Travel

Travel

Europe’s hidden coasts: the Maremma, Italy

This stretch of southern Tuscany is chic but discreet – disappear into the dunes, discover beguiling coves and stay on rambling estates amid stunning scenery

Italians were born for beaches. Summer means serried rows of sunbeds and regimented beach games. It’s all about bonding and strutting your stuff in matching tangerine mankinis.

But relax: it’s not all like that. Southern Tuscany makes a more stylish splash. Sugary sands are framed by pine groves and low-slung hills, revealing serene, post-impressionist landscapes. In the Maremma, south of Grosseto, set designers are seemingly in charge of the sunsets and rosemary-scented scrubland running down to the sea.

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Travel

Europe’s hidden coasts: the Deep Mani, Greece

Few tourists venture beyond the Mani’s spectacular Diros caves, but further south lies a dramatic coastline of sleepy fishing coves and fortified villages

The Mani, the central southern prong of mainland Greece, is divided into two halves. The Outer Mani, with the pretty coastal villages of Kardamyli and Stoupa, is now well known for offering a more authentic holiday experience than many of the islands. The Deep Mani, further south, is a different prospect, with its rugged coastline broken by only the occasional cove. Far fewer people visit here, and even fewer stay.

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Travel

Europe’s hidden coasts: Costa Maresme, Spain

The coast just north of Barcelona is often overlooked by visitors. But with miles of sandy beach, great restaurants and a coast-hugging train, it’s a perfect escape

I love Barcelona but sometimes you have got to get out of town. Sitges? Lovely, but it can be as rammed as the Ramblas. The Pyrenees? Yes, but in summer I need a beach! OK then, the Costa Brava. But have you seen the queue of cars down to the “secret” beach that only grandma Lola knows about?

Hmm, perhaps the city’s not so bad. Barceloneta beach is just 10 minutes from the centre and there’s at least 10 square centimetres of sand per person.

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Europe’s hidden coasts: the Côte d’Argent, Landes, France

This wild Atlantic coast, south-west of Bordeaux, is backed by forests and nature reserves and includes the finest sandy beach in France. Yet even in mid-summer you can have it to yourself

Halfway between the great sand dune of Pyla and the posh surf and golf resort of Hossegor, is the finest stretch of sandy beach in France. South-west of Bordeaux, the Côte d’Argent begins at Mimizan Plage, where a river splits the beach in two.

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Travel

Europe’s hidden coasts: Costa de Prata, Portugal

Central Portugal’s pristine beaches are pounded by the Atlantic and dotted with simple restaurants, but barely touched by tourists, making it a haven for those who crave space – and great seafood

Theo and I saunter along the road from Aveiro that crosses its wide, shiny, tame lagoon, and arrive in north Africa, or so it seems. We find scissored-leaf palm trees and heavy white sand dunes on the march, and the relentless wild rumble and roar of the unquiet Atlantic.

Portugal’s Centro region is baffling. It’s between Lisbon and Porto, thus easy to get to and easy to get around. It has peerless beaches, a treasury of gorgeous historic towns and villages, and endlessly lovely people. The pristine coastline, horizons and skies go on forever. Yet there’s almost nobody here. This isn’t spooky: indeed we feel privileged, transported to earlier, more innocent times when Theo was a kid and I was a new, naive dad. So we spend timeless days basking in the richness of space, and soaking in the luxury of simplicity.

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Travel

Dreamland Margate reopens (again) after £25m revamp

The 2015 relaunch of the 1920s amusement park proved disappointing to both investors and visitors. Now it has high hopes for its latest incarnation, with new rides, bars and food stalls, and a live music venue

It was hailed as the revival of a seaside mecca that would consolidate Margate’s regeneration, but the fanfare around the reopening of the town’s retro amusement park in 2015 soon fizzled out. Barely one year on, Dreamland was in administration. Now, following a £25m investment, and under a new management team, the attraction is preparing to reopen for a second time, promising a radically different experience.

Dreamland’s second relaunch, just in time for the May bank holiday weekend, will showcase new rides, new landscaping, modern art installations and a better food offering, all of which its management team hope will transform its fortunes.

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Travel

Top 10 restaurants and tapas bars in Huelva, Spain

A byword for great produce, this small city in Andalucía with 200 restaurants is Spain’s gastronomy capital for 2017. Picking 10 of the best is no mean feat

Xanty Elias is the city’s culinary A-lister. Having trained for two years at San Sebastián’s three-starred Arzak, he returned home and quickly gained Huelva’s sole Michelin star. Changing six-monthly, his two fine-dining tasting menus include palate-thrilling dishes like beef sirloin (solomillo) with spiced lard, and tangy, mustardy mackerel with tender lupini beans. Each course can be paired with local wines, sherries or vermouths. The current 525 Sinergias menu marks the fact that 2017 is the 525th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to America (the explorer departed from a port a few miles south of Huelva) and uses ingredients brought to Europe for the first time following Columbus’ expedition.
Eight-course menus from €48 without wine, Calle San Salvador 17, +34 959 245135, acanthum.com

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Travel

10 of the best Irish bars in New York

A New York Irish pub may have been voted best bar in the world – and be making an appearance in London this summer – but ‘old country’ boozers are in decline in the city. We raise a glass to both the classics and those reviving the tradition

In some New York neighbourhoods every other bar seems to be either Irish-themed or Irish-owned. In a city that remains the spiritual home of the Great Irish Bar, the challenge becomes how to sort the genuine from the fake. There are plenty of shamrock-ed bars to drink in, with all kinds of Blarney-fied names, but links to the “old country” are often flimsy.

It’s partly for this reason that the Irish bar in New York is in decline, a social staple being squeezed out as Guinness sales fall in favour of American craft beers and diners move away from traditional bar grub to more gastropub food, along with the usual cycle of rent increases and gentrification. Some say the traditional Irish New York pub is simply falling out of fashion; others argue that a vibrant new generation is emerging. Here, then, is a personal Manhattan top 10 that exemplifies both the survival and the revival of the great New York Irish Bar.

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Architecture

Le Havre, a short break built on concrete chic

Le Havre is celebrating its 500th anniversary, but its architectural gems are modern masterpieces built from the ashes of war – and now a world heritage site

Few cities make you want to stroke their walls, but in Le Havre it’s hard to resist caressing the concrete. All but obliterated by allied bombing in the second world war, France’s second-largest port city was entirely rebuilt according to the meticulous vision of Auguste Perret, supreme master of liquid stone and tutor of Le Corbusier.

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Travel

The elusive American wilderness: in search of my own private Idaho

Off-trail amid towering mountains, engulfed in freezing fog and stepping over fresh bear tracks, our writer finally finds America in the raw

In 1901, the pioneering environmentalist John Muir sat down to write a compendium of America’s wildernesses, places he had learned to love and also helped preserve as the world’s first national parks. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people,” he wrote, “are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity …”

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Travel

Kickin’ Kiev: Why the Ukraine city is looking to Eurovision to jump start tourism

Ukraine’s historic capital may be preparing for the pop and ‘nul points’ of Saturday’s Eurovision but, kitsch aside, it is developing its edgy creative atmosphere

Kiev is sparkling and radiant as spring sunshine sets the gilded baroque churches ablaze. Snow banks begin to melt; shoulders drop and faces soften. The city, and its people, look newborn.

Kiev may have a reputation for political unrest (gained during the Maidan protest-cum-revolution of winter 2013-14) but today’s visitors are unlikely to see it. Instead, this city offers tourists a taste of bar life with an edge, softened – this week at least – with a dollop of Eurovision kitsch.

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Travel

‘It was like being Alice-in-India.’ Artist Natasha Kumar on Bundi, Rajasthan

The light, dust, colours and street life mean this town is as artistically inspiring as St Ives is to other painters

I heard about the step wells of Bundi, in southern Rajasthan, about 10 years ago. I was travelling in the Thar desert, which divides India and Pakistan, and in that landscape of scorching heat, the idea of exploring damp, shadowy caverns of possibly bottomless dark water was tempting.

The first place I stayed at was Bundi Vilas, a family-run boutique hotel built into the walls of the crumbling Bundi Palace. Mr Sharma, who could have inspired Dev Patel’s character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, had been left in charge by his brother. He had the keys to the palace, and when he learned I was an artist, he insisted on giving me a tour, not just of the standard rooms, but of areas forbidden to the public too.

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Travel

Volcano and earthquake museum to open in Iceland

The Lava Centre, a new interactive attraction in the shadow of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, will bring to life the ‘fiery heart of Iceland’

A new attraction exploring Iceland’s unique and volatile geology is to launch next month. Lava, the Iceland Volcano & Earthquake Centre, is an interactive museum that examines the natural forces that led to the creation of Iceland over millions of years. It opens on 1 June.

Located in the town of Hvolsvöllur, one hour’s drive east of Reykjavik, the centre is in the shadow of three of the country’s most prominent volcanoes, Katla, Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull. The latter became a household name in 2010 when it released an ash cloud that shut down European air space.

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Travel

10 of the best wild camping sites in Scotland

Scotland offers idyllic wild camping, with spaces beside some of the UK’s loveliest beaches, lochs and mountains. We pick 10 of the best from Wild Guide Scotland

Scotland is famous for its scenic wild places and uplifting sense of remoteness. With the exception of the recent bylaws banning wild camping in certain areas of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs (check before you go), it is still completely legal to camp on most of Scotland’s unenclosed land.

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Art

Art from the Alps: a journey to Giacometti’s homeland

Switzerland’s mountains are stunning but the art of the Giacometti family enriches the cultural landscape, too. With a retrospective of sculptor Alberto opening at Tate Modern next week, our writer tours the area that inspired him

Chugging to the Landwasser Viaduct through the village of Filisur on the Glacier Express, it’s hard not to laugh at the views. Switzerland is unbelievably good-looking. The vistas almost look fake – the lakes too scenic, the villages too chocolate-box. Even the goats look like they should have agents.

A country this beautiful is always going to be about the outdoors, but if you visit the region of Graubünden this summer (and more than 1 million people will, for the hiking, the biking, to swim in the lakes or dance at the festivals), make sure you don’t just stare at the mountains – Graubünden has a surprising art heritage, too.

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Travel

Giro d’Italia: 10 great restaurants en route, and places to watch the race

The 100th Giro, which started this week, races from Sardinia to the Dolomites. For cycling correspondent Colin O’Brien, the journey is also a gastronomic pilgrimage

Following a grand cycling tour as part of the press pack can be a gruelling task. You spend lots of time in cars, and most of your nights in cheap and not so cheerful hotels. But to make up for that, there’s always dinner. Lunch is usually a rushed affair, but once the action is finished and the day’s chores have been taken care of, there’s little to do other than find a restaurant and sit over a good meal and a couple of glasses of wine.

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Architecture

Taj Mahal gets a facelift – and slaps on a mudpack

Pollution means India’s most famous monument is in urgent need of a thorough clean, but tour operators fear that the work may put off visitors

The Taj Mahal, Agra’s near four-century-old monument to love, is beginning to show its age. Air pollution is turning its ivory-white surface yellow. The heavily contaminated river Yamuna, on the banks of which the Taj sits, is a breeding ground for insects that leave green patches on its marble domes.

The past two years have seen a flurry of restoration work to the monument, built in 1631 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, as a tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Scaffolding around the outer minarets was prominent in the background of photographs when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited India in April 2016. Less clear from a distance is the precise treatment being used to clean the modern wonder: mud packs, similar to those slapped on faces around the world, and in pursuit of the same youthful effect.

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Travel

Winchester wander: a stroll through England’s ancient past

One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, beguiling old buildings and reminders of a mythical past all feature in this walk around King Alfred’s capital
More city walks in Manchester and Norwich

Start this two-mile saunter where English royal history began; with Alfred, the only English monarch (so far) whose name is routinely followed by the Great. There he is, utterly unmissable at the eastern end of Broadway, all 17 feet of him from his base to his uplifted sword hilt. Fair enough – when he reigned, Winchester was the capital of England. And if he gives the impression of thinking it still is, he isn’t the only one round here.

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