If you were looking for empirical evidence that Mallorca has totally reinvented itself, Palma Airport is the place to look. Of the 200 people who were disgorged from an early-morning easyJet flight from Stansted to the island’s airport, a majority were either men on golfing weekends, Boden-catalogue families heading for a pre-half-term sunshine break, or the kind of linen-clad travellers who have Tania Plage kaftans and Vilebrequin trunks stashed in their suitcases and deem the sun-drenched Balearic island one of the Med’s smartest.
It must be a nightmare trying to dust in here, I heard someone say as I gawped at the intricate stone-carved walls of St John’s Co Cathedral. The exterior may look more like an old army barracks than a house of worship, but inside it is breathtaking. You don’t need to be Sister Wendy to appreciate Baroque artist Mattia Preti’s gilded carvings of foliage and flowers that stretch up to the vaulted ceilings, where painted cherubs flit between scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
At the time the old Yugoslavia was carved up 15 or so years ago, Slovenia emerged with the thinnest end of a pretty fat wedge —- a country the size of Wales with a measly 25 miles of coastline. But what a 25 miles they are.
Surprisingly, even in crowded Britain, there is still one relatively quiet road that can be explored at leisure. It’s called the Hidden Highway, and it follows roughly the line of the Anglo-Welsh border, all the way from Chepstow to Chester. The road — or more properly a series of A-roads zig-zagging their way through some of the nation’s most glorious countryside — has retained a semblance of isolation and secrecy because, today, there are newer and faster routes between North and South Wales.
I’m sitting on the terrace of the Luxor restaurant, in the shadow of the Acropolis and Europe’s longest wooden roller coaster, when the waitress uncorks an excellent bottle of Spanish wine and sets a gourmet selection of starters on the immaculately laid table. Where am I? One of the last places you’d guess would be a theme park in Benidorm.
The Sheraton Hotel in Tiberias on the shores of Galilee has been given a special award by the Israel Tour Guides Association. The guides have given the hotel a Certificate of Appreciation for improving the image of Israel for tourists, and for the quality of service and the warmth of their welcome. Bookable through Israel specialist operators or with Sheraton (www.sheraton.co.il/english; 800 325 35353)
From atop their pillar, the Marqués de Pombal and his pet lion survey the preparations taking place for the night’s festivities. It is the eve of the Feast of St Anthony, patron saint of Lisbon, on June 12, and along Liberty Avenue, beer stalls, barriers and spectator stands have been put up for the parade.
It wasn’t the first time I’d sipped champagne mid-ocean, shaken hands with a captain or made small-talk with a diplomat in a ship’s ballroom. But it was the first time I’d stood there and applauded a complete stranger — just for being rich. Honestly. That’s what I did, mid-Adriatic, one balmy night somewhere off the Italian coast.
The stranger was a Japanese businessman who had just completed — wait for it — more than 250 cruises on the same liner.