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There is still an undefinable magic about Cairo. Quite possibly because of its 5,000 year old history or maybe because it’s a city that literally never sleeps. It is also a place of which no one seems to know the population size – some say 18 million whilst others solemnly assure you that is 25 million. Perhaps it makes no difference – the streets have always been clogged and donkeys still vie with Mercedes’ weaving between smelly old buses belching out diesel fumes. This is a place where one can literally feel the heart of the city pulsating through your body with the ever present call to prayer, interspersed with the pointless beep-beeping of drivers irritated by their fellow countrymen’s irresponsible driving.
I can safely say that my first visit to Capri, in June 2016, fully lived up to my expectations of this enchanting isle. On sighting the busy port, awash with glistening speedboats, I was immediately transported to a bygone world of style and glamour and half expected David Niven to come water-skiing across the bay, accompanied by Diana Rigg, martinis in hand.
I am at SHA Wellness, the renowned Spanish clinic just outside Alicante for a three-day immersion at this world-famous health retreat.
The first thing to strike me is the calm atmosphere, which is what you would expect at a top-notch health resort but, believe me, it’s not always achieved. The hotel is incredibly cleverly-designed with very few solid walls and masses of greenery so you feel you’re walking through a beautiful, many-tiered garden whether inside or out. The fact that this has been designed by a Feng Shui expert is evident.
Having spent the summer mainly on planes and in cars, travelling the world checking out some of the best health retreats out there I am, ironically, feeling the need to stretch my legs. My week-long stay at Kamalaya on Koh Samui presents the ideal opportunity for this, renowned as it is for its excellent facilities and treatments . I’ve been jogging and doing a bit of yoga at home but really want to kick start my fitness with an intensive week of personal training.
As I turn off Autostrada 1 I reach for the directions I’ve been sent by the owner of the remote, monastic health retreat for which I am destined. At first glance they seem somewhat overly-detailed but I soon see why. Eremito Hotelito del Alma (The Hermitage) is not a place that’s meant to be found at random. Like ‘The Beach’ you have to know that it’s there and trust your guides.
Prior to experiencing my first ever retreat my holidays tended to consist of cultural touring, lots of physical activity (skiing, riding and hiking) or, occasionally, lying on the beach somewhere in the Indian Ocean. I would come back feeling somewhat refreshed by the break from work but often not very relaxed or feeling I had had any real time to myself.
It is always very insightful to talk to experts in their field; John is an ecologist who works at the Shamwari Game Reserve. Shamwari is one of the most successful private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, that has been tirelessly conserving and rehabilitating wildlife in the Eastern Cape for 25 years.
Our European Destination Specialist Jackie Slaughter loves nothing more than discovering other cultures, so she couldn’t wait to get involved in a Sicilian cookery class at the Verdura Resort in Sicily this summer. She joined local chef Gianluca and a handful of other guests to prepare a delicious lunch. The dishes were crafted under Gianluca’s watchful eye, using fresh local ingredients. To bring the taste of Sicily into your own home this chilly autumn , see the recipes below.
We had the great pleasure of chatting to Johan, a vet at The Wildlife Centre Shamwari Game Reserve in the East Cape of South Africa. Shamwari, which first opened in 1992, is one of the most successful private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa. Due to hunting and over-farming, wildlife numbers in the Eastern Cape had been dramatically reduced, but Shamwari’s relentless conservation and rehabilitation efforts over the last 25 years is going a long way to rectify that. Shamwari also has six separate 5-star lodges, an Explorer Camp, three different education and rehabilitation facilities – the ideal environment for discerning guests to enjoy a sublime pocket of South Africa, flourishing with free-roaming wildlife.
From its source on the Tibetan Plateau in China, the Mekong River runs a 4,350km journey through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and culminates at the Mekong Delta close to Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam. The Mekong is a vital source for all the countries that touch it and life on its banks has not changed for thousands of years. Indeed, it’s delta is known as the ‘rice bowl of Vietnam’.