I don’t know about you, the the recent bouts of cold and wind had me dreaming of sunshine this week. For anyone that’s spent more than a single winter in Europe and especially here, you know that having something to look forward to in January or February is a pretty key ingredient for making it through unscathed. We had such a busy holiday season with guests that I didn’t get around to planning much and I was actually thinking I was breezing through this winter pretty easily. I was starting to think that maybe I don’t need that shot of Vitamin D. Rather presumptuous of me.
I was wrong, and it only took the first two days of this week to make me realize that. I’m not looking for anything too dramatic since it’s a short runway for planning; nothing over the top since we just got done funding the holidays, and honestly, nothing too complicated for travel since well, I’m on my own with two little ones.
Normally, I would dream of a Thailand or a Mauritius or even Abu Dhabi (tell me hot sand doesn’t sound really good right now). But when you look at flight times plus flight schedules, all of the sudden traveling with two tots solo doesn’t sound so relaxing. Also, I’m way over complicated flight plans and weird websites that make just “calgon, take me away” planning difficult. I’m not looking for something specific this time around, just looking for something good…nice…sunny… easy…
Since I figured I wasn’t the only one, just sharing my short list here either for those doing a little planning or a little dreaming. I had a few criteria to keep things simple but mostly, I scrolled through the Norwegian Airlines list of direct flights to see what was reasonable and still led to a location with relatively warm weather and a relatively good combination “unwind” and “do things”. Normally, I’m a Star Alliance member through and through, but lately we’ve been taking Norwegian a fair amount because honestly, they just make things so easy. And transparent. And their staff is nice… which counts for a lot when you travel solo with kids. None of these destinations are hot, hot, but they are a solid temperature increase over Copenhagen with an extremely high chance of regular sunshine.
(Quick update: In looking again, looks like there is a new Emirates flight to Dubai from Copenhagen that’s both reasonable in price and in timing and it’s direct – hurrah – so it might be an option after all if true heat is what you’re after!)
Where: Canary Islands, Spain
Why: This is top of our short list even though this is the longest flight to this outposts off the cost of the Western Sahara. The call this the continent within an island since there is so much variation in topography and weather but most importantly, the chances for sunshine are high. We’ve been looking at the Sheraton Salobre Resort which boasts arid mountain views that extend to the sea, multiple pools and a shuttle so that you can get out and about without renting a car. Plus, it seems like you can get a suite with separate sleeping spaces and half board (and people are actually complimentary about the food) for a pretty reasonable amount given the quality of the property. We’re in deep with the Starwood family of hotels so this is a likely candidate, although the Radisson Blu also was looking good.
Why: Marrakech was actually our winner when we did a similar “let’s go somewhere” exercise this past November. We had never been to Morocco but knew Tunisia pretty well. After our visit, I definitely understood why there are so many Marrakech-o-philes out there. It’s perfect for an extended weekend, and like Thailand, it is one of those destinations you can do on the cheap and edgy or to the max and filtered. We opted for something in the middle and took advantage of some Hotels.com points to stay at Dar Ayniwen, a lovely but quirky boutique property. The Jardins Majorelles were everything they were cracked up to be and we enjoyed exploring both the city as well as just taking in the clean evening air in the Palmeraie. Next time, getting a little closer to the Atlas Mountains is high on my list! I’d love to go back and try a Riad like this one, or try some of the extremely special properties like La Mamounia, Four Seasons or the new Mandarin Oriental if we would be so lucky.
Where: Southeast Coast of Spain
Why: Since we’ve been in Copenhagen, it seems like when in doubt, go to Spain. We have been several times now, each time to a different area, and it’s never disappointed yet. I’ve never been to Alicante, but it seems like a nice jumping off point for lovely landscape in the area, several castles to visit and not a long drive to Valencia. The Barcelo Asia Gardens Hotel caught my eye here – they have a pretty robust program of excursions so that you’re not “stuck” at the hotel but with all those Balinese daybeds and sprawling gardens, it wouldn’t even be so bad if you were stuck after all. Seems like a close second to feeling like you are in Bali with a lot less flight time. Alternatively, since our budget is still recovering a bit from the holidays, the Aparthotel Ola Blanca was also on my list – 3 bedrooms for less than $100 a night? Plus balcony overlooking the ocean? Sounds good in my book.
Where: French Riviera
Why: Because it’s the French Riviera. It’s the closest destination on our list but also the coldest. Still, how bad can the French Riviera be? Nice is nice enough to stay in if you play your cards right, but it’s also a great place to get a car and explore the coast without the insane traffic and crowds of the summer time. The coast and interior are home to tons of little towns, each having their notable claim to fame or square of museum – Antibes, Juan les Pins, Mougins…the possibilities are endless. I’ve never done Nice this off season but always worth a try. Plus, off season pricing means that there’s a small chance I can make like a festival celebrity and give the grand dames like the Carlton or the Martinez a try – else, we can just be reasonable and try the Royal Antibes, which seems like it has many of the little luxuries without the attitude. Nice would be nice, n’est-ce-pas?