The Social Summer: Where’s in and where’s out…

Our handy guide to the nicest and naffest global travel spots in 2022

Travel, you’ll have noticed, isn’t quite what it used to be. Instagram. Brexit. Covid. America. But do let’s not get into a row over it. Far better, in our eyes, just to pick your holidays this summer with a more judicious, exacting eye — and to use our handy, highly unsubjective ready reckoner to do so. Bonnes vacances, friends.

WHERE'S IN?

Cap Ferret, France

Not a spelling mistake, although the Parisians might like you to think so. This is the chic, low-slung spit of sand out on the Western edge of France, just beyond Bordeaux, and the French Beau Monde’s most fiercely guarded secret. It is the French Riviera as it should have been — a gorgeous, beachy, completely understated little idyll, where they’re shocked to hear English voices (let alone American ones), and where no large floating fridges blight the harbour or disturb the oysters, and where the Persol-d old boys cut around in faded linen and Citroen Meharis, bottles of rosé tinkling in the boot, a family dog on the seat next door, old friends waving from the market and pastis waiting for them at the bar.

Porto Ercole, Italy

Remember that Slim Aarons photo with the tanned lady poised elegantly on the end of a gleaming white speedboat as it docks on a wooden jetty, the two just about to touch, like Adam and God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Well, that was shot at Porto Ercole, the elegant Tuscan boathole perhaps most notable for housing Il Pellicano, one of the most understated but lovely hotels on the planet. Thankfully, the handsome little port town has remained largely in its Slim Aarons pomp ever since. 

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Como is lovely, yes — but it sometimes resembles a Texan retirement community these days, with sensibly-shorted women mispronouncing risotto to anyone who mistakenly makes eye contact with them on the ferry deck. The sleeker, more robust shores of Lake Geneva, meanwhile, just over the Swiss-Italian border, are much more the thing. Sportier, more spacious, and dotted with pretty, largely un-touristy towns, the lake is a place of Swiss serenity and efficiency and understatement. And you won’t have any errant Californians asking you where George Clooney lives. 

bar lodge

Salcombe, UK

Salcombe is the heart of the English Riviera if ever there was one, with its eerily blue waters, golden sands, and unlikely dolphins frolicking in the bay. There is a pleasing nautical air to proceedings, like a Devon Nantucket, but with a distinctly rough and ready edge — LWB Defenders and proper dogs. Very good pub scene, too.

Antiparos, Greece

This tiny greek island has stayed pleasingly below-the-radar, and is a favourite of some of London’s most tasteful tastemakers — a label, you’ll notice, they would tastefully despise. Along with Paros, Naxos and Pano Koufonisi, Antiparos makes up the central Cyclades region — not too far from the thrumming, Insta-scarred likes of Mykonos and Santorini (we’ll get to them), but somehow a whole world apart. Dotted in simple white homes, and almost eerily serene, acolytes of the island spend their time at rocky beach restaurants that haven’t changed much since the 1960s, and in gorgeous, sprawling, open-plan villas. While staying with Truman Capote on Paros, Cecil Beaton wrote, ‘Life is nothing but sleep, swim, eat and read’. Very little has changed. 

WHAT'S OUT?

Ibiza, Spain

Overripe, overhyped, and somehow all a bit Tony Blair era — full of people who peaked pre ‘Millennium Dome’, one feels. There are beautiful parts to it, of course, including some truly lovely little coastal spots, and several highly interesting private villas set in rolling, rocky, almost jungle-ish grounds. But in general Ibiza’s clientele seems to bounce between sweaty stag-do ravers, finance bros with NDAs, and born again yogis from West London who think the island might finally be the answer. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

Mykonos, Greece

Loud, overrun, blotted with unfinished villa projects, and not even particularly pretty, Mykonos is Greece’s self-proclaimed party island. And like anyone who calls themselves, say, a ‘party person’, one can never escape the sense that the place is just trying a little too hard. DJs play in the supermarkets. Restaurants offer special Instagram-grade tables. Everyone has suspicious lips. It is not, as its fiercest acolytes might claim, a vibe.

North Cornwall, UK

A bit too Gordon Ramsay, these days. A bit too David Cameron. Plus, some of the most offensive property prices in the nation.

Santorini, Greece

A beautiful cascade of white-washed, softly domed houses; a dazzling vista of sparkling blue sea. Santorini, the southernmost of the Cyclades, is pretty unique — just unique enough, in fact, for everyone to take the precise same photos of themselves while they’re on it. Instagrammers now quite literally queue up at the best vantage points to capture the same shot — usually while clutching an oversized hat to their head for some reason — and the whole place hums with the edgy timbre of competitive vanity. A great shame, because the island is genuinely lovely and obviously very pretty. One day, years from now, it will be used as a visual case study on how Millennials Ruined Everything. 

St Barts, the Caribbean

Long the Caribbean spot most associated with words like ‘luxury’ and ‘glamour’, St Barth’s is a beautiful place, just like most places in this neck of the woods. But its mid-century, Francophile chicness has declined of late, and it has welcomed too many bloated superyachts, and its name-drop cachet has made it too attractive to the type of people that drop names, sadly. 

Tulum

The natural conclusion of modern civilization. A once beautiful, untouched place, now utterly overrun by high-bikini’d influencers selling some 10 second spirutalism to no-one in particular and gold-digging in the line to Amazonico. Drum circles, white teeth, and white powders: Tulum went from paradise coast to pigtailed hell in about seven years. That must be a record.

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Further Reading