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www.thestar.co.uk
The Star, Saturday, February 18, 2012
l
Haven (£79)
SHEFFIELD folk love Haven
holidays, accounting for
most of the bookings at
Thorpe Park, Cleethorpes.
Haven have 35 parks round
the coast with a family short
break for under £100. March
holidays are from £79 for
a three or four-night break
and a seven-night summer holiday can cost less
than £500 for a family of
up to six. All Haven parks
offer family entertainment.
Thorpe Park, 70 miles from
Sheffield, is like a country
park, surrounded by nature
trails. The area has lots to
offer including Pleasure
Island Theme Park with its
white knuckle rides. Visit
www.haven.com or call 0871
230 1900 for information.
HOLIDAY
IDEAS
l
Costa Dorada (£306)
Seven-night Easter break
with Keycamp on Spain’s
Costa Dorada from £306 per
family (booking discount up
to February 29). Keycamp’s
Playa Montroig is close to
Port Aventura theme park
and the Roman city of Tarragona. Seven nights from
April 5 in Villanova mobile
home £315, accommodation
only. Fly-drive packages at
a supplement. Call 0844 406
0319 – www.keycamp.co.uk
TRAVEL
Slick film The Rum
Diaries put Puerto Rico
on the tourist radar.
Travel writer David
Dunn took the hint
February Supersale
Free car
parking* / coach
at Southampton
11 Night Spain &
Canary Islands Cruise
WEATHER IN puerto rico:
HOT (Winter temperatures are in the 80s)
CURRENCY
(at time of print)
£=
Seek out a rum with a view
.co.uk
5 Night Western
Med Cruise
28 April 2012 - £549 pp
Liberty of the Seas
EDITED BY BILL AUCKLAND
www.thestar.co.uk
Everything you need: Puerto Rico
El Conquistador Resort
11 November 2012 - £799 pp
Independence of the Seas
Lots more offers Instore and Online
*Applicable to cruises from Southampton
Hurry offer ends 29/2/12. Terms and conditions apply
THE CRUISE SPECIALIST
25 Market Place, Bolsover 01246 823763
46 Knifesmithgate, Chesterfield 01246 220020
Definitely not Starbucks: Old
faithful at La Bombonera cafe
Old bar: A glass of Don Q or maybe
something for the washing machine?
WE islanders seem drawn to
other islands.
Throw in year-round
sunshine and a brace of Pina
Coladas and Puerto Rico
becomes a big draw.
Part of the Caribbean,
with Antigua and Cuba as
neighbours, this playful yet
elegant island nation has become more accessible thanks
to twice-weekly British Airways flights from Gatwick.
And beautiful old San Juan
in the bustling capital alone
justifies the air miles.
Colourful, largely well
preserved architecture is a
magnet for the camera, but
there’s a personal warmth
about the place that immediately matches the climate.
Much the same can be said
of the Pina Colada, a rumfuelled cocktail first shaken
into existence by Don Ramon
Portas Mingot in 1963 – unless, of course, you accept the
claim of the casually classy
Caribe Hilton hotel that they
did it first.
What is certain is they
were the first Hilton to open
outside mainland USA – just
an hour away by plane to Miami, which it honours with
its al fresco reception lobby.
While the Caribe Hilton
and newer rival Sheraton
Puerto Rico are an ideal base,
the radio on the brief cab
ride into town confirms you
are anywhere but the States,
even if the US border control
suggests otherwise.
Old San Juan is arguably
where you take the pulse of
Puerto Pico, amid cobbled
streets alive with conversations and – when day trades
for dusk – music.
Innocuous doorways
suddenly open to reveal
unlikely-looking bars, some
doubling as general stores in
between serving measures of
Cuba Libre. Like any modern
culture, the city caters for
all tastes, but the common
5 days in
puerto rico
TRAVELFACTS
l David flew with Brit-
ish Airways to San
Juan from Gatwick.
Flight time is about
12 hours. Visit ba.com
for fares from £477
return.
l The Caribe Hilton,
pictured above, has
double rooms from
$199 (subject to taxes
and resort fee). Visit
caribehilton.com.
l You can book the El
Conquistador directly
at ElConResort.com
l An overnight
double at Sheraton
Puerto Rico, close to
the Convention Centre and Isla Grande
Airport costs from
$169 – visit sheraton.
com
denominator is its people.
On this, the smallest of
the Greater Antilles, Puerto
Ricans retain an identity
that makes this part of the
Caribbean unique. And the
Pina Colada is well suited to
its environment: sweet, but
not as innocent as it looks,
laidback, slightly exotic, just
a little mischievous.
That and other Puerto Rico
charms were ably showcased
in the 2011 film of The Rum
Diaries.
Life may have moved on
since that era but Johnny
Depp can’t keep away – some
scenes of the most recent
Pirates Of The Caribbean
film were also captured in
or around the world’s rum
capital.
Arriving is less frantic
than with Capt Jack Sparrow, of course. You can use
the time difference to your
advantage by rising early
to explore old San Juan’s
pretty streets. Just grab your
map and let the vibe be your
guide.
You’ll cross paths with
characters as bright as some
of the painted buildings, narrow streets providing shade
as even winter temperatures
barely dip below 80°.
Locals have been US
citizens for nearly 100 years,
but largely speak Spanish
as well as retaining much of
that culture in their food and
passionate demeanour.
Nowhere more so than the
atmospheric La Bombonera,
the island’s oldest bakery
and a haven for locals chatting over rich coffee from a
device Spielberg might have
contrived.
Sample an authentic Puerto Rican lunch of seafood
asopao, a thick rice soup, and
the house speciality, a sweet
and savoury pastry called
Pan La Mallorca.
In the evening, try the
wonderful La Mallorquina,
Puerto Rico’s oldest restaurant.
A curious mix of ancient
paintings, clocks, marble
floors and Baroque mirrors
is the setting for enduring
local dishes that have lured
the likes of Orson Welles and
Nat King Cole.
Quite a paint job:
Colourful homes
in old San Juan.
pictures: david dunn
HOLIDAY TIPS: DON’T MISS ...
1
For shopping the Plaza Las Americas mall
is a short cab ride
from San Juan – though
avoid Black Friday.
2
Avoid jet-lag driving
by travelling to Gatwick via East Midlands Trains to St Pancras:
eastmidlandstrains.co.uk
3
Find out more about
Puerto Rico and
Vieques at the Puerto
Rico Tourism Company
website seepuertorico.com
If it’s good enough for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz...
OF course, there’s more to
Puerto Rico – Spanish for ‘rich
port’ – than its capital.
Home to just four million
people, from the air the island
looks mountainous and lush
thanks to a tropical climate,
the main La Cordillera Central
range its ecological spine.
You can drive to one of the
highest points at the El Yunque
National Rainforest, named
blog
after the benevolent Indian
spirit Yuquiyu and, surprisingly, the only rainforest in the
US National Forest system.
An impressive modern
visitor centre suggests hiking
trails that pass waterfall pools,
kapok trees alive with tiny but
noisy coqui frogs and views
into the fertile valleys below.
Strict laws make one of the
few aspects unchanged since
the Tainos, the indigenous
population that met Christopher Columbus’ crew and was
almost wiped out with colonisation.
Modern ‘invaders’ bring welcome tourism dollars, although
there is no sign of its past turbulent economy at places such
as the coast-hugging resort of
El Conquistador.
A long drive through mani-
cured golfing grounds leads to
a revered hotel that has just
about everything you are likely
to need.
More places to eat than you’ll
manage in a week – sample
amazing steaks in the seductive atmosphere of the Striphouse – it has pools on several
levels in which to burn off the
calories and a water park accessed by funicular railway.
Rooms in La Casitas Village
(doubles from $289 per night),
offer some of the best views of
the resort, the ocean and Palomino Island, a 110-acre slice of
paradise owned by the hotel.
A ferry service links the
marina to the island where, as
well as bars and the best fish
tacos these jaws have tackled,
you’ll find a sign revealing the
distance to London.
Once you’ve smiled smugly
at that, hire diving gear to get
closer to the colourful natives
darting about the clear waters.
Or if you really want to be
alone, you can paddle a kayak
to an even tinier island the size
of Park Square Roundabout,
now famous for Depp having
ditched Penelope Cruz there in
the final scene of On Stranger
Tides.
The Star, Saturday, February 18, 2012
Your guide to
what’s on: P24-25
SHORT BREAK
richard jones
Travel Writer
Ever wanted to race against
an Olympic champion?
How about three of them on
one day?
Okay, rowing legends Sir
Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew
Pinsent and Ben Hunt-Davis
may not be gold-medal winning skiers, but they haven’t
lost any of their competitive
spirit.
For the past nine years Sir
Steve and his pals have been
the face of Crystal Ski Fest,
the tour operator’s end-of season jamboree which brings
together the British Association of Snowsport Instructors
(BASI), Disability Snowsport
UK (DSUK), Crystal reps and
over 100 guests for a week of
ski racing and fun.
Crystal rep Giuseppe
Savastano came up with the
idea of the Crystal Ski Challenge nine years ago.
“They knew I loved my
skiing and asked if I’d come
along,” Redgrave explains.
“They had a ‘fun week’ in
Cervinia, and the guests suggested that we did a race and
so we thought about promoting this as an idea.”
“We stayed there for three
years and each year it got
better as we took our own
instructors to Sauze D’Oulx,
Italy, and then to Mayrhofen,
Austria.
“It used to be called Crystal Ski Challenge, but we
changed it to Ski Fest because
when you advertise a race
week, some people got scared.
But it is all about fun and it
can be as competitive as you
want it to be. It’s all about
improving your skiing.”
Following my flight into
Geneva I headed to my base,
the four-star Hotel du Col in
the Italian resort of Sestriere.
The hotel is at the foot of
the slopes used during the
2006 Turin Olympics.
The weather played havoc
with our schedule – there was
65cms of snow the evening
before I arrived. Steve, Matt
and the Crystal organisers
were having a mini conference in the bar.
Redgrave, who is a monster of a man by anyone’s
standards, and a brilliant
public speaker, relayed the
information to the diners in
the restaurant: “Plan A is out
of the window, so here goes
Olympic trio
still want gold
with plans B and C,” he said.
In the end, there was only a
slight change to the schedule,
meaning an extra session of
gate training for beginners
and one less for the more
advanced skiers.
On day two and I immediately hit the slopes via the
chair lift.
The duel slalom event was
quite nerve-racking – there
were the best part of 150
people watching the racers.
‘‘
More obscure awards
included Best Fall and
Best Injury To A Lip
But the race itself, through
a dozen or so gates down the
lower part of the Olympic
slope against one of my peers,
was nothing short of exhilarating.
In the evening there was
a race night to celebrate St
Patrick’s Day, and the event
raised over £1,000 for DSUK.
Friday was Giant Slalom
time trials day, as each racer
started out twice from the of-
a week’s skiing in italy
l Crystal Ski Fest - Ses-
Street art in San Juan:
Not your average shutter
PASS IT ON... Share your holiday experiences: Tweet @SheffieldStar or find us on Facebook at: Sheffield Star
23
TELEVISION
EURO: 1.17
DOLLAR: 1.53
‘‘
22
triere.
l Best for: Skiers with
a competitive streak, or
aiming to improve.
l Time to go: March 1118, 2012.
l Don’t miss: Pitting
your slalom skills against
Olympic Gold medallists
Redgrave, Pinsent and
Hunt-Davis.
l Don’t forget: Sun
cream, shades, as well as
plenty of layers.
l Seven-night package
from £825 per person,
two sharing, including
flights, transfers, halfboard at Hotel du Col, lift
pass, ski and boot hire,
race training.
l Crystal Ski Fest (0871
231 5643
l Visit the website at
www.crystalski.co.uk)
ficial piste start hut, through
about 20 gates.
With no-one to race against
but yourself, skiers can be as
competitive as they want to
be. I just wanted to make sure
I beat my first time on my
second attempt to prove to
myself I had improved.
During the afternoon we
had a free skiing session, and
a group of us took the cable
car over to the other valley
near the towns of Sansicario,
Pragelato and Sauze D’Oulx.
The pistes were a lot quieter, the snow was perfect,
and the abundance of chair
lifts provided access various
red and black slopes.
Sestriere provides access
to a magnificent skiing area
with over 400kms of pistes
suitable for all grades, with
the bonus of spectacular
scenery.
Friday night was presentation night in the bar
and there were many prizes
(including a new pair of Salomon skis) for speed and effort, and some more obscure
awards like those for Best
Fall, Best Way of Getting Lost
and Best Injury to a Lip.
Saturday was ‘ski at your
leisure day’, and some of
the guests skied north into
France for lunch and back
down into Italy.
Sir Steve perfectly summed
up a memorable week:
“Have I won any races?
Probably not.
“Have I improved as a
skier? Definitely, yes.”
You don’t become a fivetime Olympic champion
in any sport without being ultra-competitive, and
Redgrave wasn’t happy when
his good friend and rowing
colleague Hunt-Davis beat
him for the first time on the
slalom course.
“I’ll have my revenge next
year,” he said.

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