Our train pulls out of La Spezia and bores straight into the mountainside and into the rugged heart of the Cinque Terre. Hurtling through the mountain’s interior, it’s not long before we burst out on the other side, a sudden blue wash of light spilling into the carriages as the Mediterranean comes into view.
‘Shalom”, boomed the dark-haired young man behind the reception desk as we checked into Armathwaite Hall.
The kind of greeting routinely proffered at a Tel Aviv sea-front hotel, perhaps? Not at all what you would expect to find on arriving at a 17th century former stately home nestling on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake.
‘That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever done,” said my husband, flopping on a sunbed. “I was lying in a steam room while some woman in a swimsuit covered my eyes with a cold flannel and threw ice over my head.” After a traditional hamman treatment — Turkish bath — he could do little more than lift his cocktail.
‘But Mauritius is a honeymoon destination,” complained my fiancé. “You can’t go there without me.” He wasn’t wrong. Located in the Indian Ocean, 1242 miles off the southern tip of Africa, flying to Mauritius felt like a journey to the edge of the world.
Somewhere in South Korea is a young woman who was named Leah, after my daughter. When we met on a sunny Friday morning in Seoul she said her “English name” was Eileen, adding that she wanted to change her Western moniker because it sounded like “alien.” Could I suggest an alternative?
It was 7.30am one December morning and I was stretching my limbs in the bright morning sun to the softly spoken instructions of yoga teacher Lauren Eckstrom from ESP Wellness Center. She gently coaxed out more length and deeper breaths until I could almost touch the bright blue skies.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to spot a row of Israeli flags lining an entire city block in the Argentine city of Mendoza. After all, Argentina has the world’s sixth largest Jewish population, even if most live in the capital Buenos Aires.