By Sara Darling
Why go to Cuba? Why not? Sunshine, sea, rum, cigars, cars and sexy salsa dancing with strangers in the street. Sounds like a hedonist’s dream right?
But there is more to do than party, as Cuba has heaps of history- with permanent reminders of the nation's favourite second in command, Che Guevara everywhere. Widely recognised as leading the Cuban revolution on 1st January 1959, and overturning the capitalist exploitation of Latin America by the United States, he is immortalised across the land. His distinct visage can be found on T shirts, berets and murals, and was potentially seen by the nearly 5 million tourists, that visited Cuba last year.
The country is still coming to terms with the demise of class struggle, and package tourism is in its infancy, but that is in part of what makes it great! However, international economic relations are slowly making it easier to trade, and US relationships are developing, it is refreshing to visit somewhere that is driven by moral rather than material incentives.
Its capital, Havana has long been an exotic destination, offering a colourful, vibrant city way of life with heaps of history. Old Havana is epitome of Cuba- the unique atmosphere is like nowhere else. Filled with classical monuments and museums, the streets are filled with locals, chatting, dancing or spontaneously making music.
It is also the home of the infamous jazz collective, the Buena Vista Social Club. With two clubs in the city, the players are revered for creating the essence of modern Cuban music - fusing Afro Cuban with local jazz, mambo and US big-band styles, which mesmerise and move you at the same time. These venues are still popular with tourists, but head to the long promenade of the Malecón at sunset to really soak up the genuine Cuban vibe, and get whisked up in an impromptu Salsa dancing sesh, and move to wherever the party goes to later.
With a constant hum of honking horns, you cannot avoid the scores of oversized, brightly coloured vintage American cars. Convertible Chevrolets, Crysalers and Montereys are an integral part of the city. The cliche is real! Used primarily as tourist taxis and tour guides, I went on a tour with the Holiday Place, these majestic beasts are a symbol of the people and culture of Cuba, and demonstrate their resourcefulness, and sheer will to carry on against all odds. No trip to Havana is complete without a ride in one of these beauts, but be prepared for a bumpy ride, as they have the original suspension from the fifties.
Spend a couple of days in Havana, to get your bearings and immerse yourself in the old ladies in flamenco-dresses-cigar-smoking culture, then take your dancing shoes, and beachwear, and head off on an adventure.
The pace of life in Cuba is remarkably slow, so driving is not an issue and car hire is easily available. Alternatively organise a driver, or join an excursion, which are widely available options too.
With incredible scenery along the coastline, journeys in any direction take in tobacco fields, and the impressive natural flora and fauna. Less than an hour outside of the bustle and hustle of Havana is Las Terrazas, a lush oasis of thousands of bamboo groves, palms, exotic birds and beautiful flowers. Now conserved as a UNESCO biosphere, it was initiated by Castro in the sixties, and is a living reminder of making the best of what the country has.
Head further north of mainland Cuba and drive for about five hours, and you will enter an entirely different world. Beaches, five star resorts and island life are becoming in the newly developed Villa Clara Keys: Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos with the pretty city of Santa Clara as the capital, offering the best of the Caribbean and Latin America’s beaches.
An ‘island’ this province is surrounded by water (but accessible by highway) and it offers a unique and relaxing Cuban holiday experience. Made up of rivers and mountains, its rustic vibe is the backdrop to nature and local culture and is the idyllic backdrop for trekking, bird watching, exploring the jungle by jeep, diving or simply relaxing.
With newly built hotels offering spacious accommodation in landscaped surroundings, the province of Villa Clara is the perfect place to fly and flop. Cayo Santa Maria opened its first luxury hotel back in 2001, and since then, the Villa Clara Keys of Cayo Las Brujas and Cayo Ensenachos have added to the collection. All these hotels are connected via the sea road, taking no more than a 25-minute drive from the first hotel to the last, and welcome non-residents for dinner and drinks. Although all inclusive packages mean you won’t have to venture off site, and each resort has numerous swimming pools, an on site spa, pool side service, white sandy beaches and facilities for water sports. With all you can eat and drink buffets (and a 24 hour bar in many) this might sound too good to be true! So get there before the 18-30 brigade do.
Cuba has plenty to offer in terms of entertainment too, and expect to be wowed with local costumes and fancy dress at every opportunity! With celebrations nearly every month, you are bound to stumble across a carnival, charanga, siesta or patron saint's day.... and if you haven’t tried to rhumba before, after a few Mojitos or Cuba Libres, I can guarantee that you will leave your inhibitions at the front door!
The coast is one of the biggest appeals of the Caribbean, and Villa Clara has some of the most spectacular and untouched beaches in Cuba. White sand, sun loungers and waiter service means you don’t have to move an inch if you are on a sunbathing mission; But if you are more adventurous, the crystal water may beckon you in. Perfect for snorkelling or diving, you will find the second largest coral reef in the world, with over 250 species of plants and wildlife.
The best place to get a skipper and charter a boat is in the newly built marinas in La Estrella and Las Dunas. Take a speed boat trip and glide through the lush surroundings of the mangroves. Keep your eyes peeled for flamingoes, herons and egrets and pelicans amidst the jungle growth, and have your camera at the ready. If you are more of an open sea water lover, there are plenty of catamarans or yachts to charter, where you can go exploring the deep sea and enjoy an afternoon with a snorkel.
Most people come to Cuba for the sun, but there are some unique and unusual local handicrafts that are worth a gander too. Pueblo Estrella has an open air market vibe and sells clothes, jewellery, artwork and other artisans products. Not only can you chat to locals who make the goods, it’s a hub of restaurants, bars and spa, with other essential amenities such as a car-jeep-scooter-bicycle rental office, post office and a bank.
If you are looking for adventure, Cuba has it all! And if you don’t return a finger clicking, cigar smoking, flamboyantly dressed, Cuban-heel-wearing, hip swiveller, you will just have to come back!
Our Editor was invited by the Cuba Tourist Board on behalf of MINTUR.
Visit www.travel2cuba.co.uk and www.cubatravel.cu for more information.
Cuba Direct offers a range of flights and accommodation packages.
UK Tour operator The Holiday Place, provide authentic Vintage Car Tours in Havana
Article: Christopher George
Designed by award-winning Southwark architects Allies and Morrison, TWO FIFTY ONE is closer to central London than both Vauxhall and Nine Elms, and with the Elephant and Castle becoming the new Central London South, with the Utopian developments happening that are creating a mind boggling city skyline, thriving caffe culture along with Artswork Elephant that is injecting an urban creative buzz at the heart of this vibrant area.
55 visits TWO FIFTY ONE for the opening event from the 35th floor, to sample amazing views and contemporary art and interiors.
TWO FIFTY ONE, the latest of the Elephant & Castle residential towers, has announced the launch of its Artist in Residence programme. The series of partnerships will bring together some of the city’s most exciting names in the contemporary art world, to support the booming creative scene in London’s SE1.
Collaborating with names including renowned street artist Pegasus, Stephen Wiltshire who draws vast cityscapes from memory, illustrator and printmaker Jess Wilson, and Instagram photographer Ope O, the programme will see the ambassadors create and exhibit original items that take inspiration from the local sights and sounds in Elephant & Castle.
The scheme is a modern take on the traditional ‘Artist In Residence’ role that was popular in the 20th century, where many buildings and institutions would partner with nomadic creatives.
Launching in June, the bespoke commissions will be displayed in an exhibition open to the London public for a month, before being permanently on view in the new development.
Each ambassador has donated a selection of prints from the original artwork manifest that TWO FIFTY ONE will sell to both its residents and to the general community. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to charities within the Elephant & Castle, including Cool Tan Arts, a locally based art group that focuses on mental health initiatives.
Martin Lent, CEO of SCM, the development manager of TWO FIFTY ONE said,
“The Artist in Residence programme showcases the broad range of artistic talent that this city has to offer. Each artist has taken inspiration from Elephant & Castles’ evolving skyline, heritage and creative culture. Not only are we creating a series of bespoke works to be enjoyed by residents of TWO FIFTY ONE, and locals alike, but also raise funds for local charity Cool Tan Arts, a locally based arts focus group which help fund local well-being work through artists work”
From inception TWO FIFTY ONE has chosen to focus on the rich arts and culture of the community. The Developers partnered with the nearby London College of Communication in a unique photography competition. The winning twenty-six talented students’ works were chosen after a rigorous selection process by an eminent panel of art experts including Lucinda Bredin of Bonhams Magazine and Caroline Douglas Director of the Contemporary Arts Society. These photographs are for the first time on permanent display in each of the residential corridors in the forty-one storey building. Copies of each winning entry will be on shown during the three-week exhibition.
BY SARA DARLING
THE NEWEST HOTEL IN PARIS IS BOUND TO MAKE YOU SMILE
The Lola James Harper lifestyle brand, is all about embracing what makes you happy. Whether this be songs, scents or photographs. Typically French it has a sense of je ne sais quoi but not so typical, thanks perhaps to worldwide travel- a sunshine view of life!
It has just been announced that the brand is adding to their portfolio of art, philosophy, poetry, culture, music and travel, as founder Rami Mekdachi has unveiled his plans for a hotel in central Paris.
With a teaser of the upcoming hotel, taking over the first floor of the Bon Marché store in Paris, clients are welcomed into a laid back getaway which captures the essence of LA; With a juice bar, personal travel photographs, perfume making stations and vinyl; it brings all the things that the Mekdachi family love, together.
The first Hotel Lola James Harper will be dedicated to self- indulgence and taking time out. Mekdachi continues “(I want) guests to employ all of their senses and close off their minds for a moment; smelling fragrances of inspiring places, playing music, listening to vinyl, tasting amazing juices, tea and coffee, looking at photographs of the world.”
Set to open in collaboration with AccorHotels in Paris in late 2018, this hotel will be offer a sense of adventure, and promises the perfect place for inquisitive travellers who have a joy for life. Expect intriguing design, beautiful trinkets, international gastronomy, art and culture from around the world. I can’t wait!
Hotel Lola James Harper is set to open in Paris in late 2018 with London and Lisbon to follow.
For more information check out Lola James Harper
BILBAO IS ANYTHING BUT BORING
BY SARA DARLING
Bilbao might not be the first (second or even third) place you think of when you consider visiting Spain, and because of this, it’s unexploited vibe is part of the appeal for the adventurous.
Situated on the rugged coast of Northern Spain (otherwise known as Basque Country), it neighbours the more popular holiday destinations of San Sebastián and Santander. But even though Bilbao has the reputation of being a gritty industrial town in the seventies, it is now a emerging destination for culture vultures, who flock to see the impressive museums and modern architecture, which rub shoulders with proud Basque country roots.
Mostly known for its mismatched buildings- saturating the old and the new, traditional food and football, it’s soul remains enigmatic and uncommercialised. The locals are cool, erring on the scarily cool. The city’s vibe is young professionals, who like to party at reggae clubs and techno nights which begin around 1am and end when the last person leaves.
The seaside is a drive away but you can catch the futuristic (Sir Norman Foster designed) Metro which whizzes you there in 30 minutes. Miles of sand and clear water caress the bays, making it perfect for swimmers, surfers and suntanners; And although there isn’t the lounger and brolly culture, it's a great place to BYO and chillax. The most popular patch for learning to surf is Sopelana, which neighbours a nudist beach. But venture a little further east, and you will reach the craggy bay of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a location from Game of Thrones. Join the tourist trail to ring a bell on the island to bring you luck, and get some very enviable Instagram pics!
With so much on offer, Bilbao is the perfect place to escape to for a beach and culture break. With cutting edge architecture dotting the predominantly green, country landscape- old meets new and country meets urban living.
A visit to Bilbao wouldn't be complete without going to the Guggenheim Museum; Standing proud on the banks of the Nervion River, it houses a treasure trove of contemporary artists including Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons and Eduardo Chillida, along with visiting exhibitions. It is transformed into a club night on one Friday every month, when it opens it doors for Guggenheim Lates. From 10pm to 1am you can wander round and see the greats, and join thousands of other revellers dancing to EDM in the museum’s impressive main hall.
You may want to re-visit in the daylight to enjoy Louise Bourgeois's disturbingly realistic giant metal spider which straddles the sidewalk on the banks of the river; Whereas Jeff Koons’ living flower “Puppy” sculpture is much friendlier welcome to any visitors. It would be easy to spend a whole day admiring the gallery building as well as the art work, and it never gets as busy as it’s New York or Venice counterparts.
The Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s Old Town and one of its most intriguing areas and remains true to its medieval roots. There are seven major streets which are great for exploring (or getting lost in) and you will find local galleries, boutiques and traditional pintxos bars. And if you have never sampled a pintxo before, think Spanish tapas, where you help yourself to what you fancy and pay for what you’ve eaten by totting up your cocktail sticks! Spain isn’t the most veggie friendly country, but there will be plenty of cheese and egg. And bread, with most of these mini delights being layered on chunk of fresh bread.
With so much good food available it’s no wonder the Bilbaínos pride themselves on their local wine too. Dry white is particularly popular, with the blend ‘Txakoli’ the region’s speciality. Sample this straight from the vineyard at Bodegas Ados Basarte, where it is produced by two local sisters who are happy to share their knowledge and passion (understanding Basque helps!)
BY SARA DARLING
HEAD TO SANTA MONICA FOR A SLICE OF FASHION HISTORY
Versace was shot and killed on 15 July 1997, at the age of 50, on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion as he returned from a morning walk on Ocean Drive. But his legacy is not forgotten.
Lauded as one of the groundbreaking designers of the 80s and 90s, he lived a full life, embracing gossip and speculation, but he was also a regular at Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, where he could escape and relax.
Still owned by the same family, who remain coy as to the habits of the designer, Hotel Shangri-La, is used as the backdrop for the recent TV Series American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Versace was recognised, but was always low key, and always stayed in the penthouse suite of this original art deco hotel; With Tamie Adaya, Hotel Shangri-La’s CEO and Creative Director noting “back then parties were a strictly no no. We are a boutique, family owned hotel. But not for Gianni Versace. He was a genius. He was an icon, but to us he was just Gianni and part of the Shangri-La family.”
With major stars taking on roles in the series- it is Edgar Ramirez (The Girl on the Train) who lands the covetable role of Gianni, alongside Penelope Cruz as Donatella, who relive his flamboyant lifestyle. Openly gay, Versace embraced the fast life and was friends with Madonna, Elton John, Cher, Sting and Eric Clapton, who although do no appear in the re-make, are a big part of his memoirs.
With such a fashionable history, the hotel also retains a laid-back atmosphere, with Tamie fondly reflecting “Versace loved architecture, particularly Art Deco, which inspires me to this very day with the hotel’s interior design. It was a privilege being a part of this series which celebrates his flamboyant life and legacy.”
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier, you can see why it was and still is, so popular. Chances of you rubbing shoulders with real life celebrities and designers is pretty high too!
Article: Christopher George
Blurring the lines between art and reality. Rotterdam makes other European cities seem out of synch with modern living.
The idea of a utopian civilization was idealized during the post war years- designed by young architects and town planners. Yet by the late 70s and 80s, society under this structure was falling apart concrete slab by concrete slab. Rotterdam on the other hand, due to an absolute necessity to plough forward, has invented the most ideal, modern utopian city in Europe, or as damn close to this idealism comes anyhow!
One of the key successes of Rotterdam as a city is how it engages with cultural issues, contemporary arts and its inhabitants. When you travel around the city (which is extremely easy on foot, bicycle or public transport), you are constantly confronted with structural objects of art. It almost seems that Rotterdam is littered with them, so much that the lines between art and reality become obscured.
With much of Rotterdam’s architecture emerging from the schools of Brutalism- that is loved and hated in equal measure elsewhere. The buildings have not been condemned for demolition like many places in the rest of Europe; Rotterdam has embraced this period of architectural design and social progression, by entwining it with the contemporary arts and the new emerging architectural designs as the city grows bigger, bolder and more confident about its future.
For example, a simple a public staircase crossing roads, becomes not just a staircase to transport its passengers safely through the city, but also a piece of street art.
The roads passing through underpass merge with the traffic signs, tram wires overhead and the towering buildings are all a canvas. A bench in the shopping centre is a structure of contemporary furniture. Then you walk round a corner to be confronted by a huge sculpture of a Santa Claus balancing a monstrous ‘butt plug’ in one hand, and an unaffected mother chats to her child directly below it.
The urban landscape has allowed its self to become a canvas for arts to emerge within it and on it, with a sense of humour! Buildings with empty walls have been endorsed with murals. This is not uncommon in many grey towns, but the relationship with the art and the soul of these other cities often seems at odds with each other, making the art seem uncomfortable. Not in Rotterdam, where you often question if the building was prepared as a canvas for the actual art work, how ever large or small. You begin to walk the city and question every merging line that passes by your eyes and question; is this art or is it a utility? Believe me, It’s pretty exciting to think on these levels!
Article: Christopher George
A stone’s throw away from the UK, with just a two and a half hour flight, Tunisia proves to be a bolthole for relaxation.
With city life becoming ever more challenging, escaping the rat-race to recharge the batteries, doesn’t have to cost an arm or a leg - if you head in the right direction.
Guaranteed sun all year around, the temperature is more constant than the rest of the Mediterranean, even out of season, and prices for luxury hotels and spas are well within the budget traveller or spa seeker’s range.
If you’re like 55employees and just need to get away from work, to actually do some work, take a tip from us… A long weekend, or preferably a week, at a retreat will get that next commission finished without the usual petty distractions. And in between the gruelling tapping at the computer, the pool, sun, world famous Thalasso spas and therapeutic treatments, are guaranteed to get you inspired and working a lot faster than in the dull UK climate, where you struggle to get out of bed and crack the ice on the carpet.
Believe me, a quick dip in the pool at 8am really does promote some hardy work before a buffet breakfast.
Sometimes, it’s not all about racing around on a vacation, and that’s just what we headed to Tunisia for, to get some work finished, eat well, get some sun and see some sights.
This idyllic resort of Cartharge, on the Mediterranean coast has a host of luxury hotels with 5 star services. And most importantly sun and swimming in abundance!
If like 55employees, you sway between sordid and glamtastic; you should look to book into the Royal Kenz Hotel for a truly glamorous experience. One of the benefits of the Royal Kenz, is that it is an all-inclusive hotel. So even having to think about food or your alcohol intake becomes one less burden (anything for an easy life).
The Royal Kenz Hotel also boasts an impressive Thalasso spa with a huge natural saltwater swimming pool, in line with top Europeans resorts, but at a fraction of the price. Also a further two outdoor pools set in the lush surroundings of manicured grounds, along with a host of bars and entertainment areas.
Leaving here was not hugely necessary- which was handy, as we could crack on with the mounting editing that comes with publishing a magazine as incredible as 55pages. Moving between the kitsch bars and sunshades was our only dilemma!
After a turbulent few years around the globe, it’s good to see that Tunisia is taking security seriously, by screening guests and visitors, with a police presence visible right throughout the country. Reassuring for visitors and locals.
Sidi Bou Said.
Perched on the top of the cliffs, with spectacular view over the Mediterranean Sea, wonderful shopping at very reasonable prices.
Traffic free, very relaxing with some 5 star restaurants, to simple coffee and lunch cafes. Visit Café des Delices, perched in the mountain with views over to marina and beyond.
Take lunch in the Marina at Le Pirate, very Ibiza and beautiful foods and Tunisian wines. This is a truly stunning trip for a long lunch, spot of bartering and a leisurely saunter for a few hours.
To escape the hot sun and traffic of this busy city, there is nowhere better then the Medina. Set in the old town, and once at the foot of the Mediterranean Sea, it is a haven of tranquillity shade and shopping. Dating back to 698AD, the Median now is a main attraction for visitors and locals. With lots to see and shop for, as well as great coffee bars and restaurants, its can take hours to get around or find your direction after getting lost! Shopping varies from general tourist gifts to traditional new and vintage jewellery, antiques, leather goods, shoes, tiles and the fabulous Tunisian birdcages. But if you’re tempted to buy the bird cages, (and anyone in their right mind will!!) Just make sure you don’t go all the way and get a human size one. It will never get on the plane, so resist that temptation; I should know, I tried it….
By Sara Darling
55HQ LOVES HOTELS, ESPECIALLY BOUTIQUE ONES...
So every year when the glitzy Boutique Awards Ceremony comes round, we get a bit excited to see the ones we haven't visited yet (alas, this is still quite a few!)
However, we always like to support the indies, and love a good party, so The Boutique Hotel Awards is a godsend to bring the world's leading boutique hotels before the eyes of the travellers, influencers and travel journos who appreciate the finer things in life!
So prepare to get tempted and prepare for the big reveal, which will take place at a glittering dinner party, hosted by The Master Key Society, in November.
Being the only international awards scheme exclusively dedicated to recognising boutique hotels, the ceremony is now in it's seventh year and is going from strength to strength. The hotels in each category face serious competition (a tough gig for the judges. Not!!)
As a springboard to the international acclaim, and a wider audience, past winners have gone on to feature in The New York Times, CNN, Daily Mail, Spear’s Magazine, Elite Traveler and The Sunday Times. We would be delighted to review for 55 too of course!
Last Year's Prestigious Winners included
World’s Best City Hotel 11 Mirrors, Kiev, Ukraine
World’s Best Classic Hotel Hotel Heritage, Bruges, Belgium
World’s Best Culinary Hotel Vila Joya, Algarve, Portugal
World's Best Honeymoon Hideaway Punta Tragara, Capri, Italy
World’s Best New Hotel Hotel Gotham, Manchester, United Kingdom
World's Best Relaxation Retreat The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, Bali, Indonesia
World's Most Romantic Hotel Aenaon Villas, Santorini, Greece
World's Best Private Villa Over Yonder Cay, The Bahamas
There are still many on my personal hit, list, and in a few weeks time, I will have a lot more to add!
Feature by Sara Darling
Having just returned from a long weekend in Turkey, I feel refreshed, relaxed and just tanned-enough, to receive some raised eyebrow envy from my non-journo friends.Marmaris is fondly known as the Turkish Riviera-a fishing village, busy port and well developed tourist resort on the Mediterranean coast; Located in Muğla Province, southwest Turkey, it has miles of white sandy beaches and a ten months of sun.
Marmaris is fondly known as the Turkish Riviera-a fishing village, busy port and well developed tourist resort on the Mediterranean coast; Located in Muğla Province, southwest Turkey, it has miles of white sandy beaches and a ten months of sun.
With most of the resorts along the Aegean coast offering a range of swimming pools, spas and private blue flag beaches, you are bound to have a good time.
But if you are looking for something beyond the realms of the hotel, you can be certain to find some culture too. Bordered by eight countries and straddling two continents, this diverse country is a mix of sights, sounds and cultural customs, which makes it more than just a sun, sea and sand lazy beach holiday (although on this occasion, this was one of the bonuses!).
For a really-chilled break, you only need to leave your sunbed for half a day at a time, and go exploring in the town. A must see are the dancing water fountains in the main square. A busy tourist spot, but impressive nevertheless, and you can hobnob with all the sailing types who jet in and moor up for the night.
You should also make a visit to the marina and check out the fashion boutiques, which sell a bit more than touristy garb- and often kit out the sailor’s wives for their glamorous, on board adventures! Head out of the new, and into the old town, where can see more local produce, and if you can, you should persevere to the top of some slightly steep stairs, which take you to the Panorama Restaurant and Bar. Get there for sunset, and treat yourself to a drink and the view.
Party animals will love the aptly named ‘Bar Street’ which does what it says on the tin. I can’t vouch for any establishments on said street, as I strolled down in the daylight, but it seemed reminiscent of carefree holidays in my early twenties in Majorca.. Say no more. There is a reason why I don’t do tequila shots anymore.
However, as I am no longer such a hedonist-I would much rather look after my head, and body, so embraced the hotel spas and pools, which were widely available at both hotels I stayed in. The first G-Hotel Grand Azur, Marmaris offered large, luxury accommodation in a typically luxury style. Big bathrooms (with Jacuzzi bath), rooftop Steak Bar, delicious cocktails and a Turkish Bath were some of the few things I tried during my stay.
A visit to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without at least one boat trip. If you are a social butterfly and like meeting new people, you can join an organised trip to Olu Deniz, where you can take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon; Or depending on where you stay, you can book a day trip to Rhodes for a Greek lunch, as it’s only an hour away on the Catamaran.
Seeing the sunset at sea is one of my favourite things, and being based on the marina, there are many boats that you can charter privately too. My advice is to get a small group, lots of iced wine and head out for the afternoon/early evening. Make sure to tell the Captain you want plenty of stop off points to jump in to the crystal water and I guarantee you will get the best tan (and Instagram pictures).
The latter part of my trip involved upping sticks to the D-Resort Gocek, which was just 90 minutes away by mini bus, but a world away in the style of resort. A stunning modern hotel, situated next to the marina and the small town of Gocek (it is also just 30 minutes from the airport, so longer in the sun before checkout!) It also has two outdoor pools, restaurants and the very popular Breeze bar located on the beach. Gaining a reputation for its newly designed Spa, which is a haven of peace and tranquillity, and the gym which could rival any member’s club in the UK- this is aimed at the luxury market.
If you are looking for a slice of paradise in quiet, stunning surroundings, the simplicity and elegance of D-Resort Gocek will not disappoint. Both restaurants I tried for dinner- Günaydın Steakhouse, which does a delicious everything (I had the taster menu), and the experimental, but buzzing Q restaurant situated in the mountainside were both delicious. Is Peruvian-Japanese going to be the next big thing? You heard it here first!
Even though this is a recognised holiday destination, the pace is slow and the locals are super friendly. And with hundreds of blue flag beaches making up its 400 miles of white sand, it is no wonder it is a place to come and chillax. I managed to get through two books. Like I said, the most difficult choice was which ones to pack!
FACTBOXMonarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Dalaman from Birmingham, London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and London Luton airports, with fares, including taxes, starting from £54 one way (£101 return). For further information or to book Monarch flights and Monarch Holidays please visit www.monarch.co.uk.
Rates at D-Resort Grand Azur start from £120 per night for half board, including taxes. D-Resort Grand Azur is the only hotel in Marmaris to offer half and full board ensuring flexibility. Book online at www.dresortgrandazur.com.
Rates at D-Resort Gocek start from 448 EUR. Rates are per room per night on a B&B basis. Book online at www.dresortgocek.com.tr. Both hotels are open all year round.
Article: Sara Darling
Everyone who has ever visited the Caribbean will guarantee they will go back, and every patron has a favourite island, bar and story to share. As it was my first visit to the relatively undiscovered island of Nevis, I was excited to soak up all the traditions, food and sun as I could muster in my misjudged one week.
Apparently, Nevis is relatively undiscovered on the Caribbean circuit, and is where celebrities are said to come and chill out. Allegedly some of the large houses in the hills are owned by A-list sun seekers, who only come over for two weeks a year, zipping in via private jet (natch). They are not even spotted in the villages, as the swimming pools and abundance of local staff take care of everything behind the electric gates! But I wasn’t strictly there for celeb spotting (or the rum). I was there on investigative travel writing business....
My first destination was the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, which consisted of a collection of individual bungalows or duplexes, spread across a stunning grass walkway, the ‘Avenue of Palms’ which lead directly on to the vast expanse of the Atlantic coast.
With private bungalows, each named after towns on the island, each had their own character. But I fell in love with mine! With a private balcony and lounger, you could easily spend a day without leaving your porch.
And for a completely different experience, the second part of my break was spent at the equally glamorous, but in a completely different way, Four Seasons Hotel. Once again, this was set in its own tropical paradise, with private beach and impeccable rooms. The Spa, golf buggies and tennis courts might suggest the scale of the premises, but however big, the staff knew my name, and I was treated like a princess! With lots to do for families- there are three pools to choose from, not to mention the stunning spa (a 90 minute massage is highly recommended after all that hardcore sunbathing!) But there are activities on the beach and lots of evening options in the numerous restaurants-whether you were looking for romance, or dining alone.
But, being a bit of a fidget, I was happy to undertake some morning excursions around the island, so I could wear myself out for an afternoon on a lounger or hammock- and read of course! So, I slotted in the island’s most recommended excursions and went hiking to the waterfalls- highly recommended for those who like a challenge; My tip is to make sure you have sturdy boots as there are some steep inclines and lots of ducking and diving! Very worth it though when you get to soak your feet in the ice cool pools and the nature is amazing.
The Botanical Gardens are a must see for anyone who appreciates plant-life. This privately-owned venture has been a showpiece in Nevis for years, and is a perfect place to get some serious peace and quiet (although the whole island is very peaceful, this takes it to a new level!) and is the ideal spot to head to in the hills and enjoy the scenery. With tropical trees, plants and monkeys, this Eastern-inspired setting offers an encyclopaedia of nature – with palms, aloes, bromeliads and orchids emitting the most delicious of scents. Finish off your visit with some authentic Thai food in the onsite rooftop café- extremely romantic, and open for dinner on Fridays.
From magnolias to monkeys, if you need an adrenalin boost, I would recommend an off-road Monkey Tour; Consisting of a jeep ride with a local driver through the rugged heart of the island, you get to see lots of spots that you would never get to without a jeep. One of the stops was the much-photographed Lovers Beach. Alas I had no lover, but the pure white sands, crystal water and deserted cove screamed romance. The beach is public, but no sun loungers dotted the beach and there is no bar, making it the ideal place for proposals … Or at least a bit of midnight skinny dipping!
With swimming, very much on my mind (how could it not be on an island surrounded by the clearest water I have ever seen??) I was intrigued to find out that the fifteenth Nevis to St Kitts cross channel swim was taking place whilst I was there. As much as I love swimming- and Nevis is a lot more appealing than swimming in my home town of Brighton, I hadn’t put in the training for a 4km paddle across the channel. But being cursed with FOMO, I thought it would be rude not to give it a go with a snorkel.
I got introduced to the Ameo Powerbreather snorkel by Olympic swimmer Keri-Anne Payne who was on Nevis for the swim, and for her summer Swimfit course which was taking place at the Four Seasons. So, taking advantage of this, I also packed in a cheeky lesson, and got to grips with the snorkel. Being a new breed of snorkel, one where you breathe in and out of your mouth, allowing a continuous flow of oxygen, meant it is great for lengthy swims and as I was hoping, exploring the Caribbean sea-life.
So, kitted out with a borrowed pro bikini and goggles, I was raring to go. Even at 7am, the atmosphere was electric on the beach. Chatting to people from all over the world- newbies and those who had done the swim before, there was a great sense of comradery. And all due respect to the ten- year-old from America who was doing the swim snorkel free.
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