In a country packed with beautiful landscapes, it says something that the Amalfi Coast is ranked as one of Italy’s most scenic stretches of coastline. This string of pastel-coloured villages are cut into a steep hillside, with jagged mountains behind them and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea in front. Their famous names – Amalfi, Positano, Ravello – are synonymous with glamour and have long been the haunt of film stars and fashion designers. Throw in ornate churches, lemon groves, pine forests and crumbling palazzos and you have Italian coastal perfection.
For a coastal city, it’s strangely easy to spend time in Catania and forget the sea is even there. Most of the city’s seafront is filled with its busy harbour, but you don’t need to go far to get a taste of sea air. Just north of the city are a string of former fishing villages, where dark volcanic rocks formed by Mount Etna’s eruptions meet the clear turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea. Off the coast at Aci Trezza you can see three tall, rocky outcrops known as the Cyclops Islands.
I love a good sunset, and a lot of my favourites have been on the coast, where you can watch the sun slowly dipping down into the water. Looking out across the Atlantic from Morocco’s coastline, Essaouira has a prime sunset position and didn’t disappoint, with a spectacular dusk light show each evening – whether that was the sun peeking out between the sea and a layer of rippling clouds or filling the whole sky with shades of gold.
Perched on the edge of Morocco’s Atlantic coast, Essaouira looks like a cross between North Africa and the Mediterranean. Surrounded by golden-stone city walls, it mixes bright blues and dazzling whitewash with flowing djellabas and the smell of spices. And this mixture all makes sense when you look at the town’s history – over the years it’s been inhabited by a whole range of different cultural and ethnic groups, from the Arabs and Africans to the Romans and French.
Looking around the harbour in Essaouira you see endless shades of blue – from the pale skies to the rough seas and the vibrant turquoise and blue painted fishing boats. In the 19th century Essaouira was Morocco’s biggest port. It was nicknamed the ‘Port of Timbuktu’ as goods like gold and spices came by caravan from sub-Saharan Africa to be shipped from here out to Europe and the Americas.
At ten past midnight on the night of 6 June 1944, Lieutenant Norman Poole became the first allied soldier to set foot on French soil, just inland from Utah Beach. And so began Operation Overlord – the code name for the Battle of Normandy. Poole and his crew had parachuted in to confuse the Germans before the Normandy landings boats started to approach the coast. 2014 saw the 70th anniversary of the battle, when this part of the northern French coast saw an influx of veterans and their descendants, coming to see where history was made, both for their families and for the world.
Cornwall might have been beautiful last week, but it wasn’t very kind to us on the weather front. After grey skies and drizzle for days, when the sun finally appeared late one afternoon we headed straight down to the beach with our cameras. Nearby Perranporth beach was full of people taking advantage of the sunshine for a quick evening walk or surf. The wide sandy beach turned golden in the afternoon light before the sun started to dip down behind Chapel Rock.
This week I’ll be down in Cornwall, staying in a gorgeous holiday cottage on a mini-honeymoon with my new husband. Lots of lazing is on the cards as we recover from last week’s wedding madness. But the last time I visited this part of south-west England was a lot more active – as a coastal conservation volunteer. The Conservation Volunteers ran several week-long Beachsweep trips to the coastline of Devon and Cornwall each year. In return for helping out with surveying work you got a bargain holiday with food and accommodation included, and the chance to explore some of the area’s beautiful coastline.
The UK is surrounded by over 7700 miles of coastline, with beautiful beaches from the Scottish islands in the far north right down to the tip of Cornwall in the south. The only problem though is that the unpredictable British weather doesn’t make it the easiest to take advantage of them. I’m all for a bracing winter walk along the coast, but come summer I’d rather be in a shorts and sunglasses than kitting myself out in wellies and waterproofs every time I want a day on the beach.
Just off the Montenegrin coast, Sveti Stefan is a perfect teardrop-shaped island with terracotta-tiled buildings and evergreen trees set in a turquoise bay. It dates back to the 15th century and started off as a fortified fishing village. But the fishermen were replaced by royalty and celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when it was turned into a luxury hotel in the 1950s. It was abandoned in the 1980s after the Balkan conflict but was refurbished and reopened a few years ago as part of the luxury Aman resorts hotel group.
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