With every squelching step I take in my flip-flops on the rainy tarmac of Gatwick airport, I’m wondering who’s bright idea it was to leave the sun, sea and sand behind for this most unwelcoming of homecomings. Accepting that summer is over feels strangely similar to the way I did at the end of my first romance– mournful and temperamental. As it always does around this time of year, I expect the topic of conversation to turn towards next summer: where will we go and how can we do it better? For my social appointments over the next few days, I thought I might come to the table prepared for discussion…
Top Five Summer Hotspots
Suddenly the popular kid with travel journalists everywhere (named top place to visit by the New York Times), Beirut has been the talk of the town this summer. While the Middle Eastern cool crew have flocked here for decades, this year saw hoards of young Europeans travelling to test the waters of the shabby chic city that never sleeps. What makes Beirut so fascinating is the lingering, gritty nostalgia of war that ironically but effortlessly blends with the glitzy and fashionable social scene. Derelict, war-torn buildings stand like Roman ruins surrounding the extravagant rooftop parties, hosted by the world’s most sought-after DJs. A friend said to me, “the Lebanese like to show what they went through to bring you the party.” It is one hell of a party.
This place can only get better. Gone are the days when Ibiza was known as one of Europe’s trashiest summer destinations, this versatile island has made a full 360 over the last five years and transformed into Europe’s must go-to destination. While the ‘white island’ is undoubtedly host to some of the best summer nightclubs in the world, there is still so much more to be seen. Don’t leave without making it to the beautiful cliff-front peak of the old town and take a boat trip to the sister island of Formentera , where you will find the seawater takes on a delicious shade of turquoise.
I’m predicting that Mykonos may have reached its peak this year as one of the most desirable summer getaways and that a new Greek island will be taking the spotlight. Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion; a giant central lagoon is surrounded by high cliffs layered with the scenic blue and white houses. The nightlife in the island’s capital of Fira is just as developed as in Mykonos but has bags more class. Rent a convertible old shabby jeep and go searching for your own little private beach. Life on this island is not hard to get used to but very difficult to leave.
Dubrovnik has so far managed to escape the masses of much of the Mediterranean, attracting a more exclusive crowd of sunseekers looking to try something a little different. Views from this most southern pearl of Croatia are eye-popping and there are beach clubs a plenty complete with delicious fusion restaurants, live music and sun loungers occupied by the beautiful. July and August are peak season with the Dubrovnik Music Festival in full swing.
Places of Note: Google Keywords
There is a serious buzz going on about this place and everyone is starting to take note. The fashion and music industries are trendsetting and developing rapidly so don’t expect any backwards culture here when it comes to style and entertainment. Shopaholics, prepare to blow your budget.
Destinations We Could do WITHOUT….
St. Tropez, FRANCE
I’m with Brigitte Bardot on this one. When she celebrated her retirement from the film business with a lunch at Club 55 in 1974, she blasted the ‘invaders’ who had polluted the Eden she had discovered in the 50s and declared: ‘It’s no longer the St Tropez I knew.’ There’s just something way too indiscrete about most of the present day French riviera resort. Every year, the same crowd of Euro-brats gathers to spray more champagne over more tanned breasts and never really seem to move on in life. There is trouble on the horizon however for the city’s infamous Pampelonne beach, home to Nikki Beach and La Voile Rouge– the birthplace of topless sunbathing. The council has announced plans to demolish the huts, force all proprietors to reapply for their licences and reduce the number of licences from 28 to 23, thereby shutting five of the restaurants (a scheme quite transparently aimed at squeezing more tax out of the beach clubs that earn 40 million Euros a year). A month-long public enquiry began on the 16th August this summer. Business owners on the Pampleonnne beach are said to be ready to fight to the death to stop the plans for going ahead.
It seems to me that Marbella is in dire need of a facelift. Having stayed away for three summers, I had to make some quick changes on the itinerary when I saw the turn for the worse that Porto Banus has taken. Restaurants and bars no longer seem to be making an effort and trying to take a stroll along the port can get really annoying when you’re constantly moving out of the way for Bentley’s driven by bored, retired old men. Marbella’s best nightlife asset, Olivia Valere, has sadly lost its sparkle amid reports of a very slow season. While this party town needs a makeover and fast, Marbella is still a convenient, no-fuss European getaway. Stick to the scenic and mountainous outskirts in areas such as Estepona and Casares– your budget will be smaller, the food will be fresher, and the atmosphere more authentic.
Until Next Summer…