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The Times Weekend — 20 January 2018

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Saturday January 20 2018
How to lose weight doing yoga
Plus Should you let your child go vegetarian?
Starts on
page 25
See the Alhambra
and the Alcazar
Explore the north
coast by train
50 best holidays in Spain
The coolest new
hotels in Ibiza
the times Saturday January 20 2018
2 Body + Soul
The hardest part was the final
Stylist Pippa Vosper was five
months pregnant when she
lost her son, yet she believes
something positive can come
from the darkest experience
n January 2017 I found out that I was
pregnant. My husband and I had
spent almost three years trying to
conceive naturally, eager to give our
son, Astie, a longed-for sibling. With
my 40th birthday approaching, we
had agreed it was time to explore IVF.
It’s a gruelling process, with multiple
scans, blood tests and rounds of injections,
so when we were successful at the first
attempt, I was elated.
Life was good: as the owner of my own
fashion store, I was finding my work fulfilling and loved spending time at home in
west London with Astie and my husband.
My first pregnancy had been fairly
straightforward (bar pre-eclampsia and
the resulting emergency caesarean), so it
didn’t occur to me that this one might be
any different. Yes, there was the morning
sickness and the juggling of work with
hospital visits, but those were part and
parcel of a journey I had taken almost five
years ago, with Astie.
I announced the news on Instagram
with a picture of my barely-there bump.
Reading each congratulatory message,
both from friends and strangers, was
heartwarming. My morning sickness
waned and I finally figured out how to
dress my expanding bump. I was excited
about the future.
Five months into my pregnancy, I woke
at 3am with pains akin to mild period
cramps. I am an eternal optimist, but I
knew instinctively that my baby was going
to die that night. I woke my husband, my
waters broke and we dialled 999. We will
be for ever grateful to the woman who
answered our call: my baby was already in
view, and she instructed us on how to deliver him on the floor of our bathroom.
And there he was — a perfect, tiny copy
of my elder son. And he was alive. I loved
him instantly, and I know he felt my love as
I kissed his hands, while my husband
listened to the advice on the phone and
started mouth-to-mouth.
Astie was woken by the ambulance outside, and my husband protected him from
seeing me, as I continued the efforts to
breathe life into our baby. My fear in those
brief moments is indescribable; in shock at
having just given birth, I was now responsible for keeping our precious boy alive.
I remember two paramedics standing
above me. Their presence seemed to fill
the room as they gently advised me to stop
the resuscitation. My baby was too young
to live, they said. His lungs couldn’t cope
with the outside world. In front of me lay
my beautiful son, his arms slowly moving.
As I watched him, I experienced a moment
of extreme calm amid all the madness: my
baby and me understanding what had just
happened to us. It may seem strange to
some, but it is those brief minutes — those
moments that belonged just to us — that
fill me with the most love.
Parts of those early-morning hours are
unclear, but I know that, as I went from
he tribute
trib t posted by Pippa Vosper to
her son, Axel, on Instagram last July
As I watched
him, I
experienced a
moment of
extreme calm
amid all the
my home to the hospital, from A&E to the
recovery room, I must have repeated
the words, “My baby died,” at least a hundred times.
Astie and my husband had followed the
ambulance in our car. I was unable to stop
the silent tears that came when our confused little boy asked why I was in hospital.
I told him his baby brother had died, but
that everything would be fine. He was
upbeat as friends came to collect him, not
understanding the enormity of what had
just happened.
Doctors, midwives and nurses crowded
my cubicle bed as questions were asked,
forms were ticked and my placenta was
pushed out (thankfully an easy transition
— I overheard a doctor discussing taking
me to theatre if things didn’t go smoothly).
And then it went silent. I had been
wheeled into a dimly lit room, and now it
was just my husband beside me. It was then
that it really hit me: I had gone into labour;
my baby had been delivered; he had died.
My husband and I held one another and
cried more deeply than I could have imagined possible. Tears came first, then wailing, then painful, gut-wrenching, uncontrollable sobbing. The midwives were kind
and listened patiently as I talked about my
baby, telling the story over and over again
in disbelief.
Then came the question that hadn’t
entered my mind: did I want to hold our
baby? I did. When the midwife laid my son,
Axel, in my arms, concealed inside a tiny
blanket, I thought I would break from
my physical longing for him. We gently
unwrapped the blanket, and there was our
baby. I had been scared of how he might
look, but he was perfect, his body small but
perfectly formed.
I didn’t know how long it was since I had
last seen him — we had arrived at the hospital in the dark, and now the sun had been
up for some time. I willed him to open his
eyes. It wasn’t strange to kiss his cold body;
it was the lightest feeling that filled me
with an overwhelming love for him. I
kissed his soft face for much of the two
hours we spent together.
The hardest part was the final goodbye.
Soon after my son had been carried out of
the room, forms were placed beside me
with choices to be made about a postmortem and a funeral service. We would be attending our baby’s funeral — another part
of this surreal story that was not supposed
to be happening to me.
Leaving hospital was like a scene from a
predictable film, as we walked into a lift
with a pregnant woman who looked relaxed and happy. We exited at the next
floor to walk down the remaining five — I
figured no one pregnant would be brave
enough to tackle those stairs.
For days after my baby’s death, I just sat
on the sofa and cried. I didn’t eat and I
barely slept. Whenever I saw the hospital’s
number on my phone, I truly believed that
they were calling to say they had good
news, that they had managed to revive
our son and that he was waiting for us to
collect him.
I started to tell my closest friends, my
mind so hazy that I have no recollection of
speaking to some. But they know the entire story, repeating parts in a way that only
I could have told them, so I must have. In
the weeks that followed, I felt somehow
fraudulent when I spoke of “my baby dying”, but the term “miscarriage” didn’t —
and still doesn’t — feel like a word that
conveyed the depth of the suffering I was
Why had he died? Of course I blamed
myself: maybe I shouldn’t have done that
spinning class; perhaps it was the stress of
starting a new business. But it was neither
of those things. Specialists have repeatedly
assured me that working out and working
hard do not cause late miscarriage. I just
got really, really unlucky. My cervix had
shortened, and my body could no longer
hold my baby. A week later this would have
shown up at my scan, and my baby would,
most likely, have lived.
To the outside world it looked as though
life was normal. Five days after I said goodbye to my baby, I was back at my store in
Notting Hill, greeting customers in my
loose-fitting clothes and thanking those
who had seen my proud pregnancy posts
on social media for their good wishes. Pretending everything was fine felt surreal.
But a stream of smiling women was the
distraction I needed. Crying for hours at
home each day was exhausting. I felt I had
no choice but to be strong and get on with
things. I had to, for Astie.
Each day after Axel died I received at
least one email or online comment regarding my bump. I knew I had to stop the wellmeaning inquiries. One Sunday evening I
sat alone and wrote what I felt was a fitting
tribute to my baby and, adding the image
of his tiny footprints to my Instagram feed,
I hit “share”. Within seconds, comments
began to appear. I turned off my phone and
didn’t turn it on until the following lunchtime. I dreaded seeing my words again,
reading the comments that were now into
the hundreds. I hadn’t wanted to share my
news like this, it was so unbearably private,
but I knew it would be the fastest way to let
people know that I was no longer pregnant,
to stop many of the thoughtful questions
about a bump that was no longer there.
The days that followed opened my eyes
to heartbreak that wasn’t only mine. Email
after email arrived in my inbox from
women telling me that they too had lost a
baby. Some had lost theirs later than me,
some earlier, but it was the same pain. I had
known some of these women for many
years, yet there had never been any indication that they had experienced anything
so traumatic.
But I’m not surprised that I didn’t know
about my friends’ pain. There is little mention of pregnancy loss outside hospital
walls, and it remains an incredibly difficult
subject to broach.
If I hadn’t been so open about my pregnancy on social media, mine would have
Pippa Vosper
remained a private experience too, spoken
of only with those closest to me. And there
wouldn’t now be so many women who
were kind enough to tell me their stories,
allowing me to feel that this didn’t happen
only to me.
Three weeks after Axel died, my husband and I went on a road trip from LA to
San Francisco, leaving Astie with his
grandparents. We had booked the flights
months in advance — it was supposed to
be a celebratory trip. An energetic 12 days
of staying for no more than two nights in
any one place was the mental distraction I
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Body + Soul 3
Chicken nuggets v nut roast:
should you let your child go veggie?
needed. Finally, slowly, I began to feel a little lighter, a small movement in the darkness. I wasn’t expecting a miracle and I
didn’t get one, but there was a minute shift
that made me feel there was some hope.
I’m unsure whether I will ever be able to
fully accept what happened, but I know
that I’m grateful for what Axel gave me.
When Axel died my heart broke in a way
that I would find impossible to describe,
but he also changed my world in a way that
I will thank him for forever. I’m neither
spiritual nor religious, but I believe that a
positive can come from anything.
My path did change. I changed. I didn’t
notice it at first, but as time passed the
weight that had once occupied my mind
and body was no longer a heaviness but a
grounding: I was stronger. I am lucky to
have had that night with my son, when he
came into my life, and for a small moment
everything was quiet.
For more information on issues
discussed in this piece, go to This
article first appeared in Vogue.
Pippa Vosper/Vogue © The Condé
Nast Publications Ltd
nnouncing to our
parents as teenagers
that meat was murder
and we were now
vegetarian was likely to
be met with a bewildered
look followed by an
everlasting rota of quiche or omelette
for dinner. Things are more complex
now: we’re faced with ten-year-olds
wanting to be vegans, teenagers who
want to give up almost everything
— and we are all expected to be able
to do amazing things with chickpeas.
One survey published last week
revealed that one in six 13 to 19-year-old
girls had cut out cow’s milk and the
number of young vegans and vegetarians
was soaring, thanks in part to the band
of glossy, clear-eyed bloggers on social
media and young vegan celebrities such
as Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande.
Record numbers have committed to
“Veganuary”, the annual vegan January
challenge, claim organisers.
It is estimated that about 3 per cent
of the UK population are vegetarian,
with teenagers the highest proportion.
It’s the young who are also leading the
charge on veganism: at the last count in
2016 there were 540,000 vegans in the
UK — up 350 per cent in ten years. But
the Vegan Society says that it expects
the figure to be nearer one million when
it conducts its next survey this year.
How a parent responds to a child
wanting to go vegetarian or vegan
depends on his or her age and
motivation, say doctors and dieticians.
There is absolutely no reason why a
vegetarian diet cannot be healthy for
children, provided that you replace
meat with plant protein and do your
homework on vitamins and minerals,
says Dr Sarah Brewer, a medical
It’s also a good excuse for the whole
family to eat more plant-based food,
with studies showing that cutting down
on meat can prolong life and reduce the
risk of heart disease, diabetes and some
cancers. When Dr Brewer’s daughter
announced at 13 that she wanted to go
vegetarian for a year, she supported her.
“I made sure she took a multivitamin
and mineral supplement so that she
had enough iron, vitamin B12, zinc and
vitamin D. And she also took evening
primrose oil for the fatty acids.”
Family meals need not be difficult,
says the dietician Renee McGregor.
She and her 15-year-old daughter are
vegetarian, but her younger daughter is
not. “I use the same base for a casserole
or stir-fry, then add either meat or
vegetarian alternatives such as tofu or
vegetarian sausages, and some days the
whole family can eat a veggie meal.”
It is also a good opportunity to get
children more involved in cooking, she
points out. Children who go vegetarian
are usually evangelical enough to
volunteer to cook a veggie meal for
the family once a week.
McGregor’s older daughter
decided to be a vegetarian at
eight. “I said, ‘You’re going to
need to eat as I do — lots of
beans, pulses, nuts and seeds,
as well as vegetables.”
However, she does
have some caveats.
Most children
will say
For some
children it is
a moral
justification for
cutting down
on food to lose
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advice for a healthier,
happier body and mind
they want to give up meat because of
animal welfare or, increasingly,
environmental concerns. But for some
it is a convenient moral justification for
cutting down on food to lose weight.
She estimates that of the teenagers with
eating disorders she sees at her clinic
in Bath, in 20 per cent of cases their
problems started with going vegetarian.
“That’s the first step, then they go vegan,
then sugar is the next to go, and gluten.
It’s not about being healthy,” says
McGregor, the author of Orthorexia
(Nourish Books, £8.99). A giveaway, she
says, is if they insist on only almond or
coconut milk. “Almond milk has only
13 calories per 100ml and most have
very little nutritional value.”
She would hesitate before allowing a
pre-teen to become a vegan. Studies
have shown that vegan diets in children
can lack essential nutrients (especially
iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, vitamin D,
B12 and omega-3 fats) and often are
not energy-dense enough for young
children’s needs. “At ten, I’d question if
they have enough emotional intelligence
to know what’s right for them. Are they
wanting it because their idols on social
media do it? You could say, ‘Why don’t
you start by going vegetarian because
I know I can get enough calcium and
protein into your diet, and if you still
want to be vegan at 13 or 14 then let’s
talk again.’ The problem with veganism
is that it often gives people licence to
just eat vegetables.”
The paediatric dietician Judy More,
who practises in west London, often sees
girls brought in by mothers worried
about the health effects of going vegan
or vegetarian. She thinks it isn’t possible
to be a healthy teenage vegan without
taking supplements. The Vegan Society
advises 11 to 18-year-old vegans to take
vitamin D (10mcg) in the autumn and
winter, an iodine supplement and to
consider supplements containing
omega-3, the fatty acid found in oily
fish, and vitamin B12, which is found
naturally only in animal products. Vegan
teenagers can also miss out on bonebuilding calcium (from dairy products)
and a range of micronutrients, especially
iodine for thyroid function, at the time
when their bodies’ needs are greatest: up
to 90 per cent of bone mass is laid down
by the age of 18 in girls (20 for boys).
The biggest nutritional pitfall for
vegetarian and vegan teenagers, says
More, is a lack of iron, which can lead to
anaemia. If you are relying on non-meat
sources, you need more because iron
from plant sources is harder for
the body to absorb. “Research
shows that children low in iron
are more than twice as likely to
score below average in maths
than those with normal iron
levels. A teenager’s brain goes on
developing until around age
20, and iron is essential to
achieving their academic
It is worth remembering
that sometimes it is just
another phase, as in Dr
Brewer’s daughter’s case:
“A year after it began,
she decided she missed
roast dinner and bacon
sandwiches too much, and
the experiment was over.”
Rachel Carlyle
the times Saturday January 20 2018
4 Body + Soul
The comedian
Frank Skinner talks
to Julia Llewellyn
Smith about the
joys of ageing and
older fatherhood
‘Turning 60
was great.
It was
turning 30
that I found
rank Skinner is about to celebrate his 61st birthday and he’s
looking forward to it. “I don’t
believe this 60 is the new 40
stuff, 60 is old,” he chirps. “But
that’s fine; turning 60 was
great — my partner hid 60
presents around the house and gave me
clues to find them, like a treasure hunt, and
I got a card signed by all the living
Dr Whos. It was turning 30 that was traumatic: I was unemployed, I had recently
been dumped and one of my best friends’
girlfriends asked me, ‘What’s it like being
30 and on the scrapheap?’ ”
At the time Skinner was living in his
native West Bromwich and, after two years
on the dole, was working as an English
lecturer at an adult education college. He
had also, after years of drinking first sherry
and then Pernod for breakfast, just quit
alcohol and had rediscovered the Catholicism he had abandoned as a teenager.
Shortly afterwards he started performing stand-up comedy. A decade later he
was the highest-paid man on British television, earning £3 million a year, and the
poster boy for laddism, as the man who
presented Fantasy Football League with his
friend David Baddiel, with whom he also
wrote the Three Lions football anthem.
From there he has gradually morphed into
today’s incarnation as comedy elder siblings.” Are he and Mason, who is 15
statesman — with numerous radio, tele- years his junior, trying to produce one?
vision and stage gigs. He’s also the father of “Not deliberately.”
Diminutive and slightly scrawny (“I
a five-year-old son, Buzz.
“It’s not like I can hear the shovel hitting recently lost a stone and a half by eating
the soil, but I do think about death since less bread and sweet stuff, there were no
I became a father,” he says in his soft struggles, I found it extremely straightBrummie accent, sitting in a Soho club forward”), in a tweedy brown suit spruced
munching crisps. “I’d like to see Buzz get to up by his floral shirt, Skinner is a born
university, but after that it’s almost bene- polymath whose conversation ricochets
ficial not to have a parent around. There’s relentlessly, covering in about three
that moment when the hug becomes a minutes his love of poppadoms, Buzz’s
desperate clutch and you need to break favourite Star Wars films, Aristotle and
Samuell Johnson’s thoughts on walking
away. I think he would rather have the
(Skinner is a former presiinheritance than me phoning, saying,
dent of the Samuel Johnson
‘You never call me.’ ”
society). His encyclopaeI’m sure he would rather have you
dic knowledge is put to
than the cash, I say. “I might be
excellent use presenting
beastly at home,” Skinner
Sky Arts’s fourth
says with a chuckle. “Or he
might be a heroin addict.”
Artist of the Year
It sounds bleak, but
contest (“There’s
whatever he is talking
also the landscape
about, Skinner radiates
artist strand; that
joyousness and curiosiwould be a great
ty. His partner, Cath
name for an alMason, attributes his
bum,” he says
jolliness to high serowith a snigger),
tonin levels — whatever
where each week
the explanation, it makes
artists compete to
him immensely engaging
paint a celebrity,
company. His expression
with the winner
darkens only once, when I
receiving a £10,000
ask if he wishes he’d had a
prize commission
child earlier (his autofor a portrait of the
biography goes into
actress Kim Cattrall.
excruciating detail about
Skinner has been
what he calls “the groupie
so inspired by the
years”). “I would have
process that he has
liked to have had several
taken art evening
kids, but I really like this
classes. “It’s impossikid I have, so I’m happy I
Frank Skinner with his
ble to do that show
waited.” Still, he says, “I
partner, Cath Mason
and not think you’d
have this guilt that
like to give it a try;
Buzz hasn’t got any
City break or spa trip?
City break
Classic Sunday roast or
latest haute cuisine?
Sunday roast
Pilates or personal
CBeebies or Celebrity Big
Celebrity Big Brother
Fizzy water or funky
Funky mocktail
Suit or tracksuit?
Suit. I’m 60 for
heaven’s sake
Cat or dog?
Neither. I judge people
who are too fond of cats
or dogs
Watch or play footie?
How many unread emails
are there in your inbox?
Currently two
I couldn’t get through the
weekend without . . .
watching the process is like watching the
best magic trick.”
Initially, some questioned if Skinner —
the son of a factory worker who grew up in
a council house — was a suitable presenter
for an arts programme, especially compared with his fellow judge, Dame Joan
Bakewell. “I don’t get a chip on my shoulder, but there was a sense that because I
used to be the king of the new lads and had
a working-class accent I shouldn’t be doing
this,” he says.
He and Bakewell, 84, have become close
friends, and they regularly go to the opera
together. “We’ve just booked tickets to
Philip Glass’s Gandhi opera [Satyagraha].
Joan is brilliant company. If I live to be in
my eighties I’d like to be like her. She’s
interesting, but more importantly she’s
interested, and among the elderly that’s
very, very rare.”
As well as a culture vulture, Skinner has
reinvented himself as a talking head for
faith, appearing on programmes such as
Newsnight and “in conversation” with the
present and former Archbishops of
Canterbury. “There are so few religious
celebrities, I could probably get a bit of
Jewish work if I really wanted it,” he says
with a laugh. “I can understand why
people are embarrassed to talk about
being Christian — it sounds silly. I always
say Catholic because it sounds richer and
more volatile. The word Christian makes
me think of acrylic fibres and Cliff
[Richard] and Cannon and Ball.”
Religion may be uncool, but he rarely
receives criticism for his beliefs. “People
behave how people used to behave around
lesbians, they go all round the place to get
to the question they really want to ask,
which is, ‘What do you actually do?’
They’re fascinated by confession in
particular: ‘Are you kneeling and looking
through a grille?’ Yes, that’s exactly what
happens. It’s like if we recreated Anglo
Saxon battles; it’s odd and they want to
know why we do it.”
Buzz attends a Catholic school near
the family home in Hampstead, north
London, but Mason will not be converting
(she’s equally bemused by Skinner’s opera
passion). “Scathing wouldn’t be the right
word, but she came to Mass with me at
Christmas and said, ‘It just seems weird.’ ”
The couple have been together for 16
years and have a fiery relationship;
Skinner has spoken in the past about their
frequent rowing. He has asked her to
marry him four times, but has always been
rejected, because Mason — the daughter
of divorced parents — disapproves of the
concept of marriage.
“We still might get married,” he says
with a shrug. “I’ve said I’ll try again when
there have been seven clear days when we
haven’t had a row, but it’s never happened.”
At Skinner’s suggestion, the couple have
attended counselling on several occasions.
“I didn’t have much faith in therapy. I
thought it would be like going to see some
well-meaning neighbour, but instead we
went to this intellectual German, who I felt
was much cleverer than me and who gave
us great seminars about us.
“What we learnt, is not to say, ‘I’m
really pissed off about blah blah’ or, ‘I
really wish you hadn’t . . .’ but to say, ‘This is
what I’m feeling at the moment.’ It
sounds cheesy, but it’s non-accusatory and
Is this how he and Mason always
converse now? “No, I forget all the time.”
Skinner collapses into giggles. “[The other
night] we had a big row. I was yelling, ‘For
f***’s sake!’ But the second time round, you
remember. Then you have a constructive
Portrait Artist of the Year continues on
Sky Arts on Tuesday at 8pm
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Body + Soul 5
Yes, you can
use yoga for
weight loss
a fat-burning cardio workout,” she says.
The sun salutations (the warm-up series of
movements at the start of many yoga
classes), she says, can burn fat once you’re
past beginner stage and you can do them at
speed. This linked series of postures aims
to energise the spine, but they are also
renowned for being a complete body exercise that works all the key muscles, helping
to ramp up metabolism in the long term.
“Sun salutations get the heart rate going,
especially if you do several repetitions and
you do them at some speed,” Vertue says.
“The intention of yoga isn’t to lose weight;
it will have that added effect. For some
he slow twists and stretches people yoga will really burn fat.”
of a regular yoga practice
People taking up yoga for the first time
will certainly make you will lose the most weight, she says, as “if
more flexible and probably you’re really inflexible, you’ll work much
leave you feeling less harder than people who are really flexible
stressed. However, few and for whom it’s not much effort. If you’re
would expect weight loss to stiff, with every pose you are fighting
be the result of regular downward dogs. against heavy resistance because your
Nigella Lawson, though, looking slimmer joints are holding you back from movein pictures taken in Australia, attributes ments, so you have to work harder. This
her leaner version to yoga classes.
immediately increases the cardio workout
Lawson takes three yoga classes a week and means you are burning more fat.”
and is a fan of the slow but strong Iyengar
Two years ago researchers at the
style of yoga. But is it really possible that an National Institutes of Health Clinical
exercise known for being mindful and Center in New York found that women lost
gentle rather than sweat-inducing could weight doing regular yoga, in this case
lead to such a transformation? Can yoga predominantly Iyengar, for a variety of
really help you to lose weight?
reasons. Some instinctively switched
Until recently it was thought not. A towards healthy eating once they began
paper in 2005, for example, showed that a practising yoga regularly, but there were
50-minute yoga class burned only 144 also pronounced physical changes that
calories, equivalent to a slow walk. But accelerated weight loss. It is known that
these early papers focused predomithe release of the stress hormone cortisol
nantly on the minimal calorieprompts people to consume more highburning of gentle, flowing hatha
fat and high-sugar foods. Because
yoga. No longer the peripheral
nearly half of the subjects reported
activity performed in cold
losing weight specifically in their
church halls that it was in the
stomach and around their waistline,
Eighties and early Nineties,
the researchers suspected “a strong
yoga now offeres a huge varierelationship between reduced corty of classes to choose from —
tisol release and increased
including ones where workabdominal fat loss”, which
ing hard leads to weight loss.
could be attributed to yoga’s
Among the most vigorous
stress-relieving powers.
forms are ashtanga or hot
A 2012 study in the Journal
yoga, which is typically
of Sports Science & Medicine
performed in a room heated
put a group of women in their
to 40 degrees and includes
forties and fifties into one of
poses designed to make you
two groups. The first did twicework hard and sweat. Hot
weekly, 60-minute sessions of
classes can burn as many as
ashtanga and a control group
460 calories. Even slower
continued their normal activiforms, like kundalini and
ties. After eight months, those
Iyengar, can be intense
doing the yoga had developed
because of their requirestronger and more toned legs
Nigella Lawson, who
ment for repetition and
compared to the others.
credits yoga with her
holding a position for
Michele Pernetta, a yoga
weight loss
extended periods. These
teacher and the founder of
forms of yoga force
Fierce Grace, which has studios
across London, agrees that
muscles to strengthen and
yoga has fat-burning propercontract repeatedly.
ties. “What we are looking at
Shona Vertue, a personal trainer
with yoga is exchanging fat for
whose celebrity client list includes
muscle,” she says. “After a numDavid Beckham, advises doing ashber of weeks doing yoga regularly,
tanga, vinyasa, power or rocket
the new muscle takes over, the
yoga for maximum fat-burning.
body fat is burnt and a lithe new
“Slow yoga won’t make you lose any
body is revealed. You should
weight, but dynamic types of yoga will
monitor inches, not pounds.”
really get your heart rate up and give you
It’s known to
improve flexibility,
but experts now
say it can help you
to stay slim.
Peta Bee reports
Fat-burning sun salutations by Shona Vertue
1 Stand in Tadasana.
Take five deep breaths
with your eyes closed to
allow your mind to focus.
2 Inhale. Reach your
arms above your head.
3 Exhale. Fold forwards,
bringing your hands
towards the floor.
4 Inhale. Place the hands
on the floor, flatten the
back and look forwards.
5 Hold the breath. Step
into a lunge position.
6 Exhale. Step into a
push-up position and
7 Inhale. Push into the
arms to lift your chest
and come into a back
bend. Keep your
knees, hips and thighs
off the floor.
8 Exhale. Press back
into downward-facing
dog. Stay here for five
breaths. Inhale. Bend
your knees and look
9 Exhale. Step towards
the hands and fold your
head towards your shins.
10 Inhale. Lift the body
and reach up to the sky.
11 Exhale. Bring your
hands to prayer at the
The Vertue Method by
Shona Vertue is
available now (Yellow
Kite, £18.99)
the times Saturday January 20 2018
6 Body + Soul
Have you got Tinder fatigue?
Twentysomethings tired of swipe-and-like dating
apps are bringing back singles nights, supper clubs
and speed dating. Hannah Rogers reports
aturday night at a terraced
house in Tooting, south
London, and a group of single
twentysomethings looking for
love are trying something new.
They may be strangers, but they
are sitting round a candlelit
table eating dinner — and actually talking.
There is no app involved, no swiping left or
right. Just conversation, slow-roast lamb
and an excellent Spotify list.
This is the Gooce Supper Club, where all
the diners have bought tickets and are
hoping that they might meet someone
special. It’s an “old-school” way of finding
love — and it’s part of a new trend.
A recent US survey of 1,000 millennials
found that 95 per cent would prefer to
meet someone offline. What the generation who grew up with online dating and
apps such as Tinder really want to do, it
turns out, is to meet people in real life (or
IRL): to decide if they like the other person
by seeing what they look like without the
aid of flattering filters and discover what
they have to say in a way that isn’t circumscribed by a character limit. The old-fashioned way of meeting someone is actually
quite new for this generation.
And so events such as supper clubs and
even speed-dating are regaining popularity. “Singles have shown an appetite for
meeting people face to face again,’’ says
Nick Telson, the founder of DesignMyNight, a website that helps you to find and
book “your perfect night out”. His company has experienced a 37 per cent rise in
ticketed dating events for singles over the
past year. “People have purchased tickets
through us for everything from Cards
Against Humanity [a popular card game]
dating nights to cycle-dating, where you
stop off at a cosy pub at the end of your bike
ride,” he says.
Smudged Lipstick is another new
company to get on the dating bandwagon,
rejigging speed-dating for the millennial
market. Instead of two to three minutes
making small talk, you spend up to ten
playing “dirty” Scrabble (using only rude
words), card games or even Jenga. Their
events, priced at £15, regularly sell out.
“Supper clubs are such a well-understood concept for our parents and grandparents. But for our generation, they are
weirdly new,” says Gabi Adams, 26, who
recently launched the Gooce Supper Club
with her housemate Luce Kahn-Freund,
also 26. They run it from their home (the
club’s name is a blend of their names —
also, a goose will mate for life).
“Tinder and Bumble take the fun out of
dating,” Kahn-Freund says. “Apps are
tactical; they’ve got strategy. People
largely just now swipe for fun rather than
a relationship. We know people who spend
four out of seven nights on Tinder dates,
with no end result.”
With their supper club, she says, “you
know what you are getting into because
everyone there has paid to come along
for the same thing. When you remove
screens, you remove the games.”
Tinder was once described as “the dawn
of the dating apocalypse”. Even if that is an
exaggeration, it still seems increasingly
like hard work. In a study for,
the anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher found
that 54 per cent of women feel exhausted
by modern dating. From Tinder to Bumble
(known as the “feminist Tinder” because
women have to send the first message) to
Happn, the choice is seemingly endless.
And yet the process is strangely unful-
filling. Yes, you have thousands of profiles
to choose from, but does your chance of
finding a meaningful relationship increase? The fact that there are so many
users diminishes each one’s value. They
become commodities. The endless cycle of
matching, messaging and dating strangers
has to take its toll on the psyche.
It is hardly surprising, then, that in a
survey of 3,500 US college students, fewer
than 9 per cent said that they were specifically using dating apps to look for hookups. Almost a third said that the apps were
a way to curb boredom, and 13 per cent
were merely looking for an ego boost.
But despite the disappointment of dating apps, meeting someone offline is easier
said than done. Tinder processes 1.4 billion
swipes each day — millennials are used to
finding an almost limitless pool of potential. “If you don’t want to use apps, haven’t
met someone through friends or at work,
then our generation is pretty much relying
on random encounters in bars,” Adams
says. “Instead we’re offering a comfortable, fun, face-to-face environment to
meet someone in. I think that’s what
people want now.”
Kahn-Freund and Adams plan to run
their supper club every six weeks (while
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Body + Soul 7
Meet the new matchmakers
Why I gave
up Tinder
by Emily Sargent, 29
holding down day jobs in food PR and the
media respectively). Adams says that she
was lucky enough to meet her boyfriend at
work a year ago, but has experienced
Bumble and Tinder over the years. KahnFreund is single and was stood up by a
Tinder date only last week. “And I thought
this is a prime example [of why people
want to meet face to face],” she says. “I
would never stand anyone up, but I can
imagine that man felt more comfortable
standing me up because he hadn’t met me.
To him I wasn’t considered a real person.”
The modern matchmakers plan to cater
for all sexual orientations — and being
millennials they of course insist on fresh,
seasonal produce for their meals, which
they cook. Saturday’s guests are young
professionals with jobs such as lawyer and
charity worker, and conversation is animated and easy, ranging from politics to
one guest treating the room to a card trick
over dessert.
When the party ends at 1am everyone is
surprised that it is so late and heads off to
a local bar to continue the party. As KahnFreund and Adams say, there’s nothing
better than meeting someone you can talk
to for hours over dinner. The evening —
including welcome drink and three
courses — costs £25.50 a head, although it
is BYOB; one guest asked for a copy of the
menu before last week’s club so that he
could pair his wine accordingly. Would-be
guests sign up on a website or through the
events site Eventbrite and are allocated
places on a first-come, first-served basis,
although there is always an even ratio of
men to women. “We don’t scrupulously
matchmake prior to the event, ” KahnFreund says. “Everyone there is coming
along for the same thing. We were pretty
confident people would get on and the
atmosphere buzzed all evening.
“We were known among our friends for
our dinner parties and we wanted to bottle
that for people. You can dine, and meet
someone you haven’t before. It’s very experiential, which is what our generation
loves and is willing to spend money on.”
Such is the demand for IRL dating that
the app giants have been forced to get in on
the act, hosting intimate events for their
users to meet without swiping. In December, Bumble was “inundated” with applicants for a 50-person Christmas dinner at
Kettner’s Townhouse in Soho, London —
a distinctly old-school haunt for having a
few drinks and meeting people. Sophia, 22,
exchanged phone numbers with a man she
Gabi Adams, left, and
Luce Kahn-Freund, both
26, who run Gooce
Supper Club in London
The oldfashioned way
of meeting
someone is
actually quite
new for this
met there and they are still dating. “That
never happens to me usually,” she says. “It
was such a great night.”
It was part of a series of events at which
users of the app apply for a place at a dinner by sending in a photo, short biog and
catchy opening line. As a bonus, Bumble
pays for the meal. The next event is in
March, and after that they will be held
monthly. Antonia Parker, chef to the grime
artist Stormzy, will do the catering.
Being cash and time poor, millennials
and Generation Ys no longer want to waste
either on unsatisfactory online dates. If
they can go to an event such as a supper
club with their friends and have a good
time, meeting someone becomes a bonus
— not the goal. And the evening will not
have been wasted. As Adams says: “The
whole thing has middle-aged
desperation attached to it. There is a
stigma. If you come to us, instead of just
meeting up with a stranger online and the
date going badly, you’re with a group in the
form of a trendy pop-up. It’s fun.” And fun
is something that has been missing from
dating for quite a while.
Tickets for Gooce Supper Club are
available at and
he night I deleted all of
my dating apps (Tinder,
Happn and Her), things
felt particularly bleak.
I’d been lying on the
sofa for an hour having
slipped into a Tinder
scrolling wormhole.
I had been using the apps for more
than a year, having truly enjoyed the
novelty of it at first. I was successfully
matching with people — apps make
meeting people almost too easy — but
feeling a connection with another person
remained a rarity.
The face-to-face dates I went on with
people who were, essentially, strangers
were often a bit awkward — because
there was no real match. The way
people describe themselves in their
blurbs is weird (and generally untrue) —
listing things like “Brunch!” as a primary
hobby. In the end I was scrolling
aimlessly through profiles just to kill
time — waiting for a bus, sitting on a
train — and it was melting my brain.
To avoid endless messaging and the
opportunity that this gives daters to
present a not-quite-real version of
themselves, I tried a strategy of
immediately suggesting a meet-up on
matching with someone. Not being the
done thing, this was mostly declined.
Aside from a date who monologued
about gerbils for two hours and another
who told me she wanted the follow-up
date to be held at an axe hurling class I
got off pretty lightly. Friends of mine
have deleted dating apps because of the
general lack of manners involved in
digital courtship. Last-minute
cancellations, ghosting (replying to
messages, then disappearing for ever)
and simmering (sporadic, unpredictable
replies that signify the recipient being
held as an option) are disappointingly
common. Then there’s the next level of
rudeness: explicit (and unsolicited)
messages and pictures. All of this
behaviour is consequence free.
Mostly though, we all agreed, it was
the lack of human contact we missed. It
wasn’t about fairytale romances — but
we all wanted to feel something real in
ourselves when we met someone; not just
glance at a snap of their beaming face
next to the Grand Canyon. Staring at a
screen repeatedly began to make me feel
numb. I wanted to meet someone and to
notice their smell; to hear their accent.
Three months after coming off dating
apps I was set up by a friend on a date.
All I had from the friend was, “Whaddya
think of this?” along with a photo of her.
No, I didn’t find out immediately her
height, hobbies or where she went on
holiday. But I remember very clearly the
way she laughed — and the feeling, in
equal parts, of being comforted and
energised by her presence. I noticed the
way her hands moved when she spoke.
And my body took a deep breath, the
way it does when you meet someone
who will change your life.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
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the times Saturday January 20 2018
Body + Soul 9
He likes sexting more than sex
Suzi Godson
Sex counsel
I have met a new
man who I’ve been
dating for a couple
of months. Generally, he is
fantastic. However, there
is one problem. Despite the
fact that he sends me lots
of very fruity text messages,
he never makes a move
when we are together. Why
doesn’t he want to have sex?
If your fantastic new man
genuinely wanted an intimate
relationship with you, he would
almost certainly have made a
move by now. The fact that he hasn’t
even tried means one of two things:
either he can’t, or he doesn’t want to. It
is also, I’m afraid, quite likely that he is
seeing other people. Internet dating can,
with some people, create a kind of “kid
in a candy shop” mentality. The illusion
of choice means that people fail to
concentrate on the person in front of
them because they are distracted by
the fantasy of who might turn up in
their inbox tomorrow. Men like this
use sexting as way of keeping a selection
of back-up dates while they continue
to pursue new leads.
Another possibility is that some men,
and your guy could be one of them,
become so used to sexting and porn
that they become overwhelmed and
intimidated by the prospect of real-world
connection and intimacy. This would
explain why his texts and emails are so
highly sexual, but his face-to-face
behaviour is the opposite. It is also
possible that he is actually married and
through some twisted interpretation of
fidelity, he believes that it’s OK for him
to sext with you as long as he doesn’t
make the relationship physical.
There is also a possibility that he
suffers from erectile dysfunction, which
could make him reluctant to engage
physically. It is much more common in
older men, but about 15 per cent of men
under 40 have difficulty achieving
and maintaining erection. The risk is
significantly increased by smoking,
diabetes, nerve damage, spinal or
perineal damage or drug use. If this
is the case, he really ought to have
told you by now. Sexual dysfunction
is not an insurmountable problem,
but it is one that can only be
accommodated if there is honesty
and trust between partners.
I could go on speculating about why
your new man can’t or won’t have sex
with you, but I’m much more interested
in why you are willing to settle for
a relationship where you provide
stimulation by text and email but receive
zilch in return. The first few months
should be an epic adrenaline rush of
sexual energy and romantic
fascination, a time when the two of
you should be completely absorbed in
one another and excited to know every
novel detail of each other’s minds and
bodies. I’m not knocking sexting. It can
be a way of sustaining that erotic charge
when minor inconveniences such as
work conspire to separate you from
your lover, but no one who has ever
experienced the authentic exhilaration
of genuine chemistry would tolerate
what you are putting up with.
If, despite everything, you still really
like the guy and you are prepared to give
it one last try, there is only one way to
force a change. If you stop sexting,
texting and emailing him, one of two
things will happen. He will either let
you go without a fight and move on,
in which case you have had a merciful
escape, or he will begin to pursue you
more intently. If he does rise to the
bait, arrange to meet him with the
express intention of finding out exactly
what the hell is going on. Let him do
most of the talking and brace yourself to
hear things you are not prepared for. If
what he says doesn’t make you run for
the hills, there is a ray of hope.
Forcing the truth out of someone who
has a lot to hide can sometimes trigger
a seismic shift, and unburdening allows
them to access their emotions and their
sexuality in a way that has previously
been impossible for them. It may be a
long shot, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Send your queries to, or
write to Suzi Godson, Weekend,
The Times, 1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF
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the times Saturday January 20 2018
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12 Food + Drink
Fast feasts Lunch on the table
From a comforting
shepherd’s pie to
piri piri chicken, try
these recipes from
Roz Purcell
Speedy shepherd’s
pie with cauliflower
Chicken, sweet potato
and peanut curry
Speedy shepherd’s
pie with cauliflower
Serves 6
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, peeled and finely
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and
600g lean beef mince
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
100g button mushrooms, wiped clean
and finely diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra
sprigs to garnish
2 handfuls of frozen peas
100ml beef or chicken stock
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
¼ tsp ground allspice
For the cauliflower mash
2 heads of cauliflower, broken into
2 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g mozzarella or parmesan cheese,
grated (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 or
the grill to high.
2 Start by steaming the cauliflower
for about 10 min, until the florets are
tender. Pat them dry to remove any
excess water, then place in a blender
with the egg yolks and some salt and
pepper. Blitz to a smooth, creamy
puree and set aside.
3 While the cauliflower is steaming,
heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof
frying pan over a medium heat. Add
the chopped onion and cook for 2-3
min, until lightly browned, then add
the garlic and cook for 1 min, just
until it’s fragrant. Add the mince
and cook, stirring, for 8-10 min,
until completely browned. Stir in
the carrot, celery, mushrooms and
thyme leaves and cook for 2 min,
then add the frozen peas, stock,
tamari, tomato puree and allspice
and remove the pan from the heat.
4 Spoon the cauliflower mash over
the mince and spread it out evenly
to cover the top, then scatter over
the grated cheese (if using).
5 Place the pan in the preheated
oven or under the grill and cook for
8 min, until the mash is starting to
turn golden and crispy. Garnish
with one or two small thyme sprigs,
bring the pan straight to the table
(but keep the handle covered with
a towel or pot holder because it will
still be hot) and let everyone help
Crispy sweet and
sour cod
Serves 4
1 x 800g skinless cod fillet, cut into
5cm x 2½cm pieces
8 tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red pepper, thinly sliced lengthways
½ yellow pepper, thinly sliced lengthways
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 x 400g tin of whole plum tomatoes
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
To serve
1-2 limes, halved or cut into wedges
Cooked wild rice
Fresh coriander leaves
1 Pat the cod dry with kitchen paper.
Put the ground almonds in a bowl and
add the cod, tossing to coat each piece.
2 Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a
non-stick frying pan over a high heat.
Add the cod and fry for 3-4 min on each
side, until golden, crispy and cooked
through. Remove the cod from the pan
and set aside on a plate.
3 Put the remaining tablespoon of oil in
the same pan, still set over a high heat,
then add the onion, carrot and peppers.
Cook for 6 min, stirring, until softened.
Add the garlic, ginger and chilli powder
and cook for 1 min, then add the
tomatoes and break them down with
the back of the spoon. Bring to the boil,
then turn the heat down and simmer
for 5 min, stirring two or three times,
until the sauce has thickened a little.
4 Add the tamari, honey and vinegar
and stir to combine, then put the cod
back in the pan and cook for 1 min until
it has heated through again.
5 Divide between four bowls and serve
with cooked wild rice. Garnish with fresh
coriander leaves and lime wedges.
Easiest ever pho
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Food + Drink 13
in under 30 minutes
Piri piri chicken
Sweet potato egg pots
Crispy sweet and sour cod
on to the base and up the sides of
one hole of the muffin tin to make a
nest. Repeat with the remaining
sweet potato mixture.
4 Bake in the preheated oven for
8-10 min, until tender. Remove the tin
from the oven. Crack one egg into
each sweet potato nest, then scatter
over the feta. Return to the oven and
bake for another 10 min, until the
eggs are set. Garnish with small
sprigs of fresh thyme and serve
warm for breakfast, or let them cool
before packing to have either as a
snack or with some leafy greens as a
lunchtime salad.
Piri piri chicken
Sweet potato
egg pots
Serves 6
Olive or coconut oil, for greasing
1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated
7 eggs
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
60g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Small sprigs of fresh thyme, to garnish
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
Grease a six-hole muffin tin with a little
olive or coconut oil.
2 Put the sweet potato in a mediumsized bowl along with one egg, the
dried herbs, ground black pepper
and lemon zest (if using) and stir
to combine.
3 Divide the mixture into six equal
portions. Take one portion and press it
Serves 3
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 chicken legs or thighs (or a mix of
both), skin on and bone in
3 red peppers, sliced
2 corn on the cob, each one cut into
200g Brussels sprouts, halved
6-7 bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and
finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 Preheat the oven to 210C/gas 6.
2 Put the olive oil, oregano, paprika,
honey, vinegar and some salt and
pepper in a large bowl and whisk
3 Add the chicken, peppers, corn,
Brussels sprouts (if using), chillies and
garlic and stir well to coat the chicken
and veg in the spicy oil.
4 Tip everything out on to a large
baking tray or roasting tin and cook in
the preheated oven for 20 minutes,
until the chicken is cooked through
and the vegetables are tender.
Chicken, sweet
potato and peanut
Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
4 chicken fillets, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut
into 1.5cm cubes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400ml chicken stock
2 heaped tbsp crunchy or smooth
peanut butter
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp tomato puree
To serve
Fresh coriander leaves
1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
Greek yoghurt
Cooked basmati rice
1 Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pot
set over a high heat. Add the onion
and cook for 2-3 min, until golden brown
and beginning to crisp. Toss in the
chicken and cook for 5-6 min, stirring
regularly, until the chicken is white on
the outside. Add the sweet potato
cubes, garlic, ginger, spices and some
salt and pepper and cook for 2 min,
then pour in the stock.
2 Cover the pot with a lid and bring
to the boil, then reduce the heat and
simmer for 15 min. Add the peanut
butter, mustard and tomato puree
and stir for about 1 min, until evenly
3 Ladle the curry into bowls and serve
with fresh coriander leaves, sliced
banana and a dollop of Greek yoghurt
on top and cooked basmati rice.
Easiest ever pho
Serves 4
4 eggs
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
5cm fresh ginger, cut into large pieces
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
1 litre chicken stock
2 large courgettes spiralised
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
480g cooked shredded chicken
100g bean sprouts
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1½ tsp rice vinegar
To serve
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and thinly
Handful of fresh mixed herbs, such as
mint, coriander and basil, chopped
1 Put the eggs in a saucepan and add
enough cold water to cover them by
2½cm. Bring to the boil, then remove
from the heat, cover the pan and let the
eggs sit in the hot water for 12 min.
Remove the eggs from the water and
run under cold water to cool them down,
then peel and cut in half.
2 Meanwhile, put the onion, garlic,
ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves and
chicken stock in a pot. Cover with a lid
and bring to the boil, then reduce the
heat and simmer for 20 min. Remove
from the heat and scoop out all the
solids with a slotted spoon so that you
are left with a clear broth.
3 Add the spiralised veggie “noodles”,
red pepper, cooked chicken, bean
sprouts, tamari and vinegar and cook for
1 min, until the noodles and chicken are
heated through. Ladle into bowls and
garnish with the chillies and fresh herbs.
Put two egg halves on top of each bowl
and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Recipes taken from Half Hour Hero by
Roz Purcell (£20, Penguin)
the times Saturday January 20 2018
14 Food + Drink
Solo food: How I learnt to
love cooking for one
The number of
single households is
rising fast. Rachel
Carlyle meets the
divorced food writer
who knows what
they want to eat
ven Delia Smith couldn’t
quite persuade us that
cooking for one was fun 30
years ago. But solo food has
at last been given the luxe
treatment, courtesy of a
leading food writer and
critic who was horrified to find herself
eating a bag of crisps in bed and calling
it dinner after she got divorced.
Janneke Vreugdenhil, who is
nicknamed “the Dutch Nigella” in her
native Netherlands, was so traumatised
when her husband of 22 years left her
that she could barely eat. It didn’t help
that there was a dearth of recipe books
to inspire her. “There were only two
books I could find — Delia Smith’s One
is Fun, which was published in the 1980s,
and one for students with cheap pasta
recipes,” says Vreugdenhil.
So she wrote her own. Her book, Solo
Food, doesn’t have a crisp or pasta bake
in sight. It’s her fifth cookbook, but the
first to be published in the UK, where
single households are projected to rise
by 1.7 million — more than 20 per cent
— by 2039. “Singles are on the rise all
over the world,” she points out. “We are
all going to spend longer living alone —
whether that’s before we meet someone
or after they’re no longer there. It’s a
huge change in demographics, but
society hasn’t yet caught up.”
Vreugdenhil, 49, never expected to
count herself in the singles statistics. She
lived with her husband, Roel, and their
two sons, Valentijn, now 17, and Pepijn,
14, in the Hague, until three years ago
when Roel that announced he had found
someone else. They shared custody, with
the boys staying in the family home and
each parent living there for half the
week (it’s known as bird-nesting and is a
popular post-divorce arrangement in the
Netherlands). The rest of the time
Vreugdenhil rented a tiny flat in
Amsterdam and continued to write
cookery columns for the Dutch
newspaper NRC.
“For those first nine months when I
was on my own, my evening meals
consisted of supermarket soup, bags of
crisps, toasties and takeaways,” she
admits. “I had to force myself to eat —
all the time while writing columns about
food. I lost 8kg and my friends became
concerned. I’d eat a bag of crisps in my
bed and that would be my dinner.”
napkin, candle and Spotify playlist
(although she sometimes does). There’s a
whole section of the book devoted to
Netflix dinners. “I used to be really,
really against that — dinner was a time
for devices to be off. But there are times
when you want to snuggle under a
blanket and watch your favourite series
while polishing off a bowl of food with a
spoon.” No doubt Nigella Lawson, the
queen of “bowl food”, would approve.
Vreugdenhil is not dissimilar in style to
Lawson, with dark hair, good looks and a
slightly sultry way with food.
She’s not single any more after
meeting a fellow Dutch journalist in the
summer, but is still living the solo life
because he lives in Spain. Her book was
published in the Netherlands last year to
great acclaim. “I have had lovely letters
from readers — one from a man whose
wife died two years ago. They used to
cook together, but he’d lost all appetite
for food and cooking. Then he got my
book and started by making himself my
steak béarnaise and hasn’t looked back.
At book signings people tell me their
stories — widowers, widows, divorced
people. They all say I have encouraged
them to try cooking again. They feel
empowered, which is what I wanted.”
Solo Food by Janneke Vreugdenhil is
out now (Harlequin, £16.99)
10-minute pho
The turning point came one night
nine months after the divorce, on her
wedding anniversary, when she found
herself eating cold carrot soup out of its
plastic supermarket container on her
rooftop terrace because she’d just oiled
the wooden floors inside. “Suddenly a
storm of apocalyptic proportions came
rolling in and within a minute it was
blowing and raining harder than I’d ever
seen it in August. I ran out with plastic
sheeting to cover the sofa I’d put outside
while the floor was drying. While I was
fighting with the sheeting in the wind —
four storeys up and with no railings — it
flashed through my mind that if I fell off
now I would be rid of it all. I came in and
cried so hard I thought I would never
stop. It was in that moment I realised
that no one else was going to look after
me. I had to look after myself.”
She began experimenting with simple
meals: stir fries, one-pot specials such as
baked salmon and spinach stir-fried with
fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.
“Later I became more inventive.” Some
recipes were born of necessity, such as
tagliatelle with prawns, tomatoes, parsley
and whisky. “I’d usually add wine to give
the sauce flavour, but I don’t tend to
open a bottle living on my own because
it goes off before I can finish it. But I did
have a bottle of whisky open, so I used
that to deglaze the pan and it gave the
sauce a delicious smoky flavour which
really worked.”
After a few months and some
research on the global rise in single
households, she decided there was
scope for a cookbook. “Writing it
was therapy, really,” she says. “When
someone leaves you don’t feel good
about yourself, and I didn’t feel I wass
worth the trouble of spending half an
hour in the kitchen to produce a meal.”
Since writing the book she has found
her whole style of cooking has changed:
lighter, fresher flavours rather than the
hearty meals she serves when she’s with
her sons. The way she eats is also
different: gone are the crisps in bed, but
she doesn’t always sit at the table with
The Dutch food writer
Janneke Vreugdenhil.
Below: 10-minute pho
50g rice vermicelli
A few drops of sesame oil
1 spring onion, sliced into matchsticks
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 mint leaves, finely chopped
Light soy sauce
350ml beef stock (from a stock cube)
½ red chilli pepper, sliced
1 star anise
100g lean beef mince
4-5 shiitake or button mushrooms,
Freshly ground pepper, to serve
1 Put the rice vermicelli in a bowl, cover
with b
boiling water and let it stand for
3 min.
min Turn into a colander, rinse the
noodles with cold water and mix in
a fe
few drops of sesame oil.
P the noodles back in the bowl
2 Put
an add the spring onions and green
1 tablespoon of soy sauce and
som freshly ground black pepper.
3 Meanwhile,
bring the stock to the
boil a
along with the chilli and star anise.
4 Knead
Kne 1 teaspoon of soy sauce into
the mince
and crumble this mixture
into tthe pan with the stock. Add the
mushrooms. Lower the heat and
simmer for 3 min.
5 Pour the stock into the noodle bowl
along with the meat and mushrooms.
Add more soy sauce to taste, if you
like. And don’t forget to slurp.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Food + Drink 15
Where to buy the best burgundy
This week’s best buys
Jane MacQuitty
he mixed 2016 burgundy
vintage is the most
inconsistent that I have
tasted, for reds and
whites, which makes it
tricky pulling out the
plum buys. What with
hail, frost and a chilly, wet spring that
was only partly salvaged by late
summer and early autumn sunshine,
few burgundy fans were expecting a
homogenous vintage, but even I was
shocked by the rollercoaster quality
on display at recent tastings.
Clearly 2016 was a challenging,
fraught year, with the worst frosts since
1981 reducing the crop by half overall
and in some villages by much more.
Chassagne-Montrachet was down by 80
per cent in places, Nuits-Saint-Georges
lost 50-70 per cent and ChambolleMusigny was, in the words of Jason
Haynes from the burgundian specialist
Flint Wines, “pretty much a write-off”.
Rampant rot added to growers’ woes,
with many complaining they’d never
seen mildew like it. It required skill
and lots of extra hours in the vineyard
to get the best out of 2016, but there
is still no clear answer to why one
domaine’s burgundy failed and
another’s, from a property bang
next door, triumphed.
It’s hard to generalise, but 2016
was a year when less new oak helped,
ditto infusion, not extraction, plus a
softly, softly approach in the cellar
throughout. For me too many of the
whites are soft and lack sparkle. The
restrained reds are more impressive
with, at best, a delicate, floral, juicy
red-fruited style, with elegance, energy
and length.
In terms of what to buy, forget
humble bourgogne blanc and rouge and
be very careful at the stratospherically
priced grand cru level, where many
lacked depth, concentration and length,
and a fair few were angular and
frost-affected. The wines to buy in
this early-maturing vintage are the
middle-ranking village wines that
seem to have escaped the frost and
have more concentration. Lesser
appellations, including marsannay,
maranges and the hautes-côtes, offer
good value, as does 2016 beaujolais.
If you want 2016 burgundy, you’ll
need to get your skates on, given the
tiny allocations available and relatively
modest price increases. Few are
bottled yet, so snap up the star buys,
plus Majestic’s bold, smoky, nutty
2016 Chablis 1er Cru Fourchame
Domaine Chatelain (£27.99) and Berry
Bros & Rudd’s splendid, grilled almond
and lemon zest-edged 2016 White
Burgundy from Collovray & Terrier,
£12.50. Or nab a light, juicy, gamey,
red cherry-ripe beaujolais instead:
Majestic’s 2016 Domaine Pardon
Julienas (£12.99) is the bottle to buy.
The late spring frosts in
2016 were the worst in
Burgundy since 1981
The wines to
buy are the
village wines
that have
the frost
a week
3 months for
the price of 1.
Subscribe now: 0800 158 2890
2016 Clocktower
Noir, Marlborough,
New Zealand, 14 per cent
Marks & Spencer, £10.50
(down from £14)
Delicious, vibrant, leafy,
crunchy strawberry
fruited, tip-top Kiwi pinot
noir, aged for almost a
year in French oak.
2015 Tinto
t da Ânfora,
Alentejano, Portugal,
14 per cent
Booths, £7.50
(down from £10.50)
An old, cockle-warming,
big food-loving friend,
with oodles of rich, rustic,
gutsy, cinnamon and
tobacco-spiced fruit.
2016 Chablis
La Collégiale, Laroche,
France, 12 per cent
Majestic, £16.99
A worthy, soft, ripe,
spiced cheese biscuit of
a 2016 chablis, with just
enough of this northern
white burgundy’s stony
2016 Mercurey Vieilles
Vignes, Domaine
Theulot Juillot, France,
13 per cent
020 7821 1337, £21
Young, juicy, beetroot
and crunchy plum of a
red burgundy, perfect
for swigging now.
From only
2016 Adega de Moncao
Vinho Verde, Portugal,
11.5 per cent
Sunday Times Wine Club,
03330 142770, £9.49
Try this racy, loweralcohol, aniseed-spiked,
white peach of a vinho
verde; it’s almost 50:50
alvarinho and trajadura.
It’s going to be another busy year.
Stay well informed on the stories that matter.
2016 Domaine des
Valanges, Saint-Véran,
France, 13 per cent
Co-op, £11.99
The Paquet family’s
gentle, candied quince
and citrus fruit-stashed
white burgundy gives
you a lot of bang for
your buck.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
the times Saturday January 20 2018
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Daphnes: my
favourite plant
for fragrance
When it’s cold and
grey, nothing lifts
the spirits like the
scent of this flower,
says Joe Swift
Daphne bholua ‘Spring Beauty’
place complete faith in just a few win- position. When I see one thriving and
ter flowering plants to help to get me doing its thing I know its owner probably
through the darker days. I not only made the effort to find the right spot, premean groups of plants, but individual pare the ground well and nurture it until it
plants — old friends I can rely on. was nicely established. Growing long term
Not far from me, growing against a in a pot isn’t really an option because they
house wall in a small protected front can’t cope with drying out and dislike the
garden, lies the most fabulous mature inevitable root disturbance when being
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. Very repotted. If you don’t have quite the right
soon it will be in full bloom, its sweet intox- conditions in your garden, you may, like me,
icating scent cutting through the crisp find yourself hunting down other people’s
for a midwinter daphne moment.
winter air, wafting across the pavement for everyone to enjoy.
Daphne or Jacqueline and I
How to grow
(I’m never quite sure which
Daphnes require a humusto call her) will have a
moment together — and
soil that can provide a nice
I bet I’m not the only one.
easy root run. They grow
As well as having a
well in a woodland garden
with dappled shade. Avoid
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline
stony, waterlogged or comPostill’ has an elegant uppacted soils. Most will like a
Daphne bholua
right form. There are many
neutral to slightly acidic soil.
‘Jacqueline Postill’
other fine early-flowering choiPrepare the hole well by digging
ces too, such as Daphne mezereum
in plenty of organic matter (leaf mould
with its clusters of pinky violet flowers is ideal; avoid using mushroom compost,
or the later-flowering (and the self- which is alkaline) and mulch annually with
promotingly named) Daphne x transatlan- leaf mould or organic matter. They dislike
tica Eternal Fragrance, a relatively new root disturbance so don’t try to move them
introduction. Daphne odora ‘Aureomar- once they are planted.
ginata’ has gold-edged variegated, cheerOnce the plant has established itself you
me-up evergreen foliage, and it bears can take off the odd flowering sprig and
slightly clashing pink flowers. I’m particu- bring indoors to put in a vase, which is the
larly fond of it because my mother has had only pruning it should require. Daphnes
a fine specimen for years that fills her small tend to grow best in the south of the UK, but
terrace with perfume — and it’s the first they can be grown successfully in many
Latin plant name my wife truly mastered. parts elsewhere in sheltered gardens. All
Another reason they gain my admira- are hardy to minus 5C and some to minus
tion is that they are not the easiest plants 10C. Protect during very cold periods by
to grow, being a little fussy about soil and wrapping them up with garden fleece.
Daphne mezereum
the times Saturday January 20 2018
‘A pause to look back along
30 miles of thundering surf,
and we turned inland’
Christopher Somerville’s good walk
Repairing shrubs and trees
when winter does its worst
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
6 great daphnes
Daphne bholua
‘Jacqueline Postill’
This is my No 1. A nice upright form
covered in clusters of strongly
fragrant, pinky white flowers. Grows
best on the south or southwest side of
a wall that will give it protection. It is
generally evergreen, but may shed its
foliage in cold winters. Height 2m,
spread 1.5m.
Daphne mezereum
A hardy early daphne. Violet-pink
flowers appear in dense clusters along
the bare stems and are followed by
shiny red berries in summer. Strong,
sweet fragrance. ‘Bowles white’ is a
fine form with white flowers. Height
and spread 1.5m.
Daphne odora
A neat evergreen shrub with deep
pink flowers and a distinctive thin
golden margin to the lance-shaped
leaves. It’s slightly hardier than its
parent plant, the straight Daphne
odora, which is also a fine choice.
Height and spread 1.5m.
Daphne x transatlantica
‘Eternal Fragrance’
A compact form that flowers on new
growth throughout the year (a little
later from about April onwards). The
blooms are pink in bud, opening to
white, and have a good scent. Height
and spread 90cm.
Daphne odora ‘Sweet
An early-flowering variety with
leathery deep green leaves and
masses of deep purple-pink flowers.
Height 1m, spread 1.2m.
Daphne bholua
‘Spring Beauty’
A relatively new introduction.
Reportedly hardy to minus 10C, so
this could be the right one for you
and your garden if you don’t live
somewhere quite so mild. Large
showy lilac pink flowers and a great
scent. Height 1.5m, spread 1m.
Stephen Anderton
on what to do
when your plants
have been damaged
by the elements
Q My new streptocarpus
is wilting, but it’s not
short of water. What
could be wrong?
B Lane
A Cape primroses like
a warm room and a
moist atmosphere, but
no direct sun on those
long corrugated leaves.
North-facing behind the
kitchen sink is good. Still,
they are not lovers of
wet, and if the neck is
kept too soggy the
plant can wilt and die.
Let the compost get
pretty dry between
waterings and put the
water in the saucer
below, not on to the
top of the compost.
Allowed to dry off, yours
may recover.
Send your questions to
as your garden suffered
recently from a foot of
snow, or Storm Eleanor?
Wild weather can do
terrible damage to
a garden, but how
much should you cut
back plants that have been damaged,
and how much should you let nature
take its course?
The plants that are most susceptible
to wind and snow damage are dense or
clipped evergreens, such as laurustinus,
bay, phillyrea and osmanthus, whose
dense canopy is very heavy when wet.
Clipped surfaces provide the perfect
landing place for thick snow. Sheer weight
can break branches that you would have
thought were unbreakable, so they need
to be cut back during especially bad
winter weather. If they have been
damaged, cut at the first point behind the
break where there is still leafy or twiggy
growth, which can then grow and bush
out to fill the gap. If you cut to a bare
stump with no live twigs, it is less likely to
grow again and may not fill the gap.
Even denser than clipped evergreens
are needle-leaved conifers. Of these,
those varieties such as Mediterranean
cypress and Irish juniper, with several
upright stems, are absolute martyrs to
snow damage; once a stem has been bent
low like a piece of peeled banana skin, it
rarely stands well again. Cutting off these
bowed and sprained stems can leave a
vertical bare patch in the canopy, so the
compromise answer is to tie the stem
back into place by attaching it loosely to
the other still-upright stems. It should
slowly re-stiffen, although not perfectly.
What about damage to ordinary bushy
shrubs that don’t have slender upright
stems? If a branch has been so weighed
down with snow that it hasn’t sprung
back up, get your head inside the plant
(you’ll feel daft, but never mind) so you
can see what’s happening. A branch that
has merely bent under the weight of
snow may resume its previous position
after a few weeks’ flexing in the wind.
Exercise is a great healer.
However, if the stem is split or torn
somewhere along its length, you have
two options. Either you can take it right
off back to the trunk or you can reduce
its weight and wind resistance by
pruning the limb back or by thinning it.
I’m a great believer in reducing weight.
Then, when the wind blows, there is less
bounce and less for water to cling to, so
the branch can learn to hold its position
again, despite the tear. It gives it a
chance to heal. It’s too easy to panic and
think a limb needs to come right off.
If a branch has torn right at the base
where it leaves the ground on an arching,
multi-stemmed shrub such as abelia,
mock orange, sweet box or rosemary,
again you can shorten it by half to reduce
the wind resistance and hope that it will
toughen up again. But, frankly, if the bush
has plenty of stems coming from low
down, it is better to take the damaged one
right out at the ground.
Most bamboo stems will spring up
unbelievably well from a flattening cargo
of snow. However, really wild winds
accompanied by rain or snow can
sometimes bring down a stem on the
outside of a clump of a stiffer-caned
bamboo such as phyllostachys. If it lies
there limp and if the leaves then wilt,
then it’s fatally dislocated at the base.
Chop it off at soil level. There will be
plenty more where that came from.
Sometimes when the leading shoot of
a tree or shrub is damaged by late frosts,
two parallel leaders appear in its place.
Ash and maples do this, and the silver
maple Acer saccharinum worst of all.
Strong wind will often rip out one of the
two shoots and leave it dangling. Don’t
tie it up or splint it with a cane. Cut it
completely away, as cleanly as you can,
leaving as small a wound as possible. In
time the remaining stem will scar over
and learn to stand on its own.
Evergreen shrubs such
as Phillyrea angustifolia
are vulnerable to
winter weather
provide the
perfect landing
place for snow
Trim the upper stems
of ivy and climbing
hydrangea out of gutters
and drainpipes and away
from windows. Ivy that
has grown too thick on a
wall can be clipped back
tight all over, although
it will remain leafless
until spring.
Cut or pull back turf that
has grown under the
skirts of hedges, to make
mowing easier in the
spring. Get out seedling
trees and brambles
while you are at it.
An occasional light
mowing will even up
tufty grass, but be
careful not to cut low
into the moss, which is
so vigorous now, or you
will leave long-lasting
yellow patches. The
moss can be dealt
with later in spring and
it usually lessens as
the grass grows
vigorously again.
Cut away last year’s
hellebore leaves if they
are diseased and spotty.
If they are clean, you can
leave well alone. SA
the times Saturday January 20 2018
20 Outside
Malus ‘Butterball’
It’s the perfect
time to plant
crab apples
. . . but which tree
should you choose?
Alice Bowe gives
the lowdown on
her top eight
Sentinel’, which offers white spring
blossom, persistent red fruits and
matures to a pleasing shape, or do you
choose Malus ‘Evereste’, which has all
these qualities but produces fewer,
larger fruits with delicate striping?
Whatever you go for, all crab apples
are tolerant of a range of soil conditions
and are very hardy. They like a spot in
full sunshine, but will cope with some
shade, and they will do well in all but the
most waterlogged of soils. Here are some
of my favourite varieties.
Malus ‘Evereste’
Deep pink flower buds open to sparkling
white blossoms in April and May. The
large spring blossom is accompanied by
fresh green foliage that darkens in the
summer months and turns yellow,
orange and red in the autumn. The
miniature apple fruits are orange and
red. Mature trees will grow 5m tall
and 4m wide.
foliage colours nicely in autumn. This
naturally dwarf tree will reach about 2m
tall and 1m wide after ten years.
Malus halliana ‘Admiration’
This upright dwarf tree is ideal for a
small garden — or even for
growing in a container. It will
grow to just 2m tall and 1m wide
in ten years. Dark pink buds
open to dense clusters of white
flowers, making a striking
display. Masses of tiny red fruits
appear in the autumn and will
last into the new year.
Malus x robusta
‘Red Sentinel’
rab apples are lovely little
trees, suitable for any sized
garden. They provide
spring blossom, autumn
leaf colour and bold, tart
fruits throughout winter —
and now is the best time to
plant them during the bare-root season.
Choosing which variety to plant can be
more of a challenge. Do you choose an
all-rounder such as Malus x robusta ‘Red
Pink buds open to pure white
flowers in April and May on
this gently rounded tree.
Autumn leaves turn yellow and
bronze before falling, leaving a
heavy crop of glossy red,
cherry-sized fruits on the tree.
Mature trees will grow 5m tall and
4m wide with a semi-weeping habit.
Malus ‘Laura’
This small and upright tree has crimson
spring blooms with pale starburst centres
and bronze-red foliage when young. The
deep red autumn fruits are large and
good for culinary purposes and the
Malus ‘Butterball’
Malus x robusta
‘Red Sentinel’
A heavy crop of oversized, red
flushed, yellow-orange fruit is produced
each year on this broad, gently rounded
tree that will grow to 4m tall and
wide in 20 years. Spring blossoms
open white from pink buds alongside
silvery-green foliage. The foliage colours
well in the autumn, but the real star of
the show is the large 2-3cm fruit.
Malus ‘Comtesse de Paris’
This variety is grown for its slightly
pointed, golden-yellow fruits that dangle
on red stems long after the leaves have
fallen. This tree also has pink buds
opening to white blossom, and good
autumn colour. It will grow to 4m tall
and 3m wide in 20 years.
Malus pumila ‘Royalty’
Glossy purple-black leaves emerge in
April at the same time as purple-red
blossom on this compact form. The leaves
darken to green before colouring red in
the autumn and tiny red autumn fruits
mature to a deep purple-black. Grows to
4m tall and 3m wide in 20 years.
Malus ‘Rudolph’
Deep red, velvety blossoms appear at the
same time as dark purple-bronze spring
leaves in May and June. Leaves turn
green in summer, then colour yellow in
autumn, along with small purple and red
fruits. Expect 5m in height and 4m in
spread after 20 years.
Find love through what you love.
Dating is always easier when you start out with
something in common. Times Dating is the place to
meet Times readers who have the same interests
(and intellect) as you. Just think, this page could be
the beginning of your next chapter.
Start your story at
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Outside 21
A good walk Northcott
Mouth, Cornwall
slip of tan sand, a jumble
of sharp black rocks
and a welter of surf at
Northcott Mouth. We
stood and watched the
waves leaping up at the
feet of the cliffs and
falling back in a hissing collar of spray
— a sombre, elemental scene to set the
mood for this unforgiving stretch of the
north Cornwall coast.
From the cliff path we looked down on
dark scars that seamed across the beach
under Menachurch Point, each narrow
ridge an individual rock layer tilted on
end by subterranean upheavals, then
ground down level with the beach
through the inexorable power of the sea.
Sections of the clifftop had cracked and
fallen away, leaving grassy bowers
hanging over space where sheep grazed
nonchalantly as though they were in
some cosy paddock.
Down into Sandymouth, where a jet of
water spouted out of the cliff; up, over
and down again into the tumbled
wasteland of Warren Gutter, the path so
black and greasy it looked more like
coalmining country than the Cornish
shore. A slippery haul up Warren Point
and over to Duckpool’s tiny strand, a
pause to look back along 30 miles of
thundering grey surf, and we turned
inland into the peaceful cleft of the
Coombe Valley.
Two thatched houses guarded the ford
at Coombe. Beyond lay deep woods of
sweet chestnut, hazel and oak under a
sky mottled in grey and airforce blue.
Sedgy strips of meadowland formed the
valley floor, where a stream twisted in
snake bends as it sought a way to the sea.
This is the perfect Swallows and Amazons
setting for children staying in the
cottages at Coombe, and we saw them
paddling and yelling in the stream as we
followed a parallel path back through
Stowe Woods and up a lumpy bank to
Stowe Barton.
The National Trust looks after this
complex of granite buildings, a classic
ridge-top farmstead of Cornwall, its
roofs low and slated, its lane flanked
by extravagantly wind-sculpted trees.
Beyond Stowe Barton a broad bridleway
ran south across whaleback fields. This is
not cream tea Cornwall — it is hard,
stony land to farm and a dangerous
coast to fish from. Stone walls are built
thick and strong, lanes burrow between
windbreak hedgebanks and the land
slopes westward to plunge off the
scalloped cliff edge into the sea.
Start Northcott Mouth, near Bude
EX23 9ED (OS ref SS 203085)
Getting there From Stratton on A39
(Bideford-Bude) follow “Poughill”; from
Poughill follow “Northcott Mouth”. Park
at end of road.
Walk 6¾ miles, strenuous on coastal
section, OS Explorer 126. Coastal path
north for 2 miles to Duckpool (202117).
Road inland; at junction, left; in 100m,
right through Coombe to cross ford
(210117). Ahead (“Coombe Valley”) on
woodland track. In 2/3 mile, fork right
(221116, fingerpost) across stream. In
150m, fork right (220114); cross stream;
Menachurch Point,
Coombe Valley
500 metres
Beyond lay deep woods
of sweet chestnut, hazel
and oak under a sky
mottled in grey and blue
left and follow path westward for 2/3 mile
through Stowe Wood and on to cross
road at Stowe Barton (212112). Follow
lane opposite (“Northcott Mouth
1.8 miles”, blue arrow/BA). In 350m,
left (209110, BA); follow bridleway south.
In 700m, cross road (209103) and on,
following BAs. In 2/3 mile, go through
gate (206094); bear right (unmarked),
and keep to lefthand hedge. Ahead for
2/3 mile to Northcott Mouth.
Lunch Preston Gate Inn, Poughill
(01288 354017,
Accommodation Landmark Trust
cottages around ford at Coombe
(01628 825925;
More information Bude TIC
(01288 354240); more maps, more
walks at
Christopher Somerville
Tiny trio
in the
n the tops of the alder and birch
trees there is now a trio of small
birds feeding on the seeds. These
are goldfinches, siskins and lesser
redpolls. Sometimes there is a
flock of one of the species,
sometimes two or even all three of
them are mingled. In the birches they
eat the catkin seeds, in the alders they
extricate the seeds from the black cones.
The goldfinches and the little green
siskins are probably the most familiar,
while the lesser redpoll is less common
and widespread. However, it is just as
attractive. All of them are lively birds,
with the siskin, and especially the
redpoll, very nimble and acrobatic
feeders, as often as not hanging upside
down in the twigs to get at the seeds.
There is a constant murmur from
the treetops when they are there, the
goldfinches making tinkling notes,
the siskins sweet, liquid notes, and
the redpolls more of a clatter with
their twittering.
The lesser redpolls, below, are
streaky brown birds, with a bright red
forehead and a little black bib. The
males have a rosy-pink breast in
summer, which they start acquiring
before the winter is over.
In summer they nest mainly in
northern birch woods, making untidy
nests of twigs and stalks in trees and
bushes, but these birds drift south in
winter. They were quite common
before the Second World War, then
their numbers dropped. In the 1970s a
great many young conifer woods were
planted and the redpolls took to them
and became common again. Now they
are scarce once more. No one fully
understands these fluctuations.
Another redpoll visits us in the
winter, the mealy or common redpoll.
“Common” is an appropriate name in
more northern countries, but not in
ours. “Mealy” is better, because its
plumage, though similar, is paler. It
was once considered to be the northern
race of the lesser redpoll, but has
been granted the status of a full
and separate species.
Derwent May
the times Saturday January 20 2018
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24 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
‘Turns out I’m hopeless at
windsurfing and sailing but
have serious mini-golf skills’
Mike Atkins takes an activity break in Croatia
Alquezar in Aragon, northeastern Spain
50 best holidays in Spain
From a gourmet
tour of Andalusia
to an active break
in the Pyrenees,
Helen Ochyra picks
the best trips to
take this summer
Best for activities
1 El Hierro on foot
El Hierro is the forgotten Canary Island,
its sheer cliffs and plunging volcanic
valleys largely untroubled by mass
tourism. Explore among some of
Europe’s most dramatic scenery on this
new walking tour, which takes in the
island’s highest point, sleepy villages
and the truly weird windswept trees
of El Sabinar. You’ll walk some of the
long-distance route GR131 and find
gorgeous views across the water to
Mount Teide on nearby Tenerife.
You may also come across the native
giant lizard.
Details From £1,095pp for seven nights’
full board and transfers, but not flights
to Tenerife (01768 773966,
2 Bike and boat
the Balearics
Cruise around the Balearics in style
on the three-masted tall ship MS
Atlantis, sailing into secluded bays
and mooring where few other ships
are able, before setting out by
bike each day to explore with
your guide. Start at Port de
Soller in Majorca, cycling in the
Tramuntana mountains to quiet
fishing villages, before sailing to
Ibiza’s north coast and on to
Formentera. Explore beautiful
beaches and La Mola lighthouse,
which Jules Verne called “the end
of the world” — they say you can see
Africa on a clear day.
Details From £1,895pp for seven nights’
half-board, with flights (020 7471 7750,
3 Walking in Aragon
Cruise the Balearics on
the MS Atlantis
Explore the stunning hilltop town of
Alquezar — visiting the prehistoric
caves — before departing on a walking
tour in the heart of rural Aragon in
northeastern Spain. Staying in small
B&Bs, the six-day tour covers
about 50 miles and takes in the
medieval village of Lecina and
pretty village of Las Alumnias.
You will cover up to ten miles a
day, walking through lush
valleys, abandoned villages and
along pretty rivers. The tour starts
and finishes at Alquezar, with time
to amble through its winding streets.
Details A seven-night tour costs
from £695pp, including most meals,
luggage transfer and maps. Flights and
transfers cost extra (01291 689774, W
the times Saturday January 20 2018
26 Travel
10 Cirera d’Avall
4 Cycle the Camino
The Camino Frances may be the most
popular route of the Camino de
Santiago, but the Camino del Norte,
from San Sebastian to Santiago de
Compostela, is equally spectacular —
and you’ll share the trail with fewer
other pilgrims on this self-guided trip. By
bike it’s possible to do the whole thing in
just over two weeks, snaking from the
gastronomic city of San Sebastian in the
Basque region, along Spain’s north coast
to Bilbao and Santander in Cantabria,
and on to Gijon in Asturias, before
turning inland and travelling through
the country’s greenest region, Galicia, to
reach Santiago de Compostela.
Details From £2,225pp for 17 nights’ halfboard, including bike hire but not flights
(0203 468 1516,
5 Walk the Almeria
Coastal Way
Set out along Spain’s south coast for a
six-day, self-guided hike through the
quiet Almeria region. Stop for a swim in
secluded beaches as you walk from Agua
Amarga westwards, through the
beautiful Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural
Park and the otherworldly desertscape
around Rodalquilar. Game of Thrones
fans will want to snap a selfie at Mesa
Roldan, a tabletop mountain that
appeared in season six.
19 Visit northern Spain’s coastline by train
Details From £769pp for five nights’
B&B, including flights (01962 302085,
6 Spanish and SUP
in Fuerteventura
Combine learning to stand-up
paddleboard with brushing up your
language skills in the attractive resort
of Corralejo. You’ll take 12 hours of
SUP lessons, paddling around the
sheltered waters of Fuerteventura’s
north coast, and spend ten hours
learning Spanish at the school. In your
downtime you can hit the beach or take
the bus to the stunning Corralejo sand
dunes. Rooms are simple with shared
bathrooms. Meals are not included, but
there’s a kitchen and dining room in the
surf house.
Details From €495pp for seven nights
(020 8144 5990,
7 Mountains of Aragon
The Ordesa y Monte Perdido National
Park turns 100 next year and a new
self-guided walking trip gets you into
the heart of it. This untouched area in
Aragon, close to the French border, is
all plunging canyons and soaring
mountains and the wild trails that run
through it are some of Europe’s most
dramatic. Based in the village of Torla
you’ll explore glacial valleys and alpine
meadows, returning to a friendly
two-star hotel each night.
Details From £750pp for six nights’
half-board (0845 2417599,
Fly to Zaragoza
8 Diving in Lanzarote
Lanzarote boasts warm waters and
interesting marine life, making it the
perfect place to learn to scuba dive. Dive
Worldwide’s seven-night holiday is
suitable for beginners and families, with
its base in the southern resort of Playa
Blanca. You’ll go out on ten dives in the
clear waters offshore, swimming above
delicate reef systems and into small
caverns as well as visiting Museo
Atlantico, an underwater sculpture park.
Details From £1,195pp for seven nights’
full board, including flights (01962
9 Riding in Andalusia
Finca el Moro in the cattle country of
Andalusia has long offered riding
holidays, but in 2018 a new package
combines this with yoga. Each day starts
with an energising yoga session before
heading out on the hotel’s home-bred
horses. You’ll ride through the Sierra de
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 27
16 Alhambra gardens
Centre Pompidou Malaga, the first
Pompidou outside Paris. You’ll also take
day trips to Ronda, one of Andalusia’s
white towns, above a dramatic gorge,
and Granada to see the Alhambra. Your
hotel is the 19th-century Molina Lario
opposite the cathedral and within
walking distance of the harbour.
Details Six nights’ B&B costs from
£1,798pp, including flights (020 7593
15 Stylish Bilbao
12 Hotel Vivood, Alicante
Aracena, seeing white villages, sweetchestnut groves and meadows, before
stopping for a tapas lunch. Spend
afternoons by your private pool before
more yoga to ward off any stiffness.
Details From €1,295pp for seven nights’
full board (00 34 627 479 738, Fly to Seville
10 Yoga in Catalonia
A beautifully restored farmhouse
90 minutes from Barcelona is
Destination Yoga’s new retreat
for 2018. Cirera d’Avall has seven
elegant bedrooms, as well as an
outdoor pool, a spa with hot tub
and sauna, and a candlelit
living room. In the yoga studio
twice-daily classes are led by
instructors flown out from the
UK, with views over the fields
and forests of rural Catalonia.
Details From £995pp for seven
nights, including all meals and yoga
(020 3235 0122,
Fly to Barcelona
11 Swim in Ibiza
Get into open-water swimming on this
new guided swimming holiday in Ibiza,
which will lead you on an exploration
of the caves and tunnels that lie along
the island’s dramatic northern coastline.
You’ll need to be able to swim 5km a day;
your reward is getting to see this wellknown island from an angle that few
people have, including the isolated Punta
Muscarte, its northernmost point. Stay at
the family-run Hotel La Ciguena, on the
beach in the resort of Cala Portinatx.
Details From £1,000pp for six nights’ full
board (01273 739713,
12 Hiking in Alicante
There’s plenty to do at Hotel Vivood,
from stargazing tours to yoga classes.
You’ll also find walking trails through
the mountains and valleys of inland
Alicante. You might be tempted to
stay in though, indulging in massage
and reiki, or sitting by the pool
surrounded by rugged scenery. This
sophisticated adults-only hotel makes
the most of those views, with sleek
glass-fronted pods staring out at
the landscape. Book one of the four
bedrooms that have a hot tub on
their private terrace.
Details B&B doubles cost from
€100 a night (00 34 966 318585, Fly to Alicante
Best for art,
history and culture
13 Culture on
the Costa
Catalonia’s coast by rail
New to Sunvil’s Spain programme
for 2018 is this eight-night self-guided
exploration of the Costa de la Luz in the
country’s far south. You’ll start in chilledout Tarifa, known for its Moorish history,
ancient churches and well-preserved
Guzman Castle (built by the Moors as
an alcazar), before driving on to Los
Caños de Meca, the scene of the Battle
of Trafalgar. Your last three nights are
in Cadiz, where the historic centre is
packed with baroque and neoclassical
buildings, as well as great tapas bars.
Details From £1,049pp for eight nights’
B&B, including flights (020 8758 4722,
14 Picasso’s Malaga
Malaga is more than just an airport —
this sun-soaked city is also the birthplace
of Picasso and home to several leading
art museums. Kirker’s new Picasso and
Beyond group tour takes in the newly
refurbished Picasso Museum, the
Contemporary Art Centre and the
The Guggenheim museum put Bilbao on
the city-break map, and it remains the
Basque capital’s main attraction. What
could be better, then, than staying next
door, at the Cosmov hotel? This sleek
modern hotel is a masterclass in
monochrome, with black and white
floors, walls and furniture around the
communal spaces and in the 28
bedrooms. There’s a breakfast deal at the
museum and you’re within easy walking
distance of the city’s Old Town, with its
labyrinthine lanes and lively restaurants.
Details Room-only doubles cost from
€65 a night (00 34 944 015 454,
16 Moorish Spain
The writer and historian Jason Webster
leads this new group tour through 500
years of Moorish Spanish history. You’ll
hear historical stories, Moorish verse and
plenty of local tales as you travel to
Ronda, Cordoba, Seville and Granada,
the four cities at the heart of Moorish
Spain. Highlights include the city walls
in Ronda, the Great Mosque in Cordoba,
the alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra
in Granada. There will be flamenco
shows, lectures and Moorish dinners.
Accommodation is in three and four-star
hotels with wine at lunch and dinner.
Details From £2,395pp for seven nights’
full board, including flights (01722
17 Cultural cruise
of Andalusia
Combine the best of Andalusia with a
hop across the border into Portugal on
this coastal and river cruise. You’ll start
in Seville, checking out the cathedral
and Moorish Alcazar, before heading
down the Guadalquivir towards Cadiz,
said to be the oldest city in western
Europe. After a visit to Jerez’s ganaderia,
where bulls are raised, you’ll cruise to
the Doñana National Park in Portugal,
brilliant for birdwatching. Excursions to
Cordoba and Granada are also included.
Details Seven nights’ full board costs
from £2,095pp including flights
(020 3131 5187,
18 Extremadura’s
Roman heritage
Discover the ancient cities, churches and
monasteries of the little-known region of
Extremadura with this new ten-night
holiday from Sunvil. Highlights include
the small town of Llerena with its mix of
Moorish, Mudejar, gothic and baroque
architecture, nearby Zafra (known as
Little Seville) and the city of Merida,
with its Roman remains. Stay in four-star
guest houses along the way.
Details Ten nights’ B&B with flights and
car hire costs from £950pp (020 8758
Best by train
19 Slow train
through Asturias
Slow right down and explore Asturias at
a languid pace with Inntravel’s sevennight narrow-gauge railway trip through
this green part of northern Spain. You’ll
ride the Feve along the coast, stopping at
tiny fishing villages such as Cudillero
and Ribadesella, and take in some of the
best scenery in Spain as you pass the
jagged peaks of the Picos de Europa
National Park. There’s time for visiting
Oviedo too, with its gorgeous medieval
old town and gothic cathedral.
Details From £625pp for seven nights’
B&B (01653 617001, Fly
to Oviedo
20 Catalan coast by rail
Want to visit Spain without flying? Great
Railway Journeys’ group tour of the
Catalan coast departs from London on
the Eurostar. You’ll stay in the beach
resort of Roses and enjoy a journey in
the open-air carriages of the Red Train
into the Pyrenees, as well as a trip on the
Rack Railway through the Nuria valley.
Other day trips include a visit to the
Salvador Dalí Foundation in Figueres
and the medieval town of Girona.
Details From £1,295pp for seven nights’
half-board, including rail travel from
London (01904 527180,
21 Santiago de
Compostela to Seville
New for 2018 this eight-night itinerary
connects two of Spain’s most romantic
cities by rail aboard Al-Andalus, a
luxurious heritage train made up of
palatial restored carriages. Five nights
are in your suite (with bathroom) on the
train; the others are in five-star hotels. In
Continued next page
the times Saturday January 20 2018
28 Travel
24 Marques de Riscal
33 Nobu Marbella
Santiago de Compostela you’ll stay at the
Parador, which has views of the
cathedral, while in Seville you’ll check in
to the Hotel Alfonso XIII, in the heart of
the oldest part of the city. Also included
are excursions to the Ribeira Sacra wine
region, the historic cities of Toledo and
Cordoba, and the Sil Canyon.
Details From £5,975pp for eight nights,
including most meals and flights (020
3131 5187,
22 No-fly Majorca
Yes, it is possible to get to Majorca
without flying. Planet Rail’s new selfguided itinerary to Palma departs from
London on Eurostar and calls at
Montpellier for a night before reaching
Valencia. You’ll have three nights here —
plenty of time to visit the planetarium,
oceanarium and the art museums —
before taking the ferry across to Majorca
for five nights in its vibrant capital,
Palma. Wander the medieval streets,
walk on the roof of the gothic cathedral
and find your favourite tapas bar. Return
by plane to your choice of UK airport.
Details From £1,575pp for nine nights’
B&B, including international travel
(01347 825292,
Best for food and wine
23 South-coast voyage
Cruise to some of the best wine regions
in Spain and Portugal on this eight-day
tour. Set sail from Lisbon and head south
to the Algarve and southern Spain,
calling at Quinta dos Vales for
Portuguese wine and port tastings, Jerez
for a tapas lunch paired with local wines
and sherries, and the beautiful Alhambra
in Granada. You’ll see vineyards that are
normally by appointment only and
sample high-quality local food and wines
on board your privately chartered superyacht. Cabins are en suite and there’s a
sun deck and swimming platform.
Details From £3,995pp for seven nights’
full board with wine, including flights
(01730 263111,
24 Wine and
architecture in Rioja
This guided tour of Spain’s most famous
wine region takes in some of the
country’s most stunning architecture.
You’ll stay at the five-star Marques de
Riscal hotel and winery designed by
Frank Gehry, have dinner in its
Michelin-starred restaurant and enjoy a
tasting lunch at Portia winery, designed
by Sir Norman Foster. An evening on
the tapas trail in Logroño is included, as
are bodega and vineyard visits.
Details From £2,295pp for four nights,
31 Seven Pines
including some meals (01920 468666, Fly to Bilbao
25 Gourmet Andalusia
Wine has been made in Montilla since
the Romans were here, and a gourmet
day tour with Finca Cortesin unlocks
the secrets of Andalusia’s oldest
winemaking region. A Spanish wine
expert accompanies you to a local
vineyard and to multiple tastings, before
returning to your hotel, one of Spain’s
most luxurious. Stay in for dinner —
Japanese Mediterranean fusion in
the Michelin-starred Kabuki Raw
— then retire to one of the hotel’s
67 opulent suites.
Details B&B doubles cost from
£642pp, gourmet day tour from
£300pp (00 34 952 937 800, Fly to
28 Iberian wine
26 Cooking in Cadiz
The cook and sherry expert Annie
B hosts a week-long tasting of
Andalusian wines, sherries and food,
spending four nights in the sherry
capital, Vejer de la Frontera, and three
in the coastal city of Cadiz. You’ll meet
winemakers, restaurateurs and
historians, and learn how to cook local
dishes in Annie’s kitchen. Highlights
include a walking tapas tour of Vejer, a
gourmet tuna feast in Barbate and a tour
of Cadiz’s Mercado Central de Abastos.
There’s also a private flamenco event.
Details From €1,950pp (£1,722) for seven
nights’ B&B with some other meals (00
34 620 560 649, Fly
to Vejer de la Frontera
27 Basque break
You’ll eat well in Bilbao and San
Sebastian, especially with a dedicated
concierge to arrange meals at the best
restaurants. Ask for Arzak for new
Basque cuisine in San Sebastian and
request Mina for local dishes in Bilbao
— both have a Michelin star. Car hire is
included, so you can also visit the Rioja
wine region, just over an hour south of
Bilbao. Do the tour and a tasting at
Marques de Riscal, a winery designed by
Frank Gehry, before returning to the
Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, for
which entry is included in your holiday.
Details From £1,125pp for seven nights,
including flights and some breakfasts
(020 7593 1899,
xyxyxyx yxxyxyxyxyx
Join the British cook
Annie B in Cadiz
This epic journey through the
best of Iberian food and wine
starts in Madrid before
travelling to the Cigales and
Ribera del Duero wine regions.
Rioja is up next, with a visit to
Alta winery, before hitting the
pintxo bars of San Sebastian.
Travelling through Asturias, you’ll
discover the local cider, while a stay in
Santiago de Compostela introduces
Galician seafood dishes. Crossing into
Portugal, there’s time for Porto and the
local tipple port, the Douro wine region
and two final nights in Lisbon.
Details From £3,299pp for 13 nights’
B&B, including some other meals (0808
2716520, Fly to
Madrid and back from Lisbon
29 Michelin-starred
San Sebastian
The restaurant Akelarre, just outside San
Sebastian, has held three Michelin stars
since 2007. Last year, it opened an
adjoining 22-room hotel, making it
easier to visit for a gourmet break. With
stunning views over the Bay of Biscay,
the hotel also has a sublime spa, a wine
cellar with communal table for tastings
and a more informal restaurant in which
to sample Basque cuisine.
Details Rooms cost from £290 a night,
B&B (
Best new hotels
30 Royal Hideaway
Corales Tenerife
Tenerife’s Costa Adeje is bathed in
sunshine year-round, so there’s no need
to wait for summer to visit this chic new
outpost of the Barceló hotel group —
you can expect temperatures of about
20C in January. Couples will love the
adults-only Corales Beach, with its
infinity pool, four child-free restaurants
and junior suites with Atlantic views,
while families will find plenty of space in
the apartments at Corales Suites. There
are three outdoor pools, the black sand
beach is right outside and it’s a short
stroll to La Caleta, one of southern
Tenerife’s most unspoilt fishing harbours.
Details B&B double rooms cost from
€300 (£264) a night (08000 211256, Fly to Tenerife South
31 Seven Pines Ibiza
With pine forest on one side and the
Med on the other, few hotels promise a
location quite as sublime as Ibiza’s Seven
Pines, which will open in the spring. All
195 rooms are suites (either one or two
bedroom) and cool white decor
predominates, with flowing curtains
framing a sea view in the top-of-therange Bay Suites. Pool Suites are better
for families, with easy access to the water
and there are two lovely beaches (Cala
Conta and Cala Codolar) within walking
distance. There are also two restaurants,
a cocktail bar and a private 24m yacht.
Details B&B doubles cost from €330 a
night (00 34 971 19 52 00,
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 29
Villa in Andalusia
Best for families
37 Large family villas
32 Hotel Mama, Majorca
The Cappuccino Grand Café has long
served coffee and cakes to stylish locals
and city-breakers in Palma, but next year
the company opens the doors of Hotel
Mama, its long-awaited luxury hotel, on
Plaza Cort. You’re in the heart of the city
here, but there’s lots to stay in for as well,
including a sushi bar, cinema, spa and
pool terrace. There are only 35 rooms
and all have balconies, most with
enchanting views of the Majorcan capital.
Details B&B doubles cost from €252 a
night (00 34 871 03 74 37,
33 Nobu Marbella
Most details remain under wraps for
Marbella’s most exciting hotel opening
of 2018, but if the recently opened Nobu
restaurant is anything to go by the hotel
will offer laid-back luxury and some
truly spectacular food. Guests of the
hotel will get priority access to the
restaurant, as well as an exclusive
inroom dining menu that can be
ordered 24-hours — from the room
or from your lounger by the pool.
The hotel will stand in the existing
Puente Romano resort, so guests can
also use the Six Senses spa.
Details Seven nights’ B&B costs from
£2,220pp, including flights (0161 492
34 Marques House,
You know that a new hotel is going to be
good when it attracts a local institution
before opening, and Marques House has
netted the city’s Café Madrid, the creator
of the local firewater Agua de Valencia.
The café will move into Marques House
when it opens in the spring, offering
thirst quenchers to guests staying in the
32 suites. There is also a rooftop pool
and sun terrace in a great city-centre
location, next to the stunning baroque
Marques de Dos Aguas palace and close
to the cathedral.
Details B&B doubles cost from €149
a night (00 34 665 50 45 09,
35 Hotel Pleta
de Mar, Majorca
If you’re frustrated by Airbnb and want
a company that handpicks its properties
and lets you contact the owners directly,
then take a look at Stay One Degree.
It has 40 properties in Spain for parties
of all sizes, but stands out for its larger
villas. For instance, in the residential
development of Sotogrande in San
Roque, Andalusia, is a stunning
five-bedroom villa with a pool, which
costs from €215 a night for ten. At the
other end of the scale is a Majorcan
estate with stunning sea views, which
costs from €1,950 a night for ten guests.
In the heart of the Sierra Tramontana,
the villa sits on the hilltop above Deia.
It is on a 13-hectare estate filled with
orange, grapefruit and olive trees.
Details Villa prices vary according to
size (
Although it opened in September, this
adults-only Majorcan bolt hole has
been closed during the winter, so 2018
is your first chance for a holiday here.
You’ll probably scarcely leave the hotel,
with its three dreamy outdoor pools,
alfresco gym and bamboo-shaded
terrace, but there are also sandy
beaches, tennis courts and golf courses
near by. Dinner at Asador de Mar is
worth staying in for, with whole fish
and local meats grilled over an open
fire, and views of the gardens and ocean
beyond. Rooms are calmly elegant, with
a cream-and-white colour scheme and
blond woods; some have a courtyard
with outdoor shower and terrace with
a hot tub.
Details B&B doubles cost from £318
a night (0330 100 3180, The hotel is
open from March to October
38 Family hotel
near Granada
36 The Barcelona
Seeking something active? This
Families Worldwide group holiday in
the Catalan Pyrenees will get you and
the children hiking, whitewater rafting,
canyoning, and cycling with a group
of new friends. The activities are
guided, but none takes all day, so
there is plenty of free time to explore
independently or just to relax at the
hotel. You’ll stay in the village of
Benasque, surrounded by mountains,
Due to open in early summer is one of
seven new properties for the Edition
hotel group — this one in Barcelona.
With a central location next to the Santa
Caterina Market and Barcelona
Cathedral and not far from the city’s
beaches and las Ramblas, the hotel will
have 100 rooms. The pièce de résistance
will be the rooftop bar and outdoor pool.
Details Room rates are yet to be set
Treat the family to a stay in this
fun house, with a cinema in the
basement, a popcorn machine and
organic ice cream. There’s also a
snooker table, pool with honesty bar
and TV room for children — you may
never want to leave. Breakfast is an
unhurried help-yourself affair with
oranges to squeeze, goat’s cheese
and fresh tomatoes from the garden,
while the restaurant serves up local
dishes at lunch and dinner. The
Sierra Nevada National Park and
the city of Granada are on the doorstep.
Details B&B doubles cost from
€139 a night (00 34 958 77 76 00, Fly to Granada
39 Active Pyrenees
Continued next page
the times Saturday January 20 2018
30 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 31
44 Melia Cala Galdana, Minorca
either at Gran Hotel Benasque or
its sister property Hotel Aneto.
Details From £1,310 an adult and £1,179
a child sharing for six nights’ B&B,
with flights (01962 302062,
40 Glamp in Andalusia
Get back to nature glamping in rural
Andalusia, among the sleepy white
towns north of Ronda at La Molina.
There’s plenty of outdoor space, and
the one-bedroom lodges can sleep up
to four people (there’s a sofa bed in
the living area). They also come with
kitchens for preparing simple meals.
Details Lodges sleeping up to four
people are from £50 a night, with a
three-night minimum stay (
41 Follow Ferdinand
in Andalusia
Follow in the hoofsteps of Ferdinand
the bull on this three-centre jaunt.
You’ll start in Tambor del Llano, where
you can visit the Domecq family farm,
home to young bulls and horses, before
travelling to Ronda to see the famous
Puente Nuevo, which the children
might recognise from the film Ferdinand.
Your final stop is on the coast at Cortijo
El Sotillo, an 18th-century farmhouse.
Details From £615pp for eight nights,
including car hire and some meals
(01273 676712,
Fly to Malaga or Almeria
Best of the rest
46 Seville weekends
Superbreak has new charter flights to
Seville from Bournemouth, Cardiff,
Derry, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside,
Newquay and Norwich for three or four
nights. A full-day excursion to Jerez and
Cadiz is included, as is a hop-on, hop-off
sightseeing bus ticket.
Details From £549pp for three nights’
B&B, including flights (08000 420288,
42 Tot-friendly Costa
Got children under five? Caserio del
Mirador in the hills above the Costa
Blanca has been geared up especially
for you, with bouncers and baby
monitors, a babysitting service and
separate meals for children and adults.
Details From £1,155 for seven nights’
room only (0117 946 7072,
caserio-del-mirador). Fly to Alicante
47 Catalonia Grand Prix
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
hosts the Spanish Grand Prix in May,
the first European race on the Formula
One calendar. Grandstand Motor Sports
has a four-night trip to watch the race,
staying at the Aqua Hotel Silhouette.
Details From £599pp for four nights’
half-board, including flights (0116 231
43 Cabins in Cadiz
Older children will love Magic on Stilts,
where the laid-back wooden cabins have
ocean views from the bedrooms and
sliding doors on to a glassed-in terrace
for eating alfresco. There’s a vegetable
garden in which to forage and a swing
for the children, while adults can join
the organic cookery classes or try yoga.
Details Cabins for up to five are from
£81 a night, room only (0117 204
Find out why everyone is talking
about mindfulness on Ramblers’
new holiday to Majorca. You’ll
stay at a hotel by the sea in the
quiet village of San Telmo and
learn to “live in the moment”.
Details From £935pp for seven
nights’ half-board, including
flights (01707 818947,
44 Family Minorca
The family has plenty to do at
Melia Cala Galdana on the
beachfront at the eponymous
cove, one of Minorca’s finest. For
younger children there are artsand-crafts workshops, games in the
pool and a mini-disco, while adults
can have a go at Pilates, spinning and
Details B&B doubles are from £90 a
night (08082 341953,
45 Football in Murcia
Chelsea FC is opening its latest football
school in Murcia’s La Manga Club this
Easter, with extra training camps from
July to September. For children aged
from six to sixteen, the school includes
up to three hours of training a day,
which costs from £260pp for the week.
Details Seven nights in the resort’s
four-star Las Lomas Village for a
family of four, including two soccer
school places, costs from £1,640
48 Majorca mindfulness
49 Matarranya
Chelsea football school
at La Manga
Hotel Mas de la Serra, set in 60 acres of
grounds in Matarranya, has new
painting holidays hosted by artists. Great
local walks are to be had too.
Details From £1,995pp for seven nights’
full board, including flights (020 7359
50 Almeria stargazing
Go on a two-centre trip staying at two
family-run B&Bs with Starlight
Foundation “Starlight hotel” status in the
mountains close to Almeria. Cycling or
hiking are popular during the day.
Details Seven nights’ B&B costs from
€885pp (00 34 696 74 82 09, Fly to Granada
the times Saturday January 20 2018
32 Travel
Luxury travel
A sprinkling of Hollywood
glamour at one of the
world’s most iconic hotels
The famous alpine
hotel, Bürgenstock,
has just had a
£450 million
makeover. Lisa
Grainger checks in
wasn’t entirely happy about the
analogy, but I could see what my partner meant when he said I looked like
a Japanese snow monkey.
The temperature was just above
freezing in the snowy Swiss Alps and
the only things visible above the
steaming water of the hotel’s heated outdoor infinity pool were my frozen red nose,
blue cheeks and a dishevelled mop of icy
hair sprinkled with snowflakes.
Previous hotel guests such as Audrey
Hepburn and Sophia Loren, I retorted with
a rather monkey-like bark, were probably
not subjected to such ungentlemanly comments. But then, neither of the stars had ever had an opportunity to swim here in a
cliffside pool while it was snowing. Before
Bürgenstock reopened in August 2017 —
after an eight-year refurbishment by a Qatar wealth fund that cost a staggering £450
million — the Lake Lucerne resort had
been a summer destination: a place in
which Hepburn was married in a simple
cream dress and where Loren was
frequently photographed, sleeveless and
smouldering, with her husband, the film
producer Carlo Ponti.
My swim in the new cliff-edge infinity
pool was during the first snow of the
season. Whether I looked like a Japanese
monkey or not, with warm water bubbling
around me, the powdery peaks of Mount
Pilatus and twinkling lights of Lucerne in
the distance, and snowflakes fluttering
from the skies, I felt utterly glamorous.
Glamour, though, is in Bürgenstock’s
DNA. Franz Josef Bucher and Josef Durrer
bought the 60-hectare Alp Tritt property
in 1871, on a kilometre of north-facing land
above Lake Lucerne. It became such a
popular destination that by 1903 they had
built three smart belle époque hotels — the
Grand, the Park and the Palace — and
several villas, including those lived in by
Hepburn and Loren. A hydroelectric plant
was created, long before the rest of the
town had a regular supply of electricity, as
well as a funicular railway and the outdoor
Hammetschwand lift, to carry people up
the mountain and then spirit them 100
metres above the clifftop for more farreaching views. The resort became so
synonymous with Lucerne that some of
the town’s most popular postcards were
adorned with elegant art deco renditions of
it, its red roofs glowing like some great
cherry on a snowy-white cake.
Of all the great hotels in the world, there
can’t be many with such an evocative
approach as Bürgenstock’s. Having flown to
Zurich, and taken a train past pretty lakeside
villages to Lucerne, I’ve been instructed to
cross over from the railway station to Quay
3, where a classic wooden double-decker
boat is docked and a smart hotel porter in a
grey flannel suit is waiting to provide tickets
and to whisk away my luggage.
It’s a beautiful, crisp winter’s day, and
from the upper deck of the boat the northern shores of the lake look much as they did
centuries ago. Along the lake’s edges, swans
and seagulls bob, their white shapes refracting in the sparkling glacial water. Behind
them a mish-mash of ancient buildings rise
into the sky; baroque onion-domes and
medieval castellated towers, square Renaissance turrets and curved Germanic
gables. A 14th-century stone water tower
looms above Europe’s oldest covered
wooden bridge, with its ancient roof panels
painted with Catholic iconography.
After Thomas Cook came here, with the
first wave of British package holidaymakers, followed by more regal visitors
such as Queen Victoria, Lucerne became
one of Switzerland’s prime destinations. So
great was the influx of wealthy visitors
keen to breathe in the Alpine air and bask
in the temperate weather while enjoying
panoramic mountain views that in 1845, on
the shores of the old part of the city,
Switzerland’s first luxury hotel was built —
the Schweizerhof — and soon, alongside it,
equally palatial hotels.
As we sail along the lake, leaving behind
historic hotels and churches, great stretch-
es of fields and forests come into view,
dotted with traditional wooden farmhouses and, in the distance, the prickly
ridges of the Alps rise into the blue skies,
their peaks thick with fresh snow. An occasional steamboat whooshes by, its occupants wrapped up warm. As we approach
the southern side of the lake, we spot a jolly
single-storey red wooden boathouse, and
above it, teetering on the edge of a cliff on
the edge of a mountain, Bürgenstock.
When it was first constructed the resort
was one of Switzerland’s most glamorous,
and by the 1950s had a kidney-shaped
“Hollywood pool” that mirrored the latest
curved designs from California. It had an
equally cool underground members’ club,
inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright designs,
with three portholes set into the swimming
pool walls, so members could watch swimmers while imbibing a restorative schnapps
in the club. Fashion shows were produced
around the pool and famous visitors jetted
in from all over the world, from Danish
royals and Indira Gandhi to Kofi Annan
and Sean Connery.
However, in the Seventies and Eighties
the resort, with its traditional buildings and
belle époque paintings and furniture, died.
Why? According to Bürgenstock’s new
general manager, Robert Herr, its decline
was not only because the cost of refurbishing the three big hotels on top of a mountain would have been prohibitive, but
because the jet age had arrived. “People
could suddenly fly to other parts of the
world and experience new, modern hotels,”
he says. “Ours seemed very old-fashioned
and without investment the standards
went down.”
Thanks to the influx of funds from
its new wealthy owner, Katara Hospitality
(a subsidiary of Qatar’s sovereign wealth
Sharq Oriental Restaurant
at Bürgenstock. Above
left: the resort’s funicular
Need to
Lisa Grainger was a guest
of Bürgenstock Hotel &
Alpine Spa (00 41 41 612
which has B&B doubles
from £484 per night,
including transfer by
boat and funicular,
and use of the spa
fund, which owns, among other iconic
hotels, the Peninsula in Paris and has
a stake in the Savoy in London), that
old-fashioned resort has not just been
remodelled, but in parts totally rebuilt.
Walking through the 30 or so buildings
atop the mountain, it feels more like a
village than a resort: a jumble of Swiss
chalets, 19th-century traditional hotel
buildings and several new structures that
over the past eight years have been
polished from cellar to chimney-top.
Some are more charming than others.
Probably the cutest, just below the 80-seat
Alpine chapel in which Hepburn was
married, is the Pension Taverne 1879: a
traditional wooden Swiss chalet, with 12
cosy three-star rooms and the only
restaurant that serves local cuisine in the
resort. A few minutes’ walk away is the
four-star refurbished Palace Hotel, with its
gilt, bold carpets and reproduction art
referencing the collection of original
Goyas and Bruegels that adorned the
hotel’s walls in its heyday. Farther along the
road is the super-contemporary, Matteo
Thun-designed Waldhotel, which will be
what Herr describes as “probably the most
advanced medical hotel in Switzerland” (of
which more later). And at the heart of the
“village”, above the funicular, is the new
Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa, which is
where I’m staying.
Trundling up the mountain towards the
hotel on the smart red-and-white refurbished funicular, the first thing I notice is
that the original four-storey hotel that
once adorned its top has been replaced by
a nine-storey construction, jutting out
from the edge of the cliff like a cross
between a Bond villain’s lair and a giant
office block. Despite being built from
natural stone and lined with square glass
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 33
windows that reflect the sky, architecturally
it’s pretty brutal; the Prince of Wales might
go so far as to call it a carbuncle.
Once I’ve come up through the bowels of
the hotel into the cavernous reception,
though, I get the point of this building. This
isn’t a hotel to look at; it’s a hotel from
which to look out. From the giant floor-toceiling windows, you can see for miles
northwards over Lake Lucerne — on a
good day, I’m told, you can see Zurich.
It’s also a gorgeous space in which to
throw off coats and put up your feet. In the
heart of the vast living room, logs blaze in a
wood-burning stove. Leather and velvet
sofas the colours of cocoa and gems are
dotted around the room, attended by waiters dispensing hot chocolate and schnapps.
Shelves above the curved wooden reception desks are lined with vases of pretty
pink and white lilies. Smiling staff are
dressed in smart uniforms embroidered
with the flower of the local Turk’s cap lily.
The bedrooms, on the four storeys
above, are as elegant and warm as the living
spaces and adorned with Swiss touches:
pendant lamps the shape of cowbells, a
desk made from a single sliver of tree trunk,
walls roughly hewn from stone. As you
might expect in Switzerland, everything is
practical and works. There are light switches that are simple to use (a rarity in modern
hotels), electronic blackout curtains, a
walk-in wardrobe and, best of all, set into
the bedroom and bathroom windows, a
double-width window seat and a doublewidth bath from which to soak in the views.
However, once I’ve checked out the
three-storey spa, a low-slung, contemporary building that adjoins the main hotel, I
don’t really want to soak anywhere else. Not
only is it one of the largest spas in Europe —
10,000 sq m over two floors — but it’s fitted
Top: the Palace Hotel.
Above: the Reuss River in
Lucerne. Left: a relaxation
room in the spa
out with an impressive range of rooms and
treatments. Beyond the glass walls of a double-height swimming pool atrium, around
which guests gaze from loungers at the blue
skies and snowy mountains, is a 35C outdoor infinity pool (in which to do snow
monkey impressions in the freezing air
while being pummelled by jets).
Below it are dormitory-like spaces lined
with soft-blanketed beds and reading
lamps, and private suites in which to hang
out on your own. There are saunas of all
descriptions: hot pools and ice pools; a saltrich floating pool; Kneipp baths; and an
utterly freezing chemical-free natural
outdoor pool — all of which are part of an
enormous area in which you roam naked
(there are smaller segregated areas). Plus,
set to the side are 13 calm, cosy, wood-lined
rooms in which proficient therapists
offer treatments from Vichy showers and
hot local stones to La Prairie massages
and plant-based Susanne Kaufmann
facials, with an upstairs gym attended by
personal trainers, which I should have
visited, but didn’t.
Instead, I woke up early and strode out
into the forest, along paths heavy with the
scent of pine and frosted with ice, listening
to church bells echoing in the valleys. I took
a guided tour of Lucerne, which included
not just historic monuments, such as
Switzerland’s first baroque church, and a
giant lion sculpture carved into a mountainside, but a chocolate-maker’s, and the
four-storey Bucherer watch emporium
thronging with Chinese guests making
substantial purchases. (Asia now accounts
for a fifth of all visitors to the city, many of
whom come to Switzerland with the specific aim of buying a Swiss watch.)
And, of course, I ate — far more than I
should have done. At first I was disappointed that only one of Bürgenstock’s
12 restaurants and bars features local
dishes. But then, given the standard of the
cuisine in the others, I didn’t miss having a
fondue or raclette too much. Instead, I
indulged in delicious Asian dishes such as
succulent chicken tikka and fragrant tom
yum gung in Spices restaurant. I nibbled
farm-to-fork breakfasts in the warm,
fire-lit Oak Grill, with its displays of giant
cheeses and baskets of just-baked breads. I
scoffed rich, decadent French gourmet
cuisine in the Palace’s RitzCoffier, where
César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier once
worked together — and where dozens of
Escoffier’s copper pans now adorn the
shelves. And although I couldn’t quite find
room to justify a visit to the Sharq Oriental
restaurant, with its traditional Arabic
cuisine and magnificent views, I enjoyed
snacking on the daily delivery of fresh fruit
and chocolates to my room.
Surprisingly, after two days, instead of
feeling elephantine I felt remarkably
sprightly. Maybe it was my morning strolls
in the forests, or the walking tour of
Lucerne, or the pummelling in the spa.
Maybe it was talking to the inspiring
doctors in the impressive new Waldhotel,
whose pretty light wood-lined rooms
have just taken in its first guests, there
to kick chemical habits, to rest after
operations — or simply to get fit. Or
perhaps it was just that my circulation had
been kick-started by to-ing and fro-ing
between boiling saunas, freezing pools and
crisp Alpine air.
Whatever it was, when I left, slightly
reluctantly, wishing I’d had longer than
24 hours in the spa, I felt significantly
better than I had on arrival. Channelling a
snow monkey had clearly done me good.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
34 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 35
Need to
The Star Ferry crossing
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
Jane Knight was a guest
of Mandarin Oriental
which has rooms from
£350 a night and threecourse Michelin-starred
lunches for about £64. She
flew with Cathay Pacific
which has economy fares
from £529pp if booked
before February 28
Why Hong Kong
is great for kids
Jane Knight checks
out theme parks,
tiny temples and
one of the world’s
highest bars
t started, as these things can do,
with a misunderstanding. “Go to the
Ritz-Carlton for the highest poo in the
world,” a colleague had emailed me
when I asked for advice on familyfriendly activities in Hong Kong.
Well why not, I thought — a poo
with a view. Children are obsessed with
poos, the highest loos in the world would
make for good playground bragging and,
when I checked it out online, the view did
indeed look fine.
It turned out that the email had a typo —
it should have read “pool”.
The Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong actually
does have some of the highest hotel loos in
the world, as well as the highest pool. In the
end we didn’t go for a swim (non-residents
have to pay £75), instead settling for
cocktails (and mocktails) in one of the
world’s highest bars, Ozone, up 118 floors at
490m. And a very pleasant drink it was too,
as we settled in to see the sun kiss the horizon over Hong Kong.
Children are allowed in the bar until 9pm
and, surprisingly, it wasn’t busy at all
(although if you want the swish corner
booth with its blue window seats, you’ll
need to have a minimum spend of HK$300,
which is about £28).
As my son later said, when we popped
downstairs to see the view from Sky100, the
observation deck on the 100th floor of the
tower: “Why would you do this when you
can sit in comfort and enjoy a drink with a
view instead?”
The highest pool in the world isn’t the
only superlative in Hong Kong. It also has
the longest outdoor covered escalator —
actually a series of open-air escalators
heading up the hillside with shops and
restaurants on either side — quite a fun
introduction to the city.
The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and
Walkway System, to give it its proper name,
is 800m long and rises 135m. It takes about
20 minutes to get to the top, assuming you
don’t want to hop off at the bars, fish and
chip shops or 7-Elevens, before you turn
round and head down the more than 600
steps. (Be sure to time your visit correctly
because the system switches direction early
in the morning and late at night).
It is one of several forms of transport we
took during a three-day visit to the city,
which proved easy and cheap to get around.
There was the efficient metro ride to get
to Ocean Park Resort, a cross between a zoo
and an amusement park that is a bit like
Chessington World of Adventures. It’s also
a great place in which to shake off jet lag,
particularly the Hair Raiser, whose name
does what it says on the tin. Then there
were the trams, the most famous of which
goes up the Peak for a view over
the city, and the Ding Ding city tram,
which looks a bit like the Knight Bus from
Harry Potter and which we jumped on just
for the hell of it.
Taxis are inexpensive too; we took a
cheap ride from Ocean Park Resort to
Stanley to have a poke around the market
and buy cheap trainers and T-shirts. And
there is the Star Ferry, which ploughs
across Victoria Harbour for the equivalent
of 50p a journey, something you’ve got to
do, particularly at night, with the city lights
bright as beacons. (If you’re staying on
Hong Kong Island, take the ferry to
Kowloon for Ladies’ Market, which is much
better than Stanley for child-friendly gifts,
bags and clothes.)
At the weekend we joined what felt like
the rest of Hong Kong at Pier 4 to queue for
the 25-minute ferry to Lamma Island, the
less touristy sister of Lantau (where you’ll
find the giant Buddha).
Lamma is where the locals go to get out of
the city. A ten-minute stroll from the ferry
port leads to the small Tin Hau temple and
“kamikaze grottos”, where Japanese soldiers hid boats and guns during World War
Two. Then it’s a hike through palm trees to
Lo So Shing Beach, a decent stretch of sand
with a shark net and a lifeguard but, like
Hung Shing Yeh Beach a bit farther on, in
full sight of a power station.
It’s not a must-see, but it is worth coming
to the island and its fishing village if seafood
is your thing; the ferry docks right by a
series of restaurants where the fish and
crabs lurk sullenly in tanks outside.
You’ll find it hard not to eat well in Hong
Kong, whether you’re after seafood in
Lamma, fast food from the excellent food
trucks outside Ocean Park Resort or
Michelin-starred cuisine in the Mandarin
Oriental. Here, my son realised that our
local Chinese takeaway really wasn’t that
good as we tucked into Dover sole with
black bean sauce, Iberian pork and the “best
prawn toast ever”.
So, one of the highest bars with loos,
longest escalator and best prawn toast —
you can’t beat that for a family break.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
36 Travel
Where to stay for a
great spa weekend
Want a cool UK
hotel where you
can really relax? We
know where to go
Fowey Hall Cornwall
Children are the honoured guests at
Fowey Hall, which is part luxury spa
hotel, part kids’ club. The modern spa,
which offers Elemis treatments, has a
12m heated pool (with two hours set
aside for adult-only swimming) and a
rooftop hot tub for exhausted grown-ups
— and there is an Ofsted-registered
crèche that’s free to use. There is a kids’
tea, and the dinner for adults is a
gourmet affair. The garden rooms are
vast and stylish all with sweeping views
of the lawn and estuary.
Details B&B doubles cost from £190
a night; children under 16 stay free of
charge in their parents’ room
(01726 833866,
Bristol Harbour Hotel
This hotel, with 42 stylish bedrooms,
opened last year in two very grand
former banks on bustling Corn Street.
The impressive spa, which has a range
of Espa facials and body treatments, is
housed away from the city clamour in
the old bank vaults, where you will find
many of the original steel-and-copper
doors still in place. The hotel also
features the Jetty restaurant, with
a focus on fish.
Details B&B doubles cost from £145
a night; a two-night spa break for two
costs from £425 B&B with a 40-minute
spa treatment per person (0844 8111103,
Chewton Glen Hampshire
Relaxation is taken very seriously here. If
the bikes (free to borrow), tennis courts,
archery, falconry and duck herding don’t
appeal, the award-winning spa will. It
includes Europe’s largest hydrotherapy
pool, an outdoor hot tub and a 17m
ozone-treated indoor pool surrounded by
Grecian columns. The main restaurant
serves elegant but not fussy cuisine using
local produce, while the rooms manage
to blend the old and the new seamlessly.
Your home away from home
If a holiday with no boundaries beckons, enjoy the freedom of a villa escape on a sun-drenched Greek island
here are plenty of reasons
to swap a traditional hotel
break for a holiday villa.
Having your own exclusive
property is the perfect way
to achieve flexibility, privacy and the
freedom to do what you please, when
you please. Plus, it’s a chance to
really experience a destination –
shopping in the market, taking part
in local events and trying out bars
and restaurants that you might
otherwise have missed.
Villas are the ultimate homeaway-from-home approach. Got
a picky teenage eater in your
party? No problem. Avoid moans
by shopping for delicious deli treats
and whipping up a meal back
“home”. Who doesn’t love the idea
of lounging around the pool, playing
games and catching up with friends
and family over an al fresco dinner?
To find the perfect property, it
pays to turn to a trusted hand. GIC
– The Villa Collection, formerly the
Greek Islands Club, has 49 years of
experience in the area, as well
as properties in Cyprus. GIC was the
The Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s best
villa operator 2017, while its sister
company, Sunvil, won The Sunday
Timess travel editor’s award.
To make your holiday as
stress-free as possible, GIC offers a
holiday concierge service to organise
any little (or luxury) extras you
might need. If you’re after a chef
to magic up a birthday banquet,
a personal trainer for sessions in
the sun or want to hire a boat for
a big day out, just call.
GIC focuses on personal service,
too, when it comes to matching
clients with its gorgeous properties in
perfect locations. The team will use
its knowledge and expertise to point
you towards your ideal destination,
be it a secluded stylish retreat, a
romantic bolthole, a modern studio
close to bars and shops or even
luxury yachting. Thanks to GIC’s
expertise, you’ll have access to an
endless supply of guidance, tips and
ideas for everything from family
getaways to group celebrations.
There’s no end of choice.
When you arrive at your
destination, a company
representative – who lives locally –
will meet you at the airport and then
settle you into your villa. The reps
have first-hand knowledge
of their areas so can help with
anything you might want to do,
from discovering cycling routes to
visiting Unesco attractions.
The hardest part of your trip will
be deciding on which of the many
stunning sunshine islands to visit.
Paxos, the smallest Ionian island,
was GIC’s original destination. With
its clear waters, quaint fishing
villages, sheltered beaches on the
The view from Villa Kala
Petra on Meganissi
Romantic boltholes, secluded
stylish retreats and modern
studios... there’s no end of choice
east side and dramatic cliffs on the
west, it’s easy to see why it remains
popular. Stay in the 18th-century
stone-walled Governor’s House with
its atmospheric pool terrace, or Villa
Doria overlooking olive groves and
spectacular Mediterranean sunsets.
If you desire a sense of escape,
how about Ithaca? Only accessible
by ferry, it’s a totally unspoilt
wildlife paradise. Meganissi has
a similar feel. A haven of tranquility,
you’ll enjoy the simple pleasures
of great food and company in
picturesque whitewashed villages.
Even on Corfu and Crete, GIC has
sought out authentic and quieter
destinations. You’ll find palaces,
churches, castles and minarets
rubbing shoulders with markets,
cafés and tavernas. Last but not least,
there’s Cyprus. With sandy beaches,
national parks, historical sites, plus
fine dining and excellent shopping, it
has something for everyone.
Wherever you choose to go, one
thing is guaranteed – a villa holiday
will be just the treat you deserve.
To find out more, call 020 8232 9780
or go to
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 37
Chewton Glen
Rudding Park Spa
Details Double rooms start at £325 a
night; a two-hour Natura Bissé Zest &
Zen treatment costs £190 (01425 275341,
The outdoor hot tub at
Calcot, Gloucestershire.
Below: the Ned’s 20m pool
Calcot Gloucestershire
More of an overgrown farmhouse than a
standard hotel, Calcot offers a brand of
country living that’s cosy and comfy
rather than grandiose. The popular spa,
with an indoor pool, is one of the best in
Britain, although the courtyard hot tub
can get very busy. There are 18 facials
to choose from, while body
treatments start at £60 for a
40-minute back, neck, shoulders
and scalp massage. There is a
good kids’ club, and you can
dine gourmet or pub style.
Details B&B doubles cost from
£259 a night; a midweek spa
break for two starts at £304,
including a night’s B&B, plus
£90 of spa vouchers per room
(01666 890391,
Rudding Park Spa
North Yorkshire
The luxurious Rudding Park
hotel opened a stunning new
two-floor spa last summer.
Take a dip in the chlorine-free
pool before heading to the toasty
indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool
and rooftop sauna. There are two
restaurants, the larger Clocktower
and the fine-dining Horto, in the new
spa building. The 88-rooms have hightech fittings as well as a sense of fun and
Details Double rooms cost from £189
a night; spa rooms, which include a
private steam room, sauna or spa bath,
cost from £280 (01423 844840,
Sheraton Grand Hotel
The Sheraton Grand’s One Spa is
enormous. As well as 19 treatment
rooms, there’s a huge gym, a 19m pool, a
thermal suite with myriad steam rooms
and saunas and, best of all, a rooftop
hydrotherapy pool. The spa offers
everything from Ayurvedic body wraps
and Espa facials to a session in a mud
chamber. The rooms are quiet, spacious
and pristine, and are decorated in
inoffensive corporate neutrals; it is well
worth upgrading to a castle-view room.
Details Double rooms cost from £185 a
night; castle-view rooms cost from £215
(0131 229 9131,
St Brides Spa Hotel
This contemporary 34-bedroom hotel
has a small spa that uses the principles of
thalassotherapy (therapy using seawater)
and welcomes a mere dozen guests at
any one time, in groups no larger than
four. Its headland location, overlooking
the picturesque Saundersfoot Harbour
and Carmarthen Bay, provides a special
setting in which to unwind, and the
treatments use natural, organic Voya
and Caudalie products. Rooms come
in a pastel seaside palette of blues and
greens and the excellent restaurant
serves local produce.
Details B&B doubles, including a
90-minute thermal experience, cost
from £170 a night (01834 812304,
The Ned London
For longer reviews
of these spas and
many more visit
By far the coolest hotel opening of last
year, the Ned, in a building designed by
Sir Edwin “Ned” Lutyens, is the latest
venture from Soho House. There are
reminders of the building’s former life as
a bank everywhere you go, including in
the Cowshed spa, with treatment rooms
reached through a vault door, and the
stunning 20m pool in the room where
bullion used to be stored. The bedrooms
are furnished in 1920s and 1930s styles,
with chandeliers and lots of mahogany
and brass, and there are no less than nine
restaurants, mostly in the massive openplan former banking hall.
Details Medium rooms start at £280 a
night; a 30-minute back massage costs
£70 (020 3828 2000,
Cliveden House Berkshire
Everyone who is anyone has stayed
here, from Churchill to Chaplin,
Lawrence to Lennon. Its walled garden
is home to the only grade I listed outdoor
pool in Britain, and the spa round it has
been expanded and improved; it opened
last summer as the last wrinkle to be
ironed out in a multimillion-pound
facelift. The spa has an exclusive
partnership with London-based Sarah
Chapman and her award-winning
facials, and also works with Oskia. The
48 hotel rooms are sublime, and there is
an informal Spa Kitchen as well as the
formal André Garrett restaurant.
Details Double rooms cost from £445 a
night; day-spa packages cost from £185
(01628 668561,
Lucknam Park Wiltshire
Only half an hour from Bath, Lucknam
Park is a honey-stone Palladian
mansion with 500 acres of grounds,
gorgeous gardens, stables and a
Michelin-starred restaurant. The spa is
equally impressive: the 20m pool has a
glass roof and a full-length fire running
down the side. However, it’s the halfindoor, half-outdoor hydrotherapy
pool that steals the show. There’s an
extensive range of treatments on offer,
starting at £102 for a one-hour massage.
The 42 rooms are old-worldly and have
wonderful views, while the tasting menu
(£110) at dinner is divine.
Details Double rooms cost from £295 a
night (01225 742777,
home in New Mexico — a dramatic
copper-coloured, modern building set in
nine acres of grounds. In the spa itself
there is a glorious sense of space, light
and sky — yet you still feel cocooned.
There is an indoor pool that leads to a
heated outdoor pool, an outdoor hot tub,
a spa bath and a walk-through rainforest
shower, as well as a steam room, gym and
flotation room. Pick one of the rooms
above the spa — they are spacious and
have stunning views.
Details B&B doubles cost from £199
a night, midweek (01444 416111,
Danesfield House Hotel
This Tudor-style mansion is surrounded
by 65 acres of pristine grounds. The large
Spa Illuminata sits in a separate modern
building and the treatments have a
bespoke feel — the therapists pick
products to suit you. The 20m swimming
pool has views of the gardens, and there
is a steam room, sauna and whirlpool
beside it. The rooms are plush and the
food is classic British cuisine.
Details Double rooms cost from £214
a night B&B or £284 half-board
(0800 0482314,
Brimstone Hotel Cumbria
Ockenden Manor Hotel
West Sussex
If you’re looking for a seriously sexy
spa and hotel, this is the place to go.
Brimstone Spa has a series of sauna and
steam cabins, as well as an indoor/
outdoor vitality pool and outdoor Finnish
sauna. It joins the hip 16-room hotel on
the Langdale Estate, with a rustic feel to
it, loads of open fires, exposed brickwork
and timber floorboards. Try the leg
massage after hiking on the fells, or one
of the blissful treatments using Pure
Lakes products (£90 for 55 minutes).
Details B&B doubles cost from £275
(01539 438062,
Forty-five minutes by train from London,
this is a luxury spa that would look at
Reviews by Times Travel writers
the times Saturday January 20 2018
38 Travel
From the less-vvissited secttions of the Grreat Wall to the hidden bars off
Shanghai, China is vastly more reewarding than any Thai reesortt forttnight.
– Su
y Time
Timess trav
travel writer
hina is a unique and extraordinary destination
that everyone should visit at least once in their
lifetime: a vast country of stunning natural beauty
and staggering dynamism, layered with millennia of
history and culture. The only way to appreciate its
scale, energy and subtleties is, of course, by seeing
it for yourself. Which is why we have created this
unique 15-day escorted tour exclusively for Times
readers which takes in the stand-out sights with expert
insight at every stage. On this ultimate tour with our
award-winning partner Wendy Wu Tours – the UK’s
leading Asia travel specialist – you will experience
all of the following and more: mingle with locals in
Beijing; meet the pandas of Chengdu; take a moment to
reflect at spectacular Buddhist temples; marvel at the
Terracotta Warriors; gaze out from the sleek skyscrapers
of Shanghai; walk along the Great Wall. From the
Forbidden City to the rural meanderings of the mighty
Yangtze, this is a unique chance to experience China at
its awesome and beguiling best.
Visit Mutianyu, one of the most
beautiful and best preserved
sections of this man-made wonder.
journey along theYangtze, a crucial
cultural and economic artery
of the country.
Take in one of China’s great sights,
among the world’s best known
archaeological finds.
Admire the pulsating modernity
and traditional colonial
architecture of this vibrant,
futuristic city.
Meet China’s iconic giant pandas at
Dujiangyan Panda Base, one of the
top conservation sites of its kind.
Choose from one of the
following: meet the discoverer of
the Terracotta Army; learn how the
Terracotta Army was made; a cycle
ride along Xian’s ancient city wall;
a Maglev train ride in Shanghai; or
a unique e-commerce shopping
Sail through gorges and
magnificent rural scenery on a
International return flights
Visa fees for UK &
EU passport holders
l Four-star accommodation
l Four-day Yangtze cruise
l 13 breakfasts, 12 lunches,
7 dinners
All sightseeing as per
itinerary (see online)
l All transportation,
touring with guides and
entrance fees
l Bullet train from Xian
to Chengdu
Trip duration: September 7-21, 2018
Exclusively with
£3,690** per person
0808 274 0202
TERMS AND CONDITIONS: *Book by 31 January 2018. Very limited space, subject to availability. **From price based on twin/double share, single supplement prices apply - call for more details. ***Offers on a strictly first-come, first-served basis.
Holidays are operated by Wendy Wu Tours, Cottons Centre, 47-49 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QG and subject to the booking conditions of Wendy Wu TOURS, ATOL AND ABTA protected; a company wholly independent of News UK. Wendy Wu Tours: ATOL 6639. ABTA W7994.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Alfama district, Lisbon
Travel 39
The budget hotel
Teatro B&B
This glitzy B&B in
the notoriously
expensive district
of Chiado is a real
find. Everything is
OTT. The standard
double rooms
have baroque wall
hangings and plush black furnishings, as
well as huge arty headboards designed
to resemble the velvet stage curtains at
a theatre. Small B&B doubles cost from
€83 (
The luxury hotel
Memmo Principe
Next to the cool
Bairro Alto area,
this modern hotel
has plush rooms
done out with
wooden floors, fur
throws and neutral
tones. There’s also a small rooftop
pool for taking a leisurely dip, with
sweeping views over Lisbon’s red
roofs. Doubles start at £165
Weekend in . . .
am whizzing round Lisbon
taking in the best of the sights
in a little open-top yellow
go-kart-like buggy, aptly called
a GoCar.
Normally I loathe organised city
tours, but this is brilliant; I’m on
my own, the car’s GPS guide tells me
exactly where to go and even suggests
where to stop for a beer.
Forget queuing for the trams or
schlepping up Lisbon’s seven hills: this is
the way to see the transforming city. We
zoom along the seafront at 30mph —
dodging crazy Portuguese drivers and
trams — before climbing up towards
the trendy Bairro Alto district, with its
cobbled streets.
It’s surprisingly serene on Saturday
morning compared with the evening
before, when I wandered around having
caught the Santa Justa lift (designed by
an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel) that
connects the lower Baixa area with
Bairro Alto. At night the little bars were
packed and the restaurants buzzing. I
managed to grab a table at Tapas-Bar
52, a cosy little joint on the fringes of
the area. Inside the lights were dim and
the walls decked with photographs of
film stars (who the waiter, tongue in
cheek, assured me had visited). I
ordered a beer and plumped for the
bacalhau (salted cod) with rice and egg
(highly recommended) along with a few
dishes of tapas.
The food in Lisbon is magical — over
the course of the weekend I eat
like a prince on a pauper’s
budget. One evening I visit
Bonjardim, a great little
peri peri chicken joint down
a side street of Avenida
da Liberdade, which
cuts through the city.
Half a chicken is
yours for €5.50 (£5)
and a carafe of wine
costs little more. Order
some fries as a side, then
smother the chicken in the fiery
Need to
Ben Clatworthy was a
guest of Visit Lisbon
( TAP flies
from Heathrow, Gatwick
and Manchester to
Lisbon from £82 return
Where to eat
Tapas-Bar 52, Rua Dom
Pedro V, has tapas dishes
from about €6 (00 351
213 432 389)
A bifana with a small
beer costs €3.50 (don’t
ask for a bill, just hand
over the coins) at Beira
Gare, Praça Dom João
da Camara
The piri piri chicken
restaurant, Bonjardim,
Travessa de Santo Antão,
has mains from about €6;
(00 351 213 424 389)
Time Out Market,
Avenida 24 de Julho
GoCar tours
A 90-minute tour costs
from €30 for two people
A GoCar in Lisbon
that is left on the tables in egg cups. I
leave stuffed and only €14 worse off.
Lisbon is a charming city, with just
enough grit to make it feel real. I spend
a morning ambling round the centre
before sauntering up to the São Jorge
Castle, perched on a hilltop with
sweeping views of the River Tagus. It’s
a pleasant stroll down to the Praça do
Comercio (Comercial Square), the city’s
waterfront plaza, where I catch the tram
west to Belem.
Here skip the ridiculously long queue
for the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem —
the world’s most popular pasteis de nata
(custard tarts) café — and head straight
to the impressive Jeronimos Monastery
for a snoop, before strolling along the
river to the Belem Tower to admire its
brilliant Manueline architecture.
That evening I make for the Cais do
Sodre area of the city to meet a
Lisbonite friend. It’s only in the past few
years that it’s been spruced up, with hip
new bars and cool little restaurants.
“It was an area rife with prostitution,”
Zita, my friend, tells me. “There were
a few seedy bars, but that’s about it.”
Not any more. The bustling Time Out
Market food hall was one of the first
new arrivals in 2014 and now attracts
more than three million visitors a
year. It’s home to more than 40 stalls,
including offshoots of some of the
city’s best restaurants. We go to O
Prego da Peixaria for Chilean beef
sandwiches, before moving on to the
outlet run by the top Portuguese chef
Henrique Sa Pessoa for superb pork
cheek on a bed of mash, washed down
with Super Bock lager.
On my final day, just before dashing
to the airport, I call in at Beira Gare,
a seriously thrifty joint by the train
station. Elbow your way through the
llocals towards the bar (table service
costs more) and brace yourself for
brusque service. Order a bifana, a
spicy pork bap served from
one of the giant pots
bubbling in the window,
which comes with a small
beer. It’s a Lisbon staple and
the lot costs €3.50. I’m stuffed
for the umpteenth time and
barely spent €100 all
In how many
cities could you say
that, I wonder?
Ben Clatworthy
the times Saturday January 20 2018
40 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 41
Activity breaks
Learn a new skill
for 2018, from
painting to diving
Surf lessons in France
Speak and cook Italian
Want to learn to ride the waves? Moliets,
south of Bordeaux, is internationally
renowned for its great surf and laid-back
vibes. The Boardmasters Surf Camp is
nestled in pine forests and comprises
stylish bell tents, communal eating areas,
an outdoor cinema, a music stage and a
cocktail tiki bar. There are daily surf
lessons and yoga sessions.
Details A week’s full board from June
30-July 7 in a three-man tent costs from
£427pp, including 12 hours of lessons,
equipment and transfers, but not flights
Combine learning Italian and cooking
on holiday in Sorrento. Spend mornings
in the classroom — 20 group lessons of
50 minutes are spread over the week —
and afternoons in the kitchen learning
how to make some of Italy’s most
celebrated dishes. There is also time to
explore the attractive seaside town, and
for a drop or two of limoncello.
Details Six nights’ B&B in a homestay
with a local host family costs from
€942pp, including language lessons and
three cooking lessons (020 8144 5990, Flights cost extra
Painting in Santorini
Learn French and ski
Spend a week painting the famous
Santorini churches’ blue domes as well
as the whitewashed villages and rugged
Greek landscapes. Combine days
walking age-old trails with settling down
at the easel under the watchful eye of an
expert tutor. The trip, which takes in
Crete and Santorini, includes a visit to
the sacred Minoan caves.
Details A week’s course costs from
£2,295pp, including flights, most meals
with wine, six days’ tuition and all
excursions, departing on June 1 (01453
Combine skiing and learning French at
the Alpine French School in Morzine
this winter. The school is promoting its
live-in adult courses, with three hours
of tuition in the morning followed by
explorations of the vast Portes du Soleil
ski area. The courses run all season,
while its GCSE teaching runs during the
school holidays.
Details A week’s self-catering in a
shared apartment costs from €535pp,
including language lessons and ski
passes (00 33 4 50 79 08 38,
Dive school in Malta
Join a writers’ retreat in
the Sierra Nevada
Learning to dive takes time, starting in
the classroom, then the pool and finally
in the shallows. A dedicated diving
holiday is the best way to learn, and
Malta makes a great base. Stay in the
pretty village of St Paul’s Bay, with
its picturesque seafront and shops,
restaurants and bars. Lessons are spread
across four days to complete the Padi
Open Water Diver qualification.
Details Seven nights’ self-catering
costs from £745pp, including tuition,
equipment and flights (01962 302087,
Capture the
northern lights
Still struggling to finish that novel?
Hole up at the boutique B&B Casa
Ana in a small village in the foothills
of the Sierra Nevada and cure that
writer’s block with views of the
mountains and forest walks. The tutors,
Mary-Jane Holmes, an editor and
writer, and Nicholas McLachlan, a poet
and short-story writer, are on hand
to offer support, while the lack of
distractions (there are no bars or shops
in the village) should help to keep
you focused.
Details From £350pp for seven
nights’ B&B with lunch
(0117 946 7072,
Fly to Granada
Received a fancy digital
SLR camera for
Christmas, but have no
idea how to use it?
Join Peter Rosen, one
of Sweden’s best
nature photographers,
on a course teaching
you how to capture the
Learn to play the
northern lights. Spend
guitar to the rhythms of
Surfing in France
four days at the Abisko
flamenco in Seville. The
Mountain Station in the heart
week-long course includes five
of Abisko National Park, where
private hour and a half lessons, leaving
you’ll learn how to snap spectacular ice
time to take in the stunning city — and
formations by day and, hopefully, the
catch a couple of flamenco shows.
aurora by night.
Details A week of lessons costs from
Details Four nights’ full board costs
€225pp, including guitar rental. Six
from £1,865pp, including camera hire
nights’ stay in a shared apartment, with
(or bring your own), Arctic-proof
students and locals, costs from €156
clothing and a dog sledding tour (01737
(020 8144 5990,
Flights cost extra
Flights cost extra
Ben Clatworthy
Photograph the northern lights in Sweden with the help of one of the country’s best nature photographers
the times Saturday January 20 2018
42 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Latin America
UK Holidays
DORSET’S Finest Cottages
Book on 0844 998 3944
Country Over 500 cottages
01665 830783
Cornwall & Devon
Pets Welcome
Wales guide to dog friendly
holidays Free brochure
01437 772745
& Aeolian Islands
specialists: Taormina 7nts
inc b&b from £499. Tailormade, Multi-centre, Flydrive: ABTA, ATOL
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Travel 43
the times Saturday January 20 2018
44 Travel
Overseas Travel
Book your advertisement or
announcement now at: advertise
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Alana Beachclub, Paklenica
Travel 45
Need to
Mike Atkins was a guest of
Neilson Active Holidays
(0330 0575397, Seven
nights at Alana Beachclub
costs from £725pp and
includes flights and
transfers, breakfast, lunch
and four evening meals.
The price includes use of
all equipment, group
lessons and activity clubs
for the over-twos
Sailing and cycling on the Croatian coast
flexibilty that makes the holiday a good
option for a single parent — you can mix
with other people or do your own thing as
and when you want.
It turns out that while I am hopeless at
windsurfing and rubbish at sailing, I am
excellent at sitting still on a catamaran and
have some serious mini-golf skills. I also
found the tennis group a patient bunch, and
so spent much of my week on the allo not let nine-year-old boys weather courts, beautiful mountains as a
go to a breakfast buffet on backdrop, perfecting my lofted slice over
their own. Seriously, it’s not the fence and into the bushes.
worth it. You might think
Meanwhile, Buffet Boy had enrolled in a
that you are being a cool kids’ club, the Sharksters, that was run like
parent by giving them some kind of benevolent boot camp. The
responsibility and so on, but plan had been for him to stay with the club
trust me, it ain’t pretty. I looked at Louie’s for the activities he fancied and for me to
plate on the first morning, stacked with sign him out so we could do stuff together.
bacon, dry cereal and chocolate cake, then The problem was that he fancied all the
I looked at his grinning face, noting the activities, and each time I went to collect
chocolate smear on his eyebrow. “Don’t tell him it was as though I were dragging him
Mum,” I said.
away from the best birthday party ever.
Here we were, father and son on a little
“Oh, Dad! Can I just go kayaking and
adventure together. Just a couple of lads on climbing and sailing and swimming and
the loose in Croatia, with no girls to insist on play volleyball first?”
boring stuff like balanced meals or
“OK. I’ll be at the mini-golf.”
basic hygiene.
This independence is exactly
At least he would be burnwhat most of the families I
ing off those calories durspoke to seemed to like
ing the day, I reasoned.
most— they didn’t have
This was a Neilson activto spend any more time
ity holiday, the kind of
with each other than was
break on which people
absolutely necessary. Yes,
who are not me wake up
there was the odd clan
early, join a yoga class and
who would don their
then climb a mountain.
matching Lycra and head
Happily it’s also the kind of
off together on bike trails in
kids’ club
break on which people who are
the nearby national park. Most,
me can lounge around by the pool,
however, seemed happier to split up,
read a few chapters, then have a nap before try the different things they were interested
shuffling off to the rather decent spa.
in, and reconvene at mealtimes.
The Alana Beachclub is one of Neilson’s
Louie’s allegiance to the kids’ club grew to
newest resorts, and the holiday group has such an extent that I began to fear defection
really gone for it. Taking over a hotel on — which would have made for an interestCroatia’s Dalmatian coast, about an hour’s ing conversation with his mother upon
drive from Zadar, it has packed the resort arrival at Stansted. It took all of my wiles to
with new sports equipment and a crew of get him to join me on a day trip to the specdisgustingly fit and cheerful British tacular Plitvice Lake National Park. (The
instructors who look as though they would lakes are an unusual colour because of moss
never dream of having bacon for breakfast, and algae; he’ll thank me when he’s older.)
never mind cake. It’s not a luxury break —
On our final morning, after an oldthe hotel is basic and the food is average — time’s-sake blowout breakfast (crêpes, ice
but it is fun and easy and exactly as strenu- cream and baked beans), we jumped on the
ous as you want it to be.
coach back to the airport in Zadar. As we
I took a cautious approach when choos- passed the dramatic gorges of Paklenica
ing activities, putting my name down for a National Park I turned to educate Louie on
a handful of group sessions that caught my the finer points of glacial erosion, only to
eye; other guests seemed determined to find him asleep. Obviously not enough
timetable every waking moment. It’s this sugar at breakfast time.
Mike Atkins finds
the ideal, active
break for summer
the times Saturday January 20 2018
46 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 47
Stay in the
The cool
hotel guide
Hotel Indigo,
In a nutshell
Duck through a doorway into an alley
with bright street art off Queen Street in
Cardiff and you’ll soon come to this hip
and lively new hotel. Indigo is one of
more than 80 stylish small hotels
in a worldwide chain run by the
InterContinental Hotel Group. There are
now no fewer than 17 in Britain and the
latest benefits from being in a prime
position, as well as from having a rooftop
Marco Pierre White Steakhouse with
splendid city views. The building, dating
from 1921, used to be a BT office.
What are the rooms like?
The 122 rooms are across five floors,
with a labyrinthine network of corridors.
They come in three styles: one that
accentuates Welsh music (expect
Stereophonics and Manic Street
Preachers posters, plus drumstick lamps
and gramophone speaker lights), another
themed on Welsh industries (with
mining pictures), and one with a general
Welsh theme. They are all reasonably
sized, with slate bathrooms, free mineral
water and little chocolate boxes. They
cost from £85 room-only. It’s worth
upgrading to a superior room (£40
Times readers can enjoy two
nights’ B&B and dinner one
evening at the Porch House, a
historic, honey-stone hotel in
picturesque Stow-on-the-Wold.
extra). Cooked breakfasts are £15.95;
continental breakfasts are £9.95.
Welsh rarebit on toast, with cheddar,
Tabasco and a yolky egg. Meanwhile, the
gooey blueberry cheesecake was spot on.
Three courses cost from about £30. Go
for the top-class kippers with poached
eggs on sourdough for breakfast.
Which is the best room?
The third-floor suite is £80 extra.
So what’s the food like?
It’s first-rate, as would be expected from
the youngest chef to be awarded three
Michelin stars. Marco Pierre White,
while not actually on site, has overseen
the menu and trained the chefs. It’s all
about the steaks here (my sirloin with an
unusual but winning snail and butter
garlic sauce was perfectly medium-rare),
but there are also lamb dishes, fish pies
and burgers. As a starter, I enjoyed the
Who goes there?
Foodies, and those attending the nearby
Principality (Millennium) Stadium.
The highs, the lows, the verdict
Eight and a half out of ten
It’s fun, with comfortable rooms and
good food, but the lifts can take ages and
the hallways are confusing.
Tom Chesshyre
“This ancient inn, said to be
Britain’s oldest, has 13 slick
rooms and good pub grub”
Tom Chesshyre
Cool Hotel Guide reviewer
Times hotel rating: 8/10
Need to
Tom Chesshyre was a
guest of Hotel Indigo
(0871 9429104,,
Dominions Arcade,
Queen Street, Cardiff
CF10 2AR; doubles cost
from £85 room only; no
discount; wheelchairaccess rooms available;
guide dogs allowed
Call 01451 493172
Use code TEH17
Terms and conditions apply
It is like something out of a sci-fi film ... panoramic views, attentive
and welcoming staff and an award-winning spa.
JENNY JOHNSON – travel writer, Times Expert Traveller
tay in the tallest hotel in the world and
watch the richest racing meeting on earth
on our exclusive short break to the Dubai
World Cup. You will enjoy an excellent vantage
point to watch the runners and riders at the
futuristic Meydan race course, as well as drinks
with three-time champion Frankie Dettori and
an invite to the post-race party and fireworks.
Throughout this superbly priced seven-day
break, you will be staying in five-star luxury
at the world’s tallest hotel, the JW Marriott
Marquis Hotel. You will also experience a
desert safari with falconry display, dine among
the dunes, watch spectacular sunsets and
have ample time to enjoy Dubai’s famous
boutiques, beaches and restaurants. It will be
the ultimate way to experience one of the
great sporting spectacles.
Treat yourself to the
spectacular views and
superb dining at the
five-star JW Marriott
Take ringside seats at
Meydan Racecourse and
attend a post-race party
and fireworks.
Enjoy a private drinks
party and Q&A with
champion jockeys
Frankie Dettori and
Jim Crowley.
Return flights and private
l Apron View Ticket to the
2018 Dubai World Cup
and transfers
Five nights in JW Marriott
Marquis (B&B)
l Drinks with Frankie Dettori
l Dune dinner safari
Trip duration: March 26-April 1, 2018
Desert safari and dinner
at a Bedouin-style camp.
Exclusively with
Visit the Dubai Mall,
climb the Burj Khalifa
or lounge by your
hotel’s pool.
£1,495* per person
0808 274 7564
TERMS AND CONDITIONS: *From price based on twin/double share. Subject to availability. Holidays are operated by Ltd Clerks Court, 18-20 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3AU and subject to the booking conditions of,
ATOL AND ABTA protected; a company wholly independent of News UK. ATOL 9851; ABTA P6872/Y022X.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
48 Travel
the times Saturday January 20 2018
Travel 49
the times Saturday January 20 2018
50 Travel
Collioure in southern France
Travel tips
Make your own gin weekend
Make a tipple to suit your own tastes at
the Dancing Cows Distillery in the New
Forest. When you have decided on your
distillates and infusions, you can make up
your own bottle of gin with a personalised
label; the recipe is recorded, should you
wish to re-order. Stay at Daisybank, a
chic B&B in Brockenhurst in the New
Forest, which in April is adding a shepherd’s hut, left, in its grounds
(from £110pp a night). The gin weekends start on February 9 and
cost from £180pp, including two nights’ B&B, gin on arrival and the
course (
Canyon zipline opens
The West Rim of America’s Grand Canyon already has a Skywalk.
Now it has added two zip wires that allow the adventurous to fly
nearly 1,000ft above the floor of a side canyon at up to 50mph.
Tickets cost $89 (£64) to experience both the zip wires and include
entry to the Hualapai Ranch. The Skywalk tour costs extra
China by train
A new high-speed train in China means
that you can get from Xi’an, home of the
Terracotta Warriors, to Chengdu,
where you can see the giant pandas, in
three hours, down from 16 hours. There is
already a fast Beijing to Xi’an rail link,
which means that you can now do China’s
top sights by train. Cox & Kings
( has three nights in Beijing, two nights in Xi’an
and two in Chengdu from £1,835pp travelling by train — down from
£2,335pp, if you went by air. The price includes international flights.
Travel doctor
Beatles songs in Liverpool
Visit the home of the Beatles and learn to sing their classic songs on
this Beatle Juice singing holiday from April 26-29. The trip includes
three nights’ B&B at the Hard Days Night hotel, six hours of singing
classes with musicians, a final performance in the heart of Liverpool
and two dinners. It costs from £999pp (
Singapore flights for less
For Singapore flights on a shoestring,
take a look at Scoot (, the
low-cost carrier from Singapore Airlines.
It flies from Berlin (perfect for a city break
en route) and if you book by January 31,
you can get one-way flights from €189
(£168) for travel between June 20 and
October 26. Jane Knight
We had a very successful
holiday with three generations
of my family (eight people in
all) on the northern Costa
Brava in L’Escala, which has
an excellent pedestrian promenade and
town beach, with shops and restaurants
within walking distance in town. We
stayed in apartments on the seafront.
Is there a different coastal destination
that would work as well for my family
in early September? We would consider
going by train, rather than flying.
Rachel Underwood, via email
About an hour from L’Escala,
over the border in France, is
postcard-perfect Collioure, the
little Catalan port with five
beaches, a medieval château and
winding pedestrianised lanes lined with
artists’ studios — a legacy of its time as a
meeting place for Fauvist artists such as
Derain and Matisse. You could stay in Le
Dépôt d’Anchois (, an old
anchovy factory that has been turned
into three colourful seaside apartments,
each with its own flower-filled terrace.
The nearest beach is five minutes
away, the Matisse trail is near by
and there are plenty of shops and
restaurants within walking distance.
A week in early September would cost
£850 for an apartment sleeping four.
You could take the Eurostar from
London to Paris or Lille, then on by
TGV to Perpignan, where you could hire
a car or take a 25-minute journey by
SNCF to Collioure.
Alternatively, head farther along the
coast to the pretty harbourside town of
Marseillan, on the Étang de Thau
(famous for its mussels and oysters),
where the Canal du Midi joins the Med.
Homeaway ( has a
house in the centre that sleeps eight, has
a roof terrace and costs £965.73 for the
first week in September. Take the
Eurostar to Paris or Lille, then the TGV
to Montpellier and finally a local train to
Marseillan Plage or Agde, which is a
ten-minute drive from Marseillan.
Q I’m looking to take seven adults and
five children to Austria to celebrate my
husband’s birthday in January next
year. Some of us will want to go skiing,
others will want to see Salzburg, the
salt mines and go on sleigh rides.
Where should we stay? Self-catering
would be good to reduce costs.
Jenny Heney, via email
A I suggest staying in a ski resort near
Salzburg with direct trains to the city.
Hofgastein in the huge Gasteinertal ski
area would work for you all: it is just
over an hour to Salzburg and the salt
mines at Hallein. It also has natural
thermal springs and pools with slides
(which the children should like), as well
as sleigh rides. The skiing is pretty good
too: you need almost never take the
same piste twice in a week. A week at
the three-star Apartment House Aurora
starts at £315pp, including flights and
transfers, through Crystal Ski (020 8712
Q Do you know of any companies
offering cruises along the Dutch
waterways in May or June? We’ve done
the bulb fields on previous trips and
would like to see something different.
We are two single women, happy to
share a cabin and have a budget of
about £1,000 each.
Jenny Ives, via email
A If you are happy to steer clear of
clogs, tulips and other Dutch clichés,
the River Cruise Line (01858 435655, has an eight-day
itinerary stopping at smaller ports and
destinations including Nijmegen, the
oldest city in the Netherlands; Roermond
in the Dutch “Lake District”; Arcen’s
17th-century castle and gardens; the
star-shaped city of Heusden; the historic
city of Dordrecht; and the modern
Rotterdam. It departs on May 24 and 31
and starts at £950pp, including full board
and return coach travel from the UK.
Julia Brookes is the Travel Doctor
Don’t put up with this
No refund for cancelled booking
We made a booking with Saga for a
holiday in Almuñecar, Spain, starting on
February 15. We then received a letter
saying there would be refurbishment at
the hotel from 10am to 1pm and 5pm
to 7pm, Monday to Friday. We rang to
cancel the booking, for which we paid
£2,020 for half-board and flights. Saga
said we would have to pay for the
flights and would keep the balance
of £1,827.14 to use against a future
booking. I would like a full refund now.
It’s a package holiday, which we have
cancelled because we do not want the
noise of building work. It’s not our fault.
Jennifer Vernon, via email
A Saga spokesman claimed that the
works were minor, “have not caused
any issues with customers in the resort”
and that most of those who had been
contacted in advance had been happy to
rebook later. But as you were clear that
you did not want to do this, it has
backed down on its usual policy of
offering a credit towards a future trip
minus the flight costs. “We have spoken
with Mr and Mrs Vernon and have
arranged for a full refund to take place
immediately. As a gesture of goodwill
and to apologise for not doing this
sooner, we have also refunded the flight
charges,” a spokesman said.
Contact us . . .
If you have a gripe, suggestion or question about
holiday travel, write to Travel Doctor, The Times
Travel Desk, 1 London Bridge Street, London
SE1 9GF, or email
Please include contact details. If you have a
dispute with a travel company, try to resolve it
before contacting us.
Do not send us original documents.
Unfortunately we cannot reply to every inquiry.
the times Saturday January 20 2018
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