Tim's 30th birthday on Mallorca

There's an array of home-baked treats - traditional Mallorcan ensaimadas, nutty muffins, rye breads - arranged alongside platefuls of ham and cheese, trays of fruit like you find in grocers' and vats of freshly pressed orange and grapefruit juice. Tim's eyes are bright with excitement.

It's his 30th birthday and we are celebrating with a 'Mediterranean Morning' spa package at Belmond La Residencia, Deia, a glorious sprawl of a five-star beneath the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range on Mallorca off Spain. Tumbling away beneath us is a terraced valley of orange and lemon groves. Bleak sunburnt summits rise above. 'Artists' town' Deia helter skelters up and down a hillock opposite - a colourful tapestry of terracotta 'fincas' and riotous bougainvillea.

Our package starts with breakfast, and we while away a couple of hours savouring pancakes with berries (and more than a few of the above-mentioned treats). Then it's on to the spa: we follow a maze of pathways that ramble through preened greenery, up little stairwells and past secluded seating areas for two. Inside, the spa smells of essential oils: heavenly. There's an indoor pool flooded with warm light from outside, and beyond, a private patio with two deck chairs that we will enjoy after our massages and peelings. Needless to say, we emerge from our treatments feeling like new-born babies with skin that has never been softer. Perhaps just the ticket for a chap who has just turned 30!

Then the swimming pool tempts us: we have it, in its high-ceilinged glory, all to ourselves. Later, relaxing on the patio, we feel like millionaires in a private retreat. There's a jacuzzi with views down to the valley and along to the turquoise Mediterranean. Birdsong and the rustling of the hotel's own donkeys cacophony around in the shaded space beneath a gnarled olive tree. It's a lovely touch when one of the staff comes along with chilled cups of cherries for us mid-afternoon. After a fresh mint tea (me) and homemade ice tea (Tim), and a plateful of white chocolate and almond pralines, we reluctantly drag ourselves away. But our weekend on Mallorca isn't over: there is dinner at sea-view La Terrazza in Port Adriano (we shared a platter of sea bass and scorpion fish), swimming/ beach at Camp del Mar and lots of reading by the pool at Tim's parents heavenly apartment to look forward to. Just a shame we only booked four days off...


Giubiasco-Bellinzona: Tibetan bridge, UNESCO castles and a Saturday market

The valley drops from underneath me, ancient trees cascading towards the river. I take one shaky footstep after another, my eyes focused on the distance, my knees wobbling like jelly. I'm only a few steps into the 270-metre long Tibetan bridge near Giubiasco in Canton Ticino, and I can't stop walking: if I do, I'll feel the swaying of the narrow ribbon beneath me, and I'll have to turn back. It's a shame, because I would like to admire the scenery: the mountains laced with woodland and stone villages.

The bridge, which was built by the Foundation CurzĂștt-S. Barnard, connects the steep sides of the valley separating Sementina and Monte Carasso. Anyone who wants to do the pretty circular walk, which clings to old-worldly stone walls in wizened chestnut woodland and takes in the charming hamlet of Curzutt, has to cross this elegant curve of larch wood some 130 metres above the valley floor.

We're in Ticino for the weekend, staying at charming new Hotel La Tureta, which occupies a 17th-century palace (my review for The Telegraph will follow shortly). Before our hair-raising hike, we meandered around the Saturday market in medieval Bellinzona. It was an explosion of colour and a fiesta of flavours - breads, cheeses, organic produce from the region. Bellinzona was beautiful. It's much overlooked by tourists, who tend to pass through on their way to the ritzy resorts of Lugano and Locarno, but it's worth visiting.

Intricate Renaissance facades are backed by rampaging fortresses that rise up at the end of every street. Bellinzona is home to three UNESCO-listed medieval castles, and their battlements protect the city. We ventured up to Castelgrande, which peers over central Piazza del Sole from a mound and is reachable via a free lift through the bedrock. We emerged onto a cobbled path that led to a landscaped swathe of green hemmed in by swallow-tail battlements. Views swept across waves of jagged boulder, then vineyards and woodland, to the other two castles: Monte Bello and Sasso Corbaro. As cloud swirled around, I pictured knights emerging from the mist and cascading down the hill towards us.

From the top of the grey granite tower, we enjoyed panoramas along the valley towards the Alpine passes of St. Gotthard, San Bernardino and Lucomagno, while inside, we chuckled at a set of 15th-century murals depicting allegorical themes that seemed to have been drawn with a childlike innocence. But now, back to the bridge, I'm almost at the end. The wooden slats are curving upwards; I'll soon be back on terra firma ... Except Tim wants a selfie, obviously. Snap, quick. And then I dash towards my goal between those elegant trees that have stood sturdy for generations.
© Emmy in Switzerland | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig