My two favourite Christmas presents this year came from my son, Rory. One was a bright orange, ceramic garlic grater and the other was a copy of The New York Times 36 Hours – 125 weekends in Europe. The garlic grater has already been put to good use, especially last weekend when our Mediterranean cooking session required tons of the stuff.
The book is the perfect companion on the sofa during these cold nights. It’s very tactile: linen-bound, a weighty tome but quite floppy and flickable, with attractive little thumb-holes, larger versions of those found in an address book. It’s ideal for playing the “Where shall we go next on our holidays?” game. Pick a page number and we are obliged to go to that city. I’m memorising the numbers 254, 208 and 214 for Lisbon, Seville and Valencia as I quite fancy a little springtime sunshine.
The idea for the book came from the regular columns in the New York Times and, in essence, it gives readers recommendations of where to stay, eat and visit during the approximate 36 waking hours from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Experienced journalists and travel writers have suggested the itineraries and everything is achievable in the time constraints.
Of course, I was curious: how close have my own European city breaks been to these itineraries? I’m bragging here but I think, pretty close. For instance, some of the hotels we have chosen match the recommendations by the illustrious journalists.
In 2005 we visited Rome and chose the newly-opened Fortyseven Hotel. Ten years on it is quite the place to stay.
Likewise, in 2009 we plumped for the Palais de la Mediterranee in Nice and here it is in the book.
2012, our fortnight in Sweden began with four nights at the Nobis Hotel in Stockholm. Surprise, surprise, this is mentioned as one of only two recommendations for the city. They even finish Sunday at the Fotografiska : I do hope they managed the entrance turnstile better than we did…
Even more surprising, in 2013 we self-catered in an unusual development in Birmingham. Fancy that, the Staying Cool apartments are highlighted, along with the Jewellery Quarter trail and dinner in Jamie’s Italian.
More recently, we had a wonderful weekend in Helsinki last year, staying at the very chic, Klaus K hotel. Naturally, the New York Times agrees with me.
Now I’m not sure what to make of this but I’m just saying – if they are looking for writers to check out any more European hotels, I’m obviously the go-to woman in Europe. And if they have this covered, then at least I am very confident that I can follow their recommendations for Lisbon, Seville and Valencia because they know me so well. Just think of the time it will save trawling through TripAdvisor reviews.
By the way, if you are still wondering about the garlic grater, Rory bought it at the Christmas market in Exeter.