Sitting on my terrace in Tangier with a breakfast croissant while being watched by some pert little sparrows, thoughts turn to the opening of the world’s borders.
Right now, with no ferries and no planes, Tangier is eerily quiet for a usually bustling port town.
I have been locked down in Morocco for more than a year. The Moroccans have been wonderful hosts, even down to giving me both my AstraZeneca jabs for free and a Covid passport.
African escape: A view over the normally bustling city of Tangier, where Glenys Roberts has been locked down for more than a year
Lately they have welcomed those overseas visitors still allowed to leave home with a negative Covid test and a hotel booking. And now they are predicting the whole country will have been vaccinated by the summer, in time for the tourist season proper.
Listen up, Boris. Morocco has had a good Covid. By restricting flights and closing down individual towns except to emergency travel, it has been able to open up local economies, albeit with a 9pm curfew. Schools and shops have long been open. Restaurants and bars are buzzing despite social distancing.
The country must be one of the safest for a holiday — and one of the most accessible spots is right here in Tangier. Only 20 miles from Spain across the Straits and just 2.5 hours by plane from Gatwick, you will arrive in a place which has been working hard to improve accessibility without destroying the medieval feel of its old buildings, including the 15th-century fortress.
The old Portuguese ramparts have been refurbished, the uneven cobbles resurfaced, shopfronts repainted in their glorious blues and greens and their cedar wood blinds restored.
The street works have also unearthed the old subterranean passages used during multiple historic sieges. Now they are being restored with a view to laying on guided tours of ‘underground Tangier’.
On the other side of town they have updated the ruined villa belonging to Walter Harris, the turn of the 20th century correspondent for The Times, and turned it into an art museum. Harris lies buried in the English churchyard here, but his classic book Morocco That Was remains a wonderful introduction to a country where the imagination runs wild.
Everyone knows of someone who has sojourned in Tangier, from Samuel Pepys to Winston Churchill, Matisse, American writers Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, myriad Hollywood stars, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull plus several British gangsters. For the past few years Kenneth Branagh has been bringing some of his favourite British thespians to act out well-loved plays in the fabulous expat gardens.
Daniel Craig was filmed in the last James Bond movie, Spectre, here. There are few places so photogenic due to the ever- changing skies, lush vegetation and sudden unexpected views between the white buildings that cling to its many hills.
Tangier, pictured, is just 20 miles from Spain across the Straits and just 2.5 hours by plane from Gatwick
Marianne Faithfull, one of the many celebrities to have sojourned in Tangier
How many towns have the luxury of two seas? If you want bracing breakers and vast deserted beaches with sophisticated French restaurants serving vin gris, head west towards the Atlantic, while to the east the Med offers sheltered coves where you can enjoy a cheap sardine barbecue overlooking the mountains of Spain. Alongside this, there are five-star international hotels and golf courses, all-night discos for the young and for aspiring bohemians the moody drinking spots frequented by controversial writer William Burroughs.
Parts of the city remind me of London’s Soho where I was a local councillor for nearly 20 years. In fact, I have nicknamed Tangier . . . Soho on Sea.
In the hills, where King Mohammed VI has his spanking white summer palace overlooking the Atlantic, you could be in California. The king grew up here and it remains one of his favourite spots.
He’s overseen the development which in places reminds you of Monte Carlo, with a splendid corniche filled these days with 4x4s and even the odd Porsche. But His Majesty has not lost the common touch. There are many stories of his anonymous midnight forays in a battered Renault and an old djellabah [robe] giving the jobless a helping hand.
I have been coming here since the 1960s when it still resembled the Wild West. The streets were unpaved, most people wore native dress and the airport was a little landing strip surrounded by wildflowers and grazing sheep.
As you stepped off the plane you were engulfed by the scent of rosemary and thyme and dust freshly blown in from the Sahara.
Now it’s an international hub, as is the city itself, which has long been quadrilingual due to the number of neighbours and invaders who have coveted its strategic position at the mouth of the Med. It’s a heady mix of sophistication and tradition. I love to see shepherds still grazing their flocks next to the traffic and the Berber women bringing fresh produce from the hills.
Glenys writes of Tangier: ‘It’s a heady mix of sophistication and tradition. I love to see shepherds still grazing their flocks next to the traffic and the Berber women bringing fresh produce from the hills.’ Pictured is the city’s square
And there are the cats. Born in the gutter, they know instinctively how to dodge the cars, aided by the locals who love them because the five-fingered marks on their foreheads are said to be proof they were stroked by the Prophet.
They leave food and water for them on every corner and the cats are curiously happy to share with well-mannered seagulls, mysteriously very different from the raucous birds I grew up with in Liverpool.
I think my appreciation of Tangier was complete the other day when I spotted both Pillars of Hercules from my terrace — Gibraltar on the European side, Jebel Musa on the African side. The strongman of Greek mythology is said to have bashed through the mountains to join the Med to the Atlantic and rested from his labours in a local cave.
But this is a country with a future. There has been huge investment in wind farms and solar energy. New motorways and railways have made it accessible from the sea to the Sahara. There is now a high-speed train between Tangier and Casablanca and lately even promise of a ferry soon to be inaugurated between the big new Tanger-Med port some 30 miles east of the city and Poole in Dorset.
With more and more Moroccan produce looking for a direct route to England since Brexit, this is definitely one to watch.
Morocco in general and Tangier in particular have not been mentioned much by way of a safe holiday destination once travel is allowed, but its Covid record suggests it is likely to be a better bet than Europe this year.
Take it from me, you’ll be introduced to a whole new world.
Source: Dailymail Travels
Where to find the lowest Covid infection rates in the UK – and bag a sublime staycation
When we are finally allowed to go on self-catering trips in the UK from April 12 (April 26 in Scotland), where will we travel? The answer may be: wherever is possible, as holiday-let firms report that over 90 per cent of properties are already taken.
Competition is also likely to be tough for hotels and B&Bs when they reopen on May 17. Yet there are still options to consider if you dig about. So after a year of pandemic, how do you chose which?
One consideration may be the area’s ‘bill of health’. Here is our guide to the UK’s least-affected spots, using latest Public Health England statistics.
The map above shows Covid cases for the previous seven days correct on March 31, according to Public Health England
YOU’RE OK IN ORKNEY
It is hardly surprising that Orkney, off Scotland’s north-east coast, has avoided the worst of the pandemic. With a mere 71 cases since coronavirus began, it is the least affected local authority area.
Officials hope that by April 26, Scotland’s reopening date for self-catering tourist accommodation, travel to the islands will be allowed. So trips could be possible to see its towering sandstone cliffs, vibrant birdlife, seal colonies and Neolithic sites — including the Ring of Brodgar.
DETAILS: B&B doubles at Stromness Hotel from £95 (stromnesshotel.com).
West Devon has reported few cases in recent months. And it is encouraging that other parts of the county, including Torridge, North Devon and Teignbridge, have also fared well. Visitors will enjoy walking the South West Coast Path and seeing the Jurassic Coast Cliffs on boat trips. The area is also home to Dartmoor National Park and the Tamar Valley.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock from £180 (bedford-hotel.co.uk).
Seaside fun: Hastings makes for a nice beach break and has charming surroundings towns that are worth exploring
East Sussex’s historic Hastings, with its traditional seaside attractions, has had a low coronavirus rate in recent months, as has the surrounding area, Rother. Visitors should not skip on a visit to the charming surrounding towns, including Rye, with its many interesting independent shops and close proximity to Camber Sands.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at the Hope Anchor Hotel in Rye from £175 (thehopeanchor.co.uk).
WHERE EAGLES DARE
The Outer Hebrides has been among the least affected local authorities. For those tempted by the windswept Scottish islands, perhaps a trip to the Isle of Lewis is in order. This is the largest island in the archipelago and a wildlife lover’s dream with golden eagles, red deer and seals.
Lewis is more traditional than most, with use of Gaelic, the peat industry, Sabbath observance, and myths and legends.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at Baile-na-Cille from £150 (bailenacille.co.uk).
The Scottish Borders has had a better-than-average bill of health. This Scottish unitary council area has a dramatic stretch of coast and is not far from Edinburgh. Golfers will enjoy a trip to Peebles, where the castle is also worth a visit.
As with many parts of Scotland, abbeys and castles abound, among some great natural scenery.
DETAILS: Three nights’ self-catering at Eyemouth Holiday Park from £219 (parkdeanresorts.co.uk).
Another less-affected area has been the mid-Welsh county of Ceredigion, with its rolling hills, secluded beaches and fine coastal towns. The area’s rural market towns such as Cenarth, with its waterfall and nearby Cilgerran Castle, are full of interest too.
DETAILS: Two nights at Cenarth Falls Holiday Park from £50 (pitchup.com).
Stunning: The Cotswolds is known for its splendid views and idyllic chocolate box cottages. Pictured is Castle Combe
Cases of Covid have been low in the Cotswolds, where 80 per cent of the region is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Charming Cotswolds villages include Asthall, Bourton-on-the-Water, Burford, Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter.
Children will love Cotswold Farm Park and Water Park, while adults will enjoy a trip to The Royal Gardens at Highgrove or Kiftsgate Court Gardens.
DETAILS: Three nights’ self-catering from £209 (hoburne.com).
LOCHS AND CASTLES
Argyll & Bute covers a vast area and is another Scottish region to have been less hit by Covid than other parts of the country. Enjoy the open scenery, the placid lochs and castles.
Inveraray is the place to stay, while those keen on an island adventure (and some great seafood) should look to Oban.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at Brambles of Inverary from £240 (inverarayhotel.com).
Throughout modern history Cumbria has inspired writers — not least Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.
Eden has had low cases in recent months and this valley, with its river of the same name, is as idyllic as it sounds.
There are some historic villages dating to Viking Times, a scenic railway line from Settle to Carlisle and great walks in the peaceful Howgill Fells.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at Bank House Bed and Breakfast from £144 (bankhousepenrith.co.uk).
The Shetland Islands, 110 miles off the coast of Scotland, has been barely affected by coronavirus. It’s tricky to get to but those who make the effort will be rewarded. The mainland is full of scenic villages and small farms, while the outlying islands are places to explore historic sites and spot wildlife.
DETAILS: Two nights’ B&B at Busta House Hotel from £254 (bustahouse.com).
Source: Dailymail Travels
Staycationers desperate to get away tell holiday lets they will pay in cash and hide their cars
Staycationers desperate to get away over Easter have been telling holiday lets they will pay in cash, hide their cars and arrive at night in bid to avoid getting caught breaking Covid rules.
The owners of self-catering holiday accommodation in the UK have criticised would-be holidaymakers who have asked to book discrete getaways despite the ongoing coronavirus restrictions meaning overnight stays are not allowed.
Holiday cottages, caravan parks and other self-catered accommodation will be able to welcome guests from a single household as of April 12.
But many holiday-cottage owners claim they are coming under increasing pressure from Brits keen to get away ahead of the Government’s easing.
Jill Taylor (pictured) owns the South View Lodges at Shillingford St George, near Exeter, said she has received dozens of calls in recent weeks from people desperate for a holiday
The South View Lodges site (pictured) at Shillingford St George, near Exeter, Devon, comprises of five lodges set in six acres
Jill said most people do not have genuine reasons for staying, such as travelling for work, with most wanting to celebrate birthdays at the site (pictured)
Jill Taylor owns the South View Lodges at Shillingford St George, near Exeter, Devon, comprising of five lodges set in six acres.
She said she has received dozens of calls in recent weeks from people desperate for a holiday.
‘They are quite happy to pay cash on arrival. They say they won’t go on any social media platforms and they won’t let anyone know they are here and they will even leave their vehicle parked somewhere in a lay by or a gateway down the road so no one knows they are actually here,’ she added.
Jill said most people do not have genuine reasons for staying, such as travelling for work, with most wanting to celebrate birthdays.
Sue Jewell (pictured) owns a dog-friendly holiday let in Cornwall
The owner of a dog-friendly holiday let near Looe, Cornwall, said she had also received pre-April 12 inquiries from people contacting her via Air BnB – including one man who said he wanted to travel down for a ‘house viewing’ in the area.
Sue Jewell, of Boturnell Farm Cottages, said: ‘I have turned that down because I am not comfortable with it…
‘I ended up almost having an argument with the chap with his house viewing who told me yes he could [visit the area], but if I don’t take [the booking], and I am not going to, there are going to be people who do.’
Tourism bosses in the region say they have received numerous complaints from businesses about suspected holidaymakers.
They are concerned about the effect another lockdown would have on their sector.
Visit Devon director Sally Everton said: ‘There are many many properties in Devon that you still can book and you can book them as of today.
‘That concerned me and out of all those I saw only one actually said could you please disclose the reason why you are travelling.’
Ms Jewell, who owns the dog-friendly holiday let (pictured) near Looe, Cornwall, said she had also received pre-April 12 inquiries from people contacting her via Air BnB
In a statement Air B&B said during lockdown ‘stays on AirBnB are only available in limited circumstances, in line with Government guidance.
‘This is made clear on our website, which restricts bookings to these legal exemptions.’
Meanwhile Devon and Cornwall police confirmed they are investigating a closed social media group which is allegedly encouraging owners of holiday lets and potential customers to breach Covid rules.
Source: Dailymail Travels
The Treasures of English Churches: New book shows amazing murals, monuments, relics and carvings
Explore England’s places of worship and you’ll find masterpieces of design, some of the world’s most beautiful stained-glass windows and a host of astonishing murals, monuments and carvings spanning over a thousand years of turbulent history – as a fascinating new book reveals.
The National Churches Trust teamed up with prolific church photographer Matthew Byrne to document the most miraculous and marvelled treasures inside England’s churches and some of its most eye-catching cathedrals.
The result is The Treasures of English Churches: Witnesses to the History of a Nation (out in May).
It charts the history of England through its unique church furnishings, decorations and artwork, many of which have survived the upheavals of war, plague and Reformation. From stunning Saxon sculpture to masterpieces of medieval woodcarving, the polychrome brilliance of Victorian interiors to the moving memorial legacies of two world wars and the oldest Easter bunnies depicted in medieval stonework, the book is billed as ‘a remarkable window into English history’.
Matthew, who has been exploring, studying and photographing English churches for nearly 40 years, said: ‘I hope this book will help encourage readers to venture out and discover for themselves England’s wonderful churches. Getting more people to visit churches is one way in which these magnificent buildings can be safeguarded for the future, as it helps to show those responsible for funding church buildings that they remain an important and loved part of our heritage.’
Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust, said: ‘With many church buildings under threat due to the ravages of time and with fewer worshippers to look after them, this book shows the importance of their art and architecture and why this needs to be preserved for future generations.’ Scroll down for some heavenly history.
DORE ABBEY, HEREFORDSHIRE, THE ABBEY CHURCH OF ST MARY: ‘The chancel screen inserted in 1630 is one of the largest and heaviest pieces of Jacobean furniture in England, with classical columns, spiky obelisks and heraldry,’ writes Matthew. ‘Because of the relative scarcity of church building in the centuries following the Reformation, together with a lack of interest in existing buildings and their furnishings and the destructive ‘restorations’ of the Victorians, the quantity of woodwork surviving from this period is not large’
ST MARY THE VIRGIN CHURCH, ELMLEY CASTLE, WORCESTERSHIRE: ‘A charmingly naive 14th-century lone rabbit built into a wall inside the porch without a context – perhaps a reminder of dinner!’ says Matthew
ST OSWALD’S CHURCH, ASHBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE: ‘This monument is one of the most famous in England,’ writes Matthew. ‘Penelope Boothby, d.1791 aged five years, was the daughter of Sir Brooke and Dame Sussanah Boothby. In life the child was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir John Millais and sculpted in death by Thomas Banks. An inscription is written in the four languages she is said (by her parents) to have spoken. The monument was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London where Queen Charlotte, wife of George III is said to have wept’
ST PETER & ST PAUL’S CHURCH, HOWDEN, EAST YORKSHIRE: This, says Matthew, is an example of antique funeral equipment. It’s a late 17th-century parish coffin on an 18th-century trolley – and an early example of recycling, he adds
ST OSWALD’S CHURCH, LOWER PEOVER, CHESHIRE: A medieval chest, ‘amply padlocked to protect church plate and vestments’
ST MARY’S CHURCH, WARWICK: ‘This church is home to one of the most famous mausoleums in England,’ writes Matthew. ‘Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, d.1439, is depicted in a very rare brass effigy surrounded by a brass cage on a Purbeck marble chest in the church’s famous Beauchamp Chapel. These monuments of piety cover a period of about 400 hundred years. The dresses and headgear of the lay people are a good record of changing fashions and styles for historians’
ST MARY’S CHURCH, LEAD, WEST YORKSHIRE: An early 18th-century two-decker pulpit by a local joiner
LEFT – COVENTRY CATHEDRAL, WEST MIDLANDS: ‘Situated in the baptistry chapel is one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world, rising from floor to ceiling,’ writes Matthew. ‘This abstract composition, created in 1960 by John Piper (1903–1992) and Patrick Reyntiens (b.1925), is among the best English glass of the 20th century. Several darker colours are seen moving towards a central sun with the message “per aspera ad astra” meaning “through hardships to the stars”. Following the destruction and damage of many churches and cathedrals in World War II, a new era of modern stained glass brought some vibrant and beautiful abstract designs to the stained-glass tradition.’ RIGHT – ST CUTHBERT’S CHURCH AT BEWCASTLE: ‘The Bewcastle Cross of 700–750 AD stands in a remote hamlet in the wide, rolling hills of the Cumbrian border country,’ says Matthew. ‘There is nothing as perfect as this of a comparable date in Europe’
ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST CHURCH, SHOBDON, HEREFORDSHIRE: ‘The whole interior including the pulpit is a unique 1752 “Rococo- Gothic” creation of Richard Bateman, a friend of Horace Walpole,’ says Matthew. ‘The lower deck for the parish clerk is no more than a little chair. The velvet hangings are original’
ST MARY’S CHURCH, SUFFOLK: ‘This very rare and beautiful altar retable from around 1330 is one of the most miraculous survivals of art of the English Middle Ages,’ declares Matthew. ‘Originally in a local abbey church, it was lost in the Reformation, found again and donated here for its original purpose in 1927. This central section shows, left to right, St John the Baptist with Agnus Dei; St Peter with keys; Crucifixion with Virgin Mary and St John; St Paul with sword; St Edmund, martyred Saxon king killed with an arrow. It is the second oldest retable of its kind to survive the Reformation and one of only a handful in the country. Two others are to be found in Westminster Abbey and Norwich Cathedral’
LEFT – ST JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH, TUEBROOK, LIVERPOOL: ‘As with Pugin’s church at Cheadle, every available surface of G. F. Bodley’s church of 1870 is brilliant with colour,’ enthuses Matthew. ‘The tie-beam roof outmatches most of its medieval predecessors in bright colour.’ RIGHT – ST MARY THE VIRGIN CHURCH, MENDLESHAM, SUFFOLK: ‘In the mid-17th century many medieval stone fonts with were fitted with elaborate wooden covers and canopies,’ reveals Matthew
LULLINGSTONE VILLA, KENT: ‘Within the house-church in the home of a wealthy 4th-century Christian Roman is the oldest Christian work of art in England,’ reveals Matthew. ‘It is a rare and colourful painting that depicts two people praying with their arms wide open. Vibrant paintings were originally common across walls and screens in churches but were largely destroyed and whitewashed in the Reformation. The very rarity of medieval paintings contributes to their importance, as does the insight they give into the minds and religious attitudes of ordinary people in towns and villages. Medieval painters left few surfaces of stone or wood without colour, although this is very little in evidence today as few examples survive’
ST LAWRENCE’S CHURCH, EVESHAM, WORCESTERSHIRE: ‘Some churches possess memorabilia from previous generations,’ says Matthew. ‘This is a 19th-century glass-sided hand-pulled hearse’
PRIORY CHURCH OF ST MARY & ST HARDULPH, BREEDON-ON-THE HILL, LEICESTERSHIRE: ‘The church contains the largest collection of one of the most interesting Saxon sculptures in England,’ reveals Matthew. ‘The subjects and styles are so different as to be clearly by sculptors of different artistic cultures and times. Three saints are carved here, with halos and robes’
PRIORY CHURCH OF ST MARY & ST HARDULPH, BREEDON-ON-THE HILL, LEICESTERSHIRE: A frieze of weird, pot-bellied and horned animals
ST NICHOLAS CHURCH, BARFREYSTONE, KENT: Part of a Norman wall frieze shows a donkey and a monkey carrying a rabbit in a hod while a crouching man looks on
LEFT – ST MARY’S CHURCH, ROSS-ON-WYE, HEREFORDSHIRE: Colonel William Rudhall, d.1651. A royalist soldier dressed in Roman military uniform. RIGHT – ST PETER’S CHURCH, GAYHURST, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE: This marble monument to Sir Nathan Wright, d.1721, and his son is ‘one of the grandest in England’. Matthew adds: ‘Sir Nathan was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, which he holds in his left hand. These “Pomp and Pride” monuments are a breath-taking insight into the lives and attitudes of those at the top of 18th-century English society and the art of those who served them in death’
LEFT – THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, BLYTHBOROUGH, SUFFOLK: ‘Thefts of money from churches were probably as common in the Middle Ages, as today,’ reveals Matthew. ‘At Holy Trinity, Blythborough, there is a strongly built example of a pillar poor-box designed for security in the 15th century.’ RIGHT – ALL SAINTS CHURCH, LITTLE KIMBLE, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE: ‘A small church with one of the best collections of wall paintings in England,’ declares Matthew. ‘These show St George and the dragon (with rescued princess behind him) and the entombment of a female saint by an angel. The remains of these are particularly rare and fragmentary as during the Reformation it was easy to obliterate them under a coat of whitewash. Modern maintenance work occasionally reveals traces, and in the hands of expert conservationists these have been painstakingly revealed and conserved’
ST MAWGAN CHURCH, MAWGAN-IN-PYDAR, CORNWALL: ‘The late 10th-century “wheelhead” cross is the most beautiful of the many decorated crosses in the county,’ says Matthew. ‘It is five-feet (1.5m) high with a diminutive figure of Christ in high relief. The other sides are decorated with corded knotwork. Celtic crosses frequently had a circular piece surrounding the intersection of the vertical shaft and the shorter cross pieces – these are the “wheelhead” crosses. They may be relatively plain but were usually carved all over with complex abstract patterns, interlocking forms of ribbons, knots and spirals, together with stylised flora and fauna motifs. The most developed form of cross contained figure sculptures of Christ and the saints’
The Treasures of English Churches (Shire Publications) is published in association with The National Churches Trust, a national, independent charity dedicated to supporting church buildings across the UK with sponsorship courtesy of CCLA Investment Management. For more information, visit www.nationalchurchestrust.org/churchtreasures
Source: Dailymail Travels
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