They may be part of a major chain – Starwood – but the quirky Aloft Hotels are a world away from your standard corporate accommodation and dining areas. The new Merseyside hotel is the brand’s second in the UK and the culmination of an £18 million regeneration of the historic Grade II-listed Royal Insurance building, the developers having worked alongside Liverpool City Council and English Heritage. The elegant interiors of the communal rooms are a reflection of the venue’s former glories. The buzzy bar area and the modern bedrooms with their funky vibe are in keeping with the Aloft credo for cheap-ish but extremely cheerful stays.
Business travellers seeking a break from the norm and leisure visitors wanting a fun, competitively priced and centrally located hotel.
The 116 loft-like bedrooms contain pretty much everything you could want. King-sized and comfy bed, desk area, disguised space for hanging clothes, bright bathroom including shower, decent sized TV, safe deposit box and complimentary water, tea and coffee.
I packed my bags for Island life in Mallorca in May 2009 but I was not new to Spain – far from it.
Marbella guided me from my 20s through to my 30s but we reached our seven-year itch and I had to move on. It was either back to the UK (the stuff of expat nightmares) or across to the Island of innocent childhood holidays and unblemished memories (apart from that summer spent working in Magalluf when I was 21, but that blemish can be erased) – Mallorca of course won.
Mallorca is a beacon of calm, sophistication, beauty and A-List celebrity.
It is also an Island of great wealth with its 870,000-strong population enjoying the highest per capita level of disposable income in Spain.
To those who believe only what they read in the papers – tales of union jack shorts, binge drinking and abandonment of inhibitions – this classy portrayal may come as some surprise.
Mallorca is in fact breathtakingly stunning. From deserted white sand beaches to craggy pine-clad mountain ranges, the exquisite architecture of historic buildings to flower-filled fields heavy with citrus trees, Mallorca offers
L’Espace Killy, located in the Savoy region south west of Geneva, is named after the eponymous French ski racer, offers two different main resorts, but one fantastic ski area.
In these uncertain climatic times, one of the most important considerations is booking with the confidence that you are going to have snow to ski on. Espace Killy is reassuringly consistent—both Tignes and Val d’Isère are high enough to pretty much guarantee skiing throughout the season and the variety of skiing caters for everyone from beginner to seasoned expert, as does the variety (and cost) of accommodation.
Both resorts played major roles in the 1992 Winter games—Val d’Isère hosting most of the men’s alpine skiing events while Tignes was the site for all of the freestyle skiing events.
“Val” is one of the most British of all French resorts. It’s got a reputation for being posh and prices certainly commands a premium, but nowadays there is a wide spread of accommodation ranging from the hostel end through to some of the most luxurious hotels and chalets around. The nightlife is excellent and some of
The beating heart of Russia is a global commercial hub, a cosmopolitan metropolis with 1,000 years of history and more than 10 million inhabitants.
Unlike its sister city St Petersburg, the Venice of the North, few foreign visitors think of coming to Moscow. The Cold War memories of a cold, grey city still linger, but in 2015 they couldn’t be further from reality.
It boasts some of the finest hotels in the world, iconic buildings, rich cultural sites, and fine restaurants, so whether you are just passing through or staying a while our guide helps you make the most of the city.
In Moscow, location is everything, and you can’t do better than to stay at the historic Ritz Carlton Hotel, a stone’s throw away from Red Square. The decor is inspired by the decadence of Imperial Russia, so you’ll live like a Tsar in this palace. Superior guest rooms start from 16000 RUB at the weekends, and whether you’re treating yourself to fine dining in Novikov Restaurant, relaxing in the spa, or people watching in the lobby, you’re not going to want to leave.
You probably think that Greece is all about sun, sea and sand. It is. But it is also the third most mountainous country in Europe after Norway and Albania and this can only mean one thing – skiing.
From December to March this traditional summer getaway turns into a ski destination offering 18 ski centres and 190 km of runs for all abilities. And though these are located in quaint, traditional villages, the après ski scene is vibrant with a nightlife that is surprisingly busy.
1. GREVENA – The double ski experience
Grevena has two ski resorts. One is Vassilitsa National Ski Centre, located 42 km north west of Grevena and the other is at Anilio at Metsovo.
Vassilitsa National Ski Centre
Stunning picturesque routes and fresh powder snow define Vassilitsa National Ski Centre. Experienced skiers and snowboarders love it but it’s also ideal for families and beginners as it has 18 slopes offering 22km of skiing area that caters for all levels.
Two slopes, Zeus at 1000m high and Timfaia at 1814m, have been approved by the International Ski Federation (IFS) for alpine ski competitions but its to the
Rose petal baths and his and hers massages are traditional ways to share time together over the Valentine weekend. But why not add a little adventure and make some memories.
Here is our selection of five Valentine destinations including a three-day party with your beau, a wild adventure, or a sunset picnic on a Caribbean beach.
1.Las Vegas — for risk takers
Ah, Vegas — the hub of shotgun weddings and hungover regrets. Sin City, as it’s affectionately known by its visitors, is the perfect Valentine destination for the risk-takers; for the lovers who want to stay up all night partying and stay in all day revelling in the excesses of a luxury hotel suite. If you’re a stickler for traditional romance (and you can tear yourself away from your en suite hot-tub), then head down to Lake Las Vegas where there’s a whole village modelled on Italian architecture, complete with authentic Venice-style gondola rides for two. End the visit with a candle-lit Italian meal by the water’s edge, or if you’re ready to start partying again — head right back
The findings of a poll from Eurobookings have shown that women are two times as likely to have an affair as men on Valentine’s Day.
8.4% of respondents answered “yes” to the question “Have you ever used a room at a hotel to cheat on your partner on Valentine’s Day?”, 67% of which were women, while 32% were men older than 35.
The polls also revealed that two out of three who answered said they wouldn’t book a hotel room as a romantic gesture for their partner when asked “How much would you spend on a hotel room for Valentine’s Day”.
Of those who said they would, 19.2% were willing to spend anywhere between £51-£100, 11.5% would part with something between £25-£50 and none said they wanted to spend over £200 on a hotel room for Valentine’s Day.
Among the number of people who said they wouldn’t dip into their pocket for a Valentine’s Day hotel room, half were women.
Some may think romance is dead. Fortunately, some respondents said that they would consider doing something on Valentine’s Day: 30.8% of women said that, despite not wanting to book a
Rome is a pretty compact city so you naturally come upon many of the famous sites just walking around.
This stylish city is a wonderful juxtaposition of ancient and modern, and with so much to see follow our guide to get the most out of Italian capital.
Even if you’re not interested in the religious heritage, a visit to The Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica is still worthwhile because it has artworks and sculptures collected by various popes over the centuries and the wonderful Sistine Chapel, painted ceiling by Michelangelo.
St Peter’s Basilica is home to Michelangelo’s breathtaking sculpture ‘Pieta’ and the tomb of St Peter. You can go down to the catacombs and see more of it (if you are interested in catacombs head right out of the walled part of Rome and marvel at La Catacomba di San Callisto and San Sebastian on the Via Appia Antica).
Outside St. Peter’s Square, the obelisk in the centre dates from 13th-century-BC Egypt and was brought to Rome in the 1st century to stand in Nero’s Circus nearby.
“You are the chosen one,” said Ulf Wolter, the fair-haired captain, of Europa 2 cruise ship. He was pointing at me. “Return here to the bridge at 6pm tomorrow night just before we set sail and I’ll show you what to do”.
That was an enticing offer, especially on a ship as stylish as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises‘ newest offering. Having a tour of the bridge is one thing, every passenger can have one, but pressing the captain’s klaxon is quite another. In the meantime though, I had a medium-sized luxury ship to explore.
This was a four-night cruise, sailing from Lisbon to Lanzarote, calling at Morocco’s Casablanca and Agadir with a day at sea. It was hardly any time at all, but enough to sometimes forget that I was on a liner. The bright décor, open spaces and easy decorum reminded me of times I had spent in luxury five star hotels.
This ship, probably the most expensive liner around, is not the largest – at most it will carry 500 passengers – but it offers a huge amount of space. Their motto is “luxury is being able
With a new book in the making, photographer Rebecca Bathory takes David Hillier through her favourite dark tourism spots.
Fontanelle Cemetery, Naples, Italy
Some 40,000 bodies await at Fontanelle Cemetery
I really love this place. It opened in the 1500s and is home to something like 40,000 bodies, most of whom were deposited there during the 1656 plague and cholera epidemics of the 1830s.
In 1872, there began a conclusive cleaning and inventorying of the bones, led by Father Gaetan Barbiti. Over time, a cult arose where people would care for the skulls and name them, bringing them flowers and gifts. This ‘cult of the dead’ carried on until 1969 when a Cardinal decided it was unhealthy and sealed up the crypt. You can now book tours. It’s great.
Abandoned gas masks in Pripyat, near Chernobyl
This is the town that was built for the workers of Chernobyl. It’s 3km (1.9 miles) away from the plant and its population of 49,000 was evacuated when the station erupted. There’s a 30km (19-mile) exclusion
Our correspondent, Beccy Allen, explains why she just ran through a refugee camp in the Saharan Desert.
Not many holidays begin in a military airport, but this trip is different. As hundreds of us, from teenagers to 80 year olds, pile off the plane at Tindouf Airport in southwest Algeria, we begin a journey to understand the plight of the Saharawi refugees of Western Sahara, and a race to raise money for much-needed repairs and projects in their refugee camps.
Navigating Tindouf Airport is an exercise in patience, as the Algerian Air Force slowly pour over our passports. But this pales into insignificance compared to the wait endured by the Saharawi people, who have spent 40 years campaigning to return to their homeland in Western Sahara.
So far they have been unsuccessful and remain scattered between three lands: refugee camps here in Tindouf; a slither of land known as the ‘Liberated Territories’, just north of Mauritania; and the resource-rich ‘Occupied Territories’, which are currently under Moroccan military control.
There isn’t a country in the world that recognises Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara,
A bombsite in Tel Aviv has become an unlikely stage for a free-spirited weekly soirée. But with developers at the door has the makeshift drumming ceremony reached its crescendo? Emilee Tombs investigates.
It starts on the beach at sundown.
At first it’s not much more than a distant pop patting, easily mistaken for a game of matkot, the bat and ball game known as Israel’s national sport.
Pop, pat, pop, pat.
But then the distinctive rasp of a snare drum joins the fray, followed by the faint rattle of a maraca. Within moments a full orchestra has sprung up from the sand, their harmony of African beats floating on the Mediterranean breeze.
This is Tel Aviv’s drumming ceremony; 20 or so male and female drummers, ranging in age from 15 to 80 years old, sit with their instruments between their legs, beating out a rhythm to the setting sun.
This unofficial party takes place every Friday evening on Banana Beach to mark the start of Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest), though for non-believers it is simply an opportunity to come together to dance,
Spread across just four rooms, the Little Museum of Dublin retells the offbeat history of the Irish capital through an assortment of quirky items donated by residents. James Hendicott has a poke around.
From masonry and political documents to abstract art and gas masks, the Little Museum’s archives can be both upsetting and humorous as they sketch a snaking line through the trials and tribulations of a city that’s still coming to terms with independence.
From the museum’s many artefacts donated by residents past and present, here are 10 that succinctly summarise Dublin’s turbulent 20th century.
1906 – A first edition of Ulysses
This first edition of Ulysses is open on the final page
Little Museum of Dublin
Occupied and poverty-stricken, turn of the century Dublin is personified in the ramshackle prose of James Joyce’s tough-to-handle literature. Though many readers can withstand little more than the preface, Ulysses (1906) is regarded as Joyce’s magnum opus, and celebrated annually on Bloomsday, where fans retrace the daylong jaunt undertaken by the book’s narcissistic protagonist. Here, a first edition of the classic sits
Looking for lodgings with a difference? From a self-catering pub to a coastal defence tower, we round up the most unusual places to spend the night in Ireland.
1) Conroy’s Old Bar, Aglish, County Tipperary
A converted traditional Irish pub, Conroy’s Old Bar is locally known as “the pub with no beer”. This old watering hole can house up to four people for the evening, and is perfect for families or a group of nomads. If you’re looking for a pint, however, it’s BYOB at Conroy’s. The owners even advise guests to keep the chain on the door of their temporary home, or they’ll find people at the bar looking for a drink.
Best for: An adventure-filled family break or group holidays.
A self-catering pub? You know you want to
2) Bartra Martello Tower, Dalkey, Dublin
This Dalkey destination has been a costal defence tower since 1804. Step back in time and spend the night in a castle that’s got the perfect balance of old and new: an antique exterior and a very modern interior indeed. The catch, however, is
Best old man boozer
Trad bar O’Donoghue’s Bar (15 Merrion Row), home to iconic musicians The Dubliners, is all ramshackle wonky floors and Victorian school benches. It barely feels post-revolutionary.
The cocktail you’ll tell all your mates about
With its red boudoir seats and wacky on-site distillation bar, Lillie’s Bordello (1-2 Adam Court) serves up a melon vodka and berry concoction, named The Mellow Side, which numbs the tongue and soothes the oesophagus.
Greatest happy hour
Happy Hours were made illegal in Ireland in 2003, but lively traveller hub, Dicey’s Garden (21-25 Harcourt Street), has bevvies at far below the going rate.
Best Guinness, obviously
Try Dublin’s best-kept secret, The Open Gate Brewery (James Street), which requires a booking, but serves experimental St James’ Gate brews alongside the original black stuff on Guinness property.
Where the locals drink
The area between Aungier Street and Dame Street is Dublin nightlife’s heartland: try Dame Lane in summer, or Fade Street for leftfield hipster chic.
The Open Gate Brewery: you won’t find a better Guinness
The Open Gate Brewery / Diageo
Almost all of Venice’s Gondolieri are men. Paula Hardy meets Jane Caporal, the renegade sticking her oar in to change all that.
“When I first started offering lessons in Venetian rowing to tourists, locals warned me, ‘they’ll burn your boat’, but I’m not superstitious,” laughs Jane as she whips back the cover to reveal the sleek hull of her rare batela coda di gambero, a curvaceous, shrimp-tailed boat, handcrafted in oak, larch and mahogany.
“Still, like some sort of Greek prophesy it came true – just not as you’d expect. Having found one of the only two coda di gambero left on the lagoon, I serendipitously won a mooring in a local lottery. My friends all laughed when they discovered that my ‘lucky’ mooring was beside two funeral hearses.”
As she talks, Jane steps up onto the poppa (the raised end of the stern), unmoors and manoeuvres us out of the marina with a few deft strokes of her oar.
Then she shows me how to voga holding the heavy 4m-long (14ft) oar with palms facing down before leaning into the prèmer
Put a pin in the Eiffel Tower for Euro 2016. Jeremy Allen walks us through Paris proper with natural plonk, forgotten Piaf and plenty of spirited bonhomie.
Best old man boozer
Paris is hardly synonymous with old man pubs, but Le Zorba (137 rue du Faubourg du Temple) is a snug space with an assemblage of convivial vintage boozehounds. As one of Paris’ many PMU bars, you can also place a bet or buy some fags.
The cocktail you’ll tell all your mates about
The Experimental Cocktail Bar (37 rue Saint-Sauveur) isn’t just a clever name. Check out Tommy’s Margarita Especial at this Les Halles establishment, a mind-melting tequila Arette mixed with lime, organic honey and bourbon vanilla.
Greatest happy hour
Café Cheri(e) (44 boulevard de la Villette) in Belleville hosts a happy hour between 5pm-8pm and with pints at €3.50, it’s a very happy hour (or three) indeed.
Best natural wine
‘Natural’ plonk is all the rage in Paris right now, and nowhere is more feted than Les Caves de Reuilly terrace wine bar (11 boulevard de Reuilly) in
As Namibia’s colonial heritage becomes an increasingly contested battleground, Christopher Clark heads to one of its fading outposts to see what ghosts need to be laid to rest.
Sitting atop a sandy hillock on the outskirts of Kolmanskop, the accountant’s former residence is the biggest and grandest in town, a proud testament to the great diamond wealth that was discovered in this part of Namibia at the turn of the 20th century.
“There were so many diamonds here that people used to tip the waitresses with diamonds instead of cash,” says our guide Juan.
Among other things, this boom town once boasted a casino, a hospital complete with Africa’s first X-ray machine, and the ubiquitous German Kegelhalle (skittle hall).
Today, beyond the few desert plants that continue to grow defiantly in cracked pots on the accountant’s crumbling veranda, and the tracks left in the sand by marauding brown hyenas, it’s hard to imagine anything living in such a desolate and melancholy place.
Indeed, Kolmanskop’s existence was as ephemeral as the supply of precious stones that spawned it. As the diamonds dried up, the
From tales of pioneering mountaineers to a history of the world in 500 walks, our resident bookwork, Dan Lewis, rounds up the best reads this June.
1) 60 Degrees North by Malachy Tallack 60 Degrees North is as much an exploration of wild expanses as it is a bereaved son’s search for catharsis. Exploring the wildernesses of the northern latitude parallel, Tallack experiences unforgiving landscapes and beautiful places that are peppered with strong communities and a sense of relentless isolation.
The very best travel and nature writing often has a deeply personal story at its heart and Tallack shares his journey to understand his father, himself and his home of Shetland is shared in deeply honest and intimate detail. A book with real strength and sincerity.
Out 13 June, £7.99
2) Climbing Days by Dan Richards
Dan Richards sets out to celebrate the remarkable life of his great-great aunt, the mountaineer Dorothy Pilley. Pilley was one of the most pioneering mountaineers of her day, yet for some reason the story of this female adventurer has been lost over time.
With all that high-grade foreign lager and strong continental sunshine, Euro 2016 will be an exciting time – just don’t be an idiot. Joel Golby explains how…
DON’T just Eurostar it to Paris and back
I mean, especially as England don’t play any group matches in Paris – and it’s not nailed on that they’ll play any second-round games there either.
Still: use Gare du Nord as a base to rail about the country. Once you’re in Marseille for the England-Russia match, you’re basically in ferry central, with links to Sardinia, Algeria and Corsica right there. When England open their account with a limp 1-1 against supposedly inferior opposition, you can take your mind off things by just heading to Tunisia to have a big sun-kissed mental breakdown.
DON’T just taxi about everywhere
French taxi drivers are just like English taxi drivers: they hate Uber and love smoking, and can see you – you with your full socks-and-shinpads England home kit saying “la Mardi du Gras” – coming a mile off.
Pretty much every French city has a Metro system with ten