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  • 20 of the best learning holidays in the UK and Europe

    Posted 2020-01-25 07:00:47 by: bossgate

    From singing and surfing to furniture-making and freediving, we choose breaks where you’ll learn new skills while having fun in beautiful surroundingsPortrush is a bracing but beautiful place to learn to surf. Despite having two top surf beaches, it is far less crowded than beaches in Devon and Cornwall. But for totally empty breaks, Portrush Surf School also runs one- to three-day surf tours to hidden spots along the west coast of Ireland. There are at least two surf sessions a day, with coaching for all levels from beginners to advanced, plus visits to off-the-beaten track castles, pubs and restaurants. Accommodation is flexible, from surf lodges to boutique hotels, depending on budget. The trips are limited to five surfers plus instructors, and the group travels by minibus. • £149 for one day/£299 two/£449 three, including coaching and accommodation but not meals, portrushsurfschool.com Continue ...

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  • Picasso’s lost paradise: how a corner of Catalonia brought inspiration

    Posted 2020-01-24 06:30:17 by: bossgate

    As a new Picasso exhibition opens at London’s Royal Academy, we visit Horta de Sant Joan, the hilltop village that the artist said taught him ‘everything’I was standing in a cave Picasso once slept in. Actually, it’s more of a ledge beneath a craggy, overhanging limestone rock. Yet, in the summer of 1898 the 16-year-old Picasso and a friend spent a month sleeping here: in the Santa Bárbara mountain in the Terres de l’Ebre region of Catalonia, some 210km south-west of Barcelona. He would later write: “Everything I know, I learned in Horta.”Local lore has turned the ledge into a cave but, either way, it’s certainly remote – high up amid the dense holly oak and pine forests of the mountains. Apart from the odd derelict farmhouse, there was nothing for miles and all I heard were warbling sparrows and the trickling of a brook. Continue ...

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  • 10 of the best wellbeing holidays in Europe: readers’ travel tips

    Posted 2020-01-23 11:45:52 by: bossgate

    For our tipsters a healthy break means everything from beach yoga and spa hotels to sensory barefoot forest walking and listening to Puccini under the starsListening to Puccini and other Italian opera classics while sparkling stars lit the night skies was just the tonic I needed last summer. I stumbled on the lovely resort of Salsomaggiore Terme when I was driving around the verdant hills of Emilia-Romagna. I thought I might stay a day to enjoy the thermal waters – but ended up staying a week. The town is full of natural water fountains, belle époque buildings, peaceful cafes and eateries. The elegant Grand Hotel (doubles from €120 B&B), where I stayed, offered open-air tai chi classes in the gardens, and all kinds of mud and relaxation treatments are available at most hotels in the town.Nigel Continue ...

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  • The wood life: my four days immersed in Latvia's forests

    Posted 2020-01-23 06:30:46 by: bossgate

    Half of Latvia is woodland … so no wonder its people derive so much wellbeing from foraging, ancient forest crafts and being at one with natureIn Japan it’s called shinrin-yoku (forest bathing); in Norway it’s friluftsliv (appreciation of outdoors activity and nature). But in Latvia there’s no special term for it. “We don’t need one – this is just normal behaviour for Latvians,” said Sigita Klētniece, our walk leader in a crisp, cold Gauja national park in the country’s north-east. Continue ...

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  • Tell us about a scenic rail trip in Europe for the chance to win two first-class Interrail Passes!

    Posted 2020-01-22 11:50:23 by: bossgate

    Over the next six weeks we will be giving away six pairs of first-class Interrail Global Passes worth up to £768 to the person who writes the best tipFor our first Interrail competition, we want your tips on the most scenic rail journeys in Europe (excluding the UK), whether it’s along a coast or river, through mountain passes, pretty villages or wilderness. To give you some inspiration, here’s our pick of 10 classic routes (please don’t send a tip about one of these).Send tips by filling in the form below, with as much detail as you can (including useful websites and prices) in around 100 words. We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition. Continue ...

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  • 10 of Europe’s most scenic train journeys

    Posted 2020-01-22 11:49:56 by: bossgate

    To kick off our new weekly Interrail competition, in which the writer of the best rail tip wins two first-class train passes worth up to £768, here’s our pick of Europe’s most scenic journeysThe rail journey across southern Norway from Bergen to Oslo – northern Europe’s highest mainline railway – is so beautiful that all seven hours of it were broadcast in 2009 on Norwegian television as the first ever Slow TV (Sakte-TV) programme. However, for passengers who alight at remote and tiny Myrdal an even greater pleasure awaits. The branch line from here down to Flåm is one of the world’s steepest railway lines, dropping 867m in just 20km, and was created in 1940 to serve villages along Sognefjord. Along the way, it provides vistas of the fjord, along with mountains, the picturesque Lake Reinungavatnet and myriad waterfalls, including the mighty 93m Kjosfossen. Continue ...

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  • Four-star Oxford hotel had no one to help with midnight emergency

    Posted 2020-01-22 06:59:18 by: bossgate

    I was sent on a five-minute walk to knock on a stranger’s doorI had an appalling experience at a four-star hotel in Oxford in November. I’d booked a room at the Ethos Hotel through Booking.com. Around midnight we were woken by water dripping through a light fixture in the ceiling. There was no landline and no mobile phone signal. Reception, across the road in a different building, was locked. I dialled the hotel number from the street and was answered by a call centre in Cheshire. Continue ...

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  • Utterly butterly: Kent’s Cobham Dairy, a digital detox for the contentedly idle

    Posted 2020-01-22 06:30:18 by: bossgate

    The Landmark Trust has refurbished this historic ‘pleasure dairy’ in the Kent countryside as an ideal wifi-free getaway – some might say it’s maid in heavenLet’s face it, at some point we’ve all had a hankering to get in touch with our inner Marie Antoinette. Not so much the thoughtless “Let them eat brioche” side of the spendthrift French queen (assuming she ever said it) but her playing at being a rustic farmworker but dropping it all and heading back to the palace as soon as it becomes a chore vibe. It’s a dream few of us get to realise, though one woman who did was Elizabeth Brownlow, 4th Countess of Darnley. She lived at a time (late 18th/early 19th century) when a return to the simple life was en vogue among the landed gentry – as a response to the mechanisation unleashed by the Industrial Revolution.Around two centuries later, I found myself staying in the restored “pleasure dairy” she had built on the southern edge of the grounds of Cobham Hall, an Elizabethan country house (now a school) near Rochester, Kent. The work of prolific architect James Wyatt, it was intended to resemble an Italianate chapel. The dairy served as an elegant retreat where Elizabeth could oversee the production of butter, cream and cheese from the estate’s cows, or hold decorous tea parties for her high-born female friends, away from the strictures of a world dominated by men. Continue ...

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  • Tell us about your favourite family holiday for the chance to win £200 towards a UK/Europe stay

    Posted 2020-01-21 13:01:18 by: bossgate

    Send us a tip on a fab family holiday in the UK and Europe for a chance to win our new prize – £200 towards a Sawday’s breakWhether it was a beach break, a family get together, an adventure or a holiday when the kids (or you) had the time of their lives, please share details of your favourite family holiday in the UK or Europe.It could be a trip you planned yourself or one offered by a travel specialist. Cycling, swimming, lounging about, cultural attractions … whatever you and your family enjoyed, we’d like to hear about it. Continue ...

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  • How a writing retreat in Spain got my creative juices flowing

    Posted 2020-01-21 06:30:48 by: bossgate

    A remote house in Andalucía’s Sierra Nevada – with food, drink, company and mentoring on tap – is the ideal environment to sort out writer’s blockWe were looping the southern foothills of the Alpujarras, which in turn form the foothills of the mighty Sierra Nevada, on our way to the little village of Ferreirola, near the town of Pitres. John, a local driver, had picked me up from Granada, 90 minutes’ drive to the north-west, and we were climbing steadily. Continue ...

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