Monday, 8 August 2011

My Travel Reviews, a Cornish catch and cook weekend

The Lugger Hotel
A 17th century inn at the water's edge in Portloe, the South Cornish coast, between St. Austell and Falmouth.
We do love to be beside the seaside, and if it’s the smell of the sea, the shrill cry of gulls and the sight of lobster pots strewn amongst fishing boats you hanker for, the Lugger Hotel is a perfect coastal get-away, slap bang in the heart of a delighful cove, in the tiny fishing village of Portloe.

Experience the Catch and Cook weekend and take a dinky boat out with James the fisherman. Sail the waters of the stunning Roseland Peninsula, and catch your supper whilst you perch on deck. Back in the Lugger’s kitchen, watch Diddier the head chef whip up a feast with your fresh finds - a peppy mackeral and squid Thai starter with ginger and spring onion, followed by a hearty pollock and seabass bouillabaise with saffron prawns. Tuck in on the sun-drenched terrace with a bottle of Muscadet, puffed-up with your newly found fishing prowess.

On your way to bed, grab a keepsake, popping some money in the honesty box for a giant purple urchin shell. In your smugglers digs, set deep into the cliff-side, let a sleepy punch of sea air hit you and breathe in the sound of the waves crashing below your window. You’ll be sound asleep in minutes.
Prices are from £130 per person staying two nights based on two people sharing.  Includes breakfast, dinner, fishing trip, lobster cooking with chef, and meal served with a bottle of Muscadet.


The Lugger's view


Squid and mackerel starter

The Lugger down below

Urchins for sale

My Travel Reviews, A stormy stay in Kenmare Bay

Kenmare Park Hotel
A large Victorian building overlooking Kenmare Bay and Kerry mountains, Cork, Ireland.
At the end of the winding driveway, Kenmare Park hotel’s hulking fa├žade of grey limestone emerges through the heavily-laden Rhododendron bushes and hidden behind its bulk is the jewel in the crown. Just beyond the neatly manicured grounds lies the Kerry mountains and Kenmare Bay. The tide lapping in response to the many seasons folding rapidly in front of your eyes. Bunny rabbit tails dart for cover as the wind whips up dark, rain-laden clouds, only to be replaced a minute later with fluffy pillows gathered round a perky sun. This is the perfect pad to kick back and watch the Irish west coast weather at its best. 

Inside, this immense Victorian pile drips with old-fashioned grandeur. Gigantic oil paintings, large oak antiques adorned with chamber pots and vases and an archaic collection of objects d’art fill the hotel, reminiscent of the delightfully bonkers hoarding of a mad great aunt. A delicious log fire greets you in reception immediately tempting the idea of an aged malt whiskey. 
As well as achieving old Irish charm, this hoary jem delivers an unexpected burst of modern-day glamour in the appearance of Samas – the uber-cool spa. A wild grass covered Scandi-esque eco-lodge with a sparkling interior. The pros here recommend a 3 hour experience combining the knock-out thermal suites consisting of a 40 degree thermal eternity pool open to the wilderness, steam room and tropical shower followed by a heavenly Sisley treatment defined by your skin type, and lastly being tucked into your day bed in the Relaxation Room surrendering yourself to the floor to ceiling views of the pine forest standing before you.

Having torn yourself away from the spa, follow the gentle hum of piano playing and join guests ensconced in the cosy bar before dinner. Settled in the dining room, under the striking chandelier centerpiece dripping with glass calla lilies, make your food choices from the excellent locally sourced menu swiftly before the captivating ever-changing views across the bay steal your attention away once again. After dinner, recline with a digestive in the darkened ‘Reel Room,’ a 12 seat cinema and watch a classic. 


The grounds
Wellies for guests

Kenmare Bay
'The Island' at the bottom of the gardens
Complimentary hotel bike hire

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Travel Review, Italian fineries

Rome Cavalieri
Part of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts. Enclosed in fifteen acres of lush Mediterranean parklands, in the heart of Rome.

Standing tall in its grounds of 15 acres, just 10 minutes serenity from the city’s hustle, Cavalieri’s exterior won’t win any beauty contests but this 5-star property, part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection, isn’t about love at first sight. Firstly stand on your balcony, and preside over Rome’s skyline, prosecco in hand, breathing in the heady aroma of Jasmine flowers that curl around the balustrading, then you start to understand what the fuss is about.

Each palatial suite is molto Italiano adorned with 18th Century antiques and marble bathrooms, some with Swarovski crystal taps, and hydromassage tubs, all spilling with Acqua di Parma products.
The hotel boasts a impressive art collection and best of all it’s home to the Pergola, the rooftop 3 Michelin starred restaurant, the only one of its kind in Rome. You really are spoilt for choice with menus for water and salt, as well as wine. The most delicious of all 7 courses is their signature dish Fagottelli “La Pergola,” divine pasta parcels exploding with butter and liquid parmesan  - this is more than just carbonara. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, a heavy, silver trinket box is placed before you, on opening its many drawers you are delighted with delicate sweets from jellied candies, hazlenut chocolate or a fairy-sized lemon merengue. After dinner you can sigh heavily out on the terrace or enjoy a smoke in the adjoining cigar lounge.

Rome Cavalieri is the grand dame of 5-star deluxe hotels with its breathtaking views, state of the art Spa and an outrageously giant pool to boot, but if you’ve had enough of the high life, you can take advantage of the free bus shuttle service which runs frequently from the hotel and head for the nearest pizzeria. We won’t tell.

Taking in Rome's skyline with the the Basilica in the distance
The Acqua di Parma products were a great touch but the tea (silver service no less) ordered in the room after a heavy day's sightseeing much needed by me, gasp, was at an astronomical price, in my view. I think however chi chi or pricey the hotel is, tea and coffee should be included in the price or there should be tea making facilities - very British I know.

Il Salviatino, Florence
A majestic Florentine villa, steeped in history, that has been lovingly restored to its former glory, set in the wooded hills just outside Florence. 
Situated just 10 minutes away from Florence, in the foot of Fiesole hill surrounded by woodland sits the majestic, aristocratic villa Salviatino. Sipping on a potent Negroni on the terrazza you feel rather cool headed and smug looking out towards the famous dome shimmering in the heat of the city below.

The once derelict estate has been beautifully restored with dedicated love. The look is seriously sumptuous but so, so stylish, combining linens made from local artisans and delightful toiletries produced by herbalists in Northern Italy with the latest hi-tech components such as a Wi-Fi light controls and a large plasma screen subtly imposed in the  freestanding mirror in front of the bed. I imagine Winter here is a snug affair, the large suites exude warmth with dark wood panelling, and huge marble fireplaces, with the sun streaming through the floor to ceiling windows. Unearthed treasures have ensured individuality to each refurbished room like ancient stone baths and 19th century frescoes and each floor has a different fragrance created individually by an Italian perfumery. The hotel is also environmentally savvy with rainfall showers.

A few breezy  minutes in a gleaming white golf buggy brought me to the unfinished Devarana Spa tucked away within the gardens along with a large hopeful hole in front of it – the beginnings of a pool, which will open in July. Once the garden matures around the building, the meaning of Devarana ‘Garden in heaven’ in Thai-Sanskrit will make sense and become a leafy haven in the quietude of the grounds, away from the hotel. 

Eager to wallop away my Tuscan feasting I tried the aromatic detoxified and contoured massage, its technique to eliminate toxins and fight the accumulation of cellulite and water retention. By the end I was literally in a dream, as my mind and excesses floated away and the Thai masseuse had to gently shake my now super soft skin to wake me.

You will surely be tempted into Florence and the hotel offers a shuttle bus, dropping you off at the Ponte Vecchio. Go shopping, check out the Duomo, the Uffizi, the Bargello, the Boboli Gardens and the many restaurants, some of which are partnered with Il Salviatino ensuring quality including L’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi, famous for its Florentine steaks. True to its unconventional style, the hotel has also started Club Salviatino, a members club hosting all sorts of events covering art , music, politics and film. Check out their blog for more details

Each guest is treated to their own Service Ambassador (or slave) who is supposedly waiting in the wings for your call, be it personal shopping or wine tasting. Like an enhanced concierge tending to your every request, requirement and reservation. We secured 2 tickets to the Bargello collection – a helpful procurement on a busy Saturday. There are a flurry of eager staff loitering with intent to help you in various  strategic locations – in the hallway near your room, next to the lift doors, at the entrance of the villa – for there is no front desk, the hotel’s way of shrugging off traditions and greeting their guests as if they were staying at a friend’s country pad rather than a paid-for establishment. This is without a doubt, a slice of grown up seduction.

The suite

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My Travel Reviews, a lakeside retreat

Linthwaite house
An Edwardian country house, set within 14 acres of wooded hilltop gardens overlooking Lake Windermere, The Lakes.

Wave goodbye to the Summer crowds at Windermere and make a hasty retreat to Linthwaite House, set within 14 acres of wooded hilltop gardens, this Edwardian Country House is the perfect rural idyll in which to hole up.

Make like the Swallows and Amazons depicted in Arthur Ransome’s books, by idling on Linthwaite’s own tarn, catching fresh trout or gazing over the traditional dry stone wall into the sheep pastures.

If you need an afternoon snooze after all that fresh air, the hotel boasts a large loft suite drenched in Designer’s Guild fabrics, and Molton Brown goodies. Coddled in waffles on the king-sized bed contemplate the evening ahead through the retractable glass roof, which even closes automatically at the merest hint of rain.

The showstopper has to be the sublime view from the terrace, recline under the setting sun as it melts into the vast  shimmer of Lake Windermere whilst the charming staff offer you an amuse bouche of  truffle and egg mayonnaise wrapped in a bacon pastry or have a very British bash at some pre-dinner croquet under the watchful eye of the mountain range beyond.  You’ll need to build up your appetite for delights such as smoked butter poached langoustine, braised pork cheek and pork crackers followed by loin of venison and red onion tart in a chocolate and port jus.

If you book the right room, plop with repletion into your private outdoor hot tub with a nightcap. Bliss. 

Driving through the Lake District
Linthwaite House
View of from Linthwaite grounds
Lake Windermere
Beatrix Potter World
The grounds
View from the terrace
Amuse bouche
Menu and Bloody Mary

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My Travel Reviews, cosying up at the Norfolk coast

Vine House and The Hoste Arms
A boutique Hotel in Burnham Market on the Norfolk coast

The Vine House boutique hotel is a very handsome Georgian house slap bang on the green in the middle of Burnham Market, a stone’s throw away from the north Norfolk coastline.

Having grabbed the keys from the Vine’s more jollier and gregarious sister establishment, The Hoste Arms, you are left to your own devices in the elegant and comforting solitude where there are just 7 rooms, overlooking a pretty flint-walled garden. A perfect interruption to the silence comes in the form of a butler serving aperitifs which you might like to drink in the cosy but grandiose drawing room or in your jumbo free-standing bath taking centre stage in your ensuite, room enough for two.

If hunger takes you, dinner is served at the Hoste across the green, offerings include local oysters and mussels, 21 day aged new york rib steak and herb encrusted rack of lamb. The Hoste Beauty and Wellness Spa is gleamingly new having opened in Jan 2011 and it shows. The girls in their crisp whites are perky and raring to pamper you.

If you can tear yourself away from your grown-up den, the golden sands of Holkham beach hiding behind a cloak of pine trees are only 10 minutes away. A blustery shell-seeking stroll along its 40 mile stretch should blow the cobwebs away and if the elements get too much, you can dive into the long dunes for shelter.

Vine House

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Voguish Voyeurisms

People who know me, know that I have a little thing for fashion, for clothes in general, oh and accessories, you know hats, scarves, mittens, jewellery, belts etc etc. I haven't counted all the pashminas I have but they fill two drawers, and a few can be found on the back of doors and coat hooks.  I recently bought a very pretty one from Primark, with a rabbit print - always my beast of choice, though I am easily swayed by a dog or two.

Certain purchases of late have come from the most wonderful shop in the world, namely Anthropologie. I could wander around for hours inside their stores, something I haven't done for too long but I can't afford the train ticket into London let alone any lovely Anthro goodies. It's probably a good idea I haven't been near one of their uber-cool, forever evolving life-style stores as my bottom lip would go all pouty, my head would hang low and I'd be growling "But I realllllllly want this, and I looooooove this, grrrrrr!"

So the next best thing...their sale, online. I greedily bought two beautiful tops, one being a super-soft cami with a lacy bottom corner and the very thing I desired for months, as soon as I received their 'Look-Book' because you don't call them catalogues anymore apparently (only Freemans and Littlewoods have catalogues) - a Summery poncho, all fragile and embroidered and gorgeous!


Lacy Turning Cami now £9.95

Peppered Poncho now £79.95

And don't get me started on their home wares....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Poppy in Pearls

I'd like to do a shout out to my friend Sarah who is the genius and lovely lady behind Poppy in Pearls which has evolved from her original jewellery-making business. Poppy in Pearls is an online wedding boutique, selling British bridal buys, but it's not just for those peeps getting married (oh how I miss organising my own) it's for every stylish, creative gal (or guy) interested in scoping out and lusting after beautiful products and ideas online, much like myself. If you find yourself shrieking with delight "I want that! And that, and that and that, sigh." when browsing through wedding, design and fashion blogs, then check out Sarah's covetable finds and immerse yourself in the loveliness.

Oh, and not only is it shopping heaven, she also features 'real weddings' that have inspired her, which are great for nosing at other people's insights and ideas on their special day. In fact you might even spy a chloeimages wedding piece in the next week or so...

While I am at it, here are some examples of her own beautiful creations. 

Clever aint she!