France: The Alps in late summer


As a passionate skier I know the Alps from the perspective of a ski lift and I tend to judge the different locations by the quality and length of the ski slopes.

From that perspective, it is easy to forget that the Alps (not only on the French side, for that matter) are a fantastic all year-round holiday destination. When the skiers are gone, which is quite late, given the nearly permanent snowcap on the glaciers, there come the hikers and bikers. But things quieten down in the early autumn, when hikers are back at their desks and skiers haven’t arrived yet. That’s when we choose to spend a week in the French Alps.

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London: The secret ‘tribe’ of Stamford Hill

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The East London borough of Hackney is one of the most diverse in the city. It has grand Victorian townhouses sitting next to drab-looking blocks of social housing. Trendy cafes are full of young and beautiful hipsters in oversized glasses and circulation-restricting jeans sipping flat whites. Former warehouses are being converted into bohemian lofts at eye-watering prices. Next to all this women in burkhas pass by like shadows.

In the heart of Hackney, at Stamford Hill, lives one of the most secretive and closely-knit communities in London: the Hasidic Haredi Jews. Around 20,000 people inhabit an area just over one square mile, where you can find as many as 74 synagogues and 32 Orthodox Jewish schools. Their way of life bears no resemblance to the 21st century – they are permanently suspended sometime in the 19th century, somewhere in Eastern Europe.

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