An arty weekend in … Bishop Auckland, County Durham

The former mining town is home to Vel?zquez, Murillo and El Greco, the art of pitmen, and its own artist-designed tweedMake the trip for … A regeneration charity has used art to help transform the fortunes of this former mining town. The Auckland Project is a multi-venue art exhibition in the town centre, whose star attraction is the Spanish Gallery, which opened in 2021 and has a jaw-dropping collection of 16th- and 17th-century Spanish art by Vel?zquez, El Greco, Murillo and more, housed in a beautifully converted former bank and school.By contrast, the Mining Art Gallery has a moving display of more than 400 works made by coalminers. Miners’ sketching societies were set up between the first and second world wars and some of the men left the pits to become professional artists, including Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish. Continue reading…

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On the trail of the other Saint Francis in Italy’s deep south

A new series of long-distance hikes in Calabria take in captivating scenery and the legacy and legends of eco-conscious Francis of Paola, the first recorded veganA new sculpture appeared in a square in the town of Paola, Calabria, in April last year. It’s not the usual man on a horse, or even anything with legs; it’s a many-times-lifesize trout in grey stone – all fins, bulgy eyes and pout.The unusual monument was erected to commemorate a miracle performed by the town’s patron saint, Francis. (He was actually made a saint in 1519, but Covid delayed the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of his canonisation.) This Saint Francis followed in the spiritual – and, for a time, literal – footsteps of his better-known predecessor, Francis of Assisi, but dialled up his reverence for the natural world and became one of the first recorded vegans. Continue reading…

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Tell us about a great early summer trip – you could win a holiday voucher

Share a tip on an excellent place to go in early summer – the best tip wins ?200 towards a Coolstays breakIt’s been a long winter, and if you’re lucky you may be plotting a trip to warmer climes for some early summer sun. Whether you’ve enjoyed a trip to Spanish city before the July heat kicks in, Alpine slopes spangled with wildflowersor the beaches and islands of Greece, we’d like to hear the details. These could include great discoveries you’ve made: a hotel, restaurant or perhaps a walk, train route or a secret beach.If you have a relevant photo, do send it in – but it’s your words that will be judged for the competition. Continue reading…

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Holidaymakers face big rise in car hire costs abroad this summer

Prices for popular destinations could be up almost 60% on 2022, analysis carried out for the Guardian showsPeople planning to hire a car abroad this summer face having to pay almost 60% more than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.New figures for six popular destinations show average car rental prices are continuing to rise, with the average cost coming in at about ?565 for a week’s hire. Continue reading…

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An arty weekend in … Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway

A haven for artists since the 19th century, the harbour town of Kirkcudbright offers art walks, trails and a resident RembrandtMake the trip for …This harbour town on the River Dee is known as the artists’ town, thanks to the creative types who lived and worked there from the 1880s – and the artistic community that is still active today. Fiona Lee’s Kirkcudbright Art Tours are a great way to discover the compact town on foot (?12, from April).She takes visitors to Broughton House & Garden, the Edwardian home and studio of the Glasgow Boy EA Hornel; Kirkcudbright Galleries, with work by the Faed family, Charles Oppenheimer and Samuel Peploe; and the Tolbooth Art Centre, which has an exhibition of Jessie M King’s work. Fiona may also introduce them to some of the contemporary artists who have studios and homes in the town, including printmaker Laura Boswell and landscape artist Richard Brinley. Continue reading…

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‘My bank did not stop ?6,500 payment to holiday scammers despite my pleas’

A Briton’s nightmare over a Greek villa highlights the dangers of online bookings. We hear her story and look at how to protect yourselfA woman scammed out of ?6,500 while trying to book a Greek holiday villa has described begging her bank to halt the money transfer she had made to the fraudsters, only to be told by staff that there was nothing they could do.Londoner Sarah Graham* says that, looking back on it, she cannot believe she fell for a holiday property scam that Guardian Money first highlighted in 2013. She says she feels let down by the holiday accommodation firm Vrbo but even more so by the bank. Continue reading…

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Hidden Portugal: where to stay and what to do off the beaten track

Hauntingly beautiful villages, thermal springs, unspoilt beaches, fairytale castles … Portugal has so much more to offer than the bustle of the AlgarveHidden … Greece ItalyBritain’s love affair with its oldest ally is set to be reignited this summer. The UK is Portugal’s biggest overseas tourist market, and it became the first EU country to allow Britons fast-tracked entry, post-Brexit, via electronic passport gates. Thanks to the easing of Covid travel restrictions, hundreds of thousands of British travellers are expected to head back there this summer, drawn mainly by its sunny south coast. But Portugal has so much more to offer than the beaches and bars of the Algarve. Continue reading…

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