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Slower paced holidays

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: September 30, 2013

Parador de Cardona

Parador de Cardona

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John Carter - long-time presenter of the Wish You Were Here programme has globe-trotted more than most adhering to a hectic filming schedule but he has recently discovered a more leisurely way of enjoying tantalising destinations with Adagio - a new ‘ambling rather than rambling' holiday programme.

Having spent a little over half a century rushing around the globe in order to earn a crust, I've learned that the best and most memorable travel experiences are those which occur when one is not in such a hurry.

I'm sure you know what it is like when a holiday schedule is packed with sights that must be seen, events that must be attended and journeys that must be made. (Add to that the pressure of having to write about the experience or - even tougher - comment upon it for the benefit of a television camera, and you'll have some idea of how my travels went.)

How much better it is, at any stage of one's life, to be able to put on the mental brake, savour the pleasures of travel that emerge slowly, enjoy unexpected encounters, unforeseen experiences. For most people - though by no means all - that realisation comes at a later stage of life, when one has a lot of travel experiences for comparison.

But the decision to savour the pleasures of leisure travel at an easier pace is by no means linked to age. People of different generations are getting the message. Travel is there to be enjoyed, not endured. It is certainly not something you undertake in order to cross items off a sightseeing list, much less impress your friends and neighbours with your success in managing to visit the latest 'in' destination.

What brought on this reflection is the appearance of a new 'Adagio' brochure from Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, launched last year, it contains a range of holidays aimed at people who have made the sensible decision to take their holidays at a slower pace. Indeed, the very name sums up the philosophy as, in musical terms, Adagio is a passage played in slow time.

Earlier this year I went on an Adagio holiday to Italy - to the region north of Rome known as Lazio, whose history is all the richer for being that part of Italy to which the Etruscans came. Apart from having a splendid holiday in the company of like-minded folk, I learned that the Etruscans were actually Trojans, who left their ruined city around 1200 BC and finally made it to a happier land, no doubt bearing tales of battles and sieges and how the Greeks cheated by using a big wooden horse.

We did a little walking, of course, from our base in a comfortable hotel in Viterbo. Nothing strenuous and nothing compulsory, but enough to satisfy our need for a little exercise and take us to interesting places.

That very holiday is in the new brochure, but I have spotted others which are equally tempting. Take, for example, that which is based in the small (5,000 population) Spanish town of Cardona, located some 90 kilometres north west of Barcelona.

The magnificent castle which dominates the town houses a ‘Parador', one of a chain of hotels originally created and run by the Spanish Government. They set the standard, many years ago, and continue to do so in these greatly changed times. This castle/hotel is where you spend the seven nights of your holiday, which costs from £1,299 and includes return flights, transfers and half-board accommodation. This region of lakes and mountains is ideal for anyone who still enjoys mild exercise, and perfect for the Adagio concept.

Mention Trevi and most people will think of the famous fountain in Rome (I get an image of a well-endowed female film star named Anita Ekberg!). But Trevi is actually the name of a small town in Umbria, little more than a medieval village, in fact.

There, a 17th century palace has been converted into the four-star Hotel Antica Dimora alla Rocca, Adagio's base for a 7-night holiday which provides an opportunity for visiting Rome and Spoleto, Assisi and Spello, and generally enjoying the region and its cuisine, as well as its walking opportunities. Return flights and transfers, as well as half-board accommodation are included in the price, from £910.

Having spent many winter weeks skiing in Austria in my youth I came to its summer pleasures rather late in my travelling career, discovering a different set of pleasures and experiences. For that reason, I like the look of Adagio's seven-night holiday to Altaussee, in the central Austrian region of Styria.

It is a very small community which is supposed to have existed in Roman times, and which was very popular for a while in the early 1800s. A four-star hotel there, named the Seevilla, is where you stay, taking advantage of the many hiking trails in the region, as well as that which winds for seven and a half kilometres around the lake from which the resort is named. The holiday costs from £1,299, including flights and half-board accommodation.

This new brochure is packed with travel temptations, and I wish I had time and space to list them all. The long-distance temptations of Hong Kong and the South China Sea, or the Western Cape Province of South Africa, for example. Or the attractions of Stockholm, Marrakesh, Tenerife and the Dolomites.

I was also tempted by the two-centre holiday to Vienna and Budapest, which provides so much opportunity for ‘city ambling'- a variation on the theme which should never be dismissed as mere ‘sightseeing'.

Closer to home, Adagio has included holidays to Southern Ireland, Oxfordshire and the delightful Dart Valley, and I was really pleased to see that one of my favourite ‘boutique' hotels - the Quinta Bonita, on the Algarve coast of Portugal is once more among the Adagio offerings.

Oh, what pleasures await those who are moving at a slightly slower pace!

(All Adagio holidays are led by a dedicated tour specialist.)

Visit their website or call 01707 386700 for more information.

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