My secret hideaway: foreign correspondent discover all

Foreign correspondents know how to get under the skin “of the worlds countries”. But where do they move when they want to be removed from it all? Here, well-travelled columnists reveal their ultimate holiday escapes

Afua Hirsch on Sao Tome e Principe, Africa

At first I find critical of the many Africans I spoke to who had never heard of Sao Tome e Principe. It is after all an African country, albeit one of the smallest( population 194,000) and remotest an archipelago of minuscule islands nestled in the watery armpit of west and central Africa, deep in the Atlantic, with Gabon to the east and Nigeria to the north.

Then I realised how difficult it was to get there. Back then, in 2002, there was one flight a week from Gabon, and one from Lisbon which ferried the children of Portuguese aristocrats to secretive useds in pristine bays at the hoof of volcanos carpeted in the countrys endless innocent rainforest.

I had graduated from university just a few months ago and in my shiny new NGO job elected Sao Tome as the orientation for an international conference I was organising. But going hundreds of dignitaries there intended chartering planes, qualifying hotel staff members and even having brand-new phone cables laid. I arrived exhausted. My VIP clients were in a strop , not because the plane Id chartered searched ripe for the scrap heap, but because it had no business class sets. I was not in the mood to fall in love.

But I did. Id ever seen volcanoes so alive with grove or the Atlantic such a seductive, sleepy-eyed blue. Ive never appeared so close to a record I thought much older no African language is spoken in Sao Tome, but, rather a creole form of Portuguese. The inmates are all descended from slaves, Portuguese lepers and Jewish brats dumped on small island developing hundreds of years ago.

People lived in the ruinings of rotted colonial palaces as if the orchard had collapsed the day before. It appeared marked at delivery from another part of the world the Caribbean or South America with its stately palms and deteriorating facades, ridgeback mountains and Portuguese towns.

But its Africa all right. Billions of casks of oil have achieved what natural knockout and human appeal never did and placed it securely on the map. The lubricant proletarians have been streaming in since Sao Tome and I had our first encounter: I hope parties endeavouring Africas greatest attractivenes will, too.

Fly to Sao Tome e Principe from London via Lisbon with TAP Portugal from PS457( ). Stay at Omali Lodge, redoubles from PS106( )
Afua Hirsch is the former West Africa correspondent for the Guardian

Lyse Doucet on New Brunswick, Canada


Good old times: the Acadian historic village of Caraquet in New Brunswick, Canada. Picture: Philippe Renault/ Hemis/ Corbis

Ive heard it time and time again. New Brunswick? Oh, I drove through it to get to Nova Scotia. Acadians? Hmm Cajuns? Oh Cajun cooking Music Louisiana!

But New Brunswick in east Canada is much more than a place to drive through. And its northeastern coast will not just pleasure but instruct you about a people who subsisted a British colonial removal from here in 1755 and returned to establish a vibrant culture and proud sense of self.

The Acadians are the offsprings of the French who colonised countries of the region from the 17 th century, and if you visit on 15 August, Acadian national date, youll be aloud reminded of that by the tintamarre . At 17.55, on the dot, beings dance in the streets, overpowering pans and blowing horns, to make as much racket as is practicable to tell the world know theyre still here. A dark epoch in imperial record, when thousands were forced to flee south including to Louisiana, where the period Acadian became Cajun is now a vibrant occasion of survival.

A drive along the winding beach takes you through a picturesque landscape of simple-minded cabins hugging the coastline and ramble farmhouses set back on wheeling green battlefields( except in the freezing penetrations of wintertime, when all is snowy lily-white ).

Lobster nets and the Acadian pennant are ubiquitous a tricolour to standing French parentage, with a shining yellowed starring, representing the Stella Maris, the star of the high seas, that navigates sailors in storms.

To know even more about this charming angle on the sea, inspect the Acadian village, a functioning replica of life through the late 18 th to the mid-2 0th centuries. Inside the original wooden houses of the first Acadian households they are carried out under with daily chores, but are never too busy to warmly welcome visitors.

History originates alive in the evening at the luxurious LHotel Chateau Albert, which allows you tuck into an old- fashioned meal while being entertained by a trio of traditional fiddlers. On my last-place visit there, a female fiddler recounted how she had to practise in secret as a young girl. Fiddling was merely for men then.

And do drop by the Doucet farm in the historical village, where you may find them cooking bread.

Fly to Moncton from London via Toronto or Montreal with Air Canada from PS532( ). Stay at LHotel Chateau Albert, redoubles from PS70(
Lyse Doucet is the BBCs director international reporter

Ed Vulliamy on Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania


Rowing residence: angler on the Danube. Picture: Alamy

The Sfantu Gheorghe arm of the Danube Delta is gratifyingly hard to reach: by boat from the river port of Mahmudia, which departs between two and five hours late, laden with indispensable goods that folk in Sfantu Gheorghe on the Black Sea beach cannot buy in their hamlet shop. The barge steers bends in Europes mightiest river, past oxbow ponds and through recently mined channels. A small bunch does its lane through the clay to the dock with mules to compile the shopping.

There are two automobiles in Sfantu Gheorghe: one belongs to the policeman, the other to the government environmental polouse. During my first visit in 1995, they had gate-crashed and were being repaired.

I frequent Sfantu Gheorghe thanks to an ornithologist pal from Bucharest. His metier together with caviar from neighbourhood sturgeon is the ostensible reason to be there: a think of eagles, egrets, vultures, cranes, ibises, cormorants and pelicans. Anglers weigh their wares on iron scales in a market that has not changed for centuries. They say that when the high seas howls it necessitates their own lives lost in reprisal for husbands abuse “of the worlds oceans”. Sure enough, last period it howled, the bodies of a leader and son showered ashore.

One day the ornithologist took me out on the river in his little barge. And there it was: the roar, a heart-stopping call, and the river heaved. The ornithologists cheery face was suddenly startled and intense as he gripped the outboard machine to carve a mode through the current and driving torrent. After 50 instants of thinking that any of them could be my last-place, we acquired it to the bank.

On the night they return, the fishermen gather, after a short visit dwelling, at the only table in city: a window cut into a brickwork live. Outside which they sit to suck vodka that comes in bottles the size of high standards beer thats the unit per round, and I profess its tough going.

In keeping with the vulgarisation and attack by tourism of anything genuine in Romania( as everywhere else ), there is now a Green Village Resort in Sfantu Gheorghe: some people on TripAdvisor seem to have had horrific knows there, who are unable to be a good thing.

On one final darknes in Sfantu Gheorghe, the ornithologist and I were supposed to have gone to bed early, to catch the sunup craft back to Mahmudia, but the command was dancing on the table, sucking vodka, so there didnt seem to be much hurry.

When the shuttle did leave, I was as ever lamentable to leave with it, into the quickening eastern sky and the brave sunrise of freshly financier, tourist-friendly Romania.

Fly to Bucharest from London with Ryanair from PS22. 99 ( ). Mahmudia port is approximately four hours drive, then take the boat to Sfantu Gheorghe. Stay at the Light-green Village, doubles from PS40 ( )
Ed Vulliamy is a novelist for the Guardian and Observer and was was New York correspondent for the Observer and Rome correspondent for the Guardian

Kate Connolly on Hiddensee, Germany


Artists escape: a lighthouse at the Dornbusch on Hiddensee island. Photo: Heinz Wohner/ Getty Images

As a hideout it could hardly be more appropriate mentioned. The island of Hiddensee sits on Germanys north-eastern tip-off and is one of the countrys sunniest, windiest locatings. Despite being only under 11 miles long and, at its broadest extent, only two miles wide-ranging, even in the high levels of summer it is surprisingly easy-going to find a recognise in the dunes or in its expansive heathland to escape the daytrippers who arrive en masse from neighbouring Rugen. While to English ears at least its epithet is just like a clever including references to its remoteness, it is in fact a gesture to the legendary Norwegian sovereign, Hedin, who is believed to have engaged here. Whether for a love attention or for amber, beliefs are divided, but in any case Hedins Oe or Hedins Island as it was identified while under Danish rule has more or less stuck.

In the 1920 s the Baltic island was a magnet for intellects and creators. The those who are relatives of columnists Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Gunter Grass( whose bride was a Hiddenseer ), sculptor Kathe Kollwitz and the Freuds were among the regulars, as was Danish film star Asta Nielsen, who had a humorous circular holiday home, the karusel . The Freud connection endures to this day thanks to Esther Freuds 2003 romance The Sea House , which recalls the holidays her great-grandfather Sigmund and their own families enjoyed on small island developing before they and numerous Hiddensee tenants were banned by the Nazis. The kinfolk find some sort of solace in the village of Walberswick on the Suffolk coast which, with its grassy sand dunes, huge skies and a residence they announced Hidden House, prompted them of the beloved Baltic island the latter are was necessary to forsake.

Ive been coming here regularly for more than a decade, and it has never lost its request as an ideal place for flee. It is car-free, with no golf courses and, at around six hours by qualify and ferrying from Berlin, close enough for a long weekend. Aside from swimming, marching and biking, there are three bookshops, a theatre, some taverns and a tent cinema. Otherwise theres little more to do than request locals to learn you how to fish for articles of brownish-yellow after a squall, or literally milk the bright-orange buckthorn berries for their vitamin C-rich juice.

It continues to be a draw for writers and masters, very. Lutz Seilers 2014 novel Kruso , which won the German Book Prize( out in English this year ), is set in Hiddensee during the heady dates before the tumble of the Berlin Wall. Its a lyrical tribute to the island as well as offering an penetration into life here during the East German tyranny for those wanting to abscond to the west( Denmark is barely more than an energetic swimming away) as well as those who simply sought internal expatriate amid high winds and the curves from the every day strains of the GDR. Hiddensee has never lost its appeal as an ideal place for escape.

Fly to Berlin from London with EasyJet from PS29. 49 ( ). Regular teaches are 44 from Berlin ( ) to Stralsund, from there take a shuttle to Hiddensee ( ). Stay at Hotel Godewind, doubles from PS92 ( )
Kate Connolly is the Guardian and Observers Berlin reporter

Peter Beaumont on Hosh Jasmin, West Bank


A counter with a deem: the porch at Hosh Jasmin overlooking the hills. Photo: Luke Pyenson

The mountains only beyond the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Beit Jala Bethlehems other half, though never say that to a native are a special target. Ancient limestone terraces pitch towards Battir and the cool valley of Wadi Refaim, with its fig trees and gazelles. Small apricot orchards hem in the old-time stone farms that flecks the descents. Just outside the cities is where you find Hosh Jasmin, an organic farm and restaurant opened in 2012 by filmmaker, sculptor and restaurateur Mazen Saadeh.

Fifteen times drive from the western boundary of Jerusalem, Hosh Jasmin is both circumscribed by and refuses Israels continuing occupation of the West Bank. Located in Area C, under Israeli security and administrative domination, it is reached for us at least through the Walajah checkpoint, passing the Israeli settlement of Har Gilo. The Israeli break wall is visible from Hosh Jasmin in the distance, a snaking way of grey concrete.

Despite the remembers, it is a place to escape for a while from the continuing violence and tensions, favourite with Palestinians from the neighbouring town, Jerusalemites and internationals. Visiting on a blue moon last year, groupings of musicians had been assembled. The waiters, encouraging us to stay, intimated if everyone was drunk enough a midnight saunter would be initiated. Identified for the Syrian-style hosh compounds, counters are set on rough-hewn wooden scaffolds for the purposes of the trees, arenas designed for sprawling on cushions, although there is a small indoor expanse for where reference is downpours and a ardour pit for the winter coldnes of the Jerusalem mounds. Elsewhere there are hammocks and shaking seats.

Below is Saadehs farm, including olives that Hosh Jasmin presses for oil, fruit trees, hives and rabbit runs and the restaurants arak distillery. Its locating is a double-edged sword. The shortage of building tolerates for Palestinians in Area C has retained the areas rustic perceive, and it also means that the accommodation Saadeh provides for those who stand beyond when the attack burns down is a treehouse and several tents.

This Christmas those of us in the press corps celebrated lunch outdoors with turkey and Palestinian starters and Taybeh, the Palestinian brew. On other periods the food is dictated by the seasons, although there are no actual menu. Specialities include rabbit zarb, a tagine-like recipe cooked in an underground oven, Palestinian dumplings and chickens musakhan with flatbread in its rich sauce of onions and sumac provided on a flat bread.

For me, the best time is the late afternoon and evening, watching the hills bruise violet into darknes as the ardour starts. Then, Hosh Jasmin is a place to forget for a while at least all of the areas troubles.

Fly to Tel Aviv from London with British Airways from PS304 return ( ). Eat and camp at Hosh Jasmin organic farm ( HoshJas ; +972( 0) 599 868 914 ), which can be reached from Jerusalem by taxi or hire vehicle ( ). You will need your passport to cross the Walajah checkpoint
Peter Beaumont is the Guardians Jerusalem reporter

Emma Graham-Harrison on the Jalori Pass, India


Stroking the sky: a remote viewpoint of the mountains from the Jalori Pass near Kullu. Picture: Getty Images

The sound of cymbals, drums and song followed us the whole morning, across hillsides of wild iris and through deodar woodlands, the musicians disguised and the music sometimes thinning to silence but ever returning again when mountain courses brought us and the strange ensemble back within earshot.

We assembled them at last outside a tea shack on the Jalori Pass, more than 3,000 m high-pitched, villagers escorting a goddess swathed in amber and scarlet to the Dussehra festival in Kullu town, two days walk away.

She would be jostled and photographed there by millions of tourists, but we gratified her almost alone, our tracks traversing at only the right moment.

It seemed like serendipity but our navigate, Prem Singh Bodh, was aware of the fact more or less when the group would arrive, after decades hiking ways in this angle of northern India.

Friends got to know him while living in Delhi, and had invited me to join them on a 10 -day trip to an province that is little visited by tourists, but full of life and natural beauty.

We fulfilled devotees at broken hilltop forts that have become windswept temples. Kids raced up to one campsite from the very near hamlet and persuaded us to lose a game of cricket on an impossible slope.

Their teacher was a postgraduate with a feeling for Victorian literature Thackeray, Kipling, Dickens who grew up the other side of a nearby pinnacle. We asked why he turned down the chance of a most lucrative metropolitan life after graduating. I missed these mountains, he remarked simply.

Between those meetings, we had the groves, arenas and temples to ourselves for hours at a time. We slept in tents on high grasslands beside a woodland lake and spent a couple of darkness in spartan but alluring lodges built for colonial executives more than a century ago.

We were camping, but it find plush, with air mattresses, ponies to carry gear this is why we toured with precisely a small day carry, and even a cook.

A few prohibits of coverage would rarely appear on the phones of people trying to keep in touch with home. But most of us were happy to be out of contact and suspended in time.

It was often surprising, always beautiful and altogether special, and because we ordered the excursion directly with Bodhs company, Zingaro, it was a relatively affordable PS50 per person per daylight including tents and lodges, food and guides. We spent nothing else because there was nothing we needed and nothing to buy. Zingaro also sets errands to higher altitude regions, for those seeking an even more remote getaway.

Fly to Dharamsala( aka Kangra or Gaggal) from London via Delhi with Air India from PS495 ( ). Zingaro treks can organise treks across northern India ( ). Ask Zingaro for advice, but they will usually meet you with a 4×4 or minibus at the edge of the mountains
Emma Graham-Harrison is international affairs reporter for the Guardian and Observer and was Afghanistan bureau chief for Thomson Reuters

Matilda Temperley on Kaokoland, Namibia


Under African skies: a young Himba woman. Image: Matilda Temperley

Five hundred miles north-east of Windhoek, the dust-covered city of Opuwo is nestled into the edge of Kaokolands arid slopes. The neighbourhood tenants are bare-breasted, attired in goatskin and covered in ochre. These are the Himba. They live alongside Herero maidens wearing dresses reminiscent of 19 th-century German colonialists with hats determined to resemble cow cornets. Uncommon attributes arrive in this small trading hub to replenish their supplies at the different regions only garage and supermarket before fading back into the border desert.

Opuwo is the entrance to the remarkable Kaokoland that lies to the east. This is an area so empty and vast you can drive for eras without accompanying another mind. I picked up a neighbourhood steer in Opuwo and set off in the 4×4( terminated with camping paraphernalium and roof tents) I had leased in Windhoek. Within an hour, a sandy riverbed stopped our the successes and throughout the day the roads became ever more dubious. It doesnt take long until you are obliged to stop being precious about your vehicle and surrender to the inevitable punctures, scrapings and scrapings and the hundreds of kilometres of unknown terrain that elongate before you. As you drive, cherry-red rock-and-rolls give way to lily-white deserts, plains become mountains and colourings derive with the day.

After two days of driving, we rose in the various regions of the first mansion of human habitation and were stunned to witness a rusty petrol drum on a rocky outcrop with clues advertising cold drinkings and ga. It turned out the helper Himba girls had nothing to sell and were rather hoping we could give them some food. It was definitely the oddest petrol station Ive ever seen. The occasional villages we then transferred were accepting, perhaps because the Himbas ancestral estate the same rights and autonomy are well recognised and the increasing cultural tourism in the area is largely on their terms.

When I visited last February, the hamlets is largely populated with women and children as the men were with the herds looking for pasture. The hamlets were full of laughter, the majority of members of which was at my expense. The knowledge that I was childless at 33 never failed to induce revelry. In the first hamlet I camped in, I was given a live chicken that they contended I leave with. At the next village, I was made to dance out stories. There was something supernatural in being innocently tantalized in this matriarchal society.

Kaokoland stretches for many hundreds of kilometres from the Hoanib river north to the Kunene river, which is the border with Angola, and one of the least-populated lieu on soil. In Kaokoland, you cannot fail to marvel at your insignificance. Kaokoland stole my center on my first raid and I have been looking for an excuse to return ever since.

Fly to Windhoek from London with South African Airways from PS615 ( ). Car rentals from Camping Car Hire ( ). A 4×4 with full camping equipment is available from PS45 a period
Matilda Temperley is a photographer and scribe

Helena Smith on Koufonisia, Greece


Open sea: an empty beach on the islands of Koufonisia. Photo: Alamy

Greece has always been about the daylight. The shadows lie in its luminosity. For years I have tried to swim into the sunshine, a dates fading lights built sweeter still by water brush. The quest for light can take you situate that you might otherwise never know; beaches you might never investigated. In the summer of 1984, on a whim propelled by escapade, I holidayed on Naxos, bridged it by motorcycle and got into a little cargo ship that took me to a plaza that at the time seemed so ethereal, so elemental, so remote, it has remained with me ever since.

That place was Koufonisia, an isle made up of roles upper Koufonisi and lower Koufonisi and over the course of a outpouring and summertime I would come to know both. Before the internet, before mass walk, before Greeks went fatty on EU stores, upper Koufonisi had a smattering of grey, flat-roofed mansions, one fish tavern, one flesh tavern, one tourist( a French painter ), one road and a waistband of innocent beaches, decorated by turquoise sea. In the outpouring its was carpeted with poppies just as Naxos to its western and Amorgos to its east; and in summer are covered under herbs carried on a breeze. But although perfect, it was to be trumped by the discovery of lower Koufonisi: uninhabited( bar the strange shepherd ), with even bluer oceans, better shorelines and a pure sun that I swam into with the pas of each day.

Several years later I returned to upper Koufonisi, this time stimulating my home a rented villa appearing out to ocean on the isles southern extremity. The water was aquamarine, as seductively translucent as it had been all those summers ago, but it was a macrocosm away a nature discovered by Greeks who had improved second residences, Italians who ran for the tourist season and beach barrooms that served cocktails to the dulcet tones of Icelandic composers.

Lower Koufonisi had changed, extremely: its cave no more( thanks to a landslide ), its beaches the perpetuate of the droves who tumbled from fishing barges now busily sweeping the 200 m canal that separated the isle from upper Koufonisi. But the lamp was still there, the sky and ocean co-joined by a brightnes that was unbeatable and blue-blooded. And, as I had done all those years before, I swam into the sunlight at the end of the day, backstroking through the flat off-color, gazes tied on the bright skies and the rocks they framed, knowing I had arrived where I had begun, in the magical of Greece.

Fly to Athens from London with British Airways from PS104 ( ). Blue Star Ferries on the( Athens) Piraeus Amorgos route stop at Koufonisia three times a week ( ). Sea sprays too establishes the trip-up in summer ( ). Travellers passing through Athens can also work tickets through Grecian travel ( )
Helena Smith is the Keeper reporter in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus

Stephen Gibbs on Playa Bacunayagua, Cuba


Traversing the fraction: the Puente de Bacunayagua, completed in 1959, takes you to the beaches of Bacunayagua. Photograph: Buena Vista Images/ Getty Images

Go to that prohibit that serves the pina coladas, cross the bridge, then the road to Bacunayagua is on the left. Those were usual driving attitudes in Cuba in the early 2000 s. Then, it was a country without superhighway clues. The rationale was never clear. One theory was that every time a sign was put up it was embezzled so that its metal could be was transformed into car proportions. Another was that Fidel Castro, is of the view that the commonwealth remain on a constant armed footing, was convinced that road signage would help invaders. It stimulated hurtling a challenge. And arriving specially rewarding.

The tacks were good enough the first time I went to Bacunayagua in 2005. There were three of us: two Cuban friends, one of whom was a scuba dive instructor, and me. The pina colada stop was memorable. Alongside the road Marco, in a crispy white guayabera shirt, educated cocktails for thirsty motorists from palm-fresh coconuts, ointment and pineapple. He concurred, reluctantly, to go easy on the rum.

After that we swept the dazzling Puente de Bacunayagua, the tallest bridge in Cuba, completed in 1959. A couple of kilometres afterward, almost disguised by trees, there on the left was an unmarked, steep concrete street. It dived through a woodland towards the sea, creating us to a composite of run-down 1970 s bungalows. In figurehead was the clearest liquid, framed by an luxurious peninsula, and a perfect little obscured beach.

This particular stretch of coastline was also a notorious pick-up object for the cigarette boats that come from Florida and smuggle Cubans back to the US. A few bored young soldiers were there on watch; they were stunned to consider us. The offer of a cold suck diverted their frowns into smiles. They retained an seeing on the car while we explored the pristine water below.

I returned to Bacunayagua a few weeks ago. A sparkling blue-blooded signal now clearly traces that turnoff to the bay. It is as beautiful as ever, but a bit noisier. A Cuban family, terminated with relatives from Miami, had leased the house the military formerly occupied. Stillnes has been replaced by reggaeton.

On the style back to Havana, I stopped at the roadside bar. Marco was still there. Estas perdido, he said to me. That delightful Cuban greeting perhaps best carried as: Where have you been ?, offered with equal detect whether someone hasnt been find for a few periods or a few years. Cuba may be changing, but it still moves at its own pace.

Fly to Havana from London with Virgin Atlantic from PS559 ( ). Hire a car expending the concierge at one of the bigger inns, or contact Cuba Diving Now ( ) to be navigated
Stephen Gibbs covers Venezuela for Chinese TV and The Economist

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