My first hidden gem takes me back to 2014 when we were teaching in South Yorkshire, England. As teachers we get holiday time when pupils do, in the UK most Local Authorities have the same holidays which results in travel companies hiking the prices up for specific weeks to coincide with half term. In February 2014 Greg and I struck lucky as our school was off at a completely different time to anyone else. We couldn’t afford to go on holiday but desperately needed a break and I discovered a very cheap holiday rental in Northumberland. Northumberland is England’s most Northerly county and borders Scotland. It is known for its wild beaches, beautiful coastline and castles. It was without doubt one of the best holidays we ever had. The weather was stunning – clear blue skies with an icy wind and fabulous sunsets. The beaches were empty; we managed to get a table in every pub, restaurant and café without a reservation and ate some of the freshest seafood. One of the most memorable parts of our holiday was a visit to Bamburgh castle. When we arrived a Hollywood movie was being filmed and, as we were the only visitors that day, (usually its packed) we were allowed in and watched Michael Fassbender filming on the beach below. If you haven’t been to this part of the UK you must, its stunningly pretty and has so much history. A hidden gem outside of school holiday time!
My second hidden gem is Asador steakhouse just south of Checkpoint Charlie, a place we ate at several years ago .We went to Berlin on a short break just before Christmas and I had read about this steakhouse and booked a table via their website. When we found the restaurant it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was in a parade of shops on a main road. Stepping inside it was quite old-fashioned and we received a warm German welcome. It became clear that this restaurant didn’t have a menu in English so I cast my mind back to GCSE German and tried to translate the menu. I was sure knoblauch was onion and ordered soup and later realized is actually garlic and I absolutely stunk the rest of the holiday. It was seriously garlicky! It was such a wonderful meal and so funny trying to translate from a language I had learned 20 years beforehand. I have no idea if this place is still open or if the menu is now in English but, if it is, give it a try. Other restaurants were streaming with tourists but I felt we’d found a hidden gem with this one.
My third hidden gem is the Punnamada Resort in Alleppey, Kerala. We travelled here after a few days in Kochi and stayed for 3 nights. On our arrival I knew from google maps we were quite close to the hotel and we turned up a tiny narrow track into the countryside which opened up to reveal a beautiful lakeside resort. We were greeted at reception and shown to our lake view villa which was decorated in a traditional Keralan style. We had a four-poster bed, outside bathroom and fantastic views across the lake plus our own hammock and swing. It was so peaceful and pretty. Famed for its tranquil backwaters traversed by houseboats the resort gives guests an hour ride every evening to watch the sun set. Again, as we traveled out of season, the resort was very quiet – one evening we were the only guests. We loved taking afternoon tea on the lawn watching the house boats and the wildlife pass by. We also took a private speedboat ride along the canals and we were able to witness the locals going about their daily lives. A trip we’ll never forget and, out of season, a hidden gem.