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Too Hot to Handle: Canaries feature for Conde Nast Traveller

I’ve been banging on for years about how unfairly maligned the Canary Islands are, and so I was delighted to be asked to write about my favourite spots for Conde Nast Traveller’s December issue.

Conde Nast Traveller have shot some truly gorgeous photography for this feature, which does plenty of the hard work for me. But do read my feature – and let me convince you of the appeal of macronesia with a hip rooftop cocktail bar in Las Palmas, a whitewashed cantina serving ridiculously good local tapas in Lanzarote’s ancient interior and a literally star-studded festival on Tenerife.

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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?

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Travel writer, editor and broadcaster