It’s time to seek out the extraordinary with these epic journeys…
SAFARI SO GOOD
As the golden-hued light hits the scrubland over the Moremi Game Reserve, any concerns over the 15 hours of connecting flights to get you there will melt away as you soak in your surroundings. Your guides, Botswana-raised John Barclay and intrepid Northumbrian James Stenner, have pulled together an exceptionally wild yet comfortable journey to the various viewing spots in what is considered one of Africa’s greatest protected areas, consulting the ‘bush telegraph’ on the movements of game.
For three nights, you’ll join the luxury mobile camp, shoulder to shoulder with foraging hippos, sleeping in pristine and spacious en-suite tents with all mod-cons, clustered around secret pools under a luminous canopy of stars. June to September is a perfect time to visit the region on safari, with an influx of hopeful herds around watering holes as the bare bush awaits the floods to the Okavango Delta.
Day four is a boat trip through the shimmering water world, which at 15,000 sq km is the largest inland delta on the planet. As you wind through the gentle waterways, you arrive at a remote, unnamed island where an adventure camp of white mosquito tents is set up. Spend the day learning about the unique ecosystem — with some visiting elephants (and even the odd lion) — then have a chef-cooked dinner after viewing of the hundreds of herons coming in to roost, popping champagne at sunset.
To round off your trip, it’s back to the mobile camp, now set up in the heart of big game country, where some show-stopping views await. James and John will lead you in the safari car to find the big five plus the rare wild dog, and there even might be time for a swim. The Instagram opportunities will be limitless.
£8,080 per person at Regal level based on a seven-night full board itinerary in Moremi Game Reserve, plus return lightweight flights from Maun to the Reserve, inclusive of professional private guide and exclusive use of camp and vehicles throughout your safari (barclaystenner.com)
THE NEW TRAVEL MEDIA
The Black travel movement is well established in the US but is relatively new in the UK. Now Ella Paradis, founder of The Black Explorer, is bringing it to the mainstream. Despite Black travellers contributing nearly £125bn to the industry in 2019, Paradis, a former travel agent, found media representation woeful so in 2020 she decided to do something about it. The first Black Explorer issue was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and committed to amplifying black voices through writing and photography. The next issue centres on Africa, with cliché-free pieces from each of its 54 countries because, as Paradis puts it: ‘Our focus is on the human perspective — not destination led but the people who are in the destination. Travel is just the connector.’
ARCHITECT JOHN PAWSON ON NOMADIC ARCHITECTURE
“The finest example I’ve seen were the churches in Lalibela, in Ethiopia. Places of worship for God-based religions can share a common thread — a mosque in Cordoba can be turned into a church and in Jerusalem different holy sites often change hands. A church is essentially an enclosure with a table (which we call an altar). What made those in Ethiopia so special were that they were carved down into the earth; essentially each was a giant piece of rock. It is just a big chapel for 150 people but they are magnificent to behold.”
SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY
Dahabiyas were once a common sight on the Nile, a flotilla of golden boats that carried pharaohs and world leaders up and down the spine of Egypt. These ancient vessels fell out of favour with the advent of steam engines and later, commercial cruises from holiday pioneers such as Thomas Cook. But their romance and embodiment of slow travel has gained traction with travellers again.
Nour El Nil harks back to this bygone era of adventure, in boats custom-built by its three founders on a site just outside the historic city of Alexandria. The first boat, Assouan, was launched nearly 20 years ago (fun fact for boaties: it measured an impressive 37m, making it the longest boat to sail the Nile). The fleet has grown to six dahabiyas but they retain all the charm of the original: spacious cabins outfitted in Bedouin style, crews with encyclopaedic knowledge of local areas and, of course, those iconic canvas sails, hand-died in its signature red and white stripes.
While the tour is not inexpensive, there are benefits to seeing Egypt this way as guests embark on a six-day journey along the river with stops to marvel at ancient and modern wonders, from grand temples to jewellery co-operatives in local villages. A refreshing alternative to tourist trap hotels and googleable itineraries we’ve grown accustomed to and one that encapsulates the classic Egyptian sense of welcome and hospitality.
From £2,080 per cabin, based on two sharing, including meals and non-alcoholic drinks, entrance to five sites and transfers (nourelnil.com)
Fill your boots (wellies or cowboys) with great eats, idyllic walks and tucked-away greenspaces
BE OUR GUEST
Looking to go somewhere for the weekend? Try Glebe House, the charming North Devon guest house that has become a stealth hit since opening in spring last year. Helmed by young couple Hugo and Olive Guest, the six-bedroom Georgian manor house is quietly redefining the great British B&B. Food gets top billing (Hugo has previously worked in the kitchens of the Marksman and Sorella) and the 15 acres of land surrounding the property have been repurposed to house polytunnels, allotments, a microbakery as well as a rather lively drove of pigs. Inside, rooms have been outfitted in quintessential English style — they cite Charleston in Sussex as inspiration — and walls are sheathed in works from local artists. In short, the perfect weekend escape.
Rooms from £129 per night (glebehousedevon.com)
BACK IN THE SADDLE
The cowboys have been having their moment for some time now. Music, fashion and film have all been given a healthy dose of the #yeehawagenda and now, travel is receiving the same treatment. Enter Tombstone Monument Ranch, a frontier-style guest ranch tucked away just north of the Mexican border in Arizona, where a full cowboy experience awaits. From rounding up cattle to six hours of daily horseback riding, the Working Ranch package is a taste of the spur-studded life. Not into cattle branding on your holiday? Go for the cushier Relax, Eat and Sleep package, where the riding is optional, meals are hearty and the poolside recliners are lying in wait (and you can still claim you’ve had a proper slice of cowboy action).
Seven nights Working Ranch Roundup from £ 1,788 single occupancy (tombstonemonumentranch.com)
TRULLI, MADLY, DEEPLY
At the heel of Italy, Puglia has always drawn visitors in search of sun, sea and the bounty of what’s described as ‘the larder of Italy’. Architecturally, its also striking: home to Greeks, Romans and at one point part of the Byzantine Empire, its buildings have absorbed and reflected this rich history.
Updating these monuments for the modern traveller is no easy feat, which makes the opening of Masseria Gemmabella all the more exciting. Situated just outside the town of Noci, this traditional 400-year-old farmhouse has been sympathetically restored by a British mother-daughter team with spectacular results. The main masseria — originally used for housing cattle on the ground floor, with farmers sleeping directly above — has been cleverly reconfigured to accommodate three smart en-suite bedrooms (the master comes with its own roof terrace overlooking the surrounding nut groves and fruit orchards) as well as airy living spaces and a communal kitchen.
But it’s the six trulli outside, the signature dry stone buildings of Puglia with their distinctive conical roofs, that are the main draw. Each affords total privacy for guests as self-contained spaces and the owners have painstakingly restored all original features from the bricks to the joinery, using manufacturers and artisans within a 10-mile radius of the property.
The owners admit it’s been a labour of love — nearly five years in the making — but after a soft opening last year they are on the home stretch. The salt-water pool is practically begging guests to dive in; the peach orchards and almond groves gently scenting the breeze around the estate. Of course there’s plenty of fun to be had in the local towns: Alberobello, Ostuni and Martina Franca in the Valle D’Itria are a reasonably short drive away, but chances are you’ll be hard pressed to leave. Gemmabella is a place for those of us who want to abscond from the modern world and live, at least for a week or two, the simple life.
From £9,000 per week, sleeps up to 14 guests (masseriagemmabella.com)
For heavenly food and a touch of fresh, French air, keep an eye out for the opening of farm-to-table restaurant with rooms, Le Doyenne in Saint-Vrain, in the countryside just south of Paris. The space has been reimagined by design studio Ciguë, (which has dreamt up concepts for Aesop and Alain Ducasse), and is the passion project of chefs James Henry and Sean Kelly, who have served time at the likes of St John, Spring and Yard. Built around the ritual of eating, the 40-seater, minimal-waste restaurant will focus on making the very best of organic produce grown by the pair on the regenerative on-site farm, which has been supplying Parisian restaurants Septime and Le Châteaubriand throughout the pandemic. Bien.
Fly high with sky-scraping infinity pools, secret districts and unbeatable art scenes
HOW TO BE A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN TOWN
Think of Plum Guide as the natural successor to Airbnb, a home rental company that swerves algorithms and endless listings, for a smart and sharp edit of some of the world’s best vacation homes. Here they provide their tips for making the most out of a city escape and how to choose the ideal base for your adventures
START WITH FINDING AN EXCEPTIONAL PROPERTY
Though this is a question of taste. To some, exceptional is a quintessential period property with a fireplace and maybe an aga, to others it is a super swanky penthouse with ultra modern appliances. Certain people are all about a view from a balcony and for others it’s something with novelty value (ie a houseboat). And remember, quality does not always equate to expensive.
THINK IN TERMS OF NEW NEIGHBOURHOODS
Places such as Venice, Lisbon and San Sebastian are all doing well at Plum Guide. Our most popular areas for bookings within these cities seem to be the more artisanal and down-to-earh areas but still rich in culture enough to get a sense of what everyday life is all about. Anjos in Lisbon is one to watch. In London, it might be somewhere only a Tube ride away but with expert tips (see below) you’ll experience it in a whole new way.
VIP OR HIDDEN EXTRAS ARE KEY
Our homes have an array of bonkers and surprising qualities, everything from hidden underground pools, beds that double as dance floors and house museums. This is what elevates your stay from the more pedestrian offerings of other home-stay platforms.
LOOK TO THE EXPERTS
We find the same tips and suggestions again and again online. But the value of a concierge is not to be ignored. Over the next few years, we’ll see a return to the reliance on the expert — the critic, if you will. The person who dedicates their life to studying what makes a great TV, hotel, camera. It’s about outsourcing some of the hard work back to them.
OSLO’S ART MOMENT
Northern lights, the midnight sun and spectacular scenery are all well and good, but Norway’s true feast for the eyes can be found in Oslo’s art scene. Shelter from Scandinavian winds amid one of its many impressive collections, starting with the newly opened Munchmuseet (left), a waterfront museum housing the world’s largest collection of Edvard Munch’s work.
Once you’ve perfected your re-creation of The Scream, head to the brand new National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design — the biggest art institution in any Nordic country housing more than 400,000 objects. If that doesn’t fill your culture boots, try Oslo Opera House, the Standard gallery, the Oslobiennalen, Henie Onstad Art Center, OSL Contemporary or even a sauna/art/concert space, Salt. That should be enough for a long weekend at least.
AMAN WITH A PLAN
You know those Pinterest-worthy over-water hammocks in the Maldives, sky-high swimming pools nestled between Singaporean towers and drool-worthy infinity pools taking over every Instagram feed? You can thank Jean-Michel Gathy for those. The mastermind and architect behind the world’s most opulent hotels has now teamed up with luxury resort brand Aman for its upcoming New York outpost, which naturally will live up to expectations: think rooftop terrace, first-of-their-kind private residences and an onsite jazz club. With ‘two or three’ design requests made per day to Gathy from other hotels, his latest work is going to be in high demand and a new Big Apple icon.
Opening in June (aman.com)
A TASTE OF LONDON
If you’re looking for an excuse to slip away from the city, you’ll be thrilled to know that an increasing number of London’s best chefs are unveiling restaurants accompanied by rooms in which to rest one’s head in the glorious countryside. This November, Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen will open her very first pub with lodgings, The Three Horseshoes, in Somerset. Set between the medieval church and village hall in the countryside village of Batcombe, the 17th-century inn has been lovingly restored and will soon serve heartfelt, wholesome food, celebrating the produce of local farmers. At the tail end of last year, Nicholas Balfe, behind Levan, Salon and Larry’s, opened Holm in nearby South Petherton. A bright, inviting restaurant serving modern British and Mediterranean-inspired fare using local ingredients, it will be graced with elegant rooms upstairs and in the vast garden early next year. And, finally, a little further afield, Florence Knight is set to open a second iteration of her hit restaurant Session’s Arts Club in the Scottish Highlands, which will have nine rooms and two cabins to waddle back to after feasting on everything in sight, and will no doubt be as gloriously chic at her quarters in the capital.
(holmsomerset.co.uk; thethreehorseshoesbatcombe.ilck.dev; sessionsartsclub.com)
MODEL KESEWA ABOAH ON BARCELONA SHOPPING
“Is there anything better than a city on the sea? It’s what makes Barcelona the perfect city break. I last went a month ago. It was a little cold and grey — a bit more on the London side of things — but that’s the exception not the rule. I love a gallery or a museum but for a quick trip I’ll only do one architectural stop. You just soak it in by walking around. This trip, however, I shopped. I found a vintage store called Le Swing that had some great bits and pieces, as well as this beautiful candle shop, Cereria Subirà, which had them in all shapes, sizes and colours. I highly recommend: great for yourself but I also got lots for friends for their new homes.”
Flanked by the sea, you’ll return restored after a trip to one of these rejuvenating destinations
THE AUSSIE GO SLOW
By Andrew Tweddle
Distance, jet lag, deadly spiders: the prospect of visiting Australia could be overwhelming. But get your itinerary right and the sheer scale of an Antipodean adventure will fall into place. The Grand Pacific Drive is the perfect road trip for taking in the best New South Wales has to offer. Start in Sydney and head south. Exiting the city, first on the agenda is a bushwalk in the Royal National Park (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/royal-national-park has guides). Opt for one that includes a beach like Garie, Wattamolla or Burning Palms, home to the famous Figure 8 Pool.
From there, you’ll hug the coast towards Thirroul. Before long you’ll hit the Sea Cliff Bridge – one of Australia’s most memorable road trip landmarks. Along the way, stop off at any of the rock pools (that is, swimming pools built into the shore). Coalcliff, Wombarra, Austinmer and Bulli are all worth a dip. Lunch at the Scarborough Hotel is a must — book an outdoor table well in advance.
Wollongong is the largest city along the drive. Grab brunch at Lee & Me or Diggies by the beach, drinks at Night Parrot or The Throsby and dinner at Babyface Kitchen or the recently opened Santino. You’ll find a good range of beachside Airbnbs in the area, but for those looking to splurge on accommodation, Tumbling Waters Retreat in Stanwell Tops and The Sebel Harbourfront in Kiama are both pretty show-stopping.
The drive continues past Kiama to Shoalhaven and beyond to Jervis Bay and Mollymook if you have time. Those with little ones would be wise to hit Jamberoo Action Park (slip, slap, slop that sunscreen) before heading inland for an afternoon of wine tasting at Silos Estate Winery, where kids can befriend the alpacas on the grounds. Then head into Berry to get a taste of quintessential regional Australia.
With international tourists finally being welcomed back, it’s time to book a trip Down Under quick before the rest of the world catches up.
TEL AVIV, PLEASE
It’s official. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit, Tel Aviv has climbed to the top spot as the most expensive city in the world to live in. But what’s the allure for out-of-towners? There’s the obvious — 14km of coastline, a paddle-boarder’s paradise. But it is also drawing in visitors thanks to a cultural shift further south to the vibrant neighbourhoods of Florentin, Neve Tzedek and Jaffa.
These three sisters have quickly become home to some of the city’s finest galleries, restaurants and clubs, and a perfect example of regeneration done right. The main route down to the south is Rothschild Boulevard and incidentally where the R2M hospitality group has transformed a Bauhaus building into the sleek, boutique, 11-room R48 Hotel & Garden, with interiors by French design outfit Liagre and landscaped gardens from the iconic Piet Oudolf (he of New York’s Highline fame). Expect it to be heaving when it opens in August.
Rooms from£1,140 (r2m.co.il)
Adore Déviant, Vivant and Hotel Bourbon in Paris? You’ll fall head over heels for Il Capri Hotel by the very same team, set to open in June. Situated on the petite, sunny island from which it takes its name, the whimsical pink and white Venetian-style palazzo overlooks the vast Gulf of Naples and boasts 21 rooms just a stone’s throw from the famed Piazzetta. Inspired by nearby Mount Vesuvius, interiors are dotted with earthy volcanic reds, subtle Wes Anderson-esque pinks and lots of tactile, natural fibres, while elsewhere in the hotel there’s a sustainably minded authentic Italian restaurant, a rooftop to sun oneself on and an oh-so stylish nightclub for dancing off many, many spritzes . We’ll see you there.
Rooms from £330 per night (ilcaprihotel.com)
A bothy is traditionally a small hut, cottage or one-room building for housing farm labourers or for use as a refuge to escape the elements. An indispensable part of historic British hill culture, these rustic shelters, of which there are about 100, are scattered across England, Scotland and Wales, are often, by their remote nature, exquisitely situated and incredibly hard to find. Left unlocked and offering little more than a roof, four walls and the occasional wood stove, they tend to be frequented largely by walkers and are free to use since the Bothy Code prohibits their use for commercial purposes. Before you tug on your boots and take a hike, hit search on The Bothy Project, an independent charity working to provide creative residences in bespoke, pint-sized and off-grid spaces. Small wonders, indeed. (bothyproject.com)