The white stuff and the right stuff in France

By Lucy Tobin, October 7, 2010

The first - and last - time I went skiing was when I was 14. It was a school trip to Alpe D'huez in France, and the teachers told our parents that since we might not enjoy the feeling of hurling down a white mountain in freezing temperatures, it wasn't worth spending hundreds on kit - better to borrow.

So I spent the week in a borrowed all-in-one in bright yellow, purple and brown, and completely a relic from the 1980s.


Take to fairytale Tallinn for a taste of the Baltic without the beer

By Jennifer Lipman, September 28, 2010

As you stroll around Tallinn, you realise that you're in a place where history hasn't just happened – it has left a lasting mark. The result is that the Estonian capital, which will be European Capital of Culture in 2011, is actually two towns, one wrapped around the other.

There's the quaint old town whose battlements serve to remind visitors of past invasions, not to mention the structures within it that still bear the wounds of devastating Second World War bombings. Graffiti remains from what Estonians soberly call "the Soviet times".


Tales of the riverbank with Hurley as the star

September 21, 2010

Living in London, as I do, one tends to think of the Thames as nothing more than a dividing line between the lovely North and the grotty South. Unfair on many levels, but mainly because, having just spent a weekend in the Berkshire village of Hurley - midway between Henley and Marlow as the river flows - I now know it to be a divine stretch of waterway teeming with life and beauty.

And what's more, if, like me, you were under the aforementioned illusion, it can be shattered moments after arriving in this delicious slice of England's green and pleasant land.


Italy's Greek island is perfect for a touch of autumn sun

September 16, 2010

The Greeks knew a good thing when they saw it. Arriving on Sicily's lush eastern coast nearly 3,000 years ago, they settled, prospered and expanded until they had colonised most of this fertile island suspended between Europe and Africa.

Their spirit remains alive and well in what is today an exquisite holiday playground. The fact that the warmest welcome and loveliest hotels and villas are concentrated in the east is attributed by locals to the nous of the commercially-minded Greeks whose descendants are Sicily's congenial hosts.


Finland: Mugged, then my attackers took flight

By John Nathan, September 7, 2010

I was mugged in Helsinki. In broad daylight, they came. I am a Londoner and we Londoners have a confidence about walking around the world's great cities. Strange urban landscapes do not scare us, and we have a radar that can usually detect trouble before trouble detects us. On top of this sixth sense, as a journalist I've been to war zones. Well, one. The point is, I like to think I am one savvy, streetwise dude.


Unexpected Israel: music, wine and spas

By Anthea Gerrie, September 2, 2010

While wine, womanly pursuits and song are not the most obvious reasons to visit Israel, the country is nevertheless becoming a fabulous holiday playground for hedonists.

Even those who thought they knew the country well may be surprised to find its vineyards are winning international prizes and opening up to visitors. And where there is wine, centres of well-being are never far away, particularly in the north, close to Israel's most noted spas and retreats offering numerous opportunities for New Age-style spiritual renewal.


From Wagner's garden to the lake of Lucerne

August 26, 2010

Tolstoy loved it, Queen Victoria did too, Wagner got through a chunk of an opera here and Mark Twain was on a positive high wandering the streets. Where is this? Lucerne: a postcard-perfect Swiss lakeside town, tucked into the Alps within easy reach of Italy, Austria, France and Germany.

Right now, it is home to the greatest music-makers in the world - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Riccardo Chailly, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Mariss Jansons and Claudio Abbado.


Salt spray. But it's nowhere near the ocean

By Jenni Frazer, August 19, 2010

Pay attention: this is a story of salt and honey, of wine and chocolate and truffles. Oh, and donkeys. In the 17th century, high up in the mountains of Italy's Piedmont region, above the village of Santo Stefano Belbo, lived a community of monks. Their monastery clung to the hills of the Ligurian Appenines, surrounded by the vines and truffles of the valleys. They had migrated from Provence and built the monastery in 1619, bringing with them their knowledge of wine-making.


South Africa: After the games, a country that's hard to match

By Daralyn Danns, August 12, 2010

The only sound was the waves crashing on the white sands as we gazed up at the Milky Way and the Southern Cross twinkling in the night sky over Lambert's Bay. It was a magical end to our stay in the Cederberg.

This dramatic setting has turned Muisbosskerm, an unpretentious beach restaurant, south of Lambert's Bay on South Africa's West Coast, into a hot spot for locals and tourists visiting the Cederberg region.

The Cederberg wilderness, a two-hour drive north of Cape Town, is a favourite destination with Capetonians wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. 


Birds, beaches and bays: the other Somme

By Sharron Livingston, August 10, 2010

The Somme, in Picardy, is the spiritual home of First World War I tourism; a place where descendants of fallen soldiers go to find the graves of their father, uncle or grandfather, or parties of schoolchildren are taken on educational trips.

So entrenched is the Somme in its Great War provenance, that the area is an unlikely destination for holiday-makers in search of fun and frolics, but that doesn't mean it isn't a beautiful area of France to visit - even without the pull of history.