In June, seven of the world’s most powerful leaders will be heading to the butter-coloured sands and seaside villages of West Cornwall for the annual G7 summit. The event will see political leaders from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States (plus delegations from other countries) descend on St Ives and Carbis Bay which are known for their year-round beaches, subtropical flora and fauna, and crystalline waters. The offical meeting (June 11-13) will take place at the Carbis Bay Estate and Hotel which occupies 125 acres of the pretty coastal enclave with excellent restaurants, a superb spa, watersports, a pool and myriad accommodation options including 38 stylish rooms in the main house, plus woodland cottages and beach houses, lodges and suites. Carbis Bay’s main house, erected by celebrated Cornish architect Sylvanus Trevail in 1894, blends historic grandeur – gilt mirrors, chandeliers – with cheery interior touches by co-owner Josie Baker. Including off-white armchairs and lamps made from stacked pebbles, these abound with low-key seaside chic. Buildings around and just off the estate deliver extra space, plus the same smart interiors. Some offer self-catering. Most appealing are a pair of two-storey, balconied Beach Houses, offering direct access onto the sand, and the eight Beach Lodges with spectacular views across the bay towards Godrevy lighthouse.
We’ve never hesitated to drag our kids around the world on complicated holidays. My husband’s parents live in a small town in Alberta, Canada and we try to get out there every couple of years. One Christmas we took our daughter Georgia, then two years old, to meet her godparents in Vermont. That involved flying in to New York and staying the night, a time I’ll never forget because I was so deliriously tired that I took G out for a walk in the pram in Central Park at 2am to try to get her to sleep. The next day we drove six hours to Vermont. We wouldn’t do it if the kids didn’t love it. They talk nostalgically about hanging out in Dunkin’ Donuts in Hanna, Alberta, as if it were the best place on earth. One summer, we somewhat hastily booked an Airbnb in a coastal resort town on Gran Canaria that turned out to be an ugly, characterless place. The kids didn’t notice. We found a quiet, pretty beach down the coast and regularly ended our days with visits to an ice-cream parlour, followed by card games, and they were over the moon. There was nothing all that extraordinary about the trip, but they look back on it as their visit to paradise. Part of the appeal of air travel for Georgia and Hal (our son) may be that they can watch television uninterrupted for hours. If I’m honest, that’s partly why I love air travel. There’s nothing better than being cosily in your seat with three or four films queued up. The downside of these expeditions is that there is nothing worse than when a three-hour trip turns into a nine-hour one because something has gone wrong at the airport or with the transport links, and your family ends up getting frazzled before you’ve even started. Then Covid-19 changed the face of travel. One of my abiding memories of the first national lockdown was standing out in my garden in London, looking up at the sky and seeing... well, nothing but birds. In London, you get used to a lot of air traffic, to the web of contrails it leaves, and for the first time in my life, the sky was calm and empty.
In 2021, your children will be the ones calling the shots. As parent, yours will be a purely symbolic authority. You will already be familiar with this dynamic, of course, but here’s what’s new: this rule will apply not only within your own home, but in hotels too. The family travel market was going through a growth spurt before Covid-19 threw it a curve ball. Lockdowns, however, have super-charged your children’s power over the hotel industry. According to one recent survey, two thirds of parents are hoping to go on holiday once restrictions are in the rear-view mirror and, says Expedia’s report on how the youngest family members are influencing travel, “although final decisions are made by the adults, Gen Alpha [that’s your children] influences family trip choices”. This year, therefore, hotels will be competing for your kids’ attention and, terrifying as you might find their newfound omnipotence, this may prove no bad thing. Back in 2013, a survey commissioned by the Luxury Family Hotel chain found that more than a quarter of a million British parents had cut a family holiday short either because they felt unwelcome or because it was ill-equipped for their needs. Just under a decade later, says Simon Maguire, the managing director of Luxury Family Hotels: “We have definitely seen the hotel sector make improvements when it comes to being family friendly, which is good news. But saying you are family friendly and actually being family friendly can be worlds apart.” Family rooms are still often awkwardly configured; kids’ meals less “field to fork”, more “deep-freeze to deep-fried”; communal and recreational spaces dotted with boring breakables that leave children fidgety and adults on perpetual high alert. “That causes angst for both parent and child,” says Maguire, “which is not what you want when spending your hard-earned money.” Well, quite. So how do you identify the hotels that are not simply paying lip service to family friendliness? The ones who welcome not only the sight but also the sound of children?
Welcome to the second instalment of our journey around the world in 80 objects – things, great and small, famous and obscure, which shed a particularly revealing light on a place or culture. Two weeks ago, we kicked off with our first 10, and here are three more. 13. The Serpentine Bench, Barcelona It suits the enigmatically eccentric character of Barcelona’s most celebrated architect that his two most famous designs in the city are about as far apart in scale and grandeur as it is possible to get. They are a fantastical cathedral and a park bench. The Sagrada Familia, with its strange organic cluster of conical towers, remains unfinished 139 years after work began on the concrete structure. Even in this uncompleted state, it has become the biggest visitor attraction in the city. Rather more subtle is the impact of the Serpentine Bench in Park Guell. But in its way, it is just as radical, just as inventive and has had just as great an influence on the everyday life of Barcelona’s citizens, as the cathedral we most associate with him. Park Guell is set out on a hillside in the northern suburbs of the city, where it was originally conceived as part of a housing development at the beginning of the last century. In fact, the concept behind the project was based on new ideas about social housing and model towns, which were being pioneered in England at the time, including garden cities – which led to the building of Letchworth and Welwyn. The park itself was dreamed up by the industrialist Eusebi Güell, who commissioned Gaudi to help with the design. Ultimately, the project failed and only two houses were actually constructed, one of which was bought by Gaudi and became his home for several years. But the park was completed by 1914 and is now a public space. It has been a huge success, a green lung in the city suburbs offering wonderful views out over the Mediterranean. At its heart, at the top of the main stairways and framing one end of a large open terrace – where you would expect to see serried ranks of conventional seats – is the Serpentine Bench. But Gaudi and his collaborator Josep Maria Jujol shunned convention and made sure it struck the keynote for the whole park. Supposedly in the form of a sea serpent, the bench is really a long, continuous series of tight regular curves that double back on each other like the frills of a ruff, around three sides of the terrace. It’s a typical example of the influence of organic forms on Gaudi’s designs, but also of their human scale. The curves form little intimate enclaves where people can sit and talk, or quietly fall asleep in the Catalan sun. It also reflects his characteristic exuberance, for the entire bench is decorated with mosaics made from thousands of broken pieces of white and brilliantly coloured tiles. Park Guell (parkguell.barcelona)
For all the perils of the past 10 months, music has been a great constant – the firm friend who has stayed with us, providing solace with inspiring songs and favourite tracks; a consolatory sound-track to tough times that is never inaudible, however hard the wind is howling outside the door. It will be that way when normality returns, for it is almost impossible to travel and not encounter the sounds and rhythms that help define a destination. Indeed, the planet is dotted with cities that dance to, delight in and listen to their own particular musical style – whether in a beachfront bar, a gleaming club or a noble opera house. Here, we take a look at 25 of them, both as a reminder of the fabulous artists and creative geniuses who have come before – and as an encouragement to take holidays and make journeys in future times. Because if troubled days need a soundtrack, a happier aftermath will certainly demand it. THE USA New York Where to start with the Big Apple’s contribution to music? The soul and gospel that has spilt from Harlem for over a century? The ghostly tones of Charlie Parker’s saxophone, which poured from the same district? The Greenwich Village folk scene into which Bob Dylan slipped in 1961? The punk scene that crystallised around CBGB in the East Village during the late 1970s, just as disco was glitter-balling at Studio 54? Any of it. All of it.
As unimaginable as it sounds now, what we were after pre-pandemic was a self-imposed isolation. “What do we get for 15 years of marriage?” I had asked my husband. The internet will tell you: crystal. But for our anniversary, what we most wanted was some relaxing time with our children, then aged eight and six. It was dark and cold in Britain; a Maldivian atoll seemed just the thing: no distractions but nature; time to reflect on what we had built together. But travel choices, like other life decisions – city vs country, tea vs coffee – come laden with the baggage of our childhoods. Some families – the outsourcers – won’t go anywhere unless guaranteed entertainment for their young. Others – the cynics – would rather eat worms than participate in anything with even the faintest whiff of organised fun. You probably think you know which camp you would most happily slot into. But in the interests of research, or perhaps in a moment of greed, we decided to trial both options, organising half a week at the (literally) all-singing, all-dancing Club Med Kani, followed by half a week at Constance Halaveli, an 86-villa island a short seaplane ride away in the North Ari atoll, which has a discreet kids’ club and sounded like more of a honeymooners’ spot (with a price tag to match). What we wondered was this: do you prioritise children or parents in paradise? Would everyone’s focus be on activities, or do kids crave serenity, too?
1. The new kids' clubs With the prospect of proper family holidays on the horizon, parents are looking to build on the closer ties developed with their children over the past year when they next go away. So rather than aiming for all-inclusives which enable them to offload their little treasures in the kids’ club – if only for a sweet couple of hours while they enjoy cold beers and a book or an uninterrupted conversation – they are aiming at holidays designed for families to spend more time together, with engaging and evermore unusual experiences to keep everyone happy. The forced hiatus from travel has prompted many to re-evaluate what they want from a holiday, warming to the idea of “making travel count” and seeking out authentic experiences from around the world – and sunbathing with an airport thriller while your children watch films is not exactly the meaningful, memorable experience we’re seeking this year. “Increasingly we’re seeing families travelling to spend time together rather than shunting the children off to a kids’ club while parents lounge poolside,” says Carolyn Addison, head of Black Tomato. “They want to return from a trip with a formative experience or new skill they can enjoy together – in Costa Rica this might involve surfing lessons, Spanish classes, stargazing with an astronomer, or chocolate workshops.” Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, agrees. “We have been seeing a steady rise in inquiries from families who are wanting to do more together following lockdown,” he says. “Increasingly, clients are inquiring about holidays that are special, as the children want to do something active and parents use their kids as an excuse for that bucket-list adventure they have been dreaming about.”
Pre-pandemic, a normal working day for Lisa Holt might have seen her jetting off to New York with her fellow Virgin Atlantic cabin crew but, in an unlikely twist, yesterday she was at London’s ExCel centre administering the Covid vaccine. Speaking shortly after her first shift at the mass vaccination centre, which only opened on Monday, she was still “buzzing” from being part of what has been described by Health Secretary Matt Hancock as “one of the biggest civilian projects in history.” Summing up the day, she says: “It was fantastic.” In a much-needed contrast to unrelentingly bleak news of the past two weeks, she describes a scene of hope. “Most people coming through are quite elderly and there was a real sense of relief in the room. Spirits were high, which was great.” Lisa is one of hundreds of Virgin Atlantic staff members taking part in the scheme. Hearing her describe her training, you are reminded of the logistical challenges of a immunisation roll-out on this scale and the manpower required to do it at such rapid speed.
After a while, we stopped telling people we were spending summer in the Adirondacks. More often than not, it drew blank faces, even from our American friends. This vast wilderness a few hours’ drive north of New York City remains largely unknown outside the United States, and even within it, which is truly confounding given all it has to offer. The Adirondack Park is big even by American standards. The second largest publicly protected area in the country covers six million acres and encompasses peaks, lakes, virgin forest and miles of rivers. It is larger than Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Everglades National Parks combined. The landscape is so kingsize we found we could walk or kayak for days without encountering another soul. The emptiness was startling, coming from our crowded little island. The beauty of the Adirondacks is in no small way thanks to a heroic clause in the New York Constitution, which has decreed since 1894 that large chunks of it should remain “forever wild”. And so it is that this landscape enjoys the highest degree of protection anywhere in the US. After two days in New York City, we took the Amtrak train early one morning from Penn station to the state capital Albany (only two hours and 40 minutes away). From there we hired a car and drove for two hours through miles of woodland and forest into the Adirondack Park. We felt like astronauts who had travelled to Mars. Suddenly, here we were at Elk Lake Lodge, in a wooden cabin beside a lake within a 12,000-acre, privately owned forest. There were no sounds apart from the haunting cry of common loons and the bell summoning us for dinner each evening.
We all need something to look forward to, now more than ever. For many Britons, pencilling in a holiday answers that desire. And the vaccine roll-out is boosting traveller confidence, particularly among those at greater risk from Covid-19 and who are due to be inoculated in the coming months, with UK tour operators reporting an uptick in 2021 bookings from the over-50s. “This month, so far we have had more bookings for those aged over-50 than in any full month since we relaunched in September,” said Hayley Chambers, head of customer operations at Thomas Cook. “It’s clear there’s been a return in people who will benefit the most from the vaccine roll-out booking their holidays for this summer and beyond.” There's also been a steady increase in interest among older customers for Unique Caribbean Holidays, the UK tour operator for Sandals and Beaches Resorts. This week, 68 per cent of its bookings were made by customers in the 50-plus age bracket, compared to 35 per cent in October 2020, before any vaccine had been approved. Many mature travellers are opting for long-haul adventure this year, according to John Telfer, managing director of Explore. Georgia and Bhutan among the destinations seeing an uplift in new bookings. And Kerry Golds, of Abercrombie and Kent, said the luxury operator has seen enquiries from the over-50s bracket double week-on-week. Africa and Indian Ocean trips are helping to fuel the demand. We spoke to people in their 50s and beyond about their upcoming travel plans. ‘There’s always risk when you travel' Daniel Adni, 69, London
The past 12 months have been a skier’s imperfect storm: the early end to last season, virtually no skiing for Brits thus far this winter and new Covid restrictions piling up like snowdrifts. It’s therefore almost inevitable that, with pent-up demand high as a mountain and uncertainty set to run and run, people will want to make the most of every possible turn (and tumble) in the seasons to come.
Coronavirus may have brought the global cruise industry to its knees last year but cruise lines remain confident that they will take to the water once more in 2021 – many on spectacular new ships. The coolest, and craziest, new ship for 2021 has to be Mardi Gras. Carnival’s 6,500 passenger ship features the world’s first rollercoaster at sea – take a bow, Bolt – as well as restaurants from celebrities and sports stars, a suspended rope course, water park, two theatres and a 1972 Fiat strategically parked in a “piazza” for Instagram purposes. Mardis Gras will also one of the first ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), thereby slashing pollution and making it one one of the greenest cruise giants in North America. Here's take a closer look at the ocean-going behemoth that’s preparing to start week-long cruises from the new Port Canaveral terminal in Florida to the Caribbean at the end of April – pandemic permitting. Links to the past
The RV Southern Surveyor was sailing through the sunlight of a warm summer day when Dr Maria Seton noticed that something was wrong. November 22 2012 should have been an ordinary date in the diary for this doughty Australian research vessel, as it studied the lay-out of the seabed in the Coral Sea, some 900 miles east of mainland Queensland. But after a few minutes of confusion, the geologist on its deck realised that, somehow and somewhere, the ship had left the chart. Seton and her colleagues were travelling freely across a horizon-wide patch of open ocean. The trouble was, the map said otherwise. In its esteemed opinion, they had just washed ashore – onto an island the size of Manhattan. Seton had just done something that went against the logic of exploration, and would overthrow the accepted “knowledge” of 136 years. She had “undiscovered” Sandy Island. What had been marked – since as far back as 1876 – as a solid landmass, some 15 miles long by three miles wide, was nothing of the sort. Not even close. “We had a cached version of Google Earth for the area – as we had no internet,” Dr Seton would explain. “We saw that the island was depicted as a big black blob. This made us very suspicious”. It did not take long to ascertain the reality of the situation. The Southern Surveyor was in the midst of a 25-day scientific expedition to examine the tectonic contours of this Australasian corner of the Pacific – and was able to see, at a glance, what lay beneath the location where Sandy Island was supposed to be. In short, water – and a lot of it. “We would find that the ocean floor didn’t ever get shallower than 1,300m [4,265ft] below the wave base,” Dr Seton added. “We sailed over it. We’re not sure how it got onto the maps. There must have been an error on one of the coastline data studies that has been propagated through scientific literature – our weather maps on board showed the island.” “We all had a good giggle at Google when we sailed through the island,” another member of the team, Steve Micklethwaite, told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Then we started compiling information about the seafloor, which we will send to the relevant authorities.” There was – in a very real sense of the familiar phrase – nothing to see here. And yet, there had been firm talk of a Sandy Island (or a Sable Island) in this remote position – 19.22°S 159.93°E – since the final quarter of the 19th century, and reference to it a full century earlier.
Watching safety netting being pulled from a ski race course, which was so immaculately prepared by the Swiss army and local volunteers only 24 hours previously, is a depressing sight. Ahead of the busiest and most popular weekend of the ski season in the Swiss mountain resort of Wengen, the resort has been left looking more like a ghost town as the result of a cluster of Covid-19 cases to have reached the car-free village.
It’s dawn in the Okavango Delta – a wilderness in Botswana’s north western region that’s home to vast concentrations of lions, elephants, hippos and crocodiles. And as the sun rises, warming the vast sky with a dusting of pink over the endless stretch of green wetlands that surround our tented camp, I wonder what 2021 will bring. The previous year (I still can’t believe I can finally refer to 2020 as the past) saw the people of Botswana struggling to cope with two national lockdowns, regular curfews and tight restrictions on alcohol consumption that have carried through into January. But, as a hippo rises its head up out of the water and a scattering of huge winged herons come down to land, I’m reminded that the natural world has continued to thrive throughout the pandemic. And nowhere is nature more vibrant than in this beautiful corner of southern Africa. The Covid picture in this landlocked country – with only 2.3 million inhabitants, despite being the size of France – is quite different to the UK. Named as one of the world’s poorest nations when it achieved independence in 1966, Botswana quickly became Africa’s greatest development success story thanks to significant diamond wealth, a stable government that prioritised universal health care and education, and a small population. The government’s no-nonsense approach to handling the pandemic didn’t initially sit well with my British libertarian sensibilities. Why, I repeatedly asked, while looking out at the armed soldiers patrolling past my house, did we have to wear masks even while exercising outdoors (they remain mandatory at all time outside the home)? Was it fair, I wondered, to expect all children, even those as young as five, to wear masks all day long in the classroom? How would my daughter, aged seven, and 11-year-old son cope? When a third national alcohol ban was announced, without warning, just two weeks ago, leaving me to take part in a government-enforced dry January, I felt I’d been pushed over the edge.
Norwegian Air has announced the end of its long-haul operation, a move which will axe around 1,100 jobs in the UK alone – and bring an end to one of commercial aviation's most ambitious grand-plans. Like all airlines, the Oslo-based carrier has been hit hard by the pandemic, forced to ground most of its fleet throughout 2020 – its long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets entirely unused since March. Now, it seems, the writing on the wall can be ignored no longer. "Future demand remains highly uncertain," reads a statement from the airline. "Under these circumstances, a long-haul operation is not viable for Norwegian and these operations will not continue." Customers with affected bookings will be contacted directly, and refunded. It has done well, perhaps, to make it this far. Even pre-pandemic, the airline's long-haul offering was suffering financial turbulence – despite it seemingly flying high. But this ruinous 12 months has unravelled even the most robust business models; and low-cost carriers have borne the brunt. Before Covid hit, Norwegian was among the world's major transatlantic carriers, flying between Europe and the US, Argentina and Brazil. To achieve such popularity, it did what the likes of British Airways and American Airlines couldn't, or at least wouldn't: offered long-haul routes for ludicrously low prices. In 2013, after 20 years as a reputable short-haul carrier, the first of its budget transatlantic flights departed – firstly from Oslo, and in 2014 from London Gatwick. One-way economy fares between the UK and US cost from just £125. "You didn’t get much leg room, or any free check-in baggage, or any free food or drink for that matter," recalls Greg Dickinson, who was on board Norwegian's inaugural flight between Gatwick and Seattle, with an economy ticket price of $199 (£150).
In August 2020, the British Government offered citizens up to £10 off meals in restaurants via the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme. Nearly 8,000 miles from the UK, the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands is offering its residents an even bigger incentive: £500 to go on holiday. As long as it’s in the Falklands. The Tourism Recovery Incentive Programme (TRIP), which has been in operation since October 2020 and will continue until at least May 31, was launched to provide much-needed support to the Falklands’ tourism sector. Pre-pandemic, tourism brought in as many as 80,000 cruise ship visitors a year, with the islands’ population (2,933) often doubling with the arrival of as many as three vessels per day. For nearly every resident, up until Covid-19 struck, international tourism provided second and third jobs, with many jumping into their 4x4s to take visitors across the islands’ spectacular landscapes, where in the summer the penguin population can reach the one million mark. Since March 2020, the Falklands has lost all international tourism. While flights to Great Britain run by the Ministry of Defence continue to operate, weekly flights to South America have been cancelled since March 2020, with no review of their reopening due until March 2021. The return of the cruise ships remains highly unlikely this year. Located 300 miles east of the Chilean coast, and just 750 miles from the northern tip of Antarctica, the Falklands are isolated from both tourism and the present lockdown conditions of the UK. Pubs and restaurants remain open, with no social distancing, no mask wearing and handshakes an everyday occurrence.
Of all the things that have been damaged in the past 10 months, it is the shrinking of the concept of “family” that many have found the most upsetting. What existed, a short while ago, as a frequent mingling of ages and generations, has, in plenty of cases, been reduced to Zoom windows and remote conversations. The babble of children with grandparents, the catching up with siblings, reminiscences with relatives – much has been boxed up and pushed into a virtual world that feels a wan substitute for normality. The upside of this is that, when restrictions finally lift, the sense of reunion, and the joy of it all, will be inescapable. There will be tears, there will be parties and there will be travel, as families make up for lost time with days and weeks together in the sunshine. When you have spent a year mostly cooped up inside, the horizon will look more alluring than ever. When? That is the thornier question. Not right away, certainly, with the virus still dogging our heels and pandemic travel restrictions closing off the EU to British travellers until the spring at least. But with the vaccine rollout under way, the gloom should disperse as 2021 picks a better path than its predecessor. Many of those paths will lead to the beach. 1. Forest fun Hankering for a back-to-nature way of life – as many of us do these days – James Lynch and Sian Tucker, plus four children, upped sticks from Shoreditch to a farm in west Wales and created Fforest: a creative, grass-rootsy community built with an artist’s aesthetic and upcycled farm materials. Guests sleep in sculptural wooden shacks, onsen domes around a bath house, or the Scandi-rustic 14-bed farmhouse. Everything is hyperlocal, from the own-design Welsh wool blankets to the fish grilled at sociable barbecues. Kids go feral and have the time of their lives, making forest dens, wood carving, coasteering, shooting bows and arrows and roasting marshmallows over fires. There’s a coastal site, too; Manorafon Camp near Penbryn beach. For 2021, the fun starts with four-night stays for four from £525 (coldatnight.co.uk) 2. Transylvania on two wheels Set up by a man who cycled from England to Australia, The Slow Cyclist champions languid travel, offering a sustainable way to discover Rwanda, Transylvania and Greece through a network of local people. Founder Oli Broom describes the Transylvania trip as “absolute magic for families”, taking cyclists through one of Europe’s last wildernesses, staying at medieval mansions or restored village houses. The six-day trip is suitable for anyone from 11-year-olds to grandparents – electric bikes are available and the rides can be shortened (or lengthened) to suit ability. From £1,895pp; theslowcyclist.co.uk 3. Sound idea After a year of being grounded, many are looking to make the most of their 2021 holiday with a bucket-list blowout. Cue the Vancouver Wilderness Family Explorer, Abercrombie & Kent’s eye-opening eight-day trip on an epic scale, flying into Vancouver Island by seaplane to stay at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort – a scattering of luxury tented lodges that kids will adore, set on the edge of pine-forested hills above the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by a towering landscape. It’s a digital detox en famille; go horse riding, walking, mountain biking, rock climbing, surfing, fishing, canoeing, with expert guides, and look for whales and bears. From £5,425pp; abercrombiekent.co.uk 4. Grylls – just wanna have fun? Sani Resort is the original chic Greek family-friendly bolthole. The five-hotel property in Halkidiki encompasses almost 1,000 acres and a string of beaches, which you can zip around by golf buggy, plus 40-odd restaurants and bars, spacious pool villas, and full-throttle facilities including a zip-line adventure park, water park, and academies of tennis, biking, diving, football, sailing and water skiing. Joining those in 2021 is a Bear Grylls Survival Academy: guided survival expeditions through the resort’s woods, building rafts, shelters and fires, and catching food in the (relative) wild – for teenagers, or as a family. Rooms from €166 (£149); Bear Grylls Survival Academy from €40pp per day (saniresort.com) 5. It's not just cricket Sri Lanka’s popularity has been growing steadily since it became safe to return, and it’s a brilliant option for families looking for exotic but easy-going (and affordable) adventures, from jungle to beach. Yonder’s new 14-day Family Holiday to Sri Lanka travels to offbeat parts of the country, with a journey by train, as well as cycling through paddy fields, meeting indigenous people, surfing and learning how to be a park ranger. From £2,900pp; yonder.co.uk
Midwinter on the Norfolk coast may not exactly be beach weather, but the bodies stretched out on the strand seem totally in their element. From the shallows to the sandy shore and all the way up to the dunes, they mill about or take leisurely naps, filling the width of the beach. Wrapped in thick blubber and slick, silky coats (dark slate for the adults, pure white for the pups), they all seem quite oblivious to the bitter North Sea wind. We sightseers may be shivering as we bob in a boat, admiring their antics, but conditions here could not be more ideal for these grey seals. We're at Blakeney National Nature Reserve and this is Blakeney Point, a shingly spit whose habitat hosts England's largest grey seal colony. Winter's far from balmy conditions may not appeal to beach-loving humans, but they suit the seals so well that this is the peak of their pupping season. "Last winter, over 3,500 grey seal pups were born here," says Jason Bean, who's captaining today's seal-spotting trip with Beans Boats (beansboattrips.co.uk). "We're expecting this season's count to be higher."
January, never a cheery month in the first place, is grimmer than ever this year thanks to the imposition of England’s third national lockdown. Trapped indoors until at least March, many will be keeping their spirits up by looking ahead to summer and the possibility of a holiday. The question of where to go is a tricky one, however. Under lockdown, overseas holidays are banned. And, from Monday, travel corridors will be temporarily closed, a negative Covid test will be required to enter the UK and all arrivals will face a period of quarantine. Holidays abroad are looking increasingly complicated for 2021. In response, many travellers are turning to domestic destinations, with tour operators already predicting a summer holiday shortage as demand builds. This also means that crowds will likely be in full force at the UK’s most popular spots this summer, as they were last year, posing a worry for anyone leery of putting themselves in the virus’ way. Or, in the critical eyes of the public. Huge amounts of bad press – and local backlash – was heaped on tourists in 2020 after reports of Cornwall, Bournemouth and more seemingly under siege from holidaymakers. The answer, then, is to head for somewhere a bit less well-known. Here, we’ve compiled the most beautiful under-touristed parts of Britain to book a holiday this summer, that should be free from both crowds and judgement. 1. Herefordshire Set in England’s West Midlands, Herefordshire is a criminally overlooked destination. The nearby Cotswolds draws visitors like a magnet, leaving the county empty of visitors – but there’s just as much to recommend Herefordshire. Pembridge, for instance, is one of the county’s many ‘black and white’ villages. Recorded in the Domesday book in 1086, it has a long history stretching out behind it, most clearly seen in the medieval timber-framed buildings and 13th-century detached bell tower. Bromyard, one of the many market towns, dates back to the 9th century, Castle Frome was owned by King Harold before the Norman Conquest – and takes its name from the Latin word for beautiful – and the charming timbered and thatched houses of Eardisland are set beside the backdrop of the River Arrow. An excellent 40-mile road trip, The Black and White Village Trail (blackandwhitetrail.org) can be done through them all picking up well-priced antiques and intriguing facts as you go.
Ski resorts, hotels and restaurants in Poland have announced they will reopen next week, despite national lockdown restrictions banning them from doing so.
Dreaming of some post-pandemic drinking? From against-the-odds openings to stunning lockdown renovations, these are the bars to put on your travel radar for later this year. 1. Maybe Sammy, Sydney Maybe Sammy, a cocktail bar in Sydney’s The Rocks neighbourhood, opened in February 2019 and has already become one of the Australian city’s standout successes on the bar scene. It went straight onto The World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list at number 43, and became The Best Bar in Australasia a mere nine months after launching. Last year saw the three owners get even busier, pandemic or no, and the trio now has a second cocktail bar in the works: Sammy Junior. It’ll most likely open this February, and will transform from an espresso coffee bar in the morning into a drinks spot in the afternoon, doling out ‘mini cocktails’. Interestingly, it’ll also follow one of the trends to come out of the pandemic – day drinking – and will close at 6pm. Maybe Sammy, will remain open into the small hours, to accommodate the night owls among us. +612 9241 4970; maybesammy.com
As I stared up at the copper-green statue, jotting down my thoughts in a notebook, an elderly man approached me. “The Soviet War Memorial,” he said softly. “When their soldiers fought to take Berlin at the end of the war, tens of thousands were killed in just days. People forget that. Don’t forget that. Are you a journalist?” “Yes,” I said. “I knew it.” He continued: “During the airlift, after Stalin closed overland routes to West Berlin, everything the city needed had to be flown in, from bread to fuel. Even newspaper ink. You care more about that than bread. But I’m jumping around, aren’t I?” Thus began my journey with this stooped, greying man, exploring his city. I was living in Cologne at the time and I had taken the train here for the weekend to get to know the German capital. It was my luck to run into Karl. “After the war ended, Berlin was carved up into four parts,” he went on. “The US, the UK and France shared the West. And the Soviet Union had the East. My family was in the East.” “Mine, too,” I interjected. “My mother is Czech.” “Then you need to know all this,” he replied. “The BBC taught me English. Now I will show you my Berlin.” Karl turned out to be spry, moving swiftly as he led me about his city that hot August day. We turned towards the Reichstag. “The architecture is deliberate,” he said, as I squinted up at the glass cupola, where the public can walk around the spiralling ramp inside. “People must be above the parliament. No more will German decisions be made in darkness.” At the Brandenburg Gate, he sounded jubilant. “Look at the traffic. Until 1989, this was in the ‘death strip’.” Against the noisy backdrop, Karl raised his voice: “In the 1950s, nearly two million crossed the border to migrate to the West. All you needed was a pass. But on the night of Aug 12 1961, public transport stopped and everyone on the street was ordered home. East German and Soviet soldiers ringed in West Berlin – first with bodies, then barbed wire, then the Wall. If your family was split, there was nothing you could do. We must never have borders like that again.” I told him I know all about borders. My mother and her family escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1948, as Soviet influence expanded. Her family arrived in Germany as refugees. “After all we did to Czechoslovakia,” he mused. “History rubs.” I will always remember that line of his. History rubs. “Where now?” he asked me. “Checkpoint Charlie?” I suggested. He dismissed my idea. “That was a crossing point. What’s important is where you could not cross.” We walked to Potsdamer Platz, also once in the “death strip”. “In the 1930s, this was the busiest intersection in Europe,” he said. “It might take 100 years, but it will be again, I tell you.” Before we parted, he said he wanted to show me one more place “because you’re a writer”. We moseyed towards the river. At Bebelplatz, he stopped at a glass square embedded among the cobbles. “It was here on a rainy night on May 10 1933 where the Nazi book-burning began,” he said solemnly. Together, we peered down through the pane at the subterranean art installation of empty bookshelves, a reminder of what was lost. “If you burn books,” he said, “you will end up burning people.” Then he pointed across the street. “That’s Humboldt University, where Einstein lectured. Alumni are Marx and Engels. History rubs.” That line again. Before we parted, I invited Karl for a beer. When the waitress came, he ignored my efforts and paid for both drinks before shaking my hand, wishing me luck in life, and shuffling off. I will never forget his potted history of Berlin, but my greater lesson from Karl was always to be open to spending a day with a stranger. As remote as that sounds right now, it is surely for the kindness of Karls that we go travelling, and why I believe we will travel again.
We could soon have to travel with not one but two passports. One to prove our identity, and another to prove we have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The idea of 'vaccine passports' has been embraced by some countries, like Cyprus, keen to welcome back holidaymakers and business travellers as soon as possible. Yesterday, the Greek Prime Minister also called for standardised EU vaccine certification to reboot travel. But there are mounting concerns and questions about privacy, the feasibility of international coordination, and whether such a programme would be discriminatory against those who have not been vaccinated. Here we take a deep dive into how a vaccine passport might open up our holidays, once we’re out of lockdown and countries begin to reopen their borders. Which countries might accept vaccine passports? A number of countries say they are open to the idea of a 'vaccine passport' replacing the need for a negative Covid-19 test certificate on entry. In December, Cyprus became the first country to say it would waive Covid testing requirements for visitors who have been vaccinated against the virus, according to a Government plan that will come into effect in March 2021. "The amended action plan is expected to further boost the interest of airline companies to carry out additional flights to Cyprus, improve connectivity and increase passenger traffic," said Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos. Iceland has not made an announcement regarding vaccination certificates for arrivals, but the country has already dropped its quarantine restrictions for arrivals who can prove they have had Covid-19; if you land with an antibody test that is no more than 14 days old, you are free to explore. It is possible that, at some point in the future, proof of vaccination would negate the need to take an antibody test. Everyone else arriving in Iceland can currently take a test at the border and a second test after five days, to leave isolation. What are your options for a post-lockdown holiday? The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has also thrown his weight behind the idea of a coordinated, EU-wide vaccine passport scheme. Yesterday, he said it was "urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all Member States." Hungary has also said it could require visitors to show proof of vaccination to enter. "The need for citizens to provide proof that they have gained protection against the coronavirus is increasing all over the world," a government spokesperson said. Are airlines preparing for vaccine passports? A number of airlines have taken steps to develop their own health passport systems, ready to be rolled out once vaccination becomes a requirement for entry. United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Swiss International AirLines, and JetBlue, have all said they would begin offering a health passport system to customers this year. BA-owner IAG is also working on its own healthpass that’s due to launch early this year. Ryanair has sent mixed messages, when it comes to its stance on how the vaccine might reboot travel in 2021. When questioned about the matter on BBC’s Today programme back in November, Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, stated: "You will not require vaccines to travel on short-haul flights between Ireland and the UK or between the UK and Spain, Portugal or Greece next year". Yet, one month later, the low-cost airline released an advert encouraging customers to 'Jab and Go', which is now being investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency. The chief executive of Australian airline Qantas, Alan Joyce, has thrown his support behind the idea. In November last year, he said: "We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft... for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that's a necessity." Joyce said passengers could carry an electronic version of a "vaccination passport" that certifies it is acceptable for the final destination country. Vaccine passports to take off around the world despite critics What if I am not due a vaccine until later in the year? As it stands, the UK Government is prioritising vaccination of the vulnerable and elderly. The current forecast puts autumn 2021 as the date when all adults in the UK have received a vaccine. Tens of millions of people will be immunised by spring at over 2,700 vaccination sites across the UK, the Government announced on Jan 11, as part of comprehensive plans to rapidly scale up the Covid-19 vaccination programme. It is possible that, were countries to accept vaccine certification from arrivals, those who were not yet eligible for a vaccine could present a negative PCR Covid-19 test to avoid a quarantine on arrival – as is the requirement in many countries right now, including, as of Friday, the UK. Can I pay to get a vaccine? Not in the UK. The Government website says: "The COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination." However, it is possible to pay for a vaccine overseas. A £25,000-a-year UK private concierge service 'The Knightsbridge Circle' has exclusively revealed that it is flying its members to the UAE and India to receive vaccinations. Around 40 per cent of the company’s members are UK based, but many hold multiple passports and have several homes around the globe.