Travel

Featuring a chic rooftop poolside, antique-inspired interiors, a former cinema, diner-style eating, a Korean restaurant, and an all-service spa

Top Tories fear a return to 'nasty party' image

Rhetoric about benefit "scroungers" and "skivers" used by the Conservatives will be toned down after a backlash from their own ministers and MPs, who fear the attacks could revive the Tories' image as "the nasty party".

Gay weddings are 'just the same as everyone else'

Dos and Don'ts for gay Bishops in the Church of England

The Church has opened its doors to gay - but celibate - bishops

Five-Minute Memoir: Andrew Kaufman recalls the day a friendship went wrong

The trip wasn't about celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I wasn't even sure what Cinco de Mayo was. Few people in south-western Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, did. All I knew for sure was that it was both American and Mexican, which seemed like an odd combination, interesting but potentially volatile.

Harriet Walker: Whatever happened to New Year karma?

I never know what I'm going to do on New Year's Eve. That is, I can take a very vague guess: what I presume I will do is lie around for most of the day, then go somewhere, get drunk, wonder what all the fuss was about and go to sleep fully clothed round my friend's house.

Was £168, now £79.95. Add a touch of spring to your bedroom with this Esperanza quilt, anthropologie.co.uk

Time to bag a bargain

Fancy upgrading your interiors? Brave the cold – and the other shoppers – and you could find your dream sale item. Trish Lorenz explains how

Why have the Tories rejected the spirit of 2012?

The Conservatives’ new tactic is a betrayal of all that Cameron stood for when he became leader

Simply divine: ‘Belief’ presenter Joan Bakewell

The Week In Radio: Joan, Jimmy and
Julian know how to lift the spirit

At the tail end of Christmas Day many of you, like me, will have found yourself reflecting on life’s big questions.

Come Dine With Me, University Challenge, The Hoarder Next Door and Graham Norton

Our pick of the best on the box this festive season

Sussex-based Nessie Maclay designs beautiful handmade greeting cards and stationery for her company Thisisnessie
Sussex-based Nessie Maclay designs beautiful handmade greeting cards and stationery for her company Thisisnessie
Don't be a lonely snowman this year

Single at Christmas. Is that such a bad thing?

As a single girl myself I know that all too often singles can be pitied because they’re on their own at Christmas. Even that sentence, ‘on their own’, sounds wrong. They’re not on their own, they’re just not in a relationship at that particular time. Besides, why should being single at Christmas be so miserable? It’s a great time of year whatever your age, whatever you relationship status.

<p><strong>Fizz Foam Fold Out, £189.99</strong></p>
<p><em><a href=argos.co.uk

With its deep, plump pillows and jet-black cover, you'd never guess that the Fizz Foam Fold out costs less than £200. Even less so, when you see it fold out, which it does with unusual ease, and turn into a comfy occasional bed.

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Fizz Foam Fold Out, £189.99

argos.co.uk

With its deep, plump pillows and jet-black cover, you'd never guess that the Fizz Foam Fold out costs less than £200. Even less so, when you see it fold out, which it does with unusual ease, and turn into a comfy occasional bed.

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The 10 Best sofa beds

Got the relatives coming to stay this Christmas? Put them up in style with one of these stylish (and comfy) couches

'Call The Midwife' and 'Downton Abbey' will not go head-to-head this Christmas

Broadcasting: Telly rivals call a truce for Christmas – you can, too

With the much-publicised trouncing of The X Factor in the ratings by Strictly Come Dancing, the rivalry between ITV and BBC is as healthy as ever. But have the networks called a Christmas truce?

Harriet Walker: Winter food should be snuggly

I very nearly ordered a veal's head in Paris last weekend. I couldn't help it – I've been conditioned by so many trendy new London openings into thinking that eating out should be an experience akin to going to a theme park, with the point of ordering like the slow ascent up the initial climb, and the presentation of the dishes that heady, brief pause before you whoosh into the om-nom-nomming of stuffing your face, as if your mouth were bagged open on the descent by G-force.

<p><strong>Explorers Club, Franschhoek</strong></p>
<p>An hour’s drive from Cape Town leads to the vineyards of Franschhoek. Here, adventurer and antiques collector Jo Sinfield has designed a group of stylish self-catering rentals dotted throughout the town. The main one is Explorers Club which sleeps six adults and four children in a mixture of doubles and bunks. It has vintage maps on the walls, recycled furniture and subtle African accents throughout. Three other properties – The Library, Cook’s Cottage and The Map Room – are available for smaller groups.</p>
<p>Explorers Club, 18 Wilhelmina Street, Franschhoek (00 27 72 464  1240; <a href=explorersclub.co.za). Nightly rental R5,900 (£415). Sleeps 10.

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Explorers Club, Franschhoek

An hour’s drive from Cape Town leads to the vineyards of Franschhoek. Here, adventurer and antiques collector Jo Sinfield has designed a group of stylish self-catering rentals dotted throughout the town. The main one is Explorers Club which sleeps six adults and four children in a mixture of doubles and bunks. It has vintage maps on the walls, recycled furniture and subtle African accents throughout. Three other properties – The Library, Cook’s Cottage and The Map Room – are available for smaller groups.

Explorers Club, 18 Wilhelmina Street, Franschhoek (00 27 72 464  1240; explorersclub.co.za). Nightly rental R5,900 (£415). Sleeps 10.

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The Big Six: South African villas

From the Explorers Club in Franschhoek to Wilderness Haven in the wild coastal town that is known as a top whale-watching spot...

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 17 April 2015
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own