It's great being a grown-up when it comes to holiday time . . . you can survey brochures, including the long haul ones, and decide where exactly in the world you want to go. But what if you're still a teenager in a grown-up's body? Playaway Holidays has the perfect solution with its unique approach to a Maldives break. Its inaugural trip combines a stay in the White Sands Beach Resort and Spa, offering lazy days under the sun, spa sessions, yoga and boat trips, plenty of water sports, shore side sunbathing andf the point of difference is that the organisers will also bring a crew of top London DJs to this private island so you can dance under the tropical stars by night. It's a one-week trip from 1 July that comes with an all-inclusive price tag of stgÂ£899 (flights ex-London). More info from www. playawayfromhome. com
If self-improvement is high on the holiday agenda, a scan across the Lettercollum Kitchen Project website is highly advisable. Their annual cooking holidays are always fun, enlightening and in just the right numbers that everyone gets valuable tuition. They also take place at fantastic locations, with the selected villas offering swimming pools on site and plenty of local restaurants, markets and visits to local producers. This year, there are two different times to visit their French villa in Le Cerf Gris . . . July or a vegetarian course around harvest time in September. Alternatively, and for those who'd like to try a spot of Andalusian cuisine, there are trips throughout summer and autumn to the south of Spain where tapas, paella and gazpacho making will be the order of the day. For full details, log on to www. lettercollum. ie or telephone 023 46251.
The Wide World
Consulting one of Herbert Ympa's Hip Hotel guides has long been as essential to style-conscious holidaymakers as packing a passport is essential to the rest of us. The latest addition to his ever-growing series, Hip Hotels Atlas takes the broadest sweep at eye-popping, truly unique destination hotels all over the world. Here's where you'll get the low-down on the latest ice hotels, a secluded Italian piazza with walled rose garden, a mud casbah, a traditional Japanese inn, a colonial ranch in the wild west f you get the gist. Separated into six global sections, there are over 1,000 mouth-watering photographs of some of the world's most incredible places to lay your hat. Or at least to daydream
La Dolce Vita
There are lots of hot hotels opening in 2006 but few can shake a stick at the DuoMo in Rimini, Italy. Long favoured with the jetset and forever linked to director Federico Fellini, the resort has lost some of the glitter from its crown in recent years, but is now poised to enjoy a renaissance. Created by architect Ron Arad, the design is unconventional to say the least . . . entrance to the hotel is through giant pinball flipper-type doors and from there on in, expect to be wowed by the extreme colour scheme and interesting bathroom 'pods'. The bar, meanwhile, is a large polished stainless steel island, with fjord-like recesses for dining. It's opening its doors in February so stay ahead of the crowd, book in now and revel in the beaches, clubs and general debauchery that this playboy (and girl) city is infamous for. www. designhotels. com.
Holding The Forte
It's impossible not to get excited about the reopening of Brown's Hotel, recognised as the first luxury hotel in London when it opened in 1837 and now a Â£19m addition to the Sir Rocco Forte portfolio.
For it was in this hotel in Mayfair, just off Bond Street, that Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call in 1876, Rudyard Kipling wrote Jungle Book and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt spent their honeymoon in 1905. Today, Browns is just as grand but very much in the 21st-century with GI diet friendly afternoon teas and three spa rooms. Sir Rocco's sister, Olga Polizzi, is responsible for the old-school, luxurious decor. Take a pew in the Terence Donovan Bar (a homage to the famous Brit photographer), order a glass of champagne and toast Brown's restoration to its rightful position as one of the greatest hotels in the world. Brown's Hotel Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4BP.
Tel: 0044 20 7493 6020
There's something ironic about showcasing a website called secretplaces. com in a national Sunday newspaper but this little gem is too good not to be shared. This booking service only keeps the most charming and the most elegant hostelries in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Morocco on its books and its mission statement is to show travellers often . . . and unfairly . . . overlooked hotels, eateries and sights. The search engine is quite specific in terms of meeting your individual requirements, whatever they might be . . . secluded, historical, mountain or seaside-based, fine cuisine and romantic are all options.
Tellingly, hotels don't pay to be featured on the website and inclusion is by invitation only. For the latest boutique hotel in Seville or manor house in Tuscany, and smug satisfaction at acquiring such unique and bespoke holiday accommodation, look no further. www. secretplaces. com.
Believe The Skype
It's online chat but not as you know it. . . Skype is the brilliant computer program that allows you to talk to people anywhere in the world, in real time. It uses a technique called Voice over IP (VoIP), which sends the sound with very little bandwidth. To use it, you just install the program on your computer and register (for free) for a user account. You need a computer with a microphone and speakers or a Skype headset with plug-ins, or both. Then, you can either connect to other people using Skype (just like a chat program) or you can call actual phone lines with it. Calling from Skype to Skype (computer to computer) is free and calling from Skype to a phone line costs a bit more but it's typically much cheaper than calling normally. If your connection is fast enough, there's practically no time delay and it's a much more economical way of catching up with your mates in Oz than getting on the blower. www. skype. com.
The write stuff
Good travellers don't always make for the best travel writers, as many group emails from gap-yearers will attest.
But when it's done well, it inspires the strongest wanderlust, as is the case with www. explore. ie. This nicely executed travel website is run by a team of travel writers and photographers and it differs from more generic websites because it is aimed specifically at Irish travellers, carrying a fresh mix of lively prose, evocative photography and first-hand advice. With material as diverse as photo essays on the Kalahari bushmen to David Norris' travel essentials, it's worth checking back every month for the team's further adventures in travel.