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New year, new travels

Camilla Swift looks to Europe for some holiday inspiration

16 November 2017

12:01 AM

16 November 2017

12:01 AM

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
American Express Platinum Card

 
The new year is approaching, and my 2018  resolution is to visit some of the gems of Europe I’ve always wanted to explore. With so many destinations on the doorstep, it seems a waste to spend weekends at home instead of exploring Copenhagen or Verona. There is so much on offer, but I’ve chosen a variety of locations; some for the food, some for the culture, and others which just happen to have taken my fancy. It hasn’t been easy to pick, but here are my top European locations for 2018.

Verona

‘Fair Verona’ might be best known for its Shakespearean links, but 21st century Verona is better known for its open air operas. In Roman times, Verona’s arena was used for gladiatorial fights. Then, in 1913, the Roman arena became the world’s largest open-air opera venue. Next year’s offerings include Nabucco, Aida, and The Barber of Seville. Italy’s largest lake, Garda, is 20 minutes away by train; with the  Italian Alps at one end and frequent ferries to help you get around, I have a feeling that a few days on Lake Garda might not be enough.

Back in Verona, it would be almost rude not to taste some of its famous gelato. Many places come highly recommended, but the No. 1 tip is Gelateria La Romana. For somewhere to stay, I’m tempted by Palazzo Victoria, where the Roman ruins it was built on can still be seen peeking through.

Copenhagen

In recent years, Scandinavia has started to become something of a ‘foodie’ magnet. Denmark in particular is home to some fantastic restaurants, and has now officially gained its title as a foodie capital. I’ve missed my chance to experience the famous Noma, which has closed, but in its place are a new crop of restaurants. 108 is Noma’s sister restaurant; having opened last summer, it now has its own Michelin star. Geranium, on the other hand, opened in 2007 and has three Michelin stars. Copenhagen has 13 Michelin stars in total; but there’s plenty more to do besides eat. I quite fancy a Danish trip in December, when the Tivoli gardens are festooned with Christmas lights. Even better, the NIMB hotel next door offers private access to Tivoli; how very practical!

Seville

Back in the 1500s, only ships sailing to and from Seville were allowed to trade with the Spanish Americas. This was the city’s golden age, as Seville became Europe’s great port. There’s plenty of history here, but really it’s flamenco, tapas and oranges that have put Seville on my holiday map. Rumour has it that El Rinconcillo Bar, which claims to be the oldest tapas bar in Seville, serves some of the best jamón in the world.

Seville is packed with ‘tablaos’, the clubs where Flamenco is performed. Casa del Flamenco is one of the most authentic. For sleeping, I’ve got my eye on Hotel Alfonso XIII, an impressively glamorous hotel just a few hundred yards from the cathedral, which was built in the 1920s by King Alfonso to house dignitaries. Right in the centre of town, it overlooks the Alcazar Palace on one side, with the Palace of San Telmo on the other. Location-wise it is hard to beat.

Bordeaux

The port city of Bordeaux is a Unesco world heritage site, with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris. It is also the wine capital of the world, with popular daily wine tours to a number of vineyards which can be visited by boat, on a bicycle, or on foot. Back in the city, Le Millésime wine bar combines delicious French tapas with the opportunity to order premier grand crus wines by the glass.

Friends who have visited the city have raved about its pedestrianised old town, its lovely waterfront boardwalk, and its youthful buzz. Far from being a staid grand dame of France, Bordeaux’s recent redevelopment has served it well, and the combination of its excellent wine, food and shopping make it perfect for a weekend away.

Santorini

Summer might be prime time to visit the Greek islands, but autumn is also perfect to visit the whitewashed island of Santorini. Famous for its coastline, Santorini has grown in popularity in recent years.

Many of the best hotels on the island are housed in caves and perched on clifftops; Canaves Oia Suites for example, are carved into the cliffside while at Mystique, the infinity pool appears to stretch over the cliff edge. So what is there to do, except relax and watch the sunsets? I’m taken by the idea of renting a scooter and simply finding out for myself what the island has to offer. The best plan for this trip is to do as the Greeks do and relax, and simply see where the day takes you.

So that’s the list. The most difficult thing has been narrowing it down to only five locations. Now comes the easy part — making the bookings and setting off on my European adventures. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I can’t wait for 2018.

 

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