A quirky little restaurant, with the walls plastered with foreign coins and banknotes, can be found down a tiny alleyway not far from the waterfront. You will be pleasantly surprised by this little gem that doesn’t even try to compete with the tourist restaurants along the seafront. It doesn’t need to!
Location and size it may not have, but it makes up for that with huge portions of authentic Portuguese dishes served in beautiful poteens , by friendly and happy staff.
If you love dining with the locals then take this diversion off the tourist routes.
Leaving the beautiful cathedral city of Canterbury the 'Crab and Winkle' cycle route mostly follows an old disused railway line. George Stephenson and his son Robert built the Invicta, the locomotive which ran on this line. The route passes through the ancient woodland of the Blean, and the fascinating 'Winding Pond'. The pond was built in 1829 to store the water that the steam winding engines needed to pull the passenger carriages up the hill out of Whitstable where Thomas Telford built the harbour. Isambard Kingdom Brunel inspected the route's railway tunnel, which is now closed off, the first in the world to take passenger trains.
Whitstable, with its working harbour, strange alleyways and quirky shops has restaurants galore to sustain you for the return trip. Yes, there is a hill up/down from the town at each end, but the main part of the route is fairly flat and wonderfully relaxing.
Fringed with pristine deserted beaches of pure white sand and surrounded by the sparkling Indian Ocean, Quilalea Island is a hidden gem. This 35 hectare island is set within a national park and offers seclusion and privacy.
From the magnificent beaches you can reach some of the best coral reefs in the world that provide a habitat for an abundance of marine life. Feeding and nesting grounds for the population of sea turtles, dugong, dolphins, sharks and whales can be found here.
It is the undiscovered nature of this island’s beaches that make it so special. Snorkel the island’s shores, kayak the mangroves or relax in a hammock beneath the giant baobabs on the island beaches. Quilalea is a tiny untouched paradise. Difficult to reach, this is the ultimate African beach retreat for an offbeat getaway.
There are few places to stay on the island - the newly refurbished lodges at ‘Azura’, a luxury ‘eco’ boutique retreat which has all the facilities you need, while being a perfect beach hideaway, is worth a visit.
The quaint city of Pemba has an international airport, for the Quirimbas Archipelago in Cabo Delgado Province, Northern Mozambique. From here you travel by light aircraft, helicopter or speedboat to the island.
+27 (0)767 050599
Cosmopolitan? Yes. Funky? Yes. Atmospheric? Definitely.
Tucked under the Victorian Arches, on Brighton beach, the ‘Fortune of War’ bar is the place to go.
Hip at any time – but give it a whirl on the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, and you will not regret it.
Buy a good hot mulled wine or two to get into the festive spirit and then walk down to Madeira Drive to watch Brighton’s annual ‘Burning the Clocks’. Amazing and unique, paper and willow lanterns, in all shapes and sizes, are carried in a parade through the city, illuminating the spectators, and then burnt on the beach. Tradition has it that all the hopes and dreams of the lantern makers are passed into the fire.
Followed by a great firework display over the sea, the festive mood has been set, so back inside for another mulled wine or two. Happy Christmas!
157 Kings Road Arches
Brighton and Hove BN1 1NB
Google map: bit.ly/vEzlSw
Burning the Clocks
Fringed with pristine deserted beaches of pure white sand and surrounded by the sparkling Indian Ocean, Quilalea Island is a hidden gem. This 35 hectare island, set within a national park, offers the ultimate in seclusion and privacy.
Close to the magnificent stretches of beach you can reach some of the best coral reefs in the world that provide a habitat for an abundant array of marine life. Feeding and nesting grounds for the population of sea turtles, dugong, dolphins, sharks and whales can be found here.
It is the 'undiscovered' nature of this island’s beaches that makes it so special. Snorkel the island’s shores, kayak the mangroves or relax in a hammock beneath the giant baobabs on the island beaches. Quilalea is a tiny untouched paradise. Difficult to reach, this is the ultimate African beach retreat for pioneers looking for an offbeat getaway.
The only place to stay on the island is at the newly refurbished lodges at ‘Azura’, a luxury ‘eco’ boutique retreat which has all the facilities you need, while being a perfect beach hideaway.
The quaint city of Pemba is the access point with an international airport, for the Quirimbas Archipelago in Cabo Delgado Province, Northern Mozambique. From here you travel by light aircraft, helicopter or speedboat to the island.
+27 (0)767 050599
All I can say is just go there. You may be cold but will not be disappointed. Yllas, in Finnish Lapland, far into the Arctic Circle, is the place I love.
Temperatures plummet to minus 25 degrees C – and that’s in the day, but don’t be put off by this. Dress for the weather and you will fall in love with the place. The lack of daylight hours in winter, with daytime sunrise and sunset, just adds to the beauty.
If its fun you are after, you have a choice. Downhill ski, cross country ski, husky dog sledding, ice fishing, reindeer sleighs, snowmobiles – you need a week here to do it all. Meet the local Sami people, who will invite you into their huts and make tea over an open fire in a blackened kettle.You cannot possibly get bored.
The choice of pristine snow and the silence that comes with it is another option, with miles of walking trails that cannot be beaten for peace and solitude.
There is of course the option to be a big kid and travel to Santa’s post office in Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, where you can meet him any day of the year. Here you can arrange for the ‘real’ Santa’s letters to be delivered to the kids!
Add to this the wide range of first class hotels, romantic log cabins, blazing log fires and you have it all – well nearly. I stayed at the Hotel Akas, a very friendly and atmospheric hotel in the traditional unspoilt Lappish community of Akaslompolo, near Yllas.
The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) are a spectacle not to be missed. Normally appearing in the night, my hotel agreed to give me a wakeup call when they appeared. Believe me; it’s worth missing some sleep for.
To me Lapland conjures up many memories – the beauty of the sky, the sparkle of the snow, and the magic of the silence. I will return.
Want to buy something different, without the hassle, while enjoying a day by the sea?
Whitstable is the place; a unique little town on the north Kent coast, with bags of character - yet only a stone’s throw from London. Famous for its oysters, alleys and artists, Whitstable is worth a day out shopping or a whole weekend of retail therapy combined with seaside ambiance.
Apart from being beautiful to look at, it is full of interesting little shops (not the usual high street chains), where you can pick up gifts from pennies to hundreds of pounds.
If you are looking for a piece of local artwork, handmade jewellery or designer clothes you will find it here – without the pushing and shoving of the city! But if it’s just an unusual knick-knack, a kite, a delicious cheese or heavenly cupcake, Whitstable has that too.
Yes the chain stores are slowly moving in, but they have yet to make their mark. Whitstable strives to retain its character as a town that does not look like it could be just anywhere.
The beauty of the place is that you can combine the shopping with a wonderful meal at the numerous restaurants or just go for the good old seaside fish’n’chips. Blow away the cobwebs with a brisk walk along the beach, watch the boats in the harbour, have a break in the independent little coffee shops, or sit and watch the sunsets that the town is famous for.
It is such a beautiful place, that you may even find yourself staying over for a full weekend, and having another day to explore and maybe go for even more unusual retail therapy.
You will not be disappointed.
Whitstable is on the North Kent Coast. Easily accesible from London on the A2 / M2 and then the A299. It has a train station within walking distance of the town and beach.
Google map: bit.ly/rqDl8R
After a wait on a cliff edge while the road was repaired with boulders after a landslide in front of our eyes, we arrived in the small town of Kurseong, nestled on a ridge in the Himalayan foothills.
Kurseong is on the UNESCO World Heritage Toy Train route from Siliguri to Darjeeling.
I was totally impressed by the shabby grandeur of the exterior of Cochrane Place, a recreated and restored stately British Colonial home of its previous resident, Percy John Cochrane, MBE. Stone, log and cast iron splendour are complemented with regal antique furniture, colonial cuisine and the Raj ambiance.
My next intake of breath was on being shown to our en-suite room, with two huge antique burma teak four poster beds and a fireplace to die for.
But the best was yet to come.
On opening the balcony doors the world itself seemed to open up before my eyes. The views of the third highest mountain in the world, snow covered Kanchenjunga (also known as Kunchangenga), towering over the village and vast tea plantations will be impossible to forget.
But things got even better when I asked for a much needed cup of tea. The hotel tea maker took me out to a terrace, with the same incredible view and chatted to me about my tastes, likes and dislikes, as there are hundreds of teas that he can make. After going away for five minutes he returned with a crystal clear glass of the most amazing light Darjeeling tea with German lavender, so clear that I could see the mountain through the tea. I was in heaven!
I have to say he chose perfectly for my taste, but then the Indians are good at that.
The hotel serves hot and cold mocktail teas, seasonal fruit and flower blends, ayurvedic herbal teas, flavourful teas from across India or a fine roasted Darjeeling – fresh from the adjacent tea estate of Makaibari.
While eating local foods in the candlelit restaurant, the lights of the valley floor, four thousand feet below, twinkled in the distance. The stars twinkled overhead.
The hotel is full of artwork and quirky memorabilia in every available space, with sitting rooms and dining areas that were impossible to pass through without spending time.
The whole experience was unique and the hospitality second to none.
I was very sad to leave and will return for much longer next time.
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