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Superb spring breaks
7:00am Saturday 23rd March 2013 in Travel
Can't wait until the summer for a holiday? Bridge the gap with these European power breaks, says Sarah Marshall
Best for... Close to home
:: St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
Living in a castle on your own island might seem like a fairytale but for Mary and James St Aubyn it's very much a reality. Perched on a granite outcrop, their majestic home has been passed down through generations since the 17th century but today the family is happy to share its magic with the public.
Linked to the West Cornish seaside town of Marazion, the Mount can be easily reached by a causeway at low tide. Visit in spring now the island has reopened after a winter break, and the sandy beaches of Marazion are still free from buckets and spades.
Explore the castle and surrounding village, or view the island from an altogether different perspective - by boat. Marazion Gig Club take guests out on traditional Cornish gigs (six-oared rowing boats), paddling through waters where dolphins have been known to swim.
On land, forager Rachel Lambert takes tours along the coast, helping visitors identify rosehips (packed with vitamin C) and tender sea spinach (naturally salted by the ocean breeze).
Make your base the Godolphin Arms, a friendly pub hotel on the mainland with sweeping sea views. Admire the Mount at different times of day, watching as the light changes and water quickly swells around the banks, separating it from the rest of the world.
"There's something very special about the Mount," says pub manager Geoffrey, who worked on the estate for many years. "Even after 40 years, I still feel it every time I walk over."
:: The Godolphin Arms offers family rooms (sleeps four) from £140 per night. Visit www.godolphinarms.co.uk or call 01736 710 202
:: Tickets to the castle: £7.60, children £3.80. Visit www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk
:: For more information on Rachel Lambert's walks, visit www.wildwalks-southwest.co.uk
Best for... A decadent treat
:: Monastero Santa Rosa, Italy
It took 12 years of planning, building and Italian bureaucracy to transform a crumbling 17th century monastery hanging from the cliffs of the Amalfi coast into one of the region's most sought-after hotels.
A marble bathtub, used to grow plants in the spa garden, was flown in by helicopter, stone corridors were decorated with antique furnishings and recipes originally prepared by the resident nuns were resurrected in the property's excellent restaurant - one of the finest on this star-studded coastline. Every morning at breakfast, a small, perfectly flaky sfogliatelle is served - a reminder that this classic Neapolitan pastry originated from this very premises.
The hotel's spa uses treatments exclusively created in partnership with Santa Maria Novella, a Florentine order of Dominican friars who made their first perfume for Catherine de Medici in 1533. But even sitting in the terraced olive and lemon-filled gardens, looking out to the sun-dappled sea, is a religious experience in itself.
:: Rooms from €375 per night with breakfast. Visit www.monasterosantarosa.com. Opens April 18 for the 2013 season.
:: easyJet flies to Naples from £69 return. Visit www.easyjet.com
Best for... Sun, sun, sun
:: Marti Hemithea, Turkey
Peaceful and secluded, with everything you could possibly need for a relaxing and rejuvenating break, it feels like time is standing still at this five-star boutique hotel overlooking a marina.
Set on the Turkish coast, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean Gulf of Hisaronu, the property sits at the foot of lush green, tree-covered slopes.
A million miles from the bland, modern monoliths in neighbouring tourist resorts, Marti Hemithea pays homage to its Turkish heritage. Guest rooms incorporate styles adopted from ancient civilisations (mosaic flooring, a spacious hammam shower and stone-style ornaments), while dark wood, and a colour scheme of turquoise and sandy tones suggests earth, sea and sky.
Gently clinking sails, the constant chorus of cicadas and live music over dinner provide the soundtrack to a stay here.
Aegean buffet breakfasts - comprising local cheeses, traditional Turkish breads, and fresh honey harvested from local hives - are light and refreshing.
At dinner, seafood specialities dominate with highlights including octopus carpaccio, and sea bass baked in a salt crust.
Sun lounging requires constant refreshment and the heavenly homemade fresh lemonade with ginger, mint and basil won't ever taste as good without the sun and surroundings of this dreamy corner of Turkey.
:: Doubles from £170 per night with breakfast. Visit www.martihemitheahotel.com or call +90 252 487 1055.
:: easyJet flies to Dalaman from London Gatwick, London Stansted, Edinburgh, Bristol and Manchester. Flights from £82.49 one way. Visit www.easyJet.com or call 0843 104 5000.
Best for... A gourmet adventure
:: Chateau Les Carrasses, France
Forget the stove and wobbly table, Chateau Les Carrasses isn't what you expect when it comes to self-catering accommodation.
A collection of 19th century buildings that have been painstakingly restored, it's a mini estate of luxury suites and villas with a sun-soaked vineyard for a back garden.
Situated in the Languedoc region of the South of France, wine is the main attraction at this boutique chateau.
Visit local wineries, discover the harvesting, bottling and blending process, or sup on Chateau Les Carrasses' own wine selection in the cosy salon.
For foodies, there are cheese tours, olive picking and even oyster fishing activities on offer. Visit the Narbonne market where you can revel in the fragrances and tastes of fromageries and boucheries or buy dinner fresh from the stalls to prepare in your pied a terre.
Built in 1886, Les Carrasses resonates with historical charm but despite the grandeur of the main chateau with its original turret and battlement features, the atmosphere is relaxed and family friendly.
Each of the 28 suites, apartments and villas has its own personality - whether you choose to stay in the main chateau, blacksmith's house, stables or estate cottages. Some even have private pools.
With a clay tennis court, boulodrome and ten acres of gardens, vines and woods to explore, it's easy to settle into Mediterranean living.
:: Les Suites du Chateau from £100 per night (sleeps 2 people based on 3-6 night stay). Visit www.lescarrasses.com or call 0845 686 8067.
Best for... Pure escapism
:: Daios Cove, Crete
The Greek financial crisis may still be ongoing, but visitors to Crete will find that money and other worries will be washed away.
Tucked away on a hillside overlooking the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea, the luxurious Daios Cove resort is set within its own private cove. Guests come here for privacy, and many of the rooms have their own plunge pool.
The Zen-like spa is also a highlight. Sporty types can do laps in the indoor infinity pool with its breathtaking views of the sea, while a hammam, sauna and experience showers are the perfect aid to winding down.
For a truly blissful experience, book a treatment using products from the Germaine De Capuccini range. The Cretan Herbal and Plant Ritual (150 Euros for 90 minutes) uses local ingredients such as olive and argan oils, jasmine and orange blossom, and will work wonders on dry, stressed or tired skins.
The hotel also has a reputation for culinary excellence, with award-winning chefs cooking mouthwatering dishes.
So why travel to the Caribbean or Indian Ocean when paradise is on your doorstep?
:: Sovereign Luxury Travel (0844 415 1936; www.sovereign.com), has a week at the five-star Daios Cove in May from £1,089 per person, with a saving of £350 per couple. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick with easyJet, private transfers and seven nights half-board accommodation, based on departures 21 May 2013.