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The Travel & Leisure Magazine May/June 2009

MAY/JUNE 2009 £2 where sold

EGYPT
Timeless wonder

REYKJAVIK
Cool – and affordable

ROCK STAR
The Isle of Wight

CALYPSO CRUISING

Caribbean island hopping

TRAVELLING IN STYLE
Magical railway journeys

TEE TIME IN SCOTLAND
Perfect days in the home of golf

NEWFOUNDLAND
Nature’s playground

WIN

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£2 where sold MAY/JUNE 2009

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The Isle

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Magical railway journeys Nature’s

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TEE TIME IN SCOTLAND

Perfect days in the home of golf

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T R A V E L

FROM THE EDITOR

LOOK ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE
elcome to the new issue of The Travel & Leisure Magazine. Once again, this edition focuses very much on giving you ideas not only for taking holidays overseas but also things to do and places to see in London and beyond. The doom merchants have been having a field day of late, compounding warnings about the country’s economy with grim predictions about swine flu. Thankfully, concerns over the latter have eased and nerves in the travel industry are less frayed. Yet despite all the dire news, the British always take a very determined view. Holidays and breaks are the one thing that many look forward to as a way of escaping the daily grind of work and household worries. They have worked hard to save up for a holiday – and they are determined to take it, come what may. If you are looking for ideas, read on for some inspiration. We visit Egypt, flavour of the moment thanks to its good value. There’s the natural wonderland of Newfoundland in Canada, where you can win a fabulous week’s holiday for two. We also head off to another current hot favourite destination – Reykjavik – where lower prices have made it affordable. Then we look at holidays by train, which are growing in popularity and scope, and we go cruising in the Caribbean. On the home front, we focus on the Isle of Wight and look at London festivals. I hope you enjoy the read, and wherever your travels take you this summer, have a peaceful and relaxing time.

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GETTING TO KNOW Pharaoh tales in Egypt TRAVEL UPDATE Travel news IN YOUR FLIGHT BAG
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Peter Ellegard

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Pharoah tales
Egypt is flavour of the moment this year, and with good reason. Offering far more than just dusty old tombs and desert, it combines magical history tours with glorious beaches, high-class resorts and much more besides. Peter Ellegard fell under its spell long ago…

M

y first visit to Egypt 23 years ago was an adventure I will never forget. I was in Cairo on a short business trip, but managed to squeeze some whistle-stop sightseeing in between meetings on my final day that would have even exhausted a Japanese tour leader. Time was ridiculously tight, but I didn’t

mind as I was heading on to Luxor the next day for some R and R, followed by diving in the Red Sea at Hurghada prior to my flight home. At least, that was the plan. Renting a taxi for the day in Cairo (as cheap as a single journey I had taken in a London cab), I set off for my prearranged appointments. My lunchtime meeting was at the

venerable Mena House Oberoi hotel, right next to the pyramids at Giza. I spent lunch gazing in awe through the windows at the mighty edifices. With another meeting due later that afternoon, I grabbed 15 minutes at the Great Pyramid of Cheops, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world – most of it spent haggling with a camel driver whose lumbering steed I clambered aboard just long enough to have my picture taken in front of the pyramids and Sphinx – before jumping back in the taxi. Next stop was Sakkara, the necropolis for Egypt’s ancient capital, Memphis, where historic structures include the Step Pyramid. The oldest of all pyramids, it lies some 30km south of Cairo past timeless rural scenes, and its lack of tourist hordes and nearby built-up areas made it feel even more special than its Giza counterparts. But there was no time to dwell. I was on a mission. A guide took me on the briefest of tours, enlightening me by pointing out that the fishshaped hieroglyph carvings were, in fact, fish while the wavy lines above them represented the Nile. I’d never have guessed. After a fast journey back to Cairo for my final meeting, I was dropped at the Egyptian Museum just 15 minutes before closing time. Glancing at the statues on the museum’s ground floor, I sprinted up the stairs to reach my ultimate goal – the exquisite, golden mask and other funerary exhibits from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Main photo and below left: Egyptian State Tourist Office

Peter Ellegard

■ The souk at Aswan

■ Al-Azhar Mosque minarets, Old Cairo

Peter Ellegard

■ The Karnak Temple sound and light show

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getting to KNOW
EGYPT
Not only was it the climax of that trip, it was also the final highlight. That night, in February 1986, security police conscripts stormed out of their barracks in Giza, burning nearby hotels and businesses and clashing with the army. Instead of flying to Luxor the next morning I took refuge at an airport hotel when the airport was locked down and a city-wide curfew was imposed, and I caught a special repatriation flight back to the UK the following day. I felt immensely sad, not just for my unfortunate timing but also for what I feared was the end of Egypt’s tourism industry. I needn’t have worried. The insurrection was quickly quelled, the capital soon recovered and the tourists returned. In the intervening years, Egypt has suffered several harrowing terrorist attacks, as have many countries including the UK, of course. Yet each time it has bounced back stronger than before. Huge investment in its tourist infrastructure, with the development of classy, new resorts and extensive leisure facilities, has been matched by slick advertising campaigns and, just as important, a strong security presence in tourist areas. All have helped make Egypt more popular than ever. With prices in eurozone countries rocketing because of the weak pound, it offers British tourists even better value for money compared to other holiday destinations this year. Far from putting people off, the visible security measures are a reassuring factor. On my most recent visit, in December, I took a Nile cruise with my wife. At night as our luxury ship cruised downriver, two security guards manned a machine gun on the stern. As I photographed dawn over the Nile from the back of the ship, they nodded in acknowledgement of my smiled greeting and happily let me photograph them and the gun against the rising sun. You can’t even photograph

■ Pyramids at Giza, Cairo

Peter Ellegard

■ Karnak Temple, Luxor

May/June 2009

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■ The Temple of Philae at Aswan

Egypt Tourist Authority

● The first pyramids were built in 2650 BC. ● Cleopatra was born in Egypt in 69 BC. ● Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. ● The Nile flows for 915 miles through Egypt. ● About 96% of Egypt is desert ● Flights from London take 4.5 hours to Cairo and 5.5 hours to Red Sea resorts.
■ Left: Tutankhamun’s mask, the Egyptian museum

Photos: Egyptian State Tourist Authority

■ Hot tub at the Sheraton Soma Bay

Pars and spas
Egypt may seem an unlikely golf destination, but its three original, century-old clubs have been augmented by another 14 new facilities, taking the total to 17 across Egypt. You can tee off on courses in beach resorts from the Mediterranean coast to the Red Sea and from Cairo to Luxor, site of ancient pharaonic capital Thebes. You can even play in the shadow of the pyramids at Giza, on the historic nine-hole course at the Mena House Oberoi. A number of resorts have courses with luxury spa hotels alongside or nearby, so golfers can play while nonplaying partners can pamper themselves and enjoy the other leisure facilities. Among them are Soma Bay, El Gouna, Stella di Mare Golf Resort, at Ain Soukhna, and Egypt’s newest course at Madinat Makadi Golf Resort, which opened in late 2008. Other Red Sea resorts with courses are Taba Heights, Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada, while Porto Marina is a new addition on the Mediterranean coast. All have a choice of nearby hotels.

policemen without risk of arrest now in London. One security measure which had been an irritation to visitors had just been relaxed prior to our visit. For the past 11 years, coaches travelling between Red Sea resorts and Luxor had had to travel in armed convoys, following the 1997 attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut in which 63 tourists were killed. That often led to long journey times as vehicles had to wait at convoy points and travel in line, and it also resulted in massive queues at key attractions as busloads disgorged at the same time. We made the minibus journey from Red Sea tourist resort Madinat Makadi to Luxor to join our cruise in a comfortable four hours, and we could stop when we wanted and go at the speed our driver wanted – radar traps permitting. Since my first, eventful visit to Egypt, I have returned a number of times and seen much of the country, both on land and below the sea. Ever since I was a child, it had always held great fascination for me. Few countries make my spine tingle and get the pulse racing in anticipation and excitement as Egypt does, when I visit. The great monuments the ancient Egyptians and later civilisations left behind; the tombs of the pharaohs with their wonderfully-decorated walls; vast expanses of desert with their lush, hidden oases; stark mountains which glow pink at sunset; the hustle and bustle of Cairo, modern and old; timewarp towns and villages which line the verdant Nile Valley, their markets a jumble of sights, sounds and smells; glorious sandy

beaches carpeting both the Red Sea and Mediterranean coasts; and the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea, rich in marine life. All make a visit to Egypt not just a magical history tour, but a holiday like you will experience nowhere else. It has certainly made its mark on me. These are some of the country’s key sights:

Cairo
Bisected by the Nile, Egypt’s frenetic capital is a city where the modern world collides with that of the country’s ancient past. Roads and buildings have crept almost to the foundations of the Sphinx and the iconic pyramids at Giza. Yet behind them the desert stretches out as far as the eye can see. A day visit should be augmented with a return at night to watch the atmospheric Sound and Light Show. Due to be replaced by a modern building at Giza in the near future, the Egyptian Museum holds some of ancient Egypt’s greatest artefacts, the highlight being Tutankhamun’s treasures. However, give yourself more than the 15 minutes I had on my first visit there as it has much else from the pharaonic era to wonder at, including the Mummy Room. The imposing 12th century Citadel fortress was built by Saladin and looks out across Cairo’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Islamic Quarter. At night the narrow streets of the quarter’s Khan el Khalili bazaar come alive to raucous bartering and the cries

■ Madinat Makadi Golf Resort

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Jaz Hotels, Resorts & Cruises

Starwood Resorts and Hotels

Did you know?

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Nile cruises
A great way to experience Egypt is on a Nile cruise. You relax and enjoy the facilities onboard while the timeless scenery of farmers tending irrigated fields and fishermen casting nets constantly moves. Most cruises operate the 240km between Luxor and Aswan with itineraries from three nights to seven nights. Passengers can explore historic sites at stops along the route, including Dendera’s temple, the valleys of the Kings and Queens, Karnak Temple, temples at Kom Ombo, Esna and Edfu, and Aswan’s Temple of Philae and the High Dam. Three and four-night cruises also operate between Aswan and Abu Simbel on Lake Nasser.

■ Onboard the Jaz Regency

Nile cruise ships are like luxury ocean-going cruise ships but much more intimate. The largest have about 70 cabins; most have far fewer. Traditional two-masted, wood-panelled dahabiya Nile cruisers, with just six or eight cabins, are featured by operators including Bales Worldwide (www.balesworldwide.com) and Mosaic Holidays (www.mosaicholidays.co.uk). Facilities onboard ships generally include a small swimming pool, spa pool, sun deck, canopied deck, massages, lounge, dining room and shops. Cabins often have a TV, sound system and mini fridge. Ships are either full board or all inclusive. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, afternoon tea is also usually served, with cakes and biscuits. Locals, especially children, smile and wave as you pass by their traditional villages and age-old towns – and laugh in delight when the captains blare their horns with cascading notes resembling the spaceships scene from sci-fi movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind which echo off the palm-fringed river banks.

Peter Ellegard

of traders selling their wares. Nearby is the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar Mosque, with its graceful minarets and crenulated walls. Coptic Cairo is the oldest part of the city and includes the Coptic Museum, situated in a garden of the Roman-era Babylon Fort. ElMuallaqa Church is Cairo’s oldest Christian church. Dating back over 1,700 years, it is known as the “Hanging Church” as it is built over a Roman gate. A day trip can take in Sakkara’s Step Pyramid.

Alexandria and the Mediterranean coast
Founded by Alexander the Great and ruled over by Cleopatra, Egypt’s last pharaoh, Alexandria nestles on the Mediterranean coast by the Nile Delta. It is steeped in history. The Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, another Ancient Wonder of the World, was the tallest structure on earth at 40 metres high until an earthquake destroyed it in the Middle Ages. Its harbourside foundations now support a 15th century fort. Greek and Roman ruins include the Catacombs of Kom al-Shuqafa and Egypt’s

only Roman amphitheatre. The famed Library of Alexandria, the ancient world’s largest, disappeared long ago. Its latter-day successor, the six-year-old Bibliotheca Alexandrina, features modern architecture including a raked glass roof. Former royal palace Montazah, built by the last Khedive of Egypt in 1892, is set in gardens used for summer concerts and theatre performances. Another former palace, Fatma el-Zahara, is now the Royal Jewellery Museum. Other notable institutions include the Graeco-Roman Museum and Museum of Fine Arts. The ancient city of Rosetta, 65km east of Alexandria, succeeded it as Egypt’s principle Mediterranean port after the Ottoman conquest in the 16th century. It is known for the distinctive Delta-style Ottoman architecture of its restored merchants’ houses. The Rosetta Stone, discovered there in 1799 and now in the British Museum, helped Egyptologists decipher ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphics. El Alamein, 60km west of Alexandria, was the scene of a decisive Allied victory in World War II. Now a burgeoning tourist resort with luxury hotels, it has a war muse-

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Dive, dive, dive
The Red Sea is the closest coral sea to the UK and has been a favourite with British divers for decades. You can go diving all around the Red Sea Riviera. Many hotels have their own dive centres and dive boats. You can go diving for the day or, if you are experienced, spend a week on a liveaboard dive vessel, cruising more distant waters to dive less-explored reefs and wrecks. The serious can go deep with Nitrox and other mixed gases. The Red Sea is also a great classroom for those wanting to learn diving or just try it. Centres regulated by PADI and other dive organisations offer learn to dive courses. The waters of the Red Sea provide some of the finest in the world for diving, with breathtaking coral reefs and abundant marine life. Top sites include Ras Mohamed National Park, at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, near Sharm el Sheikh, and the Thistlegorm wreck which is accessible from both Sharm and Western Red Sea resorts. If you prefer to stay above the waves, the Red Sea’s constant winds, which can reach 30 knots, make it one of the world’s foremost destinations for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The world’s biggest kitesurfing school recently opened in El Gouna, north of Hurghada.

Peter Ellegard

um and cemetery. Farther west, Mersa Matruh has white beaches, azure seas and rock formations – and the Rommel Museum. Siwa Oasis, 300km south of Mersa Matruh in the Sahara, can be visited on a tour.

Luxor

In ancient times, Luxor was called Thebes – and more than 3,000 years of history are spread across both banks of the Nile. On the East Bank, Karnak Temple is the world’s largest temple complex and has a spectacular nightly sound and light show. The Temple Aswan of Luxor is close to the city centre and walk- Aswan is the gateway to Lake Nasser and able from some hotels. Visit both temAbu Simbel, where the temples ples early to beat the tour buses and four colossal statues of which arrive from mid-morning Ramses II were moved to onwards. Dusk turns the sky higher ground when the orange and pink over Luxor Aswan High Dam’s Temple’s illuminated construction flooded columns and statues. their original locaAcross the Nile on the tion. West Bank is the Valley of The High Dam is the Kings, where Ramses the one of the highlights Great, Tutankhamun and many of a visit to Aswan. other pharaohs were buried in Among other sights are ■ Luxor Temple tombs where detailed carvings and the Old Aswan Dam, the
Egypt Tourist Authority

painted walls still amaze. Other beautiful tombs can be explored in the Valley of the Queens, below towering cliffs, and another highlight is the terraced Temple of Hatsheput. You can view Luxor’s ancient sites from on high on a dawn balloon trip from the West Bank. Flights last up to 50 minutes. For a true experience of the Nile, sail in a traditional felucca or spend a few days on a Nile cruise.

Unfinished Obelisk and the Nubian Temple of Kalabsha. The Temple of Philae, set on an island, is bathed in lights with narration about the legends of Isis and Osiris in a sound and light show. You can sail in a felucca to visit Elephantine Island and Kitchener’s Island, for the Botanical Gardens. Agatha Christie wrote much of her Death on the Nile novel at Aswan’s Old Cataract Hotel.

Sharm el Sheikh and the Sinai Peninsula
Located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh is the mummy of Egypt’s Red Sea resorts. It originally catered purely for divers, drawn by sites such as Ras Mohamed National Park on its doorstep. But Sharm is now a top-class resort with appeal for those wanting a beach stay with all mod cons as well as for those who want to explore below the Red Sea. Lively Na’ama Bay is where to head for night-time fun and to browse its shopping mall. Excursions include camel riding, wadibashing and 4x4 trips into the Sinai desert as well as visiting Bedouin camps to take tea or

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■ The beach at Red Sea resort El Gouna

coffee or to dine out under the stars. From Sharm you can also visit 1,500year-old St Catherine’s Monastery, built around a chapel housing the biblical Burning Bush. It lies at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses was given the 10 Commandments. A popular option is to climb Mount Sinai at night to witness the spectacular dawn from the top. Other Sinai wonders include the Coloured Canyon, named for its brightly-hued sandstone formations, the White Canyon and several oases. Among natural atractions is the mountainous Abu Galum natural reserve, where wildlife includes Nubian ibex, hyrax and striped hyena. At the top end of the Sinai Peninsula is Taba, across the border from Israel’s Eilat, and the neighbouring, purpose-built resort of Taba Heights. A sister development to El Gouna, across the Red Sea, it is a collection of hotels with stylish designer architecture nestling against the Sinai’s mountains and fronting the Red Sea. There is also a golf course. Excursions from Taba Heights go to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan with its buildings carved into the rocks. Other Sinai resorts include laid-back Dahab and Nuweiba, much less developed than Sharm or Taba.

Hasheesh features an Oberoi hotel with plans to build several golf courses, more hotels and an Atlantis-style sunken city viewable from a boardwalk. Madinat Makadi is a resort village with a wide beach in nearby Makadi Bay. Its eight hotels include the new, five-star Jaz Makadi Golf hotel where Scary Spice Mel B and her husband Stephen Belafonte renewed their wedding vows in November. The hotel is alongside Egypt’s newest golf course.

Beyond that lies upmarket resort Soma Bay. It has several hotels including La Residence des Cascades, built in the centre of Gary Player-designed The Cascades golf course and housing the huge Les Thermes Marins des Cascades thalassotherapy centre. The “Little Venice of Egypt”, 20 minutes north of Hurghada, El Gouna is a stylish new resort laced by canals, with over a dozen hotels, elegant private villas, a Mediterraneanstyle marina lined with restaurants and bars, a shopping centre, casino and art galleries. There’s sailing and other water sports from its extensive beaches, as well as diving. At the top end of the Red Sea, near the southern entrance to the Suez Canal, is the developing resort of Ain Soukhna. It possesses a golf course and several hotels, as well as one of the region’s largest spa and thalassotherapy centres. The Southern Red Sea is fast developing, too. Popular with divers who want to reach less visited reefs and wrecks, it includes the resort of Marsa Alam and nearby Port Ghalib, a new marina resort development. TL

Egypt facts
When to go: Summers are hot and dry and winters are warm, with little rainfall – making it the ideal time to go. Breezes help keep Red Sea resorts cooler, while the Mediterranean coast has a more temperate climate. Getting there: Direct flights to Cairo from London Heathrow are operated by British Airways (www.ba.com), bmi (www.flybmi.com) and Egyptair (www.egyptair.com). Egyptair also flies from Heathrow to Sharm el Sheikh, while easyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies there from London Gatwick. Charter flights operate from airports around the UK to Sharm, Hurghada,Taba, Marsa Alam and Luxor. Entry requirements: UK and EU nationals travelling only to Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab, Nuweiba and Taba resorts in the Sinai for up to 14 days do not require a visa. Otherwise, visas can be obtained at the airport on arrival into Egypt or from the Egyptian consulate in London (020 7235 9777; www.egyptianconsulate.co.uk). Getting around: Egyptair operates internal flights from Cairo to points throughout Egypt. Destinations include Luxor, Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada. Other internal routes include Luxor-Aswan. Local taxis are inexpensive and in plentiful supply in major cites and resorts. Tour operators: UK operators offering Egypt include Discover Egypt (www.discoveregypt.co.uk),Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.com), Monarch Holidays (www.monarchholidays.co.uk), Longwood Holidays (www.longwoodholidays.co.uk) and Peltours (www.peltours.com). Tourist information: Egyptian State Tourist Office: call 020 7493 5283 or visit www.egypt.travel
Peter Ellegard Egyptian State Tourist Authority

Hurghada and the Western Red Sea
The Western Red Sea’s largest and longestestablished resort offers an extensive range of hotels appealing to a wide cross-section of holidaymakers. It has a lively centre with plenty of nightlife and an abundance of sports and activities along its sandy beaches. One of the region’s top diving destinations, sites include offshore islands and the famous wartime wreck, SS Thistlegorm. Hurghada’s origins as a fishing village can still be seen in the Old Town, now engulfed by the modern, purpose-built resort. South of Hurghada, fledgling resort Sahl

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El Gouna Resort

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TRAVEL update

Dads’ delight
otels are serving up special offers to treat dad for the Father’s Day weekend. Luxury Family Hotels (www.luxuryfamily hotels.co.uk), part of the von Essen Hotels group, has several deals. A Papa Pamper Package at Fowey Hall in Cornwall – the inspiration behind Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows – with three nights for the price of two and a spa session in the new Aquae Sulis Retreat for half price on Father’s Day (Sunday, June 21), costs from £465 per room including breakfast. Children sharing their parents’ room stay for free. Jacobean manor house Woolley Grange, near Bradfordon-Avon, has a two-night Friday and Saturday package from £360 per night for two adults, including dinner, bed and breakfast and a beer tasting session with local brewery Bath Ales. Guests staying for lunch on Father’s Day can check out at 3pm. And at Ickworth Hotel, set in 1,800 acres of National Trust

H

■ Woolley Grange

parkland in Suffolk, shoot rabbits or pigeons on Father’s Day, then help prepare them for serving as your “catch” for dinner in the hotels’ restaurant. The shooting day, equipment hire and dinner costs £175 per person, or

■ Congham Hall

stay overnight from £240 for dinner, bed and breakfast for two people on the Sunday night. If you prefer shooting inanimate objects, von Essen’s Congham Hall in Norfolk (www.vonessenhotels.com) is offering a clay pigeon shooting taster and Sunday lunch on Father’s Day. The half-hour shoots cost £60 for dads and £35 for all other family members, including a three-course Sunday lunch. Overnight stays cost from £125 per room, including breakfast.

Allergy sufferers can sleep a little easier thanks to a new room treatment service for hotels by the Healthy Sleep Company. It reduces dust mites and associated allergens by up to 97.4%, leaving rooms virtually allergyfree. The Millennium & Copthorne Hotel in Slough has become the fifth UK hotel to add the service, with four Healthy Sleep rooms. ●More information on www.thehealthysleepcomp any.co.uk

Not to be sniffed at

Luxury Family Hotels

Beware malaria
The Malaria Awareness Campaign, launched with Malaria Awareness Week from May 11-17, aims to raise awareness of this easilypreventable disease which affects hundreds of British travellers every year, while still encouraging people to take long-haul holidays. It is organised by GlaxoSmithKline Travel Health, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and ABTA.Visit www.malariahotspots.co.uk for more information and advice.

Tops down under
eaders of Diver magazine have voted the Maltese Islands the top dive destination in Europe and third best globally in the publication’s annual Diver Awards. This is the first time such an award has gone to a Mediterranean country. Malta has diving to suit all levels and interests and boasts some of the best underwater conditions anywhere in the world, with year-round warm temperatures, up to 30 metres visibility and abundant marine life. Dive sites range from shallow

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■ Malta's waters are the best in Europe

Von Essen Hotels

Ferry fast
Ferry operator LD Lines’ new high-speed ferry, Norman Arrow, becomes the largestever fast ferry across the English Channel with its entry onto the Dover-Boulogne route on May 29 after a threeweek delivery voyage from Tasmania. Visit: www.ldlines.com
Malta Tourism Authority

reef dive sites for beginners to reefs and wartime wrecks, as well as night dives for the more

experienced. For more information, visit www.visitmalta.com

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TRAVEL update

Check your cover
T
he recent swine flu outbreak has led to an increase of up to 300% in the purchase of travel insurance. Travel insurance is a must for any trip, but it is also essential to check the insurance you buy, and what it covers. World First Travel Insurance has produced a check list with tips to bear in mind before you buy, including: ● Check the policy meets your demands and needs, and check for limitations and exclusions as cover varies from insurer to insurer. ● Check what is automatically covered or if an additional premium is required, for activities such as scuba diving or kitesurfing. They may be covered by one policy but not another. ● Declare all medical conditions. Most policies exclude claims that arise from
El Gouna Resort, Egypt

■ Ensure activities are covered by your policy

pre-existing medical conditions.
● Policies generally limit cover for any one

item, normally £250, so see if you can extend your household insurance to cover jewellery, iPods, laptops or cameras.

The checklist can be found in full online at www.world-first.co.uk/media/checklist.pdf. You should also check your insurance provider is authorised by the FSA; go to www.fsa.gov.uk/register/ to check credentials.

Green stays
otels are continuing to improve their eco credentials. The four-star country house Wallett’s Court Hotel and Spa near Dover in Kent has been awarded a silver star rating in the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS), the only certification scheme validated by Visit Britain. It is offering a three nights for the price of two break until September 30. Valid Sunday to Thursday and costing £199 per person, it includes breakfast daily and dinner on two nights. A three-night spa break costs £269 per person and includes a

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90-minute treatment. Upgrades to a four-poster room or suite start at £40 per person. For more information, visit www.wallettscourthotel.com Fingals, a luxury country house hotel in Devon, has just built an “Eco House” with a wood frame from sustainable sources and solar panels on the roof. It features the contemporary Stream Room, with a balcony overlooking a stream. It also has a new spa and a gym in addition to a swimming pool, grass tennis court and croquet lawn. It costs £135 for two sharing in May and June, including breakfast. www.fingals.co.uk

Cheap and cheerful
Where is the best value holiday this year? The Post Office’s annual Holiday Costs Barometer has put ■ Belek tourism Bulgaria,Turkey village, Turkey and Croatia top of its list, after comparing the cost of 10 holiday items, including drinks and meals. However, price cutting in some of the UK’s favourite eurozone destinations means that holidays could cost less than expected, despite the weak pound. Falling prices in the Algarve in Portugal now put it second only to Spain, the cheapest eurozone destination surveyed. Local prices have fallen in Greece and Italy too, while France – along with Cyprus –

remains one of the most expensive with costs 16.7% higher than in Spain. Despite price increases in Thailand and Egypt, they still remain great value for money overall.
Peter Ellegard

Go retro
Take advantage of the predicted hot UK summer by touring the country in a classic Volkswagen camper van. Surrey-based CampinaVDub.co.uk (www.campinavdub.co.uk) has three retro-style VW campers for rent. All come fully fitted with bedding, outdoor furniture, GPS navigation,TV/DVD with Freeview and a stereo system with fully-loaded Ipod.They also have full AA cover and Camping and Caravanning Club membership. Prices range from £150 for day hire to £750 for a week in high season.

■ Fingals’ Stream Room

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In Your FLIGHT BAG

Feel first class
ive yourself the first class treatment! Long distance travellers will love the Travel Tool Kit from Aroma Therapeutics. Each kit includes essential oil products to help lift your spirits after long journeys, relax your mind, soothe aches and pains and enhance restful sleep. If a delay at the airport leaves you feeling run down and lethargic, the Aroma Therapeutics Recharger Spray Concentrate’s powerful blend of rosemary, ginger, rosewood, nutmeg and orange sprayed directly onto pulse points will lift your mood. Alternatively, soothe away aches and pains with Muscle Comforter Bath & Body. Cooling peppermint, lavender, black pepper and birch (a natural painkiller) blend together for instant relief. Aroma Therapeutics’ best-selling Sleep Enhancer Spray Concentrate has been given to British Airways First Class passengers for years to help them drift off in flight.

Eye will survive!

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Revive tired eyes and restore sparkle with hydrogel soothing Under-Eye Revival Patches from Girls With Attitude. After a long journey and a few late nights, girls can be forgiven for looking a little less fresh – but who wants to? Simply apply, relax and recover. Under-Eye Revival Patches help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark shadows, smoothes and moisturises.This perfect pick-meup quickie will get the skin back to its fresh and vibrant best in next to no time, ready for the next party! Each pack includes enough pads for a full weekend away. RRP £4. Available from www.amazon.co.uk ● We have 12 packs of Under-Eye Revival Patches to give away. Go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on competitions & giveaways.Terms & conditions apply. Closing date July 3, 2009.

Colourful memory
The Travel Tool Kit retails at £35.85 and includes: Sleep Enhancer Spray Concentrate (20ml); Recharger Spray Concentrate (20ml); Relaxer Bath & Body (10ml); Muscle Comforter Bath & Body (10ml); Mood Enhancer Aroma Travel Candle (10g); and Sleep Enhancer Aroma Travel Candle 10g. www.aroma.co.uk
Brilliant orange, super sunny yellow, raindrop blue, arctic white, deep viola, cherry red, ultra mint, real red, intense blue and vibrant pink – what’s your colour? Small and Stylish, the My Passport Essential USB hard drive delivers up to 320GB of portable storage in the palm of your hand, comes in 10 fresh new colours and weighs in at less than five ounces. Simple to use, light and easy to carry, and with no power adapter needed – your My Passport Essential will become your favourite accessory. Store thousands of songs, videos or photos on it and always have them to hand. Western Digital’s My Passport Essential USB drives are available now at select retailers in capacities of 160GB (£66.99), 250GB (£96.99) and 320GB (£119.99). www.westerndigital.com

Pressure points to sickness relief
on’t let travel sickness ruin your trip. Sea-Band is an acupuncture pressure wristband known to relieve feelings of nausea associated with travel sickness within minutes. Sea-Band works by exerting a constant, gentle pressure on a point on the inner wrist called the Pericardium 6 (P6)

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acupressure point, long known to relieve feelings of nausea. Sea-Band is latexfree and drug-free so does not cause side effects such as drowsi-

ness and is safe for patients taking prescription medications, pregnant women and children from three years old. Sea-Band is available from Lloydspharmacy, Superdrug, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, other pharmacies, and the Penny Brohn Cancer Care Centre. RRP is £7.82. www.sea-band.com

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In Your SUITCASE

Save your skin with AfterBURN
15% off at www.swimhut.com for every reader
You can be in the swim with the new range of SwimDresses, exclusive to SwimHut.com in the UK. The stylish SwimDresses are designed to be practical yet beautiful with an integrated tummy mesh panel and pants.They are ideal for those who want more coverage from their swimwear, active mums or those who like to be able to party and swim without changing in between! SwimHut.com offers a fantastic range of swimwear, bikinis and tankinis from a selection of leading brand names, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. ● To claim your 15% discount, go to SwimHut.com’s website and enter the code: TLMAG2009.This code should be printed in capitals (the code is case sensitive).The code will be valid from June 1 to June 30, inclusive. www.swimhut.com

fterBURN Sunburn Rescue Gel is a revolutionary product to help soothe and repair sun damaged skin, unlike traditional after sun products that simply moisturise. AfterBURN Sunburn Rescue Gel is a unique dermatological gel with an osmotic action that draws water from within the skin (the dermis) to the surface (the epidermis), helping to rehydrate and treat sun-damaged skin. The gel is odourless, non-sticky and non-staining, is rapidly absorbed and acts quickly on the skin. It contains no alcohol, added preservatives or colourings and helps to reduce the chances of premature skin ageing and redness of the skin as well as cooling irritation and easing discomfort. Available from Boots and other pharmacies and leading retailers nationwide, AfterBURN Sunburn Rescue Gel is priced at £9.78 for 75g.

SwimHut.com

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● WIN one of 10 AfterBURN Sunburn Rescue Gels. Go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on competitions & giveaways. Terms & conditions apply. Closing date July 3, 2009.

Feel the noise with this funky new sound system!
One of the best portable speakers on the market, the crystal-clear Soundtraveller K3000 ST weighs in at just 420g – but packs a heavyweight punch. It docks directly with all iPods, including the new iPod Nano and iPod Touch, and comes with an audio adaptor cable so can be used with virtually any other audio device, even your Sony PSP and Nintendo DS. Featuring touch button volume control, it can be powered by the two included AA batteries or mains charger, and also comes with a USB cable so you can power it from your laptop. It also charges iPods when powered from the mains or by USB. Price £65. www.powertraveller.com

Cool Crocs!
he new Captiva flip flops from Crocs are great for the summer months. They are ultra comfortable, lightweight and available in a choice of bright colours such as jade, citrus and berry – your feet will be smiling along with the summer sun! With a soft toe stump and ove r- t h e foot straps,

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the Captiva looks equally stylish when worn on the beach or around town and keeps your feet happy in the hot weather with its pillowed footbed

and added flexibility. Being made of Crocs’ traditional Croslite material means the Captiva will give your feet antibacterial protection while also being very easy to clean. RRP £25.95. To see Crocs’ full range of summer styles, go to www.crocs.eu

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ESCAPE to…
REYKJAVIK

On top of the

world
upstairs bar at Kaffebarinn, where I was teaching two Aussie visitors to love Brennivin, the Icelandic spirit brewed from fermented potatoes and flavoured with caraway seeds, while sharing my spot at the bar with the lead singer of Sigur Rós, a gaggle of dancers from Björk’s show in neon tribal make-up, and a transatlantic stag party. When I collapsed into bed mid-morning, the sun was still blazing through the window as it had all night. My love affair with Reykjavik started long before the economic crash, when a pint of beer still cost around £5 (it’s now about £2). In January, The Economist’s annual

Iceland’s weird and wonderful capital of cool, Reykjavik, is a feast for the senses – and the economic crash has now made it affordable for short breaks. For Laura Dixon, it was love at first sight, if not at first bite…
thereal music drifted above us into the pale blue cloudless sky, blonde-haired redcheeked children were on their parents’ shoulders and there was a worrying display of woolly lopipeysa jumpers on Icelanders of every age from 0 to 60, considering that

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this city is famed for its cutting-edge fashion. Under the glare of the midnight sun, I saw the cream of Icelandic music perform in a festival celebrating the environment in Reykjavik last year, and it’s one of the experiences of my life. It ended somewhat less poetically in the

■ The Blue Lagoon
All photos: Iceland Tourist Board

■ The Northern Lights

■ Vatnajökull Glacier

■ Hot springs near Hverageri town – South Iceland

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Take a dip
Don’t forget your swimming kit – Iceland is heaven for water babies. Carved out of a black lava field, the milky blue water of the Blue Lagoon is a constant 37-39°C, and is particularly good for the skin. If you want to act like a local, head to one of the city’s swimming pools. They are geothermally-heated, open air and are open come rain, shine or snow. Most have hot pots and saunas and are much cheaper than pools at home, costing about £1.20 per visit. Or if you’re feeling brave, take a dip in the North Atlantic.The city beach at Nautholsvik, near the city airport, has imported white sand, hot pools, a snack bar and an area of heated water in the sea so you won’t catch hypothermia. How very Icelandic!

■ Getting steamy in the Blue Lagoon

study rating the most expensive cities in Europe put the city at 62, from a previous position at number five, making it the lowest featured city in Western Europe bar Manchester. It’s a real shock to the system – for years the reason why people haven’t been visiting the world’s northernmost capital city has been the price, but now there’s no excuse.

and looking at the city from above to get your bearings. You’ll see Faxaflói Bay, where you can take whale-watching trips, Mount Esja, usually some kind of purple colour and topped with snow, and then in the background, the cone-shaped glacier on Snaefellsnes, where, in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the explorers started their descent.

Party town
Sure, Reykjavik has an outsized reputation as a party town, but it’s barely as big as Bath. In fact, the population of Iceland as a whole is roughly the same as that of Norwich, which gives you some idea. Reykjavik is about half the size of that; when viewed from the air it looks like someone has scattered a handful of multicoloured dolls houses around a small lake. It is really that tiny. That makes the city a great destination for a short break. Book a hotel in the 101 district and you can’t go wrong: all the city’s main sights are on your doorstep. The strange-looking concrete Hallgrimskirkja (Hallgrims Church) is visible from nearly everywhere, and it’s worth starting out here, taking the lift to the top

Icelandic cuisine
Wandering around the city itself is fun – it’s lined with coffee shops and designer boutiques as well as more traditional shops selling wool and wool products, stuffed puffins, bags made from fish skin and the like. Bargain hunters might like the Kolaporti market, particularly the fish market at the back. There are two delicacies that you’ll find here but nowhere else – Hákarl and har_fiskur. The first is a real speciality that you can try for ■ Food free in the market. Word of

warning – don’t take too much. It’s made from Greenland shark, buried in Tupperware underground for three months to rot, and then excavated and served when it is at the right texture. The edges are slightly gooey and centre is chewy; unsurprisingly, it hasn’t taken off anywhere but here. Har_fiskur is a dried and salted white fish eaten a bit like crisps by the local children. It still tastes of fish, though it’s crunchy and salty, and takes some getting used to. That’s not all there is to say about Icelandic cuisine – it’s a whole story in itself – but suffice to say that you will find restaurants where you can eat grilled puffin, seabird’s eggs, dolphin and whale and boiled sheep’s head among other strange delights. There was once a McDonalds in the centre of the city, but it closed down through lack of custom. It wasn’t just that a meal cost £10; taste buds and fun are made differently up here.

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■ Icelandic Horse

■ Lobster

■ Skógafoss Waterfall - South Iceland

Modern art
While wandering round the city, drop into the Town Hall, perched on a lake, which has a relief map of the country in it and a cafe. Nearby, the Harbour House art gallery is one of the city’s finest if you like modern art. It celebrates Erró, a 1960s artist who has a little in common with Peter Blake (who created The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album cover) and is all high colour and shock factor. Downstairs are modern installations.

‘The population of Iceland…is the same as that of Norwich’
And if you’re intrigued to find out more about modern art, don’t miss the Lost Horse Gallery. Run by local artists, it’s got a modern flavour but tends to mix styles so you never quite know what you’re going to see. The gallery is actually an old animal shed and has a charming history.

path around the harbour and bay area, you can’t miss the marauding past. Icelanders can trace their genealogy way back to the Saga times – the island wasn’t settled until 871 – Back in the days before cars, farmers and the fiercely independent attitude of their used to ride into town on their horses to do forebears has definitely filtered down. business, and then, as now, successes were There’s a pride in being different, tough and celebrated in the pub. The shed acted as in tune with the environment here that you a kind of horse pound for the don’t feel anywhere else in the owners who lost their horsworld, and you can see it in the es due to reckless drunkfashion, art, music and drinking ability of the locals. enness, and they had My favourite Viking to pay to get them sight has to be out. You can still see Thingvellir National grooves in the floor Park. This area, outside and hooks where the city but easily they were tethered reachable on a day tour, on the walls, is where the Vikings although you won’t see held their meetings and horses in the city today. the location says as much But you can ride Icelandic about them as anything else. ■ Hallgrimskirkja horses close to Reykjavik. A river runs through the valley where dissenters were drowned and a large black cliff rears up at its edge. There is a rift Viking history History knits this city together. From the stat- in it that excites geographers – it’s the exact ue of Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler, on place where the American and European tecthe hill overlooking downtown, to Sólfar, a tonic plates are pulling apart from each sculpture of a Viking boat that sits on the other, at a rate of approximately 2cm a year.

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Reykjavik facts
When to go It all depends on what you want to see. For midnight sun, head north from June to mid-August. For the Northern Lights, try November to March. The spring and autumn months have a lot to recommend them, but can be wet; bring an umbrella, and expect a roughly-balanced night and day. Most tourists visit from May to September when it’s warmer and light (but expect showers and cold winds). For nightlife, you need to be there on a Friday or Saturday night. Getting there Icelandair (www.icelandair.co.uk) and Iceland Express (www.icelandexpress.co.uk) both serve Reykjavik, flying into Keflavik Airport. Icelandair flies twice daily from London’s Heathrow, while Iceland Express moved its daily service to Gatwick on May 1. A bus runs to Reykjavik from the airport, taking about an hour, and costing significantly less than a taxi (www.flybus.is). Accommodation and eating out Reykjavik’s tourist board has good recommendations on where to stay on all budgets – check out the city’s tourist office website, www.visitreykjavik.is, or www.accommodation.is. Or visit www.iescape.com for boutique hotels and city centre apartments. A new youth hostel opened by the old harbour this spring: www.hostel.is. Iceland’s youth hostels rank in the top five in the world, according to Hostelling International. For food, check out www.icelandgourmetguide.com for the best unusual and gourmet places to eat. Tour operators Icelandair and Iceland Express offer some good value long weekend packages. Other good package operators to the country include Discover The World (www.discovertheworld.co.uk), Regent Holidays (www.regent-holidays.co.uk) and Trailfinders (www.trailfinders.com). Excursions Day trips to the Golden Circle, Geysir,Thingvellir National Park and into the countryside are available through the city tourist office or through recommended tour operators Touris (www.tour.is) or Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is).There is also a bus that will take you to the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport – perfect for a long weekend – with Iceland Excursions (www.icelandexcursions.is). Getting around The city itself is walkable, particularly if you’re staying in the 101 district in the centre of the city.Taxis can be taken from the centre of Reykjavik, outside the tourist information centre and are reasonable for short distances within the city area. Tourist information Iceland Tourist Board: www.icetourist.is Reykjavik: www.visitreykjavik.is, Adalstraeti 2, 101 Reykjavik. Tel. 00 354 590 1550; info@visitreykjavik.is

■ Swimming in Reykjavik

Golden Triangle
Thingvellir is one third of the Golden Triangle, the three key sights to visit outside the city. Gullfoss is another of these; the golden waterfall, where Odin's horse is said to have left a hoof print that formed into a circular, many-tiered waterfall bringing glacial water down to the land. Rainbows play in the light and its roar is deafening. Geysir, the farthest away, is the water spout that gave the world the name geyser. It’s actually a collection of spouts in a geologically active zone and it goes off regularly, to the delight ■ Vatnajökull Glacier of photographers and onlookers. A trip to the Blue Lagoon will round things off nicely; it’s where nature, beauty and the country’s strange energy combine to create a swimming pool and spa like no other in the world, whether it’s snowing, sunny or blowing a gale. Enjoy the weirdness – that’s what Iceland is all about. TL

Travel journalist Laura Dixon is the author of Footprint Reykjavik. Her top tip in Reykjavik is to try everything once – Brennivin, the hottest hot pools and the rotten shark.

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Calypso cruising
Nowhere conjures up the spirit and romance of a cruise holiday more than the Caribbean, with its intoxicating cocktail of island delights. Our own Caribbean Queen, Sara Macefield, guides you through the multitude of choices…
f you’ve ever dreamt of sailing now arriving on the steady stream of cruise through a perfect tropical paradise ships that now ply these waters, making the with beautiful cobalt blue waters Caribbean the most popular – and at times the dotted with sleepy, sun-kissed isles most crowded – cruising ground in the world. of dazzling white sand, then come to For British cruisers, the Caribbean is the top the Caribbean. cruising spot after the Mediterranean, attractOne of the best ways to discover this idyl- ing around 230,000 passengers each year. lic collection of 7,000 islands, stretching from The region’s tropical climate and sheer the tip of Florida southwards to the coast of beauty of its surroundings coupled with the Venezuela, is on the water, reflecting the rich wide choice of islands where ships can moor up has proved to be an intoxicating mix that maritime history of this corner of the globe. Cruise the Caribbean Sea and you’ll be few cruise lines can resist. Such popularity takes it roots from the era following in the footsteps of legendary explorers, bloodthirsty pirates and swash- of American Prohibition in the 1930s when short booze cruises to the Bahamas buckling naval heroes. became all the rage. The Caribbean After all, Christopher Columbus first cruise market has grown steadily dropped anchor in these parts durever since, accelerating in the last ing the 15th century as he searched decade as the global cruisfor the New World, and he has been ing boom has taken hold. followed by a long line of As a result, there is a stagadventurers ever since. But today’s visitors are seeking gering choice of cruises and ships to be had. riches of a different kind. Many are Princess Cruises

Where to cruise
Caribbean cruises cover three areas: eastern Caribbean, western Caribbean and southern Caribbean. The eastern Caribbean is the most popular; here you’ll find the largest choice of voyages which typically call at islands such as Barbados, St Lucia, St Kitts, the British Virgin Islands and Grenada. Western Caribbean voyages concentrate on Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and other Latin America countries; while southern Caribbean itineraries will generally include Costa Rica and the Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Many of these cruises also transit the Panama Canal. The length of such sailings can vary greatly. Some cruises can be little more than weekend breaks, lasting just two or three days and only having time to visit the Bahamas. Most commonly, they last one or two weeks, which gives passengers plenty of opportunity to experience several different islands. Cruises that traverse the Panama Canal into the Pacific or cross the Atlantic between the Caribbean and Europe can span three weeks. Atlantic sailings take place in spring and autumn as ships are re-positioned for the

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A l BO A RD lA
CARIBBEAN

Cruise tips
● Eastern Caribbean cruises tend to give the most all-round flavour and are the top choice for first-timers who want to visit the main islands. ● If you’re going in the winter peak season, look for more unusual itineraries which will help you to escape the crowds. ● Do some advance planning before you book. Look at how long the ship stays in port and opt for those that depart later, giving you more time to explore or enjoy a sundowner in a local bar. ● If you’re considering a summer cruise and are worried about hurricanes, pick a voyage to the southern Caribbean as this is outside the hurricane belt.

■ Carnival Triumph in the Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines

Princess Cruises

main summer and winter seasons. These cruises are often extremely good value. A few cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and Princess Cruises, even have their own private islands, in the Bahamas or off the coast of Haiti. They offer passengers a desert island experience with water sports and beach barbecues.

Where to cruise from
Most Caribbean cruises depart from American ports and these are mainly in Florida.

The leader of the pack is Miami, followed by Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral and Tampa. Other options include Galveston in Texas, New Orleans and even New York – from where some ships sail to Bermuda, 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean. But growing number of cruises now start from Caribbean islands, with companies including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and P&O Cruises. Passengers fly directly to join their cruises on scheduled airlines including Virgin Atlantic or charter carriers such as Thomas Cook or Thomson Airways. Barbados is the most popular departure point, followed by others such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

The beauty of setting off from the heart of the Caribbean means passengers don’t have to waste two or three days’ sailing time at either end of the cruise, enabling them to visit more islands within the timescale and spend a few days longer on the islands before or after their cruise.

Who to cruise with
Do you want to go big or small? There’s no end of choice among the cruise lines and the type of ship you pick will determine your Caribbean experience. Major cruise lines such as RCI, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises dominate these waters, but the beauty of the Caribbean means there is also room for smaller lines too as they can call at islands that larger ships cannot squeeze into. Cruise customers looking for a more intimate escape can opt for atmospheric smaller vessels owned by the likes of Star Clippers, Windstar Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club, safe in the knowledge that they need never cross paths with the mega-ships and their hordes of passengers. While larger ships call at the bigger islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua which have bigger ports to accommodate them, smaller vessels can drop anchor in tuckedaway spots in the Grenadines or the British Virgin Islands, where they may be the only ship to sail in that day.

■ Vessels such as Wind Star can call at smaller islands

Wind Star

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ct s C ar ib be an C ru is e Fa
ises: on a Sample Caribbean cru , www.princess.com) Cruises (0845 3555 800 l off with Princess on July 8, calling Sai New York Caribbean Princess from New nine-night voyage aboard Turk before returning to omas and Grand Bermuda, San Juan, St Th at ,595 and include flights. York. Prices are from £1 (0871 781 9877, Virgin Holidays Cruises a nineruises.co.uk) is offering www.virginholidaysc age aboard ludes a week’s voy night package which inc Miami Carnival Valor, flights to Carnival Cruises ship e-night hotel arts and a on from where the cruise dep Thomas of call include Nassau, St stay beforehand. Ports from £1,099. and St Maarten. It costs
Carnival Cruise Lines

■ Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess

Princess Cruises

o/cruise) is offering a tw 8, www.thomson.co.uk 0.The voyage Thomson (0871 231 593 Januar y 3, 201 p,Thomson Destiny, on bados, St week fly-cruise on its shi ports of call include Bar n Republic and starts from the Dominica es flights. ts from £1,299 and includ Kitts and St Lucia. It cos ntacts: Other useful cruise co 351 0556, rnival Cruise Lines (0845 Ca uise.co.uk) www.carnivalcr 456 1520, Celebrity Cruises (0845 cruises.co.uk) www.celebrity 746175, Fred Olsen Cruises (01473 s.com) www.fredolsencruise Line (0845 351 0557, Holland America o.uk) www.hollandamerica.c sccruises.co.uk) 7412, www.m MSC Cruises (0844 561 w.ncl.co.uk) Line (0845 658 8010, ww .uk) Norwegian Cruise ceanvillageholidays.co 0032, www.o Ocean Village (0845 075 o.uk) ruises.c 772344, www.oceaniac Oceania Cruises (01344 ocruises.com) 0014, www.p n.co.uk) P&O Cruises (0845 678 4, www.royalcaribbea ernational (0845 165 841 Royal Caribbean Int achtclub.com) dreamy 00 783 1373, www.sea SeaDream Yacht Club (08 clippers.com) 029, www.star Star Clippers (01473 292 indstarcruises.com) (020 7292 2387, www.w Windstar Cruises ises.co.uk iation: www.discovercru Passenger Shipping Assoc

What to do
On stepping ashore, cruise passengers can take their pick from no end of diversions or they can simply flop into a sun-bed on one of the many powdery sand beaches for which the islands are famous. A popular option is to take an island tour, either through the cruise line or one of the cheaper deals offered by local taxi drivers that gather outside the cruise ports. In Jamaica, daredevils can choose from canopy tours that skim the treetops or whitewater rafting. One of the most popular, and fun, trips is to climb the iconic Dunn’s River Falls. In Antigua, enthusiasts can swim with stingrays and visit Nelson’s Dockyard, the Georgian dockyard where the young Horatio Nelson was based in the 1700s, while in St Lucia they can go quad-biking or take a helicopter sightseeing trip. The islands also have their fair share of stately buildings, old sugar mills and historic plantation houses dating back to the times when some were under British rule, and these make interesting diversions. Alternatively, there is a huge range of boat trips at most ports of call, offering the chance to go snorkelling or spot dolphins, whales and turtles. Sports fans can take advantage of the Caribbean’s excellent sporting credentials to go diving, fishing or play a round or two on some of the top-rate golf courses to be found on islands such as Barbados, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

When to go
You can cruise the Caribbean all year round, though October to March is regarded as the best time as the weather is stable and there are few alternatives for Europeans and North Americans looking for sunshine. During the summer, there tend to be fewer ships in the Caribbean as many have sailed to the Mediterranean, Alaska and northern Europe. While this means the islands are less mobbed by cruise ships, the downside is that May to November is hurricane season when the weather is unpredictable and the days are more humid. Cruise companies keep a careful eye on the weather and as tropical storms and hur-

P&O Cruises

ricanes are comprehensively tracked by various meteorological and hurricane centres, they can take action long before the storm actually hits. This ensures ships can stay well away from bad weather, but if they do get caught out, cruise ships will change course, dropping planned port calls, and literally running for cover. It is very rare for cruises to get cancelled and if they are, cruise lines will refund the cost of the cruise and often TL give discounts off future bookings.
A travel journalist for 20 years, Sara Macefield decided to drop anchor and specialise in cruising. She now sails the world, writing on the subject for the Sunday Telegraph and Conde Nast Traveller among others.

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CRU I N ew s SE
CRUISE CLIPS
Who would you like to sail off with? A survey by Cooperative Travel revealed that

The price is right
B
ritish holidaymakers may be strapped for cash in these credit-crunch times, but cruise companies say it makes 2009 an ideal time to try a cruise. With so much included in the price, a cruise makes it easy for holidaymakers, and particularly families, to budget in advance. After all, as food and even some drinks are free of charge along with entertainment, kids clubs and most onboard activities there isn’t much extra to fork out for. “This is a good time for us to explain the fantastic value of a cruise to consumers,” said Phil Nuttall, director of Blackpoolbased cruise travel agency the Cruise Village. “Compare the price of a twoities and facilities?” With so many new ships, cruise companies are battling hard to attract customers, so this means there are more bargains to be had. Not only are prices lower, but lines are also offering more free extras such as upgrades to more superior cabins, free car parking at UK departure ports, reduced supplements for single cruisers, onboard credits and even free flights on some fly-cruises. Another big bonus is that taking a Mediterranean cruise on a British cruise line such as P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines or Thomson Cruises means you can explore Europe without getting hammered by the strong euro as the currency on these ships is in sterling.
Carnival Cruises

BBC Pictures

the most sought-after companions that Britons want to cruise with are James Bond star Daniel Craig, actress Julie Walters,TV hostess Myleene Klass and BBC QI host Stephen Fry (above). More Brits are cruising than ever before, according to the latest figures from cruising body, the Passenger Shipping Association, which showed that nearly 1.5 million took a cruise last year. If you want to gen up on cruises, take a look at the Passenger Shipping Association’s newlyrevamped website Discover Cruises at www.discovercruises.co.uk. It has details of the major cruise lines, plus information about different cruising destinations around the world.

■ Most onboard activities and facilities are included in the price of a cruise

week cruise to the Canaries, with all the meals and entertainment, to two weeks in a four-star hotel in Tenerife. And remember, if it rains what is there to do in a hotel compared to a cruise ship with all the organised activ-

Family favourites
again. More and more families are discovering the attractions of spending their holidays afloat and cruise companies have invested millions of pounds in gleaming new ships that boast some of the best children’s facilities you’ll find. But passengers need to make sure they choose familyfriendly ships – once they do it’s plain sailing. Royal Caribbean International is launching a push to attract even more families by improving its Adventure Ocean youth programme and expanding children’s dining options. It has also started a Babies 2 Go programme providing

A

nyone who thinks cruises are just for fuddyduddies should think

■ Cruise ships now boast some of the best children’s facilities you will find

If you’ve never cruised before, why not try a fournight short break offered by Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com) on July 6 from Dover to Zeebrugge, Cherbourg and back to Dover. It costs from £379.

RCI

RCI

organic baby food, wipes and nappies for its youngest pas-

sengers – delivered to the family’s cabin on arrival.

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Close encounters
■ Humpback whale breaching off Quirpon Island

he Atlantic rollers crashed into the base of the cliffs far below us, throwing up bluewhite spume to contrast the slate-grey ocean. Thankfully, the mist and drizzle which had cloaked Quirpon Island the previous night had been chased away by the brisk August wind, against which my fellow explorers and I were protected by several layers of warm clothing. We had clambered across lichen-covered rocks to reach the high promontory from where we now scanned the waves with binoculars. Looking back, the green lamp of the white and red lighthouse on the island’s northern tip glowed brightly in the still-gloomy morning light. The leaden sky also made it hard to spot our quarry as we gazed out to sea. Then in the distance, my eye was caught by a telltale spout. I focused my camera’s zoom lens on the spot and, sure enough, moments later a jet of spray erupted from the water, followed in quick succession by another. “Thar she blows!” I yelled, excitedly. At least, I meant to. I think it came out as just a strangulated: “Tha…” And in fact, it wasn’t

T

one whale – but two, side by side. Quirpon is a windswept dot off the far north of Canada’s most easterly landmass, the island of Newfoundland. This is where the world’s largest population of humpback whales, 5,000 of them, pass on their annual migration.

Iceberg Alley
Just weeks earlier, these same waters had witnessed another amazing spectacle. During late spring and early summer, huge icebergs shed by Arctic glaciers are carried past the Newfoundland coast along what is called “Iceberg Alley”, coming so close to Quirpon at times they get stranded in its bays. As they drift south, they meet the whales heading north. As our two whales approached us one began breaching – spectacularly leaping out of the sea with its flippers outstretched and its belly uppermost – to land in a massive splash alongside its partner, the noise reverberating off the cliff. “That’s got to be a male showing off to his girl-

friend,” one of my companions – a lady – wryly noted, adding: “Typical!” We watched the whales continue their journey past us and on towards the lighthouse and headland, with one breaching and the other gracefully breaking the surface every so often. I raced back through the rock gullies, past the beacon and one-time lighthouse keepers’ cottage, now an inn and where we were staying, to reach a rocky ledge just above the shoreline. The whales had already swum by but were so close I felt I could almost touch them. Converted into accommodation in the 1990s when the lighthouse was automated, the inn is a cosy refuge from the elements in one of the most amazing settings imaginable. You can watch for whales and icebergs from your bedroom window, or sit in the special viewing hut set on the cliff edge with its floor-toceiling win-

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Peter Ellegard

A visit to the western part of Canada’s Newfoundland saw Peter Ellegard come across whales, moose, Vikings, an iceberg and TV star Billy Connolly – not to mention jaw-dropping scenery

Off the Beaten Track
NEWFOUNDLAND

Did you know?
Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

■FBilly Connolly and latter day Viking in Newfoundland

dows. Above it, the helipad is great for viewing in good weather. Eight of us had arrived the previous afternoon after a precarious trip, our boat climbing watery mountain peaks before plunging into deep valleys. It had to dock some distance away in Pigeon Cove, leaving us a half-hour hike across the boggy island interior. Along the way, our captain and guide, Jerry, pointed out small orange berries growing by the track. Called bakeapples up here in Newfoundland, but

cloudberries everywhere else, they were wonderfully sweet and juicy.

Peter Ellegard

● Newfoundland & Labrador together form Canada’s youngest province, joining in 1949. ● The province is as large as Japan and has its own time zone, GMT -3.5 hours. ● Provincial capital St John’s is on the same latitude as Paris. ● The Flat Earth Society claims that Newfoundland is one of the four corners of the world. ● The Vikings established a settlement in Newfoundland in 998 at a site now called L’Anse aux Meadows. ● Explorer John Cabot named it “New Founde Land” when he set foot on it in 1497. ● Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless transmission from England at St John’s Signal Hill.

Traditional dinner
At the inn our friendly co-hostess, Madonna, served up a traditional Jiggs’ dinner of salt beef, boiled potatoes and cabbage and then regaled us with tales of the island. I could have listened to her talk for hours, for her wonderful local accent and the idiosyncratic Newfoundland dialect. So unique is its language that there is even a Dictionary of

Newfoundland English with words found nowhere else. For example, tickle is a narrow saltwater strait: hence the Dark Tickle Company, which harvests the local berries as jams and jellies. Even pronunciation is a world apart, as in Quirpon being pronounced Kharpoon. Having bade a sad farewell and trudged back to the boat, the return journey was just as memorable
Peter Ellegard

■FWalkers at Quirpon

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Ice, ice baby
Newfoundland affords some of the best opportunities to see icebergs close-up. These 5,000-year-old cathedrals of ice take two years to reach Newfoundland after calving from Greenland glaciers, drifting on the cold Labrador Current along “Iceberg Alley” – the Titanic struck a berg 400 miles south of the island in 1912. Icebergs come in all shapes and sizes – from 10-million-ton giants to piano-sized “growlers” and “bergy bits” – and their blue-white appearance is from frozen meltwater while part of the parent glacier. Almost 90% of icebergs are under water. Berg-watching season is late spring and early summer, when the whales visit.You
Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

■FIceberg watching

can take boat tours, watch from vantage points such as Quirpon Island or go kayaking to see both. Besides the 5,000 or so humpbacks

which migrate along Newfoundland’s coast, its waters are visited by 28 other marine mammal species including blue whales, orcas (killer whales) and dolphins.

as the one out. Not just for the rollercoaster waves, but also for bow-waving dolphins, a humpback alongside us and another which breached right behind the boat. That whale experience was not my only notable close encounter on the trip. The inn’s owner, local tour operator Ed English, was waiting as we docked. He was heading there to help prepare it for the arrival of comedian Billy Connolly and a TV crew, who were visiting as part of filming a series tracing the Northwest Passage route. I had a strange feeling I would bump into him that day, and I did – almost literally. The only authenticated Viking settlement in North America, L ’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whereas Quirpon is striking for its cliffs, crashing waves and spectacular visitors, this is a bleak yet hauntingly-beautiful coastal spot of undulating grassland and stunted fir trees. The Vikings didn’t stay long before returning to Greenland. Today, the recreated Norse settlement features a longhouse with costumed interpreters. It was here that I came across Billy Connolly, interviewing

one of the “Vikings” on camera. With their matching bushy beards, the pair could have been brothers.

Silly billy
Having gone inside the longhouse to take pictures, I saw Billy standing just beyond the door as I walked back out – distracting me so that I didn’t notice the low doorway. The cracking sound when my head made contact must have been loud, as he came over to see if I was OK. I felt a real silly billy! But hearing my Essex accent, he guessed I wasn’t a Newfie and we got chatting. I told him I knew he was going to Quirpon and whetted his appetite about the whales, and the hairy boat trip. Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula is awash with reminders of its Nordic settlers. Close to L ’Anse aux Meadows, the Norstead living history site has demonstrations of Norse lifestyle and a mid-summer Viking Festival in late July. The Norseman Restaurant is worth a stop for its tasty fare, which includes Caribou. I had driven almost 500km up the west coast of Newfoundland, travelling on Route 430, known as the Viking Trail. It is the only

way there, save for a cross-island stretch of road to the east coast which I took for an overnight stay at the gloriously-situated Tuckamore Lodge, near Main Brook. It was only the day before Quirpon, but I had watched the sun setting over the adjoining lake, beer in hand, in shirtsleeves. Such is the fickle nature of the weather up here. Talking of nature, I also encountered my first Newfoundland moose that day. You are almost bound to see them as you travel around. With more than 110,000, the island has more moose per square mile than anywhere else in the world. I would see another five during my visit.

VikingTrail
The Viking Trail is a route to savour, dotted by picture-perfect fishing villages, harbours and drop-dead gorgeous views of the Gulf of St Lawrence. In the distance, off the coast of Labrador, I even spotted an iceberg – a flattopped monster resembling a white supertanker. But the west coast’s crowning glory is Gros Morne National Park, another UNESCO site. It is a natural wonderland, with awe-inspiring geological features such as the stark Tablelands, Gros Morne Mountain and Western Brook Pond, a glacier-carved fjord with 2,000-foot-high walls where you can take a sightseeing cruise, and wildlife such as moose, caribou and bears. The park envelops communities including the coastal village of Trout River, with its quaint timber houses, lines of brightlycoloured, knitted socks and gloves, and wooden boardwalk lining the crescent-shaped beach. Three youngsters were braving the

■FThe Viking Trail – today

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Newfoundland facts
When to go May to September is the island’s tourist season. In summer, daytime temperatures can reach 20ºC but the weather is very changeable, so be prepared and take layers of warm clothing as well as waterproofs. Also take sunscreen and mosquito repellent. In winter, you can go skiing at Marble Mountain Resort, near Deer Lake, as well as snowmobiling and ice fishing. Getting there Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) serves Deer Lake and St John’s airports via transatlantic gateways including Toronto. Getting around Renting a car is the best way to see Newfoundland. But you need to book well in advance to guarantee a car, especially in high season. Rental companies include Avis (www.avis.co.uk).Watch out for moose while driving. Accommodation Hotels are smaller than in other areas of Canada, but are good quality and often family-run.Western Newfoundland options include Quirpon Lighthouse Inn (www.linkumtours.com/site/inns_quirpon.htm), Tuckamore Lodge in Main Brook (www.tuckamorelodge.com) and Red Mantle Lodge in Shoal Brook (www.redmantlelodge.ca).Villas at Humber Valley can be rented from Visit Humber Valley (www.visithumbervalley.com). Tour operators Frontier Canada (www.frontier-canada.co.uk/newfoundland) offers several packages to western Newfoundland and a wide range of product throughout the island. Other operators include 1st Class Holidays (www.1stclassholidays.com), Audley Travel (www.audleytravel.com), Canadian Affair (www.canadianaffair.com),Titan HiTours (www.titantravel.co.uk),Tailor Made Travel (www.tailor-made.co.uk) and Windows on the Wild (www.windowsonthewild.com). Tourist information Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism: www.newfoundlandlabrador.com Western Newfoundland & Southern Labrador: www.westernnl.com

■ Colourful socks at Trout River

Peter Ellegard

freezing water to go swimming with bodyboards, making me shiver. They obviously breed them tough in these parts. Taking in the view from my room at the hillside Red Mantle Inn, in Shoal Brook, I watched clouds spill over the top of Gros Morne Mountain across Bonne Bay inlet while the dawn sun lit up a three-masted schooner moored at Woody Point. I drove into the town and got chatting to a visiting HarleyDavidson biker and his family as we admired the vista, before photographing the wooden lighthouse on a ridge above town.

Romantic sunset
Across the inlet, I visited pretty Neddy Harbour and Norris Point, and tucked into fish and chips at Rocky Harbour after a beautiful dusk – preceded by a truly romantic sunset at nearby Sally’s Cove. Hugged by a treecovered bluff and flanked by some fishermen’s huts with boats hauled up alongside, this deserted strip of boulder-edged beach is to die for. And it nearly was for some. Ed English’s grandfather famously ran the SS Ethie ashore here in a hurricane in 1919, saving all 92 aboard. Rusting remnants of the vessel were being washed over by gentle waves on the rocky shoreline in the setting sun on my visit, in a tranquil scene far removed

from the horrors of that day. I ended my trip where I had started it, at Deer Lake airport, just half an hour from Gros Morne park. My first few days had been spent in a luxury villa complete with outdoor hot
■ Woody Point and Gros Morne Mountain

Peter Ellegard

tub at Humber Valley Resort, a lovely leisure complex with a superb golf course, spa and a beach on which I sat and drank beer in front of a log fire with a Swiss mother and daughter from a neighbouring villa. Sadly, Humber Valley’s parent company went into administration soon after and the resort closed, ending direct charter flights from the UK. With the Humber River being one of the world’s finest salmon fishing rivers and Gros Morne’s glories on its doorstep, it can only be a matter of time before the resort rises again. In any event, I will cherish the memories of this very special island. If anywhere could claim to be a slice of heaven on earth, Newfoundland is surely it. ● The DVD, Billy Connolly – Journey to the Edge of the World, is available from stores and online merchants, priced £19.99. TL

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Peter Ellegard

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COMPETITION

day holiday to Newfoundland for two people, worth £4,000!
Courtesy of Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, Frontier Canada and Air Canada

WIN a seven-

F

ollow in the footsteps of Vikings and win a fantastic seven-day holiday for two to the easternmost part of Canada, the natural wonderland island of Newfoundland. Your prize will include Air Canada flights to Deer Lake, gateway to the unparalleled natural beauty of Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island’s west coast. You will spend three nights in the park where you can take a boat ride on the spectacular glacier-carved, land-locked Western Brook Pond fjord, seeing waterfalls cascading from 2,000 feet, billion-year-old cliffs, and fre-

quent sightings of wildlife such as bears, caribou and moose. You can also hike along pristine coastal trails, climb Gros Morne Mountain, or explore the charming and colourful fishing villages tucked into quiet bays and coves. You will then drive north to St Anthony, which will be your base for the next three nights, allowing you to explore the recreated Viking settlement at L ’Anse aux Meadows, another UNESCO World Heritage Site at the northern tip of Newfoundland, and take a whale or iceberg watching tour. The Viking Trail encompasses a medley of communities

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism / Barrett and MacKay

■ Kayak up to giant icebergs

■ Lobster feast

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Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

How to enter
For your chance to win this fabulous prize trip to Newfoundland, just answer this question: Question: What is the name of Newfoundland's Viking settlement site? To enter please go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on the competitions & giveaways button. Closing date is June 30, 2009.The first correct entry drawn will win.

■ Glacial-carved fjords in Gros Morne National Park

■ L'Anse aux Meadows Viking site

dotting the coastline along the Great Northern Peninsula, such as Main Brook, St Anthony, Port au Choix, Conche and Rocky Harbour – all of which have a part to play in Newfoundland’s Viking saga which began over 1,000 years ago. There will also be a chance to extend the holiday (at your own cost) and stay in the lighthouse keepers’ cottage on magical Quirpon Island, where Billy Connolly stayed in his Journey to the Edge of the World series on ITV From there you can watch migrating . humpback whales and towering icebergs at close quarters, depending on the time of year. Your last night will be in Corner Brook, at the mouth of the Humber River – one of the best rivers in North America for fishing wild Atlantic salmon. The holiday will also include a rental compact car for seven days. Newfoundland is a stunning destination – and specialist tour operator Frontier Canada knows it well. Visit their website, www. frontier-canada.co.uk/newfoundland, for lots of holiday ideas and packages. You can also email them on canada@frontiertravel.co.uk or telephone 020 8776 8709 for further advice and bookings. TL
promotion accept no liability for any loss, damage or injury caused by, or to, the prizewinner or their guest, or their property whilst taking the prize. 9. Passports and any required visas are not included in the prize but are a requirement of booking the holiday and must be obtained by the winner prior to travel. 10. Dates of travel subject to availability. 11.There are no cash alternatives available and the prize is non-transferable. 12.The promoters are not responsible for any delay or cancellation of any element of the prize or for any inability of the prizewinner or their guest to take up the prize. 13.The prize is valid for 12 months from June 30, 2009.

Terms & conditions
1.The prize includes two return economy-class tickets from London Heathrow to Deer Lake, Newfoundland, including all known taxes, seven nights’ room-only accommodation as specified based on two people sharing and seven days’ basic rental of a compact car.The holiday can be extended, at the winner’s expense. 2. No purchase necessary. 3.The closing date for entries is June 30, 2009 and the winner will be notified by email shortly after.The judges' decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. 4.We cannot accept responsibility for any lost or

incomplete entries. 5.This competition is open to all UK residents over the age of 18, other than employees of Frontier Travel, Air Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism and Travel & Leisure Magazines, their families, agents and anyone connected with the draw. 6.Winners must adhere to Frontier Travel’s standard booking conditions, available on request. 7.The prize is exclusive of transfers to UK airports, connecting flights to London Heathrow and any services other than those mentioned. 8. Holiday insurance is not included in the prize. Adequate travel insurance must be in place to cover the winner and guest.The partners in this

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism / Barrett and MacKay

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism / Barrett and MacKay

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All photos: Great Rail Journeys

I From left to right: the Ghan, Palace on Wheels, and Coast Starlight passing Mount Shasta

Going
y most guilty train experience came one morning as I enjoyed a champagne breakfast on the British Pullman while passing through the London suburbs. Downcast commuters gazed enviously as I raised a glass, before piling into their sardine cans. I felt like royalty. Ever since I steamed off as a child on the Red Rose express from Liverpool, I’ve been fascinated by trains and travelled as far as Australia to ride in them. But there are still many famous trains I’ve yet to try, and the range grows every year to satisfy public demand to travel in style. Orient-Express, operator of several luxury trains including the British Pullman, brought back the golden era of

Whether you want to relive the golden age of trains or experience stunning scenery in effortless comfort, rail holidays are the perfect antidote to today’s stressful world. And as Dave Richardson reports, there are plenty of tempting loco motives…

loco
Land cruises

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train travel in the 1980s, when the BBC screened its first Great Railway Journeys of the World programme. Some people have ticked off every journey in the four series, following in the tracks of Michael Palin, Clive Anderson & co. You don’t have to be a champagneguzzling wannabe aristocrat, as there are several styles of rail holiday. You can spend over £5,000 on a trip just around Scotland, or rough it with ordinary folk taking their chickens to market. Most journeys fall somewhere in between, either on privately-operated tourist trains or reserved carriages on national rail networks.

Many tour operators are now involved, although there are only a few rail specialists. No wonder these holidays are

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?? ? ?

let’s TRY…
RAIL EXPERIENCES

sometimes described as land cruises, as they share many characteristics including a leisurely pace to enjoy the views, sumptuous food and “shore” excursions. On some trains you sleep onboard in cabins which convert to seated accommodation by day; others operate day trips only, or with accommodation in hotels. An example of the latter is Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer (www.rockymoun taineer.com), its main route being between Banff and Vancouver with one night spent in Kamloops. Gold Leaf class passengers enjoy

I The Golden Pass Line train

the best views in glass Dome Carriages, as the train crosses the Rockies and descends to the Pacific or vice versa. Australia’s most iconic trains criss-cross this vast country – the Indian Pacific from west to east (Perth to Sydney); and the Ghan from north to south (Darwin to Adelaide, via Alice Springs) (both www.gsr.com.au).

‘You don’t have to be a champagneguzzling wannabe aristocrat’
The Ghan was named after the Afghan camel herders who first beat a path into the Outback, and the route was extended from Alice Springs to Darwin as recently as 2004. You sleep onboard these trains, with staff converting the seats into beds as you dine. You can have a reclining seat rather than a sleeper berth, but that’s not recommended on long journeys (68 hours from Perth to Sydney!) when you’ve reached a certain age.

Whistle stops
I The spectacular Flam Railway in Norway

The scenery is not as attractive as in Canada, but the bar and lounge carriages are convivial and some of the journey is in darkness. “Whistle Stop” excursions are avail-

May/June 2009

The Travel & Leisure Magazine

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Luxury trains
Orient-Express (www.orientexpress.com) was the modern day pioneer of luxury rail travel, reviving a name made famous by Agatha Christie and which epitomises the decadent lifestyle of the rich in the 1920s. It revived the original name but not the original route, as most trains operate from Calais to Paris and Venice with the connecting British Pullman from London to Folkestone. One departure this year, on August 27, operates on the old route from Paris to Istanbul. On Orient-Express trains you are expected to dress smartly for dinner, with jacket and tie a minimum requirement for gentlemen. On the European train, many opt for a dinner jacket although this is not compulsory. Both this and the Eastern & Oriental Express, from Bangkok to Singapore, are sleeper trains. A good way of seeing if luxury train travel is for you is to try a day trip, usually to a stately home or event, or possibly just a round trip for lunch. Orient-Express operates both the British Pullman and Northern Belle, with departures from stations throughout Britain. Top of the range is its Royal Scotsman

I Orient-Express British Pullman carriages being hauled by the Flying Scotsman steam engine in Great Wishford, Wiltshire
All photos: Orient-Express Hotels,Trains & Cruises

I Lunch on the Northern Belle

sleeper train, carrying a maximum of 36 passengers on scenic itineraries north of the border, with private visits to castles and distilleries. Minimum price is £1,840 all-inclusive for a three-day trip from Edinburgh. Several luxury trains around the world

follow the same successful formula, such as South Africa’s Blue Train, India’s Palace on Wheels and the Golden Eagle Trans Siberian Express. But in most cases they use modern carriages, whereas OrientExpress has truly brought back the great trains of yesteryear.

able along the way, including the ghost town of Cook in South Australia (on the Indian Pacific) whose population is just four. The Blue Train (www.bluetrain.co.za) is a luxury experience running from Pretoria to Cape Town in South Africa, with cabins onboard and an observation lounge at the rear for uninterrupted views. There are several other trains in southern Africa, including the Pride of Africa, which takes a longer route between the same cities.

In India, the only comfortable way to travel overland is by train, so why not travel like a Maharaja in the Palace on Wheels (www.palaceonwheels.net)? This also has cabins onboard, operating a circular tour from Delhi via Jaipur, Jodhpur and Agra, for the Taj Mahal. A very different experience awaits on the Trans Siberian Express across Russia, and there is now a luxury alternative to the rough-and-ready service train that links

Moscow with Siberia, Mongolia and China. GW Travel (www.gwtravel.co.uk) operates a private train called the Golden Eagle on the Trans Siberian route, and also offers tours on the Pride of Africa, Canadian Empress, Deccan Odyssey (India) and Shangri-La Express (China/Tibet).

Service trains
Many of the most popular rail holidays are on regular service trains, but on an escorted tour

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Ian Lloyd

I The Royal Scotsman – passengers relaxing in the lounge

I Eastern & Oriental Express – drinks in the observation car

Ron Bambridge

everything is done for you while you interact more with “ordinary” passengers and the oftenbustling scene at stations. Popular trains in the US include the Coast Starlight (Seattle-Los Angeles) and Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles) operated by Amtrak (www.amtrak.com), while the Copper Canyon railway in Mexico is another very scenic run (Chihuahua-Los Mochis). In Europe most holidays are on regular service trains, but standards are high and people who want go green or avoid flying

I A waiter on South Africa's Blue Train

Rail Holidays facts
Sample prices: Great Rail Journeys (01904 527110, www.greatrail.com), the biggest specialist, has Worldwide and European brochures plus a lower priced Treyn Holidays programme.The six-day Glacier Express & Swiss Highlights tour by Treyn costs from £695. Titan HiTours (0800 988 5853, www.titanhitours.co.uk) is one of the operators featuring the Blue Train in South Africa. A 14-day holiday including two days onboard costs from £3,275. A one-way, two-day trip on the Orient-Express from London to Venice costs from £1,550 (0845 077 2222, www.orient-express.com). A day trip from London to Bath costs from £285. Railtrail (01538 382323, www.railtrail.co.uk) operates a seven-day Queen of Scots tour using service trains, including the Jacobite steam train (pictured below) and Kyle line, from £979.

can start their trip with Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris or Brussels. The Alpine countries are especially popular, with Switzerland’s Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch) narrow-gauge train offering a lovely trip between Zermatt and St Moritz via the Oberalp Pass (6,670 feet). This is a day trip, and one of several scenic Swiss lines that can be combined on a rail holiday. Norway also has some very scenic railways, including Oslo to Bergen with a side trip on the Flam Railway (www.flaams bana.no/eng) – one of the world’s most steeply-graded routes which descends to a fjord. It can be combined with the Arctic Circle Express, a sleeper train to Narvik featured in the BBC documentary Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights.

Closer to home
You can enjoy scenic rail journeys much closer to home, especially in the Scottish Highlands which you can reach by sleeper from London. The highlights are the West Highland route from Fort William to Mallaig – where the steam-operated Jacobite train (www.west coastrailways.co.uk) operates most days from June 27-August 30 – and the “Road to the Isles” from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Kyle is where my love affair with scenic railways began, as I gazed across to Skye and realised that the sea was crystal clear unlike in my home town of Liverpool. And I got there before Michael Palin! TL

Ffestiniog Travel – See the World by Rail (01766 GW Travel (0161 928 9410, www.gwtravel.co.uk) Explore (0844 499 0901, www.explore.co.uk) French Travel Service (0844 84 888 43, www.f-t-s.co.uk) International Rail (08700 841410; www.internationalrail.com) Railbookers (0844 482 1010; www.railbookers.com)
772030, www.festtravel.co.uk)

Other useful contacts:

An interest in railways led Dave Richardson into travel and transport writing 30 years ago. Going to his first engine sheds and acquiring his first model railway at nine, he has been slipping down the gradient ever since.

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All photos: Great Rail Journeys

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Perfect days
in the home of golf
With over 500 courses, Scotland offers golfers the perfect golfing escape. A recent visit took Peter Ellegard to the “undiscovered” Aberdeenshire coast and on to where it all began – St Andrews
he benign North Sea waves were gently caressing the wide, sandy beach to my right with a rhythmical murmur as I stood on the 7th tee at Aberdeen’s Murcar Links and lined up my drive. Ahead, the hole plunged down to a fairway criss-crossed by the two-pronged Serpentine burn and edged by a huge dune thickly carpeted in bright yellow gorse. My ears were still ringing from the warning of a playing partner, a near-as-damn-it scratch golfer native to north-east Scotland, when we were climbing up to the tee box of the 423-yard, par-4 hole. “This is one of the hardest holes of golf in Scotland,” he had said. My drive somehow went arrow-straight, soaring high into the cloudless sky and ending in prime position on the fairway. Amazingly, my next shot was also a peach, coming up just short of the green and setting up a chip to secure a rare par. Rare for a 23 handicapper, that is. It was the highlight of my round. But the real stars were the wonderful but testing old links course – which celebrates its centenary this year and which uses the contours of the sandhills to create a delightfully natural layout with superb views from its elevated tees – and the astonishing weather. This was the

T

I Drive time at Cruden Bay

beginning of April, and yet we were in shirtsleeves as though it was mid-summer. To borrow Visit Scotland’s new promotion slogan, it was a perfect day for golf. Similar balmy weather had greeted us the previous day at nearby Cruden Bay. Another

gem of a course set right on the coast, its present layout dates back to 1926 although golf is reputed to have been played here since 1791. But our luck ran out the following day at the prestigious Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

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Peter Ellegard

Pack your CLUBS
SCOTLAND

Golf at St Andrews
I The 18th hole on the Old Course at St Andrews

I Dalhousie Castle

A chilly fog had blown in overnight off the North Sea, shrouding everything in a murky embrace and steadily soaking us with the drizzle being borne on the fresh breeze. The weather could not have been more different. Yet Royal Aberdeen lies cheek-by-jowl with Murcar, to the point where as you make the turn after the front nine and head back to the clubhouse you walk by Murcar’s 4th tee. You could easily carry on playing the adjacent course if you weren’t paying attention. Indeed, we were told that a group of Americans had done just that while playing Royal Aberdeen a few years ago. Instead of turning for the back nine, they accidentally continued onto Murcar’s holes – only realising their mistake when they finished at a dif-

ferent clubhouse, and sheepishly had to get a taxi back to Royal Aberdeen to retrieve their car. Both Royal Aberdeen and Murcar are just five minutes by road from Scotland’s third city and Europe’s oil capital, Aberdeen. Yet this beautiful, rugged coastal stretch of gorse and heather-covered sandhills – where American tycoon Donald Trump has won permission to build his huge, controversial Trump International Golf Links golf course, housing and luxury hotel project – is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Granite City. Originally founded in 1780 as the Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club incorporated the society on the

Golf has been played at St Andrews for at least six centuries. The St Andrews Links land was granted to the people of the town in 1123 by King David I for them to use for recreation. By 1457 golf had become so popular, King James II issued a warrant banning it because he was worried it was distracting his men from archery practice. The Society of St Andrews Golfers was established in 1754 to organise an annual competition. It became the Royal & Ancient Golf Club 80 years later.The Open was first staged at St Andrews in 1873; it returns to the Old Course in 2010 for the 28th time. Today, St Andrews Links is still public land. It consists of seven courses, five of them 18 holes, plus a nine-hole course.Three of them, including the New Course, are over 100 years old. Others include highly-rated Kingsbarns and recent addition, the Castle Course. All are run by the charitable St Andrews Links Trust.

Peter Ellegard

Peter Ellegard

eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and is the sixth oldest golf club in the world. Historic relics adorn its clubhouse, and golfing history permeates the air. Golf's five-minute rule was first introduced here, in 1783, setting golfers a time limit of five minutes to find their ball before it is declared lost. It was a rule I did not bother taking advantage of each time my ball disappeared into a clump of gorse, my lack of ability having been found out by the tough, tight Balgownie Links layout and the

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Did you know?
G Scotland was named Destination of the Year in the annual industry awards held by top-selling golf magazine, Today’s Golfer, beating the Algarve and Ireland. G The Old Course is a public course. Anyone can play, provided they have a handicap of 24 for men and 36 for ladies. G The Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s clubhouse is not open to visitors, and women guests are only welcomed on St Andrew’s Day. G Limited tee times on the Old Course can be booked, up to a year in advance. G Most golfers get tee times through the daily ballot, by calling the St Andrews Links Trust (01334 466666) on the morning before they want to play.The ballot results are posted on www.standrews.org.uk G Individual players can also queue at the starter’s hut to join a two-ball or three-ball game.

Peter Ellegard

I Gleneagles

miserable, dreaky conditions. This was my first visit to Aberdeenshire; previous golfing forays north of the border had taken me to the west coast and around central Scotland. I had joined a group trip discovering the golf delights and other attractions of the Grampian region coast before going off by myself to revisit one of my favourite areas, the Trossachs, followed by a long overdue pilgrimage to golf’s Holy Grail – St Andrews. Less celebrated than many of Scotland’s other courses, this Aberdeen trio is as fine a collection of golf links as you will find anywhere. And the city and surrounding area has much else to offer besides. This part of Scotland is synonymous with whisky-making and the Highland village of Old Meldrum, just 12 miles from Aberdeen

Airport, has a distillery which has been producing single malt Scotch whisky for more than 200 years. Part of Japanese-owned Morrison Bowmore, the Glen Garioch distillery (www.glengarioch.co.uk) has had a chequered history and reopened for production as recently as 1997, having been closed two years earlier. Guided tours are offered daily from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday, including whisky tasting. Our tour guide pointed out some village buildings downwind of the distillery’s huge, now-redundant chimneys which he told us once housed the local alcohol rehabilitation centre. Talk about being cruel to be kind. Another tradition in the area is shortbread; you can tour the factory of family-run Dean’s of Huntly (www.deans.co.uk),

Golf galore
With more than 500 courses, Scotland has golf galore wherever you look. Besides those I played on my trip, there are some household names which host the Open. Among them are Carnoustie, where Jean van der Velde famously went paddling and lost the title, Prestwick, Troon and Muirfield. Another Open host course is Turnberry, which reopens after major renovations in time to stage the 2009 Open, from July 16-19. Other top courses include the likes of Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Machrihanish and Loch Lomond. Recent additions have included Spey Valley and the Castle Course in St Andrews, while projects due to open soon include Machrihanish Dunes.

I Murcar Links

which produces some of Scotland’s finest shortbread biscuits, using recipes created by Helen Dean in her kitchen in the 1970s. Her son, Bill, runs the factory today. Aberdeen makes a great base to play the area's courses, with fine eateries including the Albyn, offering French-Scottish cuisine. The Marcliffe Hotel is a five-star sanctuary in the city with a putting green to practice on before your round and a spa to ease aching muscles afterwards.. After Aberdeen, I headed south to revisit Gleneagles, one of my favourite golf resorts and venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup. This grand old lady, set in 850 acres of beautiful Perthshire countryside an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow, was built 85 years ago. A recent £70 million makeover has included the addition of a new wing with 59 rooms, many featuring balconies and cosy fires, and 10 luxury Spirit suites. There are three courses at Gleneagles. The Ryder Cup will be played on the newest of them, the PGA Centenary Course (formerly the Monarch’s Course) which was created by Jack Nicklaus. On my previous visit I had played the Queen’s, enduring a nightmare round straight after a video lesson at the golf academy and then witnessing a playing partner achieve that rarest of feats – a hole in one albatross on a par four. On this occasion I took on the tougher King’s. Getting the first tee time of the day, I had the course to myself, save for the

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I The 18th hole at Royal Aberdeen

Scotland GOLF facts
Perfect golf breaks Enjoy a perfect golf break in Scotland this year during the Homecoming Scotland campaign, celebrating Robert Burns 250th anniversary.Aberdeenshire, St Andrews and Perthshire are among destinations to enjoy a golf break in the home of golf. Tourist information For more information or to plan your break to Scotland, go to: www.visitscotland.com/perfectday or call 0845 22 55 121. For golf information, go to: www.visitscotland.com/perfectgolf Getting there Flights operate from London region airports to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.Trains also operate from Kings Cross on the National Express East Coast line to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Leuchars (for St Andrews) and Gleneagles. Green fees/passes Green fees vary from course to course and by season. High season (MayOctober) green fees for Royal Aberdeen are £100 weekdays/£120 weekends. For the Old Course, high season costs £130 per round, and at Gleneagles, high season green fees for all three courses are £110 for residents and £155 for visitors. Passes are available for some areas of Scotland. Golf tuition You can hone your game alongside the Old Course at the St Andrews Links Golf Academy (www.standrews.org.uk). It boasts one of Europe’s foremost practice and teaching facilities, with a 51-bay centre and video and digital swing analysis.The Gleneagles Golf Academy boasts a 320-yard, double-ended driving range.
Peter Ellegard

Courses
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club www.royalaberdeengolf.com Cruden Bay Golf Club www.crudenbaygolfclub.co.uk Murcar Links Golf Club www.murcarlinks.com Gleneagles www.gleneagles.com St Andrews Links Trust www.standrewsgolf.org

Hotels
The Marcliffe Hotel

The Marcliffe Hotel, Spa & Restaurant www.marcliffe.com Gleneagles www.gleneagles.com Dalhousie Castle www.vonessenhotels.co.uk Fairmont St Andrews www.fairmont.com/standrews

pheasants, curlews and deer which graced it throughout the round. It felt more like a wildlife ramble than a game of golf. Sadly, there was no time to try the resort’s many other leisure facilities, among them its chic Spa by ESPA and outdoor experiences such as off-road driving, shooting and fishing, falconry and an equestrian school. I took a break from golf to live like a laird for a day at Dalhousie Castle, a fabulous 13th century fortress south of Edinburgh now part of the luxury von Essen Hotels group. While it has no golf course alongside, there are numerous courses in the area. There can’t be many hotels where you dine in a vaulted dungeon, with a suit of armour standing guard! My final destination was St Andrews. An important trading centre for many centuries, the town oozes history from every stone. A Greek monk is said to have brought the relics of St Andrew, who became Scotland’s patron saint and whose saltire cross was adopted as the national flag. Stately ruins tell of centuries of influence, power and strife. I played two rounds while at St Andrews. My first was on the Kittocks Course at Fairmont St Andrews, one of two courses at the luxury golf and spa resort which has just undergone a £17 million refurbishment programme – the other being the Torrance Course, which reopens in July after major redevelopment. The course hugs the cliff edge, giving wonderful views to the town on some holes, and features double greens and tough bunkers. On my last day in Scotland I got to fulfil the dream all golfers harbour; a round on the most hallowed piece of turf in golf, the Old Course. Having got my tee time from the starter and joined a group of three golfers from Bristol, I nervously teed my ball up in front of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club – the governing body for the rules of golf in most countries. I’m not sure how, but I didn’t duff my tee shot. Nerves got the better of me for much of the round but I did manage to play a few good shots, including the daunting drive on the 17th – the infamous Road Hole – where you have to flirt with the old railway sheds by the Old Course Hotel. I also managed to avoid Hell, the notorious and cavernous bunker on the 14th. And we all stopped for the obligatory photo of each other standing on the famous humpbacked Swilcan Bridge, bathed in sunshine on the 18th fairway. A perfect end to a memorable golf trip. TL

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Royal Aberdeen Golf Club

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Famed as much now for rock music as for royal heritage, and with adrenalin activities offering a counterpoint to its genteel resorts, the Isle of Wight has revamped its jaded bucket and spade image. One-time deckchair attendant Paul Erlam revisits the tiny, diamond-shaped island and finds it sparkling
t was once the ultimate bucket and spade resort, remembered fondly from family holidays or school trips. When I was a deckchair attendant in the 1960s families would return year after year to the same beach, even trying to bag the exact spot on the sand they had the previous year. When foreign holidays became accessible and affordable the island’s resorts took on a “past their sell-by-date” air. Let’s put this politely: they looked a little frayed around the edges, in need of a good lick of paint. I have known the island all my life – I grew up there – and return regularly. The good news is that the island has definitely pulled its socks up. Sure, it is still a great place if building sandcastles and stretching out on a sunbed is your idea of an activity holiday. With its numerous long sandy beaches it could not help but be so. There is also beautiful countryside. And it really does have the best of the country’s weather. Shanklin on the island’s south-east coast has regularly held the record for most hours of sunshine. No won-

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■ Walking the Tennyson Trail

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Isle of Wight Tourism

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Isle of Wight Tourism

Little

gem

on yourD O O RSTEP
ISLE OF WIGHT

Isle of Wight Tourism

■ The Isle of Wight is famed for its sailing

der it is known as the Sunshine Isle. You can sometimes stand on the island’s downland in bright sunshine and see the mainland, just a few miles away, cloaked in grey clouds. So mild is the climate you will see plants growing in Ventnor Botanical Garden on its southern tip found nowhere else in the country.

Contrasts
But the Isle of Wight is more than just sand and sun. Despite its size – just 13 miles by 22 – it is a place of contrasts. It is a place where Charles I and Jimi Hendrix made their mark – for different reasons, you will appre-

ciate. You can get an intimate glimpse of Queen Victoria’s private life just a few miles from daredevils paragliding over cliffs or surfing waves. Residents and visitors agree the pace of life slows down when you cross the Solent. If you come by car, forget motorways. There aren’t any. There is one dual carriageway but it is no more than 300 yards long. Proud of its past, the island has adapted to the present demands of tourism without losing its charm – or its sense of history. There is no better example than Dinosaur Isle at Sandown (www.dinosaurisle.com) – a state-of-the-art museum showing fossils and life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs. The island is the most important site for dinosaur remains in Europe thanks to erosion along the coast. Fast forward to

Did you know?
● Nearly half the island’s 147 square miles have been designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. ● Travel to the island and you may pass 19th century forts in the Solent. Built at enormous cost with huge technical problems, they never fired a shot in anger and were named after the Prime Minister who dreamt them up: Palmerston’s Follies. ● Canned beer was first produced on the island by a brewery at Newport so it could be sent to troops in India. ● The first hovercraft was developed at East Cowes. Now the island is one of the few places in Europe to be served by regular hovercraft services. ● Ryde Pier claims to be the first seaside pier in Britain.Today it is terminus for the Island Line, on which old London Underground trains run to Shanklin.

■ Carisbrooke Castle

English Heritage

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Isle of Wight festivals
Isle of Wight Tourism

Walking Festival The largest of its kind in Europe. Over 300 walks. Even a Speed Dating Walk. May 9-24, throughout the island www.isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk Isle of Wight Festival One of the major music festivals of the season. June 12-14, Newport www.isleofwightfestival.com Cowes Week World-class sailing – and much partying. August 1-8, Cowes www.cowesweek.co.uk Garlic Festival Not to be sniffed at. Originally
■ Bestival

celebrating the island’s garlic growing industry, now a much bigger food festival. August 15-16, Arreton www.garlic-festival.co.uk Bestival Quirky music festival with varied acts.This year’s dressing up theme is Space. September 11-13, Robin Hill Country Park, near Arreton www.bestival.net

International Charity Classic Car Show Extravaganza Everything from vintage vehicles to wacky racers. September 19, Newport; and September 20, Ryde Cycling Festival From a leisurely ride to the 14-hills challenge.Yes, as gruelling as its sounds. September 19-27, locations across the island. www.sunseaandcycling.com

Isle of Wight Tourism

Roman times and superb remains of a villa at Brading (www.bradingromanvilla. com) are described as one of the finest Romano-British archaeological sites in the UK with beautifully preserved mosaic floors and an extensive collection of coins, pottery and tools.

Royal connections
Oh, and that earlier reference to Charles: 800-year-old Carisbrooke Castle is where the unfortunate king was imprisoned before his execution. According to popular myth, he tried to flee only to get stuck in the window through which he was trying to escape. Houdini he was not. The new Edwardian-inspired Princess Beatrice Garden, celebrating Queen Victoria’s daughter who was Governor of the Isle of Wight, opens in June at the castle, which is one of the properties on the island administered by English Heritage (www.english-heritage.org.uk). Another is Osborne House, and this is a real gem. Queen Victoria fell in love with the island as a young princess, saying: “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”. After her marriage to Prince Albert, the couple built Osborne as a country retreat. Step inside today and it as though the couple have only recently left. Wander through the Queen’s bedroom, the couple’s study and the amazing Indian-themed

Durbar Room, a reminder of when most of the world map was coloured red. The royal couple’s love for the island catapulted it from sleepy backwater to trendy resort. Think of a 19th century St Tropez or Nice to which the rich and famous flocked. People like the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Victorian equivalent of a media star, commemorated by Tennyson Down near Freshwater (there are spectacular views of the West Wight from here). His home, Farringford, is now a hotel.

Railways and seaside holidays
If the royals did wonders for the island’s image, then the coming of the railways created the institution of the seaside holiday. The

beaches loved by Victorians and Edwardians are numerous and still attractive today. Among them are twin resorts Sandown and Shanklin, where the long, sandy beaches are some of the safest for swimming. Ventnor, the most southerly resort, has a fine beach at low tide. Freshwater Bay, in the west, is small, charming but pebbly, while the sands of Colwell Bay and Totland are softer on the feet. Seaview is an upmarket seaside village with a sailing tradition. Talking of sailing, Cowes is an international centre, home of the Royal Yacht Squadron, probably the poshest yacht club in the land, and venue for Cowes Week (www.cowesweek.co.uk) – one of the premier events on the yacht racing calendar. Alum Bay has a bit of a wow factor. It boasts cliffs of multi-coloured sands which as children we could collect in bottles. Amid concerns for erosion and, I guess, health and safety, you can no longer do that – sand for sale is imported. But you get a spectacular view of the Needles, the much photographed chalk stacks which have come to symbolise the island.

Music festivals
A few miles away at Afton Down is a natural amphitheatre in the chalk downs, and one of the original sites of music extravaganza the Isle of Wight Festival. The third such festival, in 1970, was the venue for the last show by one of rock’s greats – Jimi Hendrix – just a fortIsle of Wight Tourism

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night before his death. Others at early festivals included Bob Dylan, The Who and The Doors. Revived in recent years and now located near Newport, the island’s capital, the Isle of Wight Festival (www.isleofwight festival.com) is the first of the season in the UK festival calendar. Performers this June include The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx, Pendulum, The Ting Tings, The Stereophonics and Neil Young. In recent years it has had an island rival, Bestival (www.bestival.net), staged in September at Robin Hill Country Park in the middle of the island. This year’s acts include Lily Allen and Mercury award winners Elbow.

■ The Durbar Room, Osborne House

Adrenalin activities
If neither festivals nor lying on a beach

appeal, the island offers a range of opportunities to learn a skill or get your adrenalin pumping. X-Isle Sports is one of the UK’s biggest kite-surfing schools (www.x-

Isle of Wight facts
Getting there There are six ferry routes from the mainland to the island. Wightlink (www.wightlink.co.uk) operates two car ferry services: Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth. It also operates a fast catamaran service between Portsmouth and Ryde. Red Funnel Ferries (www.redfunnel.co.uk) operates both a car ferry service and the Red Jet passenger service from Southampton to Cowes. Hovertravel (www.hovertravel.co.uk) operates hovercraft passenger services from Southsea to Ryde. Accommodation and information The Isle of Wight has a range of accommodation from luxury hotels and guest houses to self-catering and caravans.The Isle of Wight Tourism website (www.islandbreaks.co.uk) has details, an online search facility and email booking service as well as informaon about the island. Tip: Many places offer discounted ferry tickets when you book accommodation so it’s worth enquiring before you arrange a crossing. Attractions Among the island’s main attractions are: Osborne House (www.english-heritage.org.uk/osborne) – Queen Victoria’s holiday palace and gardens. Carisbrooke Castle (www.english-heritage.org.uk/ server/show/nav.14466) – 800-year-old castle and the new Princess Beatrice Garden, from June. St Catherines Oratory (www.english-heritage.org.uk/stcatherines) – 14th century octagonal lighthouse, known locally as the Pepperpot. Brading Roman Villa (www.bradingromanvilla.org.uk) – one of the finest Romano-British archaeological sites in the UK. Dinosaurisle (www.dinosaurisle.com) – Britain’s first purpose-built dinosaur museum and visitor attraction. Isle of Wight Steam Railway (www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk) – five miles of track with rides by historic locomotives and carriages.
Isle of Wight Tourism Isle of Wight Tourism

is.co.uk) and Wight Waters (www.wight waters.com) offers courses in surfing, windsurfing, bodyboarding and kayaking. Medina Valley Centre at Newport (www.medinavalleycentre.org.uk) and the UK Sailing Academy at Cowes (www.uksa.org) provide sailing courses. But don’t get the impression it is all surfing and rock music. The Isle of Wight has managed to update itself without losing its family-friendly appeal. Children’s attractions range from Blackgang Chine, the country’s first theme park, to a model village at Godshill, and from the Isle of Wight Zoo, where ITV’s Tiger Island was filmed, to the steam railway at Havenstreet. Being such a small island you are never far from the sea. Do not leave without sampling the seafood. The village of Bembridge is as good a place as any. You can take up a fishing rod for a trip with the optimistically named Catchalot Charters. Nearby, and with an even catchier name, is The Best Dressed Crab in Town, a shop selling shellfish straight off its own fishing boat. A short distance away the aptlynamed Crab and Lobster is one of many fine pubs on the island. The island is still that little bit different – not quite abroad, yet not quite England. And, as an old islander told me with a line he probably spins to many a visitor, the reason it is diamond-shaped is because it is a little gem. TL

Although freelance journalist and TV news producer Paul Erlam grew up on the Isle of Wight he is not really a caulkhead. His family only moved there when he was six months old, while caulkheads are third generation islanders. Despite that, he writes extensively about the island

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Out about

&

What’s on... and where

Steam off
on summer days out and WIN a copy of the Steam Heritage Guide 2009
Planning days out this summer? Get all steamed up with the Steam Heritage Guide 2009. It is the only publication to cover heritage railways, industrial archaeology, transport, ship, aircraft and military museum sites and contains over £100 of discount vouchers for travel and admission. This compact guide is ideal for carrying in your bag or pocket or leaving in your car glove box, giving you constant inspiration for unique and exciting places to visit which are perfect for days out for families, friends and couples.There are over 1,000 events and hundreds of locations listed and categorised by date, attraction type, geographical location and alphabetically. The Steam Heritage Guide 2009 is available now from Tee Publishing at www.teepublishing.co.uk/steam_heritage.php or to order call 01926 614101. ● To win one of five Steam Heritage Guides go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on competitions & giveaways.Terms & conditions apply. Closing date July 3, 2009.

Anyone for polo? I
t may be known as the “Game of Kings” but polo is no longer just the stomping ground of those with cash. The Sussex Polo Club in Rowfant, West Sussex, encourages people to take up the sport and in order to try and lose the game’s exclusive tag; their club motto is: “More new blood, less blue blood”. Anyone from six years old upwards can learn to play the game with private or group polo lessons available for riders and non-riders alike, from April through to

September. Go to www.sussexpolo.co.uk for further information. Anyone not living in the West Sussex area can still enjoy the experience thanks to a link with the

Felbridge Hotel & Spa, which is offering polo breaks throughout the summer. The package includes an overnight in a luxury double room with breakfast and a polo lesson for just £168. Partners who don’t fancy the polo part can stay for just £73. Time your stay to coincide with a tournament and you’ll get to see experts playing, with ponies galloping at 35mph and balls being hit at 100mph. To book this package, call 01342 337700 or visit www.felbridgehotel.co.uk

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Out and ABOUT
Take a hike – for Get Walking Day
alking group the Ramblers is calling everyone in Britain to get on its feet – no matter what age or ability – to celebrate its free walking festival, Get Walking Day 2009. Hundreds of carnival-spirited short walks are taking place all over the country, in cities and the countryside, to help people of all ages discover the joys of walking. Each walk will be less than five miles, is open to everyone, and will take place over the weekend of May 30-

Walk on
● Walking is free! A mile is less than a 20-minute walk so you could save money by walking instead of using the bus or your car. ● Walking keeps your body fit and your mind healthy – and burns as many calories as jogging over the same distance. It also boosts happiness and reduces stress. ● Walking is good for the environment. If we all walk more and use our cars less, we will significantly reduce carbon emissions.

W

June 1 in England, Scotland and Wales. Many will include refreshments and special events. Now in its second year, national Get Walking Day aims to help people discover the joy of walking and pro-

motes the huge mental, physical and mood-boosting benefits that walking can bring. To find a Get Walking Day walk near you, visit the walks finder at www.ramblers.org.uk/ campaigns/GWD

Festival fun in Guildford
The 2009 Guildford Summer Festival, running from June 19 to August 1, promises to be the biggest yet with over 100 events covering a huge variety of activities, including sports, drama, music, art, tours, workshops and shopping as well as a wide array of fun events for the whole family. With so many events to pack into the festival, many of which are free, the Festival Brochure is bigger than ever; more than 20 new events are included in this year’s festival. Copies of the brochure can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre and other information points around Guildford from the end of May. Guildford Summer Festival events book up quickly, so to celebrate your summer in style, you should book tickets as early as possible. Full details can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre on 01483 444334 or visit www.guildfordsummer festival.co.uk and join the mailing list. Events are also listed on the site, along with information on planning your visit, transport links and accommodation.

Jam-packed June at Hylands
ylands Estate in Chelmsford hosts a series of events this June including ones reliving the 1940s. British Armed Forces and Veterans Weekend (June 27-28) kicks off on the Saturday night with a concert of dance music from the Roaring Forties by the Memphis Belle Swing Band. Take your own seating and enjoy a picnic on the back lawn of Hylands House. Advance tickets cost £15; £12 for concessions. On the door ticket prices are £17 and £14 respectively. As part of the same weekend, British Armed Forces and Veterans Day is on Sunday, June 28. Celebrate our history and heroes on this day, dedicated to veterans past and present. From 10am5pm, activities and attractions include the Essex Military Vehicle Exhibition, a full-size Spitfire replica, Chindit Burma Mules and various talks and exhibitions inside Hylands House, on veteran groups and Hylands’ own history during World Wars I and II. Donations from this event will go to veterans’ associations and the charity, Help for Heroes. Entry to Hylands House costs £3.60, or £2.60 for concessions; under-16s and veterans go free. Last Night of the Proms with the

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Caprice Orchestra finishes off the weekend on Sunday June 28, 7.30– 10pm. Take a picnic again to make the most of an evening of stirring classical music. Advance tickets are £12, or £10 for concessions. On the door tickets cost £14 or £12. Tickets can be booked through Chelmsford Civic Theatres Box Office by calling 01245 606505. For more information about these or other events at Hylands Estate, call 01245 605500, or go to www.chelmsford.gov.uk/hylands

Tony Carney

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COMPETITION

£1,500 of Pride of Britain vouchers
and take your pick from the cream of Britain’s private hotels
ow would like to stay in one of Britain’s best private hotels? Enter this competition, and you could win £1,500 worth of Pride of Britain vouchers valid at any Pride of Britain property. Pride of Britain is a collection of the finest privately owned hotels in Great Britain, of which there are currently 37 including the ship, Hebridean Princess. You could pick the beautiful Dormy House, which sits high on a hill in the heart of the Cotswolds, between the charming villages of Broadway and Chipping Campden. This is a lived-in, much-loved bolthole where nothing is too much trouble. Crisp bed linen and plump pillows add to the feeling of comfort. Choose from the elegant rooms and suites of the main house, or the Danish Court rooms, with their flower-filled patios and landscaped garden. Newly-refurbished deluxe double rooms have modern features such as flat screen television, broadband and scene-setting lighting. The eight suites have large separate living areas and offer views over the hotel’s grounds. Dormy House also has a fine selection of four-poster bedrooms. In the kitchen, high-quality, locallysourced produce is transformed into simple yet elegant dishes where the flavours of the key ingredients shine through, and are served alongside wine from the world’s leading regions. You can also work on your wellbeing in the Moroccan sauna and steam room or gym. You may want to play traditional bar billiards in the games room. There is a nine-hole putting green or croquet lawn if you want to practise your skills outside in the sunshine. There are properties from distinguished city hotels to country house hotels to choose from in the Pride of Britain collection. For more information go to www.prideofbritainhotels.com or call 0800 089 39 29 to make a reservation or order a free pocket directory. TL

WIN

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■ Dormy House, Worcestershire

■ Northcote, Lancashire

■ Eastwell Manor, Kent

■ Plumber Manor, Dorset

■ The Nare Hotel, Cornwall

■ The Torridon, Wester Ross

How to enter
To win £1,500 worth of vouchers, valid for one year and redeemable at any current Pride of Britain property, simply answer the following question. Question: How many properties are there in the Pride of Britain collection? To enter please go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on the competition & giveaways button. Closing date is July 6 2009.The first correct entries drawn will win. Terms & conditions apply.

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Get bowled over by

Lovebox
Something Fun
Lovebox, Victoria Park, July 18-19

Lose yourself in London’s Victoria Park this summer when London’s award-winning Lovebox festival returns on July 18-19. From chart-topping bands to barn-storming hoedowns, Lovebox offers something for everyone with headliners Duran Duran, Groove Armada and N*E*R*D. A second wave of artist bookings, including legendary punk rockers New York Dolls and Manchester’s epic rock-trio Doves, has also been announced. Acclaimed modern folk quartet Noah and the Whale will also be joining the line up. As well as great music, some of Lovebox’s highlights will be:

★ ★★ Champagne stars
Something Special
Hampton Court Palace Festival, June 2-13

● All Star Lanes boutique bowling – the first-ever outdoor bowling championship at a UK Festival. With multiple bowling lanes, delicious cocktails, the best milkshakes, classic American dining and guest DJs playing the jukebox all day. ● thelondonpaper Sourced Market – the largest farmers’ market of any UK festival. Traders, handpicked from Borough and other London-based farmers’ markets, will be selling a range of mouthwatering delights. ● Heavenly Healing – a fully-comprehensive tented village of massage and complementary therapies to help you kick off your weekend in style and enjoy some outdoor pampering.

Tickets are available from both www.lovebox.net and www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 847 2436. They can also be purchased in person from Stargreen Box Office, 20/21a Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TT. Ticket prices: £42.50 + booking fee per day ticket; £75 + booking fee per weekend ticket. Now, WIN a pair of tickets for the awardwinning Lovebox festival. To win a pair of tickets to Lovebox on Sunday, July 19, go to www.choice travelinfo.com and click on competitions & giveaways. Terms & conditions apply. Closing date June 26, 2009. There are 10 concerts with an eclectic line-up of stars from the worlds of classical, pop and jazz music, including these highlights: ● Jose Carreras with Anna Leese and Faryl Smith – the chance to see one of The Three Tenors joined by 13-year-old singing sensation Faryl Smith. ● Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with special guest vocalists – see Jools Holland light up the stage

Enjoy a sophisticated summer evening at its best as the Hampton Court Palace Festival returns. Now in its 17th year, the Hampton Court Palace Festival combines history and music with a series

of concerts in its stunning grounds. Stars include José Carreras, Jools Holland, Beverley Knight and Level 42, as well as a spectacular firework finale. The palace grounds are the perfect setting for a pre-concert picnic. Take your own or you can pre-order a delicious Carluccio’s hamper and glass of champagne.

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LO N D O N

Review
FESTIVALS

Something Different
City of London Festival June 19-July 9 Various venues

Celebrating the trading places of 60º North, the City of London Festival will feature artists and music from Orkney, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St Petersburg. Highlights include the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek with the Hilliard Ensemble (St Paul’s Cathedral, June 23), the great Swedish trombonist, conductor and composer, Christian Lindberg, and his Nordic Chamber Orchestra (Guildhall Great Hall, July 1). This year, the number of free events in the City’s open spaces (June 19-August 7) has expanded, with spectacular open-air performances including theatre, music, dance and processions. Highlights include: the Art of with his lively performance. ● Russell Watson – the Brit Award winner will perform alongside the City of London Orchestra. ● Beverley Knight and Lemar – chill out to some smooth sounds with these awardwinning soul singers. ● Beethoven Festival Finale featuring Chloë Hanslip and Freddy Kempf – the closing concert will celebrate the works of Beethoven performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

Recycling Opening Procession (June 19), featuring 1,000 young Londoners; The Leviathan, (June 21) a large-scale piece of music performance art for 800 saxophonists created and directed by John Harle; and The Street Pianos Project, which sees 15 second-hand pianos dotted around the City for the length of the festival. Box office: 0845 120 7502; www.colf.org For further information go to www.hamptoncourtfestival. com Tickets can be purchased from Seetickets, on 0844 811 0050, or Ticketmaster, on 0844 847 1638. Booking fee applies. Prices vary depending on which concert you see. Tickets may be purchased in person daily from 10am-3pm from Hampton Court Palace (Welcome Centre), Surrey, KT8 9AU or Tower of London (Welcome Centre), London, EC3N 4AB.

Robert Piwko/arenapal.com

visitlondonimages/ britainonview/ Pawel Libera

Something Else
June events
June 3: Oyster Festival at Billingsgate Fish Market June 7-19: Spitalfields Summer Festival June 8-July 4: Orwell celebrations at Trafalgar Studios June 8-14: Coutts Jewellery Week June 25-28: Greenwich & Docklands International Festival June 11-17:The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair June 13-14: Open Garden Squares Weekend June 13-14: Bike and Kite Festival, Blackheath June 18-21:Taste of London, Regents Park June 20-28: Croydon Fashion Festival June 25-28:The Tennis Ball in Wimbledon Common Go to www.visitlondon.com for more information.

visitlondonimages/ britainonview/ Pawel Libera

North heads south

No need to splash out
The Thames Festival September 12-13 Nearly half a million people attended the Thames Festival last year – and this year’s event is expected to be just as big. Taking place between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge, the festival is at the heart of London, open to all and free! Londoners of all ages will be out to enjoy free entertainment in a lively, festival atmosphere, with everything on offer from street art and river events to pyrotechnics and circus performances. The Thames Festival is London’s biggest free, outdoor arts festival and a highlight event on the London calendar. The Night Carnival invites a colourful parade of dancers, costumed performers, musicians and revellers to take over Victoria Embankment and Blackfriars Bridge.Thousands of people join the Night Carnival in a vibrant procession of lanterns, costumes and floats, guaranteeing a memorable final day of the festival. The Thames Festival literally ends with a bang, with a massive fireworks display beginning at 9.45pm. Tens of thousands will be out to see one of the most spectacular displays of the year, lighting up the Thames in a dazzling display of light and colour. www.thamesfestival.org

Something Free

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LO N D O N
NEWS & WHAT'S ON

Review
Ne w on st age
Sister Act
London Palladium, Argyll Street From June 2 Stars: Sheila Hancock, Patina Miller and Ian Lavender Produced by: Whoopi Goldberg and Stage Entertainment Adapted from the 1992 Golden Globe-nominated film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act follows the story of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier. When Deloris witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in the one place the cops are sure she won’t be found – a convent! Disguised as a nun, she turns her attention to the convent’s off-key choir, helping the nuns to find their true voices and breathing new life into the rundown neighbourhood but her cover could be blown for good. With the gang giving chase, is time running out for Deloris? Or have they underestimated the power of her new found Sisterhood? Box office: 0844 412 2704 Ticket prices: £17.50-£60 Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus Nearest Train: Charing Cross

See behind the scenes at the Royal Albert Hall

– and WIN a pair of tour tickets
front of house tour at the Royal Albert Hall will take you on a personal journey through one of London’s most iconic buildings, bringing to life its fascinating history. Watch as the venue prepares for one of its 350 events or witness rehearsals for that evening’s performance. The one-hour tour covers all front of house areas, including the auditorium and the Queen’s suite, the Royal Retiring Room. As a working venue, tours may include opportunities to see rehearsals or technical preparations for a show. Tours run daily, except Wednesdays, from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Visit www.royalalberthall.com for more information. For an extra special treat, and for only one date this year, you can enjoy a behind the scenes tour at the Royal Albert Hall. Head backstage to witness the venue’s unseen workings and see the dressing rooms used by stars such as The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Pavarotti. The backstage tour takes place on June 15, dur-

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ing the run of The King and I. As well as getting a chance to view the cast’s wardrobe and dressing rooms, you’ll also be able to step out onto the Royal Albert Hall stage! Available throughout the day, tours will last 90 minutes and cost £12 per person, including 50p booking fee. To book, call the Box Office on 0845 401 5045. ● To win one of two pairs of front of house tour tickets go to www.choicetravelinfo.com and click on competitions & giveaways. Terms & conditions apply. Closing date: July 3, 2009.

Ton-up museum
he Science Museum is celebrating its impending centenary with a year-long programme of celebration events. The Museum became an independent organisation on June 26, 1909. And to mark the 100th anniversary it will be: hosting a three-day public birthday party (June 26-28) with special science shows, events and performances open to school groups and the general public; unveiling a new Centenary Journey trail; refurbishing two major galleries; and opening two

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new exhibitions – Cosmos & Culture and Watt’s Workshop. It is also launching a £1 million fundraising appeal and will commemorate other anniversaries including the 40th anniversary of the moon landings. The museum’s centenary website includes details of how the public can get involved in the celebrations, and site visitors can share their favourite memories of the Science Museum. ● Entry is FREE to the Science Museum. For more information, visit www.sciencemuseum. org.uk/centenary or call 0870 870 4868. Open daily, 10am-6pm. Nearest tube: South Kensington.

Fiesta time
elebrate Spanish lifestyle, food and culture in London on Sunday, May 31, when Regent Street will be traffic free from 12-6pm for a fabulous street festival: Regent

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Street – A Taste of Spain 2009. The fiesta will showcase the very best of Spain as live music and dance performances including flamenco and traditional Spanish bagpipers take place on the main stage. Stores will be organising shopping promotions and competitions, while Heddon Street and Swallow Street will have live Spanish performances to entertain al fresco diners. Entertainment for the fiesta will come from 12 Spanish regions, including dancing horses from Menorca, a fashion show from Andalucia and giant paellas from Valencia. www.regentstreetonline.com

Marcus Ginns

Restaurant suggestion:
Cape Town Fish Market 5-6 Argyll Street,W1F 7TE; 0872 148 1907. A lively restaurant, fish market, teppanyaki and sushi bar with a big South African wine list Average price for three courses: £40

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Travel and Leisure Directory
Berkshire Essex Republic of Ireland

Canary Islands Hampshire

Isle of Wight

Norfolk

Norfolk

Cyprus Channel Islands
L’HARAS GUEST HOUSE
Newtown Road,Alderney Channel Islands GY9 3XP All rooms have CH, H&C water, tea/coffee-making facilities and colour TV; most are en suite.Contact Mrs Jansen. Tel/Fax: 01481 823174 lharas@internet.alderney.gg www.internet.alderney.gg/lharas/ ALDERNEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS

Somerset
WESTON HOUSE COTTAGES
Weston House, East Chinnock, nr Yeovil, BA22 9EL Three superb cottages set in the courtyard of a Jacobean farmhouse. Oak beams, log fires, linen provided, hot water and heating included. Shared garden area and barbecue. Ground floor bedrooms, one cottage wheelchair friendly. Brochure available. Open all year. Three units sleep 2, 4/5. Weekly rates from £250–£595.

Tel: 01935 863712 Mob: 07884 214 768 Email: sue@westonhouse.net

www.westonhouse.net

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Caravan & Camping

Motorhomes

If you would like to advertise please call 020 8477 1529

Motorhome hire in Scotland
2, 4, 5 and 6-berth motorhomes. Ideal for touring within Scotland and further afield. All vehicles are fully equipped (bedding optional). Our package includes unlimited mileage, full insurance, AA cover. End-of-season motorhome sales For brochure contact
Brown’s Motorhome Hire, Garrion Bridge Larkhall ML9 2UD (nr Glasgow)

Tel/Fax: 01698 886255

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Caravan & Camping

Motorhomes

If you would like to advertise please call 020 8477 1529

Motorhome hire in Scotland
2, 4, 5 and 6-berth motorhomes. Ideal for touring within Scotland and further afield. All vehicles are fully equipped (bedding optional). Our package includes unlimited mileage, full insurance, AA cover. End-of-season motorhome sales For brochure contact
Brown’s Motorhome Hire, Garrion Bridge Larkhall ML9 2UD (nr Glasgow)

Tel/Fax: 01698 886255

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