Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

Spanish food is deliciously obsessed with death

The moral absolutist in me believes that in every city, with its finite number of restaurants, there is such a thing as the best of all possible lunches. I don’t have to find it, but I have to get close. Mediocre doesn’t cut it. In fact, on holiday, the idea of wasting a meal on

Toby Young

The joys of Canada by train

There cannot be a lazier way of travelling across Canada than in the Rocky Mountaineer. There are luxury trains, and then there’s this. For two days, I sat in a sumptuously upholstered, air-conditioned carriage, looking out at the vast wilderness of Canada’s interior, as waiters plied me with wine, chocolates and three-course meals. When imagining

Give me nonsensical Naples over sterile Singapore

Naples is dirty, noisy, haphazard, and full of kamikaze scooter drivers. It is also sensual, liberating, and jolly. But that doesn’t seem to appeal to many people today, who prefer everything to be ordered, measured; all uncertainty removed. In city form, it’s known as Singapore: unlike Naples, everything there is clean, tidy, and works. It’s

How to avoid the tourist backlash

Europe is revolting against the tourist invasion. This summer, Venice has started charging a tourist tax to keep visitors at bay. Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera have just set up inter-island protests under the slogan, ‘Let’s change course – let’s set limits to tourism’. Barcelona is planning to ban Airbnb. In the Cinque Terre, on

Why the French are so pessimistic

I am sitting in a little bar overlooking the jaunty marina of Trinité-sur-Mer, on the opulent south-east coast of Brittany. My Kir Breton is cold, fizzy, sweet and rubescent. Everyone around me is swigging Sancerre and cidre as the sun slowly nods below the green, southerly Celtic hills. The water glitters, the pretty people parade,

Katy Balls

Katy Balls, Gavin Mortimer, Sean Thomas, Robert Colvile and Melissa Kite

31 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Katy Balls reflects on the UK general election campaign and wonders how bad things could get for the Tories (1:02); Gavin Mortimer argues that France’s own election is between the ‘somewheres’ and the ‘anywheres’ (7:00); Sean Thomas searches for authentic travel in Colombia (13:16); after reviewing the books Great Britain?

How hard is it to design a hotel room?

I belong to a generation of foreign correspondents whose first move, on entering a hotel room, was not to turn down the bed or to check (hopefully) for hot water, but to examine the phone, screwdriver in hand. Could you detach it from its socket? Could you open it up to get at the wiring?

Philip Patrick

Why Japanese women are hitting the bottle

Older Japanese women are boozing more than ever, according to a new survey conducted by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The study found that while binge drinking by men decreased over the last ten years in all age groups, the percentage of women in their 40s, and especially those in their 50s, drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol,

Now the National Trust is wrecking the Cotswolds

Gawping at the famous sights of the Cotswolds has been a popular pastime for centuries. So too is writing about the huge numbers of people gawping at the famous sights of the Cotswolds. The Times, Telegraph, Express and the BBC have all covered the explosion of mass-tourism since the pandemic, which is driven mainly by

The forgotten forests of Italy

Everyone knows that Italy is a boot. Many people know that the boot has a heel – the rocky, sunburnt region of Puglia. Perhaps a few know that the heel has a spur – the Gargano Peninsula. Yet virtually no one knows that the Gargano hides a magical woodland – the Foresta Umbra – a

The horror of airports

You really have to force yourself to love flying. Sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half with an air conditioning unit that won’t turn off and two babies locked in a battle of who can scream the loudest is not in my ‘Top 10 Days Well Spent For Zak’. But the plane

Rory Sutherland

How to hack your summer holiday

Since it’s June, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to hacking your summer holiday. One possibility. Don’t bother. Unless you have school-age children, why book your main overseas holiday in what is the nicest part of the year at home? As my late father often reminded me: ‘The three worst things about living in Britain are

Am I too sleepy for wellness?

‘Melt your heart,’ said Simone, the Kiwi sleep therapist, stretching her generous body as elegantly as she was able on the yoga mat. Waves lapped the beach nearby. ‘Glow it violet, then allow the violet to flow up, up, up into your chest, your belly, now your legs and arms…’ Well, I tried, honestly I

Julie Burchill

In praise of lazy tourism

Like a lot of people who didn’t know him, I felt sad hearing of the death of Michael Mosley on the Greek island of Symi, being familiar with him as a doctor whose pleasant voice I often heard on the radio. He had the gift of giving advice without being patronising or preachy. Mosley seemed

The timeless appeal of Clacton Pier

You approach the pier at Clacton-on-Sea by passing under an elegant bridge, one which in Venice you would probably stop to admire. But this is Essex and the stonework is emblazoned with the town’s coat of arms and motto, Lux, salubritas et felicitas – light, health and happiness. Here you can admire the turning blades

Julie Burchill

Avoid the Maldives

On reading that the Maldives are to ban Israeli passport holders from entry as an alleged protest over the war in Gaza, I hooted with laughter. That dump – I wouldn’t go there if you paid me, – which is exactly what happened in 1995, when the Sunday Times sent me abroad for the very

Lara Prendergast

The Farage factor

45 min listen

This week: The Farage factor. Our cover piece looks at the biggest news from this week of the general election campaign, Nigel Farage’s decision to stand again for Parliament. Farage appealed to voters in the seaside town of Clacton to send him to Westminster to be a ‘nuisance’. Indeed, how much of a nuisance will

Jonathan Ray

Inside Portugal’s new theme park for wine lovers

I’ve always loved Porto and need little excuse to visit. Not uncoincidentally, I’ve always loved port and need little excuse to drink it and so, invited to stay in this fine city and road-test its latest attraction, the ambitiously-monikered World of Wine, who was I to resist? There’s been a mixed reception to Wow locally.

I’ve finally succumbed to a canal boat holiday

All my life I’ve wanted to take a narrow boat holiday down one of Britain’s canals but have never got round to it. There’s always been something easier and more pressing, perhaps even a touch more glamorous than a week spent floating around Britain – a trip to Andalusia, a city break, a train-ride round

Sick of Cornwall? Visit Cornouaille

I am Cornish. Indeed I am so Cornish my sister lives about three miles from where my echt Cornish ancestors lived in the 13th century (near Falmouth), and my mum makes working-class Cornish recipes so obscurely Cornish most of the Cornish have barely heard of them (‘date and lemon pie’). As such, I am pretty

Facing death in the African bush

I travel to the African bush frequently, at least once a year. It takes my mind of British politics. The trips often involves watching predators hunting down their prey and then tearing the poor animals limb from limb. Red in tooth and claw, the African bushveld reminds me of the fragility and brevity of life and

Lisa Haseldine

Real Southerners never liked Elvis

Cowboy boots are ubiquitous in Nashville – although not hats. ‘That’s Texas,’ one woman told us earnestly. Locals say, ‘y’all,’ ‘yes, ma’am,’ and make eye contact when they speak to you. Despite the lack of cowboy hats, this is still the South. Welcome to Music City, the capital of country and the gleaming buckle of the

My battle with a Puglian pugilist

To nearly any English tourist, the small southern Italian town I’m currently living in, half an hour from my daughter’s school, would seem idyllic. It has an old castle, a monastery and olive groves in all directions, but in Puglian guidebooks it barely rates a mention. It’s the scruffy, down-to-earth cousin of richer or bigger

The beauty of Atrani, now ruined by Netflix

Some time in the Noughties I sat next to a guy at work who told me he’d just had a holiday in a village on the outskirts of Amalfi. The village was called Atrani – quite unknown then, but now swooned over as the setting for the ominous but dreamy black-and-white Netflix adaptation Ripley. That

My strange hobby: a life in search of death

As George Orwell astutely observed, England is a nation of hobbyists – and their sometimes eccentric private pursuits are one of the reasons that this country did not follow the rest of Europe into totalitarian dictatorship during the 20th century. A people bent on taking a fishing rod to stream or canal every weekend, or

Philip Patrick

Why are the Japanese so bad at English?

Tokyo, Japan ‘Shhh! Now on face to respectable great eels life’. How’s that for the first line of an article? I spotted this gem written on a sign in the window of a seafood restaurant in the Hibiya Midtown shopping centre in Tokyo recently. I was delighted. I’ve spent 25 years in Japan and have

Ross Clark

Hate people? Visit Iceland

No-one seems to like tourists any more. This week Venice introduced its €5 entry charge – which merely buys you the right to go into the city and be ripped off by cafes and restaurants. On Tenerife, residents have been marching and daubing slogans on the walls ‘tourist – go home’. So much for free

Alexander Pelling-Bruce

What happened to the London bus?

To understand Sadiq Khan’s tenure as Mayor of London, you need only ride one of his buses. Eight years of repeating that he is the ‘proud son of a bus driver’ have not yielded a single improvement to the experience of travelling by the famous red bus. In fact, many things are worse.  she suggested

The lost America of Palm Springs

California was once home to a certain vision of the American dream; Mamas & the Papas records, grinning surfers, chrome bumpers. Now LA and San Francisco are full of glass and steel and petty criminals. Escape their sketchy downtowns and you’ll find huge copy-and-paste estates of identical homes. Urban sprawl has choked off California’s charm