This article is the third
in a series featuring destinations and activities perfect for a quick getaway.
From cuisine to culture to the great outdoors, discover ideas that will help
you make the most of your weekend.
In destinations where cuisine becomes interactive, food
and drink are hardly mere supplements to a great holiday. From ale in the Lake District to pasta in Bologna to wine in Bordeaux — food and travel make the perfect companions.
Bake bread in the Brecon Beacons
If The Great British Bake Off has inspired you to get your hands floury,
consider a course at Caroline’s Real Bread Company (from £140), in the heart of Wales’s Brecon Beacons. The one-day class
covers the general principles of bread making and teaches a variety of
techniques to help you create the perfect loaf. Spend your spare day exploring
the area’s cafés and restaurants – Number 18 in Crickhowell serves tutor
Caroline’s focaccia and ciabatta, and the Bridge Café is the top local choice for dinner.
Real Bread Company can provide self-catering cottages (from £50), or the
Gliffaes Country House Hotel has luxurious rooms (from £90).
Caveman cooking in the Highlands
With the UK spending £1 out of every £8 in Tesco, it’s easy to forget where our
food originally comes from. But trained archaeologists Alex Henderson and Rosie
Hazleton offer a chance to reconnect with the culinary habits of our forebears
with a Wild Cookery weekend in the remote Scottish Highlands (£150). Guests spend Saturday in the 100-acre Crochail Wood,
foraging for riverside greens and digging and lighting – using flint – the
pit-oven favoured by prehistoric man. All this is preparation for an evening
spent feasting on slow-roasted lamb or venison, accompanied by home-brewed
nettle beer. On day two you’ll return to recreate some other ancient dishes –
including herbwrapped fish cooked on an open fire and pot-boiled stew with
dumplings – before taking a wildlife-spotting woodland walk among red squirrels
and pine martens.
A couple of
miles from base camp, 19th-century Struy Inn offers rooms above its cosy bar
Cook perfect pasta in Bologna
Though most famously associated with the rich spaghetti dish beloved of British
families, Italy’s university city of Bologna has a lot more to offer its
visitors than meat sauce. Spend a lazy afternoon wandering its medieval
terracotta streets and perusing trattoria menus, and you’ll soon discover that
spaghetti Bolognese is an alien concept to Italians – here, ragù alla Bolognese
is served mostly with tagliatelle. A portion at Drogheria della Rosa, a
charming converted pharmacy, costs £7.30. Next, learn
how to cook the dish from scratch with an English-speaking chef at Bologna
Cooking School. You’ll be shown how to make fresh pasta and the all-important
meat sauce as well as a variety of antipasti and fluffy tiramisu. There’s also
an opportunity for a guided visit to the local market, and to sample other
classic Italian ingredients such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and balsamic
vinegar (from £140 for a half-day course).
Housed in a
14th-century convent, Hotel Il Convento dei Fiori di Seta marries contemporary
frescoes with modern décor (from £115)
Seek out supper clubs in Berlin
Hidden among the German capital’s inauspicious apartment blocks are some of the
city’s best places to eat. Supper clubs, privately hosted dinner parties for
paying guests, also offer the chance to have a nosy round the homes of real
Berliners. Try Fisk & Gröönsaken (£20), where
locals Jan and Melanie serve meat-free modern German dishes such as beetroot
consommé with pumpernickel dumplings in their art-filled living room. Or visit
Phoebe in Berlin, run by a French-trained Taiwanese chef, for pan-fried scallops
and shrimps with sweet peppers and onion or melon and white wine gazpacho (from
£45). Follow with cocktails at one of Berlin’s underground
bars, such as 1930s speakeasy-themed Reingold, or Green Door, a kitsch pleasure palace with doorbell entry under a
nondescript neon sign.
and centrally located, Ackselhaus offers 12 individually designed bedrooms –
with themes ranging from nautical to Hollywood – that come with small living
rooms and kitchenettes (from £120).
Make tiny tapas in San Sebastián
In the pretty coastal city of San Sebastián, bar snacks are a serious business.
Smaller and often more elaborate than their rustic cousins, tapas, Basque
“pintxos” are bite-sized portions of food intended to accompany a sociable
drink. Each of the city’s many bars has its own speciality, from a sliver of
steak speared with a cocktail stick to a mini-marvel worthy of a Michelin star
(of which San Sebastián has nine, by the way). Learn the art of pintxomaking
with local chefs on a five-hour course that concludes with a boozy gourmet
lunch (£120. As the sun sets, take to the streets for a
“txikiteo” or pintxo crawl – try Bar Goiz Argi (Calle Fermin Calbeton 4) for
classic prawn kebabs, or Aloña Berri for daring combinations such as cream
cheese, foie gras and mango.
Altair is a beautifully restored townhouse with simply furnished, spacious
rooms (from £45).
Explore the vineyards of the South Downs
Smattered across the undulating chalk hillsides of the South Downs are some of
England’s best wineries, and a weekend walking tour gives you the chance to
stroll among them while sampling their wares. Specialist operator Arblaster
& Clarke offers access to vineyards ordinarily closed to the public,
including Nyetimber, which produces the sparkling white that was served at the
Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch. Walking is kept to an enjoyable minimum (four
miles on the first day, six on the second) and each day ends with a
three-course wine-tasting dinner at the country pub where you bed down for the
night (£550 per person, including accommodation and meals; next tour 5-7 April).
Sup at Belgium’s monastic breweries
In Belgium, beer-making is virtually a religion, so it makes sense that the
best brews are made by monks. Three of Belgium’s six Trappist breweries are in
the region of Wallonia – an easy drive from capital city Brussels – and
although none will let you tour the facilities, it’s worth the journey just to
wander their atmospheric grounds and sample the local brews, many of which
can’t be bought outside the region. The most accessible is Orval, housed within
the Abbaye Notre Dame, where you can walk round the 12th-century ruins and a
small museum (£4.50). At Chimay, which gives its name to Belgium’s
most famous Trappist beer, visit the church at hilltop Abbaye de Scourmont before trying the monks’ cheeses and beers at l’Auberge de
Poteaupré (tasting platter £9).
Le Petit Chapitre is a B&B housed in a turreted, wisteria-draped building
full of antiques (from £70).
Get on the real Ale trail in Lake District
Cumbria is the beer garden of England, and the scenic, seven-mile Lakes Line
wends its way through the very heart of it. Devised by the Campaign for Real
Ale (CAMRA), the Real Ale by Rail trail links dramatic lakes-and-fells
countryside with country pubs and craft breweries serving proper beer – none
more than a 15-minute walk from a station. It takes in Watermill Inn in the bucolic village of Ings, where a pint pulled from
one of the 16 hand pumps can be enjoyed fireside or outside on the sunny
terrace, and the Hawkshead Brewery, with its extensive
selection of beers such as Cumbrian Five Hop and Lakeland Gold.
away from Lake Windermere, The Elleray is a cosy pub with locally sourced food
on the menu and smart rooms upstairs (from £65).
Become a kitchen wizard in Ireland
A private island just off Ireland’s west coast, Inish Beg estate is a place to
escape to. As well as managing 10 self-catering properties – including a grand
waterside stone and glass boathouse and a pair of authentic Roma caravans with
an outdoor roll-top bath – hosts Paul and Georgiana Keane run a successful
organic farm. Producing lamb, vegetables, oats and honey, it provides valuable
raw materials for Inish Beg’s tailor-made cooking courses. Guests can spend
time collecting apples from the orchard or herbs from the walled garden, before
embarking on a crash course in anything from chocolate-making to fish
preparation techniques (half-day from £40 per person).
one-bedroom house The Garden Retreat is just round the corner from Inish Beg’s
heated indoor swimming pool (from £60 per night; minimum stay two nights).
Stay at a vineyard in Bordeaux
Sat in a deckchair on the sunny terrace of a charming 17th-century
château surrounded by five hectares of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec vines
– there are few places in the world where a glass of wine could taste better.
In the hands of the Charmet-Thomas family since the 1830s, Château Lestange is
a working vineyard, its abundant grapes used to produce a red AOC Premières
Côtes de Bordeaux. Current incumbent Anne-Marie Charmet also rents out rooms –
featuring softly faded paintwork, original floorboards and antique mirrors and
portraits – to wine-lovers wanting a base for further exploration in the region
(from £80). Bordeaux is 15 miles down the road, and the
wine estates of Saint-Émilion are less than an hour’s drive away.
The article 'Ten culinary weekends' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.