INSPIRATION • January 2020
February may be the shortest month, but choose your flights right and it can also be the sunniest – not just in the southern hemisphere, where you’d expect the rays to shine, but even in Europe where the mercury can still soar. Travel writer Rob Crossan finds the hottest spots
The charming medieval streets of the Old Town and beaches that almost never get too busy make Faro the savvy choice for some winter warmth, but without the golf courses and crowds of the nearby Algarve. Get your bearings with a sublime seafood lunch at Ria Formosa, located on the top floor of the grand dame Hotel Faro with sweeping views over the marina and azure-blue ocean. Then catch a boat from Porta Nova pier for an afternoon padding around Ilha Deserta – which, as the name suggests, is an empty island criss-crossed with walking trails. While there, walk to Santa Maria Cape and, hey presto, you’re at mainland Portugal’s most southerly point.
Dream flight: Take BA2692 leaving Gatwick at 14:20 on Monday, arriving into Faro at 17:05.
With the wet season well and truly over by February, this flat coral charmer looks at its most serene. Barbados, all olive-green racetracks, Anglican churches and cricket pitches, sometimes feel like a lusher version of Hampshire. For a more down-home local vibe, the most buzzing spot is Oistins fish market where, come lunchtime or evening, you’ll find shacks selling the freshest marlin steaks, flying fish, lobster and mahi-mahi at rock-bottom prices. Hire a car and drive north to Cherry Tree Hill and look down onto a rock-strewn landscape known as the Scotland District, so called because it reminded early settlers of their chillier origins. From here head to St. Nicholas Abbey, a rum plantation that produces the unoriginally titled but much-heralded ‘Barbados Rum’, and offers tasting experiences plus a heritage railway (pictured) on-site.
Dream flight: Take BA2155 leaving Gatwick at 11:15 on Monday, arriving into Barbados at 16:05.
Cultural and culinary marvels are turning this formerly gritty port city into one of the great modern Mediterranean melting pots. Get a sense of just how quickly the city is changing by visiting Mucem (pictured), a waterfront complex complete with cube-shaped museum J-4, filled with Ottoman ceramics and Italian silks, plus show-stopping views out over the deep, navy waters. Get to grips with the city’s rich diversity by taking an afternoon stroll through the colourful narrow streets of the Panier district, where immigrants from Sicily and Morocco – among other places – settled and continue to operate myriad stores and cafés. Come nightfall, earn ultimate cool credits by signing up online (a necessity in order to get the access code) to gain entry to Carry Nation, a 1920s-style Prohibition bar inside a former souvenir shop, serving knock-out cocktails ’till late.
Dream flight: Take BA0368 from Heathrow at 14:10 on Monday, arriving into Marseille at 17:05.
The Mother City hits the thermometer mother lode come Feb: it’s the hottest month and you could easily spend a week beach hopping. Head to Camps Bay’s butterscotch-yellow sands to hang with the jet set, or make a beeline for the five beaches of Clifton for a more boho crowd, where the chances of guitars and djembe drums being brought out at dusk are roughly 100 per cent. You won’t want to spend too much time indoors in this heat, but make an effort to explore the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (pictured) on the V&A Waterfront, containing one of the planet’s largest African art collections.
Dream flight: Take BA0043 leaving Heathrow at 18:15 on Monday, arriving into Cape Town at 07:50 on Tuesday.
With olive groves and demure villages on its fringes and a maze of cobbled streets at its core, Palma in February is both wonderfully warm and refreshingly free of crowds. This is when Mallorca’s Catalan soul is truly given space to breathe. Join in by sipping a couple of gin and tonics, the de facto island tipple, at Clandestino Cocktail Club before nibbling your way through the outstanding tapas dishes (don’t miss the padron peppers and jamon croquettes) at El Camino (pictured). Hit the road the following morning with a short drive to Son Moragues, the former country estate of Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, now an eco-conscious producer of olive oil that offers private tours and tastings.
Dream flight: Take BA8483 leaving London City at 11:00 on Monday, arriving into Palma at 14:20.
With a beach for every day of the year (there really are 365), plus tumbledown windmills (a legacy from the slave days of sugar production), swaying fig trees and bijou villages, Antigua doesn’t boast much about its charms – which is exactly how visitors and locals seem to like it. Perched on a platform overlooking the sea, Sheer Rocks is a lunch spot par excellence, with oven-baked mahi-mahi and pan-fried red snapper rendering a siesta on one of their daybeds afterwards all but essential. Revive yourself with a stroll around Nelson’s Dockyard, believed to be the only Georgian-era dockyard left on Earth, with the ruins of 18th-century Fort Berkeley perched above. It’s a 15-minute climb, but you’ll be away from the crowds. Come evening, promenade along Dickenson Bay where bars such as Coconut Grove and Ana’s On The Beach offer up potent cocktails and a suitably soporific vibe under the stars.
Dream flight: Take BA2157 leaving Gatwick at 10:15 on Monday, arriving into Antigua at 15:00.