We may have just hit the Autumn equinox but that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to sun. If you can’t quite accept that winter is on it’s way in the UK you can find highs of 40C after a 6 and a half hour flight to Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf.
It’ll cost you around £300 to fly to this historic nation, the centre of major trade routes since antiquity. In the capital, Manama you’ll find busy souks full of spices peals, amazing carpets and hand woven fabric (interior lovers up your baggage allowance now).
Fraser Suites Seef Bahrain are a great option for accommodation, right next to Manama and just a short trip to the Bahrain National Museum where you can learn the fascinating history of the Portuguese and Persian Past of the city.
Other must visit historical sites are the crumbling ruins of the old Dilmun civilizations, the mighty fortress of Qalat Al Bahrain, and for more recreational activities look no further than famous scuba diving sites and quaint desert towns spotted across the country.
Here are our top tips when in Bahrain:
Traditional Arabic coffee is regularly served in cafes in it's original form - that means no milk and no sugar, drinking coffee is part of important rituals in Bahrain. When you drink it take the cup in your right hand and always accept two cups (one will embarrass the host, while three will embarrass everyone else).
Bahrain is very permissive when it comes to alcohol, but public intoxication is illegal and is often severely punished so be respectful and be careful.
Most restaurants add a service charge between 10 and 15 percent, so tipping is usually unnecessary. Also, avoid tipping taxi drivers as they often overcharge foreigners.
Be aware of the dates you're travelling - For example Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours throughout the holy month of Ramadan. It is important for visitors to respect this tradition by not eating, drinking, or smoking in public throughout the month.
This summer, escape the concrete towers of the capital for flowery fields and mountains where sumptuous spas await. The Austrian Alps have some of the freshest air in the world as well as all the peace, quiet and natural beauty you could ask for. Naturally some really world class spa hotels have set up shop here. Whether for a weekend wellness jaunt or longer leisure break, this week we’ll be daydreaming of the five following hotel spas…
SPA Hotel Jagdhof
The SPA Hotel Jagdhof is located in the twee Tyrolean village of Neustift im Stubaital. Its jSPA offers 20 different wellness experiences, including aqua meditation, a fountain of youth, salt grotto and herbal steam room. You can book Hawaiian, Oriental, Moroccan and Tyrolean massages to name a few! If you can manage to drag yourself away from this picturesque poolside (I struggle to drag my eyes away from the photo alone!), the surrounding area has a mountain lift system leading to heights of 3,210m above sea level, for truly life-affirming views. 3 nights sharing a double room costs from £384.90pp through relaischateaux.com.
This the biggest rooftop swimming pool in the Alps and it belongs to the Hotel Schwarzer Adler in Kitzbuhel. The pool is not only scenic but fitted with an underwater sound system, and alongside its neighbouring bar and lounge it’s reserved for adults-only to keep the vibe peaceful and quiet. You can reach it by the ‘panoramic elevator’ that serves the hotel’s four-floor Black Spa, with its Finnish and Bio saunas, golden aromatic steam bath and laconicum. Treatments range from hot stone and anti-ageing massages to reflexology and lymphatic drainage. My favourite thing about the spa? Mobile phones are banned! Beyond the hotel boundaries, Kitzbuhel is a bright and buzzy town with designer shopping and there are 170 kilometres of beautiful jogging and walking paths. 3 nights half board with Gatwick flights costs from £549pp through sno.co.uk.
Among the Arlberg mountains, Gasthof Post has a three-floor wellness centre where you can doze off in a pine relaxation area, be pampered in treatment cabins and stay refreshed with the help of the fruit and juice bar. The outdoor pool is heated and I think you’ll agree, has views so amazing you could stay here until sundown! The spa is known for its jet peeling facials and having its own perfumery, so you can leave not only looking and feeling rejuvenated but smelling fantastic too! Gasthof Post is in the exclusive village of Lech, which with its cobbled streets and cute church is a lovely place for a stroll. 7 nights in a double room costs from €1,258pp through tripadvisor.com.
With FIVE types of facial (cleansing, peeling, massaging, steaming, ultrasonic) five types of therapeutic bath (oxygen, milk, fruit, oil and salt), a choice of steam treatments (saline or herbal) plus the options of waterbeds, swing recliners, poolside or garden loungers to relax on, the spa offerings of the Alpbacherhof are hard to rival. What’s more, the hotel kitchen has a health-conscious menu to munch your way through guilt-free. Alpbach which this hotel calls home has been crowned ‘Austria’s Most Beautiful Village’ and if you have time to spare between spa treatments, there are some stunning walks and bike rides around. 7 nights B&B costs from £1,363pp through booking.com.
Not every hotel has its own natural swimming pond and trust me, the one at Astoria Resort in Seefeld is a world away from Tooting Bec Lido! It’s part of a 4,000 square metre indoor and outdoor wellness centre where there are also two swimming pools, jacuzzis and saunas (where you can attend guided sauna sessions). Pilates and yoga classes are available as well as hikes led in the wonderful surroundings. Besides massage and beauty therapists, the hotel employs a ‘relaxation trainer’ who will create a personalised R&R programme to ensure you find your calm. Seefeld has its own programme of wonderful things to do, including e-biking (basically cycling without the hassle of pedalling too hard), walks and golf. 3 nights half board costs from €627pp through seefeld.com.
I was a massive festival goer in my younger years, sadly as you grow up and take on more responsibility, less money and become attached often your festival going days tend to dwindle. You also find a sudden distinct dislike of discomfort and certainly don't want to be reminded of your advancing years by being pushed and shoved around by a load of 'youth' during the headliner acts.
Having said all that there are festivals and there are festivals and it would make me way to sad to not go to any at all. So the Isle of Wight is my chosen keeper. It's a festival that's not going to leave you with cold feet and an achy back or feeling like you're a parent before you even have your own kids worrying about the state of youngsters around you. You also don't need to feel as though you need a holiday afterwards because you can combine it with a bit of sightseeing turning this into a festi-mini-break which is far more adult and civilised.
The Isle of Wight Festival really welcomes all ages, no one is going to get 'I feel old' pangs here, you can even introduce the next generation of festival goers as it's massively kid friendly. It always has a great line up, extra entertainment, a variety of bars, luxury camping options and you get to go there on a ferry for God's sake!
It's hard to top. The perfect festi-mini break (I think I'll coin that phrase), plus - and it's a bit plus - it always seems to land on the great weather.
If you go this year, please combine it with a little Isle of Wight sightseeing and definitely book yourself into The Hut for a seafood platter. I have been missing that place all year and can't wait to go back.
This year is the festival's Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary and acts I'll be jostling to the front for include Hurts, The Wombats, Depeche Mode, The Killers and Kasabian.
Sometimes, when the London lifestyle gets a little too hectic, the best thing to do is to head for the coast. Jump in the car… hop on a train… just find a way as the classic British seaside break has a lot going for it….
It’s true that there are some funny old associations with British beaches and their culture. There’s a peculiarly naff quality connected to attractions such as bingo halls, dubious roller-coasters and those classic saucy postcards; but whilst a sense of all that still remains today, it’s unobtrusive enough to enjoy as a quaint novelty, or to forget about entirely if you’d rather.
There’s a great choice of resorts, many of the best being in good old Essex. You’ve got favourites such as Clacton on Sea, which offers a lovely sandy beach along with the expected Victorian pier, or Southend on Sea, which can admittedly get slightly raucous.
Perhaps the best offering is Brighton. This might sound an odd favourite as the beach isn’t sandy so sandcastles will never be on the cards, but a bit of pebble-skimming is always an option. What makes Brighton so attractive though is the completeness of the town itself: it’s somewhere that would still be great without the beach, whereas a lot of these resorts have little to offer but the sea.
For instance, alongside the classic arcade with all its shoot-‘em-up games and slot machines, there’s a proper casino for when the sun goes down and you want to hit the tables. It might be an idea to get your eye in with some online games on the train on the way down as these Brighton folk can be crafty customers! There are great clubs here too and the nightlife really benefits from the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Brighton. Being so close to London, and with its university, there’s a lot of young blood to keep things fresh and just plain cool.
Also of course there’s plenty of culture here, so although you’re out of London you won’t have to experience any withdrawal symptoms! There are lots of little galleries dotted around the place as well as Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. In addition to its fine art collection there’s always a thought-provoking exhibition here to get some ideas flowing. This museum-cum-gallery is located right next to the famous Brighton Pavilion, which is itself a work of art from Brighton’s Regency days.
If you’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt, then after your splash in the sea you might like to consider popping over to Lewes, a lovely little spot just up the road from Brighton. Lewes castle will give you a nice blast from the past (…built in 1069!) and if you’re peckish you could always pop into Bill’s. This is the original café that lead to the chain that everyone is now so familiar with up and down the country. It all started as a greengrocer’s and it’s quite nice to see where it all began, and to say that you’ve been to the original site.
Up winding mountain roads well into the mountains above Palma is a quiet, idyllic little hotel, La Posada Del Marques.
With a real goose bump entrance, amazing views and cosy interiors this place would fit a holiday in Mallorca any time year round. Perfect for a couple of nights away, you are near to large city Palma as well as Michael Douglas favourite, the achingly picturesque Valdemossa for day trips. You can also find little coves, wonderful biking and hiking and boat hire for all levels nearby.
For evenings there are a number of ports nearby where you can sit out by the water, listen to live music and have a few drinks. There are also high gems of restaurants further into the mountains that are perfect for sunset viewings.
Mallorca is quick to get to and the hotel is only a 20 minute drive from the airport making it a great choice for a quick weekend recharge.
Whether you go out exploring (we would recommend a hire care) or simply stay in the hotel to have drinks and around the pool, wonder around their palm, orange and olive tree peppered gardens and early nights in cool rustic bedrooms, it's a great little weekend break to stick in your pocket when you need some R&R.