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Cold climate, haute cuisine, Tim Moore tastes gourmet Greenland

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PHOTOGRAPH OF TIM MOORE IN GREENLAND BY DAVID TROOD

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2 Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

TheBigTrip

Fresh from the freezer
Could Greenland, with its old reliance on whale and seal, become a gourmet destination? Its inventive new chefs think so, but will a frozen Tim Moore agree?
espite the best efforts of the Vikings, who chose its inviting name to hoodwink prospective settlers, no one expects Greenland to be lushly hospitable. Its bleak magnificence had been laid out beneath my plane window for half the morning: a frosted, monochrome enormity of granite and glaciers two-thirds the size of India, fringed with slightly more inhabitants than Hereford. All the same, stepping out into the still, bright morning at Kangerlussuaq airport, the brutal reality of life at minus 40C came as a shock. My nostrils crinkled as everything up them instantly froze. Then I breathed in, and Dracula punched me in the throat. I’d come to try a bold twin experiment by Greenland’s tourist authorities. First, a new season for holidaymakers: the flesh-shattering depths of winter. February and March are the cruellest months in the Arctic and almost all visitors to Greenland currently come in summer, when you only need one pair of gloves. Second, a new destination for the adventurous gourmet. Copenhagen’s Noma has become one of the world’s most-feted restaurant (and ranked the very best for the last three years) with its freestyle riffs on Nordic cuisine. Denmark’s former colony now finds itself in the gastronomic halo, a challenge for native chefs even in the south of the country, where the Vikings’ bucolic brand name seems least outrageous – they’ve got trees and everything. I’d come to the barren and permafrosted mid northwest, which must surely rank as the foodie’s final frontier. My base was Ilulissat, a town of 4,000 people and 2,500 sled dogs, situated, like every other settlement in Greenland, on the coast. It’s a plucky, cheerful place with brightly coloured houses warming up the deep-frozen landscape, and a harbour strewn with little boats in ice-locked hibernation. Both the hotels I stayed in were spanking new and devoid of traditional local character – wisely so, as a turf roof and fish-oil heating isn’t likely to bag too many stars on TripAdvisor. What they did have were some tirelessly dumbfounding vistas. Ilulissat means “the icebergs” in Greenlandic, and what a sight they were through the treble-glazing: sometimes a fleet of Tolkienesque dreadnoughts, sometimes a Henry Moore retrospective on the run, lined up on a massive iced horizon thickly buttered with sunset, or picked out by a full moon and the free-form green swooshes of the northern lights. Almost everyone in Ilulissat works in fishing, most of them at factories that process prawns and halibut for export to Denmark. Semi-independent Greenland is stumbling through a slow-motion divorce from its one-time overlord: Copenhagen still pays an annual subsidy and takes charge of foreign and financial policy but Inuit Greenlandic is now the sole official language, and the old Danish place names have been replaced. With its

D

Dishes of the day … Greenland is hoping to become a new destination for the adventurous gourmet – and that extends to catching your own halibut dinner

The barren and permafrosted mid north-west must surely rank as the foodie’s final frontier

Tim Moore in Ilulissat

halting, sibilant clucks, Greenlandic is not an accessible tongue, though neither, as we’ve learnt from the strangled gurgles of many imported TV dramas, is Danish. The halfGreenlandic guide who showed me round what was once Jakubshavn said that her young son spoke better English than Danish. (She also told me that he once got frostbite on her 20-minute walk to school.) Reclaiming Greenland’s national identity, insists champion chef Inunnguaq Hegelund, also means reclaiming its national cuisine. No easy task in a land where what passes for fertile soil is 500 years old. “Well, it’s amazing what you can do with angelica,” he told me in his aunt’s kitchen, bigging up one of the few plants that prospers here. Hegelund is an engagingly selfassured 24-year-old, who isn’t entering the national catering finals this year “to give someone else a chance”. His repertoire at Ilulissat’s Hotel Arctic is inevitably fish-centric, but the splendid meal he created for us at his aunt’s was a tribute to Greenland’s unsung, land-based fauna. I didn’t imagine that sheep could survive in Greenland. The one I ate bits of obviously hadn’t, but it was beautifully

succulent. I’d never even heard of muskox, which despite its name and the beefy rareness of its meat, is a massively furry goat. Hegelund set it off with a rich sauce made from crowberries, which ripen in tiny black hillside clusters during Greenland’s nightless summers. I was told that Greenlandic culture remains rooted in the kill-everything-and-eat-it tradition of the macho outdoorsman but Hegelund understands that the typical gourmet tourist is unlikely to appreciate the marine-mammal aspect of this tradition. If the search for offshore oil continues to disappoint, tourism may prove crucial for Greenland’s independence, and people who go there want to watch whales, not eat them. And it isn’t just the ethics that might leave a bad taste for visitors: when I tried seal a few days later, it proved stubbornly unmoreish: dark, tough, fishy meat that tastes like the smell of 1970s cat food. The morals of seal hunting may deter some tourists from visiting but the clothing it yields is about practicality. My two-day dog-sledding trip simply would not have happened without my thermal sealskin anorak and salopettes, outermost of five layers of clothing. Without the matching mittens, and two pairs of under-gloves, I’d be typing this with my nose. I’ve been dog sledding before, in Lapland with two of my children a few years ago. Then I took charge of my own sled, or tried to, clinging on to the waist-high bar like a man being dragged down the Cresta Run on a Zimmer frame. This time, there were many more dogs: 16 huskies instead of four, a tangled dog’s cradle of yapping jostles. Plus, I was a passenger, sitting with only the ropes that attached the luggage beneath me to hold on to. My driver, Hans, was old-school. Frost speckled his sparse beard, and his legs were sheathed in a voluminous pair of polar-bear-fur trousers. The following three hours offered an immersive experience of Greenland’s hardcore winter wilderness. We swished across frigid lakes at the rear of an eight-sled canine convoy, the whiff of musky poo forcing its way up my nostrils through a bandit-scarf and two balaclavas. My face-holes began to leak fluids that soon solidified in the fabric that sheathed them. This grim carapace froze to my nose; then, after some ill-advised poking, to my tongue. My eyelids periodically bonded. When I got off to help push us up, everything instantly defrosted into steamy sweat. The process was promptly reversed when we barrelled down the snow-marbled granite on the other side. With the brilliant sun nosing into another golden goodbye our convoy reached a pair of cosy huts. Then sped right past them and out onto the frozen fjord behind. Hans and his friends were out here, in the ultra-remote, super-hostile middle of frozen nowhere, to go fishing. Some of them were already at it, winching up a long, many-hooked line through a hole in the ice. Hans told me it had been minus 55C out on the ice the week before. If the conditions were inhuman, then so was the alien

Way to go
Baffin Bay

Ukkusissat

DISKO Oqaatsut
Ilulissat

CANADA GREENLAND
Davis Strait

Sisimiut
Kangerlussuaq

Maniitsoq

Arctic Circle

LABRADOR SEA

Nuuk

100 MILES

How to do it The trip was provided by World of Greenland (wog.gl). A sevennight trip similar to Tim’s, including accommodation, dog sledding, helicopter ride, boat excursion and city walk would cost around £2,000pp, excluding international flights How to get there Air Greenland (airgreenland.com) provided the flights. Returns from Copenhagen to Ilulissat cost from around £900 in peak season Further information Visit Greenland Tourism: greenland.com

panorama: a yawning white flatness girdled by heavy, lifeless mountains. As it was, the first of a succession of huge halibut emerged from the hole, each waist-high to the men who unhooked them. When the time came to cut them up into chunks they were frozen rigid. The huts, when we made it back to them, seemed as warm and welcoming as a village pub on Boxing Day, though by the time our fresh-off-the-sled

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Stellar stuff … after a day on the ice, relax and enjoy the light show

Cold comforts Winter with a twist
Lyon France
For four days every December, during the Fête des Lumières, Lyon watches as light artists from all over the world create animated clips, surreal performances and fire shows on the imposing monuments of Place Bellecour and all over the city. During the day, the bouchons in the medieval centre – Vieux Lyon – give a good idea why Lyon is considered the food capital of France. For a day trip, Annecy can be reached by train; here medieval lanes lead past castles to the spectacular Alpine lake. • Fête des Lumières runs from 3-6 December. Return flights to Lyon from Gatwick and Stansted with easyJet (easyjet.com) from £68. Trains to Annecy take about two hours with direct return ticket from £45

Suðureyri Iceland
Travellers can learn to live like a fisherman at the village of Suðureyri, at the northern tip of the Westfjords, on a new retreat called Fisherman. Guests join crews on their early morning exploits, visit an eco-friendly fishing plant and learn to cook salmon, cod and haddock the Icelandic way. The fishing village offers basic single and double rooms in a guesthouse next to the harbour and has a restaurant. • Fisherman ( fisherman.is) has singles for £60 and doubles for £80. A threehour angling trip costs £47. Return flights from Gatwick to Reykjavik with WOW air (wowair.com) cost £133 in November and December. The best way to reach Suðureyri is by hiring a car in Reykjavik

Bratislava Slovakia
Bratislava has a great coffeehouse culture and nightlife. A few glasses of the Borovicka schnapps should prepare you for Subclub, a techno-focused club in a former Soviet nuclear shelter. Ice hockey is the national sport and halibut soup hit the boil, the water in my bottle still wasn’t moving. I was too tired to care. The simple act of generating body heat all day had exhausted me: sitting on your arse is hard work when that arse is frozen. I rolled out a billion-tog sleeping bag on the floor and slept right through an apparently epic twin display of northern lights and snoring. We sledded back to Ilulissat and spent the following days in ever-smaller and more-remote settlements. I took a helicopter over the fractured ice sheet to Disko Island, a Danish name that probably hasn’t survived just so that I could send funny text messages, but because the native variant is Qeqertarsuaq. Eight hundred people live in the only significant town, another huddle of warm houses and frozen boats. Backed by long, flattopped mountains, it looked like rural Iceland with a broken boiler. Everyone kept telling me that Disko was a sea of green in the summer, “though we know it’s hard to believe”. Greenland’s cultural collisions smashed out everywhere. Skinned seals were strung up from porches topped with satellite dishes. A hunter dragged a big, white arctic hare past a new supermarket full of Pringles and tortellini. Children in Manchester United shirts played three-and-in at a football net half-buried in iced snow. I had the finest meal of my trip – plump, moist, reindeer steak with crowberries – prepared by a Greenlandic cook who boasted that the only time he ever went outdoors was to smoke. The menu at Arthur, Disko’s solitary restaurant, is winningly dependent on what this man can get his hands on: a fisherman had just turned up at the kitchen door with wolf-fish and a salesman’s smile. When my helicopter out of Disko was delayed by a blizzard, the chef put together an impromptu muskox chilli. I was taken out to a headland on the edge of town by Outi and Mads Tervo, husband and wife researchers at Disko’s venerable Arctic station. They’re studying the song of the bowhead whale, a huge and mysterious animal that suffered more than most in the bad old days: during the 1850s, four bowheads were being slaughtered every day. Mads opened a hatch in a squat little lighthouse and handed me a headset connected to a distant array of submerged microphones. Whale song is a soaring, groaning electronic chorus. Its purpose is still hazy, but the Tervos have established that the anthem, mimicked identically by every bowhead, is different each year. Not bad going when you learn how many tunes some of them have to remember: recent autopsies have found evidence – in the form of ancient ivory harpoon tips embedded deep in their blubber – which suggests that bowheads can live for more than 200 years, longer than any other mammal. One which died during US president Bill Clinton’s term of office survived a harpoon attack when Thomas Jefferson was president. It felt portentous when Outi pointed to sea, and in a distant patch of open water between the toothpaste-blue bergs, I saw two great black crescents rise and fall. The final trip out of Ilulissat was an hour-long jaunt for my snowmobile driver, and an ordeal of Scott-grade folly for me. Snowmobiles go much faster than dogs, so passengers get much colder. My goggles were impenetrably ice-rimed before we’d even left town. Blind, spent and mired in frozen mucus, by the time we arrived in Oqaatsut (formerly known as Rodebay) I didn’t feel my life was worth saving. When I fumbled off my goggles my driver squinted at my central brow with some concern, then prodded it with an appraising thumb. “Souvenir of Greenland,” he grunted: a crusty red bindi of first-degree frostbite. I thawed out over a lavish marine buffet in a guesthouse run by a German couple. Wind-dried halibut, breaded capelin, deep-fried cod roe – as long as you forgot to eat the latter, everything was rewardingly weird and wonderful. I’d learned that even in Greenland’s most unpromisingly desolate extremities – running water in Oqaatsut means a lump of melting iceberg in a tank – you will eat well. Perhaps especially well, with the nearest breakfast pop tart on the other side of two mountains and a frozen fjord. Afterwards, I went out to explore with Ole Dorph, town elder and defacto mayor. Home to 46 people, Oqaatsut in deepest winter had the thrilling air of mankind’s last stand. Big icebergs came right up to the door. Sled dogs howled beneath racks of wizened fish left out to dry. A fair few of the far-flung scatter of houses were abandoned, their frost-bleached furnishings picked out by the late sun coming in through cracked windows. Dorph told me that his town had been dying since its fish-processing plant closed in 2000. Oqaatsut had begun life in the 18th century as a Dutch whaling station. He pointed out the original barrel-making cooperage, still apparently in use. “We have a little tourism,” he said, “but most of us must take our living from the sea.” When the fish plant closed, Dorph set up a local co-operative and after many years of lobbying was awarded the right to kill and process a bowhead whale. The necessary investment almost crippled the tiny town, and things got worse when the grim work was done. In the 40 years since Greenland landed its last bowhead, people had lost their taste for its very blubbery meat. The supermarkets wouldn’t take it. Nor would local fishmarkets. As Dorph discovered, even the people of Oqaatsut didn’t want to eat the stuff, and two years on are now feeding it to their dogs. I didn’t know what to say, or what to think. This big fridge full of plastic bags was the final resting place of a mighty, majestic creature, the end of a life that might, just, have begun before Queen Victoria’s. The people who lived here had, in the final analysis, slaughtered it for no reason, but I still felt for them. And with their nation’s independence in some curious way beholden to ethically minded, foodiecentric extreme tourism, you have to believe that Oqaatsut’s short-term loss is this truly astonishing country’s longterm gain.

Fêtes des Lumières, Lyon

you can watch HC Slovan Bratislava (tickets from £3) at the Samsung Arena. • Maroll’s Boutique Hotel (hotelmarrols.sk), in the old town, has doubles from €122. Flights from Stansted with Ryanair (ryanair.com) to Bratislava start at £49 return

Östergötland and Södermanland Sweden
Escape the circle-skating crowds at Somerset House and ice-skate with a sense of purpose on a four-day trek through south-eastern Sweden’s vast network of frozen lakes, with Nature Travels. The trip involves ice-fishing and, if conditions allow, moon-skating. • From £699 with Nature Travels (naturetravels.co.uk), including transfers from Stockholm airport, hostel accommodation, all meals and equipment hire. Return flights from Stansted to Stockholm with Ryanair (ryanair.com) start at £30

Tallinn Estonia
This city is a whirl of romantic castles, chic Scandinavian design and soviet architecture, and is now also a hub for independent art and tech startups. Next week the 16-day Black Nights film festival begins, to showcase the best in world cinema. • Black Nights film festival (2012.poff.ee), three-night accommodation packages with vouchers for six films from €150pp. Flights from Gatwick with easyJet (easyjet.com) cost from £125 return David Vajda

PHOTOGRAPHS: DAVID TROOD; ANDREW SCHOENHERR

Hungry like the wolf … embark on a dog-sledding expedition from Ilulissat

4 Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

UK
EMMA’S ECCENTRIC BRITAIN
Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool
dubbed the “Mole of Edge Hill” had a penchant for eccentricity. “There was a trapdoor in his basement,” Gordon says, “and it led down to underground rooms and tunnels. He had a large fireplace and there are vents everywhere.” “Why did he want to live underground?” I ask. “No idea,” says Gordon, with a shrug. I like Gordon. He’s a retired engineer with watery blue eyes. I don’t think he stops smiling once for the whole time I’m with him. Williamson was, you’ve gathered, quite the character, with clear liking for the frivolous and mischievous. Despite being a millionaire he once met King George IV in nothing more than a pair of tatty corduroy trousers, hobnail boots and a patched coat. He would throw banquets where he would pretend to serve beans and bacon simply to see who his real friends were. The thing I find the most remarkable is that until just over a decade ago, the Williamson Tunnels were regarded as something of a myth. Everybody had heard of them but xisted. nobody believed they existed. But a chanced-upon article, written in sity 1925, lit the fire of curiosity once arles more. “A man called Charles Hand ne found the entrance to one of the ns, tunnels,” Gordon explains, “and le he wrote that he was able to walk underground for over a mile. We’ve ce,” only scratched the surface,” he to says, gesturing down into a hole I am about to descend in Edge Hill. e “We think there are three layers of tunnels. At least.” n “It was brilliant when we were re,” finally allowed down here,” says another volunteer, Les Coe, passing

Jousting, dog surfing and murder Read all of Emma’s adventures online guardian.co.uk/profile/emma-kennedy

J

oseph Williamson was an intriguing fellow. Born into poverty in 1769 he picked himself up by his bootstraps, set off to Liverpool to seek his fortune, donned a pink suit to marry a wealthy tobacconist’s daughter and then, for reasons only known to himself, set about digging a series of tunnels the purpose of which remain, to this day, a total mystery. “There are two theories,” Gordon Hunter, chairman of the Friends of the Williamson Tunnels, tells me, “that he had them dug to keep men returning from the Napoleonic Wars occupied, or that his wife came under the influence of a lunatic preacher who told her the apocalypse was coming and she persuaded Joseph to prepare chambers for underground living.” Either way, it’s clear that Joseph,

me a hard hat. “It was like finding Tutankhamun’s tomb. Best day of my life.” Currently there are two excavation points. There’s one the public can go down, at the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre, and then there are the tunnels being actively cleared by the volunteers. Every Saturday and Sunday they come and undertake the slow, laborious task of taking out more than a hundred years’ worth of rubble and debris poured down holes by bakers, jam makers and housewives. Every

bucket is pored over for small treasures and they’re doing all this purely for the love of local history and preservation. “It’s been a long fight to be able b to excav excavate these tunnels,” says Gordon with a rueful nod. “Ten it’ years it’s taken us to get permission. But now we have.” The g good news is that the rubble, thi they think, will only be in the top layer of tunnels. As soon as they have exc excavated those they should, theor in theory, have unfettered access to seco the second and third layers. “We k know they go down at least 90 feet,” says Les, his eyes bursting with ent enthusiasm. Sadly I can only go down to Sadly, the top l layer, but the brickwork exquis is exquisite and the volunteers’ curiosity is infectious. “Ther are narrow tunnels,” “There expl Les explains, “some no wider than a metre, but then suddenly, m t they open out into massive sp spaces. It’s magical.”

‘It was like finding Tutankhamun’s tomb when we were let down here,’ says Les, a volunteer. ‘Best day of my life’
No doubt about that. Les and Gordon are the last of the great explorers. There aren’t many places left on earth that are yet to be discovered but there’s a small corner of Liverpool that still harbours a great secret. • Guided tour of the tunnels from the heritage centre (Smithdown Lane, 0151-709 6868, williamsontunnels.co.uk, adults £4.50, children £3, family ticket £14). The friends of the tunnels are always looking for volunteers Follow Emma Kennedy on Twitter @EmmaK67

Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

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Send us your tips Strange and funny things you’ve spotted abroad, your holiday nightmares and other ideas for this page by emailing travel@guardian.co.uk or on Twitter to @guardiantravel, using the hashtag #TravelCorkboard

Corkboard

British h boltholes th

Escapism

Srinagar advice not to travel to Jammu and Office (fco.gov.uk) has lifted its After nearly 20 years, the Foreign ing meant many tour operators warn way after a fall in violence. The an 11-day Kashmir-only trip or use the Jammu to Srinagar high valid there. Wild Frontiers has area and travel insurance was not for £1,850pp excluding avoided the ing in the Himalayan foothills, y lake journey and trekk next April, including a three-da flights (wildfrontiers.co.uk).

Tarporley, Cheshire The Grand Fir
This isn’t quite how the other half live. In Cheshire, the other half stay at the Chester Grosvenor. But, for us, mere mortals, wage slaves craving a little self-indulgence, the Grand Fir, a Scandinavian-style wooden lodge, will certainly qualify as swanky. It is one of three high-spec, selfcatering lodges at The Hollies, an upmarket rural development, near Delamere Forest, that comprises food store, caravan site, cafe and plant nursery, as well as several cute wooden-shell Hideaway pods (from £43 a night). Partially hidden, among spruces and conifers, the Grand Fir is a world away from such camping options. There is even a hot tub on its smart, decked terrace. But no way was I testing that in November. Instead, it was an evening to hunker down in the expansive lounge, marvel at the underfloor heating, and slouch on fat, squishy sofas in front of a TV (complete with Wii, DVD, iPod dock, CD player), so huge that, I felt, if I sat too close, I might end up with sunburn. If all that sounds a little Footballers’ Wives, relax. This is Cheshire. A modicum of bling – hot tubs and jumbo TVs – goes with the territory. (There is, but of course, a polo ground next to The Hollies.) In general, though, while you might quibble with certain interior design features (for instance, a mounted chrome stag’s head), the Grand Fir has been furnished with discretion and restraint. Good use has been made of textured, patterned woodland wallpapers; it is uncluttered, with eye-catching items, such as that stag, or two oversized retromodern lamps, kept to a tasteful minimum. The beige-brown colour scheme is conservative, but allied with some clever lighting, it gives the open-plan loungekitchen a very cosy, restful feel. It is not just handsome, but userfriendly, too. From an outside light clicking on as you approach the porch, to the spare batteries by the remote control, the practical detail is unusually sharp. There are Le Crueset pans in a well-equipped, idiot-proof kitchen, and a serious Big Green Egg barbecue outside. Solid interior doors shut with a satisfying click. Roman blinds are robust. Hollow-fibre duvets and pillows, however, have no place in a five-star property. From £40pp per night, based on six sharing, such luxury is relatively affordable and, with three separate bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms, you wouldn’t be under each others’ feet, either. To keep the cost down, treat yourself to a few bits from the

Cheap date

What’s new?
HOTEL One-room hotels are big right now. Dutch design company Droog has opened the super-stylish Hôtel Droog (hoteldroog. com, €300 per night) on Staalstraat in the heart of Amsterdam, on the top floor of its hip retail complex, which also features a restaurant, clothes shop, beauty store and gallery. Another quirky one-room hotel, a pop-up called Sleeping Around (sleepingaround. eu, €199), a luxurious bedroom in a shipping container, pictured, is moving around Europe, and people can suggest possible locations. It is currently in Antwerp. FOOD New York is home to more than 3,000 food trucks, every hipster’s favourite dining option. To help visitors narrow down the options, Thomson Hotels New York has launched a Food Truck Concierge service, also available as an iPhone app, to discover the locations and opening hours of trucks. It also has special offers, available through thompsonhotels.com, using promo code FOODTRUCK. PUB The cookery writer behind the companion recipe book to the TV show Game of Thrones is doing a stint at The Royal Oak (01793 790481, helenbrowningsorganic. co.uk/pub, also a B&B) in Bishopstone, Wiltshire, until 21 November. Sariann Lehrer recreated medieval food from the show, then released A Feast of Ice and Fire.

November is ideal for hiking in the hikin iking iking the h n there r French Pyrenees, when there is beautiful autumnal scenery before it gets covered in snow (when you can ski there). L’Ancienne Poste (ancienneposteavajan.com) is a six-bedroom lodge in the village of Avajan. Two-night breaks until 10 December from €120pp B&B, including guided walk. Ryanair flies Stansted-Lourdes from around £50 return.

Weird world
The tourist board for Oakland, port city for San Franciso, has recruited local hero MC Hammer in a bid to reposition it as a tourist destination rather than a crime capital. The rapper’s r recommendations include w watching a show at an art deco t theatre, strolling around Lake M Merritt and eating barbecued food at Jack London Square. • oaklandloveit.org/mc-hammer

A modicum of bling – hot tubs and jumbo TVs – goes with the territory. This is Cheshire after all
farm shop (crisp Cheshire Gold ale or forthright local cheese, Nantwich blue), while swerving The Hollies cafe. Its breakfast is first-rate, particularly the bacon and sausage from the on-site butcher. However, £12.99 for a full English, juice and coffee, is hard to justify. At lunch, you’ll pay £8 or £9 for a baguette. For that money, I’d expect, not a sandwich, but a life-changing experience. • The Hollies (Little Budworth, 01829 760761, theholliesfarmshop. co.uk, from £139 for two, additional guests £25pp per night, sleeps up to six) provided the accommodation. For more on Cheshire, see visitchester.com Tony Naylor

Tweet ur trip
Pretentious travellers sson n • Guy at beginner’s scuba lesson in a pool with a titanium diving knife strapped on his ankle @snowkaz84 • Shared hostel room with handlebar moustached man, with a servant ... helping him dress @Hannah6Marie • Doing Tefl course guy patted himself on back every time he answered question @jamescouling • She turned up to a first timers’

s snowboarding class in top to t to toe Chanel ski wear, including a c custom made Chanel board! @ @rachyboo2u • I took anti-sickness tablets in Nepal, got sniggered at by lady. Land to see her covered in vomit. baha @midwifehippie • On beach in Goa, being repeatedly told “just let go” by 18 year old gap yah. She then tried to sell me a bangle @jamesglynn Tweet us @guardiantravel #travelcorkboard

Wh Where’s hot now?
San Salvador, Bahamas 28C Late November is a good time to visit: after the hurricane season but before December price hikes. San Salvador has great diving and now a new operator, Lagoon Tours (lagoon-tours-bahamas.com), runs eco-activities, such as nature walks. • BA (ba.com) flies Heathrow-Nassau from £773 return. Bahamasair (bahamasair.com) flies from Nassau f to San Salvador from £80 return

Mandela drive New anti-apartheid museum
ifty years ago this year, a 45-year-old Nelson Mandela, leader of the armed wing of the of the anti-apartheid African National Congress (ANC), was arrested while posing as a chauffeur. His car was stopped by armed police along a quiet section of the R103, two miles outside the small town of Howick in Kwazulu-Natal Province – about five hours south-east of Johannesburg. It was the beginning of 27 years of imprisonment. That once obscure patch of tarmac has now become home to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site (thecapturesite.co.za). Set among rolling hills and farmland, the free attraction consists of a small museum detailing the beginnings of apartheid and the ANC’s and

F

Mandela’s struggle against it. The most moving aspect is the sculpture Release by artist Marco Cianfanelli. It is made up of 50 steel column constructions – each between 6.5 and 9.5 metres tall – set into the landscape. A brick pathway brings visitors towards the sculpture

f where, at a distance of 35 metres, f a portrait of Nelson M Mandela, pictured, looking west, is created from the columns. It is an understated monument to the country’s struggle for freedom, very moving in its simplicity. There are other museums in South Africa where visitors can learn about the struggle against apartheid. Johannesburg has two: Liliesleaf Farm (liliesleaf.co.za), used secretly by ANC activists in the 1960s and the place where many prominent ANC leaders were arrested, leading to the Rivonia Trial; and the Apartheid Museum, (apartheidmuseum.org), a comprehensive and emotional journey through the history of the system – and its impact. Doug McKinlay

6 Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

UKAccommodation
Jingle dwells
Is it your turn to host Christmas, or theirs? Why not both forget it and escape to the country at one of these cute and comfortable cottages?
Cornwall
Couples can cosy up, roast chestnuts on an open fire and put their presents under a pre-decorated Christmas tree at Trehannah, a two-bedroom cottage in the seaside village of St Agnes, north Cornwall, available with Cornish Cottages in December. St Agnes has several pubs, restaurants and independent shops. The nearest sandy beach is less than a mile’s walk and Perranporth is a short drive away. • £550 for a week from 22 or 29 December, sleeps four, cornishcottagesonline.com Looe & Polperro Holidays still has plenty of availability for Christmas, including Cel Mawr, a characterful cottage up a hill in Shutta, East Looe, with fantastic views over the estuary. There is a pub, the Globe Inn, a oneminute walk away, and East Looe’s shops, restaurants, harbour and beach are a further 10-minute walk. • £900 for a week from 21 or 28 December, sleeps six, looeandpolperroholidays.co.uk Micklegate, Norfolk The Nutshell, Suffolk

Book the perfect place at Guardian Cottages Thousands available on our website guardiancottages.co.uk

The Bothy at Troston, Dumfries and Galloway

Blacksmith’s Cottage, Devon

Longhouse, Ceredigion

Udford, Cumbria

Suffolk
Suffolk Secrets is offering a Christmas tmas ll or New Year break at The Nutshell, a h two-bedroom home on Aldeburgh’s e Georgian high street. The cottage features a beamed sitting room with a fire, along with a conservatory n and courtyard garden. Situated on the town’s main street, there are pubs y, and shops just a few metres away, e as well as the shingle beach where fisherman still sell their catch direct from their boats. • £700 for a week from 21 or 28 December, sleeps four, suffolk-secrets.co.uk

Devon
Helpful Holidays specialises in cottages in the West Country. The company currently has some special offers available over Christmas, such as 20% off Blacksmith’s Cottage in Washbourne, south Devon. The three-bedroom granite cottage on a quiet country lane has a woodburner, exposed beams, and a children’s den with a rocking horse. Washbourne is a sleepy hamlet a few miles from Totnes, Dartmouth and the sea. • Currently £641 for a week from 21 December, sleeps five, pets welcome, helpfulholidays.com

incl include Sea Marge, a townhouse set o the cliff top in Sheringham, on and Manor Cottage, a 17th-century bun bungalow in Stiffkey. The steam train from Sheringham runs a Santa service t up to and including Christmas Eve, serv serving sherry and mince pies to adu adult passengers and taking children to S Santaland at Weybourne Station nnr (nnrailway.co.uk). Se • Sea Marge is £1,195 for a week from 21 December, sleeps nine; Manor 21 D Cott Cottage is £995 for a week from 22 or 22 o 29 December, sleeps five, pets welc welcome, kettcountrycottages.co.uk No Norfolk Country Cottages has a few cott cottages left sleeping eight or more, suc such as Micklegate, an 18th-century barn barn conversion in the quiet village of Brac Bracon Ash just south of Norwich. The Fren French-style interior has pale-wood vau vaulted ceilings, flagstone floors with patt patterned rugs, and a games room with a dartboard and table football. If Christmas bickering develops, there’s a shop and pub within walking distance. • £1,025 for three nights over Christmas or £1,620 for seven, norfolkcottages. co.uk

Ullswater four miles further. The owner can arrange country pursuits, such as clay pigeon shooting, on request. • Sleeps 12 for £2,300 (£192pp) for a week from 20 December, pets welcome, cumbrian-cottages.co.uk

Wales
Few places better Pembrokeshire for wonderful winter walks, and cottages sleeping two-12 are still up for grabs for the festive period with Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire. For couples, Tucking Cottage is set in 18 acres of woodland and fields in Spittal, between Haverfordwest and Fishguard. It has vaulted ceilings, a woodburning stove and French doors with views over the woods. Or for a group of six looking for an old-fashioned Christmas, Penrhyn is a stone cottage on Strumble Head, right on the Pembrokeshire coastal path with no electricity but plenty of oil lamps and candles, an open fire, a woodburner and an oil Rayburn. For a family of 10, The Old Vicarage in Llechryd has Victorian features and is a five-minute drive from the market town of Cardigan. • £453, £659, £1,368 respectively for a week from 21 December, £517, £861, £1,666 for a week from 28 December, coastalcottages.co.uk Under the Thatch has some quirky holiday homes available to rent over Christmas, including an historic longhouse in the Teifi valley, west Wales. The Grade II-listed house has a thatch and tin roof, a four-poster bed, a garden with a millpond and an orchard. There are no roads in sight and guests have free access to 180 acres of pasture. • £945 for a week from 22 December, sleeps six, underthethatch.co.uk

Norfolk
Kett Country Cottages has more hose than 100 properties in Norfolk. Those available for Christmas and New Year

Yorkshire
Sykes has cottages all over the UK and Ireland. In Yorkshire, Christmas availability includes Ivy Cottage, a redbrick semi-detached cottage in Flaxton, eight miles north of York. It has beams, boarded doors and original wood panelling. Over Christmas there will be decorations, a tree and a festive hamper. Also in Yorkshire, Usherwood Barns is a luxury barn conversion in the hamlet of Tatham, not far from Settle. It has exposed brickwork, underfloor heating, a large range cooker and views of the three peaks. Yule extras include a stylish tree, poinsettias and Christmas biscuits. • Ivy Cottage is £530 for a week from 22 or 29 December, sleeps four; Usherwood Barns is £1,384 for a week from 22 December, sleeps six; one pet welcome at each property, sykescottages.co.uk

Scotland
Unique Cottages has the Bothy at Troston, a converted old stone building on a hill near Dumfries sleeping two. For six, Achduart Cottage, four miles from Achiltibuie in Wester Ross, is a secluded building at the end of single track road, 50 yards from the sea. It has recently been extensively renovated and has a sun room with sea views. For eight, The Old Schoolhouse is a Victorian property above Rosemarkie, just north of Inverness. It is less isolated than the others, being just two minutes’ walk from the village centre. • £435, £850, £1,295 respectively for a week from 22 or 29 December, unique-cottages.co.uk Rachel Dixon All properties still available at time of going to press

Cumbria
Cumbrian Cottages has plenty of places left to rent over Christmas, though just a handful for New Year. For a big family Christmas, Udford is a beautifully restored Georgian building once used by drovers crossing the ford over the river Eamont. It has large rooms with high ceilings and sash windows, an open fire in the living room and a woodburner in the kitchen/diner. The house is surrounded by river, wood and fields – the nearest pub is a two-mile walk, Penrith is four miles away and

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Ski special: plan your trip Secret resorts, budget breaks, Alpine chalets and more guardian.co.uk/travel/skiing

Skiing
On Gay Ski Buddies’ new chalet holiday, the sport’s as important as the parties. Rupert Mellor joins a social, and surprisingly sensible, trip to Méribel

Green, blue, red, black … and pink

‘H

ot meat coming through!” whooped toffee vodka-primed guests at Gay Ski Buddies 2012’s fondue and barbecue party, as groaning platters of filets mignon, lamb chops and king prawns were marched to the buffet. Few people have more fun with gay stereotypes – pathological promiscuity, Olympic-standard hedonism and flashy extravagance to name just a few – than gay people. But stereotypes they are, and their rather literal translation into the various LGBT-oriented European ski events that have sprung up over the last two decades has left many gay skiers and snowboarders out in the cold. That Gay Ski Buddies, now in its third year, has a different agenda is clear from the first click on its website, where the complete absence of images of pouting, steroidal himbos gambolling up the Alps in ski goggles and overstuffed briefs makes it virtually unique among its peers. For Niko Martikas, founder of Gay Ski Buddies, being charged a queen’s ransom for an espresso-sized vodka and tonic at European Gay Ski Week in Tignes three years ago was the final straw . “I went to gay events there, in Alpe d’Huez, Sölden in Austria and Whistler in Canada,” he says, “and while I had a lot of fun, I never found the event I really wanted. One that prioritised first-class skiing, rather than taking advantage of the cheap end of the season when the snow can be dicey. One less focused on youth, testosterone and all-night partying.” Putting the word out through

Join the gang … ski buddies in Méribel friends he’d met at these events, Martikas hosted Gay Ski Buddies’ first holiday in Méribel in January 2011. Drawing 45 guests, the package bundled flights, transfers, catered accommodation across three exclusiveuse chalets and lift passes for Les Trois Vallées, famously the world’s largest linked ski area. On the social side, it threw in free daily ski hosting for groups of varying skill levels, a designated lunch restaurant daily and après bar for those who wanted to up the en-masse ante, and a cosy party, liberally lubricated with free drinks, every other night. Instead of slapping on extra charges for every branded activity, Martikas used the group’s bulk-buying power, and canny partnerships with local businesses – 40% off ski and board rentals and cut-price drinks all week at two of the resort’s best bars – to drive costs down, ultimately offering very competitive rates for one of Europe’s best ski destinations in the heart of the season (finally, decades after a million aspirational brands began ruthlessly rinsing the “pink pound”, a champion for pink penny-pinching). Such was the trip’s success, Martikas had more than 30 promises of repeat bookings before he boarded his plane home. I joined Gay Ski Buddies 2012’s 72-strong ranks in January. At their annual tipsy takeover of the bowling alley in Méribel’s Olympic Centre, I was struck by the group’s diversity and their relaxed, clique-free interaction. Jamie, a 25-year-old Londoner bantered with Ian and Trevor, a couple for 43 years and, by the end of the week, the holiday’s unofficial poster boys for genteel suburban retirement. Greek gym bunny Spyros slugged it out on the air hockey table with (straight) Californian property adviser Christina, one of four female Buddies who were having far too much fun to let 68 gay men make them feel marginalised, while I chatted to a bisexual married father of two about the trials of running a double life. Only a conspicuous amount of expensive dental work and some very snug T-shirts marked out the mainly thirty- and fortysomething crowd, collectively hailing from the UK, Greece, Holland, Sweden, Russia

There’s a relaxed vibe – it feels a little like a mass holiday bromance
and South Africa, from any other bowling night gathering as, fuelled by the free bar and a suitably discoslanted mixtape, they whipped up an atmosphere of chummy competition. Martikas’ mid-season strategy paid off handsomely with a combination of powder-dumping storms and perfect bluebird days, and, in guided groups of around 10, the high proportion of fit and experienced Buddies racked up some deeply butch mileage to pretty much every corner of Méribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires. The recommended daily mountain restaurants attracted good lunch turnouts – usually 30 to 40 Buddies a day – and served as great informal rendezvous points, where many Buddies swapped groups for the afternoon session, either for a change of pace or to spend time with some new faces. Despite the discounts our Gay Ski Buddies wristbands entitled us to at Méribel’s premier après bacchanal, the Rond Point, most guests preferred to end the day’s sport with a little R&R back at their chalets ahead of hors d’oeuvres, drinks and lingering dinners whose affable conversations

often lingered past midnight in a languorous sofa sprawl. Unless, of course, it was a party night, and the welcome cocktail night, bowling bash, barbecue and farewell fancy-dress fest each drew nearly every guest back out into the snow to mingle. For all the smart planning, diverse activities and Martikas’ considerable gifts as an attentive and charming host, it’s this mellow, relaxed pace and the holiday’s scale that are Gay Ski Buddies’ master strokes. Essentially a friends’ group holiday that has grown organically to welcome friends of friends plus some like-minded newcomers who have discovered the trip online, the trip has a relaxed, house-party vibe that’s effortlessly inclusive. Based in chalets, all guests quickly get to know a small group, which naturally overlaps with other groups out on the mountain or at a party and knitting everyone what feels a little like a mass holiday bromance. (Faced with his second exponential spike in demand following January’s trip, Martikas has chosen to put on multiple weeks rather than risk this intimate dynamic by simply growing the week to capacity – following the February 2013 outing, Gay Ski Buddies makes its Austrian debut in St Anton next March). Plus, having a (cover charge-free) party only every other night leaves time for spontaneity, or simply for banking some quality sleep ahead of another round of full-blooded downhilling the next day without guests’ feeling they are missing out. Nor does all this sensibleness rule out a decent helping of frivolous, fruity fun. The silly hat-themed farewell party saw plenty of the Buddies partying like it was 1999, many until minutes before boarding their airport transfer coaches. As generous stocks of champagne, beer and the seasonaire’s staple toffee vodka were systematically demolished, more classic gay stereotypes surfaced as some of the better-maintained Buddies peeled off their T-shirts on the dancefloor. Even our dignified seniors were in cheeky mood, as Ian ribbed Trevor for his girlish coyness around a handsome young ski instructor earlier in the week. “He can always tell when I’m undressing someone with my eyes,” tutted Trevor. “Yes,” deadpanned Ian. “Your goggles steam up.” • Gay Ski Buddies (gayskibuddies. com) provided the trip. It will return to Méribel from 2-9 February 2013. Prices including flights from Gatwick, transfers, half-board accommodation, ski pass, ski hosting and four parties start at £995 if booked by 17 November (Guardian readers can continue to receive the early bird booking by mentioning this article when they book, up to 30 November). The St Anton trip is from 16-23 March and costs from £1,100. The company is also launching summer activity trips to Halkidiki and Sivota in Greece next year

Rest and play … a Gay Ski Buddies chalet room and easygoing après

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Home and a ba
Byron Bay was once Australia’s alternative surfie utopia, but to find the same vibe now you need to leave the crowds behind and head for the hinterland, says local Emma Pearse
n 2010, I made a dream come true: I moved to Byron Bay, New South Wales – back to my home country of Australia. After a decade living in New York City, it was blissful. The beautiful northern beach town perches on the easternmost tip of Australia. Its sunsets, surf, sand, sunrises and people-watching are world-class. Whenever the existential rush of Manhattan used to overwhelm me, I plotted my escape there. I took American friends to show them the ultimate in Australian beauty and lifestyle. But when I moved there, I discovered that Byron Bay is not the place to holiday in Australia. When I was a kid, rainy days and Byron went together. With its hippies and peeling shopfronts draped in windchimes, the town became a haven away from the camping and less-sheltered beaches at Broken Head, where my family and I set up tents and stoves most Christmases after driving for a whole day north from our home in suburban Canberra. Byron and Broken are a seven-minute drive apart on a windy, rainforest-lined coast road. Byron, then was a dishevelled main street with a Mexican takeaway, a few stellar restaurants, beautiful girls wearing liberatingly oversized dresses and men with dreadlocks. Sometimes, Byron Bay was a room, usually at the

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Wollongbar Motel (+61 2 6685 8200, wollongbar.com, singles from £90, doubles £97). The Wollongbar is still unpretentious and convenient and Byron can still feel dreamy, but these days it’s also jampacked. When I moved here I paid Manhattan prices to live five minutes out of the centre and got stuck in traffic driving in to town to buy groceries that were more expensive than in New York. So, I started exploring my options, and finding neighbouring townships such as Newrybar, Coopers Shoot and Bangalow. I was awakened to the seaside havens and hinterland destinations that the bubble of Byron had blindsided me from. When people now ask me where they should stay on their Byron holiday, I suggest the Bangalow Hotel (+ 61 2 6687 1314, bangalowhotel. com.au, singles from £47, doubles £60), the Eltham Hotel (+61 2 6629 1217, elthampub.com.au, rooms from £64), and The Channon Butterfactory Tavern (+61 2 6688 6522, thechannon. com.au, singles from £47, doubles £64, family £80). In other words, not Byron. These are local hangouts, classic pubs in tiny towns amid hilly farmland that morphs into rainforest and waterfall territory. There’s so much fantasy in this landscape. I tell them to visit Nimbin, of course, – the infamous commune-esque town

These are local hangouts, classic pubs in tiny towns amid hilly farmland and rainforest
that tourists still travel to on rainbowcoloured buses seeking Amsterdamstyle delights. Just beyond Nimbin at Lillian Rock, the Blue Knob Markets every Saturday are real-deal farmers’ markets with homemade bread, chocolate, pasta and vegetables. Before Nimbin, the Channon touts itself as the craft capital – it’s an elegant tiny township with a busy market every second Saturday. It is also the turning point into Nightcap national park, which is full of magical walking tracks, waterfalls and grand escarpments, and so many native birds and protected creatures such as the endangered Fleay’s barred frog. There’s the 4½-mile rainforest walk looping around Minyon Falls, which tumbles 97m down cliffs of solidified lava. The walk is rocky and scrambled in parts but breathtaking, especially the icy

Little Amsterdam … hippy-ish Nimbin

Three more great escapes from
Perth to Wedge A tin shack fishermen’s community by the sea Road trip
The northern suburbs of Perth recede in the rear-view mirror, to the left is the Indian Ocean and to the right scorched banksia bushes, their cones hanging like lumps of coal. We’re headed for a few days under canvas. No map is required. It’s a straight-line drive 200km up the Indian Ocean Drive to Cervantes, a fishing town close to the Nambung national park. Handwritten notes from my father-in-law, Andre, plot points of interest along the way, which many miss. They rush to see the Pinnacles, drive the track among the thousands of limestone columns that jut from the sand, favouring the inanimate limestone over the human side of Western Australia. Underlined is a stop at Wedge, with a note that reads: “Don’t drive on the beach.” Worried, perhaps, that an Englishman would be unable to free the station wagon from the sand. Around 150km north of Perth, Wedge is a community of weather-beaten shacks built from salvaged materials. It’s among a number of settlements fighting for survival: not from the elements but state government policy, which could see them removed and the land returned to nature, as they were built without planning consent. You used to have to drive by the beach or rough tracks for some distance to get to Wedge but the new Indian Ocean Drive now takes you within 2km of the settlement. Approaching slowly, tin shacks, caravans and sheds start to appear. Sixty years of architectural improvisation sheltered among the dunes unfolds. Some are little more than aluminium caravans with corrugated tin awnings, others neatly constructed, with a scrap of grass out front, an Australian flag flapping in the coastal breeze above a small veranda. It is the antithesis of the neatly planned developments that are spreading along the coast.

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ay
Surf and turf … explore the area around Byron Bay

swim at the foot of the falls. There’s also a challenging overnight walk from Mount Nardi, inviting stargazing from bush camps along the way. The pinnacle of this post-volcanic playground is Mount Warning, 1,156m of volcanic remnants that reigns solid and stoic over the entire Northern Rivers region. If you do no other walks, tackle the 5½-mile round-trip climb through eucalypts and rainforest to the mountain’s peak. Aim for a morning hike: the peak gives 360-degree views across lava-formed land. It’s not an easy walk, especially the final ascent, though there are chains for assistance. Back at base, stop at Mavis’s Kitchen (64 Mt Warning Road, Uki, +61 2 6679 5664, maviseskitchen.com.au) for slow-cooked, organic fare – Bangalow pork with apple sauce and crackling, snapper-and-vegetable pie or just a Devonshire tea. Mavis’s also has rustic cabins and a full country house (from £150 per night per couple). I’m not saying skip Byron Bay – the snorkelling and eating there will die hard. When I visit, I always have a morning swim and grab a cane sugarsweetened coffee at Cane Bar (Cavanbah Arcade shop 4, 4 Jonson Street, canebar.com.au) and take yoga classes at Byron yoga centre. And if staying in the hinterland isn’t the dream, base yourself in Lennox

Head, Byron’s cooler cousin. I’d stay at the Lennox Head B&B with its mosaic staircases and plunge pool (+61 2 6687 4493, no website, units from £98). Lennox is smaller than Byron with one main street and a fraction of the frills. It is an old-school surfie town, and though house prices have risen in past decades Lennox is still home to working-class families. Early morning beach walks are great in Lennox Head, especially for dog lovers. There’s also a captivating dawn surf culture. Stop at Blackboard Cafe (50 Pacific Parade, blackboard.net. au) for coffee and the blueberry and coconut bread, spread with lime and honey butter. Dine later at Quattro (90-92 Ballina Street, +61 2 6687 6950, quattro-restaurant.com) on the main square. It’s a busy, delicious Italian restaurant, the al mare pasta is zesty with thyme-cream sauce and prawns. From Lennox, visit Brunswick Heads, which is the epitome of a charming seaside town. It’s a 25-minute drive north up the highway. Spend a day swimming in Brunswick’s protected ocean lagoon or surf in front of the 50s brick surf club. It has plenty of restaurants and twilight markets. Just across the highway is Mullumbimby, another two-street town with vintage stores and grainy, organic nibbles. From Mullumbimby,

drive inland to Upper Wilsons Creek for a day of fruit platters, body wraps and speciality massages at Botanica Day Spa (+61 2 6684 0120, brdayspa.com.au). All this can be done from Lennox, as can a 20-mile walk along the coast ending in Ballina, which winds around rock cliffs and through corridors of nourished native plants. Along the walk is my favourite view in the world. My heart always flutters as I round the cliff towards Sharpe’s Beach and I mount a rise above a rocky drop: the view shoots out across the Pacific and all the way up and around the coastline that leads to Byron, the lush, somewhat messy green of the protected coast contrasting with the stark blue ocean on sunny days and romantically misty grey any other time. Such soulfulness isn’t absent in Byron but you’ll fight to find a spot to chill. Once I’d lived there, I realised the casual town of my dreams is now not that unlike a small Manhattan, a selfsufficient bubble, energetic, expensive, where one can avoid the world at large. That’s nice for a surf or a night out, but I’m relieved to report that there’s a whole world just a drive away. • Emma Pearse’s first book, Sophie: Dog Overboard, is based in Mackay, Queensland. It is available from guardianbookshop.co.uk for £7.19 including post and packaging

the city
Wedge has grown from a handful of shacks in the 1950s, built by commercial cray fishermen, then farmers seeking coastal retreats after the heat of harvest time and then families from Perth. It is now represented by more than 320 shacks, some only temporarily occupied, while others are permanent homes. Some won’t appreciate the ramshackle but these are more than just tin and timber: they are family histories and coastal heritage that tell a part of this state’s history. If beach huts, in ordered rows, individual in colour tells you something about the British then these shacks are a glimpse of the egalitarian spirit Brits perhaps secretly admire in Aussies.

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The simple life … one of the shacks built from salvaged materials at Wedge

10 Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

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Into the big blue yonder … Wedge, right, lies about 150km north of Perth, far from recent holiday development on the spectacularly beautiful coast

Budget beach pads Great places to stay on the New South Wales coast guardian.co.uk/travel/australia

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Darwin

Cairns

NORTHERN TERRITORY QUEENSLAND WESTERN AUSTRALIA

AUSTRALIA
Brisbane Byron Bay

Wedge Island Perth Pemberton

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Lennox Head

NEW SOUTH WALES
Adelaide Castlemaine Melbourne Mornington Peninsula Sydney

VICTORIA

Following a track towards the beach, the dunes encase us on either side. Criss-cross remnants of 4x4 tracks guide us up an incline and then the reason for building at Wedge is before us. Beach and ocean as far as the eye can see. Edging onto the beach we park up, the handwritten note forgotten. “Yi can’t park there!” comes a shout. The thought that this isn’t the suburban antithesis after all is only momentary, as a local ambles towards us. He’s the picture of a retired beach bum, in the nicest possible way. Sunbleached cap, stubbie holder and bare feet. He points further down the beach. “Much better down there … firmer,” he says, flashes a smile and heads back to his folding chair and line of fishing rods. As he sits, his companion opens the Esky between them, fishes out two cold ones, cracks them open and they resume their conversation. We stroll along the sand, shoes off, walking in the surf, past fishermen who nod at us. We reach the Point, a meeting of two stretches of beach, which juts out like an elbow towards Wedge Island. This is the traditional meeting point for Wedge folk. On Friday nights, they come here to gossip and check in on who is around. A village green on the beach. Having lugged the cooler box from the car we settle down for the afternoon. Contemplating this untouched stretch of coast you would think the residents of Wedge may want to keep it to themselves. Given the opportunity, and state government intentions, they’re keen to encourage visitors. Tourism is seen as one up for their side. It’s different to the well-trodden tourist spots but no less inspiring; a slice of coastal life which hopefully will endure. • There is no accommodation available in Wedge and camping is not allowed in Nambung national park. Accommodation is available in Cervantes, including a campsite – details at australiascoralcoast.com Max Brearley

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a cool, contemporary self-catering resort, which opened last year. It is set in 19 acres outside the small town of Pemberton, in the heart of farming country and forests, and features luxury Scandinavian-style chalets and basic cabins, built by Sophie’s Swiss master-builder husband, Chris. Sophie is a protege of Australian TV chef Maggie Beer, and she has created a restaurant serving home-cooking with a regional flavour, which maintains its own rare-breeds farm and kitchen garden and stages cookery lessons. Back at Foragers, Sophie proudly showed me her kitchen garden, quaintly old-fashioned and English in its layout, and in some of its contents: damsons, greengages, yellow plums, crab apples, olives, quinces and a range of old apple varieties. And then there were her Wessex saddleback pigs, silver-grey Dorking chickens and Aylesbury ducks. “The ducks came from eggs posted from Tasmania,” she said. “All two dozen arrived unbroken and three hatched successfully.” She uses the duck eggs to make pasta. Beyond her garden, a path leads into neighbouring Brockman state forest with its towering Karris, and the sounds of scrub wrens, honeyeaters and kookaburras. Sophie can not only cook for

40 people in her restaurant but she makes a point of changing the menu regularly and always finding time during the evening to tell the diners about the food they’re eating and where it has come from. And in honour of a British guest, she cooked up a menu that included rabbit and, for dessert, eccles cakes. Her foraging course groups visit a local farm and a local grower, then use what they’ve gathered to cook lunch. Kitchen skills is a completely hands-on class; the latest concentrated on preserves – making marmalade, jam, pickle, chutney and relish, they made butter and lebna and learned how to brine meat. “They take home everything they’ve made – a pantryful of stuff,” says Sophie. Some visitors, particularly those from across Australia, come to Foragers to cook and eat. But I had to get out and explore one of Australia’s greenest and most beautiful areas: sort of Surreymeets-Cornwall but on a much grander scale, a paradise for hiking, canoeing, swimming, riding, mountain biking or birdwatching. Nearby Pemberton has always been a logging town but tourism is the new growth industry. It is surrounded by national parks, and in particular, by Karri forests, a type of eucalyptus that

The fisherman is the picture of a beach bum. Bleached cap, stubbie holder and bare feet
grow up to 300ft tall. I found walking through their ranks on quiet forest trails a joyous, humbling experience. Pemberton has yet to strike the tourist gold of Margaret River, not far from here, to the west – famed for its fine wines and great surfing. But in a way, I hope that low-key Pemberton doesn’t become quite as successful as Margaret River – which is a little too bustling these days to retain its original relaxed surfer-town rootsiness. • Tourism Australia (020-7438 4601, australia.com) and Qantas (0845 774 7767, qantas.com), which flies Heathrow-Perth from £975 return, provided the trip. Foragers (+61 8 9776 1580, foragers.com.au) has self-catering cabins for up to five people from AU$130 (£84) per night and chalets for four from £160 per night. Cookery classes: foraging day £160pp, including lunch, wine and recipes; kitchen skills weekend £358pp, including meals and wine (with accommodation extra); demonstration day £55pp, including meal and wine Nigel Summerley

Short breaks from Melbourne to Castlemaine and Mornington Pensinsula
If I had a dollar for the all times people sighed, “Ah, Castlemaine, how beautiful”, when I mentioned I was going, I would be as rich as the vast central Goldfields of Victoria that flash by on the train ride from Melbourne. Thousands of migrant gold seekers flocked there in the 19th century, when it was the world’s richest shallow alluvial goldfield. Today, just a handful of holidaymakers and commuters take the train, and in just over an hour from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s central business district arrive in the country town of grand Victorian architecture. A short taxi ride from Castlemaine station is the Chewton forest, bordering the Friars state forest, where there are thousands of square kilometres for walking, mountain biking, or horseriding and now, a new eco-shack, Shack 14, set in 10 acres of bush down a long forest path, that is available to holidaymakers. Shack 14 embraces posh bush living. An airy space houses hessian-covered armchairs; Burmese crafts, such as a golden puppet and an elephant picture hang on the walls. There is no TV or telephone, but there are DVD and CD players. In the night, I’m woken by the rustles and squarks of the wild,

A new foodie escape Pemberton, Western Australia
There was much anticipation at Foragers, a new eco-conscious miniresort in the south-western corner of Australia, when I visited. Nothing to do with me: instead, everyone was awaiting the imminent return of a young lady who had gone away for three months to lose her virginity. It had already been noted that the trip had been promising and that after a good many sexual encounters there was an excellent chance of pregnancy for Sunday, the Jersey heifer … Foragers is a mix of self-catering chalets, restaurant, cookery school and farm in the gorgeous Southern Forests area of Western Australia. It is the face of a new sophistication in antipodean tourism. Pioneering chef Sophie Zalokar is the formidable brain behind Foragers, turning what was a rundown traditional campsite into

Shack 14, top, in Chewton forest and, above, Foragers outside Pemberton

open my eyes, and have my breath taken away by the huge window in the arched roof that reveals a vast canopy of bright stars. In the morning, the living room’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors reveal sunshine and the huge forest, and I sit and absorb the sunlight in a deckchair on the verandah, watching brightly coloured birds fluttering amid the trees, and the gentle valley stretching into the horizon. On the door of Shack 14, a plaque announces: “We are proud to acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional owners of this land.” I remember the Australian aboriginal expression: “We don’t own the land, the land owns us,” as I take bush walks along tracks made by kangaroos, treading carefully to avoid wild orchids, as advised by the shack instructions. Near here the Kaweka wildflower reserve and the Castlemaine diggings national heritage park provide educative strolls through nature and history. An alternative invigorating short break from Melbourne is beautiful Mornington Peninsula, Australia’s Cornwall or Devon, south-east from the city along one of two “claws” that reach out from it into the sea. Along the way my Melbournian mate and I see the Boonwurrung memorial park, commemorating the indigenous people, and stop in a lovely town called Rosebud, with great coffee shops. After an hour, we park up to tackle a 12km hike up and down the Bushranger’s Bay trail through the Mornington Peninsula national park to the Capeschnack lighthouse. The trail winds past rock pools, banksias and Burrabong creek, and the basalt cliffs grow steep and grand, with dramatic views over the drop below into the sea – a contrast to the chocolate-brown Yarra river that flows through Melbourne. It was around here that Australian prime minister Harold Holt disappeared from a swimming trip in 1967, and was never found again. Descending, we reach pristine white beaches flanked by dramatic cliffs, clear water forming rivulets alongside huge boulders – a perfect place to perch for our picnic. In the forest I was the only human for miles but the peninsula is dotted with nature-loving tourists, and delighted children paddling. Ambling along coastal and mountain paths we are stopped in our tracks by huge kangaroos and gorgeous views until we glimpse the lighthouse, then return happier back up the “claw” into the city, savouring the heights and depths surrounding Melbourne. • Trains from Melbourne to Castlemaine run daily. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 40 mins with fares starting at £8.40 for an off-peak single ticket. Accommodation at the self-catering Shack 14 (shack14. com.au) is at a fixed nightly rate, for two, of £137. Mornington Peninsula is about 70km from Melbourne, an hour’s drive. Find accommodation on the peninsula at visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/ Accommodation.aspx Anita Sethi

Travel 10.11.12

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12 Travel 10.11.12
Bournemouth

LO S E YO U R S E L F I N J E R S E Y. . .
Mouth-watering scenery, cosy country pubs and friendly B&Bs rub shoulders with Michelin starred restaurants, award-winning spas and hip hotels. Add in a mild climate, plenty of things to see and do, easy travel from the UK and great seasonal offers, and you’ve found the perfect getaway.

Visit jersey.com for our great special offers.

T H E WA R M E S T P L AC E I N THE BRITISH ISLES

Africa
Audley’s Africa: Tailor-made safaris throughout Africa. Wide choice of lodges & tented camps plus Indian Ocean beaches. ATOL Expert advice & brochure: 01993 838 500 www.audley.co. uk VOTED WANDERLUST TOP TOUR OPERATOR

India

India

Uk Holidays
Coastal holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire & West Wales 01239 881397 www.welsh-cottages.co. uk

Special Interests

Dorset
Dorsetcoastalcottages.com Beamy Cottages in villages nr Coast. Telephone 0800 980 4070 Dorsetseasideholidays.com Holiday homes within a mile of the sea. 0800 634 9000

Australia
Audley's Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific: Individually designed itineraries featuring character B&Bs, rainforest lodges, outback stations, cosmopolitan cities, wildlife tours, wineries & Great Barrier Reef islands. Expert advice & brochure: 01993 838 800 www.audley.co.uk ATOL VOTED WANDERLUST TOP OPERATOR

The world’s more beautiful on foot. Discover why in our brand new brochure – out now!
CALL THE EXPERTS

Lake District
900 superb properties in prime locations. Short brks available. Pets welcome. 01228 599950. www.cumbrian-cottages.co.uk Book now for the best s/c in Lake District. 300+ cottages. Free leisure club. Tel - 015394 32321 www.heartofthelakes.co.uk

01707 38 66 68
www.ramblersholidays.co.uk
ABTA V5094 Atol protected 0990 AITO

Azores

Northumbria
3 50 + superb p ro pert ies i n prim e l ocati ons. Short brks avai labl e. Pets go free. 01228 406721 . ww w.northumbrian-cot tages. info

Italy Canaries
Tailo rmad e Canaries- v il l as ,ru ral cot tages & smal l hot el s on al l 8 i s l ands : w w w . ca c het - t r av el .c o . uk 020 8847 87 00 AT OL 6 036

COAST & COUNTRY cottages 01665 830783 (24hrs) northumbria-cottages.co.uk

stm es Chriernsay£599 in
WAS from £899
TOTAL LUXURY AT THE TOP ✓ FREE Welcome Drinks Eve Reception on Christmas
with superb ensuite venue rooms

Channel Islands

THE BEST OF Southern Italy, Sicily & Sardinia. Trulli, Boutique Hotels, Villas. Special Offers. 01694 722193 AITO ATOL. www. long-travel.co.uk

Peak District
Great selection of properties in beautiful locations. Short brks available. Pets go free. 01228 406741. www. derbyshire-cottages.info PEAKCOTTAGES.COM Quality cottages & farmhouses etc. in Derbyshire Peaks & Dales. BOOK NOW. Brochure 0844 272 7814

4★★★★ Fermain Valley Hotel ✓ Delicious Half Board each day
Departs 23rd/24th Dec Fly from Gatwick, Southampton or Exeter
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Latin America
Audley's Latin America: Tailormade cultural & wildlife tours throughout South & Central America. River & ocean cruises, trekking & character accommodation. Expert advice & brochure 01993 838 600 www.audley.co. uk ATOL VOTED WANDERLUST TOP TOUR OPERATOR SUNVIL Traveller’s real Latin America. Tailor-made trips In Central & S. America ATOL 9280. AITO Trust. 020 8758 4745 sunvil.co.uk/traveller/gu

Far East
Audley’s Far East: Tailor-made cultural & wildlife tours. From stunning temples to beach hideaways, mountains & hill tribes. Wide choice of character accommodation. Expert advice & brochure: 01993 838 222 www.audley.co.uk ATOL VOTED WANDERLUST TOP TOUR OPERATOR

FREE CAR HIRE
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Beach on Christmas morning ✓ Superb Festive 5 course Christmas Day Lunch with glass of Champagne ✓ Christmas Gift from Santa ✓ Lux. Christmas Night Buffet ✓ FREE Trip to the beautiful Herm Island on Boxing Day

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Guardian and Observer readers enjoy spending weekends away in UK hotels and are more likely to do so than the average UK adult
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Also Ferry from Poole/Portsmouth

Skiing

01983 721 1 islandgetaways.co.uk 1 1
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Prices are per person based on 2 sharing. Ask about Single Rooms. Booking Fee £12 per person. ATOL Fee £2.50 per person

Scotland
500+ superb properties in prime locations. Short brks available. Pets go free. 01228 406731. www.scottish-cottages.co.uk

India
Audley’s Indian Subcontinent: Tailor-made cultural & wildlife tours, trekking, beaches & character accommodation. India, Sri Lanka, Nepal & Bhutan. Expert advice & brochure: 01993 838 300 www.audley.co.uk ATOL VOTED WANDERLUST TOP TOUR OPERATOR

Wales

Russia
St. Petersburg, Baltic St ates, Poland. Ground tours either privately at your ow n pace or with an escorted group 0845 0705711 ww w.balticholiday s.com ABTA

Usa/Canada
To advertise in the

Travel Section
Telephone 020 3353 2053

Audley's USA, Canada, Alaska & the Arctic: Tailor-made journeys staying in character B&Bs & lodges. Wildlife experiences, cruises & rail journeys. Expert advice & brochure: 01993 838 700 www.audley.co.uk ATOL VOTED WANDERLUST TOP TOUR OPERATOR

Great selection of properties in beautiful locations. Short brks available. Pets go free. 01228 406751. www.wales-cottages. info COASTAL & Country Cottages. Snowdonia coast. 01758 720674 www.nefynholidays.co.uk

West Country
CLASSIC Cottages over 700 hand-picked West Country cottages 01326 738087 www. classic.co.uk

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The GNM total audience are cultured and enthusiastic travellers who appreciate a variety of different holidays
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Yorkshire
500+ superb properties in prime locations. Short brks available. Pets go free. 01228 406701. www.yorkshire-cottages.info

1.4 million Guardian readers have been on holiday in the last 12 months
To advertise contact the Travel Team on 020 3353 2053

Source: TGI July 06 - June 07

Travel 10.11.12

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14 Travel Saturday Guardian 10.11.12

Readers’Tips…UKSkiing&Boarding
Scotland
Microlodges at Glencoe Obviously you can camp if you want to – it’s Scotland, everyone’s as tough as nails. Actually the year-round campsite at Glencoe Mountain Resort is pretty good, with fine showers and toilet block. But we’re not tough as nails, so stayed in one of their microlodges, which look like modern Gypsy caravans. We packed three of us into one, which was very cosy but at least we weren’t cold. You still need to bring your camping stove as there’s no kitchen. Essentially it’s a big wooden tent. But you’ll be thankful of it when your ski kit is wet and you don’t want to battle with a damp tent. 01855 851226, glencoemountain.com, £50 per night (sleep up to four) KezScott Goodbrand & Ross gift shop and ski hire A lot of services packed into a lovely little place. Hire your skis here if skiing at the Lecht ski area in the Cairngorms national park, just up the road. Then warm yourself up with some tasty homemade soup when you return them. You can even buy a tasteful gift for those back home. (Lovely smelly soap and handcream in the toilets too.) Corgarff, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, 01975 651433, goodbrandandross.co.uk Compo1 Skiing in Scotland, in a nutshell Aviemore: best during the week, weekends too busy and queues too long. For accommodation, Cairngorm Guest House is nice (cairngormguesthouse.com, from £25pp), and Old Bridge Inn (oldbridgeinn.co.uk) is great for food, drink and craic. Check conditions and buy tickets in advance at cairngormmountain.org. Fort William (Nevis Range) has better infrastructure than Aviemore and is more likely to be open, although Aviemore often has better snow. Stay at Myrtlebank Guest House (myrtlebankguesthouse.co.uk, from £20pp); the food is good in the Grog and Gruel (grogandgruel.co.uk), but you can’t book a table. Further details at nevisrange.co.uk. CatWilson

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Next week Cultural and historical sights in India The week after Pubs with rooms in the UK Post your tips on our Been there website (guardian.co.uk/beenthere) The best tip, chosen by Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall, wins this travel goodie bag from Go Travel
This Go Travel accessory set contains products worth more than £250, from a worldwide adaptor and a Kindle case to a first aid kit. For more see go-travelproducts.com

Northern England
Langdon Beck Youth Hostel, Co. Durham A ski-in, ski-out chalet this is not. But this is the highest youth hostel in the UK and it is pretty close to Yad Moss ski area (yadmoss.co.uk), so if you’re looking for a budget ski weekend it’s perfect. We opted for breakfast which was hearty and then we spent the day riding at Yad Moss (see winning tip) before heading back for beers. If the snow is good, you can even ride back to the road. No food sold at Yad Moss, so bring your own lunch. 0845 371 9027, yha.org.uk DDM Lake District Ski Club, Raise, Helvellyn Bit retro but still, when there’s snow – and when I went in 2011 there was lots – this is a really fun place to ski. It has a tow lift and some very unexpectedly good on and off-piste terrain. Not exactly waist deep powder but happy atmosphere and everyone out for a good time. I had to join the club to ride there (£55 for the season) but it was worth it as after that it’s about a fiver a day. There is a club lodge and restroom on site so when the notorious winter conditions set in you’ve got a place to hunker down in. 015395 35456, ldscsnowski.co.uk Stone76

Winning tip Yad Moss, the Pennines, Cumbria Yad Moss is a banging place. The longest single lift in England (650m) serves wide open pistes in the heart of the Pennines. When the snow is good you can be ripping up perfect corduroy. The downside is the area is not that steep; the upside is that it’s very easy to get to. The ski area is just a 100m hike from a main road. On days when the conditions are good, get there early to ensure you can park, and bring a shovel in case you need to dig out a parking space. Yad Moss is a good introduction to skiing in England. The locals – some of whom are enthusiastic about freestyle – are friendly and it’s is easy to access. yadmoss.co.uk godders99

Terms and conditions The closing date is 14 November for cultural spots in India and 21 November for pubs with rooms. Entrants must be aged 16 or over. For full terms and conditions go to ivebeenthere. co.uk/articles/readers-tips.jsp

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