January is the time of year when we traditionally look back over the past year to see what lessons have been learned, and set resolutions for the year ahead. What I learned from 2020 was not to make too many plans, and to resolve to live in the moment. Right here, right now, I’m simply grateful to be alive. Everything else is the icing on the cake. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t have hopes and dreams for 2021.
Firstly, professionally and personally, I hope that an effective vaccine roll-out means that I’ll soon be able to go out and truly relax over a meal with family and friends. Once a modest ambition, now a ‘Big Deal’. And I’m looking forward to being able to take a short trip outside my home town without, frankly, terrifying concerns that I might be contracting or transmitting the evil virus. After that, I’m tentatively dreaming of travelling safely to France, Italy or another relatively close destination, to enjoy again the food, wine and culture that I have missed so much. And I’m allowing myself to cautiously imagine that, at some point in the future, I’ll be able to revive cancelled plans to visit further afield, including Canada and the US. But I’m not counting my chickens, or indeed making resolutions.
In 2020, I enjoyed many webinars, virtual press trips and reviews and these often led to published stories. While life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans (excuse the paraphrasing), this year I’m intending to keep the tradition of cramming my desk diary. There are plenty of blank pages and I’m looking forward to filling them with new exhibitions, events and trips, whether virtual or in real-time. In the meantime, here are five things I liked this week.
Park City, Utah
Park City was a highly successful silver mining town for over a century and its Historic Main Street preserves some of its history, incorporating boutique and outlet shopping, art galleries, bars and restaurants. The region is well-known for its ski resorts, set amongst the soaring Wasatch Mountains. But summer, too, offers outdoor activities including 600 kilometres of hiking and biking trails which really appeal to me. Water sports that caught my attention were white water rafting, and paddleboard yoga in an extinct, thermal water-filled volcanic cone! Park City can be considered a gateway to Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks. I haven’t done any horse riding for some years but I know I’d enjoy exploring the mountain terrain in and around Park City, and the local stables cater for all levels.
Another activity I’d like to try is ziplining to get a bird’s eye view of the local terrain. There are zipline options in both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain ski resorts and elsewhere, with the longest at nearly 1.200m long. Park City hosted many events during the winter Olympics of 2002 and it’s possible to take a bobsled ride – with a pilot, thankfully – down the Olympic course.
In summer too, there are cultural festivals and fairs, street markets and a midsummer weekend party night as restaurants on Main Street move outdoors for ‘Savor the Summit’. Park City is just 35 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport. It has over 100 lodging properties including private homes, B&B inns, condominiums, and full-service hotels. visitparkcity.com
The Kvarner region is just a two-hour flight from London and from here you can fly to Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka in Croatia, Trieste in neighbouring Italy and Ljubljana in neighbouring Slovenia. There’s also a road bridge connecting the Kvarner mainland to the island of Krk, as well as ferries and catamarans to the islands of Cres, Rab, Losinj, Unije, Ilovik, Susak.
I fell in love with this region when I spent a few days relaxing as part of a road trip years ago. The landscape is green with blue skies in summer and clean air. We took a boat to the scenic Brijuni Islands, in the past a holiday escape for politicians and tycoons including Josip Broz Tito, the leader of former Yugoslavia. Many of the islands are off-limits to the public but it’s still possible to visit Veliki Brijuni, where the oldest remains of human habitation date from 3,000 BC.
The European Capital of Culture is usually a town or area and in 2021 it is a whole country, Solvenia, that has been nominated. Last year, Rijeka was honoured with the title and had to curtail its planned programme. Therefore, its status has been extended until April, along with partner city Galway in Ireland. An £8m pound restoration project, the ship Galeb or “seagull” will open on the Rijeka waterfront as a floating museum, restaurant and boutique hotel in October 2021. The ship began life in 1938 as a banana boat and was torpedoed by the British during WWII before ending her days as the private yacht of the aforementioned Tito. Remarkably, in 1953 the Galeb, escorted by the Royal Navy, actually sailed up the River Thames with Tito, the first communist head of state to visit Britain, being greeted by Winston Churchill.
August is peak season in Croatia so if you’re able to, travel in June, early July or September as these also tend to be sunny months and ideal for hiking in the Gorski Kotar and Ucka mountain regions, wild dips in lakes and streams, and river rafting.
Stay at The Grand Hotel Kvarner at Opatija built in 1884 and the oldest hotel in Croatia. Former guests include European royal families and aristocracy. It’s easy to see why, in more recent years, the beautiful hotel has featured in television series and films. The building is currently being restored to its former grandeur, representing an investment of a staggering Euros 23.5 million. It is hoping for an upgrade to five stars when it’s completed, hopefully in time for the 2021 season. www.kvarner.hr
Lake Como is well known and not only because it is such a beautiful location. Here in May the annual Concorso d’Eleganza at the stunning Villa d’Este, which dates back to the late 19th century, takes place. The 40km lake is also where the Clooneys have a residence. I’ve toured Europe extensively in a vintage (1949) Healey Silverstone, and Lake Como was another stop-over during our lazy meanderings. The lakeside is adorned with many grand hotels, restaurants and bars and it can become very busy in the high season, as people make the most of the cool waters surrounded by stunning snow-tipped mountains.
Stay at the Hotel Britannia at Cadenabbia, on the western lakeshore and built in the classsic architecture of the period. Space around the lake is limited, so a floating pool or a platform to sunbathe offers an ingenious solution. As well as views of the lake and the mountains, the Britannia’s jewel in its crown is ‘the largest floating swimming pool in Europe’.
Guests can enjoy a two-for-the-price-of-one all inclusive, Classic, Gold or Platinum, access to the facilities here and at sister Hotel Bazzoni at Tremezzo, located near the Villa Carlotta, a museum, botanical garden and iconic landmark. While the architecture is not as imposing as the Britannia, it’s a good location and many of the Bazzoni’s rooms have been recently renovated. Together the hotels offer the choice of seven restaurants, four bars, three swimming pools, a hot tub, and road and lake guest shuttles (ferries across the lake are a good way to avoid summer traffic in the area and it’s a cooler way to travel). The region also offers good walking and hiking opportunities, watersports, fishing and golf at nearby Menaggio. The villages of Cadenabbia and Tremezzo are both about 90 minutes by road from the airports of Bergamo, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate. Naturally, airport transfers can be arranged via the hotel.
Lake District: 70 years a National Park
There are 15 National Parks in the UK. This week I climbed up into the South Downs National Park to escape and relax. The views are magnificent and at around 270 metres high you can see right to the south coast.
This year the Lake District celebrates 70 years of being a National Park. The district has long inspired writers and poets from William Wordsworth to children’s author and creator of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, born 155 years ago this year.
Throughout July Headwater is offering a six-night Literary Walking in the Lake District self-guided holiday that exlores the region’s villages, magnificent fells and mountains. Accommodation is in a four-star country house hotel in Grasmere once frequented by Ruskin and Darwin. Price from £895 per person B&B accommodation, luggage transfers between hotels and route directions and maps. headwater.com
Date for 2021
The highlight at Glyndebourne Festival 2021 will be a first-ever production of Verdi’s tragedy Luisa Miller, imbued with desire and jealousy. Staged by Christof Loy, making a return to Glyndebourne for the first time since 2002, alongside conductor Enrique Mazzola and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Starring as the country girl Luisa will be the award-winning Russian soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan. Making their debuts and sharing the role of her lover Rodolfo, are American tenor Charles Castronovo and Italian tenor Ivan Magri.
The 2021 Glyndebourne Festival will open with a new production of Janáček’s shatteringly powerful opera, Kát’a Kabanová. The third new production of the 2021 season is Rossini’s sparkling and sophisticated comedy, Il turco in Italia. Productions being revived include Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s timeless production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, last staged at Glyndebourne in 2009. The season will be completed with revivals of two Mozart operas, Die Zauberflöte and Così fan tutte.
Glyndebourne Festival 2021 will run from 20 May to 29 August. Members have priority booking, public bookings will open in March. www.glyndebourne.com.
That’s all for this first week of January, traditonally a quiet month for travel. I wish you a peaceful and safe week wherever you are in the world.
As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines.
Unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye. I will always state if a post is sponsored or gifted. In addition, during the current pandemic I haven’t had the chance to review any of the hotels, resorts and so on.