Month: June 2016

The Travel Connoisseur

Being a solo traveller at heart, family tourism is not exactly the Travel Connoisseur’s milieu. In fact, it’s an area he avoids as best he can. He has never understood parents who carry their jet-lag devastated babies halfway around the world to places best known as honeymoon destinations, and then throw all sense of adult propriety out the window.   

Screaming children and spoiled teenagers are enough to ruin TTC’s wonderful world of elegant travel, but he finds it’s often their loving parents who are the real problem. On a recent flight from San Francisco to Dubai, one lady decided to turn a First Class suite into a baby changing room. In order not to disturb her dear sleeping husband, her choice fell on the suite located right across the aisle from TTC. It happened once. It happened twice.

Prefers calm solitude to multigenerational group chaos

On the third occasion during the 16-hour flight, as the volume of the tot’s protests began to overtake Anna Netrebko performing “O Mio Babbino Caro” in his headphones, and the distinctive odour of the procedure became stronger than TTC’s vintage Eau Noire, the poor sleepless traveller roared from the darkness of his own enclosed suite, “Enough!” Seconds later, two flight attendants hurried over to usher mommy and offspring into a lavatory to complete the ritual. Their paterfamilias, meanwhile, continued to sleep peacefully as TTC was promptly presented with another bubbly flute, beaded with condensation. Evidently, First Class cabins are too small to be shared with travelling families. Needless to say, on the ground TTC steers away from family resorts.

He also has the school break schedule of major travelling nations memorised by heart. When, despite careful planning, he still happens to check in to a hotel during those adolescent-friendly times, his pre-arrival requests become focused solely on acquiring the quietest room possible – one which does not interconnect to create any larger suites. Evidently TTC is not the only one who prefers calm solitude to multigenerational group chaos, with several hotels around the world appreciating the need for a dedicated space for mature clientele.

At a Muscat resort on his last trip, TTC was pleased to discover a quiet, adults-only seafront swimming pool, which proved to be an oasis favoured not only by him but also by a pair of Italian celebrity fashion designers. In this sanctuary, they enjoyed nothing but the perfect sound of the crashing waves, all day long. It was on a visit to Cuba a couple of years ago that TTC went even further, booking himself in for a week at an entirely adults-only resort in Varadero. The absence of mobile phone connectivity and barely any Wi-Fi meant that he could enjoy the ringing silence from the moment he arrived.

The first three days seemed as blissful as can be as TTC spent up to 16 hours sleeping off the jet lag, either in his room or by the sea. Eventually, though, he began to wonder about the absence of any other guests anywhere around the resort during the day. Most seemed to emerge at sunset, the time when the jet-lagged TTC was walking back to his bungalow. On the fourth night, having adjusted to the Caribbean time zone, he decided to stay awake to discover what Varadero nights were like.

Days of sleeping by the sea and nights of fuzzy parties were fun

By midnight it became amply clear why he was the only person on the beach during the day. By sundown, the resort turned into one large nightclub, with sultry Cuban dancers, flashing lights and loud music. The wild tropical party went on until sunrise – explaining also the mystery of the slightly odd, nightclub-friendly menu selection he’d noticed at breakfast. In most guests’ cases, this was the last meal of the day rather than the first one.

Days of sleeping by the sea and nights of fuzzy parties were fun, but it was about the least relaxing vacation he had ever taken. Plus, he found that the frivolousness of the over-18 clientele at the resort was not to his taste, either. When the week was out, TTC packed up and made his way to a more traditional grand hotel in Trinidad de Cuba. To his surprise, he felt right at home once again, surrounded by mommies, daddies and their ruddy-faced kids.Well-behaved ones, of course.

Holidays Hobbyists

For Active Adventurers

  • SURF
    Just two hours from Sydney, Surf Camp Australia is designed for surfers of all levels and teaches paddling, standing up, riding the waves and surf  etiquette. Later, kick back in the purpose-built Surf Camp a short walk from the beach, with a swimming pool, hammocks and Aussie barbecues in the evenings.
  • CYCLE
    On Hawaii’s Big Island, active types can pedal along white sand beaches, traverse lava fields or ascend volcanoes on Ride & Seek and Big Island Bike Tours’ cycling adventure. Take the adrenaline rush up a notch with a pit stop for cliff-jumping, then soak in the naturally heated tide pools of Kapoho.

  • WALK
    Hike the picturesque peaks of the Caucasus in Georgia, through alpine meadows, over roaring rivers and along green valleys with Walks Worldwide’s Where Europe meets Asia trip Gape at the breathtaking views atop the 3,430m Atsunta Pass before returning to the capital, Tbilisi, for a spot of sightseeing.

For Wellness Seekers

  • DIGITAL DETOX
    Get off the grid at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu (one week all-inclusive from AED 25,000; 001-310-457 8700, theranchmalibu. com) where there’s no phone signal or Wi-Fi, allowing you to live in the moment without the distractions of technology. The daily bootcamp features a routine of sustainable activity including group hiking, yoga sessions and fitness classes, after which the last thing on your mind will be sitting in front of a computer screen.

    Detox your body and mind at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu

  • YOGA
    Set in the Himalayan foothills in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, Vana Malsi Estate (?ve-night retreat from AED 6,850; 0091-135-391 1111, vanaretreats.com) is a modern ashram-cum-spa retreat sitting on 21 acres of forested land. Activities include private and group yoga, hiking, om chanting and spa treatments. Vana doesn’t follow a particular school of yoga but goes back to the roots of the science and includes body postures (aasan), meditation (dhyan), breath control (pranayam) and nutrition to help guests de-stress and recharge.

    Complement a yoga session with natural therapies at Vana Malsi Estate

For Environmentalists

  • WILDLIFE
    Enjoy up-close encounters with mountain gorillas in the lush greenery of their natural Ugandan habitat while aiding conservation efforts with The Great Projects (13 nights from AED 14,080; 0044-208-885 4987, thegreatprojects.com/projects/the-great-gorilla-project). Volunteers work with local communities on tree-planting and reforestation efforts in and around the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a sanctuary that is home to half of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as assisting in a pedal-powered film session to educate remote schools and communities about the importance of conservation.

    Spot gorillas in the wild while helping with conservation efforts in Uganda

  • MARINE
    Help replant coral reefs in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, with the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (two weeks all- inclusive from AED 6,140; 0060-198- 50 5412, tracc.org) where you’ll be taught scientific diving techniques and methods for planting corals and rebuilding a reef alongside scientists. Also on the cards: turtle and shark conservation, which includes patrolling the beaches to protect adult turtles, eggs and hatchlings – then dive with them off Pom Pom Island

For Creative Types

  • MUSIC & DANCE
    For those who like to make a song and dance about their travels, Cuba is the ideal spot. Get caught up in the rumba of Havana, join in salsa classes in Trinidad then learn to play traditional Cuban music and record your own track with local musicians in Santiago de Cuba with Responsible Travel’s Cuba music & dance holiday (nine days from AED 5,510; 0044-1273-82 3700, responsibletravel.com). Both adults and little ones will be wowed by the colourful architectures, vintage cars, Latin beats and friendly locals.

    Trinidad in Cuba is a vibrant place to practise your dance moves

  • PHOTOGRAPHY
    Get snap happy in Marrakech with Creative Escapes’ Morocco photo tour (?ve days from AED 5,195; 0044-207-111 1293, creative-escapes.co.uk/photomorocco), which takes in the bustling souks, Atlas Mountains, traditional Berber villages and gardens of Yves Saint Laurent’s
    home, with a team of experts offering live photography demonstrations, creative tuition and challenging assignments for all ages and levels.
  • FINE ART
    Put brush to canvas on an Andalucian painting holiday with Authentic Adventures (seven nights from AED 7,830; 0044-1453- 82 3328, authenticadventures.co.uk) in the village of Alajar, with its rolling pastures, charming cobble-stone squares and stone houses with wrought-iron balconies and ancient doorways. Paint under the shade of an oak tree, with tips and guidance from professional tutors, and beam with pride, glass of bubbles in hand, at the informal exhibition of your work at the end of the trip.

For Food Enthusiasts

  • FARM
    For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, working on a farm and helping with the harvest is a great way to give back to the earth. World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (wwoof.org) arranges volunteer placements around the world where you can learn aboutseed sowing, composting, gardening, wood cutting, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing and grape-, cheese- and bread-making in return for food and board with the local host, all while helping to build a sustainable community – a great lesson for older kids.
  • KITCHEN
    If cooking is a passion, take it to the next level with an apprenticeship with a chef on your next holiday. Learn the tricks of the trade on an Italian or Mediterranean cooking course with Tuscookany (one week from AED 12,500; 0044-7039-40 0235, tuscookany.com), where you’ll prepare organic meals with local chefs, learning about the ingredients and traditions surrounding the dishes as well as food presentation and grape pairings.

    Learn the tricks of the trade with ravioli- making sessions with Italian chefs in Tuscany

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