With summer just around the corner, Fliss Hoad has picked a clutch of secret spots to push across your employer's desk.
Kefalonia’s newest address
The island of Captain Corelli fame has always been prized for its remote Northern corner around Fiskardo, but that is set to change with the opening of a new five-star boutique hotel on its southern shores. Eliamos Villas Hotel & Spa has been created by a husband-and-wife team and has the advantage of being just a short schlep from the airport. Situated above a small private cove, enjoy the privacy of one of twelve, villa-style rooms with private pools or a jacuzzi married with the services of a boutique hotel. The emphasis is on wellbeing from fresh, local cuisine to the sea-facing outdoor gym, salt water pool, yoga and pilates sessions and extensive spa treatments. Those who leave the grounds will be rewarded with a picture-postcard island – from the sweeping sand in the horseshoe shaped Myrtos Bay to the timeless Venetian architecture. And if you feel like eating out, beaches and harbours are awash with tavernas to stay late into the night.
Rub shoulders with the Parisian in-crowd
With just eight rooms, Maison Ceronne in the chic Perche area of Orne in Normandy - The French equivalent of The Cotswolds – is a chance to chill with the Parisian in-crowd in this almost private Maison Campagne. Nothing has been left to chance from the black marble pools, indoors and out, and an indoor gym. Come sunset, dine on local lamb cooked in rosemary, matched by handpicked vintages to beguile the nostrils. Urban polished concrete floors and boat grey window frames marry with a chic homeliness; just don’t attempt the banister-less stairs in a hurry. The one-hour train journey from or into Paris is ideal for a side-visit to the Capital and makes this the ideal rural base to sample The Olympic Games in 2024. Or simply explore the neighbouring art de vivre towns of Mortgage-au-Perche and Bellême with quirky boutiques, fine dining, and a treasure trove of flea markets.
Oh-so-chic Lycian Coast
Villa Mahal in the stylish, low-rise harbour of Kalkan is the ultimate romantic hideaway – it’s one of the favourite escapes of hotelier extraordinaire, Robin Hutson. Built into the hillside there are a dozen minimalist suites with floor-to-ceiling windows providing uninterrupted sea views over the capacious bay. While away the hours at the private beach club with sun loungers dotted under the olive trees, and steps down to the sea and diving platforms to cool off. The home-cooked Turkish fare includes lazy breakfasts with creamy yoghurt sweetened by raw honeycomb, gözleme pancakes and baklava, local bread and extra juicy Mediterranean fruit. By nightfall dine under the stars or call the water taxi service to whisk into Kalkan for shopping and dining in one of the popular roof terrace restaurants.
Homely Sicilian Palace
Perennially popular Scilly is the enchanted island. From the strong regional cuisine that differs from that of mainland Italy, to outstanding local wines to return home and scour Waitrose for; the natural wonder of smoking Mount Etna whose lava fields can be walked across in cooler months. A myriad of Roman Temples and Greek Amphitheatre lie asleep in forgotten fields, while all dusty roads lead to the enticing but chaotic capital of Palmero. For somewhere off-the-beaten track, visit the south eastern, UNESCO listed baroque town of Noto, well worth exploring on foot. Stay at Seven Rooms Villa Dorata, situated inside a wing of the baroque Palazzo Nicolaci and more private house than hotel. Expect high ceilings, original antiques, marble bathrooms and balconies overlooking the courtyard of the old market, while each suite individually decorated by the owner. Hearty breakfasts and strong coffee set guests up for a day of exploring – it’s just a short hop to the beaches of the Ionian.
Fortress Parador in Galicia
The North West coast of Spain – just above Portugal – retains its charm even at the height of the summer and is the gateway to some of the best of Spain’s sunny Atlantic beaches. The fishing town of Baiona is no exception, with cobbled streets, Gothic architecture, and a myriad of outstanding seafood restaurants to feast in. Spend days discovering new beaches, hiking across the dunes, trying your hand in the rolling surf, or simply chilling in the tapas bars lining the seafront. Stay in the Parador de Baiona, an historic fortress of the Conde de Gondomar, with a spectacular setting surrounded by sea on three sides, outdoor pool and stunning sea views. The Spanish parador system is a wonderful way to stay in historic buildings and enjoy the sense and place of times past.
Fliss Hoad is an independent travel and lifestyle PR who has worked in tourism for over 20 years.