Category Archives: Travel

The interesting one is cycle around the world

Want to quit your job and go travelling but too skint or scared to take the leap? Take inspiration from Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world. Coralie Modschiedler recounts her stirring tale.

On the morning of 13 January 1895, an enthusiastic crowd, giddy with anticipation, lined the streets of Marseille to see the arrival of a brave, young American woman in her early twenties.

Dressed in a man’s riding suit and astride a man’s bicycle, she had braved bitter cold and snow to reach the south of France from Paris. But despite the hardship, there she was, in the flesh: the famous, audacious Annie Londonderry – the first woman to attempt to cycle around the world.

A loud cheer went up and people waved and shouted as the petite, dark-haired cyclist wheeled by with one foot – her other foot, wrapped in bandages, was propped on the handlebars. Marseille was the last leg of her French sojourn and had been the most perilous so far.

“One night I had an encounter with highwaymen near Lacone [about 50km north of Marseille],” Annie later wrote in the New York World.

“There were three men in the party, and all wore masks. They sprang at me from behind a clump of trees, and one of them grabbed my bicycle wheel, throwing me heavily.

“I carried a revolver in my pocket within easy reach, and when I stood up I had that revolver against the head of the man nearest me. He backed off but another seized me from behind and disarmed me. They rifled my pockets and found just three francs.

“My shoulder had been badly wrenched by my fall, and my ankle was sprained, but I was able to continue my journey.”

Maldives on vacation

As the Maldives opens its inhabited islands to tourism, Heidi Fuller-love island hops and meets locals in three remote destinations.

My coccyx squeals as the tatty speedboat bucks and thumps us over the waves to Maafushi in the Kaafu Atol. Used to this brutal form of transport, Mohammed lounges on the bench next to me humming a song dedicated to Al-Sultan Ghazi Muhammad Bodu Thakurufaanu, the sea captain who liberated The Maldives from Portuguese conquerors in 1573.

I’ve been to many exotic destinations, but often felt that they’d been over-hyped. The Maldives, however, are as good as in the brochures: beneath our boat the water shimmers clear as turquoise glass as we bump across the waves, past tiny islands set in the sparkling sea like green egg yolks surrounded by the blue-white waters of their coral lagoons. “Most people come here for the diving – it’s the best in the world,” says Mohammed, who I met whilst waiting in line to take this ferry to his island.

Although tourists began to visit the Maldives in 1973, travellers were only allowed to stay on the resort islands and the only Maldivians they encountered would be cleaning their rooms, or serving them dinner. Luckily, a few years ago, ex-President Nasheed authorised islanders to open guesthouses. Nowadays it’s possible to live like a local in the Maldives and pay money directly to the people who live here. Unlike ‘most people’ who make a beeline for the luxury resorts, I’ve come to the Maldives to visit some of the lesser known islands and meet locals like Mohammed.

Wrestling Cholitas

Fronting a fierce spectacle of body-slamming, bowler hats and petticoats, Bolivia’s wrestling women have not only been winning fans around the region but also changing the conversation on equality in the country, as Sarah Gilbert discovers.

In a blur of red lamé, frilly petticoats and flying pigtails, La Gloria bounces off the ropes, lunges at the retreating back of her opponent and grips his neck with her thighs. He hits the canvas with a resounding thud, landing in an ungainly sprawl.

“Are you afraid?” she cries, as she rests her dainty foot on the back of his head, raising her arms triumphantly to an ecstatic audience.

I’d already watched an ageing but still muscular Mr Atlas, underpants over his tights, take on a fearsome-looking Crow. Then a handsome Aladdin floored The Devil, with help from the 75-year-old referee Ali Farak, as the crowd chucked half-chewed chicken bones and popcorn in their direction, accompanied by jeers and cries of ‘cheaters’.

Finally, over ear-splitting music, foot stamping and impatient whistles, the compère bellowed dramatically into the microphone, the curtains leading to the backstage parted and La Gloria sashayed towards the ring to the biggest cheer of the day.

“Let’s dance!” she shouted, putting her bowler hat, fringed shawl and dangly earrings to one side. Within seconds of the bell, La Gloria and La Muerte – or Death – were locked in a high-octane bout, filled with athletic somersaults, flying fists and hair pulling.

Holiday that is not just good but spectacular

Long-distance backpacker Andrew Skurka set off from the Grand Canyon to walk ‘The Great Western Loop’, a 6,875-mile journey which takes in a vast swathe of the left hand side of America. Upon his triumphant return in November the same year, his status in the adventure community skyrocketed. National Geographic named him an adventurer of the year and everyone from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal wanted to speak to him.

Skurka became a hot ticket.

With brains to match his brawn, he realised that ‘exposure’, while nice, wasn’t going to buy him a house or convince his girlfriend he was serious marriage material. In fact, he now says, he was “a backpacking dirtbag,” spending as many days on trails each year as he could and then working as little as he had to in order to get by.

When Skurka hit 30 in 2011, he decided to turn the thing he knows and loves into a business and set himself up as a backpacking guide offering less-experienced hikers memorable and meaningful adventures in the Rockies. Five days with Andrew costs around £1,200 – not bad considering the experience, planning and fireside stories he brings to the table. “I was tired of financial uncertainty,” he says, “and going into business doing something I loved was a more appealing option than a 9-5 job.”

Though he perhaps didn’t realise it at the time, Skurka had cottoned on to something that is only now starting to become a bit of a ‘thing’: namely that big-name adventurers are not only there to bag sponsorship money and chase news headlines, they can also show us lesser mortals how to we can have an awesome adventure, too.

At one end of the spectrum is Bear Grylls. His popular Survival Academy offers trips ranging from 1-5 days, but he’s not normally there to haul you up the mountain or help you build a raft. If you want the man himself to show up, you’ll have to pay an incredible – wait for it – £110,000, though that does include all fees for a group of up to 10 people.

Rather more affordable is TV’s Ray Mears, who leads several adventures a year to places like Namibia and charges a jolly reasonable £5,000 for 10 days. Even more wallet-friendly is Kenton Cool, the famous mountain guide who helped Sir Ranulph Fiennes make it up Everest. It’ll set you back around £475 a day to get one-on-one tuition from Cool, one of the world’s most vaunted mountain guides, which is not a whole lot more than what you’d have to pay to go climbing with someone no one has ever heard of.

There are other adventurers who are starting to smell the potential of offering themselves up as personal guides, too – people like Jason Lewis, the first person to circumnavigate the globe using human power.

“I’ve certainly thought about it,” says Lewis. “Getting amateurs into the field and having a grand adventure is something I’ve always felt passionate about, and I’ve done it several times, though I’ve only asked people to cover their costs. But seeing as I’ve already done it for free and a couple of times it’s not been very pleasant, then hell, why not charge for it?”

Better in every visit

There are some cities that you just want to return to again and again – places where memories are made and new discoveries wait around every corner.

We were inspired by Flights.com’s “Don’t Skip the Trip” campaign and the reasons why some cities are worth visiting more than once. Whether you know them like the back of your hand or only by reputation, these classic US destinations are always chock-full of surprises.

New York

If cities were music then the Big Apple would be a pure gold track: one that stands the test of time and gets the nostalgia flowing whenever you hear it. That pinnacle-packed skyline must be the world’s most famous cityscape, and it’s been wowing travellers from all across the world for generations. There are a few iconic experiences that every first-time visitor to New York needs to get out the way (think a trip up the Empire State Building, shopping at Macy’s and a stroll around Central Park), but it’s impossible to really delve beneath the city’s skin in one visit. To ‘get’ NYC you need time: time to discover the quirky little neighbourhoods, hidden speakeasies, mad museums and invite-only restaurants that make this a place to fall more deeply in love with on every trip.

Austin

A melting pot of artistic, musical and gastronomic creativity, Austin prides itself on being wonderfully weird. Like most eccentrics, though, the Texan capital only really opens up on better acquaintance. At first glance, the city is all elegant architecture, glitzy restaurants and high-brow cultural institutions. It takes a few visits to uncover Austin’s crazy side: the offbeat nightlife of the warehouse district, the Tex Mex bars, the funky vintage shops… There’s always something new to do here, whether it’s watching the sunset from Pennybacker Bridge, catching a free outdoor concert at the Long Center or taking in the view over Lake Austin from the summit of Mount Bonnell – so grab a ‘Keep Austin Weird’ bumper sticker and make yourself at home.

New Orleans

Ah, the Big Easy. Birthplace of jazz, home of the famous Mardi Gras parade and reputedly the most haunted city in North America. New Orleans is like no other city in the country. With its gabled houses, charming historic districts and traditional social order, every trip here is a journey back in time. It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of the place from the start, and the city’s allure just continues to grow with every visit. Embrace the relaxed Mississippi way of life and enjoy the famously warm welcome – you’ll feel like a local New Orleanian in no time.

Fall in love with Wyoming's natural beauty again and againFall in love with Wyoming’s natural beauty again and again
Jackson Dean Fikar / Thinkstock

Jackson

The party never stops in Wyoming’s youngest and funkiest town, where sunburned skiers mingle with climbers and adventurers in a constellation of achingly hip bars. You’ll be sifting through nostalgic memories of bracing mountain hikes and crazy nights out long after the end of your trip. There’s always bags of fun to be had in Jackson, but it’s the allure of the great outdoors that draws visitors back time and time again. There are countless ways to enjoy this scenic wonderland, from kayaking down white water rivers and paragliding over wildflower-filled meadows to horse-riding around endless backcountry trails. The more you explore, the more you’ll find yourself drawn in by the dazzling beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Honolulu

You could spend a lifetime in Honolulu and never get bored of the colours: those searing blue skies, dazzling sands, turquoise seas and lush green jungles. First-time visitors tend to make a beeline for Waikki, a chic beachfront suburb scattered with high-end hotels and populated by tanned surfers, but the fun of further trips lies in getting off the tourist trail. Whether it’s donning a grass skirt and boogying to traditional Hawaiian music, exploring the archipelago’s enchanting secret beaches or tantalising your taste buds in the restaurants of Chinatown, Honolulu is seething with things to see, do and discover.

Are say no for clubbing

Tired of BPM-obsessed bores, queue-jumping liggers and fascist security? Looking for a new clubbing experience? David Hillier explores ball pools, bondage gear and spa parties to find the best alternative club nights across Europe.

Each year tourists flock to all corners of Europe to get loaded and have a weird time, whether it’s in an Ibiza superclub, a Berlin technohaus or on a party boat in Belgrade. Of course, it’s all fine and well when you’re travelling with someone who loves dance music as much as you do, and who only needs a box room, a DJ and a Void sound system to achieve disco enlightenment.

But if your companion is not a techno fiend and needs more from a club than untarnished BPMs, here are some of the best nights out on the continent.

Regression Sessions (UK)

Strictly speaking, it’s a night rather than a club, but let’s not concern ourselves with trivialities. Regression Sessions have been putting on events all over the UK for the last five years and are famous for their ball pits, bouncy castles and expansive production. The vibe is very much adults indulging their childish sides, so if you’re not feeling the drum and bass, house and techno spun by Fabric residents, there’s always something else to do. That might just mean face painting.

Fluxus Ministerija (Kaunas, Lithuania)

Housed in an abandoned shoe factory, the Ministry of Fluxus is an accessible art project that happens to throw twanging raves. You’ll find a different vibe in every cavernous room, and the swirling visuals and chin-strokey art installations will make more sense when you’re two pingers down. The lengths of their parties are legendary – come on Saturday, leave Sunday afternoon. Spend the next two days in your hotel room squinting through the curtains and watching Lithuanian dubbed reruns of Diagnosis Murder.

Elrow (Barcelona/Ibiza/Madrid)

Elrow states that its primary function is to “entertain and amuse” and it does so through a magical alchemy of the finest tech house and techno in the style of a throbbing technicolour carnival. Their spiritual home is Viladecans in Barcelona, but they’ve had a recent residency at Space in Ibiza, as well as shows in Madrid, Zaragoza and the UK. Expect elaborately costumed actors, confetti drops and endless blow-up toys to joust with.

How to find perfect jewel

The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily boasts dramatic coastlines and rugged interiors that are soaked in dazzling sunshine most of the year.

Many visitors stick to Sicily’s seaside resorts, but there is so much more to the island than beaches. Hire a car and go speeding down winding country roads, pausing to drink in the heady vistas, such as olive-coloured fields dotted with groves of orange and lemon trees or solitary hamlets standing in the shadow of a mountain-strewn horizon. Make sure you don’t miss out on these sights and flavours, too.

In the Valley of Temples

Halfway down the southern coast is Agrigento and the Valley of Temples, one of the best-conserved sites of Ancient Greek architecture. Then there’s the brooding presence of Mount Etna, whose hulking craters are well worth trekking up to; local companies offer guided tours through the countryside and mountains.

Sicily’s natural wonders may be what attracts visitors, but the cities are worth spending time in too. The largest, Palermo, is chaotic and sprawling, but it’s also home to the island’s most beguiling Norman-Byzantine architecture. Expect ancient churches, crumbling but charming palaces and gorgeous time-worn piazzas. For a taste of the high life in this ancient city, visit Voyage Privé for excusive deals on four and five-star accommodation in Palermo.