A hotel to remember: Nizuc Resort & Spa, Mexico

I have a thing or three for Mexico. I love the food, the people and let’s face it: God was pretty inspired when it created it as it really is quite pleasant to the eye. Very pleasant indeed. We have ventured further inland before and fell madly in love with Campeche and its collection of luxury boutique hotels but this time around, I wanted to see the sea – and enjoy a fabulous girls ‘very very long weekend’ (read 6 days) with my BFF Trudi.

What you don’t know (or could know) is that Trudi now lives in New Zealand – and that we found that the stunning Nizuc Resort & Spa, located very close to Cancun, but a world away from its crowds, can technically be located between London and Auckland. Technically.

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I texted this photo to Trudi on a Wednesday and said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we met here in a week’s time? Or would it be too crazy?’. She said ‘it would be crazy, but I could make it work’. And oh, we did.

To get to Nizuc, I flew American Airlines from London to Cancun, with a stopover in Miami (and you can read the review here). Trudi flew from Auckland to Cancun, via Houston with United (it is a relatively new flight) and we landed within 30 mins of each other. My journey was around 13 hours whilst hers was around 17, but the flight Gods really had our backs and it really was meant to be. Worth noting that our return flight times also coincided brilliantly.

I am not using the word Cancun ‘a lot’ – because if I close my eyes, Cancun is not the place I would like to go to. And Nizuc is located probably 15 minutes from the edge of Cancun – and it is wonderful. So getting there is very easy as it has great air connections and the transfer to the hotel is very quick. I promise I will not disappoint you.

To say the hotel wowed us from the first minute, it would be an understatement. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous – beautifully designed with the most amazing decor. My love for beautiful hotels is well documented, but I have to say, this was something else.

In terms of layout, there is a central area, where you will find the reception, beach and pool and the main restaurants. Next to it, you will find the villas and suites, also as low-rise buildings. And further away, you will find 4 larger blocks with a mix of room types, and with a butler on call. You can walk there or be driven by buggy (a service that worked very well throughout our stay).

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I think no further commentary is needed…

Impeccably designed – and with service to match. We were really impressed since the moment we walked in.

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And this is only 15 mins away from Cancun. I kid you not.

The hotel is geared towards couples and families and most bedrooms have king-sized beds. Despite how close Trudi and I are, we do not share beds, so we forewent the offer of a beautiful suite with a pool, and settled for a standard deluxe room with 2 queen beds with ocean views.

The room was located at the Tsalam tower and at the end of the resort – closer to the mangroves and the Italian restaurant, where we had dinner on the first and last nights.

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Our twin room

The room was super spacious and very well-appointed – absolutely no complaints. In terms of sharing, I loved the fact that the wardrobes were located inside the bathroom, so if someone had a shower, they could also get ready – and the other could have the room without having to move. Obviously in a couple scenario this wouldn’t matter so much, but it was excellent to have this.

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Our gorgeous bathroom

I loved the bathroom and the whole set up. What I loved even more were the new L’Occitane Mer & Mistral toiletries (I love L’Occitane but couldn’t help think sometimes that the ‘French Provence’ toiletries were not ideal in some locations from a positioning and placement point of view. Well, this range did not only smell amazing, but it also had new bottle tops which means you do not have to unscrew the top every time you use a bottle. A small thing – but oh so clever.

Also worth noting that the hotel offered an all-natural insect repellant (which made its way back to the UK, I will confess). Smelled amazing and, most importantly, did what it was supposed to do.

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No words necessary.

During our 6 days at Nizuc, we had 1 day of rain, but we also had 4 gorgeous days (we visited in February 2016). And what did we do? We went to the beach as much as we could.

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Your own private beach in Mexico? Gracias

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and I will let the photos do all the talking. Worth noting that some beach and pool areas are adults only or suitable for families and it worked very well. You have a multitude of options – I counted 3 pools (but you could also have your own private one in your room or villa) and 2 different beach areas.

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Which pool would you like? Top right one is the kids pool. Exactly.

The hotel also has various activities organised for guest and having re-started to do yoga, and not being so bad on a SUP board, I was very intrigued by the SUP Yoga class, which is free of charge and limited in numbers (you have to reserve a spot).

I have to say, I surprised myself – I wasn’t bad at all. It wasn’t easy, and I did fall a lot (but there was a guy in the class who fell a LOT more so I didn’t look so bad). The teacher was fantastic and I honestly wished this class was offered every day. It was amazing.

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Who knew SUP Yoga was a thing? And the setting was just perfect for it.

Breakfast was absolutely fantastic at the hotel – and offered a perfect mix of Mexican, Continental and American. And we were always the last ones at 10.45am… except that we weren’t. Everyone was relaxing and really enjoying there time there. And waking up late (the bars may have had something do to with it – more on that later).

The breakfast was full every day and we were pleasantly surprised with how well they coped with the service.

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Very nice breakfast spread.

For lunch, there was always poolside and beach side dining, but our favourite was the Peruvian restaurant. Ceviche and the like really works as beach food and we may have even indulged in a Pisco Sour. Lunch was around $50 per person, including a cocktail.

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Peruvian Delights at Nizuc

For dinner, in all honesty, I had planned to have 1 dinner at the hotel and go outside and explore – but after our first night experience, we cancelled any plans and spent each night exploring a different restaurant. From a modern Mexican fine dining experience, to a steakhouse and seafood grill, to a fabulous Asian and a more casual Italian, I cannot fault the food. It was fantastic – and for some reason I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t know why.

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The design of each restaurant was also extraordinary.

Dinner prices varied, of course, but it would be on the $75-150 range per person including wine and a pre-dinner cocktail for us. I also discovered a fantastic wine (an Alvarino from Spain called Paco & Lola, which is now everywhere in Spain and in very select places in the UK – and every time I have it, I think of Nizuc. If you haven’t tried it, do!)

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The steak tasting was quite unique! Loved it.

Well well well. We kind of adored the drinks at Nizuc. We loved the main bar, not only in terms of design, but also the wonderful setting. The hotel seriously is one of the best designed I have ever seen and we really felt at home.

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Margarita, anyone?

The gin selection was very very limited and basic – so instead we decided to try quite a few of the different margaritas – from the classic, to something spicier. It was quite fun.

We also had a lovely shoot with Flytographer, as you can see over the next photos. But let’s get back to the drinks.

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Evidence of our new found love for Tequila

We really went out of our way to blend in and embrace the culture – and after some good recommendations from the bar team, we found out we really liked tequila. Good sipping tequila. I still don’t know anything about this spirit, but after this experience, I am actually very keen to learn more. We did particularly like the one with the ceramic bottle (which retailed at $150 a bottle at the airport) – oops. Cocktails started at $15 each.

On only one occasion were we able to enjoy a spa treatment. Why? Because it was always fully booked. I did find it pricey (a 50-minute massage would be around $250/300 – more in line with USA prices, which I understand is one of the target audiences of the hotel, but we were not in the USA, so I felt it was a bit too much).

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The ESPA spa at Nizuc

Worth noting that the spa is ESPA’s first spa in Central America and you did get more than the normal spa experience. You had your own spa attendant who guided you through a circuit which included giving you some body scrub and then some time in the steam room (for maximum results!), a very cold water shower, thalassotherapy pools and then, at the end of the massage, a relaxing warm bed, with some lotions and potions in your face. That is easily worth $50, which obviously is reflected in the treatment cost.

On a rainy day, we did get out to Cancun to do some shopping (the Fashion Island mall isn’t bad at all, with a mix of quirky boutiques and international luxury brands), and yes, we saw Cancun in daylight and well, it really isn’t my cup of tea.

We also asked the hotel to organise a proper day out for us, so we could see some of the sights. Our driver and our guide picked us up in a big mamma SUV and off we went to the ancient ruins of Tulum. We went in the morning before it got crowded and it really made for a pleasant experience.

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Nice to see Tulum without the crowds

Tulum is located around 90 minutes to 2 hours away from the hotel, down the Riviera Maya coast. I had not visited the area in over 18 years.

But our favourite part of the day was, without a doubt, our visit to Tankah, which is a private reserve which you can visit if you pre-book. This part of Mexico is known for its cenotes, or natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which has revealed a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools. We knew we wanted to see one – but the problem is that everyone else does, and these have become over-commercialised in places. But at Tankah, private groups can pre-book and you will not see a soul.

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Not bad!!

There is a circuit, so to speak, which includes, zip lining for example (which I found myself doing and when I realised, it was too late), canoeing, swimming and then a visit to the village and lunch. By coordinating each arrival, everyone is moved (but not rushed) to the next step and we truly never saw anyone (and knew they were at capacity).

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This is where I secretly confess I loved ziplining.

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So glad we had Flytographer at Nizuc!

And to immortalise the trip, we booked a session with Flytographer and it was the best thing we ever did. This was one of our favourite shoots – it really captured our moods (we were so happy to be together) AND the stunning hotel scenery.

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Just look at this place! Photos by Flytographer.

I have to be honest. I LOVED this hotel – and everything about it. The staff were so friendly, the hotel was stunning, the food was delicious and we may have enjoyed the bar a little bit too much. I can’t fault it. I would go back in a heartbeat and Mr. O would be my next companion. As for a girls trip, we could have not picked a better place. Who knew Nizuc could be the halfway point between the UK and New Zealand?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and Fact Box: We were guests of Nizuc Resort & Spa, and you may really guess that I really loved it. I really really did. Rooms start at $450 per night, including breakfast for two.

I flew to Cancun via Miami with American Airlines at a cost of £2,200 return. A 30-minute Flytographer costs $250 and worth every penny. Our 1-day private tour to Tulum and Tankah was organised by the hotel’s in-house DMC, Maritur, and costs $200 per person, including lunch.

A hotel to remember: Velassaru Maldives

Returning to the Maldives never stops getting exciting for me. But when you actually return to the same hotel, because you really really loved it (namely when you have 100+ to choose from) it means something. And Velassaru Maldives, which is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World really has a special place in our hearts.

After an overnight flight with a quick stopover in Doha (with Qatar Airways, obviously because double BA tier points) – the flight times are actually coordinated so you leave in the evening and arrive to Male Airport, in the capital of the Maldives early morning – we arrived in under 12 hours. We were met by the local Sovereign concierge, who helped us with the luggage and the handover to the hotel boat team, who very quickly directed us to the appropriate pier just outside the airport. And in 30 minutes by speedboat… guess where we arrived?

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Not your average airport transfer!

Arriving to a Maldivian hotel is always a special experience – as no one can turn up unannounced, there is always a little welcoming party which is a lovely touch. We were sharing the boat with another couple, who arrived on the same flight, and each of us had a dedicated person waiting for us and waiting to escort us to reception where, after a lovely and refreshing welcome drink, check-in took place.

Unlike in other trips, where we stayed mostly in overwater villas, I specifically asked Sovereign to select a beach villa for us. Why? Because they offer a very special experience – and completely different from a overwater villa – I thought, in the name of research, it would be useful for those considering a trip to the Maldives.

Interestingly, after the first trip, beach villas tend to be chosen by European guests because of the ‘private beach’ experience. I will explain what I mean very shortly, worry not!

Our beach villa with a pool was very spacious and lovely. From what I understood, the hotel is planning to refurbish the rooms – but as you will be able to see later, I begged them not to touch the bathrooms. Because they are quite something (and in tip top shape).

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The bed and the bed linen was excellent and we felt very comfortable. There was plenty of storage room for all our suitcases and clothes and I liked the fact that the bed is in the middle of the room, which meant there was a desk for all the books, computers and our ‘tech station’ which really were not visible and messy. Just the way I like it.

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Just outside the room, you have a day bed and chairs and outside you will also find your sun loungers (which are yours and yours only), your pool, outdoor shower and the ever important water bucket (so sand doesn’t come in the room).

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And then… you have your beach. My only comment is that we had to move our sun loungers from the pool to the beach (and back if we wanted to use them by the pool), and I believe it would be better to have 2 sets per villa (which I suggested to the hotel at the weekly cocktail party for guests and they agreed it made some sense). Not a deal breaker, but it would add some extra comfort.

This bit of beach is yours – and each beach villa will have its own. Obviously, any hotel guest can walk around the island and go in the water, but we realised that most people kept to “their” area. There is a separate beach and pool area for those staying in overwater villas or inland villas without direct beach access.

In terms of service, you will have your dedicated (male) housekeeper which will, more often than not, try to clean your bedroom whilst you are at breakfast (which I found most impressive) and will figure out the best time for turndown, as we all have different times. Ours figured out that we were the ‘sunset-cocktails-in-beachwear-type-which-will-only-shower-for-dinner-after-the-first-round’ pretty quickly and I really appreciated that.

Technically the bathroom is part of the room, but if you have been reading this blog for a little while, you will know how much I love bathrooms, and this one deserves a whole ‘section’, as it was pretty special.

The bathroom is situated outdoors, with half of it covered in case it rains (and it does, believe me). It was really fantastic and we also took advantage of the outdoor shower, which is something I do not have at home in the UK, as you can imagine. There is an ‘indoor shower’.

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Worth noting that it gets quite hot and after a couple of days we chose to keep expensive creams indoors (by the desk behind the bed), which worked quite well for us.

One of the reasons why we chose to return to Velassaru was, indeed the food. We loved the fact that there are 5 restaurants and the island isn’t too small – and that means that you do not have to stick to the one place for dinner. Or lunch.

Breakfast was enjoyed daily at the buffet restaurant, which was refurbished since our last visit and I went back to my old favourite: made-to-order chocolate crepes and papaya. I am not a fan of Nutella and it is not every day that you find ‘dark chocolate’ as a filling, so that is exactly what I had. Everyday. No judging, please (it made me very happy).

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When you book your room, it usually comes with breakfast included. However, there is something quite interesting which the hotel offers, called the ‘Velassaru Indulgence Package’ which really means you can go around all restaurants and eat as you please (without it being a la carte) and it also includes most drinks. For some special dishes like lobster or steak there will be a supplement, and also for drinks (for example, if you wanted a Hendricks gin, the extra charge was $4). It is worth doing some math as depending on how much you want to eat and drink, it could really be worth it.

For lunch, you have 3 options, if you exclude room service. For the last 3 years, I have been thinking about the tandoori chicken quesadillas we enjoyed at Turquoise and I have to say, it was worth the wait. You can also eat at the pool bar and at Chill, which will always be referred to here as the ‘sunset bar’. The latter was interesting and it offers tapas, which made for a nice change.

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Dinner was a more formal affair, but also very relaxed. We loved the Maldivian curry at Sand (as well as delicious grilled prawns), some fine dining at Ethesian and new for us was also the Teppanyaki, which was fantastic.

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A curious episode that took place (which I mentioned in my ‘favourite customer experience stories‘) at Ethesian. The waiter, Ali Rasheed, remembered us from a previous trip – it could have been a coincidence, but I honestly don’t think it was. I loved that he asked if we had had the ‘Maldivian curry’ which we loved last time and when we said no, but that we would love to, the next morning we were surprised by his supervisor coming to find us at breakfast and say that he had gotten the message and the chef would be delighted to cook for us. The cost would be $50 per person, and if you go there, do ask for this, as it really was fantastic. See below!

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We went off the ‘included menu’ for wines every day (as we have an obsession with Cloudy Bay in the Maldives for some reason – priced at $90). One thing worth noting – which I have never seen before, and would love to see again: if something cost $80, when you got the bill, that was the final price, including the local tax and service charge. $80 would be the total and then they would break down the bits and I have to applaud the hotel for this decision. Could this be the future? I honestly think so. Also note that all charges are in US Dollars.

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What about the drinks? What about the drinks? One of the reasons I always loved Velassaru was because of its bars. It is all good being together as a couple 24/7 and very romantic, but I like seeing people, at least at the end of the day. And at Velassaru, the guests were more or less in the same frame of mind – and everyone was out enjoying a cocktail or three. The evening bar was always packed and had a great vibe (plus a great live band and a very good DJ).

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But one place you cannot miss, is the Sunset Bar, which was gorgeous. And they didn’t even bat an eyelid as I asked for my $4 (extra) Hendricks to be served in a wine glass. And they remembered the following day. And all the others.

Worth saying that service at Velassaru was exceptional – everything was easy, everyone was smiling and it worked like clockwork.

I almost called this section ‘Sports’, but you’d all think I would be joking.  But believe it or not – I did indulge.

If you are worried about going to the Maldives and ‘having nothing to do’, I need to assure you of one thing: Maldives time goes extra fast, and if you throw in lunch and a spa appointment at say 5pm, there really isn’t a lot of time for sunbathing.

Snorkelling is of course on offer and we went every day – and that takes an hour. Then there is also SUP, which I discovered is my sport of choice and we went twice ($30 per person per hour). We actually went around the island which was challenging at times and we did rather well.

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Mr. O was a SUP virgin and after a few tries he really was excellent. And interestingly, it is something we can do as a couple on holiday. I just need to figure out a way to include cocktails to this and we could have the best sport in the world as it also does wonders for your tan. How’s that for an idea?

We had some excursions planned – namely a sandbank picnic on our own, but it did not happen due to the weather conditions.

We had rain for a day and a bit, and I have to say, we did not do badly. Because napping also counts as an activity.

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If you get bored with your own water or villa, there is also a main pool and beach if you fancy seeing others. We didn’t, but we noticed they were always full.

And ladies, do not wear heels. There is sand everywhere in the island – on the paths to restaurants, at reception, everywhere. So flat sandals only – or you will look pretty funny (and the other ladies will all laugh at you). I learned this lesson years ago and love the fact that I actually cannot wear heels here.

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Remember when I said it could rain? Worry not. The spa will be your safe place. On the picture above, it was actually pouring with rain – but as it was hot, I figured ‘why not?’. We actually went every day for massages as they were excellent and a perfect way to end the day. A 1-hour massage costs $100.

The jacuzzi is one of the most scenic parts of the hotel and can only be used if you book a treatment, which means it is quite quiet.

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  • If you travel to the Maldives, you cannot take any alcohol with you into the country, so save any duty-free shopping for your return trip. Ironically, the duty-free at Male airport has a huge drinks section which I found ever so slightly offensive and out of principle did not buy anything. Male is a dry island and so is the business class lounge. You can drink alcohol at island hotels and it is reasonably priced, namely when compared to French Polynesia. The hotel gives you 2x 1.5l bottles of water a day.
  • Make sure you pack enough books and magazines as you won’t be able to buy them anywhere. They cannot contain any offensive material (just in case you read naughty things).
  • Ladies: pack flat shoes and sandals. Gentlemen: take shoes which can be easily wiped clean. Forget suede. Your housekeeper will clean them for you everyday. There is a dress code for the evening: collared shirts for men and tailored shorts or trousers. Amen.
  • Sovereign has a 24/7 concierge but the service is limited. They can help getting you any items you may have forgotten from the main island (nappies and personal hygiene products seem to be extra popular), but it is unlikely you will find *that* special cream, so pack well, namely medicines.
  • Wifi is free and worked pretty well around the island

We loved returning to Velassaru and are delighted that we did. The hotel is great and had everything we needed and more. Also, as it is close to Male, speedboat transfers are included for Sovereign guests and only takes 30 minutes or so.

Would we go back? Any day. I love how chic yet understated the island felt and how happy everyone that worked there seemed to be. And of course the other guests.

Until the next time

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of Sovereign Luxury Holidays and Velassaru Maldives on this trip and I loved every minute of it. Opinions are my own.

Sovereign (+ 44 1293 765 003) is offering seven nights for the price of six in the Maldives staying at the five-star Velassaru in a Beach Villa with Pool, including airport security fast-track and private airport lounge access (where available) and speed boat transfers. Price quotes based on departures 5 December 2016.

  • £2,459 per person on a B&B basis, including return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
  • £3,400 per person featuring the Velassaru Indulgence Package, including return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
  • £5,666 per person on a B&B basis, including Business Class return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways
  • £6,608 per person featuring the Velassaru Indulgence Package, including Business Class return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways

A luxury weekend in Seville, Spain

We were looking for the perfect place to spend a not so wet Autumn weekend. And Seville, the capital of Andalusia in Spain, has always had a special place in my heart – but not for the reasons you may think. We have been wanting to go for quite a long time – but getting there from London wasn’t particularly easy – and when British Airways started to fly direct, we knew it was time for us to spend the perfect weekend in Seville.

I have been to Seville many times as a child and teenager. During most of those, we were enroute to Marbella, and stopping meant having a fabulous lunch at ‘La Dorada’ (the home of the salt-baked sea bream, which sadly does not exist anymore) and, more often than not, having the contents of our car stolen. I am laughing now, but back in the 80s, if you had a Portuguese car, you knew it would happen. If you were Portuguese there, your car was full of wonderful things like your Spanish shopping, cash cash cash (credit cards in those days were not the same). I do not wish to paint Seville in a negative light – but it what I remember. The most vivid memory of such episodes was being stopped on a traffic light, with my mother’s handbag in the back seat (with the 3 of us in the back), and a motorbike coming over with a rock, break the window, grab the bag and take everything. How we continued on holiday is a story in itself, which I can share some other time.

Incidents aside, I wasn’t worried in the slightest when we visited Seville – and I know that this doesn’t happen anymore. Returning to Madrid as an adult was top of my list and it finally happened.

I honestly only wanted to stay in one place – the Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel which is where I stayed quite a few times with my parents. It is one of Spain’s most iconic hotels, a grand dame, which was recently restored to its former glory.

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The stunning Alfonso XIII hotel in Seville

I felt 10 years old when I walked in again as everything looked exactly the same – and it was stunning. Just stunning. We stayed for 2 nights and I cannot fault the hotel in anything. Service was friendly, the rooms were gorgeous (and modern, worry not) and, best of all, it had a gin menu at its fab Bar Americano. As you walked through the hotel, you can see the photos of who’s stayed there in the past and how it is so important to the city’s history.

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Some details of the hotel – look at the details of the wardrobe itself. Gorgeous!

And every day, at 5pm, the hotel’s concierge organises a little guided tour of the property for all guests, which comes with a glass of something – so if you stay, do make the time as it is quick and totally worth it.

Friday evening

As our British Airways flight departed from Gatwick, and both of us were working in the city during the day, we tried Airportr‘s same-day luggage collection service, which was excellent. Bags were picked up from our house and delivered to us when we checked in. Simple and oh so useful.

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We loved Airportr’s service and will use it again.

We landed just before dinner – and sadly not before being taken for a ride by the taxi driver. We were charged 45 Euros from the airport (I was sharing a taxi with my husband Simon and our friends Chris and Terene) which I thought was excessive. As we arrived to the hotel, the doorman looking at our expressions guessed something was wrong and we immediately knew we had been done. There is a flat rate to and from the airport of €22.2o during working hours and €24.70 at all other times and that includes all supplements and charges for luggage etc. Interestingly, the taxi driver stopped where he knew the hotel cameras would not be able to see his licence plate (and they went through the footage as they were quite offended too), but Mr. Taxi driver knew what he was doing. So take note, you now know what you should be charged.

We arrived to our beautiful hotel and had time to unpack and freshen up before dinner, which was to be a special affair.

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Our room at Alfonso XIII

Our room, a Junior Suite, was very spacious and really was beautiful. Taking photos at night never does it justice, but we all know that photos the next day will never be the same – as one starts unpacking and feeling at home. I had another deja-vu moment when I went to the bathroom – oh my God, I did remember the tiles. They were still there.

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Very unique bathroom – and one small detail: plugs in the bathroom which are slowly disappearing all over the world and I do not know why. I am sure I have not read about anyone dying at a hotel whilst blow drying their hair.

At the hotel lobby, Shawn Hennessy, or Miss Tapas Sevilla, was waiting for us. We had pre-booked a private tapas tour with her (you can read all about my favourite foodtours here) weeks before, as she is a very very busy lady. And she is very very good.

We spent around 4 hours with Shawn and went to the most incredible places in town, most of which we would never dare enter – because we wouldn’t know how good they would be. Out of respect for Shawn, I won’t name every place as I believe the service she offers comes down to the knowledge she has of the city and that it worth every penny. Tours cost from 80 Euros per person, including all food and drink.

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My friend Terene looking very happy as she was having one of Spain’s best gifts to the world: jamon iberico de bellota

One thing worth noting: there is a fair bit of Jamon Iberico to be enjoyed. Why? Because it comes from not far from the city. And as you taste the various charcuterie items (chorizo, lomo, etc), you also learn about the different types of this wonderful food item.

Our night ended with a night cap at the hotel – the Bar Americano was gorgeous! And something quite funny happened: I asked for the drinks menu and when I got it, I was surprised to see that there were no gins in it. And a proper gin & tonic (or gin tonic as they call it in Spain) was exactly what we wanted. Turns out there is a GIN MENU, as a couple pages on the main menu just weren’t enough. SO my kind of place…

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Notice two of the pages of gins (there were more), organised by country of origin, but also notice the variety of tonics. And they did all the pairing for you, of course.

Saturday

Our morning did not start at the crack of dawn (because ‘gin’) and also because the hotel has breakfast on until 11am. Served in a beautiful room (of course) and with some of my favourite items.

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One thing at a time… but of course I had to have churros.

After we were re-energised, it was time to explore the city – very happy to see the sights, but we were obviously focused on one thing: shopping. Because ‘Spain’.

On our way to the city’s main shopping street (C/ Sierpes and those nearby), we passed Seville’s cathedral – which is one of the oldest in the world, literally steps from the hotel, and spent some time admiring one of Spain’s most special traditions – the display of nativity scenes, or Belens, as they are called.

In the run up to Christmas, there are vendors of these nativity scenes which really are works of art. My mother is a great fan of those, and as children, I remember the work put into it – and buying all the different bits and pieces each year was also a lot of fun. If you look at the images, notice the details of the items and think that in most cases, they are smaller than a thumb.

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The nativity scenes in Sevile

As per normal, all roads led to El Corte Ingles, Spain and Portugal’s only department stores. We were delighted with what they have done in its last floor – where a Gourmet Experience was created. Basically you can buy any of the items and enjoy them right there and then (think jamon iberico), or just buy them and take home. The outside area was gorgeous and you can also enjoy some of the city’s best views.

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We loved the El Corte Ingles Gourmet Experience.

I love El Corte Ingles as I can get my ‘Iberian Fix’ of life products to bring back home to the UK – be that pharmacy, beauty, gin, wine and of course food. And sometimes, some shoes. Worth noting that as a tourist, you can get a 10% discount card (which can’t be used everywhere in store). The discount works after the first purchase where, for example, if you spend 100 Euros, you have 10 Euros off your second purchase and so on. So do the math and buy larger items first, and then get the other smaller ones for free. I got myself a Nordes gin bottle at the end, with all my credit, and was very pleased!

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Not a bad view, huh?

After a fair bit of shopping, it was time for lunch. Shawn gave us some recommendations and, as expected, they did not disappoint. We went to La Pepona, a few minutes away from ECI and loved its modern tapas. Lunch was around 25 Euros per person including a glass of wine.

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Very modern tapas at a gorgeous place.

In the afternoon, we continued to help the local economy – Seville doesn’t have the same caliber of luxury shopping as Madrid or Barcelona, for obvious reasons, but you will be able to find shops like Max Mara, Purificacion Garcia, Adolfo Dominguez, Maje, Utreque, and others, of course. And all the Spanish brands you would expect.

We had a little nap at the hotel (why not?), and before we knew it, it was time for dinner again. We did not have set plans (which is a shocker for me, as I always do), but we wanted to try the hotel’s Carles Abellan restaurant at some point. We decided however to revisit some of the places we had been to the night before with Shawn, like Bodeguita Romero, before we ended our evening at the hotel. We really liked the space, the tapas and, of course the gin and wine. (Dinner was around 80 Euros per person, including ‘all the gins’).

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When in Seville…

If you haven’t come across Carles Abellan, do so before heading to Spain. He’s from Barcelona and has been building a little empire. I will always be thankful that thanks to him (not personally), at Tapac24, I was introduced to Hendricks Gin, 15 years ago, in a proper glass, 15 years ago. 15 years ago – and I have never looked back, as you all know.

Sunday

Shops are not open in Spain on Sundays (with the exception of the first Sunday of the month, and closer to Christmas), so we decided to explore the city a little bit. The hotel was so well located, you could walk everywhere – and so we did.

Our first stop was the Real Alcazar, a royal palace in Seville, Spain, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. We went at around 11am and queued just a little bit, but you can now buy your tickets online (tickets €9.50).

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The Real Alcazar de Sevilla

We loved the weather – we had 20c and it really was lovely in the sun. In late November. From the Palace, we made our way to Parque de Maria Luisa, which was the grounds of the 1929 Expo. The Portuguese pavilion, for example, it is still the Portuguese embassy nowadays.

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A gorgeous city!

But the one place we wanted to get to was the magnificent Plaza de Espana – it was the heart of the 1929 Expo and incredibly beautiful. From what I understood, this great event welcomed Spanish from all over the world back ‘home’ and it has some little areas dedicated to each main city. The point is that you would ‘go’ to the city where you or your ancestors came from and have a moment.

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Just wow!

After a fabulous morning walking around town, it was time for our last meal, which we took very seriously. We headed to Vineria de San Telmo, again as recommended by Shawn, and enjoyed our last tasting of Jamon Iberico, some octopus from Galicia (of course) and the most incredible lemon merengue pie. If we had to go, we had to do it in style. (lunch was around 35 Euros per person).

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My Spanish staples include Fanta Limon. And we couldn’t not try Porta des Indes, the local Seville gin.

Returning to Seville as an adult was very special – the city is gorgeous and full of life. We loved the food, the hotel and literally everything else. And we even tipped an extra €5 to the lovely taxi driver who took us back to the airport and did not overcharge us.

If you haven’t been to Seville – go. We have only seen a little bit of what the city has to offer and believe me, we will be back soon.

xo

Mrs. O

Fact box: I was a guest of Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel and I loved it. Rooms start from €280 per night.

British Airways flies to Seville from London Gatwick from £85 return.

A private tapas tour with Seville Tapas costs from 80 Euros per person.

Airportr offers same day bag transfers and will collect your bags in and around London to your chosen airport (Heathrow, Gatwick and City) , or the reverse, from £15 each, depending on location. I really enjoyed the service as I had a day in London working and was dreading having to take my bags around with me in the city. They were picked up from home and delivered to me by the British Airways check in.

My Top 5 Destinations for Autumn 2016

Looking for inspiration for where to go this Autumn? Well, I am here to help. Here are my Top 5 Destinations for Autumn.

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I have travelled to Scotland earlier this summer and sampled some of their best whiskies and I was only delighted to go back again. This time, the reason for my trip to Inverness was to attend a conference in which I was a speaker and I am glad I went a bit early and got a taster of what this part of the world has to offer. Whilst I did not spot Nessie, I was almost emotional when I got my first glimpse of Loch Ness. I will definitely go back and explore some more.

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I have been to Barcelona well over 150 times – my previous corporate life took me there almost every week for 4 years and ever since I left, I have missed it a lot. Interestingly, I have not been back that many times (last time was a good 5 years ago). So I have planned 5 amazing days in town where I will be with my amazing friends Trudi and Terene for there whole time, and we will allow the boys to join us for the weekend. Just for the weekend. We picked Barcelona as it offered the best combination of what is needed for a true girls weekend: great accommodation (and a pool!), great shopping, restaurants and bars and, of course, very pleasant on the eye.

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Photo Credit: Belmond

I love love love Mallorca – which comes to no surprise if you are a regular reader of the blog. After a 10-year hiatus, I started going back to the island every year, almost religiously, because I love it. This time around, I am travelling with Sovereign and go inland, rather than stay right on the beach. And where will I stay? At the incredible Belmond La Residencia, which was Richard Branson’s private home in the island. I cannot wait.

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Photo Credit: Visit Bath

We visited Bath for a proper weekend this time last year and we loved it. We really did. Mr. O is celebrating a milestone birthday this year and we are organising a proper O’Reilly reunion. When it came to choosing the right place for all of us (which are based in London, Henley, Brighton and Devon), there was only one perfect choice: Bath. We have rented a house just outside the city, but near enough for some shopping, of course.

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Photo Credit: Starwood

I have been picking my brain for a few weeks on where I should take Mr. O for the weekend after ‘the birthday’ and I couldn’t decide. We wanted a bit of sun but also something quite different – and then I discovered that the W was opening in Goa at the beginning of the month of November. Getting there will be interesting – but we managed to get BA flights to Hyderabad and then will try our luck with a local airline (flight is only 1 hour away). We loved our first taste of India last year – we went to Mumbai and Jaipur and we wanted a bit more of that. Goa has always been on our list – and well, I cannot wait!

We are also heading to the USA for a week, as Mr. O has business there, and as a good wife, I feel I should keep him company! He has business in Minneapolis and Philadelphia and at the end, I get a weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut with my fabulous friend and co-founder of #LuxTravelChat,  Luxury Travel Mom.

Where are you planning to go this Autumn?

xo

Mrs. O

A first taste of Budapest, Hungary

Very few times I have been so surprised by a destination, I thought: “how come I did not know it would be so beautiful? And fun?”. Well, that is exactly that happened the first time I visited Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Full disclosure here – I did not go on a normal weekend away, I visited the city as a guest of Corinthia Hotels, which had organised a special weekend to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its Budapest hotel. As a result, there was a pre-set programme for guests and I did not do things like go out for dinner – so obviously I need to go back and explore some more of this beautiful city. Incredibly beautiful city.

Here are some thoughts and ideas for your next trip to Budapest.

The Hotel

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Exterior and interior views of the Corinthia Budapest

We stayed at the Corinthia Budapest, which was located in one of the city’s main streets and within walking distance to The Boulevard and the main shopping street in the city.

The hotel has been refurbished and is in good condition – but I found the service did not match my expectations. Whether it was to make a spa appointment, or to get a drink at the bar, I felt that nothing really flowed. And whether we were ‘with the VIP group’ or on our own, it did not really make a difference, I am afraid.

The rooms were comfortable and modern and we slept well – which is what you would expect.

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Our Executive Room at the Corinthia Budapest.

One of its special features (if you could get an appointment) was, without a doubt, the spa. I had only one treatment during my stay as it was fully booked, but was really quite impressed with the quality of the therapists and treatments. I had a massage and it really was exceptional (priced at 100 Euros for 50 mins).

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The spa, bar and internal courtyard

Sightseeing and entertainment

On the first morning, we sneaked away from the programme and made our way to Budapest Castle – this is where we got our first glimpses of this truly majestic city. We also had a photo shoot with Flytographer (because I love them) and a chance to explore the old part of town.

I am glad we went early (say around 10am) to beat the crowds visiting the attractions.

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Isn’t this gorgeous?

I was blown away by the city and I was ashamed of myself for not having a clue how beautiful it was before actually arriving. Everyone can picture Prague, for example, but I did not have a visual for Budapest. I now do.

We had a private tour of the city with a driver and guide (that was somehow surreal as she did not shut up for one single minute, which actually at a point became quite funny). Nonetheless, it was a great way to get a general feel about it and have further ideas of what to explore on subsequent trips.

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Happy in Budapest captured by Flytographer

One of my favourite things was a Legenda boat trip on the Danube – it took around 30 minutes but was really a great way to see the city from its heart. Priced at 60 Euros per person, it really was incredible.

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Spectacular views of a spectacular city

One evening, we went to the Opera House and watched a performance. The venue was incredibly beautiful and I have to say, I was disappointed with how half the people were wearing suits and dresses and others were wearing jeans. Also, modern opera not for me. The performance had English subtitles so you could follow the storyline but it wasn’t melodic, so to speak. But it was still a good night out.

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The Budapest Opera House

The Bathhouses

You cannot go to Budapest without going to its famous bathhouses. But whilst I booked a massage at Gellert (which was excellent), I really did feel the baths were way too busy. I loved the idea of going to one of the ‘Sparties’, which take place at night time, but stupidly I thought you could go and not get yet. So whilst it seemed a great idea, it really wasn’t practical.

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The Gellert Bathhouse

I booked our VIP Massage (priced at 70 Euros for 50 minutes) online via email (and was very surprised with how efficient it was) – and was quite amused with the actual experience. As a pre-booked customer I had to queue to get a token by one of the ladies in the counter you can see above. Then, I had to queue with all the day guests who had not pre-booked and pay. It felt very 1957 and as I said, amusing. The least amusing part is that there were about 30 people ahead of us and we almost missed our slot. The VIP rooms were surprisingly very nice and my masseuse was young, very chatty and very very talented. I had snapped my calf muscle the day before whilst sightseeing and could barely walk and she really worked her magic. I had visions of being ‘beaten up’ by a very large older lady during this experience and it was the exact opposite.

Eating and drinking

And this is where things got really interesting. We were surprised by the number of rooftop bars the city offered – most with incredible views and very cool people from all over the world. Budapest is the new Berlin, some told us – whatever that means.

In terms of food, we enjoyed a very traditional Hungarian meal at Rosenstein, which was excellent. I would certainly recommend a lunch there (45 Euros per person including wine).

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Very interesting meal – it really was delicious

We also had a very good lunch at the rooftop bar of the Aria Budapest hotel. We loved the look and feel of this place too – and whilst it was empty when we arrived (perfect for photos), it was packed within an hour. We went here for Sunday lunch (around 80 Euros for 2 with wine) but heard it was one of ‘the places to go to’ for sunset and evening drinks.

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Great lunch at Aria Budapest

We also went to 360, another rooftop bar, on Saturday afternoon, before dinner. It was located 4 minutes from our hotel and I highly recommend a visit.

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The 360 rooftop bar

But what we loved loved loved? The ruin bars! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – and I have to say, I couldn’t believe how cool they were. Also, I was worried we would be a bit too old for them – and you can go in peace. Great variety of nationalities and ages.

We went to Szimpla Kertmosi, which was also within walking distance of the Corinthia hotel and really enjoyed ourselves.

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How cool was this?

What else can I say? Budapest really surprised me. I did not expect it to be as vibrant as it was, and certainly will be making a return trip to explore some more, as it really is calling my name.

Have you been to Budapest? What did you think of it?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of the Corinthia Budapest and all opinions are, as always, my own. Room rates for executive room vary between 250-900 Euros per night per room, including breakfast. A 30-minute photo shoot with Flytographer (we had Dana and loved her) costs $250.

My Top 5 Beauty Essentials for Autumn 2016

Summer has come and gone for us at the Northern Hemisphere and it is time to update parts of one’s beauty routine. Just because. Here are my Top 5 Beauty Essentials for Autumn 2016.

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Things seem to be quite exciting at Molton Brown – and I love their new fragrance experiments. I loved their Spring Lily of the Valley perfume and I have recently tried their brand new Rosa Absolute range – made up of shower gel, body lotion and eau de toilette. It is quite a strong scent which becomes quite subtle and changes according to your skin.

Get it now: Shower Gel £20, Eau de Toilette £39, Complete Set £84 from Molton Brown.

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I know you must be wondering… whisky? Indeed. I discovered this product on a recent trip to Dufftown, in Scotland, aka the Single Malt Capital of the World, and the home of Glenfiddich and Balvenie. The latter can be found in this product, which absolutely smells divine. We also got a reed diffuser which has been performing quite well in terms of evaporation.

Get it now: Handwash £18.00 from Fortnum & Mason.

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If you have a Brazilian friend in your life, or know Brazil a little bit, you will have come across Natura, which is Brazil’s number 1 beauty brand. If you lived in Paris, you may have spotted its shop on Rue des Sevres – and that was about it. I have been stocking up on this ‘three-phase’ shower oil for a few years now every time I went to Paris, but worry not – you don’t have to go. They now have a European website which makes things much easier. After you shower (and use normal shower gel), you just shake this bottle (so the 3 oil mix) and you just apply to your body. Towel dry and voila. No need to moisturise.

Get it now: Shower Oil €20 from Natura.

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I find it that I need to change moisturiser (and shampoo/conditioner) every season as the face (and hair) gets used to it, and since discovering Nuxe last Summer, I have been wearing its ‘Anti-Fatigue’ moisturiser which I love. It’s light, smells lovely, and de-puffs quite well. Happy days.

Get it now: Face moisturiser £18.50 from Amazon. Also worth trying Nuxe’s Travel Kit which includes this cream and the ‘Huile Prodigieuse’ for £13.50 from John Lewis.

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I love True Grace products and since I visited Bath last year, Amber is now the ‘smell’ of Maison O’Reilly. All around the house and having tried many many diffusers and candles over the years, I have to say – True Grace are the best (for me). They last really well (which is an issue with many other diffusers) and I am sure that if Amber is not your thing, you will find the right scent for you. I love them.

Get it now: Candle £28, Diffuser £42 from John Lewis.

Have you tried any of these products? What did you think?

xo

Mrs. O

Best of Summer of 2016 – by Mrs. O and Friends

I hate to say it, but Summer 2016 really is over for us on the Northern Hemisphere. Mine wasn’t the best at all – my father passed away at the end of June and 2 weeks after that, my husband had a partial knee replacement, which kept us home for 7 weeks.

There were highs and lows – quite a bit of pain, both physical and emotional, but also wonderful events such as Mr. O’s first grandson at the end of July (you can call me step-granny now) and my sister’s wedding at the end of August.

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The latter took place in Portugal and really was wonderful, and I could not be more grateful for Mr. O to have walked my sister down the aisle – the whole event gave us something to look forward to and I think I cried more than than at my own wedding!

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Whilst I did not travel much, guess who did? All my lovely readers. One day in August, Peter (who follows my Facebook page) sent me a photo of this fabulous hotel in Greece with a little note to say that he thought Mrs. O would love it. Then the next day, Claire did exactly the same – and I loved it. So what did I do? I asked everyone to share with me their favourite summer photos – and I can only say three words: ‘wow’ and ‘thank you’.

Wow because how lucky are we? *We* meaning Mrs. O & Friends – those who like what I do and allow me to appear on their social media feeds. I love the banter and back and forth – and knowing that we share the same love of travelling in style and try to find the best bits of each place and share with one another.

So without further ado, here are some of my readers ‘Best of Summer 2016’ moments. From Mykonos to Vietnam, Montenegro to California. We really went around the world.

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Peter – Santorini, Greece

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I took this one! Algarve, Portugal

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Rodrigues Pereira – Vietnam

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Adelia – Azores Islands, Portugal

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Joanna – Mallorca, Spain

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Morgen – Hua Hin, Thailand

mrs o and friends best of summer Marrakesh

Sonia – Marrakesh, Morocco

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Anthony – Serengeti

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Rebecca – Rovijn, Croatia

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Elaine – Montenegro

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Paola – Mykonos, Greece

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Nicky – La Jolla, San Diego, USA

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Antonella – Iceberg lagoon, Jökulsárlón, Iceland

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Carolina – Exuma Key, Bahamas

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Ana – Santorini, Greece

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Anabela – Gstaad, Switzerland

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Nadia – Cadiz, Spain

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Bety – Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

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Silvia – Verona, Italy

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Jennifer – Cape Cod, USA

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Belinda – Crete, Greece

mrs o and friends best of summer brazil

Maria Helena – Praia do Forte, Brazil

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Alexandra – Flims, Switzerland

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Jo – Santorini, Greece

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Liliana – Kew Bridge, London

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Katie – Berlin, Germany

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Lynnsay – Amalfi Coast, Italy

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Rosie – Valetta, Malta

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Carmo – Berlengas, Portugal

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Carlos – Dubai, UAE

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Amelia – Kotor, Montenegro

mrs o and friends best of summer norway

Andre – Ramberg, Norway

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Chris – Madeira, Portugal

Thank you once again for taking the time to send me these photos.

xo

Mrs. O

Travelling to prepare for a special moment

This post is brought to you by The Ritz-Carlton

 

I have been asked many times a rather simple question: why do I travel? It seems simple enough, but the answer is not as straightforward. I travel for many reasons – to search for the sun, to have some down time, to spend quality time with friends, family and my better half. I also travel to discover wonderful destinations and learn about their culture, history and food. And I always try to get away to celebrate my birthday or Mr. O’s. Or our anniversary, of course. Oh, and I also travel to shop – and that qualifies as an important milestone in my book.

But this time around, we travelled for a very different reason. We travelled all the way to Bali, in Indonesia (obviously to do a bit of everything I mentioned earlier), but for something different: to prepare for a medical operation.

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Enjoying a walk with ‘good knees’ in Ubud, Bali.

My husband Simon has many good qualities, but his knees aren’t his best feature. For the past 6 years, we have been through 3 knee arthroscopies which meant a 3-week recuperation period but after the last one, we knew the big op was coming. The big op was a partial knee replacement. Which meant at least 8 weeks away from the office, planes, beaches and any driving.

Scheduling 8 weeks off our diaries, namely my husband’s wasn’t easy, and due to the nature of his work and my day time job (as a marketing consultant), the best time to do it was during the Summer, in early July. So in March we made that decision and decided to book a very special trip: we were going all the way to Bali, in Indonesia.

We spent some time in Seminyak, which we really liked, but the ultimate destination was Ubud, and more precisely, the Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which promised to be the perfect place to get a final hurrah before the op. We did manage to squeeze in a long weekend in Spain and a weekend in Scotland just before the big day, but this was *the* trip.

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Spending some quality time at Mandapa

 

So why was Bali our chosen destination to prepare for this operation?

 

The hotel

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Not your average hotel lobby, is it?

I tell no lies. Every now and then, a hotel can be a destination (I unashamedly have plenty of those in my life), and in this case, we knew we were in for something pretty special. It was exceptional and we felt that 4 days were not enough. From incredible decor to impeccable grounds, it really had it all.

 

The culture

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Our very own rice field at the hotel…

We had never been to Indonesia and it was always on our list. It wasn’t a hop and a skip from London – we flew to Paris, then on to Doha (6h) and then onwards to Denpasar (9h) and it kind of took us 24 hours, with the time difference and transfers to get there. Whilst we really enjoyed Seminyak, the destination of the trip was, without a doubt, Ubud, also known as the cultural capital of Bali. We really got into it, and enjoyed plenty of time outside the hotel – we went to the town for some meals, for shopping and what not. But our favourite moment was a private tour on a vintage VW organised by the hotel that took us to the key temples around us. I loved its simplicity and how much we got from a 5-hour trip.

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How cool was this car?

 

The food

We fell madly in love with Indonesian food. The meat skewers, the soups, the mango sticky rice – you name it, we had it. We enjoyed a variety of meals at the hotel – from a picnic by the river, to a candlelit dinner on the rice fields, to a fabulously simple spring roll feast by the pool.

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The food was exceptional

We loved the options we had – and how the hotel was not afraid to proudly serve local cuisine, and not ‘just a little bit’ for show. We also loved asking those who worked there to help us navigate the menus as we had no idea – we also got them to pick their local favourite dishes for us. Service was exceptional – some of the best we have experienced, yet so friendly.

I also loved how the hotel was not afraid to send us to simple places in town for lunch – because quality is what matters and we really had some exceptional meals. Some for $150 a head, others for $15. Because who cares?

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One of our favourite bars and restaurants – the design really was quite something

 

The peace and quiet

We really needed some of this and that is why we chose Ubud was our destination. We had a private villa with a pool, which was perfect. We did not have to see anyone when we did not want to – and gin & tonics made their way to our villa pretty quickly.

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Our own little bit of paradise

At times, yes, we wanted to see others but nothing was forced – and that is what I loved about it. We had time to sleep, to go to the spa, to talk to each other and also not to talk at all and just be together. And this was the perfect place to do so.

 

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Mr. O enjoying some ‘good knee’ activities like climbing up a rice hut.

 

The operation went very well and so has the recovery. But having been on a big trip before the operation really made it special for us – we picked somewhere different from where we normally go, and there could have been a closer option, but we surely celebrated and cherished this moment.

Travel is about celebrating whatever matters to you – what have you celebrated recently?

 

xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer: this post was sponsored by The Ritz-Carlton, who has asked me to share a special moment of my recent travels. Opinions are, as always, my own.

The post Travelling to prepare for a special moment appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

The ultimate online shopping guide

I may have a little addiction to online shopping. Or maybe not so little! Here are some of my favourite online hangouts – I hope you enjoy the Mrs. O online shopping guide as much as I do.

It may take a little bit of time to load the whole page with all the logos. Be patient – a very good online shopping experience awaits. For reference, most international websites selected deliver to the UK, Europe and other international countries, not just the USA. And in most cases you can take advantage of the popular American savings and know exactly how much extra (for tax and shipping) you will need to pay, and make an informed decision.

Below you will find the whole list of brands, or to make it easier, select by category using the search button below.

Happy online shopping!

 

 

the mrs o around the world online shopping guide

 

Which other websites do you use regularly and would recommend? Let me know, as I will be updating this page very regularly.

 

Disclaimer: please note that this page contains some affiliate links, which means I will make a small commission from anything you purchase, at no extra cost to you. It is a great way to support the website. An idea? Bookmark this page and make this the starting point of future shopping experiences.

The post The ultimate online shopping guide appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

5 gadgets to take on your next trip

Technology changes so quickly, which means that every now and then there are some great products hitting the market. Below, you can find 5 gadgets to take on your next trip, all bought, tried and tested by myself.

Jackery power banks / portable chargers

jackery best phone portable charger

Without a doubt, the best portable chargers we have purchased – and a year on (I have the silver and the gold one), we are still getting at least 3 charges from each – I cannot ask for more. Perfect for when on the go, either for a day out or when travelling. They are light and very portable (think dinner clutch) – and most of all, they are outstanding value.

Get yours from £14.99 (UK/Europe) and $16.99 (USA)

Anker Nylon Braided USB Cable with Lightning Connector

anker smartphone iphone android super fast charging cable lightening

In our house we used to go through cables like cold water on a Summer’s day. For two reasons: because they broke and because my other half has a cute little habit of saying they are all his. We switched to these cables over a year ago and they are still impeccable. Because they are braided, they don’t break as easily and the colour coding brought some of my marital problems to an end. You can select 2 lengths – 3ft and 6ft and 4 different colours. And Mr. O does not like pink, so there you go.

Get yours from £6.99 (iPhone) and £5.99 (Android) (Europe) and $9.99 (USA).

Belkin Rotating Universal In Car Air Vent Mount Holder for Smartphone

belkin vent smartphone car holder

I have a love/hate relationship with my car’s built-in satnav system and more often than not, I much prefer using Google Maps and/or Waze. For that, I need my phone and somewhere to put it. I have purchased a few options (a lot of trial and error here) and the best solution I found (namely because I have a leather cover on my phone and I don’t want to stick anything to it), is this Belkin device, which can be easily attached to any air vent. We have three – one in each car, and one in our travel bag, which we use anytime we rent a car.

Get yours for £11.99 (UK Europe) and $11.99 (USA)

USB Wall Chargers

usb plug socket chargers belkin technet

So many devices and the main problem is.. where to charge them? We are considering changing our wall sockets around the house, but I am not sure how well they would work. In the meantime, we have resorted to these 2 items: the Tecknet 4 USB charger which we have in the kitchen and a spare one in our travel bag, which means anyone can charge their phones no matter what. In our guest bedrooms and around the house, we have selected the Belkin version which still gives you the power socket. Both work very well.

Get the Tecknet for £8.99 and the Belkin for £9.99 (UK/Europe).

For USA options, click here for the Belkin ($16.69) and Tecknet ($8.99).

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple Devices

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for Apple Devices - White

I have had these Bose headphones since April (a lovely birthday gift from very thoughtful friends) and LOVE them. Mr. O has the over-ear ones which I also recommend, but find these more portable AND I can also sleep with them much better. There are 2 different versions available – for iPhone and Android/Samsung, and also 2 colours: black and white. You can also use them as normal headphones and I like that they are rechargeable via USB, which you can do on the go or actually on the plane.

Get yours for £189.99 (white version) in the UK/Europe and $249 in the USA.

Which gadgets can you not travel without? Would love to hear your thoughts as we all have the same issues!