ICY & HOT weekends in Europe, Gorgeous Escapes with Sarah Tucker
What do you fancy? Trekking in the snowy mountains or a dining in a hip barber shop/cafe in buzzing Lisbon. Take your pick, Sarah Tucker has done the research for you.
For all the information in this interview see below:
Stay cool. – Sarah Tucker picks two of the coolest ski resorts in Europe.
Half way up a mountain in Courchevel, I found myself dancing on tables at the Folie Douce. This is a bar/restaurant, which – for four hours a day (12 – 4), is transformed into a rock concert. Threatening avalanche, with fireworks, parapenters flying overhead like psychedelic eagles, and snowboarders and skiers vying for space on the surrounding red and black runs, the performers intermingle with the punters, dressed like pirates, gypsies, Indian chiefs and one musican/dancer as a unitard unicorn in pink stilettos, rock guitars, drums, belt out Led Zeppelineque beats, while magnums of champagne are delivered on a mini buddle lift of its own down to the VIP area. There were about a thousand of us all saying hi to the very blue sky and it was like being in the old fashioned Martini ad, expecting James Bond to turn up any moment. Perhaps it’s the Russian effect, all this bling – but you can see it in the Diamond encrusted skis on view in the Chanel outlet, the leopard skin ski pants in Prada and the gold leaf ski helmet on display in Hermes. Sit and drink coffee in any of the coffee bars (there are more there than there are in Richmond high street and that’s saying something) and watch the bee stung lips of the ladies with big hair and bigger bank accounts walk from one shop to another although I’m not sure if they ever ski. Fascinating.
I stayed at the Chalet Iona (www.chalet-iona.com), just outside Meribel, which caters for up to twelve. The chalet is primarily sold on an all inclusive basis, with private airport transfers, ski hire, dedicated drivers on hand throughout the day to take guests to the slopes or elsewhere in resort and in the chalet a team are present providing an excellent breakfast with fresh eggs and cooked options as well as a private chef to cater for the guests culinary desires. Lunch is included (if guests are in the Chalet) and a three-course dinner, all drinks included. The team also look after the daily cleaning and upkeep of the chalet. A concierge and ski rep service are also provided during the stay. If you have an early flight, check out the Chateau de Candie (www.chateaucandie.com/en) which is half an hour from the airport. The road which leads from Meribel also serves many of the other surrounding ski resorts and it gets very busy throughout the ski season regardless of day, so it’s an affordable and excellent way to tail your break.
For people watching, check out the Chabotte – Chabichou Hotel as well as good food reasonably priced (for Courcheval). Pilates and yoga instructors will come to the chalet, and if you don’t want them coming to you, there are plenty of classes in the valley open to anyone. The nearby large and elegantly designed Acquamotion centre (www.aquamotion-courcheval.com) offers acqua kick boxing so you can kick the wave out of the water, as well as enjoying the spa, sauna, salt water grotto, hamman, massage and even virtual reality experience where you can ski even if you never actually hit the slopes. Here you also learn to water surf – good practice for those who want to snow board, as well as aquabiking – think spinning class under water, and there’s an adults only area as well as a family area.
Another ski resort where you’ll feel you’re in a Martini ad, or at least a Bond movie, is Verbier. The designer labels are also here, but it is the ski equipment and clothes for expert skiers and snowboarders rather than the brands you’ll find in Courchevel. You need to be a good skier to ski in Verbier. Megan and Prince Harry will be tere this season (both are good skiers), and Emilien Badoux, a freeride snowboard world champion is now taking classes at the stylish W Hotel (www.wverbier.com) which has its own spa, indoor and outdoor pool and quintessential art for which the W has become synonymous.
Up the road (literally) is something to save up for. The Virgin Chalet, Sir Richard Branson’s chalet, is a Bond set ready for the cast. A seven-night stay at the Virgin Lodge is priced from 11,795 CHF/ £8,912 per room and includes breakfast, light lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner on six nights, all drinks, a 24-hour driver service within Verbier, all taxes and a dedicated team of staff. Not cheap but oddly worth every penny.
For more information visit www.virginlimitededition.com/en/the-lodge or call +44 (0) 208 600 0430.
For night life, everyone heads to the Hotel Farinet, where there are bands and DJs, as well as more dancing on tables and retractable roof so you are dancing under the stars till the early hours. The more sedate, head for cocktails in the newly opened restaurant and brewery Vie Montagne (www.viemontagne.com). But it is the snow shoeing and walking guide here which is the coolest part of Verbier. The Bond girl sounding Cherries Von Bauer (real name, honest), worked every muscle in my thighs and core snow shoeing up and down the hills – but of course, you can also go on gentler, more horizontal routes. The stories Cherries can tell about all and sundry, who have stayed here are wonderful and colourful. Check out the walking tours (www.verbier.ch) and ask for Cherries. She is priceless. Say Sarah sent you.
Sarah Tucker sees the light in Lisbon
Lisbon is a four-hour flight away, and ten degrees warmer than the UK in the winter – more if you originate from Scotland. Described as the European San Francisco, in that it is hilly (built on seven of them), has a bridge not dissimilar to that of the Golden Gate, has a light favoured by creative types – authors and artists – and is also built on a fault line, so like San Francisco, they are expecting a tsunami of Biblical proportions any time soon. (Why is it always the most beautiful places in the world, which are at risk?).
I stayed at the Corinthia Hotel, a short drive from the airport, which is in the heart of the city. Although the flagship of this family run hotel group is in London, a bridge away from Waterloo station, this hotel has the largest spa in Europe. There is everything here from a state of the art gym, personal trainer, excellent thalassotherapy centre, signature massages including the Portuguese adventure which takes you on a sensual journey of all cinnamon, clove, bay and salt. This retreat is inspired by the most traditional and historical Portuguese ingredients. Inspired in the Indian Discovery Routes, led by Vasco da Gama, this treatment starts with a full body exfoliation with flor de sal (fleur de sel) from our coast, enhanced by the unique properties of clove buds and cinnamon, a few of the first exquisite spices that were brought to Europe by the Portuguese Navigator in 1498. This lovely exfoliation follows with a powerful soothing moisturising oil blended to relax tired muscles and ease the mind with the deeply warming effect of clove bud and Indian bay.
As a city spa it works brilliantly, because Lisbon is a bohemian and green, with tree lined cobbled avenues, extraordinary sunsets and sunrises. Despite the hills, it’s a very easy city to walk around, (although it only costs 2 euros to take the city tram) to find unusual, unexpected and unique bars, cafés and shops. In the Chiado district, which has shops like Causto Porto, a pharmacy with soaps too good to unwrap, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. There’s a barbers shop in their basement – indeed there’s a strong barber shop theme present throughout the city. Many of the cafes and bars section out areas where men are able to get their hair cut (the women can but they don’t). I suppose a lot of the men have beards and as beards are on trend at the moment, any self-respecting bearded person should head there straight away. Even David Beckham flies down regularly in his private jet to Figaro’s Barbershop de Lisboa Address: R. do Alecrim 39, 1200-014 Lisboa for short back and sides. Other barber shop/cafes to check out are shops
O Purista – Barbière located in Chiado (https://pt-pt.facebook.com/O-Purista-Barbi%C3%A8re-1512557088958683/) and the Barbearia O Corvo – The Crow Barber shop (https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/585514131618637/barbearia-o-corvo-the-crow-barbershop/)
If you are more into words and pictures than hair cuts, mingle with the writers and local artists in Café A Brasileira (http://www.lojascomhistoria.pt/shops/a-brasileira?lang=en.
There’s A VIDA PORTUGUESA (http://www.avidaportuguesa.com/) which was started by a local journalist, who wanted to bring together all the Portuguese goodies which would be lost forever. So you’ve got the hand-stitched hankerchiefs, the wooden toys, the filigree jewellery, the cork of course, the original porcelain. Much more variety and much cheaper than you will find at the airport – at least twenty percent cheaper so buy here.
The hand painted tiles in Fábrica de Sant’anna (http://www.santanna.com.pt/en) the smallest glove shop Luvaria Ulisses (http://www.luvariaulisses.com/uk/pagina/2/historia/).
Food and wine are superb and excellent value. Some restaurants you are able to book Bairro do Avillez from Chef José Avillez https://www.joseavillez.pt/pt/bairro-do-avillez ). The dish I recommend is the giant red shrimp and the aged beef loin steak and others you can’t.
Zero Zero (http://www.pizzeriazerozero.pt/#/principereal). I recommend the Couscous di Gamberi e Legumi and the Quinoa salad with Tuna and Melograno with shallot and pumpkin seeds.
Most in Lisbon eat late – think past nine. So book for seven. Or arrive at seven.
“ESCAPE & REJUVENATE”
DESIGNED FOR THOSE SEEKING A VITALITY BOOST OR JUST INTERESTED IN AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ELEMENTS OF WELLNESS.
Check-in to a world of elegance at Corinthian Hotel Lisbon then check-out into the relaxation zone with a sublime Total Relax massage Aromatherapy massage. Fully recharge your batteries with an overnight stay in utter luxury before a delicious buffet breakfast the following morning.
PACKAGE PRICE INCLUDES
- Accommodation with full buffet breakfast;
- One Aromatherapy massage, per person;
- Unlimited access to the heated indoor swimming pool and Fitness room