Sydney v Melbourne: article for Rough Guides

Few questions elicit quite the response Down Under as this one – which is better, Sydney or Melbourne?

No Sydneysider would even entertain the idea that Melbourne might have anything at all to offer besides the latest hipster joke, while Melburnians tend to think they’re, well, just a cut above the Sydney scene.

But visitors needn’t get embroiled in which city is best – both make for great city breaks, with fantastic restaurants, beaches nearby, culture aplenty and a variety of day trips on the doorstep.

I weighed in on the great debate recently for Rough Guides. So, which do you think I picked?


How to survive WTM: escape from it!

Do the very letters W, T and M have you burying your head in your laptop? Do you always feel like you haven’t really achieved anything, despite wearing out your soul and your soles pounding the floors of the Excel centre? Or perhaps you’ve never quite worked up the energy to get there at all, assuring yourself that you aren’t really missing anything?

Yes, WTM can be exhausting. It can suck up the whole first week of November and spit you out with nothing but a bagful of business cards to show for the ride.

But it can also be lucrative. It can bring you new clients, help you in setting up press trips and give you ideas and inspiration for the future. It covers 182 countries, attracts some 5,000 exhibitors and generates £2.2billion in industry deals. Sounds exhausting right? Well, attack the event in the right way and you will find it useful. Promise!

Here are my top tips for getting the best out of it:

Register in advance

You can do this online here and print your entry badge out before you get there. Then just pick up a lanyard and sale through at the entrance without queueing.

Slow start

It can take a while to get to the Excel centre during the show so don’t plan any appointments too early in the day – why not have a leisurely early morning coffee instead? The show opens each day at 10am but I’d recommend scheduling your appointments from 11am onwards to allow time to get there – and for a decent breakfast!

Travel light

Avoid the cloakroom queue (at both ends of the day) by not bringing any extra bags with you and wearing a light jacket that you can carry around with you. Bring a small bottle of water too.

Plan plan plan

The stands are spread over an area the size of more than nine football pitches but mercifully they are arranged by geographical area. So plan to visit all European destinations or all your Asian contacts one immediately after the other. Once you have your appointments confirmed print off a schedule including all stand numbers and contact phone numbers – you’re bound to be running later at least once.

Stay in the city

It may seem like a good idea to stay close to the Excel centre but once the show closes each day at 7pm there’s no reason to be in this part of town. Get a hotel somewhere central instead and you’ll be able to escape into the city each evening for some well-deserved time off (or to attend the various evening events).

Make your escape

Had a productive day making new contacts and deals? Then it’s time to stop, step away from the Excel centre and give yourself time to recuperate. London has plenty of restaurants where the letters WTM mean absolutely nothing – time to head out into the city and forget all about it, at least until tomorrow.

Check out my guide to the best escapes from WTM on Pearlshare here.



Pearlshare is a fantastic new travel recommendations app, which not only lets you save your own favourite locations in the places you visit but also share these with friends – and grab recommendations from trusted sources easily.

I’ve written several guides for Pearlshare. Download the app on the iTunes store here and start exploring. Perhaps with my Best escapes from WTM guide, or my London restaurants with a view guide.


Stargazing in the British Isles: article for Coast

I’ve always loved the night sky – ever since I first looked up and saw the Milky Way stretching overhead.

That was in the UK, and since then I’ve had some of my best stargazing experiences right here in the British Isles. Yes, you have to get away from the cities and towns (too much light pollution) but there are plenty of places far enough off the beaten track to have truly dark skies – and the chance to see planets, shooting stars and, if you’re really lucky, that Milky Way.

Check out my article on stargazing for Coast magazine to discover where in our isles I rate for seeing stars.


La Palma: feature for the Times

A new Canary Island is opening up. That island is La Palma, the greenest of these volcanic beauties marooned in the Atlantic. Until now, UK travellers have either had to fly via Madrid or on the weekly Thomson charter flight.

But no longer. Easyjet launched direct flights to La Palma on October 1st. I went on ahead to check out the highlights and found epic walks through verdant mountains, delicious local fish served by passionate locals and a lot of banana plantations. I also found that the island is one of the best places in the world to stargaze (it has the world’s largest optical telescope), as well as one of the best places in Europe to paraglide.

What I didn’t find were large resorts and lots of tourists. So get in their now and you’ll be ahead of the crowd.

Read my feature for The Times on La Palma here.


Cheap and chic in the Canaries: lead feature for The Times

I know I keep banging on about this, but the Canaries really are underrated. Yes, I know they get millions of visitors every year, but those visitors basically stay in a few small strips on the larger islands and they miss so much.

They miss the bizarre volcanic landscapes. They miss the wonderful fresh seafood and salty papas arrugadas. And they miss some truly gorgeous hotels.

A lot of those hotels are affordable too. I rounded up my favourite Canarian hotels and fincas under £100 a night for The Times recently. Check out my top 20 here.


Weekend in Seville: article for Woman’s Own

If pushed, I can just about pick my favourite Spanish city. I love Barcelona of course, and I have a real soft spot for Granada. And then there’s Madrid, with its tapas bars and unstoppable nightlife. But none can match Seville for me.

Seville is sultry. Seville is sexy. And Seville is orange-scented, flamenco-soundtracked, hot-aired. I love its cathedral, its rooftop bars, its Moorish spas… There is so much here to love.

Never been? Head over for the weekend, use my guide for Woman’s Own – and get ready to fall in love.


The best hotels in Mallorca: guide for Pearlshare

Let’s play a word association game. Hear Mallorca, think…? Package holidays, perhaps, or Magaluf?

Sunshine probably also comes to mind, along with thoughts of sultry Spanish nights, white sand beaches and plates of fresh tapas. But luxury? Maybe not.

Mallorca’s reputation may be more clubbing than fine dining, more kids clubs than boutique hotels, but that doesn’t mean the largest Balearic island doesn’t have plenty of luxurious places to stay. In fact, it has one of my favourite hotels in the world, as well as the most unique place I’ve stayed this year.

Check out my Pearlshare guide to Mallorca’s best places to stay for all my top tips and read on to hear about my two favourite Balearic hotels.


The very best: Belmond La Residencia

This superluxe hotel has long attracted the great and good to its classically chic confines on the slopes above the village of Deia. On my recent stay there was a certain well known newsreader enjoying breakfast beneath the bougainvillea at breakfast, in fact. Nobody batted an eye though, this is a hotel that is all about discreet service and elegant lounging.

I spent my time during the day by the main pool, shaded at one end by cypress trees, the sun warming it at the other. I swam lengths towards the Tramuntana mountains and flopped onto my back to squint at the cloudless sky – it was bliss.

My time in the spa was even better, with a dreamy Citrus Siesta treatment that more or less knocked me out with an all-over scrub followed by a soft massage. Dinner is worth staying in for here and I feasted on local red Sóller prawns and roast suckling pig from the island at El Olivo at dinner before settling into the bar with its live piano music and dozens of Miró originals for an aperol spritz. The Miró Café also serves tapas by day, an excuse to have more of those prawns!

And I haven’t even mentioned the room… I had multiple windows overlooking the pool, some of which turned out to also be Juliet balconies, a terrace with mountain views and loungers, and a bathroom with a huge shower. The bathtub could have been more opulent and I didn’t need a TV that pops up at the end of the bed but there was enough space that I could have moved in for at least a couple of weeks – and I really, really wanted to.


The most unique: Cap Rocat

I’d read about Cap Rocat long before I went there so I was apprehensive on arrival – nothing ruins a stay more than too-high expectations after all. But this ex military fortress turned five-star hotel didn’t disappoint, even in the rain!

It’s all about the setting here, from the drawbridge you cross to enter the hotel to the terrace atop my Cap Rocat suite which had exactly the sort of uninterrupted view you would expect from something that started life as a defensive position. The rain meant staying indoors to begin with (hooray for the spa and its fabulous Ayurvedic treatments!) but the sun soon came out – as it always does in Mallorca – and I could snooze on my Balinese bed on the roof and order breakfast to the private terrace.

I loved my room – it had a vast bathroom with lovely freestanding bathtub and spacious dressing area as well as a four-poster bed – but the hotel’s crowning glory is surely its swimming pool. It’s an infinity pool (a proper one, not the nonsensical “infinity-edged” type) with gorgeous views over the Bay of Palma,. But that’s not even the real winner. That would be the box hedges, which divide each pair of sun loungers from the next, giving you privacy as well as room to spread out. Spread out I did, and again it was very difficult to tear myself away!


Find out which other Mallorcan hotels I really rate by downloading the Pearlshare app for iPhone here and checking out my guide to the island’s top places to stay.


Travel writer, editor and broadcaster