British Airways continues to expand its services from Gatwick with new flights for next summer to Bodrum and Dalaman in Turkey, the Greek island of Crete, and perhaps most excitingly of all to Cagliari, the little-known waterfront capital of Sardinia, two hours from London (www.ba.com).
Sardinia has a hot Mediterranean climate with bright, clear skies and temperatures that rarely dive below 15C. Most of the 250,000 annual British visitors to Sardinia head to the north, but Cagliari on the south coast is an upmarket delight.
The medieval city is 10 minutes from the airport, resolutely Italian with a vibrant culture and affordable restaurants, says local British resident Rebecca Lewis Lalatta, of Italian property agents Casa & Country (www.casaandcountry.com).
“Cagliari has three marinas and is the training ground for the America’s Cup yacht race,” says Lalatta. “Today in November, from my roof terrace I can see many sails on the water. People enjoy sailing and windsurfing here year-round.”
The beauty of living in Cagliari for her, she adds, is the variety of affordable activities nearby.
“You can go horse riding in the mountains or to the coast and not see a soul for 30 miles. The south has some of the best beaches in the Med, with Villasimius and Costa Rei to the east and Chia to the west.”
A three-bedroom countryside villa overlooking Bosa Castle is £941,000 through Casa & Country. One- to three-bedroom flats in a restored palazzo in the centre of Cagliari cost from £329,700 through Savills (www.savills.com).
PARIS: EUROSTAR'S 20TH BIRTHDAY
It's happy 20th birthday to Eurostar, whose first Chunnel train sped from London to Paris on November 14, 1994. Used by more than 140 million people so far, the train is chosen over the plane by 70 per cent of travellers between the two capitals (www.eurostar.com).
Return journeys 20 years ago cost from £99 and took three hours, compared with £69 and two and a quarter hours today. Property prices in central Paris have tripled in that time, but London buyers can still get good value, says Susie Hollands of French property agents Vingt Paris (www.vingtparis.com).
“Paris is underpriced compared with London,” she adds. “A huge factor for Londoners buying a pied-à-terre here is that they can decide on the spur of the moment to hop on the train for a weekend away.”
She highlights a two-bedroom flat by the excellent Montmartre food market for £545,000 and a one-bedroom artist’s atelier in Les Halles for £459,000. Both are fully renovated and ready to rent.
BOSTON FOR LESS THAN £100
Many budget airlines have talked about introducing transatlantic services but Icelandic-based WOW Air has started taking bookings. From March 27 next year it will fly five times a week from Gatwick to Boston for £99, adding a Washington DC service later in the year (www.wowair.co.uk).
Downsides include extra charges for checked luggage, a measly 5kg hand luggage allowance and a minimum of three hours to spend changing planes at Reykjavik airport — but the beautiful, scholarly city of Boston is worth it.
Base yourself there and it is an easy drive to New England resorts such as Cape Cod, or to the ski resorts of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Boston is walkable and wonderfully green, with more than 60 universities and colleges including Harvard, and large IT and pharmaceutical industries.
Property prices are highest among the aristocratic homes of Back Bay and the red-brick townhouses of Beacon Hill, with waterfront new builds selling strongly.
Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty (www.gibsonsothebysrealty.com) is selling a two-bedroom flat with high ceilings in an 1890 building in Back Bay for £502,000. A studio flat in Blackstone Park near the excellent restaurants of South End is £219,300.