If there’s one thing several months of lockdown life has taught us, it’s the importance of travel. And while jetting off on adventures to far-flung climes, revisiting favourite holiday destinations or even exploring the UK’s lesser-known locations may still be a little way off, one thing’s for certain – when the world does open up again, heading off somewhere new is something we’ll never take for granted again. As the global lockdown rules begin to loosen, we’ve spoken to some of our favourite travel writers and jetsetters to ask where they’ll be visiting as soon as travel is back on the agenda.
Throughout lockdown I’ve been dreaming about continental Europe, as I always do once spring starts to roll around. I love driving through France and Italy – with days of wandering aimlessly through beautiful cobbled streets; an impossibly fresh orange juice at breakfast through to one hell of a dirty martini at cocktail hour. Specifically, as soon as it is possible, I want to drive with my husband through France, stopping off for a couple of nights in Paris at Le Pavillon de la Reine, a 17th Century aristocratic mansion secluded in the Place des Voges, in the middle of the inimitable and ever-so-charming Le Marais district. The area brimming with cafes ripe for people watching to concept stores, and dotted with numerous art galleries. In the early evenings, we would come back through this ivy-covered vision and enjoy an aperitif in the hotel’s own private garden courtyard or a dip in the hammam to relax our weary feet. It feels like a slice of old school Parisian glamour.
Then we’ll pass through La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Provence, which personifies French charm in the Riviera hills in the form of an exquisite yet simple rustic inn, with art to ogle at for hours. Many of the artists who stayed here paid for their lodgings with their own works, so you’ll find Picasso paintings in one corner of the dining room and Matisse drawings in the other. The hotel’s elegant green-tiled swimming pool is famous in its own right, not least because of the enormous Calder mobile that dances beside it.
Finally, we’d drive along the coast to end up at Il Pellicano in Monte Argentario, right between Tuscany and Lazio, where we wouldn’t leave the property for a week. Not least because of the people watching, but to savour the most spectacular sea views and a poolside area that simply steals the show. I’ll let my shoulders drop as I breathe in the fresh Tuscan air, enjoy this secluded but wonderful house party and soak up that timeless dolce vita vibe.
As a Scandi Noir addict, I’ve long been champing at the bit to see Norway’s dramatic landscapes of fjords and jagged coastlines. A holiday, for me, is not just a precious time to immerse myself and my daughter in natural beauty; it’s about supporting destinations that lead by example when it comes to sustainability.
This North European country may not be the cheapest place to spend time in, but when it comes to engaging with a nation that is ethical to the core, you know it’s money well spent. Great design is another lure, as is a down-to-earth attitude wherever we stay. And Norway’s no slouch when it comes to offering small, independently owned guesthouses with good eco creds. Up Norway is helping me plan an itinerary which will include a stay at the forward-thinking Svart, which opens next year in the Arctic Circle, and we’re planning time spent with the Sami people. Being an eco-friendly traveller isn’t just about considering our carbon footprints or supporting wildlife conservation, it’s fantastically important to support the preservation of indigenous cultures too — and often it’s the human encounters and stories that treat us to the most enriching memories from our travels.
I’m also keen to get to Mozambique for a stay at an extraordinary new private island, Kisawa. This sensitive, charismatic sanctuary off the coast of this southern African country not only supports marine research and conservation, but their inspiring collaboration with locals is helping cultivate and nurture the creative talents of the next generation of Mozambicans.
I think a lot of people are feeling the desperate urge to go and get away from it all right now, myself included. I’d love to go somewhere far away from technology and the endless Zoom calls, somewhere you can completely escape other people and feel a real sense of isolation. One of my favourite places in the world that really does feel like the back end of beyond is Scrubby Bay on the Annandale estate in New Zealand. It’s a little wooden-clad bungalow on a remote farm on the South Island, which has spectacular views over a private bay to the Pacific beyond – the ideal place to just sit and watch the waves roll in. The landscape surrounding it is quite wild and stunningly beautiful – and just about as far away from everything as you can possibly get.
Closer to home, I can’t wait to head back to The Newt in Somerset, which opened towards the end of last year. It’s like nothing I’ve seen in the UK before. Set in 75 acres of apple orchards, they make some of the most fantastic cider at their on-site cider press – come for a stay during the harvest in September or October and you’ll get to see it in action. They’ve also created a museum dedicated to gardening, which I took my kids to – normally they hate museums but they absolutely loved this one. It’s incredibly interactive, with VR headsets that take you around some of the most famous gardens in the world and an elevated walkway that’s just stunning. The hotel itself has a gorgeous swimming pool housed and a lovely spa, and the rooms are great – just the right level of pared-back luxury. It’s somewhere that feels very down to earth while still being gloriously indulgent at the same time.
Everyone is talking about going somewhere wild and open and empty after lockdown, but the thing I miss the most right now is people. I love crowds. That’s why I live in London. People make the place. So my first fantasy stop, when this is all over, is to a fun hotel in a busy, bustling city. Somewhere like The Whitby in Manhattan, to sit in the bar with a cold glass of something and watch all the chic New Yorkers coming and going.
Deep down, though, I know that a city break like that is probably a while away, so my first trip is more likely to be somewhere a little less crowded. The Scottish Highlands, perhaps, to a remote cottage where the walks are beautiful, the coastal views epic and there’s always good seafood to be found. Umbria is next on the list, to stay in the rolling hills of the Reschio Estate, a client of Mundi & Co’s, which has gorgeous villas with soul-stirring views and an incredible 10th-century castle, soon to open as a boutique hotel. They are all about sustainability and rewilding, both of which are at the forefront of travellers’ minds right now.
In fact, if there’s one positive that the travel industry can take from this disastrous year, it’s that everything is pointing towards a genuine shift in consumer behaviour. Slowing down, flying less, spending longer in destinations, and channelling our tourist dollars to the good guys that support local communities and care for their environments: that’s the future of travel.
Once it’s safe to travel, I’ll be heading to the unspoilt northern coast of Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands. Greece has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe and Kefalonia some of the most beautiful beaches and mountains. There are also direct flights from the UK this summer.
Top of my list of places to stay is Kefalonia Boutique Villas, a handful of stylish hillside villas surrounded by vineyards facing the turquoise Ionian Sea. Flowers on the table, wine in the fridge, owners Tassos and Shari to welcome you on arrival. Each villa has its own gorgeous infinity pool, sofa-strewn terraces and stunning views, so no need to worry about social distancing. It’s within walking distance of a perfect little cove and a short drive from the picturesque fishing village of Fiskardo, with its pastel Venetian houses, boats and bars.
The owners can arrange a chef to whip up a feast for you on your terrace or saunter down the hill to the charming taverna at St Jerusalim, for the freshest fish and pork souvlaki. No menu, just what’s best and fresh in that morning. Even the bread, tomatoes, olives and feta are delicious.
After months of being cooped up, I dream of hiking amongst the dramatic mountain scenery and then snorkelling in the crystal clear waters off Dafnudi beach.