether it’s dining alfresco at one of the riverside restaurants, cycling along the banks of the Brisbane River or relaxing on the sand at South Bank, Australia’s only inner-city beach, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Book your flights now at qantas.com Prices based on payment at qantas.com. For bookings made through Qantas Telephone Sales, a fee of £20 per passenger per booking applies. Prices correct as at 2 March 2016 but may fluctuate if carrier charges, fees, taxes or currency change. Travel is permitted on Qantas and selected airline partners only. Depart between 25 March 2016 and 30 June 2016, and 1 November 2016 and 30 November 2016, Sunday to Thursday. An additional £20 applies for Friday and Saturday departures. Offer is subject to availability at the time of booking. Some changes permitted at a charge. Offer period may be extended at Qantas’ discretion. Other conditions apply. Qantas Airways Limited ABN 16 009 661 901.
Escapism Magazine - Issue 28 - The UK Issue