Tag Archives: europe

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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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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.

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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.

 

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15 prettiest places in Spain: piece for DK Travel

Spain is gorgeous. From its costas to its mountains and from the verdant north to the sun-soaked south, there are just so many beautiful places to visit.

I’ve travelled around Spain extensively and still find new corners to explore every time. So when DK Travel asked me to compile a list of my top 15 prettiest places it took me plenty of editing and agonising to decide what to leave out.

What remains are 15 gorgeous places, rural and urban, on and off the beaten track – and even as far afield as the Canary Islands. Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite!

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20 best hotels in Andalusia: lead feature in the Times

My very first trip abroad was a school trip to Spain and ever since then I’ve been somewhat obsessed with my favourite European country, returning multiple times each year.

One of my favourite regions is Andalusia, the land of sunshine, orange trees and Moorish architecture as well as some fabulous beaches and plenty of gorgeous places to stay.

I rounded up some of my favourites for the Times. Check out my 20 favourite hotels in Andalusia.

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Sun, sea and sushi: why the Canaries are the new foodie hotspot

When it comes to the Canaries, misconceptions abound. Isn’t it all high-rise hotels and all-day breakfasts?

Well, no. There is so much more to these Atlantic islands than their “Brits abroad” reputation – a reputation that is, in my opinion, extremely unfair.

Because Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote in particular have exciting, diverse and high quality food scenes. Here you’ll find Michelin starred restaurants, local produce from fresh seafood to the juiciest tomatoes you’ll ever taste, and some of Europe’s best – but least widely exported – wines.

I visit the Canaries several times each year and on my last visit I set out on a gourmet odyssey around Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote for The Times.

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Times Insider City Guides: Budapest’s top five ruin bars

Budapest is one of my favourite cities for a weekend break and – I’ll be honest – that has as much to do with its, erm, lively ruin bars as it does with its hot baths and stately architecture.

I returned to Budapest earlier this summer to drink palinka in courtyard gardens, sip beer beneath boar-shaped disco balls and live to regret slamming slots of Unicum under two watchful bright green eyes.

Yep, one of the best nights out ever, that one. Read (almost!) all about it on the Times Insider City Guides site.