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Inchydoney Beach, Cork

Without doubt one of the most dramatic and scenic beaches in the country, Inchydoney makes for the ideal getaway and proves very accessible, as it is located just outside Clonakilty in west Cork, less than an hour from Cork city centre. The Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa overlooks the sprawling strand and could make an ideal base for exploring the always-exciting Rebel County coast.

 

Keem Bay, Achill Island, Mayo

Another picture-postcard beach tucked away in a remote corner of Ireland, Keem Bay is located on the western tip of Achill Island. Trawmore Strand is probably the best-known beach on the island and is popular with both swimmers and surfers. Dugort’s Silver Strand and Golden Strand are also Blue Flag beaches, while Dooega boasts fantastic southern views of nearby Clare Island. The beaches are only one of the reasons to visit Achill as it is renowned for stunning scenery throughout with amazing ocean views from some of the highest cliffs in the country. Nightlife in Achill is another reason to visit, especially in the summer months when you are likely to hear some of the finest traditional music in any of the many pubs scattered about the island.

Tramore, Waterford

Tramore has five kilometres of golden, sandy beach surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The long rolling waves in Tramore are ideal for surfing novices, while lessons and equipment are available locally. Sailing and sea kayaking are other popular water sports in the area. Other Deise County beaches to visit include Dunmore East beach, where you can enjoy swimming or snorkelling, the popular Counsellors strand and Newtown Cove, which is a haven for strong swimmers and divers. Keep an eye out for the Metal Man keeping watch on top of the cliffs.

Rosapenna, Donegal

The north coast of Ireland is blessed with a plethora of picturesque beaches and while the trek to the northern peninsulas of Donegal can be a bit daunting, once you arrive, it will all make sense. Rosapenna Beach is just one of the many amazing beaches to be found throughout this rugged region of Ireland. The nearby Tramore Strand is secluded and serene, and an idyllic location on a sunny day, while golf lovers will be spoilt for choice as the Old Tom Morris Links in Rosapenna is one of the best courses in Europe. Check out the 4* Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort for late spring deals.

Lahinch, Clare

The town of Lahinch is dominated by the sprawling strand that runs the length of the town and beyond. A favourite place for beginner surfers, the town is lively throughout the summer and is surrounded by a wide range of attractions including the ever-impressive Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. More experienced surfers are well catered for along the coast around the Doolin area, while many seaside resorts are dotted all along the Clare coast including Doonbeg and Kilkee where another crescent shaped beach of golden sand is a must see when in the area. This stretch of coastline also has a number of interesting cliff walks.

Spring is the perfect season to visit Florence, a Renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany. A weekend here puts you at the centre of some of Italy’s best museums, beautiful cathedrals and churches, interesting streets and squares with elegant buildings and shops and excellent restaurants. We’ve put together our top 10 Florence sights and experiences to get you in the mood.

1. Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio

Florence’s most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds some important statues including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. The piazza has been Florence’s political center since the middle ages and Florence’s town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, still sits on the square.

2. Il Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence’s most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo was begun in 1296, consecrated in 1436, and holds 20,000 people. Its exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues. Inside, Brunelleschi’s Dome is a masterpiece of construction. Here’s what to see inside the duomo.

3. Campanile – Bell Tower

The Campanile, bell tower, is in Piazza del Duomo. The first story was designed by Giotto and it is commonly called Giotto’s Campanile. Buy a ticket and climb the 414 stairs (no lift) for great views of the Cathedral and its dome and the city of Florence and surroundings.

4. Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, you’ll have a great view along the Arno River and beyond.

5. Galleria degli Uffizi

The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art but it’s also Italy’s most crowded museum so it’s a good idea to buy tickets ahead to avoid long ticket lines (use the link above for booking information or buy tickets from Select Italy). The Uffizi holds thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries. Artists whose works you’ll see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael.

6. Galleria dell’ Academia

Galleria dell’ Academia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th-16th centuries. Michelangelo’s David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is in the Galleria dell’ Academia as well as other sculptures by Michelangelo. You’ll also find an interesting collection of musical instruments, begun by the Medici family.

7. Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace

Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you’ll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence. The Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, was once the seat of the Medici family. You can visit 8 different galleries, including art, costumes, jewelry, and apartments.

8. Santa Croce

Santa Croce, in Piazza Santa Croce, is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante. The vast interior contains some exceptional stained glass windows and frescoes. One of Brunelleschi’s most important works, the Cappella dei Pazzi, is in Santa Croce.

9. The Baptistery

The Baptistery of John the Baptist, from the 11th century, is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. Its exterior is made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors (reproductions – the originals are in the Duomo Museum, also worth a visit). Inside, you can see some mosaics and a marble pavement of the zodiac.

10. Stay – JK Place

In the heart of downtown Florence, in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, just a few steps from the Renaissance church bearing the same name, the very special JK Place is hidden away. This elegant 5* boutique combines understated luxury with the intimatcy of a real house and attentive but never invasive service. Your home from home in Florence.
Find out more at VisitFlorence.com

In the heart of downtown Florence, in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, just a few steps from the Renaissance church bearing the same name, the very special JK Place is hidden away.

 

This elegant hotel combines an atmosphere with hints from the past while offering contemporary comfort, and follows a philosophy of hospitality which is truly different.

 

This is a real house, with fireplaces, flowers and objets  d’art collected over time, with a soft, refined, attentive but never invasive approach. The JK Place is the perfect ultra-luxurious spot for a late spring break to Firenze.

See current offers and book here: www.jkplace.com

 

If you’re looking for a ski area where you can ski new runs every day over a two week holiday and still not run out of new options then Portes du Soleil is for you. Spanning the Swiss / French border the 12 village resorts first came together to create this unique ski area in the 1960’s under the leadership of Jean Vuarnet, a local Olympic ski champion. Since then, the area has become famous as one of the largest interconnected ski areas in the world with over 650 km of piste (and plenty of backcountry skiing too) all covered by one lift pass.

These resorts are set in a part of the Alps with sensational views and each of the 12 villages has its own style and personality from the ultra modern Avoriaz on the French side to the chocolate box Morgins in Switerland and our personal favourite, Les Gets.

The skiing is second to none throughout. Intensive piste management and care mean that the slopes are in great condition all season and for skiers moving from beginner to intermediate to expert the area offers an incredible range of runs for all levels. The area is also a favourite with Freestyle fans of all levels showing off their moves at one of the area’s nine snowparks.

www.portesdusoleil.com

As anybody who has not been skiing since childhood will tell you, breaking through the psychological barriers that have formed can be just as tough as mastering the physical moves required to ski.

It probably doesn’t help that most adult skiers start their ski career on a package holiday with a group lesson. The whole experience can be frustrating, terrifying and addictive in equal measure but if the bug has bitten, making the leap from snow ploughing beginner to graceful expert who can ski the whole mountain can be a long hard road.

Lots of intermediate skiers progress quite quickly from blue to red slopes and then find themselves reaching a plateau. Most people turn to lessons and while there are some very talented instructors working in all major ski resorts, the difference in knowledge and approach can make for some mixed messages which can lead to frustration, lack of confidence and not getting any better at skiing!

Like most early intermediate skiers I have had my good days and my bad days on the snow and it’s the glimpse of how great skiing can be on the good days that keeps you coming back for more. Much as I love it though, facing into another ski season of trial and error and good days and bad days and hit and miss instructors, I finally came to a decision. This would be the year I either cracked skiing or gave it up.

We had heard a lot about The Warren Smith Ski Academy from friends and colleagues over the past year and how Warren’s unique approach to teaching is helping people to smash through psychological barriers and ski like they’ve always dreamed of. With nothing to lose and years of great skiing to gain we booked a week long coaching camp in the beautiful Cervinia, Italy at the end of November.

Despite the high praise I’d heard and the excellent testimonial I read online, I will admit, I was still a little sceptical that I could look forward to the type of progress talked about in just one week. After all, it had taken me 5 years to get to the level I was at so it seemed unlikely that in 5 days I would make such a leap. But with my ultimatum in mind, I was certainly ready to give it a try.

A talented freerider and coach Warren’s technique focuses not just on traditional methods of coaching but adds two extra layers on top – ski biomechanics and ski physiology – which Warren says is the only way to ensure 100% results. This very well designed program has been developed to unlock all your classic ski problems and open the door to performance and efficient skiing.

The Academy work with skiers of all levels from intermediate to expert and instructor training (but not beginners) and you have a chance to choose your level when you make your booking. Even this process is simplified with videos demonstrating each level available to watch on the site. Beware though – don’t try to exaggerate your level because it won’t last long. After warm up on the first morning the entire group skis with their selected group and instructor and following this, the final decision is made on your level and which group you’re going to be spending the week with.

We meet our group for the week along with Becky our coach and work begins. Warren’s initial inspiration for the course came about when he was working in ski schools in Austria. Working with up to 160 clients per season, he realised that he was seeing the same 4 or 5 issues with lots of people which were holding them back from being the best skiers they could be. He describes these issues as “physiological” or biomechanical” problems that were “blocking” his clients from making progress so he set about building a ski course from the ground up that would address these problems alongside teaching using the very latest techniques.

We get an insight into the biomechanics part straight away when Becky starts helping us to focus on our stance. Just like driving, bad habits can form in your skiing, like having your feet too wide apart or leaning back in to what your brain is telling you is a safe position. Getting your stance right is a basic and with a bit of effort and concentration on getting into the right position, we see immediate improvements.

From the basic exercise of getting your stance right the rest of the week we work from the feet up on techniques and exercises to help us “feel” the right position to ski in. Everything is designed to build skill and confidence and enable you to ski the whole mountain from steeps to bumps and off piste.

One of the highlights of the week are the 2 video analysis nights held in the team hotel. If you’ve never seen yourself skiing on camera before this is an extremely instructive exercise and it really helps to have your coach point out exactly where the problems are coming from along with feedback from all the other instructors. The improvements the following morning are noticeable.

I finished the week feeling like I’d made progress and counting the days to my next adventure on the snow. My next opportunity to ski came over a month later and I took my preparations seriously watching through the videos prepared for us by The Warren Smith Academy, thinking about my stance and going over the key points that had worked for me over the week long course. Would this be a permanent change or just an extended good ski day that would see me fall back in to bad habits and low confidence?

After my first couple of runs I had my answer. It works and I’m now a better skier than I was 2 months ago. By following the techniques from the course I was finally able to consistently enjoy my skiing and even had friends who I haven’t skied with for over a year ask me how I’d improved so much!

I think my favourite tip from the course, aside from the techniques, is something our coach Becky said to us towards the end of the week. No matter what level you ski at, skiing is all about tiny corrections. If you feel your stance or any other elements are wrong, correct them. It might sound like pretty simple advice but it’s impossible to follow if you haven’t learnt the correct technique.

If you’re serious about taking your skiing to the next level The Warren Smith Academy site should be your first post of call. All of the instructors are talented skiers in their own right and the energy and enthusiasm they have for making your skiing better is very impressive.

Another point that must be made is the value for money with options available from around €500. Courses run most of the year (glacier skiing in summer) in Verbier, Cervinia and destinations as far flung as Japan for a specialised powder camp. The rates are incredible when you consider that Warren can charge as much as €600 per hour for a private lesson.

Check out the course available here. We’re already planning our next one!

We’ve stayed at many five-star hotels and many boutique hotels, but a recent stay at Hazlitt’s  in the heart of London’s Soho has made us want to invent a completely new classification. Combining the service and quality of a five-star with the individuality of a boutique, the hotel occupies three Georgian Houses on Frith Street, an unbeatable location. You are a short stroll from the excellent shopping of Covent Garden, the theatre district and any number of great restaurants and bars. But it is within the cocoon of Hazlitt’s that the most enjoyment is to be had.

Each of the 30 bedrooms is traditionally furnished with panelled walls and beautiful antique furniture. All rooms are air-conditioned and have complimentary Wi-Fi, flat screen television, mini bar, safe, antique desk and REN toiletries. If it’s a special occasion it is definitely worth choosing one of the suites. Every suite is named after a former resident or regular visitor to the house, such as the split-level “Teresa Corneleys,” who spent her time at the house after having an affair with Casanova. Such romantic inclinations extend to the bedroom whose huge bed is decorated with rich fabrics and hand carved gilded cherubs – if you are not in the mood then you can open the antique mirror to reveal a large plasma television or avail of the numerous data points at the desk area. Adjoining is an extra sitting room with yet another flat screen tv, stereo with iPod connection and a diverse book collection. Upstairs is the marble bathroom complete with four angle power shower and a large and luxuriant bath tub.

If you do feel like leaving the bedroom the Library offers a very pleasant setting to relax and browse through the many first editions on the shelves here while sipping a drink from the honesty bar. Business travellers will find this a great spot for entertaining guests or hooking up to the free Wi fi connection (available throughout the hotel). Service at Hazlitt’s is unobtrusive and efficient while still warm and friendly. Breakfast here is served to your room, and the pleasure of tucking into croissants – baked on the premises that morning  – completes the feeling that all is well with the world.

www.hazlittshotel.com

Ventina, Cervinia, Italy

The Ventina ski run is an 8km long red run from Plateau Rosà starting at Plateau Rosa at 3,480m on the border with Zermatt in Switzerland and finishing at the bottom station of the Cervinia gondola at 2,100m. This is marked as a red run and because it’s in the beautiful Dolomite mountains the scenery is absolutley breath taking all the way down.

 

The Champagne Run, Vaujany, France

This is not for the faint-hearted and is best suited to experienced skiers. You cover a distance of at least 12km and drop 2,230 vertical metres. A cable-car takes you up to just below the 3,330m summit of Pic Blanc above Alpe d’Huez and you’ll finish up in the small hamlet of L’Enversin d’Oz, below the attractive resort of Vaujany.

 

Grande Motte, Tignes, France

Take the underground funicular up from Val Claret or, if the weather is fine, ride the alternative two chair lifts. You then take a cable car to the top of the glacier at 3,456m. This run covers a vertiscal drop of 1,400m and you will finish up at the train station at Val Claret. Strong skiers take the main downhill run from top. The Glacier run is less demanding and both meet up lower do Exhaustion here is exacerbated by high altitude so remember to breathe.

 

Le Tunnel, Alpe d’Huez, France

Alpe d’Huez is home to the 16km Sarenne, the longest black run in Europe. However, Le Tunnel is much more daunting. From the top you either descend a black mogul field on the back face or skirt the far edge of it until you reach a path. Both routes take you to the tunnel itself, a 60m horizontal passage through the rock with enough snow underfoot to let you slide.The full horror is revealed when you emerge into sunlight on the far side. The slope falls away to your left at a wicked angle. Sometimes the pisteurs cut a serpentine path across the face – allowing you to traverse away from the steepest pitch. If not, there’s no way out.

 

When winter comes to Andermatt, the Ursern valley turns into a fantastic ski arena with 20 lifts and 125 kilometres of well-prepared pistes.

On the top of the nearly 3000 meter high Gemsstock, a spectacular panoramic view of more than 600 summits makes your heart beat faster. The Gemsstock, scene of a series of exciting events, has long been a secret amongst snowboarders and off-piste skiers, with one of the very first alpine runs created especially for carvers, the Bernhard-Russi-Run.

The ski area offers a wide range of pistes for every standard. Natschen mountain is the best bet for beginners – fast learners and improvers can then head to Gemsstock. Free riders will find the best runs in the Gotthard area.

Skipass includes skiing in the neighbour-area of Oberalp/Sedrun, as well as free transportation with the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn to Sedrun and Disentis and to Realp and Niederwald (valley of Goms). And gets you 20% off the baths in Sedrun so you can ease your weary bones.

The town itself is warm and cosy, though not a great spot for nightlife. The Spycher bar in the village centre provides tasty pizza, salads and beer for the snowheads. Accomodation can be found through the resort’s website below.

Fly from Ireland to Zurich and get the train to Andermatt station where the mountains await you.

Essential Information

Vertical Drop 1444m
Top Elevation 2963 m
Total Pistes 140km
Trails 200
Terrain  0km Green   28km Blue   57km Red   40km Black
Lifts 20
Cable cars 3
Half Pipes 1
Terrain parks 2
Snow Making 45km
Total X-Country 28 km
Information www.andermatt.ch
Check it out  Piste Map

Modern luxury in the best preserved medieval city in Europe

To put the appeal of the Three Sisters Hotel in Tallinn into perspective we have to start with the building itself. Three merchant houses dating from 1362 located on Pikk street just inside the old city walls. The entire old town is a designated Unesco World Heritage site and this spectacular example of medieval building complex make it a top ten site to see in most guide books. As a guest staying in this fabulously renovated boutique 5*, inside it gets even better.

The rooms are as far away from the cookie cutter experience of chain hotels as you would expect. Each of the 23 rooms at the Three Sisters is unique. The most basic double room is not very basic at all. All the amenities you would expect to find in a 5* are there; flat screen TV, extremely comfortable beds and duvets, Babor Spa toiletries, robe and slippers and a well stocked mini and snack bar but there’s also something extra to the experience.

The luxury feels very subtle and understated and the overall effect is a very relaxing atmosphere. Past guests include such diverse luminaries as Queen Elizabeth ll and Lou Reed.

 

This atmosphere of calm continues throughout the entire hotel and creates a very pleasant environment for appreciating the many original features still to be seen throughout the building. It’s certainly worth taking the stairs instead of the lift sometimes to see the exposed original painted designs on the stone windows. In Bordoo, the excellent restaurant, look up and see some of the original wood beams in place since the 14th century.

Breakfast is worth getting up early for at the Three Sisters. In our opinion this ranks as one of the best breakfast buffets we have experienced. All the usual elements are there, fresh fruit, juice, cold cuts including a fabulous selection of meats and cheese and so on but as with the rest of the Three Sisters experience it is the attention to detail and the extras on offer that take it to another level.

Try some local delicacies like smoked salmon or herring with a glass of prosecco, a national dish called “kama” which is actually a healthy muesli yoghurt or just appreciate the superb choice of breads and pastries. Hot options like scrambled eggs are also available.

Tallinn is a breathtakingly beautiful city and the best preserved medieval city in Europe. To be able to stay in one of the most special buildings within the old town is an experience not to be missed. And we’re giving you the chance to experience it!

The Three Sisters hotel and Ryanair are giving one lucky reader the chance to win a 3 night break for 2 people with return flights from Dublin to Tallinn, private transfers and dinner in Bordoo restaurant on one evening.

Find out more here or join us on Facebook to enter.

BEST FOR GUARANTEED SNOW

At 2,050m Cervinia links to the highest ski area in Europe, with lifts going up to the Swiss frontier at 3,899m. It shares its ski area with Zermatt and both resorts have guaranteed snow during a long season. The limited glacier area is open for summer skiing. Then the lifts open for the last two weekends of October and full-time from November through to May. The best thing about Cervinia is the length of the runs – 11km down the Ventina run to the resort – and even further, another 2km, to Valtournenche, its lower neighbour. Cervinia is wonderful territory for beginners who should be able to tackle the Ventina at the end of their first week on skis or board. However, experts will be frustrated by the absence of challenging pitch. Of course, they can head over to Zermatt. But both areas are so large it’s difficult to explore far afield on the Swiss side and be home before sunset. Miss the last lift you’ll need to spend the night in Zermatt – unless you want to take a four-and-a-half hour taxi ride.

 

BEST FOR BEGINNERS

Portes du Soleil has three main centers. Morzine for English-speaking family friendly slopes and nightlife. Higher, more snow-sure Avoriaz suits boarders and young party-lovers but its carfree status means it works well for family groups too; lovers of modernist ski architecture will be in heaven in this purpose built town. Les Gets is the most authentic French town and has dedicated unthreatening learner areas with free beginners slopes. All these towns are within an hours drive from Geneva.

BEST VALUE

Val Gardena is one of the most beautiful ski areas in the Dolomites. The Grödner Valley, or Val Gardena (German and Italian are both spoken here) covers the three villages of Selva, Santa Cristina and Ortisei. Selva is the place with the most hotels and offers the most direct access to the vast lift network that connects the Val Gardena with the neighbouring Alta Badia and Fassa valleys. Santa Cristina offers tranquillity and tradition. Ortisei is almost a small city and is characterised by a beautiful old town with a pedestrian zone. The most famous ski run is the Saslong. Experts will find challenging black runs  on Col Raiser, Mont Seura and Dantercepies. But almost every spot of the vast ski area can be reached on easy runs too. A wide range of accommodation means costs can be kept low and food options are unparallelelled with the best of Italian cooking and German beers are available at reasonable prices.

 

BEST NIGHTLIFE

The French-speaking ski town of Verbier in the western part of Switzerland gives Chamonix a run for its money in terms of lift-accessed steeps. What it lacks in terms of hardcore ski alpinism, it makes up for in style, world-class amenities, and convenience. The hotels, restaurants, and nightlife are sophisticated and polished—Richard Branson opened a chic chalet-hotel here called the Lodge. The lifts are fast and offer easy access to 254-miles of slopes and off-piste zones like Bec des Rosses, a hairy  50-degree face accessed from the Mont Fort tram. After slaying Verbier’s steeps, grab a sausage and sit outside on the deck slope-side at Cabane Mont Fort before ordering a Carlsberg at Pub Mont Fort in town. If you’re itching for a big night, head to the Farm Club, a disco where you’ll rub shoulders with ski bums and European aristocrats alike. For something low key, hit the Fer à Cheval, a bar popular with locals. Stay at the centrally located Hotel Farinet, which doubles after dark as a Bedouin-inspired nightclub.

BEST NORTH AMERICAN

The towering mountains of Whistler provide the best skiing in North America, with the biggest vertical drop. It’s funny what a difference 30 years and $600 million can make. Whistler’s charming village offers everything snowboarders and skiers crave: cafes, international stores and over 100 restaurants that cater to all tastes including Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Thai.

Food is key after partaking in the activities that really make Whistler legendary. Whistler quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the strongest contenders for the much disputed title of “World’s Greatest Ski Resort.” Over the past decade, Whistler was consistently voted “Best North American Ski Resort” by North Americans. The Japanese repeatedly rank it as their favorite international destination.

 

There is a reason why the stunningly beautiful Zermatt is one of the undisputed kings of all the Alpine resorts. Nestled in a secluded valley in the shadow of one of Switzerland’s most famous landmarks, the Matterhorn, Zermatt offers one of the world’s biggest interlinked ski areas with over 360km of piste served by 71 lifts and an underground funicular railway.

Despite its impressive reputation, this is an area that will suit everyone from beginners to experts. Three main ski areas surround the village and for intermediate / recreational skiers the place is a dream.

The Rothorn section at 3,100 metres can be accessed by a serious of funicular railway, lift and gondola and from here you can ski wonderful long reds with a vertical drop of 1,500 metres all the way back down to the village. You can get higher still with a similar combination of lifts taking you up to Gornergrat at nearly 3,089 metres above sea level. This will give you a 1,800 metre vertical desent back to the village on lovely cruisey reds.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at an altitude of 3,883, 2,200 vertical metres above the village is the highest you can go and from here you can enjoy some of the most stunning, scenic long runs back to the village as well as skiing across to Italy via Plateau Rosa.

Beginners are really well catered for here with nursery slopes in all the main areas which makes it an ideal resort for groups with mixed abilities. Gornergrat and Sunnegga have the best beginner areas and Wolli beginners park is well served with four magic carpets and easy access to blue slopes. The Wolli beginners park pass also costs just 50% of the full Zermatt lift pass and children up to 9 years old are free which is unique among Alpine resorts.

Zermatt is probably on the “must ski” list for all expert skiers. Wheter you’re looking for long steep runs, off piste powder, mogul fields or heli skiing, this resort has it all…and then some. The famous Triftji mogul run (accessible from the Gornergrat area) is regarded as one of the world’s toughest and longest and if you still want more check out the gravity park up on the glacier. Boasting one of the world’s longest super pipes at 200 metres in length as well as kickers, a good selection of rails and a wall ride.

Aside from the awesome skiing, a large part of Zermatt’s fame comes from the picturesque village.

Originally a farming village one of the most amazing things is how it has managed to retain it’s old world charm while catering to over 2 million visitors every year. The village is a car free zone and this certainly adds to the relaxed friendly atmosphere but the cobbled streets, the original 15th century barns and chalets, the fresh alpine air and the friendliness of the locals are all part of what makes this place so special. For those days off the piste you will be spoilt for choice with excellent shopping, wellness options, museums and a wonderful selection of restaurants.

With 38 of the highest mountains in Europe surrounding Zermatt, it’s no surprise that the 19th century craze for mountaineering is one of the initial reasons that the town was catapulted to worldwide fame. By the 1850s all the surrounding mountain peaks had been climbed and the competition to be the first to conquer the Matterhorn was becoming intense. The English climber Edward Whymper had made several abortive attempts from the Italian side, when in 1865, he learned that the Rev. Charles Hudson was to attempt the Matterhorn from Zermatt. Joining forces with Hudson, Lord Francis Douglas and George Hadow along with the guides Michel Croz from Chamonix and Peter Taugwalder and his son from Zermatt.

On the 14th of July 1865 they succeeded in being the first to asend the mighty Matterhorn. During the descent however, tragedy struck. Just below the summit on the north face, Hadow slipped. In three disastrous seconds, Hadow fell onto the unprepared Croz, subsequently pulling Hudson and Douglas away from the face. The elder Taugwalder frantically tried to secure the rope around a rock, but it snapped, and four of the seven climbers fell thousands of feet to their deaths down the north wall. News of the triumph and tragedy flashed around the world, and Zermatt and the Matterhorn have held a special fascination for many people ever since.

There is wealth of excellent accommodation to choose from in Zermatt and we recommend the Tourist Board site as a starting point. This is also a great place to check for special offers and deals. Regular flights are available to Zurich or Geneva with Swiss Air. Transfers are easily organised here but by far the best way to travel the last leg of your journey is by Swiss Rail. If it’s possible to book the Glacier Express when you’re traveling don’t miss this beautiful experience.

Lots of early snow has created perfect conditions on the pistes there already this season and with all year round skiing on the glacier any time is a good time to visit.

Stepping off Madison Avenue into the calm of the Library Hotel lobby you immediately get that happy glow not always felt when you first enter the hotel you have chosen for your city break – that unconscious sigh of relief that tells you that you have chosen the right place. We had walked through mid town Manhattan to get there and the cool calm atmosphere created by Nick the front office manager and his team immediately told us we were in the right place.

The Library is a very special boutique hotel right in the centre of mid town (Madison and 41st Street) very close to New York City Library and Bryant Park which plays host to some of the hottest shows of fashion week. This hotel is designed for Manhattan travelers with a passion for culture and an appetite for life. Each of the ten guestroom floors at the Library Hotel  is dedicated to one of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System: Social Sciences, Literature, Languages, History, Math & Science, General Knowledge, Technology, Philosophy, The Arts and Religion. In turn each of the 60 rooms are furnished with a unique collection of books and art exploring a distinct topic within each category. We are reliably informed that the Erotica room on the Literature floor is the most requested room in the place.

Outside your room this hotel continues to entertain with the 2nd floor lobby offering guests a 24 hour tea, coffee, cookies and refreshment service and a nightly wine and cheese reception between five and eight o’clock. Up on the 14th floor the cool bar / lounge stretches out on to a terrace with spectacular views of mid town Manhattan. The bar is popular with a local after work crowd from the agencies of nearby Madison Avenue. Very “Mad Men”. With a poetry garden, a writers den and a selection of DVDs comprising the top 100 films of the 20th Century The Library provides a cool penthouse feel right in the middle of mid town.

Essential Information

Rooms 60
Rates From $125 per person, free buffet style breakfast included
Check-out 1pm; check-in, 3pm
Facilities High speed T-1 access in all rooms, wi-fi throughout, plush bathrobes, Natura toiletries.
Also More than 6,000 books were hand picked from the famous Strand book shop to match the theme of each room.

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