50 best secret beaches in the Med: piece for the Times

Finding a quiet spot on the Med come summer… that’s the stuff that travel dreams are made of.

But although it can be tricky to find a place to call your own, there are plenty of beaches across the Mediterranean that remain off the beaten track and – largely at least – secret.

Along with four other lovely travel writers I contributed to the Times’ roundup of the 50 best secret beaches in the Med, which published this weekend. Check it out for our recommendations in France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Malta and Cyprus.


The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens

Introducing Pearlshare: a new app for personal travel recommendations

There is no substitute for personal recommendation. Whether I’m planning a city break, a beach holiday or one of my many research trips for work, I always ask my friends and colleagues for their tips.

In Seville a colleague’s tip led me to the tapas bar that remains my favourite to this day and in the Winelands of South Africa a friend’s advice took me to the most beautiful vineyard I visitedimage1 in my three days touring there.

But keeping this information to hand was tricky. I had notes scrawled in the margins of my guidebook, disparate recommendations from emails I’d been sent in the notes on my iPhone and vague memories of conversations in the pub that I tapped hopefully into my Google Maps app to see what came up.

Then I discovered Pearlshare. This travel recommendations app not only lets you save your own favourite locations in the places you visit but also lets you share these with friends. So you could create a guide to the best places to eat in Seville and send it, with just a couple of clicks, by email to the friend who’s heading out there next weekend. Or you could group together your recommendations for the very best things to do in Krakow into one collection and share it on twitter (again with just a tap or two) with the whole world.

Since I’ve started creating guides for Pearlshare I’ve also started using the guides others have created. Because Pearlshare uses professional travel writers and other experts, the information is reliable – and consistently well-written. Other travel apps I’ve used (I’m looking at you Spotted by Locals) are very up and down when it comes to quality, with one guide proving invaluable but the next being filled with obvious and very much on the beaten track places reviewed in poor language.

And then of course there’s the trust factor. With TripAdvisor failing to clamp down on those fake ever-glowing reviews written by hotel owners, it’s getting harder and harder to sort the good reviews from the downright dishonest.

It’s also much easier than with other apps I’ve used to create your reviews. Each place you save (called a “pearl”) can be plotted on the map and adding a comment (of a tweet length 140 characters) takes a matter of minutes. My main issue was with the maps, which are currently Apple Maps. I find these constantly unreliable and much prefer Google Maps, but Pearlshare assure me that they will be switching soon.

One of Pearlshare’s other plans is to roll image1-2out the app to AirBnB hosts. I’ve stayed in AirBnBs around the world, from Paris to New York, and I certainly find the experience more like living in the city than I do when I stay in a hotel. This is often down to the personal recommendations of the hosts, but these are generally provided in a folder, on paper. I’ve taken pictures of these notes with my phone, added places to Google maps and scribbled notes on city maps, but with Pearlshare it will now be possible for my host to simply send me their collection (of best places to eat in Brooklyn, say) straight to my phone. How much easier is that?

The app is free to download from Apple’s App Store (here) and it’s free to create your own guides too.

Want to know more? Check out the short video introduction. And you can check out my guides on the app now too:

Cosy Dublin: a guide for winter in the Irish capital

Top things to do in Lanzarote

Top things to do in Krakow

Top things to do in Athens

Gourmet guide to Seville

The best places in San Diego for fish tacos



Beginners’ Sydney: a city guide for Sunday Times Travel magazine

Sydney or Melbourne? The debate forever rages but for some of us, there is no contest – Sydney is bolder, bigger, better (sorry Melbourne).

Sydney is the sort of city that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and demands you have a good time: it’s all beaches and brunches, surfing and sunshine. It is also the sort of city you can’t only visit once, you’ll be hooked for the moment you see that iconic harbour.

It does take some knowledge to hit the highlights though, so I was delighted to be asked to write a guide for first timers for Sunday Times Travel magazine. Read my beginners’ guide to Sydney and find out why it trumps Melbourne every time.


Secret Spain: 7 places off the beaten track

I have loved Spain ever since my very first visit on a school trip decades ago – and plenty of Brits agree with me, making the country our number one holiday destination.

But despite its popularity Spain is never overrun. There are plenty of places in this vast, sun-soaked country where you can escape the crowds and find a beach or a bar to call your own.

Check out my guide to Secret Spain for DK Travel to find out where I recommend for your next Spanish escape.

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The quieter Canaries: piece for The Times

I write a lot about the Canary Islands, and am always banging on about how misunderstood these perpetually sunny islands are.

One thing I rarely get to do though is to write about the smaller islands, those that most visitors to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are not even aware make up part of the same archipelago.

So I’m delighted to have been able to write about La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro for The Times. My article on these three largely unknown isles was in the travel section on Saturday February 13th. If you missed it, you can read it on the website here.

Travel writer, editor and broadcaster