I had been in Portugal for less than 12 hours when I had my first pinch-myself moment. Five courses into an epic supper at Restaurant Arte Náutica near the beach at Portimao, I caught a glimpse of the starry sky. There, twinkling above me, was the plough. A few metres away, the calm waters of the Atlantic gently lapped the sandy shore.
And all around me was nature: palm trees, white sands, mysterious sounds from night owls and other birds. It was idyllic, and there wasn't a golfer, binge drinker or package holiday maker in sight.
I have to confess I fell hopelessly and completely in love with the pelicans. It became my morning ritual to go out the back door of my beach condo and watch them forage around the ocean looking for fish for an hour or so. It was just the birds, me and a glorious stretch of powder-white beach. This was Florida's western Gulf coast, a world away from what many of you would think of Florida.
This coast of Florida and in particular Sarasota and her neighbouring islands Siesta Key, Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island, offer temptingly tropical retreats that are simply too hard to resist.
Utter the words "holistic retreat" to most people and visions of lentil eating, sandal-wearing, superannuated hippies inevitably pop into their heads. But near Urbino, in Italy's south-west, the Hill that Breathes is a holistic (and, conveniently for the kashrut observant, vegetarian) retreat which is a lot less earnest and a lot more fun than you might expect from the genre.
Indeed, the name of the course - cover your children's ears, now - the "F*** It Week", is probably a clue.
The genteel seaside resort of Easbourne may be an unlikely setting for world-class modern art, but its Towner Gallery is one of Britain's best. So good, in fact, that within a year of reopening in a new building, this excellent institution has already been shortlisted for the nation's top museum award, the national Art Fund Prize.
It Is a sign of the times that you can pay as much, or more, to stay in a converted car park in a grimy London mews as in a purpose-built palace hotel in leafy Park Lane. And why not, if both offer beautiful rooms, excellent restaurants and five-star service, and the mews is right in the heart of the capital's creative action?
Hip hotels are transforming developing areas of London in the same way they have made New York's Bowery and Meatpacking District unlikely new centres of cool.
Can I be honest? The thought of our first holiday with Sophie, our six-month-old daughter, filled me with foreboding. Sophie is the sweetest natured baby you could ever meet, but the five hour flight to Eilat, the kerfuffle which always accompanies any flight (especially with El Al security) and the airport transfers were - even before I started to worry about seven days away - enough to make me think that the best holiday would simply involve a few days off work pottering about the house.
I guess that's why I'm not a war reporter: I like to travel in comfort.
Right now it is a building site, a block away from the birthplace of American freedom and opposite the Liberty Bell. Not much to look at yet, but by November it will have been transformed into the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Stretching over five floors and 100,000 square feet, it will showcase more than 350 years of American Jewry and will become the definitive centre for all things Jewish in the USA. Located beside the iconic landmarks of America's birth, it is both a tribute to the US community and a reminder of the role Jews played in shaping America.
Garish pink and silver curtains drew open, drums rolled and out came the dancing girls. A moment later Phillipe, the compere asked the audience (in French) 'anyone here from Pas de Calais?' Hands went up accompanied by cheers. 'Étrangers bienvenus' – welcome strangers – he chuckled.
Strangers? We were enjoying a dinner/cabaret spectacle at Le Prestige Palace, av du People Belge, (think mini Moulin Rouge) in Lille, located in the Nord Pas de Calais region of Northern France bordering Belgium.
It only opens today, yet half of Britain is already geared up for Alice in Wonderland fever. The new film has inspired catwalk creations, and now it's hoped it will also inspire tourists.
Everyone knows the fictional Alice dreamt of her surreal world while napping by the Thames, but director Tim Burton's wild interpretation of Lewis Carroll's book was based on locations in Devon and Cornwall, while the Carroll trail itself starts in Cheshire.
The Swiss mountain village of Wengen - home of the famous Lauberhorn downhill race - hit the headlines at the end of last year in the worst possible way.
A 23-year-old British man, Myles Robinson, disappeared in the early hours of the morning after a night out in a local bar. His body was found a few days later at the bottom of steep, icy slope, but no one has come up with a convincing explanation as to how it got there.