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The Times Weekend - 31 March 2018

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Saturday March 31 2018
5 ways to cook Easter lamb
The top chefs’ guide to the perfect roast
Weekend
Travel
Starts on
page 27
Where to stay
Mini-breaks
with a sea view
The best hotels
by the coast
Britain’s 30
best beaches
Great coastal hotels, pubs and
B&Bs to book now for summer
Seaside spots in
Devon and Dorset
the times Saturday March 31 2018
2 Weekend
2
Top UK beaches
Where to go,
where to stay
Planning your escape to the seaside this summer? From
a surfer’s paradise in Cornwall to pristine sands in the
Highlands, Ben Clatworthy picks Britain’s finest beaches
1 Bamburgh
Northumberland
St Aidan Beach is a beautiful stretch of
golden sand that connects to Bamburgh
Beach. It’s an excellent spot for coastal
walks through the dunes, with views of
the Farne Islands on clear days. Wander
down to Bamburgh Beach, dominated
by the famous castle that overlooks
the shore. It’s a popular spot, but you
can enjoy fantastic sunsets all to yourself
if you go at the end of the day.
Where to stay The Victoria Hotel sits
on the village green in Bamburgh,
overlooked by the castle. It’s a short
stroll to the beach. B&B doubles cost
from about £95 a night (01668 214431,
victoriahotel.net)
2 Barricane Devon
Foodies rejoice! This is the beach for
you. Pitch up late afternoon with a
blanket and your own booze and prepare
to be wowed by the sunsets — and the
food. The Barricane Beach Café serves
seriously yummy Sri Lankan curry from
5pm to 7pm. On a balmy summer’s
night it’s all rather magical (just get
there early to bag a good spot).
Where to stay Woolacombe Beach is
just around the rocks, where the stylish
Woolacombe Bay Hotel has rooms from
about £165 a night (01271 870388,
woolacombe-bay-hotel.co.uk)
3 West Wittering
West Sussex
The blue-flag beach at West Wittering is
perfect for water sports fanatics. And the
best bit? It’s great for families and
beginners, with manageable surf. It’s a
beautiful spot too, with birdwatching and
walks out to the spit at East Head. Or
you can stick to sandcastles on the
beach. The Drift-In Surf Café in the
town is a popular spot.
Where to stay The Crab and Lobster is a
charming 16th-century inn with rusticchic looks, about eight miles away. B&B
doubles cost from £117 a night (0330
1275547, mrandmrssmith.com)
4 Sennen Cove
west Cornwall
A stone’s throw from Land’s End, the
beach at Sennen Cove is one of the best
surfing spots in the country. The sandy
beach, almost a mile in length, is
12
The Pig on the Beach, Dorset
Barricane Beach, Devon
shielded from the Atlantic winds by the
Pedn-men-du promontory. At the far
end, the small village has a handful of
shops, cafés and pubs.
Where to stay The Old Success Inn is
a great base right next to the beach,
with chic rooms and a well-regarded
restaurant. B&B doubles cost from
about £100 a night (01736 871232,
oldsuccess.co.uk)
at Mackay’s Rooms B&B in Durness,
which has rooms from £129 a night
(01971 511202)
5 Wells-next-the-Sea
north Norfolk
7 Porthcurno
west Cornwall
18
Wells-next-the-Sea is a north Norfolk
icon, famed for its colourful huts that
run along the pine-fringed beach.
The sea is often distant, so regulars
grab a spot near the Run, the
channel that links the harbour
to the open sea. Amble up to
the Holkham end of the beach
that leads to the glorious
Palladian Holkham Hall.
Where to stay Book a room at
the charming and comfortable
Victoria Inn on the Holkham
estate; B&B doubles cost from
£130 (01328 711008, holkham.co.uk)
6 Sandwood Bay
Scottish Highlands
Come prepared for a hike to the beach
— it’s four miles down to the shoreline
from the car park. But it’s an easy walk
and the path is well trodden. Facing the
North Atlantic, the one-and-a-half-mile
stretch of pink sand is one of the most
unspoilt beaches in Britain.
Where to stay Accommodation is a bit
thin on the ground. Stay along the coast
If you look carefully out to sea at
Porthcurno, you may just spot dolphins
dancing in the distance. Porthcurno is
best known for the Minack playhouse
that clings theatrically to its crag above
the surf, but the beach is wonderful too.
It’s about as far west as you can get in
the UK, with glistening white sand and
the sea backed by granite cliffs.
Where to stay Rockridge House
is a little family-run B&B about
600m from the beach. B&B
rooms cost from £75 a night
(rockridgehouseporthcurno.
co.uk)
9 Rhossili
Gower Peninsula
This is one seriously stunning beach. A
vast arcing crescent of beautiful golden
sand backing up to verdant heathland
and rugged hills. It’s all very unspoilt
(don’t expect beach huts or waterfront
bars), with breathtaking views from the
three-mile stretch of sand. There are
great coastal walks too, including a hike
out across the causeway to Worm’s Head
(check the tide times before you go).
Where to stay The King Arthur Hotel,
about six miles away, has 18 well-done
rooms. B&B doubles cost from £80
a night (01792 390775,
kingarthurhotel.co.uk)
3
8 Watergate Bay
north Cornwall
Botany Bay, Kent
The surf at Watergate Bay,
just up the coast from Newquay,
is said to be among the best
for beginners hoping to learn
how to master the waves. In summer
the beach has a laid-back vibe and
is a playground for surfers and
paddleboarders. On busy summer days
grab a spot between Horse Rock and
Zacry’s Island.
Where to stay The Watergate Bay Hotel
is perched above the sand and has
sweeping views out to sea. The hotel is
chic, with family-friendly rooms and a
good restaurant. Dogs are welcome.
B&B doubles cost from £200 a night
(01637 860543, watergatebay.co.uk)
The Crab and Lobster,
West Sussex
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Weekend 3
COVER PICTURE: KYNANCE COVE, CORNWALL, NUMBER 15/ALAMY. BELOW: GETTY IMAGES; ALAMY
5
Wells-next-the-Sea,
north Norfolk
11
Steephill Cove, Isle of Wight
10 Praa Sands
south Cornwall
The white sand at Praa is striking on a
sunny day. It’s a beautiful beach, about a
mile long, southwest-facing, between the
Lizard and west Penwith. Praa heaves
with families and children during the
summer holidays; the water is safe for
paddling and the car park is set just back
from the beach. The Beachcomber café
is open during the holiday season.
Where to stay Five miles away, the
An Mordros Hotel makes a good base
overlooking the sea. B&B doubles cost
from £84 a night (01326 562236,
anmordroshotel.com)
11 Steephill Cove
Isle of Wight
It feels like stepping back in time as you
clamber down the hill from the Ventnor
Botanic Garden to Steephill Cove. It’s a
sleepy little fishing cove, much loved by
locals and foodies who rave about the
Boathouse, a small restaurant. Arrive
early to bag a good table (it’s virtually
always fully booked at lunch during the
summer) and watch the lobsters and
crabs being hauled up the beach to be
presented in fresh seafood platters.
Where to stay The Hambrough in
nearby Ventor is a chic seven-room
boutique base, with B&B doubles
from £170 a night (01983 856333,
thehambrough.com)
12 Studland Bay Dorset
Few stretches of the south coast can rival
the gloriously unspoilt Studland Bay,
where the sandy beach stretches for
more than four miles. It has gently
shelving bathing waters and views of
Old Harry Rocks and across to the
Isle of Wight. There are wild walks
through the sand dunes, where it’s
possible to spot deer.
Where to stay The Pig on the Beach, a
few seconds’ walk from the beach, has
23 rustic chic bedrooms. Room-only
doubles cost from £175 a night (01929
450288, thepighotel.com)
13 St Ninian’s Isle
Shetland
lots of wildlife and calm green waters.
Where to stay The tiny Tigh Mo
Sheanair B&B feels wonderfully remote,
with sweeping views of the dunes
and rolling hills. B&B doubles cost
from £70 a night (01859 550268,
luskentyrebeachhouse.com)
15 Kynance Cove
Cornwall
15
There’s something very fun about
this beach — it’s actually a wide
natural causeway, with sea on
either side and two shores. The
500m tombolo on the west
coast of Shetland links the
South Mainland with the isle.
It’s a beautiful spot in summer
— but be warned, the weather
changes rapidly in these parts.
Where to stay Hayhoull is a
simple but good value base for
exploring the south of the island.
B&B doubles cost from about
£80 a night (01950 422206,
bedandbreakfastshetland.com)
14 Luskentyre
Isle of Harris
One of the largest and most spectacular
beaches on Harris, Luskentyre is a wild
stretch of sand with views across to
the island of Taransay, famous as the
setting of the BBC programme Castaway.
Expect miles of glistening white sand,
You will want decent shoes for the
ramble down to Kynance Cove from the
National Trust car park. It’s worth the
effort. To the west of the Lizard, it’s a
truly wild beach. Kynance Cove Café
is a lovely little tearoom serving
cream teas and ice creams.
Where to stay The nearby
Mullion Cove Hotel has
magnificent sea views and B&B
doubles from £100. Dogs can
stay for £9; Walk the 8½-mile
circular route to the cove
and back (01326 240328,
mullion-cove.co.uk)
16 West Sands Beach
St Andrews
Kynance Cove, Cornwall
(also pictured on cover)
Made famous by the opening scenes of
Chariots of Fire, West Sands is a popular
spot with the kitesurfing crowd. Almost
two miles long, the golden beach backs
on to sand dunes — where there’s great
wildlife spotting — before hitting the
golf course. Come prepared for blustery
weather — it’s more of a bracing seaside
walk kind of beach than sunloungers
and cocktails.
Where to stay The imposing Old Course
Hotel, with its impressive spa, is a
stone’s throw from the sand. B&B
doubles cost from £150 a night (01334
474371, oldcoursehotel.co.uk)
17 Pentle Bay
Tresco
Stay on Tresco, the second biggest of the
Isles of Scilly, and cycle down to Pentle
Bay, a tropical-looking beach with white
sand and intense blue sea. It’s a beautiful
spot, dotted with little islands and
flanked by lush greenery and sandy
grass. On a sunny day it’s easy to forget
you’re in Britain. Remind yourself with
a dip in the chilly briny.
Where to stay Try the New Inn in
Tresco, a characterful little property
where you should plump for one of the
rooms overlooking New Grimsby Bay.
B&B doubles cost from £60 a night
(01720 422849, tresco.co.uk)
18 Botany Bay
Kent
Little ones will love the rock pools and
fossil hunting at Botany Bay in
Broadstairs. The wide Algarve-like beach
backs on to spectacular chalk cliffs, with
good walking routes and stunning views
out to sea. The beach tends to get busy
during the summer holidays, when
tourists and families descend.
Where to stay The Botany Bay Hotel
perches on the cliffs, with its elegantly
decorated rooms. B&B doubles cost
from about £100 a night (01843 868641,
botanybayhotel.co.uk)
Continued next page
the times Saturday March 31 2018
4 Weekend
ALAMY
20
Saunton Sands, north Devon
British beaches Sand, rock pools and secret coves
19 Portstewart Strand
Co Londonderry
Tucked between Portstewart and the
mouth of the River Bann, the two-mile
Strand is a popular spot with summer
tourists. The golden sands back on to
domineering dunes. The beach is
managed by the National Trust, which
offers good walking routes — including
the Causeway Coast Way — and guided
tours of the dunes. Harry’s Shack, right
on the sand, serves tasty seafood and
breakfasts at the weekend.
Where to stay The Strand House B&B is
just along from the beach, with simple
but smart rooms. B&B doubles cost
from £125 a night (028 7083 1000,
strandguesthouse.com)
20 Saunton Sands
north Devon
This three-mile stretch of sand is a
favourite with walkers and water lovers
alike thanks to its prime spot on the
South West Coast Path. Families love
the wide beach, and the gently shelving
shoreline is good for paddling. The
Saunton Sands Hotel, above the beach,
offers two free hours of childcare a day.
Where to stay B&B doubles at the
Saunton Sands Hotel cost from £260
(01271 890212, sauntonsands.co.uk)
21 Eyemouth
Scottish Borders
During a big winter storm it’s common
for the waves to crash spectacularly
against the sea wall, but in summer,
when the sands are golden, it’s bliss. At
low tide, when the Hurkar Rocks at the
mouth of the harbour appear, there are
great little rock pools and plenty of
scurrying crabs to spot.
Where to stay The Home Arms Guest
House, just back from the harbour, is the
best in Eyemouth. B&B doubles cost
from £75 a night (018907 51316,
thehomearms.com)
beach that steals the show, with bright
sand and lovely views. Crusoe’s, a rustic
café on the beach, is the place to eat.
Where to stay Tynemouth 61, to the
south of the beach, is a stylish property,
with B&B doubles from £79 a night
(0191 257 3687, no61.co.uk)
23 Hunstanton Norfolk
Arguably the best beach in Britain for
kitesurfing, Hunstanton is the place to
master the sport. Add the striking
pink and white striped cliffs into
the mix and it’s one pretty special
spot. At low tide all you can see
is sea and sky, which kitesurfers
know is a great combination for
freestyle and speed. If you’re after
lessons, a one-day beginner’s
session costs £110
(hunstantonwatersports.com).
Where to stay A couple of miles
from the beach, Heacham Manor is a
good base, with B&B doubles from
£95 a night (01485 536030,
heacham-manor.co.uk)
24 Boscombe
Bournemouth
East of Bournemouth, the beach-fronted
suburb of Boscombe used to be
run-down, now it’s cool. At the heart of
the action is the Urban Reef café,
a surfers’ haunt with a sun-deck
overlooking the beach. But get there
early — the best spots on the sand go
quickly when the weather is good.
23
28
The Ravilious B&B
in Eastbourne
Pack your binoculars because there’s a
good chance of spotting dolphins
frolicking in the waves at sunset from
this white-sand beach on the unspoilt
Llyn Peninsula. Backed by rippling
dunes, Porth Iago is wedged
between two dramatic cliff faces,
creating calm conditions that
make it a great spot for
swimming, kayaking and
canoeing.
Where to stay The Ship
Hotel (01758 760204,
theshiphotelaberdaron.co.uk) is
about five miles to the south and
has B&B doubles from £80
26 Silecroft Beach
Cumbria
This gently shelving beach on the edge
of the Lake District is overlooked by
Black Combe fell, which rears up behind
the beach. This is a stunning part of the
world, with dramatic scenery and views;
on a clear day it’s possible to spy the
Isle of Man from the shoreline.
Where to stay Twenty Queen Street, a
Georgian townhouse that sleeps five, in
the centre of pretty Ulverston, about 30
minutes’ drive away. Short breaks cost
from £495 (twentyqueenstreet.co.uk)
Golfers know Gullane because of its fine
courses with spectacular views. The
beach is equally impressive — a superb
sweep of sand that attracts legions of
windsurfers. You just need
to hope for sunshine.
Where to stay The Meadowside
Residence is a good B&B in the nearby
seaside town of North Berwick, with
B&B doubles from £125 a night (07473
336820, meadowsideresidence.com)
28 Birling Gap
East Sussex
Hunstanton, Norfolk
26
25 Porth Iago Gwynedd
27 Gullane East Lothian
22 Tynemouth
Longsands Tyne and Wear
On a summer’s day Tynemouth has the
air of a seaside resort (rather than the
commuter town that it really is). It’s the
Where to stay The Green House in
Bournemouth has B&B doubles from
£76 a night (01202 498900,
thegreenhousehotel)
Tucked below the imposing Seven
Sisters cliffs, Birling Gap is reached by
Silecroft Beach, Cumbria
clambering down the narrow wooden
staircases that cling to the cliff face. It’s
pebbly, but has excellent shrimping and
crabbing to keep little ones happy.
There’s a National Trust shop and café
above the beach.
Where to stay Eastbourne is a short
drive away, where Ravilious, a Victorian
townhouse B&B, has doubles from £70
(01323 733142, gladwynhotel.com)
29 Waxham Norfolk
Expect beautiful golden sand hidden
behind trees and dunes. There are no
formal car parks or facilities, but the
sand is soft and the views along the coast
are breathtaking. Do not confuse it with
Waxham Sands, which has a campsite,
a holiday park and crowds of visitors.
Where to stay Dairy Barns in nearby
Hickling is a farm with nine plush B&B
rooms; doubles cost from £78 (01692
598243, dairybarns.co.uk)
30 Cattersty Sands
North Yorkshire
The sunsets at Cattersty Sands are
beautiful on a long summer’s evening.
The beach is backed by cliffs that jut up
to fields and moorland. The little-visited
bay has an old ruined pier and great
snorkelling. And there are lovely walks
along the Cleveland Way.
Where to stay The nearby Hunley
Hotel has smart B&B doubles from
about £90 a night (01287 676216,
hunleyhotel.co.uk)
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Body + Soul 5
SEAN COOK/CAMERA PRESS
Second marriage?
Never say never
Myleene Klass talks
to Michael Odell
about her painful
divorce, family and
making a fresh start
I
n 2012 Myleene Klass’s husband ended their marriage after four months,
walking out on her 34th birthday, so
she made herself a promise: never
again. First, because she was a multimillionaire and there was no prenup. Second, because she felt she
couldn’t trust anyone. She had, after all,
been with him for 11 years and really
thought she knew him before they married. He was the father of her two young
daughters, Ava and Hero.
Things are different now. In two weeks
she will celebrate her 40th birthday and
Klass says she is happier than she has ever
been. When I ask her if she is ready to
break her promise on marriage, she turns
coy. She met her present boyfriend in
2015 through a mutual friend. “I would
never say never to marriage, partly
because I am in such a good place. I’m
certain I don’t need saving or rebuilding by
anyone. But I am old-school in the sense
that . . . it is up to him to ask. The fact we
are together is a miracle because I was in
such a mess. I didn’t even trust
myself because my judgment had been so
faulty before.”
Klass is approachable, occasionally
steely, but often warm and funny. Mostly
she is a pragmatist with a fearsome work
ethic. The daughter of an Austrian-English
naval frogman turned plumber and a
Filipina nurse, she was brought up in rural
Norfolk and encouraged to take classical
piano and engineering equally seriously
(aged 11 she won a school engineering com-
petition and was awarded a prize by Carol
Vorderman).
She became famous as a singer in
Hear’Say, a wholesome pop quartet who
won ITV’s Popstars talent show (an early
precursor to The X Factor) in 2000.
Despite a No 1 album and sell-out tour,
they split in 2002, citing “abuse from the
public” as the main reason, and that might
have been that.
But Klass got a second chance when she
came second in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me
Out of Here! in 2006. Her shower scenes in
a white bikini meant that she has been
guaranteed lucrative swimwear and lingerie contracts ever since. “I’m taking the
Queen’s approach on that,” she says.
“Never complain and never explain. But
that bikini was a great help to me.”
Klass has just launched her own fitness
DVD, but says she is not health-obsessed
(“I’m the daughter of a navy man. A tumbler of good neat whisky is
my
vice”) and is vigilant that
her
daughters do not obsess about body image.
The word “diet” is
banned in the house
when the children are
around.
The man waiting for her outside the I’m a Celebrity . . . jungle
was her boyfriend at the time
and future husband, Graham
Quinn (he had
been head of her
security team
while she was in
Hear’Say). His
eventual departure in 2012, she
says, was a shock and
the beginning not only of single parenthood,but a long period
of soul-searching.
“I couldn’t make
Myleene Klass’s
perfect weekend
Beethoven or Beyoncé?
Both
Green tea or builder’s
tea?
Builder’s tea
TV dinner or family
round the table?
Family round the table
Weights or cardio?
Cardio
Wine or water?
Whisky
What app do you most
use?
Duolingo — it’s a
language-learning app
and I am learning Spanish
French villa or Caribbean
beach break?
Caribbean
Bare feet or high heels?
Bare feet
Signature dish?
Pancakes
I couldn’t get
through the
weekend
without . . .
Coffee
Myleene
Klass with
her partner,
Simon Motson
sense of it then or now,” she says. “You
think you know someone and you marry
for life.”
Things have changed since she found her
new love, Simon Motson, a divorced fashion-marketing executive with two children
the same ages as Ava, ten, and Hero, seven.
It has been quite a journey from that first
date to blending their two families into a
unit that Ava has christened the Klotsons.
“The first question I ever asked Sim was,
‘So, are you Ben Affleck or Jennifer Garner?’ That’s as close as I can tell you to
what happened in my previous relationship. It’s about someone having the same
moral standards as me.” (Affleck and Garner were a solid Hollywood couple, until
he departed suddenly in 2016. He was
treated for alcoholism before embarking
on a relationship with his children’s former
nanny.) “Luckily, Simon got it right and it
has been fantastic finding someone who is
kind and patient. I really thought it would
end up being just me and my two. Now we
are a blended family of six and it’s insane.”
She and Motson dated for a year before
introducing their children to each other.
Even now they do a lot together, but her
instincts for self-reliance, perhaps unsurprisingly, remain strong.
“I still feel like a single mother in some
ways,” she says. “I have absolute faith in
Simon and it’s great, but I’ll always feel my
girls are my sole responsibility. But we
have been very, very lucky. Neither set of
kids asked for this and they have absolutely thrown themselves into it. I am incredibly proud of the way they’ve handled it.”
Klass is an unusual multimillionaire.
She runs a business empire that has been
valued at £11 million and takes in classical
music, fitness videos, a children’s fashion
line, homeware, radio presenting and the
new fitness DVD. Off-duty she does all her
own DIY, clears her own drains and even
makes some of her own furniture. “My
girls go to a private school and they need to
know that there is a tough world out there
and they are very lucky to have the life
they do. They know when they grow up I
will find a way of looking after them, but
I’m not just going to hand money over on
a plate. They need to work.”
She bristles at any perceived entitlement
and this has got her into trouble. In 2015
Klass went on a trip to Nepal, where she
witnessed the deaths of children who could
have been saved by a 20p immunisation.
On her return, she says she found four
emails from a parent at her children’s school
inquiring where her £20 contribution to a
children’s birthday present was. Klass hit
the roof. She went online demanding contributions to buy her daughter a “real, live
unicorn”. She remains unrepentant.
“I’m sorry, but I’d just landed and I was
I couldn’t make sense of
it then or now. You think
you know someone
and you marry for life
tired. People think Nepal is just a ‘gap yah’
playground. It’s not. Children die there in
horrific circumstances and then you fly
home and . . . People are cocooned and it
was just too north London entitled for me.
Some people still hate me for it, but more
fool them. It was someone else’s moronic
behaviour, not mine.”
She has rented a barn in the southwest of
England for her 40th birthday party.
There’ll be an Eighties tribute band and
friends and family will gather for the weekend. After that she is flying to a tropical island in the Indian Ocean with her two girls.
“A long time ago I promised myself that’s
where I’d be for my 40th. I’ve never really
understood people who fear it as a milestone. I’m at an age where pop stars I used
to look up to are claiming to be the same
age as me and I find it sad. Be graceful.
Why lie to yourself? I’ve been through
tough times like anyone else, but I’ve really
never been happier.”
My Body by Myleene Klass DVD with
workout equipment is out now, £49.95
the times Saturday March 31 2018
6 Body + Soul
Tried and tested: the best
(and worst) online trainers
More and more of us are working out in front of a laptop. But can this really replace
the gym? Times fitness expert Peta Bee puts the digital workouts to the test
S
hould you replace your gym
membership with an app? That
is the question many of us are
asking because most of the
world’s finest fitness experts
are now creating workouts
that you can access at home.
A report into the UK health and
fitness market by Mintel, the market
research company, found that 47 per
cent of gym users would consider
cancelling their memberships because
there are so many alternatives available.
Similarly, most would take part in a
virtual gym class.
Part of the appeal is price. Even if you
are not a member of a gym, which
typically costs about £80 a month, a
single session at a good fitness studio
costs about £15. There are plenty of free
fitness classes online, but even the
paid-for subscription apps and sites cost
much less than a gym membership.
There is also the appeal of tapping into
the expertise of highly sought-after
experts that you would otherwise not
have access to. It’s unlikely, for example,
that many of us would manage to get an
appointment with Kim Saha, the
physiotherapist to Team GB’s athletes
and a sought-after Pilates teacher in
west London, but why bother trying
when every Monday she releases free
Pilates videos on her website
(kimsaha.com) and YouTube channel .
Convenience is the most obvious
attraction. Most online workouts can be
done in a small room, with little or no
equipment. So which online fitness
offerings are worth signing up for?
Freeletics
Cost Free for the basic app. You can
upgrade to the Freeletics Coach, a
digital “personal trainer”, for £25.99
for three months.
What is it An app that offers HIIT-style
(high-intensity interval training)
exercises based on running or strength
training that is hugely popular with
almost six million users in more than
160 countries.
How it works There are more than
900 workouts to choose from. When you
log in, you put your requirements into
a filter, choosing to focus on duration,
body part, etc, and you are given a range
of videos. The workouts are performed
by young, toned personal trainers in crop
tops. Most sessions take 10-25 minutes to
complete. With an upgrade to the Coach,
you get a more personalised training
plan where specific workouts will be
recommended for you when you log in.
Peta’s verdict I tried a workout with
tough bodyweight moves (50, then 40,
then 30, 20 and 10 repetitions of
burpees, press-ups, squats and sit-ups)
performed as fast as possible. I am fit,
but I was exhausted. If you need
help, there are tutorials on technique.
There is a real community feel too,
with subscribers posting to social
media (mainly Facebook).
Good for People already experienced
with exercising, who want to do HIIT
at home and vary their workouts.
Rating 7 out of 10
Les Mills on Demand
Cost Ten-day free trial; £9.95 a month or
£95 for an annual subscription
(lesmillsondemand.com)
What is it If you have been a member of
any large gym chain at any time over the
past decade, you are probably familiar
with Les Mills’s high-octane classes —
Bodypump and Bodybalance are two of
the most popular and attract more than
six million participants worldwide. This
is the home version.
How it works A library of 500 strength,
cardio, HIIT and flexibility video
workouts. For some you will need
equipment (Bodypump requires weights,
and RPM, the spinning one, needs access
to an indoor bike). In each video there
are several buff young instructors lined
up doing the same moves, but at
different intensities, so you choose which
one to follow. The music is loud and it’s
all very motivating and high-energy.
Peta’s verdict I wasn’t sure how these
very popular gym classes would work
at home, but it’s quite a different
experience. I tried the Bodyattack
session and was pleased that there
were several instructors in the video
doing each move at a different intensity.
After my class I felt as wiped out as
I would have done in a real studio.
There’s variety, but some of the
classes are a bit shouty.
Good for Those who like high-intensity,
high-energy workouts accompanied by
loud music.
Rating 8 out of 10
Yoga with Adriene
(yogawithadriene.com)
Cost Free
What is it A YouTube channel with
15 to 30-minute videos of yoga
sessions delivered by the darling
of the online yoga world,
Adriene Mishler, from Texas.
With 3.25 million
subscribers, she has
a loyal following
among beginners and
hardcore yogis alike.
How it works Videos are
grouped in a large number
of categories, such as Yoga
on the Road and Yoga for
Weight Loss, that mainly
does from her home. There
are an almost overwhelming
Adriene Mishler
number of sessions covering
everything from easing
back pain to
banishing
period pain.
She also
covers several
yoga styles.
Peta’s verdict Mishler explains
everything succinctly and there’s not too
much “woo-woo” or hippy stuff. I also
loved her sense of humour and the fact
that her dog, Benji, makes regular
impromptu appearances.
Good for People who like yoga, but
aren’t into the po-faced scene that
often goes with it.
Rating 10 out of 10
Beachbody on Demand
(beachbodyondemand.com)
Cost £69 for a yearly subscription online;
the app is free to download
What is it You may have heard of
Shaun T, the American fitness
instructor behind the HIIT-style
workouts Insanity and P90X. He is
the most famous of several
instructors who work under
the online fitness brand
Beachbody.
How it works There is a vast
range of workouts
and longer goal-based
programmes, such as the
popular 80-Day Ab
Obsession, Three-Week Yoga
Retreat and Shaun T’s “all-out fat
attack”. You can filter each workout
according to fitness level, time of the
session, type — cardio, dance, low
impact, muscle toning, slim
and tone, and yoga — and also
according to your favourite trainer.
The package also includes tracking
tools so you can see how your
fitness is progressing, trainer tips,
meal plans and videos of a cleaneating cooking show called Fixate.
Beachbody trainer
Shaun T
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Body
B
o + Soul 7
GETTY IMAGES; MIRANDA PENN TURIN; AMIT LENNON
session to
a “burpee
challenge”.
Peta’s verdict
Wicks sticks with his very
successful approach of using
only himself against whatever
background he happens to be
occupying, whether that’s his
hallway or Venice Beach. He has
a winning formula of cheeky
patter combined with a
straightforward delivery of
simple but effective workouts.
I enjoy them, but sparingly.
Good for The time-crunched
looking to get in shape quickly.
Rating 6 out of 10
Barrecore
Peta’s verdict Be warned that these
are not calming and relaxing
workouts. Even the Three-Week
Yoga Retreat is somewhat fast paced.
However, you can opt for simplified
versions of some of the moves.
Good for The easily bored and
those who need workout
innovation to stay motivated.
Not bad for the price either.
Rating 10 out of 10
Boxx
Cost Ten-day free trial and
then £9.99 a month; or £24.99
for three months
(theboxxmethod.com)
What is it Boxx is a trendy, branded
boxing workout with classes that range
in focus from fat-burning to musclestrengthening. The signature workout is
BoxxHIIT, a full-body, fat-burning,
muscle-toning session.
How it works There are five types of
workout, each lasting 30 minutes —
BoxxIntense, BoxxBurn, BoxxHIIT,
BoxxPro and BoxxStretch — led by
ripped, mainly American male and
female boxing instructors in a grittylooking boxing studio or a minimalist
gym. You don’t need punch bags, but
you will need a pair of 1kg dumbbells.
Each video involves five high-energy
shadow-boxing rounds, alternated with
HIIT intervals, and culminating in a
“knockout round” at the end. Typically
you will find yourself vigorously air
punching before sprinting furiously on
the spot. There are beginners’ classes
that focus on punching technique and
footwork. There are also cardio, strength
and yoga classes.
Peta’s verdict My class was filmed in
a dark and utilitarian studio with two
How much 24-hour access to all classes
is £5; unlimited monthly subscription
£25 (barrecore.co.uk)
What is it This is the home version of
Barrecore, the hip ballet-based exercise
studio popular with Claudia Schiffer and
a host of Victoria’s Secret models.
How it works You get access to 66
videos of different levels and durations
of Barrecore’s signature classes. You can
choose general classes or pick a focus:
arms, core, legs, seat. All you need are
dumbbells and a chair.
Peta’s verdict I’ve tried barre workouts
so I was pleased that there were plenty
of clear instructions and close-ups of
more intricate foot positions which
made it easier to follow than a
live class. The class was
filmed in an authentic
studio with a barre,
but the instructor
demonstrated the
moves using a chair.
The fast and furious
background music
was an unnecessary
irritation. It’s pretty
expensive for what
is basically a bank
of videos.
Good for Those who want
to benefit from the barre’s
muscle-stretching techniques.
Rating 5 out of 10
instructors, one
demonstrating the
trickier stuff, the other
showing you what to
do if you don’t want
such an intense session.
I’ve done some boxing
workouts, but I am never
100 per cent confident
about my foot placement
or uppercut technique,
so I missed having a
real-life instructor.
Good for Someone who
wants to de-stress and
sweat like mad without
leaving the house.
Rating 6 out of 10
Tracy Anderson Online
Studio (tracyanderson.com)
Joe Wicks:
The Body Coach TV
Cost Free
What is it Joe Wicks, the cheekychappie fitness guru with millions of
followers on social media. He offers
his 90-day weight-loss plan for £97,
but his YouTube channel, Body
Coach TV, is free and here you
can access a vast library of
HIIT workouts.
How it works There are
workouts for beginners,
intermediate and advanced
exercisers, all based on HIIT
sessions. For some you need
equipment, such as kettlebells and
weights, but most only require shifting
your bodyweight quickly to pumping
pop music. Typically, you will perform
each exercise in quick succession —
40 seconds of the exercise, 20 seconds
of rest — which means the workouts
are short. The sessions range from a
16-minute “low-impact, no-noise”
is renowned for
being highly
choreographed.
If, like me, you
aren’t highly
co-ordinated, you can easily
get left behind or find your
feet are tangled. Even the
beginners’ class took me some
time to master the steps.
Given the price there was
disappointingly low input
from Anderson herself. For
Tracy Anderson
the price, I would expect
more classes led by her rather
than her entourage of trainers.
Good for Those who want to try out
the Tracy Anderson brand — and who
can handle complicated dance steps.
Rating 3 out of 10
Joe Wicks
Cost £63 a month or £571 a year
What is it The American fitness guru
Tracy Anderson, who trains Gwyneth
Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, among
others, offers subscribers a new workout
video every week so you can feel as if
she is your PT too.
How it works Anderson’s method is
based on fast-paced dance cardio and
lots of repetitions of light weights.
Each weekly video is of a 60-minute
advanced muscular structure
masterclass focusing on arms, legs,
gglutes and abs. It is accompanied by
a breakdown video led by one of
her
h trainers that explains the
moves in simple stages. Anderson
holds
a separate 30-minute
h
beginner
class as well. You can
b
repeat either class as many times
as you like. Subscribers can also email
questions about the workouts to
Anderson and she will select three to
answer comprehensively during the
introductory video message each week.
You can also tap into an extensive
library of 30-minute dance cardio
classes led by one of Anderson’s
dancer-type trainers.
Peta’s verdict I was glad to discover
that
a weekly beginners’ class had been
t
added to the menu. Anderson’s method
Pilatesology
Cost Two-week free trial: £13.50 a
month or £106 a year (pilatesology.com)
What is it A library of more than
1,000 Pilates videos held by some of
the world’s leading instructors. It was
founded by the US Pilates expert Alisa
Wyatt, whose clients include Olympic
athletes and supermodels.
How it works There are three levels and
you can select from slow, flowing or fastpaced sessions. After you’ve done a few
classes, the site tracks the ones you have
taken and recommends new ones. You
can search for specific workouts such as
for hamstrings or neck pain.
There are also sections for
seniors and men.
You can pick the
length of sessions
— from 10 to
60 minutes.
Peta’s verdict
There is a
generous amount
of mat classes and
the focus is on
authentic Pilates
methodology.
Instruction was clear,
if a little fast-paced — I
had to pause and review a few
times because I’d missed the detail.
Good for People who want to do
straight, focused Pilates with no
gimmicks or loud music.
Rating 9 out of 10
Fitness Blender
(fitnessblender.com)
Cost Free
What is it Workout videos from the
Los Angeles-based husband and wife
team Kelli and Daniel Segars, who
have five million subscribers to their
YouTube channel. Their lack of glitz
is a selling point.
How it works There are more than
500 videos, with new ones released
each week covering everything from
core and arm sessions to advice on
swimming. There’s no preamble, and
in many, no music. The most equipment
you’ll need is a set of dumbbells.
Peta’s verdict I liked the fact that each
video is preceded by a resume of what
it will do for you, including how many
calories you’ll burn, how long it will take
and what equipment you will need, as
well as which body parts you’ll target.
This is information that is lacking in
many of the paid-for online gyms.
Instruction was clear and incredibly
detailed in terms of technical advice.
Good for Those who need the facts
about how exercise is improving their
bodies and weight loss, and who aim
to stay motivated.
Rating 10 out of 10
the times Saturday March 31 2018
8 Body + Soul
SARAH CRESSWELL FOR THE TIMES
I want my
son to feel
proud of
his autism
After her son’s diagnosis, Jessie
Hewitson was determined that
he would still have a happy life
I
first heard the word autism in relation to my son at my mother-in-law’s
house in Cardiff. One morning, the
kitchen clock ticking loudly as we
drank our tea and coffee, she asked
me how I felt my one-year-old was
doing. I had got into the habit of
telling anyone who asked that everything
was fine, but this time I told the truth. I was
worried he wasn’t happy; I felt he didn’t
need me.
My lovely mother-in-law, a retired educational psychologist, looked me square in
the eye and then said something that
changed my life. She suggested my son
might be on the autism spectrum.
I don’t remember my reply, but I remember feeling a jolt and thinking: this must be
the reason. The reason I can’t play with my
son; why his communication is delayed;
why he doesn’t make eye contact or
respond to his name; why I instinctively
feel he is having a tough time. There was a
tinge of relief combined with the shock: I
had assumed that all these things were
down to me not being a great mum.
Later that day, alone in the house and
unable to stop thinking about that word, I
got out my laptop and nervously googled
“autism”. The first video I found showed a
child about my son’s age sitting in a high
chair and flapping his hands. I quickly shut
the laptop. It was exactly the same handflapping my son used to do at home. I
phoned my mum and burst into tears.
A year and a bit later my husband and I
were sitting in an NHS doctor’s office
while our two-year-old son sat on the floor
and bashed at a toy drum, anxious and
uninterested in the new adults in the room.
The paediatrician had just confirmed that
our son had autism spectrum disorder. He
had met the criteria for a diagnosis: he had
“impairments” in his social communication and social imagination, restricted
interests and repetitive behaviour.
The year leading up to that meeting had
been one of explosive rows as my husband
and I coped in depressingly gendered
ways. He tended to look for the positives
rather than facing up to the reality, and
feared that the waves of panic emanating
from me would sweep us all away.
It was also a year of ups and down with
the NHS. We had some wonderful professionals supporting us during the assessment process, but there were also some
awful ones, people who undermined me,
making me feel I was a neurotic middleclass mother. I realise now how little they
understood about autism, and even less
about my autistic son.
Until the age of five, my son seemed to
live in a dense fog. The fog would clear for
brief, glorious moments of shared enjoyment, often when he was being tickled or
during rough-and-tumble play, only for
him to sink back into the cloud when the
play became too confusing, the social demands too heavy, or the environment too
chaotic. Visiting the playground — ground
zero for “neurotypical” parents and children engaging with one another — left me
feeling depressed every time, and getting
my son to sleep at night was nigh on
impossible. By the end of my maternity
leave we were isolated and spending
much of our time in our flat, the place
that upset him least, but unable to play
with one another.
When we went to music groups he
would invariably try to escape; brought
back into the room he would start spinning in a circle. I thought he was dancing; now I know the music group was
totally overwhelming for him. His
coping mechanism was to turn on the
spot, which allowed him to focus on a
single thing. His behaviour was his way
of communicating; I just couldn’t
speak his language.
Trying to work out how my son
experienced the world and how we
could support him was an enormous
task, but after his diagnosis things
got better. My husband and I were
finally on the same page. We also
received some amazing help from
Dr Debora Elijah, who runs a
social skills centre that my son
visits once a week. Through the
centre, Dr Elijah has been
teaching him the social highway code: the stuff his
friends at school were
born knowing. She fills
in the blanks. She told
him one week that he
Below: Jessie Hewitson,
and above, with her son
as a baby
has to tell people what he’s thinking, that
we don’t magically know his thoughts.
That was a lightbulb moment for him. Now
he frequently asks me: “Mummy, would
you like to know what I’m thinking?” I so
always do!
Speaking to other parents of autistic
children was a double-edged sword, amazing in some ways — they really understood
— but terrifying in others, because
I couldn’t control the information I
received. I chatted to one woman and she
remarked how similar he sounded to her
autistic teenager at the same age. She went
on to tell me that her son’s mental health
had deteriorated to the extent that he had
just been sectioned. I didn’t sleep for two
nights after that conversation.
The internet was equally horrifying and
no books on autism that I came across
were able to drag me out of my despair.
Nor could they provide me with the practical information I needed.
And so one night, lying awake in the
small hours, I decided to write my own. It
looks at autism as a valid difference rather
than a disorder. It puts happiness — a
word that isn’t heard often enough in
conversations about autism — at the
centre of everything.
So why the change in perspective?
Two main reasons: my son slowly
moved from being unhappy to happy
as we started to learn more about his
experience of autism, and added
structure and predictability to his life.
Gradually it dawned on me that what
I was really scared about was having
an unhappy child, not an autistic one.
What makes my son happy now is
the Beano — an intense special interest of his — his iPad, trampolining
with his friends and not having two
parents who live in fear of his future.
I’m so proud of him. He has
been through a lot, and will go
through more, but I see him as
a brave and strong little boy.
I’m proud of his intelligence, good
humour and his lack of duplicity —
it would never occur to him to make
one of his friends feel small.
The second reason was the conversations I had with autistic adults I inter-
b k These
Th
viewed for the book.
conversations
with warm, empathetic, successful people,
married or happily single — the type of
autistic adults many of us don’t know exist
— changed everything. I found myself
thinking: who wouldn’t want their child to
be like you?
My son is now seven, about to turn eight.
Now we have adjusted life to make the
world easier for him to navigate. I remove
uncertainty where I can by getting friends
to send pictures of their homes before we
visit, watching film trailers before we go to
a movie and booking the same tennis and
cooking club every holiday. He’s at the
local mainstream state school with extra
support. I worry he feels on the periphery
of the class, but I can see that his classmates like him and he has friends.
Despite my fears in the early days, we are
My son is nearly eight.
We have adjusted life to
make the world easier
for him to navigate
very close. I provide his security and understand him best. He is always delighted
to see me, which makes me feel special. I
hug him, which he doesn’t really like, but
tolerates because he loves me, and he’ll tell
me his favourite Beano fact of the day; or
he’s delighted to repeat something he has
remembered from his school day.
One of the autistic adults I interviewed
was the TV presenter Alan Gardner of the
Channel 4 show The Autistic Gardener. He
told me about visiting a school for autistic
children whose pupils came rushing up to
him as he arrived, shouting out that they
were autistic too. That they were so proud
of their autism made him cry, and this
story means a lot to me too. I hope this is
the future for my son, that he grows up
proud of his autism, and knows how proud
I am to be his mum.
Autism: How to Raise a Happy Autistic
Child by Jessie Hewitson is out now
(Orion Spring, £14.99)
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Body + Soul 9
I gave up alcohol and now I’m shy in bed
Suzi Godson
Sex counsel
Q
I’ve always been quite
a big drinker and
recently decided
to quit alcohol for good
because I just wasn’t
enjoying it any more.
Since then I’ve felt
really shy in bed, so
I’m just not enjoying
sex with my wife as
much as I used to.
A
Drinking alcohol has obvious
downsides, but many people
who feel shy or anxious feel it
has benefits. In 2015 research by
the psychologist Susan R
Battista found a 4 per cent decrease in
anxiety for every alcoholic drink
consumed over a two-hour period.
However, the “pleasure zone” for alcohol
is a blood concentration of 0.03 to 0.059
per cent, which equates to a maximum of
two alcoholic drinks. As Shakespeare so
accurately observed, drink “provokes
the desire, but it takes away the
performance”. Alcohol affects the
central nervous system, so if you
drink too much it seriously
impairs sexual function.
It sounds as though you have
become quite reliant on alcohol
— and I can guess why. For
someone who is naturally
shy, a substance that
increases confidence
and arousal has obvious
appeal. Anxious people
learn to drink in
response to stress, and
this negative
reinforcement means
that alcohol becomes
their primary coping
mechanism.
The same is true with
regard to sex. In moderation
alcohol makes people more
extrovert and increases
feelings of lust, so people who
are shy, or sexually underconfident, often have a drink
in anticipation of sexual
activity. So, although you
believe that not drinking is
making you feel shy about
sex, the opposite is actually
true. The shyness you are
feeling is the real you and
drinking was your way of
masking that.
Shy people have a tendency
to withdraw rather than
expose themselves to situations
where they may be required to
open up. However, disclosure and
emotional responsiveness are key
components of intimacy, so shyness
can be a real barrier to closeness. This
is true for couples who are married too.
In 2010 the psychologists Levi Baker
and James K McNulty found that a
lack of confidence meant that shy
people have lower levels of marital
satisfaction and less successful
relationships. Similarly, Austrialian
researchers assessed the links between
shyness, wellbeing and romantic
relationship quality, and found that
shyness was negatively associated with
levels of intimacy and sexual satisfaction.
The impact was significantly more
pronounced in men than in women;
men tend to initiate sex more than
women, so a shy man is at a greater
disadvantage than a shy woman.
The studies established that shy people
have problems with trust, and because
they also find it difficult to depend on
others, they are less willing to become
intimate. By extension, they will often
shut people out rather than risk opening
up and so partners are often left
wondering whether they are the problem.
Unless you have explicitly informed
your wife that your recent sexual
reticence is related to quitting alcohol,
there is a strong chance that she is
interpreting your behaviour as
disinterest. However difficult you find it,
you need to tell her what is going on. She
will be hugely relieved to find out that
she is not the issue and I’m pretty sure
she will reassure you and tell you that
your shyness and sensitivity are what
attracted her to you in the first place.
Keep things in perspective and
embrace your vulnerability. Authenticity
is incredibly attractive and, in the greater
scheme of things, having a husband who
is hobbled by a temporary loss of sexual
confidence because he has voluntarily
thrown away his alcoholic crutch is
quite a small mountain to climb.
Send your queries to
weekendsex@thetimes.co.uk or
write to Suzi at Weekend,
The Times, 1 London Bridge Street,
London SE1 9GF
Ask
Marie O’Riordan
Q
My neighbour has an
apple tree that partly
hangs over my small
city garden. It’s so old and
untended that the apples rot
while still on the tree then
fall into my garden. I don’t
want to fall out with my
neighbour. What can I do?
Being a good
neighbour is
about partaking
in a marathon,
not a sprint
A
First and foremost you will
probably be living next to your
neighbour for years to come, so
you are right to think that it
would be unwise to fall out with them.
But you’re also justified in being irked by
the overhanging apple issue so you do
need to take some action to solve it.
You should go to your neighbour and
ask if they would mind if you lopped off a
few branches because you want to plant
petunias beneath. Your neighbour will
probably then consider pruning or felling
the tree as the decent thing to do. If they
don’t, don’t blame them — being a good
neighbour is about partaking in a
marathon, not a sprint. You don’t know
what else is going on in their lives.
You are within your rights to cut off
any overhanging branches or foliage.
Legally, however, you must return the
fruit to the tree owner, which suggests a
very neat solution to your problem.
Baskets of rotting fruit are an excellent
way of illustrating your problem. Then
you can suggest a pruning programme.
If might be worth proposing to go halves
on this minor tree surgery, which would
bring matters to a head.
Send your queries for Marie to
weekend@thetimes.co.uk
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the times Saturday March 31 2018
10
the times Saturday March 31 2018
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the times Saturday March 31 2018
12 Food + Drink
Easter lamb
How chefs cook
the perfect roast
From Mary Berry’s spiced leg to Skye Gyngell’s lamb
with beetroot and Thomasina Miers’s slow-roast shoulder
Mary Berry’s
leg of lamb with
mint raita
Lamb with roasted beetroots
Serves 6
Ingredients
2kg leg of lamb, butterflied and fat
removed (ask your butcher to do this)
12 flatbreads or tortillas
For the marinade
Juice and finely grated zest of 1½ lemons
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the raita
500g natural yoghurt
¼ large cucumber, deseeded, finely
chopped
2 heaped tbsp chopped mint
2 heaped tbsp chopped dill
2 tsp ground cumin
Grated zest of ½ lemon
2 pickled cucumber spears with dill
(from a jar — Mrs Elswood for example),
finely chopped
Method
1 Place the lamb on a board so that it is
spread out like a butterfly. Lay a sheet
of clingfilm on the top and bash the
thickest parts of the meat with a meat
mallet so the lamb is a fairly even
thickness throughout.
2 Place the lamb in a large dish or
freezer bag. Mix together all the
ingredients for the marinade in a
bowl, season generously with salt
and pepper and pour over the
lamb. Rub into the meat to coat, then
cover the dish and transfer to the
fridge to marinate for a minimum
of 2 hours.
3 In a separate bowl, mix together
the ingredients for the raita and
season with a good pinch of salt.
4 Shortly before you are ready
to cook the lamb, preheat the
oven to 200C/gas 6.
5 Place a large ovenproof frying
pan over a high heat and add the lamb.
Brown on one side for 5 min, then
transfer to the oven to cook for
about 20 min or until browned all
over and still pink in the middle.
Transfer to a board, cover in foil and
leave to rest for 15 min before carving.
6 Warm the flatbreads according to the
packet instructions, then slice the meat
and serve with the warmed flatbreads
and a dollop of mint raita.
Recipe taken from Classic by Mary
Berry (BBC, £26)
Skye Gyngell’s
lamb with roasted
beetroots
Serves 6
Ingredients
2kg leg of spring lamb, boned and
butterflied (ask your butcher to do this)
4 garlic cloves, smashed but not peeled
6 thyme sprigs
7 tbsp olive oil
Juice of a lemon
A bunch of beetroot, scrubbed and
halved lengthways
A bunch of carrots, scrubbed and the
larger ones halved lengthways
5-6 ripe tomatoes
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mary Berry
For the olive and mint sauce
100g pitted good quality black olives
A bunch of mint, leaves only
100ml olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Method
1 Cut the lamb into 6 portions. Mix the
garlic, thyme, 4 tbsp of the olive oil and
the lemon juice together in a bowl large
enough to hold the lamb. Add the lamb
and turn to coat well. Cover and leave
to marinate for at least 2 hours, turning
occasionally.
2 Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables
and sauce. Preheat the oven to
200C/gas 6. For the sauce, roughly
chop the olives and mint, combine
in a bowl and add the olive oil, wine
vinegar and a good pinch of salt. Stir
well and set aside.
3 Place the beetroot in a roasting tray,
drizzle with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and
season with salt and pepper. Cover the
tray tightly with foil and cook on the
middle shelf of the oven for 30 min.
Add the carrots to the tray, toss
with the beetroot and roast, uncovered,
for 35 min or until carrots and
beetroot are tender when pierced
with a sharp knife.
4 In the meantime, tear the tomatoes
in half with your hands and place
them in a bowl. Add the chopped
rosemary and 1 tbsp of olive oil,
season with salt and pepper and toss
to mix. Once the roasted vegetables
are cooked, remove from the oven and
add the tomatoes. Toss to combine;
keep warm.
5 To cook the lamb, turn the grill high.
Remove the meat from the marinade,
pat dry and season well. Grill for a
few minutes, turning as necessary
to brown well all over, then turn the
heat to low and cook for 6 min on
each side. Remove and set aside in
a warm place to rest for 10 min.
6 Slice the lamb and
arrange on
warm plates with the
roasted vegetables.
Spoon over some olive
oil and mint sauce to
serve.
springrestaurant.co.uk
Skye Gyngell
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Food + Drink 13
Lamb loin with harissa
and sweet potato
FAITH MASON; TARA FISHER; GEORGIA GLYNN SMITH
Slow-roasted lamb
shoulder with potatoes
chilli flakes, the 1 tsp of salt and 3 tbsp
of water in a 30cm x 20cm x 5cm
roasting tray.
4 Toss well with your hands so
everything is combined and the sweet
potato is coated in spiced oil. Add the
butter to the tray and roast for 25 min,
shaking the tray occasionally.
5 Push the sweet potato to one side —
it should still fit in a single layer — and
add the lamb. Roast for 12–15 min,
turning the lamb over and shaking the
tray halfway through. When done, it
should still be springy to touch.
6 Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with
foil and leave to rest for 10 min.
7 Meanwhile, remove the sage or bay
leaves and squeeze the garlic out of its
papery skin into the tray with the sweet
potato. Mash, incorporating all the
meat juices from the tray, and season
with more salt and pepper if needed.
Cut the lamb into thick slices and serve
with the sweet potato mash, pouring
any lamb juices from the plate over
the meat. This is lovely served with
a bitter green salad.
Recipe taken from Roasting Tray Magic
by Sue Quinn (Quadrille, £14.99)
Thomasina
Miers’s
slow-roasted lamb
shoulder with
potatoes
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
1 bone-in lamb shoulder (about 2kg)
4 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
8 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and
finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp capers, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
200ml single cream
Leg of lamb
with mint raita
Karam Sethi’s
lamb raan
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
Large leg of lamb, around 2.5kg
1½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
The seeds from 6 cardamom pods
250ml natural (whole-milk) yoghurt
7½cm ginger, peeled and finely grated
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
150g cashew nuts
Juice of ½ a lemon
1½ tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
400g onions, sliced
Oil for cooking
Method
1 Make the cashew nut paste the day
before by soaking the cashew nuts for
20 min. Then drain most of the water
and blend to a fine puree. Set aside.
2 Then (still on the day before), score
the leg of lamb with a sharp knife,
making deep crosses on both sides
and set aside. In a spice grinder or
with a pestle and mortar, grind the
cumin, coriander seeds, black
peppercorns and cardamom together.
Put the spices in a large bowl, and add
the yoghurt, grated ginger, crushed
garlic, cashew nut paste, lemon juice,
chilli powder, ground cinnamon and
2 tsp of salt. Rub the marinade on to
the lamb, massaging into the cuts,
then transfer to a large casserole
dish and cover. Leave in the fridge
overnight to marinade.
3 The next day, approximately three
hours before you want to serve,
preheat the oven to 180C/gas4.
4 Transfer the lamb to a deep roasting
tray, pour 125ml of water into the tray
around the lamb and loosely cover
with foil. Cook for about 2¼ hours for
lamb that is pink in the middle, and
2½ hours if you like it more well done.
5 In a pan on the hob, heat some
cooking oil and fry the sliced onions
until soft and golden.
6 45 min before the finished cooking
time, remove the foil and add the
onions to the lamb tray, lightly drizzle
with oil, and cook until the onions
are crispy.
7 You can then transfer the lamb to
a hot barbecue (at the ember stage
— no flame), or a grill to finish it off
and add a nice charred flavour and
colour to the lamb.
Recipe taken from the Gymkhana
restaurant’s Easter menu,
gymkhanalondon.com
Sue Quinn’s lamb eat!
loin with harissa
Easy vegan
and sweet potato
Serves: 4
Ingredients
2 thick lamb neck fillets, about 600g
in total
1 tsp sea salt flakes, plus extra for
seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heaped tbsp rose harissa paste
800g sweet potato, peeled and cut
into 3cm pieces
3 sage leaves or bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Bitter green salad, to serve (optional)
Method
1 Pat the lamb dry with kitchen
paper and season with salt and
pepper. Rub all over with the harissa
paste and set aside for at least
10 min.
2 Preheat the oven to 220/gas 7.
3 Place the sweet potato, sage or
bay leaves, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon,
recipes
Thomasina Miers
For the potatoes
1.25kg floury potatoes, such as Maris
Piper or King Edward, peeled
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped
and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200ml white wine
500ml chicken stock
Method
1 Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 3.
2 Prepare the potatoes first. Cut them
into very thin slices (a mandoline is best,
but the slicing attachment on a food
processor will also do). Layer the
potatoes with the sliced onions,
rosemary and garlic in a deep
roasting tin that’s large enough to
take the lamb, seasoning each layer
with plenty of salt and pepper. Pour
over the wine and stock.
3 Mix together the garlic, capers,
anchovy and oil, then make shallow
slashes all over the lamb before rubbing
in the anchovy mixture. Season the
outside with salt and pepper.
4 Lay the lamb on top of the potatoes
and cover the pan tightly with foil.
Roast for 3 hours, then remove the
foil, pour the cream into the pan
and cook for a further hour until the
lamb is tender enough to pull apart
with 2 forks.
5 Transfer the meat to the carving
board, and shred or carve as you like.
Serve with the potatoes and some
greens on the side.
Recipe taken from Home Cook by
Thomasina Miers (Guardian Faber, £25)
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Chris and wildlife photography experts Mark
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the times Saturday March 31 2018
Food + Drink 15
It’s time to give riesling a chance
ALAMY
Jane MacQuitty
Weissenkirchen in
Wachau, Austria
I
will never understand why the steely,
tongue-tingling, lime and green
apple flavours of the riesling grape
aren’t more popular with drinkers,
especially when it makes the perfect
spring-is-sprung, food-friendly white.
Maybe it’s down to the
misconception that all riesling is cheap,
sweet and nasty. In fact, it makes the
perfect aperitif or mid-afternoon white
and can bring out the best in rich seafood
and smoked fish dishes and spicy stir-fries.
Drunk young, its refreshing, racy,
jasmine and honeysuckle reminiscent
fruit and lower alcohol make a welcome
Riesling makes
the perfect
aperitif or
mid-afternoon
white
E XC L U S I V E
R E WA R D S FO R
SUBSCRIBERS
change from clunky chardonnay, and with
just a year or so of bottle age, it develops
some delicious, honeyed, curiously
kerosene-scented flavours.
For me, though, it is riesling’s
minerality and extraordinary ability to
reflect its soil and site, wherever it is
planted in the world, that makes this
grape such a star. Perhaps the message is
finally getting through: sales were up
almost a third in value and more than a
quarter in volume last year. Take it from
me, good riesling is a grape that you are
not going to get bored with.
Start your conversion to riesling at the
top with the Austrian star of a recent
tasting, Prager’s wondrous 2012 Klaus
Smaragd Riesling, whose gorgeous, steely,
yet floral, citrus punch and power make it
one of the Wachau’s finest (Handford, 020
7589 6113, £42.95). Alsace is another
glorious fruit and flower-garden riesling
source, and the apple and kerosene-styled
2015 Clos St-Jacques Riesling (Majestic,
£13.99) has this quality in spades.
I am also a big fan of Australian riesling
that bursts with fruit and flavour. Aldi’s
2017 Exquisite Collection Clare Valley
Riesling (£6.99) is a leafy, citrus zest
triumph, but if you can, nab the German
single vineyard 2016 Stepp ‘S’ Riesling
(Marks & Spencer, £15), a light, grapey,
yellow plum-packed winner.
This week’s best buys
2016 Camino
Nuevo Joven,
Ribera del Duero,
Spain, 13 per cent
Lidl, £5.49
Young, juicy,
joven (unoaked),
easy-quaffing
tempranillo, with
all the ripe red
fruit you’d expect
from Spain’s top
red grape.
2015 Baily & Baily
Folio Riesling, Clare
Valley, Australia,
12.5 per cent
Waitrose, £8.49
Terrific, rich,
spicy, lime and
petrol-scented dry
riesling, from
prime Aussie spot
Clare and its
rust-red loam
and quartz soil.
2014 Vinya Carles
Crianza, Priorat,
Spain,
14 per cent
Lidl, £5.99
Contemporary,
chunky, merlot
and cabernetenriched Priorat
red, with bold,
inky, sandalwood
and mocha
spiced fruit.
Star
rieslings
2016 Darting
Estate,
Dürkheimer
Riesling, Pfalz,
Germany,
12.5 per cent
Marks & Spencer,
£10.50
Glorious riesling
with bold, grapey,
nectarine, orange
blossom and
kerosene pizzazz.
Roederer Brut Premier
Champagne,
France,
12 per cent
Waitrose, £33.99
(down from
£42.99)
A swanky
big-name
champagne, with
gorgeous, racy,
yet rich, honeyed,
biscuity fruit.
2016 Leitz Eins
Zwei Dry Riesling,
Rheingau,
Germany,
12 per cent
Sunday Times
Wine Club, 0333
0142770, £14.99
Mouthwatering,
floral and
zesty with a
fine, herby,
lemon-twist finish.
VIP day at the
Aviva Premiership
Rugby Final 2018
Kick off the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final
with a private pre-match talk in the ERIC Room at
Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, May 26. Join
Owen Slot and our expert panel for a Q&A before
enjoying the hotly anticipated final.
Limited tickets available from 9am
at mytimesplus.co.uk
This Times+ event is open to UK subscribers only. For full terms and conditions, visit mytimesplus.co.uk
the times Saturday March 31 2018
16
the times Saturday March 31 2018
17
the times Saturday March 31 2018
18
Outside
Top 20 birds
What to spot in
your garden
Goldcrest
These are our smallest birds, distinguished by
the golden crest on their crown (this is more
of a lemon yellow on the female), Otherwise
it is a dull greenish bird that moves
e
continuously, but inconspicuously, through the
twigs in trees and hedges. It has a song like the
e
sound of a tiny spinning wheel. It is very tame.
Did you know? The male goldcrest lifts and
shakes his crest when he is courting a female.
Where to see them If you have a cypress
or cedar tree in the garden, you
may find its beautiful little
nest made of green moss
and spiders’ webs
hanging beneath
a bough.
You may hear them all the time, but
can you recognise them? Derwent May
on the birds to see this spring
Wren
Collared dove
Great tit
Chaffinch
This tiny brown bird with a jauntily cocked tail
has an amazingly powerful song, full of rapid
trills and rich throbbing notes. There are more
than seven million pairs nesting in Britain each
year, but it is so retiring and inconspicuous that
far fewer people see it than one might suppose.
Did you know? On a cold night you may find
many wrens huddled together in a garden
nest box to keep warm; 63 were once
found together.
Where to see them They creep endlessly
through low, dense bushes, but every so often
pop up to the top
to look around
and give a very
good view.
Collared doves invaded Britain from the Middle
East in 1955 and there are probably a million
breeding pairs, although before then they
were unknown here. They are smaller than
woodpigeons and are pinkish-buff with a bar
on their necks. Their song is a triple coo, with
the middle coo heavily stressed. They are
farmland birds that are often seen in gardens.
Did you know? In television films and dramas
they are often heard singing in Victorian
gardens — a clear century too early.
Where to see them They come flying
into gardens and land in a tree with
a loud squawk. They may sing in
the tree or build their flimsy
nest of twigs in it.
This exotic, colourful, underappreciated bird
has a bold black cap. Its black throat continuess
e
as a broad black line down its yellow breast; the
line is thicker on the male. Its back is green, its
wings blue. It has a delightful, cautious way of
first looking to the left and right when it lands.
Did you know? Besides their well-known
“teacher, teacher” song, great tits have 40
song types. Other great tits may be scared off,
thinking the various songs sung by a territory
owner mean there are several
birds defending the territory.
Where to see them
Nesting in holes in trees
and buildings and
very often in nest
boxes.
This is one of our most common birds. The
male has an underside that is bright pink from
chin to tail, with a blue cap, and he sings a brisk,
perky, cheerful-sounding song. The female is
yellowish-brown beneath. Both have a double
white wing bar that flashes when they fly up. A
garden in which apple trees grow will attract
them because they like
li to make their mossy
nest in a fork of a small tree.
Did you know? In addition to our residents,
flocks of Scandinavian chaffinches come here
to winter and the great naturalist Carl Linnaeus
gave the bird the Latin name of coelebs, or
bachelor,
elor, because he noticed that
females
es went south, but many
males stayed in Sweden.
Where
e to see them Males
often deliver their song
from halfway up a tall
tree, such as a
sycamore.
more.
Song thrush
Herring gull
Dunnock
Blackcap
If you have a song thrush singing in a tree in
your garden, you’re lucky. A wonderful song
will ring out from January to July, with repeated
loud trills and bell-like phrases. It is most often
heard at dawn and dusk, when the low sun
shines on the speckled breast of the bird.
Did you know? Blackbirds and song thrushes
have similar nests, but whereas the blackbird’s
nest is lined with dry
the thrush’s
y grass,
g
has
as a bare mud lining.
Where to see them If you
hear
ear a loud tapping in a
bush,
ush, you may find a
song
ong thrush breaking
a snail’s shell on a
stone.
tone.
Herring gulls can be seen swirling and wailing
over gardens at any time of the day, all year
round. This is because they have taken to
nesting on town roofs inland as well as by the
sea. So these large, pinkish-legged gulls may be
considered a garden bird. One may come down
to pick up a tasty morsel dropped on a lawn.
Did you know? These gulls drop mussels on
quaysides to break their shells, but another
q
gull
gu
ull may get to the contents before
they
the
ey do.
Where
W
here to see them
Flying
Fly
ying overhead or
foraging
forraging in the
garden.
ga
arden.
This bird used to be called the hedge sparrow,
but it is not related to the true sparrows. It is
a small undramatic brown bird, although it
has an attractive bluish-grey head. The song,
which most often comes from a hedge, is
also rather quiet, but quite musical. Dunnocks
are often seen flicking their wings, especially
when two rival males meet.
Did you know? Their reproductive life can
be dramatic. A male is often mated to two
females, and a female to two males.
Where to see them They
creep about like mice under
hedges and bushes on
their pink feet.
Several thousand of these little skull-capped
birds now winter here, and they are still
around. They bully other birds on bird tables.
They are very common in woodland and will
nest in bushes in large gardens. They even
come into front gardens in suburban streets.
Did you know? While the population of many
birds is declining, blackcap numbers in Britain
have been growing with unexplained speed.
Where to see them It is best to look for them
singing their loud, brilliant song in trees early
in the spring, Once the leaves are on the
trees, blackcaps are heard, but are
hard to detect.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
19
5-page bank holiday
gardens special
Blue tit
Blackbird
Spotted flycatcher
Swifts are late returners,
s, but
they should be mentioned
ned
because they are so
important to garden
birdwatchers. They nestt
under the eaves of
houses, which may
include your own, and
feed on insects in the
sky above parks and
gardens. Many people
will sit for a long time
watching them circling
and swerving overhead
a
on a warm evening.
o
Did you know? They
ccollect their nest material,
ial,
ssuch as dry grass and
ffeathers, as it floats
about in the sky.
a
Where to see them
W
Exclusively in the air, forr
tthey do not set foot on
land, unless they fall down.
These titmice are distinctly smaller than great
tits, but like them they have a green back and
blue wings. They also have a blue cap and a
dark line through the eye. Unlike the great tit,
they have only a thin little churring song that
few people notice. They hang upside down
when they are feeding.
Did you know? It has been discovered that this
tit’s blue cap gives off ultraviolet rays that we
cannot detect, but other blue tits can. The more
brilliant a male’s ultraviolet is, the
t
more attractive he is to fema
females.
Where to see them The blue
b
tit is probably the most
prolific user of garden
nest boxes.
This bird is now found equally in town and
country gardens; several centuries ago it was
exclusively a shy woodland bird. The male
is black, with golden beak, while the female
and the young are brown. The males are now
singing their charming, lazy, fluting song.
Did you know? The poet Lord Tennyson grew
fruit in his garden especially for them and in
a poem wrote to ask: “O blackbird, sing me
something well/ While all my neighbours
shoot thee round.”
Where to see them
Sometimes they will nest
in ivy on a garden
wall.
Most of these fascinating birds come later in
the year, but there are usually one or two early
arrivals. Their distinctive habit is to sit on a twig
and fly out smartly to catch passing insects.
They are dull-brown birds that sit hunched up
on a twig when waiting, so are inconspicuous,
but they are very obvious when they dart out.
Did you know? When hunting they will try to
catch large butterflies, especially whites.
Where to see them A favourite nest site is
wisteria or other creepers on a house wall,
and they will
return to
the same
place year
after year.
B
Barn owl
House martin
House sparrow
Swallow
ow
Y
You’d only see a barn owl in a country garden.
They nest in barn roofs, but go out hunting as
T
tthe sun sets. They are mainly snowy-white
birds, with orange-brown upper parts and a
white, heart-shaped face. They are getting
scarce, and great efforts are being made
to protect them.
Did you know? The piercing
screams they make at night
are courtship songs.
Where to see them
In gardens
fields;
overlooking field
you may see
the ghostly
going
figure goin
by with
strange
wavering
waverin
g
flight.
fligh
These little black and white birds with a small
forked tail live, like swallows, in the air. They
build their mud nests under the eaves of
houses. The nests frequently look down on a
street or garden. The birds fly jerkily about over
the rooftops, making clicking calls.
Did you know? They spend the winter in the
great forests of South Africa, but no one knows
exactly where.
Where to see them Collecting mud for their
nest on playing fields, where they
walk about awkwardly.
These well-known birds used to be common
in town gardens, but now they are much
scarcer, although they are still seen in rural
gardens. The males, with their cap and
big black bib, are quite different from the
plain brown females.
Did you know? Ornithologists still have not
worked out the reason for their decline in
towns. It may be due to a shortage of insects
for the nestlings, or to a dearth in modern
buildings of the holes and cracks they
like to nest in.
Where to see them Males sit in
gutters endlessly making
their very loud spring
chirp.
Some swallows
llows will be back by next
month and
d they often nest in outhouses in
gardens that back on to fields, where they
sweep over the grass looking for flying insects.
They have a blue back, a red face and long
streamers on each side of the tail. They cannot
easily be confused with swifts, though they
often are.
Did you know? They have a sweet twittering
song that is startlingly interspersed with
strange snarling sounds.
Where to see them Look for them
flying with wonderful precision
through an outhouse window.
Sparrowhawk
Starling
Tawny owl
Sparrowhawks hunting for small birds often
come into gardens. The female is larger and
more powerful than the male, and looks
fiercer. She is brown with barred underparts;
he is blue with reddish bars.
Did you know? In the past century, these
hawks ate many birds that had ingested
the insecticide DDT, causing the hawks to
lay
y eggs
gg with thin,, breakable shells.
Their numbers declined severely,
only recovering after DDT
was banned in 1986.
Where to see them
Sweeping on to a
bird table for
prey.
These lively birds look black, but in spring, seen
in the right light, the males have a glossy green
and blue sheen. They have an unmistakable
song, consisting mainly of clicks and whirring
sounds, as well as loud whistles. They nest
behind drainpipes or in holes in trees.
Did you know? The nestlings make an
exceptionally noisy clamour for food
ood from
their parents,
s, and after fledging will chase
them in the air.
Where to see them On the
lawn, where they dig for
leatherjackets, which are
daddy longlegs larvae.
These are night hunters in gardens and may
roost in the daytime in one with a suitable tree.
At night they sit on a branch, listening intently
for the sound of a mouse moving below, then
swoop down on their soft, silent wings to pick it
the street.
up. They also sit on tall lampposts in th
ventures
Did you know? If one v
out in daytime, a mob of
chases
small birds often ch
them.
Where to see them
the In
the daytime you may
th
pressed
find
ind one press
against
nst a tree-trunk
tre
so as to
blend in
o ble
with it.
it
RSPB
Swift
Joe Swift’s
top tips for
getting the
most out of
your bulbs
See next page
the times Saturday March 31 2018
20
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Outside 21
GETTY IMAGES
Potted bulbs such
as daffodils need
to be fed now
Get the best
from your
spring bulbs
Follow these simple
rules to ensure they
thrive and flower
again next year,
says Joe Swift
S
pring-flowering bulbs are a
versatile way of introducing
early shots of colour to the
garden, and they are good
value for money these days
when you compare them with
a bunch of cut flowers. Many,
when grown directly in the ground, will
naturalise and come up year after year,
but they can also be crammed into pots,
containers and window boxes and placed
just where you want for a one-off
seasonal display.
However, what should you do with
them after they’ve flowered? Should you
cut them back? Tie them in silly knots?
Mow the ones in the lawn? Throw the
ones in pots away? Here are my top tips.
Bulbs in the lawn
Crocuses, daffodils/narcissi, anemones
and scilla are classic bulbs to naturalise
in the lawn. You could also try snake’s
head fritillaries if your soil is wet and
heavy. In a lawn they tend to flower a
little earlier than those grown in open
ground because they have a green
blanket over them that alters the ground
temperatures and flowering times.
Once they’ve finished flowering, it’s
important to leave them for a minimum
of six weeks before cutting back or
mowing over. If cut prematurely, they’re
likely to come up blind without flowers
the next year.
The timing can cause issues because it
is likely to overlap with the start of the
mowing season. It is best to grow them
in designated areas you can mow round,
perhaps towards the edge of the lawn
areas, or try to naturalise them in large
areas that can be left to mow over in one
go, or even as part of a wildflower
meadow with some grasses in it where
they will die back naturally.
If you want a bulb to self-seed and
multiply further, check that the
seedheads have split and released their
seed before mowing. They should have
done if they have been left for six weeks.
Good narcissi for taller grass areas
include the lovely fragrant pure
white Narcissus poeticus ‘Actaea’ and
N. poeticus var. recurvus (pheasant’s eye
daffodil), with its swept-back petals.
Bulbs grown indoors
If you forced some bulbs for early
flowering indoors or were given a pot as
a gift, the bulbs may be able to take on
another life outdoors. Hardy plants
(most varieties of hyacinth, daffodils and
tulips) can be planted out in the garden
after fading and may flower again next
spring. There are some exceptions,
such as Narcissi ‘Paperwhite’ and
amaryllis, which are not hardyy enough
to survive outdoors.
nted
Indoor bulbs are usually planted
shallowly in their pots. When
transplanting outdoors, plant
them much deeper — at least
three times deeper than their
height. Choose a sunny spot
and plant the entire clump
with its leaves on and make
sure there are no air
Prepare the soil
well, digging in
plenty of organic matter
il
and drainage material
pockets round the bulbs. If your soil is
heavy, put some grit under the bulbs and
in the backfill earth. Add a liquid feed
high in potash, such as a tomato feed (or
liquid seaweed as an organic option). If
you don’t let the bulbs dry out and let
the leaves die back naturally before
cutting them, the flowers should appear
next spring.
Bulbs in outdoor pots
You may have just grown them for a
one-hit wonder and want to use the pot
to grow something else. Once over,
pot-grown bulbs can be planted into the
garden (as above), or lifted and stored in
a dark dry cool place with a view to
planting out again in the autumn.
Or you can put the entire pot aside,
leave it to dry and then start watering
again in the autumn and feeding
sprin to get them going again.
in spring,
This may work for a couple of years,
and then the
they will need repotting with
new compost in the autumn or planting
out altogethe
altogether.
When crocuses have
stopped flowering leave
them for six weeks
before mowing the lawn
Caring for failed bulbs
Some bulbs put on plenty of leaf growth
and look healthy enough, but then
flower poorly or not at all, which could
be because of a combination of reasons,
such as poor-quality bulbs, waterlogged
soil, cutting back the leaves too early the
previous spring, or perhaps planting to
the wrong depth or in overly congested
clumps. The way to make sure that
you’re giving them the best treatment for
next time is a rather slow process. I
guess it depends how many you have,
how accessible they are and how
committed you are to saving them.
First, identify those with problems
before they disappear underground and
mark the culprits with a few sticks or
short bamboo canes in the ground (note:
the markers will need to be left in until
the autumn). Feed when in leaf, then let
them die down naturally. In early
autumn (around September or October),
when you would usually plant bulbs out,
lift them with a fork and separate them
into individual bulbs (throw out any
rotten or deformed ones). Prepare the
soil well, digging in plenty of organic
matter and drainage material, such as
grit or sharp sand, and replant to the
correct depth.
General care
The key time for any care to prepare
bulbs for the next year is when they are
visibly growing. Unless you want to
encourage self-seeding in naturalised
areas, it is worth removing all faded
flower heads (and if possible take the
flower stalk down to the ground), but
make sure to leave the leaves. Of course,
this may not be realistic, depending on
their size, quantity and access, but do
what you can.
The aim is for the energy to go back
into the bulb to be stored for the next
year, rather than going into making seed.
Feed the plants when in growth and
even after flowering when the leaves are
still on, using a general granular fertiliser
or organic liquid tomato feed.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
22 Outside
Plant your own woodland meadow
Even urban
gardens can
get the
country look
A
carpet of woodland plants
stretching out under the
emerging
foliage
of
shrubs and trees is one of
the real joys of spring.
Whether you are planning a small drift covering
just a few metres, or huge swathes, the
key to recreating this look is the same.
While it is the flowers that draw the eye,
success with this style is dependent on the
foliage that knits the drifts of flowers
together, and the balance and ratios of
foliage to flower. Establishing the matrix
of foliage should be your first job,
choosing robust — and mainly evergreen
— grasses, ferns and foliage. At least
50 per cent of your planting should
be composed of this foliage.
Try native ferns such as Polystichum
settiferum, Polypodium vulgare and
Asplenium scolopendrium alongside woodland grasses such as Luzula nivea, Millium
effusum and, in the full sun around the
edges, Brizia media. And throw in some
good ground cover such as Tiarella
cordifolia to tie the whole scheme together.
Now add your choice of flowers from
the list below. These plants all love
humus-rich soil, under the shade of
deciduous trees, with a reliable level of
moisture (ie soil that never dries out
completely).
Remember to plant in large-scale drifts,
with at least seven of each variety grouped
together, even in a smaller spot. In small
plots you may have to use just two foliage
and two flowering varieties to keep the
effect of a woodland meadow.
Alice Bowe
My favourite woodlanders to plant now
Primrose
Primula vulgaris
Dog’s tooth violet
Erythronium dens-canis
Deeply veined oval leaves splay out from
a central rosette that is smothered in
simple lemon yellow flowers. Primroses
like partial shade, but will cope with an
early burst of full sun. Moisture is
preferred but not essential.
The matt, oval, chocolate-blotched
leaves of this creeping woodlander are
almost as beautiful as its miniature lily
flowers; worth getting down on your
knees for a closer look. Plant in partial
shade, in soil that does not dry out.
American wake-robin
Trillium grandiflorum
Dusky cranesbill
Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’
Luminous white flowers brighten shady
corners, fading pink as they age. Grow in
fertile soil with a reliable amount of
moisture, but be aware these can be
tricky to grow and will take quite some
time to establish as a mature clump.
Though the flowers don’t appear until
May, the foliage of this tall cranesbill
is beautiful from early spring and thrives
in all conditions. With repeat flowering
tendencies this geranium is essential
for a woodland meadow.
Bleeding heart
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’
Violet
Viola ‘Boughton Blue’
Add scale and substance to your
meadow with this 90cm-tall albino form
of the bleeding heart, familiar to many
as Dicentra. In reliably moist soil it will
do well in full sun or partial shade.
Delicate violet-blue flowers with a robust
character. The flowers mound up upon a
low 10cm carpet of small green heart
shaped leaves, which grow happily in full
sun or partial shade.
Merrybells
Uvularia grandiflora ‘Pallida’
Globeflower
Trollus x cultorum ‘Alabaster’
A pale primrose-yellow rhizome with
lime green bleeding down into the base of
the petals. Plant in partial shade, in any
soil with a reliable amount of moisture
for flowers from mid April to early May.
These surprisingly versatile spring
flowers thrive in moist soil, in sun or
partial shade, and associate well with
grasses and ferns. They flower
throughout April and May at 60cm.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
GETTY IMAGES
Lay the perfect
lawn: the expert’s guide
L
aying a new lawn is such a
satisfying job, and now is a
good time of year to do it.
One minute there’s blank
soil and the next there’s a
green and inviting space.
The actual laying of the turf
is a remarkably quick job. More time
usually goes into preparing the soil. Here
are the principles of what to do.
First check whether the place you have
in mind for a lawn is the right place for
grass. Full sun is best if you want dense,
hard-wearing emerald turf. The shadier
and rootier it is, the more it will wear into
bald patches. Is it over a traffic lane where
you’ll be walking regularly? You can put
lawn in an area of high traffic but it
means having to work, through feeding
and aerating. Would a hard surface be a
better compromise? Is your topsoil clay?
When there’s sticky clay at the surface,
keeping a lawn is difficult. Soil smears
under the mower, it compacts and the
grass is thin and mossy.
Now consider timing. You can lay turf
all year but in summer it may need
regular watering for weeks afterwards
and in winter it will take weeks to root.
Mid-spring or mid-autumn are best when
it’s not too hot or cold, and not too dry.
In terms of preparing the ground, aim
for two things: a fine nutritious surface
to welcome the new turf’s roots, and a
surface that will not settle unevenly. A
smooth surface is achieved by digging
out other plants or turf until the soil is
bare, then forking over the top 10cm and
bashing it with the back of the fork to
break it into a crumbly fine mass. Small
stones should be taken out before raking
the surface into a smooth even plane.
The soil needs lightly firming to make
an even bed for the turf. You can do this
on light soil by shuffling along it, up and
down, in lines. Or, if the soil is heavy and
you need to avoid compacting it, lay a
board over it and shuffle over that to
Outside 23
spread the load. Give it a very light
raking to roughen the top centimetre or
so. After a light (although not vital)
scattering of general fertiliser, such as
Growmore, it’s ready for the turf.
Here’s a tricky thing. Often hollows
appear in a finished lawn after two to
three months because patches of soil that
were dug more deeply during preparation
have sunk more than the shallowly dug
soil. Sometimes deeper digging can’t be
helped. Maybe there’s an old tree root
that needs to come out or a deep-rooted
clump of docks that must be extricated so
they don’t regrow. It’s better to remove
problem roots and have some settlement
than leave them in. But you can give
some extra firming to the deeper-dug
places so settlement will be less.
Now lay the turf. To avoid footmarks
over your beautifully prepared soil, lay
boards to spread your weight and work
from those. In principle, you lay the turf
in lines from one end of the lawn to the
other. Start at one side and lay lines in
parallel alongside. Do the unrolling once
you’ve placed the turf on the soil.
Newly laid turf shrinks a little when
it’s unrolled in the fresh air, so the
individual turfs must be firmly abutted
to each other to avoid gaps opening.
Bump them together on both ends and
sides. Trickle soil into any unavoidable
gaps. Try to keep those lines straight
because wavy lines get wavier with every
subsequent line of turf, eventually
making the job much harder.
Need you water it? Not at this time of
year, unless we have weeks of no rain.
Stephen Anderton
the times Saturday March 31 2018
24
the times Saturday March 31 2018
25
26 Travel
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27
Travel
2
Page
30
‘It erupts from the Atlantic,
incisors of jungle-clad rock
spiking towards the gods’
Ian Belcher explores the northwest coast of Principe
The Hoxton
Amsterdam under £100 a night
From next week
you will be able to
take the Eurostar
from London to
Amsterdam direct.
Will Hide picks 20
great budget rooms
1 Citizen M
2 The Hoxton
3 Tire Station
This hotel near Zuid station and
Beatrixpark appeals as much to
cost-conscious business folk as to
flashpackers who have outgrown a
hostel. All the rooms are identical
and may be a shock to some, with
the shower and lavatory right
in the room (although there’s
some privacy with a frosted-glass
pull-around door). An iPad controls
everything from the blinds and
television to lighting and air
conditioning. There’s a 24-hour
bar/café and the staff are exceptionally
friendly and helpful.
Details Doubles cost from £96, room
only (citizenm.com)
It’s a 15-minute walk from Centraal
aal
station to the row of five historic
canal-side houses that form this
trendy bolt hole on Herengracht..
Enter, and the bar/café/lounge/
reception that greets you will
be reverberating with the
sound of guests and locals.
The timber-floor bedrooms
range from the Shoebox to
Roomy, with those overlooking
the canal costing more. The
vibe is hipster-cool and friendly,
but not forced.
Details Doubles cost from £98 a
night, room only (00 31 20 888 5555,
thehoxton.com)
Hop on the No 17 tram in front of
Centraal station and in about half
Centra
you’ll be near the corner
an hour
h
of V
Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s
m
main green space. Here you’ll
fi
find the Tire Station, which has
b
been transformed from an old
ggarage. It has 112 bedrooms
aand a busy café downstairs,
aas well as Moer, an upscale
re
restaurant, next door. You can
bu
buy your hipster essentials, such
as a skateboard, sunglasses and
hemp teas at reception.
Details
D
etails Doubles cost from £65,
room only (00 31 20 820 3333,
conscioush
conscioushotels.com)
W
2
the times Saturday March 31 2018
28 Travel
16
Seven Bridges hotel (purple building)
15
6
4 Volkshotel
The lobby at this spot on Wibautstraat
in the southeast of town comprises a
bar/café and flexible working
creative hub, guaranteeing a lively
atmosphere. There are 172 rooms —
minimal, but stylish — and a rooftop
hot tub and sauna, as well as live
music and yoga. At weekends the
seventh-floor restaurant doubles as a
nightclub and there’s a cocktail bar in
the basement.
Details Doubles cost from £54, room
only (00 31 20 261 2100, volkshotel.nl)
5 Hotel Not Hotel
When is a hotel not a hotel? When you
turn the concept over to designers
who theme one room on an old
Amsterdam tram and another on a
Mexican colonial villa and hide
others with secret doors behind a
bookcase. The latest is a VW camper
van, due this spring. There’s space in
the middle of the building to hang out,
or pop next door to the Kevin Bacon
bar, which serves Thai food and
cocktails. It’s a 15-minute walk north
of Vondelpark.
Details Doubles cost from £45, room
only (00 31 20 820 4538,
hotelnothotel.com)
6 Motel One
Waterlooplein
Think of this chain as a German
Premier Inn and you know what you’re
getting, part of which includes a decent
price. This property opened at the end
of last year. Rooms are well-designed in
a Swedish furniture store kind of way
and downstairs there’s a welcoming bar
and lobby/lounge area. It’s a 20-minute
walk from Centraal station.
Details Doubles cost from £98, room
only (00 31 820 7300, motel-one.com)
7 Mr Jordaan
This small, friendly property on
Bloemgracht has 34 simple but
thought-through rooms and ticks the
box for its canal-side setting. The
location is great for meandering and
is a five-minute walk from the Anne
Frank House. For about £15 extra you
can get a large breakfast buffet of
yoghurts, cheese and meats from
local suppliers. You need to keep an
eye on the hotel’s website to get the
cheapest rates.
Details Doubles cost from £90, room
only (00 31 20 626 5801, mrjordaan.nl)
20
8 City Hub
It’s a struggle not to use the phrase
“oversized coffin”, but some may say
it’s a stretch to call the 50 cabins here
rooms; think an Amsterdam version
of a Tokyo capsule hotel. Still, if
you’re young at heart, on a budget
and only want a place in which to sleep
and store your stuff, this is for you. It’s
about a 20-minute walk from
Vondelpark in an area that feels as if
it’s a local neighbourhood, with a street
market round the corner and a former
tram shed that is now a food hall with
lots of dining options next door.
Details Doubles cost from £44, room
only (cityhub.com)
9 St Christopher’s
at the Winston
If you’ve come to Amsterdam with
15 of your best friends and plan on
wearing identical “Dave is 30” T-shirts
for two days, this central hostel in the
red-light district is for you. Rooms are
basic, but clean and functional.
There’s a beer garden and bar
showing English football downstairs,
and within staggering distance there’s
a nightclub, condom shop, doughnut
store and tattoo parlour, so all your
bases are covered.
Details B&B doubles cost from £53 (00
31 20 623 1380, st-christophers.co.uk)
10 Generator Hostel
This former university faculty of
zoology has become a hostel with
design flair, sleeping more than 550
people. It’s 25 minutes from the main
station if you hop on a No 9 tram. The
former lecture hall has been turned into
a chill-out lounge and the old boiler
room is a bar for night owls. All rooms
Need to
know
overlook a park, with a mix of en suite
twins, four-bed family rooms and an
apartment for six.
Details Twins cost from £66, room only
(generatorhostels.com)
11 Lloyd Hotel
Eurostar (eurostar.com)
has returns from £86.50.
The outbound journey is
direct and takes 3 hours
40 minutes, but travellers
still need to change in
Brussels on the way back,
with a fastest journey time
of 4 hours 10 minutes.
A direct return service
should be in place by
the end of 2019
This atmospheric building in the
eastern part of town wears its history
on its sleeve: in the 1920s it housed
east European emigrants en route
to Brazil and Argentina, and in
1941 striking Dutch workers were
interned here. Now the space has
been imaginatively transformed.
It has rooms ranging from budget
with shared bathrooms to five-star
suites. In the eaves there’s a tranquil
library with art deco furniture and
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 29
13
10
downstairs is an airy café. Over the
road warehouses have been converted
into restaurants.
Details Doubles cost from £46 room
only (00 31 20 561 3607, lloydhotel.com)
12 Stayokay Oost
This behemoth of a building in a quiet,
eastern residential neighbourhood was
once a school and still has a “don’t run
in the corridors” air about it. It can
sleep more than 600 people in its
dorms and simple but clean en suite
doubles. It’s good value, and if you’re
watching your cents then the evening
buffet meal of salad, soup, a main
course and dessert for about £11
is hard to beat.
Details Doubles cost from £36,
room only (00 31 20 551 3190,
stayokay.com)
13 Hotel V Fizeaustraat
You’re out in the suburbs here, as the
neat rows of semi-detached houses
attest, but the ten-minute train ride
from Centraal station and ten-minute
walk shouldn’t put you off. Lurking
inside a functional-looking building
is a cool lobby/café/lounge and vibey
retro bedrooms. The smellies in the
bathrooms are made by the same
family who own this property and
two others in town.
Details B&B doubles cost from £81 (00
31 20 662 3233, hotelvfizeaustraat.nl)
14 Hotel Casa
No, you haven’t wandered into a
suburban office building, although
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Amsterdam
along the
River Rhine
Enjoy an eight-day
cruise along the
Rhine, culminating
with two days to
explore the canals,
museums and
galleries of
Amsterdam, from
£845 per person.
As this is a special
offer, there is
currently no
single supplement.
The cruise travels
from October 30 to
November 6, 2018.
TO BOOK, CALL
01858 589521
USE CODE
SAT3103
thetimes.co.uk/
rhinecruise
Expert
Traveller
you would be forgiven for thinking so.
Casa is mostly used for student
accommodation, but bedrooms are
also sold to visitors. Rooms are simple,
clean and functional. There’s a buzzy
café on the ground floor and a rooftop
bar in summer. It’s a ten-minute walk
from Amstel station.
Details Doubles cost from £62, room
only (00 31 20 665 1171, hotelcasa.nl)
15 Zoku
Enter what looks like a normal office
building and press the lift button for
the sixth floor. Here you’ll find a
home for digital nomads, those
who, with a laptop and wifi, call
London, Berlin or Amsterdam home.
Cross the greenhouse where herbs are
grown for the in-house restaurant and
you’ll find work benches, a busy café,
a music and games corner, and
meeting rooms. The bedrooms are
innovative — they are small, but pack
a lot in: a bed tucked away in an
alcove, a kitchenette and table, a work
desk and a compact bathroom.
It’s ten minutes on the Metro to
Centraal station.
Details Doubles cost from £100, room
only (00 31 20 811 2811, livezoku.com)
16 Seven Bridges
This cosy 300-year-old building
has a picture-postcard canalside
setting about a 25-minute walk south
of the main railway station. There are
only eight rooms, which are decked
out with antiques. Some have gold
leaf painted ceilings, while No 5 has its
own balcony, which is perfect for
breakfast on a sunny summer morning.
As you may expect in a place this old, it
has no lifts but steep stairs, which
may be a consideration for some.
Trams No 1, 2 or 5 will take you to
the centre of town.
Details Doubles cost from £100,
room only (00 31 20 623 1329,
sevenbridgeshotel.nl)
17 Student Hotel,
Amsterdam City
Despite the name, this converted
newspaper printing-press building
is not just for students. From the
outside the style is brutalist. Enter
the lobby and there’s a spacious, airy
lounge and a café and next door a cowork space and a gym. The cheapest
rooms have a basic design, but all are en
suite. By Metro you’re only about ten
minutes from Centraal station, with a
stop close by.
Details Doubles cost from £100,
room only (00 31 20 214 9999,
thestudenthotel.com)
18 Prinsenhof
This is a lovely small hotel next to a
canal on Prinsengracht, but do not
consider staying here if you have
dodgy knees or have undergone recent
hip surgery: the entrance is up a set
of stairs that are so steep you could
call them a ladder. Of course, that was
the way things are in a building this old
and it is part of its character. Bedrooms
are simple.
Details Doubles cost from £98,
room only (00 31 20 623 1772,
www.hotelprinsenhof.com)
19 Ecomama
Enter through a café at the front of
the building and you’re in this greenconscious hotel, where a large chill-out
tepee sets the relaxed tone. There are
a mix of dorms and doubles, with
typically Dutch straightforwardness
when it comes to room descriptions:
el cheapo sleeps 12, shabby cabins are
for two but have no windows and a
shared bathroom, while the double
private deluxe are at the top of the
chain. A euro from each booking is
donated to an education NGO working
in Guatemala. You’re only about
a 15-minute walk southeast of the
main station.
Details Doubles cost from £54,
room only (00 31 20 770 9529,
ecomamahotel.com)
20 Hotel V
Frederiksplein
This small hotel is a design pad on a
budget. The cheapest rooms are small,
but there’s a friendly welcome and a
stylish lobby/lounge/bar downstairs
with a fire at which to warm yourself
after sightseeing on cold days. You’re
about 20 minutes from Centraal
station if you hop on the Metro to
Weesperplein. If you can splurge,
then there are separate loft apartments
round the corner.
Details B&B doubles cost from £68 (00
31 20 662 3233, hotelvfrederiksplein.nl)
There is a city tax of 4 to 6 per cent in
addition to the room rates listed here.
All prices correct at the time of going
to press.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
30 Travel
Luxury travel
The nature
lover’s dream
hotel in Africa
The small island of Principe off the coast
of Gabon has wildlife, beaches and a
stunning new place to stay. By Ian Belcher
I
am suffering exam nerves. On
holiday. I’d expected my tropical
break to deliver jiggling palms,
squeaky sand and lurid cocktails,
not a swimming test invigilated by a
local fisherman. The muscular
Aderito, who’s monitoring my
buoyancy and stroke, is just behind me
in the translucent water like a shark
tracking its prey.
Pass and I’m rewarded with a wobbly
voyage in a piroga: a narrow canoe
hollowed out of an oca tree. Fail and I
remain onshore. Lifejackets are not
allowed. The owner of Praia Sundy, the
planet’s latest and perhaps most discreet
wilderness retreat, has declared that
lifejackets are “for pussies”. Can’t swim
well? You can’t go.
Thank Neptune that my tragically
slow crawl — 50m out, 200m parallel to
the land, 50m back — scrapes through.
Cue a rocky, memorable ride along a
divinely lush shoreline, powered by
Aderito’s effortless strokes, before
landing on the pristine Margarida Beach.
It’s not conventional luxury
hospitality. But Praia Sundy on the
northwest coast of Principe — an
equatorial island 210km off Gabon — is
no conventional luxury resort. Yes, it has
striking architecture and a peach of a
location, tucked into the fringe of a
Unesco biosphere reserve, but that’s only
half the story. Opened as part of a
project to ignite the local economy and
protect the ecosystem, it is staffed by
newly trained descendants of slaves and
plantation workers, has a restaurant
resembling a giant fish and offers guests
excursions to a waste recycling plant and
the unusually named Vagina Falls.
It also has an unforgettable approach.
As I fly the 180km from Sao Tome — the
big brother of the two-island country
that attracts only a dribble of visitors —
Principe erupts from the Atlantic,
vertiginous incisors of jungle-clad rock
spiking towards the gods.
On land the 4x4 speeds over the
tarmac road, which quickly turns to red
dirt. Riotous vegetation swallows me
alive. Impossibly tall trees loom over
ferns as big as houses, branches drip
with creeper and the rainforest proffers
exotic fruits I have yet to see in
Clapham. At times I drive through its
canopy, the massive trunks vanishing
beneath me, before descending past vast
tangles of gnarled roots, and then,
suddenly, as I slalom towards the ocean,
there’s a flash of white. Then another:
the tented roofs of Praia Sundy.
After the big build-up it doesn’t
A villa at the Praia Sundy
resort. Below: the beach
at Bom Bom
MICHAEL RUNKEL/GETTY IMAGES
disappoint. The 15 villas, designed by
Didier Lefort, the architect behind the
Datai Hotel in Langkawi and the Four
Seasons in Bora Bora, have tasteful
contemporary designs — linear wood,
white leather surfaces, floor-to-ceiling
sliding windows — with clever local
flourishes: slatted wood walls inspired by
Principe fishing huts, tree-trunk lamps
and four-poster canopies with African
patterns. Magnificent baths hewn from
lumps of granite sit next to organic cocoa
creams displayed in dried forest leaves.
The villas are only the start. Praia
Sundy’s infinity pool is surrounded by
walls of the island’s black basalt; the
reception has a carved piroga check-in
desk with illuminated curls of resin; and
the thatched restaurant mimics the
sinuous torpedo-like body of an Atlantic
marlin. Built by Balinese craftsmen, its
vaulted ribs support immense pendant
lights above black-and-white floor tiles
reflecting Principe’s Portuguese heritage.
Yet the true star isn’t the seductive
architecture or honey-hued beach, it’s
the rampant forest. Praia Sundy laces its
villas with mango, breadfruit and
coconut trees, alongside banana palms
and fan-leaf bushes. Tropical almonds
line the sand, while the entrance is
guarded by a 100m-high oca tree. By
day it’s imposing; by night, floodlit, it’s
simply mesmerising.
The rainforest is also a prolific natural
larder. Angelo Rosso, the chef and a
veteran of the Fat Duck in Bray,
Berkshire, shamelessly exploits its bounty
in his island cuisine with light ingredients
and explosive flavours. Wild coriander
and purslane, picked just outside, grace
my snapper starter; amaranth flavours,
a wild-rice risotto, and limes and banana
bread complement a sensational bonito.
Heston would surely approve.
There’s more fabulous fish the next
day. My swaying piroga trip ends with a
beach barbecue served on banana leaves.
After that, more traditional luxury
resumes, with a west-coast cruise to the
Bay of Needles. Above us photogenic
pinnacles of volcanic phonolite bearing
poetic titles — Joao the Father and Joao
the Son — were left high if not dry when
surrounding softer basalt eroded away.
Hell, Principe is spectacular from the
water. Another day I sail round the
northeast shore, its scenic drama
heightened by stabs of lightning. This
area is all about beaches with successive
curls of perfect sand including Boi, Bom
Bom and, the star of an old Bacardi
advertisement, Banana.
No matter how much of the stuff you
drink, however, Peckham on a wet
Sunday will never look like this.
Peckham doesn’t have the wildlife either.
Sao Tome and Principe has 28 bird
species found nowhere else on Earth,
including the exquisite blue and gold
conobias flitting around Praia Sundy,
along with unique amphibians and
snakes. The country has been called
Africa’s Galapagos, but that actually
short-changes its two small islands that
have similar numbers of endemics in an
eighth of the space. It clearly deserves a
jungle hike. As I set off near Nova
Estrela’s viewpoint, the forest steals the
sun and dappled light flickers through its
canopy revealing izakente fruit littering
the ground like yellow cannon balls. It’s
surprising to discover that several trees,
notably the soaring red-tinged
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 31
The restaurant at Praia Sundy
Gulf of
Guinea
Principe
and Príncipe
Atlantic
Ocean
200 miles
erythrinas, were introduced from Brazil
to shade cocoa crops — a human tweak
to the Garden of Eden.
It’s even better to find the primeval
landscape has no poisonous critters.
Instead, it’s stuffed with natural survival
aids, including six types of banana. My
guide, Ofreu, constantly nips into the
undergrowth, emerging with handfuls of
leaves, from bobo for salads to guego for
anti-malarial tea, soil-covered matabala
roots (a sort of potato) and water tree
branches providing frothy hydration. Get
lost on Principe and I might just survive.
Glorious as they are, Praia Sundy’s
hikes, cruises and sumptuous villas are
only a chapter in a far bigger regeneration
story. The tech tycoon and space tourist
Mark Shuttleworth, the first African in
orbit, was shopping for a private island
when he visited Principe in 2011, falling
hopelessly in love with the place and its
people. Working alongside an enlightened
regional government he has invested a
small fortune to establish sustainable
tourism, providing opportunities for
impoverished locals while maintaining
the delicate ecosystem on an island a
third of the size of the Isle of Wight.
The initiative, driven by Shuttleworth’s
Here Be Dragons (HBD) company and
its non-profit arm, the Principe Trust,
employs 600 people — almost a tenth of
the population. It has funded language
teaching in schools, guide and hospitality
training, and a solution to a universal
dilemma: providing steel drinking
canisters, filled from 14 new fountains, in
exchange for 400,000 discarded plastic
bottles. There is an improved runway —
a boon for Praia Sundy guests who, like
Shuttleworth, own private jets — and a
marine conservation programme
guarding 2,100 turtle nests.
Confirming that this is no clichéd
beach break, I visit the small recycling
co-operative where trash becomes
treasure. Empty glass bottles are
laboriously crushed using a large pestle,
leaving powder for melting and moulding
into tourist necklaces and bracelets.
Bella Prina, who was flown to Ghana for
training, now earns a regular income
employing ten women from Porto Real.
Lord Sugar would love her. “I learnt the
technique in two days,” she tells me.
“Some women know nothing after a
year. It depends on your intelligence.”
The start-up is all the more
remarkable given Sao Tome and
Principe’s dark history. The Portuguese
colony imported Angolans and Cape
Verdeans to labour in its coffee and
cocoa plantations, earning the moniker
the Chocolate Isles. After slavery ended
in 1876, the owners used indentured
workers (barely paid contracted labour),
until the Portuguese departed in 1974,
leaving most locals surviving on
subsistence agriculture.
Many of the islands’ nine rocas
(plantations) are decaying ruins, but
Paciencia, rebuilt by the Principe Trust,
is different. It’s now an organic farm
growing exotic forest plants, including
maqueque, sap sap and tua tua. I find
ingredients for Praia Sundy’s sensational
muesli — almonds, papaya, and pineapple
— drying on restored century-old metal
oven beds, and watch Paciencia’s small
laboratory alchemise produce into slickly
packaged beauty unctions; coconut oil
with ylang ylang anyone?
It’s impressive stuff. Then I see Roca
Need to
know
Ian Belcher was a guest
of Praia Sundy, Roca
Sundy and TAP. Rainbow
tours (020 7666 1266,
rainbowtours.co.uk) has
four nights’ half-board at
Praia Sundy and Roca
Sundy, and two at Omali
Lodge on Sao Tome, from
£3,715pp, including all
flights and transfers
Sundy. Once the heart of the island’s
second-biggest estate (Praia Sundy lies
within its boundary), its plantation
houses have been reborn as an elegant
12-room historic hotel. HBD opened it
last June with gorgeous tiled floors, high
ceilings with whirring fans and tastefully
muted hues alongside minimalist fourposters and atmospheric old bathrooms.
It’s more than a mere hotel. Far more.
I explore stables designed to resemble
a crenellated fort, sit silently in the
simple white chapel where owners’
graves punctuate the ageing stone flags,
and study the monument marking the
spot where, in 1919, the British boffin
Arthur Eddington used astronomy to
prove Einstein’s theory of relativity. I
read and reread the explanation about
light deflected by mass, but understand
nothing, proving one theory: I’m
relatively rubbish at physics.
After a tour of the restored farm
buildings — guests will soon produce
their own Sundy chocolate — I chat to
my guide, Paulino Martins. As a heavy
sun sinks over the Atlantic and locals
listen to music outside the cramped
plantation barracks they still inhabit,
the 77-year-old recalls arriving with his
mother from Cape Verde in 1949. Aged
only eight, he worked long days among
the cocoa trees.
His 11 children, who all moved
overseas, are contemplating returning.
“Things are so much better now,” he
says with a sigh. “We have prospects.
I’m so proud I can show them I’ve
achieved a better life.” A second elderly
man, Joao, joins our chat, whispering in
hushed tones about a frightening room
in the owner’s house. “No one ever
dared enter. It has dark secrets.” It turns
out to be my hotel room.
Perhaps that’s why I sleep the sleep of
the dead. I’m starting to enjoy my chats
with the locals, readjusting to moli-moli:
the chilled pace of island life. Principe’s
warm, uncynical welcome — everybody
waves — is actively encouraged by the
charismatic president, José Cassandra.
Not only does he want tourists treated
like family, but he encourages locals to
rent out rooms to visitors.
Cassandra is popular and accessible in a
way Theresa May can only dream about.
People stop him in the street on his walk
to work, raising neighbourhood issues.
Sure enough, three hours after a call from
Praia Sundy’s team, he’s chatting to me on
a park bench outside Santo Antonio’s
pink presidential HQ, explaining how
environmental conservation is crucial for
the island’s future.
Despite Principe’s desperate economy
in the Noughties, he rejected offers from
palm oil companies for Roca Sundy —
“a short-term solution that destroys the
soil” — and plans for an oil port and
1,000-room hotel before working with
Shuttleworth. “Our visions of
conservation and tourism were totally in
sync,” he says. Cassandra oversaw the
whole island becoming a protected
Unesco biosphere in 2012.
On my final day, forgoing the charms
of Vagina Falls, I head into that
biosphere’s wetter, wilder south: a 17km
hike to the ruined Infanta Plantation
House. After several hours the path
becomes more feral. There are monkeys,
bright green saswa snakes and
increasingly dense jungle tickling our
waists, then necks, then heads. Ofreu’s
machete slashes away. It’s all very
Indiana Jones.
When we reach the old colonial
buildings, where an unspeakably cruel
manager was hacked to death by
rebellious workers, they have abjectly
surrendered to the jungle, throttled by
creeper, devoured by voracious roots:
Principe’s Angkor Wat.
In time the same forest canopy will
also close high above Praia Sundy, the
mighty trees shading luxury villas
rather than cocoa pods. Following
Shuttleworth’s green agenda, the lodge
will be invisible from the air — only its
privileged guests will know what lies
beneath.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
32 Travel
Latin America
Pyramids, colonial towns and a
Janice Turner
travels from the
seductive chaos of
Mexico City to the
rugged beauty of
the Pacific coast
100 miles
San Mi
Migue
uell
de All
Allend
endee
Gulf of
Mexico
Mexico
City
MEXICO
Mou
Mo
ount
nt
Alb
lban
lb
an
Pacific Ocean
Oaxaaca
Oax
OAXACA
Puerto Escondido
W
e had planned to
stay a day in
Mexico City, two
days max — fly in,
get the hell out.
This megatropolis
of 21 million
people has a dodgy reputation: street
crime, pollution, traffic, infinite urban
sprawl. And the welcome note from our
absent host, my husband’s cousin Anna,
didn’t reassure: don’t drink the water, don’t
hail cabs, don’t walk around after dark.
Blimey. We’d hoped to dump our bags
and grab margaritas, but instead watched
the dawn rise over the skyscrapers. When
we headed out for breakfast I cautiously
removed my engagement ring. Yet quickly
we realised, at least in this ritzy suburb of
Polanco, that we weren’t in much danger.
True, it was a security-obsessed
neighbourhood — hyper-vigilant concierges, malls guarded with machineguns —
but the streets were full of wealthy families
having brunch in open-air cafés, their Escalades valet-parked, the women wearing
rocks the size of plums.
This was a trip of firsts: first time to
Mexico and also our first empty-nest
adventure. The days of ensuring our children weren’t bored by a surfeit of temples or
overlong car journeys had ended and
we could revert to a style of travel we’d
enjoyed in our twenties: out of season,
unbooked, spontaneous, free.
Slowly we warmed to Mexico City. For
a start, high on a plateau, it has the
world’s best climate for sightseeing:
sunglasses in the day, light jacket at
night. Apartments need neither heating
nor air conditioning. And it is more liveable
than it first seems. The random collection
of shiny buildings, intersected by new
Puerto Escondido
highways, mall after mall, are less brutal at
street level, softened by trees, street
vendors, bustle. Also we were delighted to
find the Mexicans are film mad: there are
dozens of cinemas with non-dubbed
English movies, some “VIP” with reclining
seats and waiter service.
There are many art galleries too, including the curvaceous, gold-tiled Museo
Soumaya, owned by Carlos Slim, the
richest man in Mexico and almost the
whole world. The building is greater
than the works, though: the odd bad
painting by a great artist (a single Bruegel)
and a floor of classical sculpture laid out
like a garden centre. Far better is the Museo
Mural Diego Rivera, where you can stare
for hours at Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in
the Alameda Central, which depicts every
great figure in Mexican history.
Then Anna, who has lived in the city for
five years, took us to older areas with
character and villagey buzz — Condesa,
like Manhattan’s West Village, and quieter,
old fashioned Coyoacan, where within
walking distance are two museums: the exquisite Blue House of the painter Frida
Kahlo; and the home of Leon Trotsky, her
sometime lover, where he lived in exile, kept
chickens and was eventually assassinated.
On Sunday mornings, with a forwardsightedness London or New York lacks,
the entire city centre closes to cars.
We rented bikes and headed down the
usually traffic-clogged Paseo de la Reforma, which had turned into an outdoor
fiesta. Besides cyclists were joggers with
pushchairs, in-line skaters and dog walkers.
(How Mexico adores its dogs: it has a weird,
much-prized hairless breed called Xoloitzcuintli whose skin has the texture of a pig.)
Along the roadside were noisy public
exercise classes, food stalls and families
gathering for lavish picnics.
We locked our bikes outside the cathedral, with its gory life-sized models of saints
and blood-drenched Christs, to explore the
dense grid of streets with their endless
markets. A whole road was just selling
outfits for the baby Jesus dolls displayed in
devout Mexican homes: Dr Jesus, with a
stethoscope, Pope Jesus, Migrant Jesus, Mariachi Jesus: Catholicism at its most visceral
and strange. Yet in the cathedral square
people queued to be blessed with burning
herbs by shaman from an ancient tribe.
A pyramid on Mount
Alban in Oaxaca.
Left: Oaxaca
Need to
know
Janice Turner travelled
independently.
Journey Latin America
(020 8747 8315,
journeylatinamerica.co.uk)
specialises in tailor-made
travel. It has a ten-day trip,
including two nights each
in Mexico City, San Miguel
de Allende and Oaxaca,
and three nights in Puerto
Escondido. The trip costs
from £2,614pp, including
flights, B&B, transfers and
excursions
As we wandered through the superb
anthropology museum or drank coffee in
the art deco restaurant of the Palacio de
Bellas Artes, with its revolutionary murals
painted by Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera,
I thought how badly I’d prejudged Mexico.
Has any country a less justified public
image? President Trump paints it as a poor,
sleepy peasant nation, sub-criminal, dying
for the West’s wealth and consumer glories.
Yes, it is poor and it does have a high crime
rate — though outside the border areas
dominated by drug cartels no higher than
many US cities, and in Mexico it is far harder to buy a gun. But it has a burgeoning
middle class, civic pride, improving infrastructure and a culture so much richer,
older and deeper than that of its northern
neighbour planning to build that wall.
This was clear when we left Mexico City
for a night in San Miguel de Allende, an old
colonial town beloved of Americans, both
seasonal snowbirds and incomers who
have bought up $2 million haciendas.
Suddenly the food portions grew huge, the
spices muted, the coffee unspeakable; the
town’s bookshop was full of self-published
sub-Eat Pray Love memoirs, browsed by
Californians with stringy ponytails. This
was theme-park Mexico: an immaculate
square shaded by pleached topiary where
you sit beneath the illuminated Disneyesque cathedral listening to mariachis.
It was a relief to be back in the discordant
mess of Mexico City, where Anna’s French
husband, Stéphane, wanted to take us out
on the town. First he insisted we sampled
his collection of fine mezcals, the spirit
made from agave that has the smoky
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 33
piquant taste of the real Mexico
BEN PIPE/4CORNERS IMAGES; ALAMY; GETTY IMAGES
San Francisco Church in
San Miguel de Allende
subtlety of whisky. Then at Quintonil, one
of the best restaurants in Latin America, we
ate the tasting menu, which included a dish
of creamy ant’s eggs. And finally we ended
up in a nightclub with my husband and
Stéphane playing toques, an appalling
game in which you hold on to a metal
handle, through which a man passes an
ever greater electric charge. First one to let
go buys the drinks. Oh God . . .
We flew to Oaxaca early the next day,
arriving in the hotter southern city with a
pounding mezcal hangover. But what a
place. The vast main square is like a tableau
vivant of human happiness. We sat for
hours watching open-air chess games,
balloon sellers, shoe-shine booths, families
having taco picnics or queueing for a man
making corn slathered in caramel. Bonny
toddlers roared around, old village ladies
with long plaits sold raffia pigs and shawls.
Then there were the many rival mariachi
bands. I grew obsessed with these
musicians, finding them and their
poignant-pompous sound oddly touching,
each group with its distinctive uniform
and frayed dignity, smoking as they
waited to be hired by the next table. I’d
wonder how the ancient trumpet player
knew the teenage guitarist, whether they
had day jobs, if they minded playing
Guantanamera night after night to drunken
guys showing off to their girlfriends, no one
really listening.
Oaxaca reminded me of the first time I
visited India: the vividness of the culture,
colours, smells, food, architecture and
people. It was so distinct and exciting: just
when you fear globalisation has made
everywhere the same, here was this
beautiful place utterly its own self.
Half of Oaxaca smells of chocolate, sold
in powder or blocks for cooking, rich with
spices. Beyond these shops, in the covered
market, we ate the most entertaining meal
of our trip in a complex of barbecues where
you choose your meat raw, then take it to
one of a dozen griddles staffed by noisy
youths. Our lack of Spanish meant we
didn’t understand the system, but kind,
laughing, gently mocking women sorted us
out with huge platefuls.
I marvelled at the food. The stodgier
Mexican fare I’d eaten in Britain, such as
burritos, was actually Tex-Mex. In Mexico
it was always fresh, piquant and light.
Coriander, chilli, lime, avocado, tomato: all
my favourite flavours whipped into a
million different dishes. The very best
thing I ate wasn’t at Quintonil, but a fish
taco made in a beach shack.
We took a trip from Oaxaca to Mount
Alban, a complex of pyramids and temples
on a mountaintop created by Zapotec
priests in about 600BC, without wheels or
beasts of burden, just an endless supply of
slaves. It is worth the perilous climb up 100
steps of a pyramid, where humans were
sacrificed, just to look out upon the
scorched mountains of southern Mexico.
The next day we hired bicycles and a
guide from an adventure company who
took us out of Oaxaca through dusty tracks
to local markets, to watch a family of
carpet-weavers who still make their
own dyes from plants, to eat homemade
chorizo cooked by a village lady, to a mezcal
still to see the agave cacti being crushed
and smoked, and finally to San Lorenzo
Alabarradas, where we swam in the pools
of a calcified waterfall overlooking a gorge.
An exhausting, unforgettable day.
Then we had to decide: where to go next
and how? We could fly to the Gulf coast, to
Cancun and try to find less touristy
destinations beyond. But we’d had enough
of Americanised Mexico; didn’t fancy the
burger bars, condos and spring-break
crowd. So we decided instead to head down
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Oaxaca’s vast main
square was like a
tableau vivant of
human happiness
to Puerto Escondido on the less developed
Pacific coast. A light aircraft could have
taken us there in an hour, but I am nervous
of prop planes and anyway the seven-hour
minibus journey was the sort of trip
we used to enjoy, seeing the landscape
change, how the locals lived. And so for
a £3 ticket we set off down switchback
curves, through the mountains, the agave
plantations, stopping to pick up Mexicans
with sacks of flour, or at little kiosks to buy
biscuits, down towards the glittering sea.
Escondido is a long strip of surf beach,
with apparently the most perfect tube
waves in Mexico, which makes it mainly
too rough to swim. But the town itself
has a chilled, youthful beach-bum vibe:
surfboard shops, tattoo joints, bakeries,
little boutiques selling T-shirts and shell
jewellery, low-key fish restaurants. It is all
excellent value: a beer for £1, a cocktail for
£2, an excellent dinner for £10.
Our hotel, however, was full of snowbirds — beady-eyed elderly Americans
with complex and maddening daily rites.
Before breakfast they’d rush out and bag all
sunloungers and available shade: the exact
same spots every day. One woman set out
a display of terrible watercolours she’d
painted. There wasn’t an inch of space for
whippersnapper newcomers: we sat in our
room. Then, as evening approached, there
was a quiet frenzy as they all assembled
along the terrace, a jostling of wicker chairs
to get the best view of the sunset. It was all
so fraught and sharp-elbowed, the sort
of travel that is not travel at all, but a set of
ossified rituals you might as well do at
home, and makes you afraid that you might
get like this too when you are old. After two
days we fled.
Just round the headland is a smaller
cove, sheltered from the bigger waves,
where people learn to surf — Playa
Carrizalillo. We are not big beach people: I
get bored, my husband burns. But this was
the loveliest spot. You can rent a sunbed
shaded by a tatty umbrella for £2 a day
from a local woman, who then brings
you tacos and beers at lunch, pieces of
pineapple at 3pm, killer mezcal cocktails at
sundown. We couldn’t get into the fancy
hotel on the cliff, checked into a cheap
motel instead and couldn’t have been
happier: we were free.
34 Travel
the times Saturday March 31 2018
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 35
The alfresco bathing area and interior
of the Lake Cabin at Lime Wood Hotel
Is this Britain’s sexiest
hotel room? I think so
Ian Belcher checks
out the Lake Cabin,
set on its own island
in the grounds of a
five-star New Forest
country house hotel
T
he things we do for love. It’s
just below freezing and I’m
kneeling on my hotel room’s
outdoor terrace, naked
apart from my pants, trying
to light a wood-burning
stove. My wife adores a hot
soak and, if I can just get the damn kindling
to catch, she’ll brave the icy air and vanish
beneath the Bamford bubbles in our
alfresco stainless-steel tub.
An open-air winter bath in a five-star
country house hotel? Yes, really. If you’re
going to suffer hypothermia in your M&S
relaxed-fit boxer shorts — can a husband
make a more romantic gesture on a short
break? — then the new Lake Cabin at
Hampshire’s Lime Wood Hotel may be the
perfect spot. The hidden hideaway, with its
open-air features and small private island,
is the UK’s “sexiest hotel room”, Robin
Hutson, the Lime Wood Group’s CEO,
claims. “It’s an intoxicating combination of
privacy and discrete romantic taste.”
While it sounds a little Alan Partridge,
the “sexiest room” tag has stiff competition. James Lohan, the co-founder of
Mr & Mrs Smith, the bible of sensual hideaways, says that the label should be
reserved for the garden-view junior suites
at London’s “refined and ravishing” Franklin Hotel. “They twinkle with mirrors and
don’t stint on drama,” he says.
Obviously Hutson, who designed the
Lake Cabin with his wife, Judy, may not be
entirely impartial. So for a more independent assessment of the bolt hole’s erotic
potential I’m visiting with my wife, Becs.
We’re the perfect judges: sleep and lustdeprived parents of young children. If this
room stokes the old embers it might just
merit the hype.
It’s certainly disguised. As we arrive at
the hotel, near Lyndhurst in the New
Forest, it requires a triple-take to spot the
cabin 100 yards away. Clad in mellowhued keruing hardwood beneath a grassseeded roof, it lurks among the 150-yearold oaks and limes. Come summer’s foliage
it will be invisible.
It’s also unique. There’s nothing else like
it on the 35-acre estate. An asymmetrical
box, cantilevered over millpond water
(expect exquisite reflections), its lake end
has sliding 3.5m-high windows opening on
to the terrace, with further floor-to-ceiling
glass on both sides: think log cabin à la
Frank Lloyd Wright. A surrounding path
and bridge to a small island are fenced off
for guests’ use only.
In fact, we’re the first guests — the fourmonth, £500,000 build finishes minutes
before we arrive. After checking under the
bed to ensure a sparky isn’t tweaking the
electrics, I admire the warm double-height
cocoon that echoes the stylish rustic
luxury of Colorado’s Dunton Hot Springs.
Walls are clad in burnt reclaimed boards
— 50 shades of oak, reminiscent of chic,
stratospherically expensive ski chalets.
They meld with thick, flower-patterned
linen curtains, ochre and russet botanical
prints, and underheated grey and pale-
salmon Spanish floor tiles that extend to
the terrace, linking inside and out.
The contemporary baronial decor adds
to a come-hither vibe. Think lacquered
dark furniture, gold taps and a rich bottlegreen velvet sofa, along with eclectic lighting from wooden chandeliers, art nouveau
brass lamps and Victorian lanterns. As
well as retro flourishes — a Roberts radio,
Bakelite phone and Dressboy vanity stand
— there’s a petite cocktail bar, second
stand-alone bath and two-person shower.
But it requires more than interior design
to ignite an amorous mood. Lime Wood
happily obliges. Its generous art collection,
including two signed Tracey Emin
legs-akimbo nudes, sets a certain tone. As
does the dreamy location, swaddled by
ancient trees and heathland. We head out
to Mottisfont, a National Trust potpourri
of medieval abbey, Tudor house and
Georgian mansion. The original Augustinian monks, with vows of self-denial and
chastity, were unlikely to drop £1,000 a
night on a luxury passion pad, but Mottisfont’s beautiful 20th-century society
hostess Maud Russell — a lover of the 007
author Ian Fleming — would probably
have put the Lake Cabin to better use.
Back at Lime Wood there’s an acclaimed
spa; cue a ridiculously fun, couple’s mud
therapy. After exfoliating Becs with Dead
Sea salt and alpine lavender oil — I know,
I’m the perfect husband — we smear each
other’s faces with mineral-rich, white
French clay and our bodies with darkgreen clay; two panda bears baking at gas
7. Becs then recovers with a de-stressing
Bamford massage and rosehip-almond oil
facial. If she can just stay awake it could be
a night to remember.
It’s certainly a meal to remember.
Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s seasonal home-cooked Italian menu, including a divine velvet-crab risotto with blood
orange, fennel and basil, is served in soft,
seductive candlelight. Afterwards we
collapse on the cabin’s immense black bed
with pepper-pot corners, staring through
towering glass at Lime Wood’s elegant
faux-Georgian house among floodlit
cedars and oaks: an aphrodisiacal view.
So did the Lake Cabin work its magic? A
gentleman should always be discreet,
particularly when his eldest is starting to
read. However, at 10am the next day I find
myself in my dressing gown, cocktail
shaker in hand, suggesting Becs has an
early bourbon snifter: Hugh Hefner
without a pipe.
She’s too busy sketching me and my
pants. Dear God. It’s a bit Rubenesque, and
my pants, like my body, require fresh
elastic, so no, I can’t absolutely confirm
that this is Britain’s sexiest room. But it
definitely has an effect, it really does.
The cabin is perched over a lake
Need to
know
Ian Belcher was a
guest of Lime Wood
(023 8028 7177,
limewoodhotel.co.uk)
and stayed in the Lake
Cabin, which costs
from £1,050 a night.
A two-person
mud-therapy session
is £110 and a de-stress
massage is £100
36 Travel
the times Saturday March 31 2018
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 37
Cruising
Welcome to the £30k* family suite at sea
Sara Macefield
checks out the
ultimate family
cabin, which comes
with a cinema, a
hot tub and a butler
* for five nights
I
am whizzing my way down a bright
orange swirly slide on a cruise ship.
There may not seem to be anything
particularly unusual in that — these
days ships have everything from
bowling alleys to ice-skating rinks, as
well as water parks with plenty of
slides — except that this slide is inside a
1,346 sq ft suite, linking the two upstairs
bedrooms to the downstairs living area. It’s
faster and more fun than I expected, landing me slap bang in front of a group of
people who have just come in to view the
most expensive — and surely the best —
family suite at sea.
I recover by sinking into one of the beanbags dotted around (someone is already
swinging in the birdcage-like hanging
chair), but not for long because there’s air
hockey to play on the main dining
table, ping pong and a floor-to-ceiling
Lego wall. There are no fewer than seven
televisions, including a giant 85in screen in
the private cinema area, while outside on
the balcony is an unashamedly sybaritic
hot tub. The price for this little slice
of family heaven? A mere £30,000 for five
nights for up to eight people, although you
do get your own Royal Genie butler.
The suite — virtually sold out for the
rest of the year — is just one of the features
of Royal Caribbean International’s new
1,118ft Symphony of the Seas, a ship with
capacity for 6,680 passengers and 2,200
crew, and the newest bearer of the title
“world’s largest passenger ship”. That accolade was formerly held by its sister ship
Harmony of the Seas, which is the same
length, but a little less chunky.
Symphony will run summer sailings in
Between activities, there
are 20 dining venues
where you can eat your
way around the world
the Med, which is where I am, on a
pre-launch voyage from Malaga to Barcelona. Although it’s a gloriously sunny
morning outside, my next stop is in total
darkness — in the laser-tag arena. Here, I
creep warily along a confusing maze of
shadowy passages when suddenly a small
figure appears, shooting me with a fusillade of laser beams that ricochet off my
protective vest. I’ve been shot by a sevenyear-old boy.
In between activities, there are 20 or
so dining venues where passengers can eat
Symphony of the Seas’ spectacular family suite
their way around the world, from Japanese
at Izumi and continental at Jamie’s Italian,
to the burgers and fries of Johnny Rockets
and Mexican cuisine at El Loco Fresh.
This promises to keep enthusiasts well
fuelled for the Escape the Rubicon puzzle
room, which latches on to the latest
craze for groups to plot their way to
freedom. Alas, during my time aboard the
only people trying to do this were the
workmen, who were battling to finish it
before the first fare-paying passengers step
aboard, but there was no shortage of alternative diversions.
After all, Symphony is more a floating
resort than cruise ship, with a gobsmacking selection of facilities: 19 pools, twisting
waterslides, surfing simulators, plus climbing walls and even a zip wire. It’s enough to
send traditionalists running for cover. In
fact, this is the most Marmite of ships,
repelling those who see it as a huge, brash,
overcrowded floating theme park, but
attracting others who adore the non-stop
buzz and incredible variety of experiences
it promises.
Whatever your viewpoint, you cannot
fail to be wowed by the immense scale of
this leviathan. Like its sister ships, Symphony of the Seas is so large that it is divided
into seven neighbourhoods. The Central
Park area is filled with thousands of plants
and even simulated birdsong, while the
fairground-inspired Boardwalk has a
full-size carousel and an “Aquatheatre”,
which is the setting for jaw-dropping
aqua-batic displays.
Above this looms the Ultimate Abyss, an
adrenaline-pumping slide that had me
screaming from top to bottom as I plunged
ten storeys through twists and turns to the
deck below. The most jaw-dropping moments were the special effects of the iceskating shows, where swarms of tiny
drones flew through the air like clusters
of multicoloured fireflies. Beneath them
the ice rink appeared to turn into a raging
torrent before solidifying once more.
In another sequence the ice appeared to
part, revealing a pool in which penguins
darted about. The incredible climax came
as a 75ft whale swam past, its haunting cries
echoing through the auditorium. It was an
amazing sight and one I suspect many
children will believe is actually happening
before their eyes, such is the realism.
With Symphony’s main theatre show set
to be the exuberant, foot-tapping musical
Hairspray, Royal Caribbean International
is maintaining its reputation for bringing
West End and Broadway productions on
to its ships, along with a new show called
Flight: Dare to Dream, which promises
more groundbreaking special effects.
It’s not all high-profile wows. Symphony
has lots of whimsical touches, from the
staircase that turns into a live piano as you
climb, to the x-ray artwork that enables
you to seemingly see through the wall and
into the ship’s bridge.
The ship’s gargantuan scale means that
it will never play to everyone’s tune, but for
many it will clearly strike the right chord.
Need to
know
Sara Macefield was a guest of Royal
Caribbean International (0844 4933033,
royalcaribbean.co.uk), which has a
seven-night Mediterranean round trip
on Symphony of the Seas departing
from Barcelona on August 19, with stops
including Palma de Majorca, Marseilles,
Civitavecchia and Naples. It costs from
£1,519pp, including flights
Big ship fun: ziplines and lasers
Norwegian Bliss
Capacity: 4,860
Launching in April. Its
highlights include a
dual-level racing circuit,
with electric cars, an
open-air laser tag
and an aqua park with
waterslides that loop
over the ship’s side.
Carnival Horizon
Capacity: 5,056
Also launching in April,
Carnival Horizon will
have a Dr Seuss-themed
water park, SkyRide “bike
in the sky” attraction and
Imax theatre.
MSC Seaside
Capacity: 5,179
Launched in December
last year. Its design was
inspired by a Miami
beach condo and special
features include a
waterfront boardwalk
that encircles the ship,
the “longest” zipline at
sea, five water attractions
that include duelling
body slides and full-size
bowling alley.
Oasis of the Seas, Allure
of the Seas, Harmony of
the Seas
Capacity: 6,296-6,780
Along with Symphony of
the Seas, they are the
world’s largest ships with
different neighbourhoods
and a long list of
attractions, including
surf simulators, below
the times Saturday March 31 2018
38 Travel
Europe
Explore Italy’s secret
islands — on a budget
Helicopter transfers for £25 and hotels
for £39 a night. The Tremeti Islands,
off the coast of Puglia, are a paradise for
paupers, says Tristan Rutherford
I
t’s a million-dollar arrival in a
pauper’s paradise. The thwackthwack-thwack of helicopter
blades sharpens our sense of
focus on the Tremiti Islands below.
Four are forest-green circles edged
with turquoise. The final island
points like a sun-tanned finger towards
Croatia over a carpet of Adriatic blue.
With a nod to his navigator, our
Italian pilot arcs his AgustaWestland
into a spiral towards the main island of
San Domino. All 15 passengers — most
hardened locals, some Tremiti
first-timers — gape at the twisting
helix of beach-island-sea before the
helicopter squats on the helipad, just
a 60-second walk from my hotel.
The Hotel Eden is aptly named, as
are other island bolt holes, with names
such as Oasi and Paradiso. Each is set
up for sightseers arriving on the 9am
helicopter, with a courtesy room in
which to dump bags and take a shower
before heading for San Domino’s
sun-licked coast. The surprising thing
is that my 20-minute helicopter ride
to my £39 hotel cost only £25. That’s
because the service forms a twice-daily
lifeline for the 500 Tremiti islanders
— if they want to meet their bank
manager or someone on the mainland,
they pitch up to the helipad ten minutes
before take-off. Such splendid isolation
has rendered the Tremitis an Italy that
time — and high prices — forgot.
San Domino’s best freebie is the
round-the-island path. By 10am
the hour-long trail is stocked with
nut-brown locals taking their morning
constitutional. As all five islands are
in Puglia’s Gargano National Park,
they are scented with a blazing haze
of fragrant herbs. Authorities have
put up weather-beaten noticeboards
to highlight the pino d’Aleppo (Aleppo
pine), rosmarino (rosemary) and timo
(thyme) — and, in season, mirto
(myrtle), asparago (asparagus)
and ginepro (juniper).
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 39
ALAMY; GETTY IMAGES; JOHANNA HUBER/4CORNERS IMAGES
TREMITI
ISLANDS
San
Domino
Grotta
del Bue
Marino
Grotta
delle
Murene
500m
Signposts point down sandy
staircases to the dozen calas (coves)
and grotte (caves) that ring the island,
which is just over a mile long. At
Grotta del Sale, a septuagenarian
snorkels for octopus using jelly shoes
as paddles. On the swim-to island just
offshore a couple sport typical Tremiti
swimwear — skin-tight trunks last
seen in the Seventies and a bikini
bleached by sun and sea.
What the islands lack in cool,
however, they make up for in postcard
looks. At Cala delle Roselle a dive boat
casts a perfect shadow on the sandy
seabed. At Grotta delle Murene a
bronzed freediver emerges from the
sapphire-blue cave like David Gandy
in that classic Davidoff advert.
The reasoning behind the Tremitis’
enduring remoteness becomes apparent
when you hike the coastal path. Each
bend beguiles with a 270-degree
panorama, where seascapes shelve
from limpid aqua to crashing navy to
deep sea blue.
Like Italy’s other islands of Santo
Stefano, Ponza and Pantelleria, the
Tremitis were once penal colonies
whose allure was airbrushed from
history for centuries at a time. The
emperor Augustus banished his
dissolute granddaughter here, while
Ferdinand IV of Naples settled his
opponents on this subtropical idyll.
Perhaps the strangest exiles came
during Mussolini’s fascist regime, when
50 homosexual men, regarded as a
societal threat, were banished here in
the 1930s. However, Il Duce, never the
sharpest knife in the drawer, unwittingly
created the only part of Italy where men
could be openly gay. The archipelago
remains the Puglia you’ve never heard
of; Capri clones without the cost.
Dinner ingredients have been
necessarily sourced from the islands
since the Iron Age. Cucina tremitesi
revolves around mussels, figs, lemons,
olives, snails and goats. It’s best served
in Ristorante Oasi in San Domino,
The main island of
San Domino, above,
top right and
below right; and
Badiali Castle on
San Nicola, below
Need to
know
The Hotel Eden
(00 39 088 2463 211,
hoteledentremiti.it) opens
from May to September.
Doubles cost from £39,
rising to £78 in summer.
Alidaunia (00 39 088
1617 961, alidaunia.it)
operates the helicopter
route from Foggia for £25
(£50 in high season).
Under-11s pay half-price.
Tirrenia (00 39 027
6028 132, tirrenia.it) runs
the daily slow ferry from
Termoli to San Domino
for £14 one way.
British Airways
(ba.com) flies from
Gatwick to Bari, an hour
by train from Foggia,
from £53 one way. Easyjet
(easyjet.com) has the
same route from £28.50
where I eat dreamy solo dinners of
ciambotta del pescatore (fishermen’s
stew) and spaghetti allo scoglio (rockfish
spaghetti) and idly jot and read.
Indeed, San Domino is the sort of
place you could come to write a novel.
It’s so far adrift from the mainland that
on your first day you are treated with
respect for having made it this far out.
By the second day you’re given extra
servings of vongole. By day three you’re
helping a fisherman to mend his nets.
Breakfast at the Hotel Eden is also
lost in time. White-jacketed waiters
direct guests to a vast dining terrace
perched above a twinkling sea. Linentopped tables are shaded by futurist
concrete arcs that look as if they were
installed by aliens in 1973. The breakfast
buffet is a best-of-Italy cornucopia of
hams, cheeses, figs, prunes, plus a
sweet-toothed medley of brioches,
apricot tarts and croissants that are
sugar-coated for good measure. The
Capraia
apraia
Cretaccio
Pianosa
14 miles
approx.
San Nicola
Hotel Eden
H
Grotta del Sale
Cala delle
Roselle
Grotta delle Viole
entire scene is suffused with Italian
disco music. I sleep it off on the hotel’s
private cove, where a cappuccino bar
has been built from driftwood. Again,
I can’t believe that double rooms here,
including breakfast, cost so little.
There are a handful of B&Bs on San
Nicola, San Domino’s little sister island
across the bay. In days of yore locals
swam the hundred yards between the
sandy landing coves on each shore; I’m
content to slip a boatman the equivalent
of a fiver for passage across.
Rising above the remains of Greek
tombs and Roman amphorae is a
gigantic medieval fortress that crumbles
seaward like a tumbledown Dubrovnik.
I stroll along ramparts so weighty that
they held off the Ottoman fleet in the
16th century and the Royal Navy in the
19th century. Unlike the Croatian coast,
however, San Nicola is empty during my
off-season visit. Like all the Tremitis, it’s
a filmset Italy, albeit without the cast.
Back on the quay, tour boats
are whipping up business for a £13
archipelago outing. This being Italy,
the vessels look like supersized Rivas,
with enough poke to raise an
Instagram-savvy curtain of spray.
After zipping round San Nicola, the
boat anchors for a swim off Capraia,
the second-largest island.
The uninhabited island of Pianosa is
deemed too far for our tour (it is halfway
to Croatia), so our boat circles back
round San Domino to peep inside Grotta
delle Viola, a watery cavern that bubbles
with fish, and Grotta del Bue Marino, a
pitch-black cave where phosphorescent
fireflashes light up the inky sea.
By booking the once-a-day evening
ferry home, I’ve netted myself another
day in paradise. There’s time for a last
swim. Cale delle Arene, near the ferry
port, is the island’s only entirely sandy
swoosh. It curves like a Caribbean
banana against a Thai-blue sea; although
a wave-your-hand service that hails an
espresso to your beach towel proves
you’re in Italy. I lug my bag to the quay.
Beside my ferry, dive boats tout for
custom. The Tremitis are an undersea
paradise where sights include a Roman
shipwreck and a statue of St Padre Pio,
in 10m of crystalline water off Capraia.
The distance from San Domino to the
mainland is the same as Dover to Calais,
but with Aperol spritz served at the
zinc-topped bar. The Tremiti are
reduced to a twinkle as the sun sets red
across the sea. It’s hard to escape from
Italy’s answer to Devil’s Island. This
irresistible Alcatraz has stolen my heart.
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the times Saturday March 31 2018
ALAMY
The Château de Comper in Paimpont
A weekend in . . .
Brocéliande
Forest, Brittany
T
he sign at the entrance of
the Valley of No Return
said that “all knights
unfaithful in thought and
deed” should not enter, or
else they would never
emerge. Unsure whether
I counted as a knight, or what passes as
“unfaithful” in an era in which you can
switch gas supplier at the tap of a
fingernail, I pushed on to the home
of Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend.
The pathway wound up the valley,
past millponds and the skeleton of an oak
covered in gold leaf by an artist, to mark
a forest fire many years ago. The evening
sun cast long shadows on the path,
and when I started to climb on to the
saddle of purple rock where the sorceress
had turned her rivals to stone, I suddenly
had its glare so full in my eyes that I
could barely see. However, I did emerge
from the Valley of No Return, back into
Tréhorenteuc. A black crow stood dead
centre in a recently ploughed field, staring
at me. I’m ashamed to say that Ia rude
gesture and ploughed on.
Brocéliande, the oldest and originally
one of the country’s largest forests, lies in
central Brittany, an hour’s drive south of
the ferry port St Malo and not far from
Rennes. What remains of the original
forest is not particularly spectacular and
if you leave your imagination at home
you might walk away from a weekend
here with just a shrug of the shoulders,
muttering something about those
Frenchies purloining our legends.
In fact, the connection between
King Arthur, Britain and France is a
many-tentacled thing. Celtic Britain —
Wales and Cornwall in particular — is
Arthur country, and Brittany is Celtic too,
particularly thanks to the emigration
of British Celts in the face of the Saxon
invasion that Arthur so stoutly resisted.
And in the Celtic world, legends are
shared. Sir Thomas Malory’s bestselling
version of the story, Le Morte d’Arthur,
takes place partly in France, and one of
the finest retellings is by the French
writer Chrétien de Troyes. It is he who
introduced the whole concept of the
Holy Grail into the story cycle.
And the Arthurian legend is also on the
school curriculum in France, which goes
a long way towards explaining why I
found myself arriving at the 14th-century
Château de Comper in the wake of a
busload of schoolchildren. Its Centre de
l’Imaginaire Arthurien is a focal point
for research and education.
In Brocéliande, with its 30,000 acres of
mainly oak, beech, yew and pine, legend
is part of the landscape, with springs,
tombs, menhirs and lakes with submerged
crystal palaces. For a couple of days I
ranged through the forest from the small
central village of Paimpont. Here the
Need to
know
Andrew Eames travelled
as a guest of Brittany
Ferries (0330 159 7000,
brittanyferries.com) and
brittanytourism.com.
A double room at the
Relais de Brocéliande
in Paimpont costs from
€84 (£75).
Further information
about Brocéliande can
be found at broceliandevacances.com/en
Travel 41
comfortable Relais de Brocéliande hotel
hasn’t forgotten that France has a fine
culinary tradition to uphold, and there’s a
whizzy multimedia Arthurian
“experience” to get you in the mood.
After my experience of the Valley of
No Return, I visited Tréhorenteuc’s Église
St-Onenne, where the mid-20th century
abbot Henri Gillard was so swept up in
Arthurian legend that he infiltrated its
imagery into the religious paintings and
placed the Holy Grail at centre stage in
the stained-glass windows. Needless to
say he was defrocked.
I headed to Merlin’s tomb, an
underwhelming collection of rocks that
nevertheless must hold some sway, given
the number of druidical offerings laid on
it and the messages secreted in its cracks.
And I walked to Barenton, Merlin’s spring
that supposedly boils without getting hot,
where legend has it that those who
transgress by sprinkling water on a sacred
rock will stir up a thunderstorm and
summon the Black Knight.
Having survived the faithfulness gig,
I wasn’t going to let this one pass. The
spring is compellingly sited in a small,
rather charming glade. At its centre a
rock-sheltered pool of completely clear
water bubbles occasionally with the
release of nitrogen from under the
ground, but otherwise the wood was still.
So I sprinkled some water on the rock
and almost instantly there was a growl
from the shrubbery. But it wasn’t the
Black Knight on horseback; instead, a
JCB was resuming its task of putting
new gravel on the path.
Andrew Eames
EXCLUSIVE
TIMES LITERARY
EVENTS FOR
OUR READERS
NEW EXPERTS
ANNOUNCED
WHEN QUOTING
CODE LIT
QUEEN MARY 2’S
LITERATURE FESTIVAL AT SEA
The Times has been a proud supporter of the Cheltenham Literature Festival for
more than a decade. We are delighted to offer our readers the opportunity to be part
of this exciting new venture with Cunard, as the festival sails the Atlantic with a
packed programme celebrating the written word.
JANE KNIGHT – Travel Editor, The Times
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Let your imagination set sail with a voyage that brings together our partnership with
the Cheltenham Literature Festival and ocean cruising.
Y
PRICE INCLUDES
●
ou are invited to join the inaugural Queen
Mary 2’s Literature Festival at Sea, in
association with Cheltenham Literature
REASONS TO BOOK
LITERATURE FESTIVAL AT SEA
Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times. This
For book lovers everywhere join the
world’s greatest writers and thinkers
exclusive voyage offers book lovers an opportunity
EXCLUSIVE TIMES EVENTS**
to join some of the best-loved authors, smartest
journalists and thinkers on both sides of the pond
aboard Queen Mary 2 as you sail from New York to
Southampton. This Transatlantic Crossing is
unsurpassed as you enjoy seven days at sea aboard
the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2. A warm
welcome awaits you, where White Star Service
begins the moment you step on board ensuring
your stay is effortless and unforgettable.
Be inspired with exclusive Times events
from key editors and journalists.
THE TRANSATLANTIC CROSSING
BY CUNARD
Enjoy a week aboard the world’s only
true ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, as you
sail from New York to Southampton.
A VOYAGE WITH CUNARD
Escape to an uncrowded world with an
unrivalled sense of freedom and
possibility to do as much or as little as
you please.
●
A seven-night Transatlantic Crossing from New York
to Southampton
Flights from the UK to New York and transfer from airport
to Queen Mary 2
●
EXPERTS CONFIRMED TO DATE*
Literary experts:
Sebastian Faulks • Victoria Hislop
James Naughtie • PJ O’Rourke
Elizabeth Strout • Robert Harris
Damian Barr • Ella Berthoud
• Mark Billingham • Julia Wheeler
Times experts:
Emma Tucker • Anna Murphy
Philip Collins • Andrew Holgate
Robbie Millen • Ben McIntyre
*Liable to change
Exclusive on board events for Times readers**
●
●
Access to all on board literary events
Cunard Fare benefits, including complimentary on board
spending money
Departs November 10, 2019.
SEVEN NIGHTS FROM†
£999pp
Inside Stateroom
£1,399pp
Balcony
£2,699pp
Grills Suites
TO BOOK CALL 0330 160 8715
QUOTE CODE LIT
thetimes.co.uk/litfest
†£999pp based on Inside stateroom (IF grade), Balcony from £1,399pp (BZ grade), Grills Suites from £2,699pp (P2 grade). Cunard Fares shown are per person in £ sterling based on two adults sharing on M936, within the applicable stateroom type and is subject to availability. Fares for
sole occupancy and supplementary fares are available on request. Fares and other information are correct at the time of going to print. For up to date fares visit www.cunard.com. For full Cunard terms and conditions please refer to the Cunard March 2018 – December 2019 brochure or
visit www.cunard.com. Here you will find full descriptions of the voyages, stateroom accommodation and voyage details, as well as important information on passport, visa and health requirements and booking conditions, which you must read before booking. Queen Mary 2’s Literature
Festival at Sea, is in association with Cheltenham Literature Festival and The Times and The Sunday Times. *Literature voyage details and on board activities subject to change. **Exclusive onboard Times readers event only available to guests booked under promotional code LIT.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 43
EXC LU S I V E O F F E R
Luxury by
Windermere
The cool
hotel guide
Seven,
Southend, Essex
In a nutshell
Southend may be famous for its pier and
amusement arcades — and perhaps it’s
not everyone’s first choice for a mini-break
— but now it also has a new design hotel.
Jawed Rashid, a local businessman, has
refashioned a former care home into a
glitzy hideaway with a cocktail bar and a
high-class restaurant run by Simon Webb,
formerly of the Langham hotel in London.
Seven’s super-modern façade rather stands
out amid the seaside town’s terraces of
traditional B&Bs (some pretty rundown).
It’s already popular with people catching
Easyjet flights from Southend Airport.
What are the rooms like?
Expect a lot of gold: golden bedcovers,
headboards with golden adornments,
golden bath taps and even golden
toilet-paper holders. Although this may
sound OTT, the look somehow comes off,
with a smart design and great views
through high windows. The cheapest
rooms cost from £99 and are a tad poky.
Best to book a room facing the Thames
estuary: from £130, room-only.
TWO NIGHTS AT STORRS
HALL COSTS FROM
£260pp
So which is the best room?
Rooms 401 and 402 are suites on the top
floor with balconies facing Kent across the
Thames estuary (from £200, room-only).
What’s the food like?
Webb, who lives locally (he commuted to
the Langham for years), has created an
enticing menu comprising seafood dishes
including lobster, sea bass and mussels, as
well as sirloin steaks and côte de boeuf. It’s
served in a fine-dining restaurant with
golden ceiling decorations and lamps
(naturally), plus strangely soothing mood
lighting that shifts from lilac to pink and
back. My oysters, accompanied by a
punchy and well-made Tanqueray gin
martini, were juicy and fresh. My starter
of mackerel with steamed crab was light
and delicately flavoured with dill, while
my main of skrei cod with borlotti beans
was meaty and topped with crisp
guanciale ham. The ricotta cheesecake ice
cream with apple sauce completed a good
meal. Three courses cost from about £24.
Who goes there?
Lovers of traditional English seaside
towns (who enjoy slightly OTT design
hotels).
The highs, the lows, the verdict
Eight out of ten
Here is a glam new reason to visit
Southend, but make sure you book an
estuary view — and be ready for the
overload of gold.
Tom Chesshyre
Price includes
• Two nights’ B&B
• Dinner each night
• Cream tea on arrival
• Welcome pack with maps
• Extra night’s B&B from £90
Need to
know
“An elegant Georgian country
house built in 1790, positioned
on the banks of Windermere.”
Alex O’Connell, The Times
Times hotel rating: 8/10
Tom Chesshyre was
a guest of Seven
(01702 900010,
thesevenhotel.co.uk),
7 Clifton Terrace,
Southend-on-Sea SS1 1DT;
doubles from £99,
room-only; two
wheelchair-access rooms;
no single-occupancy
discount; no dogs
allowed
Call 01539 263 126
thetimes.co.uk/storrs
Terms and conditions apply
Expert
Traveller
EXCLUSIVE
READER OFFER
– NEW DATES
ADDED
JOIN OUR ULTIMATE ICELAND TOUR
A rugged wilderness within easy reach, Iceland showcases the power of nature –
and offers a chance to see the Northern Lights in all their kaleidoscopic glory.”
SARAH MARSHALL – travel writer, The Sunday Times
W
ith its ice, fire, geysers, towering
waterfalls, the Northern Lights
and volcanoes with
unpronounceable names, Iceland is probably
the most extraordinary country on Earth.
This fantastic five-day adventure sold out its
first journey, so we are delighted to offer two
more departures – exclusively for readers.
Explore Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes on
exhilarating, off-the-beaten track adventures
in an eight-wheel-drive super truck, traverse
glacial river plains, bathe in a secret lagoon
and marvel at the sight of the famous
Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Finish your trip with
a stay at Hotel Ranga, renowned for its
exquisite food and Northern Lights viewings
– a fitting finale to an astonishing trip.
REASONS TO BOOK
EIGHT-WHEEL
ADVENTURE
Travel off the beaten
track by eight-wheeldrive supertruck into
the volcanic region near
Mt Hekla. Highlights
include Eyjafjallajokull,
the breathtaking plume
of Haifoss waterfall and
Thorsmörk, a spectacular
‘hidden’ valley.
SEE THE NORTHERN
LIGHTS
Stay in a specialist hotel,
Hotel Ranga, which
offers an aurora wake-up
service and has a stateof-the-art observatory.
ASTRONOMER TALKS
Hear from one of
Iceland’s top
astronomers, who will
talk about the
spectacular night sky
and the Northern Lights.
GOLDEN CIRCLE AND
SECRET LAGOON
Soak in the geothermal
wonders of the Secret
Lagoon and tour the
Golden Circle from the
waterspouts and mud
pools of Geysir, to
the continental rift at
Thingvellir and the
thundering two-tier
waterfall of Gullfoss.
PRICE INCLUDES
Two thrilling 8WD trips into the Icelandic Highlands
● A four-night stay with bed and breakfast
● Three dinners and two packed lunches
● Talk from top astronomer
● Guided tour of the Golden Circle
● Driver and guide throughout
● Geothermal bath at the Secret Lagoon
Trip duration: October 11-15, 2018; November 15-19, 2018.
●
Exclusively with
FIVE DAYS FROM
£1,395* per person
TO BOOK CALL
01737 747 974
QUOTE CODE SAT3103
thetimes.co.uk/iceland
*Price excludes flights. From price based on twin/double share for November departure. Single supplement from £195. Holidays are operated by Discover the World, Arctic House, 8 Bolters Ln, Banstead SM7 2AR, and subject to the booking conditions of Discover the World, ATOL AND
ABTA protected; a company wholly independent of News UK. Discover the World: ATOL 2896; ABTA V2823. RA403.
EXPLORE THE WONDERS
OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The tree-lined roads that run between fields of green and golden leaves lit
by the sun make Margaret River the prettiest place in the state for a road trip.”
HELEN OCHYRA – travel writer, The Times
Explore Australia’s magnificent west and its wildlife, from southern right
whales to the delightful quokka, on our exclusive 13-day self-driving tour
T
his stunning yet overlooked part of Australia
just got a little bit closer last month with the
launch of direct flights from London to Perth.
On this exclusive 13-day self-drive itinerary with our
trusted travel partner Discover the World you will
explore the unique charms of Perth, the laid-back
capital of Western Australia, and the captivating
wildlife and scenery of the surrounding region. Take
an excursion to Rottnest Island, where you will have
the chance to meet the cute quokka; sample the
world-class wines of Margaret River; spot humpback
and southern right whales in their natural habitat,
explore beautiful coastal towns, majestic old growth
forests, national parks, ancient rock formations and
wander miles and miles of glorious white-sand
beaches. This is a trip to bring out the very best in this
rugged, beautiful and welcoming corner of Australia.
PRICE INCLUDES
●
12 nights’ standard accommodation
●
REASONS TO BOOK
WONDERFUL WILDLIFE
EXTRAORDINARY LANDSCAPES
Take a whale-watching cruise to spot
southern right whales, plus look out for
penguins, seals and sea lions, as well
as dolphins in Shoalwater Islands
Marine Park, along a chain of beautiful
limestone islands. You will also have
the opportunity to see the inimitable
quokka on Rottnest Island in an
included excursion.
You will see some of the places that
make Western Australia so special.
Wander among the canopies in the
Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk,
explore the windswept coastal heaths
of Torndirrup National Park, marvel
at the inventiveness of nature at the
ancient Wave Rock formation and
much more.
MARGARET RIVER WINES
EXPLORE PERTH
Enjoy paired wines, a winery lunch
platter and tours of five of Margaret
River’s famous vineyards as well as
meet the producers.
Discover the laid-back character,
excellent bars and restaurants that
make the Western Australia capital
such an unsung, charming city.
●
Rental of a Hertz standard vehicle
(CCAR Toyota Corolla or similar)
Dolphin, penguin and sea lion adventure cruise
●
Wine and dine winery tour at Margaret River
●
●
●
●
Whale watching cruise
Private airport-hotel transfer on arrival in Perth
Three breakfasts and two lunches
Price excludes flights (Discover the World travel
will provide the best fare possible)
Trip departures: from June 2018 to March 2019.
Exclusively with
13 DAYS FROM
£1,445* per person
TO BOOK CALL
01737 749 755
QUOTE CODE SAT3103
thetimes.co.uk/perthtrip
*Price excludes flights. From price based on twin/double share. Note whale watching is from June to December. Holidays are operated by Discover the World, Arctic House, 8 Bolters Ln, Banstead SM7 2AR, and subject to the booking conditions of
Discover the World, ATOL AND ABTA protected; a company wholly independent of News UK. Discover the World: ATOL 2896; ABTA V2823.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 45
Overseas Travel
China
Italy
Overseas Travel
South America
UK Holidays
Northumbria
Pets Welcome
SICILY & Aeolian Islands
specialists: Taormina 7nts
inc b&b from £499. Tailormade, Multi-centre, Flydrive: ABTA, ATOL
protected 2699 info@the
sicilianexperience.co.uk
www.thesicilianexperience
.co.uk Tel 0207 828 9171
DORSET’S Finest Cottages
Book on 0844 998 3944
dorsetcoastalcottages.com
Canada
Book your
advertisement or
announcement
now at:
thetimes.co.uk/
advertise
Overseas Travel
NORTHUMBRIA Coast &
Country Over 500 cottages
01665 830783 northumbriacottages.co.uk
THEWOOFGUIDE.COM
Wales guide to dog friendly
holidays Free brochure
01437 772745
Wales
the times Saturday March 31 2018
46 Travel
JOCHEN SCHLENKER/GETTY IMAGES
The Blue Mountains National
Park, west of Sydney, Australia
Travel tips
Finland’s hotel on skis
Surely there’s no cooler way to see the
northern lights than through the clear
viewing roof of these glamping cabins
on skis, towed deep into the Arctic Circle.
Arrive at your wilderness base by
snowmobile, grill sausages over the
camp fire, then cosy up in the super-wide
bed and wait for the aurora to glow. Each of the three cabins comes
with a dry toilet, heater, snowshoes and sled. Off the Map Travel
(offthemap.travel) has four days’ full board with transfers, but not
flights, from £1,599pp.
Albania by bike
For cycling fanatics, here’s a new tour from Freedom Treks to
little-known Albania, taking in picturesque mountains, historic towns,
thermal springs and three Unesco-listed sites. This circular tour from
the capital, Tirana, includes the Macedonian city of Ohrid, Gjirokaster,
known as the city of a thousand steps, in southern Albania, and
Butrint, with its ancient Greek and Roman ruins. Cycling is described
as “challenging at times”, but there is a support van for the group of
up to seven riders. It costs from £933pp, full board, with bike rental,
luggage transportation and transfers, but not flights or entrance fees
(freedomtreks.co.uk).
Country Living Hotels open
If you’re a fan of Country Living magazine,
you can now stay in style in a brace of
properties under that brand. The
Lansdown Grove in Bath and the
St George in Harrogate have been
refurbished in chic country style, with
touches such as snug throws in the
bedroom and must-read books to curl up
with. The Lansdown Grove reopens in May, with B&B from £169,
while the St George opens in early July, with B&B from £139
(countrylivinghotels.com).
Take a Twizy tour of London
For a new way to see the capital, book a tour in a Renault Twizy, the
electric two-seat car. There are three self-drive tours, lasting from
45 minutes to two hours. The shortest, the 45-minute Royal Flash,
takes in Baker Street, Hyde Park Corner (not perhaps for the nervous
driver) and Trafalgar Square, and costs from £29.99 (twizytours.com).
Observatory in the Maldives
Hotels in the Maldives have so far been about what lies beneath, with
underwater spas, restaurants and bars. Now they’re looking to the night
skies, which sounds reasonable when you consider that their position
near the Equator means you can see both
hemispheres’ stars. Anantara Kihavah has
opened an observatory with what it says
is the most powerful telescope in the
region. Lie back on oversized beds during
stargazing sessions. You’ll pay for the
pleasure though — a night’s stay costs from
£787 B&B (anantara.com). Jane Knight
Travel doctor
Q
My friend and I would like
to visit Shetland and Orkney
for four to six days. We don’t
want to drive and would like to
visit all the prehistoric sites
and any other sites of interest, so we
probably need an organised trip. We
don’t want to include the mainland
because we have visited Scotland many
times. What can you suggest and when
is the best time to go?
Vivian Giddings, via email
A
May and June are the prime
months weather-wise for
touring Scottish islands. If
you would like a trip where
you explore the sites with your
own driver/guide, the local travel
company Wildabout Orkney
(wildaboutorkney.com) has a five-night
tour departing from Aberdeen. Highlights
include Scapa Flow, the British navy’s
main base during the First and Second
World Wars; Neolithic sites such as
Unstan cairn, Maeshowe and Skara Brae,
the best-preserved prehistoric village in
northern Europe; a wildlife cruise around
Bressay and Noss; and a visit to Shetland’s
ancient Jarlshof settlements. Prices start
at £1,029pp B&B, with three nights in
hotels and two on ferries.
Alternatively, if you are happy to
travel with a group (usually no more
than 30), Brightwater Holidays has a
six-day Highlights of Orkney and
Shetland: the Islands of the Simmer
Dim tour, with a similar itinerary, from
£1,395pp, including two overnight
ferry trips and three nights in hotels,
full board, porterage and tips
(brightwaterholidays.com).
Q My husband is attending a
conference in Sydney in November.
We have been there before so would
like to spend the three days before the
conference visiting the area around the
city. Would the Blue Mountains be
too touristy?
Amanda Shaw, via email
A The Blue Mountains attract four
million visitors a year, so you wouldn’t be
on your own, but it would be a shame to
miss one of Australia’s most dazzling
natural wonders. If you want to avoid the
crowds, there are several less popular
spots. Instead of joining the throng at
Govetts Leap lookout, head to Hassans
Walls near Lithgow, which is the highest
lookout in the mountains — there’s a
newish suspended walkway. You could
also learn to drive a horse and sulky
(two-wheeled cart) at Centennial
Glen Stables (A$120/£68 an hour,
centennialglenstables.com) and ensure
some peace and quiet by staying at the
Dryridge boutique winery in Megalong
Valley. Its self-catering cottage, Sunrise
Lodge, starts at A$225 a night.
Q Our golden wedding anniversary is
on July 26 next year. I’d like to have a
family get-together, ideally within two
or three hours’ drive of an airport,
Stratford-upon-Avon in the West
Midlands and our home in Newcastleunder-Lyme, Staffordshire. We need a
minimum of seven bedrooms, a dining
area big enough for all of us, a games
room, wifi and a garden for the
children to play in. A pub or
restaurant within walking distance
would be ideal, or the possibility of
someone to cater for a celebration
meal. Our budget is up to £3,500.
Pauline Hodgkinson, via email
A Ingber House, a renovated farmhouse
and stone barn near Skipton in the
Yorkshire Dales, is an excellent bolt hole
for a family celebration and ticks almost
all of your boxes (it’s just over three
hours from Stratford-upon-Avon).
Sleeping up to 16 in comfort in eight
bedrooms, it has two sitting rooms, a
large farmhouse kitchen with a table to
seat you all, a games room with snooker
table, wifi and plenty of space for the
children to roam, plus a pub within
walking distance. Six nights in July
would cost £3,224 through Homeaway
(homeaway.co.uk). The minimum stay
is three nights.
Julia Brookes is the Travel Doctor
Don’t put up with this
E-vouchers for Eurostar delay
We were delayed by three hours on a
recent journey on Eurostar and were
quickly told that we could claim
compensation. We received an
email with a link to click to a claim
form. Having claimed for our six
premier-class seats, an email was
sent telling us that we would receive
“e-vouchers”. Knowing that I couldn’t
use the value of six tickets, I asked
to have the compensation in cash,
but I was told that, having made
the original application, I couldn’t
change from e-vouchers. I have
written to appeal, but with no success.
Ann Judge, via email
Eurostar’s compensation form very
cleverly provides a link to a claim
for e-vouchers. To get cash, you need to
ignore this and search for its FAQs
to find the link there. After my
intervention, you have been allowed
to claim cash. “We would be happy to
arrange that on this occasion,” said a
spokesman, who also apologised for
any confusion surrounding your
compensation. You will only receive
50 per cent of the ticket price; the
e-vouchers would have been 100 per
cent of the ticket price.
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 traveldoctor@thetimes.co.uk.
Please include contact details. If you have a
dispute with a travel company, try to resolve it
before contacting us.
Do not send us original documents.
Unfortunately we cannot reply to every inquiry.
the times Saturday March 31 2018
Travel 47
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