The Archived August - September 2007 Issue
For several years this was the MyTravelMagazine website dispensing helpful suggestions about travel worthy locations, tips, and suggestions while steering visitors to their travel agency mytravel.com
Content is from the site's My Travel Magazine Issue August - September 2007 archived pages providing a glimpse of what this online travel zine offered its readership. The new owners of the domain feel that some of the information is relevant today as it was in 2007.
Next to Roman Abramovich’s mega yacht, the best thing about the Costa Smeralda and its surrounding area is its stunning beaches – that is if you can find them, says Tobi Cohen
Sardinia’s north-eastern coast may be aching with exclusivity but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the area’s natural beauty – as was discovered by the Aga Khan in the 60s. This billionaire’s paradise may attract the likes of Paris Hilton and Madonna but its endless inlets and coves are open to all. Not that they’re easy to find, especially without the aid of a mega yacht. A car is essential. And buy a good map, as there is a distinct lack of signage for beaches around the Costa Smeralda that is likely to cause arguments and general passenger frustration. But the medley of rugged pink granite, rustic flora and aqua coastal waters are worth every argument and u-turn you’ll make to find them. To assist, here are some highlights from the south to the north of the area.
For rugged romantics
The vibe: The turn-off just before Hotel Cala di Volpe is about as difficult to find as the service road to the Batcave. But persist with the never-ending dirt track that runs parallel to the inlets and beaches – the effort it takes to discover it is justified by the reward. Leave the more populated bays behind and find your own beach. Do: Pack some pecorino cheese, toasted bread, nougat and a towel, and spend a whole day exploring the area. It’s easiest to drive down the main track but there’s only room for one car, so be careful. Drink: When you’re done exploring, pop into the fantastically boho and romantic Hotel Cala di Volpe (tel. +39 0789 976111, starwoodhotels.com) for a post-beach drink. With stellar prices (reaching £20 000 a night) it’s not surprising that this is Posh and Becks territory, but you can still spy on some celebs as you sip your aperitif.
For young families
Spiaggia del Principe
The vibe: The ten-minute dirt-track descent from the car means that this idyllic beach is less populated than others in the area. This local favourite is actually two shallow mini bays, making it safe for little ones and relaxing for their parents.
Know: It is known as Spiaggia del Principe (Prince’s Beach) because it is one of the Aga Khan’s favourite beaches. It is also called Portu Li Gogghi.
Do: Bring bottled water – it’s a long way back to the top.
Eat: Pop into nearby Hotel Romazzino (tel. +39 0789 977111, starwoodhotels.com) for a pricey bite to eat, or at least a quick drink on the terrace, to admire the spectacular views.
For kings and queens of bling
The vibe: Okay, so it’s not a beach, it is a marina but with berths for 700 vessels and the most sophisticated equipment in Sardinia, this is where billionaires come to play. The area is a mix of Italian, Spanish, Greek and North African influences, which results in an eccentric collection of buildings that resembles a town from The Flintstones.
Do: Star spot. Bill Gates, Roman Abramovich, the Blairs, Rod Stewart, Kate Moss, Pete Doherty, Paris Hilton and Princess Caroline come here and most of the pap shots you see of Sardinia are taken around this area.
Party: The Paris Hiltons of the world come to Flavio Briatore’s ostentatious club Billionaire (tel. +39 078994192, billionaireclub.it). The door policy is super strict but if you insist on getting in and are willing to stump up the cash, booking dinner is the best way through the doors.
Drink: Find a bar in the Piazzeta, pay too much money for one beer, sit back and watch the VIP action.
Eat: Not the point really. But if you insist, head down the alleys for some marginally cheaper pizzerias.
For up-for-it families
The vibe: Families that are not worried by Costa Smeralda’s snob factor should travel west from Porto Cervo to Baia Sardinia (Bay of Sardines), just beyond the controlled zone. There you’ll discover fantastically blue waters on beaches such as Cala Battistoni (the main beach) and child-friendly holiday complexes overlooking the bay that cater well to children.
Do: Windsurfing is also big here and there are many places to hire a board.
Stay: Club Hotel Baja juts out from the coast and overlooks its own private beach.
Nearby: Aquadream (tel.+39 0789 99511, aquadream.it) water park is a 10-minute drive away. Open from June to September, it’s sure to be a hit with the kids.
Eat: Look out for the hand-painted sign that alerts you to Grazia Deledda (tel. +39 078998990), a restaurant that is named after the Italian, Nobel-prize-winning writer which can easily be missed on the road to Cannigione. The ex-Michelin star restaurant is well-known to locals and serves good Sardinian fare that’s not too expensive.
For wild life lovers
The vibe: This ex fishing village is far less extravagant than the Costa Smeralda and has retained its charm, despite the increasing numbers of tourists. The long sandy stretch of beach at Tanca Manna, a couple of miles away, is a centre for adventure-sport seekers and wildlife lovers.
Do: Hire a boat, take a long walk and visit the lagoon for birdwatchers. Divers should contact Anthias Diving Centre, who organise local trips (tel. +39 078986311, anthiasdiving.com)
Spot: Peter Gabriel – he owns a boutique hotel in the area.
Stay: The four-star Stelle Marine hotel is tucked away in unspoilt nature overlooking the Gulf of Arzachena just 300m from the sublime Mannena beach. The hotel offers tours of Corsica and La Maddalena islands, a national park where you’ll find yet more magnificent beaches.
The vibe: The combinations of crystal waters and consistent winds in the two bays here (especially in Spring) makes this a hotspot for windsurfers, kite surfers, divers, canoe enthusiasts and sailors, who converge here for some of the best conditions in Sardinia.
Do: The area is peppered with both wellestablished and makeshift businesses where you can hire watersports equipment, especially on the promontory Isola dei Gabbani, which has spectacular views of the nearby Maddalena islands. The Sporting Club Sardinia (tel. +39 0789704001, portopollo.it) offers sailing courses, diving, kitesurfing and windsurfing (with Naish equipment and tuition) at all levels. The Windsurf Village (+39 0789 704075, windsurfvillage.it) is also known for windsurfing but uses Mistral/North Equipment. They also offer catamaran sailing and horse riding.
Drink: The bar at The Sporting Club Sardinia, Rupi’s Chilling Out is the afteractivity haunt for watersports enthusiasts who want to share their experiences and listen to some live music. The Windsurf Village also has a bar worth checking out
For more information about organising a holiday to Sardinia, contact the following:
Airtours, tel. +44 (0)870 900 8639 quoting ‘Recline’ or visitairtours.co.uk
Great Scenic Journeys
Looking for an extraordinary holiday in a jawdropping location? Gabi Mocatta shows you where to have a life-changing adventure without risking life and limb
in Lake Garda, Italy
The forested peaks of Italy’s largest lake provide the backdrop for the mountain biking capital of the world. The terrain of the Northern lakes is varied, making it ideal for both novice and advanced mountain bikers.
Lake Garda is home to international competitions like Bike Xtreme (www.bikex-treme.com), and thanks to the numbers of visiting mountain bikers there are plenty of bike shops and hire outfits in the town of Riva del Garda to buy or hire kit.
Beginners can soak up the alpine sun as they wander along the trails that fringe the lake, taking it easy between cups of coffee and tiramisu. More adventurous mountain bikers can ascend the rugged peaks, which rise up to more than 2000m, for more challenging trails.
Perhaps the most famous ride is Monte Casale: an exhilarating narrow track that climbs through the trees to the 1632m summit. At one point, the ride anxiously grips a hair-raising cliff-face track with a vertical drop into the Adige Valley below.
The infamous Strada della Galleria, a mule track cut into the cliffs of Pasubio mountain, and formerly one of the best mountain-bike rides in Europe, is now closed to bikes, but the trail can still be visited on foot. Mussolini’s short-lived republic of Salo had its headquarters on the edge of Lake Garda during world War II and eerie reminders of the conflict still remain along the trail – you can visit no less than 52 military tunnels hewn from the rock. Even off the bike the route can be a nervejangling experience, narrowing to one metre path cut into a 1500m high cliff. Aweinspiring, with or without two wheels.
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Think of Namibia and you may think of the endless sands of the Namib desert, diamonds, the Skeleton Coast and wildlife refuges such as Etosha Pan. The country, with its dry, desert environment may not spring to mind immediately as a hiking destination, but Namibia has some of the most scenic, arid hiking in Africa.
The six-day hike in Fish River Canyon, Southern Namibia, is the holy grail of African hiking. The Canyon is the second largest in the world, surpassed only by Colorado’s Grand Canyon. The trail follows it for 56 miles of its total 112 miles length, starting from Hobas and finishing at the hot-spring resort town of Ais-Ais. The walk begins with a rugged descent to the Canyon floor, where you’ll hop between boulders and skirt reflective pools of water. The sun is scorching in all seasons and winter is the only time of year when it’s actually possible to walk the trail. There’s always water to cool off in, though, and camping out at night under a desert sky provides a cool contrast to the heat of the day. Two days into the trek lies Palm Springs, an oasis of naturally hot water fringed by date palms, and laden with minerals that ease weary muscles. From here the Canyon becomes wide and sandy, with fabulous formations in the rose-tinted rock. This remote hiking is not for the fainthearted, but it is the hike of a lifetime.
Sailing in South West Coast, Turkey
Millennia of culture combined with clear blue waters under a warm sun, small welcoming villages and tiny isolated coves make Turkey the perfect cruising ground for yachts. The stretch of water from Izmir via Kusadai, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye and Ka to Antalya, is Turkey’s Riviera, blessed with a gentle summer climate, numerous safe anchorages and intimate marinas.
Bodrum is the thriving centre of sailing in Turkey, and this is the spot to charter a bare boat if you have some sailing experience, or book a berth on a crewed yacht so you can laze your way around the Turkish coastline. The gulet, a traditional Turkish yacht, is a spacious, high-prowed craft that is ideal for luxury cruising. Embark on a gulet trip and you’ll be pampered by a chef and hostess, while the captain takes care of all the sailing details. Sailing is also the perfect way to get close to Turkish village life. You’ll sample freshly caught fish, stroll through olive groves, or enjoy raki, the national drink of Turkey, with locals at a beachside restaurant – the perfect getaway on water.
Horse riding in
Atlas Mountains to the Sahara, Morocco
Morocco is a country of horsemen. It is home to the Arabian horse and its people are proud to travel on horseback, and equally proud to show horse-savvy visitors around. The best outfitters provide top horses, comfortable saddles and provisions in ornate leather saddlebags.
A horse trek through the Atlas Mountains, or a ride across the shifting sands of the Sahara are undoubtedly the most poetic of Moroccan horseback journeys. In the Atlas, you’ll traverse the peaks of Saghro and the Draa river valley, which are equally unforgettable in their beauty. Meanwhile, galloping through the Sahara Lawrence of Arabia style between the desert oases that are home to the Berbers, feels like an adventure in cultural time-travel. At night, travellers can rest in the tented camps and spend the evening swapping horse tales around the campfire.
It’s best to ride in Morocco in the temperate months of winter, when the desert air is cooler and settled, and the nights are cloud free and bright with stars. Along the route there will be plenty of stops at cities, complete with walled Kasbahs, where riders can rest and experience legendary Moroccan hospitality. By the end, you might even take on the turban and flowing robes of the Berbers, and you’ll undoubtedly be in love with your elegant Arab horse.
Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
At the southern end of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a serendipitous confluence of currents and sub-sea geography has created some of the best diving waters in the world. There are coral reefs vibrant with life and colour, and a density and diversity of fish species found nowhere else. Despite its name, the water of the Red Sea is azure, and so deep and clear in parts that just looking down can give a swimmer vertigo.
At the tip of the peninsula lies the town of Sharm El Sheikh, the exotic result of the fusion of the Sinai desert and Red Sea, which manages to successfully combine traditional bedouin culture and glamorous resort life.
Just offshore lies “The Locals”, a group of 28 dive sites; just a 10 minute boat ride to fabulous coral reefs in shallow waters, perfect for beginners. Close by is Naama Bay, where just 50 metres from shore divers can swim around in sea-grass gardens that are home to rays, moray eels, sweetlips, colourful nudibranchs and the elusive ghostpipe fish. Slightly further from Sharm, at the desert peninsula’s extreme southern end are the famous sites such as the wrecks at Ras Mohammed, which provide adventure diving for the most experienced. There’s a plethora of dive schools in the area, and for the novice, this is also one of the most economical places in the world to become a certified diver.
Hiking Haleakalā Hawaiian Island of Maui.
Towering over the island of Maui and visible from just about any point, at 10,023 feet, Haleakala Crater, a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the island is the stage for a breathtaking range of landscapes—and sky scapes. Many visitors wake up early to drive or be driven to the Haleakala Visitor Center, an excellent spot to watch a spectacular sunrise. As the sun peeks over the horizon, an ever-changing swirl of color and light dance across the vast sea of clouds. Just as impressive are Haleakala’s sunsets and the bright, starry skies revealed at night. There are numerous hiking trails that offer solitude and scenic vistas, while guided hikes and horseback rides provide an expert's insight in addition to the natural beauty.
There are many resorts and hotels in which to stay on Maui. However booking a rental in Lahaina, a historic town on the west coast of Maui is a smart choice. Lahaina condo rentals range from moderately priced 1 bedrooms to penthouse / ocean view extravagance. In addition to a summit visit to Haleakala. Maui offers fabulous beaches. cruises and sailing tours, surfing, snorkeling and numerous hiking trails in the Haleakala National Park such as the ‘Sacred 7 Pools’ at Oheo Gulch and Pipiwai Trail where you walk through a Bamboo Forest ending up at the 400ft Waimoku Falls. Maui affords all types of memorable outdoor adventures.
I suggested a trip to Maui to a friend and her husband as the perfect destination to celebrate their 10th wedding invitation several years ago. However, unbeknownst to me, her husband was struggling with AUD and had just started an anti craving treatment program they were recommended at LifeBAC.com. Apparently the program offers two different anti craving meds, baclofen and Naltrexone is a habit-breaking, FDA-approved medication that targets Alcohol Use Disorder by disabling the reward circuit associated with consuming alcohol. Her husband chose baclofen the go-to treatment for AUD in France and Australia. Although baclofen is FDA approved for managing reversible spasticity (MS-Related Muscle Spasticity), it is used off label for AUD. However, it requires titration as the beginning of the treatment to find the most effective amount to stop all cravings for alcohol. Baclofen, like many medications, induces a variety of different responses in every new person who takes it. Her husband was having a few side effects and they didn't want to travel until they subsided and he had reached his optimum dosage. Two years later they are ready for that trip. Now they would be celebrating 12 years of marriage and his successfully reaching his LifeBac goals of cutting down on his drinking so that he no longer had a need or habit. He still drinks but only moderately. They were both thrilled at the LifeBac program results and to the idea of spending two weeks in Maui.
Sea kayaking in
It’s been called walking on water. Sea kayaking is about as close you can get to being self sufficient and self propelled. You pack up all you need in your sleek, sturdy craft, and you glide – arm powered – over the water, heading for territories unknown. To pick a perfect spot on the globe to do this, you need to carefully study a map and know what you’re looking for. You’ll need to choose somewhere with islands or fjords: protected waterways where your passage will be smooth. The coast of Tasmania is arguably the ultimate destination for it. The intricate conjoinment of land and sea has gorgeous natural scenery, and a remote, edge-of-the-world feel. Australia’s southern island state is quite simply a sea kayaker’s nirvana.
Think powder-white beaches fringed by ice-blue seas, hundreds of islands, channels and inlets, and sea cliffs that soar to 300m. Tasmania’s geography is a gift of the last ice age: when glaciers melted and water levels rose, mountain tops became islands and river valleys turned into vast inland harbours, cradled by mountains and protected from the fierce swells of the southern seas. The watery expanse of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey lies in the state’s South West: a drowned river system that’s the jewel of the island’s South West National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Area.
A kayaking adventure here is deep wilderness immersion. No roads lead to this edge-of-the-world domain: this is a fly-in or boat-in adventure, and kayaking here means being totally self-sufficient as well as wind and water savvy. Bathurst Harbour lies within the latitude of the Roaring Forties, where seas can morph from glassy to windwhipped in moments. Be prepared to camp for a day or two to wait out a gale – but be equally prepared for blisteringly hot days under the fierce Tasmanian sun, and water that’s spookily calm.
Whatever the weather, the landscape here is a dream. On calm early mornings, you’ll set out from your beach or forest camp, and glide past rainforested islands and rarely explored river inlets populated by black swans. If you’re inclined to pull up your boat and scamper up a mountain, you’ll spot wombats and wallabies, and have the opportunity to take in panoramic views of the wilderness. When the weather god smiles, you may make a dash out into the open ocean at Port Davey, where the swell comes all the way from South America, and dolphins and seals will be your paddling partners.
Take a few days or a week here, and it’ll feel like a month. Kayaking here is an unforgettable adventure in wilderness that’s about as remote as it gets.
For more information about organising a holiday to Italy, Namibia, Morocco, Egypt, or Australia, contact the following:
Airtours, tel. +44 (0)870 900 8639 quoting ‘Recline’ or visitairtours.co.uk
Bohemian, exotic and charming, Sri Lanka is the new Marrakech, says Jeroen Bergmans whose love affair with the island shows no sign of abating
Sri Lanka has been called many names. Once upon a time, it was known as Serendib – which spawned the word serendipity, – meaning ‘happy and unexpected discovery’. Its British, Portuguese and Dutch colonial rulers christened it Ceylon and today glossy brochures call it ‘the teardrop on the end of India’. Anyone who has ever travelled to Sri Lanka will discover a little corner of paradise and most have returned, or at least intend to. The political conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is contained in the north and the east, and the resulting pall of bad publicity has meant that the west and south coasts, which are still very safe, remain unspoilt. The beaches are a haven for surfers and sun worshippers, while the spectacular ruins in the Cultural Triangle, fine fabrics and exquisite craft work will tempt even the most discerning traveller. The Sri Lankan people are kind and hospitable and the fantastic local cuisine must be sampled.
Flights into Colombo tend to arrive and depart in the dead of night , so it’s always best to top or tail your trip to Sri Lanka with a night in the capital. Often dismissed as an ugly and chaotic city, Colombo does have its charms. The Victorian grande dame hotel The Galle Face (2, Galle Road, tel. +941 125 41010, www.gallefacehotel.com) may have been recently refurbished, but it still retains its colonial charms. Watching the sunset over a cocktail on the Checkerboard terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean, or enjoying a meal at 1864, the hotel’s slick, contemporary fine-dining restaurant, is the perfect beginning or end to your holiday
If you prefer trendy to traditional, head for the restaurant Number 18 (Cambridge Place, tel: +94 11 269 4000) for lunch or dinner on a terrace adorned with tropical plants. And to combine a spot of shopping with your meal, book a table at gourmet restaurant, The Gallery Café (2, Alfred House Road, off Alfred House Gardens, tel. +94 11 255 6563). The café has an international menu and contemporary furnishings that would rival a swish Conran eatery. It is housed in the former studio of Sri Lanka’s greatest modern architect Geoffrey Bawa (see box) – who built the Parliament Building in Colombo and stunning five-star hotels across the country in his distinctive, tropical modernist style – and the contemporary art that lines the walls is for sale. The country’s top interiors boutique, Paradise Road, is next door, and close by the Outlet emporium Odel (No. 5 Alexandra Place, tel.+ 94 11 472 2200) sells factory seconds of designer clothes at silly prices. For brightly coloured sarongs, fabrics and cut-price kids toys, head for the Barefoot Gallery (704 Galle Road, tel. +94 11 258 0114, barefootceylon.com). Finally, don’t forget to stock up on the teas and spices for which the country is famed.
Until the new highway down the west coast is completed in a couple of years time, you will have to face the chaos and crazy driving of the tortuous Galle Road to get to Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches.
Bentota is one of the most chi-chi of the coastal resort towns and was home to architect Bawa. His sprawling personal estate Lunuganga is now one of Bentota’s most exclusive boutique hotels. You can experience his extraordinary work by booking dinner at the Villa Mohotti (138/18 & 138/22 Galle Road, tel. +94 344 287 008, villamohotti.com), a former Dutch colonial house that is now a hotel.
One of the highlights of Bentota is The Brief Garden, the home of Geoffrey’s brother, the landscape architect Bevis Bawa. The house is stuffed full of excellent local artwork, as well as black and white photos of the brothers picnicking with Vivien Leigh. The surrounding grounds are a whimsical garden of Eden that mixes classical European planting with a lavish tropical layout. The little-known The Workshop (Elpitiya Road, tel. +94 34 227 0077, firstname.lastname@example.org) where all the furniture of the country’s five-star hotels is made, is worth a pit-stop. If you can afford the shipping charges, you can snap up cheap reproductions of iconic modern furniture, classic colonial chairs and beautiful, beaten-silver lamps.
Further south along the coastline, lies the enchanting, UNESCO-listed 17thcentury Dutch fort at Galle. Nowhere else in Sri Lanka is there such a wide selection of world-class places to eat and shop, and all within walking distance of each other. Consequently, international artists, interior designers and high society are flocking to the fort to buy and renovate the charming, old merchants houses, giving the town the bohemian, exotic allure that Marrakech held in the 70s.
Visit the elegant, painstakingly restored Dutch Groote Church, the Buddhist Yatagala Temple with its ancient rock carvings and the immense Rumsala Japanese Peace Pagoda for its panoramic views. The Galle Fort Hotel (28 Church Street, tel. +94 91 223 2870, www.galleforthotel. com) serves superb Asian fusion fare and chances are you’ll spot a celebrity over dinner at The Zaal Bistro in Amangalla (10 Church Street, tel. +94 91 223 3388, www.amanresorts.com) down the road. Elephant Walk (30 Church Street, tel. +94 912 248 031) sells homewares, souvenirs and a selection of fine saris, while The Fort Gallery (36 Church Street, tel. +94 912 248 031) exhibits photography and local painting, and next door you can commission exquisite bespoke jewellery at Safa Ibrahim’s boutique, M M Ibrahim (7, Church Street, tel. +94 912 234 253).
But Sri Lanka’s allure isn’t restricted to its beautiful coastline. The tea plantations in the centre of the island offer a cool respite from the tropical heat. A trip to Adam’s Peak – a pilgrimage for the local Buddhists – combines trekking with a glimpse of the traditions of the island’s principal religion. The ancient ruined city of Polonnaruwa, the sacred cave temples of Dambulla and the 5th-century palace complex of Sigiriya perched on an enormous boulder comprise the three corners of the country’s impressive Cultural Triangle. Nearby, another highlight is the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, which contains one of the most sacred relics of the Buddha.
In fact, this tropical paradise island only has one drawback – there are so many highlights that cramming them all into one holiday can be tricky. Which is the reason why those who have been once often make plans to return.
Need to know: Geoffrey Bawa
Who? Sri Lanka’s most famous architect and one of Southeast Asia’s most influential architects in the late 20th Century.
How would you describe his style? Tropical modernism
The best examples? Bawa’s own home and offices on Bagatelle Road, Colombo; Ena de Silva House – a courtyard house that Bawa built for his friend, the batik designer Ena De Silva; and the sprawling Cinammon Hill house and gardens at Lunuganga, Bentota.
More information: Beyond Bawa: Modern Masterworks of Monsoon Asia by David Robson (Thames & Hudson £39.95) is published on 5 November.
For more information about organising a holiday to Sri Lanka, contact the following:
Airtours, tel. +44 (0)870 900 8639 quoting ‘Recline’ or visitairtours.co.uk
Sweet Valley Highs
It’s got over 150 vineyards and more sunshine than Honolulu. Little wonder then, that wine and nature-lovers alike are discovering the joys of the Okanagan Valley in Canada, says Jennifer Cox
Just 220 miles east of Vancouver, in a sun-filled pocket British Colombia lies an idyllic pocket of peachy paradise: the Okanagan Valley. Bounded by the snowcapped Cascade Mountains to the west and the rocky, desert slopes of the Monashee Mountains to the east, the valley has its own microclimate and basks in more hours of sunshine a year than Honolulu. A chain of deep lakes runs like a spine down its centre, creating an almost surreal landscape, which makes an ideal adventure playground for biking, sailing and hiking enthusiasts.
Names like Peachland give away the fact that this is the heart of BC’s fruit growing region: over 60miles of pear, plum, cherry and peach orchards fill the valley. But there’s one fruit for which the Valley is becoming increasingly well-known: grapes. This is the epicentre of Canada’s award-winning wine industry, and sales of Canadian wine have skyrocketed in the last six years, prompting comparisons with the Napa Valley in California. Each autumn the 90-plus boutique wineries celebrate the crush by holding the imaginative, highly entertaining Okanagan Fall Wine Festival (28 September-7 October). This is the perfect excuse to kick back and sample the region’s picturesque beauty… over the rim of a wine glass.
The starting point
Kelowna, on the shores of Lake Okanagan, is the Valley’s biggest town and has a thriving arts scene and nightlife. The lake’s sandy beaches are within walking distance of the cafés, galleries and eclectic boutiques, as well as places to rent kayaking and windsurfing equipment. A grape-based vinotherapy massage from Beyond Rapture (tel. +1 250 448 8899, beyondwrapture.com) is a must.
One of the most popular events at the festival takes place here: the Westjet Wine Tastings. Sampling the 150 drops from 35 wineries will help you customise your tour of the valley.
Highway 97 follows the length of the lakes from north to south – a drive that can be covered in under a day (should you choose to miss out the wine stops) – so getting around is simple.
Just over 7miles south of downtown Kelowna is the Cedar Creek Winery (tel. +1 250 764 8866, cedarcreek.bc.ca), a large Italianate estate. Though the winery is best known for its deliciously fruity white Ehrenfelser, the tours and tastings offer an opportunity to learn about the valley’s best reds and the local terroir.
After a tour of the winery double back to Kelowna and take the floating bridge over to the west side of the Okanagan lake to enjoy the sailboats bobbing in the marina, as well as views of the valley, which stretch as far as the eye can see.
Past The Mission
The first stop south of Kelowna is Quail’s Gate (tel. + 250 769 4451, quailsgate. com), a winery that has won a vast array of awards and produces an unbeatable Pinot Noir. In the autumn there’s a harvest tasting that features local cuisine, prepared with the produce that grows in abundance in the region (4 October).
A few more minutes drive down the highway is Mission Hill (tel. +1 250 768 7611, missionhillwinery.com), probably Canada’s best-known winery. It produces an award-winning Pinot Gris and there’s an excellent food and wine pairing masterclass (30 September).
Continue heading south and you’ll reach Summerland, a small lakeside town in the shelter of Giant’s Head Mountain. Take a stroll around the town’s 19th century buildings, built in English Tudor style, or around the lush Summerland Ornamental Gardens (summerlandornamentalgardens. org). Train enthusiasts can pick up The Kettle Valley Steam Railway (tel. +1 250 494 8422, kettlevalleyrail.org) and chug around 10 miles of glorious countryside.
A little way further down Highway 97 is a dirt track that leads up to Dirty Laundry (tel. +1 250 494 8815, www.dirtylaundry.ca), a tiny artisan winery that takes its name from the site’s previous life as a 19thcentury Chinese laundry and brothel. The winery produces an exceptional citrussy Chardonnay, and a gooseberry tinged Gewürztraminer. Wine tasting sessions are held on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, accompanied by live jazz.
The desert’s edge
As you travel further south the climate becomes hotter and drier, and with it the landscape becomes more dramatic. The harvest comes a full three weeks earlier in the south than the north; you’re on the tip of the only desert in Canada. On the southernmost tip of Lake Okanagan where it joins Skaha Lake, is Penticton. Ringed by orchards and wineries, it has a relaxed, beachy feel. On 4 October, the Casabella Princess (tel. +1 250 492 4090, www.casabellaprincess.com) is hosting wine tasting cruises around the lake.
If you don’t fancy the drive, hire an inner tube at Kelowna and spend a silly couple of hours floating down to Penticton under your own steam. Or if that’s not adventurous enough, hire a mountain bike, then take the ski-resort cable car to the top of nearby Apex Mountains, for an exhilarating, white-knuckle ride down the trails that snake through the forests and canyons (watch out for coyotes).
The area south of Penticton and Skaha Beach is quieter and less developed and is more of a rustic, rural experience. The only sound you’ll hear is the lake gently lapping at the shoreline and woodpeckers chipping away at the huge conifers.
Of owls and aboriginals
Towards Okanagan Falls, there’s an intense concentration of wineries. Highlights include NK’Mip Cellars (www.nkmipcellars.com/home), pronounced ‘ink-a-meep’ in Osoyoos, is the first aboriginal-owned and operated winery in North America. Every day during the festival they’re holding a sunrise wine-tasting followed (thank goodness!) by breakfast. Blasted Church (tel. +1 250 497 1125, blastedchurch.com) at Okanagan Falls is a cheeky, charismatic winery and on 5 October there is a midnight tasting, complete with full gospel choir. It’s a hoot and their Cabernet Merlot and Chardonnay Musque win every award going. Do whatever it takes to get a ticket.
Back in Osoyoos, Burrowing Owl winery (bovwine.ca/thewinery.htm) is committed to protecting the burrowing owls, native to the prairie-like plains in this part of the Valley. The owls are cuter than you can imagine: take a look around the rescue centre, then after a tour of the estate of the art winery, have dinner in the winery restaurant, a popular establishment where a reservation is essential. There’s a wraparound veranda, which lets you enjoy spectacular sunset views across the valley as you feast on seared sockeye salmon with beetroot and red wine risotto and of course, wine.
If you need a rest from all that wine drinking, take a detour off Highway 97 at Penticton and cross over to the small town of Naramata on the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan. Here you’ll find an undisturbed rural gem, with sandy beaches, organic lavender farms and rambling stables.
Exploring on horseback means you can enjoy spotting the local wildlife without disturbing it. Ride out along The Kettle Valley Railway trail that winds high above the town, and keep your eyes open for white-tailed deer, moose, elk, lynx and marten, as osprey and bald eagles glide in the thermals overhead.
Pay a visit to the beautifully restored Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa (+1 250 496 6808, naramatainn.com) for some pampering after a day’s exploring. Built in 1908, it is grand yet homely with period architecture, polished wood interiors and rooms with free-standing, claw-foot baths. Sit out on the wide wooden deck overlooking the lake, with a glass of Therapy Pinot in your hand as hummingbirds flit in and out the trees, or book yourself in for one of the fabulous spa treatments. Go on, when you’ve worked this hard at exploring, you deserve a little break.
Other up and coming wine regions
The south-eastern counties are quietly carving out a reputation for producing fine quality, organic whites. Denbies in Surrey (denbiesvineyard. co.uk) has put English wine on the map with its sparkling Cuvée and Chapel Down Tenterden, Kent (chapeldownwines.co.uk) produces an excellently floral-yet-dry Baccus (englishwinesgroup.com).
Greece’s hot, dry climate is perfect for aromatic, minerally whites. Nemea in the southern Peloponnese region, is a beautiful part of the country: a historic site, where vineyards run riot across the vivid red soil valley. Ktima Palivou (palivos.gr) is one of the country’s best wine makers, producing the fabulous Palivos White and a gorgeous dry Rosé
Croatia’s wine industry was one of the many casualties of the 1990s war, but now production has been resumed at the historic Ilok vineyards (ilocki-podrumi.hr/eng) on the banks of the Danube. This is the place to try the delicious, much prized Traminac wine – better known as Gewürztraminer.
Much is made of America’s west coast wines. First it was Napa, and now wineries in Oregon and Washington State are making a splash. New York has become a surprising contender in the New Age wine world. The Finger Lakes region of the state is home to over 150 wineries, producing all styles from light, white and dry, to heavy, rich and red. Vinifera winery (drfrankwines.com) on Keuka Lake has won a gazillion awards, especially for its semi-dry Riesling.
For more information about organising a holiday to Canada, contact the following:
Airtours, tel. +44 (0)870 900 8639 quoting ‘Recline’ or visitairtours.co.uk
Spark and Shine
We’re drinking more and more Champagne, regardless of whether there is anything to celebrate. A good thing, says Andrew Catchpole, who breaks down everybody’s favourite bubbly
Champagne isn’t just about partying, as the Champenois will tell you. Made in a myriad of styles, it runs from elegant aperitif to ripe food wine via rosé and many others.
The Methòde Champagnoise is an extraordinary process born, in part, of necessity. The region is carpeted by France’s most northerly vineyards, where grapes struggle to ripen. The white base is made from the juice of the red Pinot Noir and white Chardonnay grapes and the red Pinot Meunier. Often thin and tart on their own, these wines are typically blended and then encouraged to undergo a second fermentation in the bottle lying in a chalk cellar. The carbon dioxide produced can’t escape and so dissolves. The Champagne continues to age in cool underground cellars and transforms into an exhilarating, crisp, ripe and sparkling wine.
Vintage vs non-vintage
The most common type is non-vintage (NV), blended not just from different grape varieties, but also at least two vintages and using reserve wines held in the cellar to create a distinct and consistent house style. These non-vintage wines are most often labelled Brut (very dry) and are the bread-and-butter flagship wines of the Champagne houses which build their reputations on them.
Vintage wines, on the other hand, are made from the grapes of a single vintage and are only made in the best years, as the price reflects. All Champagne is carefully aged before release, mellowing the wine in the bottle, but vintage spends longer in the cellars, developing a richer, toastier, more gently sparkling character. It’s more suited to food pairing and serious contemplation than easy-going non-vintage wines.
The rosé fad
A hugely fashionable style at the moment is rosé Champagne, made in one of two ways. Either the red grape skins are allowed to colour the base wine (the superior Rosé de Saignée) or a little red wine is blended into Chardonnay. Good pink Champagne is a delight, offering up soft, red-berryish fruit on both nose and palate and sinking down with moreish ease.
The finest Champagne
Top of the pile are the luxury cuvées, in theory the finest Champagnes, skimming the best grapes off from the best vintages and with exorbitant prices to match. Loved by celebs, rappers and socialites, these wines with their fancy bottles and rarity value can live up to their name – as long as someone else is picking up the tab.
You get what you pay for
Of course, even decent non-vintage Champagne is rarely cheap and I’m afraid to say you do tend to get what you pay for. Those bottles piled high and flogged cheap in warehouses in Calais and elsewhere can be a real disappointment unless they have a reputable label.
Look for Champagnes made by growers. Champagne is dominated by large companies with familiar names, called négociantsmanipulants (NM on the label), who buy in most or all of their grapes to make their own style of wines. However, an increasing number of grape growers also make their own Champagne, often at good prices and packed with individual character. Look for récoltants-manipulants (RM) on the label.
Where to quaff it: Top 6 Champagne bars
1 The bar at the Plaza Athénée, Paris Karl Lagerfeld held a Champagne party at this strikingly designed bar (above) last year. Vintage Champagne is on tap here – literally. www.plaza-athenee-paris.com
2 Felix, Hong Kong Bond fans will love this Phillipe Starke-designed bar with its own branded Champagne. It has jawdropping views, especially in the men’s urinal. www.hongkong.peninsula.com
3 Blue Bar, London This fabulous but intimate lavender-blue bar (above) has a wide variety of Champagnes available by the glass. It isn’t cheap, but there are excellent free nibbles to soften the blow. www.berkeleyhotellondon.com
4 Caviar bar at Emporor’s Roe, New York This recently opened deluxe caviar bar pairs bubbly with posh accompaniments, such as a Kobe-style beef and gruyère cheeseburger or their speciality: caviar. Tel: +1 212 866 3700.
5 Les Caves du Roy, St Tropez Celebrating its 40th anniversary, one of the world’s most glamorous and celeb-friendly nightclubs reopened its doors in May. Make it past the doorman and Champagne is de rigeur. www.lescavesduroy.com
Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne, full bottle, £21 and small bottle, £8