Australian Outback adventure

Taking its complete circuit-of-the-country, Highway 1, in its Great Northern Highway guise, skirts along the southern boundary of the Kimberley region. Between Derby and Kununurra the road runs through Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, but if you want to really get to grips with what is arguably the country’s most authentically ‘Australian’ region then you have to abandon that comfortably smooth thoroughfare and tackle the Gibb River Road.

It runs through the heart of the Kimberley and is 125 miles (200km) shorter, but way slower. It can be a car-breaker. Tackle the Gibb River Road in wet conditions and you can be stuck there waiting for a river to subside. Tackle it in the dry after a long spell without a grader coming through and the notorious corrugations can shake the fillings out of your teeth and rattle your car down to its component parts.

Assorted early explorers touched on the convoluted, inlet-cut, island-dotted coastline of the Kimberley, and today a convoy of adventure travel boats shuttle along this spectacular shoreline. Inland, the Kimberley is something of an open-air gallery of amazing Aboriginal rock art, whether it’s the comparatively recent Wandjina paintings or the much older and still puzzling Bradshaw works. The English name comes from Joseph Bradshaw, a late-1800s pastoralist turned rock-art hunter who first categorised and labelled the paintings.

Today they’re called Gwion Gwion paintings, but it’s uncertain how old they are or even who did them – today’s Aboriginals sometimes comment that they’re ‘not by our mob’. Bradshaw paintings are usually in ‘galleries’, often rock faces protected by overhangs, while the Wandjina works may be in everyday living areas. The later Wandjina figures are more varied in their subject matter, their design and their colours, but lack the subdued, calm elegance of the Bradshaw figures.

The secret of a successful foray along the Gibb River Road is to take your time, not to hurry. Drive too fast and those corrugations, loose stones, unexpected potholes and sharp edges can shred a tyre in seconds. This is a route where a second spare can be a very good idea. It’s not just travelling slowly that can stretch the time, lots of the Gibb River Road attractions are excursions off the main route. You can add days to the trip if you plan to turn off south to the Mornington Camp, or if you head north up the road towards Kalumburu and then decide to divert to the Mitchell Falls.

Close to the Kununurra end of the road is El Questro, with its magnificent gorges and places to stay that range all the way from budget campsites to the luxurious Homestead, which is dramatically perched on a cliff edge above the Chamberlain Gorge. El Questro started out as a Kimberley cattle station and although today it’s the best example of combining four-legged and two-legged business, for a number of the Gibb River Road cattle stations tourists are today just as important as ‘beasts’.

Taiwans blossoming cultural city

Spring is in the air in Kaohsiung; well, metaphorically anyway. Taiwan’s second largest city is reinventing itself from an industrial port to a cultural hub. Warehouses by the harbour are morphing into galleries and theatres. World-class architecture is sprouting along the shore, from a beautiful public library to a spectacular concert venue that, when ready, should be among the best in Asia. Access to these waterfront gems is provided by a sleek Spanish-designed light-rail line, launching in phases.

Less conspicuous but no less significant, ‘culture buses’ are introducing sightseers to the many relics of the city’s distant and recent past. The cultural calendar is packed full of exciting new festivals, and young chefs are injecting fresh ideas into southern Taiwanese cooking.

Kaohsiung – a city of wide streets (some of the widest in Taiwan), long river parks and a thriving LGBT scene – will have even more to be hopeful about, as it awakens to its full potential and embraces a world of possibilities. Here are some of our picks for what to see and do in Kaohsiung as it continues to blossom into one of Asia’s most exciting urban centres.

 

Cultural renewal

The art-meets-industry formula works well at Pier-2 Art District. This ever-evolving collection of dozens of old warehouses is stuffed with boutiques, galleries, cafes and performance venues that line two sweeping boulevards by the port where ships are docked. The focus leans towards fashion, lifestyle, and other cultural bric-a-brac, though you will see some contemporary art and Pop Art-type sculptures decorating the lawns and walkways. Beyond the furthest warehouses are old train tracks overgrown with flowers where people fly kites and watch the sunset.

Known worldwide for its research on Austronesian art, Kaohsiung’s Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection by Taiwan’s contemporary indigenous artists. Paintings, sculptures, and installations demonstrate a mastery of different styles and media, which renders the works not only interesting as art, but also as vehicles for shattering stereotypes of tribal people. Stellar works by non-indigenous artists from southern Taiwan are shown in a different gallery.

 

Ancient and modern spirituality

A ten-minute sail away from Kaohsiung is Cijin Island, where you can spend a day exploring fishing villages, swimming in the South China Sea, and gorging on seafood. A long strip of park hugging the west coast makes for delicious breeze-in-your-hair cycling. Cijin Tianhou Temple, founded in 1673, is Cijin’s spiritual heart and Kaohsiung’s oldest Mazu temple.

The best rooftop bars in Seville

In Seville during summer, it’s blisteringly hot, even at night: temperatures don’t drop until the early morning. So the only way to go is up – to the hotel rooftop bars, for their small-hours breezes, creative cocktails and stunning views.

As a bonus, some of these Seville institutions serve tapas and offer entertainment for the makings of a full night out. The opening hours below are for the summer season; however, they may vary, so do check in advance.

 

La Terraza-Bar, EME Catedral

The roof terrace bar at EME Catedral is the one that’s closest to the 500-year-old cathedral; it’s situated opposite the north side with its in-your-face gargantuan flying buttresses. Choose from areas on various levels, the smallest of which seems within touching distance of the Gothic edifice. Cocktails are pricey at €14 (this is a five-star establishment, after all); pick from classics like a Negroni or a Cosmopolitan, or try a Spritz Veneciano (bitters, cava and soda). You can also dine on a four-course set menu, with options like prawn ceviche, tuna loin, lamb chops and an orange tart for dessert. DJs spin tunes to a glamorous crowd on Fridays and Saturdays. Open noon-1am, to 2am Fri & Sat.

 

Puravida, Fontecruz Sevilla Seises

A beach-bar vibe pervades the spacious terrace at the Fontecruz Sevilla Seises, with its rustic cane roof and upcycled furniture. Sit on jazzy pallet sofas with pretty cushions for couply moments by the bar, or in the larger open space watch flamenco fusion groups perform at weekends, with the Giralda as spectacular backdrop. The corner area with long white wall sofas has a Balearic seaside feel, and is great for groups. The eponymous house cocktail is a tropical mix of rum, orange juice, coconut and cinnamon, for €9. You can nibble on tuna with mango or seafood bruschetta. Open 5-11pm Mon-Thu, 3pm-2am Fri & Sat, 3-11pm Sun.

 

A food and drink tour

The Grand Canyon might be Arizona’s hotspot, but its food and drink scene sizzles. Tucson, America’s first Unesco ‘world city of gastronomy,’ lives up to the hype, and the melding of Mexican, Native American and Sonoran Desert influences on menus around the state make for an enticing foodie road trip.

Whether you opt for classic Southwestern (grits, biscuits and gravy) at roadside diners or explore the desert’s unique ingredients (prickly pear syrup, mesquite) at upscale ranch resorts, our tour of must-try flavors also takes in Arizona’s thriving craft beer and coffee scene. All you need to bring is your appetite.

 

The freshest guacamole of your life in Scottsdale

For your first foray into Arizona’s multi-influenced fare, head to Scottsdale, northeast of Phoenix, Arizona’s capital. About a mile from the whimsical Old Town, where you could buy some Wild West cowboy boots or scorpion lollipops (yes, really), you’ll find The Mission. This is Nuevo Latino food that will surprise and entertain. Stroll pass the Himalayan salt wall (you can lick it if you want!) to the candlelit courtyard. Watch transfixed as your server wheels over a wooden trolley laden with a huge mortar and pestle, along with bowls of super fresh ingredients: chunky Haas avocado, jalapeño, red onion, garlic, sea salt, lime, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chipotle puree, cilantro, cotija cheese & roasted pepitas. As the guacamole is expertly ground and mixed before your eyes and dolloped into your serving bowl, know that all future supermarket-bought tubs of guac will only disappoint.

A pleasant stroll around Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden will educate and amaze. Here, among the hummingbirds, owls, woodpeckers and roadrunners, you can learn about the desert’s 500 edible plants and even see what your next cocktail ingredient might look like: the prickly pear cactus. The fruit from the cactus is refreshing and cooling, almost watermelon-like in flavor. Try it in a vibrant pink margarita at La Hacienda in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. Or kick-start what will become your Arizona chile addiction with the pineapple and serrano-infused tequila. Hey, you’re on vacation.

 

Grits, biscuits and gravy, and the Ale Trail in Flagstaff

Only heard about eating ‘grits’ and ‘biscuits and gravy’ in Western films? Head north to Flagstaff, a laid-back college town and gateway to the Grand Canyon. Similar to polenta, grits are made from stone-ground dried corn and you can get them real fancy at Tinderbox Kitchen, a cozy restaurant that bills its style (rather aptly) as ‘American Comfort Food…Redefined’. Try the blue cheese grits, oozing enticingly beneath juniper-cured venison, balsamic black figs and fennel salad.

Biscuits and gravy are a popular breakfast choice in Southern USA and you may find you need a snooze after this hearty meal. The all-vegetarian Macy’s, which also does a perfectly good (freshly roasted) coffee, dishes up a healthier-than-usual serve of the iconic dish: its homemade buttermilk biscuits are dunked in a vegetarian gravy (sausage gravy being the traditional choice).

Guide to Brussels in the summer

Brussels may not scream Speedos and sunscreen, but when the big ball in the sky is ablaze and the city’s thermometers are on the up, the Belgian capital has plenty of places to cool off.

From sun-drenched terraces and rooftop parties to pop-up al fresco food events, here’s how enjoy the sunshine in Brussels.

 

Swimming in the city

When the mercury begins to bubble and dreams of a crystal-blue swimming pool start appearing like a mirage in front of your sunglasses, fear not: the hippest (and perhaps the most hidden) spot in Brussels right now is the Jam Hotel’s rooftop bar – which comes complete with its own pool. The bartenders are gratifyingly gallant with the ice in their legendary gin and tonics, so soak up the sun in a deckchair or kink and coil into a sweet summer submission thanks to one of their pop-up yoga sessions.

 

It’s hip to be square

Sun seekers will fall in love with Saint-Géry Square, it’s a crowd-pleaser with plenty of choices between sunny and shady areas. Keep cool with a fresh juice from the Zebra Bar or get a beer in Le Roi des Belges. You can’t miss the Halles Saint-Géry – a stunning Flemish Neo-Renaissance style building bursting with history that now houses a café and hosts various exhibitions and concerts. Once you’ve finished exploring inside, get a stoemp (Brussels’ richer version of a stamppot, mashed vegetables usually served with sausages) at Be my Stoemp and bask in the cool of the hall’s impressive shadow.

 

Local’s choice

If you start to overheat, try a chose (a house mocktail made with grapefruit juice and tonic water), an iced latte or a local ‘Bruxellensis’ beer from Chez Franz. One of the most Belgian cafés in town, this is where locals come to mingle in the cosy atmosphere over long brunches, sophisticated jazz evenings or an Italian aperitivo.

Café Belga is home to one of the capital’s largest terraces, overlooking the Place Eugène Flagey and the shimmering Ixelles Ponds. Mixing tables and loungers, it is busiest when the sun is out. At weekends, a market invades the square selling everything from trinkets to bed sheets as well as a beautiful range of foods such as oysters, rotisserie chicken and heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables. The market is also right next to the iconic Frit Flagey fritkot (a traditional fast food kiosk often serving fries), which is well worth a visit. Belga also hosts seasonal events including tastings, exhibitions and concerts.

October for relaxation ideas

Choose from one of Fiji’s 333 islands to swim, surf or snorkel off palm-fringed shores; explore Italy’s rugged coastline in Liguria; enjoy natural spas and lush landscapes in New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula; and discover picturesque colonial towns and paradisiacal rainforests in Costa Verde, Brazil.

 

Head to Fiji for a quieter Pacific paradise

Fiji is paradise made easy. The most accessible and tourism-attuned outpost of the South Pacific, Fiji has an idyll to suit everyone across its 333 islands. That makes it popular, which is why October is perfect: it’s after peak season but still pleasantly cool and dry; you may find cheaper deals, and you will find fewer people.

There’s white-sand-blue-sea magnificence across the archipelago – the dreamy Yasawa and Mamanuca groups are the most ‘developed’, but even here no buildings are taller than a coconut palm. You could happily swim, surf, snorkel and loll about at a lively or low-key resort here for weeks. Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, offers the greatest variety. Make a circuit: drive the coastal Queens Rd and highlands Kings Rd, hike at Sigatoka sand dunes and taste colonial architecture and Fijian-Indian cuisine in capital Suva.

  • Trip plan: Fly to Nadi (Viti Levu). Boats run from here to various ports on the Yasawas and Mamanucas – pick a base or hop between spots. Allow a week to explore Viti Levu. Divers should head for Astrolabe Reef or Taveuni’s waters.
  • Need to know: English is the official language; ‘Bula!’ means ‘Hello!’ in Fijian.
  • Other months: Jul-Sep – dry, busy; May-Jun & Oct – dry, shoulder seasons, quieter; Nov-Apr – wet, cyclones possible.

Island hopping through Nusa Tenggara

With 17,000-plus isles to choose from, planning an Indonesian island-hopping adventure can feel overwhelming. If you’re beginning – but not wanting to end – your adventure on Bali, the Nusa Tenggara archipelago to the east is an excellent place to start. Bouncing between ferries and buses, you’ll have an intimate window on a natural wonderland.

Hang out with Indonesians on the decks of boats, gazing at innumerable tiny islands which dot the seas around larger siblings such as Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and West Timor. Catch buses across the major islands, stopping off for beaches, surf breaks, dive spots, eons-old villages, tourist towns, beautiful views and much more.

The following itinerary takes you from Bali all the way to West Timor on a journey that can fill a 30-day visa. Travel as far east as you want and then fly back to Bali from various airports along the way.

 

Lombok

Just east of Bali, similarly sized Lombok makes a perfect transition to the exotic adventures of Nusa Tenggara. It has the tourist services of its famous neighbour but is much less crowded, and has a vibe that doesn’t march to the beat of visiting hordes. Among the star attractions are the superb south coast beaches, starting with the wide, azure bay at Kuta.

 

Personality

Lombok is almost entirely Muslim, with many grand new mosques evidence of the island’s growing prosperity. It’s relaxed, pragmatic and tourist-friendly.

 

Getting there and around

From Bali, hourly public ferries make the four- to five-hour trip to Lembar on Lombok. Along the way, enjoy fine views of soaring Gunung Agung on Bali and southwestern Lombok, which includes the legendary surf break, Tanjung Desert (Desert Point). There are also fast boats to Senggigi on Lombok or you can go via the Gili Islands. Public buses run frequently to the eastern port town of Labuhan Lombok. From the main city, Mataram, you can buy through tickets to islands further east. It’s about four hours by bus across Lombok.

Lombok’s modern airport at Praya is close to the southern beaches and has frequent flights to Bali and the main cities in Nusa Tenggara.

A classic Cuban road trip

The Malecon comes alive at sunset. This broad ribbon of cement curves around Havana’s waterfront, and as the sun wanes, the sky turns pink and the road is washed in coppery gold light. Orderly rows of fishermen perch on the sea wall, chatting as they cast their lines and hoping for a haul of bonito tuna or red snapper. Locals sit in pairs, laughing and occasionally canoodling, while the sea breeze brings with it the sound of a three-piece jazz ensemble that’s just started up along the way.

This stretch is considered the classic drive of Havana, tracing over four miles (7km) along the coast from the colonial centre of the Old Town to the business district of Vedado via a stately lineup of weather-faded houses from the 19th century and brutish Russian-style architecture.

It’s here that the city meets the surging ocean. When a strong cold front hits this coast as it often does, waves hurl themselves against the sea wall and over, spraying dozens of feet in the air and flooding the road, but today the sea is calm and mild, lapping innocently at the dark rocks of the shore.

Unlike most great drives, where the highlight of the journey is glorious scenery passing by the windows, the best sights on the Malecon are on the road itself. Vintage 1950s American cars of all colours and kinds parade along its length. One second there is a dreamy round-nosed Buick in duck-egg blue; the next, a Chevrolet Bel Air convertible in brilliant red with silver fins followed by a royal purple Cadillac. They are so numerous and so perfect-looking, it could be a city-wide classic car rally.

The truth is, these vintage cars are not always a dream to drive. As I make my way along the waterfront behind the wheel of a 1955 Chevy – royal red and gold in colour – the gears show flashes of temperament, sticking and occasionally slipping, and the steering has so much give, each turn of the wheel is little more than a gentle suggestion. But there is an indefinable joy in driving one of these vehicles, and it’s not just the warm, fusty smell that evokes the old girl’s decades on the road or her soft leather bench-seats, so broad and comfortable it’s like driving a sofa.

I make my way down the Malecon and turn onto the cobbled streets of Habana Vieja, Havana’s Old Town. Left to crumble after the 1959 revolution, Havana is a time capsule, its formerly grand buildings broken and pocked with neglect. The Old Town dates back to the 16th century, and retains vestiges of its former glory. Grand, palm-filled squares are surrounded by streets with imposing churches, houses painted in cheery pastel colours, and tiny kiosks selling freshly butchered meat or piles of fruits warmed by the sun.

Road tripping Norways west coast

Norway means ‘narrow way through the straits’, rather apt, given the mighty glacial fjords that lacerate its western coast. Admittedly there’s not much that’s spellbinding as I roll north out of Bergen. The majesty comes later; for now I’m passing the engineering workshops and other small factories serving the oil and gas industry that has made the city rich – again.

The charming buildings that surround the harbour are a reminder that Bergen was a successful business centre for many centuries, going back to its days as a Hanseatic port.

I’m riding out in the wonderful, slightly watery, sunshine typical of Norway. As I follow the fjord first east and then north before turning inland again to Voss, the rugged, often vertical countryside begins to work on me, raising thoughts of Vikings and moody gods.

Norway’s roads, bridges and tunnels are sparkling examples of their builders’ skill and tenacity, but they shrink to scratches on the mile-high cliffs if you look up a little. Whoops! Not enough attention on the road and a long frost break is trying to turn my front wheel into oncoming traffic. Norway’s main roads are excellent, but not all back roads survive the brutal winters unscathed.

I turn north at Voss and then take Stalheimskleiva, the loop of road which runs between two waterfalls and offers 13 hairpins on its mile-long 20-degree climb to the eponymous hotel. It took seven years to build the whole 6 miles (10km) of road, finishing in 1849. The view towards Gudvangen from the hotel is spectacular, with near-vertical cliffs boxing in the narrow green valley bottom.

Not far past Flåm, I face a decision. Carry on straight ahead through the world’s longest road tunnel, a 16 mile (28km) marvel, or take the old road across the top? I’ve ridden through the tunnel before, so the choice is easy. I don’t regret it. There are deep snow banks alongside the 30 mile (48km) stretch of narrow, steep and twisting road but its surface is clear and tempts my inner boy racer.

Back at sea level I am speeding along one of the tentacles of Sognefjord. I cross it on a ferry and turn west along its shore before another ferry takes me across to Dragsvik and on to the E39 main road. It’s an intoxicating run north and east from here, always either alongside a fjord or crossing a rocky range by hairpins, smooth, long curves and regular blinks of tunnels.

Lets try traveling to different countries

When I have friends in town… we go sailing in the San Juan Bay. This unique vantage point highlights the colonial buildings of the old city, the people roaming the streets and the almost 500-year-old fort. Seeing everything from the water gives a wonderful sense of place and helps people enjoy the town even more when they discover it on foot. These sailing trips are easy to come by – several touring companies, like Sail San Juan Bay, offer excursions into the waters surrounding the city. I also like to take friends on a food tour of my own design in Old San Juan, always stopping at Casa Cortés for hot chocolate with rum, at Princesa Gastro Bar for shark bites and coconut rice, and at Pirilo for ground beef and plantain pizza.

When I’m up for a big night out… we head to Calle Loíza and drink our way through all the cool and quirky bars in this area, like Bar Bero, where you can get a drink and a haircut, or La Junta, where you can dance salsa gorda all night long. Bonus: this popular street is also home to some of the best eateries in San Juan. When hunger strikes, we usually stop at Loiza 2050 for coconut crusted pizza or at Tresbé for some killer veggie sliders.

A typical weekend involves… getting mayorcas and a cup of café con leche in the morning at La Bombonera on San Francisco street, walking to Caleta de Las Monjas to watch the ships come into the bay, and later grabbing ice cream at Señor Paleta. Afternoons are usually spent drinking wine and listening to jazz at Carli’s Fine Bistro on Tetuán street, the restaurant of former Beach Boys pianist Carli Muñoz.

I have a dog… and I take him to Ocean Park beach to play with other pups in the sand, or we run from Old San Juan to Condado via the new oceanfront pathway for pedestrians. For pet-friendly restaurants, we go to Kamoli in Calle Loíza, the Miramar Food Truck Park in Miramar, or Freshmart in Condado.

For cheap eats… I go to Piñones in Loíza, an area with dozens of food kiosks and restaurants serving delicious fried food and seafood by the ocean. I usually grab a bite and then walk by the beach for a little while; it’s a great way to disconnect from the city’s hullabaloo. Another favorite of mine is La Casita Blanca in Santurce, where they whip up truly authentic Puerto Rican food in an atmospheric space at very affordable prices.