Woman transforms her drab home into a colourful wonderland for £12,000 while pregnant and shielding

A homeowner has shared how she has upgraded her drab home into a colourful wonderland for £12,000 – all while shielding during the pandemic and bringing a new baby into the world.

Makeup artist Laura Norton, 39, from Watford, first moved into her £386,000 three-bedroom terraced house in December 2019, and immediately decided to give it an upgrade.

Since beginning the renovation, Laura and husband Lewis have welcomed their second baby, Esme, nine weeks, along with bringing up their older child, three-year-old Pearl, all while shielding during the pandemic – but that hasn’t stopped them from transforming their dull rooms into a cosy colourful home.

Laura says she has spent around £12,000 on transforming the house, spending £5,600 on the kitchen, £1,200 each on the bathroom, living room and bedroom respectively, £600 on the downstairs toilet, and just £150 on the office.

That £12,000 of work has added more than £60,000 of value, with the house now being worth £450,000. 

A homeowner has transformed her formerly drab house into a colourful, vibrant living space. The kitchen makeover (pictured, after the work was complete) cost £5,600 and features a green and mustard colour scheme with gold accents

A homeowner has transformed her formerly drab house into a colourful, vibrant living space. The kitchen makeover (pictured, after the work was complete) cost £5,600 and features a green and mustard colour scheme with gold accents 

Seen here before the makeover, the kitchen was formerly a drab, lifeless space, with tired decor and finishing

Seen here before the makeover, the kitchen was formerly a drab, lifeless space, with tired decor and finishing

No wasted space: Laura made the most of the kitchen by installing a breakfast bar in the corner, mixing leafy and animal prints and a funky neon sign

No wasted space: Laura made the most of the kitchen by installing a breakfast bar in the corner, mixing leafy and animal prints and a funky neon sign 

Before being made over, the master bedroom (pictured) featured plain white walls and peeling plaster

The master bedroom (pictured post refurbishment) now boasts rich greens and oranges

The bedrooms have also been revamped. Images taken before (left) and after (right) show Laura’s consistent vision in creating a colourful home

The living room, pictured after its transformation, now houses plush velvet seating and a sleek wooden floor, after Laura spent £1,200 making it over

The living room, pictured after its transformation, now houses plush velvet seating and a sleek wooden floor, after Laura spent £1,200 making it over

‘In the kitchen we had to completely gut the whole room, replace the ceiling, new floor etc,’ said Laura.

‘It was timely and due to Covid, there were lots of material delays but it is unrecognisable to how it was previously.

‘I love our kitchen – mainly because it was such a huge makeover and looks so different than before.

‘I really did hate the kitchen and hated being in it. I love cooking so it was important for it to be a space that was enjoyable to be in. I love it now and we spend most of our time in there. The breakfast bar was a great addition to the room.

‘The bathroom was another massive job, again had to be completely gutted, new flooring, all new bath, sink, loo etc.

‘The creation of the downstairs loo (transforming an old under the stair cupboard) was probably our best decision. I couldn’t imagine not having it now and it was a godsend when Pearl was potty training.

‘I love the bold, floral wallpaper we have used in there. I think you can really have fun with the decor in a downstairs loo.

‘I also love the mermaid mural I painted in Pearl’s room – it just finished her ‘under the sea’ room off perfectly. I hand painted it myself (freehand, no stencil).

‘The office makeover too – it just gave the room a new lease of life. With my husband working from home, it was important there was somewhere to sit and enjoy being.

Before it was dramatically transformed, the living room (pictured) had little character, dressed in muted and drab tones

Before it was dramatically transformed, the living room (pictured) had little character, dressed in muted and drab tones

The post-makeover living room boasts original features like fireplace tiles, alongside modern touches

Careful touches like colour-coordinated flowers add an extra stylish touch to the room

Vibrant colours , varied textures, and thoughtful details have all been carefully curated in the living room (pictured post makeover) to create a stylish space

Before being transformed (pictured), the office was a cluttered room, filled with bland blacks, greys, and creams

Before being transformed (pictured), the office was a cluttered room, filled with bland blacks, greys, and creams

Adding bright bursts of colour, like this orange chair and the painted wall detail, means the same desk and shelving has been given a new lease of life

Adding bright bursts of colour, like this orange chair and the painted wall detail, means the same desk and shelving has been given a new lease of life

‘Previously the grey walls made the room so depressing. I chose the colour orange as it helps stimulate positivity and purple as it encourages creativity. This made it the ideal room for him to work and a space for me to be creative.

‘We’ve also taken colour out into the garden too, which I love as it makes it so fun to sit out there. 

‘The garden was one of the earlier projects we did at the beginning of lockdown and that really helped us having that bright, vibrant space in that time.

‘On the whole, everything has been a huge transformation as the house was so badly neglected by the previous owners.’

The bathroom (pictured before it was made over) initially featured a tired black and white design

Post make over (pictured) the bathroom combines pink, brass, green and fresh white

The layout of the bathroom stayed the same after it was made over, but the overall look is transformed and refreshed, thanks to the addition of modern features and colours

Brass basin taps, green walls, and a fresh new white basin and pedestal make the bathroom clean and coordinated

Brass basin taps, green walls, and a fresh new white basin and pedestal make the bathroom clean and coordinated

Laura explained how she decided to give her home the ultimate glow up as soon as she had the door keys in hand.

‘We knew when we moved in, that we would be fully decorating the home as it was really in need of some love,’ said Laura.

‘On the surface, it didn’t appear to look that bad but once we started to live in it, we realised it had been really neglected by the previous owners and the diy had been done really badly.

‘It was beyond just painting, every room has been a big project. It’s a great house but I just felt it needed a bit of TLC and injecting it full of colour has brought the home back to life.

‘We moved in not too long before the pandemic started, so we got to know every inch of the house pretty swiftly, and lockdown helped us have time to decorate.

This cupboard, which was neglected, dirty and peeling, was totally transformed into a downstairs toilet

Adding plumbing, and wallpapering, as well as adding some colourful paintwork, transformed the space

One of the most interesting changes is this new toilet room (pictured, right) which used to be a neglected cupboard under the stairs (pictured, left)

Creative: the homeowner showed off her creative abilities to the max, painting this mural in her daughter Pearl's bedroom

Creative: the homeowner showed off her creative abilities to the max, painting this mural in her daughter Pearl’s bedroom

‘Our daughter Pearl was on the shielding list due to her health, so we were fully locked down indoors, not going anywhere.

‘Filling the house with colour and items that made me smile really did make the difficult situation a little more bearable.’

Despite her busy life, Laura says she is always working on new projects, from brightening up whole rooms to upcycling individual pieces of furniture.

‘We’ve completed around seven rooms so far and we still have more to do,’ she said.

‘We are constantly working on something though, there’s still so much we want to do.

‘My parents had a second-hand furniture business when I was growing up, so I’ve always upcycled furniture.

‘There’s always something in the house I’m painting or upcycling. I’ve also made a lots of things like cushions in the house. I love making unique things for our home.

The exterior of the the three bedroom terrace house, which cost £386,000 and is now worth in excess of £450,000

The exterior of the the three bedroom terrace house, which cost £386,000 and is now worth in excess of £450,000

Images taken before the refurbishment was complete show just how much work the couple was able to achieve with their £12,000 budget

Images taken before the refurbishment was complete show just how much work the couple was able to achieve with their £12,000 budget

‘I’ve never been afraid to experiment with colour. I think in my job as a makeup artist, I am used to playing with colour and textures so it makes sense that I would do the same within my home. I love big, bold prints and colours.’

Laura decided to start sharing her interiors online shortly after beginning the transformation.

‘I’ve always loved interiors and following home accounts,’ said Laura.

‘Once we started transforming the house and realising how big the changes were, I thought I’d start documenting it online for fun.

‘The interiors Instagram community is such a friendly, positive space and I really do enjoy sharing our home transformations online.

‘Fortunately, I’ve only ever had positive comments and never experienced negativity online.

Even the garden hasn't been forgotten, with Laura designing a brightly cosy colourful seating area with rugs and lamps

Even the garden hasn’t been forgotten, with Laura designing a brightly cosy colourful seating area with rugs and lamps

Laura Norton, a 39-year-old makeup artist from Watford, says despite the dramatic transformation, she still has more plans for her home

Laura Norton, a 39-year-old makeup artist from Watford, says despite the dramatic transformation, she still has more plans for her home

‘I wouldn’t really care if I did though as everyone has their own tastes and what I love isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

‘I love the home we’re creating and that’s all that counts. It really does show our personality throughout it.’

Laura is not yet done improving her house, and has plenty of plans for the future.

‘We are hoping to extend the house, which I’m excited about as it means more rooms to fill with colour,’ she said.

‘Our hall has never been touched but that will probably be the last space we complete after all our other plans.

‘We also need to decorate a room for our new baby, which I’m looking forward to and will no doubt include another mural!’

Follow Laura’s home transformation journey on her Instagram account, @pearlsandplaster.

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Inside Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s rumoured Italian wedding venue Castello Brown

They legally tied the knot at a Santa Barbara courthouse earlier this week after their unofficial nuptials after the Grammys in Los Angeles.

And Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker will reportedly have a third wedding ceremony at a lavish castle in Portofino, Italy, this weekend.

The newly married couple will celebrate their union at the historic museum Castello Brown, or Brown Castle, located on a hill above Portofino harbour, according to TMZ.

Wow! Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker will reportedly have a third wedding ceremony at the lavish Castello Brown in Portofino, Italy, this weekend

Wow! Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker will reportedly have a third wedding ceremony at the lavish Castello Brown in Portofino, Italy, this weekend

Kourtney, 43, and Travis, 46, are believed to have rented out the entire castle, which was built during Roman times as a military fortress, and will be celebrating their nuptials over the next four days.

Castello Brown sits in an elevated position on a rural hill and boasts sweeping ocean views, while the property is surrounded by an array of prestigious villas.

As well as stunning interiors, the castle features a stunning Mediterranean garden filled with flowers and rose gardens, providing the perfect picturesque landscape for an outdoor event.

The venue’s website boasts that it is the ideal place for a ‘dream wedding’, while it also hosts civil unions, private events, exhibitions, art displays and meetings.

Exciting: It will be the couple's third wedding after they legally tied the knot at a Santa Barbara courthouse earlier this week after their unofficial nuptials after the Grammys in Los Angeles

Exciting: It will be the couple’s third wedding after they legally tied the knot at a Santa Barbara courthouse earlier this week after their unofficial nuptials after the Grammys in Los Angeles

Translated from Italian, it adds: ‘The Portofino Castle is ideal for planning your dream wedding, a special ceremony or the most exclusive corporate marketing event.’

The property dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, when it was built by the Genoese to defend the Gulf of Portofino, hence its strategically elevated position on the hill.

The first official information about the historic property was in 1425, when Tomaso Fregoso, the ruler of the Republic of Genoa until 1421, occupied Portofino and the castle came under numerous attempts at sieges.

The castle continued to be used as a military fortress in battles from the 13th to 19th centuries and in 1500, the building was renovated to include a battery and watch tower.

Nuptials: The newly married couple will celebrate their union at the historic museum Castello Brown, or Brown Castle, located on a hill above Portofino harbour, according to reports

Nuptials: The newly married couple will celebrate their union at the historic museum Castello Brown, or Brown Castle, located on a hill above Portofino harbour, according to reports 

Large affair: Kourtney, 43, and Travis, 46, are believed to have rented out the entire castle (gardens pictured), which was built during Roman times as a military fortress, and will be celebrating their nuptials over the next four days

Large affair: Kourtney, 43, and Travis, 46, are believed to have rented out the entire castle (gardens pictured), which was built during Roman times as a military fortress, and will be celebrating their nuptials over the next four days

The fortress underwent an array of military renovations during the centuries to ensure it was providing the greatest defense possible for the fishing village.

The sprawling castle has been renovated and expanded over the years by prominent figures including Gian Maria Oliato and Napoleon Bonaparte.

But the castle’s name, Castello Brown, derives from British diplomat Montague Yeats Brown, who owned the building from 1867 until his death in 1905, when it was passed down to his children.

His children took charge of the property until 1949, when they handed it to the Baber family, who transformed the property from a military fortress to a stunning civilian castle.

Landscape: Castello Brown sits in an elevated position on a rural hill and boasts sweeping ocean views, while the property is surrounded by an array of prestigious villas

Landscape: Castello Brown sits in an elevated position on a rural hill and boasts sweeping ocean views, while the property is surrounded by an array of prestigious villas

In 1870, Brown, who was based in Genoa and Boston, planted on the main terrace for his own wedding and the two famous pine trees have since become some of the most notable aspects of the outdoor area.

In 1961, Castello Brown was taken out of private ownership and bought by the Municipality of Portofino, which was when it started being used as a museum and a venue to host lavish events.

As well as its rich history, Castello Brown has also been used for the filming of the 1991 film The Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence.

The interior of the museum is just as spectacular as its sprawling gardens as it features traditional craftmanship and bas-relief sculptures carved into marble and slate.

Amazing: As well as stunning interiors, the castle features a stunning Mediterranean garden filled with flowers and rose gardens, providing the perfect picturesque landscape for an outdoor event

Amazing: As well as stunning interiors, the castle features a stunning Mediterranean garden filled with flowers and rose gardens, providing the perfect picturesque landscape for an outdoor event

Atmosphere: The venue's website boasts that it is the ideal place for a 'dream wedding', while it also hosts civil unions, private events, exhibitions, art displays and meetings. Pictured: Lavish gardens set up for outdoor restaurant area

Atmosphere: The venue’s website boasts that it is the ideal place for a ‘dream wedding’, while it also hosts civil unions, private events, exhibitions, art displays and meetings. Pictured: Lavish gardens set up for outdoor restaurant area

History: The property dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, when it was built by the Genoese to defend the Gulf of Portofino, hence its strategically elevated position on the hill

History: The property dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, when it was built by the Genoese to defend the Gulf of Portofino, hence its strategically elevated position on the hill

According to Castello Brown’s website, one of the ground floor rooms boasts its original furnishings and is flooded by natural daylight through gothic-style windows.

The staircase features stunning laggioni ceramic tiles while the stairwell boasts a medieval-style wooden coffered ceiling covered with paintings of saints and rulers.

The terrace, where artillery was once housed, now serves as a lavish garden and is popular for tourists to take photographs in due to its picturesque nature.

On the first floor, there is a hall with a ceiling covered in Lombard-type cross vaults which leads off into themed rooms, including the Dolcevita room filled with artwork of people who visited Portofino, such as Winston Churchill and Walt Disney.

Incredible: The stunning gardens give sprawling views of the ocean landscape while the patio can be set up for functions, weddings and other events

Incredible: The stunning gardens give sprawling views of the ocean landscape while the patio can be set up for functions, weddings and other events 

Title: The castle's name, Castello Brown, derives from British diplomat Montague Yeats Brown, who owned the building from 1867 until his death in 1905, when it was passed down to his children

Title: The castle’s name, Castello Brown, derives from British diplomat Montague Yeats Brown, who owned the building from 1867 until his death in 1905, when it was passed down to his children

Colourful: In 1870, Brown, who was based in Genoa and Boston, planted on the main terrace for his own wedding and the two famous pine trees have since become some of the most notable aspects of the outdoor area. Pictured: Restaurant area

Colourful: In 1870, Brown, who was based in Genoa and Boston, planted on the main terrace for his own wedding and the two famous pine trees have since become some of the most notable aspects of the outdoor area. Pictured: Restaurant area 

Another room is dedicated to cetaceans – aquatic mammals including whales and dolphins – and is a collaboration between the Park Authority of the marine reserve of Portofino and the Aquarium of Genoa.

There is also a circular room filled with stunning aspects of local history, documenting German Kaiser William II’s last visit to Portofino among other intriguing gems.

As well as giving visitors an insight into Portofino’s rich history, the room also boasts an 11th century marble bas-relief carving showing San Giorgio killing a dragon, which was restored by the Municipality of Portofino.

The castle, which is a popular tourist spot, also features a tower which serves as a historical room where visitors can listen to a video which explains the history of the fishing village.

Renovated: The terrace, where artillery was once housed, now serves as a lavish garden and is popular for tourists to take photographs in due to its picturesque nature

Renovated: The terrace, where artillery was once housed, now serves as a lavish garden and is popular for tourists to take photographs in due to its picturesque nature

Historical: The castle continued to be used as a military fortress in battles from the 13th to 19th centuries and in 1500, the building was renovated to include a battery and watch tower

Historical: The castle continued to be used as a military fortress in battles from the 13th to 19th centuries and in 1500, the building was renovated to include a battery and watch tower

Kourtney and Travis’s reported European wedding at the museum will be the third time the loved-up couple have tied the knot, following their unofficial nuptials after the Grammys in Las Vegas and their legal ceremony in Santa Barbra.

And that is not all as they are also planning another huge reception for their friends back in Los Angeles ‘in the near future’.

On Friday, Kris Jenner was spotted in Portofino, bolstering speculation that Kourtney and Travis are set to have an Italian wedding over the coming days. 

Kris, 66, recently revealed that she had been ‘sworn to secrecy’ about the upcoming nuptials, as she was seen out shopping in the harbor town. 

Vibrant: Stunning wooden beams frame a rustic stone staircase in the grounds of the castle, while vibrant pink plants have been planted around the patio

Vibrant: Stunning wooden beams frame a rustic stone staircase in the grounds of the castle, while vibrant pink plants have been planted around the patio 

Traditional: According to Castello Brown's website , one of the ground floor rooms boasts its original furnishings and is flooded by natural daylight through gothic-style windows

Modernised: As well as maintaining traditional elements, the stunning property has been given modern touches, including sleek marble-style flooring

Traditional: According to Castello Brown’s website , one of the ground floor rooms boasts its original furnishings and is flooded by daylight through gothic-style windows. Pictured: A traditional staircase (left) and a hallway in the property right)

Hollywood: As well as its rich history, Castello Brown has also been used for the filming of the 1991 film The Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence (pictured: Josie Lawrence, Joan Plowright, Polly Walker in the film)

Hollywood: As well as its rich history, Castello Brown has also been used for the filming of the 1991 film The Enchanted April, starring Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence (pictured: Josie Lawrence, Joan Plowright, Polly Walker in the film)

A source revealed to People: ‘They had to legally get married first ahead of their big Italian wedding, which is happening very soon.

‘All the details are set, and the whole family, including all the kids, are very excited.’

With Kris telling the publication: ‘I have been sworn to secrecy. If I say one thing about a wedding, I am going to be in so much trouble!’

As well as Kris, Kourtney’s sisters, Khloe and Kim Kardashian and Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Kris’ partner Corey Gamble, and her three children will be in attendance. 

But her former partner Scott Disick – with whom she has Mason, 12, Penelope, nine, and Reign, seven – has not been invited.

Weddings: Castello Brown's website boasts that it is the ideal venue for weddings, with photographs showing the stunning restaurant area outside

Weddings: Castello Brown’s website boasts that it is the ideal venue for weddings, with photographs showing the stunning restaurant area outside

Interior: Inside the property, natural daylight is let in through traditional windows while it features incredible artwork and furnishings drawing on its history

Interior: Inside the property, natural daylight is let in through traditional windows while it features incredible artwork and furnishings drawing on its history 

Battles: The first official information about the historic property was in 1425, when Tomaso Fregoso, the ruler of the Republic of Genoa until 1421, occupied Portofino and the castle came under numerous attempts at sieges

Battles: The first official information about the historic property was in 1425, when Tomaso Fregoso, the ruler of the Republic of Genoa until 1421, occupied Portofino and the castle came under numerous attempts at sieges

On Travis’ side, his son Landon, 18, and daughter Alabama, 16, will be there, as will his bandmates.

It is believed that Kourtney’s maternal grandmother Mary Jo ‘MJ’ Campbell and Travis’ dad, Randy, are not able to travel abroad for the Italian ceremony, but were present at their legal courthouse nuptials. 

Kourtney and Travis shared their first photos as newlyweds with their Instagram followers earlier this week.

Less than 24 hours after legally tying the knot in Santa Barbara, the reality star posted a slideshow of black and white photos from their big day. 

Village: The castle is situated on a tall hill above the fishing village of Portofino, which boasts colourful buildings and restaurants that look over the clear blue seas

Village: The castle is situated on a tall hill above the fishing village of Portofino, which boasts colourful buildings and restaurants that look over the clear blue seas 

Rural: The castle, which is a popular tourist spot, also features a tower which serves as a historical room where visitors can listen to a video which explains the history of the fishing village

Rural: The castle, which is a popular tourist spot, also features a tower which serves as a historical room where visitors can listen to a video which explains the history of the fishing village

Cruising: In the harbour of the fishing village, stunning yachts can often be seen moored up as it is a popular destination for holidaymakers

Cruising: In the harbour of the fishing village, stunning yachts can often be seen moored up as it is a popular destination for holidaymakers 

‘Till death do us part,’ the mother-of-four captioned the snaps, featuring her straddling her spouse on top of a black convertible with ‘just married’ on the bumper before getting into the car and sharing a passionate kiss. 

The Blink-182 drummer posted an identical caption and same images of their big day as they announced the news to their fans and loved ones.

The lovebirds, who became engaged in October 2021, exchanged vows with a small number of loved ones and their security, including her maternal grandmother Mary Jo ‘MJ’ Campbell and Travis’ dad Randy, at the weekend. 

After getting hitched, the reality star and drummer were seen driving off in a vintage car. 

Just married! Kourtney and Travis shared their first photos as newlyweds with their Instagram followers earlier this week

Just married! Kourtney and Travis shared their first photos as newlyweds with their Instagram followers earlier this week

Riding off into the sunset: After getting hitched, the reality star and drummer were seen driving off in a vintage car

Riding off into the sunset: After getting hitched, the reality star and drummer were seen driving off in a vintage car

For her big day, the mother-of-three was seen wearing a short white dress with a plunging neckline and red heart adorned on the bodice and a traditional veil over her dark tresses, which were pulled back for the occasion.

She styled her $1,825 Dolce & Gabbana lace bustier frock with a pair of sheer gloves and matching veil. 

Known for their love of matching, the star and her husband wore coordinated shoes for their big day. While she opted for a pair of burgundy velvet pumps, Travis matched her in trendy men’s Rockabilly shoes in the same color. 

Kourtney later shared a snap of their cookie cake iced with ‘Mr. and Mrs. Barker’ from Command Entertainment Group PR owner Simon Huck and his husband Phil Riportella.

Newlyweds: The Blink-182 drummer posted an identical caption and same images of their big day as they announced the news to their fans and loved ones

Newlyweds: The Blink-182 drummer posted an identical caption and same images of their big day as they announced the news to their fans and loved ones

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Top tips for low-cost trips from cheap-holiday expert Chelsea Dickenson

We’re all feeling the squeeze. 

And with holidays often considered a luxury, overseas jaunts could well be one of the first things to get the chop as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies.

But hold on; there are lots of simple ways still to have that all-important holiday without breaking the bank. After all, given the past couple of years, we deserve it.

There are lots of simple ways to have that all-important holiday without breaking the bank

There are lots of simple ways to have that all-important holiday without breaking the bank

BEFORE YOU GO

Pick a less popular place

Desperate to visit a particular country? Opt for a city or lesser-known area, rather than a popular or coastal destination. Flight and hotel costs are likely to be much lower and you can still holiday in the country you love.

The same goes for staycations. Research by Which? Travel found that travellers could save up to £400 on hotel rooms on a one-week UK break by staying just a few miles away from a hotspot.

Contrast prices

Many of us gravitate towards cheap flights and accommodation, but it’s actually your daily costs that often tip you over budget. Numbeo (numbeo.com) is the world’s largest cost-of-living database and a brilliant tool for comparing the average cost of meals out, taxis and supermarket essentials, among many other things, in destinations across the world. Some of the cheapest European countries are Croatia, Montenegro and Portugal.

Use comparison websites

Check your flight costs with a comparison website such as Skyscanner, Kayak or Google Flights, which will send you on to an airline or online travel agent to book your flights. But remember — your contract is with whoever you book with, so always check the small print.

Fly indirect

It may sound crazy but I once saved £40 by flying home from Rome in Business Class over Economy

If you’re really trying to cut costs, consider indirect flights. They can be much cheaper and the stopovers are often short.

Overall flight costs

It’s worth considering how much it’s going to cost you to get to and from an airport at that time, and if you need bags (a standard easyJet seat, for example, now only allows one small bag under the seat in front).

These are the two areas that can make a cheap flight not so cheap, and it may be better value to book a costlier flight.

Do you need it?

Many budget airlines will offer a package that includes bags, seat reservations and priority boarding.

However, it can be cheaper to add these things individually later on in the booking process.

Look into business class

It may sound crazy but I once saved £40 by flying home from Rome in Business Class over Economy, so it’s worth a try.

Research car hire prices

If you need to hire a car, always check the price before you book your flights and accommodation, as it can sometimes surprise you. If you’re in a fix, try the ‘Airbnb of cars’, turo.com

ACCOMMODATION

Book where to stay first

Try booking a hotel for a Sunday night, says Chelsea - it's often the cheapest night at a hotel. So shift your weekend break from Friday-to-Sunday to Saturday-to-Monday

Try booking a hotel for a Sunday night, says Chelsea – it’s often the cheapest night at a hotel. So shift your weekend break from Friday-to-Sunday to Saturday-to-Monday

It’s likely your accommodation will be more expensive than your flights, so research that cost first. Some websites — including Airbnb and Booking.com — will allow you to search whole countries (Spain) and continents (Europe). Then use the filters to find the perfect place within your budget.

Which nights?

Search for a specific hotel on Google Hotels, click ‘view prices’, then click on the check-in date to see a calendar with the nightly costs.

Go direct

Found some great prices on comparison websites? Try calling the hotel direct to see if it can match it or, even better, offer you a lower price.

Upgrades

If you have booked somewhere with free cancellation, there’s a clever website called Pruvo.com which will monitor the price for you and prompt you to re-book if the cost should happen to go down

Book a standard room, then ask politely for a free upgrade. You can email in advance or ask at check-in.

Monitor costs

Some companies price match, so if you manage to find your accommodation for a lower price later on, you may be able to get credit or even money back.

If you have booked somewhere with free cancellation, there’s a clever website called Pruvo.com which will monitor the price for you and prompt you to re-book if the cost should happen to go down.

Swap your home

The websites LoveHomeSwap.com and HomeSwapper.co.uk can help with this.

Stay for free

House-sitting allows you to stay somewhere free in exchange for looking after someone’s home, garden or perhaps even pets. Trusted House-sitters (trustedhousesitters.com) is a popular site for travelling pet sitters, but Nomador (nomador.com) has free membership if you want to test the waters.

Try Sunday nights

It’s often the cheapest night at a hotel, so shift your weekend break from Friday- to-Sunday to Saturday-to-Monday.

DAILY COSTS

Prepaid travel cards

If you need cash, use moneysupermarket.com to compare rates. M&S and the Post Office often have some of the best rates, while airports invariably have the worst

If you need cash, use moneysupermarket.com to compare rates. M&S and the Post Office often have some of the best rates, while airports invariably have the worst

Say goodbye to transaction fees by getting a prepaid travel card, which you can apply for online. They don’t need a credit check, you use them like a debit card and simply top up your money from your bank account using an app. Revolut and Wise both have free accounts — but remember to check the small print.

Don’t get cash at airports

If you need cash, use moneysupermarket.com to compare rates. M&S and the Post Office often have some of the best rates, while airports invariably have the worst — so avoid them at all cost.

Download a taxi app

If public transport won’t cut it, research whether companies such as Uber, Bolt and Free Now operate, as they can be cheaper than standard taxis.

Pay in local currency

Paying with a card? Always opt for the local currency rather than pounds, in order to avoid charges.

Check data roaming costs

Data roaming costs are back across many networks, so check how much it will cost. Look into ‘tethering’, which allows one phone to share its internet with others.

Stash salt in a travel mini

When staying in self-catering accommodation, fill small bottles and pots with things such as salt, pepper and sugar, and fill a travel shampoo bottle with olive oil for the liquids bag. Then you won’t need to buy them full-size.

Book a free walking tour

It’s great for getting a feel for an area. Ask your guide for the most affordable places to go to.

Eat on the cheap

Too Good To Go is an app available in 17 countries that connects customers with restaurants and cafes with unsold surplus food. Pop in your location, scroll through what treats are available near you and tap ‘reserve’ it to pick up later. It’s cheap and it’s green. 

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Budget holidays special: Thirty cut-price summer breaks from Corfu to the Caribbean

Tour operators have reductions of around a third on many peak summer holidays, as they attempt to woo back post-pandemic customers. But Britain’s leading travel company, TUI, warns that the cheapest holidays may not last long if higher fuel costs and other forms of inflation have to be taken into account later in the year.

The clear message is: there is no need to sacrifice your summer holiday plans… but don’t hang around. With this in mind, we’ve checked out what’s on offer and picked 30 of the best package holidays covering the summer period. We’ve sorted them into three categories to suit different budgets: under £600 per person for seven nights, under £800pp and under £1,200pp – and thrown in some long-haul bargains for less than £1,200 for a week, too. All prices have flights and accommodation included.

By booking a package holiday you will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations and due a full refund within 14 days in the – let’s hope – unlikely event of a cancellation. So here’s our round-up, ranging from £183pp a week in Corfu to £1,199pp in Mauritius.

This chart show that it's Marmaris in Turkey that offers the cheapest prices for holidaymakers in Europe

This chart show that it’s Marmaris in Turkey that offers the cheapest prices for holidaymakers in Europe

UNDER £600 A WEEK

TEMPTING TENERIFE 

Stay at the Colon II Apartments in Playa de las Americas in Tenerife and enjoy the long curving pool as well as being near restaurants and bars in the centre of the resort. Studio rooms are compact but come with pleasant balconies or terraces.

How to do it: From £508pp self-catering in July for a week including Manchester flights and transfers – 37 per cent off (tui.co.uk).

CORFU FOR A SONG

Through Tui it's possible to book a week in Corfu (pictured) for just £183pp B&B, including flights and transfers

Through Tui it’s possible to book a week in Corfu (pictured) for just £183pp B&B, including flights and transfers

The family-run Hotel Theo is set in the resort of Agios Georgios North, just a ten-minute stroll from a Blue Flag beach and charming village. The hotel has a large outdoor pool at its rear and offers traditional home-cooked cuisine.

How to do it: £183pp B&B in May for a week including Cardiff flights and transfers – 68 per cent off (tui.co.uk).

KOS IT’S CHEAP

On the edge of the beautiful hillside town of Kefalos on the Dodecanese island of Kos in Greece, the Peros Mayflower apartments are in a quiet spot. There’s a little pool bar, plus a restaurant. Rooms are plainly decorated and comfortable, with balconies.

How to do it: From £374pp self-catering in July for a week, with flights from Leeds Bradford and transfers (jet2holidays.com).

HOT TURKEY

Just a ten-minute drive from the fine sandy beaches of Olu Deniz on Turkey’s south-west coast, the Green Valley Hotel offers exceptionally good value rooms, plus a large pool and peaceful setting surrounded by hills. Temperatures regularly touch 30c in July.

How to do it: Seven nights from £297pp B&B, with Luton flights and transfers in July (thomascook.com).

Seville (above) in Andalucia makes a fabulous base for a long city break

Seville (above) in Andalucia makes a fabulous base for a long city break

SEVILLE SAVINGS

Seville in Andalucia makes a fabulous base for a long city break with its endless tapas bars, splendid cathedral, Alcazar (an old Moorish palace) and many first-class flamenco shows.

Rent a room for a week at the comfortable Hotel Sevilla Center, which has a rooftop pool, and slip into southern Spanish life.

How to do it: Seven nights from £416pp room-only in July with Gatwick flights (easyjet.com).

RHODES FOR LESS

Enjoy a stay at one of the colourful Marietta Apartments in the quiet village of Pastida for a knockdown price this summer. The apartments surround a decent-sized pool with a restaurant overlooking the water. The busy nightlife of Faliraki and Rhodes Town is a short drive away.

How to do it: Seven nights from £449pp self-catering in July, with Manchester flights and transfers (jet2holidays.com).

MAKE IT MAJORCA

Alcudia is a peaceful town with medieval walls and narrow, labyrinthine streets in the north of Majorca. Prices in late June are a third off at the bright and breezy, family-friendly Bellevue Club hotel, which comes with eight pools and is a 15-minute walk from the beach.

How to do it: Seven nights from £237pp self-catering including Manchester flights. To upgrade to half-board is just £50pp extra (firstchoice.co.uk).

MARVELLOUS MOROCCO

Check in to the TUI BLUE Riu Tikida Beach spa hotel close to Agadir and Taghazout on Morocco’s south-west coast and enjoy as much as 37 per cent off in July. There are two large pools, a shuttle to a local golf course and a gym at this popular hotel for couples.

How to do it: Seven nights from £554pp all-inclusive in July with Gatwick flights and transfers (tui.co.uk).

GREAT VALUE SPAIN

The Costa de Almeria is often overlooked, so there are regularly good deals to be had. Stay at the beachside Best Sabinal hotel in Roquetas de Mar, with its huge pool, spa and rooms facing the sea. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars close by.

How to do it: Seven nights with Gatwick flights and transfers from £571pp room-only in July (easyjet.com).

NOT DEAR IN MADEIRA

Bargain hunters can snare a seven-night holiday in Madeira with flights for £495pp, staying at Dom Pedro Madeira Hotel at Machico Bay (above)

Bargain hunters can snare a seven-night holiday in Madeira with flights for £495pp, staying at Dom Pedro Madeira Hotel at Machico Bay (above)

Dom Pedro Madeira Hotel is at Machico Bay on Madeira, on the east coast of Portugal’s charming Atlantic Ocean island. It’s a great base for walking trips and it’s just a 50-yard stroll to a white-sand beach. There’s a huge pool and a cosy cocktail bar.

How to do it: Seven nights with Stansted flights from £495pp B&B in July (thomascook.com).

TUSCAN TREAT

Stay in style at the Renaissance Tuscany II Ciocco Resort and Spa, set on a hilltop in rolling Tuscan countryside, for a steal in August. Enjoy views of Italy’s Apennine Mountains, visit local vineyards and try out the restaurants in the nearby medieval town of Barga.

How to do it: Seven nights from £490pp with UK flights in August (expedia.co.uk).   

UNDER £800 A WEEK

CYPRUS DEAL 

Elias Beach Hotel faces a sandy beach close to the city of Limassol (above) on the southern coast of Cyprus. You can stay there for seven nights in July from £719pp full-board with Stansted flights included

Elias Beach Hotel faces a sandy beach close to the city of Limassol (above) on the southern coast of Cyprus. You can stay there for seven nights in July from £719pp full-board with Stansted flights included

Elias Beach Hotel faces a sandy beach close to the city of Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus. There’s also a pool set in pretty gardens, plus a spa offering massages and facials. Tempting full-board offers are available this summer.

How to do it: Seven nights from £719pp full-board with Stansted flights in July (mercuryholidays.co.uk).

EGYPT FOR A SONG

There are seven pools and six bars (including a swim-up bar) at the Grand Waterworld Makadi Hotel overlooking the Red Sea in Egypt. This is a family-friendly choice with waterslides and an artificial wave machine for learning to surf.

How to do it: Seven nights for a family of four from £676pp all-inclusive (a total of £2,704) with Gatwick flights (redseaholidays.co.uk).

LA GOMERA OFFER

A ferry crossing from Tenerife to the smaller Canary island of La Gomera, just to the west, is included in package prices for stays at Hotel Jardin Tecina, on a peaceful stretch of La Gomera’s coastline. The hotel has a selection of pools, a spa and its very own golf course.

How to do it: Seven nights from £799pp half-board with Luton flights and transfers in July (fredholidays.co.uk).

CUT-PRICE PORTUGAL

Book into the Velamar Boutique Hotel in Albufeira on Portugal’s Algarve coast to enjoy the nearby golden sands or relax on a lounger by its little kidney-shaped pool. Rooms are minimalist in style, with the occasional splash of modern art.

How to do it: Seven nights with Edinburgh flights from £756pp B&B in August — 29 per cent off (jet2holidays.com).

FUN IN FUERTEVENTURA

With two pools, a gym, a spa, windsurfing and sailing, Barcelo Corralejo Sands suits sporty types. It’s a short walk from a beach and two miles from Dunas de Corralejo Natural Park. There are some enticing half-board offers this summer.

How to do it: Seven nights from £684pp half-board with Gatwick flights at the end of June (tui.co.uk).

COUNT ON KALKAN

The Samira Resort Hotel and Apartments in Kalkan on Turkey’s south-west coast has a big pool with a cocktail waiter service. The tavernas and restaurants of the centre of Kalkan are a ten-minute stroll away. Rooms are clean and modern.

How to do it: Seven nights from £614pp B&B with Glasgow flights on June 30 (firstchoice.co.uk).

BENIDORM BARGAIN

Benidorm’s concrete tower blocks may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy the resort’s brash style, plenty of bargains are to be had. The Presidente is one of the big hotels, based around a large pool with a bar. Rooms are large and comfortable.

How to do it: Seven nights from £692pp half-board with Manchester flights and transfers in July (travelrepublic.co.uk).

BALEARIC GETAWAY

The JS Miramar hotel is by the beach at Can Picafort (above) on Majorca. Easyjet has a seven-night deal for a holiday there from £682pp

The JS Miramar hotel is by the beach at Can Picafort (above) on Majorca. Easyjet has a seven-night deal for a holiday there from £682pp

Fly from Belfast on EasyJet in the summer and book a room through its sister company, EasyJet Holidays, to keep costs down. The JS Miramar hotel is by the beach at Can Picafort on Majorca, with colourful rooms with balconies. Bikes can be hired for exploring the coast.

How to do it: Seven nights from £682pp half-board with Belfast flights in July (easyjet.com).

A CORKER IN MENORCA 

Surrounded by pretty gardens, the MenorcaMar Apartments make a pleasant spot to stay on Menorca; they are rated by Thomas Cook as the best value accommodation in the little beach resort of Cala en Bosc. There’s a charming pool with a snack bar at the centre.

How to do it: Seven nights from £649pp self-catering with Luton flights in July (thomascook.com).      

UNDER £1,200 A WEEK

GRAN CANARIA IN STYLE

Tucked away by Playa Taurito on a quiet stretch of Gran Canaria’s south-west coast, the TUI BLUE Suite Princess has comfortable rooms decorated with modern art. Best rooms have balconies facing the ocean. There’s a massive pool and a spa with a sauna.

How to do it: From £851pp all-inclusive with Newcastle flights in July (tui.co.uk).

£500 OFF IN MAGALUF

Tropical Sky Europe has slashed £500pp off the price of seven-night stays in July and August at the Dreams Calvia Resort and Spa. It’s by a beach and 150 metres from the centre of the popular (and often quite lively) resort. There’s an Asian fusion restaurant and a burger bar.

How to do it: Seven nights from £979pp in August with Gatwick flights and transfers (tropicalsky.co.uk).

LOVELY LANZAROTE

Book a family room at Seaside Los Jameos Hotel in Lanzarote (above) and one child travels free in July

Book a family room at Seaside Los Jameos Hotel in Lanzarote (above) and one child travels free in July

Book a family room at Seaside Los Jameos Hotel in Lanzarote and one child travels free in July. It’s part of the Luxe Collection offered by Jet2Holidays and comes with an excellent pool and spa, plus tennis courts and a mini-golf course. It’s also beside a fine sandy beach.

How to do it: Seven nights from £870pp B&B for a family of four (or £2,610 per family, with kids aged 2-12) with flights from Leeds Bradford in July (jet2holidays.com).

60% OFF RHINE CRUISE

Grab a cabin on Avalon Waterways’ week-long Romantic Rhine with Amsterdam and Strasbourg sailing departing in July and save £1,712pp. The cruise departs from Amsterdam and calls at Cologne, Strasbourg and Mainz, ending in Basel, with excursions at each port.

How to do it: Seven nights from £1,159pp full-board, with drinks with meals, and flights from airports across the UK on July 10; 60 per cent off (cruise.co.uk).

GLORIOUS GREECE 

Olympic Holidays, the Greek travel specialist, has reduced the cost of stays at the plush Marpunta Resort, on the island of Alonissos in the Northern Sporades, by a quarter this July.

It’s a peaceful hotel with rooms scattered among buildings based on fishermen’s cottages.

How to do it: Seven nights from £989pp B&B with Luton flights on July 4 (olympicholidays.com).

SAVE IN SORRENTO

Indulge in a week’s stay at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, once a favourite haunt of 18th and 19th-century grand tourists including the poets Shelley, Byron and Keats. Rest by the tranquil pool, take a stroll around the lush gardens, or sip a limoncello at the terrace bar.

How to do it: Seven nights from £1,150pp B&B with Gatwick flights this summer (citalia.com).

… and far-flung favourites under £1,200 

MAGICAL MAURITIUS

Bluebaytravel.co.uk is offering seven nights in Mauritius at Coral Azur Beach Resort, close to Trou aux Biches beach (above), from £1,199pp all-inclusive with Heathrow flights and transfers

Bluebaytravel.co.uk is offering seven nights in Mauritius at Coral Azur Beach Resort, close to Trou aux Biches beach (above), from £1,199pp all-inclusive with Heathrow flights and transfers

Enjoy a rum punch or two as the sun sets across the Caribbean while staying at the good-value Timothy Beach Resort in the heart of Frigate Bay on St Kitts (above)

Enjoy a rum punch or two as the sun sets across the Caribbean while staying at the good-value Timothy Beach Resort in the heart of Frigate Bay on St Kitts (above)

Set in tropical gardens close to the beaches of Mont Choisy and Trou aux Biches, Coral Azur Beach Resort is home to Wildwind, the only sailing centre in the Indian Ocean that’s approved by the Royal Yachting Association. Expect fine dining and sumptuous rooms.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £1,199pp all-inclusive with Heathrow flights and transfers, plus an upgrade to an ocean-view room and a free spa treatment (bluebaytravel.co.uk).

TAKING THE MICKEY

See Mickey Mouse at Disney World and visit the many other theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Base yourself at the Ramada by Wyndham Kissimmee Gateway hotel, which has a pool and a Smokehouse Grill restaurant.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £789pp room-only with Gatwick flights (britishairways.com/orlando).

CARIBBEAN DREAM

Enjoy a rum punch or two as the sun sets across the Caribbean while staying at the good-value Timothy Beach Resort in the heart of Frigate Bay on St Kitts. The resort is right by a golden sandy beach and has its own pool.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £806pp with Gatwick flights (britishairwaysholidays.com/kitts).

FIVE-STAR THAILAND

Push the boat out at the five-star Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort And Spa next to Karon Beach on the Thai island. It’s in a peaceful spot with great sunsets, but also within walking distance of the area’s busy bars and restaurants.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £1,124pp B&B in a deluxe plus garden view room with Gatwick flights and transfers (travelzoo.com).

TOBAGO FOR ALL

Relax by the white sandy beach of the welcoming — and sporty — Magdalena Grand Beach And Golf Resort in Tobago for a bargain this summer.

It offers a range of activities, with tennis courts, championship 18-hole golf course, spa, two swimming pools and a nature trail so you can go on hikes. Perfect for active souls as well as those who just want to relax.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £1,169pp B&B with Gatwick flights (britishairways.com/tobago).

DON’T MISS THE UAE

Stay at the Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island hotel in Ras Al Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates, and enjoy 25 per cent off in August — all-inclusive.

It features a pool, a charming restaurant and, crucially, air conditioning: the average daily temperature is 35c, with highs touching 39c.

How to do it: Seven nights in August from £1,149pp all-inclusive with Heathrow flights (britishairways.com/dubai).

CUT-PRICE CAPE

Firstchoice.co.uk is offering seven nights in Boa Vista (above), part of the Cape Verde archipelago, in August from £917pp all-inclusive with Manchester flights

Firstchoice.co.uk is offering seven nights in Boa Vista (above), part of the Cape Verde archipelago, in August from £917pp all-inclusive with Manchester flights

Get away from it all by jetting off to the tropical islands of Cape Verde in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — without it costing a packet.

The family-friendly Hotel Riu Touareg in Boa Vista has pools facing a white sandy beach, plus tennis courts and a gym.

How to do it: Seven nights in August from £917pp all-inclusive with Manchester flights (firstchoice.co.uk).

OFF TO ABU DHABI

The Radisson Blu Hotel And Resort in Abu Dhabi is plush and modern with nine restaurants, a health club and a pool with a waterslide. There’s a bar at the nearby beach, as well as a swim-up pool bar.

How to do it: Seven nights in July from £1,100pp half-board including Gatwick flights (travelrepublic.co.uk).

ORLANDO WONDERS

Margaritaville Resort in Orlando, Florida, is just minutes away from Disney World, and close to Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, too. It’s a fun, party-orientated place (as the name suggests), with live music and the Salty Rim bar.

How to do it: A family of four can stay for seven nights in July from £1,049pp (or £4,196 in total for a family with children aged two to 17) with Gatwick flights (ba.com).

Note: Remember to check the latest Covid entry requirements for each country by visiting gov.uk.

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Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Montecito home is uninsurable

Best known as the home of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the duke and duchess of Sussex, Montecito is one of the world’s wealthiest enclaves. The exclusive Central Coast town, on the southern tip of Santa Barbara County, has just 8,200 people living in 9.2 square miles on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. 

Montecito also happens to occupy one of the most dangerous and increasingly active climate change-fueled disaster footprints in the U.S. To live there not only means paying a premium — but risking it all. Despite the wealth of its residents, this tony neighborhood is almost uninsurable.  

How Montecito became Montecito

From an outsider’s point of view, Montecito, just 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles, may seem like it is all sprawling estates nestled among the Santa Ynez Mountains. Historic villas and mansions, worth tens of millions of dollars, with beautifully manicured gardens and lawns, are home to its residents, living in paradise.

Such a lifestyle also poses its own hidden costs. 

The Santa Barbara Biltmore is a luxury hotel in Montecito. While it's one of the historic structures that has survived recent wildfires and mudslides, the threat of climate change-fueled disasters is constantly looming. 

The Santa Barbara Biltmore is a luxury hotel in Montecito. While it’s one of the historic structures that has survived recent wildfires and mudslides, the threat of climate change-fueled disasters is constantly looming. 

Buyenlarge/Getty Images

In the mid-19th century, wealthy landowners took notice of the area’s secluded landscape and started to buy up large swaths of Montecito, which was already establishing a favorable reputation for its Eden-like surroundings, Mediterranean climate and the rejuvenating power of its natural hot springs. 

By the early 20th century, famed architect George Washington Smith, who brought Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to the fore in California, watched as some of his sprawling creations come to life and quickly define the area. 

Sailboats are seen off Butterfly Beach on March 5, 2021 in the new hometown of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan, who purchased a home in Montecito.

Sailboats are seen off Butterfly Beach on March 5, 2021 in the new hometown of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan, who purchased a home in Montecito.

DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

Today, Montecito still has many historic structures — some even available for sale. El Fureidis, the historic mansion most notably featured as the home of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in 1983’s “Scarface,” hit the market in March for $40 million. There is also this 1929 George Washington Smith original, an 8,700-square-foot single-family home conveniently set back from the arterial Hot Springs Road on almost 2 acres. The asking price, it should be noted, is now nearly $20 million, more than quadruple its 2019 sale price of $4.4 million.

Montecito’s list of residents, both past and present, are a roll call of A-listers from their era. From Charlie Chaplin to Tom Cruise, Julia Child to Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Mitchum to Christopher Lloyd, Kenny Loggins to Ariana Grande — if a star were ever to crash down on Earth, Montecito is where they’d likely land. 

Montecito is ripe for risk

Part of what makes Montecito so alluring to its well-known residents is the way it combines natural beauty with urban convenience. Dense foliage and windy, dead-end drives create a barrier between them and the rest of the curious, gawking world. But living in the cradle of a wealth of natural fauna — the same topography that so readily obscures the whereabouts of the elite — is also what fire scientists say makes conditions in the age of climate disaster so ripe for risk. 

Fire, smoke and ash from the Thomas Fire, which burned in the hills above Montecito along the eastern edges of the county, destroyed several mansions in the tony village and paved the way for a deadly mudslide. 

Fire, smoke and ash from the Thomas Fire, which burned in the hills above Montecito along the eastern edges of the county, destroyed several mansions in the tony village and paved the way for a deadly mudslide. 

George Rose/Getty Images

Over the past few years, less wealthy communities with similar wildland-urban interface characteristics, like Paradise in Northern California or large swaths of suburban Sonoma County, have seen the worst-case scenarios of living in such regions come to fruition.


Montecitans have already experienced firsthand what that can look like. Five years ago, on Dec. 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire sparked near Santa Paula, a small inland Ventura County town just 40 miles southeast of Montecito. It would go on to burn more than 281,000 acres and wasn’t fully put out until June 2018. 

In that time, what was then the largest fire in California history destroyed more than 1,000 structures and caused an estimated $2.2 billion in damages. The fire required more than $230 million in state and federal resources to fight it. Though Montecito was not in the epicenter of the blaze, several mansions and notable buildings — including the sprawling home where soft rock act the Eagles first laid down “Hotel California” — would go up in flames. 

But the Thomas Fire also started a domino effect that resulted in residents evacuating five times in four months — the kind of disaster frequency that fire scientists and climate scientists have been warning us about in the era of extreme climate change. 

A strong wind blows embers from smoldering trees at the Thomas Fire on Dec. 16, 2017, in Montecito. The fire later ushered in mudslides that winter that killed 23 in the town. Today, homeowners in the ultra-wealthy enclave have a difficult time insuring their properties. 

A strong wind blows embers from smoldering trees at the Thomas Fire on Dec. 16, 2017, in Montecito. The fire later ushered in mudslides that winter that killed 23 in the town. Today, homeowners in the ultra-wealthy enclave have a difficult time insuring their properties. 

David McNew/Getty Images

Because the blaze occurred in the winter months, the fire burned and scarred the Santa Ynez Mountains just in time for the year’s biggest storm events. The conflagration had a devastating effect on the stability of the mountains, which rise up to 3,997 feet above Santa Barbara County. The dirt and rocks on the steep slopes above were charred and loose, creating the perfect conditions for a disaster for Montecito, whose upper village abuts the hillside. 

It happened in the middle of the night on Jan. 9, 2018. A brief but torrential downpour ripped through the southern part of Santa Barbara County. The rain unleashed severe mudslides and dislodged boulders — which ranged in size from an SUV to a small bungalow — from the hillsides and tumbled down. 

A wall of mud rushed down into the arterial zone of the tiny hamlet, up to 15 feet deep, engulfing entire houses and covering the long country blocks. By dawn, a major swath of the town was leveled, buried, no longer there. 

While some were awakened by the rumblings from above and knew to evacuate right away, others slept right through it. In total, 23 people died, 243 structures received enough damage to be red tagged, and 57 homes were destroyed. 

‘I’m always about telling people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear’

Today, the memory of the Thomas Fire and the mudslides that ensued “looms large and also doesn’t,” says Montecito real estate agent Kendrick Guehr. An influx of new pandemic-era residents emigrating from other metros in California, the East Coast and around the globe has brought new perspectives, and ever deeper pockets, to the area — and prices “continue to rise.”

A firefighter puts out hotspots on a smoldering hillside in Montecito as strong winds blow smoke and embers inland, Dec. 16, 2017, at the Thomas Fire.

A firefighter puts out hotspots on a smoldering hillside in Montecito as strong winds blow smoke and embers inland, Dec. 16, 2017, at the Thomas Fire.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Any serious buyer who approaches him, Guehr says, realizes quickly the village is not only different, but worth it. “There’s always been that cache around Montecito,” he continues. “Yes, I think there was more of it when Meghan and Prince Harry moved in. But … I don’t know that it’s them so much. I think Montecito was publicized — the area and what it offers — showcased. We have a lot of money and tons of celebrities. But they can get away from paparazzi — go to the store, go out to dinner and be left alone. We also have a lot of people with money: $50, $100, $200 million — or billions of dollars. 

Prince Harry whispers to Meghan Markle as they watch a dance performance by Jukebox Collective in the banqueting hall during a visit to Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales, The couple keep their primary home and are raising their two children in Montecito, a place that is both home to the world's wealthiest and most famous and rife with danger from climate change. 

Prince Harry whispers to Meghan Markle as they watch a dance performance by Jukebox Collective in the banqueting hall during a visit to Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales, The couple keep their primary home and are raising their two children in Montecito, a place that is both home to the world’s wealthiest and most famous and rife with danger from climate change. 

WPA Pool/Getty Images

“If you’re in that stratosphere, the celebrities aren’t as big of an appeal to you,” Guehr points out. “You’re either intertwined or not. So it’s not the big name people that brought the reputation, but they shed light on it.”

That means that Montecito, in spite of its known risk, is currently in the highest of high demand. 

As of April of this year, Montecito’s median sold home price was $11 million (up from $4 million in 2018), according to Realtor.com. While local real estate agents say most home purchases are strictly all-cash propositions, in the rare instance that a buyer wants to purchase a home with a lender, there has to be proof of insurance before the property closes. Even if you have the scratch to write the big check outright, the amount just to insure the purchase starts in the tens of thousands and can go up to seven figures per year.

But the overall cost to call Montecito home is far beyond what’s just on paper. “I’m always about telling people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear,” Guehr says.

Longtime Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey attends the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on Feb. 5, 2014.

Longtime Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey attends the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on Feb. 5, 2014.

C Flanigan/FilmMagic

The notion that disasters don’t care who you are was most recently exemplified during the mudslides. Former world tennis No. 1 and eight-time Grand Slam winner Jimmy Connors was among those who were stranded in the wake of the slides, eventually being airlifted from his home by the Coast Guard. “Montecito — fires burn- rain comes- mud slides and devastation- evacuated today by helicopter- thoughts and prayers for all !!!” he tweeted.

While her home was spared, long-time resident Oprah Winfrey posted photos and video on Instagram of nearly knee-deep mud covering her backyard, along with rescue helicopters buzzing by. “What a day! Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara,” she wrote. “Woke up to this blazing gas fire. Helicopters rescuing my neighbors. Looking for missing persons. 13 lives lost.”

Insuring the uninsurable

In the wake of the fire and floods, the region is now nearly uninsurable. Because of this, the state of California has stepped in with its FAIR Plan, California’s own insurance solution, a plan spun up in August 1968 after a series of brushfires and riots. The plan subsidizes an increasing number of homes in the footprint of fire or otherwise dangerous environmental outcomes.

Places that are, for the most part, uninsurable, even though homes can be worth tens of millions of dollars in communities like Montecito. 

Montecito resident Keith Hamm checks on San Ysidro Creek where it crosses East Valley Road in Montecito on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, as rain continues to fall in the area. 

Montecito resident Keith Hamm checks on San Ysidro Creek where it crosses East Valley Road in Montecito on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, as rain continues to fall in the area. 

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

“It now covers up to $3 million, which is still a fraction of what homes cost,” real estate agent Guehr says. “Government-subsidized insurance is never great, but I guess it’s something.”

The gap between a $3 million maximum policy and the actual value of their homes is why buyers and sellers in Montecito tend to get creative and have the means to do so, says Montecito real estate agent Maureen McDermut. If there’s one thing she says she’s learned in her profession over the past 22 years in the area, it’s that the chance of insuring a Montecito home depends not only on its specific location, but the day the inquiry is made. 

A member of a search and rescue team and his dog sift through debris looking for victims on a property in Montecito, Calif., Jan. 12, 2018. Heavy rains on Jan. 9 sent rivers of waist-high mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito. Twenty-three people died in the slides.

A member of a search and rescue team and his dog sift through debris looking for victims on a property in Montecito, Calif., Jan. 12, 2018. Heavy rains on Jan. 9 sent rivers of waist-high mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito. Twenty-three people died in the slides.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

“What’s happening is the insurance agencies are coming in and out of the market constantly,” she says. “You have to be quick to know who currently has the appetite to take on more products. One insurance agency may refuse houses today, but two months from now, they’re not at capacity. It’s a very fluid situation, it changes all the time, because their appetite is changing.

McDermut also notes getting insurance in Montecito isn’t just going to your local agent and seeing what’s available. She has insurers across the country and internationally, with even high-stakes, high-risk entities like Lloyd’s of London that come into play. 

Workers clear mud from the parking garage at the Montecito Inn following a mudslide on Jan. 12, 2018, in Montecito. While the hotel survived, many historic structures were buried and 23 lives were lost. 

Workers clear mud from the parking garage at the Montecito Inn following a mudslide on Jan. 12, 2018, in Montecito. While the hotel survived, many historic structures were buried and 23 lives were lost. 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As for how much it actually costs the luminaries who call Montecito home, McDermut says that can “change day-to-day.” Meghan and Harry’s house, for example, cost $14.7 million when the Sussexes bought it in June 2020 from Russian oligarch Sergey Grishin. McDermut says it’s “impossible to speculate” what the Sussexes or any individual property owner pays for insurance — and a particular rate, if one can be had at all, depends on the timing and where, specifically, the property is on the map.

One thing is for certain: Premiums are continuing to rise. 

Real estate agent Guehr says he just sold a $12 million house, and the buyers secured a $160,000 per year insurance plan. McDermut says she has a client who found out this week they will pay $45,000 per year on a “modest” home that was insured previously for $8,000. Both say that if the individual pays cash, as high-profile, high-net worth buyers usually do, policy details are rarely revealed. “Many take on the risk themselves,” Guehr says. “Literally every case is its own unique thing.” 

Is it really worth it?

But all that maneuvering, all the money, all the time and risk — is it worth it?

For Montecito’s moneyed residents, the short answer, at least for now, is yes. 

A plane drops flame retardant on a luxury home threatened by the Thomas Fire, on a hillside in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2017. 

A plane drops flame retardant on a luxury home threatened by the Thomas Fire, on a hillside in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2017. 

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

“As you start to look globally, we have tornados, hurricanes, fires, floods, there’s a natural disaster in almost every place you look,” McDermut says. “Choose what threshold of risk you put yourself in personally. We tell people when you come into the market, insurance is going to be expensive. It doesn’t matter what the people before you are paying, your rate is your rate. And that hasn’t stopped people.”

But has Montecito specifically found itself in the spotlight as an extraordinarily unsafe place, or as an extraordinarily expensive place, or both?

National fire officials seem to think it’s both, referring to Montecito as being in the heart of a “Goldilocks zone,” a term for a spot that can create perfect opportunities for fire and flood and other climate change-caused disasters to comingle and make life untenable.

Flames threaten homes at the Thomas Fire on December 16, 2017 in Montecito. The fire, which took more than six months to fully extinguish, led to a tragic mudslide in Montecito that caused extensive damage and took 23 lives. Now Montecito residents face challenges trying to insure their mega-million-dollar properties. 

Flames threaten homes at the Thomas Fire on December 16, 2017 in Montecito. The fire, which took more than six months to fully extinguish, led to a tragic mudslide in Montecito that caused extensive damage and took 23 lives. Now Montecito residents face challenges trying to insure their mega-million-dollar properties. 

David McNew/Getty Images

“I don’t know that we have a stance on Montecito specifically,” says Tina Boehle, spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, “but it fits well into what we consider a wildland-urban interface. Places like Montecito are places where we’re starting to see local agencies work with developers and the insurance companies — all working with planning commissions. We encourage that. But to make a blanket statement is really tough. Each part of the country, each community, has its own set of issues.” 

As Montecito continues to address the next potential conflagration or flood, groups like the Montecito Association are doing exactly what Boehle says, bringing together agencies and helping residents proactively navigate the challenges of protecting themselves, their communities and their homes. 

In 2019, the association spun up a committee to address the fire insurance problem specifically. They even share resources with similar neighborhoods in Santa Barbara that are in a fire danger footprint, as well as Malibu, a similarly well-heeled, yet risky, swath of exclusive California coastline. 

Humboldt County firefighters Lonnie Risling, left, and Jimmy McHaffie, right, spray down smoldering fire underneath the rubble of a home that was destroyed by the Thomas Fire, on Dec. 17, 2017, in Montecito.

Humboldt County firefighters Lonnie Risling, left, and Jimmy McHaffie, right, spray down smoldering fire underneath the rubble of a home that was destroyed by the Thomas Fire, on Dec. 17, 2017, in Montecito.

Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Cal Fire officials say they’re looking ahead to this summer and beyond, specifically encouraging areas like Montecito to remain as ready as they can be. The agency kicked off May, already the beginning of California’s red flag season, with Wildfire Preparedness Week, where crews traveled up and down the state to give residents in potential high-risk spots advice on how they can continue to prepare. 

That usually requires homeowners in places like Montecito — as well as Santa Rosa, Big Sur, and Malibu —  to complete defensible space work around individual homes before fire season gets into full swing. 

“We don’t necessarily have a wait-and-see attitude,” says Isaac Sanchez, battalion chief of communications for Cal Fire. “We can’t afford to take a wait-and-see attitude. We have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

In the end, the enormous cost and high risk of coming into a community like Montecito are both well-known and well-disclosed, says real estate agent McDermut. The rich and famous continue to come, even if it means evacuating in a natural disaster. 

“People don’t have to live and work in the same location anymore, and Montecito has always looked like a tremendous value even compared to LA, SF and Malibu,” she says. “People said ‘Look, it’s beautiful and a higher quality of life.’ We became discovered during the pandemic. And that trend is carrying on today.”




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Foreign influx in Antalya reinforces bets for buoyant tourism season

Foreign tourists are flocking to Antalya, affirming the industry’s expectations for a buoyant season, as the southern Mediterranean tourism gem rebounds from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daily arrivals hover between 25,000 and 30,000 during the week and reach up to 45,000 over the weekends, according to the city’s governor.

An influx of tourists from Europe, particularly Germany and Britain, two of the markets the Turkish tourism sector missed during the pandemic, has provided encouragement for an industry worried about the potential impact of the war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to hit the arrivals from Turkey’s top tourist sources, just as the crucial sector has continued to recover from the impact of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 since 2020.

Antalya Governor Ersin Yazıcı says the coastal resort town is ready for the summer season, stressing the already high mobility, which reinforces high expectations for this year’s foreign arrivals and revenue.

Strong arrivals despite the war in Ukraine are encouraging the industry, Yazıcı told Anadolu Agency (AA).

“For about a month, we have been receiving between 25,000 and 30,000 foreign tourists daily, on weekends, this figure reaches between 40,000 and up to 45,000 a day,” Yazıcı said.

More than 9 million foreign tourists arrived in the southern province throughout 2021, in a major rebound from 2020, but it still well lagged 15.6 million that arrived in 2019.

“If it were not for the unpleasant incident between Russia and Ukraine this year, the expectation would have been to surpass the figures of 2019, we will definitely surpass 2021, and we can also approach the figures of 2019,” said Yazıcı.

More than 1.11 million foreign tourists arrived in Antalya between January through the end of April, according to data compiled from the provincial culture and tourism directorate.

It marks a 162% increase compared to some 423,773 tourists who arrived in the four months of last year.

Germany topped the list among nations in the resort city with nearly 330,000 tourists arriving from the nation through the end of last month. Brits and Russians followed with 150,944 and 143,485, the data showed.

Some British tour operators are said to have added additional capacity for flights to Turkey, while industry officials expect flights from Russia to gain momentum this month.

Russians and Ukrainians topped the list and accounted for about 40% and 14%, respectively, of foreign arrivals last year, said Yazıcı.

“This year the picture has changed a bit,” he noted, stressing that the number of guests who have arrived since January has so far reached 1.22 million.

“It is slightly below the 2019 figures, but it is a good figure. Some 445,000 people had arrived in the same period last year,” he said.

Germans and Brits spearhead the list, accounting for 29.5% and 13.5% of the arrivals, respectively, the governor noted. They are followed by Russians with 13% and the Dutch with 6.4%, he added.

“Arrivals from Europe and Northern Europe have increased. The sector is very pleased with the fact that arrivals from Germany and the U.K. have increased. We are expecting a good season despite the war.”

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San Francisco then and now: Book pairs vintage photos with modern pictures taken from the same angle

San Francisco has risen from the rubble of earthquakes and the ashes of fires to become a ‘world-class metropolis with international appeal’.

And this is its story, told by authors Dennis Evanosky and Eric J Kos in San Francisco Then and Now, published by Pavilion.

The fascinating book pairs vintage photographs of San Francisco from the 19th and 20th centuries with specially commissioned views of the same scenes as they look today, illustrating how the city – ‘home to some of America’s most diverse architecture and design’ – has evolved.

Alamo Square, Twin Peaks Boulevard, Fisherman’s Wharf and Telegraph Hill are just some of the iconic landmarks that feature in the tome, which traces key events in the city’s history, such as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake – which saw 3,000 people lose their lives – the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s, and the colorist movement of the 1960s that inspired the city’s famous ‘Painted Ladies’ houses. 

In the introduction to the book, authors Evanosky and Kos, who have been collaborating on books about San Francisco since 2004, write: ‘San Francisco, then as now, remains a captivating place that calls to everyone in the world for a fortune, or just a visit.’

Scroll down for a glimpse inside the riveting compendium…

FORT POINT  

The top image shows an organised swim across the Golden Gate strait on August 20, 1911, with spectators watching the event from Fort Point. Evanosky and Kos reveal that four women and several men attempted the swim, with just three of the women making it to the finish line. 'None of the men finished the race,' the authors note. Fort Point, the authors explain, was built between 1853 and 1861 and designed to accommodate 126 cannons. The authors write: 'Company I (a military unit) of the Third U.S Artillery Regiment garrisoned the fort in February 1861. Union forces occupied the fort throughout the Civil War, but the advent of faster, more powerful rifled cannons made brick forts such as Fort Point obsolete. In 1886 the army withdrew its troops. Fourteen years later it removed the last cannon.' Original plans for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge (bottom photograph) called for Fort Point's demolition, but bridge builder Joseph Strauss considered Fort Point 'such an important thread in San Francisco's fabric' that he incorporated a special arch over the fort into the design of the bridge, which was completed in 1937. 'During World War II, about 100 soldiers occupied Fort Point. They manned searchlights and rapid-fire cannons, an integral part of a submarine net strung across the entrance to the bay,' the book notes. While the fort buildings are obscured in the bottom image, we're told they can be seen clearly from alternative viewing points. Today, Civil War reenactors frequently bring the fort to life, 'evoking the memory of the bastion's 19th-century importance'

The top image shows an organised swim across the Golden Gate strait on August 20, 1911, with spectators watching the event from Fort Point. Evanosky and Kos reveal that four women and several men attempted the swim, with just three of the women making it to the finish line. ‘None of the men finished the race,’ the authors note. Fort Point, the authors explain, was built between 1853 and 1861 and designed to accommodate 126 cannons. The authors write: ‘Company I (a military unit) of the Third U.S Artillery Regiment garrisoned the fort in February 1861. Union forces occupied the fort throughout the Civil War, but the advent of faster, more powerful rifled cannons made brick forts such as Fort Point obsolete. In 1886 the army withdrew its troops. Fourteen years later it removed the last cannon.’ Original plans for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge (bottom photograph) called for Fort Point’s demolition, but bridge builder Joseph Strauss considered Fort Point ‘such an important thread in San Francisco’s fabric’ that he incorporated a special arch over the fort into the design of the bridge, which was completed in 1937. ‘During World War II, about 100 soldiers occupied Fort Point. They manned searchlights and rapid-fire cannons, an integral part of a submarine net strung across the entrance to the bay,’ the book notes. While the fort buildings are obscured in the bottom image, we’re told they can be seen clearly from alternative viewing points. Today, Civil War reenactors frequently bring the fort to life, ‘evoking the memory of the bastion’s 19th-century importance’ 

 SAN FRANCISCO BAY

'This picture of San Francisco Bay dates to 1850 when San Francisco was scarcely the world-class city we know today,' the authors say of the top archival image. It shows, we're told, the houses between Telegraph Hill and El Rincon. The authors note the 'lack of men' in the city at the time, adding that 'they were all in the gold fields'. The book continues: 'Everybody aboard the arriving ships, from the cabin boy to the captain, jumped ship for richer diggings than they would ever find in San Francisco. Those "sticks" in the distance (of the top photograph) are the masts of just some of the ships that these prospectors abandoned on their way to seek their riches.' The authors add that the city 'rose from the ashes more than once in the mid-19th century'. Describing some of the fires that blazed in the city, the tome reveals: 'The "Christmas Eve Fire" struck in 1849, leaving $1million (£815,892) in damage in its wake. Three fires wreaked havoc in 1851.' Skyscrapers, which include the 493ft (150m) Hilton San Francisco (pictured on the left-hand side of the bottom image), have replaced the masts of the 19th century on the city's skyline today, the book notes

‘This picture of San Francisco Bay dates to 1850 when San Francisco was scarcely the world-class city we know today,’ the authors say of the top archival image. It shows, we’re told, the houses between Telegraph Hill and El Rincon. The authors note the ‘lack of men’ in the city at the time, adding that ‘they were all in the gold fields’. The book continues: ‘Everybody aboard the arriving ships, from the cabin boy to the captain, jumped ship for richer diggings than they would ever find in San Francisco. Those “sticks” in the distance (of the top photograph) are the masts of just some of the ships that these prospectors abandoned on their way to seek their riches.’ The authors add that the city ‘rose from the ashes more than once in the mid-19th century’. Describing some of the fires that blazed in the city, the tome reveals: ‘The “Christmas Eve Fire” struck in 1849, leaving $1million (£815,892) in damage in its wake. Three fires wreaked havoc in 1851.’ Skyscrapers, which include the 493ft (150m) Hilton San Francisco (pictured on the left-hand side of the bottom image), have replaced the masts of the 19th century on the city’s skyline today, the book notes 

TWIN PEAKS BOULEVARD

At the top, two cars negotiate one of the hairpin bends on Twin Peaks Boulevard in a picture dating to 1930, taken from the promontory of Christmas Tree Point. The City of San Francisco built Twin Peaks Boulevard at a cost of $55,154 (£45,245), with construction beginning in 1915, Evanosky and Kos explain, adding: 'Automobiles began negotiating the hairpin turns one year later.' The boulevard divides two peaks known as Eureka and Noe and early on became a source of pride, the book explains, with the 1918 San Francisco Municipal Report bragging that 'from no other eminence in San Francisco can such a varied and pleasing panorama of ocean, bay, mountain and metropolis be obtained'. One notable sight clearly seen from the boulevard is Market Street, which runs in a straight line below. The book notes: 'That straight line is no accident; when Jasper O'Farrell laid out the city in 1847, he defined Market Street as a line aimed directly at the centre of the peaks.' Today, Twin Peaks Boulevard is little changed, the book notes. It continues: 'Tour buses chug up the boulevard, which is part of San Francisco's 49-Mile Scenic Drive [a route created in 1938 to showcase the city's vistas and attractions], carrying tourists from all over the world. The buses compete for space with automobiles driven by visitors who also come to enjoy the view of the city below'

At the top, two cars negotiate one of the hairpin bends on Twin Peaks Boulevard in a picture dating to 1930, taken from the promontory of Christmas Tree Point. The City of San Francisco built Twin Peaks Boulevard at a cost of $55,154 (£45,245), with construction beginning in 1915, Evanosky and Kos explain, adding: ‘Automobiles began negotiating the hairpin turns one year later.’ The boulevard divides two peaks known as Eureka and Noe and early on became a source of pride, the book explains, with the 1918 San Francisco Municipal Report bragging that ‘from no other eminence in San Francisco can such a varied and pleasing panorama of ocean, bay, mountain and metropolis be obtained’. One notable sight clearly seen from the boulevard is Market Street, which runs in a straight line below. The book notes: ‘That straight line is no accident; when Jasper O’Farrell laid out the city in 1847, he defined Market Street as a line aimed directly at the centre of the peaks.’ Today, Twin Peaks Boulevard is little changed, the book notes. It continues: ‘Tour buses chug up the boulevard, which is part of San Francisco’s 49-Mile Scenic Drive [a route created in 1938 to showcase the city’s vistas and attractions], carrying tourists from all over the world. The buses compete for space with automobiles driven by visitors who also come to enjoy the view of the city below’ 

BROADWAY 

'Broadway played an especially important role in San Francisco's early history,' the book explains. It says that 'teamsters [drivers] used the street to deliver their wares to and from the Broadway Pier' and 'wealthy passengers arrived at the pier and expected a comfortable carriage ride from their steamships and ferries to Portsmouth Square at the heart of the city'. The authors reveal that the hill between Kearny and Montgomery streets on Broadway was cut through, making a flatter stretch of road, in order to 'relieve 19th-century congestion'. The top photograph, captured circa 1865, shows the portion of the hill that was cut through. However, according to the authors, 'the real challenge lay six blocks away at Russian Hill'. The incline of Russian Hill, which is also the name of a San Francisco neighborhood, can be seen in the distance in both pictures. 'In 1864 Abner Doble, whose grandson and namesake later made steam automobiles, had planned to build a tunnel under the hill,' the book reveals. It wasn't until 1950, however, that the Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company began work on the 1,616-foot-long Broadway Tunnel that runs under the hill. The tunnel, whose 'grey superstructure' can be seen on the far left in the contemporary image, officially opened in 1952. According to the book, the tunnel 'brings the 19th-century dream of providing the flattest, most direct route from North Beach and Chinatown to Russian Hill, the Marina, and Pacific Heights'

‘Broadway played an especially important role in San Francisco’s early history,’ the book explains. It says that ‘teamsters [drivers] used the street to deliver their wares to and from the Broadway Pier’ and ‘wealthy passengers arrived at the pier and expected a comfortable carriage ride from their steamships and ferries to Portsmouth Square at the heart of the city’. The authors reveal that the hill between Kearny and Montgomery streets on Broadway was cut through, making a flatter stretch of road, in order to ‘relieve 19th-century congestion’. The top photograph, captured circa 1865, shows the portion of the hill that was cut through. However, according to the authors, ‘the real challenge lay six blocks away at Russian Hill’. The incline of Russian Hill, which is also the name of a San Francisco neighborhood, can be seen in the distance in both pictures. ‘In 1864 Abner Doble, whose grandson and namesake later made steam automobiles, had planned to build a tunnel under the hill,’ the book reveals. It wasn’t until 1950, however, that the Morrison-Knudsen Construction Company began work on the 1,616-foot-long Broadway Tunnel that runs under the hill. The tunnel, whose ‘grey superstructure’ can be seen on the far left in the contemporary image, officially opened in 1952. According to the book, the tunnel ‘brings the 19th-century dream of providing the flattest, most direct route from North Beach and Chinatown to Russian Hill, the Marina, and Pacific Heights’

FISHERMAN’S WHARF 

'Few establishments represent the tradition of Fisherman's Wharf like Alioto's No. Eight,' the book says of the eatery that features in both pictures above. 'Beginning with a simple fresh fish stall in 1925, Nuncio Alioto Sr, a Sicilian immigrant, operated out of stall number eight while the wharf was little more than a lumberyard,' the book explains. Nuncio's wife, Rose, took over the restaurant upon his death in 1933. 'Legend has it she created the first cioppino dish (a famous fish stew),' the book explains. 'When Fisherman's Wharf saw thousands of men embark there for duty in the Pacific theatre of World War II, the restaurant's notoriety grew,' the authors reveal. The top picture shows the eatery in 1962, with the entrance to Pier 45 seen in the background. 'The vast pier has long served the fishing industry,' the authors note, adding that today, it hosts 'two historic watercraft' - 'The USS Pampanito, a Balao-class submarine from World War II, and the USS Jeremiah O'Brien, one of two remaining fully operational World War II Liberty ships of the more than 2,700 built'. The authors note that some 15million people visit the wharf annually, adding: 'Pier 45 may appeal more to the international tourist than the local fisherman, yet today it still houses the West Coast's largest concentration of commercial fish processors and distributors'

‘Few establishments represent the tradition of Fisherman’s Wharf like Alioto’s No. Eight,’ the book says of the eatery that features in both pictures above. ‘Beginning with a simple fresh fish stall in 1925, Nuncio Alioto Sr, a Sicilian immigrant, operated out of stall number eight while the wharf was little more than a lumberyard,’ the book explains. Nuncio’s wife, Rose, took over the restaurant upon his death in 1933. ‘Legend has it she created the first cioppino dish (a famous fish stew),’ the book explains. ‘When Fisherman’s Wharf saw thousands of men embark there for duty in the Pacific theatre of World War II, the restaurant’s notoriety grew,’ the authors reveal. The top picture shows the eatery in 1962, with the entrance to Pier 45 seen in the background. ‘The vast pier has long served the fishing industry,’ the authors note, adding that today, it hosts ‘two historic watercraft’ – ‘The USS Pampanito, a Balao-class submarine from World War II, and the USS Jeremiah O’Brien, one of two remaining fully operational World War II Liberty ships of the more than 2,700 built’. The authors note that some 15million people visit the wharf annually, adding: ‘Pier 45 may appeal more to the international tourist than the local fisherman, yet today it still houses the West Coast’s largest concentration of commercial fish processors and distributors’ 

TELEGRAPH HILL 

In the upper image, taken in 1865 during the Civil War, a telescope sits atop Telegraph Hill. Evanosky and Kos say: 'The hill long served as an observation point. In 1846 Captain John Montgomery claimed San Francisco for the United States and called for a defensive structure on the hill. He also had a signalling device constructed there to alert him to vessels entering the Golden Gate.' The contemporary image shows Coit Tower atop the hill, a monument built as a tribute to San Francisco's firefighters. It's named after Lillie Coit, a woman who led a 'colourful life', according to the authors. They reveal: 'As a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 1858, she helped put out fires with the Knickerbocker Engine Company No.5, earning herself a permanent position as the patroness of local firefighters.' Eventually, she married a 'successful stockbroker and travelled the world, becoming a person of note in the courts of Napoleon III and the Maharaja of India', the book notes, adding that Coit 'left part of her fortune, more than $100,000 (£82,008), to beautify the city in an "appropriate manner"'. The money was used to build Coit Tower, which opened in 1933 and was designed in the Art Deco style

In the upper image, taken in 1865 during the Civil War, a telescope sits atop Telegraph Hill. Evanosky and Kos say: ‘The hill long served as an observation point. In 1846 Captain John Montgomery claimed San Francisco for the United States and called for a defensive structure on the hill. He also had a signalling device constructed there to alert him to vessels entering the Golden Gate.’ The contemporary image shows Coit Tower atop the hill, a monument built as a tribute to San Francisco’s firefighters. It’s named after Lillie Coit, a woman who led a ‘colourful life’, according to the authors. They reveal: ‘As a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 1858, she helped put out fires with the Knickerbocker Engine Company No.5, earning herself a permanent position as the patroness of local firefighters.’ Eventually, she married a ‘successful stockbroker and travelled the world, becoming a person of note in the courts of Napoleon III and the Maharaja of India’, the book notes, adding that Coit ‘left part of her fortune, more than $100,000 (£82,008), to beautify the city in an “appropriate manner”‘. The money was used to build Coit Tower, which opened in 1933 and was designed in the Art Deco style

 VIEW OF THE WATERFRONT FROM TELEGRAPH HILL

The upper snapshot shows San Francisco waterfront 'bustling with wartime industry' circa 1945, as captured from Telegraph Hill. Evanosky and Kos note that 'when the gold rush created the instant city (San Francisco), new construction clustered on Telegraph Hill'. And much of it survives to this day. The authors explain: 'During the fire of 1906, Telegraph Hill was mostly spared due to the efforts of residents who managed to divert the flames. The city's largest concentration of pre-1870 structures remains standing there today.' The book adds that developers have tried to buy the 19th-century cottages on the hill, but local activism has prevented it. Just out of shot in the contemporary picture, to the bottom left, is Marchant Gardens - a city landmark named after Grace Marchant, a resident of the hill. The authors explain: 'She took a trash-strewn area near the Filbert Street Steps and converted it into a lush and varied urban garden, providing a habitat for many species of tropical and native birds, including the famed wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.' And as for the waterfront area, 'over the years, cargo handling on the San Francisco waterfront has largely faded', the book reveals. It says: 'Ferries come in fewer numbers, and private vessels and cruise ships are more likely to ply these waters.' The area pictured today features several waterfront restaurants, where 'tourists and residents can relax in places that once boomed with industry'

The upper snapshot shows San Francisco waterfront ‘bustling with wartime industry’ circa 1945, as captured from Telegraph Hill. Evanosky and Kos note that ‘when the gold rush created the instant city (San Francisco), new construction clustered on Telegraph Hill’. And much of it survives to this day. The authors explain: ‘During the fire of 1906, Telegraph Hill was mostly spared due to the efforts of residents who managed to divert the flames. The city’s largest concentration of pre-1870 structures remains standing there today.’ The book adds that developers have tried to buy the 19th-century cottages on the hill, but local activism has prevented it. Just out of shot in the contemporary picture, to the bottom left, is Marchant Gardens – a city landmark named after Grace Marchant, a resident of the hill. The authors explain: ‘She took a trash-strewn area near the Filbert Street Steps and converted it into a lush and varied urban garden, providing a habitat for many species of tropical and native birds, including the famed wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.’ And as for the waterfront area, ‘over the years, cargo handling on the San Francisco waterfront has largely faded’, the book reveals. It says: ‘Ferries come in fewer numbers, and private vessels and cruise ships are more likely to ply these waters.’ The area pictured today features several waterfront restaurants, where ‘tourists and residents can relax in places that once boomed with industry’ 

BAY BRIDGE  

The image at the top – captured on Yerba Buena Island – winds the clock back to 1934, two years before the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Oakland via Yerba Buena, opened. Shedding light on Bay Bridge’s construction, the authors say: ‘Workers hewed a tunnel through the heart of Yerba Buena Island to support the roadbed that allowed traffic to flow across the Bay Bridge. When the Bay Bridge first opened in 1936, the bridge’s upper deck carried three lanes of automobile traffic in each direction. Automobiles on the lower deck shared the road with trucks, trains and streetcars. Two railroad tracks were built on the south side of the lower deck for the electric commuter trains of the Southern Pacific, the Key System and the Sacramento Northern Rail Service.’ The structure has two crossings – the part that connects San Francisco and Yerba Buena is a suspension bridge. The authors note: ‘The upper deck of the Bay Bridge’s suspension span takes drivers from Yerba Buena Island onto Rincon Hill and into San Francisco, while the lower deck carries traffic into the East Bay.’ The authors add: ‘The Bay Bridge seldom gets as much attention as San Francisco Bay’s other suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge’ 

VIEW FROM THE FERRY BUILDING

'This striking view from the Ferry Building after the earthquake and fire of 1906 shows only one habitable structure: a tent at the lower right of the photograph,' Evanosky and Kos say of the top image. The authors add that the fact that the streetcars are running so soon after the disaster shows the 'resilience that will quickly rebuild the city'. 'Cities around the region committed themselves to rebuilding the fallen city by sending firefighters, construction material and other supplies by rail and ferry. Many citizens opened their homes to the hundreds of thousands of sudden refugees,' the book reveals, adding: 'Tent cities appeared both in town and in other Bay Area communities. Just after the disaster, hundreds of displaced dogs and cats wandered the city, lost in a place they no longer recognised.' The authors say that the view from the Ferry Building tower today is a 'heartening view of urban life at it is finest'. The book notes: 'Cultural experiences abound in any number of theatres, galleries, museums, boutiques, and bars, all within a few blocks' walk... on the Embarcadero Plaza below (bottom right), artisans and craftspeople gather in a bazaar on a regular basis'

‘This striking view from the Ferry Building after the earthquake and fire of 1906 shows only one habitable structure: a tent at the lower right of the photograph,’ Evanosky and Kos say of the top image. The authors add that the fact that the streetcars are running so soon after the disaster shows the ‘resilience that will quickly rebuild the city’. ‘Cities around the region committed themselves to rebuilding the fallen city by sending firefighters, construction material and other supplies by rail and ferry. Many citizens opened their homes to the hundreds of thousands of sudden refugees,’ the book reveals, adding: ‘Tent cities appeared both in town and in other Bay Area communities. Just after the disaster, hundreds of displaced dogs and cats wandered the city, lost in a place they no longer recognised.’ The authors say that the view from the Ferry Building tower today is a ‘heartening view of urban life at it is finest’. The book notes: ‘Cultural experiences abound in any number of theatres, galleries, museums, boutiques, and bars, all within a few blocks’ walk… on the Embarcadero Plaza below (bottom right), artisans and craftspeople gather in a bazaar on a regular basis’

PAINTED LADIES ON ALAMO SQUARE 

Known as the 'Painted Ladies' of 'Postcard Row', these six houses (on the left of both images) have been residing beside each other on the Steiner Street side of Alamo Square since the 1890s, the authors note. At the time of their construction, this style of building was 'commonplace'. 'Victorian-era carpenters had access to new printed guidebooks to help them produce a house over and over again,' the book reveals. The dramatic top photo shows the Painted Ladies on the morning of April 18, 1906, when fires broke out across the city. During the decades between and during the world wars, houses of this style were clad in war-surplus grey, brick, stucco, or aluminium siding, the book notes, adding that Steiner Street's Painted Ladies 'were lucky to survive.' It reveals: 'An estimated 16,000 like them were demolished during the same period. Many others had decorative wooden elements removed and shipped off for the war effort.' The book notes that some credit the artist Butch Kardum, who experimented with bright decorations on Victorian homes in the 1960s, with bringing color back to the Painted Ladies. Locals call this trend the 'colorist movement'. Evanosky and Kos add: 'The 1980s sitcom Full House featured the Painted Ladies from this memorable perspective during the opening credits. The show - and millions of other mass-media images - helped turn this particular view into a cultural icon for San Francisco'

Known as the ‘Painted Ladies’ of ‘Postcard Row’, these six houses (on the left of both images) have been residing beside each other on the Steiner Street side of Alamo Square since the 1890s, the authors note. At the time of their construction, this style of building was ‘commonplace’. ‘Victorian-era carpenters had access to new printed guidebooks to help them produce a house over and over again,’ the book reveals. The dramatic top photo shows the Painted Ladies on the morning of April 18, 1906, when fires broke out across the city. During the decades between and during the world wars, houses of this style were clad in war-surplus grey, brick, stucco, or aluminium siding, the book notes, adding that Steiner Street’s Painted Ladies ‘were lucky to survive.’ It reveals: ‘An estimated 16,000 like them were demolished during the same period. Many others had decorative wooden elements removed and shipped off for the war effort.’ The book notes that some credit the artist Butch Kardum, who experimented with bright decorations on Victorian homes in the 1960s, with bringing color back to the Painted Ladies. Locals call this trend the ‘colorist movement’. Evanosky and Kos add: ‘The 1980s sitcom Full House featured the Painted Ladies from this memorable perspective during the opening credits. The show – and millions of other mass-media images – helped turn this particular view into a cultural icon for San Francisco’ 

CABLE CAR ON HYDE STREET 

The upper snapshot, taken in 1945, shows the Hyde Street Cable Car ascending Russian Hill with Alcatraz, an island in San Francisco bay, in the background. 'The Hyde Street cable car line dates back to 1890, when the California Street Cable Railroad, or "Cal Cable", opened the O'Farrell, Jones and Hyde lines. Only the Hyde Street line remains in operation today,' the book reveals. The city's cable cars have been threatened several times in the past, notably in 1947 when the mayor proposed scrapping the Powell Street line, only for the city to 'rise up in defiance'. Cal Cable went broke in 1951, and 'desperate negotiations' resulted in the city and county taking over the company's assets and 'successfully operating the lines' ever since. The authors add that while 'many other cities across the United States suffered decay and population loss during the suburbanisation of the 1950s, San Francisco bucked this trend'. The book explains: 'Its geography gives the city a dense, compact nature that prevents the Los Angeles-style sprawl that has claimed so many other urban centres. San Francisco tore up many streetcar tracks, preferring the more modern subway and bus systems. But the city's close-knit nature, diverse culture, and strong middle class helped maintain a vibrant urban lifestyle that was disappearing from many other great nations of that time'

The upper snapshot, taken in 1945, shows the Hyde Street Cable Car ascending Russian Hill with Alcatraz, an island in San Francisco bay, in the background. ‘The Hyde Street cable car line dates back to 1890, when the California Street Cable Railroad, or “Cal Cable”, opened the O’Farrell, Jones and Hyde lines. Only the Hyde Street line remains in operation today,’ the book reveals. The city’s cable cars have been threatened several times in the past, notably in 1947 when the mayor proposed scrapping the Powell Street line, only for the city to ‘rise up in defiance’. Cal Cable went broke in 1951, and ‘desperate negotiations’ resulted in the city and county taking over the company’s assets and ‘successfully operating the lines’ ever since. The authors add that while ‘many other cities across the United States suffered decay and population loss during the suburbanisation of the 1950s, San Francisco bucked this trend’. The book explains: ‘Its geography gives the city a dense, compact nature that prevents the Los Angeles-style sprawl that has claimed so many other urban centres. San Francisco tore up many streetcar tracks, preferring the more modern subway and bus systems. But the city’s close-knit nature, diverse culture, and strong middle class helped maintain a vibrant urban lifestyle that was disappearing from many other great nations of that time’ 

San Francisco Then and Now by Dennis Evanosky and Eric J Kos, published by Pavilion, is available from bookshops and online (RRP £20/US $19.95/CAN $26.95)

San Francisco Then and Now by Dennis Evanosky and Eric J Kos, published by Pavilion, is available from bookshops and online (RRP £20/US $19.95/CAN $26.95) 

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These 10 companies help pay for their employees’ vacations

Michelle and Jeremy Warren’s recent trip to the Galapagos Islands was paid for, in part, by her company, FullContact.

Michelle Warren

When Michelle Warren traveled to the Galapagos Islands for 10 days this spring, her bosses helped foot the bill.

It’s one of the many benefits offered by her employer, Denver-based tech company FullContact.

Warren’s not alone. While paid vacation days are a sought-after benefit, some employers are taking it a step further and giving workers money to help offset the cost of their trips.

Warren, who traveled with her husband, father and stepmother, received $7,000 towards the cost of her vacation.

“It’s life changing, truly, to go to the Galapagos,” said Warren, 38.

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She and her husband, Jeremy, wanted to do something big and celebratory after they both earned their master’s degrees.

“The bonus from FullContact meant that we could do that in a way that was super-meaningful for us as a family,” Warren said.

On each work anniversary, employees get a vacation bonus, the amount of which depends on each person’s tenure. It starts at $2,000 and maxes out at $7,000 by year three. The employee must also have a good performance record.

As the company’s vice president of global human resources, Warren knows the impact the perk has on both employees and the company.

“It creates engagement, motivation for the work and energy around knowing that they can fully disconnect,” she said.

“It’s about that true reenergizing, resting [and] relaxing, that then helps them come back in a positive way and continue all that work.”

Paid vacation days are part of an overall benefits package that includes unlimited vacation days and 26 company holidays. Warren believes those perks help the company in the war for talent, especially considering it has to compete against tech giants.

FullContact boasts an 85% retention rate, which Warren said is “amazing during the Great Resignation and particularly in the tech industry.”

In addition to FullContact, nine other remote-friendly companies were recently highlighted by career website FlexJobs as helping pay for employee vacations. Here’s the list:

  1. Airbnb: Employees receive $2,000 in Airbnb travel credit each year. It’s distributed on a quarterly basis and can be used to book stays or experiences on the Airbnb platform.
  2. BambooHR: The firm offers employees $2,000 each year towards vacation expenses, such as hotel rooms and airfare.
  3. Calendly: The company grants every employee a $1,000 annual travel stipend, which can be used for hotels, flight, transportation or even staycation activities to help recharge locally during the pandemic.
  4. Evernote: The company offers employees a $1,000 yearly vacation stipend.
  5. Expedia: Employees are reimbursed for expenses related to travel and wellness, from $1,250 to $1,750 per year, depending on tenure. Workers can also receive additional funds in their reimbursement accounts based on certain employment milestones and may also be given travel awards in recognition for exceptional work. Plus, they receive discounts on retail and travel packages purchased through the brand’s sites.
  6. FullContact: The company provides up $7,000 per year for employees to travel. The amount depends on tenure.
  7. PulsePoint: Employees receive a $500 annual travel reimbursement for vacation.
  8. Thirty Madison: Employees are eligible for an annual $750 vacation stipend on day one of hire. It can be redeemed once the employee has taken a vacation of five or more consecutive days.
  9. TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor reimburses for personal travel, among other things, as part of its global lifestyle benefit. The amount paid out for the various eligible services and products is based on years of service and ranges from $1,250 to $1,750 a year.
  10. United Airlines: Employees receive unlimited standby travel and discounted rates on airline tickets to anywhere United flies.

To land a job that gives you the perks you desire, such as money towards travel, first make a list of your values and what exactly you are looking for in an employer, said Toni Frana, a career services manager at FlexJobs.

Then, start researching companies that seem to fit the bill on websites such as FlexJobs or Glassdoor. Even check the companies’ websites, which may detail their benefits packages.

Rank the companies to help narrow down your targets and start networking.

“Connecting with people who work there can help you get in front of the right people,” Frana said.

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19 miles of public trails about to open on Calif. coast

Rounding a curve within a redwood grove along a neatly carved forest path, Katy Poniatowski points out the section ahead with a sense of earnest pride. 

“I helped dig that out,” she said, noting how she was one of a crew of 10 volunteers who used shovels and hoes to clear out the zigzagging pathway in December 2021. 

The trail is part of the first loop that’s in development in this northern section of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument, one of the newer additions of public land to the region that will become available for recreation later this year. 

Poniatowski is one of the hundreds of volunteers who’ve come out to build a network of trails that will serve hikers, bikers and horseback riders. The plan is to create multiple trail loops, with varying difficulties, that cover 19 miles across the national monument. 

The current plan for trail development in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

The current plan for trail development in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Courtesy of Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship

Located outside Davenport where the Santa Cruz Mountains collapse into the sea, the national monument occupies land that was once inhabited by Indigenous peoples known as the Cotoni (pronounced sho-toe-knee). The area was repurposed for agriculture during the 19th century, and relics of its cattle history remain across the bucolic landscape.

Following decades of work from conservationists to preserve the property for open space, 5,800 acres of the coast-facing property are owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The land became a national monument in January 2017 just as Barack Obama’s administration was on its way out the door. 


“We tried to strike a balance between protection and public access,” said Ben Blom, spokesperson for the BLM. “We broke the property into four different zones, and two will have trail development. We wanted to create blocks set aside for wildlife and for traditional cultural practices for the Amah Mutsun tribe.”

Three cattle grazing programs remain on the property, and the active grazing program is considered an attribute for protection from wildfires. “When we had the CZU Lightning Complex fires, it showed how important the grazing program was for providing a buffer and for protecting the town of Davenport,” Blom said. 

A Cat 301.7 CR Mini Excavator plowing the terrain in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

A Cat 301.7 CR Mini Excavator plowing the terrain in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Courtesy of Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship

Poniatowski is the spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship, the nonprofit collaborating with the BLM to create the trail system. She hopes to bring awareness that volunteers are welcome to join and help shape the trails, enhancing a sense of communal ownership and pride for the open space. 

On a recent Tuesday morning, seven volunteers were hacking away at brushes of poison oak and widening the trail in the wake of a Cat 301.7 CR Mini Excavator that was plowing through the land. On a typical day, the excavator can move about 300 feet forward while the crew follows from behind to mellow out the terrain. 

Besides creating a trail that will extend to 40 inches in some parts to allow for multiple uses, the crew will also build several bridges on the property to cross over the multiple creeks that flow toward the ocean. 

It’s a gradual process, but the volunteer crews appear to enjoy themselves in the exposed elements. Some don Tyvek suits to protect from the contagious poison oak oils (it’s notably rampant in the Santa Cruz Mountains), and one volunteer named Bruce has a tendency to build natural benches made of stone that he installs along the freshly razed pathways. 

Volunteer crews creating trails in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Volunteer crews creating trails in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Courtesy of Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship/Christine La

“One of the things that’s really exciting about this property is that we’re basically starting from scratch,” Blom said. “A lot of times, people have built roads for ranching that we adopt, but here we’re designing them with the visitor in mind. The result is a more fun and sustainable trail system.”

There’s a level of detail going into the building of these trails, such as creating natural drainage in the problem areas where water naturally overflows. “Water is the enemy of trails,” Poniatowski said, explaining how the crew built a funnel system in areas that are prone to flooding. “It’s all about erosion management.”

The crews expect to have the first loop, a 9-mile section north of Davenport, available for public use by the end of summer. 

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New £800m ‘sustainable’ tram network to connect Kent to Essex via mile-long tunnel UNDER Thames

Plans have been unveiled for a new £800million ‘sustainable’ tram network connecting Kent to Essex – which avoids the congested Dartford Crossing with a mile-long tunnel under the River Thames.

The KenEx project, led by Thames Gateway Tramlink, proposes a new electronically-powered tram network linking the two counties by 2030.

The tram network is estimated to wipe out 10 per cent of traffic off roads in the area, while it would cost just a fraction of proposals for the multi-billion pound Lower Thames Crossing.

Trams would run initially run between Purfleet-on-Thames and Grays in Essex to Ebbsfleet and Gravesend in Kent, with the majority of the track above ground.

But at the heart of the project is an immersive tunnel that would be built into the Thames riverbed using pre-cast sections.

The project, which is said to have the backing of local council leaders, aims to create a ‘sustainable public transport infrastructure’ and an ‘integrated and enhanced local economy never enjoyed before by communities either side of the Thames’.

Pictures released this week show how the new tram would operate, as well as a map and diagrams of how the tunnel would be built under the river.

An example of the type of tram that could be used by passengers travelling under the Thames if the KenteEx project is given the green light

An example of the type of tram that could be used by passengers travelling under the Thames if the KenteEx project is given the green light 

The tunnel would be constructed by utilising 'existing cutting edge light rail technology' to construct the tunnel, drawing upon 'proven immersed tunnel technology'

The tunnel would be constructed by utilising ‘existing cutting edge light rail technology’ to construct the tunnel, drawing upon ‘proven immersed tunnel technology’

The popular Bluewater shopping centre is also among the sites that have been earmarked, as well as Darent Hospital and Ebbsfleet Garden City.  

In Essex, meanwhile, the majority of potential stations are to the east of Grays – including with Tilbury, Chadwell St Mary and Southfields.

Stanford Le Hope,  DP World London Gateway, Thames Enterprise Park, Canvey Island, Corringham, Basildon Hospital and Basildon are all ‘under evaluation’ to see if they will form part of the network. 

The plans include utilising ‘existing cutting edge light rail technology’ to construct the tunnel, drawing upon ‘proven immersed tunnel technology’.

Visits have already been undertaken to establish its feasibility, but ‘actual construction designs and site details are not due for some time yet’.

A statement from Thames Gateway Tramlink says: ‘Crossings along this part of the River Thames have always been important. Ferries have provided a local link for people for hundreds of years and a ferry still operates today.’

It adds: ‘Surveys support the need for an efficient local transport solution to enable the movement of people for work, education, health and leisure.

‘We have identified the cross-river transport need together with health benefits for local communities and benefits to the local economy.

‘A tram solution meets the expected current and increasing demand from the local area with an environmentally sound solution that helps towards a goal of “Net Zero” emissions.’

The Dartford Crossing, with vehicles queuing to access the Dartford Tunnel with the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge pictured in the background

The Dartford Crossing, with vehicles queuing to access the Dartford Tunnel with the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge pictured in the background

Plans for a new transport links to connect Kent and Essex have been in the pipeline for years.

The Dartford Tunnel opened in 1963 to provide crossing facilities before the Queen Elizabeth II bridge was constructed to provide additional capacity from 1991.

However, the M25 and local roads still become backlogged with traffic and local residents have long called for more to be done to tackle the issue.

A consultation is currently ongoing over the Lower Thames Crossing which, if approved, would become Britain’s longest road tunnel.

It is designed to almost double road capacity across the Thames to the east of London, connecting disparate communities, reducing delays and providing more reliable journeys.

A number of slip roads would also be redesigned to improve safety at junctions and make the project more visually appealing, while one lane southbound between the M25 and A13 junction would be removed to reduce the amount of land required. 

The consultation is due to conclude on June 20 before an application for a Development Consent Order is submitted.

The southern entrance to the Lower Thames Crossing, in Kent, part of a a proposed multi-billion pound project to improve traffic in the area

The southern entrance to the Lower Thames Crossing, in Kent, part of a a proposed multi-billion pound project to improve traffic in the area

If given the green light, the Lower Thames Crossing would become Britain's longest land tunnel, though an alternative proposal for trams has now been put on the table

 If given the green light, the Lower Thames Crossing would become Britain’s longest land tunnel, though an alternative proposal for trams has now been put on the table

Matt Palmer, Executive Director for the Lower Thames Crossing, said: ‘There is a pressing need to tackle congestion at the Dartford Crossing which causes delays and unreliable journeys for tens of thousands of people every day. 

‘The Lower Thames Crossing will be a vital piece of the UK’s transport infrastructure, not only by providing a reliable alternative to Dartford, but by driving the economy by bringing people closer to jobs and businesses closer to their customers.

‘These consultations are crucial in helping us get the design right; to reduce the impact on local communities and environment, but also give the most benefit to local communities. I’d like to thank you for your patience, and for taking the time to look at our plans and give us your feedback.’  

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