Day one in Los Angeles had been full of surprises, not all of them pleasant. On the debit side, an unremitting downpour and the discovery that there is more nightlife in Frinton than in parts of downtown LA.
For our 20-year-old daughter, there was compensation in initial retail therapy (we did not chance on LA’s three Urban Outfitters branches until later in the trip) and for us both, an evening of glorious spectacle watching the LA Kings ice hockey team at the Staples Centre.
The Parisians know a thing or two about romance. But when you live in the most romantic city on earth, you need other options for a whirlwind weekend. So if Valentines Day in Paris feels tired and clichéd, do like the Parisians, and flee the city in favour of Versailles.
It’s been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall, yet the east-west divide is still inescapable. Each side has its own shopping, restaurant and bar districts. In fact, the city has two of everything — even two cultures and this is what makes Berlin an outstanding cultural city break.
The architecture in the east may be a little grungy, but a warehouse doubles beautifully as a bar and a disused factory is perfect as a disco. In the west, it’s more about elegance. Trendy youth live and work in the east, but migrate to the west once they reach 30(ish) to bring up their kids.
Going to the dentist may sound an odd thing to do on holiday, but not for those obsessed with improving their smile. Malta’s innovative Fortina resort has added cosmetic dentistry and cut-price crowns and veneers — as well as laser-accelerated bleaching — in a state of the art clinic for about half the price of Britain.
And crowns can be milled on the spot, so what is a two-step treatment at home can be done in Malta in one. I watched a movie while waiting for my teeth to lighten painlessly, something I couldn't do it Britain.
Five years after the Emperor Vespasian’s forces razed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, the legion he once commanded in England moved to pacify the population of another small country: Wales. The military camp it set up in Caerleon on the River Usk may have been bad news for the locals, but it left some of the finest Roman remains in Europe, including the most fully excavated amphitheatre in Britain where you can still make out the pens where fighters were held before they entered the arena.
Lord Levy isn’t happy. Actually, that isn’t strictly accurate; sitting in warm sunshine, eating breakfast with his wife Gilda, in Bubbe’s, one of two breakfast venues at Eilat’s Royal Beach Hotel, the chairman of Jewish Care seems remarkably happy and relaxed, especially at the end of a year during which JFS (of which he is president) has been riven by seismic legal judgements, and in which he underwent emergency heart bypass surgery.
Idyllic but flawed would fairly sum up Goa’s reputation. On the one hand reliably perfect, warm weather when the rest of the northern hemisphere is in deep winter; on the other, a haven for crazy hedonists and party animals.
One effect of Istanbul’s stint as European Capital of Culture 2010 will be an opportunity to showcase its shiny modern face. The city, best known for ancient Byzantine and Ottoman splendours, is actually a hip, thrusting metropolis with great designer shopping and a burgeoning contemporary art scene. But with a famous historic skyline dominated by domes, minarets and fortified Ottoman palaces, 21st century Istanbul remains largely unknown.
You wouldn’t think you could spend a morning in Greece, an afternoon in Rome and a lazy Sunday in ancient Egypt — all without leaving Oxford. You wouldn’t know it because the Ashmolean — a once fusty, dusty collection of curios crammed into display cases — didn’t let you know. But that place is a planet removed from the marvellous museum which has just reopened.
More than £61m has gone into transforming Britain’s oldest museum into what must surely be the best showcase the nation has of the world’s most important civilisations.