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A world of enjoyment without leaving home

From forest bathing in Kyoto to tennis lessons with Serena Williams, Lucy Holden curates the best virtual escapism


American tennis star Serena Williams

American tennis star Serena Williams

American tennis star Serena Williams

Ideal for lockdown 2.0, expert locals all over the world are teaching everything from art and writing classes to self-massage and sport. Much better than another night looking for something to watch on Netflix. Signing up to new experiences will make the next few weeks look less bleak - and some are even free. Here's our pick of the best.

Forest bathing in Kyoto's Sacred Mountain, £12

The amazing Lee - a former Al Jazeera journalist - takes you on a virtual walking tour around a forest of shrines in Kyoto with its famous red gates and his head camera, while the trees rustle and Japanese bush warblers cry amongst the leaves. During 75 minutes in which several existential questions are answered (why is Pikachu's tail a lightning bolt?), you feel like you've been to Japan but saved the plane fare and carbon footprint.

airbnb.co.uk/experiences/ 1739239

Writing class at Paris' most famous bookshop, FREE

This two-hour workshop (which runs on the first Monday of the month from 7pm) is a perfect way for wannabe Tumbleweed writers to visit Shakespeare and Co now that you can't turn up and sleep amongst the shelves. The shop has previously welcomed everyone from Hemingway and Fitzgerald to Gertrude Stein and Alan Ginsberg, and at the class you can get feedback from fellow authors.


Royal Academy life drawing, FREE

Can't focus your mind? Drawing is a great way to focus, and this is an opportunity to learn from one of the most famous art schools in the world. Drawing in the free way we did as children is quite liberating - and at home, you don't have to show anyone your efforts if you don't want to.

royalacademy.org.uk/article/online-life-drawing-class- lifedrawinglive

Face massage, £10

If you think DIY massage defeats the point, sign up to this brilliant 30-minute class and have your mind changed. Beauty therapist Beata Aleksandrowicz cheers any ravaged soul with her warming techniques and, at nearly 60 years old, is a walking, fresh-faced advert for the method. Few online events involve touch - but you don't realise you miss it until it's back.


Live gigs, £12-£14

Musicians who found their concerts cancelled in the pandemic are now performing live from their sitting rooms and many of the best can be found on Airbnb. In London, married jazz duo Theo and Jannine run the Hidden Jazz Club (£12). In Lisbon, you can listen to the hauntingly traditional sound of fado with Maja (Mystical Music of Lisbon Fado, £13). In Amsterdam, The Wong Janice performs a beautiful cello meditation for £14.


MasterClass with a famous face, £170 a year

Cooking lessons with Gordon Ramsay, filmmaking with Martin Scorsese, photography with Annie Leibovitz and tennis with Serena Williams. Or what about investigative journalism with Bob Woodward, creativity and leadership with Anna Wintour or acting with Helen Mirren? More than 90 of the most prestigious people in their field share their skills. Membership to this site works out at £14 a month but can be cancelled any time within the first month once you've had a taste.


Belfast Telegraph