As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
There aren’t many prettier towns than Marlow, right next to the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. We spent a sunny morning wandering the shops (Sweaty Betty, Fat Face, a massive Jigsaw, Whistles, Mint Velvet, and loads of stylish independent boutiques and shops) down to the river, and then – all set to walk along the river’s edge for a while – the sky suddenly got really dark and fat blobs of rain started splashing on us. Ah well, instead we headed to West Street, to try the bottomless brunch at The Botanist, a pretty, quirky bar and restaurant on West Street. The front window completely rolls back, so when the sun finally came out again, it was a lovely spot to sit, sip a cocktail and watch the world go by while waiting for our table.
We all know that feeling, right? After a gorgeous holiday, the last day is such a massive come-down: you’ve got to be out of your room by midday but your flight doesn’t leave until the evening, you don’t want to get sandy and have nowhere to shower, so your last day is spent miserably killing time, sweating in your travel clothes, before heading home. While I was in beautiful Barbados, though, Virgin announced a brand new concept that’s going to change all that, and I think you’re going to love it. Step forward The Departure Beach from Virgin.
I absolutely adore St Petersburg. The last time I visited, back in 2012, we really only had one day there and I was desperate to go back and really explore. I absolutely love its buzzy vibe, the gorgeous beaches and the way the downtown area absolutely comes alive at night, with restaurants, bars and cafés thronging with people. Even as recently as the 90s, Downtown St Pete was really quite unloved. Remember Cocoon? Jeff, our lovely guide told us that the movie was filmed in St Pete in the 1980s, and it was an area known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, full of retirees and not a lot else. Slowly, though, the locals transformed their beloved neighbourhood, and now it’s such a creative, lively place to visit, with a wonderful arts scene and fabulous shops, restaurants, galleries, stunning museums like the beautiful new Morean Arts Centre and the Dali Museum, and beautiful open spaces. Read more
In all the years that I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, there’s been one iconic Disney place that I’ve never managed to visit: Celebration, Florida: the prettiest little community, and Walt Disney World’s home town. With wide streets and colourful shops and houses, it’s a really lovely place to spend a day, wandering the lovely, tree-lined residential areas (there’s actually a Wisteria Lane there that looks like it’s straight out of Desperate Housewives), and popping in to all the lovely shops (there’s a fabulous dog shop there selling everything you could possibly need for your pampered pooch!). Here’s my photo diary of our day: a little taster of what to expect when you visit Celebration.
So last time, I was telling you all about family holidays in Kissimmee. The next stop on our little tour of alternative Florida destinations was beautiful Clearwater. This gorgeous Gulf Coast barrier island destination sits just across Old Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida along with St Petersburg. Between them, they boast 35 miles of white sandy beaches and an average of 361 sunny days per year. So apart from lazing away endless, sunny days and glorious sunsets in this pretty resort town, here are a few other reasons why Clearwater is a fabulous choice for a family holiday.
So last week, I was lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, for the dedication ceremony of Disney’s magical new Pandora – The World of Avatar: a whole, stunning new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, joined by Avatar filmmaker James Cameron and producer Jon Landau, came together with the cast of the original film to unveil possibly Disney’s greatest triumph so far. So from the must-sees and must-dos to information on where to stay and how to get here, here’s my complete guide to the breathtaking world of Pandora – The World of Avatar.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never really done much to my eyebrows. They’re an alright shape, so I just brush them up a bit and leave them at that. Occasionally I’ll have them threaded, but mostly I leave them alone and pluck out the odd stray hair. I keep reading recently, though, that the eyebrows are the most important element to your make up: it’s true, your eyebrows frame your face, and done well, they can lift your whole eye area, but I never really considered how I could enhance my own. Step forward: Browhaus. They have outlets all around the world, where they provide everything from basic brow shaping to something called Brow Resurrection: a semi permanent treatment involving tiny strokes of vegetable dye to fill in and reshape your brows.
And so, after my big 2016 roundup, let’s move swiftly on to 2017, shall we? What does this year have in store? Lots of happy times and adventures I hope. As you know, I’m a huge Disney fan: I adore everything from the theme parks to the beautiful cruise ships. It’s such an exciting year for Disney magic, with so many new Disney travel adventures to choose from. I thought you might like a sneaky peek at a few of the things I’m really looking forward to in 2017. So if you’re planning adventures for next year now, I hope this helps give you a few ideas too:
From Boston, we drove south, through some utterly beautiful countryside, to get to our next destination, Plymouth. Plymouth, Massachusetts is a hugely famous and historically important town, well known for being America’s Hometown – the place where the Pilgrim passengers of the Mayflower first settled. It’s a gorgeous place, full of pretty, colourful houses, wide, tree-lined residential roads and beautiful beaches. Our destination, The Mirbeau Inn & Spa, took us by surprise, though, as we drove up the windy road, and came face to face with a pretty French style Chateau. The glowing, ochre manor house, inspired by the soft colours of the paintings of Claude Monet, even has elegant gardens and water features inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. It’s a breathtaking sight, and the experience only gets better as you’re greeted by a polite doorman, who won’t let you carry a thing.
So I told you recently about visiting Boston with Norwegian. Oh, we completely fell in love with Boston. My friend Erica visited a while back and I was surprised when she said she liked it more than New York. Having visited, I can totally see why. It has a small town vibe and everything is really accessible by foot. We walked and walked for hours, shopping, sightseeing and photographing, and really could have done with staying a few more days.
Recently we were lucky enough to spend a heavenly weekend at The Grove, the beautiful luxury hotel just 18 miles from central London and a stone’s throw away from the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – the making of Harry Potter. It’s really not far for us, just a quick 20 minute drive, and I often visit to walk around the lovely gardens with my friend David, the Head Gardener. The estate gardens are utterly beautiful at this time of year, and we were lucky enough to arrive just as the most incredible sunset was lighting up the sky with a display of pinks and oranges.
As far as I’m concerned, a visit to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without a trip to Disney Springs. Every time you go, there are new shops to explore, new restaurants to try and new cocktails to sip! Most of the venues at this brand new shopping, dining and entertainment hug are now open and the whole area is looking absolutely gorgeous. Here’s all you need to know about Disney Springs.
I meant to tell you that we finally visited Bill’s in Berkhamsted. I’ve been meaning to go for ages, so my Mum and I decided to go for a Friday evening catch up and a glass of fizz. It’s a lovely old building, right in the heart of Berkhamsted high street. I’ve lived near Berkhamsted my whole life and it’s been various cafés and restaurants over the years, but this particular incarnation looks so twinkly and welcoming, we’ve been desperate to go and sample the food. Here’s how we got on…
One of the elements that impressed us most during our wonderful family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse was the quality of the dining. From the great fast food options to the main dining to the speciality restaurants, we really couldn’t fault any of the dining on board Celebrity Eclipse. Most evenings are smart casual, but there are a couple of evenings that are listed in the ‘Celebrity Today’ leaflet left in your stateroom as ‘cruise chic’. There’s never any pressure to dress in any particular way but it’s always tremendous fun to dress up a bit and step out in style. I really enjoyed a bit of people watching – there was everything from ladies in ballgowns and men in white dinner jackets to a few people in full military costume!
…and some old favourites. So last time, I told you a little about Walt Disney World Resort, Florida’s fabulous free dining offer. This time, I thought I’d bring you an update on some fabulous new experiences at Walt Disney World, including stunning new dining options and new attractions. I’ve also added in a few things that aren’t new, but that I experienced for the first time too. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and I’ll begin… Read more