Thursday, 14 November 2013


As the Foreign office gives the all-clear for travel to Egypt, I fled to the lively Red Sea Resort of Sharm El Sheikh for a welcome burst of winter sun.

Best known for its fantastic diving, Sharm has grown up over the last few years into a sophisticated destination with lovely winter tmeperatures and a vast collection of resorts ranging from five-star luxury to small family friendly hotels.

I was staying at The Savoy, one of the area’s top hotels which also owns the Sierra next door and the Royal Savoy, an even more exclusive hotel. It also includes an array of exclusive villas which I was invited to inspect. The Villa  Queen Farida and Cleopatra are fabulous, opulent and spacious houses which you can hire for private use.I understand various international royal and celebrity families have stayed there.

But for me, the Savoy is perfect for now. Travelling with a group of close female friends for a change, we found everything we wanted here, starting with the welcome massage which relaxed us after the flight. Although at five hours, the flying time from London Luton makes this a leisurely ‘medium haul’ holiday.

Once settled, we tackled the serious business of indulgence. The Savoy has 414 rooms, including twin triple and family rooms.  The beach stretches along the beautiful coastline and there are also 3 adults’pools and two for children. This is a fantastic place for families, even though we are without them on this visit.  Theres a Kids Club and playground, plus film shows and discos.

But the Savoy’s crowning glory is Soho Square, the rather unlikely name for the complex which sits in front of the resort. Very unlike its namesake – the rather unassuming little square off London’s Tottenham Court road – this is a glitzy collection of restuarnts (they range from Japanese to Italian, Egyptian to Chinese) activitis which include the rather invongruous ice-skating, bowling and even ‘dancing waiters’ and bars. After a lovely evening spent in the decadent sounding Caligula restaurant in the Savoy (its designed to look like a Roman brothel and serves ‘Hot Rocks’ – meals cooked on piece of sqyare stone at the table) we head to the Ice Bar in the square for frozen vodka in ice glasses served from an ice bar. Cool
And we also found time for camel riding, quad biking, a boat trip with snorkelling and an evening Bedouin feast in the desert.

FACTS:Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Sharm El Sheikh from London Gatwick, London Luton, Birmingham and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £57.27 one way (£176.26 return) (lead fares summer 14)For further information or to book visit

Packages include bed and breakfast at the Savoy Hotel including  flights from London Gatwick,  leaving on 29 March 2014  are :  For 2 adults £681pp or 2 adults 2 children £793pp

FOOTNOTE:From next year the Savoy will be offering Yoga holidays which will include daily yoga sessions covering both beginners and advanced yoga  More to come!







Friday, 1 November 2013


My husband and three sons all enjoy scuba diving. Sadly the boys were not old enough for the Shark dive in Nassau, so we let Dad be the guinea pig. Here's my report......

I say goodbye to my husband of 25 years as he dons his wetsuit and prepares to dive into the ocean to feed sharks. He applies a dab of sun cream to his nose  “Mayonnaise for sharks,” I think.

The setting for the experience is Stuart Cove’s in Nassau, the Bahamian capital.  Just down the coast is the worryingly named Jaws Beach.
 Stuart Cove, it turns out,  is a person, not a place, and his claim to fame (apart from sending humans to the sharks on a daily basis) is that he taught Sean Connery to dive. Ladies’ pulses went racing during  the opening sequence of Goldfinger where 007 appears wearing a fake duck on his head and  unzips his wet suit to reveal perfectly styled hair and a white tuxedo, but  I find myself dwelling on Sir Sean’s  heart-stopping confrontation with Larco’s killer sharks in Thunderball

The sharks  waiting for lunch at Stuart Cove today are not  the killer variety but Caribbean Reef Sharks (although Bahamian waters lie in The Atlantic Ocean) Kate, the jolly guide, gives a short talk to the divers, describing the display sharks make in anticipation of their meal. “Sharks are excited by the sight of blood,” she tells us, and demonstrates how she will be waving some bloody fish around to get them to perform For her meeting with these Draculas of the deep she is wearing a strange outfit of chain mail over her wetsuit to protect herself.  Looking like some underwater Sir Lancelot she instructs the divers that they must group in a circle on the ocean floor with their heads bowed, as if taking part in some pagan ritual. They must keep their arms by the side all the time and, she stresses (unnecessarily, I feel) “Don’t chase the sharks”

The female sharks are strapping girls, weighing in at 400-500 pounds and 8 to 10 feet long.

The males, she adds, are about 6 foot and have two penises


Husband surfaces some time later in one piece, but looking slightly inadequate after an afternoon spent with the well-endowed boy sharks.

He describes some 40 or so sharks swooping around him, brushing against his arm and leering at him with their macabre bared-teeth grin. At the bottom of the sea was a rusting abandoned cage, the owner of which one hopes has lived to dive another day


We hail a taxi to drive us back to downtown Nassau. The driver enquiries how we have spent our afternoon and the steering wheel shudders when we tell him. “Shark and DIVE” he enunciates slowly. “Thems two words I don’t care to hear in the same sentence”
I originally wrote this piece for REAL TRAVEL magazine