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    The Britons who escaped to the sun in the nick of time 

    Locked down… in paradise! Are you sick of soggy Britain? Then prepare to boil over as you read about the Britons who escaped to the sun in the nick of time

    For most of us, Lockdown Two means enduring dark, dank November days with only the prospect of Strictly and I’m A Celebrity to keep our spirits up. 

    But for a lucky few this time round it means working from a sun lounger, warm seas and al fresco dinners. 

    Meet the Lockdown Leavers, the women who fled the country for warmer climes after Boris Johnson made his announcement and just before non-essential foreign travel was banned. 

    My office is now a private sundeck — or a pool lounger

    Emma Whitehair, 46, owns a communications agency, lives in West London and is single. She says:

    Hours after England went into lockdown, I woke up in Central America, where I’m staying in a beautiful, Balinese-style timber bungalow at a yoga retreat, surrounded by lush jungle vegetation and flowers.

    The temperature is in the 30s, there are macaws and little monkeys in the trees, and turtles swim in the waves of the Pacific Ocean on the beach just metres away.

    I will be running my business remotely from here, with a dizzying selection of ‘offices’ to choose from including my private sundeck, a lounger by the pool or one of the many bustling WiFi cafes in the nearby town.

    Just 48 hours after the second lockdown was announced, I boarded a hastily-booked flight to Costa Rica at a cost of £526. Although I have a return ticket booked for early January, if the restrictions haven’t been lifted by then I’ll stay here in the seclusion of the Pranamar Villas. I got a huge discount because of the lack of demand.

    The first lockdown was going into the unknown and, like most people, I felt anxious. Luckily, my business was booming and the glorious spring weather enticed me outdoors every day, so I maintained a positive attitude. I also had my boyfriend of two and half years, a yoga teacher, at home for company.

    Emma Whitehair, 46, owns a communications agency, lives in West London and is single

    But we broke up in late July — the strain of lockdown was a factor — and I couldn’t face a second lockdown in my tiny flat alone, with no garden and where my only view is over a housing estate.

    A quick Google search revealed that India, my favourite winter destination, is off limits because of a strict lockdown and the suspension of flights, but Costa Rica is open for business.

    So here I am, my lockdown leave funded by hurriedly renting out my London flat for short stays.

    Because of jet lag, I’ve been getting up at 4.30am and working until midday — we’re six hours behind the UK — doing emails, and video calls with staff and clients. I eat lunch at a beachside restaurant with mesmerising views of the ocean, do yoga classes or swim in the sea. I’m going to sign up for surf lessons.

    We have to wear masks and sanitise our hands and there are certain curfews in place — but it’s a small price to pay.

    One of my oldest girlfriends caught the last flight out of London to Costa Rica to join me, so now I have a companion, too. The silver lining of lockdown is that I’ve realised I can run my business from anywhere in the world.

    We were on one of the last flights out of Heathrow 

    Juliet Lemon, 39, is a self-employed photographer and lives in Putney. She and her partner Tim, 38, a business consultant, fled to Mallorca.

    Last Thursday evening Tim and I met a friend and her husband for dinner.

    It was the first night of lockdown so our night out shouldn’t have been possible, but we weren’t at home in London. Instead we were on the island of Mallorca, having arrived that morning.

    Our decision to escape a British lockdown was last-minute. I had the idea last Sunday while chatting to my old school friend who lives on Mallorca.

    After Boris’s announcement the night before I’d resolved to remain positive during the month-long restrictions.

    Juliet Lemon, 39, is a self-employed photographer and lives in Putney. She and her partner Tim, 38, a business consultant, fled to Mallorca

    Juliet Lemon, 39, is a self-employed photographer and lives in Putney. She and her partner Tim, 38, a business consultant, fled to Mallorca

    During the first lockdown I designed a new website, worked out with Joe Wicks every day and grew my own courgettes. This time there’s the colder weather and longer nights. It’s much less appealing. When my friend ended our call by saying that it was 25 degrees on the island and she was taking her kids for a bike ride, it got me thinking.

    Who said we had to spend lockdown in London?

    After all, Tim and I are both self employed so we can work from anywhere. We love an adventure, I speak Spanish, and the thought of an extra hour or two of daylight at this time of year, not to mention sun and warmth, really appealed.

    By Monday we’d made up our minds. That night we booked flights to Mallorca via Madrid costing £271 and are staying for the full month in Air BnB accommodation. As it was one of the last flights out of Heathrow before lockdown on Wednesday evening – non essential travel was banned from midnight that night – I didn’t dare believe it would happen till the wheels of the plane left the tarmac.

    Our decision to escape a British lockdown was last-minute. I had the idea last Sunday while chatting to my old school friend who lives on Mallorca

    Our decision to escape a British lockdown was last-minute. I had the idea last Sunday while chatting to my old school friend who lives on Mallorca

    We arrived on the island early on Thursday morning and are staying in a beach apartment in the resort of Cala Major with gorgeous views out to sea. It’s t-shirt and sundress weather by day and the air is fragrant with the smell of Mediterranean herbs, flowers and pine trees.

    It’s certainly not a holiday. As soon as we arrived at our Air BnB rental Tim had work video calls to make and I had client photo editing deadlines to met. Still, who wouldn’t rather do it in a glorious location rather than in London where the view from my home office is over my tiny roof terrace and the houses beyond.

    We’re going to move around the island. In a couple of days we’ll head off to an Air BnB in the mountains to explore them.

    We weren’t required to have a Covid test before we flew or quarantine on arrival, but there’s a curfew from midnight to 6am across the Balearics – we’re fast asleep then anyway – and masks are compulsory in public places, both indoors and out, other than on beaches or if we’re eating or drinking in a restaurant. But it’s a breeze when the sun is shining.

    Accommodation is only around £30-£40 a night because there’s little demand, and I’ve got savings put aside to cove the extra costs of living abroad.

    When we’re not at work, Tim and I will swim in the sea, hire road bikes for long rides, and enjoy the local wines!

    While 2020 has taught me not to get stressed about things I can’t control, I’m still thrilled to have made a dash for it. 

    This week we’ve eaten by the sea and watched the turtles swimming

    Travel agent Jane Bartelings, 52, lives in Dorset with husband Gary, 53, director of an air solutions company, and their ten-year-old twins, Charlotte and Sophie. She says:

    About a week ago, we staged what we have dubbed our ‘great escape’, leaving our family home to spend lockdown — and beyond — in the Peloponnese region on the south of the Greek mainland.

    With the travel industry on its knees, the girls in their final year at primary school and no desire to repeat the stresses of the first lockdown, we seized the opportunity to fulfil a long-held daydream of ours to disappear to Greece.

    When the second lockdown was announced, we hastily arranged to rent our home in Dorset to a friend of a friend to finance our trip.

    We then drove here so that our Labrador, Badger, could come, too, and our luggage was delivered by courier 24 hours later.

    Travel agent Jane Bartelings, 52, lives in Dorset with husband Gary, 53, director of an air solutions company, and their ten-year-old twins, Charlotte and Sophie

    Travel agent Jane Bartelings, 52, lives in Dorset with husband Gary, 53, director of an air solutions company, and their ten-year-old twins, Charlotte and Sophie

    In the meantime, we bought swimming costumes so that we could immediately enjoy playing in the sea a short walk away.

    Gary and I are both working remotely via our laptops and the girls started doing online English and maths tutorials this week.

    We are hoping to get them into the local international school later this month.

    We have had many holidays in Greece, including on the island of Lefkas, during the summer.

    But an acquaintance recommended this area of the mainland as a good bet for the winter because there is so much to see and do, including skiing in the mountains.

    We are renting a pretty, three- bedroom, stone house with blue shutters and an upstairs terrace that is the perfect spot to eat breakfast al fresco or watch the dazzling sunsets. The temperature is currently in the low 20s, and we are told it rarely drops below 17c in the winter.

    About a week ago, we staged what we have dubbed our 'great escape', leaving our family home to spend lockdown — and beyond — in the Peloponnese region on the south of the Greek mainland

    About a week ago, we staged what we have dubbed our ‘great escape’, leaving our family home to spend lockdown — and beyond — in the Peloponnese region on the south of the Greek mainland

    Gary and I plan to learn Greek and take lots of day trips to teach the girls about the country’s history.

    Already this week, we have explored a village along the coast, eaten lunch in a taverna by the beach and watched turtles swimming in the sea.

    Of course, there are restrictions here, too.

    Despite the fact that the Greek government has put the country into a strict three-week lockdown — which means that non-essential travel outside our accommodation is banned — we are still allowed to walk, play and swim at the beach for exercise.

    We would rather be here in the sunshine than at home in the UK.

    Charlotte and Sophie were nervous about leaving their friends, and my mum is sad that she won’t see them for a while.

    But at a time when nobody can plan very much at all, somehow we have managed to pull off what we hope will be the adventure of a lifetime.

    It’s a world away from traffic jams on the daily school run

    Julie Hewlett, 52, is an actress, voiceover artist and supply teacher and lives in Hornsey, North London, with her son Finn, six. She says:

    On the way home from school yesterday, Finn and I stopped at the beach to play in the warm Caribbean waters and collect shells. Later, when we went home to our rented apartment nearby, there was an iguana sitting in the courtyard looking at us.

    It’s a world away from the stress of driving through the traffic to his school in London.

    Julie Hewlett, 52, is an actress, voiceover artist and supply teacher and lives in Hornsey, North London

    Julie Hewlett, 52, is an actress, voiceover artist and supply teacher and lives in Hornsey, North London

    The first lockdown was stressful, with Finn's school closed for months and work becoming scarce

    The first lockdown was stressful, with Finn’s school closed for months and work becoming scarce

    The first lockdown was stressful, with Finn’s school closed for months and work becoming scarce. Although he’s a cheerful and creative boy, there were days I feared we might be enemies for ever. I couldn’t face being locked down again, especially during the winter.

    A contact told me about a concierge company called workmango.com that facilitates remote working in Antigua, Barbados and Barbuda. I took a leap of faith and plumped for Antigua.

    The company found a rental property with good WiFi, hired a car for me and sorted a school place for Finn.

    Masks must be worn on the street unless exercising, you must carry one at all times and they have to be worn before you enter a building such as a supermarket, shop, gym or cafes and bars, all of which are open.

    A contact told me about a concierge company called workmango.com that facilitates remote working in Antigua, Barbados and Barbuda. I took a leap of faith and plumped for Antigua

    A contact told me about a concierge company called workmango.com that facilitates remote working in Antigua, Barbados and Barbuda. I took a leap of faith and plumped for Antigua

    Finn started at the local primary school — and I’ve signed him up to a football team. I was concerned about him adjusting but he’s a very sociable boy and is already making friends. His London school have said they can keep his place open.

    I’ve joined a gym, and use the patio at our apartment as my office, with its lovely views to the beach. I’d like to stay here until the end of the year in the hope that the restrictions in London may ease.

    As Finn played with a boy on the beach last week, I thought there isn’t a better place to see out this lockdown.

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