Discover the Dutch Caribbean’s hottest new resort with a heart-shaped and luxury bungalows

As the motor coach pulled out of the airport headed for Sandals Royal Curaçao, couples on board started exchanging how long they’ve been married.

“Thirty-two years,” exclaimed one couple.

“Forty-four years,” boasted another, causing the bus to break out in applause.

“One day!” shouted a pair of newlyweds, garnering cheers all around.

It’s a fitting scene as Sandals Resorts has long garnered a reputation for providing luxury Caribbean vacations for couples and Executive Chairman Adam Stewart says the newly-opened west-facing resort is designed for couples eager to soak up the sunset.

“Sandals as a brand is about two people in love. Our tagline is, and has always been ‘Love is all you need’ — because everything else is included at Sandals,” he explains. “And the number one thing that customers are looking for to maintain romance, when they’re here in the Caribbean, is that sunset.”

New to Sandal’s sixteenth resort are the Kurason Island Suites, luxury bungalows set around a heart-shaped pool with an island at the centre, and the Awa Seaside Bungalows with private infinity pools overlooking the water. Guests staying in these upscale room categories also have complimentary access to MINI Coopers that let them hit the town and explore in style and comfort.

The suite life

The 351-room and suite property features 11 culinary concepts, including eight restaurants and three beachside gourmet food trucks, and 13 bars. Vincent pays homage to the famous Dutch painter with a European fusion menu; Gatsu Gatsu offers extravagent sushi creations and Zuka offers culinary traditions and flavours representative of Central America and South America.

As a first, Sandals Royal Curaçao offers a dine out program, where top tier guests can eat out at eight local restaurant partners in the capital city of Willemstad — included in the package price. 

“Our purpose is to share the four corners of the Caribbean with the world and the best of the Caribbean. I get the honour of running around the Caribbean all day long, flying on planes, scouting, looking and seeing what’s the best. As you look over here, it’s about as damn good as it gets anywhere on the planet,” Stewart says pointing out to the resort, which is located on 44 acres. 

On the island

Off the resort, the vibrant city of Willemstad is loaded with boutiques, street art, bars and restaurants to explore. Walking across Queen Emma Bridge, the floating bridge that connects the Punda and Otrobanda neighbourhoods, is a must. This is where visitors will find the colourful stretch of buildings that makes up the Handelskade — one of the most recognized views of the destination. 

Clarita Hagenaar, the 79-year-old founder of Clarita Food Trails, points out that the buildings used to be all white. 

“Legend has it that we had a governor who said stop painting the houses white because of the reflection of the bright sun,” she says. 

Fact or fiction, the historic figure is said to have ordered the change because the reflection caused him to suffer terrible migraines. Nowadays, the colourful pastel-honed hues of the buildings are part of the charm of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

With dishes influenced by Dutch and Afro-Caribbean cuisines, culinary tours with Clarita Food Trails end at Plasa Bieu, an old market that’s an authentic lunch spot for locals. The informal dining spot is a tasty way to indulge in fresh and homemade meals like salty pork stew, bòkel (salted mackerel), kabes ku higra (cup and liver stew), kadushi (cactus soup), bonchi kòra (red bean soup), and iguana soup.

For a relaxing way to spend the day, Island Routes runs catamaran and superyacht tours to Klein (little) Curaçao, a small uninhabited island with piercing blue water about 42 kilometres from the main island. Along with snorkelling for sea turtles and providing an idyllic backdrop for a scenic beach escape, there are some unique features to the flat, arid island like an iconic pink lighthouse and several shipwrecks. The most notable is that of the oil tanker ‘Maria Bianca Guidesman,’ which is eroding into the shoreline. 

The 1.7 square-kilometre island is divided into two starkly different sides, with the shipwreck coast being rough, rugged, rocky and dramatic, while the long stretch of sandy beach is picturesque with turquoise waters, and makes for a memorable day trip. 

For those with a sense of adventure, one of the most unique things to do in Curaçao is rappelling down the Queen Juliana Bridge, the tallest bridge in the Caribbean. The experience provides a remarkable vantage point of Willemstad from almost 150 feet up in the air. 

“My youngest client off the bridge was five years old and the oldest was two weeks away from turning 83 years old,” says climbing instructor, Albert Schoop of Vertical Fun Curaçao. 

A police officer by trade, Schoop originally got into rappelling through work, organizing training rappels as the local riot commander, becoming certified as a rappel master and gaining specialist training in tactical rappelling with a Dallas PD SWAT team. 

“Up to 1994 I used to watch rappelling on TV and think you must be very crazy to hang from such a thin rope at great heights,” he recalls. “I started doing it on my own with family and friends and there was always someone suggesting I should do this commercially.”

Along your travels you may hear the word Dushi, a Papiamentu word with multiple meanings. Unlike what it sounds like in English, it’s actually an endearing phrase meaning sweetie, honey, babe or even sexy. It can also be used to describe tasty food or the good things in life — so no matter where you find yourself in Curaçao, make sure it’s dushi.

Take a journey through Northern Spain aboard a luxury sleeper train

The scenery encompasses such sights like vivid blue lakes in a scene reminiscent of Switzerland, or the rock formations of Playa de las Catedrales, where during low tide, you can walk through the arches that line the beach. 

When it comes to pouring sidra — the hard cider originating from the Asturias region in Northern Spain — it’s best to leave it to a professional. That’s because in order to spark natural carbonation and release the flavours of the tart beverage, it’s meant to be poured at least three feet (or more) from above into a small drinking glass slightly tilted on the side, a feat that takes some practice to perfect without spilling too much. 

While I may not have mastered the art of the pouring technique during my journey along the northern coast of Spain, I was a natural at the tasting. With a freshly poured sidra in hand sitting on a bridge in the parish of Covadonga overlooking a waterfall to my left and a basilica next to a dramatic mountainscape to my right, I was struck by how different this part of the country was from cities like Barcelona and Madrid. In fact, northern Spain is known as Green Spain for its scenery, coastal landscapes and lush vegetation.

To get a sense of what the area offers, I’d boarded the Costa Verde Express, and was ready for a luxury adventure on the rails along with fellow travellers from Brazil, the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), South Africa and all across Europe. 

All aboard for the memories 

After a three course meal, a nightly ritual quickly developed on board. The trip director would appear to hand out the itinerary for the next day over post-supper drinks like port or schnapps. This got the group excited to take in some of the top sights in the region like Cangas de Onís’ famous roman bridge with five arches and a Victoria Cross in the middle, or the remarkable Covadonga Sanctuary, which is built into the side of a mountain. 

The coastal route features many notable stops like Picos de Europa, a stunning mountain range peeking out through the mist with cows roaming freely. The scenery encompasses such sights like vivid blue lakes in a scene reminiscent of Switzerland, or the rock formations of Playa de las Catedrales, where during low tide, you can walk through the arches that line the beach. 

There’s also free time built into the schedule at various stops along the route to allow for independent exploration, or like multiple women on the trip opted for, shopping. As the late Anthony Bourdain once said, “Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.”

For me, it was during these unscripted free moments that some of my favourite memories were made. This is how I found myself on a beach named Playa de Poo. What originated as a bit of a joke destination based on the name, wound up being a stunning secluded cove beach with gorgeous mountain views, a highly recommended stop during the free time portion in Llanes. Overall, there is no shortage of beaches to choose from in the city. A quick Google search of the top things to do in Llanes will list various beaches in the top 10 — you can’t go wrong. Another lovely option is Playa del Sablon, with views of the town’s medieval wall. 

As for the food, not all meals are served on the train. Several lunches were at Paradores, unique accommodations in castles and monuments around Spain complete with wine or beer for the table, as well as some Michelin-star restaurants. Dinners on board were elaborate affairs with multiple choices per course, including vegetarian options, served with wines from the region. Breakfast offered a buffet spread with made-to-order eggs. Several people in my departure group got off in Bilbao with the goal of carrying on to San Sebastian, a city with renowned beaches and innovative chefs.

Two roads diverged 

Costa Verde Express trips depart from either Santiago de Compostela or Bilbao, so travellers can select which end of the line to start from. I began my journey in Santiago de Compostela, where Anu Pitkanen from Santiago Tourism was quick to share that not everyone who visits is a pilgrim. The destination has, however, gained a reputation around the word as the end point for the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage that dates back to Medieval times to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 

In order to receive an official certificate, participants must walk at least 100 kilometres of the route. However, visitors can look for direction markers all around the city and walk a few humble steps along the route. While The Original Way is thought to be the first pilgrimage route starting off in Oviedo, there are now other popular ways like The French Way (or The Camino Frances), starting in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port; or The Portuguese Way, kicking off in Porto or Lisbon. 

Fresh off of walking for over a month along the French Way, one man on my trip was happy for the train to do the heavy lifting for him. About one million people visit Santiago each year, about 300,000 of which are pilgrims. A popular time to visit is during The Holy Hear, also called the Jacobean year, which happens when a holiday called the Feast of St. James, on July 25, falls on a Sunday. This happens every five, six or 11 years. It was extended from 2021 to 2022 because of the pandemic. During this time, the Holy Doors of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela are open so worshipers can go inside to have their sins forgiven.

“Not if you killed someone,” Pitkanen says. “Only small sins.” There are plenty of nearby patios to enjoy views of the cathedral over snacks and pints. The Old Quarter can easily be explored by foot and features many shops, boutiques and restaurants. Foodies will want to visit Casa Marcelo, a Michelin star-rated restaurant with two set dinner times offering a creative tasting menu. Those who opt to start the trip from Santiago are encouraged to come a few days early to experience all that the city has to offer. 


 

Things to do in Bilbao beyond the Guggenheim 

Although the Guggenheim Museum helped put Bilbao on the tourism map, the cultural city offers loads of activities and experiences for travellers to discover. 

Forget tapas, it’s pintxos here! 

Eat your heart out sampling various pintxos dishes, which are small snacks typically eaten in bars across northern Spain. Bar El Globo, Cafe Iruna and Amaren — a slider bar — are just some of the many tasty options. Tour guide Flora Paradiso says it’s typical for locals to bar hop from one pintxos joint to the next. 

Follow in the footsteps of Game of Thrones 

Basque Country has been utilized to shoot multiple scenes from the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. One of the most stunning places to visit is the rocky islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, something to see whether or not you are a fan of the series. Other memorable filming locations are Zumaia (Gipuzkoa) and Muriola beach in Barrika (Bizkaia).

Witness geological phenomenons 

Another cool thing to experience is the Flysch of Biscay, which originally formed under the sea, a unique geological phenomenon that dates back more than 200 million years. The end result is unique layers of cliffs that line the coast of Basque Country. This makes coastal hikes extra interesting, but if lounging is more your style, there are also beaches like Arriatera and Atxabiribil surrounded by Flysch. It’s also possible to take in these sights from a different vantage point — while paragliding or surfing.

Dubbed the Little Basalt Giant’s Causeway of Fruiz, the area is also home to its own more modest version of the Giant’s Causeway (found in Northern Ireland), featuring unique columns of basalt. Finally, those who are into chasing waterfalls won’t want to miss out on Nervión Waterfall, located between Burgos and Bilbao, a stunning waterfall that plunges down from 222 metres. 

Enjoy the first underwater winery in the world 

Wine aficionados looking to experience wine with a twist can sample wine from Crusoe Treasure Underwater Winery, which is aged under the sea. Led by enologist Antonio Palacios, the team of master winemakers seek out and blend unique terroirs and then store the wines in the sea to “bring out their full potential.” The results are limited-edition underwater wines that make for an equally fun story to tell if you bring a bottle back home. The winery is located in the picturesque Plentzia Bay on the Basque Coast. 

Take in the sights from above 

For terrific views of the city from above, head to Mount Artxanda by funicular, bus or on foot. Along with posing alongside large Bilbao letters, visitors will be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the city and a unique view of the Guggenheim. Fun fact, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, is largely set in the Basque Country.

—STORY BY ANN RUPPENSTEIN

Eight of the best reasons to visit Greece this autumn

Magical Greece is known to keep well-hidden secrets for those who care to look closely. We’ve done just that: looked closely and selected the most special properties and adventures for those still looking for a last-minute fall getaway.

Variety Cruises

Variety Cruises, Greece’s leading small ship cruise line, has for the first time in its 70-year history, revealed a Hiking Collection Cruise that offers the best of many worlds: cruising in the Greek seas, hiking, and insider insight into the history and stories from Ancient Greece.
 
Guests will be joined on board by outdoor specialists on the history of the Peloponnese and a resident archaeologist. The week-long cruise will depart from Athens on Nov. 4, then through the Corinthian gulf, encircle the Peloponnese and return back to Athens. Stops will include Nafplion —Greece’s first capital city— and Ancient Epidaurus, Itea for the famed oracle Delphi, strikingly beautiful and equally mysterious, Monemvasia and Pylos. Rates start at 1,250€ per person.
 

Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Porto Heli 

One of Greece’s best-kept secrets is Porto Heli in Argolis, situated in the eastern part of the Peloponnesian peninsula. Just over a two-hour drive from Athens, Porto Heli is home to Nikki Beach Resort & Spa. The resort perfectly combines unique lifestyle and culinary experiences with relaxation and discovery. Tucked away in this beautiful corner of Greece, Nikki Beach is the perfect base for excursions in the Saronic Gulf and road trips in the surrounding ancient sites including Mycenae, Nafplion, Corinth and Nemea and of course the architectural masterpiece of ancient theater of Epidaurus. Guests can easily catch a water taxi to Spetses and Hydra, two of Greece’s most beautiful and aristocratic islands, the latter of which is home to Jeff Koons’s Apollo, a solo exhibition on view at DESTE’s Project Space at the island’s old Slaughterhouse.
 
Nikki Beach remains open until Oct. 15 and invites guests to stay active and rejuvenate with a special Autumn Getaways offer which included one complimentary lunch or dinner per day, access to Nikki Beach with complimentary use of sun beds and umbrellas, and complimentary Wi-Fi and use of the gym.

Ducato di Oia Boutique Hotel, Santorini

Ducato di Oia has opened a new restaurant, Barozzi, situated on top of the caldera and overlooking the picturesque Armeni harbour. Barozzi, whose name was inspired by an aristocratic Venetian family who were also lords of Santorini and Thirassia, invites guests to participate in a gastronomic experience mixing modern Cycladic flavors with Japanese influences punctuated by local Mediterranean bounty.
 
Curated by renowed George Stylianoudakis, the menu includes everything from simple and renowed tzatziki and fava spreads to Fricassee: a stew with a Japanese Wagyu A5 Tartare, uni hollandaise with sea urchins and dill emulsion. Helming the restaurant is Executive Chef George Stylianoudakis, who has more than 25 years of experience in gastronomy.
 
The 12-seat restaurant will remain open until the end of November, and is open for breakfast from 8:30-11 a.m. and from 1-10 p.m. for lunch and dinner. Ducato di Oia will remain open throughout the year, inviting guests to experience Santorini in a much different set up than the mainstream under-the-August-sun.
 

Magma Resort, Santorini

 
Magma Resort Santorini, In the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, opened its doors this August and awaits those who want to discover the tranquil side of Santorini. Magma, the first Hyatt-affiliated hotel in the Greek islands, integrates the island’s local character while embodying a sustainable modern design with a warm and comfortable feel to it. It is designed to incorporate organic shapes from black volcanic stones alongside contrasting off-white geometric prisms, reminiscent of Santorini’s volcanic ash that is evident around the island. The resort’s culinary experience, Magma by Spondi, is curated by the renowned French Chef Arnaud Bignon and honors local agriculture and produce in a modern yet stylish way. Magma by Spondi is a sister to the Athenian Spondi restaurant, which celebrates two Michelin stars both won during the Chef’s time as head chef.

Lindian Village Resort, Rhodes

indian Village is situated in southeast Rhodes, bordering a nature reserve and backed by undulating hills. Open until the end of October, the five-star resort features 188 accommodations arranged into neighborhoods where archetypal Greek cubist whitewashed houses, cobblestoned alleyways, and flower-filled grounds create a sense of place. Rooms include more than 70 suites with private pools or verandas with Jacuzzis.
 

Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort, Elounda, Crete

The iconic Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort, Elounda Crete set on a coastal hillside in northeast Crete, promises a destination abounding with rich history, intriguing culture and wild natural beauty. Through the end of October, the resort will continue to bring a variety of thoughtfully curated services to the legendary resort showcasing timeless Cretan culture, local sustainable gastronomy, unforgettable family experiences and au courant amenities while further celebrating the region’s legacy. Guests can enjoy up to 15 per cent on rates with the Autumn Delight offer, which also includes daily complimentary buffet breakfast at the Olea restaurant with the utterly unique view of Spinalonga Island, a National Monument of Greece.

Cretan Malia Park

Proudly local, enveloped by an idyllic locale and the bearer of a finely crafted Greek identity, Cretan Malia Park presents a hideaway in every sense, welcoming families and couples alike. From its boundless slow-paced aura, carefully aligned with the tempo of the island, to an authentically Cretan gastronomic experience, Cretan Malia Park will remain open until the end of October, inviting guests to discover it as a microcosm of the island on which is resides — an accurate and detailed snapshot of Crete, where travellers are offered ample opportunity to explore, experience and live.

Cosme Resort, Paros

Photo shoot May 08, 2022

Set in the soulful, whitewashed village of Naoussa—the jewel of Paros—with the clear-blue Aegean at its feet, the brand-new Cosme embraces the energy of the sea and reciprocates the joyful pulse of the town. The architecture by ID Laboratorium reflects the shapes of the surroundings, including the iconic half-moon pool that mirrors the bay and the meandering pathways that recall Naoussa, inspiring chance encounters and opening up possibilities. It’s also home to Greek-American Andria Mitsakos’s Anthologist boutique celebrating Greek artisanal craft, which Vogue called “impeccably curated.”

 

Birding is back: see why avian spotting is now a global trend

Observing birds for personal enjoyment, photography, or checking them off a life list, has emerged as a growing (and to some, an addictive) pursuit. 

The act of birding has discarded its antiquated image of geeks and dowdy couples wearing floppy hats and rhyming off facts about the mating habits of a Wilson’s Snipe.

In fact, the quest to see birds in the wild has become a global, multi-generational obsession. According to the most recent survey conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), there are an estimated 16 million travelling birders (out of 45 million bird-friendly people) spending approximately $40 billion in the United States alone, proving that birding is here to stay. 

Birds are the most accessible form of wildlife to see, and birders want to see birds everywhere on the planet. The great news is that travellers can combine birding with almost everything else they do on vacation, whether that means relaxing on the beach, hiking a trail or exploring a new destination. For example, on a recent visit to Oaxaca, Mexico, my friend and I discovered that aside from the beauty of the city’s historic core, the trees throughout the area were brimming with Cinnamon hummingbirds. And in Antigua, I took photos of the bougainvillea, frangipani, and flamboyant foliage at Ffryes Beach, but it was really the blue-chinned sapphire hummingbirds that made this blissful, colourful scene even more enchanting.  

For some, birding equates to the pursuit of wellness; an avian equivalent of the Japanese term ‘Shinrinyoku’ (forest bathing). A string of song from an Eastern meadowlark in Ontario, Canada; a flash of colour from a vermilion flycatcher in San Blas, Mexico; a glimpse of a Scarlet ibis in Curaçao, or a close encounter with a Cuban tody in Cuba’s Zapata Peninsula, stimulate the endorphins and produce feelings of excitement and happiness. 

The ultimate reward

James Turland, a bird guide I met at the Point Pelee Bird Festival, referred to birding as the ultimate treasure hunt.  “When you wake up and listen to the ‘dawning chorus’, as the birds greet the sunrise, you never know what you might see and hear,” he mused. “Even at the same destination, every day is a new game, with new excitement and new challenges.”  And we know this to be true, having walked the famous Pipeline Road in Panama’s Soberania National Park many times. One day it’s White-tailed trogons, fasciated antshrikes and Crimson-crested woodpeckers, while the next day, along the same route, observers can find squirrel cuckoos, broad-billed motmots, and Purple-throated fruitcrows. 

Some birders pride themselves on owning ultra-expensive zoom lenses, cameras, binoculars and field scopes, while others are perfectly happy with simple equipment to capture the spirit of their adventure, and this includes point-and-shoot cameras and cell phones. In addition, birding apps can help to identify birds, and recognize birds by their songs: The “yoink-yoink” of the crested guan in Costa Rica; the “hear me, see me, here I am” call of Jamaica’s Blue-headed vireo; and the “chonk, chonk, chonk” call of a White-tailed nightjar in Antigua.

The common set of skills that unite all birders are listening, spotting, patience, a healthy dose of enthusiasm, a love of nature and good, old-fashioned luck. For Canadians, the Caribbean remains one of the top destination getaways and each island boasts an eyeful and earful of both migratory and endemic avian discoveries.

One of the largest frigate bird colonies in the world can be found in Barbuda. The tiny bee hummingbird, the smallest in the world, visits the flowers in Cuba. The Red-billed streamertail is a native of Jamaica, while the Barbados bullfinch can only be found on that island.  Travellers can meet hundreds of species throughout the region, including bananaquits, cuckoos, parrots, parakeets, snail kites, saltators, orioles, ospreys, hawks, herons, egrets, warblers, whistling ducks, woodpeckers, vireos, tanagers and more.

Some birders enjoy the camaraderie of travelling on a customized birding trip, while others may feel perfectly at home on a family vacation, where the informal opportunity to spot and hear birds takes the imagination to new heights.  

The mantra of the avian adventurer is that ‘birding is not a destination; it’s a journey’.  And that journey dovetails nicely into wonder, serendipity, colour, song, and ultimately, peace of mind.  

—BY STEVE GILLICK




A sophisticated city hotel just opened in the heart of Madrid

Thompson Madrid, the first Thompson Hotels branded property in Spain, is a 175-room hotel for culturally astute travellers who are looking to immerse themselves within the vibrant Spanish capital.

Featuring three signature dining venues, well-appointed spaces with curated design elements and architecture evocative of Madrid’s rich heritage, Thompson Madrid truly embodies the identity of its location. Guests are invited to experience all that the city has to offer through creative spaces, unapologetically bold interiors and elevated gastronomy.

Located on Calle De La Montera, which connects the city’s famed main square, Puerta del Sol, to the theaters, cinemas, and boutiques of the lively Gran Via Street, Thompson Madrid is housed in two historic buildings and is a dynamic and refined home base for guests to explore the authentic character of the city. The buzzing neighborhoods of Malasaña, Chueca, and Madrid’s historic city centre are within walking distance of the hotel, and a diverse selection of galleries, museums, culinary delights, and cultural landmarks are on every corner.

Stylish design

The hotel’s rich design is reflective of traditional architecture found across Madrid while embodying Thompson Hotels’ recognizable sense of a contemporary, elevated residence. Madrid-based López y Tena, LYTA Interior Design & Arquitecture Studio created interiors that echo the sights, sounds and flavors of the city. Leather, marble and wood accents are elegantly layered to contribute to the sense of timeless design, integrated with ultramodern and sophisticated amenities. The result is a refined escape that remains rooted in its surroundings.

Evocative and warm details run throughout the hotel’s guestrooms and suites, where floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces invite guests to absorb the city’s ambience. A signature penthouse suite encompasses two stories and offers stylish and spacious living and dining areas, a bespoke bar and an expansive and enviable private balcony that boasts panoramic views of Madrid.

Signature food and drink

Thompson Madrid’s three signature dining venues celebrate the passionate heritage of the city’s gastronomy.

The hotel’s all-day bakery and bistro, The Omar, merges mid-century modernism with industrial open plan spaces, inviting guests to sample artisanal patisserie and seasonal, light bites. 

While taking in a unique view of Madrid’s landscape from above, guests can discover authentic cuisine and carefully crafted cocktails at Thompson Madrid Rooftop. Alongside the panoramic city views, guests can also enjoy the ambience and beauty of the nearby infinity pool.

When the fiesta spirit takes over, guests can follow the whispers to a hidden speakeasy style bar, Hijos de Tomás, which is planned to open this fall. This upscale and intentionally intimate drinking den offers an inventive cocktail menu and live piano music to ease visitors into the evening. 

Encounter an event space like no other with Thompson Madrid’s six individual venues. Each space is designed to encourage creative thinking and connection, featuring contemporary, locally influenced interiors evoking the inspiring spirit of Madrid. With capacity for up to 321 guests, delicious food and beverage and state-of-the-art tech amenities, the hotel’s collection of venues is an exciting option for any kind of event, from social gatherings to a bustling business function.  

For more information about the Thompson Madrid, click here.

These are some of the best things you’ll see on a scenic drive through Ireland’s Ring of Kerry

Coming off a red-eye flight out of Toronto, my partner and I landed in Dublin, Ireland at 6 a.m., and just as quickly as we arrived, we left in a rental car headed straight to Killarney, County Kerry.

Two weeks fresh off the tailend of St. Paddy’s Day celebrations, it’s not that the electric energy that flooded Ireland’s capital city didn’t interest uswe had plans to end our journey there. But springtime in Ireland, I’d heard, was one of the best times to truly see the country in all its glory, where newborn lambs, still a bit wobbly and getting used to their legs, tumbled around some of the greenest pastures and meadows known to exist.

The next morning, after a hearty Irish breakfast of fried eggs with orange-coloured yolks, pan-seared sausage links, baked beans and freshly-sliced tomatoes prepared by our charming hosts, Donal and Ann, who own the family-run Kingfisher Lodge, we hit the road to conquer one of Ireland’s most famous scenic drives— the Ring of Kerry. Spanning roughly 179 kilometres across rugged terrain that includes brooding bogs, rocky hillsides and ancient valleys, the circuit takes about three-and-a-half hours to complete, for those who refuse to stop. “So many people head this way first,” Ann said, pointing northeast on a map at the reception desk. “But if you start this way, you’ll thank me, I promise.” Taking her advice, we took the long way out.

Thousands of years ago, Irish folklore conjured up tales of woodland nymphs, playful sprites and tiny fairies with supernatural powers, and as we took the lonely, winding roads flanked by mossy trees, and an unsettling fog crept in, it was enough to make you accept the make-believe.

Of rocks and ruins

Driving west on the N70, one of the first sites we came to was the Ballycarbery Castle ruins. Found just on the outskirts of the small town, Cahersiveen, Ballycarbery Castle was built in the early sixteenth century and once housed one of Ireland’s oldest clans, the McCarthy’s. Since 1398, the castle has stood on a hill facing the sea, and while it is now closed for public access, visitors can still marvel at it from a distance. Despite the damp and the rain, the structure still resembles a nearly-complete castle, with enchanting vines that have climbed through the medieval stone windows and doorways.

Minutes away, we discovered yet another primordial wonder. Walking through a grassy pasture, we approached the sixth-century Cahergall Stone Fort. At first glance, it was reminiscent of a snow fort’s bricks, where long ago, a group of people undertook the painstaking process of intricately weaving and stacking stones one on top of the other, to reach a height of roughly six metres.

Entering the fort, I saw another large stone circle with two separate entrance ways. Also called ring forts, these old Irish stone forts are some of the earliest and best-preserved examples of protective stone forts to be found in County Kerry. Outside the fort’s walls, a vicious wind from the nearby North Atlantic whipped and whistled, but inside was absolutely quiet.

A set of stacking stone steps have been carved into the fort’s walls, allowing for transportation all along the interior walls. Three miles west of the town Sneem, we also came across the Staigue Stone Fort. With a similar exterior, this ring fort is presumed to have been built in the late Iron Age (between 300 and 400 AD). According to the Irish tourism board, it’s said that nearly 50,000 of these stone forts were built over the centuries as a means of agricultural support, defence and sometimes, simply a display of good fortune.

Parks and peaks

Halfway through our journey, we looped back east and headed for Killarney National Park, but not before making a stop at Moll’s Gap. Damp from the rain and ravenous from all of the walking and fresh air, earlier, we’d stopped for a quick bite to eat in Cahersiveen. While polishing off our last drops of Guinness, an older man, who was certainly a regular at the pub, had overheard our plans and insisted we make the stop. One of the most popular tourist attractions on this side of the Ring of Kerry, Moll’s Gap is a mountain pass that offers sweeping views of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. The natural phenomenon was formed more than 25,000 years ago during Ireland’s final ice age. Staring out at the view, I was glad we’d taken the old man’s advice, who was one of many people on the trip who were so quick to help or offer friendly suggestions.

Killarney National Park was the final stop on our list on a drive that was becoming longer by the minute, because all around us, something was begging to be photographed. Trees with twisted trunks and branches looming over the roads; a red fox darting out across the road and of course, hundreds of baby lambs and ewes snuggled against one another in the fields.

The landscapes we were seeing in real-time looked good enough to be a painting, and I’d argue, had characteristics that were simply impossible to truly capture, no matter how good of a camera lens I had packed. There was one final stop on our itinerary though, and the name on this one conjured up a definite need for a photograph with myself in it. A hotspot for panorama photo enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world, Ladies’ View is a scenic viewpoint set amongst the wilderness that provides unobstructed views of the surrounding Irish lakes. No matter the weather, the mood is pure magic, making it one of the most-visited places inside of the park. 

As we finished up with our photos and made our way back, I checked the time—more than eight hours had passed since we set out that morning and I hadn’t even noticed. The Ring of Kerry and everything it encompasses had lived up to its name as one of Ireland’s best drives, and for those who wish to conquer it, make the stops and always take the long way—I promise you’ll be happy you did.

—TEXT AND PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE HOGG

Five of the best spots to see North America’s spectacular fall colours

Come mid-September, Canadians everywhere recognize the telltale signs of the autumn season. Cooler nights call for cosy knits, a dockside Caesar gets swapped for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and in bustling cities and quiet towns alike, tree leaves begin to change colour, and eventually fall. 

An abundance of external influences like warmer or cooler temperatures make “peak” autumn colour viewing times nearly impossible to predict, but generally, shades of deep burgundy, fiery orange, golden yellow and scarlet red spread across North America’s foliage from mid-September to late October, though sometimes, the changing of the leaves can start as early as September, and end as late as November, depending on location. 

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee 

The thousands of trees that dot the slopes of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains are responsible for the lingering, mysterious, foggy effect, and starting mid-September, brilliant shades of gold on the yellow birch are visible below the haze. Running along the Tennessee and North Carolina border, here, elevation greatly affects the speed of the foliage turnover, with the highest points of elevation changing first. By mid-October, bright red leaves take over the sugar maples, red maples, and scarlet oaks. Part of the Appalachian Mountain chain and spanning more than 187,000 acres, the Great Smoky Mountains are one of the United States’ most-visited national parks and one of the oldest mountain ranges. There are approximately 100 species of trees in the park, which attract mass crowds, especially during mid-October when the foliage nears its peak. As one of the most popular U.S. parks, it’s best to plan ahead for fall colours tourism, as many nearby accommodations quickly fill up! 

Adirondack Mountains, New York 

A road trip through Upstate New York in late September to early October presents one of the best opportunities to marvel at the fall leaves. The Adirondack Region spans a whopping 48,438 square kilometres and is famous for having one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the U.S. The Lake Placid area in particular presents plenty of fall foliage observation. Plan a hike to Whiteface Mountain, the fifth highest peak in all of New York, or Mount Haystack, one of the most challenging but rewarding hikes of the Adirondack High Peaks. From way up high, visitors can take in the breathtaking colours of fall foliage that stretches as far as the neighbouring state of Vermont. Scenic drives and even hot air balloon rides over the Lake George Region are just a handful of some of the other ways to take in the breathtaking colours of autumn. During the fall months, the local tourism board, Visit Adirondacks, creates a fall foliage metre that depicts the percentage of colourful leaves present in each of the ten regions of the Adirondacks. A bustling summer tourist destination, the autumn months in the Adirondacks are slightly quieter, but offer just as much opportunity for guests. Visitors can enjoy ciders and local wine tours, harvest festivals and more, while staying at cosy accommodations that range from log cabins to luxury lakefront resorts.

Algonquin Provincial Park 

Composed of 7,635 square kilometres made up of rushing rivers, wetlands, lakes and deciduous and coniferous forests brimming with trails, Algonquin Provincial Park is one of Canada’s most famous viewpoints for fall foliage. Starting in September, Algonquin Park officials release their fall colour change reports, which provide a daily track record via live camera stream on the park’s 34 native tree species. Data from last year’s fall colours timeline shows that the sugar and red maple trees began turning red by the second week of September, and that the sugar maple canopy reached its “peak” by Oct. 2. However, rain, wind, cooling temperatures and moisture levels can all affect the timeline, pushing it earlier or later in the season. The park’s camera is a great way to plan a visit, as potential visitors can keep an eye on the trees daily. Ideally, the best time to visit Algonquin Provincial Park is between mid-September and mid-October, as unexpected snowfall or windstorms could spontaneously cause fragile leaves to be knocked off prematurely. Of course, the drive leading into the park is equally spectacular, with popular routes like Highway 60 and Highway 11 boasting endless kilometres of beautiful foliage.

Laurentian Mountains, Quebec

A gorgeous destination year round, the Laurentian Mountains are one of the best places to watch Canada’s leaves change. Their proximity to Montreal (roughly 100 kilometres) make the Laurentians a popular option for daytrippers, or as a quick weekend getaway for visitors from Ontario who may be eager to explore beyond the Kawartha and Muskoka regions. Unlike Algonquin Provincial Park, which has just three lodges to provide accommodation to visitors, there are many different options available for visitors to the Laurentians. Those interested in overnight accommodation can opt for hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages or campsites, which are a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts. Every September, Croisières Alouette resumes its special fall colours sailing on Lac des Sables, where guests can enjoy a full-service bar and music as they take in the spectacular beauty of the Laurentians from the water’s edge.

Northwest Territories

 

While summer in the land of the Midnight Sun presents plenty of opportunities for active and adventure tourism, autumn in the north is truly an enchanting time to visit. Not only are the mountains and tundra decked out in autumn colours, but after months of endless daylight, darkness returns to the skies, and the Aurora Borealis once again paints the sky in shades of neon green, inky indigo, and deep plum. Autumn colours come to the Northwest Territories slightly earlier than the rest of Canada, with the tundra turning into brilliant shades of red as early as August. One of the best places to see this transformation take place is in the Barrenlands, a large territory residing in mainland Nunavut that extends into the Northwest Territories. Decorated with ancient sand and rock ridges and carpeted in soft moss and plants, by fall, blooms of yellow and green are replaced by deep burgundy and burnt orange. The fall months also present an excellent opportunity to camp in the Northwest Territories, as the summer crowds have all but left, and visitors have a wide selection of campsites to spend a few days or weeks watching the foliage change. During the autumn months, just as Canada geese begin their southern migration, herds of caribou begin their descent south, often sweeping through the Barrenlands, so visitors to the region can enjoy their share of wildlife watching, too.

Why autumn is actually one of the best times to visit The Seychelles

If you’ve ever wanted to plan a trip to The Seychelles, the best times to visit are in April and May or October and November.

This is due to fewer rain showers and calmer seas. Weather patterns can vary greatly between the islands. The inner granitic isles tend to receive more rainfall than the outer coral islands.

Dubbed the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean”, in the Seychelles, October to December is nesting season for hawksbill turtles, and you can witness females excavating nests in the sand and laying up to 200 eggs at a time. Hatchlings tend to take their first tentative steps from January to late March. Several hotels, such as Constance Lemuria, have conservation programmes in place that visitors are encouraged to join.

As a general guide, bird-watchers should arrive in April or May for breeding season and from May to September for nesting. Keen to see the sooty terns who congregate in their hundreds of thousands on Bird Island? Migration takes place in September and October, so arrive before then. Meanwhile, divers hoping to glimpse the whale sharks that migrate past the northwest coast of Mahé should book for October and November.

A changing climate

The Seychelles has a tropical climate resulting in a reliable mix of sunshine and rain throughout the year. Showers intensify when the cooler, stronger southeast trade winds blow from May to September, and again when the humid less-forceful northwest trade winds visit the islands from October to March.

Book a hotel on the east coasts of the islands to avoid the brunt of the latter. Come November, monsoon season is in full swing, running until March, with December and January being the wettest months. However, even during this low season there are still frequent bursts of sunshine as the Seychelles sit outside the cyclone belt.

The sun shines throughout the year, averaging six hours a day. However, short sharp rain showers (2,172mm annually) can come at any time. As a rule of thumb, April is the driest month and January the wettest.

Visiting in peak season

Peak season in the Seychelles runs during its winter from May to August. Temperatures are still high — they hover around 29C throughout the year. However, at this point the southeast trade winds are starting to pick up, so it’s best to book accommodation on the sheltered west coasts of the islands.

Marooned in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is exposed to various currents and trade winds and from May to October they cause sizeable quantities of seaweed to be deposited on the southeast and south coast beaches of the main islands. (In particular, Grand Anse on Praslin, Anse Royale on Mahé and Anse Reunion on the west coast of La Digue.) Most hotels offer complimentary shuttles to unaffected beaches during this time, but it may dash your hopes for holiday photos featuring pristine white-sand beaches. For the rest of the year, Mahé is normally clear, but Praslin may continue to have the odd seaweed-drifting event.

Year round activities

Diving and snorkelling are possible year-round. However, if you can, aim for April, October and November — the relative lull between the trade winds brings calmer seas, so operators reach the more remote diving locations and the absence of rain doesn’t churn up the water, resulting in visibility of up to 30 metres. It’s best to avoid travel in July and August when the ocean is at its choppiest.

Things to do this fall

September

Prepare to loosen your belt a few notches at the three-day Praslin Arts Fiesta biennale. It’s set up to rival the Carnaval International de Victoria on Mahé and sees the Baie Sainte Anne district taken over by an open bazaar of farmers and local bakery stalls selling their produce, alongside craft stalls showcasing the work of local artists. Burn off all the extra calories by joining the final fiesta marathon.

October

The biggest party of the year is undoubtedly Festival Kreol, a joyous six-day celebration held across the islands — but predominantly around Mahé’s main beaches of Beau Vallon and Anse Royale — during the last week of October. It celebrates and cements the islands’ colourful Creole culture with art exhibitions, theatre and dancing, with kitchens dishing out curries taking over virtually every public space on the island, from hotels and conference halls to beaches. The finale is a raucous parade through the streets of the capital, Victoria, with everyone donning woven palm-leaf hats, brash hibiscus-patterned shirts and grooving to island beats.

December

Dive into the three-day Seychelles Ocean Festival (formerly known as Subios), hosted to celebrate and promote the conservation of the islands’ marine biodiversity. Events centre around Mahé’s northern beach of Beau Vallon and include snorkelling and scuba-diving trips, a beach clean-up, exhibitions of underwater photography and a sandcastle-building competition for kids.

This tour operator is launching a bunch of private jet tours to some of the hottest destinations

Remote Lands, the luxury tour operator offering bespoke travel and small-group private jet journeys is proud to announce their newest expedition within their remarkable travel collection. From Jan. 21, 2023, to Feb. 4, 2023, Remote Lands will offer an extraordinary itinerary through the United States, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Throughout this 14-night journey, just 14 guests will fly aboard a gorgeous Global Express 6000 jet and stay in five sumptuous AMAN properties for a magnificent travel experience.

New York (Jan. 21-23)

Guests will begin their journey at the newly opened Aman New York in New York City, home to world-class museums, rousing Broadway performances and acclaimed restaurants and nightlife. With 83 guest rooms and suites designed by renowned architect Jean-Michel Gathy in the iconic Crown Building in the heart of midtown Manhattan at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, guests will enjoy their very own metropolitan adventure. Itinerary options will include unmissable stops to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), Central Park, Empire State Building, a private helicopter tour and much more.

Bermuda and Turks & Caicos (Jan. 23-26)

En route to Turks and Caicos is a touch down on the British colonial island of Bermuda, where guests will explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. George Old Town and walk on the incredible pink sand beaches.

 

Delving deeper into the tropics is Turks and Caicos, at the southern tip of the Bahamian Archipelago with the some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs and beaches. Guests will have flexibility in choosing from an array of activities on both land and sea, including house reef snorkeling, kiteboarding, hobie cat sailing, yacht excursions and more. A beachside cocktail party with a well-known marine biologist as well as a kayak eco-tour spotlighting the iguana sanctuary and coastal ecology of the island rounds out the stay. For this leg of the journey, guests will stay in Amanyara’s fabulous Pavilions nestled amidst 18,000 acres of tranquil nature preserves.

Dominican Republic (Jan. 26 – 29)

The third stop on the jet adventure is the Dominican Republic, one of the Caribbean’s most geographically diverse countries touting rich, cultural experiences perfect for the curious traveler. Itinerary highlights include immersive day trips into the destination’s very best gems: Colonial Santo Domingo, a quaint fifteenth-century city and Puerto Plata, the oldest town in the area that offers spectacular city and coast views. Additional options include a private ceviche cooking class with a top local chef as well as reef and wreck diving in Sosua amidst 20 different dive sites. To celebrate the very best of the traditions within the Dominican Republic, a private rum and cigar class led by Juan Carlos Albert of Arturo Fuento will educate guests on how to blend, roll and distinguish cigars.

 

Guests will stay at Amanera, a luxurious sanctuary located around a verdant jungle with panoramic ocean views, perched above the golden sands of Playa Grande Beach.

 

Canyon Point, Utah (Jan.29 – Feb. 1)

A gorgeous vestige of the wild West, Canyon Point is cradled by a staggering landscape of dramatic canyons, mountains, rapids, gorges and desert, with traces of human life dating back 10,000 years. Here, the extraordinary accommodations of Amangiri await travelers, serving as the perfect backdrop of unobstructed desert and canyon views. Activities pay homage to the destination, including a three-hour canyon hike led by a Navajo guide, and petroglyph and ancient culture exploration with an expert guide at Broken Arrow Cave to learn about 6,000 years’ worth of local history. Additional activities include via ferrata climbing, Amangiri’s on-property rock-climbing site; Zion National Park; UTV excursions; hot air balloon rides and a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. To wind down, spa treatments, cocktails and dinners inspired by Navajo tribal cuisine and an array of resort activities await. 

 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Feb. 1 – 4)

The final stop in this great North American journey is Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a destination beckoning nostalgia of the American West and flanked by dramatic mountain ranges. Amangani, meaning ‘peaceful home,’ abides by its namesake by sitting at the nexus of extraordinary wilderness full of abundant wildlife. The choices of activities are plentiful, including skiing across a range spanning over 2,500 acres; snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park; dog sledding; heli-skiing; a private tour of Yellowstone National Park; sunset sleigh rides and more.

 

“My favorite itineraries include lots of scenic and cultural diversity, which Adventures in the Americas has in abundance across five different countries,” said Catherine Heald, CEO and Co-Founder of Remote Lands. “We visit tropical islands, snowcapped mountains, remote deserts, big cities, charming villages, UNESCO World Heritage sites and great natural wonders of the world aboard a gorgeous Global 6000 private jet.”

 

The Adventures in the Americas journey will be led by Remote Lands’ CEO and Co-founder, Catherine Heald, on January 21 – February 4, 2023. This trip is priced at $112,888 per person, with a single supplement of $39,888. Children are welcome. While Remote Lands will not require proof of vaccination, travelers must abide by all local government health protocols within each destination. To learn about the Americas journey and other luxe excursions, please visit www.remotelands.com.

Discover the charms of the West Midlands: where city, country and culture collide

Walking through the streets of Coventry, tour guide Roger Bailey is eager to share a story that’s “a thousand years in the making.” The legend goes that Lady Godiva, a key figure in the history of the region, pleaded with her husband to provide a tax break for local residents.


BY: ANN RUPPENSTEIN

“He said no, but she didn’t give up, she came back to him again and again, so many times he got so fed up, he decided to give her an impossible challenge, thinking she wouldn’t do it — ride through the streets of Coventry naked — and if you do this, I’ll lift the taxes,” explains Bailey. “We’re told she cares so much about her people, she decides to do the ride. Out of respect, everybody turned their backs, except for one, who we now call Peeping Tom.”

Although it’s debatable whether or not the incident actually took place due to a lack of official records, depictions of the scene remain today at sites like The Lady Godiva Clock Tower and The Lady Godiva statue.

Found in the West Midlands, which is known as The Heart of England, Coventry offers an eclectic blend of old meets new. The Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed in a fire during the Second World War, is a must-see site. Newly reconstructed in 1962, the outer glass wall purposely reflects the ruins of the old cathedral, symbolizing hope for the future without forgetting the past.

“It’s designed so that you’re looking at the old and the new,”  Bailey says, adding that the building is also home to a boulder from Bethlehem that’s used for baptisms. 

The new cathedral also has Canadian connections with funds raised in Canada going to replace the organ lost during the fire. Those visiting will notice the icon of a Canadian Maple Leaf embedded on the floor of the entryway. Notably, Rachel Mahon, a Canadian, has also taken on the position of Director of Music at the Coventry Cathedral.

The interior of the new building is equally remarkable with massive displays of stained glass windows representing the soul’s journey through life into heaven lining the room and a large tapestry spanning 23 metres tall and 12 metres wide, that’s said to weigh about a tonne, as the backdrop.

While the city features many historical sites like St. Mary’s Guildhall, a well preserved medieval guildhall that provides a glimpse into life 600 years ago, it’s also budding with culture and creativity.

On the modern side, FarGo Village is a creative quarter launched in 2014 that’s loaded with sculptures and street art. It features independent shops, boutiques, art workshops, design studios, a brewery and a rotating selection of food vendors.

“It’s a really affordable way to try out something — it may have even started out as a hobby — to see if it can be something that supports you,” explains manager Holly Hewitt, noting that the concept took off from a handful of businesses to 40 different ventures. “A lot of the businesses have now moved into the bigger units. This month is wellbeing month where we encourage people in the community to come and meet us for a walk. So it’s not just about business, it’s about some wellbeing and a sense of community.”

Owned by Chris Cooper and Ritchie Bee, the onsite Twister Barrel Brewery is a tasty spot to sample a variety of vegan beer. The friends were inspired by the variety of beer available in the international scene, which they thought was missing back home. 

So what exactly makes the beer vegan? Interestingly, Cooper explains that beer often contains Isinglass, which is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish, which the brewery doesn’t use. 

“It’s used to clarify the beer,” he says. “Very, very few people realize it’s used in most beer. The second thing that a lot of breweries use, particularly in dark beers, is lactose because it’s used to get body, used to make it sweet.”

Having consumed over 2,000 Balti dishes to date — and counting — author Andy Munro is well versed in the art of a dish that originated in Birmingham, another buzzing city in the West Midlands. Invented during the 1970s when the city’s Pakistani residents created a fusion dish inspired by traditional Kashmiri recipes but cooked in a way that was more appealing to western tastes (for example with the meat taken off the bone), the resulting Balti helped put Birmingham’s food scene on the map. 

“Balti has to be cooked and served in the same dish,” he notes, adding that the thin, pressed-steel wok called a Balti bowl was also invented in Birmingham.

Located in the Balti Triangle, a triangle-shaped neighbourhood in Birmingham, Munro says only about five authentic Balti houses remain in the area. One of these staples is Shababs, a restaurant where guests have the chance to take part in a cooking demonstration to see how the local favourite dish is made. Cooked over a high flame, the dish is made in under 10 minutes. The end result, as everyone who sampled the dish can attest, is delicious. 

“It became a craze,” Munro shares. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, I promise you, instead of talking about the weather, people would say ‘what’s your favourite Balti house?”

Beyond Balti, Birmingham was recently in the spotlight as the host of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which were the most attended edition of the games to take place in the UK and had six times the amount of BBC Sport streams compared to previous years.

Said to have more miles of canals than Venice, Birmingham is also a great destination to explore on the water. However, for those clients who prefer a local watering hole, The Canal House Bar & Restaurant overlooks the water and is frequented by athletes. 

To get a taste of the independent beer scene, head to Birmingham Brewing Co., to sample a variety of brews made in house that are also vegan and gluten-free.

Although many travellers visit Stratford-upon-Avon to get a sense of where William Shakespeare grew up, the charming town offers so much for visitors to explore — including Shakespeare Distillery, an artisan spirit producer named after the town’s most famous inhabitant.

“This is a very old historic town with lots of history,” says tour guide Jan Boggis, while pointing out buildings of significance to the legendary playwright. 

Theatre fans will want to experience shows put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company and visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s childhood home, to hear tales of his upbringing and family life. During a visit, guests may hear the story of Sonny Venkatrathnam managed to smuggle a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works into Robben Island as a religious book, circulating it among the inmates, including Nelson Mandela, who signed his name next to this passage: “Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Next year, to mark the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, a collection of 36 plays, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust will be bringing women characters into the forefront. There are also learning opportunities and special interest courses available. 

The picturesque town is lined with shops, bar and restaurants. Another great vantage point is to soak up the scenery during a boat ride on the Avon. This is also a unique option for clients looking to spend the night on a barge.