Just the two of us

Issue 2 · Summer 2015

Whisper it, but great holidays don’t have to involve your whole family or partner. Three writers share their travel special relationships

Issue 2 · Summer 2015

Whisper it, but great holidays don’t have to involve your whole family or partner. Three writers share their travel special relationships

James and Christina

Son And Mum

 

Images: Getty Images
James Collard is a writer and editor, specialising in travel, luxury and men’s style

It came out of something very sad, our penchant for travelling together, for it was born of a weekend away I organised to give Mum a brief respite as my poor father slipped ever further into illness. But the holidays I have with my mother have become one of life’s great pleasures, for both of us; much anticipated, and often repeated.

Mum loves Spain, as I do; indeed my then partner (and still great friend) is Spanish. So that initial foray had been to Bilbao – a place Mum first visited in 1949, when she taught English in nearby Durango. Back then Mum had been struck both by the austerity of Franco’s Spain so soon after the Civil War, but also by the many refugees from the Allied victory, washed up over the Pyrenees – Belgian Quislings, Italian fascists, even an SS man (“who seemed rather ordinary”).

The Bilbao we explored together six decades later was very different: democratic, post-industrial, a city-break destination rendered hip by Frank Gehry’s shiny Guggenheim Museum. We went – and saw a Jeff Koons show Franco wouldn’t have liked one bit. Yet the real highlight of that trip was a dinner cooked by Basque chef Karlos Arguiñano. “One of the great meals of our lives,” we agreed. And a shared delight in such pleasures is a key ingredient to our travels – rather more so than high culture.

Meals can be fancy: as served by tuxedo-clad waiters on the lovely terrace of the Villa San Michele overlooking Florence (“Ah, I think the Signora should have the view!”). Or they can be simple. And we dearly love a picnic lunch of our favourite things (jamon, gazpacho, fat white asparagus) purchased from a Spanish supermarket and feasted upon on the balcony of a hotel room or on the terrace of a villa, with a bottle of albariño or Ribera del Duero on the go.

What bliss. And if at this point in our lives, sightseeing largely plays second fiddle to ease, food and the beach, perhaps we feel that after all those family holidays spent exploring Scottish castles or French cathedrals, we’ve paid our cultural dues. Surely we’re owed a few hours reading and dozing with our feet in the sand.

Last year’s trip to Spain’s Costa de la Luz struck the perfect balance. We arrived via Cadiz, probably Europe’s oldest city and my mother’s favourite. So it would have been rude not to take in a Carthaginian ruin, though much more to Mum’s taste was the vivid local colour of a religious procession, complete with tearful Madonna and marching band. And we left via Jerez, so a potter around the Moorish castle and a glass of fino was in order. But the focus of the trip was the beach, and there are 10 glorious miles of it at Conil de la Frontera – and the sea. Day after idle day we paddled in it, dipped in and out of it and then watched the sun go down over it, G&T in hand, at the chiringuito. Simple pleasures, for sure, but at such moments, I find myself thinking that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, and no one else I’d rather be with.


Scott Dunn offers 7 nights in Andalucia from £1,550pp including flights and car hire. 020 8682 5080

Scott Dunn Suggests

for treating older parents

St. Petersburg
A trip to St. Petersburg in the summer, when the weather is good and it’s light long into the night, would be an ideal break on which to take your mother or father: great Russian food, wonderful accommodation at the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, and plenty of history and culture when the mood takes you.

 

A boat down the Nile
A cruise down the Nile on the Oberoi Zahra would be another fantastic choice. The boat has a different itinerary to all the other cruises in the area, so guests often have temples and sights all to themselves, and children under 12 aren’t allowed on the boat either so it’s a really peaceful, relaxed way to take in the surroundings.

 

Bordeaux and the Dordogne
Early autumn is a great time to travel to Bordeaux and the Dordogne, and as it’s wine harvesting time the vineyards are a hive of activity. Guests can get involved in a spot of truffle hunting – or just enjoy the beautiful colour of the trees across the valleys.

Lisa and Amandip

Best friends

 

Images: Getty Images
Lisa Grainger is a travel and style writer and Deputy Editor of The Telegraph’s Ultratravel magazine

I’ll never forget my first foreign trip with my friend Amandip. Every week we produced a newspaper fashion page – she styling the clothes and me writing about them – and one March, in order to get some sunshine into our pages, we were dispatched to St. Tropez.

We had suitcases of handstitched couture to photograph on statuesque French models. The markets were full of ripe, sun-sweetened fruit and veg which the two of us – both keen cooks – turned into Provençal feasts for the fashion crew at night. The air was thick with the scents of lavender and lemons. We drove our soft-top car through the hills, singing along to schmaltzy pop ballads and giggling like teens. Away from home, from the office, from our families and our homeland, we felt like Thelma and Louise: in girl heaven (alas without Brad Pitt but, rather marvellously, on expenses).

Since then we’ve travelled together twice: to Florence and to Puglia, both of which have been a total hoot. Why? Because, as we discovered in St. Tropez, travelling with a friend doesn’t come with the same responsibilities or commitments as travelling with a family or romantic partner. You’re not responsible for the other person. You’re there to do one thing: have fun. Provided you both enjoy doing the same things, and have agreed a budget, all you have to do is to get on and enjoy life.

Which, in Puglia, meant veering off the road at every possible market, to stock up on olive oils and hand-made soaps – in the maze that is Gallipoli, in the whitewashed hill-top towns with their conical trullo homes, in baroque cities lined with golden cathedrals, and finally, to the north in neighbouring Basilicata province, in the almost Biblical cave town of Matera. We stopped, unplanned, at tiny vineyards outside the whitewashed city of Ostuni, and flirted with fishermen cleaning fresh oysters in the port of Savelletri; drank wine over salad lunches at chic restaurants, before browsing boutiques and snoozing on beaches (all of which most men would have hated); sang in the car, between pulling off to photograph beautiful scenes along the Adriatic Coast; and of course, being women, talked non-stop: about men, relationships, food, friends, families, religion, charities, our communities, the bits of our bodies we hated, the cakes we loved, the places we wished we had been. No man, child or relative could have stuck the endless drone, but we revelled in it. There were a few moments in which being with a girlfriend seemed a bit odd: eating at a romantic candlelit restaurant or sleeping (in full pyjamas!) in a four-poster made for lovers; visiting an ancient building we knew our mothers would have adored; getting lost in tiny villages (if there is one thing Amandip is hopeless at, it is map-reading). But I’ll never forget the singing, the laughing, the giggling, the dressing up, when she did my eye-make-up and I helped her choose her outfits. Those scenes are ones that, when I’m too old to travel, I’ll think back on with great fondness – as I know she will.


A 10-night road-trip in Puglia and Amalfi is from £2,500pp including flights and car hire. 020 8682 5080

Scott Dunn Suggests

for best friends

Istanbul and the Turkish coast
A trip to Istanbul and the Turkish coast is a great holiday for style-loving friends, where you can pick up bargains at the Grand Bazaar and visit the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. You can then fly on to Dalaman and the D-Hotel Maris to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet on the beaches, which are restricted to the over-12s.

 

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is another lovely city break, and in May to June or late September you miss the crowds and the weather is beautiful. Swim in the fantastically clear sea, or enjoy the pretty 20-minute walk from your base at Villa Dubrovnik along the coast to the Old City.

 

Cape Town and winelands
For a more ambitious break with beautiful scenery, sunshine and wonderful food and wine, you can’t get better than Cape Town. In November, the beginning of summer in South Africa, you would have your pick of the hotels and restaurants, and can do everything from shark cage diving to exploring the Winelands.

Gill and Molly

Mum and daughter

 

Images: Getty Images; Gallery Stock
Gill Morgan is the Editor of Days Like This

Among the many other genetic hand-me-downs my younger daughter has inherited from me, one becomes more apparent as the years go by: an incurable yearning to be a New Yorker. As with her mother, this affliction has struck in her teenage years, incubated in Molly’s case by endless episodes of Friends and Gossip Girl, rather than – in my case – a dangerous early exposure to Annie Hall. Molly dreams of meet-ups on the steps of the Met, downtown brunches with friends and rides in yellow cabs. I too craved all of that, but more than anything I wanted to carry sophisticated provisions home from a deli in a thick brown paper grocery bag, just like Diane Keaton.

So it was that, a week after Molly turned 15, we took off for this greatest of cities together, for three days at February halfterm, just the two of us. With Moll’s older siblings away at university and my husband working we thought, why not? I have to admit to a degree of trepidation. Silly, but as a family of five you get so used to travelling en masse and falling into comfortable roles. How would we get on?

Well… we got on brilliantly. There is something liberating about travelling with one child rather than as a family pack, and I’d underestimated to what extent Molly, at just 15, would be an equal travelling companion, sharing decisions, taking responsibility, having a laugh, up for it all. We arrived on the coldest day in 20 years, but it didn’t hold us back. It just upped our cab bill, but that played right into one of our fantasies – jumping into yellow cabs and saying things like “East 4th and Lafayette”.

We were staying at The Mark Hotel, a gorgeous essay in contemporary Upper East Side sophistication: gloriously comfortable, but without a stuffy bone in its chic body. It displays the kind of sharp but easy-going service that is the mark of true modern luxury: a “drink on us” in the bar when we arrived, a quiet knock on the door from housekeeping last thing to check we had all we wanted. We felt properly looked after. So, what did we get up to? Well, we spent hours in the Met (and yes, we sat on the steps à la Gossip Girl). We had brunch in the Bowery, not far from the site of the old CBGB club, home to the New York punk scene. We hung out in Times Square (and had a great mac and cheese with pastrami in a diner there) and we shopped and shopped on Fifth Avenue (something that wouldn’t have happened in full family mode). We went to Top of the Rock (the Empire State-besting viewing platform at the top of Rockefeller Center) and we happened upon Grand Central in the darkness and sat in reverie in the gorgeous hush of its central lobby, as beautiful a space as any cathedral. We ordered room service, watched movies and walked in Central Park in the snow. We visited MoMA and the fascinating Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. We ate tacos in Greenwich Village and dinner in the extremely glamorous Jean- Georges restaurant at the Mark.

Yes, we bickered a little bit – we’re a mother and daughter after all – but we mostly had a huge amount of fun. On our second night we played Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk and danced around our room. The next evening, coming back into the hotel, we stepped into the lift and a tall, dark man asked us what floor we wanted. It was Mark Ronson and his wife. Of course it was. And as we arrived at JFK the next evening, leaving behind the most spectacular sunset as it spread over the city, the cabbie was playing Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind. Of course he was. This is New York – it’s what dreams are made of.


Stay at The Mark for 7 nights from £1,760pp including flights and transfers. 020 8682 5030

Scott Dunn Suggests

for mums and daughters

Stockholm
Stockholm makes for a perfect mother-daughter trip – amazing food, eclectic shopping, an omnipresent coffee culture and it’s so easy to negotiate on foot. Stay at Ett Hem and guide Filippa will give you her insider tips on vintage shopping and picnics at the royal park.

 

Dubai

There’s so much to do in Dubai, from skiing to camel rides in the desert. It’s home to one of the world’s largest shopping malls, so a mother and teenage daughter could enjoy a bit of retail therapy followed by some sunshine and sunbathing – a combination everyone seems to love!

 

Barcelona
Spring or autumn half-term is a good time to visit Barcelona as the weather is pleasant, and the W Hotel is a great place for a motherdaughter trip. Located right on the water, it has an amazing pool club with cabanas, beach access and an enormous spa.

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