Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

New York hotels with a literary twist

‘You really ought to read more books – you know, those things that look like blocks but come apart on one side.’ Perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald was aiming for a motivational tone – literature was his livelihood, after all. He was also a seminal figure in the writers’ movement that began in 1920s New York

The joy of Suffex: England’s county that never was

There is a point on the dreaded A12 – a road so soulless it makes the M4 looks like Shangri La – when you reach the end of Essex. If you’re driving from London it takes you a surprisingly long time; there’s a lot of noisy beige concrete to go over – about 60 miles’

My culinary journeys: restaurants worth travelling for

Whenever it is suggested travelling south or north of the Thames to visit an ‘amazing’ restaurant I usually start conjuring up excuses. Across London seems a journey too far for food – but going across an ocean for it can be worthwhile. In NYC last year, I found myself with an evening off and, staying

What Japanese cities can teach us about architecture

There are three things that occur to you when you travel the length of Japan: that kimonos are surprisingly good for any occasion; that the country’s reputation for cruelty may partly derive from breakfasts comprising tea porridge and prawn soufflé; and that the hordes of camera-wielding Japanese tourists taking thousands of snaps – a comic trope in the 1980s,

How to survive summer in Andalusia

Early on in his biography of the novelist Kingsley Amis, Zachary Leader quotes a hilariously misanthropic letter Amis wrote to the poet Philip Larkin, one of his closest friends. Amis, at the time in his early thirties, was complaining about a three-month stint he and his family – including his son Martin, then five years

The strange allure of disaster tourism

Some people call me a disaster tourist. I’ve been to Afghanistan, Somalia, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine, to name just a few. I’ve been threatened by kidnappers and have been shot at, but it’s never seriously bothered me. A taste for danger is just part of who I am. That’s why I respect those five

James Delingpole

Welcome to the jungle: how Malaysia won me over

It’s approaching 6 p.m. at the Datai on Langkawi island, the tropical sun is still warm but no longer burny, and through my binoculars from my poolside lounger I’m watching the hornbills swooping down from the tall tree opposite and the sunbirds delving their long curved beaks in to some sort of exotic, colourful flora.

Olé the Swiss way

I would never attend a Spanish bullfight. I find the ‘sport’ abhorrent, from the enthusiasm of the crowd for blood and gore to the inevitable killing of the poor, innocent bull. I know it’s a cultural thing but that doesn’t make it civilized. I’m even hoping, during the famous annual ‘running of the bulls’ in

My pilgrimage to Lourdes

‘Will someone steal my coat?’ ‘No, you’re on a holy pilgrimage,’ my son’s Irish carer-companion Rosemarie reassured him. We were going to Lourdes, where in 1858 a poor peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had 18 visions of the Virgin Mary. At Stansted I’d lost a tooth. I had a bad knee and an ancient foot injury.

Forget Florence – try Lucca

Better located, conveniently compact and free from busloads of tourists, the city of Lucca is emerging out of the shadow of Florence. Tourists and holiday home buyers are discovering that the northern Tuscan province is an excellent alternative to Chiantishire.  Within an hour of both Pisa and Florence airports, it’s the perfect weekend getaway, but

The beauty of passport stamps

As a travel writer, I can get blasé about many aspects of travel: the free five-handed massage, the private plunge-pool out the back, those odd bits of overchilled orangey cheddar in an average Biz Class lounge. But one slightly childish thing that always pleases me is stamps in my passport. They should be emotionally meaningless:

Cindy Yu

My weekend with the llamas of Surrey

Want a taste of the Andes without forking out for the trans-Atlantic flight? There is a herd of delightful llamas to be found in the fields behind The Merry Harriers Inn in the quaint village of Hambledon, Surrey, in which you can walk under the guidance of the equally delightful young llama handler, Clara. Afterwards,

Julie Burchill

Dear tourists, you’re welcome in Brighton

I love my adopted hometown of Brighton and Hove – I moved here in 1995 and I still feel like I’m on holiday. I love everything about living here. The obvious thing is the sea. Although I hear what our local Surfers Against Sewage say, nothing’s going to keep me out of the briny. The

How to join the beach hut brigade

They are expensive to maintain, plagued by tourists and influences seeking picture-postcard holiday snaps and cost more per square foot than houses in some of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods – despite lacking basic amenities such as running water. And yet such is the allure of the traditional seaside beach hut that, amid an otherwise shaky

How to combine city break and safari in Kenya

Nairobi is blossoming. With its vibrant art world, nascent farm-to-fork restaurant scene and unique hotels, east Africa’s biggest city is increasingly on the radar of international travellers. ‘We’re definitely seeing people wanting to stay longer in Nairobi,’ says Rose Hipwood of the Luxury Safari Company. ‘It’s absolutely a cosmopolitan city now. Rather than flying in

Why now is the time to visit Aldeburgh

I have been reading Ronald Blythe’s Next to Nature which came out in October, just a few months before the great man’s death aged 100. And so a weekend holiday in Suffolk was calling to me. I went to Aldeburgh, on the coast, north of the river Alde. The town appears to be thriving –

How to spend 48 hours in Hiroshima

Tourism is well and truly back in Japan, with packed flights and full hotels during the popular sakura (cherry blossom) season last month. And from today, all eyes will be on Hiroshima as it hosts the 49th G7 summit – an event that Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised will showcase the ‘charms of

How to get a passport in a hurry

Standing at the security check-in at the Passport Office in Peterborough, my hands felt suddenly clammy, despite having been made to wait outside in a chilly wind until my allotted appointment time. This moment had been a long time coming – but from eavesdropping on others in the queue I knew it could all yet go

How to travel the world on a Brompton

The first time I set eyes on a Brompton, well over a quarter of a century ago on the Lincolnshire coast, I thought it was a child’s bike. When the owner returned, he took great delight in demonstrating its folding mechanism, untangling the metal tubes and cables. I decided I wanted one but delayed making the

London hotels with a literary twist

There’s something rather wonderful about the idea of settling down for the night in the spot where one of your favourite writers once slept, played or dreamed up a plot. There are a range of hotels across London with a vast array of bookish associations: some have played host to writers both famous and infamous,

Food worth flying for

Somewhat by accident, I’ve become a professional glutton. The sort of person who’ll traipse for an hour in the wrong direction, just to try the breakfast burrito that a friend of a friend’s chef boyfriend won’t shut up about. By some miracle, I get to write about it. I’m often asked about the best thing

The sadness of Britain’s seaside resorts

Now the exhilaration kicks in, the lightness of heart, a joyfulness surging along the warmed blood vessels and tingling extremities: every cell feels as if charged with new life. There has been a ritual, a sacrifice, an offering to the waves of flesh and pain, and in return, there is restoration, life given back. Thus

The joy of India’s heritage hotels

As the pandemic roared through India, I wondered when tourists like me would be able to return to a country so central to the traveller’s imagination. When we did return, would it show the scars of the hideous death toll and extreme burden of suffering? Would we feel safe? Finally, nearly three years since I

Tales of an octogenarian hitchhiker

Hitchhiking has always seemed to me a good way to get about. It is cheap, some drivers even treat you to coffee or a meal, and it is always companionable. What’s more, the knights of the road who stop for you are often people you would otherwise never meet. My first experience was when I

Why Madeira is like Swiss cheese

Three days on Madeira can feel like a week – not because time ­­drags, but because the place is so varied with its many different weathers. From the aeroplane you could be circling over the Caribbean, an impression given by the lush scrambling vegetation and orange rooftops jostling up the mountains. We landed at Cristiano

I miss the Cold War

Berliner Luft is a popular peppermint-flavoured shot downed in the city’s bars. It also means Berlin Air and is a colloquialism for the city’s spirit of unfettered freedom and rebellious abandon. Given what this city went through, reduced to rubble by the furious Russians at the end of world war two, and then rent in

Britain’s best boltholes for under £50 a night

Whether it’s train fares, energy bills or the supermarket shop, prices are rising and belts are tightening. But if you’re desperate to get away from it all, it’s still possible to have a break on a budget – however many people you’re taking with you. From cosy couples’ cabins to beach houses big enough for

Tanya Gold

Nicola Sturgeon and the truth about motorhomes

Watching the narrative arc of the Sturgeon family campervan – removed from the drive of Nicola Sturgeon’s mother-in-law as part of an SNP fraud probe – is an opportunity to review the campervan. Or motorhome, if you prefer. The Mrs Murrell model is a stylish Niesmann + Bischoff ‘iSmove’, priced at £110,000 or thereabouts (her