Rising from the dunes, Bab Al Shams sits in Endurance City, along a sandswept road, past thoroughbred stables and camel farms some 40 minutes’ drive from Dubai. Meaning ‘gateway to the sun’ in Arabic, Bab Al Shams offers guests an array of activities for exploring the surrounding desert, from falconry, to camel treks to dune drives.
We carry our travels with us long after we have returned and the tan has faded. A straightness of spine developed from daily rituals of guided Surya Namaskar, a seashell bracelet wrapped around our wrist which will remain until worn away by saltwater, or a silk printed scarf faded to perfection. But Alila Diwa Goa is a memory to carry for life.
Capri is enchanting – an island of blue grottos, limestone cliffs dotted with wild flower, crystal clear coves and colossal turquoise skies – a world apart. This wildly romantic paradise has welcomed auteurs and their muses from Godard and Bardot, to Shavelson and Loren. Perhaps it is the light. Or the island uniform of white linen paired with dark shades, that makes everyone appear to be a movie star. Whatever the secret is, more than a half a century later, this island retreat shines brighter than ever.
I have fallen in love, so much so, that I don’t want to leave my hotel and I certainly don’t want to leave the city. I want to stay here forever. Or, perhaps I can transport every moment back home with me, from the heavenly chocolates in the minibar, to the Florentine scent, to the perfectly plump pillows. But of course, most importantly, the view over the lemon trees in the courtyard which give way to fragments of blue sky beyond terracotta sloping roofs.
Why visit …. If you are in need of a change of pace, head to Kerala to enjoy India in slow motion. All the sights, sounds and smells of Incredible India, but at a languid, almost leisurely tempo. Except for the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers who didn’t receive the ‘slow travel’ memo and approach the winding roads as if attempting to outpace a tornado. Should you make it from the airport in one piece, you will discover a slice of paradise. Literally meaning ‘Land of Coconuts‘, you can drift along on a peaceful raft, sip tea at one of Kerala’s many plantations, cycle the hill stations, go boating on Periyar Lake, or rejuvenate with a Ayurvedic massage.
Why visit … I’ve always wanted to live in a home with a built in spa. Relax, unwind, then wander upstairs to sleep. Repeat. Since this was a little ambitious, even for me, I visited Amankora Thimphu a simple and elegant retreat set in a blue pine forest in the upper Thimphu Valley of Bhutan.
There is never a good place to get a puncture. Deep in the heart of lion country is probably bottom of the list. We are in Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve, spiritual home of the safari, where a golden landscape of savannah and scrubland populated by acacia trees stretches as far as the eye can see. The Mara, for once, is empty of tourists. We have the park to ourselves during a fleeting moment when predators outnumber safari trucks and human traffic is at an all time low.
Why visit … known as Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan holds an allure as the destination many regard as the last Shangri-La. The reality is perhaps equal to the myth. Soaring mountains, hidden valleys, sacred monasteries and ancient fortresses dot the landscape of this beautiful and little known nation. Tucked in the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is the last remaining Buddhist state in the region.
Why visit … because there are few occasions in life where you can disappear off the grid and into the desert. An easy drive from Abu Dhabi or Dubai, city life soon slips away behind you and your gaze is filled with golden dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.