Holidays

Rocco's resort gets spa living off to a tee

By Richard Burton, July 15, 2010

After a few days in the sun, there are three words guaranteed to bring you back to earth harder than a 747 with a blowout: Cold, Rain ... and Luton. The pilot told us to expect all three, in that order, as a wobbly budget jet that seemed to shudder in sympathy, broke through the clouds over Bedfordshire to the sound of trolleys being stashed and air crew strapping themselves in.

Ten minutes later, a handful of Brits and a few well-fed Italian families trudged their way against a spitty cross-wind smudging the mascara of the hostess trying to smile us through to Arrivals.

More..

Rioja country: Spain with a touch of glass

By Jenni Frazer, July 8, 2010

There are, at present, 317 people living in the isolated northern Spanish village of Villabuena de Alava. But - given its location in the heart of Rioja wine country - it is not surprising that there are 43 wineries.

If you exclude the priest and the mayor, we are probably looking at one winery for every six people.

Travelling from Bilbao airport to Villabuena - my base for a weekend of learning about the best of the bodegas - the eye is immediately struck by three things.

More..

City break in a city that breaks the mould

July 1, 2010

Barely a decade ago, the idea of a city break in Manchester would have seemed laughable to southerners. Warm and friendly people? Certainly, as those who have visited friends and family in the city of the Red Devils and Sky Blues will testify. A great dining, shopping and clubbing destination? Also true, but only to those in the know.

It has taken a huge investment in culture and infrastructure over the past 10 years to make Manchester (or, rightly speaking, Manchester and Salford, the adjacent city which has at least half the good stuff) the prime tourist destination it is today.

More..

Yes, really, an undiscovered part of Italy

By Anthea Gerrie, June 24, 2010

When any slice of Italy remains undiscovered by the demonstrably Italiophile British tourist, you have to wonder why.  

And given the beauty and diversity of Basilicata, it can only be down to its history - which is strange and exotic. The Jews who first peddled their wares along the Appian Way in the third century CE are long gone (even from Naples, the nearest major city, which once had a substantial community), as are the stonemasons who worked the quarries before emigrating to build New York's skyscrapers. 

More..

My Maya, I got it wrong on the Mexican coast

June 17, 2010

Even the most seasoned traveller can be prejudiced by misconceptions, and in the case of Mexico's Caribbean coast, I put my hands up. I resolutely avoided the newish holiday playground known as the Riviera Maya for years; certain it would be overbuilt and overrun by package tourists, rather than remaining the pristine paradise much of it still is.

That's the problem with being a Mexicophile - you fall in love with the colour, the chaos and the ancient culture which underpins this most fascinating of countries.

More..

Flirting with danger in the Maltese sun

June 10, 2010

There was an episode of the classic TV comedy show Alan Partridge that featured the hapless TV host suggesting programme ideas to a BBC1 executive. Monkey Tennis, Inner City Sumo and Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave were his creative gems. Well, how about this, Alan - Flirting in Malta?

Flirting in Malta sounds like the latest in the series of those horrible Sky Three programmes about drunken louts trying to mate on holiday, but it is an actual holiday idea.

More..

Solitude and fresh air under a glass roof

By Miriam Shaviv, June 3, 2010

On our first morning in Centre Parcs, my three-year-old daughter stood staring out the patio window of our cottage, into Longleat forest.

"Imma," she turned to me. "Is that a dog?"

I'm not quite sure what I imagined - a snarling dingo? One of the neighbour's pets preparing to pounce? I rushed to the window.

There, right on our doorstep, stood a deer and a bambi. Completely oblivious to our presence, they grazed for a minute or two and quietly trotted off.

It was a stunning moment, which for me encapsulated the Centre Parcs experience.

More..

Rolling hills and nature's cycle lanes

By Jessica Elgot, May 27, 2010

Zipping along skinny country roads, past craggy moorland and sweeping fields as puffs of clouds drift in bright blue skies, it's hard to place this hidden corner of England. It's wilder than the Cotswolds and quieter than the Lakes, and hidden is how those who know about it would like to keep it.

The Forest of Bowland is one of England's most beautiful country escapes, for ramblers, foodies, cyclists and city-slickers seeking a slower, simpler pace of life.

More..

What a Carrie on: Marrakesh just got hotter

By Anthea Gerrie, May 21, 2010

It's no surprise to hear that Sarah Jessica Parker and her co-stars were spotted running riot with their wallets in Marrakesh recently while filming scenes for Sex and the City2. This most exotic of Moroccan cities is one of the great shopping meccas of the world, as well as a great place to dine, to steam in a hammam, to enjoy the local entertainment or to just generally hang out.

More..

Welcome to Robin Hood's merry England

By Anthea Gerrie, May 13, 2010

Robin Hood will be riding through the glen yet again this month, at least on the silver screen - and no doubt Ridley Scott's epic is not the last we'll see of Friar Tuck, Maid Marian or Robin himself.  Nor of Merlin, Lancelot and King Arthur, for that matter, given the fact that myths and legends are woven into our national psyche, and we seem to love keeping them alive.

To make it easier to follow in the footsteps of Robin and other legendary heroes - not to mention a fair few real and legendary villains - Visit England has launched a new Myths and Legends map and website.  

More..