Ask Joan: Cooking classes for a teenager, luxury trip for the birthday girls

Italy is the ideal place to go if your teenager enjoys cooking, swimming and animals

My son has recently turned 13 and I promised him we would go away for a week or so to celebrate. His interests are cookery, animals and swimming. It would be an added bonus to have this on a farm, working or otherwise. We can go during Easter, or anytime during the month of June. CW, Wexford.

Italy is the ideal place to find what you are looking for. The Montalbino Agriturismo in Tuscany is a working farm where children are encouraged to enjoy the animals. There are also activities like football and games on site.

Montalbino also has two swimming pools, a restaurant and the possibility of cooking classes on request. It is about an hour from Pisa airport and there will be direct flights with Ryanair and Aer Lingus next year.

A week self-catering will cost from €690 for an apartment,


There is a company called Active Gourmet Holidays and they specialise in all sorts of lovely trips with cooking classes. One I saw sounds ideal. It is in Spain and is called Cortijo Cooking in Extremadura. It involves cooking classes in a lovely farmhouse with pool for swimming and nice walks around. There are four- and seven-day courses from €600pps,

We are a group of six pals sharing a significant birthday in 2016 and are looking forward to celebrating with a long weekend in June. We are saving and will have a reasonable budget.

We are a mix of sun worshippers some who enjoy culture and without doubt a vibrant restaurant and nightlife. We would like something with a little luxury. Dubrovnik, San Sebastian and Ibiza have been mentioned for travel early June next year. OF, Dublin. When you have a decent budget there are lots of choices and, if booked in advance, good prices in four- and five-star hotels.

Barcelona is a top city for culture, food and nightlife and easy to get to.

The Gran Hotel la Florida is on a hilltop overlooking the city. It has fabulous views, a great spa and excellent restaurants. Taxis into the city will cost about €25. Rooms will cost from €280 per night,

San Sebastian is a top-class city for fun, food, culture and accommodation. The best hotel is the Maria Christina which oozes style. Think Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem sipping cocktails here. It is pricey – rooms are from €505 per night.

The hotel with the best views over La Concha beach is the Hotel Londres y Inglaterra, prices start from €250 per night . The attic rooms are a bit more expensive but have sea views and terraces, Explore the tapas bars of the Old Town, the best tapas are the ones cooked to order. The Whiskey Museum is a fun place for a night out dancing.

Nice is a fun city for a girls’ trip away. The Hotel Splendid is in a great location, just a few streets behind the Promenade des Anglais. It has a great rooftop restaurant, pool and spa. Shopping, beach, galleries, museums and restaurants are just a short stroll away. Rooms in June will cost from €220 per night,

Luxury villas for rent, with or without catering are available in Ibiza, Italy, Croatia and France through Oliver's Travels,

There are a few nice properties in Dubrovnik and look also at Istria in Croatia. There will be flights to Pula again next summer with Aer Lingus.

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