Let’s be honest, from here in the UK, Florida isn’t the first place you think of as a weekend destination, but then when Universal called and said ‘hey, fancy a long weekend at Universal Orlando Resort for Mardi Gras 2017?’, my response was ‘hell, yes! Let me grab my suitcase’.
Well let me tell you… As a HUGE fan of the styling and atmosphere at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay, I wasn’t sure that another Universal Orlando resort could steal my heart, but from the moment we were greeted with a smile at the main entrance of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal, we were smitten. The resort has a Caribbean theme and is light, airy and very tropical. The main entrance is huge and beautifully styled too:
So you know a while back when I was giving you the recipe for the spiced banana loaf, I started to tell you about Mr Tails leaving home and me making a new friend? Quick recap: Mr Tails, our Maine Coon cat, fell in love with Justine, from round the corner, and her cat Fluffy, and decided he wanted to move in. He was at home less and less, and eventually just didn’t really come home at all. Justine felt terrible and came round to tell us that despite chucking him out a gazillion times, he just kept coming back. Long story short, we decided that it was better that Mr T became Justine’s so someone had proper responsibility for him and we made it official and swapped paperwork, etc. We’re a bit sad, but y’know, Tails just doesn’t like being here and loves being there. You know what cats are like, you can’t force them. Lyra is a big part of this, I think, and she jumps all over him and chases him. Not her fault, but y’know…
I LOVE a trip to London. There’s something about a visit to the capital that feels so special, so when I was invited to the Autumn/Winter Asda wine preview to sample some of their festive fizz, I decided to make a little mini trip out of it with an overnight stay at the gorgeous Capital Hotel, right in the heart of Knightsbridge.
So I’m finally catching up with all my travel notes and can’t wait to tell you about my TRIP OF A LIFETIME, visiting Barbados to get involved in Crop Over festival. The festival celebrates the end of the sugar cane harvest, and it’s a fabulous time to be in Barbados, with parties, dancing, incredible costumes and lots and lots of rum punch, but more of this later! Here’s the first part of my visit to Barbados – a little about our lovely hotel, and a few recommendations of things to see and do. Ready, steady….
A little while ago I wrote about our family holiday at the gorgeous Seaside Palm Beach Hotel in Gran Canaria. I’ve saved the best until last of course, with a whole post dedicated to food, glorious food! The hotel prides itself on providing its guests with a really 5* experience, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the dining choices.
I wonder if it’s just me, or if all mums of older teenagers approach every family holiday opportunity with a bit of a heavy heart, thinking: ‘this could be the last one EVER’? I mean, frankly, it’s ridiculous, because, as a friend in a similar situation rightly told me recently, ‘it doesn’t matter how old they get, they’ll always be up for a free holiday’. Especially one as heavenly as this one.
So last time I was telling you about our luxe short break in Paris: our stay at Le Bristol and a spot of sightseeing. After this, we made our way to our second hotel. The stunning Hilton Paris Opera, which is centrally located on Rue Saint-Lazare, right next to the station of the same name – the perfect base for a bit of exploring!
Ah, meetings. Inevitably I get invited to quite a few, but when an invitation pops into my inbox to come to a meeting AT A GORGEOUS HOTEL AND SPA? Well, naturally, I’m all over it. So this is how I came to be enjoying the gorgeous spa at Pennyhill Park in Surrey. The lovely chaps at Kissimmee, Florida, invited me and a few fellow travel folks to The Spa to hear more about the area and meet with some of the representatives from the area.
So as I mentioned recently, I’ve just spent several days with the gang from Virgin Holidays discovering the sunny south western coast of Florida. Our first stop after landing in Orlando was Sarasota. Sarasota County is a gorgeous destination on Florida’s laid back Gulf Coast. We stayed at two hotels here, the Virgin Holidays 5V rated Resort at Longboat Key and the 3V Sandcastle Resort (an old favourite of mine).
This week, Mr E and I got to tick off one of our bucket list items when we were lucky enough to visit Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire. I make no apologies for the amount of photos you’re about to see – this is possibly the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever visited.
So last time I told you all about the exciting #UKdoesMacys project, and about our first visit to the store at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando.
Here are my top five things to do and places to stay in Orlando. And, well, I think you can guess the first one…
Regular readers will know that I adore a Walt Disney resort hotel (click here to see my top five) and there’s much excitement in Orlando at the moment as there’s a new hotel opening very shortly. This one’s a bit different as although it’s placed within the boundaries of Walt Disney World, it’s actually a Four Seasons. The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort to give it its full title (bit of a mouthful, admittedly) is shaping up to be an absolute beauty.
Oh, it’s a tough question. I’m not sure that I could ever choose my favourite Walt Disney World resort. I’ve often said that it’s gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge as I love the African styling, and the fact that you can see giraffes wandering outside your window. But then there’s the glorious Grand Floridian, and the quite incredible Contemporary Resort, and oh, I can’t have just one. I have to have at least five! Read more
Despite its Gothic looks, Nutfield Priory has never actually been a church, monastery or anything similar. The beautiful building was originally built in the late 19th century in the style of the Palace of Westminster by Member of Parliament Joshua Fielden as his private home. Over the years, it’s been commandeered for military use (during WW2) and has been used as a school too. It’s now a very beautiful hotel, full of original features including stunning stained glass, huge marble fireplaces and intricately carved woodwork.
The hotel, now part of Handpicked Hotels, sits in an incredible location, just near Redhill in Surrey and is an easy drive from the M25. I won’t lie, parts of the hotel are, well, let’s say faded. Some of the battleship grey corridors are a bit uninspiring, but I think that comes with the territory when converting a very old building. The main areas of the hotel are utterly beautiful and filled with glorious pieces of art (I was mesmerised by the painting of the beautiful woman on the main staircase) and, in the case of the magnificent Great Hall, a two-storey organ that apparently still works.
Our room was quite small but had obviously recently been refurbished, with a huge bed, enormous flat screen tv and marble bathroom. No noise from neighbouring rooms at all on either side, which is always a plus (I hate it when you can hear every time they flush their loo!). It was a beautiful sunny day so we dumped our bags and headed out on the stunning terrace to enjoy the view (the hills roll away and you can see Gatwick airport and beyond) and stuff ourselves with the most amazing sandwiches (share a portion, they really are enormous) and some particularly good triple cooked chips.
After our lunch, we wandered to the spa, which is in a separate, modern building just a short walk away, where Mr English headed to the pool and I had my very favourite Elemis facial, the Tri-Enzyme Booster facial – the one where it feels like your face is being dolloped with freezing cold custard, then you get to enjoy a phenomenal head, neck and shoulder massage before the therapist peels off the custard which has magically set into a masque (I’m sure Elemis would take issue with some of my technical terms, but you get the gist). The spa is lovely, with a huge, beautifully furnished lounge/waiting area with refreshments and lots of very well equipped therapy rooms. I have it on good authority that the fitness centre and pool is very good too.
After a lovely walk and a wallow in the bath (me) and a bit of telly (him), we wandered to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. The Nutfield Signature Cocktail is a delicious mix of Nutfield marmalade, Tanqueray and Triple Sec and isn’t remotely marmalade-like. I’d highly recommend it.
The Cloisters restaurant was once an open aired gallery area, now with an amazing wooden vaulted ceiling and tables looking out over the terrace and taking in that fantastic view.
The staff absolutely make the place – from Paddy in the bar to the lovely restaurant staff, everyone is friendly, happy and can’t do enough to make your stay enjoyable. I sent them into a panic when I didn’t like my starter (totally my fault, I didn’t realised the Asian poached pollock would be chilled and cold fish just isn’t really my thing) – it took us ages to convince them that we were fine and they didn’t need to bring me something else! We ate a delicious meal (£38 for three courses) with a very nice bottle of Spanish Bobal de SanJuan rosé. My fillet of Devon hake with basil and parmesan, pine nut quinoa, shaved radish and fennel was to die for – beautifully seasoned, artfully presented and cooked to perfection and Mr English’s pan fried whole Cornish sole was perfectly cooked and delicious. Desserts were small but delicious, and little works of art on the plate.
We liked: beautiful public areas, gorgeous terrace, friendly staff, heavenly triple cooked chips
We didn’t like: plug socket nowhere near a mirror (difficult to blow dry one’s hair, dahling). Breakfast was okay but nowhere near in the same league as dinner – requests for well done eggs/crispy bacon didn’t filter through (picky, I know, but that’s really all I’ve got).
Great for: romantic weekends away, gorgeous weddings, girly spa breaks
Top tip: book a room overlooking the terrace – from having a nose while walking around, they seem to be a bit bigger.
It’s lovely to get away for a weekend, and Paris, especially at this time of year, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. So why visit this ravishing place, then stay in a bland hotel? I’m always tearing out bits and bobs from travel magazines and scribbling details about hotels I’m dying to stay in. Here are three of my favourites:
This hotel (above) has been on my wishlist since I tore an article about it out of a magazine when it first opened. The rooms are just incredible (and slightly barking), with space age details, amazing lighting, ‘floating’ beds… there’s even a 007 room.
Located on Rue Berthollet in Paris’ bohemian 5th arrondissement Latin Quarter, there’s all sorts to discover locally (take a wander along Boulevard St Michel – fab for people watching. In fact, keep going and visit the Pantheon, the Luxembourg Gardens and the gobsmacking Palais de Luxembourg).
It may well be a chain hotel, but there’s absolutely nothing bland about Le Dokhan’s. Quite apart from the fabulous location (it’s a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, and right by the Trocadéro metro stop) this hotel is beautifully decorated, with sumptuous soft furnishings and marble bathrooms. There is even one suite with a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower: perfect for a romantic weekend away.
This seven storey Art Deco monster boasts a fabulous location on rue de Courcelles, just (as the name suggests) minutes from L’Arc de Triomphe. Not your budget option, admittedly, but one look at the incredible tropical garden at the centre of the building, and your credit card bill will be forgotten. The lobby of this hotel is just incredible – there’s nothing like a ‘take your breath away’ reception area to start your holiday in the right frame of mind!
You can find these hotels, and many more, on Holidaycheck, where you can also find more reviews if you need more insights into any of these amazing hotels.
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