Get­ting the flavour of…

The per­fect French city

The Week - - Leisure -

Sun­shine, el­e­gance and sen­su­al­ity – Mont­pel­lier has al­ways had the char­ac­ter­is­tic Mediter­ranean virtues. Lately, it has also seen rapid growth thanks to “high-tech in­dus­tries, brains and bril­liance”, says An­thony Pere­grine in The Daily Tele­graph, and is be­com­ing the most “se­duc­tive” and cul­tured provin­cial city in France. At its heart is the grand­est pedes­trian square in Europe, the Place de la Comédie. The city also has the old­est botan­i­cal gar­den in France, a good art mu­seum (the Fabre), two opera houses, an orches­tra, sev­eral arts fes­ti­vals and no end of good wine bars and “posh shops”. And then there are the beaches – just 45 min­utes away by bike through a “wild and open land of scrub, high skies, la­goons and flamin­goes”. For train tick­ets, see www.voy­ages-sncf.com. A Cam­bo­dian re­sort re­born Pop­u­lar with in­dige­nous aris­to­crats and the French colonial elite from the 1920s un­til the 1960s, the Cam­bo­dian sea­side re­sort of Kep was ran­sacked by the Kh­mer Rouge in the 1970s. To­day, it is a pleas­antly sleepy place, into which an “air of so­phis­ti­ca­tion” is “creep­ing back”, says Pamela Good­man in House & Gar­den. Most of its el­e­gant old mod­ernist vil­las still stand charred and aban­doned, but three of the most “spec­tac­u­lar” have been re­stored by a Bel­gian en­tre­pre­neur, Jef Moons, to cre­ate a “stylish” 18-bed­room ho­tel, Knai Bang Chatt. Perched right on the wa­ter­front, it has a white clap­board restau­rant with a wrap­around veran­dah and an in­side/out­side lounge area for “sun­set drinks and late-night rev­elry”. Drop into the “lively” crab mar­ket nearby for the re­gion’s sig­na­ture dish, fresh crab with Kam­pot pep­per sauce. Visit www.knaibangchatt.com.

Eisen­hower’s Scot­tish re­treat Perched dra­mat­i­cally on a cliff with views across the Firth of Clyde to Ar­ran, Culzean Cas­tle is ar­chi­tect Robert Adam’s great­est mas­ter­piece. Now over­seen by the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land, it also con­tains one of the UK’S most at­mo­spheric small ho­tels, says Ja­son Al­lardyce in The Sun­day Times – an “el­e­gant” top floor apart­ment that, in 1945, was given to Gen­eral (later Pres­i­dent) Eisen­hower, to thank him for his wartime ser­vice com­mand­ing Scot­tish troops into bat­tle in Europe. He fell in love with the place, and vis­ited four times. Known as “The Eisen­hower”, it feels al­most “like an­other world”, steeped in his­tory and “laden with trea­sures”. The beds are com­fort­able, the break­fasts “splen­did” and there’s much of in­ter­est in the grounds, in­clud­ing “de­light­ful” beaches and two well-equipped chil­dren’s play ar­eas. Rooms start from £175 b&b (01655-884455, www.culzeaneisen­hower.com).

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