It was with reticence that I started browsing flights to Oman; 3,500 miles felt a little too far away from our midwife as my wife’s pregnancy entered the home straight.
Usually I’d be three coffees in by now – one in the room, two more at breakfast – before I’d even consider setting foot outside my hotel door. So the arrangement at our hotel here in Syros, where breakfast means crossing the road to a tiny bakery to pick up a pastry, then popping next door to the local coffee shop, seems like an effort so early in the morning.
The good news continues for the river cruise recovery even while ocean-going sailing remains in limbo after Arena River Cruises announced a date for the launch of its much-anticipated new flagship, MS Arena.
The Black Pride activist on street parties in St Lucia and saving up for a safari My family and my work life in London are pretty full-on There’s always something happening, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, Grenfell or Windrush. But travelling provides me with respite and self-care, just to go somewhere where I can relax and unwind. Before lockdown, I was travelling every month for my work for the Kaleidoscope Trust The trust works in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific and parts of Europe. There are some laws that exist in Commonwealth countries that mean people are being criminalised just because of who they love. I’ve also travelled extensively to Pride and Black Pride events around the world. I went to Botswana last year to celebrate the fact that it had decriminalised homosexuality It’s a beautiful country, so now I’m trying to save for the next year or two in order to go for a luxury safari in Botswana or Kenya. When I go to St Lucia, I usually stay in Gros Islet There is this wonderful tradition called Fish Fry Friday. It feels a bit like a carnival but it’s a street party. There is loads of food, including different types of fish, such as lobster and snapper, with wonderful creole sauce. There’s just something about being in St Lucia – the sun, the sea, and the people are so friendly.
Today, as Britain reels from the news of a heightened shutdown, travel and hospitality companies across the country have warned of the turmoil that it will impose.
I am in the bar of Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour in Covent Garden, central London, trying desperately not to wish I was in the Caribbean. This year would have seen my wife and I, and her family, make a very special trip to Tobago to scatter her father’s ashes on the island that he loved so much.
There are many strings to Dawn Ward's bow. Most people will recognise her as the fiery matriarch from ITVBe's Real Housewives of Cheshire, but her pursuits extend well beyond the follies of reality television with a business portfolio that has included a high-end property development firm, an interior design company, and a non-surgical clinic (the latter two of which she still runs). For her latest venture, Ward is to open a luxury spa hotel in her famous home, Warford Hall. The impressive £14.5 million pile in Alderley Edge, designed by W. Roberts and dating back to 1867, is regularly featured on the show. Dawn and her husband, ex-Premier League footballer Ashley Ward, developed the 12-acre property into a family pad 13 years ago after it had previously been used for offices. The spa hotel plans were approved by Cheshire East Council last week, despite resistance from neigbours who expressed concerns over noise and traffic, and will feature accommodation for 30 people and a spa with heated swimming pool, massage and therapy facilities. In 2017, plans to turn the hall into a wedding venue with facilities for 130 guests were overruled, but a spa retreat was seen as a peaceful alternative.
With new restrictions likely to be announced for Britain on Tuesday, a look at other national responses offers a few clues as to what they might be. For reference, the UK seven-day case rate is currently 37.9 per 100,000.
Cyclone-like Medicane Ianos swept across Greece this weekend turning streets to fast-flowing rivers, burying villages under mud and rubble, and sinking ships with waves of up to seven meters. “It was like the Apocalypse!” said Patrick Lamouroux, a French holidaymaker in Zante.
The German word “fernweh” describes a debilitating “longing for distant places” – which avid travellers suffer more than most
Autumn is always a great time to escape to the Continent, but with so many countries cut off by Covid now is the ideal time to explore Germany. It’s easy to get there, easy to get around, and virtually everything is open.
Former war reporter Martin Bell made a poignant return to Sarajevo and the spot where he was injured
Museums have reopened, opera is back but the crowds are absent. Go now to see the Tuscan city at its best, says Nicky Swallow
Snow-sure beginner favourite Passo Tonale is set on a high pass, which separates the region of Trentino from neighbouring Lombardy. It developed as a ski resort because of its high, snow-sure setting. It is also in the Val di Sole (Sun Valley), which lives up to its name with lots of sunny days. The resort’s high local slopes include a glacier and are entirely above the tree line. They are mainly gentle and suit beginners and intermediates best. The village is strung out along the main road with no real centre, apart from some of the lift bases.
The road to Singalila Ridge, more than 10,000ft up in the Eastern Himalaya, is not just long and winding. It is also steep, rough and wincingly cold, the gateway to an austere landscape of military checkpoints and wind-tattered prayer flags where India and Nepal rub shoulders beside the highest peaks in the world.
Autumn is a great time for a road trip, and the UK has some of the best driving routes in the world. Here are our five favourite places to hit the road
It really is a strange and unsettling year when Sweden is not regarded as a paragon of fresh air, clean living and gentle beauty. But 2020 has been no one’s idea of normal, and even this vast piece of the Scandinavian jigsaw – a country that often seems to be sheltered from life’s concerns – has not been immune to Covid’s death grip. Anything but.
French cooking is just an excuse to eat French bread. Country pâté? Goes on bread. Escargots with parsley butter? It’s a dip. The bread is everything.
I only buy perfume when I’m travelling, both for sentimental and cost-effective reasons. I remember the first bottle of perfume I owned, acquired in Lisbon: a whiff of the (sadly now expired) scent brings back memories of sprinting down the mosaic pavements in Baixa, giddy with my milestone “adult” purchase.
2020 has made a mockery of long-term planning for my partner and me. Our dream trip to New Zealand was cancelled with three days’ notice; a documentary that I have been developing for a decade was shelved; and our wedding was postponed until (hopefully) next year. Travel quarantine has made things even weirder: when lockdown finally lifted, our pre-booked holiday to Ibiza was back on the cards, only for it to be snatched away again when Spain was red-listed. We then switched our flights to Croatia, and made it back the day before that quarantine was announced. Just as long-term planning becomes futile, short-term planning has become vital: our local pub often reaches its newly-reduced capacity, so “popping out for a pint” requires pre-booking online. National travel is trickier too: when I tried to get home from York on Bank Holiday Monday, I had to wait three hours before I could get on a train, because new Covid guidelines limit passenger numbers. We happily tolerate these minor frustrations because we understand their importance to public health. But it leads to a defensive mindset, in which it is safer to just do nothing, because that’s the only way to avoid disappointment. Don’t plan anything, in case it gets snatched away; and don’t be spontaneous in case logistics are too hard. This mindset can spill into everything. Last week, we had planned to visit a friend in Kingston, who had recently bought some second-hand kayaks. But, it was raining hard, with the possibility of thunderstorms. What if we went all the way there and it was too unsafe to go out on the river? We became frozen in indecision: do we head to Kingston and risk being disappointed again; or do we stay at home for another evening on the sofa? I reasoned that, with the nights starting to lengthen, and autumn already in the air, getting outdoors was only going to get harder. Besides, we could handle a bit of rain and, if the risk of lightning got worse, we would just have to find something else to do. Unlike the enforced disruptions of Covid, it was only our own timidity that could stop us this time. The moment we got on the train, we knew that we had made the right choice. We were only going a few miles down the tracks, but lockdown has made us all a bit reticent, so even small journeys can now feel like an adventure. By the time we put the boats in the river, the sky had cleared and the water was flat. It was the first time that my fiancée had been kayaking on the Thames, and she loved it, paddling under the bridge as a train thundered over, and passing the swans as they prepared for sleep. We only had 30 minutes on the river before it got dark, but by the time we hauled ashore, we were completely refreshed. The debates and anxieties of earlier seemed ridiculous and we knew that, no matter what was taken away next, we would always have the joy of that evening on the river. We even managed to find space at a pub for a post-paddle pint. It’s easy to put things off until some indeterminate future, and I won’t wax lyrical about the values of saying “yes”. But I might recommend that we say “yes” for now, because we don’t know when opportunities might be snatched away again. When it comes to planning, the best approach that I’ve found so far is to block out time, but be willing to change plans at the last minute. “Spontaneous forethought,” as I like to call it. If you’re lucky, circumstances will drop extra time in your lap, so you better be ready to make the most of it. With three hours to spend in York, I rang my mate Wisey, who lives in the countryside nearby. “I’ve just started bee-keeping,” he said. “Fancy checking out the hives?” So we suited up and, for the rest of the afternoon, I learned about the culture of a colony, and handled frames full of pollen and late-season honey. It was far more fun than an extra few hours at home, but I had no idea it would happen until I rang Wisey that afternoon. The kayak and the bees have been the highlights of my year: one nearly didn’t happen, and the other appeared out of nothing. So, watch out for complacency and keep an eye out for spontaneity. You might just get some honey. How has 2020 changed your perceptions of spontaneity? Are you more likely to say yes or no to impromptu plans? Comment below.
Life is made up of two types of people – the Haves and the Have Yachts. Boating is a great way to bring people together, because once you set sail, well, it’s impossible to get away from each other. Best of all, if anyone becomes too annoying you can make them walk the plank. If things get really bad, there’s even burial at sea.
In a post-COVID aviation first, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has announced a partnership with a local biotech firm, Prenetics, to introduce a digital health passport system which could significantly ease the way towards a safer form of air travel. The high-tech set-up would allow passengers to use a mobile app to present a negative COVID-19 result at check-in and again on arrival at their destination. Prenetics told the South China Morning Post that the pilot project will take-off on the London to Hong Kong route in October, potentially paving the way for quarantine-free travel between the two financial hubs – and at best providing a model which could be implemented globally. Hong Kong has been at the forefront of virus prevention and control since COVID-19 made its first murky appearance across the border in China in mid-January. To date, the city of 7.4 million people has suffered 4,997 cases and 103 deaths. Its travel industry, however, has been devastated, with 2019's most visited city recording a drop in air traffic of 91 percent and a 99.9 percent fall in visitor numbers since the border closed. As with the the majority of Asian countries, Hong Kong's borders have been shuttered to all but a few travellers since March, with any passengers making it through forced to spend weeks in quarantine at the end of their journeys. It's a move which has undoubtedly helped to control the spread of the virus across the continent, but with cases in Hong Kong sinking back into single digits over the last few weeks, a plan to restart international travel is finally in the works. Earlier this month, the Hong Kong government announced that it had approached 11 countries deemed to be low-risk, including Germany, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan, with a view to forming travel bubbles. Although Hong Kong is currently on the UK's 'green list', Great Britain did not make the cut but yesterday's announcement from Cathay Pacific suggests that may change. The technology needed certainly appears to be there; the Hong Kong biotech start-up Prenetics was recently appointed by the Hong Kong government to carry out hundreds of thousands of tests as part of a free citywide testing programme, following a recent third wave of coronavirus outbreaks. The firm, which counts former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand among its investors, is also responsible for restarting another beleaguered industry – live sports – with its COVID-19 testing programme for English Premier League footballers. Players and staff are currently tested by Prenetics twice a week. The Hong Kong company are also confident that they will be able to roll out a rapid 30-minute COVID-19 test before the end of the year, which would make it the fastest polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in the world. At the moment, the most accurate coronavirus antigen tests can take anywhere between six hours to a few days to produce results. The new test would slash this to half an hour, has been approved by the World Health Organisation, and is 99.9 percent accurate both in identifying positive cases and those who test negative. Used in conjunction with a digital health app, air passengers on both sides of the corridor would be able to arrange a standardised COVID-19 test before departure. Later, the result would be uploaded to their phone and that online information would then act as a kind of digital health passport allowing access to their flight. A second test would then be performed on arrival, with another negative result granting the passenger permission to cross the border and presumably negate the need for quarantine. The UK and Hong Kong would still need to discuss what would happen to anyone who tested positive at the arrival stage. Currently, anyone testing positive on arrival in Hong Kong is sent to hospital until they produce two negative tests, while anyone who has been in close proximity to a positive case is sent to a government quarantine facility for 14 days. But while there are still some potential hurdles, the news from Hong Kong appears to offer an extremely promising path to restarting a safe, reliable and straightforward means of air travel in the near future.