Eternal springtime in the streets of Athens
In the Greek capital, your skin is warmed by the first stirrings of spring. In the morning, make your way along the bustling Athinas shopping street where the central market can be found. Do your shopping in its traditional grocery stores and follow the tantalising smells to the indoor market. For lunch, take a seat in the Epirus tavern, tucked in between the butchers' stalls. This small restaurant with its family atmosphere will serve you a delicious moussaka and cooked vegetables, such as oven-roasted okra. Continue your gastronomic stroll at the back of the market, to the unmissable Krinos patisserie, famous for its loukoumades, little doughnuts served with a honey syrup.
The Fresh Hotel, an establishment with a tangy-coloured, minimalist style, is the perfect base for your stay. Straight out of the imagination of the Greek architect Tassos Zeppos, this Athenian hotspot will transport you to the refreshing world of the design guru, Philippe Starck. You will soon feel at home in this informal, arty atmosphere. Head to the 9th floor for an enormous surprise. A superb roof terrace offers breathtaking views of the Acropolis, while the setting sun sets the city's rooftops and the surrounding hills ablaze.
Escape to the tranquillity of Anafiotika, one of Athens' oldest working-class neighbourhoods, a few minutes away from the centre by metro, right next to the sacred hill of the Acropolis. Stroll in the cool through this network of little whitewashed streets, a legacy of the stonemasons who came from the Cycladic island of Anafi. Then, make your way to the livelier neighbourhood of Psyri. In Iroon Square, admire the large-mouthed characters of Alexandros Vasmoulakis, a local street artist. When evening comes, it's time to enjoy some food and popular traditions. Philoxenia, Greek style hospitality, awaits you at the Klimataria Tavern. At this week's end, a group of musicians accompany your dinner with popular songs which fill the air with an infectious gaiety.
Athens 105 52
+30 21 0524 8511
Athens 105 51
+30 21 0324 0773
Athens 105 51
+30 21 0321 6852
Pl. Theatrou 2
Athens 105 52
+30 21 0321 6629
Luxor: the legacy of Pharaohs' grandeur
After a short stopover in Cairo, leave the pyramids behind and head for Luxor. In March, the temperatures in Upper Egypt are incredible. As soon as you have checked into the famous Winter Palace Luxor, slip on your swimsuit. Behind this historic hotel, a beautiful pool nestles amidst lush gardens. Opposite, the Nile and its bobbing feluccas provide a continual delight for the eye.
A pilgrimage to Luxor is a must for all those fascinated by ancient Egypt. Built 4,000 years ago in a curve of the majestic river, the spectacular monuments of ancient Thebes will transport you into a prestigious past. At dawn, a multicoloured water taxi will take you to the bank of the Dead: you set off for the Valley of the Kings, where arid mountains house the tombs of the Pharaohs. Your guide will whisk you away to the subterranean world of Osiris, where you will be blown away by a whirlwind of images, hieroglyphs and symbols. Take the time to observe the details of these sophisticated paintings, and to focus on their hypnotic colours.
Time for a lunch break near the former workmen's village a few minutes away. You can tuck into a delicious dish of smothered chicken and vegetables at the Nour el-Gourna restaurant, in the shade of its terrace overlooking a wooded garden.
On the other side of the Nile, on the Karnak site, colonnades, shrines and obelisks reveal the unrivalled prestige of a civilisation in broad daylight. Centuries collide on the esplanade of the largest religious complex of Ancient Times. Captivated by the colossal proportions of the hypostyle hall, you will stand open mouthed in the middle of this forest of 134 carved sandstone columns. Your imagination will transport you to past centuries, when the Pharaoh was carried in Amun's boat and paraded along a passageway of one thousand perfectly aligned sphinxes to the temple of Luxor.
Winter Palace Luxor
Corniche el Nile street,
11 432 Luxor
+20 95 2380425
11 432 Luxor
+20 95 2311430
Creole cuisine and a Caribbean lagoon in Martinique
The road winds through a lush peninsula, overlooking Robert's Bay and its unspoilt islands. 30 minutes away from Fort-de-France, in the secluded K'fée K'nelle guesthouse, in Hyacinthe in one of Martinique's most beautiful sites, Claire-Marie Dubois offers a warm-hearted, discreet welcome. This intimate gîte has a superb table d'hôtes. The lady of the house is an accomplished chef. She is a cookery teacher and tempts her guests with delicious gluten-free Creole recipes. Settle down on the veranda and relax while the mild trade winds wash over you. This evening, one glance at the festive menu will whet your appetite: sea bass in a spiny lobster sauce, accompanied by a breadfruit soufflé and a chayote gratin. After this heavenly Creole dinner, your room is only a few steps away.
On the following day, you set off on a trip to the islands in a fast boat. This day by the sea on a stretch of water studded with small islands includes Chancel Islet, which you explore in a horse-drawn carriage, amongst timid iguanas and greedy goats. You will be ecstatic when you see the heavenly coloured Baignoire du Trapeze lagoon, where bathing is a must.
Want to understand Martinique culture better? A rural road will take you through the sugar cane fields to Habitation Clément, in Le François. This legendary rum distillery showcases its top of the range production facilities. In this place steeped in history, take a walk between the cellars, the old Creole house and steam engine relics. It recently added an elegant modern art museum to its extensive collections.
Destination, the southern Caribbean. This spectacular natural area will amaze you with its coastal villages, sparkling bays and secret coves. You will be instinctively led to Grande Anse beach, where the Chez Evelyne restaurant awaits you. You spend the day lounging by one of the tables pitched on the sand, tucking into grilled spiny lobsters, with the turquoise sea on the horizon.
Lotissement Pointe Hyacinthe Allée 555
Domaine de l'acajou
97240 Le François
+596 596 54 75 51
97217 Les Anses-d'Arlet
+596 596 48 39 38
A trendy getaway in Barcelona
At the end of this European winter, the temperate Mediterranean climate of the Catalan capital will give you an energy boost. The appeal of the Mediterranean tempts you to a stroll around Port Vell Marina, amidst yachts, street shows and sunny restaurant terraces. Go to learn about the city's long naval history in Barcelona's Maritime Museum. The largest civil Gothic building in the world boasts a collection of ships and navigation instruments.
Dive into the back streets of the old fisherman's neighbourhood of la Barceloneta, where the sea breeze blows and washing hangs at the windows. On arriving at the sea front promenade, your gaze will be drawn to a futurist sculpture “L'Estel Ferit”, its gleaming silvery glass façade rising above the sea.
Stride along the promenade by San Sebastian beach, invaded by skateboarders, cyclists and joggers, to the hotel which the Barcelonians call “la Vela”, (sail in Catalan). Very quickly embraced by fans of avant-garde architecture, the W hotel has reshaped the Barcelona coastline. You have booked a room in this emblematic establishment which in a few years has become one of the hippest venues in the city. Underneath the dizzying light wells of the lobby, the atmosphere is youthful, relaxed and lively. The vast meeting area is enhanced with tall, backlit, reddish-orange columns and glittering walls. Seated at a table in the bright Wave restaurant, your gaze is drawn towards the sea. The W is the only hotel in Barcelona which has direct access to the beach.
After a light dish of octopus with purple potatoes, you head for the Wet Bar to top up your suntan around the hotel's infinity pool. The temperature of the day strays above 20°C. A concierge advises you about the city's latest trendy venues for a night out. From the hushed ambience of your room, the city of Gaudi appears in cinemascope. You have a feeling of weightlessness, as you face the picture window embracing the void... 26 floors down, the light subsides as the rhythms of the electronic music mixed by a resident DJ quicken on the bar's terrace. The Barcelona night has just begun.
Barcelona Maritime Museum
Av. de les Drassanes, s/n
+34 933 42 99 20
Plaça Rosa del Vents
1 Final, Passeig de Joan de Borbó
+34 932 95 28 00