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The Times Weekend — 3 February 2018

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Saturday February 3 2018
Change a tyre, sew on a button The life
skills guide for millennials (and their parents)
Starts on
page 27
50 best villas
in the Med
It’s love, actually
30 most romantic hotels
20 sexiest restaurants
16 secret love nests
(Don’t forget your tooth
Traditional houses
in the countryside
Beachside retreats
to book now
Chic hideaways
on the coast
the times Saturday February 3 2018
2 Weekend
In the mood for love? Britain’s
Whether you want a night of wining and dining à deux
or a stylish weekend away, to kick off our insider’s guide,
Tom Chesshyre reveals the hot places to book
Gilpin Hotel, Windermere
Monachyle Mhor
Balquhidder, Perthshire
Details Doubles cost from £159
On a remote hillside overlooking Loch
Voil, this is a super-slick hotel with
14 rooms spread across a series of
outhouses. It’s perfect for long lochside
walks. The romantic restaurant has great
views and a superb menu.
Details B&B doubles cost from £195
Yorebridge House
North Yorkshire
There is the feel of a French boudoir in
the rooms at this hotel in the North
Yorkshire Dales. The hotel has a
decadent feel, with chandeliers, exposed
beams and a candlelit restaurant.
Details B&B doubles cost from £220
Padstow Townhouse
Blakeney Hotel Norfolk
This sexy townhouse hotel has six stylish
suites, some with clawfoot baths, all
with ornate wallpaper. Stock up with
champagne and goodies to eat from
the pantry.
Details B&B doubles cost from £320
Great Langdale,
Ellenborough Park,
Chapel House PZ
This brilliant little six-room
hotel is in the heart of
Penzance. Rooms are
stylish, with white
floorboards, pale-green
cushions, aquamarine
headboards and grey sofas.
Details B&B doubles
cost from £150
Light switches in the rooms at
this marvellous hotel in the
Lake District come with four
settings: perky, lazy, sexy and
tinkle. There are plenty of
lovely walks across the fells
and a good choice of cosy pubs
with log fires near by.
Details B&B doubles cost from
£272 (
The Painswick
This converted 18th-century rectory
with honey-stone walls and 16 rooms in
Painswick is ideal for a romantic
weekend. Rooms are elegant with
tasteful art. There’s also a boutique spa
and a restaurant serving local produce.
Facing the salt marshes on the north
Norfolk coast, this is a great base for
walkers, with smart, cosy rooms, a sauna,
hot tub and indoor pool. Fresh oysters
and seafood are on the menu.
Details B&B doubles cost from £184
The Talbot Inn
Mells, Somerset
Front cover image:
Cliveden House,
This posh pub with rooms is like a small
boutique hotel, and has a lovely bar too.
It has a hideaway feel, with eight rooms,
some with four-poster beds and stand-
alone baths for two.
Details B&B doubles cost from £100
Isle of Eriska Argyll
Cross the bridge to this private island off
the coast of Argyll for a great feeling of
escape. The late 19th-century house is all
turrets, chimneys and gables. Rooms are
colourful. There’s a spa with pool and a
fine-dining restaurant.
Details B&B doubles cost from £295
Thornbury Castle
Expect corkscrew chimneys, turrets and
grand fireplaces at Thornbury. Rooms
are traditional, some with four-posters.
It’s set in rolling countryside, with great
walks from the front entrance.
Details B&B doubles cost from £195
Amberley Castle Sussex
Raise the romance factor by booking a
room in a medieval castle with suits of
armour, secret doors and a splendid oak
staircase. After dinner in the vaulted
dining room, retire to one of 19 rooms,
all individually styled.
Details Doubles cost from £195 B&B
Talland Bay Hotel
Overlooking a quiet bay in Porthallow,
this hotel has smartly decorated rooms,
with quirky works of art. Expect zebraprint sofas, a cosy bar and a restaurant
serving scallops, sirloin beef and game.
Details B&B doubles cost from £160
Bailiffscourt Hotel
Climping, West Sussex
In 30 acres of parkland, Bailiffscourt is a
grown-up hotel with a romantic, dimly
lit restaurant and a stylish spa. The 39
rooms have a sumptuous feel.
Details B&B doubles cost from £249
Hambleton Hall Rutland
On a peninsula in the middle of Rutland
Water, this Victorian former hunting
lodge is a 17-room hotel with a Michelin-
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Weekend 3
30 most romantic hotels
Belmond Le Manoir, Oxfordshire
Seaham Hall, Durham
Royal Crescent Hotel
Bath, Somerset
This lovely hotel sits in the centre of
Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced
houses. It has a courtyard garden,
tasteful rooms and a first-rate spa.
Details B&B doubles cost from £236
Belmond Le Manoir
aux Quat’Saisons
Great Milton, Oxfordshire
It would be remiss to omit Raymond
Blanc’s first-rate hotel. It has 32 rooms,
but the food, obviously, is the big draw; it
has held two Michelin stars since 1984.
Details B&B doubles cost from £695
Ellenborough Park
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire Galgorm Resort & Spa
Overlooking Cheltenham racecourse,
Co Antrim
starred restaurant and a traditional
country-house look. Expect patterned
wallpaper, works of art, mullioned
windows and great food.
Details B&B doubles cost from £290
Burgh Island
Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon
How about escaping to a 26-acre private
island that is only accessible by sea
tractor when the tide is in? Agatha
Christie was a fan of this grade II listed
1930s art deco building which feels
totally cut-off from the mainland, with
black-tie dining in the ballroom.
Details Half-board doubles cost from
£400 (
Tuddenham Mill Suffolk
Missoni-designed gowns, Espa products
and Apple televisions come as standard
in the rooms at this ultra-romantic
hideaway. The restaurant, with exposed
beams, serves modern British food.
Details B&B doubles cost from £99
This 17-room castle, dating from 1870,
has 36 acres of well-maintained gardens.
The style of architecture is Scottish
baronial, with turrets, towers
and battlements.
Details B&B doubles cost from £245
the classic look remains, with antiques,
chandeliers and marble bathrooms
(stocked with posh Asprey toiletries).
Andrew Fairlie, the two Michelin-starred
chef, runs one of the restaurants
Details B&B doubles cost from £275
this is a grand hotel, with sumptuous
rooms. The hotel is on a site where there
has been a manor since the 16th century.
Details B&B doubles cost from £125
Gilpin Hotel Windermere,
Lake District
Some of the best rooms at this hotel
have cedar hot tubs on private terraces,
while others are in detached, modernist
buildings with their own mini-spas.
Details Doubles cost from £225 room
only (
Seaham Hall Co Durham
Seaham is on a clifftop with sea views and
a spa with a pool, hot tubs and saunas.
There are British and Thai restaurants.
Details B&B doubles cost from £205
Glenapp Castle Ayrshire
Gleneagles Auchterarder,
Oddfellows On The Park Perthshire
This Scottish institution has just
Greater Manchester
undergone a refurbishment, although
New last year, this 22-room property is a
member of the Design Hotels group. The
rooms are quirky, with stylish charcoal
armchairs and unusual art. There’s a
cool restaurant and cocktail bar.
Details Doubles cost from £155
Where I go
James Lohan,
Mr & Mrs Smith
There is something
shamelessly sexy
about Cliveden, with
its sweeping grounds
and chandeliered
restaurant. You’d be
hard pushed to find
somewhere that does
romance better.
Where I go
Olga Polizzi, hotelier
For a romantic break
I love the Gunton
Arms in Norfolk. It is
cosy and glamorous,
and the food is
amazing — especially
when cooked on the
big open fire.
Old Quay House Fowey
With 11 chic rooms decorated in neutral
colours, the Old Quay House is on the
riverbank in the centre of Fowey. The
restaurant serves fresh seafood.
Details B&B doubles cost from £133
Summer Lodge
Evershot, Dorset
There are 24 splendid rooms at this
much-loved five-star hotel with an
indoor pool and cosy pubs near by.
Details B&B doubles cost from £215
Relax in one of the hot tubs by the River
Maine at this superb spa hotel. The best
rooms are in the deluxe wing of the hotel
and are uber-modern.
Details Riverside deluxe doubles
cost from £320 B&B (
Cliveden House
Taplow, Berkshire
This classic English country-house hotel
has a fabulous countryside view, while
rooms are traditional, but not stuffy. The
spa has been recently revamped.
Details Doubles cost from £445 room
only (
Château Rhianfa
Fancy staying in a marvellous French
château . . . in Wales? Expect corkscrew
staircases, living rooms with velvet sofas,
grand pianos and a candlelit dining. Yes,
it’s all quite peculiar, but in a nice way.
Details Suites cost from £215 B&B
(01248 880090,
The Rectory Hotel
Crudwell, Wiltshire
This old rectory has 15 rooms, which
have been recently done up. They come
in neutral colours, with antique furniture
and velvet armchairs.
Details B&B doubles cost from £120
Continued next page
the times Saturday February 3 2018
4 Weekend
Andrew Edmunds in west London
Hot date 20 sexiest restaurants
The Dysart,
Petersham Surrey
At night the baronial-style
surroundings are lit by candlelight,
there’s a grand piano — and the
chef is an unsung hero.
Details 135 Petersham Road,
Richmond TW10 7AA (020 8940
The Glassboat
Moored in Bristol’s historic floating
harbour, this 1920s wooden barge
offers views over the water. The
French menu is classic yet stylish.
Details Welsh Back BS1 4SB (0117
332 3971,
Ludlow Shropshire
The Winepress Norwich
An open fireplace, crushed-velvet,
high-backed chairs and a table set
for two; the secluded snug at this
12th-century hotel belongs in a
romantic historical novel.
Details Maids Head Hotel, Tombland
NR3 1LB (01603 209955,
Where I go
Thomasina Miers
My husband and I try
to fit spontaneous
dates in as often as
possible. Our new
favourite local, Six
Portland Road, is so
delicious that you
come out positively
Dark wood panelling and crisp
linen-covered tables give this intimate
17th-century coaching inn a refined yet
cosy feel. Go all in on the tasting menu.
Details 17 Corve Street, Ludlow
SY8 IDA (01584 872325,
Le Talbooth,
Dedham Essex
The riverside terrace is idyllic, but for a
more intimate ambience, head to the
gently lit, oak-beamed dining room.
Details Gun Hill, Dedham CO7 6HP
(01206 323150,
Sharrow Bay,
Ullswater Cumbria
Sharrow Bay has unparalleled
romantic beauty on the shores of
Ullswater — and the dining room is
the epitome of old-fashioned luxury.
Details Ullswater, Penrith CA10 2LZ
(01768 486301,
Sorrel Dorking
Recently opened in a 300-year-old,
grade II listed building, Sorrel has been
eagerly awaited by foodies. The intimate
dining room is full of secluded spaces.
Details 77 South Street, Dorking
RH4 2JU (01306 889414,
Luca London
This sleek offshoot of the worldrenowned Clove Club in nearby
Shoreditch has been named “best
for romance” by the Harden’s Guide.
Dishes are made with British produce,
but given an Italian spin.
Details 88 St John Street EC1M 4EH
(020 3859 3000,
Star Inn at Harome
Where I go
Tom Kerridge
Romance should be
fun, so I like a busy,
buzzy space. My
favourite place to
go with my wife is
Temper Soho, sitting
at the bar watching
pieces of amazing
meat get cooked
on coal.
Enjoy Michelin-starred pub grub at this
14th-century thatched village inn on the
edge of North York Moors National
Park. There are nooks, crannies, open
fireplaces and a smart dining room.
Details Helmsley YO62 5JE (01439
Andrew Edmunds
This unpretentious and intimate Soho
townhouse restaurant has a timelessly
romantic quality — and the menu is
contemporary without being trendy.
Details 46 Lexington Street W1F 0LW
(020 7437 5708,
The Whitebrook
The Stockbridge
In a remote spot in the beautiful Wye
Valley, the Whitebrook is the epitome
of a romantic rural retreat, albeit one
with a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Details Whitebrook,
Monmouthshire NP25 4TX
(01600 860254,
The owners say that they have lost count
of the number of proposals they have
seen in this candlelit basement. Enjoy
seared cod with crab and scallop beignet.
Details 54 St Stephen Street
EH3 5AL (0131 226 6766,
Little Fish Market Hove
The Cellar Anstruther
This intimate 20-seat restaurant is
ideal for lovers, and lovers of seafood,
with food from the former Fat Duck
chef Duncan Ray.
Details 10 Upper Market Street,
East Sussex BN3 1AS (01273 722213,
This Michelin-starred fine diner, set
in a 17th-century building just off
the seafront, has bags of charm.
Details 24 East Green, Fife
KY10 3AA (01333 310378,
Blanchette London
Set on a Soho side street, this
intimate buzzy bistro is all artfully
distressed furniture and gutsy Gallic
sharing plates.
Details 9 D’Arblay Street W1F 8DR
(020 7439 8100,
The Mill at Gordleton
New Forest
It doesn’t get much more loved-up
than this 400-year-old ivy-covered
converted mill overlooking the River
Avon. The food is all locally produced.
Details Silver Street, Hordle,
Hampshire SO41 6DJ (01590 682219,
Peel’s at Hampton
Manor Solihull
An evening in the beautiful dining room
of a grand manor house would win over
even the hardest of hearts, especially if
the meal was wagyu beef with truffle.
Details Shadowbrook Lane,
Hampton-in-Arden B92 0EN
(01675 446080,
Upstairs at Balloo
For an intimate dinner, the dining room
of this 17th-century coaching house has
exposed brick and chandeliers.
Details 1 Comber Road,
Newtownards BT23 6PA
(028 9754 1210,
Driftwood Hotel
Banchory Lodge
Royal Deeside
There are achingly beautiful views
of Gerrans Bay in Cornwall from this
coastal-style dining room, where the
Michelin-starred chef Chris Eden
serves the finest local produce.
Details Rosevine, Portscatho TR2 5EW
(01872 580644,
This Georgian mansion has a gloriously
secluded location — and a heated
terrace overlooking the River Dee.
Details Dee Street, Banchory,
Aberdeenshire AB31 5HS
(01330 822625,
Andy Lynes
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Weekend 5
Love nests Great places for two
Brook House Hobbit
Hut Herefordshire
The Ferryman’s, Isle
of Sheppey, Kent
Knoydart Hide, Mallaig
Nestled in the Brook House Woods in
Herefordshire, this cabin is as cosy as
they come, with just a king-size bed,
wood-burner and cute fairy lights. Made
from ash wood, the huts have triangular
windows looking out into the forest
along with a private deck and fire pit.
Details Two nights costs from £170
The Old Piggery Devon
Spend the evening wallowing under the
stars in the outdoor bath tubs at this
rustic-chic cabin near Exeter that
overlooks the Devon countryside. This
is one seriously romantic little bolt hole
with exposed wooden beams, stone walls
painted white and a snug bed suspended
from the ceiling and reached by ladder.
Details One night costs from £95
Brockloch Treehouse
Dumfries and Galloway
Gaze out over the rolling countryside
from this futuristic treehouse in
Kirkpatrick Durham. Wake up to the
sound of sheep and cattle as light pours
in through the windows. More a cabin
on stilts than a treehouse, it has
a large sunken bath, double bed and a
little kitchen with a wood-burner.
Details Two nights cost from £300
Wood Shack, Monmouthshire
Get away from it all on a converted
Dutch sailing barge on the River Deben
in Woodbridge, Suffolk. There’s plenty of
character onboard, with a red range in
the galley, portholes and wood cabinets
throughout. It’s only a short walk to
nearby restaurants and pubs.
Details A week costs from £645
Spend evenings by the fire pit sipping
champagne at this seriously cool cabin
in the Elmley National Nature Reserve.
It has stunning views across the
countryside and huge floor-to-ceiling
windows in the bedroom that open up
to give the feeling of being outdoors as
you snuggle in bed.
Details One night costs from £110
as the beaches of north Cornwall.
You might just want to stay in, though,
because the former stone outhouse is
now a luxury split-level cottage with
a Dutch hot tub in the garden and
country-chic interior.
Details Three nights cost from £486
Sappington Granary
Canterbury, Kent
Fieldside Cottage
North Yorkshire
This little cottage in Robin Hood’s
Bay is a great place to hunker
down in on wintry nights. With its
beamed ceilings, stone walls and
wooden floors, it’s as snug as they
come, but with modern furnishings
throughout. In the little living room
there’s a fireplace to warm the whole
cottage for cosy nights.
Details A week costs from £355
Cob Barn Cornwall
This cute barn in Wadebridge is
conveniently placed for Padstow, as well
There’s a hot tub heated by a
wood-burner on the patio of this barn
with sea views on a farm near Barmouth
in north Wales. Inside, there’s a modern
living room and kitchen, and a bedroom
in the eaves.
Details A week costs from £280
Twee Gebroeders Suffolk
The Ferryman’s
Isle of Sheppey, Kent
This former granary has been lovingly
converted into a beautiful little hideaway
for two in the heart of the Kent
countryside. Inside it is all red and white
interiors, with original wooden beam
walls and little fairy lights above the
small kitchen table. There’s a
cast-iron bed with linen drapes.
Details One night costs from £135
Melin-Byrdir Gwynedd
Starbed Hideaways, Devon
Starbed Hideaways
Take a shepherd’s hut on the fringes
of Dartmoor at Yelverton, add a
glass roof for stargazing and a
roll-top bath, and you have
this hideaway. There are two
luxurious huts, each with a
king-size oak bed, deep bathtubs
and a kitchen.
Details One night costs from
£145 (
Wood Shack
Set in private woodland, the Wood
Shack, near Abergavenny, was originally
a writer’s cabin. It’s a great place to hang
out in the hammock or to use as a base
for walking in the Brecon Beacons.
There’s a wood-burner to cuddle up in
front of and a cosy double bed.
Details Two nights cost from £265
The Raft at
Chigborough Essex
If the setting of Little House on the
Prairie were moved to the water, this
would be it. The Raft at Chigborough,
reached by rowing boat or floating ferry
cabin, drifts on its mooring. The kitchen,
with a fire pit, barbecue and gas hobs,
is in the open, and there’s a gas-fired
shower as well as a hot tub on the bank.
Inside, there’s a cosy sitting room with a
double bed under the sloping roof.
Details One night costs from £195
The Flour Mill, Lincolnshire
Knoydart Hide
west Highlands
This futuristic new-build cabin on the
north shore of Loch Nevis is only
accessible by car or by boat. It’s a stylish
little pad, with a freestanding bath that
looks out across the loch, wraparound
balcony and a hot tub. It makes a
brilliant base for exploring the
wilderness — the trouble is, you won’t
want to step outside.
Details A week costs from £995
The Flour Mill
Whisk your partner away to a windmill
on the canal within walking distance of
the market town of Boston. The
first-floor apartment above the working
flour mill has a king-size bed and a
roll-top bath, as well as a galley kitchen
and beamed sitting room.
Details Two nights cost from £447
Filly Island Gloucestershire
Reached via a humpback bridge, this
tiny island separates a millstream from
the River Churn. Once a cart store, it
has been transformed into a sweet
hideaway, with a wood-burner in the
beamed sitting room and a shabby
chic kitchen.
Details A three-night weekend costs
from £595 (
Mark Cottage
southwestern Highlands
This bright whitewashed bothy is on the
western shores of Loch Long. You can
stay at bothies for free, although you
can’t reserve them. Mark Cottage is
a 4½-mile easy walk
from the car park
at Coilessan Glen.
The interior is
simple: the romance
is the isolation.
Jane Knight and
Ben Clatworthy
the times Saturday February 3 2018
6 Weekend
Mind food: what a neuroscientist
After years of research, Dr Lisa Mosconi is
convinced that what we eat is the key to
preventing Alzheimer’s. Here she reveals
the foods that will protect your brain
e’re very used to
the idea of eating
the right foods
for our waistlines,
but how many of
us are eating for
our brains? Of all
the organs in the body, the brain is the
one most easily damaged by a poor diet.
This has gone largely unnoticed until
now, but from its very architecture to its
ability to perform, everything in the
brain is affected by food. Our brains are
literally what we eat.
You can see this on MRI scans, as I
often did at the Nutrition and Brain
Fitness Lab that I founded at New York
University. For example, I put side by
side the brain scans of a 52-year-old
woman who had eaten a Mediterranean
diet for most of her life and one of a
50-year-old woman who had a westernstyle diet with processed meats, sweets
and fizzy drinks. You could clearly see
that the latter’s brain had atrophied —
an indicator of neuronal loss. As the
brain loses neurons, space around the
hippocampus and the temporal lobe —
regions directly involved in memory
formation — is replaced by fluids. This is
a sign of accelerated ageing and
increased risk of dementia.
Many people continue to believe that
the huge global increase in Alzheimer’s
cases, predicted to almost triple to
132 million by 2050, is a nearly inevitable
result of ageing, bad genes or both. Less
than 1 per cent of the population develop
Alzheimer’s because of a rare genetic
mutation in their DNA. For the other
99 per cent, the risk has more to do with
how they live. Recent estimates show
that at least one in three cases is
potentially preventable by modifying risk
factors, and diet is the biggest of these. I
think that’s a very conservative estimate:
the same research team came out with
50 per cent in their first study.
I am now the associate director at
America’s first Alzheimer’s prevention
clinic at Cornell University, where we
have been working with 600 mainly
middle-aged people with a family
connection to dementia, showing them
how to eat in a more brain-healthy way.
I cannot reveal more just yet, but the
data looks highly promising.
What to eat to protect
your brain
Drink eight glasses of water
every day to boost the brain
by 30 per cent
Water is involved in every chemical
reaction occurring in the brain. A
decrease in water intake of as little as
3 to 4 per cent will almost immediately
affect the brain’s fluid balance, causing
fatigue, brain fog, reduced energy,
headaches and mood swings. Research
shows that eight to ten cups a day can
boost your brain’s performance by
almost 30 per cent. Of all the tricks
I’ve learnt for keeping my mind sharp,
staying hydrated might be the one that
I follow most religiously.
When you’re consuming coffee or
black tea the caffeine actively dehydrates
you as you drink it, rendering its water
content less than effective. Try drinking
a glass of water before or after. My
favourite trick is a small glass of aloe
vera juice — which is about 99 per cent
water and contains more than 200 active
components, from vitamins and minerals
to fatty acids — every morning.
Eat chia seeds, oats and cacao
for better mood and memory
Eat more fish for essential fats
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the
rarest and most precious of brainessential fats. They include omega-6
and omega-3, which are the only kinds
of fat that the brain cannot make on
its own.
Studies have identified omega-3s as
the No 1 nutrient to fight age-related
cognitive decline and dementia. A
landmark study of 6,000 participants
aged 65 or older showed that people
who consumed low quantities of
omega-3s had a 70 per cent
higher risk of developing
Alzheimer’s. Even among
people who didn’t develop
dementia, a lower intake of
omega-3s affected their
ability to remember details
and switch focus. Those who
a more than 2g a day were
to develop dementia
a all.
The goal is to eat at least
Dr Lisa Mosconi
4g of omega-3s every day.
JJust 85g of wild Alaskan
salmon (one small fillet)
provides almost 2g of omega3s. The richest sources are
cold-water fish such as
ssalmon, mackerel and cod.
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Proteins are vital to a healthy brain.
They’re made up of amino acids, some
of which act as neurotransmitters,
chemical messengers that our brains use
for communicating and processing
information. The neurotransmitter
serotonin is essential for mood, memory
and appetite. Its production in the brain
is based on the presence of the amino
acid tryptophan, which cannot be
produced in the body at all. The only
way to make it available to our brains is
via the foods we eat.
The average adult needs 5mg of
tryptophan per kilogram of body weight
daily — the recommended dose for a
12st 6lb adult is 395mg. Turkey is often
thought to be high in tryptophan, but it
doesn’t even make the top ten. Chia
seeds rank at the top. Two tablespoons
of chia seeds contain more than 200mg
of tryptophan. Raw cacao, wheat, oats,
spirulina, sesame and pumpkin seeds
are also among the richest sources.
Milk, plain yoghurt, chicken and fish
such as tuna and salmon are good too.
Fuel the brain with natural sugars
from turnips, swede and beetroot
No matter how many people tell you
that carbohydrates are bad, the brain
runs on glucose, and glucose is a
carbohydrate. Foods that we wouldn’t
necessarily think of as sugary, such as
onions, turnips and swede, are the best
natural sources. A small beetroot
contains 31 per cent of the glucose that
you need for the day. Fruits such as
kiwi, grapes, raisins and dates are also
excellent, as are honey and maple syrup.
To stay active and healthy an adult
brain needs about 62g of glucose over
a 24-hour period. That’s less than 250
calories a day. Three tablespoons of
raw honey will give your brain all the
glucose it needs for the day.
Prevent memory decline with
B vitamins found in lentils,
spinach and eggs
B vitamins have a role in the prevention
of dementia. Recent trials tested the
effects of high-dose supplementation of
B6, B9 (folate) and B12 in patients with
mild cognitive impairment, a condition
at high risk of progressing to
Alzheimer’s. After two years, these
vitamins had maintained memory
performance and reduced the rate of
brain shrinkage.
Many plant-based foods are rich
sources of folate, especially black-eyed
peas, lentils, spinach, tofu and avocado.
Vitamin B12 is found in shellfish, salmon,
trout, mackerel, fresh tuna, chicken, eggs,
beef and dairy products. For B6 the best
sources include sunflower seeds,
pistachios, fish (especially tuna),
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Weekend 7
Tone your bottom to protect
your back Why glutes matter
shellfish, chicken, turkey, lean beef,
sweet potatoes, avocado and leafy
green vegetables.
The brain depends on the B vitamin
choline to manufacture the
neurotransmitter acetylcholine, crucial
for memory and learning. Most of us are
deficient in choline. An adult woman
needs at least 425mg of choline daily,
while men need 550mg. In practical
terms, you can get 425mg of choline by
eating three eggs. Other choline-rich
foods include fish, shiitake mushrooms,
quinoa, peanuts and almonds. Adding
Marmite to soups and stews is also a
smart way to boost your choline levels.
Slow the brain’s ageing with
antioxidants found in berries
and almonds
Vitamin E (from almonds or flaxseeds)
and vitamin C (from citrus, berries and a
variety of vegetables) are the body’s
main antioxidant defenders. They
protect brain cells and tissues from the
harmful effects of toxins, free radicals
and pollution. Regular consumption of
vitamins C and E reduces the speed at
which brain cells age, increasing
longevity and lowering the risk of
cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Extracted from Brain Food by Dr Lisa
Mosconi, published by Penguin Life on
Thursday, £14.99
Interview by Rachel Carlyle
hese days, anyone asking,
“Does my bum look big in
this?” hopes for a “Yes.”
Yet while everyone wants
a prominent, round butt
like Beyoncé or a
Kardashian, there’s more
at stake than looking great in jeans.
Taking care of your glutes is essential
to protect yourself from back pain.
“The glutes are the biggest single
muscle group in the body, so they are
the most important,” the celebrity
fitness trainer Matt Roberts says.
“They’re the muscle you use the most.
The changes that happen to the body
as a result of having weak glutes are
really, really significant.”
From about the age of 35, he says, we
start to lose muscle tone generally,
but our glutes are particularly
vulnerable. And that is bad news
for our backs. “A weak bottom
has an enormous knock-on
effect to the biomechanics of
body. Having weak
glutes can cause
a mechanical shift in the
way the bones [the lower
vertebrae] sit, which is
what causes lowerback pain.”
Jessica Rider,
a physiotherapist
at Body
and Sports
IInjury Clinic,
ssays that
sstrengthening your
gluteal muscles has
tthe biggest impact when
it comes to preventing
or recovering from
lower-back pain. If the
glutes are weak or
iinactive, “there will be
sstrain through your
back, aggravating a disc
or nerve, or you’ll be
working the muscles in
yyour back much harder to
ttry to stabilise your pelvis,
leading to niggling back pain or
postural back pain”.
The gluteus maximus controls the
movement of hip and thighs, and the
gluteus medius controls the movement
of your pelvis. Without the stability
provided by these strong muscles,
there’s a “mechanical overload” —
the pelvis doesn’t stay level and that
has all sorts of effects on the rest of
the body. If clients report injuries
from the waist down — painful lower
back, hips or knees — Rider says that
she always looks at what the pelvis is
doing and “in 99 per cent of those
cases people have got weak glutes”.
Rider, who is also a clinical Pilates
teacher, likens the pelvis to a bowl of
water. “Any shift from side to side, that
water’s going to tip out of either the
front, side or back. That water tipping
out is the load going through the discs
in your lower back. So if your glutes
don’t stabilise it, you’re constantly
squeezing different bits of your back,
leading to pain and long-term injuries.”
Weak glutes are often the result of
our sedentary lifestyle. Lara Milward,
a trainer and a co-founder of
BlitzFitness, says that our deskbound
existence can end up leading to
“gluteal amnesia”.
“When you’re sitting, your glutes are
lengthened, but inactive,” she says.
“Your hip flexors tighten and pull
your pelvis forward, which increases
that lengthening. So as you sit for
a long time, your glutes become
weaker and ineffective.”
Feeling stiff
when you rise
from working
at a screen is a
sign that your
glutes have
clocked off
That stiff, hard-to-walk feeling that
you get when you rise from long hours
working in front of a screen is the sign
that your glutes have clocked off,
because they have not had to work to
maintain your posture.
Exercise is key to strengthening the
glutes, but we often get that wrong. At
the gym we focus on separate parts of
our body — hamstrings, biceps and
triceps — and don’t think about how
the body moves as a whole. Besides,
doing the odd gym class, or even taking
up running, isn’t going to help.
“People think you only get weak
glutes if you don’t go to the gym and
you don’t run,” Rider says. In fact,
running can exacerbate back problems,
particularly if you have a history of
back pain. “Running completely
changes the way your back moves, and
if your glutes can’t control that it
compounds the lower-back pain.”
Milward, a former competitive
swimmer and triathlete, returned to
running and swimming after having
children and wondered why her back
hurt. “Five sessions of Pilates
strengthened my bottom and core,
and in five sessions, no back pain,”
she says. “I thought, ‘Wow.’ ” She
now teaches Pilates, but she says
that there are many ways to work
your glutes and gain a firm, physically
engaged backside. She recommends
CrossFit, squats, even “just squeezing
around where the sit-bones are and
contracting your buttocks”.
While it takes six to eight weeks to
change and build a muscle, Rider says,
clients with lower-back pain often
notice a difference within two weeks of
doing regular glute exercises.
“The bottom is more celebrated than
I’ve ever seen in the fitness industry,”
Milward says. “For trainers posting on
Instagram — globally — it’s so much
about big bottoms.”
However, as those trainers know,
it’s not just a matter of aesthetics.
It’s about posture, flexibility, pain
management, structural strength
and overall health too.
Anna Maxted;;
How to exercise your glutes by Matt Roberts
Start in a standing
position with your
back straight and feet
shoulder-width apart,
holding a weight in
each arm. Step into
a lunge position,
bending both knees
to 90 degrees and
keeping a straight
torso. Repeat six
times on each
Goblet squats
Stand with feet
slightly wider than
shoulder-width apart,
holding the end of
a dumbbell or a
kettlebell, with both
hands, in front of you.
Lower your body into
a squat by bending
your knees. Push out
your knees slightly.
Push back up to the
standing position.
Your upper body
should barely move
— use legs, hips and
lower back as a unit.
Do this 10 to 12 times,
recover, then repeat.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
8 Weekend
Do you have any life skills?
A recent study found that millennials have no idea how to unblock a drain
or even descale an iron. But they’re not the only ones who struggle with
everyday, practical tasks. We asked the experts for their foolproof tips
How to use an
electric drill
First, choose the correct bit. You can
get many sizes of drill bit, but there are
essentially two types: a masonry bit for
a solid brick wall or a wood bit for softer
surfaces such as plasterboard. The wood
bit has a wider spiral.
Always make sure the power is off
when attaching your bit. Before drilling
any hole, check for hidden pipes and
cables using a wall scanner. These
usually cost about £20 from a DIY
store. If the location is safe, mark the
spot with a pencil. You can then start
drilling. You need to ensure you don’t
drill at an angle, so it is very important
to hold the drill square and steady to
the wall as you go.
If you are using a Rawlplug, make
sure that it matches the size of the drill
bit. It has to be a tight fit, but not so
tight that you need to force it into the
drilled hole. You should be able to push
it in with your finger.
If the hole is not large enough, you
can go in with a slightly bigger bit, but
you have to be very careful to keep
your drill perfectly straight. You can
then securely put the screw into the
wall fixing.
Jo Behari, author of Girl’s Guide to DIY
How to roast a chicken
(and make gravy)
Bring the chicken to room temperature.
Rub with oil or softened butter and
season well (add a halved lemon, as well
as garlic and herbs, to the cavity for
extra flavour). Place in a small roasting
tray and put it into an oven preheated to
190C/gas 5, with the legs pointing
towards the rear. Roast for about 60 to
90 minutes depending on the weight of
the bird, or until the juices run ce1ar.
For the gravy, add vegetables such as
halved onions, carrots and unpeeled
garlic to the roasting tin. Once the meat
is cooked, set it aside to rest and remove
most of the vegetables. Put the roasting
tray on the hob over a medium heat.
Add a glass of wine (white with lighter
meats, red with dark) and stock (it’s fine
to use a stock cube) and boil until it is at
the required consistency.
Tony Turnbull, Times food editor
paste under the paper, use a dry
papering brush (it looks a bit like a
comb) to wipe over the paper from the
centre to the edges. Then wipe away
any excess paste with a rag. Unfold the
bottom section of the drop and repeat
the process. Again use sharp scissors to
cut along this edge to fit snugly against
the skirting board.
Repeat with the next drop. Use a seam
roller to smooth the joints of the paper.
Jo Behari
How to
paint a
First, fill any holes
with either pre-mixed
or a powdered filler,
so that the filler sits
slightly proud of the
hole. Let the filled
holes dry, then
smooth the excess
with sandpaper. For
deeper holes, add filler
in layers so that the
deep layers have a
chance to dry out.
Once all the holes are
filled, clean the wall
with sugar soap and
wait for it to dry
before painting.
Paint the areas
against the ceiling or
around windows and
doors with an angled
brush, because it
makes it easier to get
a straight edge. When
you have done that,
but while the paint is
still wet, lightly sweep
the brush back and
forth over the same
area to ease out the
brush marks. For
larger areas use a
roller and work in
large squares with
an up and down
action. When the
roller starts to dry
out, add more paint
and start the next
section slightly
overlapping the last.
Jo Behari
How to make compost
How to hang wallpaper
The first thing to do is cut the wallpaper
to the correct length, allowing for 10cm
extra at each end so that the paper can
be trimmed on the wall, because
ceilings and skirtings often have wonky
edges. These cut pieces of wallpaper
are called “drops”.
To ensure you are hanging the paper
completely straight, you need a plumb
line — essentially a piece of string with a
weight at the bottom. Pin the top of the
string at your starting point (usually the
top of the wall). When the weight stops
swinging and settles, the string will be in
a perfectly straight line. It’s best to start
papering in a corner, and preferably on a
wall that has no doors or windows.
Apply adhesive to the back of the
paper by brushing a line of adhesive
vertically down the centre with a
wallpaper brush, then brushing it out to
the edges. Before you start to hang, you
should do what the experts call
“booking”. With the strip of wallpaper
lying pattern down on the floor, lift the
top end of the paper to the mid-point of
the strip and press down gently. Now
bring the other end to meet it.
Leave the booked paper for a few
minutes to soak up the paste while you
prepare a few more strips. Once you’ve
done a few, take the first one to the wall
and unfold the top section. Slide it into
position on the wall, then trim the
overhang while still wet, with sharp
scissors. To smooth out any lumps of
To heat up and decay properly,
compost requires a mixture of soft
green material (such as grass clippings,
vegetable waste, dead cut flowers) and
coarse “brown” material (dead
perennial stalks, dead leaves, shredded
woody prunings). If you can, add both
throughout the year to your compost
heap. It must also be moist. Miss out
any of these elements and the process
becomes slow or non-existent.
Compost bins made of wood or plastic
are the most efficient. Fork the
compost over once or twice every
season so it’s crumbly.
Stephen Anderton,
Times gardening columnist
How to use a washing
machine properly
For most clothes with no stains, a
60-minute wash at 30C will be fine.
As a general rule, for whites, sheets and
towels, a temperature of 60 degrees will
kill off any germs and effectively
remove any hard stains. There is
no need to go as high as 90.
Never be tempted to end a
cycle early — you may end
up skipping the rinsing
stage, and any leftover
detergent can discolour the
garments if you go straight
to tumble dry. I would
never put a handwash-only
item in a machine, even on a
handwash setting.
Anne Barnes, deputy director
of housekeeping at Claridge’s
How to rid your cat (and your home) of fleas
Jo Behari
It’s best to ask your vet to recommend a
product to treat your cat. They will also
need to weigh your cat to determine the
correct dose. Remember that you need
to kill all the fleas in the environment; a
lot of people just treat the cat, but do
nothing about the furniture and carpets.
Vacuum everywhere, particularly in
dark spaces, such as under sofas, where
eggs will have been laid. Do a
really hot
wash of
everything the cat has touched — its
bedding of course, and your bedding
if your cat sleeps there. Get a
good-quality flea spray for your
following the instructions
ccarefully. You need to treat any
pets that came into contact with
yyour cat and its fleas, but you must ask
the vet about the appropriate treatment:
some products intended for dogs, if
accidentally used on a cat, will kill it. I
see this far too frequently.
Gudrun Ravetz, president of the
British Veterinary Association
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Weekend 9
guide for millennials
How to plant a shrub
You will need to make a planting hole
three times the diameter of the pot
that your shrub is in. Dig out two
spades’ depth of soil, and set it to one
side. Loosen the soil in the bottom of
the hole with a fork. Mix a bucket of
old compost with the soil you have
removed and put enough mixture
back in the base of the hole so that
the plant’s rootball, when sitting on
top, will reach surface level. If you like,
you can also sprinkle the new
soil/compost in the bottom of the hole
How to unblock a sink
without chemicals
If there is standing water in the sink you
need to use a plunger. Putting a plunger
over the plughole creates a vacuum
in the drainage pipes that can push a
blockage out of the way.
If the sink is clear of water, but water
is draining out of it too slowly you can
use bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to
clear any small blockages. In fact,
doing this regularly helps to prevent
large build-ups of waste. Pour a
heaped tablespoon of bicarbonate of
soda down the drain, followed by a
good glug of vinegar. Once a fizzing
reaction has taken place, pour down
boiling water to clear the drains.
If you accidentally drop something
down the sink, or it is prone to bad
smells, unscrew the U-bend under
the sink to give it a good clean or
rescue the item. First though, take a
picture so that you remember how
it goes back together. Then put a
bucket underneath. Unscrew the
two ends of the U-bend,
taking care not to misplace
the rubber washers that sit
in the connections. Wash
the u-bend thoroughly (in a
different sink) and reconnect
it as it was before.
Jo Behari
How to descale an iron
If an iron needs to be descaled, it will
deposit a chalky mess on to your
clothing. If it doesn’t have a self-cleaning
system, pour equal parts white vinegar
and water into the water reservoir until
it is a third full. Turn it on to medium
heat and let it steam for about 5-10
minutes while standing so all the vinegar
evaporates. Then fill the chamber with
fresh water and turn the iron on again to
flush through traces of mineral deposits
and vinegar. After this, wipe the
underside of the iron and steam vents
with a paper towel.
Verity Mann, head of testing at the
Good Housekeeping Institute
with Rootgrow, an invaluable fungal
booster for young roots. Take the
plant out of its pot, soaking it in water
for 20 minutes before putting it in the
hole if it feels light and dry. Place or
spread the roots in the hole and top up
the space around it with mixture.
Gently press down the soil (not the
rootball itself) with your foot, then top
it up again, bringing it 6-7cm higher
than the rest of the bed, since it will
sink a little.
Stephen Anderton
to sew on
a button
Push the needle
through the shirt from
the inside to the
outside where you want
the button to sit. Then,
as close as possible (but
not through the same
hole), push the needle
back through the shirt
to the reverse side, and
then again back
outside, this time
threading the needle
through one hole of the
button. The button will
probably have four
holes: push the needle
through the diagonally
opposite hole all the
way through the fabric
as close as possible to
your original stitch.
Repeat this, going
back up through the
first button hole and
back down through the
second. Once you have
done this three times,
push the needle back
up through the shirt
and the third hole, and
back down through the
fourth hole (diagonally
opposite). Do this three
times, so you have a
cross of stitches on top
of the button. With
your needle on the
reverse of the shirt, tie
off the ends.
Patrick Grant,
director of
Norton & Sons tailors
glass is removable, soak it in a solution
of biological detergent.
Clean shelves in the dishwasher if they
fit. If not, place them in a large plastic
storage box and soak them in a solution
of biological washing detergent and
water. Make future cleans easier by
wiping the interior surfaces with paper
towels after each use, and line the base
with a piece of foil or an easy-clean
oven sheet.
Verity Mann
Not all cars come with a spare wheel,
but if yours does, it will also come with
a jack, wheel brace (a tool to remove
wheel nuts) and a locking wheel nut
key if your car has locking wheel nuts,
which reduce the risk of having your
tyres stolen (just one of the five nuts
on a wheel will be a locking one). You
will need all of these. Make sure that
your car is on a flat, solid surface —
no incline and no grass or gravel —
and that the handbrake is on.
If the wheel has a locking wheel nut,
use the locking wheel nut key to loosen
it by half a turn, then use the wheel
brace to do the same to the other four
nuts. Use the car jack to raise the car
so that the wheel you’re trying to
remove is lifted off the ground, then
take all the wheel nuts out one by one.
Lift the wheel off and put the spare one
in its place. Do each nut up with your
fingers as tight as you can and once
they’re all in place, use the wheel brace
to tighten them further. Then lower the
car down off the jack so that all four
tyres are back on the ground and give
the nuts a final check.
Now drive straight to a garage. The
original tyre will need to be fixed and
refitted. They can also check that the
wheel nuts are as tight as they should be.
Charlie Harding, RAC roadside patrol
How to remove grease
stains from clothes
How to clean an oven
First, loosen any grease by placing a
heat-resistant bowl of water in the
oven and turning the temperature up
to 180-200C for 20 minutes. Use a
specialised oven cleaner to wipe down
the inside walls.
Next, remove cooked-on deposits
from the glass doors with a metal
spatula or ceramic hob scraper, before
cleaning them with a spray-on oven
cleaner. A paste made from bicarbonate
of soda and water also works well. If the
How to change a tyre
Patrick Grant
Don’t sponge a grease stain with cold
water, because this can set the stain.
Gently scrape off as much residue as
possible with a blunt knife, then blot with
paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the stain
with talc or cornflour, leave for a few
minutes, then remove with a soft brush.
Any remaining grease needs to be
dissolved with an alcohol-based solvent
such as methylated spirits. Gently dab the
stain with the solvent and allow it to
evaporate. Work a little liquid detergent
into the stain and machine-wash on as
high a temperature as the garment allows.
Verity Mann
the times Saturday February 3 2018
10 Body + Soul
Is she just going through the motions?
Suzi Godson
Sex counsel
My girlfriend and I
have been together
for four years.
Generally we are very
happy. But whenever I
initiate sex, it can
sometimes feel like she is
just going through the
motions for my benefit.
When she initiates it, it’s
a different matter, and she
is really enthusiastic. The
problem, is that she
doesn’t initiate very often
Don’t take it personally. The
reason she behaves so
differently when she initiates
sex might well be that she
has spent the entire afternoon
daydreaming about it, so is already
actively engaged with the idea and
ready to go when she gets home.
By the time she meets up with you,
she has intent in her kiss and sex
on her mind.
It’s the same (in reverse) for you. If
you initiate, you are likely to be much
farther ahead in the arousal process
too, and unless you spend enough
time on foreplay, she is left playing
catch up. If your girlfriend is in any
way distracted or preoccupied when
you initiate, it may take a lot longer
than normal for her to reach orgasm.
When a woman feels out of time with
her partner, it can create a kind of
low-level performance anxiety, which
further impedes the arousal process.
If your girlfriend realises that you are
in a more urgent state of arousal than
her, she may just weigh up the odds
and conclude that the best thing to do
is go through the motions.
Many people think that women
take a lot longer to become aroused
than men — but that’s not necessarily
true. What is true is that female
arousal is not exactly an obvious
process. In men, blood flow to the
penis creates visible evidence of
arousal but in women, blood flow to
the genitals is not a terribly accurate
gauge of female arousal. Recent
research shows that when women feel
really turned on, the temperature of
the clitoris and labia escalates as a
result of additional blood flow.
Temperature also seems to
correspond accurately with how
aroused women report feeling.
Thermal imaging studies also
contradict the widely held
assumption that men are instantly
arousable. In a study carried out by
the psychologists Tuuli Kukkonen
and Irv Binik at McGill University
Health Centre in Montreal, Canada,
men watching pornography took
an average of 11 minutes and
5 seconds to reach peak arousal,
not so far away from the
average of 12 minutes and
When a woman
feels out of time
with her partner
it can create a kind
of performance
23 seconds for the women in the
same study.
When you explore the complexities
of female arousal, you understand
why the issue you describe is
fundamentally one of mismatched
timing. I know that in an ideal world
everyone would want to have sex at
exactly the same time, but in reality
it’s not like that.
Although sex shouldn’t be entirely
goal-driven, orgasm is an undeniably
important motivation, and while it
seems that many women are happy to
take the occasional rain check, if you
are predominantly focused on your
own orgasm, she is likely to be less
interested in having sex. I’m not
suggesting that you neglect your
girlfriend’s needs, but I think you
should consider the possibility that
your girlfriend is someone who
thrives on romantic build-up.
I would suggest that you increase
anticipation by engaging in
psychological foreplay. Whisper
teasing comments in her ear. During
the day send her cheeky messages.
These cues will prime you both
equally for the idea of sex, so that
when you get home you’re more
likely to be on the same page.
Send your queries to
or write to Suzi at Weekend,
The Times, 1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Body + Soul 11
I didn’t want
a third child.
My wife did
so I cracked
Alan Davies talks to Julia Llewellyn Smith about
fatherhood and how therapy changed his life
lan Davies has a hacking
cough. “It’s a bronchial,
sinusy, typical winter
thing,” he splutters as he
sits down in the bar of a
Soho hotel, his comedic
delivery so spot-on that,
rather than offering sympathy, I can’t help
laughing. “As soon as the kids start school
they come home with something that they
then shrug off, but, being elderly, you have
it for weeks.”
Dressed in jeans and an anorak, Davies’s
trademark ringlets are shorter and more
silvery than when he first made his name
21 years ago playing Jonathan Creek on
television. “When your hair goes grey it
stops going curly. It’s depressing to watch
your hair turn to straw,” he says cheerily.
He orders a pot of black coffee. “I’m not
hungover, I’m just stressed,” he says,
explaining that he has come straight from
doing the school run in Hampstead, north
London. “It’s so hard to get the kids out of
the door in the morning.”
It’s heartwarming to hear Davies, 51,
sounding so domesticated and — despite
his grumbling — so contented, because for
years his reputation was for being churlish,
if not downright angry.
As well as being known as a panellist for
15 years on the TV quiz show QI, he was
noted for his string of volatile relationships
and for an incident in 2007, when he bit the
ear of a tramp who was abusive to him
when he’d just attended a funeral. But that
same year he married Katie Maskell and
the metamorphosis began into the frazzled, but besotted family man bewailing —
very funnily — his battles with his
children’s school not to give homework,
the “rudeness” of Susie, eight (“Bless her,
she’s adorable”), how Bobby, six, wakes
them at dawn every morning and how he
didn’t want Francis, two, at all.
“I was very against a third child, but
Katie really wanted another baby, to the
point where it was becoming a problem,
Davies’s childhood in Chingford, Essex,
so I cracked. But I knew it was going to be was undoubtedly traumatic: his adored
really hard work, and it was,” he says, mother died of leukaemia when he was six.
chortling. “It impacts on everyone in the “No one told us she was dying, or talked to
family — my oldest, especially, gets us about it afterwards. We didn’t go to the
noticeably less attention. But then he’s funeral, we didn’t know where she was
very cute, he talks all the time, he sings buried,” he says, his lispy voice barely
little medleys, he’s so engaged with the above a whisper.
world, it’s lovely.’”
His father, an accountant, was left
It was Davies’s friend from the stand-up bringing up three young children while
comedy circuit Jo Brand, a former psychi- working full-time. “Things are different
atric nurse, who helped him to put his life now; people will help you.” Davies says.
back on track by recommending a thera- “But my father is not the kind of person
pist, whom he saw for eight years.
who asks for, or indeed offers help.”
“I don’t think I’m the only
His father is now 84, with
comedian Jo’s done that
early-stage Alzheimer’s. “I
for,” he says with a
don’t really see him or
chuckle. “I mean,
talk about him, to be
what combination
of circumstances
Bobby is now the
gets someone to
same age that
stand up in a room
Davies was when
and say, ‘Everyhe was bereaved.
one look at me!’ ”
“That’s been very
Some comedimuch on my mind.
ans shun therapy,
I was calculating
worrying that their
what date it would be
wit derives from their
when he was the exact
Alan Davies with his wife
neuroses. “I never
age I was — it was a few
Katie Maskell
believed any of that,”
weeks ago and it was very
Davies says. “What worried
difficult to picture. I don’t
me was I wasn’t very happy. I was
know what I was like at his age,
having difficulty with my equilibrium, because there’s no one to tell me; Bobby’s a
finding any contentment.
bit chaotic, very creative, he loves drawing
“I became quite an advocate of therapy. and making things. Thankfully — touch
It’s particularly valuable in your twenties, wood — [his mother dying] won’t happen
when you’re going into the mating game, to him.”
forming intimate relationships. I see so
His family commitments mean that
many people around me crash and burn, Davies has stopped touring with his standhit the dust at the first hurdle or with such up show and instead is sticking to televiacrimony — it’s horrible. I feel a lot of it sion, recently working with Brand, filming
can be addressed a bit earlier by getting the second series of her Channel 4 sitcom
yourself organised so you realise it’s not Damned, set in the not terribly funnythe person in front of you causing these sounding world of children’s social
problems, it’s you. Therapy was certainly services.
very useful in helping me deal with the
“Many of the stories are based on real
issues I was carrying from my childhood.” cases and a lot of them are quite dark and
Blockbuster movie or
foreign arthouse film?
When I was younger I’d
have said foreign
arthouse, but I’d be being
dishonest now. Still, if they
said you can never see
one or the other ever
again, foreign arthouse
Green juice or sausage
I don’t eat meat, so green
Beach break or city trip?
Cook or be cooked for?
Be cooked for
Stephen Fry or Sandi
That’s cruel! Both — well,
no; of course my
allegiance is to Fry. I love
Fry. But Sandi is wonderful
How many unread emails
on your phone?
Almost none. If I don’t like
the look of an email I
delete it
I couldn’t get through the
weekend without . . .
Tom Jones
difficult,” he says. “But it is funny. There’s a
lot of chaos in the office environment; if
any of the characters go too far in either
direction they get lampooned — so anyone who’s a bit too liberal or anyone who’s
too ‘pull your socks up, people like that
shouldn’t have children in the first place’.”
When it comes to his parenting style,
does Davies fall into the softie or the field
marshal camp? “That’s a very difficult
question,” he muses. “There’s a clash
between having proper dialogue between
parents and children, and parents setting
boundaries and laying out the rules. My
daughter was in a foul mood this morning.
I asked her what fruit she wanted for a
snack and it turned into World War Three.
All of me is saying, ‘This child is having a
banana,’ and then my wife walks in and
says, ‘Would you like a nectarine?’ I’m, like,
‘Back me up on the banana!’
“I don’t want to have little emperors,
tyrants running the house. At the same
time I don’t want to stop my children
having an opinion and a point of view.
There’s already so much pressure all
around them, I don’t feel they have air to
Soon, I warn him, they’ll be under the
spell of social media. “I dread that,” Davies
says. “What a vacuous moron you become
when you spend all day staring at a screen,
looking at what people with no lives are
posting.” Instead, inspired by his former QI
sparring partner Stephen Fry, he has
become a ferocious autodidact, reading
voraciously and studying part-time for an
MA in creative writing (his degree was in
drama). “I wouldn’t say it’s a midlife crisis,
but I’d been a student before and got a lot
out of it in terms of doing stand-up, but
didn’t get a lot from the course itself. Now,
I come out of workshops and say, ‘That was
great! I didn’t want it to end!’ I’d
recommend it to anyone.”
Damned starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday, February 14 at 10pm
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
14 Food + Drink
Arriba! Try spicy
tacos for supper
Put tortillas and a
few toppings on
the table and let
everyone dig in, say
Felipe Fuentes Cruz
and Ben Fordham
How to make
corn tortillas
Makes ten tortillas, 8cm in diameter
200g fine yellow cornflour or maize
300ml warm water
¼ tsp sea salt
Clean plastic bag
Tortilla press (optional) or a large
saucepan/frying pan
1 Put the cornflour or maize in a bowl
with water and salt, then mix well
for 3–5 min until you have a smooth,
pliable dough.
2 Divide the mixture into ten equal
pieces and roll into balls.
3 Open up a plastic bag by cutting down
each side so that you have a flat sheet.
Place a ball of dough in the middle of
the sheet and place this in the middle of
the open tortilla press, if using one. Fold
the bag in half over the dough, close the
tortilla press and push the handle down
firmly to compress the dough as much
as possible.
4 Open the tortilla press and check
that the tortilla is nice and thin.
Compress again if necessary. Very
carefully peel back the plastic from
the top of the dough, making sure
that the dough does not tear, then
flip it over in your hand so that it is
dough-side down and gently peel
back the plastic. If you don’t have a
tortilla press, place a large saucepan
on top of the plastic-covered dough
and repeatedly press down firmly and
evenly. Now set the pan aside and pat
firmly a few times with the palm of
your hand to further flatten the dough
evenly. Gently peel off the plastic as
above. Repeat this process until you
have ten tortillas.
5 To cook, heat a non-stick frying pan
over a medium heat (don’t add any oil),
then cook each tortilla for 1 min on
each side until cooked through. To
keep the tortillas warm, place them
on a clean tea towel and fold it over to
cover them.
6 A good tortilla is not too thick and
not too thin. If it is too thin it will break
when trying to peel the plastic off,
and if it is too thick it won’t cook
evenly. The best tortillas should fluff up
when cooked.
Spinach, chorizo and potato tacos
Spinach, chorizo
& potato tacos
Serves 2-3
100g chorizo
1 medium potato
1 red onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g baby spinach leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
Serve with
Bunch of watercress
100g radishes, thinly sliced
5 or 6 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
200g crumbled feta cheese or queso
Smoked chipotle salsa
100g tomatoes, cut into wedges
½ onion, cut into pieces
2½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp crushed dried chillies
70g chipotle paste
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp salt
60ml rice vinegar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp hickory powder (optional)
1 To make the salsa put the tomatoes,
onion and 250ml of water into a
saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer
for 5 min. Drain and discard the water
and set the tomatoes and onion to one
2 Place the vegetable oil in a saucepan
over a medium heat, add the crushed
dried chillies and fry for 1-2 min, being
very careful not to let them burn.
Add the tomatoes and onion right at
the end, then remove from the heat
and set aside to cool.
3 Transfer the cooled mixture to a
blender, add all the remaining
ingredients and blend until smooth.
4 Put a saucepan over a high heat, add
the mixture from the blender and bring
to the boil for about 1-2 min, adding
60–100ml of water if the mixture is too
thick. This salsa is best served cold, so
allow time for it to cool or put in the
fridge before serving.
5 Cut the chorizo into 5mm slices.
6 Peel the potato and cut it into
small strips. Thinly slice the red
7 Heat the oil in a saucepan over a
medium heat, add the chorizo slices
and cook for 2 min. Then add the
potato strips and fry for 6-8 min until
cooked. Add the onion, spinach, salt
and white pepper and cook for another
1-2 min, then put them to one side.
8 To serve, place the watercress and
radish slices in two separate bowls on
the table. Place the chorizo mixture in
the middle of the warmed tortillas and
add the crumbled cheese. Add a dollop
of salsa and serve.
Prawn tacos
Prawn tacos
Serves 6-8
350g medium raw shell-on prawns
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
50g butter
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
Pinch of salt
2 tsp finely chopped parsley
Serve with
50g finely chopped onion
35g finely chopped coriander
12-16 flour or corn tortillas
2 limes, cut into wedges
Avocado salsa
100g whole tomatoes or green
tomatillos (fresh if possible)
1-2 fresh green chillies, stems removed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 avocado
1 tsp freshly chopped coriander (thin
stalks can be used; discard thicker ends)
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
Pinch of salt
New potato tacos
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Food + Drink 15
Deep-fried tuna tacos
Asparagus tacos
1 To make the avocado salsa, preheat
the oven to 200C/gas 6.
2 Remove the husks from the fresh
tomatillos, if using. Place the whole
chillies, garlic and tomatoes/tomatillos
on a baking tray and roast in the oven
for 6-8 min until all are slightly charred.
(If using tinned tomatillos, there is no
need to roast them, simply add them at
the next stage.)
3 Cut the avocado in half and remove
the stone. Using a spoon, scoop out
the flesh and put it in a blender. Add
the roasted chillies, tomatoes/tomatillos
(or tinned if using) and garlic, coriander,
onion and salt, and blend for 2 min.
Up to 60ml of water can be added if it
seems too thick. Add more salt to taste
if required.
4 Peel the tails off the prawns, leaving
the rest of them whole.
5 Cut the peppers in half and discard
the stems, seeds and white ribs. Cut
the flesh into 2 x 3cm pieces.
6 To make the onion-coriander mix for
serving, place the chopped onion and
herbs in a serving bowl and mix
together. Tip the avocado salsa into
another serving bowl.
7 Start to warm the tortillas now,
because you want to serve this dish
with the prawns piping hot. While
heating the tortillas, put the butter in a
saucepan and melt over a medium heat.
Add the sliced onion, garlic, peppers,
dried chillies and salt, and cook for
4-5 min until soft.
8 Add the prawns to the pan and cook
for another 2 min, stirring, until the
prawns are pink and cooked through.
9 Stir in the parsley and serve
immediately with the warmed tortillas,
the bowl of onion-coriander mix and
the avocado salsa, then squeeze the
lime juice over the top.
Donna Hay’s
curry recipes
tuna tacos
Serves 4
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 fresh jalapeno, stem and seeds
½ onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
½ tsp salt
300g fresh tuna steak, skin removed
100g chopped red cabbage
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Serve with
8 corn tortillas
1 fresh avocado, diced
200g feta cheese, cut into cubes
30 cocktail sticks
For the coriander and radish salsa
5 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
1 To make the salsa put all the
ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
2 Pour 475ml of water into a small
saucepan with the tomatoes and
jalapeno, and bring to the boil. Turn
down the heat and simmer for 4-5 min,
remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3 Once cooled, drain and place the
tomatoes and jalapeno in a blender
with half the onion, half the coriander
and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and blend
for 45-60 seconds. Put aside.
4 Chop the fresh tuna into small chunks
and put in a bowl. Add the remaining
onion, half the cabbage, the remaining
salt and the black pepper, and mix well.
5 In a dry, non-stick frying pan warm
the tortillas so that they are flexible.
6 Place a tortilla on a flat surface, add
an eighth of the tuna mixture on one
side and fold the other side on top.
7 Secure the folded-over tortilla with
three cocktail sticks around the edge,
pushed through at an angle to ensure it
doesn’t break up during cooking. Repeat
with the remaining tortillas and mix.
8 Pour enough vegetable oil to reach
a depth of about 2cm in a frying pan.
Heat the oil until very hot, but not
smoking, then reduce the heat to
medium. Deep-fry the tacos in batches
of 2-3 at a time for 3-5 min or until
crispy, turning occasionally with tongs.
9 Remove from the heat and lay
on paper towels. When cool enough to
handle, remove the cocktail sticks.
Sprinkle with the remaining chopped
cabbage, coriander, diced avocado and
feta cheese, and a spoon of radish salsa.
Asparagus tacos
Serves 4–5
500g asparagus
1 courgette
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
60ml vegetable oil
¼ red onion, sliced
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 dried chile de arbol, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Serve with
12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
Feta cheese, crumbled
Salsa fresca
1kg fresh tomatoes
250g tinned peeled plum tomatoes
50g finely chopped onion
10g Bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
20 g finely chopped coriander
3 tsp salt
1 To make the salsa fresca, cook the
whole fresh tomatoes in a saucepan
of boiling water for 12-15 min. Drain,
discarding the water, and leave the
tomatoes on the side to cool.
2 Once cooled, remove the skins and
put the tomatoes in a bowl with the
tinned plum tomatoes. Squash the
tomatoes with your hands (it is best to
wear plastic gloves for this), then
remove any big pieces and finely chop
with a knife before adding them back
into the bowl. Add the salt, onion,
chillies and coriander, and mix well.
3 Cut off and discard the woody
bottom ends of the asparagus spears.
4 Cut the courgette in half lengthways,
discarding the ends. Slice each half into
half-moons about 5mm thick. Cut the
peppers in half and discard the stems
and the seeds, then slice into strips.
5 Add the oil to a frying pan, bring it to
a high heat and sauté the asparagus for
2-3 min. Add the onion, courgette,
peppers, salt and pepper to the pan and
continue to sauté for another 3 min.
Finally, stir in the garlic, chile de arbol
and parsley, and stir continuously for
another 1-2 min.
6 To serve, pile the filling in the middle
of the warmed tortillas, add the salsa
fresca and crumble feta cheese on top.
New potato tacos
Serves 4
500g new potatoes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Pinch of white pepper
1 tsp salt
Serve with
8-12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
125g cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
2 fresh avocados, cut into strips
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
15 basil leaves, freshly chopped
1 For the roasted cherry tomatoes,
preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
2 Mix the tomatoes with some olive oil,
place on a baking tray, season and roast
in the oven for 15-20 min until soft.
Sprinkle the basil leaves on top.
3 For the tacos, boil the potatoes in a
saucepan for 15 min. Remove from the
heat, drain and allow to cool.
4 Cut the potatoes in half, then into
thin slices. Put a saucepan over a high
heat, add the oil and, when hot, add
the potato slices. Fry gently for 2-3 min
until they start to colour.
5 Add the red onion, parsley, chilli, white
pepper and salt, and sauté for 1 min.
6 To serve, heap the potato mixture on
top of the tortillas and garnish with the
cheese cubes, avocado and roasted
cherry tomatoes.
Everyone Loves Tacos by Felipe
Fuentes Cruz and Ben Fordham
(Ryland Peters and Small, £14.99)
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the times Saturday February 3 2018
Food + Drink 17
Move over merlot, syrah is top now
Jane MacQuitty
Domaine Michelas
St Jemms vineyard in
southern France
love seductive, scented, sultry syrah.
It’s my favourite red grape, and it
appears to be yours too. Syrah, also
known as shiraz, leapt over merlot in
value terms in the latest take-home
wine sales stats, with £343.3 million,
compared with merlot’s
£338.9 million. Booming sales, boosted by
the excellent 2016 vintage in the Rhône,
will soon result in syrah overtaking
merlot in volume terms too.
Rich, black-fruited northern rhônes,
such as hermitage, côte-rôtie and cornas,
made from syrah, with, occasionally, a
syrah has done
well in Chile,
Argentina and
South Africa
dash of viognier, display a peppery violet
perfume. The same scent, but subtler,
pops up in lesser, great-value northern
rhônes, including St Joseph and CrozesHermitage. Try the latter’s rustic, briary
2016 Delas Crozes-Hermitage, Les
Launes (Co-op, £13.99). Or trade up to the
robust, violet and rose-scented 2016
Crozes-Hermitage from the ace Domaine
Michelas St Jemms (Oddbins, £17).
The heat-loving syrah also does well in
southern Rhône, where it is blended with
grenache to produce reds with warm,
garrigue scrub and black olive spice.
Farther south still, in the Languedoc,
syrah is still known as the ameliorating
grape, improving all manner of dull Midi
reds. So check out Tesco’s bold, juicy,
black plum and black olive-stashed 2015
Finest Faugères (£9), which is mostly
syrah, but topped up with a dollop of
grenache and carignan. It can also
shine solo here, for example in the
loganberry-ripe 2015 Les Jamelles Syrah
at the Co-op (£5.99, to February 13).
Globetrotting syrah has also done well
in Chile, Argentina, South Africa and the
Antipodes. It’s Australia’s shiraz that
challenges the Rhône with its bold, burly,
leather, liquorice and prune-styled reds.
Even Aldi’s 2016 Exquisite Collection
South Australian Shiraz (£5.79) is a fat,
velvety, blackberry-styled gem.
This week’s best buys
2016 Vernaccia di
San Gimignano,
Italy, 13 per cent
Lidl, £7.49
Lidl’s limited
editions don’t
hang around for
long, so if you
fancy this
pleasant, crisp
yet grapey
Tuscan white, get
your skates on.
2017 Secret Cellar
South Africa,
13.5 per cent
Waitrose, £4.99
(down from £7.79)
Splendid oakchipped shiraz
with a dollop of
grenache and
plump, spicy,
squished Victoria
plum fruit.
2016 Fusion
GewürztraminerRiesling, Pillitteri,
12 per cent
Lidl, £9.99
Curiously classy,
off-dry Canadian
white from
Niagara-on-theLake, with spicey,
stone fruit.
2013 Skillogalee
14.5 per cent
Co-op, £14.99
eucalyptus and
dried cranberrryspiced French
and American
oak-aged shiraz
from top spot,
2016 Château de
Colombe, Castillon
Côtes de
Bordeaux, France,
14.5 per cent
Sunday Times
Wine Club,
An earthy, figgy
merlot, Castillon
is the Côtes de
Bordeaux to
2013 Cornas Les
Domaine Michelas
St Jemms, France,
13 per cent
Oddbins, £39
As good as
northern Rhône
syrah gets; a
peppery star.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
plants for a
shady spot
These colourful
flowers thrive where
there’s less light —
and this is the
moment to plant
them, says Joe Swift
plants — pulmonarias, epimediums, dicentra, brunnera,
sweet woodroffe and the evergreen common wood spurge
and periwinkle — take advantage of the window of milder
weather and increase in seasonal light at
this time of year to burst into flower.
Ferns unfurl their juicy green fronds to
accompany them and create an exciting
time in the garden; full of hope, freshness
and a new season’s colour palette. Many of
these plants flower before a tree canopy
covers them in shade, thriving in the
leaf-mould-rich soil below — a result of
years of deciduous tree leaves decaying on
the ground to create the ideal free-draining growing medium.
We don’t all have a woodland garden or
a garden with a woodland area in it, but
most gardens have spots where these
plants will thrive and can be extremely
useful, such as areas under trees and general shady areas against walls or fences. I
find it hard to go wrong when combining
these types of plants; they complement
each other and few are divas.
Now is a good time to plant, so lay them
out informally and think in larger drifts of
fewer varieties for a natural feel. Springflowering bulbs such as Anemone blanda,
bluebells or winter aconites (Eranthis
hyemalis) can be added in autumn for
spring flowering. If you want some instant
impact and didn’t get round to planting
bulbs or corms last autumn, these varieties
can be bought in pots in flower (or just
about to flower) now and popped straight
into gaps. It’s a slightly more expensive
way of planting, but when you think about
how much a bunch of cut flowers costs at
least you know these will come back year
on year if they are happy.
Don’t always try to fill every square
inch of ground in the border; a few gaps
here and there will give plants space to
breathe and look more natural. A few bags
of bark chippings thrown on to the bare
earth may be all you need to delineate
a meandering path through your woodland-style planting. A simple destination
point of a bench placed under a tree
will turn what was once a problem
shady area into the ideal spot to watch
spring advance.
If you have the space to add in some
woody shrubs or want to create some
structure to anchor these woodlanders,
then the native Guelder rose (Viburnum
opulus) is a fine choice and natural
companion. It flowers in spring with large
lacecap white flowers that open from
apple-green tightly rounded buds. In
autumn, its lobed leaves turn yellow,
orange and red and at the same time it
bears translucent red berries.
Joe’s top woodland plants
Elephant’s ears (Bergenia ‘Silberlicht’)
Bishop’s hat (Epimedium x Warlayense)
Native wood spurge (Euphorbia
amygdaloides var. robbiae)
Great Solomon’s seal
(Polygonatum biflorum)
Lungwort (Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’)
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Tough as old boots, bergenias are ideal for woodland
gardens. Many have lipstick-pink flowers, but this
one carries upright spikes of pink-white flowers on
reddish stems. Dark green leathery foliage. Height
45cm, spread 45cm
This can cope with very dry shade once established.
Dark glossy rounded evergreen leaves and zingy green
flowers. Height 65cm, spread 1m
Most epimediums are native to China, so work well in a
more oriental garden, but I love them for their spring
daintiness and autumn colours. This one has striking
orange-yellow flowers on long stems. Height 50cm,
spread 75cm
A vigorous, tall-growing Solomon’s seal reaching up to
4ft, with gracefully arching stems and greenish-white
flowers in spring. Height 1.2m, spread 60cm
How to grow them
All these plants like free-draining,
humus-rich soil, so incorporate plenty of
leaf mould and dig over compacted
areas well before planting. Mulch again
with leaf mould every year in January/
February. Some can be grown around and
between tree roots, but it’s best to plant
small plants rather than big ones, and
keep them well watered until they establish themselves.
It’s an exciting
time full of
hope, freshness
and a new
season’s colour
Pulmonarias clump densely to make excellent shady
ground cover. This one is a particularly good form, with
dark violet blue flowers and clear green foliage (many
are mottled). Height 35cm, spread 45cm
Whorls of fresh green leaves and masses of
starry-white flowers. An excellent ground-cover plant
in tricky spots between shady shrubs and ferns.
Height 20cm, spread 35cm
the times Saturday February 3 2018
‘Water hurried over rapids, fed
by tributaries that tumbled
down through the woods’
Christopher Somerville’s good walk
The dahlias to buy now
With hundreds of
varieties available,
Stephen Anderton
picks his favourites
Corydalis ‘Blackberry Wine’
Corydalises are fabulous woodlanders that freely carpet
the ground and self-seed once happy. This one has
finely cut blue-green foliage and lightly fragrant
purple-pink flowers that hover above the leaves. Height
30cm, spread 20cm
Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla
‘Jack Frost’)
Great for shade because its foliage is tonally light, almost
silvery, so ideal for lifting a dark spot. Sprays of dainty
light blue flowers in spring. Height 45cm, spread 60cm.
Trillium kurabayashii ‘Ruby Realm’
Lush woodland plants grown from rhizomes planted in
autumn, or as pot plants in spring. This has large and
showy deep purple, upright, exotic-looking flowers and
three large speckled leaves. Height and spread 40cm
Q I like the snowdrop
varieties that have their
flowers on really long
dangly stems. Which
ones would you
P Holden
ail-order catalogues
are offering summer
bulbs and tubers
— and it’s such a
temptation. It’s a good
time to find them in
garden centres too.
Dahlia tubers are ready to be potted and
planted after the frosts. You need a big
pot, tubers planted 5-6cm under the
surface and some ordinary compost.
You may be a bit fazed by the many
different categories of flower, however,
with several hundred varieties available
for sale in Britain. Here are some
excellent but very different varieties —
all of them are dahlias. Choose some
and order now.
Whether giant or miniature, so-called
decorative varieties are your classic
dahlia shape: a great powder puff of
petals unfurling endlessly from the
centre. Remember, any chest-high
dahlia is very heavy in rain and must
be staked, or they will lurch sideways
in full flower.
Everyone should have a go with ‘Café
au Lait’. It’s a ridiculous shade of peachy
pink, with a large flower.
The dark-leaved ‘David Howard’
(80cm) is a reliable apricot-orange with
12cm flowers. ‘Arabian Night’ (1m) is
darkest maroon and irresistible.
A There are many
expensive, hard-to-find
snowdrops with flowers
that swing out from the
top of the stem on a wiry
little stalk (pedicel), but
they don’t all do well.
However, ‘S Arnott’ (18cm
tall and also known as
‘Sam Arnott’) is as
common and robust as
they come, the little
flower stalk arching and
lengthening from the top
of the stem as the flower
matures. ‘Magnet’ (11cm
tall) is even danglier.
Email your gardening
questions to
Dahlia ‘David Howard’
These are the kind with tubular scrolled
petals that taper to a point, so they
appear more widely spaced than the
those of the decoratives. Flower
arrangers love them, especially varieties
with long stalks. (Dahlias grown for
competition have the side buds nipped
out to force the energy into fewer, larger
blooms. Even so, the flowers of some
varieties can still be naturally huge.)
‘Hillcrest Royal’ (1m) is a strong
variety, a deep blue-magenta colour that
looks good with other blues, though not
good with pinks. ‘Nuits d’Eté’ (1m) is a
deep maroon to match ‘Arabian Night’.
You need a posh spot for these
sophisticated but modest-sized blooms.
The flowers bear simple outer petals and
a golden centre disc, but between the
two comes a ruff of narrow mini-petals.
Mauve ‘Teesbrooke Red Eye’ (1m) is a
gem. (Posher still are the anemone types
with a mini-petal mound at the centre.)
Pompon and ball
These are small and large versions of the
same shape — a spherical mass of little
tubes packed together like honeycomb.
Technically, pompon varieties have
flowers no larger in diameter than
52mm; Ball variety flowers are fist-sized.
At 120cm, pompon ‘Franz Kafka’ is an
excellent lilac pink, but I grow it meaner
and it tops out at about 90cm. The rich
maroon flowers of ‘Moor Place’ (1m) go
well with loud summer pinks.
The point of bedding dahlias is that, at
about 40-60cm, they require no staking.
I grew some in 30cm-diameter pots last
year and they were terrific. ‘Crème de
Cassis’ is a star: purple on the back and a
developing paler shade of the same
colour on the front. ‘Twyning’s After
Eight’ (60cm) is named for its chalkywhite flowers over brown foliage.
Dahlia tubers
are ready to be
potted and
planted after
the frosts
Then there are the oddments, such as
the suddenly fashionable star or orchid
flowers with eight widely spaced narrow
petals round a central disc. Look out for
the various ‘Honka’ varieties (1m).
There’s the famous dark red and
black-leaved ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ with
just a few rows of petals round a golden
centre. It classifies as a peony type.
‘Classic Rosamunde’ is an 80cm darkleaved, semi-double, lilac-pink variety,
with a golden centre.
Trendiest of all is the double orchid
‘Giraffe’, a spotty, stripy mix of pink,
orange and yellow.
It takes only a few days
of warmth to get
clematis making long
wands of growth, so
cut most varieties back
now to knee-high. Give
them a big bucket of rich
garden compost around
the roots.
Many plants are pruned
hard every year and are
expected to go on
making vigorous new
growth each summer,
such as buddleia,
dogwoods, clematis,
Hydrangea paniculata
and ‘Annabelle’, formal
hedges and topiary.
Feed them now with lots
of compost and work in
a slow-release fertiliser.
If you are a rhubarb
lover, plant the variety
‘Livingstone’, which crops
in the autumn as well
as spring. Get your
money’s worth also with
“remontant” irises that
flower in June and
September. Find them
on the internet. SA
the times Saturday February 3 2018
22 Outside
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ snowdrops
Three easy
ways to make
winter flowers
last longer
Cut back old foliage
and mulch the base
of plants to give
them a new lease of
life, says Alice Bowe
Renew plants by clearing
old foliage
The subtle beauty of winter blooms such
as the Lenten rose (hellebore) can be
hidden by their large leathery leaves.
Removing foliage in midwinter allows
the rich colours and delicate speckles of
these blooms to be seen. The trick to
renewing plants by clearing old foliage is
to choose the optimum moment to snip.
January or February is a good time, just
as you see the new shoots and buds
Removing mature foliage
reveals emerging winter
flowers and also reduces
the prospect of disease
here are moments every winter
when the ground is so frozen that
you would need a pickaxe to plant,
and on these days I cannot resist
bundling on the layers and heading into
the solitude of the garden. Although the
option of planting into the frozen earth is
closed, there is plenty to do. At this time of
year there are three jobs that can
encourage winter flowers in the garden.
breaking the earth, but before the new
blooms may suffer damage from an
inattentive secateur snip.
Leaving this older foliage on the plant
until the last minute protects and
insulates the developing buds for as long
as possible and gives you something
more than bare earth to look at when
you glance at the garden over the
winter. Barrenwort (Epimedium) is
another plant whose miniature lilyshaped flowers can be masked by
evergreen or russet winter foliage.
As with the hellebores, grab a handful
of foliage, much as you would grasp hair
to make a ponytail, and snip close to the
ground. Tiny spurred flowers of pink,
purple, gold or white will unfurl from
the base of the plant on the wire-thin
stems, rising to 30cm, as if hovering
above the plant. These stunning little
flowers are followed by fresh
heart-shaped copper foliage, which
fades through green and remains on
the plant until the next midwinter
The task of removing mature
foliage not only reveals the
emerging winter flowers, but
reduces the prospect of disease,
because older foliage may harbour
fungal diseases, which can
discolour or spot the leaves. The
flowers are easier to admire when
they stand proud of older foliage and
will attract pollinators, and so set seed,
more effectively too.
Mulch around plants
Once old foliage has been removed,
apply a generous mulch round the
crown of the plants, to insulate and feed
and to allow the emerging flowers to
stand out against a clean backdrop. You
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can use well-rotted garden compost or a
commercial product such as Strulch for
this job.
Cut flowers to
enjoy inside
Helleborus orientalis
Once your winter flowers have appeared
in earnest, cut a few to bring indoors.
A miniature posy of honey-scented
snowdrops or sweet-smelling
violets look beautiful in an egg
cup, or small glass. The most
heavily scented varieties, such
as Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’, are
the ones I like to cut first,
although I also enjoy admiring
forms with more unusual
colouring, such as Galanthus
woronowii, which have a pretty
green mark on the inner segments,
like a cloven hoof.
It is worth searing the stems of plants
in boiling water for about 20 seconds to
help them to last in a vase. Use sharp
scissors or secateurs to ensure a clean
cut through the stem and add a drop of
Milton or disinfectant to the water to
limit the growth of bacteria
and promote longevity. Treated in this
way, flowers should last a week.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Outside 23
A good walk Ystradfellte &
Nedd Fechan, Brecon Beacons
he New Inn, as warm and
welcoming as you would
like every village pub to
be, is at the heart of the
tiny, but thriving
Ystradfellte, in a cleft of
the Brecon Beacons. It
takes a good positive community to
keep a pub, post office, church and
village hall going these days in such a
small and out-of-the-way place.
Brooks trickled and field ditches
chuckled with water after the previous
night’s rain. Down at Porth yr Ogof,
unearthly groans and roars issued from
a cave in which the Afon Mellte went
churning and twisting invisibly through
subterranean narrows. A file of
youngsters in hard hats and caving
overalls came up the path, grinning with
excitement at what they had seen.
A narrow, stony lane, all mud and
moss, led us over a green hillside and
down into a parallel valley, where the
Nedd Fechan River rushed beneath
Pont Rhyd-y-Cnau, the “bridge at the
ford of the nuts”. Hazels overhung the
water, but squirrels had gathered all the
nuts for winter.
We walked upriver beside the Nedd
Fechan, feeling its cold breath on our
cheeks. The rain-swollen water hurried
over rapids, fed by tributaries that
tumbled down through the woods in
stepped waterfalls. Pwll Du, the black
pool, lay quiet, a dark silver disc in a
cave mouth at the foot of a crag. We
scrambled up a steep little path and
teetered along at the rim of the gorge,
ducking under silver birch boughs
crusty with white and green lichens.
A farm track across the river led up to
Cefn-ucheldref, the “back homestead”, a
lonely clutch of mossy ruins on the
hillside. A final crossing of the Nedd
Fechan and we followed an old
bridleway eastwards over a sedgy
upland, until the neat white houses of
Ystradfellte appeared below in a twinkle
of lights through the dusk.
Start Ystradfellte car park, Brecon
Beacons CF44 9JE (OS ref: SN 930134)
Getting there Ystradfellte is signed from
A4059, 4 miles north of Hirwaun
Walk 6 miles, strenuous in parts, OS
Explorer OL12. Right by New Inn, past
church; cross river; in 200m, right
(932130, stile, yellow arrow/YA). Path
SSW to car park for Porth yr Ogof cave
(928124; detour down to right to see
cave). At road, right; just past
“Cwmporth” sign, left (blue arrow) on
bridleway SSW for ¾ mile to cross road
into lane (919117, “Nedd Valley”). In
200m, left through gate, down steep
Pwll Du, the
black pool, lay
quiet, a silver
disc in a cave
mouth at the
foot of a crag
sing a
Porth yr Ogof
Cwm Porth
500 metres
lane to Pont Rhyd-y-Cnau bridge
(912116). Don’t cross; go right (north) up
riverbank path. In 500m, at Pwll Du
(912121), climb above pool; follow
narrow upper path with fence on right
(steep slope to river — take care) for
500m to cross river (912126). Track
(occasional YAs) for 900m to Cefnucheldref ruin (909135). Right along
track above; in another 350m, right
(908139, unmarked track); cross river
(911140); left at road above. In 200m,
right (913141, gate, “Ystradfellte”
fingerpost) on bridleway east across
rough upland for ¾ mile to gate in angle
of walls (924138); green lane to
Conditions Muddy bridleways;
narrow path on steep slope from
Pwll Du northwards. Boots, sticks,
mud-proof legwear.
Lunch New Inn, Ystradfellte (01639
Accommodation Nant-Ddu Lodge,
Cwm Taf, Merthyr Tydfil CF48 2HY
(01685 379111,
More information, Detailed directions,
maps, more walks at,,
Christopher Somerville
Sarn Helen
in the
Beacons, in
ieldfares are out
everywhere in the fields,
the green cornfields and
pasture alike, seeking
worms and beetles. They
are large thrushes visiting
us for the winter from the
Continent. They always seem more
aloof than the other visiting thrushes,
the redwings, which are here in about
the same numbers, but are noticed
much more often.
The fieldfares stay out in the middle
of the fields, while the redwings, with
their scarlet flanks, often come into
woods and gardens and peer out from
hawthorn bushes.
On a good view you see that
fieldfares are unusually beautiful for
thrushes. They hold their dove-grey
heads high. They have rich chestnut
backs with contrasting black wings, and
the large spots on their upper breast are
set against a rich buff background. The
ornithologist EM Nicholson said that
they look like other thrushes, such as
mistle thrushes, that have half-turned
into more exotic birds.
They like fields beside woods, and
later in the winter gather in the treetops
to sing a rather subdued chorus. When
they fly up they make loud “chack,
chack” cries and go off in a more
orderly way than redwings, which
scatter wildly about the sky.
Some fieldfares stay here as late as
May. Back in Europe they build their
bulky nests in trees, and in Poland I
once saw a colony nesting in a wooded
churchyard on a hill, which is the kind
of place they like.
Their song is a rather creaky
warble, not to be compared with the
great songs of our mistle thrush and
song thrush. However, they are
unusual among thrushes in that they
sometimes sing while flying over their
territories. One that I saw in Poland
went up into the air almost vertically,
singing from the start. It made me
think for a moment of a monster
Derwent May
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
26 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
‘At 3,000 metres I take in the
magnificent mountains, then
ski down silent slopes’
Lucy Grewcock falls for Heiligenblut resort in Austria
Mas de Quatre Saisons, Côte d’Azur
The 50 best villas in the Med
From a bolt hole on
Santorini to a family
farmhouse in
Umbria, Liz Bird
picks the best
places to book now
1 Villa Lumière St Tropez
costs from £2,900 (020 7351 6384,
lus fuel Boat hire is £340 plus
and skipper a day
Whizz across the waters in your
speedboat while staying at this elegant
four-bedroom villa high in the hills
above St Tropez. Recently refurbished
with wooden floors, contemporary
lighting and updated bathrooms, it has
a Zen-inspired feel, with the occasional
Buddha and water feature. The outdoor
space is particularly lovely with
numerous terraces. A winding stone
staircase in the extensive gardens leads
to a heated pool with superb views of
the bay of St Tropez. The coast is a
20-minute drive away.
Details A week for six to eight people
2 Mas de Quatre
Saisons Côte d’Azur
On a hillside with views across
the plain of Grasse, with the
Mediterranean visible in the
distance, the highlight of this
marvellous villa is its 15m
heated pool and landscaped
garden. Inside the house there
are colonial-style fans, antiques,
whitewashed walls, bright art and
gilded mirrors. There’s also a smart
indoor pool and a guest house. The
seven rooms are split between all three.
Details A week for 14 costs from £9,279
(01242 787800,
3 La Maison Moderne,
Cô d’Azur
Th white modernist villa is on
the peninsula of Cap d’Antibes,
famed for its picturesque
The interior is simply
with three double
two of which share a
overlooking the decked
poo There is only one bathroom,
with a separate shower room.
Antib is home to a Picasso
museum and the sandy Salis beach.
Details A week for six costs from £1,680
(0117 946 7072, W
the times Saturday February 3 2018
28 Travel
4 Villa de la Plage,
St Tropez
It’s the location at Ramatuelle that
makes this pretty four-bedroom villa in a
quiet residential area so special. The
sandy strand of L’Escalet beach is only
200m away and there are lovely sea
views from the terraces, garden and pool.
Simply furnished in neutral shades, the
living areas are light and airy, with
French doors leading to the numerous
terraces. Three doubles and a double/
twin, some with rather dated bathrooms,
are spread across the main house and
annex. The beach clubs of Pampelonne
beach are a short drive away.
Details A week for eight costs
from £7,975 (01442 870055, Fly to Toulon
5 Villa Karazan
Fayence, Var
This spacious villa is near the medieval
hilltop village of Fayence in an area
famed for its olive groves and vineyards.
Ideal for gourmands, it has a market
most days and top-notch restaurants.
There are four bedrooms, but the owner
prefers to rent just two so you can take
your pick from a choice of twins and
doubles. The shady one-acre secure
garden has a fenced pool surrounded by
sun-drenched terraces.
Details A week for four costs from
£1,100 (; reference
227793). Fly to Nice
6 Villa Mimosa Ménerbes,
This country-chic cottage is beautifully
decorated, with luxury bed linen
adorning iron or four-poster beds,
exposed stone walls, ancient beams and
a pretty mature garden scented with
lavender. There is a heated pool. The
villa is in the grounds of a five-star hotel,
and your housekeeper delivers fresh
croissants each morning. Other meals
can also be delivered. Go hiking, horse
riding or hire electric bikes to explore
the Luberon National Park or head to
Aix-en-Provence for kayaking along the
Luberon river.
Details A week for ten costs from
€6,300 (020 3432 7784, Fly to Avignon
7 Bastide De L’Ormee
Côte d’Azur
Ideal for young families, this beautifully
restored bastide in Tourrettes-sur-Loup
has its own chef, nanny and housekeeper
so you really will feel like you’re on
holiday. The contemporary interior is all
natural stone and muted tones with an
open-plan living area. The two en suite
doubles have French doors leading on to
a balcony or terrace and there are two
en suite twins. There is a large pool with
steps. Don’t miss the arty town of
St Paul de Vence; the nearest beach
is 8km away.
Details A week for eight costs from
£12,080, including flights, car hire and
the services of a nanny and chef (020
3733 4655, Fly to Nice
or Marseilles
8 Imagine Roussillon
Canet en Roussillon,
They have thought of everything for
young families at this complex of villas
and apartments less than ten minutes
from the coast. Children will love the
trampolines, sandpit, zip wire, games
barn, two heated pools and a drop-in
kids’ club. Four modern apartments and
villas sleep between two and five people
and are well equipped with comfortable
beds, a choice of pillows and good
showers. During school holidays a
complimentary adult dinner is served on
Mondays and Wednesdays while the
children are fed en masse and looked
after by babysitters. Safe sandy beaches
abound near by.
Details A week for up to four (and baby)
costs from £1,666 ( Fly to
9 A Torra Corsica
Walk through the garden gate
to a small sandy beach from
this Provencale-style,
blue-shuttered villa on the
south coast. Original
features such as exposed
beams, stone and terracotta
floors and thick wooden
doors are complemented by
contemporary furnishings and
antiques. The well-equipped
kitchen and dining area has large
sliding doors leading to a covered
terrace and a lawn. The master double
is in the main house and there are three
doubles, and one small French double
bed in an annexe.
Details A week for eight costs
from £5,581 (020 7377 8518, Fly to Figari
10 Villa Seolane St Tropez
This blue-shuttered villa oozes character
with its beamed ceilings, tiled floors and
antiques. The living room is light while
the contemporary kitchen has all the
mod cons. It has an enclosed garden and
a pool with an alarm. There are four
double bedrooms, but two only suitable
for one adult because of the small beds.
Don’t miss the bi-weekly market at Port
Grimaud, often called Little Venice for
its maze of canals. The hill-top village of
Gassin is 2km away while the
Pampelonne beaches are 10km away
Details A week for six costs from £4250
(020 8003 6557, Fly
to Nice
Greece and Cyprus
11 Kamini Santorini
Two old kilns have been restored and
renovated to create this stunning
whitewashed villa high on a hill with sea
views. The
T bigger kiln is home to the
kitchen and living space, while the
smal kiln houses the bathroom for
the two double bedrooms. The
has designer furniture,
outside, there is an infinity
po hot tub and gorgeous views.
Details A week for four costs from
£3,220 (020 7183 3554,
12 Villa Karavias
The horseshoe-arched
Trapezaki beach,
ideal for
fo snorkelling, is a five-minute
from this three-bedroom villa
walk fr
surrounded by olive groves. Two of the
three bedrooms — a double and a twin,
which are on the first floor — have
lovely sea views and share a bathroom.
Another shower room is downstairs next
to the other double bedroom. The
contemporary open-plan living area
includes a smart kitchen with a large
fridge-freezer and an L-shaped sofa, and
leads to a walled garden with pool.
Details A week for six costs from £485
(0800 0740122,
13 Villa Alexa Paxos
This new five-bedroom villa has been
designed as a family-friendly retreat,
with everything from football goals to
badminton equipment. The large
T-shaped infinity pool is protected by
childproof gates. The light and spacious
interior has a chic seaside feel, while the
covered outdoor dining area has
spectacular sea views. Take the footpath
from the garden to Kipiadi beach, a
seven-minute walk away. Pratigos
taverna is 15 minutes away.
Details A week for nine (plus two on a
mezzanine) costs from £4,000 (01749
812721, Fly to Corfu
and then catch the hydrofoil
14 Michaels Country
Cottage Skopelos
This idyllic blue-shuttered cottage for
two is incredibly romantic. A first-floor
country-style bedroom with beamed
ceilings and a double bed has French
doors leading to a cute balcony. It has
been lovingly restored and retains an
original wall of stone in the sitting room
and bread oven in the kitchenette. Steps
lead down from the terrace to a pool
with sunloungers, and there’s a built-in
barbecue and outdoor kitchen. The
beaches of Stafilos and Velanio are a
ten-minute walk away.
Details A week for two costs from
£599pp, including flights, transfers
and car hire (01444 225641, Fly to Skiathos,
then take the ferry
15 Meganissi View
It’s all about the view at this immaculate
new villa, which overlooks the tiny
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 29
a substantial shaded dining terrace. The
villa shares a basic tennis court with a
sister property. A long sand and shingle
beach is a 20-minute walk, or drive five
minutes to Latchi, where you can rent a
motorboat to explore the spectacular
Akamas peninsula coastline.
Details A week for eight costs from
£3,768 from May (£471pp), with flights
and car hire (020 8758 4758,
18 Daglas Beach House
This simply furnished house has a pretty
garden leading to a sandy beach. Sip a
sundowner on the covered front terrace
overlooking the water with views to the
island of Madouri. Decorated in blue and
white, the house has three comfortable
air-conditioned twin bedrooms, one en
suite, and a large modern shower room.
Walk along the beach to Nidri’s bustling
harbour or hire a motorboat and explore
neighbouring islands such as Meganisi.
Details A week for six costs from
£3,900, including all flights and transfers
(020 8758 4758, Fly to
Prevesa, then take the road bridge
22 Villa Bonaire Majorca
The owner of this new minimalist villa
could have easily fitted more bedrooms
into the sprawling property, but decided
to devote most of the upper floor to a
private sun terrace for the master
bedroom. Vast expanses of glass blur
the boundaries between inside and
out. There is an open-plan living area
and two ground-floor bedrooms. Mal
Pas beach is a 15-minute walk downhill,
while Puerto Pollensa is a 15-minute
drive away.
Details Seven nights for six costs from
£2,892 (£482pp), including flights to
Palma and car hire (020 8003 6557,
19 Rou Villa Corfu
A London artist spotted this once
roofless ruin on the northeast coast and
transformed it into a stylish and spacious
one-bedroom retreat. The sitting room
wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of
an interiors magazine, with its high
ceilings, cream sofas, wood-burner and
two sets of French doors opening on to
balconies. Steps lead up to a light-filled
kitchen with a polished concrete floor,
industrial lights and Shaker-style units.
There’s a lovely pool and lots of places to
enjoy the sea views. It’s a 15-minute drive
from Agni Beach.
Details A week for two costs from
€1,875 (020 3859 7763,
island of Meganissi. Floor-to-ceiling
windows show off the watery vistas,
while a huge terrace spans one side of
the house and has a shaded pergola
with a dining and seating area. All five
bedrooms are big and modern, with
terraces and en suites. Staff will lay out
sunloungers on the private beach and
take you island-hopping in the boat
moored on the pontoon. Kayaks and
paddleboards are available.
Details A week for ten costs from
£14,000, including maid service and
an in-house cook (01749 812721, Fly to Preveza, then
take a ten-minute sea-taxi transfer
16 Villa Argiro Crete
Behind high stone walls and only 100m
from the nearest taverna in Plaka, this
beautifully restored village house has the
kind of space you would expect from a
more rural plot. There’s plenty of outside
space, with two lawns, a pool and a
courtyard barbecue terrace with a wood
oven and a lovely first-floor terrace with
a pergola and sea and mountain views.
The rustic interior has stone arches,
beamed ceilings and three bedrooms.
The sandy sweep of pretty Almerida is
a short walk downhill.
Details A week for six costs from £833
(01789 297705, Fly to Chania
17 Aspro Alogo Paxos
The British owners of this pretty
stone house near the port of
Loggos have transformed it into
a contemporary and cosy bolt hole.
They have done a good job: a double
bedroom sits on a mezzanine above
the open-plan living area, with its
stylish kitchen and shower room.
A private courtyard has a plunge
pool and wooden sunloungers, and is
fringed by beautiful bougainvillea.
Details A week for two costs from £580
(01243 820928, Fly
to Corfu and take a hydrofoil transfer
20 Villa Sky
Paphos, Cyprus
This stylish one-bedroom
villa is in a small complex
only a few hundred metres
from the beach. A light-filled,
open-plan living area with
polished marble floors and a
sleek kitchen opens on to a chic
terrace with sunloungers lining a
triangular pool. Walk along the new
boardwalk to Paphos.
Details A week for two costs from
m £1,049
(0800 0740122,
21 Amaranta Villa
Prodromi, Cyprus
It’s the lush gardens that make this
simply furnished villa so special. In
one of Cyprus’s greenest valleys, the
four-bedroom whitewashed house is
surrounded by vineyards, pecan and
citrus trees. A large pool is overlooked by
23 Villas del Lago Minorca
This good-value three-bedroom villa,
part of a complex built in the grounds of
the Hotel
Ho Casas del Lago, overlooks the
marina in bustling Cala’n Bosch and is a
walk from a white-sand
beach. The pool area is lovely, with
decked terrace dotted with
sunloungers, while another terrace
the marina. The modern
has a lovely open-plan
area and kitchen and a
twin and single rooms.
A week for five costs from
with flights and car hire
24 C
Carlita Costa Brava
The hilltop
town of Begur makes an ideal
base, wi
with its cobbled streets, ruined
castle, w
weekly market and good
restaurants. The enclosed garden of this
simply furnished two-bedroom villa is
delightful, with a lovely pool, terrace and
wood oven. Inside there’s a contemporary
kitchen and rustic lounge.
Details A week for four costs from £894
(01954 261431,
Continued next page
the times Saturday February 3 2018
30 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 31
25 Ca’n Teulula Majorca
Surrounded by orchards, this traditional
finca is set in large grounds and has a new
pool with Roman steps for easy access
and a shallow end for younger children.
It’s simply furnished with terracotta tiles
and whitewashed walls, and has a
contemporary kitchen with modern units.
A twin bedroom sits on a gallery above
the living room with a fireplace and
glazed double doors to the terrace with a
barbecue. The sandy beaches of Puerto
Pollensa and Cala San Vicenc are a
ten-minute drive away.
Details A week for four costs from £693
(01789 297705,
26 Molino del Carmen
This former olive mill in Gaucin has been
transformed into seven apartments, most
with jasmine-scented terraces overlooking
a pool shaded by stylish white canvas
sails. The interiors are lovely, with
reminders of the building’s past, including
presses and millstones, complemented
by white arches and Moorish decor. The
beaches of Sabinillas or Sotogrande are a
30-minute drive away.
Details A week for two to eight costs
from €445-€1,850 (
27 Villa Cala Bassa Ibiza
This boho-chic house with two-bedroom
cottage has equal appeal for children and
adults. Children will love the football
pitch, pool table, climbing area, treehouse
and separate children’s pool. Adults will
appreciate the natural stone, luxurious
fabrics and bright ceramics of the sevenbedroom Moorish house. If you want to
party, head to the Cala Bassa Beach Club.
Details A week for 14 costs from £6,287
(0800 9885586,
Children will love the pool, playground
and floodlit sports pitch. Three of the six
double bedrooms can be converted to
twins. Novigrad Beach is 20km away.
Details A week for 14 costs from £2,478
( Fly to Pula
33 Villa Duka Konavle
28 Casita Sant Carles
Shop for local handmade jewellery and
clothes at the weekly Las Dalias “Hippy
Market” while staying at this characterful
three-bedroom villa. Sant Carles is also
the home of Anita’s Bar, a famous
hangout for artists and thespians in the
1960s and 1970s. Set in pretty gardens, the
villa has an open-plan living area with
wood beams and exposed stone leading
to a shaded terrace overlooking the pool.
Details A week for five costs from £1,774
(020 3811 1997,
29 Bella Casa Majorca
This stylish stone house sits in a much
sought-after location right on the
seafront, close to two superb fish
restaurants. The interior is very light and
airy, with two sets of French doors from
the sitting room, which has cream sofas, a
fireplace, wood-beamed ceiling and
terracotta tiles. There are four bedrooms,
some with marble bathrooms and
contemporary four-posters. It is a steep
15-minute climb to the village of Deia.
Details A week for eight costs from
£5,287 (0800 9885586,
30 Olive Costa Blanca
This three-bedroom villa is part of a rural
complex that has top-notch facilities for
families with young children. As well as
an enclosed shared saltwater heated pool
with toddler section, there’s an enormous
enclosed playground and indoor
playroom. It’s very sociable, with a
welcome barbecue, cinema night and
“Mummy Monday”, which includes a
family buffet breakfast, facial, a glass of
cava and a homemade meal delivered to
your door. Babysitting can be arranged.
Details A week for six costs from £1,045
(0800 0142770,
31 Finca Tortuga Minorca
This restored 250-year-old farmhouse in
Alaior is on a nature reserve and makes
an excellent base for a chilled-out family
break. You will want to spend most of
your time by the large saltwater (gated)
pool by day or sipping drinks and playing
cards in the central courtyard at night.
Play ping pong or have a game of tennis
on the villa’s court. The lush gardens are
beautiful, with olive trees, figs, peaches
and palms in abundance. Two of the six
elegant bedrooms are interconnecting.
Details A week for 12 costs from £4,621
(01242 787800,
32 Sancta Maria Istria
There’s a boho-chic vibe to this restored
stone farmhouse that’s dotted with kilim
rugs, antiques, Sicilian ceramics and
modern paintings offsetting the original
terracotta floors and wood-beamed
ceilings. The gardens are lovely, with
palms, lemon trees, oleander and azalea.
road, it’s not suitable for young children
or the infirm. Dubrovnik is only a
15-minute walk away.
Details A week for four costs from €1,840
(01494 671359,
36 Luxury Villa Hvar
This stunning 17th-century five-bedroom
Surrounded by lofty cypress trees on a
stone villa overlooks the water in Hvar’s
hillside, this new stone villa has superb
Old Town. The roof terrace has a pool
rural views towards the Adriatic. It’s quite
that can be covered with a sliding glass
snug inside, with exposed stone walls in
roof in cooler weather. On the ground
the open-plan living area. Stairs lead up to floor is a wine cellar, sauna and relaxation
a double bedroom. The outdoor space is
room where you can have a massage or
lovely, with a pretty pool area and a stone
soak in the hot tub. The elegant sitting
pathway that leads to a waterfall. It’s a
room has three sets of French doors
300m stroll to a local bar.
leading to a lovely waterside balcony.
Details A week for two costs from
Take a boat taxi to the sandy beaches
£418 (01951 261431,
at Pakleni.
Details A week
for ten
Fly to Dubrovnik
costs fr
from $6,384
34 Villa
Brac West
This five-bedroom
modern villa
certainly has the
wow factor, with
an infinity pool
perched on top of
the building offering
stunning views from
practically every angle.
Acres of glass maximise
low light
the bay views and allow
to flood in. A terracee on the ground
floor gives access to a small pebble beach.
Each of the five bedrooms has an en suite
bathroom and terrace. There’s also table
tennis and a cinema room.
Details A week for ten costs from £5,570
( Fly to Split
35 Villa Dubrovnik View
Enjoy superb views of Dubrovnik Old
Town from this two-bedroom villa
clinging to the hillside overlooking the
Adriatic. Floor-to-ceiling French doors
flood light into the open-plan living space,
with its cool white tiles and well-equipped
kitchen. There are two large double
bedrooms. Reached via steps from the
37 Tesoro
It’s not often that
you find a villa
with a soft-play
room. This fivebedro
bedroom 16th-century
farmhouse makes an
ideal retrea
retreat for families
with young chil
children and
babies. They will love the trampoline
and ping-pong table, fenced garden
area with play equipment and separate
toddler pool. Adults will appreciate
the exposed stone walls, beautiful
wood ceilings and terracotta floors
complemented by contemporary
bathrooms and designer lights. There is
also underfloor heating, a Sonos sound
system and Dyson room fans. Chefs can
be hired and babysitting arranged.
Details A week for 12 costs from €5,025
(01749 812721,
Fly to Perugia
Continued next page
40 Nights
Was £2999
Now from only
Southampton, UK - embark Navigator of the Seas
6 days at sea to enjoy this fabulous ship
Boston - Massachusetts
New York (overnight onboard in port)
Port Canaveral (for Orlando)
Miami to disembark and embark MSC Divina
Day at sea before calling at Ocho Rios - Jamaica
Day at sea before calling at Cartagena - Columbia
Cristobal - Panama
Puerto Limon - Costa Rica
Day at sea before calling at Costa Maya - Mexico
Cozumel - Mexico
Day at sea before arriving into Miami to disembark
5nt hotel stay in Miami
Amtrak Train to New York (overnight)
3nt New York hotel stay
Embark Queen Mary 2 for your luxury
cruise to Southampton
Amazing Itinerary
A cruise holiday doesn’t have to be confined to a single
ship or itinerary. These days, the latest amazing no fly
cruise adventures combine several sailings together to
create a once in a lifetime journey that’s truly memorable.
Tick two items off your bucket list in one fantastic holiday. Take a Transatlantic
voyage cruising the Atlantic Ocean on Navigator of the Seas, followed by
visits to Boston & New York the world’s most exciting city, where the Statue of
Liberty, Empire State Building, famous shops and museums await. Join MSC
Divina in Miami where you’ll visit the Caribbean Islands. There is no doubt
that the Caribbean has always been one of the most beautiful and fascinating
destinations in the world, a dreamland to relax in magnificent settings
surrounded by long stretches of white sandy beaches, palm trees, exotic fruit,
coral reefs bustling with multicoloured tropical fish and a turquoise sea.
During the day, enjoy the ship’s
multiple pools and whirlpools,
including an adults-only pool area
in the ship’s Solarium. The ship’s
spa features a full salon, massage
rooms, and a complete list of spa
services. In the evening, stroll the
giant mall-like Royal Promenade
to visit shops, people-watch in the
multiple bars and cafes, or enjoy
a Broadway-style show is
performed in the ship’s gorgeous
5-story theatre.
MSC Divina will allow you to
explore some the world’s best
white sandy beaches, crystal blue
oceans, and colourful landscapes.
Bringing together a whole host
of glamorous and luxurious
amenities, this ship is perfectly
equipped to enhance your
Caribbean cruise experience. With
a dedicated spa service, exquisite
restaurants, and luxury rooms, this
is by far one of the most relaxing
cruise experiences you’ll
find anywhere.
Her elegance and scale are like
no other. Encompassed within
her graceful lines are fifteen
restaurants and bars, five
swimming pools, a full- sized
theatre, a casino, a Canyon Ranch
SpaClub, a 3D cinema, a full
scale floating planetarium and
the largest dance floor at sea.
If you love fresh sea air, there
are acres of deck space and - as
on all three Cunard Queens - a
traditional promenade deck that
circumnavigates the ship.
Once in Miami, enjoy a 5 night hotel stay where you can enjoy the Latin
rhythms and South Beach which is as known for its beautiful people and
nightlife as its art deco architecture.
Next take the Amtrak Train to New York, and enjoy the city that never sleeps
for 3 nights. Your final cruise adventure on this special itinerary sees you
embark Queen Mary 2 for your crossing back to Southampton to enjoy another
seven nights of blissful indulgence aboard the ultimate ocean liner. Luxury is in
the detail, with elegant suites and staterooms, sumptuous new restaurants and
a re-imagined Grills experience, reaffirming Cunard as the best of the best.
This perfect, no-fly combination allows you to see more of the world without
the stress of airport queues. And what’s more, with no luggage restrictions
you can shop until you drop and take all your wonderful cruise outfits.
CALL FREE 0800 953 4979
Terms and Conditions - Prices and itinerary may vary on other dates. Visas may be required for certain destinations and is the customers responsibility to obtain, please check at the time of booking. A limited number
of staterooms are available at these promotional prices and may be withdrawn at any time. All prices are from prices and are pp based on 2 sharing. Prices are based on the lowest available interior stateroom. Offers
include all meals and entertainment onboard ship & all taxes and surcharges. Flights based on London unless otherwise stated. Offers subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time. Full terms & conditions
apply. Prices are correct at the time of going to print.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 33
exploring the northwest coast beaches
including La Pelosa beach.
Details A week for four costs from £1,152
(01202 484858,
Fly to Alghero
46 Villa Favorita Puglia
This elegant 19th-century house has been
beautifully restored and still features
some of the original floor tiles and
furniture. The most remarkable feature is
the summer kitchen overlooking the pool.
Next to this is a dining table, pool table
and lounge area with an original
17th-century Florentine fireplace. One of
the three bedrooms is in the vaulted
basement reached via a sweeping
staircase and dotted with antiques.
Details A week for six costs from £3,510
(£750pp) including all flights to Bari
(020 8003 6557,
47 Villa Carmina Gocek
38 Cupole Arabe Sicily
This dome-shaped villa in Cornino Bay
reflects the once strong Arab influence on
the island’s west coast; it has a design that
helps to keep everything cool in the
summer and warm in winter. A larger
central dome houses the living and dining
room while the two smaller ones are
home to the double bedrooms and
bathrooms. There are also two single
bedrooms, a sofa bed and a lovely terrace
with a sea view. There’s no pool but a
sandy beach is 200m away.
Details A week for six (plus one) costs
from £1,108 (020 7193 7302, Fly to Palermo
39 Attico Tuscany
You will want to spend most of your time
on the raised terrace of this one-bedroom,
first-floor apartment at Punta Nera,
thanks to the spectacular bay views.
Reach it via the light-filled lounge and
dining room, with their antiques and
polished wood floors. There’s a compact
but well-equipped kitchen. Walk down
steep steps to a stony beach via the shared
garden, where you can also retreat to the
shade of the pine trees.
Details A week for two costs from
£1,306 (0121 286 7782,
Fly to Perugia
40 Don Venerando Sicily
There’s no need to fight over the five en
suite bedrooms in this elegant villa with
superb views of Mount Etna and the
Ionian Sea; they’re all lovely. The seafacing side of the house has multiple
terraces, lawns and pool, and steps lead
down to a long pebble beach. More sandy
beaches with Blue Flag status can be
found at Fiumefreddo and Marina di
Cottone. Guests can dine at the owner’s
restaurant at the Donna Carmela hotel.
Details A week for ten costs from
£9,125 (020 7377 8518, Fly to Catania
41 Casetta Angeli Amalfi
It will be hard to tear yourselves away
from the vine-draped terrace of this
whitewashed, blue-shuttered villa clinging
to the cliff edge. Overlooking the sea and
Galli islands, the views are spectacular.
The simply furnished villa has two
en suite double bedrooms and an openplan living area. Climb down 80 steps to a
communal pool sunk into a stone-walled
terrace over the sea. Further steps lead to
a semi-private beach.
Details A week for four costs from
£2,415 (020 8968 0501,
42 Villa Chic Tuscany
On a country estate in Cortona, these
dusky pink villas — one sleeping six, the
other two — belie their cool interiors.
The clutter-free, minimalist decor is
complemented by contemporary
bathrooms and kitchens, designer
Explore the 12 islands of Gocek on board
your own speedboat when you rent this
five-bedroom luxury villa, which also
comes with a chauffeured seven-seater
Mercedes and a resident cook. The
views of Gocek Bay are superb from the
terrace, which has a heated pool and
separate hot tub, outside bar and shaded
seating area. Ideal for a family or group
of friends, the sprawling three-storey,
five-bedroom villa (which has a lift) also
has a games room.
Details A week for 12 costs from £5,800
(01784 817720,
Fly to Dalaman
furniture and modern art. Each villa has a
garden and pool with far-reaching rural
views of sun-drenched fields and rolling
hillsides. The nearby hilltop town of
Cortona is a slice of Tuscan loveliness.
Details A week for eight costs from £3,713
( Fly to Perugia
48 Lighthouse Lofts
Gunbatimi Kas
43 Rancale Umbria
This pretty stone farmhouse in
Pierantonio is run by a British couple.
Guests staying in Rancale, one of three
apartments with terracotta floors and
barrel vaulted ceilings, can book
homemade ready meals, grocery
shopping and babysitting, and eat alfresco
in their private outdoor dining area. The
gardens also have an enclosed pool as
well as a play fort and Wendy house.
Details A week for four costs
from £700 (020 3603 1160,
Fly to Perugia
44 Masserie
Maresca Puglia
This stone country house in
the white city of Ostuni has been
lovingly converted into three
self-catering apartments sleeping
two to six. The decor is light
and bright with long white sofas,
whitewashed or exposed stone wallss and
modern bathrooms. Dotted with gnarled
olive trees dating back more than 1,000
years old, the spacious grounds have
extensive lawns and a shared pool. Blue
Flag beaches are a 10-minute drive away.
Details A week for two costs from €1,120
(or €2,520 for six), including breakfast
( Fly to Brindisi
45 Villa Santa Barbara
Surrounded by an organic olive grove,
this two-bedroom villa is in a rural spot
near the northwest coast. A large veranda
with wooden table and benches and a
barbecue overlooks the unfenced pool.
The pièce de résistance is a large
well-equipped kitchen, with doors leading
to the terrace. There are two simply
furnished bedrooms, a double and twin
and two shower rooms. Don’t miss
Watch the boats going in and out of
Kas Marina from this pair of high-spec,
minimalist villas. Acres of glass and
double-height ceilings maximise the sea
views. The master bedroom is on a large
mezzanine overlooking the main living
area, which is decorated in a neutral
palette. The other double bedroom is on
the ground floor. As well as a freshwater
pool, there is a private swimming platform.
Guests can also get complimentary access
club at the sister hotel, Deniz
to the beach
Feneri Lighthouse.
Details A week’s B&B for four costs
from £800pp including flights and
ca hire (020 3875 0351,
49 Villa Bade Kalkan
Th four-bedroom villa is in an
elevated position above Kalkan with
farfar-reaching views across the bay. The
ground floor has a large open-plan
living area,
with sliding doors leading to
the infi
infinity pool. There are two en suite
doubles on the first floor and two singles
on the top floor sharing a bathroom.
Details A week for six costs from £1,183
(0800 0740122,
Fly to Dalaman
50 Villa Saranda
Bozburun Peninsula
Although the Bozburun Peninsula is
close to the bustling resort of Marmaris
it remains largely unspoilt. This
two-bedroom hilltop villa resembles an
alpine chalet, with its rough stone walls
and warm pine complemented by
antiques. But it is the view of nearby
islands that will mesmerise you. The
owners deliver fresh bread every day and
the sea is a five-minute drive away.
Details A week for four costs from
£795 (01444 225633,
Fly to Dalaman
the times Saturday February 3 2018
34 Travel
Winter sport
Secret skiing:
the pistes that
Austrians keep
to themselves
New flights have
opened up the
little-known resort
of Heiligenblut.
Lucy Grewcock
hits the slopes
am almost 3,000 metres above sea
level and the views are incredible. A
sea of frozen mountaintops
surrounds me, little puffs of cloud
float beneath my feet and the
perfect pyramid of the Grossglockner — Austria’s highest peak,
at 3,798m — punches into the bright blue
sky. Turning my skis downhill, I set off on
the resort’s highest red run. Icy air numbs
my cheeks and snow-laced forests in the
Alps’ largest national park, Hohe Tauern,
come into view below. When I skid
to a halt to take it all in, the silence
hits me: right now, I am the only person
on the piste.
I’m in Heiligenblut (pronounced
“High-lee-gun-bloot”), a small resort in
Carinthia, Austria’s southernmost state.
With skiing up to 2,902m, it has some of
the country’s highest slopes — almost
On the slopes of
Heiligenblut. Right: a
gothic chapel in the
1,000m above those in the ritzy resort of
Kitzbühel. This altitude gives reliable
snow cover and a “big mountain” feel.
Virtually unknown to British skiers, the
resort mostly attracts Austrians or
Germans. This could change, thanks to
Easyjet’s new weekly flights from
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 35
Gatwick to Klagenfurt, the Carinthian
capital. My transfer took less than two
hours, about 40 minutes quicker than the
journey from Salzburg or Ljubljana, the
only options in previous years.
Traditional, tranquil and off-the-beaten-track, Heiligenblut is different from
other resorts I’ve been to. An authentic
Austrian village that was known for
medieval gold mining, it has fairytale
good looks, with larch-clad buildings and
a gothic chapel that perches above the
Möll Valley. Inside the church is a glass
vial that, according to legend, contains a
drop of holy blood. People have been
drawn here for centuries — some on pilgrimages to the church, others to the
Grossglockner. Today they come for a
whole spectrum of activities.
With 12 lifts and 55km of pistes, the ski
area is small but varied. Sweeping reds
merge with lower-altitude blues, there’s a
ski nursery for beginners and the only
black run leads to a “wave piste” of rollers
that’s great fun for a race.
It has some real quirks, including the
wonderfully retro Tunnelbahn Fleissalm
— a colourful gondola that rumbles
through a former mining tunnel, linking
the main ski area with the smaller Fleiss
Valley section. And, at times, you’ll find
yourself skiing over the Grossglockner
High Alpine Road — a big summer tourist
attraction, this scenic route to Salzburg
lies buried in snow all winter.
By day two I’d seen only a handful of
other skiers at any one time. “Is it always
this quiet?” I asked Marlies Thaler, the
manager of the tourist office and my ski
partner for the day. “On weekdays, yes,”
she says with a grin. “But school holidays
are busy.”
Between runs we stop to refuel. Of the
ten mountain huts, Panorama, at the top
of the Shareck lift (2,604m), has the best
views. But my favourite is Fleisskuchl, on
Piste 11 — with a suntrap terrace, it serves
excellent Speckknödel (bacon dumplings;
€8.50, or £7.40) and Käsespätzle (like
cheesy gnocchi; €11.50).
While this area is great for scenic skiing
and long lunches, it isn’t the place to clock
up endless piste miles. Ambitious skiers
could cover most of the slopes in a day.
Freeriders, on the other hand, are in for a
treat. Four ungroomed “ski routes” and
15,000 hectares of designated off-piste
terrain beckon, and play host to international competitions. This Freeride
Arena is displayed on a map at the
Mittelstation (middle station), where the
new Freeride Checkpoint gives information about the terrain and weather.
Austria is known for its full-throttle
après-ski, but this isn’t the case in Heiligenblut. After skiing, I usually slurp a few
Eierbeissers (warm rum, egg liqueur and
cream) at Hireshebar (the go-to après
spot) or sip a beer at the very welcoming
Bar Laterndl. But by 8pm the streets feel
quiet and the bars seem to be winding
down rather than revving up.
Some people skip the après drinks
altogether and head to their hotel spas
instead. I am staying at the National Park
Lodge Grossglockner, where the new
wellness suite has a glass-fronted sauna
with views of the gothic church.
For eating out in the evenings, the
centrally located Restaurant Kirchenwirt
is a good option (mains start at €9.50), but
Need to
Lucy Grewcock was a
guest of National Park
Lodge Grossglockner
the local tourist office
( and
Easyjet (
National Park Lodge
Grossglockner has six
nights’ half board, a sixday lift pass and six days’
equipment rental from
€922pp (£806). Easyjet
has return flights to
Klagenfurt from £39pp.
Transfers costs from
€65pp (for two) with
RG Reisen (00 43 4785
most people dine in their hotels. At mine,
I tuck into a four-course evening meal,
choosing from regional specialities such
as local venison.
In the heart of Hohe Tauren National
Park, wildlife is part of everyday life in
Heiligenblut. One morning I swap skis for
snowshoes and follow the park ranger,
Stephanie, into the forest. Within minutes we spot chamois, a herd of roe deer
and a “rare” bearded vulture.
And there’s a whole range of other
winter activities to experience, from
sleigh rides and ski tours, to ice-climbing
and stargazing. Tradition also runs
strong, with events held throughout the
winter. Every January, on the 5th and 6th,
locals walk through the streets
performing the ancient custom of star
singing. I’m told it’s well worth planning
your visit for this.
But for me, it’s skiing down those silent
pistes, high above Austria’s biggest
resorts, with the Grossglockner’s perfect
peak glowing in the sun that makes this
resort so special. It’s a magical combination that you won’t find anywhere else.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
36 Travel
Luxury travel
Why it’s worth
the long trip to
the Andamans
This remote Indian
archipelago covered
in forest has an
exquisite new
hotel on the beach.
Lisa Grainger gets
a first look
t seemed an odd thing for our guide
to instruct us to do out at sea on a
pitch-black, moonless night. But an
hour before — in which eight of us
had kayaked into the mangroves surrounding Havelock Island — Ali
Asgar had seemed a pretty sensible
chap. So, trying to ignore niggling fears
about crocodiles and water snakes, I did as
I was told, and manoeuvred my kayak into
an open stretch of water between thick
banks of mangroves, stopped paddling
and turned off my head torch.
“Oh my goodness me!” exclaimed a
fellow kayaker, close to me in the darkness.
“It’s like fireworks. Look!”
At first I looked up, where millions of
brilliant stars twinkled and gleamed in the
black sky. Then, hearing someone
splashing with their paddle, I looked
across to see explosions of brilliant white
light flickering beneath our boats.
“They’re millions of tiny plankton that
light up as a defence mechanism. Seeing
them being eaten by transparent fish is
amazing because it lights up their insides.”
Although we didn’t witness that
particular piscine light show, for the next
15 minutes, squeals and giggles
reverberated in the muggy blackness as
we flicked and splattered water, creating
Tinkerbell-like trails of watery sparkles all
around us. “If you didn’t believe in fairies
before, you might now,” Ali said grinning,
as we turned on our torches again to
paddle back to harbour. “It’s pretty
magical, isn’t it?”
What was magical, really, was that I was
on the Andaman Islands at all. Before the
1970s, very few tourists had ever set foot on
the islands — and India didn’t encourage
them. Situated 370 miles off the Burmese
coast, northeast of the Malacca Straights
through which a third of the world’s ships
pass, the islands are India’s most easterly
and southerly points and are strategic for
Bay of
Rutland Island
10 miles
Ross Island
Port Blair
its army and navy. As a result, there are
very few tourist facilities: of the 572 islands
that make up the Union Territory of the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, only 38
are inhabited and of those it is possible for
tourists to visit only a handful — if in
possession of a special permit.
Thanks to a government initiative to
encourage tourism, though, flights now
connect Port Blair to nine Indian cities,
including Chennai. There are also three
ferry services linking the port with the
main tourist island, Havelock, to which I
am travelling to be the first guest at its first
five-star hotel, the Taj Exotica Resort
and Spa.
Although it takes a while to get there —
a ten-hour flight and an overnight stay in
Chennai (good for shopping for
covetable Indian couture and
Amethyst jewellery), followed by a
two-hour domestic flight to
Port Blair — stepping out of the
basic little airport into the
sunshine, it’s impossible to
feel grumpy.
It’s 30C, the sky is pale blue
and the air is heavy with the
scents of jasmine and spice,
sea-salt and greenery. Although
the islands are not far from
Burma, Port Blair feels more like a
hybrid between India and the
Caribbean: an old colonial outpost
where traces of British rulers still linger
amid the lurid colour and the coconut
palms. Along busy streets, Victorian English bungalows crumble beside shacks
selling piles of exotic fruit. Old red postboxes stand beneath tangled nests of electricity wires, held together with tape and
string. There are little yellow and black
tuk-tuks parked outside pastel-painted
colonial-style offices and sari-clad women
beside pony-tailed girls in school
With a few hours to kill before my ferry
Gourmet food at the
Taj Exotica Resort
to Havelock, I have time to accompany a
guide to a building that is more associated
with the British in this part of the world
than any other: the Cellular Jail.
When the first British settlement
party arrived on these shores in
1789 they didn’t stay long. These
islands were home not only to
mosquitos, but also cannibals.
When the British returned
in 1858, it was to build a jail for
men who were considered the
most dangerous in India: patriots fighting for independence.
The Cellular Jail was the Robben
Island of colonial India and its
wardens were famous for their brutality. It was here that not only great Indian patriots and kings were hanged by
the British (the grisly gallows are still
there), but that freedom fighters were
Looking out from the rooftop of the
lotus-shaped building, overlooking the
nearby Ross Island where the British prison overlords and their families lived for
more than 80 years, with tennis courts, a
church, swimming pool and bakery, it’s
hard to believe that somewhere quite so
pretty had such a gut-wrenching past.
It’s with some relief that I board the
comfortable, air-conditioned Makruzz
ferry for the beaches of Havelock.
The thickly forested island was once
a place where only backpackers ventured,
sleeping in thatched huts on the beach
and living on coconuts, chai and chapattis.
The tsunami of 2004 changed that;
when the wave hit Havelock, it destroyed
most buildings within half a mile of
the shore. With their insurance and
government aid payouts, the inhabitants
built more permanent structures and
modern tourism was born. According
to the local tourism office, there are
30 hotels and 20 restaurants on the island
— mostly simple wooden structures — as
well as the island’s first boutique hotel,
Jalakara, which opened in 2016, and
its first five-star hotel, the new Taj Exotica
Resort and Spa.
Driving through Havelock to the Taj, it’s
clear why the government is keen to open
up this part of their country. This is India’s
version of the Maldives — but much more
hilly, tropical and green (more than
80 per cent of the archipelago is protected
for forests and native tribes). Driving
south from the bustling little ferry port
along one of two narrow tarmac roads,
we pass rice paddies and pastures in
shades of luminous green. Plantations of
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 37
The Taj Exotica Resort
A villa at the Taj Exotica Resort
Jalakara hotel
elegant coconut and whip-thin areca nut
palms, heavy with tussocks of golden fruit,
tower into tropical skies. Every now and
then a cluster of rural houses comes into
view: some prettily constructed of
bamboo and thatch, others newly
concreted and painted in pastel colours.
And wherever we look there are trees: on
hilltops, on horizons, in valleys and on
While in the past many of the islands’
forests were plundered, and hundreds of
working elephants were brought in to haul
logs off the islands for export, today’s
forestry rules are so strict, says the Taj’s
general manager, Abnash Kumar, that
they were not allowed to cut down any
trees when building the hotel. Hence the
giant mahua and padauk trees that rise up
through the two floors of the hotel’s
surprisingly contemporary living space
and tower over its huge, luminous-blue
infinity pool.
Walking through the 46-acre property,
landscaped with lawns, palms, ponds and
beds of indigenous plants, herbs and tropical orchards, it’s the trees I keep stopping
to photograph: some so enormous it would
take four people to hug them. The beach,
of which there are glimpses through the
trees, is equally splendid: a 2 mile stretch of
Need to
Lisa Grainger was a guest
of Taj Exotica Resort and
Spa, Andamans
( which has
B&B doubles from £695 a
night, Jalakara
( with
doubles from £240, and
of Greaves India (0207
487 9111,
Greaves has an eightnight tailor-made tour to
Chennai and the
Andaman Islands from
£3925pp, including BA
business class flights to
Chennai, domestic flights
to Port Blair, deluxe boat
transfers, sightseeing in
Chennai, four nights at
The Taj Exotica Resort
and Spa, Andamans, two
nights at Jalakara and two
nights in Chennai, all B&B
white, flour-fine sand that drops gradually
from the forest into a wide, shallow bay of
the palest aquamarine sea.
Because tourism is so new here,
activities are still in their infancy. The
island’s activity centre, Captain Hook’s,
offers the basics. Over a few days, I kayaked in phosphorescent waters, snorkelled
(sadly among coral that was bleached by
global warming) and took a motorboat out
into the surrounding marine park, with its
forested islands and white beaches.
I also trekked into the jungle with
Jocelyn Panjikaran, who came to
Havelock on holiday seven years ago, fell
in love with the lifestyle and stayed.
Despite the jungle being home to about 30
varieties of snakes, there are no creatures
that harm humans, Panjikaran said. So for
two hours, we wandered happily, stopping
to take in the silence and eerie majesty of
virgin jungle — trees rising 150ft into the
skies hung with lianas and orchids; giant
exotic-looking plants used locally for
medicine — before going to the ramshackle little town for coconut water and
spicy chai (no shops sell alcohol and so far
only a few hotels, including Jalakara and
Barefoot Resort, have liquor licences).
When the Taj finally opens (they are still
awaiting final permissions) most guests, I
suspect, won’t leave it other than to go to
the beach. Instead, they will lounge by the
pool, be pampered by the super-sweet
young staff, hang out in the games room
with its golf simulator and pool table, have
massages in the Jiva spa or just admire the
views of jungle and coconut trees from
their garden villas. With their supercomfortable four-posters and capacious
bathrooms, their deep tubs and walk-in
wardrobes, the contemporary rooms are
every bit as luxurious as a hotel in the
Maldives — if slightly dark, thanks to the
coconut-wood with which they are
Foodie guest will be delighted by the
sensational cuisine created in three restaurants by Calcutta-born Kaushik Misra.
The chef spent three months exploring the
islands and tribes, and his cuisine combines local ingredients and methods with
modern Indian cooking: huge crabs
cooked straight from the sea with local
spices; lobster baked in a tandoor oven;
chicken baked inside bamboo stems on a
fire; as well as specialities from nearby
coastal countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
As lovely as the Taj was, it was with some
excitement that I ventured to the island’s
only boutique hotel, Jalakara (meaning
“the source”), which opened in 2016.
Owned by the jolly British chef-turnedspirits-entrepreneur Marko Hill and his
wife Atalanta Weller, a shoe-designer who
has shod Lady Gaga, this is more of a
private villa than a hotel. It perches up a
hill on a sloped acre-and-a-half of banana
and coconut plantation.
Hill’s intention was to create a place that
would be “really chilled, so people could
log out of the tech world and into the tropical surroundings”. Hence the relaxed,
open-plan style of the buildings designed
by rising Indian architect Ajith Andagere:
the bar-reception that merges into the
casual living space and pool-deck, and
seven individually designed bedrooms, set
within hilly gardens thick with soaring
palms and tropical blooms.
Each of the rooms, with their tactile
waxed-plaster walls, carved wooden cupboards and chairs and hand-beaten brass
fittings, is charmingly basic, with everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Curtains are fashioned from silk saris and
the bathrooms adorned with local soaps,
essential mosquito repellent and charming copper buckets. There are verandas
with hammocks, hand-beaten copper
baths, simple wood-and-cane furniture
and, in the villa, with its plunge pool and
woven teak wall panels that swivel open to
reveal jungly views.
It’s not as luxe as the Taj — more of a
homely, swimsuit-and-sarong kind of
haunt than a polished five-star — and a
25-minute walk to the beach, rather than a
short stroll. But there are bikes to ride; a
concierge to sort out excursions; simple,
spiced fresh seafood and Indian dishes in
the dining area; and barmen to whip up
delicious cocktails.
For those itching to book a trip to this
last little tropical wilderness, I offer some
advice. Firstly, check the weather forecast;
although their dry season runs from
October to May, the islands are tropical,
so airy showers can be expected all year.
Apparently it pours from June to
September. Secondly, get a tour operator
to sort out the trip (it’s still very
bureaucratic, and ground-handlers ease
the hassle). Thirdly, go soon: the Indian
government is encouraging tourism to the
area, so it will change fast (already, I’m
told, land is being sold for anything from
£500,000 an acre). And finally, take loose
clothing: the food at the Taj is among the
best I’ve ever tasted. I’m still dreaming of
that giant ginger crab . . .
the times Saturday February 3 2018
38 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 39
London got me here in time for a stroll
before lunch and although it’s a chilly day,
it’s also a bright one. I bask in the sunshine
as I kick up the soft sand on the beach and
spot hardy surfers returning from the
waves in very thick wetsuits.
A bracing walk along the edge of the
golf course ends at Kingsbarns Distillery,
which opened on St Andrew’s Day 2014.
Scotch lovers will know that this means
am walking along the water’s edge. we can expect Kingsbarns’s first whisky
Beneath my feet a well-worn path this year (to be called a whisky, the spirit
snakes onwards, at some points must be aged for a minimum of three
tucking out of sight behind the long years). While I didn’t get to sample a
waving grass of the sand dunes, at whisky as such, I did try the distillery’s
others almost dipping down to the two-year-old spirit at the end of my tour.
beach, tempting me to stray on to the I found it fruity and smooth, which bodes
sands. Ahead of me on the horizon are the well for the whisky to come. There is also
tumbledown stone walls of a ruined a new gin distillery here, soon to start procastle, behind me stands the white tower ducing the company’s Darnley’s London
of a lighthouse, and above me a cloud of Dry Gin, and with St Andrews Brewing
birds oscillates across the sky. It is one of Company producing beer just up the road,
those afternoons, the sky a burnt orange, it would be possible to drink entirely local
that you get only in the depths of winter. in Fife — as long as you don’t mind skipI am walking part of the Fife Coastal ping the wine.
Path, a 117-mile route around the North
This is not something I would advise at
Sea coastline that can be tackled as a the Peat Inn, my base for the weekend. It
serious multi-day hike, or sampled in was the first restaurant in Scotland to win
bite-sized sections. One such section is
a Michelin star, in the 1980s, and today
this short stroll from the fishing
the chef, Geoffrey Smeddle,
village of Elie to its
cooks up a tasting menu
neighbour St Monans.
that shows off the best of
With villages at
Scotland’s produce,
matching it with
this part of the
some interesting
trail, through the
East Neuk of Fife,
The Orkney
is the best section
langoustine and
for winter walks.
smoked Luss sea
Fife is the
trout are paired
chunk of Scotwith a pinot gris
land that juts out
Marlborinto the North Sea
ough, New Zeajust above Edinland, far smoother
burgh, and the East
than the region’s
Neuk is generally conubiquitous sauvignon
Elie Ness Lighthouse
sidered to be the area that
blancs. Local Anster cheese
forms the northern coastline of
comes with Borders honey and a
the Firth of Forth, plus a bit round the cor- glass of German riesling. This is the sort of
ner (neuk means corner, or nook, in Scots) place you find yourself raving about for
towards the golfing mecca of St Andrews. weeks afterwards.
The East Neuk is a string of fishing
The next day I head to the home of
villages backed by fertile farmland — a Anster cheese, St Andrews Farmhouse
combination that means this is Scotland’s Cheese, where Jane Stewart is celebrating
foodie corner. And what better her ten-year cheese-making anniversary.
inducement to work up an appetite?
She started when the price of milk fell
I started working up mine with a walk below the cost of production and she and
on the beach at Kingsbarns, just south of her dairy farmer husband, Robert, decidSt Andrews. My morning flight from ed they needed to branch out. Cheese, she
A weekend in . . .
The East
Neuk of Fife
St Monans,
East Neuk
says, “was something we could be passionate about”.
That passion is obvious in the café,
where a viewing gallery looks into the
dairy and the counter is stacked with
cheeses from across Scotland. There are
also gorgeous views over rolling farmland
to the Forth, and I am tempted out on that
walk along the coast.
It is only about three miles from Elie
to St Monans and I have it to myself.
Apart, that is, from the curlews and cormorants, and the odd seal popping up its
glossy head.
I have come to St Monans for lunch, at
Craig Millar @ 16 West End. Almost
everyone I’ve met has told me I must
come here, and Craig’s food doesn’t
disappoint. His Jerusalem artichoke
panna cotta makes this unsung vegetable
pop, and his hake is given a kick from
chorizo, and is cooked to melt-in-themouth perfection.
More walking is obligatory in the afternoon, with another Michelin-starred
dinner to work up to. Fife is now the only
place in Scotland outside Edinburgh to
have two Michelin-starred restaurants.
The second is local chef Billy Boyter’s the
Cellar, a snug place tucked back from the
harbour in Anstruther. An open fire
welcomes me and the menu is a warming
one: Arbroath smokies (smoked haddock)
from across the water in Angus, locally
caught crab, red deer and more of Jane’s
cheese. It is the perfect menu to finish a
cosy weekend in Scotland, although
perhaps I should squeeze in just one more
walk before my flight home.
Helen Ochyra
Need to
Where to stay
The Peat Inn has spacious split-level
suites from £225 B&B or £355 including
the six-course tasting menu ( The Ship Inn has doubles
from £100 B&B (
Further information
Visit Scotland (,
Welcome to Fife (
the times Saturday February 3 2018
40 Travel
Totally chilled:
my gym class
in the icy Baltic
Will Hide learns to
embrace the cold at
a Danish spa hotel
ead-to-toe rubber is not a
good look on someone a
week away from their 50th
birthday. By someone, I
mean me. I used to have a
six-pack, but now my tummy is more of an entire
brewery . . . something I had time to think
about during the ten minutes it took me to
pull on my drysuit, with hood and gloves.
Certainly this was the oddest exercise
class I had yet taken; part of a new winter
spa break in Denmark that combines
CrossFit training in the Baltic with sea
swimming and sauna sessions.
My first appointment was with Thomas
Rode, a “functional lifestyle mentor” and
trainer, who was going to lead me in a
CrossFit class in the Oresund, the strait
that separates Denmark and Sweden and
leads to the Baltic. Why? Well, partly it’s
about embracing rather than shying away
from winter and partly, he added, why not?
A good word to describe Rode, who is
part Bear Grylls, part Jamie Oliver, is
strapping. As I struggled to get into my
drysuit I rather pitifully used the “I’m 50
next week” excuse, which was met with the
no-nonsense response: “Well I’m 50 next
year too.” He looks about 35. As well as fitness, it’s diet; he’s big into Paleo cooking,
the so-called caveman diet, because it emphasises eating as naturally as possible. For
17 years Rode was head chef at Kong Hans
Kaelder, a Michelin-starred restaurant in
Copenhagen, where René Redzepi of Noma was his sous chef.
If all this sounds a bit gruelling, fear not,
because it comes with lashings of hygge,
the Danish concept of cosiness. Certainly,
walking into the lobby of the Kurhotel
Skodsborg in an affluent suburb of Copenhagen, a 15-minute train ride from the
centre, all the signs were promising: a smiley welcome from the young staff, dozens
and dozens of fat candles flickering away
and lots of comfy sofas with blankets just
waiting to be snuggled up in.
I got changed for my first class in what
used to be King Frederick VII of
Denmark’s summer residence, built in the
19th century. It gave his unpopular commoner wife, a former ballet dancer, somewhere to slip away from court. Now it’s part
of the hotel, which was set up in 1898 by Dr
Carl Ottosen as a bathing sanatorium. His
flash of inspiration came after a visit to
America to study the healthy lifestyle
teachings of John Harvey Kellogg, the
brother of the cornflakes magnate.
Fading black and white photos on the
wall show staff and guests working out
100 years ago, stiff of back and proud of
moustache. Bedrooms have been given
a thoroughly up-to-date makeover,
though, and are hygged up to the eyeballs,
right down to the candles next to the
big-enough-for-two bath tubs.
his unique expert-led tour twins
the highlights of the iconic Table
Mountain and Cape Town in South
Africa with the beautiful island of Saint
Helena. Following the launch of the first
ever commercial flights to St Helena,
discover the colonial and Napoleonic
history and be amongst the first people to
explore the breathtaking landscapes and
fascinating history of the remote volcanic
outcrop that is Saint Helena, a tiny gem
in the South Atlantic where Napoleon
breathed his last breath.
Discover fascinating
local, colonial and
Napoleonic history.
Expand your knowledge
with tours accompanied
by Michael Binyon OBE
and Monsieur Michel
Honorary French consul.
Walk amongst stunning
natural beauty, national
parks and scenic
View amazing wildlife
and birds or join a boat
trip for a spot of whale
Hiking, kayaking, biking,
snorkelling and diving
are amongst the activities
you can try, or lounge by
your hotel’s pool.
Exclusively with
Return flights and transfers
A three-night stay in South
Africa, and a seven-night
stay in Saint Helena
Champagne reception
at the Saint Helena’s
Governor’s residence
Bed and breakfast
Selection of tours by experts
and local historians
Services of an experienced
and insightful tour manager
Departures on November 14, 2018 and January 30, 2019.
£4,699* per person
0330 160 8627
This holiday is organised and operated by Mercator Enterprises Limited trading as Revealed Travel ATOL Licence Number 10528; ABTA member Number Y488X. Subject to availability. Single Supplements Apply. Mandatory for all travellers to have adequate travel insurance.
Deposit payable on Booking £1,775 per person - final balance payable 10 weeks prior to travel date. For full Booking T&Cs see
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 41
A workout at Kurhotel
Skodsborg in Denmark
I waddled down to the shoreline, about
100m away, and gingerly descended the
pier steps into the Oresund. A weak winter
sun did its best to give some warmth and
reflected on the millpond-calm surface.
Luckily the drysuit worked its magic, but
the shock came when I put my face in the
freezing water, which was like a slap from
an angry ex. I tried to stay positive and call
it “bracing”. It was very, very bracing.
Rode had brought kettlebells of varying
weights and for 45 minutes had me
swinging, pulling and lifting them in the
water, interspersed with swims of varying
lengths. Every time I put my face in the
water it smarted, but the rest of my body
stayed warm, which made the whole thing
Still, I was ready for it to end, especially
as I knew lunch awaited. I tore off the
drysuit as best I could, but still struggled,
which must have expended at least
another 200 calories. I helped Rode to
whip up a Paleo feast: a minced-pheasant
omelette with Hokkaido pumpkin and a
salad of apple, kohlrabi, tarragon and shallots. I gobbled it down like a condemned
man. Throwing weights around in the sea
certainly makes you hungry.
The hotel’s spa, which is the largest in
Denmark, also takes on the hygge theme
and seemed to be populated by gaggles of
tall, good-looking, multilingual locals
lounging about as if waiting for a photoshoot. Thank goodness for my workout,
which made sucking my tummy in for
extended periods just that tiny bit easier.
Some of them were waiting for Sauna
Aufguss, something I hadn’t heard of, but
which originated in Germany and is touted
The spa at Kurhotel Skodsborg
Need to
Will Hide was a guest of
the Kurhotel Skodsborg
(00 454558 5800,, which has
B&B doubles and use of
the spa (including Sauna
Aufguss sessions) from
£167 a night. A water
CrossFit session then
cooking class with
Thomas Rode costs from
£240pp (for a minimum
of four people)
as the next big spa thing in Britain, as long
as you don’t giggle, or pass out, easily.
How to describe it? Well it’s a sauna
session led by a sauna master who, for
about an hour, adds various aromatic oils
sprinkled on lumps of ice that are put on
the heater and make the air inside the
sauna increasingly hot: very, very, very hot.
Because heat rises the sauna master theatrically twirls a towel or large fan to disperse
the scalding air. As a newbie, I wore a felt
hat to protect my head and ears, but maybe
they were just having a laugh. My fellow
saunaees looked very Zen. I just looked
very red.
After about 12 minutes, just when I
thought I would have to make an
emergency dash for the door, the session,
led by Henrik Baunkjaer Sorensen, came
to a halt and we traipsed down to the pier
for a dunk in the sea. Without my drysuit
I lasted about five seconds — the cold
made it feel as though I’d been stabbed in
the . . . extremities. But it was very welcome
nonetheless, and after a few seconds I had
another plunge before we returned to the
sauna for rounds two and three. All this
was accompanied by Michael Jackson on a
heatproof boombox amid much fanning
and towel flapping, which gave the whole
thing a rather surreal air.
I had another Sauna Aufguss session
lined up, this time a more tranquil and
meditative affair, with Tina Andersen, who
has been a sauna instructor for more than
ten years. She added lavender and sage, to
calm and soothe, then orange, grapefruit
and lemon followed by eucalyptus, bergamot and pepper to refresh. In between the
ten-minute sessions we plodded down to
the sea for the Baltic swim that takes the
sting away from the heat.
“Sauna Aufguss and cold-water swimming are like a mental massage,” she told
me in between fanning the heated air, and
it’s true; now that I knew what to expect, it
was a calming experience. “I like to embrace winter,” she remarked. “To get out
there, when you’re standing in a blizzard
feeling that fresh air, I think mentally it
gives you something very important. I love
swimming in ice-cold water, it just brings
me closer to nature.”
As someone who is not naturally a fan of
winter and who tends to hibernate until
the days start lengthening, I think it’s a
good philosophy to take on board. Don’t
shy away from winter, embrace it. But to
begin with, I may just wrap up in a nice cosy
parka, rather than head-to-toe rubber.
42 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 43
Puri Madawi hotel in Petitenget, Indonesia
on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Start on a first-class rail adventure to
Venice, with an overnight stop beside
Lake Geneva, and then head to the Hotel
Ai Mori d’Oriente, which overlooks the
Canale della Sensa in the Cannaregio
quarter of Venice. Planet Rail (01347
825292, has savings of
£500pp on the trip departing on March
20. Six days is now from £2,795pp.
Late deals
United Kingdom
Weekend near Hereford
Sitting between the pretty towns of
Hereford and Ross-on-Wye is Brooks
Country House, a beautiful 22-room
Georgian hotel set in 13 acres of
National Trust-owned parkland. It has
cut the price of weekend breaks until
the end of March, with one night’s stay
with dinner and breakfast for two now
costing £119 on Friday and Saturday
nights, a saving of £30. (01989 730211,
Cornwall in February
Take wintry walks on the deserted
beaches and cosy up in the pubs that
are packed in summer. Stay at the
Talland Bay Hotel, which sits yards
from the coast path near Polperro,
and has doubles from £169 a night
— a saving of nearly 30 per cent —
including a three-course dinner in the
AA two-Rosettes restaurant in February
(01503 272667,
Valentine’s Day in Scotland
Kinloch Lodge, a 16th-century hunting
lodge perched on the snowy shores of a
loch, is offering discounts of 30 per cent
on dinner, bed and breakfast for
Valentine’s Day. The five-course tasting
Long haul
menu with wine flight is now £99pp,
while double rooms cost from £100
(01471 833333,
Cycle the Loire
Follow the Loire on this picturesque
self-guided riverside cycle tour from
Blois to Saumur. Take in medieval
towns such as Amboise and explore
the city of Tours along the way. Bspoke
Tours (020 7471 7750,
has savings of £300 a couple on tours in
2018. Seven nights’ B&B, staying in three
and four-star hotels, is now from
£1,495pp, including flights and bike hire.
Book by February 28.
Short haul
Skiing in France
Flexiski (020 8939 0864,
has four nights’ B&B at the three-star
Hôtel Le Prieuré in Chamonix from
£350pp — a 55 per cent saving —
departing on February 7, with flights.
Four nights on the same basis at the
four-star Le Refuge des Aiglons in
Chamonix is now £399pp (a saving of
50 per cent).
The view from Sea Breeze
Beach House in Barbados
Luxury Venice by train
The end of this luxury holiday to Venice
is the highlight — you return to the UK
Indonesia on the cheap
The Puri Madawi hotel in Petitenget,
just north of trendy Seminyak, has cut
the price of stays this month and next by
30 per cent. The property has 16 suites
decorated in a Balinese design (with
terrazzo floors and wood carvings) and is
surrounded by gardens with a large pool
lined with poinsettia trees. A week’s B&B
in a Garden Bungalow now costs from
£161pp (0117 946 7072,
Flights cost from £400pp return.
Spring in Barbados
Spring is a great time to visit Barbados,
with its sweeping beaches and
temperatures reaching the mid-thirties.
Stay at the newly refurbished Sea
Breeze Beach House between April 1
and May 31 and save 40 per cent on an
ocean-view room. For example, a week’s
all-inclusive departing on April 17 now
costs from £1,555pp, including flights
from Gatwick. Book by February 28
(01752 880880,
Ben Clatworthy
44 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
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Travel 45
the times Saturday February 3 2018
46 Travel
Activity break
Welcome to the other
Camino de Santiago
Gran Canaria has
a mini version
of the famous
pilgrimage route.
Martin Symington
hits the trail
am sitting on the rim of a volcano
crater, munching my midday sandwich while watching a friar and a
frog. El Fraile and La Rana are
sculptures fashioned by nature from
solidifying magma 3,000 years ago.
That might sound like an aeon, but in
geological time is only about yesterday
afternoon. I have reached my picnic spot
by crunching over naked grey lava, feeling
like an ant on an elephant’s back.
Just a few hours into my hike along Gran
Canaria’s Camino de Santiago, I have
already found that the scenery is astonishingly varied. More so, probably, than on the
entire length of the infinitely better-known
780km (500 mile) pilgrimage route through
northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela,
which hundreds of thousands trudge every
year, mostly on metalled roads.
Which is why the island’s idea of reviving this mini 77km version is so inspired.
Over three days I will traverse brushland
sprinkled with prickly pears and lichendraped pine forests, I will round the rim of
an immense caldera, plunge into deep
ravines and gaze at dizzying peaks.
The camino connects the island’s two
churches dedicated to St James. One,
my destination, is on the north coast at
Galdar, which the 15th-century Spanish
conquerors made their first capital. I start
at the other, in the whitewashed mountain
village of San Bartolome de Tirajana (also
known as Tunte) beneath 1,949m Pico de
las Nieves, Gran Canaria’s highest point.
Before setting off I pay my respects in
the church of Santiago el Apóstol, to the
paint-flecked old wooden statue of St
James, aka Santiago, Protector of Spain,
which is at the centre of a legend which
this walk has reawakened. My guide, Pier,
recounts the story as we zig-zag up stony
mule tracks and thread through mossy
woodlands towards an alien landscape
pocked with cones and columns.
Sailors from Galicia shipwrecked off the
south coast of Gran Canaria in the 16th
century brought the statue ashore and
built a hermitage for it in thanksgiving for
their survival. In 1850 it was moved to the
church in Tunte and soon islanders were
making pilgrimages between here and
Galdar using ancient transhumance tracks
— paths for driving livestock up to summer pastures.
“Some were praying for miracles, others
had promised to make the pilgrimage after
prayers had been answered,” says Pier.
“The practice has almost died out, except
in years when St James’s day, July 25, falls
on a Sunday. Then, hundreds of people
gather for the penitential walk. This custom is especially kept alive by the families
The village of Tejeda,
Gran Canaria
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 47
Las Palma
de Gran Can
Pi de las
Camino de
5 miles
of emigrants to America and Venezuela
returning to their ancestral home.”
Is the spiritual element still important, I
ask? “If I say yes, then singing, dancing and
drinking are part of the penance,” says
Pier, chuckling. The next year in which
this happens is 2021.
Many pilgrims camp along the way, but
I stop for the night at the charming Rural
Hotel Fonda de la Tea in huddled little
Tejeda. Despite being the highest village
on the island, it is overhung by the
crowning crag of Roque Bentayga, which
was held sacred by the indigenous Guanche people.
From my balcony I watch a waterfall of
cloud pouring over the lip of Caldera de
Tejeda as I reflect on how human habitation in the Canary Islands goes back centuries before the Spanish settlers. This is
shown by elaborate necropolises and
puzzling petroglyphs engraved in caves.
More mysteriously still, archaeologists
have failed to decipher their meaning, or
even when the Guanches first arrived and
where they came from.
Next day another guide, José, leads me
from Tejeda to Monte Pavon. We weave
through a bleak tracery of crumbling stone
walls protecting abandoned plots.
Typically, these were left behind by
the thousands of Gran Canarians forced
by hardship to seek their fortunes across
the Atlantic in the early years of the
20th century.
Tenerife appears on the sea horizon,
80km away across wind-harassed water.
Amazingly, I can see the entire island in
crisp profile, end to end and from shoreline
to the snow-capped peak of Mount
Teide volcano. “If you want to wind Tenerifeans up, tell them that the best views of
Teide are from Gran Canaria,” says José,
laughing. Rivalry between the islands is
alive and well, evidently.
Need to
Martin Symington was
a guest of Gran Canaria
Natural & Active
(grancanarianaturaland and Vivelo
Rural (,
which runs hikes on the
Camino de Santiago.
Three days walking with
a guide including four
nights’ half-board in
hotels, picnic lunches
and luggage transfers
costs from €700pp (£615)
My last day is a long, knee-straining
descent of mountainsides blanketed with
tawny bracken and rough pastures grazed
by scraggy sheep. Soon the terrain
changes to agricultural land: bananas,
pineapples and trees of velvety-skinned
little fruit called nesperas, which taste
rather like apricots.
The sea, a deep indigo colour, looms
larger and larger. As I approach, I wonder
what those impoverished emigrants a
century ago might have made of the megaresorts that have so completely transformed the coastline, and the economy of
the island they left. I doubt they would
recognise much.
The Camino de Santiago, on the other
hand, has taken me through a raw and wild
volcanic hinterland that I suspect would
still be familiar to these people. But I have
met only a handful of fellow hikers along
the way, mostly Germans. The overwhelming majority of visitors fly to the
island for beaches and nightclubs, for
five-star hotels, for aqua parks and
go-karting tracks, for lager and chips in
year-round sunshine.
Galdar is not typical. At the end of a
steep-sided gully, I spill into a town of
tree-shaded squares and balconied houses
that could be in colonial Colombia. I make
my way to the church of Santiago de los
Caballeros to end my walk at another effigy of the saint. Santiago is mounted on a
horse, brandishing a sword and looking
rather severe under his broad-rimmed hat.
Hats off, I say, to the pilgrim’s progress
from penitent to nature-loving hiker on an
exhilarating journey through Gran Canaria’s eruptive past.
48 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 49
Great gourmet
The cool hotel
The Townhouse,
Stratford-uponAvon, Warks
In a nutshell
Just a five-minute stroll from the Royal
Shakespeare Theatre and across the road
from the Guildhall (where Shakespeare
was taught) and the plot of land where the
Bard’s former home once stood, the
Townhouse is perfectly placed for a
Shakespearean weekend in Stratford.
Royal Shakespeare Company actors
regularly drop by for a post-production
tipple in the jolly cocktail bar, with its tall
leather stools and live evening music.
The Townhouse, which dates in parts
from the 1600s, has just undergone a
stylish refurbishment.
What are the rooms like?
The dozen rooms come in a variety of
shapes and sizes. Expect exposed beams,
striking retro wallpaper, designer lights,
velvet armchairs and Shakespearean
quotes such as “If music be the food of
love” in room 7. Standard rooms cost
from £100 B&B; add £35 for a “superior”;
of these, room 10 is best. All rooms have
espresso machines and free carafes of
port (enough for a couple of glasses).
Times readers can enjoy a night’s
B&B plus a Michelin-starred meal
at Hampton Manor, a restaurant
with rooms in Hampton-in-Arden
near Birmingham.
Which is the best room?
Room 12, with great views at the top, and
room 3, the biggest with a clawfoot bath,
are the best (from £170 B&B).
chorizo was packed with punchy flavours
— and the apple and blackberry crumble
was seriously good. Breakfasts are
another highlight (try the eggs royale).
So what’s the food like?
Evening meals are served in the long,
thin restaurant from 5pm, so you can eat
pre-theatre. The good-value menu (three
courses cost from £24) features modern
British food, including roast duck and
pork cutlets; burgers and steaks are also
offered. My beetroot with goat’s cheese,
poached pear and candied walnuts
starter was refreshing and perfectly
prepared, while my main of lemon and
garlic chicken with chickpea puree and
Who goes there?
Shakespeare lovers (see and
The highs, the lows, the verdict
Eight and a half out of ten
This is a fun choice in the heart of
Stratford with reasonable prices,
but parking is tricky and there is a
surprisingly noisy clatter of cutlery from
washing up in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Tom Chesshyre
Need to
“Step inside and you enter a
boutique hotel with designer
furniture and striking wallpaper.”
Tom Chesshyre
Cool Hotel guide reviewer
Times hotel rating: 8/10
Tom Chesshyre was a
guest of The Townhouse
(01789 262222,,
16 Church Street,
Warwickshire CV37 6HB;
B&B doubles cost from
£100; one wheelchair
access room; no single
occupancy discount;
no dogs allowed
Call 01675 661 468
Use code TEH11
Terms and conditions apply
You’ll be spoilt for choice
Finding the perfect spot can be the hardest part of planning a holiday – so let the experts make it easy for you
ariety may be the spice of
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So, why not take the stress out of
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interests to your perfect destination?
From exploring on a fly-drive trip to
walking in the fjords or chilling by a
pool, Sunvil offers bespoke trips,
designed to tick all of your boxes.
Winner of The Sunday Times’ Travel
Editor’s Award 2017, Sunvil has built
a reputation over 48 years. Its focus
is on inspiring stays, away from the
crowds in authentic locations. What
better way to get a glimpse of the real
Greece, Italy or Scandinavia? To help
you explore, Sunvil has a network of
local reps who love to share their
knowledge. The personal service
starts the moment you begin to think
about your holiday. All you need to
do is explain what you love, and let
its experts do the rest. And if you’re
short on ideas, here are just a few...
Be a sun worshipper If relaxing on
warm sand is your idea of heaven,
then Sunvil’s experience in Greece
and Cyprus is ideal. Family holidays,
villas with pools and island-hopping
are all on offer in some of the
prettiest spots in the Med. You
can choose a beachfront property,
a secluded retreat or a village
haven, and there are plenty of
properties perfect for groups.
Beautiful Sete Cidades
lake on São Miguel
in the Azores
Explore with a fly-drive Enjoy
fascinating monuments,
breathtaking viewpoints and
little-known places, thanks to
Sunvil’s expert local knowledge.
A new seven-night itinerary takes
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picturesque towns, Unesco World
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comfy hotels so you won’t waste
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trips to Cyprus, Italy, Portugal,
Scandinavia and even Costa Rica.
Walk back to happiness You can trek
or ramble independently, using
routes supplied by Sunvil’s local
reps, or join guided walks. One of the
most popular regions is the Azores.
Famous for vast volcanic craters,
blue lakes, hot mineral springs,
geysers and sheer black cliffs, these
Portuguese islands are perfect for
exploring. Alternatively, why not
pair walking and painting on Crete,
the perfect artistic backdrop? In fact,
from paddleboarding to wild
swimming, your local Sunvil guide
should be able to help.
Enjoy fascinating monuments
and breathtaking viewpoints,
staying in little-known places
Revel in nature Europe has scores of
fabulous nature reserves, but you
could also consider a Latin American
wildlife adventure. You can visit
Costa Rica, Peru, Argentina,
Ecuador, Bolivia and the Galápagos
Islands, and enjoy boat and safari
outings, spotting creatures from
giant tortoises to anteaters. There are
trips for families, couples and
singles, and you can even tour on
classic trains. Ecuador’s Devil’s Nose
is just one of the stunning railway
lines you can experience.
Be inspired
d The Northern Lights are
one of nature’s most spectacular
displays and Sunvil offers breaks to
Norway and Sweden, where you will
be best placed to spot them. From
Icehotel and Treehotel stays,
wilderness lodges, mountain walks
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home to the northernmost brewery
in the world – there’s so much to see,
your biggest problem will be
squeezing it all in.
To find out more, call 020 8232 9799
or go to
The new Scenic Eclipse is one of the most
eagerly awaited ship launches of the year.
SARA MACEFIELD – cruise expert, The Times
On our exclusive trip you’ll enjoy a luxury Miami break before boarding the world’s
first discovery yacht for its inaugural Caribbean sailing to Cuba and beyond.
Three-night city stay at Miami’s W South Beach Hotel*
uba, the largest and most dazzlingly distinctive
island in the Caribbean, never seems to shed its
charm. And on this exclusive 18-day luxury cruise
you will experience all its highlights in thrilling style:
on board the world’s first discovery yacht, Scenic Eclipse.
This incredible all-suite ship promises the ultimate in
luxury, with sumptuous facilities and magnificent
balcony suites featuring private terraces, king-size beds,
private butlers and lavish dining – a blissful retreat after
your adventures on land. And what adventures they will
be: you’ll spend unforgettable days exploring Havana
and Santiago de Cuba, enjoy authentic music and dance
performances, venture to charming far-flung villages,
and have ample time to relax on Cuba’s idyllic Caribbean
beaches. What’s more, if you book before April 1, you will
also enjoy a three-night city stay in W South Beach Hotel,
one of Miami’s most stylish and luxurious hotels.
Be among the first to experience
this year’s most hotly awaited
luxury ship — the world’s first
discovery yacht. Its superb facilities
include a beautiful sundeck with
swimming pool, Spa Sanctuary,
yoga studio, a selection of gourmet
restaurants, on-board helicopters
and a six-seat submarine.
Your unbeatable 18-day itinerary
takes in Miami and all of Cuba’s
highlights, from the cities of
Havana and Santiago de Cuba to
Trinidad. You will have the chance
to experience everything from
salsa classes and beach cocktails
to Cuban cooking lessons and
encounters with sea-turtles.
Readers who book by April 1 will
also enjoy a three-night stay at the
W South Beach Hotel, one of the
most opulent and fashionable
hotels in Miami, with fabulous
views, stellar spa, fine dining and
sumptuous rooms. A city tour of
Miami and a trip to the Everglades
are also included.
International flights
Taxes and gratuities from London
Full-board 14-day all-inclusive luxury cruise
on board Scenic Eclipse**
All excursions in itinerary (see online for details)
Dedicated on board discovery team
Cruise manager throughout
Butler service
Trip duration: October 2–19, 2018.
Exclusively with
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0808 223 0760
TERMS & CONDITIONS: *Book by April 1, 2018. **All drinks except certain wines and spirits. Scuba, helicopter and submarine at extra cost. ***Based on twin/double share, single supplement applies.
Operated by and subject to the booking conditions of Scenic, a company independent of News UK. Scenic: 13th Floor, 111 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2HY; ATOL 9294, ABTA Y6328. See full Ts and Cs online.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 51
52 Travel
the times Saturday February 3 2018
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Overseas Travel
Overseas Travel
Winter Sun
Activity Holidays
AUTHENTIC Spanish Study
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Travel 53
the times Saturday February 3 2018
54 Travel
Go orangutan spotting in Kota Kinabalu
Travel tips
Llama trekking in Surrey Hills
There are four new bedrooms at Peter
de Savary’s 16th-century pub The Merry
Harriers, in the village of Hambledon. But
even better than the country-inn chic and
the lovely winter menu is a new tie-in with
Surrey Hills Llamas, which means that you
can book a B&B Trek Package from £384
per couple, including a half-day trek with lunch and a three-course
dinner. Otherwise, doubles cost from £125 B&B (
Six Senses to open in Singapore
The luxury hotel company Six Senses is opening its first city hotels,
with two properties in Singapore this year, before one in New York in
2020. The first, Six Senses Duxton, designed by Anouska Hempel, is
scheduled to open in mid-April, followed a couple of months later by
Six Senses Maxwell, designed by Jacques Garcia. Both are in heritage
buildings. The Duxton, with 49 guest rooms, will offer appointments
with a traditional Chinese doctor, while the Maxwell, with 138, will
have a Six Senses Spa. Rooms will cost from about £230 a night, with
bookings open from the middle of this month (
Snorkel with giant cuttlefish
Forget diving with sharks and swimming
with manta rays, in South Australia you
can snorkel with giant cuttlefish. There are
two tours, July 3-4 and July 8-9, in Whyalla
on the Eyre Peninsula, a four-and-a-halfhour drive from Adelaide. Two days costs
from A$649pp (£370), including transport
from Adelaide, overnight accommodation, several meals, and wetsuit
and snorkel gear (
Best bolt holes with babies
If you want to stay in style with your baby, take a look at Maison
Olive, one of four boutique barns at Le Sarrail, just outside
Carcassonne in France. It has been voted the top overseas place to
stay by and combines glossy interiors
with babysitting, gourmet-meal delivery, heated pool, play barn and
adventure playground. Sleeping four, it costs from €1,400 (£1,224)
a week. The UK winner, Fallow Deer, sleeps four and costs from
£825 a week. Jane Knight
Travel doctor
We are about to come into a
small inheritance that we
want to spend on taking our
niece and nephew (aged 7
and 11) away for a holiday.
They like the sea, but a bit of adventure
too, and we want to go somewhere that
they would not normally visit (so not
Florida). Our budget is about £12,000.
What can you suggest?
Dan Simpson, via email
Try Sri Lanka, which ticks
the adventure and beach
boxes. Real Holidays (020
7359 3938,
has a 14-night Family
Adventure that packs in a cookery class,
a four-wheel-drive safari to see wild
elephants, a scenic tea-country train ride,
a leopard safari and time by the sea near
the old Portuguese port town of Galle. A
private driver and guide is on hand
throughout. The trip costs from £2,785pp,
including flights, transport, B&B and
excursions, and it’s tailor-made, so you
can tinker with the itinerary to suit you.
Alternatively, how about orangutan
spotting in Borneo? Tropical Sky
Holidays (01342 886941, has a ten-night
Family Adventure in Malaysia starting
at Singapore’s Sentosa Island before
heading to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo for
seven nights and a trip to the Tunku
Abdul Rahman Marine Park (for
fantastic snorkelling and deserted
beaches), as well as visits to the
orangutan and proboscis monkey
sanctuaries in Sepilok. You would stay
at the Shangri La Rasa Ria, a familyfriendly, five-star resort on a beautiful
white-sand beach. The price for two
adults and two children starts from
£9,908 for ten nights in early August,
including flights, a family room in
Singapore, two rooms in Borneo and
most meals.
Wherever you go, to avoid problems
at passport control, take a letter from the
children’s parents giving you permission
to take them abroad.
Q For my husband’s 70th birthday this
month I booked an Indian Ocean trip
with Costa Cruises that included
Madagascar, which he has always
wanted to visit. We later discovered
that Costa’s ships have not been calling
at Madagascar because of an outbreak
of pneumonic plague. Are there any
regulations about a crucial change of
itinerary that would entitle us to an
alternative cruise or compensation?
Sandra Cuthill, via email
A Costa told me that it is reintroducing
planned calls to Nosy Be and
Antsiranana, so your husband will get
to see Madagascar, although it’s still
avoiding Toamasina. If the ship had
not called there at all you would not
necessarily have been entitled to an
alternative cruise or compensation.
Cruise lines’ booking conditions include
a clause stipulating that there is no
guarantee that the ship will call at every
port on the itinerary, which the captain
can change if necessary. Cruise lines do,
however, often offer on-board credit as
compensation if a port of call is missed.
Q I’m taking my teenage son and his
friend to Venice for the weekend. Can
you suggest anything to keep them
Margaret Matthews, via email
ARow Venice ( offers
90-minute rowing lessons for up to four
people in a traditional wooden boat. For
two people it costs £75 for 90 minutes.
Or they could go kayaking. A half-day
tour of the Venetian lagoon costs about
£84pp ( To warm
them up afterwards, take them to
Venice’s best chocolate shop, Vizio Virtu
( for its spectacular hot
chocolate and a guided tasting session.
Julia Brookes is the Travel Doctor
Don’t put up with this
Trip lost because of missing documents
I made a booking with eDreams for my
family to fly with Emirates to Cape
Town in December. When we tried to
check in we were told that we needed
our children’s unabridged birth
certificates. We were unaware that this
was a prerequisite to fly to South
Africa. Unfortunately there was no
time to return home. We were unable
to take the flight and could not afford
to pay £6,000 for the only available
seats on December 23. The check-in
staff told us that we were not the first
family this had happened to nor would
we be the last and that had we booked
directly with them we would have
been told of the requirement. We lost
our holiday, including hotel bookings,
a safari and car rental. Can you help?
Susie Molteno, via email
Had you booked your flights online with
Emirates you probably would have
noticed a warning about the
requirements for family travel to South
Africa (which came into effect in June
2015). Unfortunately, eDreams provided
no such warning at the time of booking
or in the confirmation email. It is the
passenger’s responsibility to bring the
correct documentation for a trip but
following my intervention, eDreams
apologised and has refunded £2,873, 75
per cent of the flight cost, but not other
expenses. “We are working on making
this guidance even clearer, both in our
terms and conditions and the booking
confirmation email customers receive
from us,” an eDreams spokesman said.
Contact us . . .
If you have a gripe, suggestion or question about
holiday travel, write to Travel Doctor, The Times
Travel Desk, 1 London Bridge Street, London
SE1 9GF, or email
Please include contact details. If you have a
dispute with a travel company, try to resolve it
before contacting us.
Do not send us original documents.
Unfortunately we cannot reply to every inquiry.
the times Saturday February 3 2018
Travel 55
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