Europe

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Europe.

st-tropez

Some Secrets Unveiled at Saint-Tropez

The Mediterranean ’s most exclusive retreat has a reputation for beach clubs, superyachts, Michelin-starred cuisine and rose-soaked lunches that linger into the night. Grab your best white linens and join the beautiful people at the sexiest escape on the Cote d’Azur

Ever since Brigitte Bardot emerged from the Mediterranean glistening in a two-piece swimsuit in the 1956 film …And God Created Woman, the French Riviera town of Saint-Tropez has never lacked for a certain kind of beauty-and all those who would bask in its reflected glow. This is a town where people watching is a competitive sport and the chairs at waterfront cafes rotate to face the line-up of megayachts that flank the docks like jewellery; where gorgeous women teeter in six-inch stilettos along cobblestone streets with well-fed men in tow and regulars like Kate Moss and Bono blow air-kisses to each other across the room; and where getting into the right beach club requires an inside connection or a serious tip. Pulling up in a Maserati doesn’t hurt either, but you might have a hard time finding it in the sea of exotic sports cars that pack all the lots.

french-riviera-town

French Riviera town

For many reasons-that inimitable light, the authentically decadent scene-the sun-kissed former fishing village has been a playground for the international elite since at least the 1920s, when Coco Chanel and her fashion nemesis Elsa Schiaparelli retreated here to work on their tans. Artists soon followed: Picasso, Matisse and their friends fell in love with the setting on the lush Cap Saint-Pierre peninsula, where the sun fracturing on Canoubiers Bay and the Massif des Maures provided infinite inspiration. As the French novelist Colette once put it, “No road goes through Saint-Tropez. There is only one that takes you there and goes no further. If you want to leave, you must turn back. But will you leave?”

Few ever turn back, and it’s still a very hard place to leave. Since those nascent early years, Saint-Tropez has enjoyed a prolonged golden era, rich with the kinds of stories you just can’t make up: Puff Daddy jet-skiing in a terry bathrobe; Mick Jagger accidentally getting locked out of the church at his own wedding (the priest was attempting to thwart paparazzi; Jagger got lost in the crowd). Glamour summered here-Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, among other royalty, Hollywood and genuine, made it their warm-weather home for four decades. And though they might not have had jeroboams of Champagne at Nikki Beach back then, the same joie de vivre still courses through its narrow streets. It’s a sybaritic kind of indulgence that can’t be re-created in the nearby towns of Cannes or Nice, though they may try.

So get a good seat at Senequier on the Quai Jean Jaures and watch the good life parade by in all its splendour as the sun sets into the sea. The real Saint-Tropez, both old and new, still thrives.

Club 55

club-55-beachside

The beachside of club 55

The grande dame of Pampelonne beach started out as a family home that fed the cast and crew of …And God Created Woman during filming in 1955 and has drawn power players from across the globe ever since. The elite arrive by yacht and switch to a pontoon, then mingle along the catwalk leading to the beach. On any given day, Jack Nicholson, Uma Thurman, Beyonce or Cindy Crawford might swing by to sit under the shade of the tamarisk trees alongside titans like Francois Pinault, Bernard Arnault or Larry Ellison.

Political powerhouses like the Clintons and Vladimir Putin have been spotted here, too, blending in with the rest of the clientele-all of whom adhere to the unofficial dress code of white cotton and linen. The grilled catch of the day and organic paniers de crudites, freshly harvested from owner Patrice de Colmont’s farms, are displayed on signature azure napkins, and the house rose – “La Belle Vendange” from the Domaine des Bouis-flows freely.

Chester Cathedral: The Place To Be For Next Christmas

From the end of November the cathedral will host their annual Christmas Tree Festival. The festival will feature more than 40 majestic Christmas trees, turning the cathedral cloisters into astonishing tree-lined winter walkways. There will be special services to mark one of the holiest times in the Christian calendar – including an Advent procession and carol service by candlelight on 26 November and a crib service for all the family on Christmas Eve.

Chester-Cathedral

Chester Cathedral

Christmas at the cathedral wouldn’t be complete without a feast of festive music. Expect carols and seasonal readings from Chester Cathedral Choir at our A Choral Christmas concerts on 10 and 17 December and join singing superstar Will Young as he hosts a charity carol concert on 14 December. Carrot Productions are back with their family-friendly concert on 3 December featuring a showing of The Snowman film, accompanied by a live 25-piece orchestra.

Exploring The Outstanding Unknown Side Of Wales

All that is iconic about Wales – stunning landscapes, a warm valleys welcome, rousing singing and choral performances and a wonderful history to explore – can be found in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Rhondda Cynon Taf is located in the South Wales Valleys and can be easily accessed from the M4, A470 and A465. Perfect for exploring and enjoying, we are also ideally-placed for those who wish to explore further into South Wales. We are famed the world over for our coal mining and the engineering created here to support that effort sparked an industrial revolution that changed how the world did business.

We are home to the Royal Mint Experience, the only attraction of its kind which brings to life 1,000 years of world currency, medals and treasures through a unique and fascinating family friendly experience. We are also home to Lido Ponty the National Lido of Wales, a stunning restoration of the Lido that has stood since 1927 and the 5* Trip Advisor Rated Penderyn Whisky Distillery which shows you how this unique single malt, which has captured tastebuds across the globe, is made. There is a chance to sample the whisky and, of course, a gift shop. With a variety of accommodation to suit all your needs, a selection of cafes and restaurant for coffee stops and, for the more adventurous, a number of outdoor activities. With a number of coach parking facilities and coach maintenance support, we have all you need for a trouble free visit.

Royal Mint Experience – The Royal Mint Visitor Centre offers a truly unique visitor experience. For the first time in 1,000 years visitors will gain unprecedented access to The Royal Mint to discover the people and events behind the coins in your pocket, and hear some surprising stories from our history. Group Discounts offered and free coach parking.

Rhondda Heritage Park – Whatever the weather, your visitors will enjoy a visit to Rhondda Heritage Park. A living testament to the mining communities of the world famous Rhondda Valleys, Rhondda Heritage Park offers you a fascinating insight into the rich culture and character of the South Wales ValleysAmple coach parking is available on site. Group discounts offered.

Rhondda Heritage Park

Rhondda Heritage Park

Lido Ponty – This historic family attraction is the only one of its kind in Wales and is Wales’ premier outdoor pool attraction and adventure play park. Lido Ponty, a Grade II listed lido, has been restored to its former glory and updated for the 21st Century visitor. It has three heated swimming pools, offering great opportunities for swimmers of all ages and abilities. Located within the beautiful Vnysangharad War Memorial park and a short walk to the centre of Pontypridd town.

Penderyn Whisky Visitor Centre – Located amongst the scenic splendour of the Brecon Beacons National Park in the village of Penderyn, the visitor centre takes you through the process of whisky distilling and provides you with a chance to sample the world famous Penderyn products. Groups discounts offered, and free coach parking.

Beamish – Always Something New To See

A beautiful church in the Georgian landscape, an Edwardian chemist’s shop and a photographer’s studio are all recent additions to Beamish and a great reason for a return visit. You might also have heard about the museum’s fantastic £18m plans to create a 1950s Town including shops, houses, a community centre and a real working cinema. There’ll be new exhibits in the Georgian landscape too, including a potter’s, blacksmith’s and candle house, along with a Georgian coaching inn where visitors can stay overnight.

Beamish

Beamish, UK

Work starts this winter and the whole project is expected to take around 4 years to complete – exciting times ahead! If you’d like to add a little something special to your group’s visit, Afternoon Fare, exclusively for parties of 15 or more is just the thing. The delicious light buffet lunch is served in a private room overlooking the award-winning 1910s Town and is available on weekdays for groups of 15 to 50 people, (excluding school and Bank Holidays). Pre-booking is essential via the Group Bookings Officer.

The Most Outstanding Hotels For Your Majorca Holiday

The Germans’ favourite island doesn’t just offer countless beaches and bays, it is also a true hiking paradise. You can discover the Tramuntana mountain range in the west of Majorca on the roughly 140km long dry stone route. The wonderful, Mediterranean landscape with ancient olive trees and lovely smelling orange groves, spectacular rocky sceneries with holm oak forests, old country estates and deep ravines make the tours a real delight. Even more so with the tips from Majorca-insider Stefan Loiperdinger. In the new edition of his magazine “Majorca’s Secrets,” he presents a selection of special hikes: hikes for connoisseurs. Easy to walk tours that include a place to stop for some hearty refreshments as well as bathing spots to cool off. Just the right thing for the pre-season with pleasant temperatures around 25 degrees.

Convent de la Missio Palma Restaurant

Convent de la Missio Palma Restaurant

Convent de la Missio Palma –  In the old town of Palma, surrounded by narrow alleyways and prosperous courtyards, stands the Convent de la Missio, built in the 17th century for the training of missionaries. After elaborate and extensive reconstructions, it is now an exclusive hotel with extraordinary facilities which enchant through harmony and tranquillity. Each of the fourteen rooms is individually decorated, each with its own special touch. The monastery’s former dining hall has been converted into an “art bar”. A room in which to discover art and enjoy exquisite wines or delicious cocktails in good company. Head chef Marc Fosh pampers his guests with original, creative menus.

Hostal Cuba Palma, Santa Catalina – A true rarity! This colonial-style hotel in Santa Catalina’s trendy quarter is the perfect location if you like to be right in the middle of things and enjoy the authentic flare first-hand. Santa Catalina’s shops and restaurants are right on your doorstep. The Mercat Santa Catalina is an absolute must! Although it is not actually that easy to leave the hotel; a restaurant, a nightclub and two bars or lounges, as well as a rooftop terrace, with a view of the moon, and the cathedral all have seductive powers. The rooms are tastefully decorated. Each one more surprising than the one before.

Hostal Cuba Palma

Hostal Cuba Palma

Sant Francesc Hotel Palma –  An oasis of tranquillity in the heart of Palma manages to perfectly combine the vitality of the dynamic capitol with the island’s relaxed lifestyle. As such, during the renovation of the old neoclassical-style town house, the traces of the past such as wooden beams in the ceiling, the curbed roofs, frescoes and mouldings were preserved and incorporated into a modern, elegant design. Individually furnished rooms and suits, a Majorcan patio, a rooftop terrace with bar and pool, and a restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine make your stay here a lasting experience.

dining-in-marseille

Living and Dinning in Marseille – France

“The dregs of the world are here, unsifted. It is Port Said, Shanghai, Barcelona and Sydney combined. Now that San Francisco has reformed, Marseille is the world’s wickedest port.” Basil Woon, author of the assuredly straight 1929 opus, A Guide to The Gay World of France, was obviously less than enamoured by this great southern city. “Thieves, cutthroats, and other undesirables throng the narrow alleys,” he gasps, “and sisters of scarlet sit in the doorways of their places of business, catching you by the sleeve as you pass by.” Definitely sounds like my sort of place.

Half a century later and things don’t seem any more salubrious. “Skag city,” growls Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle, in The French Connection II (1975), as he shoots his way past crumbling facades, festering alleys and streets greasy with grime and despair. Because Marseille is one of those cities that bears the brunt, albeit uncomplainingly, of eternal international infamy. MFK Fisher, one of America’s finest scribblers on food, visited often, and lived there for a while in the Seventies, too. Yet friends worried for her safety. A Scottish couple told her that people “had jokingly said before they left England, when they admitted they were going to Marseille, ‘How mad! Nobody goes to Marseille! But be sure to bring us a pocketful of Big H, if the bullets miss you! … some top quality fixes old boy!”’ Tres droll.

an-aerial-photo-of-marseille

An aerial photo of Marseille

Marseille, though, is ruggedly tenacious, an ancient and ever-prosperous port, and France’s second biggest city, founded around 600BC, when Protis the Phocean leader first spotted a marshy cove, protected by two rocky outcrops, and thought it looked like a splendid place to set up camp. It survived countless invasions, from Greeks and Romans to Visigoths, Arogonese and Germans — the last of whom destroyed the Vieux Port in 1943 — plus endless sieges, attacks and plagues. Yet Fisher bemoans the indelible, seemingly eternal stereotype. “One of the most tantalising things about Marseille,” she writes in A Considerable Town, “is that most people who describe it… write the same things… the familiar line that Marseille is doing its best to live up to a legendary reputation as world capital for ‘dope, whores and street violence’. Apparently, people like to glance one more time at the same old words: evil, filth, dangerous.”

Just after noon, on the most brilliant blue of late autumnal afternoons, the evil seems far removed, whisked away on a brisk, crisp sea breeze. And the filth is more wear and tear than downright squalor while the only danger is the contemplation of that third glass of pastis. I’m sitting with my friend, chef and food writer Rowley Leigh, a man not given to praise, faint or otherwise. “But I love this place,” he admits. “It feels real, proper, vital and alive. It doesn’t pander to tourists, or give the slightest fuck what anyone thinks about it, either. Very much the Marseille way.”

We retreat back into comfortable silence, perched above the city on the terrace of the former 16th-century Hotel-Dieu hospital, now a rather comfortable InterContinental hotel. Ahead of us looms the basilica of Notre-Dame de La Garde, where a gleaming and gilded Mary and Child gaze benevolently upon a city wedged between Mediterranean and Provencal hills. Below, the Vieux-Port, with its overpriced bouillabaisse and faded hotels, soap shops and neat rows of tiny boats.

Notre-Dame de La Garde - Marseille, France

Notre-Dame de La Garde – Marseille, France

The port may have changed since the days of Dickens, but the faces of every hue, the “Hindoos, Russians, Chinese, Spaniards, Portuguese, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Genoese, Neapolitans, Venetians, Greeks, Turks, descendants from all the builders of Babel” he describes at the start of Little Dorrit, still loom large. As a gateway to the south, Marseille always attracted folk: Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Vietnamese, Corsicans and North Africans — Saharan Africans, pieds-noirs from Algeria and Maghrebis, too. A merry old mix, to say the least.

Three Things You’ve Always Missed In Majorca

Bellver Castle and Santueri Castle – The 700-year-old Bellver Castle dominates the city of Palma and its circular ground plan is a unique example of Gothic military architecture. Bellver is the best-conserved mountain castle in Majorca and has played a prominent part in the island’s history since the 14th century. It sits on a peak, 475 metres high, and commands panoramic views over the country and the coastal stretch of the Migjorn – the south of Mallorca.

Ensaimada Yummy! No other product is more typical or famous than the Ensaimada. This sweet, spiral-shaped bun has become the breakfast not only of Majorcans and visitors; its consumption has spread to bars and bakeries overseas. Since its main ingredient is sugar, it’s obviously popular with the British.

Ensaimada de Mallorca

Ensaimada de Mallorca

National Parks Forty percent of the land area of Majorca is protected as national parkland, and almost all of it is in the interior. Visits are generally free to the nine locations and show a different aspect to the “sun sea and sand” stereotypical view of the island. “Wildlife, wonder and, phew, it’s hot”.

There are nearly 300000 beds on Majorca, not including the “sun” ones.

Park your yacht, Nelson. There are over 50 moorings around Majorca.

Discovering The Best Majorca Has To Offer

Majorca Mi Amigo – So, we may have discovered a little late that there is more than one island to the Balearic chain, but that hasn’t changed the way that pale-skinned Brits head for the golden sands of this Mediterranean Mecca. Mallorca to the Spanish, and to the Catalans for that matter, the biggest part of the Balearic chain will always, to us, be Majorca, no matter how much we try to mastePort-de-Soller-Majorca-Spainr the understated, subtle and laid-back Spanish “May – hor – kaah”. It’s more of a languid breath of warm air, than a proper, stiff upper lip pronunciation. Then again, you can leave your stiff upper lip at home, along with your bowler hat and umbrella.

Of the millions of British visitors to the islands in the round, the vast majority with a hard “jay” made for Majorca, with a much softer one. One in four visitors to the island is British and, if we all went at once, we’d outnumber the native population by about three to one. Only our great travelling companions the Germans can match those figures. Where we stand out is in the number of group visitors. Better than four in every five British visitors to the island, and the Balearics in general, arrives as part of a group, which means that there is an almost endless variety of offers from British agents, keen to capture business from Blighty to the Mediterranean destination.

Sunset and Vine – It’s probably got a lot to do with the sunsets. The West Coast, in general, is the favourite destination for British tourist to Majorca. More than one in three of us find the irresistible combination of golden sands and golden evening lights the combination that unlocks the secret of the island. However, in a close second place, the gentle attractions of the north coast Bay of Alcudia prove especially popular with family and mixed age groups. Although being 62km north of Son Sant Joan International airport and the capital Palma, the journey into the Bay of Alcudia is a well travelled and easy route. Coach transfer is the easiest, if not the fastest way to make the journey. Taxis are always available, at a premium price, be sure to fix a price before departing, or even make sure a pre-booked taxi is waiting for you. Hire car is the most flexible way to make the journey.

Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca

Allow at least an hour for the journey by car or taxi, add at least a further thirty minutes for a coach journey and, if your operator insists on a detour to the nearby resort of Puerto Pollensa, add another 45 minutes. The original medieval old town of Alcudia is two miles inland from the modern coastal development. A visit takes you in the footsteps of the Phoenicians and Greeks -who first settled here -followed in the 2nd century BC by the Romans, who made Alcudia the capital of the island. Note that the hotels of Playa de Muro, about 8km from the town, are often inaccurately referred to as Alcudia. Playa de Muro is a little more upmarket, typically charging around £250 per person per week more for its modern 4 and 5-star hotels and apart hotels. The more modern amenities are an offset against the rather less historic setting.

Coastal Favourites – The warm shallow waters of Alcudia Bay make this resort very popular with families with young children, and the beach is, without doubt, a major attraction with fine, clean sand with a wide variety of water sports, and plenty of refreshments nearby. Be prepared to walk about a bit. Buses are often full, especially so on market days, and taxis are reportedly hard to come by. However, avoid the busy times and local operator Autocares runs frequently through the town to as far as Palma. Inland Adventures Undoubtedly Majorca is known as a beach destination, but visit only the fringe of the island and miss out on the inland delights and the majority of Majorca.

Alcudia Beach

Alcudia Beach

There are more landlocked provinces on the island than there are coastal regions, and the island government, Govern de les Illes Balears, in concert with the Conselleria de Torisme, is working hard at promoting the interior as, initially, a place to visit, and in due course a destination in its own right. However, as far as convincing the Britons goes, the “Govern” has a long way to go. “The British do not stand out for their interest in sporting activities,” says the report on the British market to the Balearics!

Maybe that’s not all down to us sunburnt British seals, lugubriously lying on the beach. Getting about can be an issue. On the West Coast, the resorts tend to be spread either side of the busy Ma-1 2 northern coast road. When booking here it may be worth checking on which side of this road your accommodation is situated, as such demarcations as the dedicated cycle lane are as rarely observed as they are back home. This one, although reserved for cyclists, is often used as a short cut by local motor traffic. That though should be an encouragement to explore the interior, where the weather is just as fine, and the sights even more delightful. Bicycle hire is plentiful and relatively cheap throughout the island.

tallinn-estonia

Northern Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval city – Tallinn, Estonia

Making its name as a major stag haunt in the Nineties, Estonia’s Old Town has matured in sophistication to become the Baltic’s boutique playground

Let’s play the word association game. If I say “Tallinn”, what pops into your head? If it’s “where?” then you need to swot up on your Baltic basics, young man. If it’s “stag weekend”, then gold stars to you, sir. You see, Estonia’s capital has long had a reputation as a prime haunt for stag parties, including — I’ll freely admit — my own. That was more years ago than I care to remember (or can remember full stop, me being the stag and all), so I thought it was time to revisit the Old Town, northern Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval city. I’m glad I did… I barely recognised a building.

See

an-aerial-view-of-tallinn-old-town

An aerial view of The Old Town – Tallinn, Estonia

The Kiek in de Kok sounds painful, but the impressive towers that dot the entirely intact city walls provide sublime views of the Old Town. Its name means “peep in the kitchen” in Low German, and refers to when city guards could peer into medieval kitchens from the ramparts.

Do

a-night-at-kultuurikatel

A night at Kultuurikatel

Venture beyond the Old Town to Telliskivi Loomelinnak (“creative city”). It’s a hub for, well, creatives in an old Soviet-era industrial complex with art shows, cafes, boutiques and, on Saturdays, a fun flea market. In summer, Kultuurikatel (KKA) is another creative enterprise with DJs, table tennis and galleries.

Stay

three-sisters-hotel-in-tallinn

The Three Sisters Hotel in Tallinn

A no-brainer. The Three Sisters Hotel — named for the three adjoining 14th-century buildings on cobbled Pikk Street that house the rooms — combines medieval architecture with mod cons. And it contains one of the city’s finest restaurants, Bordoo, where the head chef Pavel Gurjanov gets creative with fresh local produce.

Party

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A heavy party thrown at Klubi Teater

Now you’re getting the hang of Estonia — but there are no prizes for guessing Klubi Teater is a club in a former theatre. Reserve one of its old boxes as a VIP private room to enjoy house tracks from an extensive roster of DJs, plus occasional live music, and glam dancers on podiums. Come to think of it, this place rings a distant bell from a few years back…

Shop

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled in to one of Copenhagen’s cooler stores but for its name of the Estonian Design House. Shop for everything from T-shirts to a GreenCube One+ (the ultimate man cave/garden office) all from, as the name suggests, Estonian designers.

Lunch

noa-restaurant

Noa Restaurant

The Nordic foodie revolution has reached Estonia with its top chef, Tonis Siigur, leading the charge at Noa, a modernist masterpiece of an ark (Noa is “Noah”) looking across a bay to the Old Town. It’s not quite Noma but nonetheless Siigur makes excellent use of the local fare. Try oysters with kohlrabi (a turnip/cabbage — better than it sounds) with cucumber.

Drink

porgu-bar-tallinn

Porgu Bar – Tallinn

For a heavenly night out, head to Porgu (which is “Hell” in Estonian), named for its subterranean setting rather than any devilish decor. Instead, expect barrel-vaulted ceilings, long tables and nearly 20 cask ales, most of them brewed locally. If the ale fails your fancy, head instead to Butterfly Lounge, where it’s wall-to-wall cocktails with titles like “George Clooney”, “I’m Sweet” and, err, “Oomaigaaden Marmelaaden”.

When in…

must-puudel-cafe

Must Puudel Cafe – Tallinn, Estonia

Head to Must Puudel (“Black Poodle”), a super-cool cafe with nods to East Berlin chic: mismatched furniture, ironic Soviet-era ephemera and Tallinn’s trendies. Whatever time of day you graze here, leave room for the blue cheese ice cream. Yup, and yum.

Avoid

Rutting stag parties. It shouldn’t be too difficult as they’ll most likely be running rampant in packs, firing off AK-47S in the woodland firing ranges or undertaking epic pub and nightclub crawls. Stick to these Esquire spots and you should be just fine.

Why now?

Because Tallinn is a prettier picture in the winter snow and the Christmas market in the town square is one of the less twee variants. More to the point, the wintertime is also an excellent excuse to glug some glogi; it’s the Estonian equivalent of gluhwein, made here from red wine, sugar, spices and bitter orange with a generous slug of warming Akvavit — the fierce local potato spirit — just for good measure.

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Ria Park Hotel & Spa, Algarve

Set in an exclusive location, by one of the Algarve’s most famous beach and surrounded by the lush greenery of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the Ria Park Hotel & Spa is an elegant, modern hotel with a genuine welcoming service, in an ambiance of natural beauty.

ria-park-hotel

Ria Park Hotel & Spa

Amongst the many leisure facilities close to the hotel, the highlights are the many nature trails to be enjoyed by foot, bicycle or horse riding, the fantastic offer of restaurants, ranging from casual beach shack to the most elaborate Michelin stared restaurants, or the seven golf just minutes from the hotel, recognized as the best in Portugal. Now fully renovated, guest will find a new decor in all guests’ areas and contemporary poolside furniture, to make your stay even more comfortable. Come visit the Algarve and rediscover the new Ria Park Hotel & Spa.