Few of us need a particular reason to visit Tuscany but, if you do, the Puccini Opera Festival, commemorating the 90th year since the Italian maestro died, should do the trick.
There is, certainly, nowhere better to enjoy Puccini’s soaring operatic melodies than on warm nights under a moon-lit sky at an open-air amphitheatre on the edge of Lake Massaciuccoli in Torre del Lago.
There are 600 acres of land surrounding this remote but very stately home in St Laois. Parked by its lake are bikes and golf buggies but the best way to look around is by pony and trap. The driver, Lionel, points out the estate’s parish church, various follies, such as the viewing tower built to create jobs during the potato famine, the grottos and hidden gardens.
I had just turned into the side street from Dublin’s famous Grafton Street to the Westbury when I saw it. I instantly recognised the life size statue of Dublin-bred Phil Lynott. I was still humming “The Boys are Back in town” when I got to the reception desk on the first floor. “A fan of Thin Lizzy are you?” asked Eddie, the concierge in a charming Irish lilt.
When you are alone in a strange town, spending a few nights there can seem a little, lonely. So on a recent budget trip to Worcester, I shied away from the faceless chain hotels, opting instead for a bed and breakfast.
I found one in the village of Ladywood, a few minutes drive from town and noisy local pubs. At the every least, I reasoned, I would be in pleasant surroundings.
The Iadera gleams with newness. From the glass lifts, to the radiant white bathtubs, to the burnished sheen on the croissants, everything is polished. For guests at the luxury spa, it’s all about renewal too, settling into fluffy white robes, cleansing in the clear blue sea of the private beach, getting the grime scrubbed off, your tired muscles pummelled and eye bags smoothed away.
From his lofty perch, Napoleon gazes across at what might have been. Back in 1804 more than 100,000 men of his grand army stood alongside him here at Boulogne-Sur-Mer poised to invade England. They even built the column in anticipation of victory.Fortunately, they got distracted by Austria and Russia in the east and abandoned the invasion.