This week… sheep stations, Star Wars and sainthood

In the bleak midwinter. January is cold and damp in the UK. It’s my least favourite month and I’m always relieved when the 31st comes around. There are signs of spring in nature like the catkins, daffodils and snowdrops I spot on my walks, and the days are noticeably getting longer, if not any warmer. The pandemic continues to sweep across the planet and every day the sun comes up and sets again at night, and I’m grateful. Period.

Here are five more things I like this week.

Antarctica Now

“In Antarctica it’s like being the last person on Earth, or the first person on another planet” Sebastian Copeland, photographer, polar explorer and conservationist.

A highlight of my week has been Antarctica Now, a 7-day virtual festival organised by Shackleton London featuring talks by some of the most influential people involved in preserving the polar region today. I had the opportunity to travel to the region in real-time in 2020 but it was not to be. Surely the escape destination of all time, next stop Mars. The festival provided a fascinating insight into the work being done in the Polar region by scientists, photographers, filmmakers, explorers, conservationists and architects. From satelite monitoring of the western ice shelf to wildlife studies, such as boring ice cores to tell us about temperatures and greenhouse gases 800k years ago, and applying that to today’s climate. Totally absorbing and entertaining. I’m going to miss these daily sessions.

The last talk is this evening at 5pm but you can catch up with the highlights online. The travel industry could learn a great deal from the forward-thinking Shackleton brand. @Shackletonlondon

Dreamy Escapes

Tokohu, Japan.

In the north east of Japan is Tohoku, a wild and expansive area encompassing six prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima. It’s considered an up-and-coming tourist area which bestows mixed blessings. Nonetheless, Japan is high on my travel wish list and particularly the more rural areas.

Tokohu has been limited to tourism by lack of transport and heavy snowfalls, and being isolated has resulted in a unique culture with very limited influence from the outside world. The region offers lush landscapes, pretty villages, winter wonderlands, spiritual experiences and outdoor adventures.  Tohoku is now a one hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. Tohoku Tourism is now open for business

Hideaway in Paxos

Italian owned Thymari Hotel at Paxos.

Thymari Hotel, Paxos is an independent, adult only hotel set on a lush hillside on the north east coast of Paxos, a 20 minute stroll from the waterfront village of Lakka. The high-end boutique hotel comprises five, beautifully restored, stone houses, built from the remains of an ancient hamlet. The villas are spaced to offer privacy within expansive grounds, and linked by pathways that meander through shared gardens down to the sea, and two unspoilt beaches, Arkoudaki or Orkos. On those off-days (we all have them) staff will run you up or down through the grounds in one of the electric club cars.

Villas comprise one or two bedrooms, together with a living area, terrace and private pool. Interiors are individually furnished with antiques, luxury linens and boho touches. Some have indulgent outdoor bathrooms for al fresco bathing. Saucy.

Italian owned, the Thymari is set on the hillside above the quiet north east coastline. The estate has been sympathetically renovated to preserve the island’s natural beauty. At the heart of the hotel is the main house furnished with antiques, Indian furnishings, modern art and unique collectables, and a library. Dora, the hotel manager, will be happy to arrange yoga, fitness instruction, massage and beauty treatments on request. Breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner are included daily and can be taken on the terrace with views across the sea to the Greek mainland. Dining is also available overlooking the shared swimming pool in a canvas gazebo bedecked with stars. Very romantic.

In July and August, Thymari Hotel is sold as a private residence, reserved for large groups seeking an exclusive island escape. Contact The Thymari Estate. Simpson Travel offers a week at Thymari Hotel from £1,077 pp (departing 2 May 2021) to £2,143 pp (departing 5 September 2021). Includes flights to Corfu and transfers from Corfu airport to Paxos port, daily breakfast and either lunch or dinner, car hire, plus pre-departure and overseas concierge services based on two sharing a one-bedroom villa. Check the website for details

Historic resort, Antigua

The Great House, Antigua. Post header photo The Great House.

Another ideal getaway for spending time with your bubble of close family and friends is a 300-year old property, The Great House, Antigua. This is a micro-boutique resort offering just eight suites (sleeping 16), acres of tropical gardens, a swimming pool and spa. Previously a family home until 2019, it retains that ambiance albeit with a spa and swimming pool. The last remaining stone planatation house on the island, it has many of its original features including the remains of a sugar mill in the grounds. Accommodation is divided between suites in the House and Antiguan-style cottages in the 26 acres of tropical gardens and offering views down to the sea. Think palm trees, four-poster beds, humming birds, blue skies set within beautiful quiet surroundings. Tropic Breeze offers a full resort buyout from £1649 per person, based on 16 people staying on a full board basis. Price includes return flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow and return airport transfers. Priced for travel on 5 May.

Thomas Becket: murder and sainthood

L to R: Reliquiry pendant; Miracle Window panel. Photos courtesy The British Museum.

The British Museum’s major new offering Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint is scheduled to open this spring. At the centre of the first ever major UK Becket exhibition is a complete 800 year old stained glass window, on a first time loan from Canterbury Cathedral. The window tells the story of a most shocking act of sacrilege in English History, the brutal murder inside the Cathedral in 1170 which shook the Middle Ages. Over 100 objects will chart over 500 years of history from Becket’s remarkable rise from ordinary beginnings to one of the most powerful figures in England, through to his enduring but divisive legacy in the centuries after his death. Exhibits will include rare loans from across the UK and Europe. (22 April – 22 August). Keep an eye on the web site for revisions to dates due to the pandemic guidelines.

P.S. if you want to refresh yourself on the story you can’t go wrong with the 1964 film Becket starring the magnificent Richard Burton as the eponymous lead and Peter O’Toole as King Henry II. Masterful performances.

That’s all for this week. I wish you a healthy and safe week ahead wherever you are in the world. Stay in touch in the comments or follow along on @hashtagtravelin Instagram and Twitter.

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.

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