I’m a holidaymaker… get me out of here!

Reading about all the travel chaos, I began to regret my summer holiday plans. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible just to stay in Acton? But Caroline and I had arranged to go to Ibiza fora friend’s birthday party the weekend before last; then, after returning to London, we were due back in the Balearic Islands, this time with the kids. There was no turning back. The first thing to go wrong was that our British Airways flight to Ibiza from Heathrow was cancelled. Not that BA notified us. The first inkling I had that something had gone awry was when I tried to check in using the BA app

What Britain can learn from Romania

Romania gets a bad rap here, associated as it often is with organised crime. In recent years around half a million Romanians have settled in the UK, making them the fourth largest group of foreign-born residents. But the irony is that as Romanians head to Britain in search of a higher standard of living, we Brits should really be booking our flights to Romania to remind us of how our country once was. Romania has everything: fascinating medieval towns, unspoilt countryside, vibrant major cities and a 150-mile coastline. There are even still horses and carts on the roads. But the appeal is more than that: it’s the spirit of the

Hold the haggis: the changing face of Scottish food

Ask someone south of the border for their thoughts on Scottish cuisine and they’ll inevitably offer up thoughts of two Gaelic gastronomic inventions: haggis and deep-fried Mars bars.  Despite the wealth of produce available – and exported – from the country, Scottish fare has struggled to shake its tartan-clad clichés Despite the wealth of produce available – and exported – from the country, Scottish fare has struggled to shake its tartan-clad clichés. Take a table in London and you’ll find Orkney scallops, Isle of Mull oysters, highland venison and Outer Hebridean whisky on restaurant menus, while bonnie chefs like Quo Vadis’s charismatic Jeremy Lee and industry darling Adam Handling lead the capital’s

The politics of sun loungers

The poolside was deserted when we passed on our way to breakfast. This time, I thought, as we ate at the still-quiet restaurant buffet, we’d triumph. Yet arriving back at the pool after eating, all the sun loungers closest to it had already been claimed – by owners who were nowhere to be seen. Reserving loungers might have been against the hotel’s policy, but removing the towels and beach bags that their claimants had placed on top of them felt like an act of aggression. Instead I sulked silently from my bed near the bins as, an hour later, the family of four who’d taken the plum spot I’d had my

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 and, over the following decades, took root in hotels across the city. Hot on the heels of Spectator Life‘s guide to London’s literary hotels, here are five New York hotels with their own tales to tell. The Algonquin Hotel The Algonquin’s association with the infamous Round Table of the 1920s has provided it with more

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 in the Lower East Side, made my way to the Bowery Meat Company. The menu was perfect: steak and seafood, excellent cocktails, and sides which included sublime creamed spinach and whipped potato that threatened to float off the plate. I usually eat oysters naked, but Bowery’s version – baked under a parmesan crust – was

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. By my side is a barely read copy of a classic work of literature and a half-drunk cocktail. I’m not sure that life gets much better than this. And that’s perhaps the main problem with staying in arguably Malaysia’s loveliest hotel. It’s so perfect – the service, the outrageously exclusive rainforest location next to Langkawi’s

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 housing market, prices for these modest timber shacks just keep rising.  According to research by Moverly, which provides digital home information packs, the average asking price of a beach hut in England stands at £49,290 – up 43 per cent in the past year. In Dorset prices are up 101 per cent to more than

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 and flying straight out on safari, people are wanting to extend their stays and see what restaurants, bars and museums there are.’ The country’s safari offering is developing, too. Away from the crowds of the Maasai Mara, lesser-known hotspots are finding a following – devoid of people but brimming with nature. As Kenya marks 60 years

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 – full of bustling cafés and London money. It is fashionable and chic. In many respects it is a world away from Blythe’s Akenfield. But there is much here to charm you. I lingered by a wonderful second-hand bookshop, Reed Books 4, its window display with Peter Kent’s Fortifications of East Anglia, George Ewart Evans’s The

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 our country’. So what can visitors expect from the city best known as where the world’s first atomic bomb was used in warfare in 1945? While Tokyo will no doubt be top of the to-do list for anyone on a flying visit to Japan, during a recent tour of the country it was western Honshu,

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 wrong. ‘I was here two weeks ago but I’d filled in something incorrectly on the form,’ said the woman in front of me to the staff member searching her bag. Meanwhile, the man behind flew into a panic when asked to show proof of an appointment booking on a mobile phone. ‘Oh hell, my wife booked

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 purchase until I reached retirement.  Much of the decade since then has been spent travelling solo to well over 100 countries across six continents – with my Brompton in tow. It has accompanied me to 42 European capital cities and several African countries. Unlike conventional road bikes, the great advantage of the Brompton is its portability. When folded,

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, while others have been commemorated in novels, poems and short stories. Their present-day owners are all too happy to show off their literary heritage, should you ask nicely. Here are six with the most interesting tales to tell. Hazlitt’s There are few London hotels with so existential a literary connection as Hazlitt’s on Frith Street

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 two families, and from Scotland to Sussex, these seven boltholes offer spring getaways with plenty of wow factor – and all cost no more than £50 per person per night. For couples  Tahuna Bothies, Aberdeenshire Sleeps: 2-4Price: From £100 a night (£50 each for two people)  These wooden huts on a corner of Scottish coast

The other side of flamenco

When you hear the word flamenco you probably think of a lady dancing in a polka-dot dress, stomping her feet, accompanied by guitars and singing. And in the fair capital of Andalucía, Seville, you would have no problem finding such a sight. All across the old town, around the cathedral and in the lee of its 12-century minaret turned cathedral bell-tower, glamorous flamenco dancers are busy at it, stirring up passion on the cobbled streets and in the city-centre tourist shows. There’s no denying such flamenco demonstrations will raise your pulse and the tourists, not surprisingly, love them. But if you think that’s good, you need to head south of

Diary of a digital nomad

As the pandemic gently recedes into history, many of us have been embracing the liberties that have followed. For anyone whose work relied on a desk, a chair and a computer, video-conferencing services such as Zoom left us questioning long-held assumptions about the need for those increasingly anachronistic offices to which we once trudged. The thought of traipsing across town to sit in front of the same computer perched on a slightly different desk suddenly felt absurdly outdated.   But just as we became accustomed to typing in our slippers, more adventurous feet began to itch. Being stuck in a corner of the sitting room all day could be just

In praise of cruise holidays

While many travel addicts went into hibernation during the pandemic, as public health scolds around the world turned our joyful compulsion into a sin, I kept roving despite the hassles. On an Easter Week trip to the Dominican Republic in 2021, I watched police battalions forcibly remove masked people from the streets of Santo Domingo at the 8 p.m. curfew. I spent a fortune on Covid tests for visits to Germany, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and various Caribbean ports. And I was badgered about wearing masks, even outdoors, on three continents. During Covid, the cost of car rentals soared, airlines found ways to make flying even less pleasant than

Is Cote d’Ivoire the perfect place to have an affair?

‘Côte d’Ivoire, eh?’ said the businessman in the seat next to me on the Air France flight from Paris to Abidjan, as he flicked through the wine list. ‘Perfect place to have an affair.’ Seriously? I’d had endless friends prior to my departure sniggering that I – middle-aged white female – was tragically going to West Africa as a sex tourist, to patrol the bars and beaches, barnet possibly culturally appropriated into dreadlocks, in the hope of snagging a ripped Rasta (will I get cancelled for writing all that?) or two. And Mr 7A was now indicating it was an ideal destination for a planned romantic getaway too. Crikey! I

The hidden charms of Montenegro

The first thing you should know about Montenegro is that it is wildly more dramatic than you might imagine. It would be frankly rude not to pull up on its precarious mountain roads and gawp. In summer the Adriatic shines; in autumn the mountains compete with New England for glorious, rich colours. The second thing you should know is that there is a relaxing lack of big-hitting sights. And anything you do want to do won’t take long. Even the most beautiful and Venetian of the tiny Balkan state’s towns take an afternoon at most to peruse, leaving plenty of time for lingering coffee stops and long fish lunches in