New York Times Travel


martes, 20 de noviembre de 2012

This week's Postcode Postcard comes from Portree, Isle of Skye

Mirror Travel’s latest Postcode Postcard is heading back to Scotland

The fishing boat harbor at Portree, Isle of Skye
The fishing boat harbor at Portree, Isle of Skye
Our resident IT genius Nick has taken time out from building a 1:5 scale model of Cheddar Gorge using only fish fingers and brown sauce and set the Cray supercomputer to generate a random code.
Once it’s selected, we send a “postcard” of what attractions there are in that area and suggest some places to stay and dine.
This month’s Postcode Postcard is IV51, which covers the area around Portree on the majestic Isle of Skye in Scotland. Maybe we’ll be heading to your postcode next time.

What to see

The Aros Experience, Viewfield Road, Portree, IV51 9EU. Call: 01478 613649.
An award-winning attraction on the outskirts of town that’s home to live music, movie screenings, exhibitions, dining and shopping – plus the acclaimed RSPB Sea Eagle Exhibition.
Admission is free but charges apply for exhibitions, theatre shows and concerts.
Spindrift Boat Trips, Portree Harbour, IV51 9HR. Call: 07769 701911.
Spindrift takes parties of up to 12 on walking and wildlife visits to the Isle of Rona and the Isle of Raasay, as well as shorter cruises in the Sound of Raasay.
Spot minke whales, white-tailed sea eagles, dolphins, porpoise, basking sharks, seals and numerous species of seabirds.
And if it gets a little chilly, warming tots of exclusive Isle of Rona whisky are available on board. Tickets start at £18.
The Isle of Skye Brewery, Uig, IV51 9XP. Call: 01470 542477.
Established in 1995 by two local teachers, this was the first commercial brewery set up in Skye. There isn’t a tour, but there is a shop to buy the award-winning beers.
Ceumannan – The Staffin Ecomuseum, 3 Ellishadder, Staffin, IV51 9JE.
This unusual free museum has no walls and is open to the sky. The exhibits require a short walk to get around and visitors can explore the “talking landscape” that delves back in time and digs deep into the area’s archaeological and geological past.

Where to stay

The Bosville Hotel, 9-11 Bosville Terrace, Portree, IV51 9DG. Call: 01478 612846.
Comfortable accommodation and fine Highland service in the heart of Portree, plus award-winning cuisine created using fresh local produce. Rooms start at £75pn, B&B.
Viewfield House, Viewfield Road, Portree, IV51 9EU.
A 200-year-old Victorian country house with fine food and wines, log fires, antique furniture and distinctive bedrooms in 20 acres of woodland gardens. It’s just 10 minutes’ walk from the centre of town too. Rooms from £116pn.
Cuil Lodge B&B, Uig, IV51 9YB
Close to the Trotternish Ridge and the dizzying Quiraing in an area blessed with great scenery, walking, climbing and wildlife.
The B&B is a short drive to the ferry terminal for visits to North Uist, Harris and the Outer Hebrides. Rooms from £80pn.

Where to eat

Flodigarry Country House Hotel, Flodigarry, IV51 9HZ. Call: 01470 552203
Tuck into fresh local salmon, venison and lobster served with views over The Minch, then curl up by a log fire. Starters from £7.50, mains from £16.
Harbour View Seafood Restaurant, 7 Bosville Terrace, Portree, IV51 9DG. Call: 01478 612069.
A fishermans’ cottage-style restaurant overlooking the harbour with seating for just 21. It serves mainly seafood including sea bass, mussels and hake with new and old world wines. Starters from £3.95, mains from £13.95.
The Folly Restaurant, Uig Hotel, Uig, IV51 9YE. Call: 01470 542205.
Fresh local fish and mussels plus Aberdeen Angus steaks, all in an informal setting. Starters from £5.25, mains from £12.95.
Source: Daily Mirror, London, UK.

lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

New York on a budget: the best cheap 

hotels and restaurants

Continuing our new series on budget city breaks, our New York 

expert recommends the best hotels for under £100 and good dining 

options for under £20.

New York on a budget: the best cheap hotels and restaurants
Small-plates restaurants are all the rage in New York at the moment 

When hunting for budget hotels or bargain restaurants in New York, the trick is to look just outside the more fashionable precincts. The central Koreatown/Fashion District/Flatiron nexus, below Times Square, and above 20th Street, may not be much to look at, but it has scores of bargain hotels, some of which (the Herald Square and the Stanford) have been around forever. True, you’re not going to meet a supermodel in the lobby, but the rooms are comfortable and clean, and close to the fancier parts of town.
Food-wise, areas popular with students and the hip young crowd – the Lower East Side, East Village and Chinatown – have great dining at low prices to suit cash-strapped locals. Small-plates restaurants, such as ’Inoteca and Torrisi Italian Specialities, are all the rage, while innovative Californian chains, such as Mission Chinese Food and Dos Toros Taqueria, offer modern twists on Asian and Mexican cuisine that are a step above standard ethnic fare – but at similar low prices. Dive in.

Hotel prices are for a double room in low season, without breakfast.

Herald Square Hotel 7/10
19 W 31st St, Nr. Fifth Ave
(001 212 279 4017;
This 19th-century find in Midtown has been a beloved family-run hotel since 1965 and is a Gilded Age New York classic. From the gilt cherubs carved above the arched entryway, to the framed photos of Life covers in the lobby (this was the magazine’s former HQ), you will feel like you’re part of history. A block or two from Macy’s and Madison Square Garden, the area is frenetic, but you are close to major subways.
Price from £75
Herald Square Hotel, New York

Hotel Deauville 7/10
103 E 29th St
(683 0990;
A charming, comfortable, 54-room family-owned hotel in 1900s Brownstone just off swanky Park Avenue. The original hand-operated lift will take you back in time, as will the faded Seventies decor, but veteran staff treat you like family and may tell of famous past guests such as Sid Vicious. Despite being slightly chintzy, with floral-patterned bedspreads and curtains, bedrooms are clean and comfortable, and come with air-con and cable television.
Price from £82

Hotel Stanford 7/10

43 W 32nd St at Fifth Ave and Broadway
(563 1500;
It may have a nondescript façade, but this 12-storey, 122-room Koreatown hotel has amazingly cheap rooms, attentive staff, and a fun, friendly atmosphere. It lies in the shadow of the Empire State Building, a short walk from Macy’s and the theatres of Broadway, but use the setting to explore the Korean broth houses, noodle bars and spas – a really unsung part of the city.
Don’t expect frills, but all rooms have en-suite bathrooms, beds with white down comforters and duvets, televisions and ample wardrobe space.
Price from £93

Nyma 6/10
6 W 32nd St, Midtown
(643 7100;
The New York Manhattan Hotel is a 171-room business hotel with a swanky finish in Koreatown, on the southern edge of Midtown, steps from Macy’s, Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building. Rooms are clean and unfussy, with flat-screen cable television and “on demand” films. Opt for one on the higher floors – 15-17 – for great views of the Midtown cityscape.
Price from £85
The New York Manhattan Hotel
POD 51 7/10
230 E 51st St
Opened in 2007, this retro-contemporary hotel has 152 pod-sized rooms and bunks, and while space is minimal, a great roof deck and fun staff make up for it. It is set in bustling East Midtown, less than a mile from the action in Times Square. Think of The Jetsons teleported to the iPad age: from the futuristic leaf-green reception desk, to rooms in hospital-white decked out with MP3 docking stations and LCD televisions, you will feel as if you’re on a space ship or in an Apple store.
Price from £90

The Bowery House 7/10
220 Bowery, Lower East Side
(837 2373;
The Bowery House is a stylishly renovated former Second World War veterans’ flophouse that enjoys an excellent setting on the hip edge of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a few blocks from the boutiques, galleries, restaurants and supermodels of Nolita and Soho.
It feels like a bedsit rendered as a boutique hotel: the cabins, bunks and rowdy bar make for a youth hostel vibe, but the floors and stairs are all done in Italian marble, communal bathrooms have heated floors and Red Flower bath products, and you get a Ralph Lauren towel in your room.
Price from £57

The Jane 7/10
113 Jane St, nr. West St, West Village 
(924 6700;
A former sailors’ hotel built in 1908 and revamped, the Jane has tiny rooms but a chic West Village location, and the Hudson River is just a swizzle stick away. Survivors of the Titanic stayed here while awaiting the inquest into the ship’s sinking in 1912. The hotel’s designers kept the worn historic look but added bohemian chic decor for the budget travellers who don’t want to spend much time in their room, and hip guests “with more dash than cash”.
Price from £97

The Gershwin 7/10
7 E 27th St at Fifth Ave
(545 8000;
This arty Flatiron District hotel, its bright red façade covered with suspended art installations, is a combination of gallery, museum and hipster hostel. The sparsely furnished, Ikea-style rooms range from 450sq ft “Suites”, to 225sq ft “Essentials”, all with en-suite bathrooms and flat-screen televisions. In keeping with many hip budget hotels in and around New York, the Gershwin forgoes a restaurant for a coffee shop.
Price from £85

The Sohotel 8/10
341 Broome St, nr. Bowery
(226 1482;
“The oldest hotel in New York”, say its current owners, this former boarding house has had a major renovation of its 100 rooms, and is now a fashionable budget option, further helping transform the Bowery district. From reclaimed chandeliers, zebra-print furniture and bold purple and yellow accents in the lobby to the bare-brick walls and rustic wood floors of the bar, boho-chic never looked so good. The hotel is in easy walking of SoHo, Little Italy, Nolita, the East Village and Bowery hot spots.
Price from £80

World Center 8/10
144 Washington St
(577 2933;
The first hotel to open at Ground Zero since the 9/11 attacks, this 20-storey, 421-room glass-and-steel tower has sleek rooms, spectacular views and an almost reverential setting, opposite the Freedom Tower and overlooking the 9/11 memorial reflecting pools. While it has the slightly sterile look of an airport lounge, it’s a first-class airport lounge. Custom-designed rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and a clean-lined, almost Nordic look: light wood desks, white bed throws, iPod docking stations and flat-screen televisions.
Price from £90

Where to eat for £20 or less

(Prices are per person for two courses in the evening and excluding wine unless stated otherwise.)
136 W 55th St
(265 4000;
The aroma of truffles and freshly baked breads draws you into this elegant Italian in the unlikely setting of Midtown. The pastas are handmade and regional dishes include Umbrian-style quail stuffed with mortadella and Sicilian-style grilled octopus.
Prices from £19
89 Mercer St, nr. Spring St, Soho
(274 0989;
The cocktails are pricier than the urban comfort food at this ultra-stylish, loft-like restaurant-bar in SoHo. The bi-level glass and aluminium space has a simple, unfussy menu, in contrast to its complex drinks list. Dishes run from blue cheese buffalo wing starters and triple-decker club sandwiches, to innovative peppercorn-crusted burgers.
Prices from £16
Dos Toros Taqueria
14 First Ave at 1st St, East Village
(677 7300;
This is Mexican food made from super-fresh ingredients, with friendly service and in funky surroundings. The menu is a simple list of burritos, tacos and quesadillas. I defy anyone who has tasted the guacamole-filled pollo asado (grilled chicken) quesadilla not to come back for more.
Prices from £8

394 Court St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
(718 522 7133;
This bare-brick Italian in trendy Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, is not as “sceney” as nearby Prime Meats or Frankie’s, but its home-made pastas, fresh sauces and Argentine wine list draw in a young, fashionable crowd of knowledgeable foodies. Classics feature on the main menu, but opt for the daily specials.
Prices from £14

98 Rivington St, at Ludlow St, Lower East Side
(614 0473;
A perpetually packed Italian small-plates place, with wine-bottle-stacked walls, chunky wood tables and benches, and a corner cocktail bar. Ryan Gosling was there when we popped in – come, too, for the bruschetta, assorted charcuterie (culatello, bresaola, soprassata and so on) and tasty truffled-egg toast, before upgrading to crispy panini and meatier dishes such as chicken cacciatore.
Prices from £16

JG Melon
1291 Third Ave at 74th St
(744 0585)
Popular with the preppy set and famous for its burgers and Bloody Marys. Opened in 1972, its tin-pressed ceiling, wood counter and veteran staff are part of the charm. 
Prices from £10

14 First Ave at 1st St, East Village
(260 6481;
You may have to be selective when ordering at this popular brasserie in the East Village to come out under £20, but it’s worth it for the food and atmosphere. We recommend house pâté, followed by the grilled South Carolina quail. 
Prices from £17
Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway, nr. Berry St, Brooklyn
(718 384 1441;
Down the road from the world-famous steakhouse Peter Luger in hip Williamsburg, it’s a jewel-box-sized, wood-panelled space that’s coffee shop by day, restaurant and bar by night.
Prices from £19

Marlow & Sons, Williamsburg, NYC.

Mission Chinese Food
154 Orchard St, nr. Stanton St, Lower East Side
(529 8800;
This is the sister restaurant to the original Mission in San Francisco, created by the Korean-born culinary superstar Danny Bowien, who fuses Chinese, Korean and Western traditions with his unique flair. 
Prices from £9

16 N Moore St, at Varick St, Tribeca
(941 0142)
One of the few old-school hang-outs left in gentrified Tribeca, although we don’t mean it’s a dive. A wood-floor tavern with pressed tin roof and a long bar gives way to two dining rooms at the back, serving upscale American bar food. Think tuna Niçoise salad, shell steak sandwiches, or herb-roasted organic chicken with potatoes.
Prices from £15

Source: The Daily Telegraph, UK.

viernes, 14 de septiembre de 2012

Increased comfort in the sky

By Sean O'Neill

LAN Airlines' soon-to-be-released 787s
LAN Airlines is outfitting its soon-to-be-released 787s with a high, dome-shaped roof along the centre aisle of its aircraft. (LAN Airlines)

Whoever said that travel is about the journey and not the destination hasn't sat in a cramped aeroplane seat lately.
As anyone who has flown in the last few years knows, air travel lost its glamour when airlines began to penny-pinch by cutting frills. But in recent months a number of international airlines have started taking baby steps in the other direction, using improvements in aircraft construction to install plusher seats and cosier interiors in some of their newer planes.
Worldwide, airlines have been slowly but steadily putting into operation two next-generation aircraft -- Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 -- both of which have shells made heavily of composite materials, such as carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, instead of aluminium. The composite materials are much lighter than traditional metal (though equally as sturdy), enabling planes to be a little larger and thus more spacious while still consuming the same amount of fuel. Engineering innovations have also given designers more options when crafting the interiors, thanks to greater structural flexibility in the placement of walls and barriers inside the cabins.
In Boeing’s 787, improved ventilation systems have raised humidity levels about 10% compared to the aircraft of yesterday, freeing passengers from dry eyes and mouths. The air pressure is also now closer to what is normal in Denver, Colorado -- the mile-high city at 5,280ft -- than the traditionally higher, and more mountaintop-like standard of 8,000ft above sea level, sparing fliers from the mild altitude sickness that can be experienced when flying a long distance. The Airbus A350 will offer similar improvements in humidity and air pressure.
Both models of aircraft have other benefits, too. They  were built to be quieter, and seats can theoretically be a little wider and provide more legroom due to the extra space. Of course, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s free. Airlines will likely charge extra for any seats with those added features. 
Putting innovative theories into practice
In October 2011, All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the first airline to put a Boeing 787 into service, and its fleet features the largest windows of any commercial jet currently in the sky. In another improvement, its LED lights cast a softer range of coloured cabin lights than traditional fluorescent bulbs do. ANA's 787s also don't have shades on their windows – they’re tinted electronically to block the varying levels of sunlight. By March 2013, ANA will have 20 Dreamliners in service on domestic and international flights, making it the largest fleet of 787s in the sky.

787 Design Highlights

LAN Airlines is outfitting its soon-to-be-released 787s with a high, dome-shaped roof along the centre aisle of its aircraft, which helps alleviate the cramped feeling of older planes. Overhead bins are also 30% more spacious than those on the airline's older planes, allowing more room for bags.
Each 787 economy class seat has a power socket, a USB port and a headphone jack that doesn’t require the purchase of a special headset. Seats come with two cup holders, with one accessible even when the tray table is up. Passengers also receive pillows and blankets printed in bright, solid colours – little details, yes, but they add up to greater overall comfort.
Airbus expects to deliver its first A350s to ANA, Japan Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines by the end of 2012.
Bolder designs in business class
You don’t need a next-generation aeroplane to redefine your aircraft interior, of course, and a few airlines are updating their existing business class cabins with touches reminiscent of a boutique hotel.

In May, Virgin Atlantic updated its business class section, called Upper Class Suite, for its new Airbus A330-200s, an aircraft with about 20% composite material. The top section of the double-decker aircraft has a bar, described as the longest bar in the sky, embedded with 1,000 Swarovski crystals. It’s located in a separate area from the passenger seats to allow about 15 people to sit on stools or stand while mingling.
Seats in the Upper Class Suite can be extended fully flat into beds, with the longest transatlantic business class seat in the sky – at 87 inches long. Plus, partitions between the seats are curved semi-translucent plastic, which gets rid of the “coffin class” feel that some airlines have and allows for more elbow room than is customary for international business class sections.
In March, Hong Kong Airlines drew back the curtains on its new Airbus A330-200s, which fly an all-business class service between London and Hong Kong. In the 82-seat aircraft, seatbacks recline 155 to 180 degrees, depending on the price point.
Flights also have not one but two bars serving Champagne, canapés and mixed drinks; cabins come with mood lighting, with the colours changing in a way that helps reduce jetlag; and free wi-fi and power ports are standard amenities at each seat.
Looking ahead to 2050
Future decades may bring even more enhancements to the flight experience.

Last week in London, Airbus unveiled some of its latest concepts, including “a new approach to touching down”, where technology would optimise landing positions with pinpoint accuracy and allow planes to glide onto runways with their engines running in idle, leading to less noise and less circling.
Previous ideas for Airbus concept planes dealt directly with passenger comfort. Separate classes of first, business and economy could be replaced by seats that would be individually customised based on its price, with some passengers preferring seats with high-tech game consoles and others looking for multi-seat areas to conduct business meetings. The walls of the planes could be engineered to allow panoramic, see-through views.
Perhaps most fanciful of all is Airbus’s dream of the perfect aeroplane seat, which would “adapt for the perfect fit, offering massage, drinks or vitamins as required; a gentle sea breeze or the soft aroma of a pine forest wash over you; sound showers will ease you into the perfect sleep, snug in the warm embrace of holographic shades, while the heat given out from your body is unobtrusively collected to power the cabin facilities”.
With luck, experimental improvements in the in-flight experience might -- someday -- become industry standards, taking passenger contentment to a higher plane.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel. 

lunes, 3 de septiembre de 2012

Medieval France town is under siege 

by tourists

Saint-Cirq Lapopie, recently voted France's favorite village, expects 600,000 visitors this year. Some fear the invasion will spoil its beauty.

By Kim Willsher, Los Angeles Times

The favorite village of the French
The village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie sits on a bluff above the Lot River in southwestern France. (Remy Gabalda / AFP/Getty Images / July 23, 2011)

SAINT-CIRQ LAPOPIE, France — The valley of the Lot River as it wends its way through southwestern France is known for its exceptional natural beauty, picturesque villages and historic chateaux.
Saint-Cirq Lapopie, however, stands out in every sense of the term.
Rising majestically from atop an almost sheer rock bluff, more than 300 feet above the river, the medieval settlement has a commanding view for miles in every direction.
It also stands out in the hearts of the French, who, despite a very wide choice of picture-postcard sites, voted Saint-Cirq Lapopie their favorite village in a nationwide television poll in May.
Having seen off marauding armies and rival fiefs for hundreds of years, Saint-Cirq Lapopie today faces an invasion of a different kind: tourists, drawn by a newfound celebrity that could prove as much of a double-edged sword as those wielded by ancient assailants.
This year the village of slightly more than 200 inhabitants expects about 600,000 visitors and has been forced to draw up a battle plan over how to welcome them, and the income they bring, without losing the ethereal charm that made it popular in the first place.
Mayor Gilles Hardeveld sees nothing but good in the modern-day assault on his village.
"You cannot please everyone, and there will always be those who complain about too many visitors, but we are very lucky to have this heritage. There are villages around us that have nothing, no visitors, even in summer," he said. "Our challenge is to manage the tourists without losing our authenticity."
Even with the benefit of 21st century transportation, Saint-Cirq Lapopie is not easy to reach. The narrow route winds through a bucolic landscape that has barely changed in centuries. Only the tourist buses weaving their way slowly up the road hacked out of the rock belie the era.
The stone buildings of Saint-Cirq Lapopie, 13 of them classified as historic, are built in a cluster on a grid of narrow cobbled streets, barely wide enough for a car and so steep that in places the sharply pointed roof of one cottage is at the same level as the garden fence of the neighboring property. The houses cling precariously to the rocky outcrop as if in danger of sliding down into the river below.
There is little evidence of the trimmings of modern life; no telephone cables, satellite dishes, electricity wires, most of which have been buried alongside the ancient foundations or hidden in roof spaces, under eaves or under the roads.
The village's beauty has long made it a favorite with artistic visitors. After World War II, it became a haunt of French Surrealists when Andre Breton, the writer credited with founding the movement, bought a house there.
"Saint-Cirq Lapopie has cast a single enchantment over me. One that has fixed me forever. I no longer wish to be anywhere else," Breton wrote.
Before the latest wave of tourists, Saint-Cirq Lapopie was famous not just for its fortifications but also its wood-turners. Once it had more than 100 of them producing wooden taps for wine and liquor barrels. Today, there is just Patrick Vinel, 56, who learned his trade from his father, who learned it from his father, and so on back five generations of Vinels.
Sitting at his workbench near an old belt-and-pedal lathe, Vinel describes himself as a "Saint-Cirquois de souche" (born and bred). He now turns out gifts for the tourists: miniature chess sets, wooden spinning tops, bowls.
"I've no reason to complain. Why would I? I make my living thanks to the tourists," Vinel said.
On one of his shelves are photographs of the village in winter. The streets and the characteristic flat brown roof tiles of the houses are covered with several inches of snow.
Vinel says the tourists mostly come in July and August.
"In winter, I replenish my stock," he said, waving an arm around the shop. "Where do you think this stuff comes from? It isn't made in Taiwan, you know."
On a scorching hot summer day, the village is packed with tourists, and the restaurants, shops and tourist office overrun. It is still possible to find a corner of tranquillity off the main streets where, away from the crowds, it is like stepping back in time.
Nobody wants to openly voice discontent with the tourist crowds, but there are a lot of anonymous huffing and puffing and oblique allusion to them. "There are people who say enough is enough," said one local woman who did not want to be named.
Virginie Seguin, director of the tourist office, said it normally assists about 800 visitors a day in July and August. This year, after the poll, the number has doubled, sometimes tripled.
"It's been pretty dense, but even with the tourists you can still have a calm walk and lose yourself in the old roads," Seguin said.
"Of course, the locals are attached to their village and there are those who complain there are too many tourists. I respect this, but it's the classic paradox. There are shops and services in the village thanks to the tourists. If there are no tourists, there is no boulangerie to buy bread or restaurants to eat in.
"We are surfing a wave of publicity and notoriety, but the notoriety will fade. It won't be like this every year. The economic situation in France is difficult and we are very lucky."
Mayor Hardeveld says he wants to encourage people to come not only during the summer but insists that the village won't be compromised.
"Besides," he said, "at the end of the day the tourists have gone and we all sleep very peacefully."
Willsher is a special correspondent.

domingo, 26 de agosto de 2012

Perdidos en el Pacífico

La isla de Christmas, un atolón lejos de cualquier lugar donde recalan cruceristas y amantes de la pesca

La pesca es uno de los atractivos para el turista en la isla de Christmas, perteneciente a la República de Kiribati. /RICK GAFFNEY

En medio de la inmensidad del Pacífico, apenas dos grados por encima del Ecuador, Christmas Island (o Kiritimati) está lejos de todo, pero muy cerca de ser un paraíso. Se encuentra a casi 2.000 kilómetros de Hawai, al Norte; a más de 2.100 de Bora Bora, al Sur; a 5.500 de Los Ángeles, al Este, y a 6.700 de Sidney, al Oeste. Pero no es una isla más, es el atolón con porción de tierra más grande del mundo (lo habitual es que la mayoría de la superficie de estas islas coralinas sean sus lagunas interiores).
En Christmas, la mitad de sus 642 kilómetros cuadrados está sobre las aguas. De momento al menos, porque su futuro, como el de tantos otros atolones, peligra. De hecho, la isla (con unos 5.000 habitantes) ha ido perdiendo poblados. Por ejemplo, uno de nombre bien curioso: París, bautizado por el cura francés Emmanuel Rougier, que vivió en Kiritimati de 1917 a 1939 y fue el responsable de la plantación de casi un millón de cocoteros. Junto a la pesca, los derivados del coco han sido la principal fuente de ingresos, aunque en permanente lucha contra las pertinaces sequías. El agua no cae del cielo, pero sube el nivel del mar.
El submarinismo es otro de los deportes que se puede practicar en la isla de Christmas (Kiribati). / AGE
Los restos de la localidad de París están en uno de los dos brazos de la forma de horquilla que tiene la isla, aunque el oriental se abra con una gran protuberancia. Más abajo se encuentra Poland, aldea de algo más de 200 vecinos cuyo nombre rememora al explorador e ingeniero polaco Stanislav Pelczynski, que ayudó precisamente a los habitantes en el sistema de irrigación de los cocoteros durante las sequías.
En el otro brazo de la horquilla, al Este, está la población más importante, Londres (también debe su nombre a Rougier), la más poblada y donde existe un pequeño puerto al que llegan los botes de los cruceros y mercantes que fondean en aguas más profundas. Llegar a Christmas en crucero es una de las alternativas.
En la punta misma del brazo oriental hay otra aldea, Tabwakea, y bajando ya por el mismo brazo de la horquilla se puede ir al pequeño aeropuerto, Cassidy, que comunica la isla con Honolulú y Fiyi. Allí cerca también se encuentra Banana, el cuarto núcleo habitado con nombre sonoro.
Los apenas 300 kilómetros cuadrados de la isla de Christmas suponen el 70% de la tierra de la República de Kiribati, que en su treintena de islas y atolones ocupa casi 4.000 kilómetros cuadrados de mar. Tarawa, la isla donde se encuentra la capital de Kiribati y que fuera escenario de una famosa batalla durante la II Guerra Mundial, está a 3.200 kilómetros. “Una semana en barco, si no voy en avión”, dice Tekaai, un lugareño.
En Christmas hay coches y furgonetas, pero muchos de sus habitantes van descalzos por donde sea. Si no les afecta la tierra o el asfalto, menos aún los restos de coral que cubren y se mezclan con las arenas de las lagunas. Ello da lugar a un espléndido abanico de tonalidades de agua, pero no a un terreno fácil para caminar.
El prolífico capitán James Cook descubrió la isla de Christmas el 24 de diciembre de 1777 en su tercer viaje por el Pacífico, y el nombre no podía ser otro. Un gran cartel medio oxidado da la bienvenida a Christmas Island exhibiendo una lista de datos geográficos e históricos. Desde su descubrimiento y llegadas posteriores hasta los naufragios, pasando por las pruebas nucleares que hicieron por la zona, sin avisar a los habitantes, entre 1958 y 1962, británicos y estadounidenses. Supuestamente, no quedan restos de contaminación.

Cómo ir

» Air Pacific ( vuela una vez por semana (los martes) a Christmas Island desde Fiyi y Honolulú (la misma compañía también vuela a Nueva Zelanda y Estados Unidos). Ida y vuelta desde Fiyi, a partir de unos 400 euros, y desde Honolulú, a partir de unos 530 euros.

» Christmas Island es escala en cruceros por el Pacífico, como los de la compañía Holland America Line.
» Oficina de turismo de Christmas Island ( Ofrece un listado de las posibilidades de alojamiento en la isla y de las empresas turísticas.
» Kiribati Holidays (
» Otintaai Hotel (
La línea del tiempo
Christmas es singular hasta por la hora. Geográficamente se encuentra al este de la Línea Internacional del Tiempo, lo que la colocaría entre los últimos lugares del mundo que terminan los días, meses y años. Pero eso no ocurre desde 1995 en que tiene la misma hora que el resto de la República de Kiribati, situada al oeste. Así puede presumir de empezar todo antes que en ninguna parte del mundo.
Es una isla especial donde acaban de rechazar la construcción de un centro turístico para evitar la masificación. No hay que confundirla con la Christmas Island australiana, descubierta por otro navegante británico, William Mynor, las Navidades de 1643.

De vuelta al crucero con la marea alta, el Regatta (que desde Los Ángeles había tocado cuatro islas de Hawai), nuestro barco, pone rumbo al Sur para llegar en dos días a Bora Bora y seguir a casi todas las islas de la Sociedad, Raiatea, Huahine, Moorea y Tahití.
Fuente: El País, España.

jueves, 23 de agosto de 2012

Walking the south west coast path wanderland

What could be better after a long day’s hiking than a two-star hotel with a five-star welcome?

By Adam Lee-Potter

Hikers take the clifftop trail to Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset
Hikers take the clifftop trail to Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset

Walking mile after hilly mile in the rain with a gammy leg, the prospect of a two-star hotel, empty but for a grieving family gathered to scatter their granny’s ashes, did not fill me with glee.
When we rang for directions, we were told we still faced two hours of tough yomping, and – worse – that we would be sharing a buffet with the mourners. Visions of two muddy hikers awkwardly trying to blend into a mournful wake sprang up.
Judith, the twinkly co-owner, did her best to calm my fears. “Don’t worry,” she said, “it’ll be a grand buffet. There’ll be meat... not just sausage rolls.”
This did nothing to cheer up my hungry vegetarian friend Reuben.
But our spirits rose when we ­finally tramped in at 9.30pm to find that we had our own little corner table, complete with a bottle of red. And the family were, in fact, incredibly jolly and welcoming. Theirs was more a celebration than a lament. Granny had been 93, a good life lived well.
The food looked promising too. We piled our plates with salmon, smoked trout and a green salad, little realising that our own buffet was yet to come.
Over the next 20 minutes, cook Judith and her chatty husband Kevin barrelled back and forth with plate after plate: shimmering mushrooms, sautéed potatoes, just-so carrots, hunks of beef and chicken curry, prawns and quiche. Apple cake. Cheese. More wine. On it went, a carousel of delight... delicious, honest food at its very best.
Bulstone Hotel in Branscombe
Bulstone Hotel in Branscombe
It is a testament to the preposterously friendly Bulstone Hotel that by the time we left – after a lip-smackingly tasty fry-up of Desperate Dan proportions – we regarded both our fellow guests and owners as new-found chums. They very ­sweetly lined up in the car park to wave us off as we trudged, somewhat reluctantly, towards Cornwall. Our walk, as it must, goes on.
I’ve always been a sucker for a challenge. As a last hurrah before starting a family, my wife and I cycled 15,000 miles around the world. We returned after 18 months, biltong-brown and buff, thighs as big as canoes.
Eight years on and two stone ­heavier, my body is still a temple. But, as a friend waspishly observed: “More like the Taj Mahal – big and round!”
Having had my fill of long-distance cycling, Reuben heroically hit on a plan that involved neither Lycra nor training but, more crucially, ­lashings of real ale.
The two of us are, slowly, walking the South West Coast Path, from ­Sandbanks in Dorset to Minehead in ­Somerset – 630 glorious miles dotted with pubs and divvied up into 16 
long weekends.    

Sandbanks Shell Beach in Dorset
Sandbanks Shell Beach in Dorset
My last hiking experience was very nearly that... my last. In my rush to descend from the high Himalaya for a buffalo steak and bottled Guinness, I opted for a yak-track shortcut that made even passing Sherpas suck their teeth with disapproval. Losing my footing in the half-light, I ended up tobogganing down a sheer cliff on my bottom, my fall broken only by a ­patch of scree that pushed me the last 20ft straight into a river.
The South West Coast Path is much more my kind of walk. All we need to do is keep the sea to our left.
The start of the 630-mile South West Coastal Path
The start of the 630-mile South West Coastal Path

And Reuben is, after all, a head ranger who lives on an island. He understands plumbing. He plays the banjo. He can take a bearing and grow a moustache. He’s even been on a chainsaw course. Aside from such handiness, one of the many joys of walking with Reuben is that, as a National Trust officer, he is (­according to an age-old bylaw) allowed to camp on any beach. Sadly, he has stubbornly refused to invoke this privilege. Nor will he, much to my disappointment, wear a comedy sheriff’s hat, like Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead. But I still have 530 miles in which to grind him down.
Fuelled by beer and pummelled by rain, our trek – five days in – has not been wholly without incident.
We have, after misunderstanding the map, walked for a day without food or water, encountering a hermit from Halifax on the way.
But our most recent leg, from Charmouth to Branscombe, was the most painful. The 16 miles took twice as long as they should have because the day before, at my daughter’s sports day, I over-exerted myself in the highly competitive father’s 50-metre dash. To her dismay, I went down with a torn hamstring, in front of the assembled school... not a good look.
My daughter is only now preparing herself to forgive me after I promised, firstly, not to compete next year and, secondly, that I would treat her to a week at the Bulstone. With its four-acre garden studded with toys and the beach just moments away, what more could a child wish for?
In fact, this gem of a hotel, two-star on the outside but five-star within, which I am almost loath to ­recommend, was the surprising highlight of our walk.
As Yorkshireman Kevin said on our departure: “We’ll see you again. After all, we’re friends now.” And you know what? I rather think we are.

Get there

Rooms at the Bulstone Hotel in Branscombe, Devon, start at £90 a night, including breakfast, for two adults and two children.
Go to or call 01297 680446.
Source: Daily Mirror, UK.