Getting the flavour of…
The perfect French city
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).