Feature: Top chic weekend breaks - away from it all

25 November 2011 07:30

It will be something of a miracle if anyone manages to get any work done next April. Well, except for wedding planners, florists and travel agents, that is. Two consecutive four-day weekends, flanked by bank holidays, will first give us Easter and then the royal wedding of Wills and Kate – perfect excuse for a long weekend away from it all. And since we are talking royal wedding, why not splash out and lavish in luxury?!

From a cottage retreat in Wales to a chic boutique hotel in Lyon, we have fine-dined, sight-seen and shopped our way around some of the most stylish retreats, all within easy reach from the UK. So, here are our top tips for a luxurious weekend away from it all! You better start planning now, because our feeling is you won’t be the only one looking for a weekend getaway in April.

Fine dining, Lyon
Often described, even by the Parisians, as being like Paris but without the crowds, France’s second city, Lyon, is a chic metropolis but with a style and frenetic pace all of its own. You don’t have to be a travel expert to see that this city has something special, and for a long weekend break, it is simply perfect. As France’s gastronomic capital, when it comes to food, Lyon is second to none. With the lush heartlands of French gastronomy and the world-famous wine lands of Beaujolais, Burgundy and Cotes du Rhone surrounding the city, Lyon is perfectly situated to enjoy some of the finest of haute cuisine you will ever come across.

A stay in luxury is not difficult to find here either. The five-star aristocratic Chateau de Bagnols defines luxury. Bordered by the famous vineyards of Beaujolais and an array of Michelin-starred restaurants, Chateau de Bagnols offers an escape from crowded boutiques and cafes. If horse-drawn carriage rides, hot-air-balloon flights and an array of wine-tasting arrangements are your kind of weekend getaway (oh, and chauffeured cars!), then you will love what you find at this chateau just outside Lyon. And to top it all off, spring is pleasantly warm in this region of France – time to bring out the colourful dresses that have been hiding at the back of the wardrobe the whole winter.

Edge of Europe, Odessa
Step to the edge of Europe in Odessa! Fascinating history, pretty streets and those steps, Odessa is mystical and magical at the same time – or the ‘pearl of the Black Sea’ as the holiday brochures have it. Once the third city of old Russia after Moscow and St Petersburg, the Ukrainian city is like Rio to the Russians, who flock to Odessa for its warm climate, nice beaches, exciting cafes and vibrant nightlife – and most definitely also for its historic buildings and culture. Odessa’s key sight – probably the only sight most of us know – is the Potemkin Stairs. Most will recall the 192 steps from Eisenstein’s 1925 film classic ‘The Battleship Potemkin’. But there are many sides to Odessa. The cobbled streets, lime trees and noble but desiccated buildings make for a pretty sight.

And even if you’re on the edge of Europe, you don’t have to be on the edge of luxury. The stylish boutique hotel Otrada lies on one of the most prestigious sites in all of Odessa, in the area of Frantsuzsky Boulevard near Otrada beach. Combining classic architecture and contemporary technologies, the five-star hotel offers über-chic luxury accommodation.

So, could this city be the perfect weekend getaway for us Brits? Well, why not?! Odessa’s in Europe. And although you can’t fly direct, going via Budapest for instance makes the city easily accessible. It’s a great enigma in every way possible. But you have to visit to find out more...

The great outdoors, Wales
We might have cracked it already with our first two classy retreats, but we have something completely different up our sleeve a bit closer to home – but equally as tempting nevertheless. If you’ve done Paris, Rome and Madrid, why not swap urban chic for cosy cottage? Fron Fraith is much more than simply cosy cottage though. It oozes style. It oozes class. And what it lacks in exotic adventure, it more than makes up for in Welsh charm. And with spring being one of the most beautiful times of year to visit the Welsh countryside, heading west for a royal wedding weekend getaway could be your next great chic, slightly edgy, holiday hotspot.

A traditional longhouse set in eight acres of hillside pasture with views to Snowdonia, Fron Fraith in Powys offers a mixed antique and retro interior. Wood-burning stoves and under floor heating keep things toasty on a chilly spring night. Offering stunning scenery, the Glyndwr’s Way long-distance walking trail is accessible from the back door. For more challenging walks and climbs, the peaks of Snowdonia National Park and the Cambrian Mountains are just a short drive away. So, why not pack the car, gather the whole family and head for Wales?! Fron Fraith sleeps ten, so there is plenty of room.

Southern charm, Sardinia
Not a holiday hotspot – yet! – Arzachena is near the most important archaeological sites of Northern Sardinia and the renowned crystal clear waters of the Emerald Coast, Sardinia’s most famous tourist destination. With about 80 kilometres of spectacular coastline and impressive views of the surrounding landscape, this is truly an amazing place to spend a long weekend. And if you fancy five-star luxury with a three-star price tag, this is the place for you.

With prices that don’t go through the roof, Lu Ciaccaru is a traditional farmhouse that has been converted into a charming hotel. There are 10 spacious and stylishly furnished suites, with separate living areas and large covered verandas, and two beautiful villas. This is Sardinian charm at its best – and at its most exclusive! And bets are that you will be spending most of your time outside, catching some spring sunshine by the pool or dining on fresh seafood on the terrace. The environment is a pure delight as well, surrounded by the beauties of nature, ideal for anyone looking for relaxation of body and mind.

The only problem is...you will probably not want leave after spending your long weekend enjoying the scenery, the food and the spirit of this hidden gem. Good thing you can always come back for more...

Beer and fest, Munich
Undeniably one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, Munich is filled with stately Florentine, Gothic and Baroque symbols or wealth and power set against an Alpine backdrop. Sounds good? It gets even better. The Bavarian capital offers up a host of Teutonic traditions, from Weisswurst and beerhalls to Lederhosen and oompah-oompah bands. But there is much more to Munich. Modernist architecture and high-design restaurants, bars and shopping, arty neighbourhoods and a strong cultural scene make Munich a fascinating short-break destination to explore.

Holidaying in Munich doesn’t have to be all about wurst and beer. There is a stylish and exclusive side to Munich as well. And the definition of luxury is captured beautifully by Anna Hotel, which lies just off the famous Karlsplatz. The teak floors combined with the white walls and black granite create a super stylish retreat, where the prominent level of design and luxury starts the minute you walk in the door and flows through each room. If it’s luxury, style and exclusive design you’re after, you will find it here.

Luckily, there is more than one long bank holiday weekend in a year, because choosing just one destination is not enough we reckon. So, if there is any time to blow the budget, this is it. What better excuse to forget about discounted holidays and low cost airlines than a royal wedding?! We certainly can’t find any.
 

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