Galapagos: Exploring these unique volcanic islands

Avoiding the day-trippers who flock there, Sarah Barrell camps in the Galapagos and gets a fresh insight into everyday life

It sometimes seems that the more spectacular a location, the more violent its creation. Take Santorini, in Greece, for example, or Iceland; these barren landscapes are the result of their earth-shattering volcanic births. But nowhere in the natural world do you get as much bang for your buck as in the Galapagos, an archipelago located 960km from the South American mainland, flung into existence by an underwater chain of volcanoes and spread across 45,000 square kilometres of Pacific Ocean.

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Canada cool: The Telegraph Travel section

The clubbing scene has moved to Montreal. No, really. Sarah Barrell reports.

Fair-weather friends Montrealers are not. This far north, chilly evenings are already turning the leaves into the reds, yellows and oranges of a fiery fall.

The summer marathon of outdoors festivals is over and snow will soon be on the ground. But this hasn’t sent Montreal’s party masses into hibernation. And nor will it.

On a rib-shaking Tuesday evening last January, I saw smart young things slip-sliding across sheet ice, making their way to the Wonder Bar at the new W Hotel.

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Is this the next Hamptons? We rather hope not

Old money, liberal values (well, arty ones) – that’s the Hudson Valley. Sarah Barrell heads upriver to hang with the A-list

The Hamptons, darling, they’re so last summer. Those in the know don’t close their beach houses, because they don’t have beach houses. Nothing so St Tropez tacky graces the property portfolio of New York’s second-home savants. The place to be, particularly during fall, with its oh-so-idyllic landscape of pumpkins and autumn leaves, is the Hudson Valley.

The buzz in New York about rural boltholes centres on the Hudson Valley and neighbouring Catskill Mountains. Writers from food and travel magazines are making pilgrimages upstate and the property pages are asking of towns in the valley’s Dutchess County “is this the next Hamptons?” It’s not. It’s more like Gloucestershire: understated, rural with old-money credentials that stretch back centuries. And unlike the Hamptons, visitors don’t need well-connected friends to get a bed. Six hotels opened in Dutchess County last year and there’s no lack of venerable old inns. Rhinebeck, a pretty market town in central Dutchess, is home to The Beekman Arms, the “oldest inn in America”.

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Guyana’s rainforest: rumble in the jungle

Guyana’s rainforest buzzes with the cries of piha birds, howler monkeys and macaws. Sarah Barrell treks to their exotic beat.

To be woken by a wolf whistle is a novelty not many enjoy, but there it was, rousing us from sleep with a flirty insistence. Later, as the sun climbed to warm the top of the jungle canopy, the whistle of the screaming piha bird, the Amazon’s signature alarm call, was drowned out by the ominous rising, rolling roar of the red howler monkey, chasing us across the peaty rainforest floor like a haunting. By noon the ear-splitting screech of scarlet macaws could be heard overhead and, following a deafening downpour of rain, a bell-bird announced the sunshine with the oddly incongruous whine of a garden strimmer.

Noise pollution may have become an irritating part of modern life but in the rainforest and savannah of the Rupununi, a remote region in southern Guyana, it’s a case of sound and fury signifying, well, everything. What time it is, when the rains will come, when they will end, and when the sun will make the ground steam and mists rise into the trees with such primordial potent that each morning, you swear, must surely be the first on earth.

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Driving like Daisy: me and the General Lee, in search of Hazzard County

As ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ skids on to the big screen, Sarah Barrell fufills a dream – to clamber into the original Dodge Charger and burn rubber in the backstreets of Louisiana

Ever since the General Lee lit up the grey evenings of 1970s British television with a burst of Georgia Peach orange and blast of Dixie horns, I have harboured driving desires. For the generationally challenged among you, the General Lee was the Dodge ’69 Charger that belonged to Bo and Luke Duke, the fast-drivin’, rubber-burnin’ boys of Hazzard County.

Along with their honey-limbed cousin Daisy and the moonshine-making Uncle Jessie, The Dukes of Hazzard was a kind of The Waltons for petrol heads: Americana at its most irresistible. The show ran into the mid-Eighties, a time when my brother and I fought like bobcats in a bear trap for control of our own General Lee (a go-kart dad built from an old pram). Even now, 20 or so years later, I’m still reduced to a near feral state of mouth-frothing at the sight of any Dodge car circa 1970. The latest movie remake of The Dukes of Hazzard TV series finally spurred me into action. After several months of searching, aided by the Louisiana Film Commission, various Deep South tourist boards and a shady dude called Big Al, a date was set.

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New York: feature for the Sunday Independent

Catch a free concert in Central Park, enjoy the art and a cocktail at Moma, and shop till you drop along Fifth Avenue. Sarah Barrell gives an insider’s guide

An air of pre-party excitement always prevails on Virgin’s Friday flights into New York return flights to New York JFK. You’ve watched Melinda and Melinda to get you in the mood for Woody Allen’s Manhattan, ordered one too many glasses of bubbly, snagged a couple of hours’ sleep, and by the magic of time zone change, you land at almost the same time you left. Hurrah! You get to enjoy that Friday feeling all over again, only with cocktails, yellow cabs, and a large serving of shopping on the side.

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The Flying Swami: seeking a higher state of consciousness in upstate New York

In the 1950s the ‘Flying Swami’ left India to bring yoga to the West. Half a century on, his ashrams are visited by thousands worldwide every year. Sarah Barrell gets spiritual in upstate New York.

A steaming figure stands in the sauna doorway. He is almost entirely enveloped in a cloud of hot air. I follow him back inside and pull the door shut. As the vapour clears, introductions are made and the conversation ambles from the weather (brutally cold) to yoga classes (hotly anticipated) and the view (blissful wilderness). This is not so much a sauna as an urban decompression chamber. A little over two hours after leaving Manhattan on a bus I find myself exhaling the weight of the metropolis. And I haven’t even got my yoga mat out yet.

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A Bed in the clouds: trekking in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest

Ecuador’s mysterious cloud forest has more bird and plant species than the whole of the US. Sarah Barrell explores its ecological riches

It’s dusk in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, and, as far as the untrained eye can make out, high tide. We are, in fact, several hundred metres above sea level. But standing in a small clearing in a forest that carpets a sharp, pyramidal mountain, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been cast out into the misty Pacific. White nebulous matter rolls out around us like a milky sea, obscuring the neighbouring peaks and mossy valleys below. It’s all I can do to stop myself stepping off the edge and stretching into a languid breaststroke. The Peruvians call it “the eyebrow of the forest”, but this hardly does the place justice. As my Andean companion suggests, “eyelash” would be more apt, for where cloud forest occurs, in a verdant arc above the rainforest and below the harsh brow of the sierra, nature could not be more seductively dressed.

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Just deserts: a stay at the Explora, in Chile’s Atacama Desert

Great pool. Which is nice when …
… you’re in one of the driest places on earth. With no fear of rainfall, Sarah Barrell heads to Chile’s Atacama Desert, and a deeply fashionable Explora lodge.

Llamas. Not the kind of creature one expects to see by the pool of a luxury hotel. There it was, grinning slightly salaciously, I thought, as I headed for a twilight swim. But then Explora, a luxury lodge in Chile’s Atacama Desert, is not your average hotel. And voyeuristic llamas aside, there is nothing like doing al fresco backstroke to get rid of hours of planes, pains and bumpy automobiles.

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48 Hours in Washington: The American capital pre-elections

The American capital is abuzz with election fever. Sarah Barrell votes the city a winner at any time of year

Because there is never a better time to visit the American capital than during the frenzy of a presidential election. At any time of year this city is the hub of the political world but right now everywhere from Washington’s restaurants and museums to hotels and concert halls are alive with election fever. You can eat lunch next to bright young things as they compose drafts of speeches on cafĂ© counter-tops, and watch lobbyists make frantic political predictions over happy-hour cocktails. Just watch out for those motorcades whizzing up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

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