Kate Simon: My new-found karma has run over my old dogma

Travel View

On a recent trip to Parrot Cay, one of the Turks & Caicos islands, I was lucky enough to try out a few classes with world-class practitioners (such is the calibre of its spa) and then dine on food designed to promote good health.

Now, I've always been sceptical about holidays being the place to work on your well-being – isn't it all about popping a cork and lying back in the sun? Yet the Pilates class with Lynda Lippin has spurred me into action, and the breathing and meditation class with Andrea Scarborough has proved to be nothing less than a revelation.

I've been partial to breathing exercises ever since I tried a few yoga classes while pregnant – I swear I took in more air than gas when giving birth to my son. But that class at Parrot Cay was a real respiratory workout. We listened to how our breath moved in and out of our body, used our exhalations for a diaphragm workout, and even discovered through which nostril we inhaled more oxygen. (Apparently this changes day to day.)

I also tried out meditation. Now, I'm no crystal botherer, but having a handy mantra to help me focus on my breathing has since delivered quite a few good nights' sleep.

I've always baulked at wellness holidays thinking they should deliver a new you. I can see now it's about starting a process.

***

Holidays offering a little extra are all the rage. In these cash-strapped times, having a USP is crucial. Even in the quiet Cumbrian village of Ambleside, one hotel has come up with a compelling reason to visit.

At the Waterhead Hotel, on the shores of Windermere, guests can expect their bedroom to be given that personal touch. Stay at this four-star hotel and you will be invited to "style 10 aspects of the room". We've all heard of selecting your preferred type of pillow; that's so yesterday. Here, guests are invited to choose from a menu that includes the very paintings on the wall (loaned by a local gallery).

But the pièce de résistance has to be the digital photo frame that the hoteliers will place at your bedside, for which you can send five snaps for uploading. Now, that's what I call a home from home.

And just when you thought life couldn't get more surreal, cruise ship operator Carnival is to host a Little House on the Prairie themed sailing for fans of the 1970s TV show. The seven-night cruise off Mexico in November on Carnival Splendor features about a dozen cast members. Passengers will be able to meet them at cocktail sessions, autograph signings and Q&A sessions.

But don't expect to rub shoulders with the Ingalls. The biggest name present will be Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim). How do I know? Just put it down to too many afternoons skiving off school.

***

Finally, let's hear it for Manchester. This buzzing city doesn't deserve the drubbing it got last week from footballer Carlos Tevez. (Man City strikers have a habit of doing this – remember Rolando Bianchi "raising the white flag with English food".) Some Manchester fans have a different take on the city – but then it will always look a little brighter from the Stretford End.

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