ROCK ON DOWN TO VALAMAR PLACESHOTEL
BY SARA DARLING
The clocks have changed, the weather is finally picking up, so why not join forces with Croatia’s newest party palace, Valamar (PLACESHOTEL) which is hosting an early Easter soiree on Thursday 1st April.
With only 50 days before opening, guests and EDM fans are invited to have a sneaky peek into what’s to come on the sunshine isle of Hvar when Valamar (PLACESHOTEL) opens on 21st May.
Join some of Europe’s top DJs who are playing live from the terrace and get a taste of the long hot summer which is coming our way. The hotel will welcome independent, party loving travellers, who are looking forward to flocking to Croatia’s freshest property when it opens, and the live streaming will set the scene for what is to come.
For many of us, dancing to a live DJ might be a distant memory, so the set by Domagoj Jakić, (AKA DJ Yakka), who has been working as a DJ and producer since 2009, will really blow away the cobwebs! Joined by dynamic duo Grabber & Dobrilla, who are long-time house producers (Grabber is also the founder of the MTV Valkana Beach Festival and the promoter of Heineken Thirst and MTV DFC parties in the region) so expect some classics in the mix too.
The new hotel is ideally situated on Hvar- a small island in the Adriatic off Croatia’s Dalmatian coast; Not overly crowded, it is known for its architecture and friendly locals, and is accessible from the mainland via ferry or private charter from Split or Dubrovnik.
Offering a flexible board basis allows guests to choose what suits- ranging from half-board, including breakfast and either lunch and dinner - and if you don’t make it, you’ll get a €25 credit to rollover to the following day to spend in the restaurant or bar whenever it suits.
Using a cashless payment system - with prepaid bracelets, guests can also loan tablets to enjoy the super fast wifi for pure Insta envy.
So tune at 5pm to YouTube and Facebook on April 1st, and expect 90 minutes of sunshine vibes, and a sneak peak at the new hotel.
HVAR [PLACESHOTEL] in Stari Grad town on the island of Hvar opens 21st May 2021. Lead-in prices from €81 per room per night, including breakfast. For best prices, book direct at https://www.valamar.com/en/brand/places.
Article Photography: Christopher George
With a huge student population bringing a youthful energy to the city of Toronto, there is a vibrant and active coffee culture, a myriad of multicultural restaurants, edgy music and art scene; Fashion is also a major past-time with high street and high end shops located around Queen Street West, and secondhand/ vintage stores in the West Queen West area.
The West Queen West district has been tipped as one of the coolest hoods on the planet by Vogue magazine, meaning by now many artists have been priced out of the area and are creating that new cool hub yet to be exposed. However, Toronto is a city of diversity, creativity and modernity that has ensured it as a destination, not only for the global traveller, but for settlers looking to broaden their life ambition and cultural development.
Architectural fans will have some footwork to cover the city, which showcases excellent examples of brutalist architecture, alongside more traditional early 20c urban streets, and a clash of a modern skyline towering above in glimmering steel and glass. This is an impressive city to explore!
Renting a bike on a sunny day is an excellent way to really see the main central part of Toronto, with the roads being flat, and relatively free of heavy traffic compared to many cities. It is an easy and practical way for any level of cyclist to get around. There is much to soak up, from City Hall during the day, to the CN Tower, taking in some lunch or visiting some of the many museums and galleries.
A short cycle to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) where you can spend hours checking out a small section of the museums exhibitions, which includes many familiar names such as Warhol and Picasso to name a couple.
The current show is one of the most important contemporary artists working within the field of art and politics. Rebecca Belmore’s show Facing the Monumental, is a diverse yet cohesive body of work, built over the last thirty years. Celebrating the forgotten, listening to the marginal, speaking to the silenced, and facing the monumental, with passion, beauty, intuition, this is an exhibition which should not be missed.
Just over the road from the AGO are some great independent galleries that have taken over some of the original 19th century houses providing unusual gallery spaces. While in this area there is a great noodle house Touhenboku Ramen that is a low key but a very hip spot to eat.
I managed to get a window seat at lunch just before a huge queue appeared. The vegetarian ramose dishes were delicious, the atmosphere relaxed and the service easy, friendly and chilled.
Torontos art scene is vast- from the numerous museums across the city to smaller independent galleries, along with the thriving graffiti scene. One of the biggest art events in Toronto is the Nuit Blanche, Less Sleep More Art, which takes place during the month of October.
During this time, the city is taken over as the event spreads across the city and encompass the Scarborough Town Centre area. Many iconic buildings become gallery spaces for the evening between the hours of 7pm and 7am, hence the Less Sleep More Art!
One of the prominent show spaces is City Hall and its surroundings. Visiting during the day and then at night is really captivating. City Hall is designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and was opened in 1965. Standing on what was the old China Town, the first incarnation for the new City Hall was abandoned due to its bland and design lack vision. At that point an international design competition was held with over 500 applicants. Viljo Revell, the winning architect and his associates transformed Toronto’s City Hall into one of the most iconic and important buildings of the mid century. For any fan of modern architecture, City Hall is a mecca to visit. I found myself spending two hours just wandering around the area, absolutely inspired and transfixed by by the architecture and its surroundings.
As if this area is not iconic enough as a architectural landmark, this vision of utopia is transformed into what is almost a dystopian setting during the evening. After dark, the central corporate power seemingly collapses during the night events, and a festival carnival atmosphere replaces the general corporate way of life. Activities from an installation video projected within City Hall almost criticising capitalism and government, to the 12 hour long performance art and poetry within a church, narrating the struggles of the ethnic minorities, are representative of contemporary art. While in the basement carpark of City Hall a DJ is playing dance music, while an installations reporting the progression and trauma of the LGBT community over the past 50 years, has been pasted on the walls.
The art itself throughout the city during Nuit Blance, however impressive becomes the side show, and the actual city of Toronto is the major attraction as an art piece in itself.
Wondering through its busy streets and around the open buildings late at night is quite bizarre, and seems totally alien. Throughout the night, the city is full of activity with thousands of people bustling around as if at a huge festival set amongst this concrete electric jungle.
Many of the art events are interactive, such as Inversion by Simoni + Kilty held in the foyer of the Drake One Fifty tower block. This multimedia interactive installation captures on large screen the movement of your feet, however you want to do the self performance is it to you, but I did get a few claps from spectators watching me hopping back and forth across the 20ft projection. Always one to entertain! The installation is questioning the differences we have as humans, but at the same time referencing the similarities we all share.
One of my favourite items was a video work shown at the Laurier Tower titled ‘From Toronto with Love’. 24 vintage suite case, each one uniquely transformation by individual artists. Ashley Bowes creation involved a film camera strapped to her case and wheeling it around the streets of Asia. Its a griping, fun, brilliantly edited and really engaging short video. All the artists involved in these works reflecting on the idea of journeys and destinations, with the privilege and limitations of health care at home and abroad.
With over 70 art installation throughout the city of Toronto during the Nuit Blance, it is about doing your research to see a selection of artists works, and take a cross section to move around the city. Part of the fun is just being in the crowds of people late at night and mulling around.
A huge part of the event and fun for me was getting lost in the city and discovering items without the conservative guide and map system, however this is really useful as a starting point and information guide.
At one point I turned my back to see something catching my eye, and in that 2 seconds I had lost everyone… This is however where the fun began for me. I then spent the next 2 hours just wondering amongst the thousands of strangers late at night discovering a small section of the city, this being City Hall and its square.
My absolute favourite piece of work was a sound and video installation by artists Tal Rosner and Christopher Mayo titled Lament. The huge installation was placed in the darkened City Hall itself, where bodies were scattered around the floor watching a double sided screen. The piece was inspired form a 1969 poem by renowned Toronto artist bpNichol.
Incorporating music, spoken word and video projections, the project illuminates and animates a style of writing know as concrete poetry, which celebrates visual images created in written text.
Consisting of a basic “you are city hall my people” the sounds and vision investigate civic politics and the responsibility of each citizen for the actions of their government. An item and statement we should all be extremely responsible and aware of in the present times that we live!!
This project placed in the vast City Hall of Toronto and over a loud speaker system, with the only light from the video piece its self was just incredible. The atmosphere was hypnotic and dystopian within the chambers of this iconic government building. It was hard for me to leave not only for the sound and video installation, but also being in the City Hall late at night was a real trip!!
During the day and running throughout the year you can take a free graffiti tour with the ‘Tour Guys’ from 3pm for an hour or so (donations recommended please!) If you’re lucky you’ll get Jason who is an expert on graffiti art and extremely informative and energetic. He will guide you through the graffiti scene of the Toronto’s Queen Street area, and provide the historic narrative around the whole graffiti movement form its early days in New York of the late 1960s.
It's a very enjoyable few hours walking around the streets.
Around the Queen Street area you can grab some lunch at the many diners or just meander around the easily accessible shops. With low level buildings in the Queens Street area, on a good day, the view is spectacular of the surrounding high-rise buildings towering above.
Away from central Toronto, the district of Scarborough and Lawrence Avenue is a mix of diversity where you can explore global cuisine. The closet tube station to Lawrence St is Lawrence East and around 30 minutes from St. George station in Toronto. Here you can find a vast choice of cultures and historic recipes preserved by the immigrant population laying roots in this area.
This community is extremely supportive of all nationalities, and you really feel the love and independence in the food shops. A very relaxed environment worth the excursion for a few hours. I would recommend GHADIR serving Lebanese and Middle Eastern food which you can find in a market area. And for deserts, take a 5 minute walk to Crown Pastries serving traditional Syrian baklava deserts from the 100 year old recipes passed down by the owner's grandfather who was killed during conflict in Syria. Crown Pastries is potentially the best place for deserts on the planet, let alone Toronto. And this is coming from a non sweet eater. I couldn't fill my mouth or pockets enough!
Although a train journey away, it is worth a visit to get out the city and buy some deserts- the sweets really are that good. This whole area is preserving the history of culture via foods, and lessons should be learned across the globe how Toronto’s diversity and respect for all cultures is a proven method of success.
With Scarborough’s huge immigrant population and explosion of housing, downtown Toronto has begun to span its arts scene to involve this diverse community and interact further with them.
This season during the annual Nuit Blanche Toronto, Scarborough has been opened for the first time with its own arts installations around the town centre. This area is a version of the planet, having every nationality happily working, shopping and eating together. The exhibition is asking questions on the emerging immigrant population and neighbourhood, and the positive effects it has on Toronto's culture and art scene.
However, may we never forget, Canada is a country who’s population is generally immigrants, with the indigenous people paying a huge price during the colonisation of the country from the 15th century. Canada is at this time making positive steps to embrace the new immigrant population and should be extremely proud of its diversity, especially in Toronto.
NUIT BLANCHE TORONTO
Art Gallery of Ontario AGO GALLERY
Tour Guys TOURGUYS
Pastries CROWN PASTRIES
Review: Christopher George
London is full of the most fantastic restaurants, serving truly international cuisine, and across London from north to south, you are never short of many a dining experience. The city is known especially for its new restaurants popping up all over the capital, and equally closing not long after in many situations due to the high competition.
That is why we were intrigued to visit Simpson’s in the Strand, as it is far from a pop up newbie restaurant, with well over 150 years of fine dinning under its silver serving trolly!
Simpson's in the Strand has now unveiled a new body of illustrations by the restaurant's Artist in Residence, the satirical cartoonist Zoom Rockman. Rockman first generated interest at The Beano which published his comic strip ‘Skanky Pigeon’ when he was just 12-years-old. At 16 he became the youngest contributor to Private Eye. Now eighteen, Rockman has produced a series of six new artworks celebrating the Simpson's in the Strand's most eminent patron, Sir Winston Churchill, which are displayed throughout the historic building.
All this activity happening at Simpson’s ‘drew’ us down to the fine location to experience 170 years of dinning and ambiance.
Simpson’s opened in 1828 originally as a gentleman’s chess club, with dining beginning a little later in 1848. The restaurant has now been serving the finest cuisine for 170 years, so If that’s isn’t a reason to make a reservation at this land mark restaurant and location, then here are some other reasons.
Simpson’s is in the heart of Londons entertainment district The West End: home to the global theatre business and central for a night out, or days shopping and strolling around London Town. Simpson’s is not as stuffy as you would possibly expect it to be. In fact, I was extremely surprised by its relaxed nature, informal ambiance and helpful staff.
Set in what is the incredible dinning room and part of the SAVOY buildings, Simpson’s actually opened before the SAVOY Hotel did in this landmark architectural gem. This is one of those destinations as a visitor to London is on the list, and as a resident of London is often just walked by and not entered but always known. Simpson’s is pretty much laid out to its original design of 1828, with the dining booths and tables arrangement from 1848 that have served a multitude of politicians and celebrities ever since. It’s mixed range of clientele ranges from business professionals and the mature gentry, to a more laid back international younger crowd. The atmosphere is more dining and chatting, than trying to communicate over loud music in a crowded space.
What I found so endearing about Simpson’s is not only the beautiful setting and interior of the restaurant, the live pianist playing on the grand piano every night. The lack of any agenda with timing during our meal is also a rare touch. This is not a fast food chain or a restaurant where the staff are breathing down your neck encouraging you to leave soon after you’ve tucked your napkin on your shirt! Much to the contrary; during our 3 course meal we felt extremely relaxed in the surroundings, and we were able to slow down our pace of life for a few hours eating and chatting. Something that is often missing in the London restaurant scene, and with the pace of life in the city, where you are pushed to a poky table and expected to make a quick choice of food, eat and leave.
Defeating the whole object of dining out and ‘making a meal’ of the experience, excuse the pun…
The waiting staff are incredibly helpful and are knowledgable about the menu and wine list, without making you feel intimidated as you stumble over the impressive choice of wine. And while the menu is advanced, it is by no means pompous or stuffy. In fact it is quite a simple harty menu with dishes to leave you full, and not famished wanting more.
Within Simpson’s there is also the Knights Bar on the 1st floor where you can enjoy cocktails before your meal, beautifully decorated in a traditional sophisticated style, you can loose yourself in a large soft sofa with that special friend, or hold a private conversation surrounded by the idea that many an influencer has enjoyed a private drink here long before the internet was even considered. In fact, before the TV was even invented. Imagine that for a moment…
One of the endearing points of Simpson’s is the ability to find some privacy while not being isolated. After all, a night out is supposed to be social to a certain degree, it just depends how cluttered you want that evening to become. And it is not going to become cluttered at Simpson’s.
We have become big fans of Simpson’s for its inclusive exclusivity!! So much, we may just start to hold out meetings down there over a bottle of wine.
For reservations please call
+44 (0)20 7420 2111
Simpson's in the Strand
100 Strand, London,
WINTER SUN IN SAINT LUCIA
BY SARA DARLING
The world has had its stuffing knocked out of it this year, so if you are considering somewhere to bury your head in the sand and assess the situation, the stunning surroundings of the Marigot Bay Resort in Saint Lucia might be the ideal antidote.
Described as “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” by novelist James A Michener, he has a point! The private bay is peppered with super yachts and luxury boutiques, whilst holiday makers revel in the hammocks or hire kayaks or stand up paddle board from the nearby island. And when the sun sets, what could be better than sipping a rum under the stars, being entertained by fire eaters and local dancers, whilst tucking into an eat as much as you want buffet on the marina?
The Caribbean provides the dream getaway for some winter sun in secluded surroundings whilst enjoying long balmy nights which seem a world away from the stress of the UK.
Popular with families, friends, and honeymooners alike, the spacious resort is has 57 Residences and 67 Junior Suites to choose from- most with spacious balconies, outdoor hot tubs and extensive views of the bay or lush tropical gardens.
Not only does the Caribbean have one of the lowest Covid infection rates in the world, and a quarantine-free return to the UK, the Marigot Bay resort is offering a special winter deal. Stay for seven nights, and pay for just five. Or, if you have more time up your sleeve, stay for 14 nights and pay for 10.
The island itself is opening up more and more every day and travellers need only to produce a negative PCR test no more than 7 days before travelling and complete an online pre-arrival form, and great news is that TUI will start flying to the island again the first week of November and has some killer fares… the longer you stay, the cheaper the fare. Stay for 14 nights and the return fare is under £500.
Book your stay here
BY SARA DARLING
Portugal may be ping-ponging its way through the Government's safe list for UK travellers, but as soon as the corridor is safe, the recently opened surf and yoga retreat, Soul & Surf will provide the perfect destination for guests who want to get some winter sun and embrace the new normal after this years challenging lockdown.
Whatever your ability, surfing, yoga, meditation and great food and socially distanced socialising are the beating heart of the friendly farmhouse accommodation, and new measurements have been put into place for the safety and wellbeing of all guests and staff for the remainder of the season, which runs until the end of November.
Situated just outside the laid back surf town of Lagos with easy access to the south-west peninsula with amazing waves and conditions for all abilities on both the west and south coast, the Algarve boasts amazing waves, with lots of downtime for contemplation, massage, yoga and meditation.
Nestled in picturesque gardens, guests can enjoy the pool and al fresco dining, with a BBQ grill and a pizza oven offering up tempting smells. when they are not surfing or on the mat, and the views, overlooking the exposed, rugged landscape are an inspiration at any time of year.
The property has currently replaced the usual all-inclusive activity packages with a ‘pick & mix’ menu- so guests have lots of flexibility to choose what they fancy.
Rates start from €65 per person per night with a minimum stay of three nights. Make your own surf and yoga weeks will start from €770 per person which would include five surf and yoga session.
Get inspired for your next vacay here
Article: Tonie Pepperstreet
Photography: Elena Florence
After many months muddling my way through lockdown I, like many others, began to feel the need to explore, or wanderlust. The days of English summer sun were numbered and my patience for long queues, clad in a mask, outside the supermarket wore thin. It just so happened that my restlessness coincided with the final weeks of my rental contract, so instead of doing what any organized adult would do and find my next home, I booked cheap flights, stuffed a suitcase with just about every piece of clothing I had and was off. Destination: Italy.
I touched down in Milan and spent days immersed in fashion, food, and sophistication. While this was a much-needed relief from a dreary London Lockdown, it did not quite provide that. whatever the Italian for je ne sais quoi is… since then I moved onto Venice, Verona, Rome & Bologna all of which deserve their own piece to extoll their beauty, charms, and FOOD.
However, there is one city which has captured my every attention and I quite simply do not possess the will power to move on from here. The beauty, the culture and the romanticism of this city have incited a rush of life & creativity in me and I would be lying if I did not say it is thanks to everything about Florence itself.
There is a magical energy in Florence, one which flows through every crack and crevice of each Perforate stone that makes up this city. I am, quite frankly, addicted and, as of today, have overstayed my planned trip by three weeks…
Piazzale Michelangelo. “Only 15 minutes’ walk,” the charming Italian barista told me as I paid for my morning cappuccino (read heaven). Well, anyone who has been to Florence will know that this mere 15 minutes from Ponti Vecchio Bridge,
is up an incline set to rival any of my gym treadmills best effort and, after weeks of Italian dining, not quite the simplest trek. Despite the unexpected glute work-out, this tourist hotspot has topped my list of places to see in this city; It is the perfect spot for self-reflection, imagination and, obviously, scenic photos.
While you would be forgiven for thinking, as the name may suggest, that Piazzale Michelangelo is a work of the great artist himself, it is in fact a homage to him: a space to provide a showcase of Michelangelo’s work, David, who stands proudly? Casually? I can never really decide, on a podium there. There was even a museum built by Poggi to host more works of the artist, one which never did fulfil that purpose but, I will add, is now home to La Loggia, a restaurant with a wonderful coffee shop and panoramic views.
I have frequented this spot more than I can count, turning up in the early morning hours to watch the day begin for the rest of the city, as well as in the evening as the Florence night-life starts and the locals wind down. One thing is for sure, you could arrive at any time day or night and the view would never fail to steal the breath from you.
3 top restaurants.
Serre Torrigiani - Beautiful restaurant in a secret garden atmosphere.
Il Pizzaiuolo - Real authentic Italian Pizzeria where only Italians go.
Brucia Tegami - Esquite food on the outskirts of Florence
FORGET ALL YOUR TROUBLES IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
BY SARA DARLING
If you are seeking some r & r after the stress of lockdown, the recently refurbished Maison ilā in Languedoc-Roussillon, southern France, may be just what you need for your first vacay away. Referred to informally as "the Languedoc", this tranquil region extends from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains and borders Spain, so offers a perfect blend of nature, history and culture, and ilā is a hidden treasure, tucked away from the crowds.
Managed by British couple Denise and her husband John, who relocated to the sun-baked region, which is best known for its vineyards (producing a third of France's wines), and its popularity with the locals who flock to the beaches which sprawl along its Mediterranean shore. They saw something magical away from the crowds, and wanted to share the green scenery of gorges, forests and the surreal moonscape plateaux with other kindred souls.
The enchanting setting was chosen for the launch of organic skin and spa brand ilā’s first permanent wellness retreat ‘Maison ilā’. A former Chambre d’hôtes, the original stone, seven-bedroom property includes a communal dining space, snug, treatment room plus a yoga and sound healing studio. Surrounded by blooming gardens- including a soul garden full of healing herbs and plants, which are used in the Maison’s kitchen to complement the mostly plant-based menu, the location is a low key base for those interested in spirituality and healing.
The accommodation is thoughtfully laid out, offering privacy and space for every guest along with optional communal activities, which include daily yoga practise, meditation, sound healing or wild swimming in neighbouring natural pools. Or you can just enjoy the peaceful surroundings with a book and experience your own personal journey.
However, healing from the inside is the basis of Maison ilā’s core beliefs, so there are plenty of options to consciously relax the body, soul and mind. With a curated menu of face and body therapies as well as shamanic journeys (including Flexbeam red light therapy), the Maison has just launched its own CBD Therapy products. These include body balm, massage oil, hero salve and bath salts which are used in body wraps, facials, hot stone and deep-tissue massage, and have protocols which energize, nourish and address health concerns such as poor sleep, low mood and stress.
Whether you are just looking for some ‘you time’ or have a particular issue you would like to address, Maison ilā will give you a chance to disconnect from the rest of the world to rebalance and reconnect to your inner essence. Alternatively, check out the programme of expert practitioners and movement workshops which are taking place throughout the year to enlighten and educate the soul.
Find out more here
20 Place de l'Église
11230 Sonnac-sur-l'Hers, France
04 68 31 73 01
+44 7976 353 668
THE LATEST LUXE HOTEL IN MOUNT FUJI IS WORTH A VISIT FOR THE VIEWS ALONE
BY SARA DARLING
Japan has had a tough year with the pandemic.
What could possibly be better than enjoying an open air hot tub, containing crystal clear, mineral-rich, rain and snow water, with an unobstructed view of its source, Mount Fuji (don’t answer that!)
At only 1 hour 45 minutes from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal in Tokyo (shorter by train), it is possible to plan a dual aspect trip, to really appreciate Japan’s natural phenomenon. From the bright lights of the big city, the natural landscape of lakes, forests, waterfalls and hot springs are the perfect antidote. Or you may feel inspired to do more shopping in the supersized Gotemba Premium Outlets shopping mall, which mimics those in North America- be sure to take a map and comfy shoes!
Depending on the time of year you visit, you can get a heatwave during the summer or go skiing in the spring. Once the snow has thawed, is the perfect time to explore the scenery, which includes acres of flowering cherry blossom trees- for which the region is famous. Arakurayama Sengen Park is located halfway up Mount Arakura in Fujiyoshida City of Yamanashi and offers a panoramic view of the city, and is a famous spot for the picturesque cherry trees.
But the main draw of the region is the imposing Mount Fuji complete with its exceptionally symmetrical, photogenic cone. This cultural icon, with its snow capped peak is a recognised symbol of Japan, and is a pilgrimage for international sightseers and climbers.
As one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains" along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku, Fuji is crowned a special place of scenic beauty and one of Japan's Historic Sites. It was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site in 2013, and makes Mishima a sacred place.
So imagine that as your vista for an out of this world hot tub experience! The Tokyu Hotel Group has just arrived in Mishama, and has been specially designed to take advantage of its location.
With a unique vantage point at the base of Hakone and Suruga Bay, clients who visit at any season can enjoy Japan’s impressive scenery from the hotel's large windows. The luxury hotel is the ideal base for exploring the area, and actively encourages recycling and restoration.
The Hotel group is part of the Green Coin programme, which aims to lower the damage to the global environment by decreasing the number of one use plastic toothbrushes and razors. Guests who bring their own supplies, can return their green coins which will be donated in forestation activities- so far the Children's Forest Program and the Tokyu Hotels Green Coin Forests located in Tabayama village, Yamanashi Prefecture, have benefitted from the scheme.
Along with bicycles to hire, the hotel’s restaurant serves freshly caught seafood from nearby fishing ports along with locally grown produce to create a healthy taste of Japan, with all dietary requirements catered for, with advance notice.
Whether you book this as an add on, or as a destination in itself, the Fujisan Mishima offers five star comfort in a state of the art setting, and is great place to explore the area’s hot springs at Oshino Hakki, go hiking around Lake Kawaguchiko, investigate the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum or enjoy outdoor festivals in the summer.
For more information, check out the Fujisan Mishima Tokyu Hotel
17-1 Ichiban-cho, Mishima-shi, Shizuoka, Japan
This hidden region of Italy is rich in culture, history and endless beauty throughout its towns, people, and diverse landscapes.
Article - Photography: Christopher George
More off the beaten track, this region of Molise is ripe for discovery and adventure, without the overload of tourism that much of Italy suffers from. Molise retains its heart, soul and charm. Something that is hard to find elsewhere in Italy with much overpopulation and tourism.
The landscape of Molise is vast and diverse; from the coastal town of Termoli with its wide golden sandy beach, to the staggering mountains, where hundreds of isolated villages, some dating back over 500 years, perched on the sides of unique mountain ranges, as unique as each historic village set amounts the cliffs. Driving around Molise and viewing the mountain villages is breathtaking. Spending time to discover them is a real adventure to cherish.
There is so much to discover in Molise, along with the authentic people, rich classical history, local food, wines and recipes that are unique and steeped in tradition. The foods of the region are simple and delightful, with Molise priding itself on a healthy diet and environmental methods of farming and sustainability. Many of the industries here are working together to produce foods and ingredients locally, keeping sustainable and seasonal dining as it has been for thousands of years.
With our ability to be mass consumers of unhealthy foods, it was an awakening to visit hotels and restaurants that take pride in local fresh and traditional menus that work much to seasonal produce.
Molise is a real break from the crazy life we all get caught up in when living in the cities and towns dominated with globalisation. This region of Italy has been crafted over centres, and has now started opening up to future generations and growing tourism, discovering its historic legacies and unique charm.
With ‘The New York Times’ citing Molise as one of its top 50 destinations to visit in 2020. Now is the time to discover the charisma and charm of this loving region of Italy.
To experience a region can be tricky and complicating. This is why Molise has collaborated on a joint venture to showcase the heart and soul of this precious part of Italy.
Molise is easy with the Moleasy Partnership
Moleasy is a group of four unique and independent hotels and SPA resorts, offering the authenticity of the Molies region. With all the hotels located in different parts of Molise, this is a great way to visit the landscape of this historical region and sample all its divine attractions and cuisine.
With the Moleasy partnership, they can organise tailor-made tours for small to large groups, leaving all the travel arrangement worry free. With the Moleasy organised tours, you get the authentic journey, visiting places that may be difficult to research and locate, allowing your travel time to be relaxed, comfortable, informative and productive. This means more time to spend enjoying a unique experience.
Over recent years there has been an influx of activity and restoration throughout Molise, rediscovering some to the forgotten and abandoned villages, buildings and areas, cuisine and farming. 3 of these particular developments that we visited are all of extreme historical importance for different reasons. Over several years they have been brought back to life as unique accommodation for the travellers searching rich culture and individuality.
Albergo Diffuso BorgoTufi - Castel del Giudice
The first place we visited was BorgoTufi, a historic village and architectural project scattered over several locations serving as a hotel set in a traditional mountain village. BorgoTufi - Castel del Giudice is a commune in the Province of Isernia Molise, located about 50 kilometres northwest of Campobasso and about 30 kilometres north of Isernia.
Not just a tourism project, but also a project within the community and territory, working in partnership with the locals, private investors and the local council. Abandoned farmland and houses have been brought back to life using local stone and wood, employing craftsman and workers from the area, reviving this picturesque village and its surrounding natural beauty.
The hotel consists of a 5 star restaurant and bar, pool, spa and treatment rooms, along with 35 small traditional houses set around a typical village square. It is like a film set, being all so perfect and maintaining the traditional style, all set within the small existing village and overlooking incredible views of the landscape.
After a peaceful sleep in one of the rustic houses, I took a 7am jog around the village of narrow streets to the top of its hill as the sun was rising. I then jogged back to the hotel, jumped in the pool and had a sauna before breakfast. Something I would never do in London!!
The whole area of BorgoTufi is a sleepy quite traditional mountan village. Taking a town house you have privacy to rest, or work mobile if you need to, walk and take some sports while always having 5 star restaurants and spa at arms reach. This is the place you can begin that book you’ve been meaning to start writing, or taking to canvas and painting those landscapes.
A totally subversive environment where you could spend time with family and friends, but still have privacy.
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Albergo Diffuso BorgoTufi
The costal town of Termoli and its beautiful wide and long sandy beach that are overlooked by Termoli Cathedral built in the 11th century. Here the bones of Saint Timoteo were discovered, Saint Timoteo being a disciple of St Paul, making Termoli an incredibly important spiritual town.
Not being a religious person, I could still feel the significance of its spirituality around the cathedral area, with its small medieval streets and tiny shops. A very beautiful and calm place to wander and hide from the sun, as the narrow streets create shade and breeze. The inhabitance during the year is around 30,000. But during the summer this doubles, so there is a real buzz of activity.
This once rural fishing and agricultural village has become a destination for food and wine lovers. It is a very popular resort for Italians during the summer, capturing much of its charm and Italian style
One of the most popular restaurants is Salsedine which is set directly above the beach, offering uninterrupted views over the Adriatic sea, easy access to the sand and a wonderful large terrace to have lunch outside and enjoy local cuisine of fish, pastas and wine.
The mountain region is so close to the sea, and Termoli has for centuries produced excellent wines enhanced and seasoned by the natural sea air during their growth.
A really beautiful costal town to explore, relax, sightsee, and highly recommended Salsedine for food, wine and relaxation.
Residenza Sveva Hotel
Residenza Sveva is a popular hotel in the historical centre of Termoli with 23 rooms. It is a horizontal structure in the sense that it is spread over several buildings that provide hotel services. The mission is to bring the life of the village as a resident to the tourist visitor. The streets of the village are the corridors of the rooms. Located within the walls of the old town of Termoli, this beautiful old residence offers individually designed rooms, some with a view of the Adriatic Sea. In addition to the antique furniture that decorate the rooms, the hotel offers an elegant breakfast room as well as a lovely terrace to relax and enjoy to food.
Residenza Sveva Hotel
Albergo Diffuso La Piana Dei Mulini - Colle d’Anchise
La Piana Dei Mulini once an important water mill during the 16th century, and in more recent history was reshaped into a hydro power station for water energy until the 1950s when power in Italy became nationalised. Like many buildings in Molise, it was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Its historical importance created local investment, bringing love and local development back to the several building and its surrounding area.
This has become another community project for the region, supporting local industry, farming and production. Set on the side of a river, the adjacent land is ripe for truffle hunting, and its a little know fact that 60% of all truffles are sourced from Molise.
With much investment and interest in this area, it has become a tricky balance between creating a more populated thriving community, and retaining its beauty and natural resources.
Rooms at the hotel are comfortable and modest with its restaurants cosy. Set in beautiful natural surroundings just on the banks of the river, this has also become a very popular locations for weddings and large functions due to its banquet hall.
La Piana Dei Mulini
One of the most enchanting outings and explorations during our time in Molise was to the archeological sight of Altilia and settlement, which is close to La Piana Dei Mulini. This Samnite settlement dating back 500bc was a strong hold of the Samnite, and for centuries constantly under attack from the Roman empire. The Samnite resistance was legendary, so much so, the romans attempted to completely eradicate the Samnite from history.
The romans defeated the Samanite eventually after a century, but we still have the settlement here in Molise. It’s impossible to relay the atmosphere of this area without being here. Like Pompei, its mysterious and ghostly surroundings relay the lives and culture of this long gone bustling town.
Domus Hotel Spa Bagnoli del Trigno
For some relaxation we visited the 4-star Domus Hotel, this being the perfect place to stay while visiting the mountan town of Bagnoli del Trigno and its Castle.
Having all the luxuries of a 4 star hotel with pool, spa and treatment rooms, along with a wonderful restaurant for fine dining.
Many of the hotel rooms along with its restaurants and spa look directly out over the mountain town of Bagnoli del Trigno: a spectacular view. Relaxing in the spa pools was bliss, and meals from the restaurant delicious.
It’s a 10 minute drive from the hotel to Bagnoli del Trigno, and the old castles perched at the top of the mountain with views back over the hotel and for miles around the surrounding area. The town around the foot of the castle is intriguing and worth spending some time to wander around the quiet streets and steep allies. Part of the the town is still inhabited, and part seems to be derelict awaiting redevelopment. It is a fascinating place to explore.
Throughout the region there are great photo opportunities, especially in the small towns where life seems to have vanished and nature is taking over once again.
Domus Hotel Spa Bagnoli del Trigno
The town of Agnone is a more bustling and cosmopolitan centre, still retaining all the historical charm of Molise but with more shops, restaurants, bars and the famous historical Pontifical bell foundry. It’s the oldest bell foundry in the world dating back to 1300, and still owned by the Ettore family.
This business has for generations been manufacturing bells of all sizes and is a fascinating visit to see the historic collection of bells in the museum, and witness the history and methods the family business have been using for centuries.
Taking 3 months the produce a bell, it is fascinating how they create the perfect sound. The bell foundry is at the heart of town and is still run by the same family as it was over 600 years ago. Guided tours are highly recommended.
At the heart of Agnone are family businesses and many have been in operation for hundreds of years, and like Molise, food is a central focus.
The Caseificio Di Nucci cheese business founded in 1662 is another one of these heart warming family enterprises. Still owned and run by the same family, this small shop is busy producing its cheeses and open to the public daily.
Along with bars, restaurants and cafes; this historic town is a great place to explore, with lots of architecture to view while sampling its delightful foods.
Villaggio Rural Le Sette Querce - Sesto Campano
The owner of this town Rocco Peluso was born and raised here, and has been restoring it for over 20 years. He and his brother would go to school on a donkey, so the significance of the 25 donkeys living here was beautiful.
Rocco Peluso left the town as a young man to study architecture, and after a successful career he returned to the town and bought it completely as it had fallen into disrepair.
Over a 20 year period of development, the town has been transformed and expanded from the centre out, restoring the buildings into comfortable houses for guests, full of character and traditional style.
This village is a total escape, surrounded only by mountains and nature. Each house is set on the foot print of original houses that were here. The village has a fully functioning farm producing much of the produce for guests, along with the developers mother Filamina who has lived in the village all her life, and now in her 80s still farms the land, and makes the very cheese you eat in the restaurant.
The area supports the local donkey population, and you will see them freely wandering around the land. They don’t stray away from this area as it is their home, so you may well find one of them grazing outside your house.
One of the original houses still exists in its original style along with the furniture for guests to visit as a museum, but also it can be booked as a place to stay for the night.
Anyone who likes natural beauty will find it heavenly here. And like all the places we have visited in Molise, this is a place to lose your self in nature, take inspiration for writing, painting, relaxing or some sport.
The farm is producing cheese, meat and herbs throughout the year. This is a sustainable venture employing a 10 person team, along with the beautiful 87 year old Filimina who doesn't look a day over 60, marching over fields herding sheep.
Our trip to Molise has been beyond fascinating, inspiring and educational. it has also touched our hearts with the people we have met, the stories we have listened to, and the love and hospitality shared with us.
Villaggio Rural Le Sette Querce
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A TASTE OF SUNSHINE
By Sara Darling
If you need some winter sun, Mallorca might be just what the doctor ordered. The atmospheric island in the Balearics is regarded as a perfect destination all year round. With the temperature dipping to the teens, you may not be swimming in the sea in December but the surroundings, walks and nature are a welcome break during the unpredictable weather in the UK.
Bringing a ray of sunshine to brighten our long dark days, the Mallorcan tourist board celebrated everything Mallorca at the stunning Spanish eaterie Hispania- which is also the largest and most accomplished and ambitious project devoted to Spanish gastronomy in Europe. Located over two floors in the iconic inside-out Lloyds Bank building on Lombard Street, it offers inventive cuisine from some of London’s top chefs. With a range of tapas, fine dining, private dining and a takeaway available, the atmosphere is buzzy- whether you want to enjoy a lazy lunch or after work drinks and snacks.
Guests at the Mallorca event enjoyed the Michelin-star restaurant experience, with a menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Marcos Mora. Using typical Spanish ingredients, the tapas included Jamón ibérico, Ensaladilla, Asparagus with Hispania mayonnaise, Padrón peppers, Croquetas and a selection of cheeses, washed down with typical wine or beer.
Masterchef Spain winner, Vicky Pulgarín did a live demonstration of some of her easy to follow recipes, which went down a treat with the eager crowd who got to taste them.
And Mallorcan based novelist, Anna Nicholas was on hand to talk about her fictional novel, ‘The Devil’s Horn’ - a debut crime caper featuring detective Isabel Flores Montserrat- which is bound to make you chuckle.
With plentiful wine, music and tropical scented air, guests mingled at communal seating and for one night only got transported to the sunny isle of Mallorca, with its citrus orchards, Roman and Moorish remains and laid back vibe, the largest island in the Balearic Islands is tempting at any time of year.
Travel and transport yourself and experience more of what's not been discovered by the masses.