10 of the best books about mountains – for a virtual climb

For the past 10 years, I have chased up and down mountains in wind, rain, snow and sun. Walking, rock-climbing, swimming and camping: a trip into the hills is always intense, visceral and life-affirming. I love meeting the elements and discovering what the mountain has to offer on any given day. Nan Shepherd’s seminal book on the Cairngorms, The Living Mountain, opened my eyes to the many ways of perceiving a mountain.

In picking these books, I’ve steered away from the macho-mountain trend (not all hill-goers are male daredevils pitting themselves against nature). These stories of joy, wonder, fear and wisdom go some way towards filling the current void. Their voices lead me back into the remote high lands.

Space Below My Feet by Gwen Moffat

Britain’s first female mountain guide, Moffat discovered the “free and splendid world of mountains and mountain climbing” in 1946, then deserted her post as a driver in the army and committed to a new way of life. Her spartan existence in postwar Britain included sleeping under hedges and washing in freezing tarns (activities that might now be re-branded wild camping and wild swimming). From Cornwall to north Wales, Langdale to Skye, these pages circle through landscapes that will be lovingly familiar to outdoors enthusiasts across the UK. Moffat pads barefoot up steep rock faces, teeters along icy edges, sleeps on frozen hay and picks watercress from clifftops. In crisp prose, this memoir describes many strange and delightful moments from a free-spirited lifestyle.

Mountaineering in Scotland by WH Murray

Famously written on sheets of toilet paper in prisoner of war camps across Europe, Murray had almost completed the first manuscript of Mountaineering in Scotland when the Gestapo found his precious sheets and destroyed the text. With the tenacity of a true mountaineer, Murray refused to be deterred: he rewrote the entire book; later stating that the Gestapo had done him a favour by forcing him to produce a much-improved second draft. Winter sunrise, moonlit nights and endless midsummer days … Murray captures the startling movements of light and weather in the mountains of Glen Coe, Ben Nevis and Skye. Struggling through snow and ice, delighting in the technical interest of rock climbs and looking out to dazzling views across land, sea and hills, Murray’s book will appeal to anyone who loves the Highlands.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

For mystics craving revelation, Matthiessen’s quest is a gift. The Snow Leopard hails from the 1970s counter-culture era when spiritual seekers sought to dissolve the ego and achieve oneness. While many experimented with hallucinogenics, Jung and eastern philosophy, Matthiessen travelled to the Crystal mountain in the remote Dolpo region of the Nepalese Himalayas. Gentle, reflective journal entries recount his path towards enlightenment. Sights, sounds, people and nature are observed with a gentle curiosity; hopes and frustrations unfold alongside his desire to experience “the infinite in every moment”. Walking with Matthiessen through Nepalese villages, high mountain passes and Buddhist monasteries is a privilege. Snow falls and prayer flags flutter as he journeys on, hoping for a glimpse of the near-mythic snow leopard.

A Croft in the Hills by Katharine Stewart

Perched atop the steep banks over Loch Ness is Abriachan, a scattered hilltop community with a rich crofting heritage. From hill fires to haymaking, calving to ceilidhs, Stewart brings this remote neighbourhood to life. Her portrait of 1960s crofting is not a romanticised image of escape and rural idyll: a precarious existence lived “near to the bones of things” is described in simple, sharp prose. Among the snowdrifts, troublesome goats and interminable turnip drills, intimate relationships develop between people, animals and land. This is a tale of hardship and adversity faced with steady pragmatism, kindness and curiosity. “You foresaw the worst and so were quietly thankful for the best”: Stewart’s grounded hill wisdom is an earthy tonic for challenging times.

No Map Could Show Them by Helen Mort

Interest in women’s mountaineering has surged in recent years, and yet when I go to the bookshops, still I find shelves dominated by men’s stories. Helen Mort’s radical book redraws the map, bringing the forgotten narratives of remarkable mountain women to light. From a crinoline-clad Jemima Morrell crossing the Swiss Alps in 1863 to Alison Hargreaves on K2, this evocative collection also includes vivid descriptions of Mort’s own climbing and running across the UK. With exquisite rhythm and heart-stopping imagery, this book helps you to discover that mountains exist in unexpected places. “You zip your jacket up / And nobody notices you are a mountain.”

Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane

Why are we so obsessed with climbing mountains? Just three centuries ago, mountains and wild landscapes were revered but not seen as something to be conquered; now, each year, more than 350,000 people flock to the summit of Snowdon. Macfarlane’s modern classic charts the cultural revolution in our attitude to high places. The route from sacred to awesome challenge is related through a colourful cast of mountaineers who have pushed into extreme terrain over the past few centuries. While the scientists, explorers, poets and climbers may set out with different goals, their mindset is broadly similar: from Coleridge to Mallory, each character is driven by a blend of curiosity, compulsion and the ability to tolerate extreme suffering. For keen hill-goers, this book is deeply reassuring. Since Macfarlane suggests that the imagination is key to being a mountaineer, then I can now count all my time indoors reading, dreaming and obsessing as legitimate mountain activity.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

Like no other mountaineering book, Newby’s begins with a London fashion show. Frantically preparing the 1956 Spring Collection, Newby is struggling with an obstinate dress when he decides enough is enough and sends a fateful telegram to his friend, Hugh Carless. From here the book lurches from one misadventure to another as the hapless Englishmen travel to Nuristan, Afghanistan, to climb previously unconquered peaks. Sweating their way up steep roads and desolate gorges, past thundering torrents and mulberry trees, their story is narrated with a humour and modesty that will make you laugh aloud. However, the comedy does not disguise the fact that they were travelling through dangerous territory. One night, Newby awakes to see men in dark cloaks riding past, silently. The next day they find the body of a traveller whose skull had been smashed in with a rock. Vultures circle: Carless and Newby moved on, swiftly. Nuristan has since been the scene of intense guerrilla warfare and Taliban insurgency. This is a rare glimpse into a region that is now very much off-limits.

The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer

Not one for the faint-hearted. The action of this book takes place on the fearsome North Face of the Eiger. Avalanches, rockfall and brutal storms abound in Harrer’s record of a significant period of mountaineering history. From 1935-1958, personal ambitions and national rivalries funnelled climbers from across Europe to take up ropes, crampons and ice axes in pursuit of a glorious new conquest: the first ascent of the North Face. Teamwork, competition, tactical retreats, heroic rescues and desperate tragedies unfold on this unforgiving, icy face. The White Spider takes readers to a place where few can follow. Harrer illuminates the profound lessons that are learned on the severe edges of our world.

A Herd of Red Deer by Frank Fraser Darling

Frank Fraser Darling’s study transports you to the Scottish Highlands where, for two years, he followed a herd of red deer (in the remote north-west), observing how they live, eat, mate, socialise, raise young and respond to the environment. Darling is no detached observer: he seeks to build an intimacy with the deer and their habitat, spending hours in silence, emptying his mind and walking barefoot to raise the threshold of his awareness. I love the vivid descriptions of deer on the hill and the incredible insights gleaned through Darling’s meticulous attention to his subject. This pioneering study was published in 1937, when studying animals in their natural environment was considered “unscientific”. Through Darling’s words I see a little more of the “total” mountain: as a complex, social ecosystem.

Sky Burial by Xinran

When Shu Wen’s husband disappeared in Tibet, the young Chinese doctor set out on an epic journey into wild, unknown lands to find him. This extraordinary true story spans vast distances of space and time. Wen’s journey begins in 1958, during the tumultuous years of the Chinese “liberation” of Tibet. Early in her search for answers, Wen is attacked by resistance fighters and rescued by a nomadic family. For 30 years she lives on the high plateau with Buddhist nomads. Cut off from the world, she slowly adapts to their way of life. Years pass, Wen ages, her skin darkens and her old identity fades, but still she clings to her husband’s tattered photograph. Finally, Wen travels to the holy mountains, where she finds beautiful and devastating answers. War, peace, love, loss and reconciliation: this is a haunting book of immense power.

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LEGOLAND Florida Resort Will Reopen to Guests June 1

LEGOLAND Theme Park, LEGOLAND Waterpark and the all-new LEGOLAND Pirate Island Hotel will open with enhanced health and safety protocols in place on June 1.

“As part of Merlin Entertainments, our leaders across the globe have been sharing best practices daily, and we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned from other successful Merlin attraction reopenings to be confident with our Resort’s reopening plan. In addition, we have also sought guidance from our partners at AdventHealth,” said General Manager of LEGOLAND Florida Resort Rex Jackson. “We’re ready to play, and we look forward to reopening LEGOLAND Florida Resort as a safe and memorable place for families to play again.”

The reopening of LEGOLAND Florida Resort, and its extensive new measures concerning the health of employees and guests, has been approved by the Polk County Commission and Winter Haven Mayor Bradley T. Dantzler and fully complies with Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 2020-123.

It’s highly suggested that guests should plan their visits in advance – including purchasing advance tickets, reviewing new procedures and downloading the resort’s mobile app. Some measures guests should be aware of for visiting the parks include:

—The resort will operate at only 50 percent of its capacity.

—Guests driving to the park should always leave one parking space in between cars.

—Cash will not be accepted on property; guests should pay using only credit or debit cards.

—All employees and guests will be required to partake in noninvasive temperature checks. Should one person in your party have a temperature of 100.4 F or higher, no one in your party will be admitted.

—Complimentary masks will be given and highly encouraged to be worn – to all guests over the age of three.

—Increased cleaning and sanitization processes will take place throughout the day, especially for high-frequency touchpoints (i.e. door handles, ride restraints, service counters).

—Social distancing markers have been placed throughout the park compatible with the resort’s theme.

—Not all attractions will be open including character meet and greets – since they cannot comply with physical distancing measures.

—The resort will see abbreviated park operating hours, with LEGOLAND Theme Park open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and LEGOLAND Waterpark open daily from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Through the park’s mobile app, guests can view locations of the 200+ hand sanitizing stations that have been installed. LEGOLAND Florida is also working on a virtual queue system that will be rolled out to its mobile app in the coming weeks.

Guests can review all new protocols and procedures on LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s website.

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Top 5 places in Africa to see endangered animals – A Luxury Travel Blog

Most animals in Africa are to some extent endangered, though the term usually refers to an animal that is in danger of extinction. The causes are mostly linked to mankind – poaching for food or the pet and “medicinal” trades, as well as loss of habitat due to climate change and competition for land.

High quality safaris positively contribute to helping endangered animals and the people who live nearby.  Many of the best safari lodges are located on private reserves where the owners actively partner with local people to conserve wildlife and where tourism income reaches those people. This greatly reduces poaching, protects land for wildlife and encourages people to see animals as beneficial rather than things that eat crops or provide dinner. Here are stories of five lodges doing just that.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa – Pangolins

It’s estimated that 1 million, primarily Asian pangolins were trafficked in the last ten years to meet demand for scales prized for their supposed medicinal properties, and meat which is seen as a delicacy.  These curious and delightful looking creatures are also found in Africa where the threat is increasing, partly due to climate change causing habitat decline.

Tswalu Kalahari is pioneering the restoration of natural habitats on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It’s a fascinating place to see arid savannah creatures like eland, brown hyena, meerkat and African wildcat. Valery Phakoago is based there, conducting  PhD research into ground pangolins, so we can understand these shy creatures better. On a walk you may see a young pangolin curl into a protective ball as you approach before she relaxes and moves off to forage for ants and termites.

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda – Mountain gorillas

The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the misty volcanic hills where Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet. The main threats to these mighty creatures are accidental snaring, hunting and disease. Determined efforts by national parks staff and high value tourism mean that populations have risen from 620 in 1989 to just over 1,000 today, with numbers growing steadily in all three countries.

Making your way through the “King Kong” setting of mists, forests and volcanoes in search of gorillas is an experience of a lifetime, and the eventual encounter is awe-inspiring. The cost of doing so is high, but funds from gorilla permits help pay for armed rangers and conservationists who protect these great primates. From Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge in Uganda, you can enjoy a unique morning spent in the company of a semi-habituated gorilla family, assisting the conservationists in their efforts and experiencing one of the most raw and immersive encounters imaginable.

Namiri Plains, Tanzania – Cheetah

A cheetah can go from 0 to 60mph in three seconds, rivalling the fastest sports cars. Watching one of these lithe felines racing across the plains in pursuit of a gazelle is to see poetry in dazzling motion. But speed is not everything – in the Serengeti and Masai Mara combined there are only 300 cheetah compared to 3,000 lion. The smaller cat suffers from competition with its bigger cousin and is killed by farmers and hunters. Cheetah cubs are seen as the ultimate feline pet in some middle eastern countries.

In the remote plains of the eastern Serengeti, over an hour from any other camp, is Namiri Plains. Previously closed to the public for 20 years, the oceans of undulating grasslands surrounding camp have been the setting for a successful cheetah conservation project. Now, with exclusive access to the area and with the option to meet the research team, it is one of the best places in Africa to see cheetah, alongside the other cats and the entire range of Serengeti wildlife. Incidentally, the 10 stylish tented suites are unashamedly luxurious, each with a bathtub on the deck where you can drink in the pristine views while soaking in bubbles.

Old Mondoro, Zambia – Elephant

You’re staying at the intimate and charming Old Mondoro Camp. As you watch elephant roaming past you to swim and wallow in the Zambezi waters, you would be forgiven for thinking that these mighty creatures can hardly be endangered. Yet the 30,000 people who live in villages adjoining the Lower Zambezi National Park see elephants trampling and stealing crops, while ivory poachers from neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique are a constant threat.

The exclusive little camps dotted along the Lower Zambezi are actively involved in ‘Conservation Lower Zambezi’, which operates anti-poaching patrols. They have also developed state-of-the-art ideas like helping village farmers grow “chilli fences” which deter elephants from entering farmland and produce a cash crop for sale. An elephant can knock over a tree and chew his way through a huge branch but they can’t stand chillies!

Lewa Wilderness, Kenya – Rhinoceros

Between 1960 and 2000, southern Africa’s rhinoceros population declined by a staggering 98% due to poaching for their horn. It’s still a serious problem as 80 rhinoceros are poached each month, especially in South Africa where the largest number of survivors remain.

One strategy for saving rhinoceros is to move them to safer locations, and in recent years some have been taken to Botswana where the vast private wildlife concessions and smaller populations of people provide safety. In Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy pioneers rhinoceros conservation in dynamic partnerships with local communities and are so successful that they are able to send rhinos to newer conservation projects. You might stay at Lewa Wilderness Lodge with the Craig family, founders of Lewa, where these wonderful creatures and a spectacular array of other wildlife are thriving.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

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Your travel memories are hiding in your house – go find them – A Luxury Travel Blog

Vivian Green wrote; “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

It seems like the world is waiting for the storm to pass. As every news channel, inspirational Instagram post, and YouTube video, is collectively pointing out, I can look at this as a chance to restart, reset, slow down. Speak a new language, develop a new skill set, take up a new hobby. Do I need a new skill set? What are my old skill sets. Do I have any skill sets?

My mornings these days involve 15 minutes of meditation in my favorite chair, in my favorite room in the house. The space where I sit is bright, even on cloudy days, and has big windows looking onto a patch of green grass, a brick red Japanese maple, and open blue sky. I hear sounds I hadn’t noticed before, I was far too busy. Although now, I can’t remember exactly what I was so busy doing. I hear kids dribbling basketballs, the wind whirling through the leaves on the trees, and birdsong—more now because the DC Shuttle isn’t flying over my head every 4.2 minutes. Little pleasures.

I wasn’t a very motivated meditator in the past, and had a bad habit of running through my to-do list, while hoping not to forget what time I had to pick up the kids, and simultaneously wondering if those leftovers in the fridge had gone off yet. This, from what I understand about meditation, is highly frowned upon. I’ve gotten better keeping my mind on track. My to-do list has shrunk exponentially. My appetite, on the other hand, has not.

Unplug is my go-to meditation app. Lauren Eckstrom, one of the guides, with her lovely voice and cadence, has become my very-important-person-during-a-global-pandemic. So is John Krasinski. I am all about good news. Even if it is just ‘some’ good news.

Traveling around the room

On the way to and from that comfy chair in my house, I pass through my living room. The room where we used to have friends over for drinks, and would occasionally dance on the coffee table. The room where we now watch Hulu and Netflix for hours on end. This room also happens to house the things we collect.

Big collections of small things. Small collections of big things.

Matchbooks from 25 years of dining, Lonely Planet guidebooks from decades of travel, Kokeshi dolls from our years living in Tokyo, and countless found objects, are a few of the things we’ve amassed over the years. A sun-bleached goat’s jawbone that my father-in-law discovered while hiking a hilltop in Turkey even found a spot in our house. That sounds made up, and gross. I promise, it’s neither.

Lately, due to the inherent nature of being trapped, ummm, sheltering in place, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on our array of collections. Not just a ‘Wow, that’s a pretty sand dollar I remember from last spring break on Anegada’, kind of focus. More like, ‘remembering the stories that are attached to them’, kind of focus. The travels that brought them from there, to here.

A long, long time ago

Years ago, when my husband Daniel and I started traveling together, we’d pick up a souvenir from our trip. A memory to bring home and gaze upon every so often. My old boss used to collect beach sand from her vacations and put them in tiny acrylic cases. The hues and colors of the grains differing from case to case. Another friend collected shot glasses.

T-shirts, key rings, and magnets are easily found, and imminently collectible. I’m not sure why, but we always sought out a piece of local pottery. That it was made in the country we were visiting was the only requirement. (Although we did break that rule, for very good reason. Twice.)

Every so often, we disagreed, and one of us had to concede. Usually, ummm, always, Daniel. When we returned home, we displayed them around our apartment, then pretty much forgot about them.

Years later, we picked up our lives and moved from NYC to Tokyo. When we unpacked our boxes, we discovered that all of the pottery pieces we had been collecting over the years were in the form of cereal-sized bowls. It surprised me how consistent we were in our taste. The collection seemed to have created itself over the years, completely without our conscience knowledge.

Twenty six bowls from around the world now sit in tidy rows on shelves in our home. I have been looking at these bowls a lot lately, usually after I’ve finished meditating. How often have I walked past them without a thought? Forgetting how they got here, to this house, from Japan, Bhutan, Morocco, and so on. Years and years of stories and memories sitting in front of me. I took out my notebook, and started to write. Free time can hold so much power.

Travel memory: South Africa

A few years ago, our family spent a week in CapeTown, where we explored neighborhoods, beaches, and wineries. A few nights into our wanderings, we stumbled into an area called The Old Biscuit Mill, which is located in the Woodstock neighborhood. The mill has since been converted into a trendy area that houses hip and high-end restaurants, contemporary artist’s showrooms, and niche clothing boutiques. The Test Kitchen—one of South Africa’s most famous restaurants, also resides there.

Founded by two South African artists, Zizipho Poswa and Andile Dyalvane, Imiso Ceramics drew me like a moth to a flame. We walked past Imiso just as they were about to close for the night. The brightly lit, spare, showroom was mesmerizing. From the inky darkness outside, we cupped our eyes, pressed our heads up against the windows, and peered inside. While Zizi and Andile’s styles were different from each other, they complimented each other seamlessly.

Sometimes when we travel, a piece of pottery jumps out from a gallery window, practically calling us by name. Sometimes, we travel and never fall in love with anything. Here was a proverbial candy store of beautiful ceramics, and I was that child who wanted it all.

Having the opportunity to meet and speak to both Zizi and Andile in their studio made choosing one piece challenging. They walked us through the showroom, telling us about the inspirations and techniques of their craft. We fell hard for both of their styles. Likely, this was the first time we’d had a chance to meet the artist of a bowl that we would buy.

So, in the name of fairness, we bought a piece from each of them.

First, a hand-pinched piece from Zizi, delicately lined with metallic paint, and had a vivid, blood red interior. Second, a piece from Andile’s intense ‘Scarified’ collection. Andile told us about this ancient African traditional act, scarification, that involves cutting skin in order to ward off negative and evil spirits. The snow white bowl’s exterior was repeatedly sliced, revealing hints of primary colors under the ‘skin’. I could almost feel the intensity of each artist’s culture intertwined in their work.

Zizi and Andile lovingly packed up our new treasures, and a few weeks after our return to the US, our bowls arrived. Today, those bowls sit on shelves in our home, and hold the stories of Zizi and Andile, their heritage, as well as the backstory of finding them late that night at the Old Biscuit Mill, just as they were closing up shop.

Travel memory: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, a city filled with arts, culture, great food, and majestic hiking, became the destination for a girls weekend a few years back. Lisa, a friend from my Tokyo days, was coming from LA, and I was coming from DC. We had no plans, aside from a few dinner reservations. The New York Times’ ’36 Hours in Santa Fe’ became our sole companion.

A plan, as it turned out, wasn’t really necessary. Locals were happy to steer us around the charming, idyllic town. In fact, we ended up changing a reservation based on a tip from a store owner one evening. Another day, we ended up at a dive-y Peruvian breakfast joint on the outskirts of town. Local knowledge, as always, rules.

Upon arrival, we walked around town, searching for the main square to catch our bearings. Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery was the first gallery we set foot in, and I still consider it the best. Andrea Fisher has collections of ceramics from many well-known Native American tribes, quite a few who still hone their craft on reservations in New Mexico. Their illustrative skills, like DNA, continue to be passed down through the generations.

The Acoma Puebla, which is not far from Albuquerque, occupies a staggering 5,000,000 acres of land that they settled upon over 2000 years ago. Remarkably, it is one of the oldest continuously lived in communities in the United States.

When I began reading up on the tribe and their pottery traditions, I learned that the geometric patterns they use in their designs are applied with the spike of a yucca plant. Folklore says, that after a pot was completed, the artist would lightly strike its side with the spike, then listen for a ringing sound. It was believed that the piece would crack while under fire, if the sound was not heard.

Black and white has always been my go-to color palette, or lack of color palette as some might argue. When I first caught sight of the Acoma display of ceramics, I had a hunch I wasn’t leaving New Mexico without one.

The finely brushed, intricate patterns are created by hand, not machine. It is a level of craftsmanship that I just can’t compute, no matter how many times I look at the pieces in my collection. The layers and levels of detail, especially from the older masters, is impossible for my mind to process.

Little did I know that day, that the bowl I would buy would have the honor of sparking yet another collection. A tangential pottery collection of black and white masterpieces. Over the years, my husband has occasionally surprised me with Acoma pottery for anniversaries, birthdays, and Mother’s Days. I once tried to buy one for him as a birthday gift. But my daughter called my bluff, knowing it was sneakily a gift for me, not him. Clever girl.

Travel memory: Tokyo

The memories that surround, what is likely, my favorite bowl, are fuzzy, at best. Under normal circumstances my memory is unreliable, so going from 2020 to 2007 is a stretch. I will have to improvise, just a bit.

There is a magazine in Japan called Kateigaho, which considers itself the ‘definitive source for Japanese arts and culture.’ It is an insight into the glamorous world of high-end Japanese art, museums, and restaurants—a world in which I was now a part of. It was mesmerizing. I thumbed through swoon-worthy architecture, upscale hidden kaiseke restaurants, art and artisans—the tip of the Asian iceberg, so to speak.

It was in Kateigaho, very early in our days there, where I saw a photo of an elder Japanese ceramicist, and his beautiful pottery. The exquisite pieces he turned practically jumped out at me from the high-gloss pages. The finishes he used were unusual, partly matte, and with an imperceptible sheen. The leaves of the Japanese maple, momi-ji, was a motif that immediately captivated me, and has since become my favorite tree. It is also one of my favorite memories attached to life in Japan. The overlapping leaves of the maple create endless shapes and patterns as the sun passes through them. In fact, the momi-ji bowl became the centerpiece of pur newly planted garden in DC, the very one that I admire each morning when I meditate.

I must have tracked down the ceramicist, visited his studio, and figured out a way to communicate with him. I am sure he spoke about as much English as I spoke Japanese. The only proof I have of the entire transaction is the bowl itself. I have nothing to go on but a lost back issue of Kateigaho from 2007, and an illegible signature on the base of the bowl. I am still searching, and have hopes I will find it. Stay tuned eBay.

Where are your travel memories hiding?

Needless to say, my best travel memories are stored in this collection of lovely bowls, these hidden gems—invisible though they may be to everyone else. Now, more than ever before, I look at them and remember how we found them, who we met along the way, the people that match up to the memory, and the cultures we immersed ourselves in during that short moment in time away. Those travels changed me, and allowed me to see the world from a different angle. I miss travel. The ache is real.

For now, I will sit, overlooking the green grass, and watch the delicate leaves unfurl, day by day, on my very own Japanese maple. I will listen to Lauren Eckstrom while I meditate from my favorite chair. On the way to that chair, I will pass by those bowls and remind myself of their stories. I like the idea of my memories being attached to the objects in my house. Not a bad way to travel, at least for the time being. And, perhaps try to learn something new, like dance in the rain.

Jamie Edwards is Founder of I am Lost and Found. I am Lost and Found is a luxury/adventure travel website that inspires others to explore the world, through first-hand experiential writing and captivating photography.

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Which European countries are easing travel restrictions?

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) is currently advising against all but essential international travel for an indefinite period. However, countries across Europe have begun to ease lockdown measures and border restrictions and prepare for the return of both domestic and international tourists. Today restaurants, bars, non-essential shops and museums are reopening in Italy and on 16 May prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree to allow foreign tourism to resume from 3 June. Portugal, Belgium, Denmark and Poland are also reopening food and drink outlets, shops and some attractions from today, with limited capacity and health and safety measures in place.

Reciprocal travel deals – as proposed in a leaked European Commission document on 12 May – may be struck between countries with similar coronavirus risk profiles. For example, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have formed a ‘travel bubble’ allowing movement between those countries. The commission also plans to publish an interactive map where travellers will be able to check on border controls and travel conditions around Europe.

At the UK border, all international passengers must now provide contact and accommodation information; they will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app. And all except those on a list of exemptions (tbc) will also be required to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival. The UK government has rolled back on the idea of exempting travellers France. If international travellers are unable to indicate the place where they can self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the government. These government says these measures “will be introduced as soon as possible”.

Travel restrictions and safety measures are constantly changing and we will update this article as regularly as possible.

This article was first published on 18 May


Initially, cross-border travel will be permitted with neighbouring countries (that have comparable decline in the virus) – borders will open with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary on 15 June. Passenger train services between Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are suspended. Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg airports are operational but with limited services until 31 May at the earliest. Restaurants and bars are open, and hotels from 29 May. Masks mandatory on public transport and in shops. No large events permitted until June at the earliest. Health certificate required on entry, stating that the traveller does not have coronavirus; those without a certificate must self-isolate for 14 days. Testing is available at Vienna airport for €190.


Belgium is aiming to reopen to international tourists by 15 June, and is likely to make an announcement by the end of May. Some indirect flights with the UK are operating for essential travel. Eurostar has a significantly reduced service; public transport is running (masks mandatory). Shops are open, museums will open from 18 May, and from 8 June cafes, restaurants and some tourist attractions will start to reopen and small open-air events will be permitted (major events prohibited until after August). Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Proof of residence and onward travel required for transit.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Some direct flights are operating between Sofia and London for essential travel and transit is permitted. Some hotels and swimming pools are open and individual outdoor sports permitted. Some markets, outdoor bars and restaurants are open. Visiting mountains and national parks is also allowed.


Some border crossings on major routes are open for limited traffic (foreign nationals with properties or boats in Croatia, or close family). No date announced for borders reopening to other tourists. Some international and domestic flights operating and transit permitted. Parks, shops, museums, hotels and outdoor restaurants and bars are open, and some public transport is operating.


Airports and seaports will begin “resuming operations in stages” between 9 June and 13 July at the earliest, at the same time as hotels, open-air cinemas, theatres and shopping malls reopen – although no policy on tourist arrivals has yet been released. Beaches with amenities and museums will reopen from 1 June. Parks, outdoor play areas, squares and marinas are to reopen (subject to the 10 people rule) from 21 May, as will archaeological and historical sites.

Czech Republic

Borders with Austria and Germany due to open by 15 June. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Prague airport is open, with limited indirect flights to the UK, for essential travel only. Transit is permitted with proof of residence and onward travel. Domestic travel permitted. Shops, outdoor restaurants, pubs, museums and other cultural institutions are open, and events with up to 100 people are permitted. Hotels, outdoor campsites and other accommodation will open and taxis will operate again from 25 May, when rules on wearing masks on public transport and in shops may also be relaxed.


The Danish government has said it will decide on border control and travel advice by 1 June. Copenhagen and Billund airports are open, with indirect flights to the UK. Transit is only currently permitted for those with a “worthy purpose”, such as people from neighbouring countries returning home. Shops, parks and some hotels are open, and public transport is operating. Restaurants and bars are due to open from 18 May. Sports facilities, theatres and cinemas are due to reopen after 8 June, when events or activities involving 10 or more people will be permitted.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Currently, only tourists from within this “travel bubble” of Baltic countries are permitted entry.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Flights are operating between Finland and the UK, and transit is permitted. Shops are open and restaurants, bars and cultural institutions are to open from 1 June (with social distancing). Events of more than 50 people will be permitted from 1 June, and gatherings of over 50 people from 31 July. Ski resorts and many hotels remain closed. Masks mandatory on public transport.


Borders due to reopen, initially to Switzerland, Germany and Austria, from 15 June. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Public transport is starting to run more frequently, masks are mandatory. Some shops have reopened, restaurants and bars may reopen on 2 June at the earliest. Beaches and some parks will stay closed at least until 1 June, as will larger museums. A health certificate stating that the traveller does not have coronavirus will be required on entry until at least July (with an alternative of 14 days’ self-isolation). An attestation de déplacement (certifying the reason for travel), is no longer required for domestic travel. P&O and DFDS are operating reduced ferry services on cross-Channel routes. Some flights are operating. Eurostar is running a limited service between Paris and London (passengers are required to wear masks). For vehicle crossings, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is operating a limited service.


Borders due to reopen, initially to Switzerland, France and Austria, from 15 June. Limited flights running for essential travel only. Shops have reopened, restaurants are due to reopen on 15 May, hotels are due to reopen on 25 May, and large events such as festivals may return after August. The 16 states have taken different paths out of lockdown, with types and timetable of amenities open varying.


Borders reopening to international tourists on 1 July at the earliest. Some indirect international flights) are operating, direct flights with the UK are due to resume 1 June. Some domestic flights and ferries operating, and travel to Evia and Crete from the mainland is permitted (all other islands still restricted). Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. Masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport. Throughout June, malls, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, hotels, amusement parks, playgrounds and other sports facilities will open gradually. Public transport and taxis operating (up to two passengers per taxi). Large gatherings, including festivals and sporting events, are unlikely to return this summer.


Borders with Austria due to open on 15 June. Limited flights are operating. In Budapest, restaurants (for takeaway) and parks are open, and elsewhere shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels are permitted to reopen (with social distancing). Masks are mandatory in shops and when using public transport and taxis across the entire country.


The government expects to “start easing restrictions on international arrivals no later than 15 June”. (Borders have remained open to Schengen countries.) A health certificate will be required on entry, with the alternative of 14 days’ self-isolation. Arrivals will also have to download the country’s tracing app. Some flights are operating, including Icelandair, as are some buses and taxis. Social distancing of two metres is mandatory in all public places, including hotels, restaurants and shops, which are now open.


Some flights and ferry services continue to operate between Ireland and the UK – although all arrivals are subject to 14 days’ self-isolation and must provide details of accommodation while in Ireland. UK nationals will be exempt from self-isolation procedure on return home – a start and end date, and whether transit through Ireland is permitted, has not been confirmed. Public transport is limited; restaurants and some pubs will reopen on 29 June; hotels, museums and galleries to reopen 20 July.


Borders are due to reopen to tourists on 3 June. Parks are open and restaurants can sell takeaway food. Bars, restaurants, non-essential shops and museums are due to open on 18 May. Some hotels will reopen in June, depending on bookings. Some flights are operating and one airport is open per region (Rome Ciampino and Terminal one at Rome Fiumicino airport are closed). Trains are operating reduced services, but no international services are running. Sicily has announced that it will subsidise travel for international and domestic tourists once it is safe to return.


Borders open with Germany. No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals, or passenger flights to start operating with the UK. Restaurants, shops and hotels are due to begin reopening after 25 May, when outdoor non-contact sports will also be permitted. Masks are mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel or tourists. The airport could reopen by the end of May. All arrivals must currently self-isolate for 14 days. Masks mandatory in shops and on public transport. Some non-essential shops are open; bars, restaurants and hotels may open by early June.


Borders are open tourists from Schengen countries and essential travel. Some flights are operating with the UK – airlines require all travellers (including those transiting) to complete a “fit-to-fly” health declaration. Eurostar is operating a revised schedule. Shops and some hotels are open. Masks are mandatory on public transport. Outdoor restaurants and bars are due to open from 1 June, as are theatres, music venues, museums and cinemas (with social distancing). Campsites and holiday parks are open, and their communal facilities are due to open on 1 July. Events, concerts and festivals with more than 100 people may be allowed after 1 September.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Some flights operating with the UK and transit permitted. Some hotels, shops and restaurants open. Organised events with up to 50 people permitted, so some parks, music venues, galleries and other cultural institutions open, others likely to reopen from 15 June.


Borders are likely to be open to international tourists from 13 June. Restrictions have been lifting gradually since 4 May, and travel to cities, national parks and beaches is now permitted. International flights are due to begin operating again on 23 May. Currently, all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Hotels were permitted to open from 4 May (without catering). Museums, art galleries and remaining shops due to open 18 May. City bike schemes and some public transport operating. Face masks mandatory in public.


Borders are likely to open to international tourists in 2020, and the tourist board have said that a “return for tourism is not far away”, although a date has not yet been announced. Some flights are operating between London and Lisbon. The lifting of measures varies depending on region. Public transport across the country is running at a reduced capacity, though there are rail and bus links to Lisbon city centre from most parts of the country, and taxis are still operating. Restaurants and bars in many regions are permitted to open on 18 May, at limited capacity. Many of the Algarve’s hotels are already open and its beaches are due to open in June. Non-essential travel is not permitted to Madeira and the Azores, where there are health screenings and mandatory 14-day self-isolation is still in place.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. Hotels, some shops, museums and restaurants are due to open from 15 May, when some direct flights also resume. Face masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and on public transport.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals – residents of neighbouring countries. Some flights operating, and transit permitted with proof of onward travel. Some shops, outdoor markets, outdoor sports venues for non-contact sports, outdoor tourist attractions, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants, museums, galleries and short and long-term accommodation without catering open. Taxis and some public transport operating. Face masks in public are mandatory.


Borders and airports are open to international tourists but flights are limited, and currently all arrivals from outside the EU must self-isolate for seven days and provide proof of accommodation. Train connections with Austria are suspended. Shops, galleries, some smaller hotels, and bars and restaurants to open outdoor spaces. Some public transport and taxis operating, and face masks mandatory. Large events will not be permitted for some time, but some tourist attractions are reopening. Mountaineering is being discouraged and mountain huts remain closed.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel by UK nationals. A de-escalation process is gradually reopening the country in stages until the end of June (some measures vary depending on region and throughout the islands). Very limited flights running and are for essential travel only. Currently, arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days. Travel by car around a province is permitted, but not between different provinces in the country yet. Many hotels were allowed to reopen from 11 May (minus communal spaces and catering) but not all are expected to do so until borders open to domestic and international tourism. In less affected regions, some outdoor spaces at restaurants and bars open, although most will not be fully operational until June. Museums are allowed to open at a limited capacity. Non-essential travel from the mainland to the Balearic and Canary islands is not yet permitted, although these are likely to be some of the first regions to relax measures further. In partnership with the World Health Organisation, the Canary Islands are set to be the first destination in the world to trial digital health certificates when they open to international tourists in July.


Borders are open to UK nationals and those of EU countries (but are closed to residents of some non-EU countries until 15 June at the earliest). Limited flights operating between London and Stockholm. As Sweden never went into full lockdown, hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and some museums are open. Large gatherings of more than 50 are still prohibited.


Border crossings to and from Germany, France and Austria due to reopen from 15 June. Hotels, shops, markets and restaurants are open. In situations where it is not possible to keep distance, the government recommends a face mask. Outdoor sports with up to five people permitted. Theatres, museums, cinemas, swimming pools, ski resorts, spas, mountain services and other leisure activities due to resume on 8 June. Large events with a thousand-plus people may resume from 31 August.


No date announced for borders reopening to non-essential travel or tourists. International flights are limited, domestic flights remain suspended and inter-city travel restricted. Face masks are mandatory in public areas. Measures vary across provinces and may change at short notice. A curfew is in place from 16-19 May, with varying rules depending on age, and supermarket opening hours are limited.

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Walt Disney Company Clears Latest Safe Reopening Hurdle

The Walt Disney Company announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with its employee union on a new set of health and safety guidelines to protect workers from coronavirus.

According to Reuters.com, Disney and the Service Trades Council Union (STCU) agreed to a series of new preventative measures designed to safeguard employees, including social distancing practices, increased cleaning and mandatory masks for workers and guests.

The STCU represents around 43,000 workers at Disney World in Orlando.

Company officials recently announced Disney Springs would reopen on May 20 with a limited number of shops and restaurants open and altered hours of operation to control crowd size.

While the agreement with its employee union and the reopening of Disney Springs are positive steps, no date for opening Disney World back up to the public has been revealed. Earlier this week, though, the company’s official website began accepting hotel reservations for July.

Disney started closing theme parks in Asia, France and the United States in late January as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, a move that cost the company more than $1 billion between January and March.

In addition, Disney was forced to furlough around 120,000 employees, but positive signs from the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland this week has the theme park industry cautiously optimistic for the near future.

Disney World is planning a phased reopening with enhanced safety measures, but there is no set date for any official reopening.

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10 of the best novels set in Spain – that will take you there

I grew up in Montreal – and London owns a big piece of my heart – but my home is Barcelona, where I’ve lived for 20 years. Spain is a varied country, in its landscapes, languages, culture and cuisine, but in compiling this list I became aware that so much of its literature comes from Madrid and the north of the country. Perhaps it’s too hot down south for novel writing? The list is personal and not at all definitive, and in a few cases dictated by what’s available in translation. But each of these books will transport you to a time and place in this fractious, variegated, infuriating but endlessly lovable country.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Social commentary, comic novel, tragedy: Cervantes’ masterpiece has been called many things, and 400 years on is still pertinent about the human condition. Quixote is a minor noble, an hidalgo, literally the son of a something. It’s a status that resonates in modern Spain where enchufe (being connected) is still what really counts. Quixote reinvents himself as a chivalrous knight and, in what could be seen as the original road movie, has a series of misadventures as he travels across La Mancha, a landscape that seems little changed today. There are even some windmills left. Both the book and the land feel indelibly, timelessly Spanish.

The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza

This book expertly captures Barcelona at the turn of the 20th century, as it transformed itself from a mediaeval warren into a booming, modern city. There are echoes of Quixote in Onofre Bouvila, the central character, but the days of knights errant are over; Bouvila is a chancer and a hustler who graduates from being a gangster to become a property speculator. He then has a failed career as a Barcelona version of a Hollywood mogul. Mendoza conjures the mercantile spirit of the city, where hustlers and arrivistes perpetually collide with old money and entrenched power.

Offside by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Vázquez Montalbán and his gourmand detective, Pepe Carvalho, chronicle the seedy side of 1980s Barcelona while at the same time taking a caustic look at the machinations of the Catalan bourgeoisie, the so-called bones families. Originally titled The Centre Forward Was Murdered at Dusk, Carvalho is called on to investigate death threats made against FC Barcelona’s latest English signing. There are several Pepe Carvalho novels but I chose this one because I happened to be at a Barça match the day Montalbán died and there was a minute’s silence before kick-off. It’s not every day football salutes a writer. Andrea Camilleri named his Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano in honour of Montalbán and Carvalho.

Outlaws by Javier Cercas

Outlaws is set in the late 1970s, when Spain was in transition from dictatorship to democracy, depicted through the activities of a group of young quinquis (delinquents) in a shanty town in Girona. They, like Cercas himself, are among the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who moved from the poor west and south to Madrid and the industrialised northern cities. Based loosely on the true story of El Vaquilla, a quinqui who became something of a celebrity in the 1980s, the protagonists are three young Spaniards, shunned by mainstream society, living precarious lives defined by drugs, petty crime and prison.

The Baztán Trilogy by Dolores Redondo

Redondo’s lean narrative style sets the pace for these thrillers based in rural Navarra. In a departure from the detective as hard-boiled male loner, Inspector Amaia Salazar is a married woman with a mentally-ill mother, who may indeed be a witch. Salazar is called back to the village she grew up in to investigate the apparently ritual murder of a teenage girl. Redondo evokes the gloomy, sodden beauty of the Baztán valley, a corner of north-east Spain with a long association with witchcraft and the dark arts.

In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda

One of Gabriel García Márquez’s favourite books, this is also the most successful novel written in Catalan. Rodoreda relates the struggles of Natàlia, better known as La Colometa, a young working-class woman, during and after the civil war, although none of the historical events is specifically named. Narrated in the first person, it is a departure from the more heroic accounts of the war. La Colometa’s struggle is with poverty, with a husband whose passion is breeding pigeons, and with trying to feed her children while working as a cleaner. It is, above all, about the human spirit and the ability to overcome adversity.

Homeland by Fernando Aramburu

If a better Spanish novel than Homeland has appeared in the past 10 years, I’d like to hear about it. Set in a fictitious village near San Sebastián, it’s the story of two families and, above all, two women: one whose son is serving a long jail sentence for a killing he carried out as a member of the Basque terror group Eta, and the other whose husband was murdered by the group. It is a story of personal and tribal loyalty, of oppression by the state and by Eta, and ultimately of people trapped in a story from which they can’t escape. And yet, in spite of that and the constant rain, it is an uplifting tale, beautifully crafted and full of feeling.

A Heart so White by Javier Marías

Sometimes cited as Spain’s greatest living writer, Marías’s A Heart so White begins with a shocking suicide but, while it uses some of the devices of a thriller, its themes are marriage and betrayal, while the narrator discovers things he’d rather not have known about his father’s past. The stylised and parenthetical writing can be tiring and sometimes irritating but the story is gripping and readers should persevere through some of the slower passages. Juan, the narrator, is a UN interpreter and, inevitably, the book has much to say about the nuances of language.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

For better or worse, Hemingway probably shaped the English-speaking world’s idea of Spain more than any other 20th-century writer. The macho culture, the blood and dust of the bullring and the civil war all appealed to his idea of manliness. However, Jake, the central character of The Sun Also Rises, is sexually impotent, and his manliness is defined by his work ethic. This is in contrast to his wealthy companions of the “lost generation” for whom the running of the bulls in Pamplona is, like Paris, just another backdrop on which to project their ennui. Thanks largely to Hemingway, every July thousands of young American men travel to Pamplona for the festival, with much the same idea of Spain as a land of wine and blood, though perhaps their own version of ennui.

Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga

Originally written in Euskera – the Basque language – and a huge success in Spanish, Obabakoak is a series of stories narrated by the inhabitants of Obaba, a Basque village. A geography teacher discovers that a series of life-changing letters from a young woman in Hamburg were in fact written by his father; a tattered and barely legible manuscript written by a priest tells the story of an unloved, illegitimate boy who went missing in the woods and returned to haunt the village as a pure white boar. Atxaga’s writing is intimate and there is always a touch of humour, even as the tales shade into darkness.

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Postcard from the future: ‘Why I’m heading to the Isle of Wight after lockdown’

One reason I spend so much time wading through boxes of old postcards in junk shops is to snoop on holidays I can never take. On one side are pictured places that are no longer quite there, reproduced in colours that nature doesn’t recognise; on the other are semi-legible messages from holidaymakers 50 or 60 years ago.

“They say it was hot last week. Just our luck.”

As I flick through the thousands of postcards, I’m often struck by how many are from the Isle of Wight: the SRN6 hovercraft with its bulbous rubber skirt, the Needles set in a deep turquoise sea, the manicured thatch of the old villages at Shanklin and Godshill.

When lockdown is over and the coast is clear, the contact tracing-app forgotten, I’m heading straight for the island. I haven’t been there for 20 years but something is calling me. I’ve seen the faded postcards. I get the message. It won’t be an ambitious holiday, but it will feel right.

“We’ve nearly seen everything now, and then I suppose we’ll start again.”

I’ll be happy to take the chairlift at Alum Bay as we did, clutching a Norfolk terrier, on a family trip in 1998, and intend to enter fully into the spirit of Blackgang Chine, which must surely have outgrown its decorated rockery and large plastic dinosaur. If we plan it right and the weather holds, we can also look forward to doing absolutely nothing on the beach at Sandown.

Inevitably, my journey will be a postcard pilgrimage. Since the publisher J Salmon closed in 2018, WJ Nigh & Sons has inherited the title of the UK’s oldest postcard publisher. In 1903, William James Nigh was an Isle of Wight postman who saw just how much of his postbag was taken up with postcards and decided to get himself a slice, setting up his own company in his shed. By the 1950s, it was producing more than a million postcards a year.

As I write this, I’m missing the funeral, held on the Isle of Wight under lockdown, of my aunt, who died two weeks ago. In normal circumstances I would have been there. A long overdue post-Covid trip will also, importantly, give me a chance to pay my respects.

“What more could you wish for – except for another week.”

Tom Jackson’s latest book is Postcard From The Past (HarperCollins, £8.99). Follow him on Twitter @PastPostcard

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Getaways: Pretty Portloe is a scene-stealer with star quality

Some 14 years earlier, the village between Mevagissey and St Mawes was chosen to shoot war story Forever England starring John Mills, with the coast doubling for the Mediterranean.

In 1991 Channel 4’s The Camomile Lawn was shot in the village, and 20 years later Anna Friel, among others, visited to shoot the film Irish Jam, with Cornwall donning the hue of the Emerald Isle.

And they received probably one of its best critiques when Sir John Betjeman said of Portloe that it was: “One of the least spoiled and most impressive of Cornish fishing villages.”

It’s hard to disagree with the Poet Laureate when you wind your way down through the Roseland peninsula and come across a pristine spot where the hills open up to reveal a small, strikingly beautiful cove.

And the heart and soul of the village is the 17th-century smugglers’ inn, The Lugger Hotel, which sits snugly into the apex of the cove.

It has 24 bedrooms and three bespoke private cottages that ooze charm from every porthole.

We stayed in the one-bedroom Beach Cottage with panoramic views over the cove – it’s so close to the sea that you could almost shower yourself in the spray of the surf.

But you’d probably best leave it to the real shower with its frisbee-sized head, or for those who prefer leisurely soaks, there’s a freestanding bath in the bedroom, strategically placed to make the most of gazing out over the idyllic coastal views in the bathrobes and slippers provided.

The ground floor of the cottage has a lounge with a TV, and a kitchen decorated with a nod to Cornish fishermen.

Each night during the turndown service we were left a hot chocolate sachet and marshmallow in a tall glass mug – and during the day the most delicious chocolate chunk cookies and hand-made truffles were waiting for us.There’s also Cobb Cottage, which takes up to six guests, while the Middle Cottage is for two, with a private terrace that offers the best view over the harbour. It provides a wonderful haven – especially on stormy winter days.

Watching the waves rolling in from the English Channel and crashing up against the rocks from inside our warm and snug cottage provides a magical charm of its own.The nature show unfolding a pebble’s throw away almost rendered the two tellies in the cottage redundant.

Could The Lugger get any better, we wondered? Well, yes, thanks to the two-AA Rosette restaurant on site.

That, too, wrings every last ounce out of Portloe’s views – and on the stormiest of days, I was told, the waves have been known to crash against the ground-floor kitchen windows.

With such close proximity to the salty spray,The Lugger pays homage to the fruits of the sea with the best of local fish and produce dominating the menu.

Being a long-standing pescatarian, I went for a sea bass starter and sea bream main course and was left thanking my decision to ditch the meat all those years ago – both were cooked to perfection. My carnivore partner opted for the pork main course and was delighted she didn’t join me, declaring it was one of the best pieces of pig she’d devoured in her life.

Table service, like the reception staff, is relaxed and attentive with nothing too much to ask for.

Afterwards, you can retire to the Lugger’s lounge and plant yourself on one of the large sofas next to a log fire creating a warmly cosy environment. A table-service breakfast is offered in the restaurant (or on the terrace in summer) with a selection of cereals, muesli and granola, cold meats, cheeses, pastries, fruit and natural yoghurt with berry compote, followed by cooked options.

They go above and beyond the normal morning offerings, with a full Cornish or veggie option, scrambled eggs with Scottish smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, locally caught poached haddock and grilled kipper on the menu.

The Lugger is the perfect base in which to unwind from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

For the more active, many of Cornwall’s most popular attractions such as the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Eden Project are all within easy striking distance, as is St Mawes and the ferry across to Falmouth.

For walkers (who seem to flock to The Lugger given the sign about taking off dirty boots and wellingtons near the first-floor toilet) there’s the Cornish Coastal Footpath right on your doorstep.

We gave that a sidestep, having left the necessary footwear back at home (that was our lame excuse) preferring to be at one with nature, watching the sea crashing into the cove from the Beach Cottage.

You sense Walt Disney just might have been on to something when choosing Portloe to film Treasure Island all those years ago.The Lugger is most certainly a treasure, too.

Coronavirus restrictions mean the hotel is currently closed.


Rooms at The Lugger Hotel in September start at £175 a night on B&B, or £241 for dinner, B&B. Seaview Beach Cottage costs from £300/£366. luggerhotel.com, 01872 501322. More info at visitcornwall.com

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Have you been to the Garden of Eden? It’s in Bedford

That the Garden of Eden remains absent from travel bucket lists is, perhaps, unsurprising. Unlike El Dorado or Lyonesse, however, its location is no mystery. It even has an address: 12 Albany Road, Bedford. And while the Victorian house is modest in size, its garden does boast a cosy tearoom, and how it came to be there is as surprising as its geography.

More than 200 years ago, religious prophets – spiritual gurus of their day – attracted loyal followers and occasionally courted scandal. One such was Joanna Southcott from Devon, who in 1814, at the age of 64, declared herself pregnant with the new messiah. The baby failed to materialise and Southcott died a short while later, but not before presenting a mysterious locked box to her followers. It was to be opened in a time of national crisis, and would bring peace and prosperity on Earth – but only if 24 bishops prayed over it for three days. Bishops being busy fellows, Southcott’s box remained unopened and passed down through her followers until it came to the attention of Mabel Barltrop.

In 1919, Barltrop, a Christian and proto-feminist, had established the Panacea Society in Bedford as a means of challenging her faith’s inherent patriarchy. Her community of like-minded women grew and came to believe that Barltrop was God’s daughter; that their “campus” was formerly the Garden of Eden; and that Bedford would be Jesus’s first port of call when he returned. They even prepared a house up the street, The Ark, for such eventuality, agonising over colour schemes and whether Christ would require a shower. Ever practical, the Panaceans rented out The Ark, on the understanding that in the event of a second coming, the contractual month’s notice wouldn’t apply.

The group campaigned for decades to have Southcott’s box opened, paying for billboards and adverts declaring: “Crime, banditry, distress and perplexity will increase in England until the bishops open Joanna Southcott’s box.” There are tales of the box having been X-rayed or even opened, but its contents remain shrouded in mystery.

When the last Panacean died in 2012, a trust turned the house into a museum, with a tearoom in the grounds. A facsimile of Southcott’s box sits in one of the rooms, surrounded by two dozen empty chairs.

For now, the Garden of Eden remains closed. When lockdown ends, a visit is highly recommended. If you can find 24 bishops to accompany you, all the better.

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