Winning tip: Epidaurus, Greece
Ten years ago we were at Epidaurus, and each took turns to descend to the orchestra and read from Sophocles or Euripides – among the wisest writers of all time. It’s been a turbulent 10 years for Greece and for us. When the dust has settled it would be good to revisit and remind ourselves of some of the eternal wisdoms and pleasures.
Christchurch, New Zealand
In 2013 I visited Christchurch, a city slowly emerging from the crisis of the 2011 earthquakes. Things appeared normal until you noticed the cracks, jaunty angles and misaligned lintels. The spray paint from the rescue teams was still visible on shops; the empty white chairs, one for every life lost, stood wistfully in the centre, and the beautiful cathedral was fenced off in disrepair. But the vibrant Re:start mall and its indie shops, chilled buskers, Lego-adorned coffee cabins and rainbow flowerpots were the first signs of the resilience of this bohemian city. In a time where we need to focus on recovery and a brighter future, I look forward to seeing what Christchurch becomes.
Sainte-Marine, near Combrit, is a stunning part of Brittany. We went there on a family holiday in 2017, driving through Normandy, staying in Honfleur and Rennes on the way. We rented a cottage about 500 metres from the sea and 750 metres from the village centre. Sainte-Marine boasts a beautiful harbour, a patisserie and lots of fabulous harbour-front restaurants where you can sip a glass of local cider, gorge on moules et frites and people-watch to your heart’s content. The beach is stunning, with amazing walks around the coast.
Readers’ tips: send a tip for a chance to win a £200 Sawday’s stay
Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print, and the best entry each week (as chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet) wins £200 towards a stay at one of 3,000-plus Sawday’s properties in the UK and Europe. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage
Monschau, Eifel mountains, Germany
Among the nicest parts of Germany is the Eifel mountains (a continuation of the Ardennes), including the beautiful town of Monschau. Thirty kilometres south of Aachen, an hour from Cologne and just at the Belgian border, it’s charming, with its half-timbered and slate houses. The Rur (not Ruhr) river flows past those, and museums explain draperies (the Red House), as well as the production of mustard and beer. There are excursions to the Rur barrier lake in summer, and to the peasants’ life museum in Lammersdorf.
I know it’s touristy, but there is nowhere like Florence. Make the trek up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, collecting bread, cheese and wine from the amazing market first. Then head back down to marvel at the Duomo, and walk the streets looking for the Medici balls on the buildings. No trip would be complete without a visit to David. Turning into the long room and seeing the statue at the end simply takes your breath away. Even in the crowded streets and the museums, you feel totally alone with beauty.
The area west of Lough Corrib in Connemara has some of the most breathtaking scenery not just in Ireland, but in the world. The Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains provide the backdrop to myriad pools, lakes and rivers that glint and reflect the sky, lush greenery and brown hues of the blanket bog. Near the peninsulas you can find some of the most picturesque villages (Roundstone) and finest beaches (Doonloughan). As well as some of the freshest and tastiest seafood. The people are warm and welcoming and the Guinness is fabulous.
Tresco, Isles of Scilly
I’ve been all round the world, but found nowhere better than Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. It’s the Caribbean of the UK – white sand beaches, palm trees and no traffic. Just a short hop from Land’s End airport or a ferry ride from Penzance, so no queues or customs to worry about. See the exotic Abbey Garden with flowers from around the world, recently introduced red squirrels and the Valhalla maritime museum. There are five-star restaurants and places to stay, and you can walk your socks off or hop on a boat to one of the other islands. I just hope this remains as it is, a little paradise on Earth.
North Uist, Scotland
I rented a lodge at Clachan Sands on North Uist with some friends for my 50th birthday. The views on to the beach changed every day, with white sand and myriad blues in the sea and sky. We were able to take epic walks, luckily mostly in sunshine, bought langoustines fresh off the fishing boat and had delicious meals at Berneray Bistro. Take a boat ride to the Isle of Harris, where there are more enormous beaches and the gin distillery. We saw sea otters, eagles, seals and red deer. It is the place to go if you need some big sky.
Last July, my partner and I spent two nights in Aarhus. It was booked as a surprise for both of us, and neither of us knew what to expect. It turned out to be the annual Jazz Festival. For a week, any venue that can host jazz in the city does. You wander from small bars to parks to libraries and take in the music. When you’re not bebopping, you can eat amazing Nordic cuisine. The most astounding thing was that the whole city got involved and just had fun. No bust-ups, just jazz. (And beer.)
When all this is over, I want to go back to Eyam, a peaceful place of greensward and church surrounded by birdsong and chocolate-box cottages, and be reassured of what is possible, even after pandemics. I’ve been thinking about the plague-ridden villagers of 350 years ago, who wrestled with our issues of choosing self-isolation. And I’ll go back to the museum to be reminded of the local inventor of silk processes, Ralph Wain, and how industry and creativity can bring communities back to life after tragedy.
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