In this weekly series, we scour the world in search of the most weird and wonderful hotels. From cave hotels to converted prisons, capsule pods to underwater guestrooms, you can expect only the unexpected. This week, Benesse House in Kagawa, Japan.
What’s the gimmick? Built by the celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Benesse House in Kagawa, Japan, opened in 1995 and has continued to evolve since. The building itself serves as a museum for the modern art collection of Japanese multimillionaire, Nobuko Fukutake. The dozen or so rooms available form part of the museum itself. In a setting that hovers between James Bond in Dr no and the TV series The Prisoner, your stay here is bound to be one of the best memories of your trip.
Why stay? One great advantage of staying at Benesse is that, once the visitors have left for the day, the building is at your disposal and you can wander freely among the artworks that decorate its walls. In fact, to reach the restaurant (featuring a painting by Basquiat) from your room, you have to pass through the museum. Works include such internationally renowned artists as Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis, Jackson Pollock and David Hockney, and some of the art is exhibited in the open air, taking guests down to the beach, where there is a Jacuzzi.
The Wow Factor: Usable at night, the Jacuzzi faces an extraordinary desert-like volcanic island, making for a mysterious and enigmatic setting. Benesse House Spa is also available, which holistic natural therapies which use the power of nature to heal and promote harmony throughout every cell of the body. The treatments include aroma therapy using essential plant oils carefully selected by our therapists, thalassotherapy utilising Naoshima’s Inland Sea climate and the richness of the ocean, and stone therapy, which transfers the energy of natural stones to your body and mind.
Discover the dramatic scenery of Middle Earth with a trip to New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the upcoming Hobbit trilogy were filmed. Although in the books, Middle Earth is a mythical land inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s childhood adventures in rural England, director Peter Jackson’s home turf, New Zealand, proved the perfect setting for the re-creation, with more than 150 locations around the country featured in the films. Here Purple Travel investigates where to go for Hobbit Holidays
Visit The Shire
Aside from Hobbiton, which is nestled in green hills near Matamata, the exact locations of the new films however, remain a closely guarded secret. Hobbiton Movie Set Tours (www.hobbitontours.com) allow travellers to experience sights such as the arched bridge, Party Tree, and a horde of Hobbit homes including the home of Bilbo Baggins, Bag End. Matamata was the perfect choice of setting for the peaceful region of the shire, with its rolling hills and emerald green grass. It is one of the richest agricultural and pastoral areas in the world, characterised as a large fertile basin through which the Waikato River flows. The Waikato region also offers superb caving and black water rafting.
Journey to Mordor
The Taupo region was the filming location for Mordor, Emyn Muil and Mount Doom. In Return of the King, Frodo and Sam climbed Mount Doom and you can do the same while walking the Tongariro crossing, often described as the best 1-day walk in New Zealand. Diverse hiking paths wend amid the peaks, with guidance available from the National Park visitor centre (www.doc.govt.nz). It’s a challenging walk taking 7-8 hours, taking you past volcanoes, steaming fumaroles, jagged lava flows, the red Crater and Emerald Lakes. The Taupo region does however have more to offer than lakes and volcanoes, the region is also known for its fantastic trout fishing, world-class luxury lodges and ski fields.
Get Lost in Rivendale
Another LoTR location was Canaan Downs, a hilltop reserve between Motueka and Golden Bay in the Nelson region of New Zealand. Used as the location for Chetwood Forest (where Aragorn leads the Hobbits soon after they leave Bree), here you will find ancient beech trees bordered by rolling meadow sprinkled with ghostly rock formations. Takaka Hill was the location for Chetwood Forest, found at the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. It is the only place in the world besides Italy where rocky marble outcrops exist. The Nelson region is also known for its wide-open spaces, beaches, lakes, national parks, vineyards, gourmet cafes, artists, galleries and boutique shopping.
Spend time with Sauron
South Island’s vast unpopulated landscapes, including Mount Cook, three hours of Christchurch, provided the perfect backdrop to Sauron’s battlefield. The incredible Mackenzie basin, made up of gold-gilted grasslands, dreamlike blue lakes and the theatrical Southern Alps, staged the epic battle at Pelennor Field. Twizel lies just down the road from Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, where most scenes of The Two Towers were filmed. Canterbury is an alpine region containing New Zealand’s largest peaks and glaciers, the perfect location for alpine fortresses and Middle-earth battle scenes. Mount Sunday, a rocky outcrop on the Canterbury plains next to the Southern Alps, was the location for Edoras and Meduseld. The Canturbury plains are the largest plains in New Zealand and the Southern Alps are the biggest mountain chain in Australasia, even bigger in area than the European Alps.
Have a Pint at the Prancing Pony
Wanaka is a charming resort town in South Island’s Otago region. Here, you can see the backdrop used for Gandalf’s flight to Rohan with Gwaihir after his rescue from Orthanc. Wanaka was also the location for the River Anduin, Golden Plain, Lothlorien, Pillars of the Argonath, and Dimrill Dale. And the best bit? On the road between Queenstown and Wanaka back in 1892 is the Prancing Pony, actually called the Cardrona Hotel. The pub brews its own beer, offers excellent meals and has a large, toasty open fire.
While rumour is rife as to where exactly the Hobbit film locations are, we are sure that suspicions will turn into specifics sometime in the near future. Stay tuned…
We’ve all heard the stories of people joining, or attempting to join the mile high club, but it’s not something airlines are usually into. Until now. UK low cost airline Jet2.com, is introducing mid flight speed dating from tomorrow.
Departing from Leeds Bradford International Airport, 100 sexy singles, 50 men and 50 women will fly to the ultimate city of romance: Paris. Each one secured their place by sending in a picture of themselves looking their most sultry and they each wrote a love essay on why they deserved to be there!
Of course, the singles won’t be left all on their own to pair off, the morning flyers will get lots of encouragement from The Only Way is Essex’s Mario Falcone and Lucy Mecklenburgh. The TOWIE stars will be doing their best to help the singles discover if they’re flying with the love of their lives.
The group will test their dating skills on a love boat tour along the Seine and in an extra twist the most popular man and woman amongst the group will win a 5* star holiday with their chosen other half. It’s not clear yet if it has to be someone they meet in the air.
The ‘love flights’ are free and this one filled up fast. There is a second love flight planned from Manchester leaving on November 24, and if it’s successful, more flight plans for Valentine’s Day 2013.
You can check out some of the singles who’ll be boarding the love plane, on the Facebook page here. If you want to be in with a chance of finding a hot date on a future flight, email email@example.com.