Travel review: Hobby holidays

SEDUCTIVE: The infinity pool looking out over the Amalfi coast at Hotel Caruso, Italy.
SEDUCTIVE: The infinity pool looking out over the Amalfi coast at Hotel Caruso, Italy.
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Learn something new while you travel with an alternative hobby holiday. Here are three trips that will broaden your horizons in more ways than one.


Having to think or over-exert yourself may not sound like a relaxing break, but at Turkish retreat Huzar Vadisi hard work reaps fantastic rewards.

Nestled between lush pine forests and majestic mountains inland from Gocek in Lycia, this once rundown farm has been transformed into an idyllic, eco-friendly haven, and until October it will also function as the classroom for a fantastic creative writing and yoga awareness course.

With more than 20 years experience as Stephen King’s British editor and a former commissioning editor for UK book publisher Hodder & Stoughton, Philippa Pride promises sage advice on book structure and invaluable guidance on how to get published.

New York-born guru Ken Eyerman’s dynamic and flowing yoga sessions, meanwhile, aim to help students feel, think and stretch their bodies into stronger, more supple ones.

Ken has more than 30 years experience as a yoga teacher, bodyworker and massage therapist and has a loyal following of students who regularly attend his retreats.

Huzur Vadisi means ‘peaceful valley’, and it couldn’t be more aptly named.

Dotted among the unspoilt landscape of fig and olive groves are 12 traditional yurts and hammocks strung between trees.

The furnished canvas tents are set on wooden platforms and are spacious and comfortable. The opening in the canvas dome, the ‘Eye of Heaven’, acts as ventilation in hot weather, but also allows you to gaze up at the stars as you lie in bed.

There’s also a reassuring absence of modern technology; instead of mobile phones, the only ringing sound is the tinkle of goat bells.

Days start at 8am with a yoga session, followed by a creative writing class.

At first, classes can be nerve-wracking, but Philippa encourages budding writers to build confidence and read their stories out loud. The support from fellow students - a mixture of professional journalists, scriptwriters and first-time authors - is also bolstering.

Along with learning the basics of finding a publisher and the route to getting published, attendees will also have an opportunity to unearth their hidden talents.

After lunch, there’s a lovely break from 2pm to 5pm to wander along the winding paths of the surrounding mountains or explore more of Turkey.

Alternatively, you can just relax by the stunning, natural stone pool on site.

Combining creative writing and yoga might not seem like the obvious match, but they work together beautifully.

It’s staggering to think how one week can change your life, but Philippa and Ken have struck upon a winning formula.


A seven-day course starts from £595 including full board, activities, lessons and standard twin share accommodation. Visit or email

Monarch flies to Dalaman, Turkey from Birmingham and London Luton from £117.99 return. Visit


There’s a reason Shakespeare cast Romeo as an Italian, and when it comes to the language of love no nation is better versed. Whether they’re showering women with compliments or singing sweet nothings below a vine-covered balcony, Latin men have seduction down to a fine art.

Humble Englishmen wishing to learn a trick or two should enrol in Hotel Caruso’s Dolce Vita Serenade and Seduction classes. After learning a few important phrases in Italian, lacklustre lovers can practise singing ‘amore’ in a myriad of different tones and pitches. (It’s the way you sing, not what you sing that really counts here.)

When ready to put their newfound skills to the test, they can invite the object of their affections to appear at one of the hotel’s balconies, while they break into song in the courtyard below.

If all goes to plan, she’ll smile coyly and sprinkle rose petals. But if she reaches for a bucket of water, it’s probably best to retreat.

Once the musical session is over, it’s time to move onto the fine art of seduction, with some help from local Casanovas.

“When kissing a lady’s hand, never let your lips actually touch her skin; just caress her with your breath,” is just one of the many pieces of advice on offer.

Fortunately, Caruso’s setting alone should be enough to ignite the fires of passion.

Sitting on a cliff top in Ravello, 1,200 feet above sea level, the hotel commands sweeping views of the sparkling Amalfi coast and rugged limestone cliffs. It’s easy to see why Gary Lineker and Danielle Bux chose to hold their wedding reception here in 2009. The opportunities for romance are endless.

Couples can enjoy a massage for two in the peaceful garden spa, or simply spend the day relaxing by Caruso’s postcard-perfect infinity pool, bathed in glorious orange, pink or purple light - depending on the time of day.

Thanks to fertile volcanic soils enriched with minerals from nearby Mount Vesuvius, food grown in this region is delicious. The informal Pool Restaurant serves a buffet of local dishes, including other-worldly anchovies from fishing village Cetara and pizzas cooked in the hotel’s own wood-fired oven.

And while caterwauling below balconies may be considered a public nuisance in the UK, in Italy, anything goes in the name of ‘amore’.


Classes start from 500 Euros for a one-day course or 1,000 Euros per person for a two-day course. Prices do not include accommodation. Bookings being taken for next season.

A Village View Double Room at Hotel Caruso starts from approx £825 per night including breakfast. Visit or call Orient-Express UK reservations on 0845 077 2222.

easyJet fly to Naples from London and Liverpool from approx £58 return. Visit


As well as being a beautiful art form, calligraphy embodies Arabic history.

The ancient symbols are everywhere in Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s four imperial cities, painted on street signs and etched across buildings.

Mastering calligraphy can take years, but taking it up as a hobby has become increasingly popular, with people drawn by the aesthetics or enthralled by the rich history and philosophy of Arabic teachings.

Palais Amani, a luxurious 14-bedroom Riad tucked on the edge of Fes’s bustling medina, offers guests the chance to try their hand at it.

Before your lesson, a local guide can take you on a tour of the city’s highlights, which include the world’s first university, al-Karaouine, covered in ancient calligraphy.

Similarly, the Royal Palace is a striking display of the swirling script.

Back at the Riad, a two-hour lesson with a world-class expert will give you a fascinating insight into the roots and meaning of the symbols and the role they played in the development of Arabic language and religion.

You’ll also learn about the traditional materials used, and have a go at the techniques, quickly realising it’s a lot harder than it looks! Indeed, as the teacher points out, most masters of calligraphy spend a lifetime honing their craft.

Afterwards, you can practise your new skills in Palais Amani’s opulent, air-conditioned rooms, or read in the sunshine.

Until a few years ago, the Riad sat empty and dilapidated, but has now been lovingly restored, and is the ideal base from which to explore.

While Marrakesh may be Morocco’s best-known hotspot, it’s Fes where you’ll really get a taste of authentic Moroccan life.

Reaching the heart of the city is like stepping back in time. The narrow streets of the medina - one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world - flow with loaded donkeys and locals picking up food supplies from the market traders, who sit in the hollows dotted along the walls.

Palais Amani, which sits discreetly behind the tall sandstone walls of the medina, is an oasis of calm from the chaos beyond. The roof terrace offers panoramic views of the city and dinner is served among the lemon and lime trees in the tranquil garden, where the central water fountain trickles rhythmically in the background.

Tired muscles can be soothed and pampered in the traditional hammam and spa – a final treat before heading home to show off your calligraphy scribbles to family and friends.


Palais Amani rooms start from £160 per night including breakfast for two. Visit

Ryanair flies to Fes from London Stansted from approx £80 return. Visit

Crathorne Hall.

REVIEW: Crathorne Hall offers tranquil walks and fine dining in glorious surroundings