This was my first visit to the Algarve and my initial impression lingered for the whole of my stay: that the Algarve is abroad for people who’d rather not be abroad.
They go because they want the sun — not because they’re interested in exploring another country’s culture.
And that’s absolutely fine in the Algarve: there’s sun, sea, sand and golf (of which more later) but you can eat familiar food and have your Daily Mail delivered to your room in the morning. It’s even in the same time zone as the UK.
My children were dubious. “Are you sure we can climb on it?” they asked for the second time. Even at the ages of two, six and seven they had learned that art is generally there to be looked at but never touched, let alone trampled over.
We clambered up and they shrieked with delight. Being able to interact with the outdoor exhibits in the Kroller-Mullers’ sculpture garden is just one of the highlights of a trip to the Hoge Veluwe National Park, the Netherland’s largest nature reserve.
There’s a square in Vienna’s old city. It’s not a particularly impressive square, nor for that matter especially large, but it is nevertheless a square of great Jewish significance. Judenplatz, as it is called, has come to represent a turning point in the political thinking of Austria, a country which is finally holding up its hands and accepting responsibility for the past crimes of National Socialism.
Five hundred years after the golden age for Spanish Jewry
was brought to a brutal end by the Inquisition, it is touching
to find at least one long-gone community immortalised, albeit in pastry.
In fact, many kinds of pastries and desserts are still being faithfully turned out according to centuries-old Sephardic recipes at La Tafona de Herminia, a bakery in the tiny town of Ribadavia which proudly identifies itself with a Magen David.
Ribadavia is a jewel in the crown of Galicia, a relatively undiscovered province of Spain in the extreme north-west corner of the country.
Getting away from it all. It’s the ultimate goal in the travel game. But there’s something particularly appealing about getting away from it all, whilst only being only 45 minutes away from the “all” you’re getting away from.
This was very much the case when I spent a weekend at Stoke Place Hotel, one of six properties in new boutique hotel group, Dhillon Hotels.
For those craving Caribbean sunshine along with kosher cuisine, USA-based Club Kosher is offering vacations in Punta Cana in the sun-soaked Dominican Republic next month. The holidays — for seven or 10 days from January 15-25 — are based at the Melia Caribe Tropical, a five-star beachside resort which offers, in addition to seven swimming pools, tennis, horse-riding, mountain-biking, windsurfing, sailing, snorkelling and kayaking. There is also a spa, gym, live shows and organized activities for children.
As if the west coast of Scotland, with its dramatic Highlands and romantic islands, needed any added incentive for visitors beyond its grandeur and beauty, it has recently been officially named the Whisky Coast, presumably to entice aficionados of the wee dram for which the country is even more famous than its lochs.
Many of the finest single malts are made in esoteric spots such as Islay and Kintyre, and distilleries - taking their lead from European wineries - are now laying on informative and entertaining tours.
Did you hear the one about the Roman Catholic who became a Jew, whose Jewish daughter then became Greek Orthodox? There's no punchline here. Just a very confusing story, relayed to me by a burly Cypriot during a jeep safari through the Troodos mountains, near Paphos, in Cyprus.
The art in Madrid starts the minute you enter the new terminal at Barajas Airport. Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, it won the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture in 2006. The building, which is three-quarters of a mile long, is a futuristic revelation, filled with colour and natural light.
It was so big that by the time we made it to the luggage carousel, our suitcase was sitting there waiting for us.
The Polish capital is an utter enigma. Brooding and intense, the largely grey imprint of Stalin is writ large across the avenues and boulevards. Yet it is quite possibly the most fascinatingly, almost beguilingly, re-birthed and culturally rich European capital city.