Sitges, Biarritz and a Cornwall adventure

Sat, Apr 7, 2012, 01:00

ASK JOAN:All your travel questions answered

IDEAS FOR THREE AMIGOS

We are three friends (Norwegian, Swedish and Irish) in our mid-20s who make an effort to see each other every six months in a European city. Our next date is August/September and we each have specific requirements. One of us wants to be near a beach, culture is a must for another and the third wants the option of great (gay-friendly) nightlife. - TO, Dublin

You can all get to Barcelona quite easily and so my suggestion is Sitges on the Costa Brava coast about an hour from the city by regular train. It is a beautiful medieval town with lots of culture, great nightlife, more than a dozen beaches and is the most gay-friendly place in Spain.

The Fiesta Major takes places from August 21st-27th and will be a week of music, dance, fireworks and parades with a large dollop of Catalan culture.

Not to miss are the Castelleros, a feature of this area of Spain, where dozens of people form intricate four-storey high human towers. Don’t delay in booking as August is very busy. When it comes to night life, the famous Pasha dance club is in Sitges and the L’Atlantida has a name for great party nights and early mornings.

The Circuit gay festival is taking place in Barcelona from August 2nd-12th and two of the events will be held in Sitges, beach parties on the Sundays, Circuitfesival.net.

A CORNWALL ROAD TRIP

My husband and myself, both in our late 60s, would like to holiday in Cornwall by taking the car on the ferry. However, as we do not relish driving on the motorway from Pembroke or Fishguard, could you suggest an alternative route – perhaps stopping overnight on the way? Or the nearest airport from where we could rent a car? We would like to stay in a good hotel and do some touring in the car each day. Also we would like to know of good restaurants.- MSJ, Tipperary

Cornwall is beautiful with lots to do and a good choice for a holiday. There is no direct air service into Cornwall any more, as the Air South West route to Newquay ended last year. The nearest airport is in Exeter, Devon with a service from Dublin with Flybe.com. Fares are around €140 return. Car rental for a week would be around €140 and Avis, Hertz, Europcar and Budget all have offices at Exeter Airport.

The car ferry service from Rosslare to Pembroke or Fishguard will cost around €280 return. If you drive, you will also have to factor in the cost of fuel and stopovers. You can plan a route that will avoid motorways and tolls on the AA website, ( theAA.co.uk). It is also a good website for hotels and restaurants.

As for routes, a personal favourite goes via the country town of Llandeilo, through the Brecon Beacons over towards Gloucester, through Bristol, Bath, Taunton and across the top of Dartmoor into Cornwall.

In Cornwall, you have lots of choices of places to stay. The town of St Ives is very pretty and there is plenty to discover around this area, including the outpost of the Tate Modern. Padstow is fantastic for fine dining, with a number of Rick Stein restaurants in the town, and Penzance is a good spot for exploring the Lizard Peninsula. Perranporth is smaller, with a three-mile beach. Falmouth on the south coast is a port town with fine beaches and two of the best restaurants in the county, Oliver’s and The Wheel House.

In no particular order the following should not be missed: the Eden Project, Minack Theatre, St Michael’s Mount, Bodmin Moor, a walk on the beaches of the north coast, a pasty, cream tea, the Tamar Valley and if you can fit it in, a trip to the Isles of Scilly.

You could easily spend a week visiting Cornwall’s fantastic gardens. One of the best-known is the Lost Gardens of Heligan, worth a visit in stout shoes. See gardensofcornwall.comfor a list and map.

Hotels in Cornwall are mainly independent properties, there are few chains or brands. You will find an authentic welcome, though July and August are very busy and you would have a better time in May or June. In St Ives, I have stayed in the Pedn Olva Hotel ( Pednolva.co.uk) which means “lookout” in Cornish. It is built on the cliffs overlooking the town and is pretty. The Headland Hotel ( Headlandhotel.co.uk) in Newquay was a fine old-fashioned comfortable hotel. See also VisitCornwall.comfor other hotels.

GIRLS’ WEEK AWAY

We are a group of girls who would like to go away somewhere in June this year for about a week. We are students on a limited budget. Our priorities are really good nightlife, close to the beach and cheap. One of us has some Spanish and one speaks Italian but we would really go anywhere. - SG, Kildare

Spain and France will be cheaper than Italy and there are also plenty of flights, though June is high season and prices are going up. Places for good night life, beaches and cheap living are San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz in France, though you will need a budget of around €500-600, that is assuming flights will cost around €200, accommodation around €120 and spending money.

Both San Sebastian and Biarritz are popular with surfer dudes and you will find that there is a good nightlife, cheap hostels and fun people to meet. Ryanair flies into Biarritz and Aer Lingus into Bilbao making it easy to get to either city. Both airports will work for San Sebastian. Other places to consider are Valencia and Salou, also known for good nightlife and beach fun and not as expensive as the Costa del Sol. Tour operators would have packages for around €400–€450 for a week in June.


Email queries, with your name and address, to jscales@irishtimes.com