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.
‘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.
British Ambassador to Luxembourg Alice Walpole welcomed the four Langdon residents completing a four-day 275-mile sponsored bike ride from London. The quartet — James Manton, Guy Ben-David, Benjamin Kraus and Daniel Welck — enjoyed a celebratory picnic at the embassy.
From Nice airport it was a pleasant tootle along the twisty N8 coastal road. I was heading for the tiny town of Théoule-sur-Mer where they say, the water quality around its cliffs is the best in Europe.
I had chosen the Tiara Yaksta boutique hotel for its discreet location and found it was so hidden that I passed it at least three times.
'Portugal was born in Guimaraes," explains our tour guide during the 30-mile road trip from Porto airport to a 2012 European Capital of Culture. Now the affection which the Portuguese display for the nation's 900-year-old birthplace is to be shared with a wider audience, as organisers expect a doubling in visitor numbers to one million.