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Travel

Five best travel documentaries to watch during coronavirus self-isolation revealed

Coronavirus has made the days seem longer and emptier as social events get cancelled and holiday plans get put on hold. Many Britons were just getting ready for summer to begin before lockdown thwarted their plans. But while some people have taken to dreaming about their holidays plans on Google Street View, others have decided to give some classic travel documentaries a go.

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From Louis Theroux to Simon Reeve, below are some of the most essential travel documentaries to watch while in self-isolation.

Simon Reeve

Simon offers what most documentary series do not – endearing enthusiasm that is infectious.

Who can really say they have been put in a bad mood by Simon Reeve?

From Ireland to the Indian Ocean, and Bangladesh to Columbia, Simon will take you on an adventure across the globe that is jam-packed full of information and stunning sites.

His documentary on the tropic of cancer sees him track 23,000 miles through deserts, mountains and simmering conflicts.

All Simon’s documentaries are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Louis Theroux

Louis’ documentaries are not travel-based per se but instead explore the people in various corners of the world.

The infamous documentarian has remained a favourite on our TV screens for decades with his programmes covering both the weird and the wonderful.

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His best series include Dark States, LA stories and Altered states which all cover the vast land of America.

The series looks at murder, drug addiction and the world of dogs in LA.

All of the above are available on Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

The Trip with Rob Bryden and Steve Coogan

Rob and Steve provide plenty of laughs in this hilarious travel documentary that sees the two men journeying to different locations while bickering.

The series has everything you want from a documentary: delicious cuisine, stunning scenery, local culture, inside jokes and lots of impressions.

Some of the series is on Netflix.

Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days

Michael is a kind soul that immediately makes viewers feel relaxed and in safe hands as he takes you on a trip around the world in just 80 days without using aircraft.

Based on Jules Verne’s classic book of the same title, the documentary series sees Michael go from Egypt to Singapore, to America and back to the UK as he trecks around the world.

The series is available on Google Play.

Bethany Hughes

Bettany offers up a historical look at the Mediterranean.

Her documentary-style is serious rather than jokey but offers authority on the subject.

Rather than learning about the modern-day Mediterranean, the programme delves deeper into the past which makes you feel as though you have walked back in time.

Some of the series is available on Channel Five.

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Travel

Coronavirus travel: What are the priority countries for flights where Britons are trapped?

Coronavirus has surpassed a global total of 740,000 cases. On Monday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a partnership between the Government and airlines to repatriate Britons stranded abroad. Tens of thousands will be flown home using chartered planes. But which countries will be prioritised with this repatriation effort?

Mr Rabb announced new arrangements between the Government and airlines to fly tens of thousands of Britons home.

Airlines involved include British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan.

Mr Raab said those in countries where commercial options are still available should not wait, but book tickets home as soon as possible.

Where commercial flights are no longer running the Government will provide £75 million support for special charter flights to help British nationals back home.

He added vulnerable people will be prioritised for those flights.

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Mr Raab said: “Where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting passengers home.

“That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled.

“That means allowing passengers to change tickets including between carriers.

“So for those still in those countries where commercial flights are still available, don’t wait, don’t run the risk of getting stranded.

“The airlines are standing by to help you. Please book your tickets as soon as possible.

“Where commercial flights are no longer running the Government will provide financial support for special charter flights to bring UK nationals back at home.”

The Foreign Secretary added the UK Government is working with other governments to keep commercial flights working had so far helped get many Britons home.

This includes:

  • 150,000 from Spain
  • 8,500 from Morocco
  • 5,000 from Cyprus.

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What are the priority countries for the special charter flights?

The Foreign and Commonwealth travel advice page reads: “Special charter flights will operate in some countries to help British tourists and short term visitors and their families to return to the UK.

“To see if you are eligible and to find out how to book, see the ‘Return to the UK’ section of for the travel advice page of the country that you are in.”

Special charter flights will appear on the travel advice pages on the FCO website here as and when they are arranged according to the Foreign Secretary.

British travellers who want a seat on those flights will book directly through a travel management company.

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Travel

Coronavirus: Gatwick Airport plans to shut down terminal as deadly pandemic takes its toll

London’s second biggest airport has been forced to shut down its north terminal thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has seen many airlines cancel their flights. Gatwick Airport has decided to temporarily shut its north terminal from the end of the month.

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The terminal is usually served by carriers including easyJet.

The decision is expected to be announced later today, according to Sky News.

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The drastic move is just one step away from a full airport closure.

Although, reportedly, the option to close the airport is still on the cards.

Earlier this week, London City Airport announced it would be closing completely for several weeks.

Meanwhile, Heathrow and Stansted have seen a huge plunge in passenger numbers as countries around the world prohibit travel.

Numerous regional airports are thought to be suffering with the same problem.

Currently, airport operators are in talks with the Government about rescue packages.

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak wrote to aviation bosses this week that support packages could be available to some individual companies.

However, this will only be made available once private sources of capital have been exhausted.

Gatwick is mainly owned by VINCI – the largest private airport operator in the world.

The London airport serves a massive 46 million passengers each year and flies to 230 destinations.

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Last week, Gatwick said that its chief executive Stewart Wingate, and his executive team would be taking a salary cut.

The team is expected to cut their pay by 20 percent and waive bonuses.

The airport also said it was cutting 200 staff who are on temporary fixed-term contracts along with contractors.

It is expected that further announcements of cost-cutting measures will be taken in the next few weeks.

Mr Wingate said last week: “Gatwick is a resilient business, but the world has changed dramatically in recent weeks and we have been forced to take rapid, decisive action to ensure that the airport is in a strong position to recover from a significant fall in passenger numbers.”

Gatwick airport has been approached for comment.

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Travel

Coronavirus: Australia sets up covid-19 hotels for new arrivals in tougher new measures

Covid-19 has led to some extreme travel measures but now Australia is setting up its new arrivals in hotels. But these aren’t the fancy hotels you would wish to relax and take a holiday in. The hotels are especially for new arrivals in Australia from overseas and will likely include some protective measures.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the measures on today, just a week after a cruise ship called the Ruby Princess saw 2,647 disembark in Sydney without being checked.

Since the cruise liner’s slip up, 162 of the ship’s passengers have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

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A Princess Cruises spokesperson said:”As NSW Health has stated publicly the Ruby Princess cruise that began in Sydney on March 8 was regarded as low risk for COVID-19. Notwithstanding this assessment, our onboard medical team was rigorous in its treatment of some guests who reported flu-like symptoms and these guests were isolated. In line with existing protocols, the ship reported these cases to NSW Health, which in turn requested swabs to be provided following the ship’s arrival in Sydney, some of which subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is practice the world over that tests for COVID-19 are not conducted on board cruise ships. The protocol is for swabs to be tested by the relevant public health authority, and this was done in relation to Ruby Princess. Disembarkation of the ship was in line with the then existing process for health clearance for vessels on arrival in port.

“On disembarkation, guests were aware that anyone arriving in Australia from abroad, irrespective of whether it was by air or sea, would be required by the Australian Government to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This applied to Ruby Princess guests who arrived in Sydney from an overseas port, in this case from New Zealand.

“Princess Cruises has robust public health standards and practices that are based on the best international public health advice. Ships have sophisticated medical centres that are staffed by medical practitioners and other health professionals.

“The advice from NSW Health that COVID-19 had been confirmed among Ruby Princess passengers came as a disappointment. We share the public health authority’s concern and have worked closely with them to make direct contact with all passengers.”

From midnight on Saturday, which is at 12pm GMT today, all arrivals at international airports will be made to stay at hotels for two weeks for mandatory self-isolation.

The isolation will take place under the eyes of border force officials.

Once the two weeks is over, people will be able to return home.

Currently, 228 passengers from the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship are residing inside the Swissotel in Sydney’s CBD after being escorted in through the hotel’s backdoor at 4am.

The passengers were forced to wear masks, gloves and protective suits as they arrived.

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Passengers will also be given an $1,000 (£495) on-the-spot fines if they leave their hotel room.

Mr Morrison said that international arrivals will be put in quarantine in the city they touch down and won’t be allowed to catch a connecting flight to their home state.

He said: “States and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through our airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self-isolation before they are able to return to their home,” he said.

“If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne.

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“If it’s in Sydney, it will be if Sydney. If it’s Brisbane, and so on.

“The ADF will be supporting those states and territories with compliance checks to ensure that people are at their residences, that they have so worn sworn they would be at, to ensure we get compliance with the self-isolation.”

Australia’s borders closed last week to foreigners, with only returning Aussies allowed to fly back to the country.

However, people on Twitter have mixed feelings about the Australian government’s latest measures.

One user said: “How much is the government going to pay hotels, caravan parks and any other accommodation facilities, for disinfecting their premises totally, after allowing international people into Australia again. No wonder there’s more coronavirus coming into the country!

“If people flying into Australia are put in hotels to isolate – fantastic.”

Another said: “But what about those who arrived here in the last two weeks, who are meant to be in their homes isolating but are not there?”

Another posted: “Enforced quarantine in hotels to all arrivals into Australia for two weeks is a good step by Scott Morrison and team.

“This is a huge element that has made Singapore, Taiwan and Japan so successful.”

But another passenger said they had arrived back in Australia last night and would not be quarantined.

They said: “Arrived in Australia last night after 26 hours. I now hear that if it was tomorrow I would be in a hotel in Melbourne for two weeks. I do feel for those that are yet to make it home.”

Another said jokingly, “In a nutshell, Australia is a holiday hotel masquerading as a nation.”

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Travel

Hotels: Swiss hotel offers ‘COVID-19 service’ package including coronavirus test

Hotels across the globe have been left without customers as people have been forced to sit at home in isolation. But what if there was a hotel that offered the perfect self-isolation retreat, including a coveted coronavirus test?

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Hotel chain Le Bijou in Switzerland is offering just that for $77,500 (£65,133) for two weeks.

The Swiss hotel’s slogan before the global pandemic took hold was, “hotel service without the other people” which has now taken on a whole new meaning.

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Le Bijou is a hotel that was exclusively built for people who wish to avoid human contact which is the perfect set-up for a global pandemic.

The service provides customers with a luxury coronavirus-themed package with options for doctor visits and food delivery.

The hotel chain has 42 units at properties in cities all around Switzerland.

Each unit includes certain amenities such as a full-service kitchen, saunas, Jacuzzis, fireplaces and gyms.

The units do not operate with members of staff which includes checking in.

To avoid human interaction at all costs, there is a private app and a remote 24-hour concierge that customers ca use to order what ever they want.

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Meals, personal chefs, groceries, massages, cabs, and more are all available at the touch of a button.

But some of the offers have changed in the light of the pandemic.

Co-founder and chief executive Alexander Hübner told Insider that launching the “covid-19 service” didn’t take much thanks to his concept.

He described the units as their own “luxury Airbnbs”.

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He added: “The whole thing is set up to be fully automated so you don’t need to see any other people.”

Mr Hübner said that creating the package was the perfect next step.

He said that overnight stays of his guests got longer due to the coronavirus and that more inquiries for doctors making room visits also led to him turning all these services into one package.

The service package is customisable and includes add-ons such as doctor visits, a coronavirus test and 24-hour nurse care.

The Swiss hotel chain has partnered with a private clinic to provide top medical services too.

Mr Hübner said that last week bookings went up to five per day since the service launched.

He added: “The inquiries are growing exponentially.”

Guests can stay for a single night but most people are choosing to stay for two weeks and even two months.

To protect against coronavirus, each room is cleaned before and after the stay, deliveries are dropped outside the doors and cleaning staff wear masks and gloves.

A two-week stay can cost anywhere between $6,000 (£5042) and $77,500 (£65,133), depending on whether guests opt for the 24/7 nurse service and a coronavirus test.

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Qantas flies world’s first direct flight from Darwin to London in a bid to rescue Britons

The airline will be making history today as their flight from Sydney will now go via Darwin and then make its way to London Heathrow. The unprecedented move is a desperate bid to try and rescue Brits stranded in Australia. The airline’s QF1 flight normally flies daily from Heathrow via Singapore.

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However, Singapore is now denying all airlines coming into the country.

So in a history-making move Qantas is instead making its first ever flight from Darwin directly to the UK capital.

The flight refuelled in Darwin for 90 mins after coming from Sydney and then took off at 11.46pm local time.

The Airbus A380 will make the 8,629-mile flight in 16 hours and 40 minutes.

The temporary route will only operate this week before Qantas suspends all international flights until May 31.

It is believed to be the first time a plane has flown direct from Darwin to London.

Onboard the plane are 20 customers with tour operator Titan Travel.

The holidaymakers were halfway through a huge 30-day Grand Tour of Australia which was cut short after the UK Government announced that all British nationals should try and return home immediately.

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It comes as NHS nurses accused the Government of abandoning them after they were left stranded in Australia due to flight cancellations.

Laura Mclaughlin, who has lived in Sydney for three years, organised a group of aged 50+ NHS staff who wanted to return to the UK to rejoin the health service to help combat coronavirus.

Ms McLaughlin worked as an accident and emergency nurse in a hospital in Southport, Merseyside.

She said she had been in contact with former colleagues in the UK about returning to help them out because the NHS was so short-staffed.

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She managed to secure a flight on the Darwin to Heathrow flight but she said there were doctors who are still looking to return to the UK.

She said: “We’ve been to the embassy, trying to get hold of people to help us, but we’re just getting no answers.

“I don’t think it’s good enough.

“We need to be prioritising flights for the NHS key workers to be getting home to be helping the pandemic.

“I have hopefully got this flight confirmed for tomorrow, but it’s still helping all the other people along the way trying to get home.”

She also said that one-way flights to the UK were now costing upwards of £6,600 which most nurses cannot afford.

She added: “We’re really keen to come and help but we’re all feeling a little bit like everyone has turned their back on us at the moment.”

Qantas also made history in March 2018 with its first direct flight from Perth to London.

The mammoth 9,009-mile journey took just over 17 hours.

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Travel

Pound to euro exchange rate: GBP ‘gains ground’ despite the UK coronavirus lockdown

The pound is currently trading at a rate of 1.0940 against the euro, according to Bloomberg. The pound to euro exchange rate suffered a loss this week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK will be put on lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

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Mr Johnson told the public in an evening announcement that the nation is currently in the throws of a national emergency.

He urged people stay indoors in order to “save lives”.

Those residing in the UK have been warned that venturing outdoors is strictly prohibited unless it is to buy food, carry out “essential” work or for medical reasons.

One outdoor trip for exercise each day is also permitted.

However, large gatherings of more than two people have been banned unless it is to attend a funeral.

There are currently 423,724 cases of coronavirus worldwide, of which 8,077 are in the UK.

But despite the pound’s recent plummet, there was some positive news this morning as sterling saw a small increase against the euro.

Michael Brown, Currency Expert at Caxton FX spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk.

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He said: “Sterling gained ground against the euro on Tuesday, rallying above the 1.09 handle, as risk appetite improved with traders continuing to digest Monday’s Fed policy package and paying close attention to whether the US Congress would agree on a fiscal stimulus bill.

“Today, this morning’s UK inflation data is set to be ignored, with all eyes remaining on the progress of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic implications.”

The Post Office is currently offering €1.12 per sterling pound.

The pound has seen a welcome boost as global markets have surged higher in the past 24 hours thanks to an increase in positive investor sentiment.

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However, the pound has also had its lowest level against the dollar for 35 years due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The recent drop began when the Bank of England slashed the base interest rate to 0.25 percent this month.

Managing Director of WeSwap, Matt Crate commented on the fall: “There are lots of factors at play at the moment and it is near impossible to predict exactly how COVID-19 and upcoming knock-on events will impact our everyday lives and the pound versus other currencies.

“Many may be looking ahead to summer and winter holidays to see if they can travel and if so, how much it will cost them.

“In light of this uncertainty, it is always best to exchange money as early as possible.

“Using tools such as WeSwap’s Smart Swap is a way to lock in a price and allow your foreign currency to be bought at a better time for the pound.

“It is impossible to tell what will happen over the course of the coming months, but forward planning, taking out the relevant insurance, and preparing for a worst-case scenario is the best course of action given the unique situation we all find ourselves in.”

Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising Britons to avoid “all nonessential travel for the next 30 days.”

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Canada flights: Air Canada suspends flights – can Britons return home?

Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic committee said it had decided to withdraw from the Olympics after consulting athletes, sports groups and the Canadian Government. The nation then called on the International Paralympic Committee (IOC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to call off the games for another year. A statement read: “While we recognise the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.” Now Air Canada has almost suspended all of its regular international flights, leaving many Britons concerned as to whether they will be able to fly back to the UK.

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The airline has said it will continue to offer “international air bridges” between some cities throughout April.

The flag carrier airline – which serves more than 210 airports on six continents – is gradually suspending its flights by March 31.

The shock move is in response to the coronavirus pandemic which has seen more than 350,000 people infected across the globe.

However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as the airline is looking to continue its flights between one or more of its Canadian hubs plus some major cities across the globe.

The cities include London, Paris Frankfurt, Delhi, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

But these flights will only be available from April 1 until at least April 30.

This will reduce the airline’s international network from 101 airports to just six which could leave many stranded.

The move will also include US transborder flights which will start to be reduced from April 1.

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The network will reduce its US network from 53 airports to just 13.

However, New York airports such as LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airport will still be served by Air Canada.

Boston, Washington, DC (ICA and DCA), Chicago, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale will also be included.

The US and Canada closed their borders to all non-essential traffic last week.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement: “These measures will last in place as long as we feel they need to last.

“In both our countries, we’re encouraging people to stay home. We’re telling our citizens not to visit their neighbours if they don’t absolutely have to.”

He also added on Saturday: “We will also be working with other countries to ensure that our airlines have the permissions and other supports necessary to fly.”

However, social media users are frustrated as to why flights are still arriving from China into the country.

One Twitter user said: “Not sure Canada shut down earlier. They were accepting flights from China last week.”

Another said: “Looking for something to do while hanging out at home? Load up Flight Radar and watch AAAAAALLLLLLLL the planes from China land in USA and Canada. Good times.”

Another said: “Why is Canada still allowing flights from China. To this day?”

One disgruntled user said: “President Trump stopped flights from Europe more than a week before Trudeau. Canada was one of the last countries to restrict travel.”

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Holiday

Santorini: Honeymoon inspiration from this romantic Greek island

And as the sun begins its descent towards the horizon, the crowds flock to Oia, Santorini’s premium sunset spot. Oia is the Santorini from postcards – dazzlingly white buildings built improbably down the steep cliff sides, punctuated with a scattering of windmills and bright blue church domes. The narrow cobbled streets are lined with upmarket boutiques, jewellers and tavernas. And the views are indeed breathtaking; it’s no surprise this beautiful little town draws the crowds.

But what if you could enjoy views just as magical (if not more so) without the crowds?

I discovered the secret at one of Santorini’s newest luxury hotels, OMMA, just outside the village of Imerovigli.

Mainline Santorini is shaped like a backwards “C”, the crater rim of an ancient volcanic eruption, with Oia at its top point and its capital, Fira, in the middle of the curve. 

Imerovigli lies between the two. From OMMA, you can see it all – Oia twinkling in the distance, the beaming blue sea and the caldera’s scattering of little islands, and the only footfall you’ll get is a few walkers stopping to admire the views – and not just of the horizon, but of the hotel, too.

But what if you could enjoy views just as magical (if not more so) without the crowds?

I discovered the secret at one of Santorini’s newest luxury hotels, OMMA, just outside the village of Imerovigli.

Mainline Santorini is shaped like a backwards “C”, the crater rim of an ancient volcanic eruption, with Oia at its top point and its capital, Fira, in the middle of the curve. 

Imerovigli lies between the two. From OMMA, you can see it all – Oia twinkling in the distance, the beaming blue sea and the caldera’s scattering of little islands, and the only footfall you’ll get is a few walkers stopping to admire the views – and not just of the horizon, but of the hotel, too.

Opened last year, OMMA is like your most fashionable friend – effortlessly decked out in monochrome and all about the finer things in life, but always greets you with a friendly face and a warm smile.

Omma means “vision” in ancient Greek, and it’s aptly named. 

Its stylish decor is all white curved walls and black accents with thoughtfully placed boulders, olive trees and trailing pink flowers. 

The 30 rooms are small but well designed. Most have sunrise or sunset views and plunge pools on the balconies, while the hotel’s infinity pool glints temptingly at hot passing hikers. 

It’s all terribly Instagrammable.

Meals at OMMA can be enjoyed outside if the weather’s good (the Cyclades are known for their strong winds, all year round), or in the cosy restaurant, built into the rock.

At breakfast, there’s an à la carte menu, plus a spread of fresh fruits, Greek cheeses and pastries heavy with honey.

Dinner is a stylish affair, with fresh fish and local dishes presented in a refined way.

Be sure to save a little bit of room, though, as each night there’ll be a treat waiting for you in your room.

OMMA recommends first-timers to Santorini book on a sailing trip around the island – most stop off at hot springs in the middle of the caldera and the rust-coloured Red Beach. 

They also suggest guests visit one of the island’s wineries. 

Santorini is covered in vineyards, some of the oldest in the world (one dates back to 3,500BC), and the grapes grow in bushes close to the ground rather than in tall vines to stay protected from the strong winds. 

The main grape is a variety called assyrtiko, a crisp, acidic white not dissimilar to a Chablis, with a minerally taste that comes from the volcanic earth.

We took a tour around modern boutique winery Vassaltis, and highly recommend the wine tasting – for 25 euros you sample five varieties, each paired with a tasty canapé.

It didn’t take much convincing to buy a couple of bottles to squeeze into the suitcase.

From OMMA, Fira is a 40-minute walk and Oia twice that – both have challenging climbs and uneven terrain, but are manageable and peppered with plenty of camera moments.

Set off immediately after breakfast if you’re keen to avoid the midday heat.

Any aching muscles can be kneaded out at the hotel’s Elemis spa, a calming, cave-like space filled with candles and the sound of trickling water, before ending the day at the bar with a glass of wine in hand (a Santorinian variety, of course), just simply enjoying another of those famous sunsets.

Rooms at OMMA start at £372 per night for b&b. To book, visit ommasantorini.com or call +30 210 8085144. British Airways flies from London to Santorini from £104 each way including taxes, fees and carrier charges. Visit ba.com or call 0344 493 0125 to book.

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Holiday

Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel: Welsh tourist hotspot’s wartime memories

And as they met up and exchanged sweets and cigarettes they would carve their initials into the bark of the tree. That was just after the end of the First World War but the “signature tree”, as it became known, still stands today, as we found out during our break at Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel in North Wales. In the 1920s the castle, now a stylish Warner Leisure Hotels property, was the home of the exclusive fee-paying Lowther College for young ladies who, among other things, were taught to ride and play golf.

But, rumour has it, such was the number of amorous woodland assignations, the college principal had to have a direct phone line put in to the nearby army camp to safeguard the virtue of her charges.

Today, the castle attracts a slightly older set of visitors who want to relax, be pampered and entertained in an adults-only Warner property which sits in some 200 acres of Victorian parkland yet it’s just ten minutes drive from Rhyl, 20 minutes from Llandudno and an hour from Snowdonia.

The location means you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your three or four-day break, especially as there’s a wide variety of activities included in the price.

During my visit, the crossbow, archery and rifle shooting classes were almost always fully booked while other guests opted to visit the spa, complete with adjoining indoor pool and gymnasium.

The less energetic preferred to take things more leisurely, with a walk, an afternoon quiz or even attending a make-up demonstration.

On one night my wife and I joined other guests for hot toddies before going outside, accompanied by a Scottish piper in full regalia.

As the last notes of his pipes faded away, there was a spectacular firework display against the backdrop of the Clwydian mountains.

Then it was in to dinner – baked pear, blue cheese and chestnut tart with fig chutney starter for me, followed by a main course of fresh salmon and smoked salmon Wellington with Kir Royale cheesecake, blackcurrant compote and chocolate sauce to finish – before we took our seats in the theatre for the show and party celebrations.

The whole event was done in such spectacular style, which is probably why guests book year after year (and booking is already open for next New Year). And there’s always plenty to do on New Year’s Day, including an afternoon pantomime.

We joined a guided tour of the grounds and estate, which was when we discovered the signature tree.

But the tour was to turn up even more surprises.

As we walked there was a rustling among the bushes and we spotted the resident deer with their splendid white stag leader.

Adjoining the forest there’s a formal walled garden where Victorian gardeners lit fires to heat the hollow walls to ensure the plants enjoyed temperatures four degrees higher than the surrounding land.

And if the First World War is of interest, the remains of trenches used by British and Canadian troops stationed at the nearby Kinmel Park army camp are still in evidence.

In their memory, a wartime trench system has been recreated, complete with officers’ mess dugout and regimental aid post, to show what the troops faced during the war on the Western Front.

It’s not currently open to the public as the land it sits on is for sale but if Warner buys the land – as seems possible – it will re-open.

From the trenches you can clearly see the 202ft spire of St Margaret’s Church.

Known as the Marble Church, it took more than four years to build, cost the equivalent of £7million in today’s money and features no fewer than 14 different types of marble, so is well worth a visit.

After our visit, we returned to Bodelwyddan to chill out.

While some guests were staying in the main building we had one of the new garden lodges, built just four years ago and the perfect place to relax.

Overlooking a large pool complete with fountain, the lodges offer all the comforts of home, with a spacious bedroom, large lounge and impressive en-suite with double-sized shower.

Creature comforts included tea and coffee-making facilities with daily top-ups, including fresh milk and biscuits, as well as two large-screen televisions.

In fact, the lodges are so comfortable that it was sometimes tempting not to make the short walk to the main hotel building – until it was time for dinner again, of course.

THE KNOWLEDGE 

Warner Leisure Hotels offers three nights on half-board at Bodelwyddan Castle, North Wales, from £250 per person for arrival on April 24; four nights arriving on April 20 from £260 per person. Includes entertainment, use of leisure facilities and sports activities (warnerleisurehotels.co.uk) More info at visitwales.com

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