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Russia: solitude in Siberia

In search of the simple life, Sylvain Tesson spent six months living in a remote hut on the shore of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, on a retreat that reveals much about our need for escape

I stayed at Lake Baikal for the first time in 2003. Walking along the shore, I discovered cabins at regular intervals, inhabited by strangely happy recluses. Five years later I chanced to spend three days with a ranger in a tiny izba, a traditional Russian log cabin, on the eastern shore of the lake. At night we sipped vodka and played chess; during the day I helped him haul in his fishing nets. We hardly spoke, but we read a lot. That was when I promised myself I would live alone in a cabin for a few months before I turned 40.

So, two years ago, I left my home in Paris and spent six months in a little hut on the Lake’s western shore, very far from civilisation: it was six days’ walk to the nearest village, a day from the nearest neighbour, and there were no access roads.

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Top 10 budget hotels, hostels and B&Bs in San Francisco

You might expect San Francisco to be full of hip places to stay for a song, but its budget scene is heavy on Victorian B&Bs and small European-style hotels. Here are 10 of the best

A turn-of-the-century Victorian hotel built after the great quake of 1906, this beautifully restored townhouse is located in the posh Nob Hill neighbourhood. The 21 guestrooms and suites have Edwardian-style antiques – think four-poster beds and carved wooden furniture – and rates include continental breakfast, plus tea and sherry in the parlour every afternoon from 4-6pm. Although the building feels delightfully old-fashioned, the owners have gone to great lengths to offer contemporary amenities. Lovely suites with fireplaces and bay windows, sleeping four to six, are comparatively affordable for families.
1000 Pine Street, +1 415 673 6080, nobhillinn.com. Doubles from $110*

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