Last year, before the pandemic hit, I found myself heading to the beautiful Sandals resort in Jamaica, to shoot our summer front cover. And as a mum of two small girls, the idea of being in an adults-only, luxury, all-inclusive resort for a few days felt like an opportunity for some much-needed self-care, too.
The hotel is a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay airport, and the transfer takes you from busy city life through lush, rolling-hill farmland to the coast. The beach really is the star of the show here. Almost every aspect of the resort is designed to face the vista of dazzling white sand and crystal-clear blue sea. Even the resort’s three pools (a quiet one with a zen-like atmosphere, one with activities, and a bigger pool with a swim-up bar) face the sea, so you can paddle in the pool but feel you’re in the ocean.
In the evening, I’d watch the sun set from a quiet bench at the end of a pier, then head to Latitudes – Sandals’ first over-the-water bar, offering 360-degree views of the sea and coast – before going to one of the nine restaurants where you can eat and drink all you want.
Being a beauty journalist and (did I mention?) a frazzled mum, I had to book myself a treatment at the Red Lane Spa. The plantation-style bungalow, tucked behind tropical plants and palm trees, looks gorgeous from the outside and even better inside. The treatment rooms all face a courtyard, with plush-looking sun loungers and sofas for relaxation before and after. I opted for the resort’s signature treatment: Raindrop Dreams, a 90-minute full-body massage using seven essential oils, each with a different calming and soothing purpose. Afterwards, I grabbed some lemon water, drifted to a shady lounger, armed with my book, and promptly fell asleep! A sign of a great treatment, and that this trip had done exactly what I needed it to.
Everyone has a travel bucket list, and top of mine has long been Petra, the ancient Nabataean city in Jordan. When I saw a family on Instagram had made the journey, it sparked an idea – and I booked.
We made Ayla (ayla.com.jo), a beautiful resort on the Red Sea just 15 minutes from tiny Aqaba Airport, our base for a week. We fell in love with our suite in the Hyatt Regency Aqaba hotel; separate lounge and sun-soaked balcony with views to Israel. Before we’d even unpacked, the kids had dragged us to the family pool, and in the evening we pigged out on delicious salty Moroccan olives and melt-in-the-mouth lamb tagine at The Olive Tree restaurant.
Two days later, our first excursion was to Wadi Rum, 74,000 acres of red sandstone cliffs and rolling dunes. We toured Mars-like landscapes that have featured in films such as Star Wars, sandboarded down giant dunes and discovered 3,000-year-old rock art.
The next day we were up and ready at 8am for another excursion with Tania Tours (taniatours.com) to Petra, Jordan’s number-one tourist spot. It’s a 3km hike through a narrow gorge to the iconic city and The Treasury, a temple carved into a cliff over 2,500 years ago (so beautiful, I shed tears when we left). A donkey ride around the city was the highlight of the kids’ day.
We spent two more dreamy days at Ayla, hanging out at the cool, child-friendly B12 Beach Club (entry £21), with its white sand, hammocks and wakeboard park. On the last day, everyone declared it had been ‘the best holiday ever’.
Seven nights at Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort from £750pp (adult), including flights (loveholidays.com).
I’ve always thought I’d enjoy the life of a Hollywood actor: I do a bit of acting, and I could certainly cope with the salary. Plus, you know, hanging out at the Oscars or the occasional film festival doesn’t sound too gruelling… So the prospect of a small taster of the lifestyle, via a long weekend in Cannes, was too good to turn down – sun, sand, sea, city, all in one glamorous destination.
My hotel was the most glam of them all: exuding 1920s style, the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic sits right on the seafront and opposite the red-carpeted steps of the Palais des Festivals. It’s also just a short hop across the road from its own private beach and beach restaurant (there’s an outdoor pool on-site, too, heated year-round, if you can’t face crossing the road). Arriving in my beautiful sea-view room, I headed straight for the balcony, all thoughts of work banished at first sight of the Med.
Having lived in Marseille in the 1990s, I feel very at home on France’s south coast, and it didn’t take long to feel the same way in Cannes. Daytimes were spent either wandering the city – taking in the shops (it’s retail heaven, both designer and high street), admiring the super-yachts in the two harbours and climbing up to the old town for stunning views – or enjoying the long, sandy beach. I even managed to squeeze in a super-relaxing facial in the hotel’s Diane Barrière Spa, which left my skin feeling soft and glowy.
And, although the town is packed with cool bars and restaurants, I didn’t need to leave my hotel in the evenings – drinks at Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s, with cocktails showcasing local herbs and flowers conjured up by internationally renowned bar manager Emanuele Balestra, and food at the elegant Le Fouquet’s, with a delicious menu created by super-chef Pierre Gagnaire. There’s even a new Italian restaurant – though, sadly, I didn’t get to try it.
And then it was time to go. Much faster than I’d have liked. But I’ve been inspired to inject a little Côte d’Azur glamour into my everyday life.
Book a beach hut in Bournemouth. Each comes equipped with deckchairs and a gas ring (from £39 a day; bournemouth.co.uk).
Swim with basking sharks, between July and Sept, in the Scottish Hebrides. Swimming tours run daily (from £140pp; visitscotland.com).
Visit the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives for a dose of culture along with your Cornish sun and sand (tate.org.uk).
Wherever your holiday takes you, keep this little bottle of Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture Sun Lotion SPF30, handy for when you eventually see the sun again.
Discover the CALPOL® Vapour Plug & Nightlight, a plug-in device that emits soothing lavender and chamomile vapours. Help your little one have a comfortable night, with up to eight hours of easy breathing. The soft, blue nightlight provides a gently reassuring glow, which also helps guide you – no loud bumps in the night.
CALPOL® Vapour Plug & Nightlight (for 3+ months). To help with clear and easy breathing. Non medicine. Always read the label. UK-CAR-2000205.