Sunny Side Up
As the shadows lengthen and summer fades out, there's still time for a blast of sunshine. Lydia Bell reveals the best places for an end-of-season getaway
Île de Ré
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
This Atlantic isle is the French holiday destination of choice for a bevy of sophisticated Parisians, who descend each summer, but beyond August most return to the capital leaving Île de Ré the perfect destination for peace, quiet and late summer sunshine. Unesco-listed Saint- Martin-de-Ré, a land of green-painted shutters, pink hollyhocks and mussel restaurants, is the “capital”. With its boutiques and picturesque markets, it’s perfect for pottering. The island is small enough to cross by bicycle and there are no hills to endure either.
The chicest hotel in town has always been L’Hôtel de Toiras (1 Quai Job Foran, tel: +33
(0)5 4635 4032, www.hotel-de-toiras.com) on the harbour, a Relais and Chateaux gem with a fantastic restaurant. New for this summer, they’ve added a sister hotel, a private mansion called Villa Clarisse (5 Rue du Général Lapasset, tel : +33 (0)5 4668 4300, www.villa-clarisse.fr). Pierre-Yves Rochon, who has designed for restaurateurs Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, has overseen the refurbishment of this 18th-century home, which boasts nine rooms and suites. There’s also a heated pool and a mini-spa nestled in the gardens. It’s perfect for a late season blowout à deux, with doubles starting from €175.
KEEP THE PARTY GOING
Ibiza has 300 days of sun a year, and late summer offers its fair share of them. We all know Ibiza for its unique combination of decadent nightlife and serenely beautiful landscapes. It’s beloved of an in-crowd of models, actors and socialites like Kate Moss, Thandie Newtown, Daisy Lowe and Jade Jagger – as well as anyone who wants to feel the soft sun of a Balearic summer dawn on their skin after a night partying at Pacha.
Make the most of the weather from the get- go and head straight to lunch on the beach. We recommend Yemanja on Cala Jondal (tel: +34 971 187481, www.yemanjaibiza.com) for its fresh seafood and feet-in-the-sand dining.
The current under-the-radar boutique hotel favoured by the Ibizan cool crowd is Lars Holm Hansen’s The Giri Residence (3–5 Calle Principal, tel: +34 971 333345, www.thegiri.com), a 150-year-old converted finca in the lively northern village of San Juan. Open April to November, it has five suites, a kitchen serving home-cooked island cuisine, and a spa with stone bathtubs. Just in case the temperatures get cooler in the evenings, there are real fireplaces at the end of each bed. Rates start at €220 a night in October.
For cocktails outdoors before you hit the big clubs like Pacha, our tip is Aura (Ctra San Juan KM13.5, San Lorenç, tel: +34 971 325 356, www.auraibiza.com), a garden restaurant and bar, where the mixologist is formerly of London’s Groucho Club.
If you want to shop for clothes while you’re here, reVolver (1 Calle Bisbe Azara, tel: +34 971 318939, www.revolveribiza.com) in Ibiza town stocks labels like Sass & Bide, McQueen and See by Chloé. Or sample more sunshine by shopping outdoors for clothes and jewellery at the hippy market at Las Dalias in San Carlos every Saturday, where there’s live music.
For more ideas on how to make the most of late summer here, look to Serena Cook of Deliciously Sorted Ibiza (tel: +34 971 197867, www.deliciouslysortedibiza.com). She’s a kind of super-concierge, with celebrity clients and an intimate knowledge of the island. Her book Outstanding 100 Ibiza also lists the best restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, tattoo studios, places of natural beauty and artists worth checking out on the White Isle.
Jump on the ferry from Corfu and reach unpretentious, unspoiled Paxos in an hour.
It’s an island of sea-hugging tavernas, coves and no less than 65 Orthodox churches. Like the other Ionian islands, it was invaded by the Venetians. They came, they saw, they cultivated olive groves and constructed elegant mansions. In late summer, the wild flowers and roaming butterflies are exceptionally beautiful. Paxos is popular with the London arty set and Italian aristos – so dressed-down bohemia is the order of the day.
Our recommended love nest for this time of year is The Olive Press, a lodging made for two amid romantic olive groves in the tiny hamlet of Vellianitatika, not far from Gaios in the south of the island. There are several tavernas a short walk away, and Gaios is perfect for a drink in the evening or supper by moonlight. Prices start at about €170 a night for bed and breakfast. The Olive Press is let by Scott Williams (tel: +44 (0)7817 341749, www.scottwilliams.co.uk), a company that can arrange activities around the island, and even dispatch masseurs and personal trainers should they be required.
LIVE LIFE OUTDOORS
This outstandingly beautiful volcanic isle has so much to offer, from the surreal lunar landscapes of the Timanfaya National Park in the south, to the rugged mountains and smaller islands in the north. There are countless beaches and laid- back towns to explore, as well as wildlife and adventure parks and opportunities for boat trips and mountain biking.
British company Natural Retreats (tel: +44 (0)844 384 3166, www.naturalretreats. com), which specialises in eco-chalets and a back-to-nature experience, has staked out its first foreign outpost at the foot of the Montaña Roja. Here you are only 3km outside the main town and beaches of Playa Blanca, with views extending to Fuerteventura. Each of the nine villas – designed in the whitewashed, cubist style typical of the region – has a private pool and sleeps eight. A concierge service will help you make the most of your end-of- summer holiday, from recommending the best alfresco bars and restaurants to where to go quad biking. In October, a minimum two-night stay costs €590 per villa, or stay for seven nights for €1,175.
AS NATURE INTENDED
The Extremadura region of south-western Spain, with its pretty, historical towns, offers an enticing slice of unspoiled Spain. It’s an area known for its wildlife, and birds come from all over Europe and Africa to breed. A twitcher’s heaven, it’s also a wonderful place to go walking or horse riding.
The walled town of Trujillo, perched on a hill overlooking a vast olive-tree-cloaked plain, dates back to 600BC. Once home to no less than seven of Spain’s most powerful conquistadors, it’s now a second home to smart weekending madrileños drawn by the beautiful mansions and monuments left by those wealthy families.
Trujillo’s architecture combines Moorish (there is a splendid castle) and Roman elements (including some baths). Plenty of local fiestas will help you get under the skin of the place – from a national cheese festival to horse breeding shows and medieval fairs.
Sleep like a local at Studio (sleeps two, about €475 a week, tel: +44 (0)20 7381 6000, www.trujilloespana.com). Located about five minutes’ walk from the main square and shops, this delightful bolt-hole has been reconfigured along eco-friendly lines and makes a great base for exploring the area. Frolick unseen in the private walled garden.
A ROMAN CITY FOR MODERN TIMES
Arles was portrayed by Vincent van Gogh in numerous paintings – he lived here from 1888 to 1890, producing 300 works – so its winding streets, stone squares and sun-baked houses may already be familiar to you. This Provençal tourist honey pot on the Grand Rhône river was once a Roman stronghold and the capital of Gaul. Its amphitheatre could hold 20,000, with regular gladitorial gruesomeness to entertain them.
In summer, the town is heaving with visitors but is the perfect spot for an end-of-season sojourn. Don’t neglect a visit to the Camargue, France’s cowboy country, famous for its free-roaming white horses, lagoons, sandbars, marshes and wild sandy beaches. Arles is a chichi enclave from which to explore this area of rich natural beauty.
Among a clutch of boutique gems in the city, the luxe-for-less version is Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus (14 Place du Forum, tel: +33 (0)4 9093 4444, www.nord-pinus.com), a hotel with echoes of the writers and artists who frequented it in the past. Picasso lived here, Hemingway drank at the bar and so did Jean Cocteau. The interior draws inspiration from the city’s bullfighting tradition – all those who came to fight in Arles stayed here. Spanish feria posters adorn the walls. Doubles from €170.
Tenerife is the big kahuna of the Canaries: the biggest and the best- known. But its quiet, rural side is too often overlooked. This is an island with 400km (250 miles) of coastline and dramatic volcanic landscapes to discover – on foot, by car or on horseback. The north- western tip, La Isla Baja, is unspoiled and mountainous, with a collec- tion of nature reserves and authentic villages. Here, Hotel Rural El Patio (tel: +34 922 133280, www.hotelpatio.com) is a gorgeous coastal estate on a banana plantation. The former home of Tenerife’s de Ponte family, it has its own church, croquet lawn and tennis court. It’s grand, beautiful and from another time, the perfect place to escape from the strictures of the boutique hotel age – there are no TVs or phones in the rooms. Nearby is the pleasantly untouristy town of Garachico, with its volcanic rock pools and pretty square. Doubles from €74.
FOR A SUN-BAKED CITY BREAK
Malta’s beautiful, historic capital has a spectacular Grand Harbour, fortifications and charming backstreets. Part of its charm is that it’s an unpolished gem, a completely different experience to the gorgeous resorts in the north-east of the island.
That said, these days Valletta is tentatively reinventing itself. There are top-notch bars and new bohemian restaurants carved into the city walls, and beautiful alfresco spots. Though by night the city still feels quiet, romantic and undiscovered. The best places to stay are a clutch of private houses and apartments that have been restored by interiors aficionados. Many have been inspired in their restorations by Malta’s rich past – Sicilian, French and British by turns.
The latest is self-catering Lucia Nova (www.lucianova.com), as stunning as a film set, furnished with traditional Maltese wooden balconies, decorative Venetian headboards, Florentine lights and distressed paint walls. Doubles from €98.
THE REAL ITALY
Director, vintner, hotelier – Francis Ford Coppola has gotta lotta strings to his bow. The great American movie-maker has a clutch of hotels of note under his belt, from Belizean eco-lodges to New Orleans mansions. But his latest could be the closest to his heart – a 19th-century palazzo in an exquisite urban garden painstakingly restored from dilapidation.
It is located in his grandfather Agostino’s sleepy home town of Bernalda, in Basilicata, southern Italy. Palazzo Margherita (www.coppolaresorts. com) was rescued from ruin just in time for Sofia Coppola to marry Thomas Mars here. Jacques Grange, the cream of French designers, has given the 12 palatial frescoed rooms the once over, and you can expect movie memorabilia amid the Carrara marble and fine plasterwork.
If you can’t afford the palazzo’s price tag, just swing by to eat at the restau rant, which has a wine bar stocked with wines from the director’s own Napa Valley estate.
Basilicata, one of Italy’s lesser-known regions, has miles of white sand beaches, and remote fishing villages where tourists are still rare. About 30km away you could stay in the city of Matera, famous for its Sassi (cave dwellings). Now a Unesco World Heritage site, it was used as a location for the film The Passion of the Christ. L’Hotel in Pietra (22 Via San Giovanni Vecchio, tel: +39 (0)835 344040, www.hotelinpietra.it), a 12th-century church conversion, mixes modern and antique pieces against the sandstone arches and cave walls of the interior. With doubles from €110, it’s chic and still relatively cheap.
FOR FABULOUS MAYHEM
With its snake charmers, henna tattooists, mysterious Berber pharmacists, charismatic kebab stall owners and prodigious lantern tradesmen, Marrakesh is mind-bending. The main square, Djemaa el Fna, is the nexus of all action; the souks are the boggling maze into which you’ll be sucked; and the riads are the oases of calm in the middle of Medina madness, aesthetic idylls with quiet courtyards, ice- cold plunge pools and exquisite tiled floors. Add palace hotels, lavish spas and smart boutiques beyond the old city walls and you have an unforgettable 21st-century city.
Our favourite new lodging for a late summer holiday is Peacock Pavilions (www.peacockpavilions.com). Run by an American family, who welcome children, it’s set in an olive grove on the edge of town on the road to Ouarzazate. There’s an outdoor gym, dining tent, open-air cinema and a lovely pool. It’s the perfect antidote to the (wonderful) madness and mayhem of downtown Marrakesh. Doubles from €150.