Carter’s World – Ambling rather than Rambling

John Carter, long time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ programme and seasoned globetrotter now enjoys a little ambling rather than rambling to various tantalising destinations.

We encountered no British holidaymakers when, in 1972, we went to Aghios Nikolaos on the north coast of Crete.   Two years later, the resort was packed with them.

A BBC television drama “The Lotus Eaters”, had been filmed there, and fans were eager to follow the footsteps of their heroes and heroines.   The harbour cafes sported handwritten notices – in that style of bad English the Greeks do so well – informing us that this or that place was the very establishment where the stars had eaten (“Shrims in Clay Pot” being a favoured dish).

Why recall that ancient memory? Because of Inspector Montalbano. The stories by Andrea Camilleri were adapted for television in Italy, found their way to BBC Four and recently enjoyed considerable popularity in that channel’s Saturday evening “Subtitle Slot”.   So much so that a holiday dedicated to the Sicilian hero appears in the latest Adagio brochure.

I have a soft spot for Adagio, as I was in at the birth of the idea.   It is a collection of holidays from Ramblers Worldwide aimed at those who nowadays prefer to amble rather than ramble.   And “Montalbano’s Sicily” fits the bill as perfectly as the inspector’s sharp suits fit the frame of actor Luca Zingaretti.

Based in the three-star hotel Il Barocco in Ragusa Ibla, this seven-night holiday costs from £1,345.   Hotel breakfasts are included, as are dinners in local restaurants and return flights between Gatwick and Catania.

There is much of interest in that somewhat neglected south eastern region of Sicily – the world heritage site of Ragusa, Syracuse, the Baroque town of Noto and the cave systems of the Cava Ispica gorge.   Including locations featured in the television programmes adds a little fun to the mix.   As does a three-course lunch and wine-tasting at Noto.

“Celtic Spain”, another new Adagio arrangement, also sent my thoughts into the past – but much farther back than the mid 1970s.

Galicia, the region in question, is the location of Santiago de Compostela, a destination for pilgrims down the centuries.   Indeed, the world’s first guide book was published around 1135 for the benefit of those who faithfully followed the Way of St. James.

The seven-night holiday uses hotels in La Coruna, Santiago de Compostela itself, Ourense and Pontevedra (the Parador there is a splendid 16th century palace right in the heart of the town).   As is often the case with Adagio, breakfasts are taken in the hotels, with dinners either in the hotels or local restaurants.

The price, from £1,375, also includes one lunch as well as flights between Heathrow and Coruna.

Staying on the Iberian Peninsula, but popping over the frontier into Portugal, brings us to another new deal from Adagio.   One which combines time in the northern city of Porto and the capital, Lisbon.

I like Lisbon.   It is one of the very few capital cities that doesn’t overwhelm you.   It is easy to get around and has a lot of history to offer, as well as some interesting architecture.   Porto, too, has its attractions, though it is more of a “working” city, if you get my meaning.   The Romans called it Portus Cale, which is probably the origin of the country’s name.

The nine-night holiday is based on two five-star hotels in the heart of their respective cities.   Again, breakfasts are provided in those hotels, with dinners in local restaurants.   I favour this arrangement as it gives you a wider range of menus and the opportunity to sample truly local cuisine.   (For historic reasons, Porto is famous for the many ways in which it cooks tripe, and though that delicacy is an acquired taste, I would urge you to sample it there.)

The price, from £1,220, includes flights from Heathrow to Porto, returning to Heathrow from Lisbon.

There are some excellent new offerings in this collection – the gardens and villas around Italy’s Lake Como, for example, as well as the gardens of the Channel Islands.    Another seven-night holiday provides a taste of Spanish Andalucia.

A seven-night holiday to Cyprus features a comprehensive tour of the island – the Troodos mountains, the archaeological site of Kourion, the mosaics of Paphos and very much more.   Based in the three-star hotel Rodon in the Troodos mountains, the half-board holiday also includes two lunches and costs from £1,159.   Flights are between Heathrow and Larnaca.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a soft spot for Adagio and think it provides an ideal holiday for anyone who has enjoyed more active breaks in the past but who – for all sorts of reasons – prefers to take life at a slightly slower pace.   You’ll find yourself with like-minded folk who will, more often than not, share memories of past holidays and destinations with which you are already familiar.

As one lady put it, at the end of an Adagio holiday in Italy last year:   “It’s good to be in comfortable company.”
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