I have a lot of friends who’ve been to Ibiza, but usually they are there to hang out in glamorous villas, bars and clubs. Not to go to the less-developed north of the island and not to go swimming around the coast.

I’ve done a few swimming holidays now with Swimtrek – in fact I was on their very first one in Greece in 20013 – and the owner, Simon Murie, has become a good friend.

So when I heard they were launching new holidays to Ibiza this October, I jumped at the chance to go for a few days before the first trip to try a few of the swims with their local guide Alessandro Mancini. (That’s him in the fetching pink cap, below).

Each morning we’d swim 2-3km, have lunch, then do the same distance again in the afternoon. (Our longest was 4km over a leisurely couple of hours). On regular weeks there is a boat following you for assistance, but because this was just a “recce”, we had the ocean to ourselves except for inquisitive fish and the odd jellyfish floating serenely below us.

Swimming in the sea is something that divides opinion pretty neatly down the middle – you either get the concept and love it, as I do, or think it’s a pretty strange choice for a holiday, to which I’d say it’s your loss. Not only do you meet great people, you get fit, and it’s incredibly meditative as well. Yoga for the mind? I think so. All I know is that every time I go on a swimming holiday, I come back extremely relaxed and refreshed. Not to mention that it really clears your nasal passages out…


Swimtrek Ibiza

Swimtrek Ibiza 2





A quick google for Paris hotels shows that there are an increasing number of characterful, hip and relatively-inexpensive places to stay in the centre of town these days…properties such as the Hotel Grand Amour and Le Snob.

Now there’s another strong contender, The Hoxton on Rue du Sentier, which opened a week ago and where I stayed last night.

Rue du Sentier itself might be un peu terne (drab) – perhaps “ripe for development” might be more charitable – but step inside Number 30 and you are in a different world. The building was constructed in the 18th century by architect Nicolas d’Orbay for Etienne Rivié, who was an advisor to King Louis XV. It subsequently became a clothing factory and then lay empty before the four year restoration that brought it to its current impressive state, as you can see from the photos below. Staircases have been restored, cobbles relaid, columns repurposed and wooden floors uncovered. Old meets modern, and the style works.

Before you get to the reception desk there are indoor and outdoor lounges to navigate on which to tap away in your computer or meet for an aperitif. Even at less than a week old, many cool local Parisians seemed to be doing just that. To one side there is the brasserie-style restaurant and bar, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bedrooms – there are 172 of them – come in varying sizes from Shoebox via Cosy and Roomy to Biggy. Even the smallest rooms aren’t that tiny, although the Shoeboxes on the top floor are more compact than those of the same category on floors below. My Roomy had a decent-sized bathroom with a powerful shower and Pen & Ink toiletries. Also in the room is a fridge that only contains water and milk – no complaints there, the point is you can stock it up with your own products and so bypass the rip-off mini bar prices beloved by many hotels.

There are already Hoxtons in London and Amsterdam, with Brooklyn to follow later this year.

Lead in rates in Paris (for a Shoebox) are currently from €99 per night if you plan ahead. Included is a free snack breakfast consisting of juice, granola, yoghurt and a banana. For anything more you’ll have to go downstairs to the restaurant, at which you’ll pay a fairly substantial amount…my breakfast of a chia seed and raspberry pot (very tasty by the way), a pain au chocolat, grapefruit juice and two coffees came to just under €30. Maybe I’m just grumpy because of the weak state of the Pound right now. Staff here, as elsewhere in the hotel, are young, bilingual and super helpful, suggesting coffee shops to visit as well as helping me weigh up the pros and cons of several museums for my time-poor afternoon. (I ate at the hotel the night before, and can hand-on-heart say the cheeseburger I had there was perhaps the tastiest I’ve eaten anywhere.)

The Hoxton is a cool brand, and it is bound to do well in Paris.


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Full disclosure: I paid for my own Shoebox room but was upgraded to a Roomy by the hotel. My dinner and breakfast were paid by the hotel.

Seeing the Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis – is pretty bucket listy for most people. And with good reason. The time I saw them in Norway ten years ago I promptly burst into tears!

I recently interviewed scientists from Alaska, Finland, Norway and Iceland about ways of improving your chances of seeing them when on holiday next winter, and the results of what they had to say appeared in the travel section of the Telegraph newspaper recently.

Click >>> here <<< to read that online