I’m not much of a runner. I prefer to take things slow and enjoy the scenery. However, I will be joining 400 proper runners this evening at The North Face Night Rock Run in Ras Al Khaimah home to desert landscapes, such as Wadi Al Shawka.
I do like mountains however, and some of you will remember when I climbed Kilimanjaro and reached Uhuru Peak. I climbed with Exodus and Friends of Conservation for the Tanzania Porter Education Project and you were all very generous in your sponsorship.
A few years ago I visited Nepal with Exodus and fell in love, not just with the landscapes but with the generosity and spirit of the Nepali people.
So if “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination” as highlighted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, then the arrival must surely be an experience to be savoured.
I clearly recall the delicious thrill more than a decade ago of being swept away by a seaplane and being transported magically to a desolate sandbank in the Maldives.
Why visit … because there’s something magical about Oman. Whenever I think of the sultanate, punctuating the images of sunsets, mountains and souks, my head spins with the heady scent of Frankincense.
When … you feel the need to see generous sunsets and sip Bloody Mary’s overlooking a sweeping vistas stretching beyond the horizon a mere 2,000 metres above sea level it’s time to head out past Muscat and upwards to the mountains and beyond.
Why not ...join Alila Jabal Akhdar’s Leisure Concierge on a climb to discover the local ‘mirage’. Sarab, an abandoned village is just a few miles from the resort and is the original home of the local community, many of whom work for Alila or are producers for the resort. Head off after breakfast before it gets too hot, and take a packed lunch.
Just a couple of hours away from Abu Dhabi, but a million miles away in pace, Banyan Tree Al Wadi is a gorgeous sanctuary hidden away in the vast, dusty Al Wadi Nature Reserve – Ras Al Khaimah’s first managed protected area.
Spanning 100 desert hectares across a wooded valley within Wadi Khadeeja, the reserve is home to a herd of endangered Arabian Oryx often found wandering around the resort, or drinking at the Saffron Watering Hole.
After a magical few days of horse riding, stargazing and a camel caravan across the sandscape exploring the rust coloured sand dunes which seem to drift for miles, my sister and I retreated to the rainforest. A rainforest in the desert? I hear you ask….
The thing about winter in the UK is that it is cold. Freezing cold. On the spur of the moment after trudging through the snow to my London office I booked Exodus’ Week in Jordan. It sounded so perfect. Only five hours away from the UK, yet 15 degrees warmer. Jordan has history and culture in bucket loads and the itinerary meant I could really get under the skin of the country in a short time, and without having to fly halfway across the world.
The trip began in the Greco-Roman city of Jerash, 30 miles north of the capital, where we spent several hours exploring well preserved monuments including the Temple of Artemis and Temple of Zeus. Buried under sand for centuries until being rediscovered in 1806, Jerash was famed as one of the ten wealthy self-governing cities of the Decapolis. With a long and colourful history, Jerash enjoyed a golden age with luminaries including Alexander the Great and Emperor Pompey amongst the visitors to this great city.
As the year kicks off, it’s easy to maintain those New Year resolutions during the first week. Yoga classes. Healthy eating. Personal training sessions. However, once life kicks in, those good intentions often fall by the wayside. I’ve always found it difficult to maintain my fitness routine when travelling. The sunshine. The cocktails. The mini-bar. The cheeseboard. Read my piece for Women’s Health Magazine about the healthy choices to make when travelling.
But it is not as difficult as you may think to stay fit whilst on the road. Chicago O’Hare International Airport has recently introduced a yoga room so travellers can maintain a state of Zen, whilst up in the air. Located in Terminal Three, the Yoga Room features sustainable bamboo exercise mats, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, video tutorials and relaxing music. San Francisco Airport also has a dedicated yoga room, whilst Singapore’s Changi Airport has a Balinese themed rooftop pool where you can swim lengths and enjoy views of the runway.
Christmas time always makes me think of the sun-drenched beaches and my family and friends in St Lucia. A couple of years ago my sister Dawn and I visited Jade Mountain for a travel feature for the Christmas special of The Spectator. Soaring over the Caribbean Sea with breath-snatching views over the Pitons, the Sanctuaries at Jade Mountain are accessed via a sky bridge. Once inside you are completely wowed by the infinity-pools which are designed to make you feel like you are floating across the sky towards the mountains. With just three walls, you are exposed to the lightest Caribbean breeze.
Travel trends and predictions for 2014
Read my contribution to TTG Luxury MENA Winter 2013 about the top trends in luxury travel for 2014. Below are my predictions in full for 2014. What an exciting year it is set to be!
1. Bespoke travel
Reports from our clients and from the market intelligence available suggest that luxury travel will continue to thrive and attract high-net-worth individuals in search of bespoke experiences. In 2014 expect to see an increase in hotel groups and tour operators catering to ultra-luxury travellers with personalised itineraries, private guides bespoke tours and concierge services.