Traveldesk: cruising the Amazon and a gin palace


Bombay Sapphire is one of the world’s poshest gins, and now you can visit the new distillery where it’s made. Deep in the Hampshire countryside near the village of Whitchurch, the Laverstoke Mill (so old it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086) has been reconfigured to produce 25 million litres of gin and play host to about 100,000 visitors a year. The distillery is the work of Thomas Heatherwick (who also designed the the Olympic Cauldron for London 2012) and a visit involves learning about the history of gin-making as well as a tasting of Eliza Doolittle’s mother’s milk. Admission £15; see


Is the United States to get a 51st state? It is if officials in South Miami have their way, as they have proposed breaking Florida into two states.


The proposal has won a majority vote in the City of South Miami commission, which was convinced by the argument that the state capital, Tallahassee, doesn’t adequately represent the southern half of the state on key climate change issues like rising sea levels.

However, in order for South Florida to secede, it would need the approval of all of Florida’s counties and an act of Congress. This is unlikely, as is an alternative proposal to move the state capital from Tallahassee to Orlando.


The Central Amazon Conservation Complex in Brazil is a 15-million-acre Unesco World Heritage Site that ranks as one of the world’s richest regions in terms of biodiversity. It is, by virtue of its remoteness and protected status, a difficult area to access, but Rainforest Cruises has begun selling week-long cruises departing from Manaus along the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon. You can spot wildlife, hike to waterfalls, swim in the river, fish for piranha and overnight in the jungle. Tour prices start at ¤1,628 per person based on double occupancy. See


If you fancy walking in the footsteps of Picasso, Fitzgerald and Piaf, a new iPhone app called TravelbyArt is just the ticket. It allows users to explore Paris during its 20th-century artistic heyday, when the city was home to creative types from all over the world.

Follow 20 different one- to three-hour tours, dedicated to a host of artists including James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway, that include a chronology of each artist’s life in the city; where they lived, worked and socialised (such as Joyce’s time at Shakespeare and Co, left); and specific examples of their work that pop up when you’re in the vicinity of where that work was created.

The offline maps are easy to follow and are cached so you won’t pay expensive roaming charges, and they’re linked to the phone’s internal GPS so you’ll know exactly where you are. Download the free app from the iTunes Store or see


December 4th sees the start of Art Basel Miami, the premier international show of modern and contemporary art. It’s actually six art fairs, spread across the Miami Beach Convention Center, where everything is for sale. You’ll need somewhere to stay (and stash your newly bought collection)


Biltmore Hotel

(1200 Anastasia Ave;

; room from $200) This is one of America’s classic hotels, even if its somewhat pokey standard rooms are at odds with the enormous and elegant public spaces.

Gale South Beach

(1690 Collins Ave;

; room from $300) Despite being a modern megaresort, the South Beach art deco aesthetic permeates this terrific hotel, whose interiors are influenced by the Mid-Century Modern movement – think arts and crafts meets Frank Lloyd Wright.

Hotel St Augustine

(347 Washington Ave;

; room from $150) Smack in the middle of exclusive SoFi (South of Fifth); this modern hotel’s beige/brown palette gives it a soft, contemporary look. Giant steam showers and friendly service.

Pelican Hotel

(826 Ocean Dr;

; room from $170) 30 themed rooms (Some Like it Wet, Psychedelic Girl, Me Tarzan You Vain) makes this hotel owned by the people behind Diesel Jeans one of the hippest spots in Miami Beach. It’s a little try-hard, but this is still a top quality hotel.

Sense Beach House

(400 Ocean Dr;

; room from $300) Sense is all about smooth, white lines and relaxing at all costs – from the beach décor of the lobby to the pleasant rooms with views of South Beach. It’s right in the middle of the action, but it feels like a secluded beach club.


Knockranny House (

) in Westport is gearing up for its game weekend of November 21st/22nd. A seven-course tasting menu – featuring rabbit, hare, wild duck, venison and partridge – will be served on Saturday, part of a €199pps package that includes two nights’ B&B. Meanwhile, the Malton ( in Killarney has a Rejuvenation Package from €285pps midweek that includes two nights’ B&B and dinners, plus two 50-minute YonKa Paris beauty treatments . The Mount Wolseley Hotel ( has a midweek spa break for €139pps including two nights’ B&B and one dinner, plus a 100 spa voucher per room.



Hotel Metropol (Teatralny proezd 1/4;

; room from €190) An art nouveau masterpiece that has rediscovered its pre-revolutionary splendour.


Café Pushkin (Tverskoy bul 26a;

; mains €18-36) A 19th-century classic specialising in Russian and French cuisines.


Sanduny Baths (Neglinnaya ul 14;

; from €30) The most opulent and elegant of Moscow’s banyas, or bath houses.