вход по аккаунту


The Times Weekend - 17 March 2018

код для вставкиСкачать
Saturday March 17 2018
Stephen Mangan on late fatherhood
Plus Turn your bike ride into a proper workout
Can meditation
your sex life?
Starts on
page 25
Great city breaks
on the cheap
Bordeaux, perfect
for a mini-break
The foodies’ guide
to Porto
Yes, yes
Chic hotels for
under £100 a night
the times Saturday March 17 2018
2 Body + Soul
Meditation for couples: just what
The psychologist Lori Brotto, a renowned
expert in sexual desire, says that even
long-term couples can have thrilling sex.
Barbara McMahon reports
ight women with
unsatisfactory sex lives
are in group therapy, each
rolling a raisin in their palm.
They look closely at the
dried and wrinkled object,
press it between their
fingertips and smell it. They put the
object into their mouth, touch it with
their tongue and try not to bite or chew
it. Finally, they swallow it.
Meditating on a raisin may seem a
strange and New Agey way for anyone
to get excitement back into their sex
lives, but it’s part of an introduction to
mindfulness, the practice of bringing
one’s attention to experiences occurring
in the present moment. The meditation
is being conducted as part of an
extensive research project by Dr Lori
Brotto, a Canadian psychologist and
professor in the Department of
Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the
University of British Columbia, who is
one of the world’s pre-eminent experts
in sexual desire and arousal disorders.
She has dedicated her career to helping
couples (women in particular) suffering
from sexual problems and publishes a
book on the subject, called Better Sex
Through Mindfulness, next month.
Being distracted and unable to halt
the incessant chatter running through
their minds is one of the biggest
passion-killers, say many people,
especially women. Their bodies are
willing, but their multi-tasking brains
are elsewhere, wondering if they’ve
run out of milk, thinking about their
kids and fretting about work.
“Like eating a handful of raisins, I
just go through the motions during sex,”
admits one participant during Brotto’s
research project. “I don’t slow down to
experience the different sensations of
touch, sound, smell and taste like I did
with that one raisin. I’m on autopilot.”
“I was thinking about the raisin and
then I was thinking about it as a grape,
and that made me think of vineyards, and
then I thought of the day trip my husband
and I took to a winery,” says another
woman. “If I can’t pay attention while I’m
eating a raisin, I’m beginning to see how
much my mind wanders during sex.”
“I didn’t realise how subtle the
different sensations were in my body
and I wonder if that can be useful when
I’m having sex,” states a third.
Brotto believes that mindfulness
can be a powerful tool to help couples
to overcome this brain chatter. “I would
argue that satisfying sex is quite simply
not possible without mindfulness,”
says Brotto. “When you ask people to
describe an optimal sexual encounter,
they unanimously describe them in a
mindful way — I felt fully alive. Nothing
else mattered. I was in the zone. I felt
every sensation.”
The meditations, she says, can also
help men with specific sexual problems,
such as impotence. “We’ve done one
pilot study for men with situational
erectile dysfunction — those are men
who might have no problems getting
an erection on their own, but they
have difficulty getting an erection
during partnered sex.”
They are also good for couples who
have been together for a long time or
are getting older and feel they have gone
off the boil in the bedroom, she says.
The techniques can re-energise their
sex lives, helping men and women
think about their bodies in new ways.
“Sex is malleable. One of the myths
is that once the flame of sex is
extinguished, there’s no way to get it
back. It stems from the belief that
desire is biological, that it’s out of your
control and fades naturally over time,
but the research does not show that,”
Brotto says. “Acrobatic sex or incredible
stamina aren’t what makes sex
magnificent. To be fully present with
each sensation, without judgment or
commentary, is what I think has been
missing for the countless people who
are dissatisfied with sex.”
There are a range of meditations
that couples can do, including
“back-to-back sensing”, which involves
standing or sitting back-to-back for 15
minutes, just concentrating on the
points of contact between their bodies.
Devised by the psychologists Agnes
Kocsis and John Newbury-Helps, based
at St Marys Hospital in London, this
can help couples to bring their focus
on to each other’s bodies when not in
a sexual situation and “just be”, she says.
Another she recommends is known
as “sensate focus”, developed by the
pioneering American sexual researchers
William Masters and Virginia Johnson.
The couple touch each other one at a
time, and then later simultaneously and
observes what sensations arise in their
bodies. These exercises are especially
useful for people who want to turbocharge their sex lives, but are multitaskers and find it hard to turn off their
busy minds, even during sex, she says.
Good sex doesn’t have to be
spontaneous — it’s OK to put time and
effort into making it better, Brotto says.
“I often ask, ‘What else in your life is
meaningful and important to you that’s
not planned?’ And many agree that
everything they get great joy out of
happens with some effort. You have to
work at it.”
And couples should not
underestimate how important such
meditations can be. Satisfying sex is a
core component of health and quality of
life, Brotto says. “There’s a strong link
between sexual satisfaction and mood
and self-esteem, as well as the quality of
satisfaction in a relationship. Sex is not
a frivolous and self-indulgent activity, it
really is a crucial aspect of health.”
Brought up in a conservative Catholic
family where sex education was not
discussed, the mother of three started
Dr Brotto’s 3-step exercise to try at home
This mindfulness technique can
help couples make their sex lives
exciting again. The exercise, called
sensate focus, was devised by the
sex therapy pioneers William
Masters and Viginia Johnson. The
goal is not to elicit pleasurable
feelings, but rather to observe any
feelings that arise. Whether you are
in a new or long-term relationship,
this meditation will help you
experience your partner’s touch in
a new way.
Phase 1 One partner
touches the other partner
from head to toes,
excluding the genitals
and breasts/chest. The
receiver of the touch
should focus on their
own sensations and
redirect their
continually back
to those
sensations if, for
example, they start
to worry about their
partner’s reactions.
Because we often default to
thinking, “I hope my partner likes
this,” or, “I hope I am doing this
right,” we need to be encouraged
over and over again to focus purely
on sensations. After about 15
minutes the roles are reversed: the
person receiving the touch now
does the touching, and the person
giving the touch becomes the
receiver. Eventually, both of you
may come to feel that you have
become good at keeping your
focus of attention on to
sensations and that, if
negative thoughts arise, you
are able to move in and
quickly redirect your
attention back to the
sensations of your
partner’s touch. Some
couples are able to attain
this after a few sessions.
may need more
Dr Lori Brotto
Phase 2 After you
have practised
Phase 1, progress
to Phase 2. In
this phase, all areas of the body
may be touched, including the
genitals, the chest, and any other
erogenous zones. You may choose
to focus on temperature, texture
and pressure, because these are
powerful portals into the longed-for
sexual arousal and pleasure.
Arousal is still not the goal of the
touching. The goal is to truly attain
mindfulness together.
Phase 3 This involves mutual simultaneous touching. Both partners
may experiment with shifting the
focus of their attention back and
forth from the sensation of being
touched to that of giving touch.
They should take notice of the
vibrations of contact when they are
being touched and the warmth of
their fingertips as they touch their
partner’s chest, legs and everywhere else on the body. By slowing
down, they can move their attention from these different locations
at their own pace. Eventually
penetration can occur. Focus on
what this feels like for both, without
any thrusting movements.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Body + Soul 3
the doctor ordered
Sex is not a
frivolous and
activity. It really
is a crucial
aspect of health
her academic and clinical career
observing rats have sex and in 1999
made the switch to human research for
her PhD. She was engaged in sex
research and doing clinical training with
people with personality disorders and
suicidal tendencies for a post-doctoral
fellowship at the University of
Washington when she first learnt
about mindfulness.
“Mindfulness was a way of teaching
these individuals that they could tolerate
those negative emotional experiences by
riding them out, as if they were on a
surfboard,” she says. “I had the lightbulb
moment where I thought there were
similarities between them and people
with sexual dysfunction — they were
disconnected, not present. Their bodies
were going through the motions, but
their minds were not tuning in.”
She tried mindfulness with women
whose sex lives had been disrupted by
cancer treatment and then tested it on
women with low libidos. She created
mindfulness exercises with herself as the
test subject, including one that now
helps women with negative body image
affecting their love lives.
“I literally tried on a new identity. I’d
say to myself, ‘I’m a fully sensual, sexual
woman. I feel feminine. I feel sexy.’ I
would repeat this as a mantra and it
worked. It’s become one of our most
popular exercises,” she says.
Along with the couples meditations,
Brotto’s book has solo exercises. These
are mainly focused on helping women to
put themselves more in touch with their
bodies and, ultimately, their sexuality.
Men should support and encourage
partners to try these alone, she says.
She suggests a “body scan” that
invites you to feel sensations in various
parts of the body. It starts by asking
someone to look at themselves in a
mirror. “Women, especially, are hard on
their bodies, and that directly interferes
in sexual satisfaction and desire,” she
says. “They’ll be pushing their partner’s
hand away from parts of their body they
don’t like. They avoid having the lights
on during sex. These exercises are
about paying attention to your body’s
sensations and addressing some of those
negative self-judgements.
“Mindfulness doesn’t turn off intrusive
thoughts, rather it allows you to say,
‘Yes, I know you’re there, and you can
exist in the background along with my
observation of what’s happening in my
body at this moment,’ ” Brotto adds. “It’s
not an emptying of the mind, rather it’s
a way of selectively moving the
attention to where one wants it to go.”
When it comes to women’s libidos,
a meditation to help them to feel
innately sexy can be effective, says
Brotto. Because if a woman doesn’t
feel sexy to begin with, she won’t find
sex rewarding.
“Many women have sexual activity,
maybe to keep a partner happy or to
maintain a sense of normalcy, but as
soon as she has an encounter she
catastrophises,” Brotto says. “She
anticipates this isn’t going to go well
and she’s not going to get excited, and
she hopes her partner doesn’t notice that
she is disengaged. She’s not really there.”
Women learn to avoid sexual
situations, she continues. “Going to
bed at different times, reading a book,
not undressing in front of a partner.
I’ve had so many patients tell me that
they dread going on holidays because
there’s this unspoken rule that of
course you’re going to have sex. There
is sadness, especially if there has been
satisfying sex in the past.”
Another pilot study on sex and
mindfulness is aimed at men and
focuses on prostate cancer survivors
with erectile dysfunction. The findings
have shown promise, Brotto says.
“With men with situational erectile
dysfunction, their erectile dysfunction
reduced,” she says. “For the men with
prostate cancer, they have permanent
nerve damage as a result of their
treatments, but we saw significantly less
distress and more sexual satisfaction by
teaching men how to be compassionate
to themselves, to broaden their sexual
repertoire and learn to be sexual in
other non-intercourse ways.”
The key to good sex really is all
in the mind, Brotto says.
“I really believe that sexual
satisfaction depends on our ability to
be present, and even if you have very
familiar encounters with the same
partner over 20 or 30 years, every
encounter is an opportunity to observe
something new,” she says.
Better Sex Through Mindfulness,
How Women Can Cultivate Desire by
Lori A Brotto PhD will be published on
April 26 (Greystone Books, £12.99)
Help! My generation’s
gone hippy Hannah Rogers,
24, on mindful millennials
t’s half past eight on a Tuesday
morning and all is quiet at
25A Ecclestone Place, home to
London’s small but swanky new
drop-in meditation studio. Soon,
the stressed out of Belgravia will
arrive to sit calmly and be at one
with themselves at the smartest
meditation centre in London. Re:Mind
opened last month and it may already
rival some of the private members’ clubs
and high-end gyms in the area. The tiny
studio has 300 local devotees hoping to
leave with both inner and outer glows.
Re:Mind is the brainchild of Carla
von Anhalt, 29, a nutrition expert, and
Yulia Kovaleva, 27, a former property
developer, and the first studio of its kind
in London. You can drop into your
meditation class of choice (yes, there are
If the generation before us were hipsters
drinking cold-brew coffee, we’re outand-out hippies, clad in Lululemon Lycra
and clutching crystals. I can’t tell you
how many of my friends have taken to
wearing crystals on their wrists, carrying
them in their pockets or sleeping with
them under their pillow in the hope of
attracting good vibes to boost health,
abundance, emotional strength, a drop in
the housing market, etc. They look nice
too, which probably helps, and, much
like our smartphones, require charging
(you leave them out in the sun).
As for meditation, it has gone
mainstream. I know the most fervent
of cynics who have come to rely on the
Headspace app and City boys who are
more likely to hit the therapy couch than
the pub these days. “People are coming
Carla von Anhalt and Yulia Kovaleva, the founders of the meditation studio Re:Mind
many from Re:Connect, to Re:Tune and
Re:Breathe) the same way you might a
spinning session. And who needs retail
therapy on Sloane Street when you can
come here for reiki, tea ceremonies and
all-female “goddess gatherings”? Or,
for £35, you can sign up to a “sound
healing” session.
On the day I visit, the studio’s own
blend of herbal tea is brewing and a large
purple amethyst crystal sits on a shelf,
promising “healing” energy. A tall, highly
instagrammable plant wall overlooks the
rows of hand-woven blankets, cushions
and eye masks laid out for the day’s
meditators. To top it off, bar the
recycled wool blankets sold downstairs
(next to gift sets of crystals that promise
to bring good energy to a new home and
hand-poured essential oil candles), the
studio is vegan.
“In the US there are a lot of studios
like ours. We couldn’t believe one didn’t
exist here,” says von Anhalt, who
appears relaxed to the point of being
Let’s pause there, because, er, really?
There’s a gap in the market for this stuff
outside Glastonbury? Actually, yes. This
is peak self-care, which — in case you
missed it — is the buzzword of 2018 and
essentially a term coined by my
generation (millennials) to wrap up the
long-running mantra of “treat yourself”.
out more about their spirituality.
There is an earlier awakening of that
— of who we are in the universe,” says
Jane Orr, a London-based “intuitive
consultant” to the stars (aka psychic),
who has seen a rise in the number of
twentysomethings seeking her out
(for £160 per hour). “That used to
happen in people’s forties, on the verge
of a midlife crisis. It’s now happening
much earlier, that need for clarity, to
be told they are on the right track.”
Ah, clarity: is there anything more
appealing to someone muddling
through their twenties? I have
friends who would queue to be told
by Orr whether their boyfriend was
“the one”, or how their career was
going to pan out. It is why we all
read our horoscopes so avidly (the
Astrotwins and Luke Dani Blue on
Refinery29 are favoured). Knowing
that Mercury is in retrograde
when everything is going to pot —
personally, politically, professionally,
whatever — is great reassurance
for many of us; something to both
explain what is happening and
determine that it is temporary, phew.
Yes, it does all have a touch of the
bonkers about it. So, frankly, if a few
deep breaths and a rose-quartz necklace
bring you peace of mind, what’s the
harm? Just don’t forget to charge it.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
4 Body + Soul
How I lost six stone (and kept
Suzy Wengel yo-yo dieted for years. Now her simple weight-loss technique is a publishing sensation
he ran a successful bio-tech
company, was happily
married and starting a family,
but despite having a stable
and seemingly sorted life,
Suzy Wengel had a serious
problem with her weight. She
was 15½ stone and had spent her life
yo-yoing between crash diets and
secret bingeing. She had gained and
lost four stone so many times that the
clothes in her cupboard ranged from
sizes 10 to 18.
It was only when a doctor gently
asked her why she didn’t seem to have
control of her weight when she seemed
so in control in all other areas of life that
Wengel vowed to get to grips with her
eating habits. Using her scientific
background to devise the ultimate
“common sense” diet, she lost six stone
in nine months. She then retrained as a
dietician and wrote a book.
Six years later, and still at 9st 6lb,
Wengel, 39, is a publishing sensation
in her native Denmark, where she has
topped the bestseller list several times
with books based on her method. It’s
now used countrywide by dieticians
in Denmark and this year her original
book, The Scandi Sense Diet, will be
published in nine countries, including
the UK, this month.
The “sense” in Scandi Sense is a
simple system based on handfuls: each
meal should contain one handful of
carbs or fruit, one handful of protein
and one to two handfuls of vegetables.
There are a few other rules (but not
It took two or three
years after I’d lost
the weight to know
when I was full
many), no banned foods and you can
even drink wine.
“I read dozens of scientific papers
about diets — what worked, what didn’t
— and examined what the successful
ones had in common,” Wengel says.
“I learnt that low-fat diets didn’t work,
that you had to eat enough protein to
feel full and that we shouldn’t be afraid
of fat. I didn’t want to count calories
or measure food. I wanted something
simple that worked.”
Wengel — who lives in Odense with
her husband Jesper, a science professor,
and their two sons, aged seven and eight
— says that her problems with weight
started at 11, when she had to change
school because she was being bullied.
She found friends at her new school,
but was desperate to fit in and be slim
like them. “By 15 I was 5ft 3in tall and
wasn’t overweight at just over 10 stone,
just healthy and shapely, but when I
looked in the mirror I saw a girl with
short, fat legs,” she says.
Over the next 17 years she tried every
diet going: low-fat combined with hard
exercise, soup and juice diets and, later,
low-carb diets. “At times I lived
exclusively on pasta and cheese, or
rice pudding with cinnamon sugar, and
at other times I completely starved
myself,” she says. “I lived in a very
black-and-white world. Either I threw
myself at everything I felt like eating
or everything was completely off-limits
because I was on a diet. Whenever a diet
fell flat, and it always did at some point,
I felt like a huge failure and I let loose
again on the overeating.”
When she met Jesper in 2005 she was
13½ stone and continued to eat in secret.
“I would wolf down half a loaf of white
bread with Nutella while
he was out and I’d buy two
bags of toffees and transfer
the contents from one bag
into the other, so it looked
like I had only bought a
single bag.”
Then three years later, in
the run-up to her wedding,
she forced herself back to
size 10 again with a
restrictive low-calorie,
low-fat diet combined with
7½ miles of walking every
day. She got into the
wedding dress of her
dreams, then began
overeating the next
day. “It was as if I was
desperately trying to
catch up with all those
calories that both my
body and my mind had
missed over the past
five months,” she says.
By the time she had
given birth to their first
son, Valdemar, in 2010
she weighed 14 stone again.
It was after having had her
second child, in 2011, that she
began her own programme.
“I promised myself that the
moment Albert was born I
would lose the weight for
good. I remember lying
there in the maternity ward
in April 2011 and thinking,
‘Right, this is it. I’m going to
change now: no quick fixes,
no starvation diets, no hard
exercise I couldn’t keep up,
just common sense.’ ”
Wengel sketched out her diet
ideas based on the research that
she had done and began that day.
“I’d learnt the exact amount of
protein, carbs and vegetables you
needed for sustainable weight loss,
and later worked out that
translated quite neatly into
handfuls,” she says.
Realising that she had spent
17 years unable to recognise when
she was full, she taught herself to focus
on feelings of hunger and fullness when
eating. “Actually it took two or three
years after I’d lost the weight to know
when I was full, and now it happens
naturally and I stop eating.”
In 2014 she trained as a dietician
and self-published her diet in a booklet
that she distributed around the streets
of Odense. She invited people to her
house if they wanted to try the diet:
100 turned up. Soon after, her book was
picked up by a big publishing house and
Suzy Wengel, left,
and in 2005,
above right
immediately became a bestseller. Her
methods have resonated with thousands
of people who may only have a stone or
so to lose, but want to embrace a more
long-term healthy lifestyle.
Its secret, she believes, is the
common sense element: there aren’t
very many rules, only that two of your
three meals a day should contain the
right combination of vegetables,
protein, starch/fruit and fat. With
the other meal there’s room for
tinkering — the kind of internal
bartering system that slim people do
naturally. So if you want a small slice
of cake in the afternoon, that’s half of
your handful of carbs gone for dinner.
Wengel doesn’t even like to call her
method a diet “because it’s a lifestyle, a
way of rethinking food for life”, she says.
She no longer needs to follow the diet
strictly, but finds that she does it
intuitively. “I don’t measure out
handfuls, but I do have the idea of it in
my head every day. But that’s just how
normal-weight people approach food,
I think — that sense of weighing up
how much they can eat over a day, or
a week.
“I can go to a hotel and take one of
those small sachets of Nutella, spread it
on my toast and really enjoy it. Before,
I used to spoon it out of the jar straight
into my mouth — that was just a small
snack for me. Now I don’t think I could
do that without throwing up.”
Rachel Carlyle
The Scandi Sense Diet is published
on March 22 (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99).
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Body + Soul 5
it off)
I hate to admit it, but I confess
that I have a favourite child
How to do the diet:
Four handfuls
at every meal
Protein: 1 han
Because hand size is related
to build and height, four
handfuls will work out as an
average of 1,500 calories a
day for women and 2,000
for men with three meals a
day. Most people lose
400-800g (0.9-1.8lb) a
week they follow this plan.
Two handfuls of vegetables
(except potatoes) Prioritise coarse,
fibrous vegetables such as cabbage,
broccoli, spinach and sprouts. Include
salad, onions, tomatoes, peppers and
root vegetables such as turnips,
sweet potato and parsnip.
A handful of protein From
meat, poultry, fish, shellfish,
eggs, low-fat cheese or
pulses. A handful is
100-200g of meat, two eggs
or 80-100g of low-fat
cheese (less than 17 per
cent fat) such as cottage,
feta or ricotta. Limit
processed meat. Don’t eat
more than a palm-sized thin
layer and supplement with
another form of protein, such as
half a handful of fish or pulses.
A handful of carbohydrates In the
form of bread, breakfast cereals, pasta,
rice, potatoes and/or fruit and berries.
A handful is a slice of bread or two
or three crispbreads, and a
handful of fruit is 100-150g
(one or two plums or an
apple). Combine the two in
one meal by eating half a
slice of bread and half a
handful of fruit.
In addition you can have . . .
One to three tablespoons
of fat a day, including the oil
you cook with and nuts,
kernels, seeds, mayonnaise,
avocado, aioli and pesto, as well
as butter, cream, crème fraîche,
fatty cheese (brie, cheddar,
Emmental etc) and dark chocolate. A
tablespoon of fat varies from 10g to 30g
depending on how energy-packed the
food is. A tablespoon of butter is about
10g and a tablespoon of avocado is
about 30g. Three heaped tablespoons
of avocado is about half a large one.
Dairy You can have up to 300ml a day
(with a fat content of 3.5 per cent or less
and sugars of 5g per 100g) of milk,
yoghurt or skyr, in addition to your
handfuls. Avoid alternative milks.
Drinks Have as much black tea, coffee
and calorie-free drinks as you want, but
use common sense. If you want a glass of
alcohol, remove a carbohydrate handful
at one meal; you can add extra veg.
Indulgences If you eat a small piece of
cake you should take away something
that corresponds to half a meal to
compensate. A Big Mac or 100g of milk
chocolate constitutes a whole meal.
Breakfast If you don’t want vegetables
at breakfast, leave them out. Instead
have yoghurt or skyr with muesli, for
example, or egg with a slice of toast.
You must eat the right combination of
handfuls for your other meals, though.
Carbs: 1 handf
Veg: 2 handfu
Snacks If you find it difficult to keep
hunger at bay with three meals a day,
add a little more into one of your meals
by, for example, increasing the amount
of protein by 5 to 10 per cent. Or divide
your daily allowance between three
main meals and one or more snacks, so
you eat less at mealtimes. Choose a
small snack with protein, carbohydrate
and fat that fills you up and keeps your
blood-sugar levels stable. For example,
25g of pistachio nuts in their shells is a
tablespoonful of fat; a hard-boiled egg
with 10g of mayonnaise is a third of a
handful and a tablespoonful of fat.
Eating out If you eat half-meals for
breakfast and lunch you will have two
meals to play with in the evening. Or
have normal meals for breakfast and
lunch and complete the last meal to the
best of your ability. Be level-headed, do
not overeat and get back into a good
rhythm at the next mealtime. Don’t
think: “Now it’s all ruined so it doesn’t
really matter what I do tomorrow.”
y eldest son, 14, finds a
note in a rucksack
that I’d written to
his sister. “You wrote
that she was your
favourite,” he says.
He’s smiling — it’s a
family joke that I claim a preference for
whichever child does as I ask — but
even so, he’d like the issue addressed.
“Of course I did,” I reply. “I say that
to all of you. You’re all my favourite.”
I could have added: her especially.
Yes, I love all three of my children
madly, but I have a favourite and I feel
guilty about it. Of course this sounds
awful, but I am far from alone. In a
survey of 1,185 Mumsnet users this
week, a brazen 23 per cent admitted it.
It’s not something I’m proud of and
the reasons for it are complicated. My
daughter, 13, the favoured one, is the
most challenging of my three. I’m gently
trembling as I write, having just retired
from our latest battle. She was baiting
her younger brother at dinner, calling
him “thick” again and again. (“Stop it,”
I shouted. “Why? It’s not my fault he’s
thick,” etc.) I confiscated her phone for
the evening, so she started thumping
chairs around her room. When I
ordered her to stop, she screamed.
Our relationship is fraught — she’s
the only one of my children who
enrages me to tears — but despite this
(or perhaps because of it) she is the
precious one. Her sensitivity causes me
the most worry. She not only tests my
patience, she tests my personality. My
worst habit of going silent and cold
when cross is replicated in her, meaning
that she’s a glorious, goading testament
to every mistake I’ve made since she
was born. What you can’t stand in
yourself is harder to bear in your child.
And that is why I indulge her.
When she isn’t being horrid, her
gentle soul hurts my heart. She’s the
child who wrote a gorgeous note to our
neighbour when her cat was run over,
she rescues hurt pigeons, asks about
my day and cares about the answer.
She’s affectionate and deliciously
squishy to hug. She sees the detail, the
quiet emotions in people that others
don’t catch, and she is brave and loyal.
It would be easy to favour my eldest
boy. Of those parents who reported
having a favourite, 61 per cent opted for
the easiest child. My son worked hard,
won a place at a good school and
satisfied my ambition. I remain dazzled
by him. I adore him for being not like
me — it feels miraculous that all my
parenting errors bounced off him. He
is my fantasy idea of what my children
ought to be. But he is not my favourite.
The Mumsnet survey found that
56 per cent of partial parents favour
the youngest. My youngest son is
secure, even-tempered, always up for a
snuggle. We baby him at the grand old
age of ten, yet somehow he’s not a brat.
My daughter claims that I favour him,
although I really don’t because that
role is performed by his father.
I focus the bulk of my attention on
the child who thirsts for it. That’s my
daughter, the child who more often
highlights my potential to be shallow
and mean. I still wince at the time I
made her play tennis with me (I hoped
we’d bond and she’d get fitter; she was
eating junk and it showed, but I would
She is the only
one of my
children who
enrages me
to tears, but
despite this
she is the
precious one
never mention it). She complained that
her leg hurt. I stamped home and let
her feel bad. “Hey,” I wanted to say.
“You’re amazing and I’m sorry for being
a cow.” But the words stuck.
I feel guilt for being sometimes
disappointed by her, and the feeling
is mutual. She refused to take any
secondary-school exam, and now she
coasts along at the local school, using a
fraction of her impressive brain. But why
should she conform to my expectations?
She’s my favourite because she needs
my fierce protection. The world isn’t as
kind as she is. She’s easily hurt, prone to
brood and blame herself. Her brothers
are sensitive, but better at dealing with
difficult emotions. So when my boys
accuse me of never punishing their
sister, I’m honest. I say that I treat her
in a way that’s right for her. And it’s not
because she’s a girl, it’s because she’s
prone to doubt her judgment. My task
is to raise her to believe in herself.
It feels like a travesty to admit to
favouritism, but usually our guilt is
misplaced. Andy Cornes, of the child
psychology service View Psychology,
says: “It’s impossible to treat children the
same or to parent them equally because
some are more demanding than others,
some are more independent. We also
parent our children differently because
we have them at different times. We
could be richer, poorer, in a relationship,
out of a relationship.”
And there are many reasons for
favouring a child, such as they are like
us, easy to manage or have a particular
need. Cornes says: “Favouritism is
transient. If you have a favourite child,
it won’t be throughout their childhood,
which means we can have all our
children as favourites at different times.
It is crucial to recognise that we have
bias and wishes about our children’s
futures. If we’re trying to be the best
parents we could possibly be, we
support them in whatever way we can.”
I agree. I parent according to what
each child needs, but ultimately they’re
all my favourite — and they know it.
The author’s name has been withheld
the times Saturday March 17 2018
6 Body + Soul
Some students are
going to extreme
lengths to do better
in their exams,
says Rachel Carlyle
The disturbing rise
of ‘study drugs’
wenty years ago, desperate
students on the brink of
exams made do with a heady
mix of coffee, nicotine,
sweets and pure panic, but
today’s stressed undergraduates are turning to
more hardcore “study drugs” to stay awake
and sharpen their mind.
There’s growing unease about the
increased use of medicines such as
modafinil (prescribed for sleep disorders)
and the prescription ADHD stimulant
Ritalin and its American counterpart
Adderall in sixth forms and on campuses,
and universities have faced calls to tackle
their use or introduce drug testing.
Experts say that they’ve noticed a sharp
upturn in the use of cognitive enhancers, or
nootropics, in the past two or three years,
possibly because of the exponential growth
of cheap online pharmacies; students club
together to buy medicines in bulk, then
share them out for £1.50 to £3 a pill.
It has got to the point where some
students feel that they have to take them
to level the playing field, says Barbara
Sahakian, a professor of clinical
neuropsychology at the University of
Cambridge and a leading researcher on
modafinil. “The coercion aspect is a real
problem,” she says. “Students come up to
me and say, ‘I don’t want to use them,
but when I see them being passed out
around the library before an exam I feel
I’m going to be at a disadvantage by not
using them.’ ”
No one knows how widespread their use
is. One study, of 4,500 students in seven
countries, found that 6 per cent had used
them, although 60 per cent thought that
their peers were using them. Surveys by
student newspapers have suggested that
the true figure is between 15 and 25 per cent,
with the highest concentrations at the most
selective universities, including Oxford and
Modafinil (brand name Provigil) is
the most popular. It is prescribed to sufferers of the sleep disorder narcolepsy
and works on several areas of the brain
to increase levels of dopamine and
other neurotransmitters associated with
reward, alertness and feelings of wellbeing.
“A lot of students say they have trouble
writing long essays, but get in the flow when
they take modafinil,” Sahakian says. “We
have found in the lab that [with] under
200mg of modafinil, healthy people were
better at problem-solving and planning. So
far it’s not shown to have abuse potential,
although what I worry about is that the
long-term effects aren’t known, particularly as our brains are still in development
until the age of 24 or 25.”
Ritalin and its newer American cousin
Adderall are more troublesome because
they can be addictive and give users a
feeling of power and euphoria, as well as
increased alertness.
Adderall isn’t licensed for prescription in
the UK, so it’s an illegal class B drug,
although — like all study drugs — it’s not
hard to find on the internet. In the US it’s so
endemic on campus and in high-pressure
jobs, such as those at tech start-ups, that its
use has become normalised, according to a
Netflix documentary, Take Your Pills, which
came out this week.
Adderall is an amphetamine, although
both drugs work in an amphetamine-like
way to increase dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain. “Adderall is the
most dangerous of the prescription stimulants — it’s basically a legalised form of
speed,” says the addiction specialist Dr
William Shanahan, the medical director at
Nightingale Hospital in London. “Those
who don’t have ADHD go into a hyperaroused state and become manic on it.”
Users describe how 40 minutes after
taking an Adderall pill they have an irresistible urge to focus, often for 10 to 12 consecutive hours, without stopping to eat or drink.
But Ritalin and Adderall can have nasty
Subscribers can travel the globe
Subscribe and enter competitions to win exclusive holidays around the world.
You could travel to Sri Lanka on a 15-day trip or take in the sites of the Northern
Territory and Southern Australia.
Subscribe from only £8 a week and save 35% on the cover price.
Call 0800 028 5066 or visit
UK residents only, aged 18 or over. This offer is subject to availability. New subscribers only. 12 months contract minimum term. Visit for full T&Cs.
The long-term
effects aren’t
known. Brains
are developing
until the age
of 24 or 25
side-effects, including tremors, twitching,
sweating, agitation, anxiety and paranoia.
They can also raise blood pressure and
cause heartbeat abnormalities, fatal
collapses and psychosis, especially in those
with mental-health problems.
And it’s debatable how useful the
increased focus is; users say that they feel
compelled to work at whatever is in front of
them when the drug takes effect. “Instead of
sitting down working, you might find
yourself intent on rearranging your sock
drawer,” Shanahan says.
Professor Tim Hales, the head of neuroscience at the University of Dundee, adds a
further note of concern. “We just don’t
know what the long-term consequences
of their use are because most of our knowledge of their effects is in people with particular problems — ADHD or sleep disorders
— and not in healthy people with normal
cognitive abilities,” he says. “We don’t yet
understand how ‘study drugs’ interact with,
for example, depression medication,
alcohol or recreational drugs.”
It’s also debatable whether drugs bought
online are the real thing; some may be too
strong, chemically dud or contain
contaminants. “These products are often
packaged beautifully; unless you were an
expert you wouldn’t know they were not
the real thing,” says Roz Gittins, the director
of pharmacy at the addiction charity
Addaction, which says that there has been a
rise in stimulant abuse among A-level students and undergraduates in the past year.
Some are buying non-prescription nootropics such as Noopept, a synthetic chemical that stimulates the nervous system. It’s
claimed to enhance cognition, and is available online despite having been banned in
the UK in 2016.
If you are worried that your son or
daughter is taking a stimulant, the No 1 sign
to look out for is difficulty sleeping, says Dr
Dominique Thompson, a former GP in a
university practice who now advises
universities on mental health. “They may
also be edgy, anxious, jittery. If they’ve
taken too much they might be sweating and
having palpitations. But often it’s secretive
behaviour and parents may not know —
although I do know parents who have
intercepted unusual-looking packages that
have arrived in the post.”
Most students are only using study drugs
at exam time and aren’t becoming addicted,
although they do worry that their grades
will fall if they stop using them. “These
drugs are a symptom of societal pressure,”
says Thompson.
“There’s been a cultural shift towards
perfectionism — students work very hard
and set themselves very, very high standards. They’re under pressure to stand out
in a competitive world.”
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Body + Soul 7
When I look
like the donkey
from Shrek it
upsets me
The actor Stephen Mangan talks to
Charlotte Edwardes about vanity,
Hollywood and his late-in-life baby
tephen Mangan seems frazzled.
It’s not just that when I meet
him he is filming the next series
of Episodes — which starts next
week — as well as The Split,
“an Abi Morgan” (shorthand
for anything by the ubiquitous
BBC scriptwriter), and doing The Birthday
Party at the Harold Pinter Theatre in
London, and preparing for something that
he has written for Channel 4 about
therapists, despite never having been to
one (“Can you tell me anything about
On top of all this Mangan, 49, is juggling
two boisterous sons, aged ten and seven,
and a late-in-life baby, Jack, now 23
months, who was not so much a surprise as
an outright full-body shock. “We weren’t
thinking,” he says. “Oh my God, contraception, pffff. I won’t say anything, except:
holy moly, it’s still a big shock.”
He was in Liverpool filming a Victorian
drama when he received a text from his
wife, the actress Louise Delamere, who at
the time was 46 to his 47. “I was out on the
street with a hundred extras when I felt a
buzz in my pocket,” he says. “I thought,
‘Shit, I’ve left my phone on.’ ”
When he looked it was a text message
with “a picture of a positive pregnancy test
and the words ‘WTF’ next to it. The first
assistant director came over and said, ‘Can
we go for another take?’ And I said, ‘Can
you just give me one second?’ I went
around the corner and went [he mouths
“f*************ck” silently] for 40 seconds
and then I went back.”
Mangan says that he can see the break in
continuity. “I watch that scene straight
after and there’s panic in my eyes.”
But all panic melts away when he talks
about his youngest son. “He’s the making
of our family,” Mangan says with a smile.
“And also the death of us.” Even the siblings have greeted the event with a sort of
comic stoicism. When Mangan showed his
eldest son, Harry, a baby sling and asked,
“Do you know why Daddy wears that?” he
replied: “Is it because you hate yourself?”
Perhaps because of the domestic pandemonium, we’ve met in a café in town.
Mangan appears windblown, probably
because his thick hair is so unruly. He describes himself as looking like a Bedlington terrier. “Except a bit more floopy. Is
floopy a word?” But in truth he’s looking
pretty youthful: no obvious scars from the
late nights, no obvious vanity. “It upsets
me if I look too much like the donkey from
Shrek, but mostly I can’t be bothered.”
Similar to how he is on screen, he is
naturally, physically funny — a combination of his exaggerated features, facial
expressions and intonation. I ask if his
heavy workload and crazy home life are
related and he jokes that he gets a free
pass if he is filming, “so there’s more incentive to get a job”.
“Actually,” he says, turning serious. “I’m
lucky. No one asks in auditions or meetings: ‘How are you going to cope with this
job, you’ve got three kids? How are you
going to manage?’ My wife still gets asked
that.” Seriously? “Seriously.” Does she
stand up and slap them? “She should.”
The sexism in the industry infuriates
him. I first asked him about this before the
Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. He
acknowledged it then, but said that people
wouldn’t put their heads above the parapet
to talk about it because “they were scared
for their jobs”.
“Agents and producers deliberately
scare you into feeling that your situation is
precarious, to control you.” Because of
this, Mangan says that he wouldn’t move
to Hollywood. “There is an unhappiness
in that city. A sort of tension and misery
because everyone’s status is fragile.”
Soft play or country pub?
So it’s not a place
Country pub because I
of New Age zen? He
don’t know what soft
laughs. “Oh that’s justt
play is
to paper over
Classic tome or
the cracks. It’s
modern thriller?
a city full of
Classic tome
people with
TV or theatre?
no control
over their
Top Gear or Sunday
lives and
night drama?
Sunday night drama;
sorry, Matt
Green juice or caramel
the popularityy
of Episodes — an
Green juice. Caramel
industry show —
frappuccino is grim
and his long assoAge gracefully or
ciation with Matt
Le Blanc, his coHa! Neither. OK,
star, means that he
is recognised in
Stephen Mangan
I couldn’t get
Los Angeles. Reand his wife,
through the
cently a police car
Louise Delamere
weekend without . . .
squealed up and
I want to say oxygen.
the cops jumped
B I’ll settle for crack
out. “They said,
‘We love Episodes!’
Which was a relief as I thought I was about
to be pinned down.”
Mangan lives in Primrose Hill and his
children go to a posh school, famous
for luvvies — “It’s like a f***ing Equity
meeting every morning, Jesus Christ.”
Despite being born in Pond’s End in
Edmonton, north London, he thinks of
himself as an Irishman. “I feel Irish even
though I wasn’t born there because I have
so much history there. There is a graveyard where 60 to 70 per cent of the graves
are Mangans.” His family is enormous —
he has 53 first cousins. Both parents
arrived in London in the 1960s and his
mother worked in a pub in Camden that
was entirely staffed by her friends and
family. His father went into the building
trade with his brothers. “They did well and
I ended up going to boarding school, so
now everyone thinks I’m posh.”
His mother died aged 45 from bowel
cancer. He was 21 at the time. “My mum
died from a really preventable cancer. I get
a camera shoved up my bum every few
years. It can be hereditary, especially if
people die early.”
He talks about his mother to raise
awareness, but also because he wants his
children to know about her. “When you
are 21 you’re still getting to know your
parents as an adult. You’re just coming out
of being a kid, so not to have that relationship with her is really tough. I’ve now spent
much more of my life without her there.”
While he has always loved acting, his
career almost took a different turn. At the
University of Cambridge he auditioned for
Footlights, but found the whole scene too
cliquey. “I couldn’t bear it. The atmosphere
in there was repulsive. It was so in-jokey,
everyone knew each other, they were
snotty and snide, so I walked out and never
went back.” Instead he aimed for a career
in law, until he had a change of heart after
his mother’s death and ten days later
auditioned for Rada, learning the role of
Iago from Othello and a chunk of a Samuel
Beckett. His song for the audition was
Daisy Bell. He got in.
He met Delamere, who was originally
from Liverpool, “playing doctors and
nurses” — he was in Green Wing, she was
in No Angels and Film Four threw a party
to which the cast of both were invited. He
says that they discovered they had
appeared in a film together. “[It was] called
Offending Angels, which I think still holds
the record for getting the lowest box-office
takings in UK cinema history. It made 87
and a half pounds in its entire run.”
After two years together Mangan
proposed in Ireland. Does his wider family
offer help with his late-in-life addition? He
allows himself an enormous laugh. “No
one has any sympathy. They just remind
me that Great Aunt Sarah had 15 children.”
Episodes starts on BBC Two at 10pm
on March 30. The Birthday Party is at
the Harold Pinter Theatre, London
SW1Y, until April 14. For tickets visit
the times Saturday March 17 2018
8 Body + Soul
He only does foreplay
at the weekend
Suzi Godson
Sex counsel
I am certain that my
boyfriend knows all
about good foreplay,
because I’ve experienced it.
Yet on weeknights, when
time is short, he barely
spends any time on my
pleasure and goes straight
to what he must think is
the main event. I am much
less likely to orgasm under
these rushed circumstances.
Quickie sex is fine, and no one
minds taking the occasional
rain check, but there is
something not quite right when
midweek trysts repeatedly deliver for
one partner only. Tiredness is a valid
excuse for wanting a cuddle rather than
intercourse; it is not an excuse to rush
sex. Time is not the issue either. A UK
survey of 44,000 people by the sex-toy
retailer Lovehoney found that the
optimum time for a full lovemaking
session was 30 minutes. However tired,
there’s no reason why you can’t go to bed
earlier and have ample time for foreplay,
intercourse and an orgasm each.
Your boyfriend’s behaviour is a classic
illustration of habituation. At the start
of a relationship, sex is one of the most
important ways for a couple to spend
their time. Life then gets in the way and
you gradually stop dedicating entire
evenings to each other’s pleasure, and
one (or both) stops making an effort.
Relationships are give and take, but too
often it’s the woman giving and the man
taking. In the most comprehensive
survey of sexual behaviour in the US
— The Social Organisation of Sexuality
by Edward O Laumann in 1992 —
75 per cent of the men questioned
said that they always had an
orgasm during sex, compared with
29 per cent of the women.
At the moment your boyfriend
is saving his bacon by making an
effort at weekends, but farther
down the line there’s a possibility
that he will start skimping on a
The best way
to make him
want to please
you is to
the reward
Saturday too. You need to nip this in the
bud. There is no constructive way to tell
your boyfriend that you’re a bit peeved
about him rushing things during the
week and therefore not making an effort
to satisfy you — so the only way to
change this is to make him want to
please you. The best way to do this is to
randomise the reward, which is a proven
psychological strategy. In the famous
1950s study the psychologist BF
Skinner trained rats to press a lever
to release a food treat, but as soon
as the process became predictable
they gave up. If the treats were
randomised so that the rats got,
for example, a small treat, then no
treat, then a big treat, they would
press the lever compulsively.
Because human beings possess the
same appetite for novel rewards, every
habit-forming technology, from slot
machines to social media, uses random
scheduling to keep customers coming
back. It is much the same with sex. In
life, whenever we get rewarded, our
brains release a shot of dopamine. This
makes us feel good, but it also makes us
want more of the thing that created
that sensation, so it is released both as
a result of and in anticipation of
pleasure. The relationship between
novelty, unpredictability and desire
can be used in a positive way to
enhance sex in a long-term
relationship. Add a bit of intrigue to
your midweek sex sessions and he will
be forced to raise his game.
Send your queries to
Enjoy a free
glass of prosecco
at Café Rouge
Save up to 25% off the total bill at over 2,000 restaurants
nationwide, with Times+ Dining. This month you can
also enjoy a free glass of prosecco at Café Rouge with
your discounted meal.
To redeem this offer visit
Offer is open to Times+ Subscribers who are UK residents (excluding Scotland), aged 18+ only. Times+ Dining offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers or promotions including Tesco Club offer vouchers and/or set menus. Offer is valid every day at Café Rouge restaurants in the UK (excluding Scotland) for bookings of up to 8 guests until April 6, 2018 only. Valid photo
ID may be required by restaurant to claim your free glass of prosecco. Please drink responsibly - see . For full terms and conditions, visit
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Body + Soul 9
ycling can slow the effects of
ageing and rejuvenate the immune system, a study has revealed. The research, published
by King’s College London and
the University of Birmingham
last week discovered that a lifetime of regular cycle workouts had surprising
anti-ageing effects. The cyclists in the study,
aged 55 to 79, didn’t gain excess body fat as
they aged and their cholesterol levels were not
raised. In the male cyclists, levels of testosterone — which has an anti-ageing effect, but
which usually dwindles with the passing years
— remained high.
Most surprising was how regular cycling
seemed to have a protective effect on the
immune system. An organ called the thymus,
which makes immunity-boosting T cells,
starts to shrink from the age of 20 and
produces fewer of the cells. However, the
researchers found that the cyclists in their
study were making as many T cells as a much
younger person. “Their bodies have been
allowed to age optimally, free from the
problems usually caused by inactivity,” says
Professor Stephen Harridge, one of the
study’s authors.
Last year a study at the University of
Glasgow, published in The BMJ, found that
cycling to work cuts the risk of developing
cancer by 45 per cent compared with a nonactive commute in the car or on public
transport. Dr Jason Gill from the Institute
of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences in
Glasgow, who led the study, also reported that
a daily bike ride nearly halves the risk of heart
It’s no surprise that more and more of us are
abandoning the vicissitudes of public transport and cycling to work. British Cycling say it
is on the rise, and two million of us now cycle
regularly. Yet few of us get the most from our
bike commute. A few tweaks can transform
your ride into a proper fitness regime —
which is worth considering in the light of this
new research.
But how do you turn your leisurely dawdle
into the sort of ride that will bring massive
health benefits? Here, leading experts explain
how to turn your commute into a workout.
Use gears as a challenge
Gears on a bike are designed to make cycling
as easy as possible and help you to keep a
steady speed, but they can also provide challengess and add intensity. “Over-gear work is
a great way to add intensity,” says the triathlon
coach Will Usher, who helped Gordon Ramsay to prepare for his Ironman event. “Switching to a much higher gear than you would
usually use for 10 to 15 minutes of a cycle can
really help to build strength and power.”
Usher says to start in a low gear — “pushing
off in a high gear is incredibly hard work and
not great for your knees” — and move
through the gears to find one that feels like
hard work, but manageable. Try three
repetitions of 10 to 15 minutes, with a break of
5 minutes easy spinning in between.
Add a few short sprints
Tabata is a short, but very intense
approach to exercise that can be
used on a bike. It is said to accelerate fat burning and is a great
way to make the most of a
short cycle to work. Start
with a moderate 10-minute
cycle to warm up your legs
and raise your heart rate. If
your commute includes a
quiet stretch of road with no
junctions or sharp corners,
you can perform 20-second
flat-out sprints, followed by 10
seconds’ gentle recovery. Repeat this three to five times,
gradually progressing to seven to
eight repetitions over a few weeks.
Pedal at a moderate pace for the rest of
the commute to cool down.
7 ways to turn
your bike ride
into a workout
(and burn fat)
Research has shown that cycling can slow
the effects of ageing — but you have to put a bit of
effort into it, says Peta Bee
How fast should you cycle?
The number of times the wheels spin in
a minute is called the cadence. These
revolutions can be measured using a simple
computer (try the Cateye Strada Cadence
Cycle Computer, £28.99 from,
a more high-tech device (try the Garmin Edge
820 GPS Cycle Computer, £259 from or an app such as Mapmyride
or Cyclemeter. “A cadence of 55 to 60rpm is a
slow and steady pace suitable for beginners,
whereas cyclists wanting more out of a ride
and those wanting to increase the amount
of calories burnt will pedal at around 80 to
100 rpm,” Usher says. “However, cadence is
massively individual, so don’t be put off if you
find 60rpm relatively hard. Go with what
works for you.”
The thigh-toning technique
Cycling is an excellent way to strengthen and
tone the lower body, and you will almost certainly have much leaner and more muscular
thighs after a few weeks in the saddle. “The
quadricep muscles in your thighs are under
tension all the time,” says Dominik Rzadowski, a cycling expert and trainer at the gym
chain Anytime Fitness. “Try alternating
between a standing and sitting position on a
hard ride, as it will give ‘breathing’ space to
your legs and the rest of the body.”
Traffic light HIIT
n empweek
Cyclech twice a ritish
stoma nists from B asional
Nutritio y that an oc to work
Cyclin 0-minute cy l help you
eakfa is so-called
by elit
lose w ast is used odies to
cardio train their el. Try it
cyclist reserves as week.
use fa e or twice
Use the green traffic light as a signal to sprint.
Continue with hard effort for 10 to 30 seconds,
then recover for the same amount of time with
moderate-paced cycling. “By introducing
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in
this way you will raise your heart rate, force
your muscles to work with more power, and
get greater return in terms of strength and
cardiovascular gains,” says Rzadowski.
Stand up on the pedals
You may expect cycling to provide you
with super-strong glutes, but it’s your
thighs, quads and hamstrings that are
predominantly engaged. “Your glutes are
most engaged when you’re climbing, so getting out of the saddle when ascending an
incline is the best way to stimulate them,”
Rzadowski says. Standing up will also
strengthen your core. “It provides greater
instability, which means you must engage
your trunk muscles more to steady yourself,”
he explains. “It provides more of an all-body
workout than if you were in the traditional
seated position.”
Have the odd recovery ride
Not every commute should be hard work. If
you have been to the gym or cycled hard the
day before, use the journey to help to boost
circulation, required to repair muscle fibres
and aid recovery. Don’t push too hard. Try a
moderate-paced, longer ride in which you
extend your commute to 90 minutes or longer
for cardiovascular benefits.
“It’s a good idea to set a weekly target of
how many miles you want to cover
and to do some at a moderate
pace,” Rzadowski says. “The
quickest and most direct
route may not mean you
hit your desired number,
so mix it up and challenge yourself to cover
more miles sometimes.”
There’s no golden
figure of miles for
weight loss — it comes
down to how frequently you cycle and your
intensity. Both need to
progress for you to gain
fitness and lose weight, but
do this gradually. Whatever
your starting point, increase
your weekly mileage by no more
than 10 per cent at a time.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
12 Food + Drink
Afternoon delights
Great cakes to bake
Move over Victoria sponge, it’s time to raise your baking game.
Try these adventurous recipes from food writer Poh Ling Yeow
Nutty brioche cake
Serves about 10
For the brioche
260g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
25g unsalted butter, softened
130ml tepid milk
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
For the topping
50g unsalted butter
55g caster sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp honey
¼ tsp salt
80g flaked almonds
For the crème pâtissière
500ml milk
3 egg yolks, plus 1 extra whole egg
100g caster sugar
50g cornflour (preferably wheaten)
30g chilled unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1 tsp vanilla-bean paste or vanilla extract
½ tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier
To serve
50ml thickened cream
1 For the crème pâtissière, microwave
the milk in a large heatproof bowl for
4–5 min on the highest setting.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and
extra egg with the sugar until pale
and thick. Do not allow the sugar to
rest on the eggs for any length of
time before whisking vigorously, or
it will pickle the yolks unevenly and
create a lumpy mixture. Whisk in the
cornflour until smooth. Add to the hot
milk and whisk to combine.
2 Microwave for 2 min, then whisk
until smooth. Repeat this twice, or
until the mixture is very thick. Cool
for about 5 min, before whisking in
the butter and vanilla until combined.
Allow to cool for about 30 min,
whisking enthusiastically every 10 min
to get rid of any steam trapped in the
crème pâtissière and helping it to set.
Cover with clingfilm pressed directly on
to the surface of the crème
pâtissière and refrigerate overnight
or until completely chilled before
using. When ready to use, whip
together the crème pâtissière and
Cointreau with an electric mixer on
high speed until silky and glossy.
3 To make the brioche, combine the
flour, yeast, sugar, butter, milk and egg
in the bowl of an electric stand mixer
fitted with a dough-hook attachment.
Start on the lowest setting for 2 min,
then add the salt and mix for a further
5 min, until the dough is sticky, smooth
and glossy. Leave the dough in the
bowl and press clingfilm directly on its
surface, making sure any gaps around
the side are sealed. Refrigerate
4 The next day, grease the ring of a
22cm springform tin with butter, then
cut strips of baking paper to line the
side. Turn the base of the tin upside
down, so it no longer has a lip. Place
a piece of baking paper over it, then
clamp the ring around it to secure.
5 Scrape the dough out of the mixing
bowl into the prepared tin.
6 Sprinkle some flour over the top
to stop your fingers from sticking and
press it evenly to cover the bottom of
the tin. Cover with clingfilm, then a
clean tea towel, and allow to rise in a
warm spot for about 1 hour, or until
the dough has doubled in volume.
7 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
8 To make the topping, combine the
butter, caster sugar, milk, honey and salt
in a small saucepan and melt together.
Stir in the nuts, then set aside to cool.
9 Spread the topping evenly over the
surface of the dough and bake for
about 30 min. Cool completely, before
removing from the tin.
10 To finish, whisk the chilled crème
pâtissière briefly to loosen the mixture,
then mix in the cream.
11 Use a serrated knife to slice the cake
in half horizontally, then slice the top
half into 12 segments, otherwise the
nuts will shred the brioche on the way
down. Spread the crème pâtissière on
the bottom half, replace the individual
top slices, cut all the way through the
bottom half and serve.
Persian cake
Serves 12
For the crumb base
300g ground almonds
185g caster sugar
220g soft brown sugar
120g unsalted butter, melted
For the cake batter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g natural or Greek-style yoghurt
A generous pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp rosewater
25 saffron threads
3 tbsp flaked almonds
3 tbsp pistachio nut kernels, roughly
To decorate (optional)
Unsprayed edible rose petals
To serve
500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3.
Grease the ring of a 24cm springform
tin, then line with strips of baking paper.
2 Turn the base upside down so it
no longer has a lip. Place a piece of
baking paper over it, then clamp the
ring around it to secure.
3 To make the crumb base, combine
the ground almonds, caster sugar,
brown sugar and butter in a large
mixing bowl and rub together until
you have an even, sandy consistency.
Divide the mixture in two and tip half
into the prepared tin. Using the back
of a spoon or a spatula, press the
crumb mixture evenly over the bottom
of the tin.
4 To make the cake batter, add the
eggs, yoghurt, salt, cardamom,
rosewater and saffron to the remaining
crumb mixture and whisk until there are
no lumps. Pour over the base and
sprinkle on the flaked almonds and
pistachio nuts.
5 Bake for about 20 min, until golden
and fully risen — you will know because
the top will probably crack a little. If the
top is colouring too quickly, cover with
foil, then bake for a further 20 min. The
centre of the cake should spring back
when pressed gently. Cool completely,
before removing from the tin and
cutting to serve.
6 Lovely decoration ideas are edible
rose petals, sliced fresh figs and a very
light dusting of icing sugar. Serve with a
dollop of Greek-style yoghurt.
Persian love cake
custard tarts
Makes 16 individual tarts
1 packet of good-quality shop-bought
puff pastry
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon or ground
cardamom, plus extra to sprinkle
For the custard
600ml milk
2 eggs, plus 2 extra yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla essence
170g caster sugar
2½ tbsp cornflour (preferably wheaten)
1 To make the custard, microwave
the milk in a heatproof bowl for
3 min on the highest setting. In
another medium mixing bowl, whisk
the eggs, extra yolks, vanilla and
sugar until pale and fluffy.
Nutty brioche cake
2 Add the cornflour and whisk until
smooth. Pour into the hot milk and whisk
briefly to combine, then microwave for
2 min. Whisk well until smooth. Cook in
the microwave for another 1½ min, or
until a thick paste forms. Whisk
vigorously again, until completely
smooth. Press some clingfilm directly
over the surface of the custard and chill
completely, or for about 2 hours.
3 Preheat the oven to 210C/gas 6.
Have two standard 12-hole muffin tins
on standby.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Food + Drink 13
Raspberry financiers
Silken pear cake
Prune and
armagnac breton
4 To make the tart shells, roll out
the puff pastry into a 30cm x 40cm
rectangle. Sprinkle the ground
cinnamon evenly across the surface
and roll snugly into a log. Slice the
log into 16 even pieces.
5 Place a piece of pastry into
each of 16 muffin holes, with the spiral
facing upwards. Tuck the “tails”
underneath, then press and
massage the pastry to line each
hole completely, with a bit of
overhang to make up for shrinkage.
6 Fill each pastry shell with about
a tablespoonful of the custard and
bake for about 30 min, until the
pastry is beautifully golden brown
and the custard dotted with black
spots. Remove from the oven.
7 Remove the tarts from their tin
and cool on a wire rack. Just before
serving, sprinkle each tart with a bit
more cinnamon.
8 These keep well in a cake tin for
up to 5 days if stored in the
Makes 12 financiers
80g unsalted butter
150g icing sugar
50g ground almonds
60g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
5 egg whites
½ tsp almond extract
90g fresh or frozen raspberries
25g flaked almonds
Portuguese custard tarts
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3.
Line 12 financier moulds with baking
2 Melt the butter in a small frying
pan over medium heat and cook
until foamy and dotted with brown
flecks. Set aside.
3 In a medium mixing bowl, whisk
the icing sugar, ground almonds, flour
and baking powder to combine.
Add the egg whites, almond extract
and browned butter and whisk
until smooth.
4 Fill each prepared mould three
quarters to the top with the mixture,
then dot each one with 3 or 4
raspberries. Sprinkle each with a few
flaked almonds and bake for 10-15 min,
or until golden brown and an inserted
skewer comes out clean. Using the
paper lining, lift the financiers out of
the moulds and on to a wire rack.
5 Cool completely before serving or
storing in an airtight container.
Recipes extracted from
Poh Bakes 100 Greats
by Poh Ling Yeow
(Murdoch Books, £18.99)
Perfect pie
Silken pear cake
Serves 12
For the prune purée
500g pitted prunes
Enough freshly squeezed orange juice
to just cover the prunes
30ml armagnac or best-quality brandy
For the breton pastry
250g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp rum
5 egg yolks
450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
For the egg wash
1 egg, whisked
Serves 10-12
3 eggs
130g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla essence
35g plain flour, sifted
30g cornflour (preferably wheaten),
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
Pinch of salt
90g unsalted butter, melted
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into
2cm dice
For the crème chantilly
300ml thickened single cream
30g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract, vanilla-bean paste
or vanilla essence
1 To make the prune purée, combine
the prunes and orange juice in a
medium non-stick saucepan over
medium heat. Simmer until the
prunes are soft enough to be whisked
into a rough purée. Remove from the
heat, add the armagnac and whisk.
Cool to room temperature, then put
in a piping bag.
2 To make the breton pastry, beat
the butter, sugar and salt with an
electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
Add the rum and then the egg yolks,
one at a time, beating well between
each addition. Stir in the flour with a
wooden spoon.
3 Divide the pastry in half and shape
into two discs. Lightly flour the discs
and roll out each one directly on to
baking paper into an 8mm-thick circle.
Next, use anything circular with a 25cm
diameter to trace and cut around, so
you end up with two same-sized discs.
Cover each disc with clingfilm and rest
in the refrigerator for 15 min.
4 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3.
5 Unwrap the pastry. Slide one disc of
pastry on to a baking tray. Snip about
1.5cm off the tip of the piping bag and,
starting 2cm in from the edge, pipe
the prune purée in concentric circles,
working from the outside in. Brush the
eggwash around the bare border, then
lay the second disc of pastry carefully
over the top. Brush the top generously
with the eggwash. Use a paring knife
to lightly make a lattice pattern.
6 Bake for about 30 min, until the top
is beautifully golden. This breton keeps
well for about a week and is in fact
nicer after a few days, when the pastry
has softened.
1 For the crème chantilly, combine the
cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a
medium mixing bowl and whisk by hand
or with an electric mixer until medium
peaks form. Medium peaks make a nicer
texture to dollop and provide moisture
to slices of cake.
2 Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3
fan-forced. Grease the ring of a 24cm
springform tin, then turn the base
upside down so it no longer has a lip.
Place a piece of baking paper over it,
then clamp the ring around it to secure.
3 Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla
in a mixing bowl and whisk with an
electric mixer on high speed until the
mixture is triple its original volume.
Using a whisk, gently fold in the flour,
cornflour, baking powder and salt
until smooth. Add the melted butter,
and fold with the whisk until
combined. Tilt the bowl to make sure
that you are reaching right to the
bottom, where remnants of melted
butter may be sitting.
4 Pour the mixture into the prepared
tin, then drop the chunks of diced
pear evenly over the surface. Don’t
worry if there are a few pieces peeking
through the top of the batter.
5 Bake for about 45 min, or until an
inserted skewer comes out clean.
The cake will balloon up when
cooking, then collapse a bit after
cooling, so don’t worry when this
happens. Cool completely in the tin
before sliding a paring knife around
the edge of the cake to release the
ring. Carefully slide the cake on to a
serving plate, leaving it on the baking
paper because the texture is very
delicate. Serve with the crème chantilly.
The Times has been a proud supporter of the Cheltenham Literature Festival for
more than a decade. We are delighted to offer our readers the opportunity to be part
of this exciting new venture with Cunard, as the festival sails the Atlantic with a
packed programme celebrating the written word.
JANE KNIGHT – Travel Editor, The Times
Let your imagination set sail with a voyage that brings together our partnership with
the Cheltenham Literature Festival and ocean cruising.
ou are invited to join the inaugural Queen
Mary 2’s Literature Festival at Sea, in
association with Cheltenham Literature
Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times. This
For book lovers everywhere join the
world’s greatest writers and thinkers
exclusive voyage offers book lovers an opportunity
to join some of the best-loved authors, smartest
journalists and thinkers on both sides of the pond
aboard Queen Mary 2 as you sail from New York to
Southampton. This Transatlantic Crossing is
unsurpassed as you enjoy seven days at sea aboard
the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2. A warm
welcome awaits you, where White Star Service
begins the moment you step on board ensuring
your stay is effortless and unforgettable.
Be inspired with exclusive Times events
from key editors and journalists.
Enjoy a week aboard the world’s only
true ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, as you
sail from New York to Southampton.
Escape to an uncrowded world with an
unrivalled sense of freedom and
possibility to do as much or as little as
you please.
A seven-night Transatlantic Crossing from New York
to Southampton
Flights from the UK to New York and transfer from airport
to Queen Mary 2
Literary experts: Sebastian Faulks
Victoria Hislop • James Naughtie
P.J. O’Rourke • Elizabeth Strout
Times experts: Emma Tucker
Anna Murphy • Philip Collins
Robbie Millen • Andrew Holgate
More to be announced
Exclusive on board events for Times readers**
Access to all on board literary events
Cunard Fare benefits, including complimentary on board
spending money
Departs November 10, 2019.
Inside Stateroom
Grills Suites
*Liable to change
TO BOOK CALL 0330 160 8712
†£999pp based on Inside stateroom (IF grade), Balcony from £1,399pp (BZ grade), Grills Suites from £2,699pp (P2 grade). Cunard Fares shown are per person in £ sterling based on two adults sharing on M936, within the applicable stateroom type and is subject to availability. Fares for
sole occupancy and supplementary fares are available on request. Fares and other information are correct at the time of going to print. For up to date fares visit For full Cunard terms and conditions please refer to the Cunard March 2018 – December 2019 brochure or
visit Here you will find full descriptions of the voyages, stateroom accommodation and voyage details, as well as important information on passport, visa and health requirements and booking conditions, which you must read before booking. Queen Mary 2’s Literature
Festival at Sea, is in association with Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times. *Literature voyage details and on board activities subject to change. **Exclusive onboard Times readers event only available to guests booked under promotional code LIT.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Food + Drink 15
Why the Rhône is on a roll
This week’s best buys
Jane MacQuitty
at-tricks of successive
great vintages are
surprisingly rare in
the wine world, but it
looks as if the Rhône
is on a roll. If the 2017
vintage turns out to be
as promising as the early releases
suggest, it will prove what rhône fans
have known for a long time — that
the region is a source of truly great
wines, at half the price of bordeaux
and burgundy. What more reason
do you need for tucking in?
For now, it’s the 2016 vintage that
will be tickling your tastebuds. Given
the guts and grandeur of the 2015s,
the restrained, aromatic fresh
fruit of the elegant 2016s initially
passed me by. I enjoyed the clear
flavours, lower alcohol levels and
polished, silky tannins, but it wasn’t
love at first sight.
After several big recent tastings,
however, it is clear that the sheer,
delicious drinkability of the 2016s
— at every level from humble
côtes du rhône up to the swankiest
châteauneuf-du-pape estate — is a
big plus. The 2015 vintage is the
bigger, better one, but drinkers will
not have to tuck away these 2016
rhônes for decades before they are
ready to drink; many are ready now,
including some fine, floral whites
(see best buys).
Despite the iffy weather in the
northern Rhône that marked the
vintage — with a wet spring, then hail
halving the hermitage crop for some
growers and summer mildew
dampening prospects for others
— there are oodles of lesser 2016
northern rhônes that I thought
were wonderful. Do snap up Delas’s
delightful 2016 Crozes-Hermitage
(Co-op, £13.99), with its lashings of
rustic, briary, black-pepper fruit,
or try Yapp’s best buy. Or scoop up
one of a top domaine’s lesser wines:
Côte-Rôtie’s Patrick Jasmin makes
a smashing La Chevalière Collines
Rhodaniennes, and his 2016 is a
cockle-warming, black-plum and
black-olive syrah charmer (Yapp
Bros, 01747 860423, £16.50).
The southern Rhône had a
cracking vintage, with a long, cool
growing season refreshed by rain,
hence all those vibrant, energetic,
fruit-filled 2016s. Some growers
there maintain that it is their best
vintage to date. So check out two
terrific côtes du rhône villages reds
that punch well above their weight:
the classy, black pepper-spiced 2016
Seguret, Terroir Daronton (Waitrose,
£9.79) and Domaine de la Meynarde’s
2016 Plan de Dieu (Marks & Spencer,
£10), a brooding, bold, blackberry-liqueur
beauty. Even Tesco’s 2016 Finest
Gigondas (£14) bursts with fine, spicy,
violet, game and tobacco-scented fruit.
The Delas vineyard in
Crozes-Hermitage in
northern Rhône
nit Earth
2017 Granite
Chenin Blanc,
South Africa, 13 per cent
Morrisons, £6
(down from £8.50)
Stylish Swartland chenin,
with a dab of chardonnay,
viognier and roussanne,
bursting with bold, steely,
stony, nectarine fruit.
2015 Exquisite Collection
Crémant du Jura, France,
13 per cent
Aldi, £7.99
Aldi sells shedloads of
this classy, orchard
bubbly, so join the queue.
2015 Clark Estate Block 8
Riesling, New Zealand,
8.5 per cent
Sunday Times Wine Club,
Gorgeous, punchy, off-dry
riesling from top-spot
Marlborough, all zingy,
lime zest, petrol and
pink-grapefruit pizzazz.
The sheer
of the 2016
rhônes is a
big plus
2016 Côtes du Rhône,
France, 13.5 per cent
Marks & Spencer, £6
You get a lot of bang
for your buck with
this lush, fragrant,
forest-fruited 2016
côtes du rhône, a
grenache enriched
with 40 per cent syrah.
2016 Crozes-Hermitage,
Domaine des Lises,
France, 13 per cent
Yapp Bros,
01747 860423, £21.25
Bold, classic northern
rhône syrah, from Graillot
Jr, with brooding violet
spice and herby garrigue,
scrub-scented finish.
2016 Châteauneuf-duPape, Les Closiers Blanc,
France, 13.5 per cent
Marks & Spencer, £24
Absolutely delicious
white rhône, a fruit salad
of varieties crammed
with rich, heady, floral,
yellow-plum and candied
citrus fruit.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Reduce the
workload in
your garden
Clever plant choice
now will help you
to create a glorious
garden that is easy
to maintain, says
Joe Swift
re you dreading the effort
of the growing season
ahead? Do you see yourself running around the
garden tending to all your
plants, feeling as though
you are keeping plates
spinning on sticks? The term “low-maintenance gardening” usually carries a negative
tag with it, conjuring images of car park
shrub planting or perhaps implying that
you are not a real gardener because
real gardeners work day and night on their
plot. Pah! That’s rubbish.
I am often asked how to reduce the workload by people who, for whatever reason
(health, children, work or simply wanting
the time to do other things with their weekends), feel overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes they have inherited a high-maintenance garden with their house and can’t
keep on top. My view is that if you’re feeling
the pressure or not enjoying your garden as
shrubs are low
but certainly
don’t have
to be boring
much as you could be, something needs to
change. That may mean an initial input of
work, cash or both, but the result will be a
less demanding garden that brings you the
joy that all gardens should.
Borders and choice
of plants
This is the perfect time of year to edit the
plants in your garden for the year ahead. Be
ruthless, take some out and put new ones in
to simplify things. Aim for a more slimmeddown, designer look. Avoid tall perennials
that need regular staking and deadheading
(such as delphiniums, anchusa and phlox)
or those that are munched by slugs
and snails every year (such as hostas and
Solomon’s seal).
Look instead to those tough, easy-togrow perennials that ideally repeat-flower
without deadheading. There are plenty of
fine plants, such as Verbena bonariensis,
hardy geraniums — ‘Rozanne’ doesn’t stop
flowering — and Erysimum ‘Bowles’s
Mauve’ to name two. Red hot pokers
(kniphofia) are tough, reliable perennials which can cope with
h long dry
periods in summer and
d don’t
require staking when
n in
flower. Perennials plantnted in blocks rather than
dotted about are better
because they are easier to maintain, have
high impact and need
organic matter to
cutting back only
reduce the need
once a year.
for watering and
Structural shrubs
in the
are seen as low mainteseason
eseaso ahead.
nance, but they don’t have
You can cut out the
Echeverias cope better
to be boring. Look for
or a
eed for
fo weeding by
with drier conditions
variety of contrasting forms
landscape fabric,
sing lan
and heights, such as elegant
significant tool in
gant multiand it is a sign
stemmed shrubs (for example, amelanthe
th designer’s box. For
F large weedy
chiers and viburnums),
areas, clea
clear and then pin
) tidy dome shapes or out-of-control areas
(such as hebes, osmanthus or Pittosporum down the fabric (available on large rolls)
tobira ‘Nanum’) or naturally upright vase over the soil, cutting slits or circles around
shapes (such as philadephus and buddlei- established shrubs, until all the ground is
as). Pack ground cover between them using covered. Cut holes to add in more plants,
large numbers of the same plant to form a including some perennials, and mulch over
carpet and reduce weeding.
the fabric with a thick layer of gravel,
Most ornamental grasses won’t need pebbles, bark, etc — whatever works with
watering or feeding, but cut them back once your garden — to disguise it.
a year. If you like architectural exotics,
choose fully hardy plants (such as
trachycarpus palms, bamboos and cordylines) that will get through a winter without Think about the size of pot you’re planting
being moved or wrapped in fleece.
in. Lots of small containers will require
A few large planting areas are easier to regular watering and feeding. Whereas
maintain than lots of smaller ones, but fewer larger containers, planted with a
access is important, so place some stepping combination of plants, create more impact
stones around the bed so you can get in with less work.
and out easily. Mulch with plenty of
Look for plants that cope with less water,
Geranium ‘Rozanne’
(purple) is hardy and easy
to grow; red hot pokers
are tough, reliable
Choose hardy plants
such as cordylines
such as lavenders, olives, artemisia, rosemary and erysimum, and succulents such
as sempervivum and echeveria. Annual
plants generally require watering, deadheading and feeding, but osteospermum,
bidens and verbena tend to need less.
Using water-retaining granules when
planting helps to keep moisture in the
compost, and drip irrigation systems can be
fitted with a programmable timer that sits
below the tap, watering efficiently and
the times Saturday March 17 2018
‘A line of tors crowned the
ridge, black and jagged like
the turrets of an evil castle’
Christopher Somerville’s good walk
Repot or not? It’s time to tend
to your container plants
Get potted shrubs
and flowers ready
for spring with
Stephen Anderton’s
essential guide
Camellias should have their
roots loosened before repotting
A A light mulch of cones
would look good and
make the soil acidic only
over many years. If you’re
worried about over-acidic
soil around valuable old
plants, buy a cheap pH
test kit next year and add
a little lime if necessary. If
you feed the plants with
bonemeal every spring,
that would bring a little
lime to solve the problem.
Email your gardening
questions to
any gardeners are
guilty of taking old
container plants for
granted — year after
year, just letting them
get on with it. Yet
they will do so much
better with just a little extra care at this
time of year; some spring feeding, or, if
necessary, repotting.
You can see when an old plant is hungry.
The main shoots will become shorter
every year and the bush congested with
small twigs. The flowers may be smaller.
The foliage of evergreens may take on a
yellow or orange tinge. Things are
grinding to a halt.
The solution is to feed. Scrape off the
loose top layer of compost, down to the
root. That may mean taking off several
centimetres of compost. In a really
neglected plant there may be nothing
loose to scrape off: the roots may be
exposed and bare from constant watering.
Now you can put on a fresh 4cm
layer of compost, enriched with some
slow-release fertiliser granules (they are
easily available), to go on feeding the
plant through that important early
part of the season when it is making its
new growth.
thoroughly. They are reasonably priced
and installing one may mean that you can
go on holiday (which real gardeners aren’t
supposed to do).
Ah yes, the Great British lawn — the
highest maintenance part of many a
garden, and the smaller it is the more work
per square metre it will require in terms of
mowing, feeding, scarifying and aerating. It
may seem controversial, but in a small
garden could you lose it altogether in favour
of a combination of plants and surfaces?
If your lawn is large enough, you could let
some of it grow long, untouched all spring
and summer, and simply mow a path or two
through it. Or only mow it on a high setting
once a month. I’ve seen mowing strips with
long grass in between in geometrical blocks
that looked very cool and they are far better
for wildlife than a short-manicured sward.
Edging lawns is a slow business. Set a
mowing strip of timber gravel board
(best on straight lines) or brick paviors
(curves) about 2cm below lawn level so
you can mow over the edge and eliminate
edging altogether.
The time does inevitably come when
repotting is necessary. Perhaps the
plant is unmanageably top-heavy and
blows over unless you tie it to a wall.
Perhaps it’s about to burst a treasured
pot with its muscular roots. Perhaps
the rootball is too small to keep a plant
like that moist without watering
inconveniently often.
Sometimes, releasing a desperately
pot-bound plant may mean sacrificing
the pot. A hammer job. Bamboo and
agapanthus can be utterly inextricable.
Let’s assume things are not so
desperate. First, I like to scrape off the
loose compost, as above, so I can see the
roots, then I try to run an old serrated
knife between the pot and the rootball,
delving as deep as possible. You can be as
rough as you like — it’s fine to sever
small roots.
With that done, I lay the pot on
its side and try to pull the plant out,
gripping the stem as close to the base as
possible. This is a two-man job, one for
the pot and one for the plant.
If nothing gives, try pushing a short
Q I get thousands of
little redwood cones
every year. I’d like
to use them as a
weed-suppressant mulch
in pots of bulbs, and for
herbaceous perennials
and small shrubs. But
will they make the soil
acidic? JC Evans
Run a serrated
knife between
the pot and the
rootball, delving
as deep as
length of hard wood (such as a broom
handle) through the drainage hole in the
bottom of the pot, against the crocks,
and give it a whack. Or, if that doesn’t
work, try putting a piece of wood across
the mouth of the pot, on the diameter,
and gently, but sharply, hit that, to knock
the pot off the rootball. If that still
doesn’t work, try some more knife-work.
If the pot is plastic, it may be easier just
to cut it off.
What now?
In most shrubs (such as maple or bay)
you will probably see fat roots running
down the outside of the compost and
spiralling at the bottom, whereas on a
camellia or rhododendron, which has
matted fibrous roots, you will probably
find a dense, hard mass of fine root like
rubberised sponge. It’s no good putting
either of these congested rootballs
straight into a bigger pot, they have got
to be loosened first.
Normal maple/bay-type roots can be
cut back with secateurs. Snip off all that
spiralled root at the bottom (I know it
seems drastic) and shorten those fat
roots running down the sides. Now you
can roughen up what’s left, not pulling
it apart, but exposing small roots that
will easily find their way into
surrounding new compost.
Rhododendron-type roots will be
too matted and dense to pull apart,
but you still need to roughen up the
cylindrical rootball, perhaps by scoring
lines down the side of it with a sharp
knife so that the cut roots will sprout
into the new compost.
This completed, you may find that
the plant will fit back into its old
container and still have room for
5-7cm of new compost all around it.
That will keep it happy for two to three
years. If you’re using a new pot, aim for
a gap of no more than 10cm around a
large rootball. More than that and the
compost goes sour and allows the plant
to sway in its pot. Whatever you are
repotting, however big, it’s always
wrong to use a pot massively bigger
than the last one.
willow pollards need
cutting back, taking
away last year’s 2-3m
wands. If there are
catkins about to open,
leave the stems standing
until they have finished.
The grass is starting to
grow, patchily. Run over it
with the mower set high,
ideally on a dry day.
Lawns full of dead grass
and moss can be scarified
with a rake or by
machine; clear up the
rubbish using a rotary
mower, set high.
Plant pots of spent
narcissi out into the
garden, with the bulbs
10cm underground.
Prune buddleia back with
loppers or a saw to leave
an open framework of
older branches about 1m
high. Don’t worry if it
means cutting off shoots
that have sprouted higher
up. Leafless is fine now.
Orange, bobble-flowered
Buddleja globosa is
cut after flowering, not
now. SA
the times Saturday March 17 2018
20 Outside
Aquilegia, easy
last minute
spring flowers
These plants will
quickly fill your
borders with
colour, says
Alice Bowe
quilegia are a superb early
spring filler with green,
clover-like leaves that
bring a welcome freshness to the garden before
their flowers appear in
May. They are easy to
grow from seed, but because many varieties need two years to bloom if grown this
way your best bet for flowers this spring is
to grow from a seedling.
Although they are happiest in the sort of
fertile, moist, free-draining soil that you
would find in a woodland, aquilegia grow
remarkably long taproots, so once established they will be able to source their water
from deep near the water table and cope
with a drier situation than you may expect.
Plant your seedlings about 30cm apart in
partial shade or the dappled sunshine at
the edge of a shrub or tree planting.
Aquilegia are one of my favourites for
adding the appearance of early maturity
to a juvenile planting. They bulk up quickly each spring, with a fat cluster of leaves
mustering near the ground in early
February before exploding into luxuriant
growth as soon as the temperature warms.
Flowers appear on most varieties around
May, clustering at the tops of 90cm stems.
Aquilegia love to self-seed and will quickly multiply and make new plants. However,
they rarely seed true to the parent plant, so
can quickly turn a carefully planned colour
scheme into a rainbow. To prevent a proliferation of new aquilegia in an established
garden, remove the faded flowers before
they set seed by pinching off with a thumb
and forefinger or snipping with scissors.
If you prefer to collect the seed
for future use, place a paper
bag fastened with string or
an elastic band around
each developing seedhead so that the ripening seeds are collected.
Alternatively, you can
take your chances and
thin any unwanted coloured seedlings as and
when they appear.
Aquilegia skinneri
‘Tequila Sunrise’
Alice’s favourites
Aquilegia longissima
This spectacular lemon-yellow variety has
incredibly long spurs up to 15cm in length
and in an even richer shade of yellow than
the main flower. Slightly later to bloom
than most varieties, it will flower from July
to October at heights of about 90cm.
Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’
Another soft lemon-yellow variety with
slightly larger flowers and fractionally
Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Ruby Port’
with Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’
petals. Plant in full sun or partial shade for
early summer. Flowers at 60cm with a
spread of 45cm.
Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Ruby Port’
The fully double flowers on this aquilegia
create a different effect in the border, acting
as clusters of little dots or pompoms. This
variety flowers in May or June at a height of
about 90cm and its rich, dark burgundy
colour looks spectacular in a minimalist
planting of ornamental grasses.
Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Lime Sorbet’
Another fantastic double, and another a
favourite with garden designers, this variety has white flowers with a hint of lime
round the edges. The flowers emerge from
lime-washed buds clustered at the top of
sturdy 90cm stems. Their neutral colouring lifts any plot and makes them easy to
use in a multitude of scheme styles. Plant
in full sun or partial shade for flowers in
May and June.
Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness’
The dark purple and white colouring of
this bicoloured form is very striking. The
white central petals bleed into deep purple-black and are surrounded by equally
dark purple-black outer petals so that
when the buds are closed no white can be
seen. The flowers stand up to 75cm tall
and nod gently, facing a little towards
the ground.
shorter spurs. The spurs,
which are swept behind
the flower, sometimes
exhibit a pink tint at the
top and as such make
an excellent partnership
with pale pink astrantias.
This variety blooms
between May and June at
heights of up to 150cm.
Aquilegia skinneri ‘Tequila Sunrise’
This tropical-looking aquilegia mimics the
colouring of its cocktail namesake, with
deep red spurs lightening a touch
through to its tomato-red outer
petals, bleeding to a golden orange centre and rich yellow
anthers. Five centimetrewide nodding flowers
appear on stems up to
80cm tall in full sun or
partial shade.
Aquilegia ‘Bluebird’
The large flowers and
compact 60cm stature is
Aquilegia vulgaris
typical of all the varieties in
‘William Guiness’
the popular songbird series.
This form has gorgeous blue outer
Aquilegia ‘Alaska’
petals with elongated spurs, a simple white
This tall, long-stemmed variety is ex- star-shaped centre and prominent yellow
tremely floriferous and offers some of the central anthers. Grow near the front of a
best white blooms. Each oversized flower border or in a container where you can
faces the sun and has elegant swept-back appreciate these shorter blooms up close.
Where next?
Discover Britain’s best places to live
in our exclusive 48-page magazine.
Out tomorrow.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Outside 21
A good walk Slieve Binnian,
Mourne Mountains, Co Down
cool, blowy morning on
the coast of Co Down,
with the clouds rolling
off the Mourne
Mountains and skylarks
beginning to sing their
claims to territory in the
stony fields at the foot of Slieve Binnian.
From an ancient droving route in the
Annalong Valley, bounded by walls of
giant granite stones, we looked up to
see Binnian’s rocky head outlined against
a dark sky.
The old track forged north to its
crossing place through the granite
barrier of the Mourne Wall. The local
men who built this great 22-mile ring
early last century round the catchment
area of the Mourne reservoirs certainly
knew their business. The Mourne Wall
hurdles the highest mountaintops as
though they are of no account. Today
it made a fine trustworthy companion
as we turned west and followed it up
the mountainside.
The climb soon steepened and there
were plenty of pauses to look back
around the bowl of hills that centres on
the rocky-faced Slievelamagan and the
tall cone of Slieve Donard, the king of
the Mourne range at 850m.
Up ahead a line of granite tors
crowned Slieve Binnian’s ridge, black
and jagged like the turrets of an evil
castle. The view that burst on us from
the top was worth climbing the tors
for — the long steel-blue triangle of
Silent Valley reservoir 600m below, the
coires of Slieve Muck beyond, and in
the distance the hills of the Cooley
Peninsula and the broad spread of
Dublin Bay towards the distant
Wicklow Mountains.
A path of skiddy granite rubble
led us north past the Back Castle’s
wind-smoothed tors of elephantine grey,
to drop steeply to a saddle of ground
under Slievelamagan. A last look across
Ben Crom Reservoir’s dark waters,
northwards to the steeples of rock that
crown Slieve Bernagh. Then we followed
the rubbly old drove road back down
the Annalong Valley, past the shores of
Blue Lough, where whitecaps ruffled the
water, on down to Carrick Cottage Café
and a thoroughly earned pot of tea to
toast St Patrick’s Day.
Start Carrick Little car park, Head
Road, near Annalong, BT34 4RW
approximately (OS ref 345259)
Getting there Bus: Mournes Shuttle
Service (,
07516 412076). Road: Moneydarragh
Road, then Oldtown Road from
Annalong (on the A2 Newcastle to
Kilkeel road)
Walk 7 miles, strenuous, OSN1 1:25,000
Activity Map “The Mournes”. From car
park, left up stony lane. In 900m, go
through gate (345228); in 300m, fork left
and climb path with Mourne Wall on
left, soon steepening. Near top, pass but
don’t cross ladder stile on left at wall;
aim a little right between two tors to
reach ridge (321235) and Slieve Binnian
summit. Right on ridge path past the
Back Castles for ¾ mile to pass to left of
the North Tor (319246). Path descends,
Watch out
for the
Ben Crom Reservoir
Ben Crom
Chimney Rock
The Back
500 metres
soon steeply, for 2/3 mile to path crossing
on saddle between North Tor and
Slievelamagan (321256). Right on rubbly
path for 3¼ miles, passing Blue Lough,
then along right side of Annalong Wood,
back to car park.
Conditions Mountain walk, so dress
appropriately. Steep, rough ascent to
Slieve Binnian. Ridge path, descent and
valley track are stony and slippery —
watch your step
Lunch Carrick Cottage Café, near
car park (07595 929307); Brunels
Head Road
Restaurant, Newcastle (028 4372 3951,
Accommodation Slieve Donard Resort,
Downs Road, Newcastle BT33 0AH
(028 4372 1066,
More information Newcastle Tourist
Information Centre (028 4372 2222,;
more online maps and walks at;;
Christopher Somerville
The view that
burst on us
from the top
was worth
climbing for
inged plovers are birds of
quiet beaches, slightly
smaller than starlings.
They are dark brown
above and white beneath,
and have a prominent
black breast band, or collar,
and a thick black line through the eye.
It has a very distinctive manner when
it is feeding. It runs energetically about
on the beach, with its head held up, and
every few yards it stops. Then it looks
down and if it sees something, such as a
little crab, that it wants to eat, it tilts its
whole body forward to pick it up, as if it
were hinged on its orange legs. It does
not probe the sand for food, like most
other waders. However, when it is
standing still, it may patter rapidly on
the ground with its feet, in the hope of
disturbing and bringing up a worm.
Ringed plovers often feed in a small,
loose group, and when they are
disturbed they go up together, flashing
their white wing bars, then glide in again.
We have many of them visiting us from
Scandinavia in the winter, scattered
around our shores. When they are gone,
though, they leave only about 5,000
resident pairs here. These nest mainly on
the beaches, making a little hollow in the
sand in which the female lays the four
eggs that waders generally lay. These have
brown and grey spots, which camouflage
them well against predators such as gulls,
because they look like pebbles. On the
other hand, it often means that people
tread on them without noticing.
In recent times these birds have
nested more often inland, in places such
as the sandy banks of rivers and flooded
gravel pits. More surprisingly, they can
be found nesting on moors, although
usually near water. I have been startled
sometimes to disturb one in heather in
They are also noted for their courtship
flights, when two or three birds fly
around on slow wings, quite low down,
now approaching another bird, now
falling back again. This evidently gives
them a good opportunity for inspecting
each other with an eye to pairing up.
Derwent May
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
24 Travel
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
The Douro River and
the old town in Porto
under £100
City breaks under £100 a night
Where to stay on a
budget and the best
cheap eats in Porto, Where to stay
Bologna, Bordeaux, NH Collection Porto
Malaga, Copenhagen Batalha
Opposite the baroque/neoclassical
façade of Sao Joao National Theatre,
this imposing 19th-century former
and Thessaloniki
palace that was later a post office (it’s
nicknamed the “post office palace”) has
107 Scandi-chic rooms. There is a little
basement pool next to a steam
room and sauna. Rooms have good
walk-in showers and espresso machines.
The best suites face the theatre.
Details Doubles cost from €95 (£83),
room only (;
60-65 Praca da Batalha
Rosa et al Townhouse
Tucked away just to the
northwest of the city centre,
it’s easy to miss this friendly
seven-room boutique hotel as
the name is only written in
tiny letters on the plain white
front door. Inside is a cool
reception and lounge with an
airy breakfast and brunch room
leading to a lovely garden planted
with herbs. Rooms are arty, colourful
and comfortable.
Casa do Conto
Details Doubles cost from €77, room
only (; 233 Rua do Rosario
Casa do Conto
Just to the north of the centre,
Casa do Conto has an industrialchic interior. The 19th-century
building has been transformed
into a palace of urban cool, with
concrete floors, tan leather
sofas and purple velvet chaise
longues. The best rooms, with
balconies, are on the third floor
(rooms facing the back are
quietest). There’s a small garden.
Details Doubles costs from €98
(; 703 Rua da
Boavista W
the times Saturday March 17 2018
26 Travel
Malaga Cathedral and
the Alcazaba citadel
Grande Hotel do Porto
Grande Hotel do Porto
six-room hotel opened in 2015 and is
popular with fashionistas and actors. It’s
in a fine 17th-century townhouse with a
classic blue-and-yellow tiled façade.
There’s an inviting basement breakfast
room/lounge with tan leather sofas.
A bar facing the secluded little back
garden will open shortly. Rooms are
smart, stylish and ultra-modern. One
has private steps to the garden. Staff
are particularly friendly. Malmerendas
is a real find.
Details B&B doubles cost from
€70 (; 186 Rua Dr
Alves da Veiga
By Tom Chesshyre
Malmerendas Boutique
Tom Chesshyre was a guest of TAP
Air Portugal (, which flies
from Gatwick and London City to
Porto from £41 one way, and Turismo
de Portugal (
This classic hotel dating from the 1880s
is in the middle of Rua de Santa
Catarina, a popular shopping street; it’s
flanked by a Swarovski crystal shop and
a chocolatier. The interior is all
chandeliers, marble columns, gilt-framed
mirrors and leather Chesterfield sofas. If
you like a bit of faded grandeur and a
theatrical feel, this is the one for you.
Rooms are smart, with low-slung beds
and modern bathrooms. Enjoy a
sundowner on the rooftop terrace.
Details B&B doubles cost from €85
(; 197 Rua de
Santa Catarina
A stroll down a hill from the wonderful
Mercado do Bolhao (see below), this chic
Where to eat in Porto
Casa Ferreira
This is just off Rua de Cedofeita, with its
many fashion and shoe shops (Porto is
renowned for shoemaking). It’s where
workers go for good honest dishes, and
has a terracotta floor, tiled walls and
decent plonk for €1.50 a glass. Tapas
cost about €3-4: grilled sardines,
smoked sausage, cheeses and cod. Main
courses include hake with a pot of rice
with shrimps in a tomato sauce.
Details Two courses with wine costs €16
(no website); 248 Rua do Breiner
Adega Viseu No Porto
Next to the exquisite 19th-century Sao
Bento station, this is a down-to-earth
wine bar/diner almost exclusively
frequented by locals. It’s wonderfully
friendly and serves great bacalhau
(salted cod) dishes, plus veal, chicken
and pork. Expect chickpea salads, fresh
bread rolls, no-nonsense soups and
chatty regulars. A glass of wine is €1.20.
Details Two courses with wine costs €15
(no website); 212 Rua da Madeira
Mercado do Bolhao
Visiting this market in the northeast
corner of the city centre is a must.
Hams, cheeses, tins of sardines, wines,
port and sandwiches are offered at the
many higgledy-piggledy stalls. It’s a joy
to sit with a glass of wine eating slices of
smoked sausage at an old barrel table.
Details A glass of wine and a sandwich
costs about €4 (no website); Rua Formosa
Mira Jazz
Hidden halfway up super-steep steps to
the Douro River, you’ll hear Mira Jazz
Mercado do Bolhao
before you see it. Music plays out (Fats
Domino on my visit) and a sign invites
you to interrupt your walk. Inside is a
cosy bar with a little terrace with river
views. What a lovely hideaway.
Details A glass of wine and a toasted
sandwich costs about €7 (no website); 11
Escadas do Caminho Novo
Cervejaria Brasao
Just off Aliados square, Brasao is
exteremely popular. It specialises in
francesinha sandwiches: bread filled
with sausage, beef and ham, covered in
cheese and served with an egg on top.
A whole sandwich is massive — best
to go for a half. Wash it down with a
chilled Super Bock beer. Call ahead to
book a table.
Details Half a francesinha sandwich
with one tapas and a beer costs €12
(; 28 Rua de Ramalho Ortigao
Budget tip
Don’t take a taxi from the airport. The
metro is efficient and a ticket into the
centre is only €2.60.
NH Collection
Porto Batalha
Save up to 20%
Three nights in a
standard room;
return flights. From
£399pp; valid
Price based on April.
Call 020 3131 7149 or
see the website:
Barcelo Malaga
Save up to 25%
Three nights in a
standard room; B&B;
return flights. From
£289pp; valid until
Oct. Price based on
Apr, June and Oct.
Call 020 3733 0384;
To book these
unique offers use code
SAT1703. Terms apply
Hotel Palacete de Alamos
Where to stay
The most striking feature of the snazzily
designed Barcelo, part of Malaga’s main
train station, is the steel slide that snakes
from the mezzanine to the lobby. But
this is not a hotel that needs to rely on
gimmicks: the 221 rooms, decorated with
photos of the city, are spotlessly clean
and comfortable. The buffet breakfast is
superb. There’s also a gym and a sauna.
Details Doubles cost from €90, room
only (; Heroe de Sostoa
Hotel Boutique Teatro
Right by the Roman Theatre and the
Alcazaba citadel and next to El Pimpi
(see where to eat), this is a brilliant base
and even has Antonio Banderas as a
neighbour (he owns the penthouse). The
minimalist rooms are flooded with light.
Details Doubles cost from €103 room
only (; Calle
In a quiet back street in Malaga’s old
town, this hotel’s unassuming exterior
hides a gorgeous boutique bolt hole with
a glittering tiled lobby and 17 immaculate
rooms, some with exposed medieval
brick walls and all with seriously
comfortable beds. Service is friendly.
Details Doubles cost from €99, room
only (; Calle
Hotel Malaga Premium
Ignore the naff name, this is one of the
coolest new hotels in the city, with a
glorious location in the old quarter and a
hugely popular rooftop terrace/bar (open
until 4am at weekends). Its beautifully
designed restaurant serves sushi and
Asian fusion dishes. Rooms are bright
and comfortable.
Details B&B doubles cost from €85
(; Calle
San Juan
Hotel La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul is a charming B&B in a
19th-century townhouse, ten minutes
from the city centre and a pebble’s throw
from the beach. There are five rooms and
a couple of two-bedroom apartments
(with fully equipped kitchens), all
decorated in quirky mid-century modern
style with vintage finds ranging from
silver chandeliers to an ornamental
canon. A generous continental breakfast
can be eaten outside on the patio or
in the pretty retro dining room.
Details B&B doubles cost from €80
(; Avenida Príes
By Julia Brookes
Julia Brookes was a guest of the Malaga
Tourism Board (
British Airways ( flies to Malaga
from London from £60 return
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 27
Cobblestone alley in Bologna
Where to eat in Malaga
El Pimpi
El Pimpi, a wine bar and restaurant
housed in an 18th-century mansion, is a
Malaga institution. On a hot summer
night the place to be is its terrace in front
of the Roman amphitheatre, while in the
winter cosying up in one of its dining
rooms is perfect. The menu covers
everything from pork cheek in Oloroso
sherry to confit of artichokes . . . but
don’t miss the exceptional Iberico ham.
Details Main courses start at €10
(; Calle Granada
Taberna las Merchanas
This extraordinary tapas bar in an alley
in the city centre is covered from floor
to ceiling with religious artefacts and
memorabilia relating to the spectacular
Semana Santa (holy week) celebrations
every Easter. It gets packed early, but
service is swift. Try the patatas bravas,
tomato salad with tuna and the house
croquettes, washed down with sangria
or manzanilla sherry (€1.50 for a
generous glass).
Details A selection of tapas for two will
cost about €20; a jug of beer is €5 (no
website); Calle Mosquera
El Balneario
With its beachfront setting east of the
city centre, El Balneario is a heavenly
place to dine alfresco and share plates of
grilled sardines and crispy whitebait
washed down with a bottle of Albariño.
Book in advance because it is hugely
popular. There’s live music on Saturdays.
Details Grilled sardines cost €4, fish
soup is €11 (;
Calle Bolivia
Where to stay
El Balneario restaurant
Albergo delle Drapperie
It’s easy to miss the little entrance to this
small B&B in the heart of the Mercato
di Mezzo, which makes a charming base
for budget travellers — and couldn’t be
closer to the action. The pretty rooms
are done in art nouveau style, all
individually styled with antiques and
teensy balconies.
Details B&B doubles cost from
about €94 (£83) a night (www.; Via Drapperie
Art Hotel Orologio
Budget tip
Entry to the Museo
de Malaga, a wonderful
new archaeological
museum with finds
dating from the city’s
days as a Phoenician
trading post, is free to
EU citizens. Get in
while you can (www.
Cafe-Bar Mercado Atarazanas
Tapas doesn’t get fresher than the
offerings at this bar on the edge of
Malaga’s bustling covered market, the
Atarazanas. Open 9am-3pm, it has just a
few tables so you’ll be fighting for a
place to tuck into fabulous grilled hake
with olive oil, garlic and parsley, fried fish
platters, paella and octopus brochettes.
Details Plates cost from €8 (no website);
Calle Atarazanas
Casa Aranda
Since 1932 Casa Aranda has been the
place to tuck into delectably light
churros (long doughnuts) and hot
chocolate so thick you can almost stand
a spoon in it; the café has now taken
over the whole street and its various
outlets also sell sandwiches. Service is
fast and friendly.
Details Hot chocolate and churros costs
€3.15; coffee and a bacon roll is €3.50
(no website); Herreria del Rey
Right next to Piazza Maggiore, this
family-run hotel is in much demand. The
rooms — some of which are newer than
Art Hotel Orologio
others — are chic, with cast-iron bed
frames, slate-grey walls and good
bathrooms. Some of the smaller, older
rooms are a touch chintzy with
patterned wallpaper and mirrored walls.
Details B&B suites cost from about
€83 (; Via IV
Hotel Porta San Mamolo
This hotel may be 15 minutes’ walk from
the centre of town, but it comes with
the added benefit of a little garden
where breakfast is served in the summer.
The cosy and comfortable rooms are
traditional without being fuddy-duddy;
some have terraces. The bathrooms,
admittedly, are a touch tired.
Details B&B doubles cost from about
€110 (;
Vicolo del Falcone
Continued next page
the times Saturday March 17 2018
28 Travel
St Paul’s Church, Thessaloniki
Where to stay
The Bristol
Umbrella decorations in Bologna
ZanHotel Tre Vecchi
Set just off Via Indipendenza, the city’s
main shopping street, this charming
hotel is a good base if you don’t mind
being a little away from the centre. The
rooms are quirky if a touch outdated,
while there’s also a small bar and
breakfast is included. It’s a stone’s throw
from the train station, also where the
airport bus terminates (€6).
Details B&B doubles cost from about
€103 (; Via dell’Indipendenza
Casa Ilaria
Right in the heart of the university
district (lively at the weekends), this is
a charming little B&B with spacious
rooms, individually styled with antiques
and pretty garden views. The owner,
Tiziana, makes a brilliant host and
knows all the best places to eat.
Breakfast is a wonderful affair with
homemade cakes. Tiziana regularly
arranges cooking parties where guests
learn to make local classics — check in
advance to see if one is planned.
Details B&B doubles cost from about
€79 (; Largo Respighi
By Ben Clatworthy
Ben Clatworthy was a guest of the
Emilia Romagna Region tourist board
( and Bologna
Welcome ( The
best guidebook is the Bologna Pocket
Guide, which has excellent maps (£6.99,
Insight Guides)
Mercato di Mezzo
Foodies rejoice! This buzzing market, in
the heart of the labyrinthine streets that
spill off the main Piazza Maggiore
square, is home to more than 15 little
outlets, serving local dishes as varied as
pasta, pizza, meat and fish. It’s a great
place to sample the flavours of the
region. Bag a spot on one of the
communal tables and get munching.
Details Prices vary
(; Via Clavature
Bella Vita
This little bar has two branches in the
city — the first is just off Piazza
Maggiore, the other round the corner
with a live pianist. Both joints make the
perfect spot for an aperitivo pitstop.
Grab a table outside, or a stool inside
the cosy bar, order an Aperol Spritz and
one of their delicious (and enormous)
platters of local hams and cheese.
Details An Aperol Spritz costs €6. A
platter of cold cuts for two is €15 (no
website); Via Clavature
Ca’ Pelletti
This bustling little café is a great spot for
Colors Urban Hotel
Colors’ quirky, playful aesthetic greets
you at reception: complete the Rubik’s
Cube on the counter faster than it takes
to check in and breakfast is free
(apparently two guests have managed
it). The 26 cleverly designed rooms are
light and airy; some come with doubledecker four-posters that are great for
families. The laid-back Garden Bar
morphs from breakfast room to hip
cocktail hangout.
Details B&B doubles, with a cocktail
thrown in, cost from €60 (;
Tsimiski Street
City Hotel
Where to eat in Bologna
Sfoglia Rina
This is one seriously popular pasta joint
in the city centre, with queues of more
than an hour at weekend lunchtimes.
Eschew the rush by arriving late (after
3pm) and prepare for a pasta overload.
There are no menus, just blackboards
with the day’s dishes and scraps of paper
on to which you write your order for
waiters. The tortellini allo zabaione (€10)
was the tastiest pasta I’ve ever eaten,
while the tagliatelle al ragu (€9.50) —
the region’s fêted dish — was equally
delicious. A bottle of wine costs €14.
Details Mains about €10 (no website);
Via Castiglione
Charmingly old-school, the Bristol, in
the trendy Ladadika district, is carved
out of the grand 19th-century Ottoman
Post Office. Fixtures and fittings are a
tad dated, but staff are friendly and
rooms are large (some have balconies),
with high ceilings and spacious
bathrooms. Breakfast is cooked to order
(don’t miss the marvellous flaky cheese
pie) and retro bikes can be borrowed for
a spin along the seafront, less than a
minute away.
Details B&B doubles cost from €89
(£79;; Oplopiou
Mercato di Mezzo
Thessaloniki is short of green spaces,
but City Hotel, in a prime position next
to Aristotelous Square, makes amends
with leafy murals and decor that has
an urban-garden theme. Pick a city-view
room with a balcony — there’s great
soundproofing so you won’t have trouble
sleeping. A generous buffet breakfast
will set you up for the day and guests
have free use of the well-equipped gym.
Details B&B city-view doubles cost from
€95 (; Komninon Street
Blue Bottle Hotel
breakfast or a great-value weekend
brunch. The breakfast menu comes with
a parma ham sandwich to start,
followed by an omelette filled with local
squacquerone cheese and more ham —
plus a drink.
Details Breakfast menus all €9.50
(; Via Altabella
Regina Margherita Trattoria
It’s all a bit chaotic at this informal
pizza joint; the service is brusque,
waiters buzz about the place and
people rush in and out grabbing
takeaways. What it loses in character,
however, is more than made up for by
the delicious pizza. The menu is only
in Italian, so for non-Italian speakers
ordering can prove a little tricky.
Go for one with local cheese and
parma ham.
Details A pizza costs about €10 and
a litre of wine about the same
(no website); Via Santo Stefano
Budget tip
Go to nearby Modena, a half-hour’s
train journey (€3.85). It’s the home of
Ferrari and an interesting place to visit.
Tucked away off busy Egnatia Street,
Blue Bottle is in a great location and
offers guests the sort of kit that would
put a five-star rival to shame, including
the use of smartphones (with free wifi
throughout the city), smart TVs
(keyboards provided) and Coco-mat
natural mattresses. Light and bright
rooms have zingy splashes of colour and
ultra-modern bathrooms.
Details B&B doubles cost from
€75 (, join the
loyalty club for 10 per cent discount;
Episkopou Amvrosiou
The Caravan
This laid-back B&B in a listed
neoclassical building oozes boho chic.
Its 13 spotless, pastel-coloured rooms
have high ceilings and balconies, and
are stuffed with funky vintage finds.
Breakfast is great, full of local
specialities, including a delicious rose
jam. It’s a short stroll to all the
main sights.
Details B&B doubles cost from €62
(; Rempelou Street
By Julia Brookes
Julia Brookes was a guest of Sunvil
Holidays (020 8758 4758,
Three nights’ B&B at the Bristol costs
from £557pp, including flights from the
UK to Thessaloniki, transfers and an
excellent walking tour
Where to eat in Thessaloniki
Estrella introduced the concept of
brunch to Thessaloniki five years ago.
Enjoy charcoal waffles with salmon
and avocado, bougatsan (a
croissant-and-custard-pie hybrid),
spicy burgers and “breakfast pizzas”.
Details Most mains are about €5 (£4.40)
(; Pavlou Mela Street
Portions are huge at this hip bistro/bar in
the Excelsior Hotel, so don’t
over-order. Slide into a booth, sip an
expertly made Rum Forest Rum from the
excellent list of cocktails and tuck into
well-executed staples such as macaroni
cheese, barbecue pork sliders and
chicken Caesar salad. The music’s great.
Details Macaroni cheese costs €9;
a glass of Macedonian wine is €5
(; Komninon
Mpakaliarakia tou Aristou
There’s fantastic fish and chips in
Thessaloniki and none better than at this
canteen-style spot with lino tiles next to
the port. Little English is spoken, but
pack in with the locals and order
sizzlingly fresh cod or squid.
Details A huge platter of crispy squid
with garlic sauce and fried potatoes
(with a side order of bread) costs from
€9 (no website); Katouni
Be, at the Excelsior Hotel
Budget tip
For the price of a drink,
you can hop aboard a
pirate ship for a
30-minute cruise
around the bay and
the chance to admire
waterfront. Boats dock
by the White Tower,
and a coffee or a beer
costs €5 (£4.40). It’s
cheesy, but fun, and
there’s no need to
book in advance.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 29
Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux
Where to stay
Mama Shelter
Part of the hip chain, this hotel has a
buzzing atmosphere. The 97 bedrooms
have comfortable beds and huge
showers. There’s a rooftop bar terrace
with great views, while the ground floor
has a bustling restaurant and bar with
ping-pong tables.
Details B&B doubles cost from
€79 (£70;;
Rue Poquelin Molière
Maison Fredon
This five-room hotel is well decorated
in a modern, original style. Set in a
lovely old townhouse with high ceilings,
original features and exposed beams,
the rooms feel luxurious, with
comfortable bathrobes and artsy
colourful chaises longues. It’s located
on a quiet street.
Details B&B doubles cost from €90
(; Rue Porte de la Monnaie
Coeur de City Hotel
Bordeaux Clémenceau
Dating from the 18th century, the
inside of this large, attractive building
has a simple, clean design and a warm
atmosphere with friendly staff. Rooms
are decorated in a basic fashion, but are
bright and sunny, with large windows.
It’s close to all of the main sights.
Details Doubles cost from €55,
room only (; Cours Georges
Mama Shelter
CPH Studio Hotel
Save up to 30%
Standard room
for three nights;
flights. From £229pp;
valid March-Oct.
Price based on April
and September. Call
020 3553 6780;
Coeur de City Hotel
Save up to 25%
Hôtel La Cour Carrée
Ergon Agora
This popular deli and bar has industrialchic decor and a battalion of beardedhipster waiters dispensing soya
cappuccinos, cheese-and-spinach pies
and pancakes (Thessalonians are
obsessed with pancakes).
Details Pancakes with honey cost €7
(; Pavlou Mela Street
This taverna on the edge of trendy
Ladadika is a great place for anchovies,
chicken livers, fried cheese and sardines,
washed down with tsipouro (the local
fire water) or a chilled Vergina beer.
Details Main courses start at about
€8 (; Doxis
This 200-year old building has elegantly
decorated, stripped-back rooms with
calming colours — most feature wooden
beams and exposed stone walls.
Communal areas downstairs are bright
and airy, and there’s a breakfast terrace.
Details Doubles cost from €68, room
only (; Rue de Lurbe
L’Hôtel Particulier
A combination of rooms and
apartments, this guesthouse has a
decadent feel, with high ceilings and
sleekly designed ornate fireplaces.
It’s close to St André’s cathedral.
Details Doubles are from €99,
room only (;
Rue Vital Carles
By Emily Sargent
Emily Sargent was a guest of Atout
France ( and Eurostar
( Eurostar has LondonBordeaux returns from £110 on a new
high-speed line that has reduced the
journey time by more than an hour
Standard room for
three nights’ B&B;
flights. From £249pp;
valid March-Oct.
Price based
on April. Call
020 3553 9687
City Hotel
Save up to 30%
Where to eat in Bordeaux
It may be a chain of bakeries now, but
Baillardran still make arguably the best
canelés in Bordeaux — the little sponge
cakes first created here. They come in a
range of flavours, including salted
caramel and chocolate, but the original
(and the best) is the rum and vanilla —
delicious, chewy, gooey sponge with a
slightly crunchy outer layer of
caramelised sugar.
Details Canelés cost about €2 (£1.75)
(; there are seven
Baillardran cafés around the city centre
Frida is a buzzy restaurant and cocktail
bar with a fun atmosphere, hip decor
and a fantastic outdoor terrace. The
menu is relatively small, but includes
inventive dishes such as artichoke with
fresh goat’s cheese and caramelised
almonds, along with classics such as
mushroom risotto with parmesan and
steak frites with béarnaise sauce.
Details Main dishes cost between
€13 and €20 (; Rue Buhan
Bouchon Bordelaise
This lovely brasserie is hard to get into
at the weekend for good reason, so
book ahead. It feels authentic, romantic
and cosy — think chalkboard menus,
low lighting and tightly packed tables.
The menu is very short, created
Standard room for
five nights’ B&B;
flights. From £349pp;
valid Apr–Oct. Price
based on October.
Call 020 3811 5394;
You may not think of visiting Bordeaux
for Korean food, but if you want a palate
cleanser between red wine and cheese,
this is the place. Run by a young Korean
chef, its dishes include rice bowls filled
with crunchy, fresh vegetables and
kimchi, little dumplings filled with
minced beef and spicy ramen noodle
soups. There are no reservations, so try
to arrive before 8pm.
Details Mains cost from €11 (;
46 Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges
Magasin Général
Part of Bordeaux’s hip Darwin
“ecosystem” (a mini-village of
projects with great street art and
events), this café and brasserie is
attached to an organic food store.
The menu includes dishes such as
homemade burgers, quiches and
charcuterie plates. A selection of
fresh cakes, bread and cheeses can
be bought in the attached
supermarket to eat picnic-style at
tables. Good-quality beer is brewed on
site — and the freshly ground coffee is
very good too.
Details Quiches and salads are
about €5; larger mains cost about
€15 (;
Quai des Queyries, Bâtiment Nord
Budget tip
Most of the city’s museums and
sights are free to enter on the first
Sunday of the month. You can hire
a bike for €30 (£26) for 24 hours
from Vélo Cycles, docked at stations
all over the city (and they come with
their own locks).
To book these
unique offers use code
SAT1703. Terms apply
according to what is in season. Dishes
are a mixture of traditional and modern,
from classic escargots to tuna ceviche
tacos with fresh herbs.
Details A main dish plus dessert
costs €28 (;
Rue Courbin
Frida restaurant
Continued next page
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 31
Nyhavn Canal, Copenhagen
Where to eat in Copenhagen
Where to stay
Madklubben Frederiksberg
The Madklubben group was a pioneer of This cosy wine bar stands over the
affordable food in Copenhagen, and the
road from its Michelin-starred sister
latest addition to its stable is in chichi
restaurant, the Relae, in hip, HackneyFrederiksberg. It’s in a converted railway
esque Norrebro. Both belong to two
station with vibrant artwork. The food is
former Noma chefs, but Manfreds
cracking: a starter of superlative potato
rejects the pared-back Scandi vibe for
and leek soup was followed by a
a more scuffed aesthetic. Its food has
satisfying combo of cod and
maintained Relae’s New Nordic
cauliflower in a mustard-andfocus, though, and is
cheese sauce.
veggie-centric, but not
Details Two courses cost
vegetarian. The starters
175 Danish krone (£20)
were particularly good
— celeriac with walnut
cream was stonking;
a poached egg with
Gasoline Grill
parsnip puree silky
You may not
smooth — and my
envisage yourself
main of rich pork
eating a burger on a
stew with potatoes
picnic table outside a
was enormous.
petrol station, or indeed
Details Three courses
queueing for the pleasure.
are from about Dkr300
But a panel of chefs last year
(; Jaegersborggade
named Gasoline Grill among the top 27
burger joints in the world. Blimey, the
Hija de Sanchez
burgers are stellar: handmade patties,
The Noma alumna Rosio Sánchez has
soft brioche buns and great garnishes.
gone back to her Mexican roots to open
Details A burger, fries and soda combo
a taqueria in the city’s Meatpacking
costs Dkr100 (no website); Landgreven
District. The decor of this tiny café is
Steel House
Billed as a luxury hostel, Steel House
opened in July, so its 253 rooms are
still box-fresh. At 9 sq m, the doubles are
cupboard-like (although those with
terraces feel more spacious), but you
do get a lot of facilities: there’s a lounge
with leather sofas, a gym, pool, cinema
room and games room. It has a cool,
but friendly vibe and is one minute
from Vesterport station, just a short
stroll from the Old Town.
Details Doubles cost from
650 Danish kroner (£77) room only
Zleep Hotel
Zleep Hotel
Newly gentrified Vesterbro is budgethotel central, and Zleep is one of the
best. Its 76 rooms have a grown-up feel,
with wood panelling painted in a range
of Nordic shades (charcoal, teal and
midnight blue), great lighting, white
walls and linen, and pristine wet rooms.
Details Doubles cost from Dkr729,
room only (;
Hotel Astoria
Right by the main station, this is a 1930s
functionalist landmark that is midway
More budget
city guides
Vienna, Paris, Berlin,
Rome, Amsterdam,
Barcelona, Madrid,
Athens, Lisbon, Florence,
Budapest, Prague,
Venice and Brussels.
through a refurb. The new rooms are
bright white with super-comfy beds and
good double glazing (although beds
tremble slightly when trains pull away).
With its petrol-blue walls, the reception
is also a bar, where you can get a free
glass of wine in the evening.
Details Doubles cost from Dkr750 B&B
Wakeup Borgergade
For location and price it’s hard to beat
Wakeup Borgergade. Right in the centre
of the city, this no-frills hotel has 498
quirky, cheap and cheerful, but the
tacos are superb — there’s a choice of
three a day. Sánchez was a pastry chef
so the desserts are top-drawer too.
Details One taco costs Dkr35, three
are Dkr100; desserts are Dkr40
(; Slagterboderne
An offshoot of the Michelin-starred Kiin
Kiin, Aroiidee was the Thai restaurant’s
takeaway operation. It has since been
upgraded to a 28-seat bistro, with the
food for both produced by a shared
kitchen, using the same ingredients. The
result is an affordable menu of tip-top
dishes — curries, soups and terrific pad
thai — in generous portions. Located in
Norrebro, Aroiidee doesn’t take
reservations, but it’s worth a wait.
Details Two courses cost from about
Dkr200 (; Guldbergsgade
Budget tip
Enjoy a free view of the city: you don’t
need to pay the Dkr 90 (£10.50) entry
to the Christiansborg Palace, home to
the Danish parliament, to go up its
106m tower.
all-white rooms. They’re compact
(12 sq m), but they are clean and bright
with good beds and designer touches,
such as funky lime curtains. There is a
lovely airy breakfast room.
Details Doubles cost from Dkr500,
room only (;
centre. The look is blond wood and
white walls, and the 235 rooms are
generously sized. The best bit? The
rooftop deck with views of Sweden and
Oresund Bridge.
Details Doubles cost from Dkr800,
room only (; Krimsvej
By Amanda Linfoot
CPH Studio Hotel
Amanda Linfoot was a guest of
Norwegian, and Norwegian flies to
Copenhagen from Gatwick from £29.90
one way, and Edinburgh from £37 one
way (
Fancy a seaside break? This hotel, in
Amager, is five minutes from a beach.
It’s not central, but it is well placed: is
300 metres from a metro, so ten
minutes to the airport and seven to the
the times Saturday March 17 2018
32 Travel
Luxury travel
My island-hopping adventure round
New direct flights make getting to the
Seychelles much easier. Sean Thomas
checks out the best resorts
ne of the joys of travel
is being woken up in
new and charming ways.
Throwing open the
shutters to Provençal
sun; hearing the
vaporettos steaming
through Venice. At a hotel in Greenland
I was woken by the particularly noisy
calving of an iceberg. And yet I’m not
sure that any reveille has been quite as
startling, and agreeable, as the words
just whispered in my ear: “Sir, there’s a
hawksbill turtle nesting under your villa,
would you like to see?”
Wiping the sleep from my eyes I
follow my guide to the shining sand,
and there she is: a critically endangered
giant hawksbill turtle, shaded by green
mangrove trees, laying her precious eggs.
She could produce 200 over the next few
hours. And when they are born probably
just one or two nestlings will survive
their horribly dangerous march-acrossthe-Somme migration, down to the
concealing warmth of the Indian Ocean.
The lady clearly needs some peace.
Wishing her brood the best of luck I
retreat to my breakfast on Félicité Island.
From next Saturday it will be much
easier to get to Félicité Island, thanks to
British Airways starting its first direct
flights to the Seychelles archipelago in 15
years. Not only that; the flights come at
the same time as the new Four Seasons
Desroches Island opens, not on the usual
hilly, rocky Seychellois islands — they
are, after all, the peaks of submerged
mountains — but on a coral atoll.
But more of Desroches later. I’m
starting a tour — that includes the main
island of Mahé — on Félicité, the
fifth-largest island in the archipelago.
Like most of the islands here Félicité
is entirely leased by one hotel — in this
case the Six Senses Zil Payson— and
is devoid of traffic; three quarters of it
is deep, green forest, which is slowly
being rewilded from its previous life as
a coconut plantation. The hotel consists
of discreetly opulent and airy villas
dotted around a bouldery bayside, all
with a modern, Zen, quite Japanese
aesthetic. It feels like a cabal of
billionaire shoguns all decided to have
their summerhouses built in the very
same rainforest, hidden from each other
by the vanilla vines and mango trees, yet
sharing golf buggies to trundle down to
breakfast, lunch and spiced Creole curry
in the swish poolside restaurants.
These eateries, in turn, gaze across the
turquoise straits to the green islands of
Praslin and La Digue, and also the tiny
islet of Cocos, where squadrons of fruit
bats roost by night (in the morning
you’ll see them swinging through the
skies like shrunken Draculas, heading
to Félicité to gorge on mangoes). Cocos
is also where all the local yachts pull up,
creating a daily shark’s tooth necklace
of boats around the isle; they come for
the virgin beaches.
While on Félicité, try the slippery trek
across the island to see the precious
stand of coco de mer trees, which are
unique and endemic to the Seychelles.
They are also iconic because of their
fruits and nuts — put it this way, the
huge male fruit dangles and the
enormous female nut (the world’s
biggest) looks uncannily like a naked
women between thigh and navel. When
19th-century settlers reached the
Seychelles they believed that these
proved the beauteous islands to be the
Garden of Eden and the coco de mer
the tree of knowledge.
Before leaving Félicité I have to check
out the spa. To be honest, I’m not overly
excited. Generally I find there’s only so
much that you can do with a gong, a
sarong and a punch in the coccyx. But
I’ve been told that this spa is special, and
so it proves. With bravura imagination,
and a lot of time and money, the saunas,
baths and treatment rooms have been
carved out of the living boulders and
banana trees, so coming here is like
booking a back rub in a half-buried
Neolithic monument, where mystical
Celtic tunnels lead to circular hammocks
suspended over sacred tropical rock
pools. My bed stares out at the churning
seas. The lady kneads my knotted
shoulders; my worries slowly recede.
Then the silver gong bongs and ginger
tea is served.
A few hours later I am leaving Félicité
in decidedly relaxed tranquillity,
distantly troubled only by the “enema”
button on my hi-tech Japanese toilet
(what does it do? I was always too scared
to try) and the wine prices (hotels on the
Seychelles are relatively costly, but
prepare yourself for especially striking
mark-ups on your merlot).
The next stop is back in Mahé, which
feels like a continent after Félicité. I’m
staying on the throbbingly verdant
Six Senses Zil
Pasyon on Félicité
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 33
an Indian Ocean paradise
Four Seasons
Desroches Island
Six Senses Zil Pasyon
southwest coast of the island, in the
Maia Luxury Resort & Spa. Hidden on
its own peninsula, it consists of about
30 steeply thatched villas, which rise
to dramatic heights. In the right light
— and the seaward sunsets are
commonly fabulous — the Maia
resembles a kind of Mayan pyramid
temple complex, somehow transported
to an Amalfian coast, sans the hordes
of tourists.
What makes Maia different from an
actual Mayan pyramid is that, at the
very top, human sacrifice has been
replaced by a helipad, and everywhere
else heathen worship has given way to
delicious, all-inclusive food and booze
(Japanese to Creole to Indian), plus
another blissful spa and a decorous
terrace of gardens.
My private infinity pool surveys the
gobsmacking northern view — to the
Emir of Abu Dhabi’s holiday home and
a lengthening chain of sun-hazed islets,
where I wouldn’t be surprised if God
has a condo (imagine the best of the
Hebrides with heavenly weather).
The only major downside of the Maia
is the beach. By the high standards of
Seychellois beaches, it’s not the best:
strewn with rocks and seaweed. If you
need a Beach to Remember then you
should head five minutes down the coast
to the Four Seasons Resort seychelles,
which is another auditorium of breezy,
plunge-pooled villas, scattered among
steepening slopes of palms. But this
time the villas overlook one of the
prettiest beaches in the Indian Ocean:
Petite Anse.
The colours of the tropical seas that
wash this generous sickle of sand are
probably beyond description, but heck,
it’s my job to try: how about a kind of
shimmering jade meets bashful sapphire,
edged with frothing cream? This
glorious beach is certainly great for
swimming, and excellent for sunbathing.
The snorkelling, however, is
disappointingly so-so — as with many
of the islands in the centre of the
archipelago the corals have been
bleached and battered by various
tsunamis and El Niños, and much of
the underwater fauna has, apparently,
fled to outlying parts. Luckily that’s
where I’m headed.
A 40-minute flight brings me to my
final island, and the Four Seasons
Desroches Island. The hotel officially
opens the same day I arrive, so there’s a
celebration as the amber sun sets on the
Need to
Sean Thomas was a
guest of Abercrombie
& Kent (01242 547 708,,
which can arrange
tailor-made trips to the
Seychelles. A ten-night
package, with three
nights B&B at Six Senses
Zil Payson, two nights
B&B at the Four Seasons
Resort Seychelles, three
nights half-board at Four
Seasons Desroches Island
and two nights all
inclusive at Maia Luxury
Resort & Spa, with flights
on British Airways and
helicopter transfers, costs
from £7,300pp. BA flights
from Heathrow to the
Seychelles start from
£698 return
coralline flatness. Unlike the other
islands, Desroches is flat as a crêpe.
This means that everyone gets their
own beachside villa; it also means that
everyone gets their own bicycle, so you
can pedal yourself about, rather than
forever relying on golf buggies. And once
you’re in the saddle you have the entire,
four-mile-long island completely and
joyously to yourself. You can ask the
staff to pack you a picnic and then off
you go, swerving through the woods to
avoid the giant tortoises, marvelling at
the rays in the bay, until your tyres
plough into softening sand and you find
yourself by several miles of perfect
powder-white beach, where you can tilt
your bike against a banyan tree and
unwrap your sandwiches. It’s like being
in an Enid Blyton book, with lashings of
SeyBrew beer. Quite delightful.
And that’s not all: Desroches also
boasts a very laid-back bar, another
spiffing spa and some of the best sportfishing in the world. I am intent,
however, on doing something else: scuba.
I’ve heard that it’s great on Desroches,
but I’m a bit nervy because I haven’t
dived in yonks.
I needn’t have worried. We putter out
on a little boat and the friendly couple
who run the Desroches’ diving do
everything to soothe me, and soon I am
down in the sun-shot depths with the
nurse sharks, vibrant corals and
Napoleon wrasse. The dive culminates
with a spiralling descent into a
blackening coral tunnel, where we get to
use torches and I feel like an underwater
Indiana Jones. Then it’s a short cycle to
the open-air brasserie for a chilled craft
beer and lobster risotto. I have to
confess: life has been worse.
If I have a criticism of Desroches
it’s this: it’s not a place to party. It’s a
place for families or honeymooners,
it’s a place to escape for a week with
nothing but you, the sea and the
soy-glazed steak in the upscale
Lighthouse restaurant. It is also, as I
said, a sunburnt Enid Blyton story. It’s
“Five Have a Wonderful Time and
Leave a Hefty Bar Tab”: it’s certainly
not cheap, but it is intensely charming.
So that’s three islands in the
Seychelles. And a glimpse of demiparadise. My only question is: why did
it take BA so long to reintroduce direct
flights? Who knows. Now you must
excuse me while I concentrate on
more fleeting pleasures as the sun sets
on the private pool.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
34 Travel
A chef’s guide
to Dublin —
and beyond
As we celebrate St Patrick’s Day, the chef
Richard Corrigan talks about growing
up in Co Meath and his top places to eat
grew up on a farm in Co Meath, ago and which I was later lucky enough to
about 36 miles from Dublin. It’s buy — is in Co Cavan, next to Meath. It’s
known as the Royal County and has a sparsely populated area, intensely rural
dozens of historic monuments, and very beautiful.
Everyone is familiar with the counties
including castles, with the River
of Waterford, Kerry and Wexford, but you
Boyne flowing through it.
Our farm was in the middle of don’t bump into many tourists in Cavan or
bogland — the soil was so rich and peaty Meath, and that’s how I like it. Yet we are
that the weeds popped up like an Amazon only a 50-minute drive from Dublin
rainforest overnight. It’s still wonderfully airport and 20 minutes from Enniskillen,
rural today. There’s mysticism to the land- on the border.
It’s because Cavan is near the border
scape here. If you know the Pennines,
then you’re getting close. When we were that tourists haven’t really come here.
children it could be spooky at times, espe- When the Troubles started in the 1970s,
cially when the mist rose and remained it decimated the area. Nearby Lough
Sheelin used to attract anglers from all
like a curtain over the fields.
We were always outside, especially in over the world for its wild-trout fishing.
the spring and summer. My job was to Now it’s coming back to its best again;
collect the eggs and get the ducks and pollution issues have been dealt with,
chickens in by 5pm, before the foxes got leaving perfect limestone and spring-fed
them. Money was tight, as with all country conditions for the trout. More care and
folk, but we lived really well and there thought about the environment and
was lots of happiness involved in cooking pollution have also allowed wild-salmon
stocks to rise steadily again. Fishing truly
and eating.
We made black pudding and there were has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures —
always pheasants and wild duck hanging for me, anyway.
The area has a very untouched feel to it,
behind the door. We had beehives too and
loved eating the honeycombs — crunchy and by that I mean it’s unspoilt. One of my
and gorgeous. I was always getting stung absolute favourite things to do here in
by bees and Mum would be on hand with autumn and winter is go for a bottle of
Guinness or a little whiskey chaser
the vinegar. She would churn the
in one of the many old
butter and make the bread.
“brown bars”, stained
Her cooking repertoire
by tobacco smoke
wasn’t large, maybe not
after many decades.
more than 10 or 15
Crean’s in Oldcastle
recipes, but what she
would be one of
did was very, very
those at the top of
good — my memomy list — unread
copies of the The
of boiled hams,
Irish Times lying
apple crumbles
about, an old
and rhubarb tarts
poster of a Eurocooling on the
pean city tacked
windowsill under a
up on the wall, a
cloth. It was the
record player with
smell of fresh baked
Joe Cocker playing on
bread that inspired me
Richard Corrigan
the turntable.
to cook.
Another of my favourite
Growing up on a farm
things to do is walk around
teaches you a lot. It gives you a
respect for the cycles and seasonality of Oldcastle, a lovely market town in the
food, and makes you very unpretentious northwest of Meath, on an elevated spot
about it because you understand the hard with views over the rolling drumlins of
graft that goes into producing it. It’s only Cavan and Co Westmeath’s Lakelands. It’s
since I started growing things again in our stuck in a time warp and is an area of
kitchen garden at Virginia Park Lodge Ireland that is completely unexplored —
that it reminded me how very much in it’s very special.
Just outside Oldcastle are the Loughlove with the land I still am. The lodge —
which is where I married my wife 27 years crew cairns, a series of about 30 tombs
that date to 3000BC spread across a
ridge of hills; the views up there are just
The town of Kells is also near by.
Famous for its Book of Kells, Ireland’s
greatest cultural treasure and the world’s
most famous medieval manuscript (on
display at the Library of Trinity College
Dublin), the town is more than 1,000 years
old and considered to be one of the most
important monastic sites in Ireland.
Interestingly, there are lots of English
people living in this region — and, oddly,
a few Germans. They’ve escaped the rat
race and transformed abandoned farmhouses. Some are now making and selling
beautiful things — such as Silke Croppe, a
German woman who makes the most
gorgeous goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses at
Corleggy Farmhouse, on the banks of the
River Erne between Cavan and Co
And talking of cheese, the best cheese
shop in Ireland, Sheridans, has its maturing rooms in Co Meath, just two miles
from my home. And in Oldcastle we have
a butcher called John Flood, who has his
own abattoir, is a great huntsman (and a
cheeky sod) and sells the best pork in
The art of Irish country cooking is much
finer than you would imagine — and for
many here that appreciation of food and
flavour is formed in childhood.
Richard Corrigan is the chef-proprietor
of Corrigan’s Mayfair (corrigans and Bentley’s Oyster Bar
& Grill ( He also owns the
private estate Virginia Park Lodge in
Co Cavan (
The best places to eat in
Dublin and near by
Two Cooks
I spend quite a bit of time in Dublin and
the cooking there is pretty exciting these
Kildare beef at Dax Restaurant
days, from the top down. A lot of Irish chefs
who worked in London with the top guys
came back to Ireland to open their own
places, such as this one, just outside the
city. The two cooks are husband and wife
Josef Zammit and Nicola Curran, who do
a cracking job in this small restaurant with
a small menu, using local ingredients.
Details Meals cost from €40 (£35; 5 Canal
View, Sallins, Co Kildare; 00 353 45 853
The Greenhouse
He may be as mad as a brush, but the
Finnish chef Michael Viljanen can
certainly cook. Think grouse with muscat
and pumpkin or line-caught mackerel
with pickled kohlrabi, lovage and trout roe.
Details Two-course lunch costs from
€35 (Joshua House, 21 Dawson Street;
00 353 1 676 7015;
Dax Restaurant
In Oldcastle
we have a
butcher who
sells the best
pork in Ireland
This basement restaurant in the lawyers’
district offers a cracking wine list. The
young Irish chef Graham Neville cooks
some decent, modern Irish-French fare.
Standouts include Annagassan smoked
salmon and Clogherhead crab with crisp
Granny Smith apple, fillet of Kildare beef
with beech mushrooms, Toonsbridge
mozzarella and green peppercorn sauce,
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 35
Dunmoe Castle and the
River Boyne in Co Meath
Co Cavan
Co Meath
10 miles
and Iona Farm courgette flower stuffed
with prawns and prawn bisque.
Details Set lunch costs from €27.50 for
two courses (23 Pembroke Street Upper;
00 353 1 676 1494;
This is a Michelin-starred restaurant run
by the husband-and-wife team Derry and
Sallyanne Clarke. Expect great hospitality
— they are so warm that you feel as if you
are in someone’s home — and a great
modern take on Irish food, such as aged
lamb with curried aubergine.
Details Three-course lunch costs €45
(109a Baggot Street Lower; 00 353 1 661
My youngest son, Robbie, loves this place.
It’s a cracking French bistro-brasserie
formula — brilliant food with real polish
and incredible consistency. I like my food
a bit more rustic, and the food at Pichet is
just that. I’d rather eat here than anywhere else in Dublin: steak tartare, onion
soup, pork belly with crackling or Trish
Butler’s farmyard chicken.
Details Starters costs from €8.50, mains
are from €19 (15 Trinity Street; 00 353 1
677 1060;
You can’t come to this part of the world
without visiting a whiskey distillery, and
Meath has a good one. Housed in the 250year-old stables of the iconic Slane Castle,
the distillery is state-of-the-art. Finish the
tour with a glass of the triple-cask blend.
Details Tours for adults cost €18pp (Slane
Castle, Slane;
Co Meath
Co Cavan
Copper & Spices
Irish woman marries Indian chef, and
Co Meath is rewarded with a cracking
Indian restaurant that uses only local
produce and beers. It’s a special place, for
sure, and the food is packed with flavour.
Try the Irish Sea king scallops, lamb
balti or pork vindaloo. Everything on
the menu is good.
Details Three courses costs from €30
(18 Ludlow Street, Navan; 00 353 46 906
Avoca Dunboyne
If you’re driving up to Cavan from Dublin,
this is a great little place to stop, just off the
motorway a few miles from the capital. It’s
in an old garden centre and they grow
everything themselves, and they sell
crafts from all over Ireland. Think homemade cakes and quality coffee — the last
time I was there I tucked into a walnut
slice, and that did the trick.
Details (Piercetown, Dunboyne; 00 353 1
903 1200;
Slane Irish Whiskey
The Olde Post Inn
As the name suggests, the dining room
used to be a post office. Gearóid Lynch is
a very thoughtful and in-tune chef who
serves local wild food; the game here is a
must. The last time I visited I had some
beautiful teal.
Details A four-course dinner costs €63
(Cloverhill; 00 353 47 555 55;
The Oak Room
You’ll get staple, honest fare in a warm and
welcoming environment from the chefproprietor Norbert Neylon, who has
worked in Michelin-starred establishments that include Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. Dishes here include the honey
and clove glazed ham hock with crispy
free-range egg, smoked bacon and pea
Details Three courses cost from €45 (24
Bridge Street, Cavan; 00 353 49 437 1414,
Richard Corrigan was talking to
Fiona Sims
the times Saturday March 17 2018
36 Travel
Delays and lost luggage? Tell us
What is your worst (and best)
flight experience? We want to
know all about it. Jane Knight
launches the Times Travel survey
e’ve all got our
own travel disaster stories, but few
are more poignant
than this week’s
account of a
United Airlines
flight from Houston to New York. Cabin
staff allegedly made the owners of a
French bulldog puppy put it — inside its
carrier — in the overhead locker. At the
end of the four-hour flight it was dead. It’s
the latest of several high-profile incidents
with United, including the death of an
enormous rabbit, which died in an airline
facility last year after a transatlantic flight,
and the forced removal of Dr David Dao,
69, from an overbooked flight last April.
Every week, our Travel Doctor postbag
bulges with your complaints, many about
British Airways, which is still fighting to
improve its image after last year’s computer meltdown, cabin-crew strikes and the
backlash over charging for meals on short
hops to Europe.
It’s no surprise that in a December
survey by the consumer group Which?
BA’s customer satisfaction scores were the
lowest they have been since scores were
introduced in 2010. They were, however,
still better than those of Ryanair (satisfaction rating: 45 per cent). Compare that
with the 76 per cent approval rating of
budget carrier Norwegian (which, I’d like
to point out, has some of the best food I’ve
ever had in the air).
Let us know what you think of inflight
cuisine, legroom and flight delays. Don’t
forget to tell us about your best and worst
airports, too. Next week the Skytrax
World Airport Awards are announced and
we’ll see if Singapore’s Changi retains its
crown for a fifth consecutive year.
And what of lost luggage? I had my own
experience of that last month, on a TAP
Air Portugal flight via Lisbon to Sao Paulo.
On arrival, I was told that my suitcase was
missing in action — not even delayed
(though it was eventually returned). It felt
like groundhog day when I waited, hopelessly, at the empty baggage carousel. A
few years earlier I had done the same in
Cuba after my son and I flew with Air
France to join a cruise.
Just you try spending half a week on a
ship in the trousers you flew out in, your
son’s lime-green T-shirt and some interesting underwear you picked up in Havana. The moral? Always pack your knickers
and a T-shirt in your hand baggage.
Hugo Rifkind, columnist
Our travel highs and
lows, by Times writers
One day, perhaps, I will expunge the
memory of standing in Nairobi airport terminal’s toilets on a brown floor in a brown
room at a brown urinal, just as the brown
overhead cistern overflowed sending
brown water cascading on to my crotch.
One day, but not today.
For the best airport, obviously it’s
Zurich. Sometimes, while there, I think of
how one would go about explaining even
the concept of “Luton Airport Parkway” to
a Swiss person; an integrated transport
system that ends exactly where the airport
isn’t, so you have to get a bus. There’s none
of that in Zurich. The planes land on time,
and the monorail has soothing cow noises
(I do not know why they are soothing, but
they are) and there’s a proper train station
literally next door that will take you anywhere in Europe you wish to go. Between
the door and your aeroplane, you basically
cannot help being forcefed at least eight
totally free baguettes and Emmental sandwiches. There’s also a shopping centre so
comprehensive that locals come to the airport to go shopping. Beat that.
Janice Turner, columnist
Caitlin Moran, columnist
American Airlines is the worst. A few years
ago, on a flight to New York, a passenger
was taken ill on board and we had to land
in Iceland. We were waiting on the ground
in Reykjavik for a very long time and our
seven-hour flight ended up taking about
13. People were trying to call their worried
loved ones, but I had no battery in my
phone. I asked if I could borrow a phone
adapter. They said I could buy a charge kit
(that fitted their funny onboard sockets),
but it would cost more than $100.
The first — and indeed, only — time I got
upgraded to Upper Class, it took me two
hours to realise I had been. Me and my sister were flying to New York on Virgin
Atlantic and, as we had to finish writing a
script on the way, decided to treat ourselves to Premium Economy. “There’s an
extra six inches of leg room and a slightly
wider seat!” I said as I slapped my credit
card down. “And for only £60! Let’s DO
this! Let’s live THE HIGH LIFE! We’re
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 37
your air travel nightmares
The Times
When we got on the plane and were ushered to our seats, I marvelled at just how
much difference that “slightly wider seat”
meant. “Man, when they make them a bit
wider it changes the whole shape!” I boggled. “These are like . . . little pods. F***ING
“I can’t believe this only cost sixty quid
extra,” Caz replied, amazed. “Why don’t
more people go Premium Economy? It’s
the bargain of the century!”
Then the lady came round with the
champagne and the menus.
“F*** it,” I said. “I am ALWAYS going to
travel Premium Economy from now on.
I’m living the Premium Economy Life. I
It was only when we were over the west
coast of Ireland — as I said to the stewardess, “Man, this is HEAVEN — I can’t even
imagine what Upper Class must be like!”
and she looked at me oddly — that the
penny finally dropped. We’d been upgraded. This WAS Upper Class. That’s why I
was eating scallops with an icy condrieu,
face smothered in free Rituals face balm.
At first, I couldn’t work out why we’d
been given something so amazing: a free
upgrade, to the Palace of Dreams. Why
would they do something so generous?
How could this be?
However, on the flight back, ten days
later, I finally understood. Standing at JFK
check-in at 10pm, knackered and hungry,
contemplating an eight-hour overnight
flight in economy, but knowing how delicious the beds in Upper Class are, I wrestled with my internal financial adviser for
ten minutes, then slapped my credit card
down on the counter. “Two upgrades to
Upper Class, please!” I said, desperately. “I
can’t go back to the tiny chairs! And the
world of no champagne! They make me
It’s totally buggered up my life. I now
forgo all long-haul holidays for years, until
I can save up enough to go Upper Class.
My spine just cries at the idea of economy.
My spine would rather stay at home. And
I’ll be honest — it’s my favourite bit of any
holiday, now. All the family, tucked up in
cosy beds, watching TV and having
someone else bring them their dinner,
while I watch Thor: Ragnarok and work
my way through the wine and cheese.
They knew what they were doing,
those free-upgrade people. Like drug
dealers, they give out the first hit for
free — then you spend the rest of your
life paying.
Anna Murphy,
fashion director
It was 15 years ago on an Air India
overnight flight from Kochi in Kerala to
London. The bad news was that, courtesy
of a three-hour stopover in Delhi, it would
take us pushing 16 hours. If only. We
landed at Delhi at 11.20pm, only to be
told that our onward flight had been
cancelled and that the airline would have
to book us on one goodness knows how
many hours later.
Imagine our surprise when 40 minutes
later our original flight popped up on the
screen, business as usual. It hadn’t been
cancelled at all. Air India had chosen to
bump us in favour of the passengers they
had bumped the night before, and the one
before that. Yes, we were the lucky ones,
we realised, as a couple of hundred extras
from The Walking Dead turned up, this
their third midnight in a row trying to get
to London. We macho-ed our way back on
to our original flight. And never flew Air
India again.
When delayed,
I asked if I
could borrow a
phone adapter.
They said I
could buy
Sathnam Sanghera,
one for more
I was once meant to interview Ed Sheeran
than $100
in South Dakota and flew out in economy
How to have
your say
Fill out our short survey
airportsurvey, or email
us with your best and
worst airport and
airline experiences at
community@ and
we’ll publish your best
on crutches. But — as a result of an aborted landing in bad weather, a heart attack
on board as a result of the aborted landing,
a shortage of fuel, a diversion to Alabama,
the departure of the entire crew, half a day
waiting for a replacement plane in a windowless room, a missed connection and
then a day on the floor of an airport with
his PR — I never got to meet him. I just
have to hear him sing and I am straight
back there, on that pointless round trip.
Giles Coren, columnist
I was flying Virgin to Toronto and was
busting for a wee, but it was just when the
meal came so I thought that I’d hold it in
until afterwards and drank a couple of
glasses of wine and some water while eating. An hour passed. Finally I got up and
hobbled towards the loo, by now almost
blacking out with the need to wee (which
is always worse at altitude). There were a
couple of people in the queue, so that took
ten more minutes. Finally, my turn came,
but as I stepped forward Pamela Anderson
came round the corner and said: “Oh, is
there a queue?”
I had no option, as an Englishman and a
massive Baywatch fan, but to say: “Oh, you
go ahead, please, I can wait.” She smiled a
great big Hollywood smile, said: “Thank
you, what a gentleman.” And in she went.
She. Took. HOURS.
My God, I don’t know what she was up to
in there, but by the time she finally finished
I was leaning, panting against the wall of
the plane, just a huge, stretched bladder
with a head on top.
“That was so kind of you,” she said.
“Don’t mention it,” I squeaked.
“So,” she continued, “what brings you to
“Well . . .” I said, and was about to embark
on my life story when I realised that I just
“I’d love to tell you, Ms Anderson,” I said.
“But I just need to pee so badly that I think
my head might blow off.”
So I ducked inside and locked the door.
When I emerged, several minutes later,
she was gone.
Tony Turnbull, food editor
When we visited Assisi, St Francis’s peaceloving message clearly hadn’t rubbed off
on my ten-year-old son, who bought himself an imitation flintlock pistol as a souvenir. I put it in a suitcase for the rest of the
holiday and thought no more of it, until I
was pulled aside at passport control in Pisa
airport and taken under armed guard to a
security room. The guards trained their
weapons on me as I sheepishly retrieved
the replica from my suitcase.
I assumed they’d confiscate it, but when
they saw it couldn’t be fired and I said that
my son had bought it with his holiday
money, they made it their mission to
ensure that I could take it on the plane,
ringing British Airways to get permission
and then whisking me airside to be
reunited with my worried family, just in
time to board.
38 Travel
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 39
Storrs Hall, on Windermere
Hop to it and visit Beatrix Potter country
Head to the Lake
District now, before
the summer crowds,
says Alex O’Connell
here is only one way to
respond to the forthcoming
Peter Rabbit movie, a savage
attack on Beatrix Potter’s
gentle Edwardian bunny by
crude CGI-wielding Hollywood Mr McGregors. First,
reconnect with the books and their
ambitious language, pacy plots and
exquisite illustrations. Second, bundle
your own litter of rabbit kittens off to the
Lake District to commune with Potter and
the places that inspired the original,
sublime source material.
So what if it’s the dog days of winter
and you have to walk with your chin glued
to your chest and listen to your child
wailing that the Windermere ferry “isn’t a
real boat with oars”? (Sometimes even the
hardiest little rabbits would rather be
under an eiderdown supping camomile tea
or, rather, eating complimentary chocolate Peters in the hotel room.)
No, grab the bunny by the ears because
since the Lake District was made a Unesco
World Heritage site last year — putting it
in the same crazy tourist club as Egypt’s
pyramids, the Taj Mahal and Hadrian’s
Wall — once the sun comes out you will
not be able to move for the Gore-Tex
armies, all hungry for cream teas and overpriced Jemima Puddle-Duck oven gloves.
We didn’t want to stay in any old burrow,
so we booked in to Storrs Hall in Bownesson-Windermere, an excellent base and
very child friendly (we took Fred, our
five-year-old Peter Rabbit fancier). Built in
the 1790s by the Yorkshire landowner Sir
John Legard, it’s an elegant presence with
a magnificent rotunda, views to get lost in
and a restaurant with a menu that is
sophisticated enough for foodie parents
and simple enough for picky kids. They
don’t overdo the Potter connection (she
attended many parties there) with tacky
signposts and it’s all the better for it.
We arrived in a rare bout of bright
sunshine so headed straight out on to
Windermere for that ferry trip from
Bowness to Ambleside, which took in
birdlife, pretty lakeside homes and, for
Fred, hot chocolate. Later, when the
weather turned bad, we headed to the
Armitt Museum, founded by Mary Armitt
in 1909. Potter was a regular visitor, and
aside from the library room, the place
focuses on the author and farmer’s
conservation work in the Lakes, and her
acquisition of her home, Hill Top Farm in
Near Sawrey.
We learnt about Potter’s early life, born
in 1866 into a wealthy cotton-manufacturing family, and her gradual transformation
from city-rejecting South Kensington
child to Lancastrian country woman. Her
campaign to preserve Herdwick sheep and
her endowment of 15 farms to what was to
become the National Trust (although,
controversially, only nine are still in its
hands) is also explained with vigour.
One exhibit tells the story of the genesis
of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Potter wrote
the first version in a letter to Noel Moore,
the son of her former governess, in 1893,
while on holiday in Dunkeld, Perthshire)
and those early illustrations are also there
to admire. But this is adult homework.
More child-friendly are her nature drawings — the fungi and feathers are exquisite
— and her early fossil collection, cameras
and paintbox (her father was a friend of the
artist John Millais).
The next stop was Hill Top. Potter
bought the farm in 1905 with the royalties
from her first books and, even after she
moved to a bigger place near by with her
husband, William Heelis, a solicitor, she
would wander across the fields to visit her
former home. It is glorious, although the
garden, which is where Jemima tried to
hide her eggs in The Tale of Jemima
Puddle-Duck, is, of course, not what it
would be in spring and summer.
The kitchen makes up for it, with
its old stove and carved dresser
displaying exquisite tiles handpainted with naive rabbits by Potter.
So what if the straw hat that sits on
the tapestry chair is a replica or
that her shoes have been sold to
Japan and the clogs by the
hearth are but a likeness? It
still has the feel of her home.
Upstairs, I loved peering
into her dolls’ house and seeing
her marvellous bedroom furniture, textiles and trinkets. The
lighting is low to preserve the
interior and replicate how it was in
Potter’s day (one reason that she
stopped writing books was the
fast deterioration of her sight).
Unless you have children who are
mini-Lovejoys, with yearnings for a career
in the antiques trade, this is not a place to
linger without the lure of the garden trail.
“Mummy, I thought I was going to like it,
but actually it’s boring,” I overheard a girl
of about six say inside the house, and I
think Fred would have agreed.
So we decided to split up for the next
visit. The boys headed to a café in
Hawkshead for soup, and I went to the
Beatrix Potter Gallery down the road — in
her husband’s former offices, said to be the
model for Tabitha Twitchit’s shop.
Upstairs there is a lively if rather niche
display linking Potter to the centenary of
women’s suffrage. She was no suffragette,
but she was good to farming families on
her land, and gave her tenants’ wages
directly to the wives for housekeeping.
In another room I was also able to
admire some of her original illustrations
from The Tailor of Gloucester and learn
that one of the characters in the book was
loosely based on her husband.
We all piled back to Storrs Hall for its
marvellous Peter Rabbit-themed tea,
which included Jemima Puddle-Duck
duck sandwiches, rabbit-shaped carrot
cake, Hunca Munca boiled eggs and
enough scones to feed a village.
The next day there was time to pop into
the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in
Bowness before our train home. Fred
loved running around the rather strange
animatronic world of the Potter
characters, placed in crafted scenarios
out of the books. Adults might find it a
little spooky — it reminded me of the
1960s Disneyland attraction It’s a Small
World, but with rabbits and mice rather
than children.
The attraction was, however, infinitely
more credible than the new film. And
Potter, whose nose was always twitching
for the next merchandise opportunity,
would have loved it.
Peter Rabbit is on general release
Need to know
Alex O’Connell was a guest
of Storrs Hall (,
which has B&B doubles from
£140 a night. More information:
the Lake District (;
World of Beatrix Potter (; Armitt Museum
(; Hilltop
40 Travel
the times Saturday March 17 2018
The Orient-Express combines the glamour of a bygone age with the sublime food
and fine service you’d expect on the world’s most romantic and luxurious train.
TIM JEPSON – travel writer and author, Times Expert Traveller
Times ship rating: 8/10
Travel on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, unwind by Lake Garda, explore Florence
and then enjoy a luxury Mediterranean cruise on this unforgettable 17-night holiday
isit a host of dazzling European
destinations in comfort and style on this
magical 17-night voyage. Your holiday will
begin in thrilling luxury on the world’s most
famous train: the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express,
which will transport you on an unforgettable
two-day journey from London to Verona.
Next, explore Lake Garda. Enjoy a revitalising
five-night stay at the Aquaviva Hotel. Suitably
relaxed, you will move on to Florence – where you
will stay at the Grand Baglionia hotel with plenty of
time to explore one of the world’s most beautiful
and enchanting cities. You will then embark on a
luxurious 10-night Mediterranean cruise on board
Celebrity Constellation, which includes stops at
Nice, Provence, Valencia and Barcelona.
What a feeling: to depart from London
on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
as it whisks you across Europe to
Verona while you settle back and
enjoy all its luxuries, including the
superb dining.
Enjoy a five-night stay at stylish Hotel
Acquaviva del Garda, which boasts
breathtaking views, a private beach,
impressive spa and swimming pools
and a fantastic location: it’s the perfect
place from which to explore the
beautiful Lake Garda region.
You will sail from Rome to Barcelona on
Celebrity Constellation, which has been
awarded an 8/10 rating by The Sunday
Times cruise editor Sue Bryant and
offers a wide range of first-class
facilities, including an open-air cinema,
while maintaining all the style and
intimacy of a smaller ship.
Stay at the grand and historic Hotel
Baglioni – which is located at the heart
of Florence – as you explore the rich
culture and delicious cuisine of this
great Italian city.
A two-day luxury full-board Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
train journey from London to Verona
A ten-night full-board cruise on board Celebrity Constellation,
including stops at Rome, Nice, Valencia and Barcelona
A five-night stay at the Aquaviva Hotel, Lake Garda
A one-night stay at the Grand Baglionia, Florence
Return British Airways flight and transfers
Trip duration: April 25 to May 12, 2019
Exclusively with
£4,299* per person
0808 274 4669
*Based on two people sharing an interior cabin. Ocean view room: from £4,899pp. Balcony room: from £5,499pp. Concierge class: from £6,199pp. Holidays are operated by Imagine Cruising Ltd, Portland House, Bincknoll Lane, Interface Business Park, Royal Wootton Bassett,
Swindon SN4 8SY and subject to the booking conditions of Imagine Cruising Ltd, ATOL and ABTA protected; a company wholly independent of News UK. Imagine Cruising: ABTA Y6300. ATOL 11078.
42 Travel
the times Saturday March 17 2018
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Travel 43
Save 25% at
Lucknam Park
The cool
hotel guide
The Merry
Harriers, Surrey
In a nutshell
If you stay in this Hambledon pub on
a Saturday, you can take part in the
weekly 5.30pm “meat draw”, a charity
raffle to win steaks, sausages and bacon
from local farms. Many villagers turn out
and all have a jolly old time. It’s this
down-to-earth atmosphere that makes
the seven-room Merry Harriers, which
has just been revamped by its new
owner, the veteran hotelier and former
Millwall Football Club chairman Peter
de Savary, so special. Expect beams,
crackling fireplaces, banter and pop
music. Oh yes, and the inn also offers
llama treks (more of which later).
Which is the best room?
Room No 4 above the inn is tucked away
with a tiny Alice in Wonderland-style
doorway. It’s from £95 B&B.
What are the rooms like?
The rooms have been given a slick new
look that adds a contemporary style to
the main building, which dates from the
16th century, and the converted barn at
the back. Walls have been painted white
and charcoal-grey carpets laid. Lovely
antique pictures decorate the walls.
There are three rooms in the main
building (from £95 B&B) and four in the
barn (from £85 B&B), one facing the
inn’s five acres of fields at the back.
So what’s the food like?
Beer-battered fish and chips, turkey-andham pies, burgers and sausages with
mash (locally made sausages, of course)
are on the no-nonsense menu. Food is
served in the bar or in the bright
restaurant. My wild mushroom soup
was delicious, with delicate flavours and
fresh focaccia, while my main course of
sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce,
mash and mange tout was served with
strong English mustard. Tasty local
Need to
cheeses completed a fine meal. Three
courses cost from about £27.
Who goes there?
Hikers coming for the Surrey Hills, pub
aficionados (the beer is by Surrey Hills
Brewery) and llama lovers: “treks”,
during which you take a llama for a
three-hour walk with a picnic lunch
halfway (£70pp), can be arranged.
The highs, the lows, the verdict
Eight and a half out of ten
It’s merry by name and merry by nature,
with reasonable rates and good little
rooms, although some are a bit pokey.
Tom Chesshyre
Price includes
• One night’s B&B, valid from
Tuesday to Thursday
• Afternoon tea, garden tour and
dry floatation treatment each
• Half a bottle of champagne
Tom Chesshyre was
a guest of the Merry
Harriers (01428 682883,,
Hambledon Road,
Hambledon, Surrey
GU8 4DR; B&B double
rooms cost from £85;
£10 single-occupancy
discount; no
rooms; dogs allowed
in the barn rooms
“Lucknam Park is arguably
one of the UK’s finest
country house hotels.”
Ben Clatworthy
Times hotel rating: 9/10
Call 01225 560414
Use code TEH23
Terms and conditions apply
Hurtigruten’s ships have plenty of picture windows that frame the scenery –
while the fresh, imaginative food is exceptional.
SUE BRYANT – cruise editor, The Sunday Times
othing captures the imagination
like the magical Northern Lights.
Starting in Bergen, you will sail on
this unforgettable 12-day voyage along the
fjords to the extreme north and back, taking
in former Viking trading posts, remote
islands and breathtaking scenery. Return
flights are included in the price – as is a
midnight concert at Tromsø’s stunning
Arctic Cathedral. Plus, thanks to
Hurtigruten’s Northern Lights Guarantee*,
if you don’t see the lights on your trip you
can cruise again – for free.
See the Northern Lights
during your trip or
you will receive a six
or seven-day Classic
Voyage completely free*.
You will enjoy a magical
midnight concert at
Tromsø’s spectacular
Arctic Cathedral – a
special excursion that
is included in the price.
There are dozens of
brilliant optional activities
and excursions** you can
take during your voyage,
from husky sledding
to a visit to the famous
An 11-night cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes and back
l Return flights from London Gatwick to Bergen
l All transfers
l A Midnight Concert at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø
l Your Northern Lights Guarantee*
Departures: November 17, 21 and December 15, 2018
and January 6, 20, 26, 31, 2019.
Exclusively with
£1,199* per person
020 3131 4116
**Supplements apply for optional activities, which have limited capacities and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the booking number to find out more. *From price based on atwin/double share on 17 November 17, 2018, single-supplement prices apply. See online for full
details of Northern Lights guarantee. Holidays are operated by and subject to the booking conditions of Iglu Cruise, a company wholly independent of News UK. Iglu Cruise: 165 The Broadway, London SW19 1NE. ATOL 2987, ABTA J0332.
the times Saturday March 17 2018
44 Travel
Overseas Travel
Cornwall & Devon
COTTAGES throughout the
West Country checked out
before you check in. For a
brochure call 01647 434049
or look and book at
Pets Welcome
Wales guide to dog friendly
holidays Free brochure
01437 772745
UK Holidays
DORSET’S Finest Cottages
Book on 0844 998 3944
Country Over 500 cottages
01665 830783
SICILY & Aeolian Islands
specialists: Taormina 7nts
inc b&b from £499. Tailormade, Multi-centre, Flydrive: ABTA, ATOL
protected 2699 info@the
www.thesicilianexperience Tel 0207 828 9171
the times Saturday March 17 2018
Cruise & Sail Abroad
Travel 45
the times Saturday March 17 2018
46 Travel
The Temple of the Golden
Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan
Travel tips
Little trains of Norfolk
Norfolk has four heritage railways and
you can visit them all on this four-night
escorted tour, which has a string of new
dates throughout the summer to meet
demand. In addition to travel on the Bure
Valley Railway, the Bittern Line, the Poppy
Line and the Mid-Norfolk Railway, you will
take a cruise aboard a paddleboat on the Norfolk Broads and visit the
Queen’s Sandringham estate. The tour costs from £399pp including
three nights’ half-board and all excursions (
New hotel in Amsterdam
If you’re inspired by the direct Eurostar services to the Dutch capital
from April 4, try the new Apollo Hotel Amsterdam for a city break. It
has 223 rooms that combine waterfront views with eclectic design,
fusing styles from the 1920s and 1970s and adding a contemporary
twist. Rooms cost from €181 (£160) a night (
Eurostar tickets cost from £35 one way (
Take a National Geographic holiday
Want an expert-led tour, a small-ship cruise or to stay in a luxury
lodge? National Geographic is now offering its expedition holidays
to UK travellers. For instance, a small group trip round Iceland will
explore the country’s highlights, from lava-tube caves, glaciers and
volcanoes to the area where two continental plates brush up against
each other. Seven days costs from £1,996pp B&B with some other
meals, but not flights to Reykjavik. The company also features eco
lodges from £55 a night (
Shepherd’s hut in a sculpture park
Combine a visit to a 26-acre sculpture park in Dorset with an
exclusive picnic in a cute shepherd’s hut, or in a pavilion. Sculpture
by the Lakes ( has four places that can be
hired by the day for £50 each (plus £10pp
park entry); each seats up to eight people
and has a cosy wood-burner. The park
comprises lakes, the River Frome,
landscaped gardens and 30 sculptures
designed by Simon Gudgeon and his wife,
Monique. There’s also a café on site.
Jane Knight
Travel doctor
My wife and I want to go to the
2020 Olympics in Japan and I
would like to start gathering
some ideas about the logistics
and cost. We would like to
watch some diving, gymnastics and
weightlifting, and would also like to
see something of the country without
travelling too far. We enjoy big
attractions, but also like to experience
some of the more quirky offerings.
Andrew Robinson, via email
It’s difficult to give you an idea
of the cost of a trip to Tokyo in
August 2020 because airlines
will release flights about a year
in advance and it’s not yet possible to
book accommodation or Games tickets
(which are expected to cost an average of
£55). This will be a compact Olympics: all
the events you want to see will take place
in venues in Tokyo Bay or the Heritage
Zone, so you may want to look at hotels
near by — although the city’s transport
system is so quick and reliable it won’t
matter if you stay farther out.
What you should bear in mind is that
it will be seriously hot and the city will be
packed, so don’t over-schedule. The best
way to see the country is by rail (it’s just
over two hours from Tokyo to temple and
shrine-filled Kyoto, for example, or four
hours to Hokkaido) and you will need to
buy a rail pass in advance.
If you would like a tour operator to do
the planning for you, a specialist such as
Inside Japan (
will tie in some of the classic Japanese
experiences, ranging from a stay in a
traditional ryokan to a meal in an izakaya
(pub), plus quirkier activities, including a
visit to Tokyo’s famous Robot Restaurant.
Intrepid ( and Audley
( will also be offering
group tours.
Q We are a family of five with children
from 12 to 16 years old hoping to have a
two-week summer holiday in Germany,
close to the Alps and some pretty lakes,
well south of Munich. We are looking
for a nice villa, with a pool if possible,
but have been unable to find anything.
Charlotte Lamont, via email
suggest a beach cabin within two
hours’ drive of the airport? We’re
looking for peace and quiet, a deck
with sea view, basic cooking facilities
and a maximum ten minutes’ drive to
shops and restaurants. Our budget is
about £100 a night.
Katie Harris, via email
A Lake Constance would be an idyllic
base for a family summer holiday, but
you won’t find many villas with pools
there because everyone swims in the lake
where the water is of drinking quality.
Try the Ferienwohnpark Immenstaad
holiday park ( in Immenstaad, on the
German side of the lake. Its largest
holiday homes are old-fashioned, but
well-equipped and comfortable, sleep five
and start at €125 (£111) a night. There’s a
programme of free activities for children
in July and August and the closest
airport is Friedrichshafen.
A Galveston Island ( is
about 90 minutes from Houston airport
and it’s a hugely popular weekend
getaway because of its 32 miles of
beaches, its 19th-century architecture
and its cute historic downtown shopping
district. Unfortunately, mid-June is peak
season and it is difficult to find a beach
cabin with a sea view within your budget
(and most require a week-long stay).
VRBO ( does, however, have
several properties that tick most of your
boxes, including a cosy one-bedroom
cottage (ref 595953) in a quiet
neighbourhood, with a kitchen, deck
and yard. It’s a short walk to the sea
wall and the beach, and close to
restaurants and shops. Three nights in
mid-June would cost about £358.
Julia Brookes is the Travel Doctor
Q I am accompanying my boyfriend on
a business trip to Houston in mid-June
on the understanding that we will have
a few days’ free at the end. Can you
Don’t put up with this
Fight for flight cancellation payout
We were travelling with Etihad on an
8am flight from Manchester to Abu
Dhabi; we boarded, but the aircraft had
engine trouble and was cancelled.
There was no communication from
Etihad at the airport, but we checked
our emails and eventually discovered
that we had been rebooked on the 8pm
from Heathrow and would be taken to
the airport by coach. I have since
emailed Etihad many times claiming
compensation of €600 per person for
the long delay. The airline has not
responded and just wants to give 1,500
air miles, but that does not seem fair.
We also lost a night in the Waldorf
Astoria in Dubai. Can you help?
Victoria Keeney, via email
Etihad was one of five airlines named
and shamed by the Civil Aviation
Authority last year for refusing to pay
delay compensation when passengers
missed connecting flights, so I’m not
surprised to hear that it offered you air
miles rather than cash. After my
intervention, it did agree to pay you
€600 (£532) per person and to refund
the cost of your hotel stay in Dubai.
However, the airline didn’t respond to
my request for an explanation of why
it didn’t offer you compensation in
the first place.
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 March 17 2018
Travel 47
Журналы и газеты
Размер файла
23 216 Кб
The Times, journal
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа