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Our contributor Safi Thind won the VisitEngland Travel Article of the Year award. Read his winning feature at escmag.co/coast-to-coast
ew words offer such a massive spectrum of meaning as ‘surprise’. On the one hand you’ve got the kind of ‘you’ve won the lottery!’ surprise that practically comes with its own balloons and party hat, while on the other there’s a whole world of disappointment and calamity captured within its eight letters (plus that bonus exclamation mark: SURPRISE!). So where does the emerging concept of the ‘surprise holiday’ fit in, and what even is a surprise holiday? In essence, a few companies are offering the opportunity to book and pay for an overseas holiday without knowing the destination until you get to the airport. Already, you might be thinking ‘that’s not as good as having a free holiday to, say, the Maldives sprung on you at the last minute’, and you’d be right. But since that’s never going to happen (sorry to break it to you), this might just be the next best thing. Or, you might also be thinking, ‘what if they send me somewhere terrible and I wish I’d just stayed at home instead?’ Which is also a fair point, but that’s the thing about surprises – even when you know one’s coming, you’ve no idea what it’s going to be. You can, though, decide whether a surprise trip’s for you – and you can start by reading about our experience of one on page 44. Was it good? Was it so bad we’ll never leave the house again? Did we even survive? Obviously we can’t tell you that here – it would ruin the surprise. e @escapismmag escapismmagazine
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We bring you top travel tips, from great new flight routes to an Instagram guide to the best of Portland, Oregon, USA
The coolest hotels on the face of the Earth, from romantic retreats in Italy to eco escapes in the depths of Cornwall
Looking good takes some serious hard work. Luckily we've put in the effort for you. Plus: The Intrepid Series
17. Photography 24. Just Landed 31. Instaguide: Portland, USA 32. Luxury Travel 38. Short Stay 40. In Focus: The Cotswolds 44. Surprise Holidays
58. The world's coolest hotels The most inspiring stays around the globe 70. Bangkok, Thailand A whistle-stop trip to the Thai capital 77. Split, Croatia Sun, sailing and history on the Croatian coast 84. Lake Maggiore, Switzerland Finding depth to the Swiss holiday hotspot 92. Belize Exploring Central America's next big stop-off 101. Faroe Islands A fly-drive through the isolated islands
111. The Checklist 121. The Intrepid Series: the French Alps Mountain biking the toughest alpine trails
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HAVING A GIRAFFE: No, we’re not having a laugh, you really can see these long-necked lovelies from the comfort of your own suite in South Africa. For more, check out our luxury travel mini guide [p.32]
17 PHOTOGRAPHY 24 JUST LANDED 29 ON LOCATION 31 HOT SHOTS 32 LUXURY HOLIDAYS 38 SHORT STAY 40 THE COTSWOLDS, UK 44 SURPRISE HOLIDAYS
Photograph by ###
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FRAMED IN THE PICTURE
W Photograph by Fergus Kennedy
e’re not going to drone on for ages and ages, but for a quick masterclass on how to take top aerial snaps with a remote-controlled aircraft, have a flick through the next few pages. This month, we’ve taken a look at photographer Fergus Kennedy’s new book, Drone Photography & Video Masterclass, which – unsurprisingly, considering the name – will take you from absolute amateur to aerial photography whizz quicker than you can say the words remotely piloted vehicle. Packed with tips, profiles and pretty pics from as far afield as the lush Pacific archipelagos of Palau and as close to home as Brighton [left], you’re sure to get your photo game off to a flyer. e
FLIGHT OF FANCY: If your shots look a little monotonous from terra firma, chances are a trip into the air will give you a different perspective. Just like this ogle-worthy colour variation at a rocky beach in Kommetjie in Cape Town, South Africa.
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Photograph by Eddie Oosthuizen
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ISLE HAVE THAT ONE: Photographer Andy Deitsch took this shot while exploring the 340-island nation of Palau in the western Pacific Ocean on a diving trip. Because there wasnâ€™t too much space on his boat, he decided it would be easier to hand launch and catch the drone. Weâ€™d say it was well worth the risk just for capturing this green and blue beauty.
Photograph Photograph by Andy Deitsch by ###
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Photograph by Miguel Willis
CAMEL TRAIL: The vast swathes of sand in the Empty Quarter desert in Oman make it the perfect canvas for cool shadows. If you want to learn how to take more shots like this one, pick up a copy of Fergus Kennedyâ€™s new book, Drone Photography & Video Masterclass, which is available to buy now for ÂŁ16.99, published by Ammonite Press.
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JUST LANDED WHAT’S NEW IN TRAVEL
TOP FLIGHTS Looking for cool holiday destinations? You’re in luck, as it appears to be silly season for new flight routes. Starting this month, you can hop on WOW Air’s new flight to Chicago (from £139.99) for some of the world’s best jazz; zoom over to Fort Lauderdale (Miami’s cooler sister) with BA (from £189 one-way); or soak up northern Croatian culture in Pula, also with BA (from £37 oneway). If you’re thinking further ahead, Norwegian is launching a new route from London Gatwick to Buenos Aires, Argentina, from February 2018 (starting at £299 one-way) – giving the burgeoning airline the monopoly on direct flights between the UK and South America. Argentine grass-fed steak? See you there.
EYE OF THE TIGER
PERU-SE THIS With key sights like Lima, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa in the south, Peru’s northern region is often overlooked when it comes to the well-trodden tourist trails – which also might have something to do with the fact that it’s a bit more difficult to access. But thanks to a new flight route from Lima to Jaen, in north Peru, that launched last year, local tour operators are upping their game to introduce visitors to all that the area has to offer. Specialist operator Aracari is offering a new five-day trekking adventure to visit lesser-known archaeological sites including a pre-Inca fortress, eight Chachapoyan mummy sarcophagi and tombs set into the ledges of limestone cliffs. Sounds Inca-redible to us. Fivenight treks start at £1,275 pp, based on two sharing. aracari.com
Photograph by (Chicago) Ken Ilio/Getty; (Peru) Maxime Dube/Alamy
Why head to Africa when you can go on safari right here in the UK? Animal enthusiasts will delight in the new Tiger Lodge experience at Kent’s Port Lympne Reserve, where you can spend the night in a cabin that sits adjacent to the tiger enclosure. One end of the cabin is fitted out with floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise spotting opportunities, while the other has a veranda-style balcony for soaking up the views of the picturesque English countryside. The two-bedroom lodge sleeps four, and is sumptuously kitted out with a log burner and a 4K TV – but with tigers to watch, we doubt you’ll need it. Prices start from £375 per night. aspinallfoundation.org/port-lympne
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GO WILD When the temperatures (eventually) rise, there’s only one way to keep your cool – wild swimming. And Tudor Farmhouse, a boutique hotel in Gloucestershire, is one of the best places to try it. Located within easy reach of 12 of the UK’s finest swimming spots, the hotel has partnered with a local swimming school to put together a trail for guests to try, and its kitchen will even rustle up a picnic to keep you going through all that activity. Two-night packages from £510. tudorfarmhousehotel.com
SWEDE DREAMS From pickles to coffee and cake, Scandinavian delicacies are up there on most foodies’ hit lists. To try Nordic classics on their home turf, head to Sweden, where there’s a range of new gourmet experiences on offer. Launching in September is southern Swedish tour company Robusta Äventyr’s culinary cycling trip around central Skåne that’ll see you bike through the country’s stunning landscapes for three
days, meeting some of the region’s best producers. You’ll try your hand at perfecting cooking techniques as well as hoovering up plenty of unusual Scandi food. Further west, there’s a new seaweed foraging and cooking class from traditional producer Catxalot, while Gothenburg is upping the ante with its first indoor street-food market on Lindholmen Street, where there’ll be stalls from its best restaurants, local breweries, coffee sellers and bakers. robustaaventyr.se; facebook.com/ lindholmenstreetfoodmarket
HIT THE ROAD
Photographs by (Sweden) Tina StafrÈn/
Gˆteborg & Co; (Yescapa) Maridav
Think campervanning is reserved for hippies and the over-50s? Time to reconsider – it’s being given a trendy new makeover thanks to Yescapa, a service that enables you to rent a motorhome from a private owner, that’s just launched in the UK. It’ll enable you to make the most of the freedom of motorhome travel without shelling out on your own campervan, or make money from a campervan you already own. Think Airbnb, but for caravans. Nifty. yescapa.co.uk
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Forget southern France, Jérôme Salle’s brand new Jacques Cousteau biopic takes you diving somewhere far cooler... #09 DECEPTION ISLAND, ANTARCTICA
Photographs by (iceberg) WorldFoto /Alamy; (penguin) imageBROKER/Alamy
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sunseeking holidaymaker or all-out action hero, sometimes kicking back in a nice house on the French Riviera just doesn’t cut it: that’s a pretty big takeaway from brand-new enviro-action, French-language smasher The Odyssey. Ever the itchy-footed adventurer, Jacques Cousteau made his name by
KEEP YOUR COOL: [top] An iceberg off Deception Island in Antarctica, the backdrop for The Odyssey; [above] one of the island’s resident penguins
eschewing the glamorous environs and pleasant summer climes of his homeland for wild waters the world over. Sure, we could have talked about the scenes set in the waters of South Africa (just check out the epic sardine run that happens just outside Cape Town each year); we could even have talked about our favourite Gallic explorer’s adventures in the beautiful blue seas off the Bahamas, too – but it’s all a bit, well, nice. For that reason, crack on with Cousteau and whack on your warmest wetsuit, because it’s time to get under the surface of one of Antarctica’s top dive sites: the flooded caldera of the world’s chilliest volcano, where you’ll find leopard seals, penguins, whales and freaky looking things called proboscis worms. Then again, if you don’t fancy it, the film’s partly set in Bermuda. Not bad. e Watch The Odyssey at UK cinemas from August 18.
SEE MORE AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
HAWAIIAN TROPIC FACE SPF 30, £9 Greasy, sticky skin is a thing of the past thanks to this super-light yet ultrahydrating cream that’s enriched with moisture ribbons. We love the tropical smell, too. hawaiiantropic.com
MEDIK8 PHYSICAL SPF30, £34 This innovative formula is ‘physical’, so it reflects UV rays and pollution rather than absorbing them. It’ll even work to reduce damage that’s already occurred to your face. Winner. medik8.com
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HOT SHOTS YOUR INSTAGUIDE TO PORTLAND
From natural wonders to off-beat boutiques, get an alternative view of Oregon’s largest city thanks to these cool Instagram accounts
SEE MORE GUIDES LIKE THIS AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
Food writer Jen tracks down delicious dishes like this salad from Le Pantry
Follow photographer and nature lover Jess for snaps of Oregon’s breathtaking landscapes. This is Mount Hood near Trillium Lake, which sits in a beautiful National Forest that’s great for lengthy hikes
Follow Jade to find Portland’s coolest shops, like Powell’s Books
Artist Jade has an eye for one-off boutiques like Portland’s Pistils Nursery
Follow Jen to find out about the best of Portland’s thriving food-cart scene
Jess’s photos will give you a taste for Oregon’s stunning natural scenery
WINGING IT LUXURY TRAVEL
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES If you’re going to do it, do it right – Tom Powell brings you the best in nextlevel luxury travel, from private infinity pools to cruises down the Amazon
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The adventurous ones
Explore the Peruvian Amazon Swim, kayak and observation-deck-hottub your way around some of the most beautiful waters at the Peruvian end of the world’s longest river on this cool boat trip from intrepid cruise company Aqua Expeditions. You’ve got a good chance of seeing the legendary pink Amazon dolphin, mainly because you can catch them from your bedroom window as dawn rises over the rainforest. And even if you don’t, there’s always a hop-off walking tour of a flooded forest with giant water lilies that’ll probably keep you entertained. Aqua Expeditions offers seven-night cruises from £6,709pp. aquaexpeditions.com
Supercar across the Med Winding your way along the picturesque Mediterranean coastal roads of Portofino, Cannes and Barcelona in any car is fun, but in a fancy motor On this super (and we’re talking swanky driving Lamborghini, Ferrari tour, it’s possible to and Aston Martin opt to stay in Hotel Splendido, one of levels of fancy) it’s Portofino’s most pretty darned epic. premier boltholes, Hitting the road with if not THE premier place to stay. Zero Zero One Travel, your itinerary all depends on which opulent hotel you fancy kipping in, and whether you want to see luxe boutiques, quaint cottages on the Cote d’Azur, or cool cuisine on the Catalan coast along the way. Decisions decisions. Zero Zero One Travel offers three-day supercar rentals from £5,950 based on renting a Ferrari 488 Spider. Hotel package starts at £789pp for two nights. zzotravel.com
Photograph by ###
WILD SIDE: If we’re not bathing with a view of elephants in Madikwe, we’re not interested
Wind your way along the Mediterranean’s picturesque coastal roads in a Lamborghini 33
YOU R ID E A L G E TA W A Y I N TH E MAL DIVES AT A 5 -STAR, ADUL TS ONL Y ISL A N D A 5-Star, adults only island boasting a breath-taking undersea restaurant, a beautiful beach and some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Maldives. Hurawalhiâ€™s stylish Ocean Pool, Ocean, Beach Pool and Beach Villas offer Half, Full Board, All Inclusive Plus and Honeymoon packages. Enjoy three restaurants, three bars, which when combined with superb service makes this island paradise your best choice for an unforgettable wedding celebration, honeymoon or holiday. email@example.com
D E PA R T U R E S FIND MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
SHOW BOAT: [above] Cruising the Peruvian Amazon in style; [below] Coco Bodu Hithi in the Maldives
Photograph (boat) by Richard Mark Dobson
Safari in South Africa If the plain old don-your-pith-helmetand-hit-the-road kind of safari isn’t your schtick, hop on tour with The Luxury Safari Company, who’ll The fifth-largest give you all the big game reserve in the cat, elephant and country, Madikwe wildlife reserve is one of the lesser-known parks action you could in South Africa, and ever want, but with a considered one of supremely luxurious the best conservation areas in Africa. lilt. Think all the classic game drives, plus more wildlife watching from a roll-top bath with champagne in hand. Nice. The Luxury Safari Company offers all-inclusive nine-night tours of Madikwe and Kruger for £6,631 including flights. theluxurysafaricompany.com
The chill-out ones
Fine dine in style in the Maldives Hate to burst your bubble, but that soggy picnic you had in a car park by the sea in Devon doesn’t count as a seaview supper, not in comparison to Coco Bodu Hithi, at least. The high-end Maldivian resort doesn’t just do seafood, it does the Indian Ocean’s
finest and freshest at its intimate, over-thewater restaurant Aqua, where the only views on offer are big and blue. Rooms at Coco Bodu Hithi start from £694 per night. cococollection.com
Get some private island chill in Antigua Wellness retreats are good and all, but if you really want to blow the budget – and get a long, long way away from the burbling
hubbub of modern life – you’ll probably quite like super-luxe Antigua resort Carlisle Bay’s Island Bathing sessions. Come dawn or dusk, you’ll be privately whisked off to a deserted island, where a wellness master will lead you through guided meditation and breathing exercises with only the sound of crashing waves to distract you. Rooms from £448pn. Solo Island Bathing session, £560. carlisle-bay.com
You’ll be whisked away to a deserted island off Antigua with only the sound of waves to distract you 35
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all in classic yet chic style, and just a ten-minute walk from the city’s central station. Rooms at Hoshinoya Tokyo from £150pp per night. hoshinoyatokyo.com
Have a grape time in Santorini, Greece The paradise Greek island of Santorini is great for three things: iconic rooftop views, plush hotels, and wine – and not necessarily in that order. Check into Canaves Oia Santorini, hopping into the hotel’s infinity pool – or your own private one – for a dip with a view of the world-famous volcanic caldera (and those white rooftops), then dry off and get your palate around the region’s nuanced volcanic wines on a tasting. And if that’s not enough, you can book a separate one-day tour to some of the vineyards themselves. Di-vine. Rooms at Canaves Oia Santorini from £430pn, wine tasting from £79. Grand Reserve Travel offers daily private wine tours from £67pp. grandreservetravel.com
The city ones
Stay inn style in Tokyo, Japan When the robot cafés, pachinko parlours and helter skelter streets of the Japanese capital all get a bit too much, check into Hoshinoya Tokyo, a city sanctuary that offers unparalleled chill right at the heart of the action. Think A ryokan is a tradiopen-air rooftop tional old Japanese baths, hot springs, inn, and when we traditional ryokan say old, we mean ooooold – they’ve (inn) style rooms been around since and some of the best 7AD, and are still Japanese grub you’ll popular today. Well, if it ain’t broke… find anywhere –
Take in the famous view of Santorini’s caldera from your own private pool
Go to jail in Boston, USA While the words prison and luxury might seem about as chalk and cheese as, well, chalk and cheese, this Boston-based bolthole begs to differ. The recently liberated Liberty Hotel in the heart of Beantown’s historic Beacon Hill district is the perfect place to relax, recuperate and see the city’s sights, from the Red Sox stadium to the cool craft breweries. The hotel goes big on skyline views, top restaurants with confinement-themed names and spacious rooms. We’ll take a week in solitary. Rooms at The Liberty Hotel from £640pn. libertyhotel.com e
Photographs by (Santorini) Christos Drazos Photography; (Liberty Hotel) Michael Weschler Photography; (Hoshinoya) Marcel van Someren
MOMENT OF CALM: [clockwise from here] Canaves Oia, Santorini; Liberty Hotel’s bar; dinner at Hoshinoya
Take a flying tour of Sydney, Australia If you’re going to schlep it halfway around the world to check out what’s up down under, you might as well do it in style. And there’s no better way to see Sydney than by seaplane – say “see ya” to the Opera House (with a few From your privisly snaps from above, leged spot in the sky, obvs) and then hit you’ll be able to take up the eastern coast in all of Sydney’s most famous and of Oz for a bit of fine iconic landmarks, fare beachside in the without getting picturesque coastal caught up in any of towns of Rose Bay the crowds. or Palm Beach. Wine flight included (sorry). Sydney Seaplanes offers fly and dine tours from £166pp.
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SHORT STAY THE PRINCIPAL, MANCHESTER
Having taken over one of the city’s most iconic buildings, the impressive Principal hotel in Manchester boasts some of the grandest architecture in town, and a lot more besides, says Hannah Summers What’s the score? Manchester, we love you. But for a long time we haven’t loved your hotels. There’s The Lowry, where José Mourinho supposedly holes up in a suite for the entire football season. Nice, but expensive. And there’s Hotel Football, a Manchester United-themed hotel set up by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. Let’s not go on about that too much. The point is, the number of hotels in the city that have managed to feel cool and not charge
a fortune have been few and far between. Enter The Principal.
Inside and out Forget glossy glass buildings, one of The Principal’s biggest draws is its insanely grand red-brick architecture. Look familiar? This was formerly the site of The Palace, an iconic Victorian building that’s now undergone a £25m renovation. That leaves guests with huge, huge bedrooms, even bigger windows (we’re talking three times your height) and ceilings so high you could
One of the Principal’s biggest draws is its insanely grand architecture
THE PRINCIPAL MANCHESTER ADDRESS PRINCIPAL HOTEL, OXFORD STREET, MANCHESTER, M60 7HA
PRICE ROOMS FROM £152.15 PER NIGHT GETTING THERE TRAIN FROM LONDON
EUSTON TO MANCHESTER PICCADILLY INFO SEE PHCOMPANY.COM
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CONVERSION RATE These hotels started life as something else entirely, and have now been transformed into chic places to stay
THE NED, LONDON We’d put money on The Ned being one of the chicest hotels you’ll ever see, and not just because of its location in the former Midland Bank in the City. It’s run by the Soho House group, with nine (yes, nine) eating and drinking dens under its roof. From £250. thened.com SLEEK REFUGE: [clockwise from left] Stylish decor in the Principal's bar and restaurant, The Refuge; the hotel's winter garden; bedrooms are smart and comfy
MALMAISON GLASGOW easily split them in half and create a whole other floor. Expect interiors with a bachelor edge, dark walls and comfy armchairs.
Food and drink
Photographs by (ba and bedroomr) Tim Winter; (winter garden) Jody Hartley; (The Ned) Simon Brown; (Malmaison) Emulsion London ; (Old Scoolhouse) Rick Baguley
Onsite bar and restaurant The Refuge is where you’ll have your extensive buffet breakfast (opt for a table in the peaceful conservatory section), and it’s also a great place for Sunday lunch. The sharing platters are epic, the Yorkshire puddings are bigger than your head, and the gravy is rich and generously served. The Principal’s Expect chandeliers, restaurant more high ceilings is curated by DJs-turned-restaura- and lots of glass – all teurs Luke Cowdrey put together in a way and Justin Crawford that feels cool and of award-winning relaxed as opposed Manchester restaurant Volta. to stuffy.
What’s nearby? The hotel is just a few minutes from the city’s two main train stations, but you’ll be doing more than walking from there and back. Check out Manchester’s booming food and drink scene, from The Rabbit in the Moon, an Asian restaurant from Michelinstarred chef Michael O’Hare, to Albert’s Schloss, a glossy, trendy space with great beer and sausages. What a combo. e
Malmaison’s Glasgow edition occupies a restored church in the city’s West End. The hotel group has put its trendy spin on the interiors, which means you’ll find velvet furnishings tucked under vaulted ceilings. Heavenly. From £85. malmaison.com
THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE, PORT ISAAC, CORNWALL No prizes for guessing what this hotel used to be. Perched on the coast in Port Isaac, The Old Schoolhouse is as cute as they come, right down to the room names – book the Latin suite for a view of the bay. From £119 theoldschoolhotel.co.uk
FIND MORE SHORT STAYS AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
ALL CORNERS OF THE ‘WOLDS Widely regarded as one of the UK’s most picturesque regions, the Cotswolds are packed with pretty views, but there’s much more to do than just stand and stare, says Tom Powell 40
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its strong supply of real ale. Back in the centre, Croft & Jones Trading Co is a secret drinking den in the basement of The Clarence Social, which goes big on classy cocktails and glimmering interiors.
Stay Right on the town’s central promenade, No 131 is a modernised 11-room Georgian townhouse that’ll please traditionalists and hipsters alike. Alternatively, a 15-minute drive out of town towards Cirencester is Cowley Manor, which will provide you with contemporary Cotswold chill and serenity, without taking away your easy access to the town or making you feel like you’re way out in the sticks.
MANOR IN THE WORKS: [this image] Cowley Manor provides a stately base; [right] the hotel’s indoor pool overlooks the Cotswolds countryside
Photograph (main) by Amy Murrell
Eat Starting right at the centre of town, The Tavern is a laid-back spot for fancy burgers, wings and salad bowls washed down with a signature house cocktail. A 15-minute yomp across Montpellier Gardens will take you to The Daffodil, a restaurant in a converted 1920s cinema which hosts live jazz shows in its Art Deco environs. Just a couple of minutes around the corner, towards the stately buildings of Cheltenham College, there’s Le Champignon Sauvage – a two-Michelinstarred restaurant that’s celebrating 30 years of its endlessly changing menu this year.
For a south-Asian take on fine dining, try Prithvi, a high-end Indian bistro – or, for something with fewer frills, head to Sri Lankan street-food outpost The Coconut Tree, which you’ll find on the opposite side of town, located about two blocks away from The Brewery Quarter.
Drink For floor-to-ceiling shelves of whisky, wine and tons of other tipples overlooking the trendy Montpellier Gardens on the town centre’s western edge, try John Gordons. Meanwhile, a little further up the hill near Montpellier Terrace, The Beehive is a classic town pub that’s loved by locals for
Do The Wilson museum is worth a visit for art, natural history and classic costume textile exhibits, but Cheltenham really comes into its own as a festival town. Visit in April and May for the Jazz Festival, early June for the Science Festival, early July for the Music Festival and October for the Literature Festival – each of which see tons of performances and talks all over the town.
Kingham Head here for a rural retreat on the northeastern edge of the Cotswolds, about 40 minutes by car on the London side of Cheltenham. Even though the village’s population is less than 1,000, there’s more than enough to keep The organic foodies entertained farming model has for a long weekend. been employed by Try Daylesford’s Daylesford for more than 35 years, and organic farm, which it’s now become has just launched a one of the most garden shop and sustainable farms in the UK. floristry courses
D E PA R T U R E S
For a more rugged view of the Cotswolds, wind your way through the Stroud valleys to go with the local produce, restaurant and cookery school that made it famous. Kingham is also home to two great pubs with rooms: The Wild Rabbit, where food is locally sourced and Michelin-starred, and the always-impressive Kingham Plough, which is fantastic for both fine dining and top-class bar grub. Alternatively, head across to Soho Farmhouse, which is a 15-minute drive the other side of Chipping Norton, where you can easily lose a weekend spa-ing, pony hacking, boating and all-out chilling at the Soho House group’s country retreat. For a day out, head up to Hook Norton Brewery and take the tour, which ranges from quick walks and tastings to full-on brew-your-own-to-take-home masterclasses.
perfect villages of Ablington, Bibury and Barnsley – the last of which is home to the Barnsley House hotel, which has gardens that were made famous by English horticultural royalty Rosemary Verey. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a charming Cotswolds boozer with rooms, try The Village Pub (which is just over the road) for low-ceilinged charm and good pub grub. Also stop off at Northleach – a tiny town about halfway between Cheltenham and Cirencester – for a flying visit to The Wheatsheaf. Whether it’s as a starter or a
light lunch, make sure you try the devilled kidneys on toast – they’re offally good.
Nailsworth and Minchinhampton For a more rugged, but no less stunning view of the Cotswolds, wind your way through the Stroud valleys to the quaint town of Nailsworth. Hobbs House Bakery has a cosy little café for a coffee once you’re done in the town’s antique shops, while William’s Food Hall has been serving up top-notch fish at its deli and restaurant for over 30 years. Next, head up to Minchinhampton Common, stopping for a two-in-one pie at The Weighbridge Inn on the way. The old-school-interiored boozer specialises in super-rustic half cauli-cheese, half steak and kidney pies with the meltiest pastry imaginable. Boots filled, head up to the Common, or stop-off at one of the many village pubs on the way up for some blockbuster valley views. e A car is useful to see the best of the Cotswolds, but you can explore with direct trains to Cheltenham, Kingham, Kemble (for Cirencester) and Stroud (for Nailsworth) from Great Western Railway. From £52.50 return. For more information: gwr.com
Photograph (main) by Visit England/Nick Turner/Cotswolds Tourism; (Wild Rabbit) Martin Morrell; (Bibury) Visit Britain/Tony Pleavin
Cirencester As well as being jam-packed with Cotswold stone goodness and Roman heritage, Cirencester – about half-an-hour’s drive southeast of Cheltenham – is the perfect stopping-off point for when you’re working your way around Cotswold villages. Stay at refurbed coaching inn The Kings Head and grab food at Made By Bob, before checking out the picture-
OUTSTANDING IN ITS FIELD: [this image] Picture-perfect Cotswolds countryside; [below, left-right] The Wild Rabbit; stone cottages in Bibury
Share an adventure this summer
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ON THE GO SURPRISE HOLIDAYS
THE BIG REVEAL
Would you book a holiday without knowing where you were going? Rose Dykins tries out the new trend of surprise travel
’m sitting on a train to Gatwick Airport at 5am, my suitcase packed for a twonight getaway, my passport in my pocket. I have no idea where I’m going. This isn’t a regular occurrence for me at all. Usually, my trips abroad are planned way ahead of schedule. I’ve chosen the best flight times, weighed up all of my Airbnb options against budget hotels with a smidgen of character and free Wi-Fi, and made a note of at least two things I’d like to do while I’m away – and somewhere I can order myself a decent cup of coffee.
What’s it all about? Surprise travel is emerging as a trend, in response to our time-poor schedules and our craving for an injection of spontaneity. The idea, as the name suggests, is to book a holiday without According to a 2015 knowing where study by Ernst & you’re going. It Young, millennials takes away the find it much harder to achieve overwhelming a work-life balance choice and time that works for them spent searching for than the generation preceding them. the perfect holiday that can sometimes be so much effort it puts you off the whole thing. And it appeals to me in the respect of the feeling I quite often get where I don’t necessarily want to go somewhere specific, I just want to get away for a bit.
whatever available accommodation it has left over, but I still think it’s a very clever concept. And a win-win situation for them and for me – if it goes well…
How does it work?
How do I book it?
I decide to go with Surprise Trips, an early iteration of the secret holiday offering from tour operator expedia.co.uk, where you can still book holidays in this way. The aim is to surprise you with flights and three-star accommodation – and you only find out where you’re going when you arrive at the airport, when an email is sent to your smartphone, revealing all. I suspect this is a clever way for Expedia to palm off
The booking process is super simple. It asks me when I want to travel, how long for, how much I want to spend, how many people are travelling with me and which airport I’d like to fly from. Oh, and three cities I would prefer not to be ‘surprised’ with. (They assume that you won’t want to go to Paris or Barcelona, for example.) Once it has my data, I wait with excitement as Surprise Trips rifles through
D E PA R T U R E S
Photograph by (main) Alija/Getty; (airport) Atlantide Phototravel/Getty
Once it has my data, I wait with excitement as Surprise Trips rifles through 77 destinations
77 destinations (all within a 3.5 hour flight and outside of the UK). After a couple of hiccups – which slightly dampens the spontaneity for me – I have a match in the form of a two-night holiday for £206.60. I enter my payment details and accept. Instantly, I receive a message. “Be at Gatwick at 06.50”. That’s all.
Is it actually surprising? It’s thrilling. I realise I’m smiling with satisfaction – I’ve done something a little bit silly that will make for a good story. But it’s not that long before the questions start coming. What time will I get home from this trip? What does three-star actually mean?
Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, benefits from the kind of warm summers characteristic of the region. The winters are freezing, though.
How do I know what to pack? Three days before my trip, the last question is solved for me. I’m helpfully sent a weather forecast for the destination I’m heading to. 7°C; with light rain. Realising this rules out the likes of Athens and Astana, I resist the urge to check the weather forecast for every European destination to try and narrow it down. You’re also warned not to check your online bank transactions, as the name of the airline you’re flying with may show up and give the game away.
D E PA R T U R E S
It turns out that keeping this trip a surprise from myself is part of the process And the whole thing does feel a bit like a game. It turns out that keeping this trip a surprise from myself is part of the process.
What was I expecting?
How did it work out? Great. It was freeing not to have committed myself to any sort of itinerary. Before my flight, I asked Facebook friends for some Dublin recommendations, and used the airport Wi-Fi to plan my travel to my accommodation – which, unfortunately, turned out to be a slightly drab apartment with a broken radiator (not ideal, but at least it was spacious and central). When I arrived, I popped into the information office at the airport for some advice. I was feeling so spontaneous, I even considered joining a silent hike around Wicklow, but that “light rain” was on the heavy side.
Should you do it? It depends. I think you need to manage your expectations and be fairly adaptable. And take a fairly Wicklow is a town to low-maintenance the south of Dublin, approach. If surrounded by the accommodation is bucolic hills you might associate important to you, with rural Ireland. would you be willing Its name in Irish means ‘church of the to forgo the right to toothless one’. choose in exchange
for a surprise? Or, are you just looking for somewhere to lay your head? Would I do it again? I already plan to. With a friend this time, though. And perhaps with a slightly higher budget, to see if that gets me a bit further than the Emerald Isle... e
TRY IT YOURSELF… PACK UP + GO
Select your budget, fill in a survey, and Pack Up + Go plans a three-day trip to a surprise US destination. packupgo.com
This Brazil-based travel agency offers surprise luxury adventure holidays. You’re told what vaccinations you’ll need, and are drip-fed tantalising hints about what you’ll need to pack. baritur.com.br
Choose from nine themes – including ‘nature’, ‘partying’ and ‘bromance’ – and Lufthansa will choose one of 12 European destinations for you. lufthansa.com
Photograph by Michael Hitoshi/Getty
Honestly, I wasn’t after the likes of Rome, Madrid or Vienna. Somewhere I hadn’t been to before would have been brilliant. Or just somewhere that I would never have chosen in a million years – like Lublin, the ninth-largest city in Poland – where I’d have to grab a phrasebook at the airport and do some swotting up on the plane. So, where did I end up (drum roll please)? Dublin. I was fine with that. I hadn’t been there for ten years. And it might not tick the ‘exotic’ box, but it ticks plenty of
others: culture, literature, nature, Guinness. And actually, I think surprise travel only works if you don’t have your heart set on any particular kind of experience. Which I didn’t.
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INSIDER’S G UIDE I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H B O M B AY S A P P H I R E
The Gin Of Ten Journeys The unique flavour of Bombay Sapphire gin is the result of decades of careful sourcing, and journeys to far-flung places There’s a lot that goes into a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. Not just the grain that’s used to distill the spirit, or the botanicals that lend it its balanced, rounded taste, or its quintessentially English location at Laverstoke Mill in Whitchurch, Hampshire – but years of proud tradition and expertise, too. Bombay Sapphire is a London Dry gin, which means it’s infused with juniper, citrus and other botanicals. This may just be one part of the process, but it’s perhaps the most important one. Because although it’s called London Dry, the spirit is the result of a truly global group of people: from those who farm its botanicals in places ranging from Tuscany, Italy to Java, Indonesia, to the people whose life’s work is to source them and bring them together in Bombay Sapphire’s gin. That’s why it’s important to shine a light on the people and the journeys that make this possible. Bombay Sapphire’s story might start in England, but within it are ten chapters from ten locations, all of which bring a distinct and unique characteristic to the gin. It’s also a story of caring for the environment. It’s one of working with people across the world to ensure the ingredients – wherever they come from – are sourced and collected in a way that preserves these traditions. And in a way that ensures the next generation of farmers and distillers can keep making Bombay Sapphire in the way it’s made today – with no compromises made along the way.
A World of Taste Sustainably sourcing botanicals for Bombay Sapphire requires journeys to all corners of the globe. Here are the places where the ten botanicals are carefully grown and harvested
LEMON PEEL A key component of the gin’s balanced flavour, the lemons (pictured above left) are handharvested and peeled in Murcia.
ALMONDS The almonds in Murcia are sweet, not bitter, bringing complexity to the gin’s final flavour.
A well-known spice in Moroccan cooking, the fruits of the coriander plant (pictured below left) impart a zesty but still delicate citrus flavour to the gin.
GRAINS OF PARADISE This plant’s fruits (pictured above left) have a flavour and texture reminiscent of black pepper. They’re farmed in small villages in Ghana, as they have been for generations.
INSIDER’S G UIDE I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H B O M B AY S A P P H I R E
A sweetly scented wild plant that’s similar in make-up to celery. The roots are farmed in Saxony, Germany, and dried before being used to make Bombay Sapphire gin.
This area beyond the mountains near Beijing produces liquorice that adds a characteristic vibrant, rich scent and flavour to the gin.
JUNIPER Probably the bestknown gin botanical, juniper berries (pictured above) are the rich, fresh fruit of the juniper bush. The family that produces Bombay Sapphire’s juniper has been doing so for 200 years.
ORRIS A dried root that’s also used in perfumes, it’s produced for Bombay Sapphire in the hills of Tuscany, Italy.
CUBEB BERRIES Java is perhaps best known for producing coffee, but the cubeb berries (pictured left) used in Bombay Sapphire come from here. They’re harvested, prepared and dried by hand.
The bark of the cassia tree is an integral part of Bombay Sapphire’s flavour. It’s a little similar to cinnamon, and it’s farmed, cut and prepared by a family in the north of Vietnam.
Take it to the Source Botanical expert Ivano Tonutti and his journeys around the world are crucial to the sustainable sourcing process of Bombay Sapphire’s ingredients
hen it comes to sourcing ingredients, there’s no substitute for first-hand experience. After all, each of Bombay Sapphire’s botanicals has a crucial role to play in the finished flavour – and each of them has something to say about the region it’s sourced from – which means no half-measures can be taken. Whether it’s liquorice from China, cassia bark from Vietnam, grains of paradise from Ghana or angelica from Germany, all of the ingredients used to make Bombay Sapphire are harvested in small batches by trusted suppliers. There’s a reason that these botanicals can be trusted for their quality and provenance: a man with more than 30 years’ experience in sourcing, who spends his days hunting down the best botanicals available to use in Bombay Sapphire’s range of gins. His name is Ivano Tonutti, and he’s a master of botanicals like no other. He’s responsible for every part of the process, from sourcing and procuring the ten botanicals to maintaining the close, friendly and respectful relationships with the brand’s suppliers. It’s a job that takes him all over the world, from Western Europe to Indonesia, West Africa and beyond. And it’s not just a love of travel that means he’s there in person to vouch for his ingredients: it’s also to ensure the ethics of the whole operation are watertight. Ivano might have experience that goes back three decades, but the traditions of some of his suppliers go back far longer – some of them have even been cultivating their land
and their products for hundreds of years. And maintaining these relationships with a personal touch ensures not only that the supply chain is rock-solid and mutually beneficial now, but for generations to come, too. Ivano’s view on ethical sourcing echoes that of Bombay Sapphire itself: the brand’s ethos is to enrich the people and places who in turn enrich the spirit with flavour; to invest in local economies and carry on relationships that give, as well as take. The upshot of this is a gin unlike any other: one with a master of botanicals
THE PERFECT SERVE: [top] A Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic with garnish; [bottom] the brand’s master of botanicals Ivano Tonutti, whose journeys around the world to source ingredients are key to the gin’s flavour
INSIDER’S G UIDE I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H B O M B AY S A P P H I R E
THE PROCESS Want to know more about the environments that create Bombay Sapphire’s botanicals? Here’s where you can find three of the gin’s key ingredients: JUNIPER FROM TUSCANY The spiky, evergreen juniper bush might not look at first like it would produce greattasting fruit. But in the rolling hills of Tuscany, high above sea level, you’ll find the dark berries that give Bombay Sapphire its most characteristic flavour. It’s farmed by a skilled Italian family company with more than 200 years of heritage in cultivating this unique plant.
LEMONS FROM MURCIA
whose experience outweighs anyone in the industry; whose flavours can tell a thousand stories about people and cultures, methods and ingredients around the world in a single sip. And that’s what’s at the heart of the Gin of Ten Journeys. For each botanical, there’s a relationship with a supplier; there’s a journey to the heart of the ingredient’s habitat; there’s an investment in ensuring that relationship and that environment for years to come. Drinking Bombay Sapphire in a martini or a gin & tonic, it’s easy to forget that within the complex flavour of the spirit, there are many factors at work. It’s as much as product of the farmers in Java hand-harvesting cubeb berries, as it is of the lemons that are peeled almost effortlessly in one go in Murcia. And in every case, there’s a working relationship as beautifully balanced as the spirit itself. ◆
SOME OF BOMBAY SAPPHIRE’S SUPPLIERS HAVE BEEN CULTIVATING THEIR LAND FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS
Lemons in this part of the world soak up the Murcian sun, resulting in a rich, zesty peel that gives a refreshing acidity and bitterness to the finished gin. The lemons are hand-harvested to protect the fruit, and then peeled by hand skilfully in one unbroken strip, before being hung out to dry.
CUBEB FROM JAVA At first glance, cubeb berries might look like peppercorns. And although they carry similar flavour characteristics, as well as a similar aroma, they impart different notes to the gin. Cubeb berries (used in dried form in Bombay Sapphire’s gin) give not only a spicy flavour but a nasal sensation that’s a key part of Bombay Sapphire’s long-lasting finish. They’re harvested, separated from their stems and dried using ages-old processes in a particular part of Java.
Making Tracks This July, take part in The Grand Journey, a unique multi-sensory experience that pairs top-level food with Bombay Sapphire cocktails
hat if we told you that getting on a train in your free time could be an exhilarating experience? And if we said this train was packed with food from a top chef, with selectively crafted cocktails created to match? All aboard? We thought so. The Grand Journey, which runs until 23 July in London (and makes stops in other
cities across the continent, too), is a truly immersive pop-up – a chance for you to follow in Bombay Sapphire’s footsteps, and head on your own botanical journey. It takes the form of a gleaming, blue train carriage, its tables decked out with tableware and cutlery and presided over by Michelin-starred chefs, each of whom have created dishes that harness the unique flavour profile of Bombay Sapphire’s ten botanicals. The London leg will be curated by Tom Sellers, chef-patron at the acclaimed Michelinstarred Restaurant Story. Sellers’ sense of connection with his ingredients and his knack for creating food that inflames the senses made him a natural choice to head up the experience in the capital. The cocktails will be created by Bombay Sapphire’s brand ambassadors to perfectly complement the dishes. As well as filling you up, The Grand Journey can enlighten you, too: the experience aboard the Laverstoke Express will explore the gin brand’s connection to its botanicals, how they’re sourced and where they come from. After all,
you can’t tell the story of Bombay Sapphire’s spirit without telling the story of the botanicals that make it what it is, and the people from across the world who make it all possible. ◆ For more information and to book your place on The Grand Journey, go to thegrandjourney.com
YOU CAN’T TELL BOMBAY SAPPHIRE’S STORY WITHOUT TELLING THE STORY OF ITS BOTANICALS
INSIDER’S G UIDE I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H B O M B AY S A P P H I R E
All this talk of bountiful botanicals got you in the mood for a drink? Try out these signature Bombay Sapphire serves – each of them perfect for a summer day
The Gin & Tonic When the sun’s shining, there’s not much that hits the spot like a gin & tonic. The combination of cool, clean Bombay Sapphire, ice-cold tonic and the zing and zest of a fresh wedge of lime is a quintessential refresher for a reason. But while it’s a simple concoction, getting it absolutely perfect requires dedication. With that in mind, have a look at this classic recipe, born to bring the best out
of Bombay Sapphire’s unique flavour. A surefire summer winner.
50ML Bombay Sapphire 100ML tonic WEDGE of lime Squeeze a lime wedge in the glass before pouring the gin. Fill with ice and top up with tonic.
35ML Bombay Sapphire 15ML Martini vermouth (Rosato or Bianco are best for summer) 10ML elderflower cordial or St Germain liqueur 75ML Ginger ale 2 WEDGES of lime SLICE of ginger SPRIG of mint
For something a little more complex in its make-up, the Laverstoke cocktail – named after Bombay Sapphire’s distillery – is sure to go down a treat this summer. It uses the sweet and herbal notes of Martini vermouth and offsets it with elderflower cordial (or St Germain, a punchy, flavoursome elderflower liqueur, if you’d prefer), and tops it with ginger ale before adding a touch of ginger and mint for a fresh, lasting finish. The resulting cocktail is a little sweet, a little savoury, a little fiery, and completely delicious. A perfect pick-me-up.
The Lemon & Thyme Twist The gin & tonic is a classic serve, and while many would argue that it’s perfect the way it is, that doesn’t mean you can’t play with the formula. Loads of different garnishes will do the combination justice, but this one – fresh lemon and an aromatic sprig of thyme – adds a deliciously savoury note, offsetting the sweetness of the tonic and the sourness of the citrus beautifully. It’s the perfect summer
starter: one that’ll get your appetite going before dinner, but that’s also the ideal tipple for a lazy afternoon in the sun.
Squeeze the lime wedges into the glass before pouring in the gin and cordial. Fill the glass with ice and then top with ginger ale. Finish by garnishing with a slice of ginger and a sprig of mint.
50ML Bombay Sapphire 100ML tonic SPRIG of thyme WEDGE of lemon Place one small thyme sprig and a squeezed lemon wedge in the glass before pouring in the gin. Fill with ice and top with the tonic. Garnish with a thyme sprig.
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58 COOL HOTELS 70 BANGKOK, THAILAND 77 SPLIT, CROATIA 88 LAKE MAGGIORE 92 BELIZE 101 FAROE ISLANDS Photograph by Alex Photograph Robinson/Getty by ###
KEEP YOUR COOL
From the blingy and the beautiful to the downright bizarre, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s coolest hotels. Come in and get comfortable...
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The romantic one
Villa Vittoria, Lake Como WHY IS IT COOL? This gobsmackingly beautiful part of Italy made its name with silk production – Villa Vittoria is a relic of this heritage, occupying a former silk mill right by the water with 13 bedrooms that are just begging you to stay the night. WHAT ELSE? Lovingly restored by its owner, Villa Vittoria is unquestionably one of the most special hotels on the water. It boasts family heirlooms in the form of leather chairs in the living room, bedrooms dressed up in whites and mauves, and an Instaworthy infinity pool. Set against the THE AREA: Take the dramatic snowhotel’s dinghy out on covered Rhaetian the lake; check out Alps and surrounded by spectacular George Clooney’s villas, Como has mansion; or head to been named as the Lido de Leno, a sandy ‘most beautiful lake in the world’. oasis by day that
WITH ITS ART DECO TOUCHES, THE CONFIDANTE HARKS BACK TO GOLDEN AGE MIAMI
becomes a hip local hangout by night. GETTING THERE: iEscape offers nightly rates from £191. i-escape.com; relaisvillavittoria.com; EasyJet offers return flights to Milan Malpensa from £50. easyjet.com
The retro one
The Confidante, Miami WHY IS IT COOL? Ultra-chic bright yellow, coral and green geometric prints, retro brass lamps, cool old-school fonts, and other Art Deco flourishes that all hark back to golden age Miami in the 1950s, unexpectedly delivered by the hotel chain known as Hyatt. Yes, really. WHAT ELSE? Be sure to take on the huge portion of fried chicken, waffles and maple syrup at Bird & Bone, the hotel’s restaurant that serves up some of the best American comfort food in the city. THE AREA: The phrase ‘Miami cool’ didn’t come from nowhere you know – head here
THE ION CITY HOTEL IN REYKJAVIK IS A TEMPLE OF SLEEK NORDIC DESIGN
HEAD FOR THE HILLS: [clockwise from top] Get back to nature at Patagonia’s Eco Camp; The Confidante; Villa Vittoria in Lake Como
Photographs by (The Confidante) Chris Sanders; (Villa Vittoria) alteregostudio.it
Want to party with for celeb-spotting, the rich and famous? great weather all Miami is the place year round, and one to do it. Head to the likes of E11EVEN, of the world’s best Liv and Story for the electronic music best chances of a festivals, Ultra, which celeb spot. When in Rome an’ all that… takes place in the city every March. GETTING THERE: Nightly rates from £156. theconfidantemiamibeach.hyatt.com; Norwegian offers one-way flights to Miami Fort Lauderdale from £159. norwegian.co.uk
The eco one
The Scarlet, Cornwall– WHY IS IT COOL? Cedar-wood hot tubs that overlook Cornwall’s rugged coastline where you can sit and sip your favourite tipple, for one thing. But there’s more: a sleek design that gives you a constant view of sky and sea; and laudable eco credentials that mean you can kick back, relax, and enjoy your
destinations du jour, and a city this cool needs an equally cool hotel for visitors to stay in. Enter the Ion City Hotel, a temple of sleek Nordic design that revolves around organic materials in an understated and calming palette of grey and white. WHAT ELSE? Ease yourself into Iceland’s unique cuisine (delicacies include rotten fish) at Ion City’s North African-influenced restaurant, Sumac, where chef Thrainn Freyr Vigfusson has blended the country’s, er, unusual cooking with more approachable international flavours. THE AREA: The hotel sits right on Reykjavik’s main thoroughfare, so you’ll find galleries, bars and restaurants on your doorstep.
stay without a hint of guilt. WHAT ELSE? Think of it like staying at your best friend’s (very luxurious) pad. There’s an excellent restaurant, a well-stocked library, and bringing dogs is actively encouraged – right down to the homemade doggy treats you’ll find in your room on arrival. THE AREA: It’s Cornwall, so this is the perfect place to head out on bracing walks on the beach, with the dog in tow, or brave the cold water to go surfing. Gnarly, dude. GETTING THERE: Nightly rates from £300 B&B. scarlethotel.co.uk; you can drive from London to Mawgan Porth in approximately four hours, or you can take a train from Paddington to Bodmin Parkway Station, which is a 25-minute taxi away. Tickets from £61 one-way. gwr.com
The city one
Ion City Hotel Reykjavik WHY IS IT COOL? Reykjavik is one of the hippest
LIVING ON THE EDGE: As views go, they don’t get much more spectacular than those from the rooms at Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman
GETTING THERE: Nightly
rates from £447.
ioniceland.is; Wow Air offers return flights
from London Gatwick to Keflavik, Iceland from £34.99. wowair.co.uk
The desert one
Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman WHY IS IT COOL? Watch your step here, because this jaw-droppingly beautiful resort is set right at the edge of a cliff in the Al Hajar mountains, at 2,000m above sea level. It’s the perfect place for a reprieve from city life – a two-and-a-half-hour journey from the nearest airport, the hotel is only accessible by four-wheel drive. WHAT ELSE? Camera at the ready: every inch of Alila Jabal Akhdar is overtly Insta-worthy, from fort-like wooden doors to copper ornaments and handmade pottery – not to mention the stunning infinity pool that overlooks dizzyingly deep ravines. THE AREA: If you can bear to leave, explore the nearby UNESCO-protected Bahla Fort, an immense structure of unbaked brick and stone foundations that sits in a lush oasis.
ALILA JABAL AKHDAR IN OMAN IS SET RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF A CLIFF IN THE AL HAJAR MOUNTAINS
GETTING THERE: Nightly
rates from £267.
jabal-akhdar.anantara.com; Oman Air offers
return flights from London Heathrow to Muscat from £370. omanair.com
The isolated one
Bay of Fires Lodge, Tasmania WHY IS IT COOL? Perched on a hilltop in the middle of the Tasmanian wilderness, 40m above the sea, the lodge is about as far as you can get off the beaten track – and it’s as much about the journey it takes to get there as it is about the stay itself. WHAT ELSE? You might have a tough time finding it at first – the award-winning building was designed to blend into its forested surroundings and was made with beautifully burnished The Tasmanian hardwoods, glass and Wilderness World hammered steel. Heritage Site THE AREA: Set deep in covers almost 20% of Tasmania and the National Park, it’s constitutes one of the only building for the last expanses of at least 20km. You temperate wilderness in the world. arrive following a
pretty lengthy hike, so take the chance to relax and swim in the sea, or if you’re feeling energetic, play cricket on the beach. GETTING THERE: The Tasmanian Walking Company offers four-day guided walks from about £1,432 for a twin share, including transfers from Launceston, all meals, guides and equipment. taswalkingco.com.au; Qantas offers return flights from London Heathrow to Launceston, with stopovers in Dubai and Melbourne, from £775. qantas.com
The winter one
Terminal Neige-Refuge du Montenvers, Chamonix WHY IS IT COOL? It looks a bit like Wes
TERMINAL NEIGEREFUGE IS A MONUMENT TO GLAMOUR
Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, which is pretty much an explanation in itself as to why it’s worthy of your attention, but there’s more: it overlooks the absolutely stunning Mer de Glace, a vast glacier that’s attracted thousands of visitors each year for more than four centuries. WHAT ELSE? On the At 7km long and outside, Terminal 200m deep, this is Neige-Refuge is a the largest glacier monument to oldin France, and the view from the top is world glamour, but pretty special – get inside you’ll find the train and you’ll that it actually has a be at the peak in no more than 20 mins. distinct design edge,
Photograph by (Termianl Neige-Refuge) David Andre; (Song Saa) Markus Gortz; (The Confidante) Michael Pisarri
thanks to a recent refurbishment. Oh, and it has a bistro – appropriately named Le Panoramique – that looks out right onto the incredible glacier. THE AREA: This is a key location for hiking, climbing and skiing, which are the main ways of accessing the Montenvers, but there’s also a cute little railway that’ll chug you up to the peak in summer – or when you’re just not feeling all that adventurous. Shh, we won’t tell anyone. GETTING THERE: Nightly rates from about £220. refuge.terminal-neige.com; EasyJet offers one-way flights to Geneva from £26.74. easyjet.com
C’EST LA VISTA: [clockwise from here] Terminal Neige-Refuge; private pool at Song Saa; Art Deco charm at The Confidante, Miami
The adventure one
EcoCamp, Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile WHY IS IT COOL? Fall asleep watching the stars in EcoCamp’s stylish geodesic domes, modelled on the shape of the traditional dwellings of the indigenous Kaweskar tribe that still lives in the area. WHAT ELSE? The camp is the perfect jumpingoff point for exploring the devastatingly beautiful Patagonian wilderness, offering f guided treks and wildlife excursions. Start your day with a stretch session in the Yoga Dome, and round it off with delicous dinner served in the Community Dome. THE AREA: EcoCamp sits inside the Torres del Paine National Park at the southernmost tip of the Chilean Andes, which is home to ancient forests, glaciers, lakes, rivers and fjords, as well as pumas, guanacos (from the same family as alpacas and llamas) and a diverse array of birds. GETTING THERE: Four-day safaris start at £950, including transfers from Puntas Arenas airport. ecocamp.travel; LATAM flies from London Heathrow to Punta Arenas via Madrid or Sao Paolo, from £853 one way. latam.com
The one that gives back
Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia WHY IS IT COOL? It’s more than just a resort – Song Saa is also a non-profit organisation that was established to protect the inhabitants of the Koh Rong Archipelago,
IF YOU’RE PREPARED TO SHELL OUT, YOU CAN STAY IN BEAUTIFUL VILLAS WITH PRIVATE POOLS AT SONG SAA
improve the welfare of its communities and preserve the local environment. WHAT ELSE? It helps, of course, that the resort is extremely luxurious (and comes with an appropriately eye-watering price tag). If you’re prepared to shell out, you can stay in breathtakingly beautiful villas (made with reclaimed materials, naturally) that jut out over the water, complete with private pools. THE AREA: Song Saa really is all about giving back, so you can organise to visit the local communities it works with, as well as the rainforest reserve – and the best way to do that is by booking a trip on The Ahyoka, the resort’s Last year, the Song own dedicated Saa Foundation had sustainability yacht. its most successful Obviously. year to date, spearheading an GETTING THERE: Nightly array of impactful rates from £1,141 and globally aware on an all-inclusive programmes with a focus on marine life. basis, based on two sharing and including transfers from Sihanoukville. songsaa.com; Vietnam Airlines flies to Sihanoukville from Paris via Ho Chi Minh City, from £720 return.
The design one
Fogo Island Inn, Canada way it looks, for starters. And its location – perched on stilts on a rocky outcrop in Newfoundland, Canada, WHY IS IT COOL? The
Set in an exclusive location, between the renowned resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, and surrounded by the lush greenery of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the Ria Park Hotels are ideal for beach lovers and holidaymakers looking for tranquillity and nature related activities. Along with golden sandy beaches and challenging golf courses, there are numerous nature trails running through pine forests and the Ria Formosa estuary, perfect for cycling, walking and many other activities such as bird watching, kayaking, stand-up paddling or horse riding. Close to the hotels also stand out fantastic bars and restaurants, ranging from casual beach shacks to the most elaborate Michelin starred spots. With high standards and a genuine welcoming service, the Ria Park Hotels are one of the most authentic ways you can experience a peaceful Algarve by the sea.
FOGO ISLAND INN’S MODERN ARCHITECTURE IS STUNNING SILHOUETTED AGAINST THE CANADIAN SKY
Photographs by (Hillside) Julien Aksoy; (Fogo) iphasephoto.com
it’s unlike any inn we’ve seen before, with modern architecture that looks stunning silhouetted against the sky. WHAT ELSE? The striking boxy shape affords each room floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea, while the rooftop space is given over to wood-fired saunas and outdoor hot tubs. THE AREA: This is the ideal base to explore Newfoundland’s stunning scenery, from watching icebergs float along ‘Iceberg Alley’ in early summer to trekking along ancient footpaths and hiking up cliffs. GETTING THERE: Nightly rates from £961. fogoislandinn.ca; Bridge & Wickers offers seven-night trips to Newfoundland, including three nights at Fogo Island Inn, two nights in St John’s, two nights in Trinity, car hire and flights with WestJet, from £2,899 per person. bridgeandwickers.co.uk
HIT THE DECK: [clockwise from here] Sun and sea at Hillside Beach Club; Newfoundland’s rugged terrain; stay in style at Fogo Island Inn
The family one
Hillside Beach Club, Turkey WHY IS IT COOL? Family holidays can be cool as well, you know. Think bluer-than-blue water, whitewashed walls, bougainvillea and super-stylish suites – as well as a wealth of activities that will keep both you and your little ones entertained.
WHAT ELSE? There’s an in-house ‘baby chef’ and a daily ‘baby buffet’ at the main restaurant. Yes, really. But there’s nightlife too, whether it’s in This area is popular the form of drum and with boat trips bass DJs that spin the thanks to beautiful night away at Pasha islands and immaculate conditions. Look Bar, or whisky and out for pretty, quiet jazz on the beach – beaches and ancient giving you the best of ruins scattered on both worlds. pine-clad hills. THE AREA? In a location like this, it’s really all about the sea. Book yourself onto a boat tour – either private or with a group – that explores nearby islands and the Gulf of Fethiye or takes you out in the evening to watch the sunset. If you’re a history buff, visit the Dead Sea, or Kayakoy, which is an abandoned ancient town with Roman roots. GETTING THERE: Nightly rates start from £185 per person. hillsidebeachclub.com; EasyJet flies from London to Dalaman from £49.99 one way, then it’s a 45-minute drive to the resort. easyjet.com e
Three of the Best From over-the-water relaxation to fine dining and stunning golf courses, when you Stay at One, Play at All with Sandals in Saint Lucia, you’re sure to max your time away
hether you choose to stay in the laid-back comfort of a 220acre tropical estate at Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, in a new over-the-water bungalow at Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort or simply indulge in a getaway of unadulterated romantic relaxation at Sandals Halcyon Beach, the hardest part of any Sandals break is deciding where you want to kick back and relax on your unique Luxury Included® stay. Not any more, because now you can experience all three of Saint Lucia’s indulgently luxurious lodgings every time you book a break at just one of them. When
you Stay at One, Play at All on the idyllic island of Saint Lucia, you’ll be able to pick all the best bits, taking in the sights and sounds of all three gorgeous Luxury Included® resorts, each of which is set on the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Caribbean. Whether you fancy chilling on the beach, going diving (which is free for all PADIqualified divers at Sandals resorts) or getting active with unlimited land sports like beach volleyball, golf and tennis, you can. And with 27 5-Star Global Gourmet™ restaurants, ten pools and 22 bars serving premium brand beverages including six varieties of Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks wines to try
P ROMOTI ON
across the island’s three resorts, there’s absolutely no way you’ll be getting bored. As if all this isn’t enough, Sandals’ Exclusive Exchange Programme means that it’s not just the amenities and services that are included in your stay – all the transfers to the three resorts on the island are too, which means making the most out of your holiday has never been easier. What’s more, there will be a fourth Sandals resort coming to the island soon. The all-suite Sandals LaSource Saint Lucia will break ground later this year. Here you’ll be able to soak up the Caribbean sun poolside at the rooftop infinity edge sky pool all day, or pamper yourself at the resort’s expansive Red Lane® Spa, as well as enjoying the unadulterated luxury of all the other Sandals resorts on the island. So what are you waiting for? Whether you want to trade your lunchtime tipple at Gordon’s
WITH 22 BARS, 10 POOLS AND 27 RESTAURANTS TO ENJOY ACROSS THE ISLAND, THERE’S NO CHANCE OF YOU EVER GETTING BORED
Over-the-Water restaurant at Sandals Grande St. Lucian for a nine-hole round of golf along the coast at Sandals Regency La Toc, or your early evening whirlpool dip for a luxurious dinner on your final night, make sure you make the most of Sandals’ Stay at One, Play at All holidays when you visit the Caribbean. It’ll be so relaxing that the hardest part will be deciding what you want to spend your time doing next. ◆
For more information on Sandals Luxury Included® holidays call 0800 742 742, talk to your local travel agent or visit Sandals’ Luxury Travel Store, 135 Fulham Road SW3 6RT. sandals.co.uk
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM With just one day and a night at his disposal, Mike Gibson takes on Bangkok for the first time, exploring everything from its heady heights to its basement bars
EXPLORE MORE DESTINATIONS AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
Photograph by Chan Srithaweeporn/Getty
’m rarely, if ever, speechless. But as I stand on the 49th floor, 360-degree rooftop bar Octave, on top of the Marriott hotel on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 57, it’s the closest I’ve come in years. Leaning against the glass railing, I dip in and out of conversations with travellers of all kinds – a long-haired actor from London, a sunburnt holidaymaker from Wales on his way to Phuket, and the Anglo-Thai contingent that I’m with, but I can only half-listen. Bangkok’s skyline stretches and yawns out before me, the towers of the financial district to one side, countless blocks of crumbling apartment complexes to the other, and the arrow-straight Sukhumvit road slices the cityscape in two. I’m from a city of eight million people, but there’s a sense that the pure scale of this city, in all its hulking glory, is almost too huge to actually fully comprehend. But that doesn’t mean I don’t intend to try. I’m here for two brief stop-offs before and after a trip to the south of the country, with a total of an evening, a day and a night to spend here before and after flights. There are Bangkok residents among us, as well as seasoned travellers to Thailand’s capital that hail from other parts of the country. There are also a couple of British nationals farang (foreigners) make up over one – one who came here million visits to some years ago on Thailand each year, and many of them a backpacking trip, use Bangkok as a and me. It’s my first launchpad for their travels to other parts time in Bangkok, of the country. and as soon as I touch down at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the close, latewinter air and we get onto the highway, I feel like I want to drink it all in. We arrive just before the sun sets, and on a taxi ride that bisects the city on the way to a hotel near its other major airport, Don Muang, I watch through swarms of brake lights as the day turns to night, and concrete grey turns to circuitboard neon. Our first port of call after check-in, of course, is a mall. Bangkok is famous for them; places not just to shop, but to while away lunch hours and weekend afternoons. Dinner tonight is at Took Lae Dee, a quickand-easy but excellent restaurant beyond the shelves of supermarket Foodland. I eat a delicious pad grapow gai – stirfried minced chicken with holy basil – that epitomises the restaurant’s name, which translates to ‘cheap and good’. It costs the equivalent of about £1.50.
THERE’S A SENSE THAT THIS CITY IS ALMOST TOO HUGE TO FULLY COMPREHEND That’s about all we’ve got time for before our flight south to the province of Trang. On the return leg, though, we’re checked into a boutique hotel right in the Sukhumvit district by 11am, so there’s 22 hours of time to play here, and a blank itinerary. There are contradictions to be found everywhere: there’s refinement and there’s dirge; there’s sipping negronis on roof terraces and there’s skulking around dimly lit backstreets looking for Cuban speakeasies; there’s the serenity of the Bamboo massage parlour and spa, and there’s the cries of the working girls of Soi Cowboy, just around the back of my hotel. As before, a mall is the first pit-stop. At the hulking Terminal 21, we window-shop in western high-street clothing stores,
VIEW FROM THE TOP: [clockwise] Survey Bangkok’s skyline from one of its rooftop bars; the city at night; stop off for street food
Photographs by (rooftop bar) Jon Bilous/Alamy; (city at night) Anupong Sonprom/Getty; (food stall) Cultura RM Exclusive/Philip Lee Harvey/Getty
before loading up a card with around five pounds’ worth of credit and grazing on pork broth, noodles and mango sticky rice from the stalls in its food court. Next, it’s time for some relaxation: the Bamboo Spa on Sukhumvit Soi 26 is the type you book in advance, vouched for by its regular visitors, and where massages are just massages. It’s a beautiful, serene place. For the equivalent of about £25 I get a good hour and a half, starting with a comprehensive foot massage downstairs, with the main event a rigorous session by a masseur who clearly knows his way around a sore back or a tight hamstring. Newly restored, I take a walk down Soi Cowboy on the way back from my hotel – past inevitable calls of “Hello, handsome man!” from working girls – but
I WALK DOWN SOI COWBOY PAST CALLS OF “HELLO HANDSOME MAN”
it’s largely quiet here, and I’m told it won’t liven up until later. I spend a bit of the afternoon with headphones in, up and down quadranted blocks around Sukhumvit, watching vertical The longest road in malls collide with Thailand, Sukhumvit lowly street markets. and its sois (subWe’re here in streets) are the place to go for shopping, winter, so the sun is eating and nightlife, going down by 6pm from modern malls or so. I meet my to sweet cafés and trendy nightclubs. friend Richard at the front of my hotel for a couple of drinks at his before dinner. With English and Thai parentage, he speaks with an English accent but is just about fluent in Thai, and throughout the trip is nothing but effusive about his other home country – its sights, its food, its people and its culture.
BANGKOK FEELS LIKE A CITY WHERE YOU CAN LIVE A WEEK IN 24 HOURS
ELECTRIC DREAMS: Neon signs light up Khao San Road, one of Bangkok’s busiest tourist areas, located in the heart of the city
with, a huge group of their extended family and friends, plus a seemingly rotating lineup of guests spread between London and Bangkok. After a breathless feast of sashimi, Japanese barbecue and lots of sake, we’re whisked back in yet another taxi and up a lift to Octave’s 49th floor, where I have my heart-stopping moment. After Octave, it’s back down to the ground-floor Havana Social Club, where we get in via a password at a payphone (no, speakeasies aren’t solely confined to basements in New York and London) and drink rum cocktails in a bar made up to resemble the Cuban capital in the 1970s. And after that, it’s on to Sing Sing, a pulsing nightclub designed to look like a colonial drinking den in Victorian Hong Kong, where the DJs spin Hidden bars are big funky house and the news in Bangkok, and bar doesn’t close the speakeasy scene is thriving. Check out until the sun comes Maggie Choo’s, in a up. The cocktails, former bank vault, sake, and Johnnie or drink cocktails Walker and soda take behind a secret door at Rabbit Hole. hold, we dance as
GETTING THERE Thai Airways offers direct flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok, starting at £612 return. Visit thaiairways.com for more information. Royal Jordanian fly from London Heathrow to Bangkok with a stop-off in Amman, Jordan, starting at £482 return. Visit rj.com for more information.
Photograph by imageBROKER/Alamy
“Can you feel the buzz of the city?” he asks me, all Cheshire Cat smile through the dusky light. Work brings him to Thailand for business, pleasure or both as many times a year as he can justify. “Bangkok’s great in the daytime, but at night it totally changes,” he says, slapping his thighs with the pure excitement of being here. “It really comes alive after dark.” He confirms what I suspect, even as a first-timer: the thrill of Thailand, particularly its pulsating capital, just doesn’t get old. We hail a tuk-tuk and jump on, ducking and weaving through traffic to his hotel as twilight turns to darkness. It’s a Marriott, and a palatial one at that, although – in relative terms – a hotel like this is affordable here. We head up to a beautiful roof-terrace bar perched half-way up the enormous tower. It’s a sublime, ridiculous place for a pre-dinner drink, and before we know it we’re back down in the lobby hailing cabs to Teppen, on Soi 67, which I’m told is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city. We’re on a table of at least 25, which includes the entire group I’ve travelled here
the time flies, and soon it’s 3am and time for the last taxi of the night. Maybe it’s due to its location in the heart of Thailand – the place everyone flies to on their way to Chiang Mai in the north, or Phuket and the islands in the south. Or perhaps it’s because it’s a true melting pot – a city of hundreds of languages and cultures, of business and of partying and everything in between. But my resounding memory of Bangkok is that it feels like a city shot in time-lapse; faster, more frenetic, more electric than any I’ve been to before; where you can live a week in 24 hours. Through all of the abounding energy, though, the single moment that I’ll remember more than any other is on the top of Octave, where I surveyed the skyline and time, for a brief moment, stood still. It is, as I said, a place that’s full of contradictions, and a day and a night here leads me to believe that, although the city seems to move faster than you can possibly imagine, in Bangkok it feels like you’re always in the here and now. e
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GOT TO SPLIT Here's our handy guide to Split, Croatia â€“ a city where Roman ruins meet 21st-century cool
Photograph by ###
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Photograph by Lisa Smit/Getty
Day-long sailing trip
Plitvice Lakes day trip
Of course you’re going to wander around the sprawling Roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace yourself, but you’ll get much more out of it with a guide. Sure, it might sound a bit school trip, but it’s not too fact-heavy, and with over 200 buildings to take in, there’s plenty to learn. Three thousand people still live within the city walls, so when you’re not marvelling at the history you’ll be wandering along narrow alleyways packed with local kids playing football and grannies in rocking chairs.
Don’t just look at that lovely turquoise water – swim in it! With Toto Travel you can take day-long sailing trips along Croatia’s coast. For maximum vibes, there’s the company’s sunset package, which involves an hourand-a-half’s sail to the island of Solta, where you have a couple of hours of free time for swimming and sunbathing, followed by the sail back to town. There are day trips following a similar route, too, and they include the price of the skipper, safety gear, insurance and drinking water.
From £57. excursion-split.com
When the city gets too hot to handle, head to the nearby-ish UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park. Here you can hike along peaceful woodland trails packed with wild flowers alongside 16 turquoise lakes interconnected by waterfalls, and you may even spot wild boars, bears and wolves. It’s a bit of a drive (you’re looking at two hours), but with sublime coastal scenery you won’t be complaining. The park is open all year round, too, and it’s no less beautiful when the leaves begin to turn, or when the trees are dusted with ice and snow.
Photograph by Ivan Vdovin/AWL Images
EAT Bokeria Kitchen & Wine Bokeria blazed onto Split’s food scene in 2015, with the owners taking inspiration from Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria market. Expect a similarly lively vibe in this spacious, high-ceilinged restaurant, where the walls are lined with hundreds of bottles of the best Croatian wines (ask for recommendations, as it’s tasty stuff that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere). Food is in tapas style, but Croatian, of course – a great way to sample the region’s classics, as well as more creative concoctions. Domaldova ul. 8, 21000
Konoba Matejuška For traditional Croatian classics and bucketloads of seafood, try this rustic
family-run taverna located in the picturesque Varoš quarter, which is packed with typical Dalmatian stone houses. The restaurant isn’t fancy, but that’s why we love it – so expect basic but carefully prepped dishes like grilled fish (priced by weight), marinated tuna and fish platters. It’s cramped and pine-clad (in a cosy way), so book ahead, especially if you want a table at a certain time, or one on the street. Tomić a Stine 3 21000; konobamatejuska.hr
If you’ve spent the day at Split’s Bačvice beach, make Ma:Toni a refuelling point on your way home – not least because its basement setting makes it a welcome break from the heat. Focusing on cuisine from
the Dalmatian coast, you’ll find a modern spin on traditional Croatian cooking using Split’s fresh local produce. The duck breast gnocchi is a must-try, but there’s a wealth of excellent vegetarian and vegan options, too. Prilaz bracé Kaliterna 6, 21000; ma-toni.com
GETTING THERE British Airways operates flights from London Heathrow to Split, Croatia, four times a week in the summer months. Fares start from £97 oneway. Visit ba.com to book.
PRESTIGE H O L I D A Y S
.C O.U K
SPLIT, CROATIA WE KNOW IT AND LOVE IT - AND SO WILL YOU! MORE REGIONS, MORE RESORTS, MORE ISLANDS, MORE CRUISES
DRINK Ghetto Bar
If you like your drinks with a dash of sophistication, head to this library and bar in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, where it’s believed that famous renaissance writer, philosopher and the godfather of Croatian literature Marko Marulic once lived. Browse the vast collection of books while you quaff a cup of coffee (or a whisky or three) and soak up the laid-back jazz soundtrack, or drop in for one of the literature evenings that feature both Croatian and international poetry being read to an attentive audience. Papalićeva ul. 4, 21000
For a different kind of sophistication and heaps of local personality, head to Ghetto Bar at the top end of Dosud street. It has a near-cult local following; plays reliably decent funk, soul and disco music; and frequently hosts live performances and art exhibitions. Initially opened in 1988, the bar's path to popularity wasn't always easy – it became the first and only gay-friendly bar in the city, and was a known liberal hangout at a time when the country was under a strict right-wing liberal agenda.
New kid on the block Sanctuary brings something a bit different to Split: a proper craft cocktail bar with more than 60 mixed drinks largely inspired by the prohibition era. Craft beers (including Split’s first craft beer, Barba, on tap, among others) and more than 37 high-end whiskies have been sourced from all over the world to stock the bar, and it boasts a seasonally rotating menu created using produce found in Split’s Green Market. It also has one of the city’s largest collections of tequila. Obviously.
Dosud ulica 10, 21000
Poljana Stare gimnazije 1, 21000
Photograph by WIN-Initiative RM/Getty
Marcvs Marvlvs Library Bar
SPARKLE PARKLE PARKLE
Cosy room, two-bed apartment or big family house – at the Divota Apartment Hotel you can choose whatever suits you. Located in Veli Varoš, a quaint neighbourhood close to Split’s harbour, Divota Apartment Hotel makes for a chilled stay that combines quirky floor plans, high ceilings, bright and bold artwork and balconies for soaking up the balmy evening sun. You can even organise to have a breakfast hamper delivered to your room, which sounds like the best possible way to enjoy a lie-in to us.
If location’s your game, it can’t get better than this. You’ll find the swanky Vestibul Palace located in the heart of Diocletian’s Palace, and surrounded by the city’s UNESCO-listed pedestrianised Old Town. Eleven rooms feature exposed centuries-old stonework, wooden floors, dark sheets and sleek, contemporary design flourishes. The breakfast buffet is one of the best in town (trust us to highlight the important parts). We’d stay here just to get our hands on the tiny, utterly delicious doughnuts.
This luxury B&B sits just within Diocletian’s Palace, a labyrinthine Roman ruin that forms half of the city’s Old Town. You’ll find slick modern furnishings – hello, Murano crystal chandeliers – contrasting beautifully with ancient stone walls (the building is an impressive 2,000 years old) and wooden-beamed ceilings. It boasts air con, too, and sits right by Split’s main square, making it the perfect base to explore the city, as well as the beach, which is only an 11-minute walk away.
From £69 a night. i-escape.com
From £72 a night. slh.com
From £171 a night. villasplitluxury.com
Photograph by Dado Daniela/Getty
Divota Apartment Hotel
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SEE Split Archaeological Museum
St Domnius Cathedral
Bored of Split’s almost sickeningly pretty medieval architecture? Er, no, but for some respite from the city buzz – and to see those tiled roofs from a different perspective – take a long stroll through the city’s Marjan Forest Park, a hilly nature reserve with pine forests, scenic lookout points, medieval chapels and caves that were once inhabited by Christian hermits. You can explore the park by hired mountain bike – kudos to you if you cycle up those hills in the blistering Croatian summer heat. If you’re on foot, we’d recommend taking a bus back to town.
Split has a long tradition of caring for its monuments – fortunate, given that it’s a city steeped in so much history. The Archaeological Museum was first set up in 1820, making it the oldest museum in Croatia, and holds items from as far back as prehistoric times through to the early medieval period. It’s a treasure trove of classical sculpture and mosaics, most of which were found in Split’s ancient Roman settlements and the neighbouring city of Salona (or Solin, by its modern name).
The Emperor Diocletian was one of the last famous persecutors of Christians, known for his ruthlessness and horrific methods of punishment. It’s fitting, then, that his mausoleum was turned into this church in the fifth century, dedicated to one of his victims. Today, the unusual octagonal building is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings you’ll find, making a visit well worth the price of entry. You’ll get access to the crypt, treasury and baptistery, too, but you’ll need another ticket to climb up to the top of the belfry.
Photograph by Justin Foulkes/4Corners/4Corners Images
Marjan Forest Park
HIDDEN DEPTHS Extreme sports, sub-tropical plants and getting to grips with grappa – turns out there’s a whole lot more to Lake Maggiore than just, er, water, says Gary Ogden
Photograph by ###
akes are lovely, aren’t they? I used to live near one once, and I don’t think I ever had a bad experience involving it – even that time I got chased by a rabid fox is now looked upon fondly. And that’s just a lake in the middle of England; it is not a lake in Italy, or a lake in Switzerland, and it certainly isn’t a lake in both. Lake Maggiore, located near the beautifully quaint town of Ascona, is precisely that: a lake in both. It borders the two countries, and prides itself on being an impossibly stunning stretch of shimmering, sub-tropical water that offers an allinclusive and altogether rather fascinating snapshot of both Italian and Swiss cultures. So, I went. As an uncultured swine, I jumped at the chance to experience double the pastime for my buck, and of course, as I mentioned previously, I do love a lake. Turns out, I also love a sail, which was my first port of call upon arrival – dump
LAKE MAGGIORE PRIDES ITSELF ON BEING AN STUNNING STRETCH OF WATER
your bags and get out on the water, as the saying doesn’t go. Once away from the shore, a brisk wind provided ample horsepower to propel us around the crystal waters, sometimes at a rather disconcerting speed. Thankfully, a grizzled local sailor, well-versed in the art of ducking under heavy metal poles, was along for the ride. As such, he literally showed us the ropes, and we didn’t end up in the drink. Of course, if you’re not keen on commandeering your own vessel, you can hop into one of the many tourist boats that embark regularly from the surrounding coast. I climbed aboard one of the very same when I journeyed to the distant Brissago Islands, slap bang in the middle of the lake, later in the trip. There are two in total, a smaller one and a bigger one (obviously), and both are lush with peculiar foliage and flora. On the largest island is housed a botanical gardens,
LAKE BELIEVE: [this image] The banks of Lake Maggiore are in both Italy and Switzerland; [below] the view from Cardada
which was introduced by an eccentric millionaire called Antoinette Saint Leger back in 1885, and is home to a hypnotising array of sumptuous Mediterranean vegetation. Of course, the sight of exotic jungle plants in Europe is a jarring (and fascinating) sight, but there’s a reason for it. The two islands are protected by the Alps, as the lake is surrounded by mountains, and during the summer months all of the heat collects down at the bottom. Because of this barrier, it then stays there throughout the winter – it’s like its own micro-climate. As a result, vegetation that’s unusual for the area is able to flourish. Among the unexAnd so is a big pected subtropical old massive mansion plants that thrive (or palazzo) and a on the Brissago Islands are azaleas, sexy Roman baths agaves, yucca and built by a wealthy camellias, as well as businessman called Japanese banana and bamboo. Max Emden, who bought the islands off old Antoinette. The sense of excess that drips from every corner betrays its history – Max was a bit of a womaniser, you see, one whose favourite pastime was to throw pennies into the baths so that he could watch topless women dive in to fetch them. He called his lavish lifestyle “the art of living”. Beats watching Take Me Out, I guess. The fun isn’t all to be found out on the water though, and there’s a wealth of other, less wet, things to do too. Nip up the road a bit and you can attack the glorious Cardada mountain, where an alpine adventure awaits. Take a cable car up and either hike, bike or even paraglide back down. I hiked. Not because I’m a scaredy cat or anything – ask my mum – but because devastatingly, the weather conditions meant it was too dangerous. Real shame. I think… Still, while I was up there nosing about, I got the chance to sample a local speciality – polenta – and at a place that boasts the best in the region. It’s a sort of savoury porridge made from cornmeal, with a variety of flavourings and topped with cheese – I’ll admit it doesn’t look like the first thing you want to hurl down your throat, but after the first bite that’s exactly what I did. This was top stuff. Our hosts and chefs at Capanna Lo Stallone certainly weren’t messing about with their lofty claims. But enough about the Swiss, where’s that all-important Italian influence? Well, it raised its boozy head any time anyone mentioned grappa. This incredibly tart spirit is made from grapes after they’ve been crushed to make wine (the pomace) – so it’s distilled
leftovers, basically. Of course, I loved it. I loved every single type of the many varieties. Great stuff, especially when paired with chocolate, it turns out. Too much grappa lazily signalled the end of my stay – an early night was ushered in at my flawless home for the trip, the beautiful coastside Hotel Eden Roc. A quick tour around the charming town of Ascona was the only other activity I was able to fit in before heading home. This, I was quite pleased about – a few minutes down the road stands the third highest bungee jump in the world. Think how many grappas I’d need in me to get on that… e
LAKE BREAKS THREE MORE EUROPEAN WATER-BOUND ADVENTURES LAKE ATTERSEE, AUSTRIA Austria’s Salzkammergutweg (great name) region is home to a lovely bunch of warm bathing lakes, with Lake Attersee reaching temperatures of up to 25°C in the summer. But alongside the great opportunity to get your skimpies on, the sailing conditions are top-notch, due to the constant ‘Rosenwind’ – a legendary rose-scented wind that glides across the lake, and straight into your sails/nostrils.
LAKE WASTWATER, ENGLAND If you fancy staying a little closer to home, then the deepest lake in England is worth a visit. Surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the country, it’s not exactly the type of pool you’ll want to dive into (it’s pretty cold, tbh), but it once won an award for the greatest view in England, so there’s a lot to look at if you do plan on staying on dry land.
PLITVICE LAKES, CROATIA If it’s views you want, then this cluster of ridiculously beautiful lakes form a large part of the biggest national park in Croatia. There are 16 picturesque, turquoise (the world’s best colour, if you’re asking) lakes, connected by serene waterfalls and cascades – Google the place and peep at any of the jaw-dropping photos on offer for proof. Also, for those looking for a bit of animal action, it’s one of the only places left in Europe where you might catch a glimpse of a bear or a wolf. Scary!
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DAYDREAM BELIZER Despite ticking all of the dream getaway boxes, Belize is still just under the radar, but thatâ€™s all part of its charm, says Lydia Winter
s my plane dips below the clouds and comes in to land, I’m transfixed by what’s outside my window. Or rather, what’s not outside my window. All I can see, for miles and miles, is lush, unbroken rainforest. No electricity pylons, no roads, and few signs of human presence at all. This could be because my destination, Belize, has a population of around 370,000, and a population density of just 14 people per square kilometre. London has a whopping 5,491, so you can see why it looks so absolutely untouched. But then again it might also have something to do with the fact that Belize remains under the radar of most tourists. So under the radar, in fact, that some people I speak to before I leave aren’t even sure where it is. Yet we Brits should know better – known as British Honduras until 1981, it’s a former British colony. The result is a culture that feels more Caribbean than Latin, particularly when it comes to the food (you’ll find several variations of rice and beans), the laidback vibe, and the Belizeans’ soft, West IndianBelize’s barrier reef accented English. is one of the most You could call diverse ecosystems Belize a late bloomer in the world, and home to species in comparison to its including marine better-known turtles, manatees neighbours – Mexico and the American marine crocodile. to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean to the east. While it’s long been popular with backpackers and divers – it boasts the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the awe-inspiring Blue Hole sinkhole 70km from the mainland – tourism is only just beginning to take off, with visitor numbers shooting up from
Photograph by Alex Robinson/ AWL Images
BELIZE IS UNDER THE RADAR OF MOST TOURISTS 93
fewer than 900,000 in 2013 to more than 1,115,000 in 2015. And with flights from Atlanta or Miami to Belize both clocking in at under three hours, it’s not as hard to reach as you might think. Slow development has its advantages, though: the government has enforced a unique tourism Around half of Belize policy that runs is covered in jungle. hand-in-hand with Much of it is unexits sustainability plored, but there are lodges where programme, which visitors can stay to means Belize is really experience fast becoming the wildlife-filled habitat. one of the world’s
leading eco-destinations. It remains largely chain-free, whether that’s accommodation, food, or shops; and any new expansion is undertaken with the rainforest in mind – not to mention the ancient Maya ruins hidden within it. Belize has the largest collection of Maya sites in the world, which I can’t wait to discover – not least because, for now, they’re almost tourist free. I see this first hand on my first day, when I’m exploring Xunantunich (Mayan for ‘stone woman’, named after a ghost said to roam the area), the remote ruins of a major city not far from the Guatemalan border. Aside from my group, there are only
WE MEANDER ALONGSIDE THE IMPOSING MAYA MOUNTAINS
YOU BETTER BELIZE IT: [clockwise from main] Cave rafting; turtle spotting; the San Ignacio hotel; visit iguanas at a sanctuary
Photograph by (caves) Aurora Creative/Getty
a few other small clusters of people on the whole site, despite the recent discovery of the biggest tomb of a Maya king ever uncovered. Where else can you roam around the vestiges of a lost civilization and stumble across ancient artefacts almost completely on your own? Sadly I don’t make any major archaeological discoveries, but I do soak up everything I’m told by our tour guide as I huff, puff, and sweat my way to the top of El Castillo in sticky 35°C heat. My cursing halts as I take in the view: the 40m tall structure stands in the middle of six plazas surrounded by 26 temples and palaces,
together forming a site that demonstrates the Maya knack for town planning, even in the seventh century. It’s truly incredible. But this seems to be par for the course when it comes to Belize. We make our way back to our hotel the same way we came: on horseback. Our guide is the owner of Hanna Stables, Santiago – the son of a British nurse who was stationed in Belize, he went to Reading and Manchester universities before working in food security for the UN for a decade. I’m not the most elegant rider, so Santiago reels off information about the country to distract me from the task at hand. Two hours of riding later, we’re back at the San Ignacio Resort, where I spend the night. It’s a cool and calm oasis away from the humidity, set in 17 acres of land that are home to 99 of the 150 bird species native to Belize, which is known for being a popular destination for keen bird watchers. In addition to its pool, tennis courts, and spa treatments, the luxury resort has another, slightly more unusual attraction: a green iguana sanctuary, where dedicated staff take injured and orphaned iguanas, nursing them back to health and/or maturity before releasing them into the wild. I meet Ziggy, who has a bone disease that gives her a hunched tail; Stargazer, who suffered untreatable brain trauma; and Gnome, the resident mascot iguana, whose easygoing nature means that he’s used to educate school children about the now-endangered species that’s rapidly dwindling thanks to a local penchant for eating its eggs. In the morning, I’m introduced to Belizean breakfast Considered one of staples: johnny the prettiest drives cakes – dense, in Belize, the 55-mile scone-like buns, long Hummingbird Highway is the only made with coconut one in the country milk or cream; and that cuts though fry jacks, a cross the jungle-covered Belizean mountains. between a samosa and a croissant. I pocket a few extra deep-fried treats to keep me fuelled for the next leg of our trip: the journey to Punta Gorda, a coastal town that’s a four-hour drive to the south along the absolutely stunning Hummingbird Highway, which meanders alongside rural villages and the imposing backdrop of the Maya Mountains. As we head further south, the brilliant sunshine eventually turns to rain – unsurprising, since the southern Toledo district is the wettest area in the country. But the rain doesn’t detract from the pared-
WHERE ELSE CAN YOU STUMBLE ACROSS ANCIENT ARTEFACTS ON YOUR OWN? back beauty of our next host, the BlueBelize guesthouse, set in verdant gardens overlooking the sea. Run by local Esme Gordon, it’s simple but comfortable, with whitewashed walls and tiled floors. Each room has access to a veranda or terrace, the perfect spot to watch dusk fall over the tropical vegetation. It’s peaceful and homely here – a quality you’ll experience throughout much of the country, as accommodation revolves around guesthouses rather than hotels – and the ideal place to unwind after a long day travelling. That evening, we eat at nearby local hangout Asha’s Kitchen, watching the moon rise from the wooden veranda over the water and enjoying another Belizean staple: Belikin beer. Dinner is white and flakey lionfish – a dish that tastes even better when I learn I’m helping the ecosystem by
OUR PACKED CESSNA TRACES A STUNNING ROUTE OVER THE SEA eating it, as the spine-covered predator poses one of the greatest threats to the area’s marine biodiversity. Well-fed, I fall asleep listening to the rain pattering against the palm trees in the garden. The rain continues the next day, and having admired the rainforest so much from the comfort of the plane, I’m less enthusiastic when I’m actually in it, ankle-deep in mud and semi-effectively brandishing a banana leaf as an umbrella. Today we’re visiting an organic cocoa farm, run by Eladio, a local of Maya descent. We’ve been brought here by Bruno Kuppinger – one of several people I meet who left a high-level job to move to Belize, this time trading in banking to work in the tourist industry. Thanks to government policies aimed at preserving local jobs, he had to give up his German citizenship in order to do it. It’s a serious commitment, and a mark of how special Belize is to many people. Undeterred by the deluge, Eladio leaps around his farm, feeding us purple corn,
ginger, turmeric, palm hearts and cocoa beans taken straight from the plants, and enthusing about Belize’s natural larder. His farming technique is unusual: ‘crops’ are planted by animals and birds spreading the seeds; he and his family just cultivate and harvest them. We reach a clearing, where Eladio shows us there was once a Maya ball court, even producing an ancient stone bat. “This is where my ancestors lived,” he tells us passionately. “I’ll never leave it.” Eladio is just one of many – 30,000 of Belize’s population are of Maya descent, and can be divided into three groups: Mopan Maya, Kekchi Maya and Yucatec Maya, each speaking a different language. Much of the Maya culture has been preserved, and today you can undertake a ‘living experience’, where you stay with a Maya family and learn about their customs.
Eladio offers this cultural experience at his family home, but today we’re just sampling a traditional Maya lunch – a spicy chicken broth – and meet Eladio’s wife and daughters, who show us what they do with the cocoa beans, producing chocolate and other products. We try the traditional hot cocoa drink that Eladio drinks every day, which, he says, is what has helped him maintain his health and vitality. From here, we head straight to a tiny airport to board an internal flight. About 15 people are loaded It’s thought that into a very small chocolate originated airplane, which then in Belize – thousands zooms off to Belize of years ago, the Maya consumed City, where we vast quantities of change planes to fly the sweet stuff, to the final stop of believing it had health benefits. our trip, San
Photograph by Shutterstock/milosk50
TEMPLE OF CALM: [top] Chances are you’ll explore ancient Maya ruin Xunantunich undisturbed; [below] Hol Chan marine reserve
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SEIZE THE CAYE: Boat out to picture-perfect Ranguana Caye, one of the islands off the coast, for a desert-island-style day trip
before it, spent at sea, on board a catamaran (unironically) named YOLO. Part party boat (complete with free bar and pounding music) and part snorkel cruise, its crew are friendly and knowledgeable about local marine life. We see sharks, turtles and rays, snorkelling through crystal-clear waters. It’s not for everyone – there are crowds of boats at some The marine wildlife snorkelling hotspots in Belize is spectac– but it’s a truly ular, and you can beautiful way to see hope to encounter nurse sharks, rays Belize, and heading and beautiful coral out on the water is reefs when you dip a must-do, whether below the surface of the water. you’re a seasoned diver or not. That evening, we cap off the trip by eating utterly delicious street food from The Truck Stop, a static market just outside the town of San Pedro that’s run by Chicagoan Ben Popik – yet another person to have decamped to the Belizean paradise. As well as hosting three traders, Popik uses the space to show films, put on a farmer’s
market and throw occasional parties. Having arrived in Belize in search of ancient Maya structures, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting something this modern and, dare I say it, hipster. Yet, as I slurp Vietnamese pho in a shipping container surrounded by tropical vegetation, I decide I don’t mind – it encapsulates Belize’s dedication to preserving the past while embracing the new. I’ll raise a Belikin beer to that. e
GETTING THERE Delta flies from London Heathrow to Belize with a layover in Atlanta from £551 return; delta.com. Rooms at Blue Belize start at £66 per night; bluebelize.com. Rooms at San Ignacio Resort Hotel start at £199 per night; sanignaciobelize.com. Rooms at Ramon’s Village start at £120 per night; ramons.com.
Photograph by Jane Sweeney / AWL Images
Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Our packed and sweaty Cessna traces a stunning route over the bluest sea; I see atolls, reefs and clusters of little islands below. Ambergris Caye is a fairly well-known part of Belize; it’s the country’s largest island, and San Pedro, its main town, is the gateway to the area’s diving, and for those who wish to visit the 124m-deep Blue Hole. In stark contrast to Eladio’s farm, the town is the most touristy place I’ve seen in Belize so far: it’s packed with resorts and everyone whizzes around in golf carts, which is both hilarious and terrifying. It’s also the place young Belizeans go for spring break, with all the bars and clubs that come with it. But don’t let that put you off: it’s still a must-do here, not least for its beaches. Once my group arrives at our final destination, Ramon’s Village Resort – a Bora Borainspired, self-contained oasis of thatched cabanas – my first port of call is the sea, where I float on my back and watch the sky slowly turn from blue to orange to black. Our final day is more relaxing than those
NATURAL HIGH The luxurious five-star Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa is the perfect place to unwind and soak up the stunning natural beauty of Portugal’s Algarve region
Photograph by FinFoto
rom the breathtaking views over fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees to the incredible spa that’s inspired by the natural beauty of its surroundings, the five-star Macdonald Monchique Resort, set in the hills of Portugal’s Algarve, is all about creating a truly relaxing experience. It all starts with the beautifully appointed, luxurious suites, each featuring private furnished terraces or balconies, many with views to the ocean or the mountains. Then there’s the food – Mon Chic, the on-site fine-dining restaurant, won the Revelation of the Year 2017 award for the whole of Portugal, which means it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with the delicious cuisine of the region. Then, of course, there’s the spa: boasting seven treatment rooms, a rock sauna, sensorial showers and an aroma cabin, the
space is designed to celebrate the area’s rich, beautiful raw materials. If you ever want to leave, the resort’s friendly staff will ensure you make the most out of your stay, helping you organise walking tours through the striking Serra de Monchique mountain range; surfing, paddleboarding and horseriding on the coast; as well as that all-important golf. However you like to relax, you’ll be able to at Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa. ◆ For more information: macdonaldmonchique.com
HOW TO WIN Fancy winning a luxurious threenight stay in a panoramic suite at Macdonald Monchique Resort & Spa’s five-star acommodation for two adults, on a bed and breakfast basis – as well as one day of access to the stunning sensorial thermal spa for both you and your guest? Of course you do. To enter, all you have to do is answer one simple question. Visit escmag.co/ macdonald-monchique to enter, where you’ll also find full prize details and T&Cs.
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ME, MYSELF AND ISLE Ronan J Oâ€™Shea drives through the Faroe Islands, distracted only by majestic landscapes and a few sheep
Photograph by ###
’m easily distracted. I am not one for sitting still, unless it involves watching football or going for a pint. But for the last two hours, there’s been little to lift my eyes from my screen and A Confederacy of Dunces; save for a small bunch of islands (the Shetlands), it’s been sea, sea and more sea since we took off from Copenhagen. Then, ten minutes before landing, distraction arrives in visual form, with the Faroe Islands appearing as if from nowhere; a gnarled cluster of stone, grass and snowpeaked mountains in the middle of the ocean between Scotland and Iceland. It’s like New Zealand if it lost the backpackers but kept the sheep, hundreds of them marauding across the hills like tiny flecks of snow. This unique archipelago forms an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, with a population of around 50,000. The mountains grow bigger as we approach Vágar Airport, the hillsides shine green and yellow in the late-evening sun, the sheep take fluffy, flocculent form. Tiny villages appear here and there, each little more than a few houses, a church and a football field. The vast expanse is eerily beautiful, not least When we say because of an almost tiny, we really do complete lack of trees mean tiny – while which accentuates Torshavn boasts a population of 12,582, the stark landscape. some of the smaller Once on the villages in the Faroes ground, I pick up claim a grand total my hire car and take of zero residents. the coastal road towards the capital, Torshavn, thankful that this northerly part of the world enjoys late sunshine in spring: I’m already late for
THE FAROE ISLANDS ARE LIKE NEW ZEALAND IF IT LOST THE BACKPACKERS dinner and the drive takes an hour. Despite this – and the fact that I’ve not driven in six years – I’m relaxed as I make my way towards the Faroese capital. Sheep trot along the hillsides, and the towns I saw from the skies come and go as charming, pretty intervals along the way. I reach Torshavn via the Vágatunnilin, a near-five-mile undersea tunnel bored through the Vestmannasund mountain that connects the islands of Vágar and Streymoy. The latter is the largest of the 18 Faroe Islands and home to Torshavn, a city that, by our standards, comes across as small and sleepy. Upon arrival, I get the sense that life moves at a more lethargic pace here; the closest thing to congestion is a two-car traffic jam at one of only three sets of traffic lights on the islands; a gaggle of middle-
INTO THE BLUE: [clockwise from above] The Mulafossur waterfall; one particularly hardy resident; the Faroes nail dramatic landscapes
Photographs by (main) Kimberley Coole; (pony) Marco Grassi; (aerial) Sergio Villalba
aged men shoot the breeze outside the city’s obligatory Irish pub; boats bob gently up and down the harbour; and strangers do that weird thing they only do in laid-back parts of the world – they say hello. I get to the restaurant, and I’m shown into a small, oak-panelled dining room with windows looking out towards the harbour. A man I’d describe as ‘well-fed’ senses I’m not from ‘round here, and asks why I’m in town. “Journalist?” he says when I answer, with an affable smile I grow accustomed to from locals over the coming days. “You must write about this place. It is a very special restaurant for the Faroe Islands.” While usually wary of hype (I’m a Spurs fan), his exhortation proves justified. Ræst specialises in dishes made using the unique Faroese fermenting process that gives the restaurant its name – meat (mostly lamb) and fish are kept in food-drying sheds called hjallur, with the islands’ brisk, salty air
STRANGERS IN THE FAROE ISLANDS DO THAT WEIRD THING WHERE THEY SAY HELLO TO YOU
providing the most natural of seasonings. The food is varied – some of it delicious, some an acquired taste – but what’s most striking is how closely it’s linked to the Faroes’ near-inhospitable landscape. With harsh terrain and acidic soil precluding mass cultivation of crops, food here continues to be largely informed by its location, the land, and that salty air constantly whipping in from the sea. The result is dishes like blóðpannukøkan (lamb’s blood pancake topped with dry-aged cod), which is akin to black pudding. Yup, it might not be for everyone, but it’s evidence of a culture that leaves nothing to waste, a characteristic still typical of places around the world not yet beholden to the cult of pre-packaged, ready-made food. This is followed by grind, smáttuostur og eplamorl – pilot whale n’ mash to you and me – one of the more exotic (and controversial) dishes I’ve had in my life,
NEW IN TOWN: [here] Many of the islands’ villages are pretty remote; [below] pull on your hiking boots and explore on foot
THE QUIET STILLNESS IS EERIE; THE SCENERY SPECTACULAR 104
of the city. Heeding her advice, I head up into the mountains, the gears crying out in pain as the car climbs the steep slopes. And then out of nowhere I find myself on a long plateau of flat land that stretches for miles. Road signs point to The most westerly of the area as a horsethe large islands in riding hotspot, and the Faroes, Vágar is it’s easy to see why: the first port of call for most tourists, the grassy flatlands who generally head surrounded by those to see the Mulafosjagged mountain sur waterfall and peaks are idyllic. Lake Leitisvatn. Before long, I find myself yo-yo-ing once again through mountains, meandering as I make my way (in theory) back to Vágar. Getting lost (natch), I end up in a tiny village and stop to look at my map, before deciding to go for a stroll to take some photos of a pretty church I saw nearby. The quiet stillness is eerie; the stark, treeless scenery spectacular. The wind, though neither biting or blustery, changes quickly, which makes it seem colder than it is, and I get back in the car, check the map, and work out how to get to Gásadalur and that waterfall. I park up outside the local church and walk in what I hope is the direction of the waterfall, through grassy hillocks dotted with perilous sheep shit. Jumping about to avoid ovine droppings, I stand still when I realise the kind of view I have around me. To my right, a bowl-shaped mountain scoops the village in its palm; to my left is the ocean and a sprinkling of uninhabited
islands. It’s so beautiful I completely forget about the waterfall, only remembering on the way back to Torshavn, where I’ve arranged to meet Faroese local Kristian Blak. Commonly regarded as the godfather of the Faroe Islands’ vibrant music scene, Blak lives in a house on a hill in the tiny city centre. I walk around the narrow cobblestone alleys looking for his home among a dozen or so grass-covered cottages and half expect to see Bilbo Baggins. As Kristian lets me into his house, I have to duck so as not to bang my head on the wooden panel above, and we sit down to chat. After moving to the Faroe Islands in the 1970s, Danish-born Kristian became a teacher and, over time, began to organise concerts with friends, something which has developed over the years to incorporate a successful music career, festivals around
Photographs by (village) Christoffer Collin; (hiking) Gabriel Nivera
and another indication that I’m in a place where food and culture share a symbiotic relationship. From horse mussels at Barbara Fish House (which offers a Faroese take on tapas) to sushi at Etika that leverages the archipelago’s abundant seafood, dining on the Faroes is a clear-cut case of using what’s at hand and playing around with it to create something new. Having paired tonight’s dinner with enough wine to take down Gérard Depardieu, I return to my hilltop hotel, sated, and collapse into bed. The following morning, through bleary eyes, I get my first real sight of Torshavn; the bay sleepy but gleaming as the sun rises. I ask the receptionist the best way back to Vágar, having heard of a beautiful waterfall on its western coast. She suggests I take the scenic mountain route instead
AROUND HERE YOU NEED TWO THINGS: FRIENDS, AND STUFF TO DO
NO LIMITS: [above] Swap four wheels for two and bike your way around; [below] hiking is another good way to explore the coastline
like Copenhagen is high. “We have a problem with people leaving, particularly young women,” says Kristian, drumming his fingers on the table, reminding me of the young women in the café. “If there were more for them A visit to this to do, they might pretty fishing return.” village provides He may have opportunity to see typical Faroese a point, but for buildings painted overstimulated city in the traditional dwellers like myself, colours of red, white being able to simply and green. drive around and breathe in the scenery while listening to music is an experience to treasure. The following day I head east to the island of Esturoy, and the tiny northern town of Gjogv. Looking at the church, houses and mountains, I can see how it influences people, the quiet stillness just as likely to inspire a young woman to pack up her bags as it is to make another pick up a guitar and go out in search of likeminded indie-rock fans. As a guest, however, it’s perfect; the barren tranquility, the nature so beautiful it’s intimidating. Later that afternoon, I drive towards Viðareiði, on the island of Viðoy, pulling in to take some shots of a cliff-face I spot
jutting out to sea. The photos are bad, but the image remains etched into my mind with its stark, fearsome beauty; the cliff, hewn over millions of years, now resembling a set of shark teeth biting into the ocean. Before driving on to Viðareiði, I put my camera back in the car, and decide, for a change, to simply enjoy the view for a few moments, turning slowly on my heels to take in the now-familiar sight of sea and sky, mountain and grassy hill. Back in the car, I look at my phone. I’ve got dinner back in Torshavn in two hours and I’m pushing my luck if I want to make it back in time. How did I let myself get so distracted? I look to my right, at the brutal, barren landscape. Ah, that’s how. e
GETTING THERE SAS Airlines flies to the Faroe Islands via Copenhagen from £280 return; flysas.com. Weekend doubles (incl. breakfast) at Hotel Føroyar, on the hills above Torshavn start at £102.59 per night on a B&B basis; hotelforoyar.fo
Photographs by (cycling) Martin Paldan; (hiking) Gabriel Nivera
the Faroes and Tutl Records, a label and music store. Plying me with CDs in his shop, he’s indicative of the quiet, calm friendliness I become accustomed to here, from the teenage barman in the hotel who tells me at length about his love of West Ham (each to their own) to the waitresses in a local café eager to find out why I’ve come “all this way”. I ask Kristian if the islands’ unique terrain is the key influence on music here and expect him to nod sagely. Instead, he smiles, shaking his head. “Yes and no,” he says. “Mainly it’s just about people exploring what they like. You get everything here. Metal, rock, folk.” And as it turns out, he’s completely right. Listening to everything from Guðrið Hansdóttir’s pop-laden acoustic tracks to the synth of Eivør, the indie of Marius Ziska and Kristian’s own music (characterised by jazzy pianos and distorted rock guitars) it becomes clear how the islands really influence music here. Cooped up in this remote part of the world, you need two things; friends, and something to do. Admittedly, it doesn’t keep everyone happy – and emigration to livelier places
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SEND ALP: Sure, it might look like the perfect picture of idyllic alpine scenery here, but taking a bike into the southern French Alps isn’t for the faint of heart. Come and hit the trail with us [p121]
111 THE CHECKLIST 121 THE INTREPID SERIES: ALPINE BIKING 130 REAR VIEW
PhotographyPhotograph by Anthonyby Pease ###
DISCOVER A NEW LANDSCAPE OF ADVENTURE G E T R E A D Y F O R S U M M E R AT S N O W + R O C K
S T O R E S N AT I O N W I D E | S N O W A N D R O C K . C O M
THE CHECKLIST ❶ BACKPACK ❷ BEACHWEAR ❸ MEN’S T-SHIRTS ➍ FAMILY BEACH GEAR ❺ TRAIL SHOES
IN ASSOCIATION WTH
PhotographyPhotograph by David Harrison by ###
IRI-DECENT EASTPAK, BUST LAB BAG, (OILY) £170: Lightweight, tough and tricked out with a beautiful, iridescent finish, this rucksack boasts everything you’d expect from an Eastpak bag. Design-led exterior? Check. Easy-to-use protective storage for your laptop? Check. More interior pockets than you could plausibly shake a stick at? You betcha. eastpak.com
Sure, you could buy this bag in all-black or reflective white, but you’re hardly gonna lose a pearlised beauty like this on the luggage carousel, are you? We didn’t think so.
SEAFOLLY FINE STRIPE SARONG, (STRIPED), £65: Everything’s better when it comes with tassels, right? Especially this 100% linen sarong. seafolly.com
URBAN OUTFITTERS TIE DYE BEACH DRESS, (NAVY AND WHITE) £32: This kaftan’s swing cut and bold print will make you feel like the belle of the beach. urbanoutfitters.com
TURKISH COTTON HAMMAM TOWEL, (ORANGE/ BLUE), £39: These satisfyingly thick handmade towels look so good you’ll be rocking them as scarves long after sundown. trouva.com
SEAFOLLY AMNESIA KAFTAN, (ORANGE) £38.99: In a fetching neon hue, this bright’n’breezy coverup isn’t one for the fainthearted – but the finished look is guaranteed to turn heads, promise. surfdome.com
SEAFOLLY BOTANICA CROCHET TRIM KAFTAN , (WHITE) £53.99: Got a bikini that’s too beaut to hide? This cool cover up will let it peep through. surfdome.com
COVER TO COVER
Photograph by ###
We know: your bod’s too banging to cover up. But there are times when a bit of modesty is required (restaurants, walking down the street, anywhere that’s not the beach), which is why we’ve found you a selection of cool cover ups, from towels to tasselled sarongs and kaftans. You’re welcome. (Clockwise from left)
Australian beachwear brand Seafolly nails travel-friendly designs like this lightweight cotton kaftan thatâ€™ll see you perfectly from beach to bar.
Photograph by ###
GET THE TEES CROSSED From big graphics to minimalist designs, the tee you wear says a lot about the person you are. And we reckon if you wear one of these on the beach, you’re probably a lovely person with impeccable taste. No? (Clockwise from left)
WATERSHED, FREEDOM & HOPE T-SHIRT, (GREY) £29.99: This one does exactly what it says on the tee: it’s high quality, tested for comfort, and full of Cornish outdoors spirit. watershedbrand.com
CLUB PETANQUE, UNIVERSITE T-SHIRT, (WHITE) £34: Ooze varsity style in this ultra-preppy unisex tee from southern French outfitters Club Petanque. clubpetanque.com
SANTA CRUZ, SLASHER T-SHIRT, (TURQUOISE) £22: Even after 40 years of the gnarliest skate designs, US brand Santa Cruz still throws up modern classics. freestylextreme.com
FRESCOBOL CARIOCA, FREIJO T-SHIRT, (NAVY BLUE & WHITE) £75: Channel the culture of Rio de Janeiro with this cool print tee that’s inspired by the trees of Brazil. frescobolcarioca.com
NIGHT ADDICT, BORN GLOBAL T-SHIRT, (BLACK & YELLOW) £15: This limited-edition slogan-print tee is one for all the jet setters, modern thinkers and night owls out there. nightaddict.global Photograph by ###
The graphics on Santa Cruzâ€™s skate tees are drawn by Jim Phillips, who won an Icon award at the Skateboarding Hall of Fame this year, celebrating 30 years of his designs.
Photograph by ###
Frescobol Carioca is partly inspired by the beach game of Frescobol, a laid-back Brazilian form of beach tennis thatâ€™s played with racquets carved out of driftwood.
A blend of cotton and linen makes this bag bright and breezy, and the polka dots pimp it up for an added touch of beach chic.
PROTEST, WOMEN’S EVIDENCE 17 BEACH SHORTS, (MID PINK) £25: With simple sideleg detailing, these women’s beach shorts let you sit back, relax and let the big colours do the talking. snowandrock.com
PROTEST, GIRL’S BUENA JR TANKINI, (RED) £24.99: Complete with loud colours and all-over funky print, this summer-ready tankini is great for young fashionistas. snowandrock.com
BARTS, ANDOS SHOPPER BEACH BAG (PALE PINK) £36.99: Laid-back, light and large enough for all your gear, you’ll fit everything but the kitchen sink in this beach-friendly bag. snowandrock.com
Photograph by ###
PRANA, LAHARA ONE PIECE, (MID GREEN/PATTERNED) £67: A classic halter neck makes this fitted cossie ultra-flattering. Not feeling the pattern? It also comes in bright block pink. snowandrock.com
BARTS, MEN’S CANZA HAT, (BLUE) £26.99: Perfect for keeping (and looking) cool on hot days, this 50% cotton, 50% paper fedora is the ideal summer accessory. Until the kids nick it. snowandrock.com
O’NEILL, MEN’S SANTA CRUZ STRIPE BOARDSHORTS, (BLUE/RED) £39.99: Turn daddy into daddy cool with these striped swimmers from legendary Californian surf brand O’Neill. snowandrock.com
Incorporating O’Neill’s Hyperdry technology and made of 45% recycled polyester, these board shorts do their bit for the planet, as well as your car seat.
FAMILY FAVOURITES Photograph by ###
On any family holiday, the hardest part is remembering all the essentials. Well, look no further, because once you’ve got hold of all this beach gear, the only thing you’ll need is a bucket and spade, a beachball, some sun lotion, a picnic and a – well, at least we got you started.
Carefully built with an anti-debris mesh made from waterresistant material, these shoes are super-lightweight without ever compromising your comfort on the trail.
GET A GRIP ON THINGS
Photograph by ###
SALOMON, WOMEN’S SPEEDCROSS 4, (LIGHT BLUE) £110: With an incredibly grippy, claw-like tread and a Wet Traction Contagrip sole for the toughest trails, these shoes are light, race-ready, breathable and stable, which means that you’ll be prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you. snowandrock.com
DISCOVER A NEW LANDSCAPE OF ADVENTURE G E T R E A D Y F O R A D V E N T U R E AT S N O W + R O C K
S T O R E S N AT I O N W I D E | S N O W A N D R O C K . C O M
THE SERIE S IN ASSOCIATION WITH
ongratulations, you’ve made it to the back of this month’s escapism, but the bad news is that the toughest bit is still to come. This is the part of the magazine known as the Intrepid Series. Your city breaks, sun loungers and icecold mojitos have absolutely no place here. Instead, you’ll find tales of outrageous ascents, dangerous excursions and (slightly less epic) lactic acid build-up. This month, we pedal our way into the southern French Alps with mountain biker and photographer Anthony Pease. Come with us. e
GOING FOR SPOKE
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
Photography by Anthony Pease
The challenging GR58 route in the southern French Alps is usually reserved for hikers on foot, but, undeterred, Anthony Pease felt there was no reason to not tackle it on a bike insteadâ€Ś 123
STEEP INCLINE: [above] The southern French Alps; [below] parts of the route were too steep to cycle, so the riders had to carry their bikes on their backs
ow do you get down on those, let alone get up?” asks one of the elderly French ladies we keep bumping into. She and her hiking companions are looking at the four of us on our beefy all-mountain bikes with looks of utter bemusement, as our paths cross yet again on this narrow mountain path in the southern French Alps. For our part, we’re staring at these hardy mountain women, who look well into their 80s, with no less a sense of amazement. The admiration and respect is clearly mutual – it takes proper toughness to take The Queyras on trails like these, National Park is whether you’re on one of the oldest mountain ranges in foot or in the saddle. the Alps, popular The seeds for this thanks to its specfive-day blast around tacular landscape and peaceful the Queyras valley atmosphere. had been sown the previous summer, when a family campervan trip took me to visit friends who have set up homes and businesses in this part of the world. Emily, a qualified French mountain bike guide, led me out on rough and narrow local trails that were a million miles away from the manmade runs most riders flock to the Alps for. There and then we started planning a cross-mountain bike-packing trip mostly based around the GR58 – a long-distance off-road route best known for hiking, which winds its way around this stunning but remote alpine region that nudges up against the Italian border. Almost a year later, the two of us, along with Emily’s partner David and their friend
Rob – a Brit who’s lived in nearby BourgSaint-Maurice for more than 15 years – have piled into Rob’s van and set off for the start of the route. Also squeezed into the van are our bikes and gear – which are a dead giveaway that this is no ordinary bikepacking trip. Unlike traditional longdistance rigs – tough, lightweight and loaded up with kit for going both as far and as fast
THE GR58 IS A WINDING, LONGDISTANCE OFFROAD ROUTE THAT’S USUALLY BEST KNOWN FOR HIKING as possible – we’re riding on rugged fullsuspension bikes and carrying with us just small, minimal rucksacks. The route’s technical descents and variable terrain mean a highly capable all-mountain bike is a necessity, and while some say you can ride any trail with any bike, I don’t fully agree – to enjoy it and do it as fast (and as safely) as possible, you
really do need the right tool for the job. We’re expecting plenty of hike-a-biking on the uphill bits, too, hence keeping our gear off the bikes and on our backs – that’ll make it (theoretically) easier to balance the bikes on our backpacks when the climbs defeat us. As a professional cycling and landscape photographer, I’m lugging what feels like a few hundred extra kilos of weight, which will make those Anthony wore backbreaking slogs high-performance even more brutal. shorts from Swiss I’m really hoping brand Assos. He also chose trail running that the descents and shoes to enable him the images I get from to grip during the the trip will make up gruelling hike-a-bike sections. for it…
Setting out We get to the small mountain village of Abriès and pull up in a car park where we can unload our gear and get moving as quickly as possible. It’s early, but already the sun’s beginning to bathe the valley with a light and heat that are due to stick with us for three of the five days, with storms forecast for the last two – preparing for the worst, we’ve packed a storm shelter that’s big enough for the four of us, but we’re all hoping we don’t have to use it. Abriès is both the start and end
of the circular route, and we set off out of the car park and into the far more inviting valley that stretches out ahead of us. In five days of riding we’ll cover nearly 130km of steep, tough trails, with almost 7,000m of climbing (some of it with our bikes slung over our shoulders) and the same amount of descending, and unsurprisingly it’s mountain guide Emily who’s planned our route. She’s guiding us using IGN maps (think France’s Ordnance Survey), which makes a refreshing change from the usual reliance on GPS routes – plus it seems fitting given the GR58’s wild and untouristy trails. Compared with their northern counterparts, the southern French Alps are a little smaller in scale, but what they lack in size they make up for with a breathtaking backdrop. To the north, riding in the shadow of the Mont Blanc This part of the massif, you see the French Alps gets mountain in full view fewer tourists than and little else, but others, so you can enjoy the views here we see whole without having ranges – layers of to dodge multiple mountains stretching hiking groups and selfie-snappers. out in front of us.
THE TERRAIN CHANGES AS FAST AS THE SCENERY AS THE TRAIL SNAKES THROUGH FORESTS AND MEADOWS The terrain changes as fast as the scenery as the trail snakes up and down cols, passes through classic alpine meadows packed with early summer flowers, and scythes through densely packed forests. It’s arid, too, with a sun-scorched roughness that sometimes feels more Spanish than it does alpine – hardly surprising when you think that we’re actually closer to the Mediterranean here than Geneva. Even so, this is proper technical alpine riding, and if we need a reminder it arrives on the last descent of the day. All four of us are wild by this point – we’ve had an epic first day and can practically smell the beer at that night’s stop – and this, added to the unfamiliar weight of the packs on our backs turns out to be a recipe for near disaster. Two of our group come unstuck and wipe out – these trails are definitely designed for walking, not pounding downhill on enduro bikes, and we’re relieved to reach our first gîte d’étape in Cervières with the whole team (not to mention our gear) in one piece. The next two days’ riding offer more of the same – back-breaking climbs with our bikes balanced on our shoulders, followed by fast, technical descents through more of the Queyras’ stunning terrain. The skies are blue once again, which makes a photographer’s job both easier and more difficult: plenty of sun’s great for sports photography because you can keep shutter speeds high, but Thanks to its at the same time southerly location, endless blue sky the Queyras has can be boring as a Mediterranean climate, with up to hell. When you’re up 300 days of sunshine high in the hills any every year, so take clouds will throw your sun specs and a high factor. contrasting shadows
ROCKY ROAD: [clockwise from here] The staggering alpine peaks dwarf the cyclists; woodland terrain; the group is victorious after a steep, tiring climb
onto the surrounding hills and it makes the imagery really different, taking it from ‘back of a chocolate box’ stuff to magazine quality. Even if the sky isn’t playing ball, there’s plenty going on under our wheels to keep things interesting for the camera, not to mention for our tyres – particularly when we hit higher ground. Though it’s late June, there’s still snow on north-facing slopes above 2,500m. In some cases that means carrying our bikes across small snowfields, in others, riding down deep snow softened by the warmth – with some predictably hairy results. Being loaded up with expensive camera gear means I have to be
KIT LIST Between us we had spares, a first aid kit, a storm shelter and an array of tools. In my bag I had all my camera gear as well as… ◆◆ Spare Assos shorts for evening and in case my riding shorts became filthy, also spare Assos inner shorts. ◆◆ Two spare jerseys ◆◆ Spare socks ◆◆ T-shirt for evenings ◆◆ Pillow case ◆◆ Alpkit silk liner ◆◆ Toiletries
I HAVE TO BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS, THOUGH THAT DOESN’T STOP ME LOSING A WHEEL
◆◆ Ear plugs
extra cautious, though that doesn’t stop me losing my front wheel in one particularly deep bank of snow, and I spend the next few minutes desperately trying to dig it out with my hands.
Storm’s a-coming As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about the relentless blue skies. The forecast for the last couple of days is for storms, which doesn’t bode well given that we’ve all packed as light as possible. All four of us have spent a lot of time in the hills, though, and it’s nice to know there’s a professional guide among
◆◆ Headphones ◆◆ Phone ◆◆ Portable charger as not all places have sockets in rooms or 230v ◆◆ P20 suncream ◆◆ Lezyne pump ◆◆ Quick-dry travel towel ◆◆ Baseball cap ◆◆ Water bladder ◆◆ Sawyer water filter ◆◆ Howies primaloft jacket ◆◆ Trail snacks and a lunch each day. ◆◆ I wore trail running shoes to help give me grip on the hike-a-bike sections which worked really well
EAT MY DUST: While the route presented obvious challenges, the off-road experiences were worth it
THE REWARD FOR OUR HARD WORK IS ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE DESCENTS EVER our number. Emily’s always watching the weather, so she knows when it’s going to turn, and between us we have the knowledge and confidence to see a thunderstorm coming in and know that it’ll roll right past and keep you dry. Though every now and then, of course, you’re inevitably going to get a soaking… Even so, we set off extra early on the penultimate day – more often than not, storms in this part of the world tend to brew up through the day and reach a climax in late afternoon, and that turns out to be the case this time, too. After a tough slog through the steeply undulating Queyras landscape we arrive at the refuge
hot and sweaty from the searing 30-plus temperatures of the day, only to feel massive hailstones hammering on our backs as we open the door and step in to the gîte. It builds to a full-blown storm, forks of lightning jagging to the floor and rolling thunder echoing through the valley – it’s a pretty cool sight, and even better when you’re watching it through a window with a cold glass of beer in your hand. By the time we set out for the final day, which closes the loop back to our starting point in Abriès via the border with Italy, the storm has long gone, leaving us with clear skies and empty trails to hammer our way along. Once again, though, the mountains really make us work for it. I get a few shots of the France/Italy border sign and sling my bike over my shoulder one last time, for what turns out to be the steepest and hardest climb of the week – not least because all four of us are knackered, and desperate not to end the week on a bum note. When we finally hit the top and clamber onto Picture a sterotypour bikes, the relief ical Alpine village, is immediate – and and Abriès will tick the reward for our a lot of the boxes – spired church, hard work is one of grazing cattle, the most incredible chalet-style houses… descents that I have It looks exactly like you want it to. ever done.
We hit the trail hard and fast, barely stopping at all as we pass by several lakes, descend through patches of dense woodland, traverse rocky slabs, and each pick our own routes through stretches where the path seems to have disappeared entirely. It’s a hell of a way to sign off. We roll into the same car park we’d set off from a few days earlier, our legs, arms and shoulders with nothing left to give. Each one of us is in awe of the wild and challenging trails of the GR58, and the people – from those elderly women hikers to us thrill-seeking bikepackers – tough enough to take it on. e
GETTING THERE The Inside Line offers guided mountain bike holidays in the French Alps, including the Queyras Regional Park; theinsidelinemtb.com. Cool Bus runs airport transfers to and from the area; thecoolbus.co.uk. EasyJet flies to Lyon from £46 return and Geneva from £53 return; easyjet.com
STRIKE IT UNLUCKY AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW
Photograph by Peter Adams/ AWL Images
Daintree National Park, in Australia’s Far North Queensland, is one of the oldest and richest areas of tropical rainforest on the planet. Being old and rich, however, can’t protect you from everything – like lightning strikes, such as this one that burned a deep scar into this particular swathe of forest. Needless to say, the actions of humans – including residential development, agriculture and climate change – pose a far bigger threat to this ancient tropical wilderness than lightning. e
No problem-o! The Inventor Often heard adding an -o or -a at the end of English words, they use their charm, confidence and creativity to solve problems caused by a lack of the local lingo. At least they think they do.
The Gesturer Theyâ€™re able to transform into an unofficial mime artist almost instantly. From asking for directions to local recommendations, they stumble through any conversation using only their hands and limbs. Still, they mean well.
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Escapism Magazine - Issue 41 - The Cool Hotels Issue