A luxury weekend in Bath, England

I had the pleasure of visiting Bath, in England, for short day trips a handful of times. But after a nice meal and some very good shopping, I always felt I was missing out. Would Bath have enough to do for a whole weekend? Well, recently I made the decision to do exactly that – and spend a lovely weekend in Bath.

This time around, there were no trains, planes or boats – I am based in Henley-on-Thames and Bath is located under 100 miles away from our home. So we got on the M4 and in less than 90 minutes, we arrived. It was quite different – in a way it felt too easy. But I liked it. A lot. (For the record, Bath is easily accessible by train from London, taking exactly the same time).

Friday

We made our way towards our hotel – which was very easy to find as it is located in one of Bath’s landmarks: the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent. And guess what the hotel was called? Yes, it was very accurately called The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau

Yup, no doubt where we were. In Bath, and ready for any type of weather – which we were determined not to let it spoil anything.

We literally dropped our bags, and made our way towards the city centre which was really far away. I am joking: literally a 7-9 (notice the precision) minute walk down Gay Street (pictured above), left on George Street and then right on Milsom Street, which is ‘my’ heart of Bath. Maybe because it is where all the lovely shops are located. More about that later.

We were a bit late so had to find a place to eat – and we couldn’t eat too much because of the activity that followed, but when I saw a sign to Burger & Lobster, I couldn’t resist. If you are not familiar with this concept, it is a quite clever one – you can have a burger or a lobster (either a whole one or a lobster roll) and a glass of something lovely for £20. In London, it means around the block queues – we were very lucky as it was early for lunch and we got seated immediately. And boy, did we enjoy!

luxury weekend in bath england burger and lobster restaurant

His and hers lobsters at Burger & Lobster and the lovely Milsom Street.

After a lovely meal (cost: £40), we quickly walked down Milsom Street (whilst making mental notes of where I would be shopping later) and made our way towards the Thermae Bath Spa which is actually a publicly owned facility and where you can benefit from the healing Bath waters (and no, you cannot do this at the Roman Baths!). We had a little walk around the facility, which was modern, yet supersized (lots of people and actual queues outside the door –  I could not quite believe it). One place you need to head to is the top floor – where you actually have a rooftop pool with incredible views of the city.

Following the advice of my readers (which I greatly appreciate and I mean it), we had booked something else: our own private thermal bath. Yes, I did have a bath in Bath.

luxury weekend in bath england cross bath thermae spa

The first photo was taken from the rooftop pool. On the right, you can see a round building – that is where the Cross Bath is located. On the lower left photo, you can see the main Thermae Bath Spa building and the Cross Bath. Not that far away ?

The Cross Bath is part of the Thermae Bath Spa and can be booked by anyone, for up to 12 people for two hours (costing £145 for a 2-hour session midweek and £195 over the weekend). I honestly could not believe that a place like this was available – it was truly special and we enjoyed every minute of it. We stayed for a little over one hour and we loved the hot water and.. the prossecco. There are nice little touches that you can organise that really enhance this already unique experience. And for the record, you have everything you need – robes, towels, slippers, private changing rooms and, of course, your own lifeguard.

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The Cross Bath which we loved. If you go to Bath, do not miss out on this experience.

Feeling very relaxed, we thought it was time to explore a little bit of shopping. As it happens, Bath offers exceptional shopping besides being postcard pretty – coincidentally, the reason why I had visited quite a few times before. The best thing about it, is that you can explore the whole city on foot – we did not touch our car until we checked out on the Sunday.

I just wanted to follow my nose a little bit, to see what I would find – and I have to say, I was impressed with all the more recent openings which really elevated (so to speak) the offer. Mrs. O would use her Amex and help the local economy, no problem.

luxury weekend in bath england shopping jollys house of fraser jo malone anthropologie t2 tea shop society caffe

Plenty of shopping options – you really have very good upscale shopping in Bath. And many local brands, which make everything even more interesting. Clockwise from top: Anthropologie, Jolly’s (which is House of Fraser – a UK department store – in disguise), Jo Malone, T2 (very cool tea shop) and Society Cafe, which looked fab).

We walked back to the hotel and quickly changed for cocktails & dinner – and there was only one thing on my mind: GIN. We went to the Canary Bar, which offers over 200 different gin options. 200. Fair to say that the Os were very impressed. Peter, who owns the bar was a delight and a real character and let us in on a secret: he was also the creator of… Bath Gin. A very nice surprise indeed – and I absolutely could not be rude and not try it. And I did not regret it. At the bar, I also met Lynnsay who has been reading my blog for a long time and it was great to finally meet. As I have said before, I am so grateful how social media has helped me connect with such interesting people around the world.

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Plenty of options for Gin Lovers at the Canary Bar.

We had a bit of a mix-up where we were supposed to have dinner and interestingly found ourselves without a dinner reservation on a Friday night, in Bath. I knew we would not go hungry, but after 5 calls to some of the best places in town which were fully booked, we decided to be adventurous and just walk in to restaurants that looked nice.

In the meantime, we walked around the Bath Christmas Market, which had started that very day – and it was SO NICE! At night especially!

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The great Christmas Market in Bath

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I like the idea of Christmas markets then the actual event itself – namely as I rarely find things to buy. But I did here: gin and cheese.

We left the market and found ourselves outside Le Bistrot Pierre on George Street and as luck would have it, they had just received a call cancelling a table for 2. It was ours.

We had a lovely dinner – the tarte flambée was excellent and one cannot go wrong with steak frites. Mr. O had a lamb shoulder and we enjoyed a nice bottle of Cotes du Rhone (cost: £85 for two, including wine).

luxury weekend in bath england bistrot pierre

A bit more sightseeing and a lovely dinner in town. Restaurant photo provided by restaurant as it was so full, we couldn’t possibly take photos.

We walked back to the hotel just before it started raining – and discovered its lively bar, where we stayed for a few hours and even made friends before turning in.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau bar

A lovely bar and a great selection of Armagnacs and Whisky. Notice the French twist on everything – it is a Relais & Chateau, after all. Yummy.

Saturday

At the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, we had an incredible suite –  The Sir Percy Blakeney Suite, to be precise. Located on the first floor, we had both front and back views to the Royal Crescent and the back garden.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau sir percy blakeney suite

Our lovely lovely bedroom at the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath.

Service at our boutique hotel was impeccable – but also very personable and a very interesting mix of British and French. I had plans to spend a lot of time here and enjoy as much as I could.

But first things first: we had to meet Josh Tully, the creator of the Bath Concierge book – an independent guide to the city, which showcases the absolute best that Bath has to offer – and I was delighted that Bistrot Pierre was actually on the list. As was the Foodie Bugle, a sweet artisan deli around the corner from the hotel where we met for breakfast. We had a copy of the book waiting for us at the hotel, but as we walked around town, we saw it being sold pretty much anywhere (ha ha, that meant, of course, we only went to the best places!).

luxury weekend in bath england foodie bugle bath concierge josh tully

It was great to meet Josh for breakfast

I really admire people who like to solve problems – and I really really loved the book. We used it throughout our stay (potentially to get some validation that we were making the right choices) and were not disappointed once. That said, we actually went into shops we would not know existed – and that was excellent news for me. Of course.

Josh took us for a little stroll, just to position us at the Bartlett Street Quarter, where we could start exploring. We liked shops like The Loft, Article and the David Simon Contemporary art gallery.

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The Bartlett Street Quarter

We made our way towards Milsom Street again and there was one shop I wanted to go to: True Grace, which is located at Milsom Place, which has a great shop selection. I love their scents and have done so for years and Bath was the only location they had a physical store (until now – one has opened in London since). We got a little bit carried away – we had excellent help from the store manager who really took her time and let us go through all the smells (they have all their scents at their flagship, which of course does not happen at department stores). Let’s put it this way: the extra-large diffuser is something I definitely needed, so they prepared it for us to pick up the following day as it was quite big. We also stocked up on candles and for the record, my new ‘smell’ is Amber. True Grace comes not too far away from Bath and it is one of my favourite British brands – we have been customers for over 5 years. Their diffusers really last – and I think the XL one will last a year. So far, so good.

luxury weekend in bath england shopping milsom place true grace

Milsom Place is probably the best smelling shopping gallery in the UK. Just saying.

We also discovered Brissi, a fabulous home store (also in the book, of course) and we particularly liked their lamps, so we decided to update our living room at home. All easy – to be picked up by car the following day. They also have stores in London, but their 3-story flagship is indeed located in Bath. I was having a little bit too much fun – Mr. O decided we should sightsee a little bit more, for a change.

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We liked Brissi a little bit too much – really great selection of home goods.

So we walked the short distance to the Bath Visitors Centre, by the Abbey where we collected our Bath Visitor Cards – which allowed us entrance to most museums and attractions. We used ours to go to the Roman Baths at a great time (i.e. before it got way too busy). I think I have visited 5-6 times before, but it is a special place and we enjoyed our time there.

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Enjoying our visit to the Roman Baths.

The city centre was getting quite busy at this stage so we knew we had to make our way towards our next landmark: Pulteney Bridge. I had been there before, but I had not noticed – how silly can one be? So basically, you have this bridge, which looks like a bridge – no doubts there. But when you actually get to the ‘bridge’ as a pedestrian, it is actually a normal looking shopping street. The Pontevecchia of Bath. And some pretty good shops too!

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The Pulteney Bridge

At this stage, we were quite hungry and again, we couldn’t eat too much due to the lovely afternoon plans we had: so we headed back to Bartlett Street and enjoyed a panini each at Caffe Lucca (+ soft drinks, £22 for 2). Looking around, I saw a sign that was very familiar: Bertinet Kitchen. I knew that name, I knew that name… well, it is the bread we buy a few times a week at Waitrose back home. I had to go in and see what the store looked like – there was very little bread left, but it smelled lovely. It is actually a cooking school, so one thing to do on a future trip to Bath.

We walked back to the hotel at around 2pm and decided to have a very lazy afternoon – we were not to leave until the next morning.

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa (rooms from £265 and suites from £495 on a BB basis) was really fantastic and we loved our room so much, we just stayed in the living room for a couple of hours and watched TV and read a little bit. OK, I may have napped a little bit too – we really felt at home.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau sir percy blakeney suite living room

Why would we want to leave?

From our living room, we ventured towards the spa and the pool – and ladies and gentlemen, this is not your average city luxury hotel pool. Whilst the lap pool wasn’t huge, the hot tubs and steam room and sauna looked and were amazing. I had seen photos, but it was one of those rare cases where a place is even better in real life.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau pool and spa

Loved loved loved the pool and spa!

The spa features ESPA products and I had a 75 minutes aromatherapy massage (£100) whilst Mr. O had a deep muscle massage (£100). Caroline was my therapist and she was excellent – we ended our experience with some tea and went back to our room for a little nap and to get ready for dinner.

The hotel is set in two areas, separated by a beautiful garden – which we could view from our room too. On one side, you have the main building with most rooms, whereas on the other side you will find the spa and pool, bar and restaurant, as well as some other rooms.

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau garden

If these gardens were so lovely in Winter, I can only imagine what Summer sunset gin & tonics would be like!

Our evening started with cocktails – namely as our barman claimed he made the best dry martinis in town. Also, I loved that Taittinger is the ‘official’ champagne of the Royal Crescent – and I was intrigued by this piece of equipment. I had to ask what it did – it puts bubbles back in the bottle. Clever or what?

luxury weekend in bath england royal crescent hotel relais chateau fine dining experience taittinger

A great evening at the The Dower House Restaurant at the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.

Dinner took place at The Dower House Restaurant, its AA 3-rosette fine dining restaurant. We went a la carte as we felt that the 6-course menu would be too much (but it is very well priced at £70pp). We had an excellent meal – and again, loved all the French accents.

Sunday

We woke up early and had a hearty breakfast at the hotel – we went full continental as one can at a Relais & Chateau (you know the breads and pastries will be outstanding). We were sad to leave the Royal Crescent but one thing I tell you – we will definitely stay again when we return.

We went back to Brissi and True Grace to collect the items we had purchased the day before and left Bath, enroute to somewhere quite special: Kilver Court Designer Village. Located in Shepton Mallet, under an hour from Bath, it is actually the home of Mulberry. Roger Saul was the original founder of the brand (he then sold it on), and is the owner of Kilver Court, which offers designer goods at discounted prices all year round. You will still find the Mulberry store (which is a stand alone store outside the main building) there.

Kilver Court has a very different layout – made up of two buildings, you will find that brands have ‘corners’ or areas, instead of stand alone shops. You will find brands like LK Bennett, Pringle, Agnes b, Joseph, Joseph Joseph (not a typo, this is the kitchen ware brand which I love), REN, True Grace, Neom Organics and more, at discounts of up to 70%. Not bad at all!

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A lovely setting for a very unique outlet village.

We discovered an Irish brand called Magee, which we loved. I bought a tweet coat and Mr. O really had his eye on a lovely wool/cashmere overcoat. They did not have the size in stock, but I was so impressed that they took our details down and let us know later if they could track it or not. I was also told that anytime I needed a product, I could contact the retail manager and ask for it to be sent to me. How useful is that?

luxury weekend in bath england kilver court designer outlet

Not your average outlet: you can also visit the gardens, which are beautiful.

We had lunch at the Sharpham Pantry which was a really unique place – we loved the comfort food it served. Just what we needed before our drive home.

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Huge sense of accomplishment!

Every time I visited this part of Britain in the past, I always felt I was missing out by not staying over – and I was totally right. We had a fantastic weekend in Bath – beautiful scenery, great hotel, amazing food and shopping. And lovely people we met along the way.

Absolutely worth it and we will do it again. Promise.

xo

Mrs. O

Fact Box: our trip was organised by Visit Britain who did an outstanding job of organising the perfect weekend for Mr. & Mrs. O. The shopping and opinions, are all mine. I had a great time in Bath experiencing some #OMGB moments as part of the VisitBritain campaign – do share what your #OMGB moments on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag..

We borrowed a Canon PowerShot G7x (approx £300) on this trip and we loved it. Why? It fit in any pocket or evening bag, wifi connection was excellent and we were able to take great photos on an automatic setting. I loved it so much, I actually bought the PowerShot G9x (£399) which was released a few weeks later. 

Top 5 Winter 2016 Beauty Essentials

Baby, it is cold outside. And in the Northern Hemisphere, it took a while for the temperatures to drop, but the cold came for those who waited. Literally. Colder weather means dryer skin and extreme measures are sometimes necessary. Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Winter 2016 Beauty Essentials.

 
Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Refining Moisture Complex 2x75ml plus 30ml bonus travel size

elizabeth arden visible difference cream duo luxury beauty travel blogger

I was on the lookout for a new moisturiser and asked my lovely Twitter followers for a suggestion. More than 20 mentioned Elizabeth Arden, a brand we are all familiar with, but swore by this particular cream. I did a little research and found this incredible set, which comes with 2 full size jars and a handy travel sized tube. I have been using this cream since before Christmas and it is rich, thick and actually lovely. You feel the difference immediately – and works for day and night. Buy this set on Amazon for £32.51 (inc. Prime Delivery)

Dior Capture Totale DreamSkin, 30ml

dior dream skin luxury beauty travel blogger

Or absolute magic. 90% of my make up is from Dior and has been for over 5 years and I have never regretted a purchase. I recently tried a sample and couldn’t quite believe the impact – people actually commented and said I had a ‘glow’. I have now been using this beauty since early January and it really is magic. It does perfect your skin and it makes it feel illuminated and super soft. A winner. Buy it from John Lewis for £79.

Molton Brown Lipsaver

molton brown lip saver balm luxury beauty travel blogger

I was introduced to a version of this product 15 years ago onboard my first ever British Airways Club World flight from Toronto (back then, Molton Brown did the amenity kits). I will never forget it as my lips had not reacted well to my first Canadian business trip and I was actually in pain. By the time I landed in London, they were as good as new. Every year since, almost religiously, I buy one of these (they last for a year), and take it with me everywhere – perfect for the cold (including skiing) and all warmer trips. You will not regret this buy. Buy it from Molton Brown for £12.

Malin+Goetz Rum Body Wash 473 ml

malin goetz rum body wash luxury beauty travel blogger

Did you know that Malin+Goetz was actually American? I only discovered this little bit of information on a recent trip – I always thought it was Nordic (or German!), as I first came across this brand at a hotel in Helsinki. I have been trying some of their products on and off and this shower gel is one of our current household favourites. I am trying their shampoos next month and will report back. I love the smell and actually how a little goes a long way. Buy it from Liberty London for £28 (the extra large version).

Aromatherapy Associates Wash 300ml

aromatherapy associates hand wash luxury beauty travel blogger

This is actually both a hand wash and a body wash, but at home we use it as a hand wash – the smell reminds me of The Kensington Hotel in London, where you can find it everywhere. It is lovely and smells amazing. Buy it from Aromatherapy Associates for £20.

If you get any of these products, do let me know your thoughts. And what have you been buying? Let me know as I would love to try more products.

xo

Mrs. O

Top Luxury Travel Bloggers – the leading ladies of luxury travel

Often I get asked which are MY favourite luxury travel bloggers – who do I trust and go to for recommendations? Which blogs do I actually read?

The number of ‘so-called’ luxury travel bloggers has increased dramatically over the last few years – but whose opinion really counts (for me)? I have to be honest, I chose those who I have gotten to know over the last few years of my blogging career – and they tend to have something very special in common with me. This REALLY is their lifestyle – their lives have not changed dramatically because of their blogs, it is really them. Not any 5-star hotel in the world will be ‘amazing’ – because they have been staying at these places all their lives. And that, makes a huge difference.

Without further ado, here are some of my luxury travel bloggers – or the leading ladies of luxury travel, as I call them.

Kim-Marie Evans aka Luxury Travel Mom

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Probably one of my favourite people in the world. She knows luxury like no one else – and she is one of the most outspoken and direct writers I have ever met. She is funny, she is sassy and I adore her and her family – and her sense of humour, the most. We co-founded #luxtravelchat, the only weekly twitter chat dedicated to luxury travel on twitter and surely there is a reason for that. To read: Luxury Travel Mom.

Tiffany Down aka Luxe Tiffany

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If there is one person that lives and breathes luxury hotels, it is Tiffany. The leading lady of hotels and one of the world’s top luxury travel influencers, she is also a delight and I appreciate her very honest opinions. To read: Luxe Tiffany.

Katie Dillon aka La Jolla Mom

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Katie hails from San Diego in California and we have not had the pleasure of meeting face to face – but our time will come. She shares my love for first class cabins and beautiful hotels, and her voice really is her own. I find her honesty refreshing and I know we will enjoy our first glass of champagne together. To read: La Jolla Mom.

Amie O’Shaughnessy of Ciao Bambino

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Amie has built a very successful travel planning business and we very often go back and forth with little recommendations to each other, to ensure that those trips are perfect. She trusts me and I trust her like very few other people. And something quite interesting: in real life, we only had one degree of separation between us – we share a very close friend who used to live by her in San Francisco and now lives by me in the UK. Small world or what? To read: Ciao Bambino.

Nancy Besharah of Luxe Travel Family

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When we first met (at last!) the first thing she told was “I love Lufthansa’s first class, have you tried it?’ and like me, she will not fly longhaul in economy. We discussed this over dinner and established that our maximum threshold was 5 hours. From Canada, she is a delight of a person and will not say no to a good glass of Barolo. And she won’t settle for less than perfection – she’s fab. To read: Luxe Travel Family.

There are a few other luxury travel blogs I read, and I look forward to updating this post regularly. But most importantly, I want to know: who are YOUR favourite luxury travel bloggers?

xo

Mrs. O

A hotel to remember: Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Visiting Ashford Castle, in the West Coast of Ireland was, without a doubt, one of my Top 15 travel moments of 2015. Following an extensive refurbishment, the Irish grand dame reopened in 2015 as the one of the flagships of Red Carnation hotels – and I thought that it would be the perfect location to celebrate the beginning of Mr. O’s birthday week (yes, week!).

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Back in the Emerald Isle – the land of Mr. O’s ancestors.

We chose to fly from London Heathrow to Shannon Airport (I had once landed before at this airport enroute to NYC), with Aer Lingus – which meant a short drive from home to the airport, and a 1h45 minute drive to Ashford Castle, but with a little stop for lunch. We hired a car (as we wanted to explore a little bit on the first and last days of this weekend) and made a pit stop at a delightful waterside restaurant recommended by the hotel concierge – the lovely Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcogan, Co. Galway. We had our first taste of Irish soda bread, Guinness and fresh seafood. It couldn’t be more Irish.

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Mr. O’Reilly feeling right at home ?

After a quick 45-minute drive, we arrived at the stunning grounds of Ashford Castle, just before it got dark. We visited the hotel in November, when days are shorter and were very conscious of not wasting any daylight. Why? Because we would have missed this:

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Our first peek of the castle

It had stopped raining, so we saw this as an omen of good things to come – and I have to tell you, we were not disappointed. At all.

We arrived at the hotel and were warmly greeted by the doorman, who made our luggage disappear and walked us to the reception area. We sat down and just took in our surroundings – Ashford Castle lives up to its grand reputation, but with a difference: it felt immensely cosy and from the first minute we felt at home. Needless to say, the lovely Irish accents helped. Of course they did.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland interiors

Not too shabby for Mr. & Mrs. O – and who are the dogs? Well, you get to meet and pet them every morning at around 10am.

We were escorted to our room and given a little tour of the main building – which I would recommend to every arriving guest. The current castle is made up of various additions and there are different levels and helps you find your way around at later stages (particularly handy after an evening at the bar, I would say).

And our bedroom (#430) was… beautiful. It was as grand as it can get – and I loved all the details. The team that led the refurbishment thought of everything and it this is a great example of old-meets-new in terms of interior hotel design.

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Our beautiful bedroom at Ashford Castle

Our bedroom, classified as a Stateroom was very spacious as you can see, and made up of two levels – there was a mezzanine with a day bed. Everything you see is brand new – but you get an immense sense of place. Everything is where it should be and looks like it belongs there – the fabrics, the scents, the technology. It was nothing short of perfect.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland stateroom bedroom suite details

No words…

Power sockets by each bed? Check. USB ports? Check. Sherry? Check. Heated bathroom floors and incredibly powerful shower? Check. There is nothing I could think that would be missing. Powerful hairdryer? Check. Organic toiletries? Check. Fabulous towels? Check.

What is more… we had what could be considered a ‘room with a view’. Not a bad one indeed. Just bear with me.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland stateroom bedroom bathroom details voya organic

Our gorgeous bathroom which featured Voya toiletries. I had never heard of this brand until this weekend and since then, I have seen it in very interesting places. Worth a look.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland stateroom details

Room details – and note that the keys are touch cards, but Ashford Style of course.

We unpacked and went for a little wander around – outside as a) it was dry for a brief moment and b) it was almost dark. So we were treated to these views:

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Our room was the one on the top left.

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A room with a view – stunning grounds!

We spent the rest of the afternoon in our room, before heading to the bar for a quick drink before dinner. On the first night, we had a booking at the Dungeon, a more traditional (and relaxed, yet smart) Irish option, featuring Irish classics from past and present. We had a great meal and I had another fix of crab claws and tried my first Irish stew.

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The Dungeon restaurant – and of course ir would be rude to say no to Irish cheese.

After dinner, we walked around the hotel a little bit and stumbled upon the billiards room. Over time, so did half of the hotel, and I have to say – we had one of the best unplanned nights ever. The hotel was completely full and I think that a good 30 of us stayed up until the wee hours. I discovered that Mr. O was a master at snooker (and you think you know a man after 11 years, ha!) and we indulged in a very local pastime: drinking Irish whiskey. I was re-acquainted with Red Breast (which I had first discovered in Northern Ireland, the previous year), and over the weekend, we tried a few others which we loved.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland billiards room bar gin irish whiskey

So many whiskeys and gins to try… so little time! But we did our best!

We had a relatively late night but somehow, made it for breakfast in time – how could I miss another serving of soda bread and Irish butter?

After breakfast, we made our way towards the Irish School of Falconry, which is located in the grounds of the castle. I had never tried this type of activity, but so many readers urged me to try this, so I couldn’t say no. Also, we had a boat trip planned which was subject to weather conditions, which did not materialise. It was pouring and cold, but we borrowed some wellies and rain jackets from the hotel and off we went.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland irish school of falconry

Please don’t bite me, was all I could say at the beginning…

I was ever so slightly terrified at first (the photos do not lie), but, as time passed and my confidence grew, I was so surprised – and delighted! The experience took an hour or so, in the rain, and I couldn’t have cared less. We made those birds fly and return to us. It was fantastic.

If you want to see a video of our excellent falconry skills, just head on to Instagram.

Who knew I was almost a natural with these little ones? Falconry Ashford Castle Ireland

Who knew I was almost a natural with these little ones?

After this activity, one of many you can enjoy at Ashford Castle (seriously, there is something for everyone), we took advantage of the fact that it stopped raining for a little bit and walked around. That was before we met Tom, who manages all activities who took us on a proper tour around the Estate, complete with commentary.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland grounds

Even in the rain it looks fab, doesn’t it?

One of the things that I found truly special at Ashford Castle were the people who worked here. Never in my life, have I been to a hotel where people were so proud to work there. Many have been working there for decades, and so did their parents and grandparents. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and sweet (and funny, actually) and that pride was so visible, it was actually touching. We talked about this with other guests (at the bar), and they all agreed.

We decided to skip lunch as we were due for Afternoon Tea – and a girl can only eat so much! This time around, Tom drove us to The Lodge, which is a separate building on the grounds of Ashford Castle (it is a 4-star hotel, more family oriented and at a different price point). We went to Wilde’s, its top restaurant and enjoyed a very different take on this tradition. Let’s put it this way – there was a chocolate egg, which was smashed on our table.. and we then got to eat everything that was in it. It was fun and delicious!

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland lodge wildes chocolate afternoon tea

A very chocolatey Afternoon Tea.

Following tea, we went to the spa. We were not going to let the rain ruin our weekend – and there was so much to do inside (including napping), that it honestly did not matter. The spa is the latest addition to the hotel – its style was very different but quite interesting. The pool was quite busy, but the treatment area was nice and quiet. I enjoyed a Voya Signature treatment whereas Mr. O had a deep tissue massage.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland spa voya organic

The spa at Ashford Castle.

After the spa, I will not lie – we napped a little bit. Our bed was so comfortable, it was difficult to say no to it. So we didn’t.

We also met Eanna, the hotel’s F&B director, who has known my blog for a while (prior to joining Red Carnation) and enjoyed a glass of champagne and had a little private tour of the castle’s wine cellars.

Ashford_Castle_in_County_Mayo

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland hunter boots wine cellar room keys

The wine cellar and the secret passageways and our very cool collection of Hunter boots.

On our last evening, we started it with a nice ShortCross Gin & Tonic at the Prince of Wales bar, before heading to the Georges V dining room, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. Please note that there is a strict dress code enforced (jacket for gentlemen) and in all honesty, I was delighted. It was a special dining experience, with all the staff in white tie and having someone in shorts and trainers would have ruined my dinner. I am a great believer that there is a time and a place for everything and obviously we were prepared.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland georges v fine dining restaurant dinner

A great evening indeed!

The restaurant offers a 5 or 8 course tasting menu (priced at €74 and €85, respectively, or €145 with wine pairings for the 8-course), but we were quite full from our tea, so we chose to go a la carte. We loved the prime rib of beef carved at the table (so old school and fab) and also some surprises that the chef sent over. It was an excellent meal and I loved that one guest was wearing her own tiara, because she felt that special!

We had an earlier night – after a few more whiskeys of course and slept like babies.

On Sunday, after a 10-hour rest, we enjoyed our last hearty breakfast before leaving the hotel, and heading towards Galway for some shopping, and yet another lunch at Moran’s before flying back to London.

ashford castle luxury hotel ireland entrance

Not easy to say goodbye to Ashford Castle.

Saying goodbye to Ashford Castle wasn’t easy – because we absolutely adored it. Everything about it – the grounds, the decor, the comfort and luxury and, most importantly, the people who worked there. We felt at home and part of this great family. Which means we need to go back, without a doubt.

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and fact box: We were guests of Red Carnation Hotels, and adored our stay at Ashford Castle. Opinions are, as always, my own. But this wasn’t voted best hotel of 2015 by Virtuoso by accident – it really was fantastic. Rooms at Ashford Castle start at €245 per night (B&B) and staterooms like ours at €850 (B&B). A one-hour hawk walk costs €65.00 per person, based on a group of 2.

My favourite Winter Sale picks

After the most depressing week of the year, i.e. the very first one, there were only two things that made me smile: booking some trips and indulge in some excellent online shopping. Here are my favourite Winter Sale picks:

Aromatherapy Associates

aromatherapy associates sale

Aromatherapy Associates is one of my go-to brands for skin care and body care, so to speak. Their products very rarely go on sale, except for their Christmas specials, which you can now get for 50% off for a very limited time. My picks were the Bath Jewels which are now priced at £14, The Star for £5 (seriously!), The Relax & Revive set for £9 and, the piece of resistance, The Destress & Comfort set for £18.

There are some additional products on the Space NK website also on sale.

Saks Fifth Avenue

saks fifth avenue duty free sales

Saks Fifth Avenue is one of my favourite USA department stores – and one thing I love about it, is that it now ships worldwide AND every now and then (the case being NOW), they offer free express shipping for orders over 100 USD AND Duty Free shopping, meaning that the price you pay is the same price someone would in the USA and your duty and any tax due is covered by Saks. I have ordered a few things online as a test and it worked beautifully.

From their Winter Sale, which also ends very soon, I picked 4 pairs of shoes. I compared the prices with other websites and these were the best I found – the difference in Europe is that luxury good never really go on sale like they do in the US. My first pick are these Manolo Blahnik knee-high boots which were £938 and are now £371. One of my star buys last season where the Aquazzura Wild Side Suede and Mesh Cage Sandals – my heart skipped a little bit when I saw them on sale for £260. Unbelievable! I also love the Aquazzura Candela ankle-tie satin pumps which are now on sale for £202. Finally, the classic Prada t-bar sandals which can be yours for £113.

Smythson

smythson 2016 winter sale

I am a great fan of Smythson all year round, but I must confess I cannot resist their sales. I have ordered one of these Envelope East West handbag totes which is now £397.50 down from £795 (and is available in various colours). On the website there are some great sale gems, such as the Heart Zip Coin Purse for £67.50, the Burlington Card Holder for £57.50, the Panama Slim Coat Wallet for £97.50 and the Panama iPhone 5 case for a mere £19. Some great gift ideas here – the sale ends very soon.

Happy New Year and Happy Shopping!

xo Mrs. O

My Top 15 Travel Moments of 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, Mr. O and I were reminiscing over our travel year – it was a fantastic one with a good mix of business and leisure trips, just the way I like it. It was difficult to pick 15 moments, but we did our best – here are my Top 15 Travel Moments of 2015 (in no particular order!)

Jaipur, India

amber fort jaipur india

The Amber Fort and Palace in Jaipur

We visited India for the first time and went to Mumbai and Jaipur, which could not be any more different. Needless to say, we adored the food in both cities.

Halkidiki, Greece

ikos olivia hotel halkidiki sovereign luxury travel beach sunset

My first visit to mainland Greece

My knowledge of Greece has always been limited (namely as I keep going to the same place over and over again). This Summer, I visited Halkidiki, in the mainland and really was impressed.

Seville, Spain

top 5 destinations for autumn 2015 seville spain mrs o around the world

Returning to Seville after 20 years

It took me around 20 years to return, but boy, was it worth it! I have been asked to name a ‘hot place’ for 2016 and this would be, without a doubt, my recommendation for a city break in Europe.

Prague, Czech Republic

Flytographer Vacation Shoot Prague Mrs O Around the World

Where it all began.. Prague!

A very emotional trip for us. Why? Because it is where we actually met for the first time over 10 years ago – and this time round, it was time to make some romantic memories in Prague.

Cape Town, South Africa

Flytographer Cape Town Mrs O Around the World

A very special girls trip to South Africa

When I think about a girl’s trip, I always think of somewhere closer to home – but why limit the fun? I loved going back to Cape Town, this time around with my sister and friends Ashley and Carolyn. The most special part of the trip? The charity work we did for New Kidz.

Maldives

Coco Bodu Hithi Maldives Sovereign Luxury Travel welcome

My favourite place in the world – the Maldives

This year, and after my third visit, I finally admitted it: the Maldives is my favourite place in the world and I will not deny it again.

Crete, Greece

luxury travel blog mrs o around the world Blue Palace Starwood Luxury Collection Elounda Crete Greece

Returning to Crete

Why was I so excited about this trip? Because the Blue Palace in Crete was where I was actually asked to become Mrs. O. Enough said!

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira Island Belmond Reids Palace

Madeira Island was incredible!

Another trip down memory lane after 18 years of absence. We adored our Easter break in Funchal, Madeira – and it wasn’t all to do with the wine!

Algarve, Portugal

luxury travel blog mrs o around the world sheraton algarve starwood luxury collection albufeira portugal

My beloved Sheraton Algarve, in Portugal

I think our number of stays at this property has reached 15, and it is fine by me. And we have plans to return next July, as always, to the Sheraton Algarve in Portugal.

St. Moritz, Switzerland

I know. My thoughts exactly.

Skiing in St Moritz, Switzerland

I usually ‘ski in French’, but this year we decided to mix it up a bit, and ‘ski in Swiss-German’, in lovely St. Moritz. And they were very kind to me when I kept saying Bonjour and Excusez-moi!

Ashford Castle, Ireland 

ashford castle ireland

A truly amazing hotel – Ashford Castle

Probably one of the most special moments of the year – and hotels I have ever stayed at. Never once I have been to a place where the staff were so proud to be there. Perfect place to celebrate Mr. O’s birthday!

Bagan, Myanmar

baloon ride in bagan myanmar

Watching the most beautiful sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

The second time I have spent Christmas away from home, and OMG, it was so special. Mr. O and I loved our trip to Myanmar, where we boarded a very special cruise.

Bath, United Kingdom

christmas market bath england

Our first very British Christmas market, in Bath

I love living in the UK and explore this great island – and we adored our very first Christmas market ‘in English’. What do I mean a Christmas market in England? Yes, in Bath, which is probably one of the prettiest cities in the UK. And they have their own gin – enough said!

Palm Springs, USA

palm springs aerial tramway

We visit Palm Springs every year, and it is always very special

My love for Palm Springs is well documented in this blog – and it will continue to be. Each year we go back and plan to return. There is something about it!

New York, USA

new york city brooklyn flytographer

New York gets me every time.

And for me, New York is the centre of the world. I can’t deny it and I won’t fight it – I have visited for the first time 15 years ago, and promised I would return every year. I went 3 times in 2015 and will be my very first trip of 2016. And I won’t even apologise.

I am very grateful for 2015 and cannot wait to see what the 2016 will bring. What were your top travel moments of the year?

xo

Mrs. O

Mrs. O’s Top 10 Christmas gifts for luxury lovers

It is that time of the year! But to be very honest with you, I am all done with my Christmas shopping for the year, so I feel free and ready to shop for some more things, but most probably, for yours truly. So what are this year’s top 10 Christmas gifts for luxury lovers, I hear you ask? To be honest, I have compiled 9 things that I have bought myself (or Mr. O) over the year and one that is on its way.

MRS O TOP 10 CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR LUXURY LOVERS

True Grace Amber Diffuser (250ml)

true grace amber diffuser 250 ml

Love at first smell, and our house now smells of this beautiful True Grace scent. I have been a fan of the brand for years, and fell in love with it again when I recently visited Bath (in the UK), where you can find its only standalone shop. But worry not, you can get it online at John Lewis for £48.00.

Jonathan Adler Pop Bourbon Candle

jonathan adler bourbon pop candle

Given to me as a gift last Christmas by Ashley from The Lazy Travelers, I spent the whole year searching for these in the UK and the USA (and buying them in bulk). Well, I have found them on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue for £29 (instead of the usual £42 which costs here), and if you spend over $100, you will get duty-free shopping and free shipping on most items (for real!).

Victoria Beckham Liberty Tote

victoria beckham liberty tote black

Over the past year I have become ever so slightly obsessed with Victoria Beckham’s handbags and clothes and this was one of the top purchases of the year (mine was in royal blue, which has sold out) and you can get one for £1,100 from Farfetch.

Canon Powershot G9x

canon-powershot-g9-x silver and brown leather

I have been looking for a camera that a) any idiot can use (that would be me), b) takes GREAT photos and c) can fit in my pocket or evening bag. I tried a Canon Powershot G7x recently and loved it, so I got my hands on one of these last week – a Canon Powershot G9x – which has just been released. It is light as a feather, works a treat with wi-fi and I must confess, I love the way it looks. A winner! You can get it for £399 from Amazon.

Smythson Panama Camera Case

smythson panama camera case

A match made in heaven with our camera, this Smythson camera case comes in various colours and is really lovely and unique. You can get it from Smythson for £50.

Valentino rockstud ballerinas

valentino rockstud shoes ballerinas black flat

Because a girl can never have too many shoes. I have a respectable collection of Valentino Rockstuds and I love how versatile they can be – and whereas I can’t wear the super high heel ones, I love the kitten heeled version and the 2 flat models. Also note that different retailers have different colours and models, so you need to shop around. The price is always the same. I got mine from Matches Fashion for £585.

Carry On Cocktail

CARRY ON GIN TONIC KIT

One of the nicest things I have seen recently – although admittedly my favourite airline has G&Ts on tap – and discovered via my friend Lauren during our weekly #LuxTravelChat on Twitter. The company that makes these, is based in Brooklyn and offers other beautifully designed products. You can get yours from W&P Design for $25.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000

comtes de taittinger blanc de blancs champagne 2000

My love for Taittinger champagne is well documented (check out my Instagram if you have any doubts) and Mr. O and yours truly are quite partial to some of its vintages. Our current favourite (not for a Tuesday night, of course) is the 2000 Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne which you can get from Waitrose Cellar for £100. Cheers!

The perfect cashmere travel cardigan

neiman marcus pleated cashmere cardigan

One of my favourite pre-USA trip activities is to spend some time at Neiman Marcus’ outlet website, called Last Call by Neiman Marcus and have everything shipped to the hotel (or a lovely friend’s house). The good news is that they now ship worldwide and works a treat – and the prices are amazing. I bought this cashmere cardigan in 4 different colours and it is now on sale for $90 on LastCall.com.

12′ Apple MacBook

macbook air 12 space grey

Without a doubt, one of the key purchases of the year – which really made a difference to my day-to-day – I stopped using my iPad and can actually take this MacBook in my handbag wherever I go. If you want the full spec one, have a look at your local Apple website. Otherwise, you can get it from Amazon from £965, depending on the spec.

So there are my Top 10 Christmas Gifts for luxury lovers and I hope you found some inspiration, if you are still working on your shopping list. From this list, which is your favourite? And more importantly, from your own list, what are you hoping for this Christmas?

xo

Mrs. O

My hOtel: Belgraves London, a Thompson Hotel

thompson belgraves london hotel outside luxury travel blogger

A deja vu at Belgraves London Hotel

Sometimes London really surprises you – and boy was I surprised and delighted on my recent stay at Belgraves London, a Thompson hotel. The funniest thing? We stayed at this hotel a few years ago (back in the day when it was the Sheraton Belgravia), and exactly in the same room – yet the experience couldn’t have been different. Or better. Here is how my stay at the Belgraves London hotel in London went.

Pre-Arrival

–          Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?

I did a tweet a couple of days before my arrival, as I was incredibly impressed with the pre-arrival email I received – it was without a doubt, one of the most memorable. And useful.

I also got an email from the concierge asking if I needed any assistance with dinner reservations – the intent was there, but I had actually sorted everything a few days before. It is London, after all.

belgraves london thompson hotel check in email

Great use of technology

–          Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?

I did try and got a response, but no interaction during the actual stay.

–          Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?

Oh yes, and in a very non-intrusive way, which I really appreciated.

Arrival

–          The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?

When I arrived by taxi, I wasn’t quite sure if the doorman was actually working there – as his outfit was quite different to normal. I honestly was a bit lost for a second as he was so casually dressed, I just thought he was someone hanging by the hotel door. The hotel is very stylish and it all became clear once I walked in!

The hotel lobby was very cool and also quite cozy, which I liked.

thompson belgraves london hotel reception

Day and Night transformation from my previous visit.

–          How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

It was great, very friendly and efficient. I had received a text earlier saying that my room was ready, so it all worked well.

–          Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)

Yes indeed and I have to say, the reception and concierge team were always super friendly throughout the stay.

–          Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?

I didn’t and I was secretly delighted that that was the case – as I got the exact same room that I had before. A double aspect room is not very common in London, nor its layout and I always remembered it for some reason. I had a studio suite.

thompson belgraves london hotel reception stairs luxury travel blogger

The staircase which led to the mezzanine floor where you could find the bar and the terrace.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Yes yes yes. Service was great and very personable – I kind of felt at home!

–          Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know

I was escorted to the room by the doorman, who showed me around and took my bag. All quite simple.

–          Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?

 Free and very easy to use. It didn’t work so well in the room when I was on some conference calls, but when I enquired about it, it was reset and back to normal.

thompson belgraves london hotel reception lobby luxury travel blogger

I loved the touches of blue around the hotel.

Room Experience

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Our room was beautiful and very spacious – yet incredibly cozy and comfortable. The moment I walked in, I recognised it immediately from a previous stay – it was perfect.

thompson belgraves london hotel king size bedroom luxury travel blogger

Loved our Studio Suite

–          Welcome amenity

I had a fruit platter (nicely prepared actually) and water, which arrived after I had checked in, so it was nice and fresh.

–          The bed

It was very comfortable and one of those you do not want to leave.

–          Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.

All good here.

thomson belgraves hotel london studio suite bedroom

Very sexy room and one of the most useful (and usable) phone docks ever.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

Possibly one of the best combos I have seen recently, where for once, I could use my USB cable and connect it to the docking station.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Yes, of course. And I used the slippers for once, as they were my size! It was a small lovely touch.

–          Coffee and Tea

I had a Nespresso machine and a wide selection of pods, but I did not use.

–          Free bottled water

Yes, and replenished at turn down.

thomson belgraves london hotel room details amenities luxury travel blog

Room details

–          Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!

There was ‘the’ Caitlin Jenner issue of Vanity Fair, which meant I had to read it.

–          Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.

Yes yes yes yes yes. Besides the docking station, there were sockets on each side of the bed.

Bathroom

thompson belgraves studio suite bathroom ren amenities

Stunning bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

I cannot fault the bathroom in any way – it really was excellent.

–          Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?

Everything I could want and more – the bath did have a view and a half, the shower was outstanding and I was even able to use it without guidance.

–          Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?

Fabulously soft. And plenty.

–          Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!

We had REN, which is a brand I love and I felt it was a good match for the hotel too. We had baby sized toiletries.

–          Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.

All there.

–          Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?

Indeed, but I did not use.

Breakfast

thomson belgraves hotel london breakfast pont street restaurant luxury travel blogger

Very good breakfast (for the Continental European in me!)

Breakfast was an interesting experience. It took place at the Pont Street restaurant which is open to non-residents and I quite enjoyed the options – but ultimately I went for the continental buffet (priced at £17.50) as the bread looked excellent, for a change. The interesting thing was that, for a moment, we did not feel we were in London at all – as every other guest, no exception, was American. It was an interesting moment, which I had not noticed at other times during our stay. Quite funny.

Bar

belgraves thompson london luxury hotel cigar bar terrace luxury travel blogger

Absolutely loved the bar areas at the hotel!

We used the bar quite a bit – and had friends join us at different occasions. We loved the cigar bar / terrace which was really pretty and it felt like a little oasis in the centre of London. After dinner (as sadly the terrace closed at 10pm, which I am not quite sure why), we enjoyed the indoor bar, which was heaving every night. Very lively and the cocktails (priced at £12+) were excellent.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Overall very decent, except for one particular occasion, but the hotel did sort it out in a timely manner.

–          Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?

Not particularly.

–          Location

Located on Cheshire Place and Pont Street, I loved being in Belgravia and so close to Chelsea and Knightsbridge. It was excellent.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Standard rooms start from £250 and my suite from £600 per night.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

She would LOVE it.

–          Would I stay again?

Without a doubt – the hotel was very sexy, service was excellent, the location was unbeatable and good value. Not many around like this one.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Belgraves London and Thompson Hotels during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. 

Mrs. O Around the World ‘s 4th Birthday Blog Giveaway #MrsO4

I cannot believe how quickly time goes. Mrs. O Around the World turns 4 this month! 4 years old! I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over this time – and my way of doing so is to offer you a chance to enjoy some of my favourite luxury experiences and items from around the world.

What are the prizes for the 4th Mrs. O Around the World Blog Anniversary giveaway, I hear you ask? Well… they are quite special!

 A four-night cruise onboard The Strand Cruise by the legendary Myanmar Strand Hotel

Operating a​ schedule of three and four-night itineraries between the ancient cities of Bagan and Mandalay, the Strand Cruise is a reinvention of the legendary style of its sister property, The Strand Hotel Yangon. The new 27-cabin ship is enhanced with latest technology such as individually controlled air conditioning and WI-FI from satellite communication.  

The Strand Cruise is a genuine luxury cruise experience with access to many private moorings close to landmarks along the river. A highlight of the itinerary is an exclusive mooring overnight at Ava on the journey from Bagan to Mandalay, allowing passengers access the beautiful temple of Maha Aungmye Bonzan after the crowds have departed in the evening until the following morning, when monks join passengers for a very special farewell.  The Strand Cruise is also the only operator on the river to offer visits to the iconic U-Bein bridge on both north- and south-bound itineraries.  

Opening Season offer:​ The Strand Cruise has a special launch offer available for sailings from January to March 2016 of 20% off the published high season rate. During this time, the three-night journey between Mandalay and Bagan will be from US$2,592 (usually from US$3,240) per person based on double occupancy, and the four-night journey between Bagan and Mandalay will be from US$2,874 (usually from US$3,592) per person based on double occupancy. There is also a special 2 for 1 offer on the first two cruises (Christmas and New Year). Mr. O and I will be sailing on the Christmas cruise and very much looking forward to sharing this unique experience live. Follow The Strand Cruise on Twitter and Facebook.

The Strand Cruise is offering passage for two people sharing a cabin on a four night journey between Bagan and Mandalay.  The prize is valid until 1 November 2016 and is subject to availability.  Prize includes all excursions and activities as described in the set itinerary, three meals during full sailing days, breakfast on day of disembarkation, soft drinks & local beer, house wine during meals, port charges, English speaking guides (alternative language guides can be provided on request subject to availability), satellite WI-FI in all cabins and public areas and complimentary international daily newspapers available on guest’s digital tablets.  It excludes domestic and international flights, visa costs and transfers.

A weekend at Ashford Castle in Ireland

ashford castle luxury hotel in ireland giveaway

Ashford Castle is magnificent five star hotel set on 350 acres in County Mayo, on the shores of Lough Corrib and the River Cong, with a spectacular backdrop of woodlands, lake, river, and mountains. With 85 guest rooms, a wealth of activities and thoughtful touches throughout, guests will enjoy acclaimed Irish hospitality on a grand scale at Ashford Castle. The striking interiors are in keeping with the castle’s history and grandeur – it’s a treasure trove of art and antiques with more than 800 paintings and around 130 chandeliers.

Following a two-year restoration of the 800-year-old building, the hotel reopened to guests in April 2015. The expansive 350-acre estate lends itself perfectly to a range of outdoor activities; from country classic pastimes such as horse riding, fishing, and falconry, to more modern activities such as golf, cycling and kayaking. So whether you are the active type or prefer to relax and soak up the scenery, you are spoilt for choice at Ashford Castle. After a busy day of outdoor activities, guests can indulge in exceptionally gourmet cuisine offered in the castle’s four main dining rooms – fine dining in the grandeur of the George V Dining Room, casual dining in the comfortable setting of Cullen’s at the Cottage or Cullen’s at the Dungeon, or a delightful Afternoon Tea in the elegant Connaught Room.

Mr. O and I visited recently and I have to say, it was all we expected and more.

Ashford Castle is offering one lucky winner a two night getaway for two people, including breakfast. Prize must be claimed before the end of April 2016, is subject to availability and certain blackout dates will apply (including; Christmas, New Years, the St Patrick’s Day weekend and the Easter weekend). Flights and transfers not included. Non transferrable.

3 nights at Ikos Olivia in Halkidiki, Greece

ikos olivia halkidiki greece

Ancient olive trees and fragrant firs provide both shade and privacy throughout the spacious grounds, the manicured lawns eventually meeting the white sands and refreshing waters of the Aegean. At Ikos Olivia chic design goes hand in hand with subtle elegance to offer a warm welcome to the most discerning traveller.

Relishing its exclusive location on the Gulf of Toroneos, this contemporary Greek masterpiece extends across a perfectly landscaped 22 acres framed by an exclusive white sandy beach. I visited Ikos Olivia earlier this year with my sister and was really impressed.

Ikos Resorts bring a new era of hospitality to the Mediterranean. Luxury resorts in stunning natural locations, where elegance is omnipresent, yet understated. Ikos have redefined the all inclusive holiday by offering an exceptional food and beverage experience and exemplary service. Each Ikos property is located on a golden sandy beach and features 5 restaurants, 4 of which are a la carte and overseen by Michelin starred chefs. 24 hour room service, a dine out experience in selected local restaurants together with an extensive wine list, branded spirits in all bars and in your hotel mini bar and waiter service by the pool and on the beach are just some of the extra touches you will experience as part of the Ikos Resorts Infinite Lifestyle experience.

Ikos Olivia is offering a very lucky reader a 3-night stay in a sea view double room and a chance to experience its Infinite Lifestyle concept. Offer is valid until October 2016, excluding dates from 15th June – 15th September.

AirPortr luggage concierge for as many bags as you can carry (except you won’t have to carry them!)

airport luggage service heathrow gatwick london city portr

AirPortr is your London airport personal luggage concierge service.
It doesn’t matter how luxurious the destination you may be travelling to is – sometimes it is that trek to and from the airport that can take the 5* feeling away. Now AirPortr are on hand to treat you like a VIP and deliver your luggage for you. On your day of travel, AirPortr can collect your luggage from your home or hotel and deliver it to the airport later that day leaving you free to take your time and travel to the airport at your leisure, totally bag free. Similarly when you land in London, you simply leave your luggage with the AirPortr team in the airport terminal and the next time you see your bags will be at your home or hotel later that day.

I don’t know about you but having someone carry my bags for me always makes me feel a little bit jet-set!

 

AirPortr are offering their luggage concierge service complimentary for two people for your next return trip for up to 25 bags, includes sports equipment/oversized luggage (any weight any size).

Service is limited to operational areas, please refer to portr.com for current airports serviced and qualifying delivery/pick up areas. Prize valid for 12 months.

Molton Brown Tobacco Absolute Set

Molton Brown Tobacco_Collection

With over 25 years of experience, Molton Brown has naturally built up a renowned reputation as body and bath connoisseurs. Their team travels around the world looking for the rarest and finest ingredients before returning to their beloved home in London to blend them to the highest standards. Think luxurious shower gels, lavish body lotions, indulgent hand care and fine eau de toilettes…  Molton Brown is inspired by London, a city that never sits still; this is what makes their colours brighter and their scents bolder.

Explore Molton Brown’s full collection to discover your favourite blends this Black Friday weekend with up to 25% off your order*. Its Christmas gift range holds glorious treats for you and your loved ones; from a wide selection of stocking fillers to luxury gift sets, show your friends and family what they really mean to you.

To start the festive celebrations, Molton Brown is giving away the latest addition to their men’s collection, Tobacco Absolute. A reassuring collection of a bath and shower gel, a sensual eau de toilette and a refreshing deodorant spray containing masculine woody notes and a light hint of citrus. This will make a sophisticated Christmas gift for the modern gentleman in your life. *t&cs apply. Offer is valid 26 – 30 Nov 2015

The World Grand Tour Box from LUXE City Guides

luxe city guides box luxury travel guides

Super-svelte and full of sass, LUXE avoids all the fluff and filler of other travel guides and gets straight to the meat of a destination. The result? Ultra-smart printed city guides and digital apps stacked with sharp and snappy city insights.

Right in time for gifting season, LUXE has also put together a shortlist of pressie ideas sure to please any global gadabout. And, as a special Christmas treat, they’re offering free shipping on all orders of USD$50 or more.

Want to get your manicured mitts on some? Enter to win the LUXE World Grand Tour Box, a smart selection of 12 LUXE city guides – Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. Phew!

The ultimate Tinggly experience (and you can choose your own)

tinggly luxury travel experiences

What do you buy a person that has it all? A whole world of choice is available when you think about a Tinggly gift box. Unique gift experiences which can be the ideal gift for loved ones whether it’s for a birthday, a wedding or just because. The Tinggly choice voucher lets the recipient choose from hundreds of fab experiences across the globe (in more than 80 countries), and is valid for up to two years, so there’s no need to make a decision straightaway!

There are three different value collections: Essential, Premium and Ultimate. Each experience in these collections is quite unique and will appeal to different moods, locations and, of course, who will use it. Experiences range from a high speed luxury yacht in the UK, to a yoga camp in India. One of my favourite ones is being able to create my own perfume in France and there are also lots of cooking classes around the world.

Tinggly is offering my readers one Ultimate Experience gift box which will be valid for 2 years.

To enter this competition, simply do the following:

a) subscribe to the blog by signing up on the right hand side of this page. You will receive an email confirmation and you are free to unsubscribe at any time as soon as this competition ends.

b) share this blog post via Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus. Make sure it has the hashtag #MrsO4 so I can see it!

c) let me know which prize you would prefer (if you could choose!), and answer the following question: ‘Where would you spend your perfect New Years and with whom?’

This competition is now closed. Winners will be selected by each prize sponsor, based on the answers and will be contacted by email.

A luxury weekend in Jaipur, India

After a fabulous taste of Mumbai, which we really really enjoyed, we hopped on a short flight (under 2 hours) to Jaipur, also known as India’s ‘Pink City’.

We flew with Jet Airways on its premiere class, which was very comfortable, as per our international experience. The main difference was of course, the type of plane and seat, and the fact that there was no alcohol served on board – which of course, didn’t make a difference.

jet airways domestic business class mumbai to jaipur

I must say that this domestic flight experience with Jetairways was better than many European ones we have. The seats were comfortable and there was *plenty* of legroom in its business class or ‘premiere’ cabin.

As we landed, we were met by our driver from Tamarind Tours, a company that organised all our local transfers and activities, and as per our experience in Mumbai, the service was faultless. In under 40 minutes, we arrived at one of the most special hotels I have ever stayed at: the stunning Oberoi Rajvillas, located outside the city of Jaipur.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India mrs o around the world

The stunning Oberoi Rajvillas in Jaipur

We also had one of the most beautiful welcomes ever – as we walked towards the front of the hotel, all I remember were the candles, and someone throwing rose petals from the top of the building. Obviously we don’t have any photographs – but it was a moment I will never forget.

As we got to the hotel, we couldn’t help but be impressed with our surroundings – the hotel was stunning and quite grand, just what was needed for a location like Jaipur. We were escorted to our Royal Tent, which was made up of two separate tents and a large private garden area.

Rajvillas Jaipur India Luxury Villa 1

Villa 220 at the Oberoi Rajvillas

One of the tents had our beautiful bedroom and bathroom – a bath had been prepared for us and it was still hot as we got there. It was a very thoughtful touch.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India Luxury Villa bedroom

A lovely room ?

And then on the other tent, we had a living room and a waiting bottle of Indian sparkling wine, which was actually a very pleasant surprise (we had tried other wines from the same brand in Mumbai and they were very good!).

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India Luxury Villa 2

The second tent

We spent the rest of the evening at the hotel, where we had a very interesting dinner, as the chef prepared us a tasting menu of the local cuisine – it was outstanding.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel (I must confess I did not indulge in local specialties, choosing to have fruit and a continental breakfast), before we were met by our driver and guide, who were there on the dot.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India breakfast

I loved the fresh fruit and juices in India (obviously in the safety of the hotel).

We made our way to the first monument of the day: the one and only Amber Fort, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and by far, the most visited attraction in the area. As we went early, we beat some of the queues – and that was a great idea. The palace is located 10 kms from Jaipur, and a must visit.

amber fort jaipur india

The Amber Fort and Palace in Jaipur

Our driver dropped us off at the bottom entrance and for a second I did not quite understand how we were going to get all the way up – and before I knew it, we were riding an elephant. If there is one thing I regret from this whole trip – was this very moment. I felt incredibly guilty for doing this, it was uncomfortable and not particularly hygienic and the elephant was so tired (or looked like he was), I actually thought we were going to fall. It is not my place to tell others not to do something, but your driver can take you actually to the very top of the fort by car (which is where we were picked up at the end).

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India amber fort1

Mrs. O was not smiling. I really did not enjoy this part of the trip.

The fort itself was incredible – actually it was the set of two of the Bollywood films I had watched on the plane and I almost felt like I knew it. As we were early, it wasn’t crazy busy – and we were even able to take some photos without others in sight. Our guide was knowledgeable and quite relaxed which was good – there was a lot to see and we spent quite few hours here.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India amber fort2 mrs o around the world

Smiling again – and enjoying the views

It was really quite hot and humid – and the obvious downside is that you need to drink water. And if you need to drink water, you can imagine what one might need to do later. I can report that the loo facilities at this venue are actually quite good – namely the paid ones, of course, so this is one less thing to worry. I was really worried, and all for nothing.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India amber fort2

What a place!

From the palace, we made our way to the city, and visited the Jantar Mantar Observatory, which has a lot of time measuring instruments (not exactly our cup of tea). We also visited the Albert Hall and the City Palace, which were way more interesting and worth the time.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India Pink city 1

The beautiful Hawa Mahal, also known as the “Palace of the Winds.” Below, the other buildings we have visited.

Lunch was a very quick affair and took place at a local hotel and in the afternoon, I was a woman on a mission: shopping of course! I had visions of buying beautiful beach dresses, tunics and sandals and spent quite a few hours looking at the local stalls. Jewellery was also on the cards – but somehow I wasn’t 100% sure of what I would be buying if we think about diamonds, but in terms of gold, I actually didn’t find anything simple enough. After wasting a few hours (I really was disappointed in that sense), our guide took us to one of ‘his friend’s’ shop, which was actually quite interesting.

We enjoyed learning how rugs were made and most importantly, I discovered that they had a tailor. I also learned about the traditional block printing – which is a way of ‘decorating’ fabrics and I even had a little go at it. If they charged us double for what we bought, it did not matter – we actually had a fantastic time. And more importantly, I got to order 4 made-to-measure beach dresses, choosing the model, variety of fabrics and extras, which would be delivered to our hotel the following day (amazing!!). For the record, the dresses were an average of £20 each – which I found to be outstanding value for money. AND they fit.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India Pink city 2

A city of contrasts, of course. And I still couldn’t get used to having cows everywhere – but they were where they should be.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel, where we enjoyed a spa treatment and a little walk around the grounds. It was lovely and quite relaxing – it was interesting the contrast of the city noise (and the chaos and the smell), and the hotel, which was so quiet, you could hear the birds. It was perfect.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India luxury hotel details

Some details from our stay at the Oberoi Rajvillas. And my dresses!

For dinner, we went outside the hotel – and visited another hotel! A local landmark, Rambagh Palace by Taj was also spectacular, yet completely different from where we were staying. We had cocktails at its polo bar (which was a lot of fun) and an epic 3-hour meal at Suvarna Mahal, its fine dining restaurant. Again, we asked the chef to prepare whatever he wanted as we weren’t sure what to choose – and it was phenomenal.

suvarna mahal taj rambaugh palace fine dining cakebread wine jaipur india

An epic meal at a very special hotel.

Dinner costs around £35-50 per person excluding drinks – we were incredibly surprised to see one of our favourite American wines, Cakebread on the menu (and we had done so at the Oberoi), and had to have it again – even if it was to boost their local sales. Funnily enough, it wasn’t an accident – it pairs wonderfully well with the food and all the waiters love the name of the wine. Word of warning, try not to eat for at least 6 hours before this meal.

On our final day, we took it very easy. Very very easy – we stayed by the pool and enjoyed a little bit of sun. Our tasting trip to India was quite non-stop, and it was just what we needed. And it was so quiet, it was perfect.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India swimming pool

Not too shabby for Mr. and Mrs. O – and the hotel provided travel-sized sunscreen.

Before we left, the hotel surprised with with a little blessing at its temple – I must confess I didn’t understand what was said, but it was lovely.

Oberoi Rajvillas Jaipur India wedding ceremony blessing

Something different!

And leaving the hotel, was actually really quite hard – we had a quick meal as it would be a few hours before we could eat again (we were flying to Mumbai and then on to London). But what I will never forget was what happened when we got to the car and drove off – as we did, 6 or 7 members of staff were strategically placed by the driveway, waving goodbye in a very synchronised manner. As I got to number 4, I was in tears.

I know that going to India and visit both Mumbai and Jaipur in 5 and a bit days was crazy. REALLY crazy. But it was one of the most special trips we have been on. We loved the people, the food, the hotels and will certainly go back and explore more of this incredible country again.

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and Fact Box: We were guests of Jet Airways, Oberoi Rajvillas and Tamarind Tours. Our trip was nothing short of perfect, and opinions are, as always, my own.

Fly: with Jet Airways from London Heathrow to Jaipur with a stopover in Mumbai in business class from £1800. Read my flight review here.

Sleep: at the Oberoi Mumbai, where a deluxe room costs from £300/night and tents from £600. Exceptional service and decor. Mrs. O approved indeed.

Get Around: with Tamarind Tours, who provided exceptional service both in Mumbai and Jaipur. Our 5-day trip, complete with driver and guides, and airport transfers cost £250.

Take photos: with the Leica V-Lux. With its long wide-angle to super-telephoto and macro zoom range, the Leica V-Lux succeeds in doing justice to the beauty of the world in all its facets. For photographic memories in excellent picture quality. Its extremely fast autofocus ensures that spontaneous shots are only a breath away. A camera for people who see life as a great adventure with countless things to discover as they travel through it. Cost: £925.