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A local’s guide to virtual Venice

Venetian photographer Giacomo Cosua takes us on a tour of La Serenissima, through films, music, books, podcasts and virtual reality

Tiziano Scarpa’s Venice is a Fish captures beautifully the elusive, poetic mood of our enigmatic city. Neither guide nor history book, it is perfect to read before a visit, because turning the last page, you already feel you have a relationship with the city. Then it is just a question on arrival of forgetting about the usual sightseeing and getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways. I read it when it first came out, discovering many unknown things about my home town.

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Bored in lockdown? Try learning how to tango online

Our writer tries to recreate the buzz of a Buenos Aires dancehall in his UK living room with a selection of tango classes on YouTube

All of Argentina’s 44 million inhabitants currently appear to be offering online tango classes. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s fair to say that porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) are jumping into the world of virtual tango with both high-heeled feet.

Available classes range from Dance Tango TV, with starter courses from $19 a month, to iDance.net’s lesson packs, with a two-hour class from just $1.69.

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‘I live alone at sea. Here’s how to be happy in isolation’

Our lives have changed radically but we can adapt, says a former Guardian journalist who has lived solo on a boat for three years – and learned to love it
Living alone in the wild

‘I want to reassure people,” I announced grandly on Instagram the other day, “that it’s easier to change behaviour than you think.” With anxious friends facing a massive change of life in the face of coronavirus, I wanted to spread some calm.

The reason I’d started dispensing “wisdom” like some nautical soothsayer was that I gave up a much-loved job at the Guardian three years ago to pursue a simpler life on my tiny sailboat. I ended up crossing the Channel to France, sailing down the Atlantic coast to Portugal, into the Mediterranean, through Spain and Italy to Greece. It’s the slowest life imaginable, travelling at walking pace, completely immersed in nature. I sleep freely in secluded bays, by white beaches, fish and octopus swimming below me. I’ve sailed with dolphins and whales, woken to horses galloping on deserted beaches in southern Italy, and anchored by castles and cathedral-like cliffs. It is magical and it is nourishing.

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Trekking to Everest base camp – by climbing the stairs at home

Virtual expedition team ascends 5,364 metres over five days in indoor mountain climbing challenge

April in Nepal usually means thousands of trekkers trudging up to Everest base camp. This spring the mountain is free of crowds but the trekkers are still trudging – up stairs, back steps, even up ladders in a virtual push to reach an altitude of 5,364 metres. Led by trail runner Rory Southworth, a team of about 30 climbers will reach their target this evening after five days of climbing.

Southworth decided to organise a group challenge after receiving positive feedback online for three solo hikes during the first week of lockdown. “I did Snowdon on my bottom step; Ben Nevis on the seven stairs down to my garden; and ran up the hill at the back of my garden 29 times to scale Scafell Pike. For this challenge, I wanted to bring people with me on the journey. There was a lot of negativity among the outdoor community about being confined at home and I wanted to give people a reason to exercise indoors.”

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Top 10 budget beach hotels and B&Bs on Mexico’s Pacific coast

Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapes

Mexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood royalty. However, it’s also an area that can experience tropical storms, usually between June and December. The most recent was Hurricane Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, which swept across the region at the end of October, but caused less damage than anticipated. Hotels are now operating as normal.

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Top 10 budget beach hotels, guesthouses and hostels on the Yucatán peninsula, Mexico

Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostels

On the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The tile-floored rooms are big and clean, with terraces or balconies – though they’re not notably stylish. The restaurant is good, not gourmet. The pool is a sensible size. But set this against its glitzy, high-rise neighbours and check the rates, which are often lower than similarly appointed hotels on the mainland, 30 minutes from the water – and Beachscape starts looking pretty good. Then walk out on to the palm-shaded beach, one of the prettiest stretches in the hotel zone, and the place becomes a minor miracle.
• Doubles from $109, +52 998 891 5427, beachscape.com.mx

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Top 10 budget beach B&Bs in the Seychelles

The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beaches

For a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat. Nine rustic rooms – all wood and stone – ensconced amid tropical foliage that tumbles down a hillside to the turquoise waters of Baie Sainte Anne. There’s no beach but you can use the small infinity pool overlooking the bay at neighbouring B&B Chalets Cote Mer, also owned by Sylvie and Stephan, and costing about €10 more a night. You also share the waterfront creole restaurant. The owners can help with car hire but it’s a five-minute walk to a bus stop – which will take you to Praslin’s most famous beach Anse Lazio and the Unesco-protected Vallée de Mai nature reserve – and the jetty for ferries to Mahé and La Digue.
Doubles from £112 B&B, +248 429 4200, colibrisweethome.com

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Top 10 budget beach guesthouses and B&Bs in South Africa’s Western Cape

From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank

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How to fend off your conspiracy obsessed relatives during the holiday season

When Uncle Ted has a few drinks and starts screaming that the world is flat, have a few tactics ready to counter his bizarre rants

It’s the holidays: time for eggnog, ironic Christmas sweaters, and interactions with relatives you’d avoid like the plague if you didn’t share DNA.

Perhaps in past years, you’ve argued politics over the dinner table. But thanks to our internet echo chambers, things may now get even weirder. You could find yourself not just arguing over Donald Trump’s impeachment, but also over whether the president and Robert Mueller were secretly teaming up to expose Tom Hanks as a cannibal; or whether the Federal Reserve exists because JP Morgan sank the Titanic; or whether Meghan Markle is a robot.

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Forget Bali, I found bliss in the blandness of a chain hotel | Emma Brockes

Four days spent alone in Florida pushed me to the limits of boredom. But it was just what I needed

I was in a chain hotel 20 miles north of Orlando for meetings that would last, on and off, for four days. This was not a holiday resort. Outside, the rain was bathwater warm, the pool windswept and empty. Inside, guests wandered the conference facilities, lanyards swinging. The breakfast buffet was like the idea I’d had as a child of how millionaires live: all the pineapple you could eat. It is a truism of escape plans that the problem with going anywhere is that you take yourself with you. But there is an exception to this, and I have found it. Burnt out? Always yelling? So tired you would gladly hand over your humanity to Elon Musk for a chance to become fully digitised? There’s another way. Open Google Maps, find a place that is not a place but, rather, on the way to other places, and select the blandest hotel you can find. Then go and sit in it for four days. I swear to God, it’s better than six months in Bali.

I thought about sending an email and didn’t. I took a three-hour nap, went downstairs and ordered more wings.

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Spain road trip: Granada to Almería

The Alhambra marks the start of a drive taking in historic cities, a river valley and mountains – and ends in Almería’s spaghetti western desert

Granada is dominated by its mighty Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. Book ahead and visit early, at its least-crowded, and then spend the afternoon meandering the narrow streets and plazas of the old town – the Albaicín. Stay in this area at the 16th-century Santa Isabel La Real, with its Alhambra views, (doubles from €95 B&B, parking available).

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French leave: fun places to stay on four routes to the south of France

With the annual summer dash under starter’s orders, we suggest how to turn a schlep into a road trip, staying in treehouses, chateaux and cool hotels en route

From the north-west ferry ports (St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre) down the west of France, via Nantes and Bordeaux, to the south-west

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Coast through summer: 10 itineraries for the UK seaside

Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay

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Turin city break: the best music, restaurants and culture

Electro music fans are heading to Turin for this weekend’s Kappa Futurfestival, but this also one of the best cities in Italy for culture and affordable restaurants

Without Turin, Italy would be a totally different country. It was pivotal to the unification in 1861 and served as the first capital, until 1865. Its royal palaces were home to the ruling House of Savoy until the second world war and then its factories – and the influx of migrant workers they attracted – were integral to the economic miracle that rebuilt and transformed the country after it.

Curious, then, that it is so often ignored when people talk about the best places to visit in the bel paese. Italy’s fourth largest city nestles in the foothills of the Alps and snowy peaks are never far from view. There are echoes of Paris along Turin’s central boulevards, and though it’s been more than 200 years since Napoleon’s rule was replaced by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, there are still tangible French influences to be found in the city’s rich cultural and culinary traditions.

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Tarifa holiday guide: the best activities, bars, restaurants and hotels

This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlife

It’s the most southerly town in mainland Europe, only 14km from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a 1,000-year-old walled labyrinth with a youthful party scene and a world-class kitesurfing and windsurfing destination. In summer it’s also a destination for families who want just a shady dune, a bar and a place serving fish – all of which are available in abundance along the 35km of coast north of Tarifa, beyond the beaches of Los Lances (home to Santa Catalina castle, an emblem of Tarifa) and Valdevaqueros to Bolonia with its Roman ruins and the seaside village of Zahara de las Atunes. Its community swelled by surfers who came and never left, Tarifa is a curious mix of off-the-beaten-track, cosmopolitan and barefoot cool, an adventure playground that’s home to some of the best places to eat, drink and stay on the Costa de la Luz. It can also be windy. If it wasn’t, as everyone will tell you, Tarifa would be just another Marbella – and no one wants that.

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