ArchiveCategory Archives for "South America"
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in South America.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in South America.
Canada – Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indexes – plus its reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness – the world’s second-largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gate-crashers. The weak Canadian dollar means visitors should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously undeerrated wine.
Colombia – Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast-forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders here, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. More than a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s No. 1 Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.
Finland – Long fought over by Russia and Sweden, Finland finally gained independence in 1917, The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto: expect everything from outdoor concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage travel poster exhibitions. There’s even anew national park: 27,000 acres around the village of Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2017, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.
Dominica – Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognise. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean, Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large-scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for anew era of tourism.
Nepal – Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular hiking trails, Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger.
Mongolia – In 2017 Mongolia will raise the curtain on a b rand- new capital – city airport, a state-of-the-art facility that symbolises the rapid modernisation of this country of steppe nomads. Ulaanbaatar has been the biggest beneficiary of an economic boom – the capital’s transformed skyline bristles with glass and steel towers. At the centre of this development is a £380 million Shangri-La hotel complex, to be completed by 2017. Beyond the city lies Mongolia’s stunning and sparsely populated countryside. Lake Khovsgol, known as the Blue Pearl of Asia, is an undoubted highlight. In 2015 the lake was connected to Ulaanbaatar by paved road, cutting driving time by 10 hours.
Mynmar – Change has been a long time coming in the nation also known as Burma, but the election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future. No-one is pretending that all of Myanmar’s problems have gone away, but things are moving in the right direction, and Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is now poised to receive an influx of travellers. Visiting comes with challenges, but the reward is a window onto a vanishing Asia, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal. You’ll find a land with more stupas than office towers, where life moves to the timeless rhythms of chanting monks and monastery bells.
Ethiopia – With its own calendar (where else can you get 13 months of sunshine?), timekeeping, script, language, cuisine, church and coffee, Ethiopia is as exotic as countries come. And whether you’re hiking through the Simien Mountains to see wildlife that roams nowhere else on Earth, climbing to a church carved into a remote cliff face in Tigray, or boating across the waters of Lake Tana to visit an age-old monastery, you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. In 2017, new airline links will make the country more accessible than ever; be one of the first to get on board.
RAIN BEGINS TO FALL over the market town of Salento. It starts as a gentle drizzle, soon evolving into a fearsome downpour: giant droplets bouncing off the pavements and up trouser legs; drumming on the corrugated-iron roofs and gurgling in the gutters. Lithe shelter of his cafe by the town square, coffee-evangelist Jeshs Bedoya sits by the window looking up at grey clouds, and then into the espresso on the table before him. ‘A good cup of coffee is like a fine wine’, he says contemplatively ‘You can taste the terra: the land where it is created. When I drink coffee I think about the family that grew it – the work, love and pain that has gone into each bean’.
Volcanic soil and high-altitude farmland make much of Colombia prime territory for the cultivation of arabica beans, but nowhere more so than the Zona Cafetera Here, heavy year-round rainfall destroys umbrellas, turns roads into part-time waterfalls and serves as the magic ingredient for the most flavour some cup of coffee in the Americas. Since the 19th century, coffee has been the lifeblood of the Zona Cafetera: served with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and given to children from the age of five upwards (though local parents disagree whether or not this is a good idea).
The son of a coffee farmer, Jeshs Bedoya left his job as a lawyer eight years ago to embark on a messianic mission: to open a cafe selling premium-grade, locally produced coffee in the coffee-farming town of Salento. It may sound like a coals-to-Newcastle business model, but in Colombia almost all locally consumed coffee is low-grade, with all the best beans exported for use in the espresso machines of Europe and North America.
‘We’re one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, but we don’t know what proper coffee is!’ insists Jeshs, ‘When Colombian people try the real thing, it’s like a conversion. They say, “what the hell was I drinking before?'” Just as coffee shapes lives in the Zona Cafetera, it shapes the landscapes, too. Coffee plants cascade down the contours of the hillsides. Snug in the folds of the hills are farmhouses, with canvas sacks full of beans arranged on the verandas. And careering down the single-track roads of the Zona Cafetera are the Willys Jeeps – vehicles exported to Colombian farmers by the US after WWII.
They are beloved for their off-roading skills and also their coffee-carrying abilities (a Willys Jeep fall of coffee is a legitimate unit of measurement for sale). Hopping aboard the back of one such Jeep is the way to reach one of the highest viewpoints in the Zona Cafetera: the Valle de Cocora. Here, tracks wind among Andean peaks, patches of cloud forest clinging to the slopes. Below, plantations appear as a green blur. Rising up above are the Quindlo wax palms, the tallest palm trees in the world, growing up to 60 metres high and presiding like antennae over the landscape. The wax palms are so tall that their tree tops can vanish from sight: lost in the rain clouds that brew over the mountains, before pouring their contents over the Zona Cafetera.
Bogota is at its most colourful on a Sunday morning. Once a week, city highways are closed to motorised traffic and transformed into a blur of fluorescent lycra as thousands of cyclists, children on tricycles and teenagers on rollerblades whoosh past. This motley Tour de France passes under the stem gaze of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America, whose statue presides over the main square. They steer under the bell towers of the two-century-old cathedral, where the last hymns of morning mass reverberate inside, congregations in their Sunday best stepping out into the Andean sunshine. They pedal past the market at Paloquemao, where weekend shoppers wander among roses, sunflowers and lilies, flowers that only hours before were snipped from the surrounding countryside, soon to decorate weddings, funerals, birthday parties and dinner dates across the capital.
Not so long ago, Bogota was a city in the same league as Mogadishu, Baghdad and Lagos – synonymous with drug cartels, crime and terrorism It was a place where no sane tourist ventured and few residents would potter between neighbourhoods on a Sunday stroll. Bogota’s problems are far from fixed, but safety has improved and one of South America’s liveliest cities is blooming. Former no-go areas are now sewed by cycle superhighways; streets once avoided because of drive-by shootings, no w busy with artisan coffee shops.
The face of the city is constantly changing, especially just after Sunday lunchtime, when security guards are taking a siesta and Bogota’s street artists are often at work. Just over a decade ago, local authorities in Bogota took steps to partially decriminalise graffiti, with some hoping to reverse urban decay by transforming neighbourhoods into open-air galleries. Today, like almost no other city in the world, artworks can be found on almost every surface in Bogota. Some are legal, some not quite so legal. Some are vast murals of Colombian landscapes commissioned by corporations; some are very small – little stencils of cats and dogs sitting patiently on street comers.
‘Street art is a celebration of our culture’, explains artist Ecksuno (real name Juan Sebastian Garcia), embarking on a graffiti tour of the city. ‘Colombia has so much variety to inspire us, it is almost like a collection of different countries, each with its own styles and colours.’ Bogota’s street art can be a way to gauge Colombia’s political temperature, Juan points to murals advocating rights for indigenous communities, others protesting against deforestation of the Amazon, And it works as a helpful introduction to the country’s natural and cultural riches, too, Juan points to one of his own creations: the frozen peaks of the Sierra Nevada on the country’s Caribbean coast, rising over a sunny plaza where families are taking Sunday picnics.
‘In Bogota there is a particular quality to the light,’ says Juan. ‘We are high up in the Andes. Somehow the clouds don’t feel very far away, and wherever we go in the city we have the mountain watching over us.’ The mountain in question is Monserrate – Bogota’s urban peak, like Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro or Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, It is a Sunday afternoon tradition for pilgrims to climb the 1,500 steps to the church on the summit (everyone else cheats and takes the cable car or the funicular). Ascending to 3,152m above sea level, the smog recedes and the colours of the city become more intense still. There is the deep-blue dome of the sky, the bright orange of the cable car. And beyond the city rises a range of green hills, on whose slopes roses and sunflowers grow for the Sunday market.
Colombian national carrier Avianca is currently the only airline offering direct flights to Bogota’s promisingly named El Dorado airport from the UK. Airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, BA, Delta and Iberia fly with a stop-off. British nationals do not currently need a visa for Colombia for stays of up to 90 days.
Colombia is a big country, so distances can be vast. With a growing network of budget airlines it’s worth flying between major cities if you’re pushed for time – there are regular, affordable flights between Bogota and Pereira, and Cartagena. Car hire is available in major towns, and can be a good idea if you’re Looking to explore more rural areas at your own pace. Most visitors to Colombia choose to travel via comfortable long- distance coaches, which run between all major destinations (Bogota to Cartagena, 12 hours, from £25).
The itinerary for our feature can be done in around 12 days, but two and a half weeks will allow you to explore the country at a more Leisurely pace. To extend your trip, consider dropping by the second city of Medellin or the mountainous EL Cocuy National Park.
Recent years have seen Colombia’s internal security situation improve dramatically, helping trigger a boom in tourism. However, problems are far from over. Though a ceasefire was in place at the time of writing, the FARC rebel group remains active in Large swathes of the country, along with some smaller rebel groups. All the d estimations in this feature are far from areas of rebel presence – for advice on where specifically to avoid. Crime remains an issue, particularly in larger cities like Bogota. A number of neighbourhoods in the south of the capital are best avoided, and it’s advisable not to walk alone after dark.
Colombia is a very affordable country to visit – expect to pay between £2-£4 for a hearty meal in rural areas, with dining at top-end restaurants rarely costing more than £15. Mid-range lodgings will come in at around £30, while luxury hotels cost £70-£100, barring a few exceptions in Bogota and Cartagena.
Colombia’s peak season runs from December to March, when most of the country enjoys clear skies and dry weather-though this means prices also peak, especially around Christmas. Shoulder season runs from March until heavier rains fall on the And es and the Caribbean in October.
On a bluebird day at Portillo, when the sun’s warmth is inescapable and the snow is soft and light underfoot, you look out at Laguna del Inca, a celestial indigo lake reflecting the sharp peaked mountains without a ripple, and you think, This is one of the most gorgeous natural bodies of water I will ever lay my eyes on. Of course, it would be hidden in the middle of the Chilean Andes, requiring a two-hour drive from Santiago up a series of winding switchbacks. But when you’re staring at it from the top of the Lake Run on a grim overcast day, gripping your edges on an impossibly steep face, you think, This lake, which has turned a dark blue I can only describe as genuinely malignant, may be the end of me.
“We pulled out five vicuñas from there yesterday,” says Portillo’s operations manager, Mike Rogan, who offered to take me, my husband, and a few others here, including a Slovenian astrophysicist and a software engineer from San Francisco, despite less-than-stellar snow conditions that day. “Were they alive?” asked someone who had drunk one too many glasses of vino tinto at lunch. “Nope,” Rogan said. “Okay, now we have to take off our skis and very carefully walk across this shale in our boots.” I’ve skied most of my life, on varied backcountry terrain, in blizzards, and in freezing temperatures. But this was a first for me.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I heard about Portillo, but I definitely recall listening to too much Ani DiFranco, wearing a hemp necklace, and owning a pair of absurdly long Salomon skis I would click into almost every weekend at Alta, a throwback mountain in Salt Lake City’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, near where I lived. Sometime after my sixteenth birthday, I began flirting with the idea of going flat-out ski bum, partly to impress boys who were largely unresponsive to hemp-accessories-loving Ani DiFranco fans, but mainly to agitate my parents. I pretended to like Warren Miller films, plastered my bedroom door with neon stickers that blasted affirmations like “Next Year I’m Advancing to K3S!” and tried to tune my own equipment in my bedroom, only to have to pay a deadlocked tech to remount my bindings.
Despite my bush-league attempts at going full disciple, I spent a lot of time with people who ski more than most of us vacuum, and quickly learned where snow falls in the Southern Hemisphere during North American summers. (Similar to the way Angelenos obsessively talk about traffic, powder acolytes inevitably turn the conversation to this in hopes of breaking 100 days on mountain in a year.) Chile – and more specifically its most storied resort, Portillo, plunked in the middle of the Cordillera near the Uspallata, a frontier pass on the border of central Chile and Argentina – is one of those places where you might experience a nine-foot dump in the middle of August. It’s legendary for other reasons, too. It was the first South American resort to host the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, in 1966, when Jean-Claude Killy became the sport’s unofficial rock star. The U.S., Norwegian, Austrian, and Canadian national ski teams typically train here every August among mere mortals, meaning guests seeking bragging rights can hurl themselves down the same Super G course that Julia Mancuso does. And then there’s the treeless, intimidatingly vertical Andean terrain, where Incan tambos, or shelters, are still found. Even in a photograph from a crappy ski magazine, it radiates a palpable ancient aura. All to say, Stowe it is not.
I never became a lifelong mountain jock, but Portillo stuck with me. It was one of those bucket list trips I always imagined myself taking when I was firmly in AARP territory, jump-turning out of ankle-deep powder with my new bionic knee replacements. Because really, skiing in Chile isn’t something you think you’re actually going to do, like, right now. Hell no. How could you? There’s work, the kid, the laundry. The kid’s laundry! Plunking a destination into a bucket list is a form of well-intentioned procrastination: It means you’ll go there before you die, yes, but later in life when you’re a silver-haired lithe fox who’s got it all figured out, like one of those women in the Cialis commercials.
What is it that makes for a perfect honeymoon? Heavenly beaches? Tick. Glorious tropical sunsets? Tick. Delicious food? Tick. Divine I suites? Tick. Blue Waters Antigua has all of these —but this is quintessential Caribbean with some fabulously quirky twists.
So it is that heavenly beaches come in the form of sublimely soft sands and gorgeous hidden coves; glorious tropical sunsets can be experienced in private from the cliff-top Spa terrace and infinity pool complete with Champagne and canapes a deux overlooking the Caribbean Sea; three different restaurants all serve delicious cuisine — including healthy options for those on the resorts brand-new wellness retreat by Living Retreats (1 May-31 October 2017) with daily optional activities including yoga core exercise and cookery demonstrations.
Alternatively there are private spots aplenty for romantic picnics from the stunning 17-acre tropical gardens to the resorts private boat Monterrey Blue. After which what better than a traditional rum punch — or any other cocktail you care to ask Carolyn, Antiguas famed mixologist to conjure up by the beach pool.
As for divine suites Blue Water’s Cove Suites takes divine to a whole new level. Wake up to the sound of the sea just metres from your over-sized bed, pad through your breeze-filled living area for breakfast on your whitewashed balcony and spend your days sauntering down to the beach or taking a dip in the infinity pool — reserved exclusively for Cove Suite guests. Or, for the ultimate honeymoon hideaway book the two to five bedroom Rock Cottage —set on its own headland complete with private infinity pool and plunge pool and even your own chef for unadulterated luxurious romance.
A Carribbean specialist, with first-hand knowledge of all featured, hotel and destinations, the family-run Turquoise Holiday Company puts the passion and imagination back into the honeymoon travel experience. Enjoy seven nights at Blue Waters in a Cove Suite (complimentary upgrade from a Hilside Junior Suite subject to availability) on a bed & breakfast basis, from £2,499 per person, including international flights and private transfers. Honeymooners will also receive VIP check-in and welcome gifts, a romantic nightly turndown service, a champagne breakfast, a “Sunset Champagne” experience, a one hour couple’s massage and a private gazebo dinner for two.
69 COLEBROOKE ROW, LONDON – With its unmarked side-street door, white-jacketed bartenders, jazz pianist and party vibe, this legendary spot is like tripping back to Fifties London. Even in the afternoon, the small, black-and-white, retro-designed room is buzzing with cocktail lovers. The candlelit tables are so crowded with exquisite drinks there’s barely room for the olives and mini saucisson.
Every one is innovative, including the Manhattan Steel Corp, made with maraschino liqueur and dry essence (a distillate concentrate of macerated grape seeds).
Almost too beautiful to drink, each is the creation of owner and mixologist Tony Conigliaro and his team at the Drink Factory. New comers are often surprised by their simplicity, but every cocktail is cutting edge and the changing menu has gained a cult following.
LITTLE RED DOOR, PARIS – Come here for a nightcap or five – it’s open until 3am on Saturdays – after bar-hopping around the Marais. It’s a laid-back spot with love-seat sofas, dimly lit corners and round-back chairs upholstered in a mish-mash of colourful fabrics. But to be in the thick of things, take a velvet-covered pew at the bar, where barmen with impressively high pours are dressed in denim shirts, dickie bows and aprons printed with flowers and butterflies. Bottom line: they’re having fun and the atmosphere here is super-friendly as a result. The Bartender’s Board Special changes fortnightly; original concoctions include The Hedgewitch, made with Amontillado sherry, Kamm and Sons botanical spirit, whiskey, blackberry liqueur and honey, garnished with a dehydrated blackberry. It’s a tribute to the mixologist’s mother’s favourite tipple.
LOS GALGOS, BUENOS AIRES – One of the city’s wonderful traditional bars, untouched for decades, the original Los Galgos closed its doors in 2015. But thanks to a rescue mission instigated by the savvy team behind the famous 878 bar in hip Palermo, an important slice of Buenos Aires’ Thirties history has been saved. Features such as French oak boiserie and beaten-up encaustic floor tiles keep the essence of the old Asturian tapas bar alive. And, given their taste both for nostalgia and a stiff drink, portenos have ensured that the relaunch has been an enormous success. It’s open all day, so start with a mid-morning cortado and come back for a vermouth and soda. But the cocktail that stands the test of time is the Negroni. One too many? Rib-eye seared medium-rare on the wood-burning grill will do the trick.
SALON DE NING, NEW YORK – Ah, the myth of Fifth. Not the most poetically named of avenues. Nor, these days, the prettiest. And yet – enchanted. Especially when seen from up high. Take the express lift, therefore, from the lobby of The Peninsula, at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, to Salon de Ning, the hotel’s elegantly east-meets-west-styled rooftop bar. Stand as close to the edge of the terrace your sense of vertigo allows. Cast your gaze up and down the street, which suddenly seems endless, seething with life and energy, and submit to sheer skyscraper hoodoo. Then take a seat or a day bed, recline into its plump silky cushions and raise a glass of something chilled and exotic – the house riffs on classic cocktails are unfailingly catchy – to what may still be the greatest city on earth.
DRY MARTINI, BARCELONA – Just as Ferran Adria was the wunderkind of the Spanish restaurant scene in the 1990s, the debonair Javier de las Muelas was its cocktail-bar impresario. He first shimmied his way into the spotlight in 1978 with the opening of emblematic Dry Martini. Almost 40 years later, he’s still going strong. How grown-up it feels to be in his gloriously old-fashioned world of polished-teak-panelled walls, racing-green leather armchairs and marble bar tops trimmed with gold. So cultish is its appeal there are now outposts from London to Singapore. But you really can’t beat the original joint, which hawks 100 variations of the classic Martini, as well as some of De las Muelas’ more outre inventions, such as The Pipe – a lethal concoction of Glenmorangie and Lagavulin whiskies, absinthe, spice droplets and smoke. Salut!
It’s no surprise this sun-drenched, candy-bright Caribbean paradise is renowned as a classic honeymoon haven: with palm-fringed, peaceful bays and warm turquoise seas, this place is bliss for beach lovers. However with a huge array of luxe hotels, a melting pot of colour culture, incredible food and historic sites, there’s so much more to these super cool Caribbean isles.
After an easy seven-and-a-half hour flight from the UK you land in the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda. The captivating thing about the vibrant island of Antigua is that it heaves with intriguing things to see and do at every turn. Wind your way along the roads and wonder at the luscious tropical flora spilling out onto the twisty lanes. The sweet-hued houses that dot the hillside come in every shade from pretty pastel pink to zingy yellow — all a perfect contrast to the brilliant green landscape. Native and unique to the island, are the fields of miniature Antigua black pineapples — if you’re lucky you’ll pass a friendly local selling them roadside.
Make sure you try some — they are totally scrumptious. Through jungly palms and banana trees laden with fruit, you’ll chance upon a 19th-century grey stone church, turn the next corner and find a tumbledown 17th-century sugar mill — this place is steeped in fascinating history.
A visit to English Harbour (within the UNESCO World Heritage Site area) is a must: a naval yard for warships in the 18th century and home to Nelson’s Dockyard (named after the infamous Horatio Nelson who was stationed here in 1784) — it’s an enthralling snapshot into Georgian navy life and the heritage of the island. On Friday night, the Fish Fry is obligatory — foodies will love the crab cakes, coconut shrimp and conch fritters.
Food really is epic here: be sure to pop to Turners Bar for a toes-in-sand picnic feast of curried lobster and whole red snapper. For a jolly steel-drum-spectacle, head to Shirley Heights on Sunday evenings. From 4pm, on a little ridge high above English Harbour the Lookout Bar hosts a fun-filled evening of steelpan and reggae bands with a barbeque serving all sorts of delicious jerk marinated meat, washed down with oodles of local rum and coconut water. The atmosphere’s electric, views are magical and the impossibly clear night sky twinkles with a zillion stars.
Antigua offers some of the best sailing in the Caribbean. Come April, the world’s mega yachts descend upon English Harbour for the Caribbean’s famous Sailing Week and boat lovers should charter a yacht to “chase the race” for a fully-loaded must-see sailing marvel. It’s a big year for anniversaries in 2017 with the 30th Classic Yacht Regatta in July and the 50th Anniversary Sailing Week in April — May plus back on the island, the much anticipated Antigua Carnival in July — August will celebrate 60 years.
And there’s so much to do on dry land: hike the trail to Boggy Point and gape at the awe-inspiring views. Shoppers will love Heritage Quay’s arcade at St John’s — the island’s capital. Redcliffe Quay complete with restored townhouses, brightly painted shutters and a myriad of local cafes is worth a visit too.
Yes, Antigua is charmingly laid back, but there’s also luxury in abundance and heaps of fabulous places to stay. Sitting alongside a peaceful cove, you’ll find the seriously stylish Carlisle Bay —the suites are gorgeous and the food fantastic. Hermitage Bay a collection of 17 cute wooden cottages set amid sweet-scented tropical blooms and jaw-dropping views over the butter-soft beach is the perfect spot for romance. Located on its own little island, a seven-minute boat ride from Antigua, you’ll find the fancy Jumby Bay: a dreamy little place surrounded by a glittery turquoise lagoon.
The beaches are something special and with a whopping 365 — one for each day of the year — you are quite literally spoilt for choice. From the prettiest hidden bays with water so perfectly clear and shallow, to wild beaches nestled among jagged rocks and roaring oceans; there really is a beach for your every whim.
Dickenson Bay a mile-long stretch of oyster-white sand and delightfully warm water, is wonderfully lively with all sorts of buzzy beach bars and hip hangouts.
For sensational sunset views and dazzling white sand, go to the remote south-west corner of the island where you’ll stumble across Ffrye’s Bay —a hidden gem. But for true seclusion, sister-island Barbuda, fringed with pristine sands is sleepier and well worth a pit-stop.
Bottom: Hobie Cats at Jolly Beach.
This page clockwise from top left: Shirley Heights;
Hummingbird in the trees;
St John’s Downtown the white sands and turquoise waters of Antiguan beaches; a cottage at Cocobay. Centre;
An easy drive along the north coast from Montego Bay, this is the most glamorous of Chris Blackwell’s merry trio of hotels (the founder of Island Records, who made Bob Marley a global superstar, also owns Strawberry Hill and The Caves). The centrepiece here is, of course, the five-bed room villa which was once home to Ian Fleming, and where he wrote his James Bond novels. But put the literacy legacy and Marley music connections aside, what makes this hotel continue to shine is its clever combination of spacious clapboard villas and funky, feel-good Jamaican spirit. It’s a tough choice deciding between the step-onto-the-sand beach villas and those facing the lagoon near the tiny, lemongrass-scented spa.
The look is similar – polished wooden floors, white walls and high ceilings, outdoor showers – but the lagoon-side cottages are more private and come equipped with kayaks. Watersports are the thing at Goldeneye, with stand-up paddle boarding, glass-bottom-boat rides around the bay and morning fishing trips. Or simply laze on the beach and play backgammon at the open-air Bizot bar, where the driftwood shelves are lined with bottles of Blackwell rum. At night, cross the torch-lit wooden bridge to The Gazebo for delicious suppers of curried shrimp with coconut rice. Six years after opening, this gorgeous, laid-back hideaway still has serious groove.
SEPIA – SYDNEY – It’s the little things that count here. Take the salmon ball presented as an amuse-bouche: bite into it and a filling of smoked salmon roe provokes tantalising shock-waves of intense flavour. This is what chef Martin Benn does best: create seemingly simple dishes that astonish with their complexity, combining French techniques with Japanese ingredients such as dashi jelly, wakami oil and sobacha. Spanner-crab meat is teamed with sake-vinegar jelly, pea and horseradish and folded as carefully as origami; a simple curl of squid, decorated with miso-cured egg yolk and a wasabi flower, calls to mind the curves of a Miro painting.
And Benn’s nine-course menus end as strongly as they begin, with puddings such as The Pearl, a pristine sphere of white chocolate and finger lime.
KEENS STEAKHOUSE, NEW YORK – Keens serves fantastic steak but became famous for its even more fantastic mutton. It opened in 1885 and in 1935 served its millionth mutton chop. Somebody played a fanfare on a bugle that had supposedly been used in the War of the Roses. The manager gave a speech and waived the bill. The great shepherd in the sky alone knows how many mutton chops Keens has sold since then. A flock of a lot. Even without the fanfare and the speech, and even if you have to pay the bill, a Keens mutton chop remains one of the glories of Midtown Manhattan. Look out for the 50,000 long-stemmed clay pipes that hang, with a peculiar elegance, from the ceiling – not that you’re likely to miss them. Lillie Langtry, JP Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth ate here. You should too.
THE WHITE ROOM, AMSTERDAM – Arctic-white walls exuberantly encrusted with gold give this venerable 19th-century building its name. There the history stops. A recent revamp has introduced funky spherical chandeliers, a classy-yet-cool tone and an invigoratingly fresh take on the food. Chef Jacob Jan Boerma is guided by three culinary fundaments – ‘citrus, spice and vegetables’ – and his dishes are delicate, full of secrets and liable to mini explosions of surprising flavours. A slice of lime gives prawn tartare a zing as it slips onto your tongue; an intense zap of lemon lurks beneath a perfectly cooked piece of trout, with green-mustard sabayon. Wasabi, curry, Indonesian spices all play cameo roles. Each plate is feat of beauty, with bold colours, odd shapes and energetic composition.
INDIAN ACCENT, NEW DELHI – India’s restaurant critics are notoriously picky, which makes the non-stop gushing that has flowed since chef Manish Mehrotra’s opened here in2009 so significant. His genius lies in splicing global ingredients into regional recipes from India’s 29 states. So the stuffing he uses in the traditional kulcha – one of the country’s 400-plus breads – is chilli hoisin duck, or applewood-smoked bacon, or wild mushrooms and truffle oil. Kofta, the delicately spiced Indian dumpling, is made herewith tofu instead of paneer and served with a wok-tossed quinoa pulao. The result is not so much fusion as synergy: inventive twists that serve to accentuate the complex flavours of Indian food, and reason enough to plan a trip to the Indian capital.
EL MERCADO, LIMA – Lima’s culinary boom may have produced fancier restaurants but none, surely, is better loved than El Mercado, the casual lunch-only affair opened in 2010 by superstar local chef Rafael Osterling. Tucked away down a Miraflores side street, the permanently packed, semi-open-air space has the informal clatter and hum of an actual market with bartenders serving superb Pisco Sours to the endlessly replenished queue. As well as a full range of top-grade ceviches, the menu also includes excellent tiraditos such as the Nikkei (yellowfin tuna sliced thin, marinated in lime and served with sesame oil and avocado aioli). Other highlights include a superlative shrimp burger and the causa original, Osterling’s upmarket take on the Peruvian staple of mashed potato terrine layered with seafood.