You around Portugal: win a lux 10-night holiday with Starwood

Oh no, it is not a rumour – it is true! Thanks to Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Portugal, one incredibly lucky reader will win the ultimate luxury holiday in Portugal.

Great weather, incredible food, lovely people and quite pleasant on the eye, Portugal is my home country, and one thing I like doing is taking advantage of my little blog and showcasing it to the world: it is one of my favourite places ever, and I promise you I have been around!

So what is the super prize? It is not a short break, it is 10 nights – yes, TEN nights – at some of the best hotels in Portugal, which should give you plenty of time to relax and fall in love with this part of the world.

The prize includes the following:

The sleek Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa

The sleek Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa

– 2 nights at the Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa, a modern wonder of marble, wood, steel, and glass. Porto is, as you know, the home of Port Wine and Portugal’s second largest city, located in the north. Read about my latest visit to this part of the world, right here.

The one and only, Sheraton Lisbon Hotel & Spa

The one and only, Sheraton Lisbon Hotel & Spa

– 2 nights at the Sheraton Lisboa Hotel & Spa, which is a Lisbon landmark and the tallest building in the city. The hotel where everyone knows my name! For some ideas of what to do in Lisbon, just click here.

Wine, sun and lux at the Convento do Espinheiro in Évora

Wine, sun and lux at the Convento do Espinheiro in Évora

– 2 nights at the Convento do Espinheiro, a Luxury Collection Hotel – the perfect location to unwind and discover one of Portugal’s best winemaking regions. Located between Lisbon and the Algarve, it is one of my happy places. Read about my annual pilgrimage to this part of the world, just here.

Golf, sangria for lunch and the perfect beach - at the Le Meridien Penina, in Alvor (Algarve)

Golf, sangria for lunch and the perfect beach – at the Le Meridien Penina, in Alvor (Algarve)

– 2 nights at the Le Meridien Penina, in Alvor, Algarve – undoubtedly, one of my favourite beaches in Southern Portugal. Not far from the quaint Alvor town and amazing beach. Penina is also one of Portugal’s best golf resorts.

One of the reasons Mr O is delighted to have married a Portuguese.. the Sheraton Algarve

One of the reasons Mr O is delighted to have married a Portuguese.. the Sheraton Algarve

– 2 nights at the Sheraton Algarve, a Luxury Collection Hotel – a hotel I insist on visiting every year for some TLC, peace, quiet and incredible ocean views. Find out why the Sheraton Algarve is a must go and part of my pre-nuptial agreement with Mr. O.

Also included in this prize, provided by Starwood Hotels and Resorts is, in each property:

– 1 dinner for 2 at each hotel (excluding beverages), and a voucher for one after dinner drink per person per stay.
– 50% discount on SPA treatments in Porto, Lisbon and Évora and, in the case of the Algarve properties, on normal green fee rates, subject to availability.

So what do you think? I have stayed in each hotel more than 4 times each, and have passed double-digits in one of them (you can guess which one). I like them so much, I really want the lucky winner to enjoy this incredible holiday in true style.

There is “no order” in which the trip has to be taken – it is totally up to the winner. You can go back and forth to one place, start north and head south, whatever you prefer. This prize is valid until 31st December 2013 and excludes the period between July 15th and September 15th 2013.

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. The lucky winner has been contacted and will be on her way to Portugal shortly!

xo

Mrs. O

G’day Sydney by @maiden_voyage

There’s nothing like a long miserable English winter to make me want to jump on a plane and this year we chose Sydney for our annual dose of vitamin D.   In fact I’ve spent many a holiday, including  a short spell living down under, so this time I opted for a more laid-back  jaunt and arrived armed with a list of a few essential ‘must-do’s’ and a few days left over to take as they came and meet up with old friends and relatives.

The fab Sydney Opera House

The fab Sydney Opera House

Sydney has to be one of the best places in the world to see in the New Year and this was top of my list. Surprisingly the whole experience was seamless, calm and well-organised.  Whilst Sydney isn’t famed for its public transport network, extra busses and trains ran through the night, there were lots of people but we weren’t packed-in like sardines and many simply took a couple of bottles of bubbly down to the harbour and sat down for a civilised picnic and to watch the fireworks.

We celebrated the New Year with a VIP package at the Hard Rock Café on Darling Harbour, welcomed the new year with champagne cocktails – and the delicious canapés and drinks flowed all night.  The Hard Rock has a huge wrap-around outdoor terrace from where we saw the breath-taking firework displays.  The Sydney sky lights up for at two points in the evening – one at 9pm for the children and again at midnight and each run for a full fifteen minutes.

Gotta love the fireworks!

Gotta love the fireworks!

On New Year’s Day, we headed over by ferry to Manly Wharf (along with the rest of the population of Sydney!),  for a hearty post-hangover lunch on the water and some of the freshest fish we have ever tasted.

Our base in Sydney was at the super hip QT hotel on the corners of George and Market Streets, walking distance  from the fantastic shopping in the Queen Victoria Buildings and David Jones and still close to Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, the Rocks and the Opera House.

QT Hotel in Sydney

QT Hotel in Sydney

This five-star boutique hotel is housed in the former buildings of the State Theatre and Gowings department store.  The hotel has been carefully restored by a huge team of designers with exceptional attention to detail.   The vibe is a combination of contemporary and LED art, vintage artefacts, wonderful textures, mood lighting and carefully selected music.  Nothing exists in this hotel by accident from the design of the spa menu to the cut of the staff costumes one cannot help but delight in the quirky sensory overload.

Sydney is one of the best places in the world to eat out, surrounded by oceans of a vast array of fish, a huge Asian influence and some enviable steak-houses.  We took our lead from foodie friend Lindy Yee and lunched at Café Sopra – Fratelli Fresh on the Rocks at Walsh Bay.  The Fratelli Fresh deli provides delicious ingredients to some of Sydney’s finest eateries whilst housing its own casual eatery the Sopra Café.

Loved this place

Loved this place

Just a couple of hours west of Sydney, you will find yourself in the stunning wilderness of the Blue Mountains, teaming with wildlife and breath-taking views this is a perfect escape from the city.  Some of the towns like Katoomba are especially tired and run down and in my opinion not worth a visit, but Leura is a pretty historic mountain town with cutesy trinket shops, health food stores and wholesome cafes and restaurants.  We loved the fine dining restaurant, Silks Brasserie with its warm inviting décor and adventurous menu.

The Blue Mountains is a great place to get some proper exercise, with numerous well-marked walking tracks you can choose between short easy walks suitable for families to hard-core day long scrambles.  The mountains are steep and you are likely to encounter large staircases carved out of the rocks but in return you are rewarded by stunning views and waterfalls.

The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains

Not far on my list, behind the fireworks on Sydney Harbour, was a horse-ride in the outback and we took a private ride out into the Megalong Valley with Werriberri trail rides.  This is a quality establishment where safety is foremost, the horses are happy, healthy and well-behaved and we instantly felt safe with our two guides to two clients.  After an hour’s ride up and up and up as high as we could go, we were again rewarded with the most amazing view.  There is something very special, wild and intimidating about the vastness and beauty of the Aussie outback.

Stunning views

Stunning views

Back in Leura, we headed to the iKOU Day Spa to ease our aching limbs.  iKOU is an all-natural, sustainable  concept using chemical free ingredients in all of its treatments. I opted for the soothing Native Clay Hot Oil treatment.  A ring of soft native clay was pressed into the lowest part of my back, the therapist then proceed to pour and rub hot therapeutic oil into the ring before administering a blissful and deep back massage.  All my tension from the long flight, hikes and horse riding just drifted away.

Back in Sydney, I slipped back into my heels for a farewell dinner with our loved ones at Gowings Restaurant.   This cool hangout with an enviable cocktail list has a classy New York loft vibe, comfortable surroundings, a huge menu and a chilled relaxed service made it perfect for a long evening of reminiscing fun times gone by and planning our future reunions at both ends of the planet.

Sydney, wait for me, I shall be back!

Carolyn

CAROLYN66

Carolyn Pearson is a super-woman and besides her serious day job, she is also the founder and CEO of Maiden Voyage – Business Women’s Travel Network with female friendly hotels and travel safety tips. Please visit her website and follow her on Twitter. I love this project and hope all our female readers sign up as members of this very interesting and needed project. Mrs. O

My 10 Favourite Cocktails

You know I like a cocktail or three – I was introduced to these on trips to the USA, as they weren’t very popular in Europe at all. But things have changed!!

So without further ado.. here are some of my favourite cocktails – in no particular order (please don’t ask me to do that.. I simply can’t!)

1. Mojitos

Pre dinner cocktails at Pedro e o Lobo

Pre dinner cocktails at Pedro e o Lobo in Lisbon

Pictured on the left of this image, is one of my favourite drinks. Meet Mr. Mojito! Be that a classic or flavoured.. have tried a few variations of this beauty and always go back for more. It is a perfect summer drink as it is so refreshing. This particular one was enjoyed in Lisbon with Mr O, my sister and her boyfriend.

2. Cosmopolitans

Cocktails by the pool

Cocktails by the pool in Barcelona

Think Sex and the City and you think of Cosmopolitans – a drink that became a staple in our lives. And weren’t those years fun? It takes me back to fun nights out with the girls, and this one was indeed enjoyed with very good company – with my friends Trudi and Justine at a pool party at the W in Barcelona.

3. Caipirinhas

Caipirinhas - Brazil's national drink. Pictured here, my favourites: watermelon with pepper and pineapple with mint!

Caipirinhas – Brazil’s national drink. Pictured here, my favourites: watermelon with pepper and pineapple with mint!

Oh my, this could be a firm favourite, and without a doubt a drink I miss now that I don’t live in Portugal anymore. I hate to say it, but caipirinhas in the UK simply are not up to the standard! I love pineapple caipirinhas, but also keen on strawberry, or lychee, or mango.. you get the idea. Apologies for such a bad-looking photo, but I was more interested in trying these beauties when I last went to Rio de Janeiro with Mr. O. These flavours were quite unusual and incredible!

Caipirinhas with a view - Photo by Rui Santos

Caipirinhas with a view – Photo by Rui Santos

4. Daiquiris

Love strawberry daiquiris

Love strawberry daiquiris

I usually don’t drink at all when I am at the beach or pool (water being my preference), but every now and then I love a frozen daiquiri.. preferably strawberry! This was enjoyed with my dear friend Leah when we were last in Miami – aka the last time I saw the sun, which I miss desperately!

5. Sangria

I love Rose Port sangria!

I love Rose Port sangria!

Life without sangria may not be worth living – but I am referring to a very special type of Sangria, which you can only find in Portugal. You should know by now that I am all for giving credit where it is due – and here I publicly thank nuestros hermanos in Spain for coming up with the concept, which was, without a doubt, perfected by the Portuguese. Red wine sangria? Nope! Think white wine sangria, or even better, champagne sangria – perfect for our lazy beach lunches. But the invention of the century? Rosé port sangria – it is perfect (and not particularly alcoholic). I loved trying it for the first time last summer and can’t wait for the weather to get warmer again!

 6. Georgia Peaches

Mrs O likes her cocktails

Mrs O likes her cocktails and loves a good Georgia Peach

Now we are talking.. with a Southern US accent! Georgia peaches.. well, must have been invented in the State of Georgia and have peach in it..  interestingly enough, this delicacy is always enjoyed not where it came from, but in Palm Desert, in California, with Mr. O, Leah and Lola. Fab fab fab! And of, course, they look pretty!

7. The Lividus (rather strange name, but go along with it!)

The most beautiful cocktail ever - at the W South Beach

This is possibly one of the best drinks I ever had in my life – Gin based (I love Gin & Tonic, which of course, is too simple to be called a cocktail), the Lividus is one of the signature drinks of the W hotel in South Beach, Miami. I have to say, this was a place where every cocktail we tried was delicious and quite unforgettable. I vividly remember speaking to a hotel guest who was staying for a whole week and working her way through the menu, as she simply couldn’t choose. Clever girl!

8. Mint Juleps

Mint Julep - one of my new favourites!

Mint Julep – one of my new favourites!

I had never heard of Mint Juleps until I went to New Orleans – and only because some of my lovely readers told me about it! I would describe it as a mojito, but made with bourbon whisky, rather than rum.. what is not to like?

The interesting thing, is that I have now enjoyed them in other cities – namely Paris and Zürich ever since.. and wonder.. where were they all my life?

9. Bellinis (of course!)

A bellini is always a good idea!

A bellini is always a good idea!

You thought I was going to forget? It is such a simple drink, but oh so lovely! And perfect for any time of the day ? I love Bellinis and will never forget the one I had at Harry’s Bar in Venice, technically where they were invented. This one, enjoyed with Mr. O, my BFF Trudi and her lovely husband was tasted at NYC’s Grand Central Station – it was our boys’ birthday and they deserved a treat!

10. The Mrs. O Around the World

I am not joking!

I am not joking!

I am not joking.. the lovely Bruno, the barman at the Sheraton Lisbon, in Portugal, created this incredible drink for me and we named it, well, you can guess how creative we were… This is off menu (for the time being), but if you go there, it can be made for you. I think Starwood could totally take it global – for the time being, I carry the recipe with myself on my phone!

And there you have it – some of my favourite cocktails for your online enjoyment! And as it is friday, I am certainly going to have one!

Cheers!

xo

Mrs. O

How holidays help you live longer

I knew it! I k-n-e-w it! I sat at home, on antibiotics and on cold and flu medicines since the moment I landed back from my Swiss adventure, feeling miserable, but when I saw this release on my inbox, my heart skipped a little beat.

Of course we are all familiar with post-holiday blues (real depression in some cases!!), but for someone to have found scientific evidence that going away on holidays is the key to a longer and healthier life, it is just brilliant, in my honest opinion.

Look at me so happy - I had just landed in Moorea, French Polynesia

Look at me so happy – I had just landed in Moorea, French Polynesia

People returning to work after a holiday are often told by their colleagues, ‘You look well!’ But is this really true –do holidays have an impact on your health, beyond a tan that quickly fades? For the first time Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health have clinically measured the health benefits of a break – to provide an objective assessment of the improvements to wellbeing generated by a holiday.

Nuffield Health and psychotherapist Christine Webber, carried out a series of clinical and psychotherapeutic tests in order to develop for the first time an accurate picture of how getting away from it all can influence a whole series of key health indicators – blood pressure, ability to recover from stress, quality of sleep and, of course, emotional health.

Caught by Mr. O tweeting, or checking Facebook. I *did* have wifi at the beach ;)

Caught by Mr. O tweeting, or checking Facebook. I *did* have wifi at the beach ?

They took 12 people (I am absolutely sure my invite got lost in the post) and gave them full health assessments and psychological tests. These poor lucky people were also asked to wear heart monitors and were given lifestyle and dietary advice.

Want to hear the best part? Half the group was sent on incredible on holidays to either Thailand, Peru or the Maldives. The other half of the group stayed at home. Two weeks after the holidaymakers returned, both groups had more medicals, psychological tests and wore heart monitors for several days.

The study showed that the holidaymakers’ ability to recover from stress, their sleep quality and their blood pressures were significantly improved compared with the group who had not had a holiday.

Source: Kuoni & Nuffield Health

Source: Kuoni & Nuffield Health

Here are some of the main findings (i.e. excuses to go on holiday NOW!):

  • The average blood pressure of the holidaymakers dropped by a beneficial six per cent while the average of the non-holidaymakers went up over the same period by two per cent. (Avoiding high blood pressure is important to avert risk of stroke and heart attacks).
  • The sleep quality of the holidaymakers improved while that of the non-holidaymakers deteriorated. Holidaymakers saw a 17 per cent improvement while the average for non-holidaymakers reduced by 14 per cent. (Quality of sleep is important for the body to physically and mentally repair).
  • The ability to recover from stress (known as the stress-resilience test) saw an average improvement of 29 per cent among holidaymakers. This compared to a 71 per cent fall in stress resilience scores among the non-holidaymakers. (The higher the stress resilience score the better the body is recovering from stress efficiently).
Yay, another day at the beach!

Yay, another day at the beach! Of course I feel fab!

OK, OK, this is all very good, but obviously we cannot go on holiday *all the time*. If you can’t afford a holiday right now, what could you do to improve your health?

Here psychotherapist Christine Webber offers 6 tips on how to look after your mental health without taking a holiday:

1.   Sleep more
Often when people go on holiday, they have no idea how tired they are – till they stop. They usually report having real, deep and nourishing sleep on vacation. This is very energising and invigorating. So, if you want to feel better, work out how you can grab more ‘shut-eye’ several times a week. It might help too if you make your bedroom a place you really want to be. So, borrow some tips from your favourite holiday hotel and transform your bedroom into a luxury hideaway.

Mr O wasn't complaining either

Mr. O sometimes sleeps up to 6h a day at the beach, after a good 9h sleep at night. He needs it!

2. Engage in new activities
One of the huge bonuses of a holiday is that you get a greater sense of perspective by seeing how other people live and cope in circumstances very different from your own. Clearly, it’s hard to replicate that back in the UK.

But if – perhaps at weekends – you can sometimes engage in activities that are very different from your weekday ritual, you will get that sense of tapping into a different world and feeding your soul and lifting yourself out of the humdrum that we value so much while we’re on vacation. Good ways to do it are to: walk by the sea; climb a mountain; visit a free museum; enjoy theatre; watch a DVD of David Attenborough or Simon Reeve on their exotic travels.

TV adventurer and presenter Simon Reeve

Apparently, I wasn’t wrong. Watching TV adventurer and presenter Simon Reeve helps me detress!

3. Go on a date
Holidays often bring couples closer together. But with some effort, you can organise more quality time together on a regular basis. Try having a ‘date’ once a week. If you have children, get a babysitter. If need be, form a babysitter circle so that you and other parents all help each other out, free, on a rota basis. Your date needn’t be an expensive one. But it should give you time to re-connect as a couple, and to have some fun and romance.

California is one of Mr. and Mrs. O's favourite places in the world. Glad we found it by mistake!

Mr O and I don’t always succeed, but we do try to have date nights at least twice a month.

4. Sit quietly and make a list
We know from past Kuoni research that the majority of people make life-changing decisions on holiday. Something about the unaccustomed time and space enables us to face up to problems and to vow to change them. But if you can’t get away, why not sit quietly one day and list those aspects of your life that you’d like to alter. Then pick the one that feels most important, and work out – step by step – how you could gradually effect some changes that would help you to solve this particular difficulty.

5. Have a computer-free day
Most people report that holidays give them a chance to ‘switch off’ their brains. This is much harder at home than it is when we are away. But why not ban all thoughts of work for at least one whole day per weekend? This means no worrying about the boss, no marking maths homework if you’re a teacher, and no work on your laptop connected to your employment. Your weekend will be much more of a rest if you give your mind a complete break from what you do on most other days of the week.

Mrs. O gets her hands dirty!

Mrs. O gets her hands dirty! I find cooking and spending time at home super therapeutic. And love having family and friends over for dinner.

6. Do things together as a family
Holidays often encourage us to try family activities that we don’t do at home. Often these pursuits help us to relax and laugh – and bring out a different side to us. So, plan a day doing something as a family that you don’t normally do – whether it’s beach volleyball, swimming, canoeing, rock climbing or maybe even dancing, or Karaoke.

So there you have it, if you are feeling a bit blue and needed an excuse, this is as good as it gets – go on and do it, it is good for you! You will live longer – in other words, just what the doctor ordered! As for me (not that I can complain, I cannot!), I am looking forward to continuing my Euro tour… and then, looking forward to some sun (which I have not seen since October!)

xo

Mrs. O

PS: The study quoted in this article was published by Kuoni and Nuffield Health. This is NOT a sponsored post in any way – I know a good story when I see one. Download the complete report here.

Top 5 new London restaurants by @bonvivantliving

Bon Vivant’s Emyr Thomas picks some of the best new restaurants that have opened in London over the last few weeks. To keep up to date with London’s hotel, restaurant and bar scene, subscribe to their blog here.

HKK by Hakkasan

HKK by Hakkasan

HKK by Hakkasan

The Hakkasan Group brings a new concept to London in the form of HKK restaurant, offering a single, evolving tasting menu at lunch and dinner.

Located in the City behind Liverpool Street station, HKK will exclusively offer a 15-course tasting menu of modern Chinese and Cantonese delicacies priced at £95, as well as a reduced 8-course menu at lunch for £48. HKK will have 48 seats in the restaurants and a 10-person private dining room.

Coya

Coya

Coya

London is now home to another Peruvian restaurant with the launch of Coya Restaurant in Mayfair from Arjun Waney, the restaurateur behind Zuma, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club. Coya Restaurant includes a private members’ club and a dedicated pisco bar, which showcases the art, music and culture of Latin America.

Electric Diner and Electric Donuts from Soho House

Electric Diner

Electric Diner

Soho House has collaborated with Chicago chef Brendan Sodikoff to launch the Electric Diner and Electric Donuts on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, with both restaurants taking inspiration from the chef’s own restaurants in Chicago.

The Electric Diner will have an all-day French-American menu, while Electric Donuts will serve hot donuts and coffee throughout the day from the foyer of the Electric Cinema.

Wabi London

Wabi

Wabi

Former Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth will launch Japanese restaurant Wabi London near Holborn and Aldwych. Australian-born Scott spent six years at Nobu in London before launching Nobu Melbourne in 2007. The restaurant will serve a seasonal menu of Japanese cuisine with a contemporary European twist.

STK London at The ME Hotel

STK London

STK London

New York based The ONE Group will launch the first international outpost of STK Restaurant in the new ME Hotel on The Strand in Covent Garden. STK London aims to offer ‘a modern twist on the traditional steakhouse’ with nightly DJs and a more feminine, sleek design.

For further information on Bon Vivant’s concierge services, please visit their website.

A lux weekend in Paris, France

As Audrey Hepburn famously said once, “Paris is always a good idea”, and Mrs. O couldn’t agree more.

An Avenue Story apartment with a view, a real one!!

An apartment with a view, a real one!!

After being picked up at Charles de Gaulle airport by our pre-booked driver, we were driven to our apartment and faced with this view. I know it looks like a postcard, but it really wasn’t! I was also equally impressed with my welcome hamper which included champagne, cheese, saucisson, a fresh baguette, tea, toiletries and.. salted caramel macaroons. This was going to be a good evening!

Avenue Story welcome hamper

Welcome hamper

It was time to hit the town! We said goodbye to the concierge team, who kindly handed us a French mobile phone, so we could use it for local calls etc. I think it was a really nice touch. Mrs. O was very impressed by the details.

Mrs O loved the Café Marly. Photo by maisonthierrycostes.com

Mrs O loved the Café Marly. Photo by maisonthierrycostes.com

Time for a glass of champagne and dinner. Following a friend’s recommendation, we booked a table at the Louvre, no less. Café Marly was not a disappointment and I loved the intimate ambience, the food and couldn’t help notice the waitresses, clad in Lancel handbags and Christian Louboutin heels. So French and so chic! (and not very touristy!)

Mrs O happy in Paris

Mrs O happy in Paris

And then we had an idea – we did not know we had a 2 bedroom apartment.. and there is one person who we love and has also been bitten by the O’Reilly travel bug – Miss O. So we called her and told her: “get on the Eurostar first train tomorrow to Paris”! And when we woke up the next morning, guess who was there? I love a bit of last minute excitement and was delighted to have her with us!

Saturday

We had a market and foodie tour booked with My Genie in Paris, kindly organised by Avenue Story. But I need my breakfast shortly after waking up, and this is Paris, after all.

A deliciously expensive breakfast in Paris

A deliciously expensive breakfast in Paris

Following our apartment “booklet”, we ventured up towards Trocadero, a short walk from our “home away from home” and found Carette, a beautiful patisserie. Excited by the display, the choice was obvious: a chausson aux pommes pour moi, and a palmier for Mr. O. And a café crème each. What shocked us ever so slightly? The €24 bill – the pastries were beautiful, but I personally thought that €7.50 for a coffee was a bit extreme. (A tip: if you take away the pastries, they are only €3!!).

We then met David, our guide for the morning, who promised us an incredible itinerary. We met him not far from La Bastille, and we were to spend our morning walking, eating and drinking around the Marché de Aligre.

It was time to eat again, and David took us to a beautiful patisserie where we obviously had to eat a little bit more. We were spoiled for choice and I loved the variety!

Second breakfast of the day at Blé Sucré in Paris with A Genie in Paris

Second breakfast of the day at Blé Sucré in Paris with A Genie in Paris

From there, it was time to have a look at the market – I love markets and do tell a lot about a city. The smells, the different foods and flavours, and of course, the people. I love it that it is still possible to buy one’s food in markets in Paris – I cannot do it where I live and I would love to. From there, it was time to buy some wine.. so we could taste some cheese. Of course I wasn’t going to say no to that!

A Genie in Paris foodie tour

A Genie in Paris foodie tour

So after some wine, charcuterie and an incredible cheese selection, it was time for more food – and I am sure you can guess: it had to be oysters. This is where, after almost 4 hours, we said hello to our A Genie in Paris host, and spent the next hour or so savouring these not-so-pretty delicacies, paired with a lovely Sancerre at Baron Rouge, a simple and very local eatery which certainly deserves a mention here.

We spent our afternoon getting lost in Paris – my favourite past time in this part of the world. We started with a bit of shopping at Le Bon Marché, my French department store of choice, and continued down Rue des Sèvres, towards St. Germain de Près.

I had promised myself I wasn’t going to buy anything (not *anything* anything, if you see what I mean), but the January sales had started the day before. I just couldn’t say no… so I decided to do some “replacement shopping” as I am currently operating a very strict “one-in, one-out” policy when it comes to shoes. Do you know when you simply adore a pair of shoes and wear them to exhaustion? I have that problem – so I just had to replace them… and wasn’t I lucky I found the exact same pairs, at the same shops as I did on my last visit to Paris? But the plus side… they were half price, ha!

Being strict with my "one-in one-out" shoe policy

Being strict with my “one-in one-out” shoe policy

After a good 3 hours, it was time to go back to the apartment, and change for a great evening ahead! We started with cocktails at Mandarin Oriental hotel – a stunning property. I must also say, the most expensive cocktails I remember having. At €26 a drink, this is when you notice that Paris is way more expensive than London.

Cocktails at Mandarin Oriental Paris

Cocktails at Mandarin Oriental Paris

But I have to be honest – it was worth the money. The bar was beautiful, the staff were incredible (something that surprised us pretty much everywhere in Paris on this trip. People were nice to us, if we tried to address them in our pidgeon French, we saw people’s teeth.. and got a response in English. Something strange happening, in my opinion!)

But back to my cocktails – the list was great and creative, the nuts/olive selection was the best I ever had – think truffled nuts,  and everything was perfect. Absolutely worth a visit!

Dinner took place at Le Fumoir, also a recommendation from a friend (I totally trust her). Chic, trendy and delicious – and surprisingly good value with a set dinner menu at €35. We loved it so much we ended up staying for drinks there all night, as it turned into a bar.

Sunday

I did not wake up early – I am not going to lie. And being super hungry, it was time to discover a new breakfast haunt. We tried and loved Café Malakoff on Place du Trocadero, which I have no problem in recommending. At €7.50 per person, it was perfect. From there, Miss O wanted to head to the Louvre for a Raphael exhibition. I wanted to check out Lancel’s new season handbag collection, so the Carroussel du Louvre was a good starting point. Useful to know that this little mall is open on Sundays if you are in need of a retail fix – it is not very big and has a good selection of shops. Plus it is pretty!

Carroussel du Louvre

Carroussel du Louvre

From here, we headed towards L’Opera, walked up one of my favourite streets, Rue du Faubourg de Saint Honoré (one of my spiritual places in Paris), Place Vêndome and walked back to the Louvre.

When I spotted a Pierre Hermé macaroon shop, I obviously couldn’t resist. After reading The Lazy Travelers’ scientific comparisson between Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, I have to agree with them. Pierre Herme´s selection is eclectic and the flavours far more interesting. Do you know what I had? Foie gràs and dark chocolate macaroons. Sounds revolting, I know – but they were incredible!

Foie Gras and Dark Chocolate Macaroons from Pierre Hermé - don't knock them until you try them!

Foie Gras and Dark Chocolate Macaroons from Pierre Hermé – don’t knock them until you try them!

And with this, it was time for a lazy lunch. A very lazy lunch. And I knew what I wanted: escargots and onion soup! I love these French classics, with a side of fresh baguette and a glass of St Emilion. We went to Au Pied de Cochon, not far from the Rue du Louvre and can report very very good things indeed.

Onion Soup - yummy!

Onion Soup – yummy!

Purely in the name of research, and for the love of my blog, I ate it all. It was, without a doubt, one of the best onion soups I have ever had. And it wasn’t small!

With that, it was time to head back to the apartment, before my driver picked me up to take me to the airport, which surely meant I didn’t have to stress with traffic or anything!

My ubercool Art Deco Paris apartment

My ubercool Art Deco Paris apartment

After the perfect weekend in Paris, it was time to say Au Revoir. But I shall be back, mais oui!

xo

Mrs. O

Mrs. O goes to New Orleans, Louisiana

It was all my friend Leah’s fault. She wrote a post about New Orleans and after reading it, I decided: enough was enough. I wanted a bit of New Orleans for myself too.

People always wonder if travel blogs influence people’s travel planning decisions – I cannot speak about others, except moi. I called Mr. O – he thought I was mad, as always – for some reason, we hadn’t booked anything for after Christmas, something we always do in April. It was written – we were going down South! I called Leah – she couldn’t quite believe it but said “y’all come down, fly to Houston and we will drive to NOLA”. I had no idea what NOLA meant – apparently, it is short for New Orleans, Louisiana! And we were even able to use our annual BA AMEX vouchers and score a free flight – and fly first. This trip was so meant to be. I knew the timing wasn’t ideal – especially after my 4-day Christmas, but we only live once. I could diet in January.

Having flown to Houston, we set on a 5-hour drive going East, towards Louisiana. And after a while, it was time to stop. Leah was very keen for us to try one of the local institutions – Stemboat Bills in Lake Charles. We feasted on fried seafood (that was a portion for one, which the 3 of us shared) and tried the lovely pistolettes, which is a little sandwich filled with shrimp – deep-fried, of course. A special mention goes to our “glass of wine”, which came with a lid. I am not a beer girl (I seriously wish I was), and I had to try this!

I landed, and the calories kept coming at me...

I landed, and the calories kept coming at me…

After dinner, we headed to our first stop – the stunning Nottoway Plantation. We arrived quite late but loved seeing this beautiful plantation late at night. It wasn’t cold for us at all, and we simply loved it. We slept like babies and woke up to these incredible views.

We loved the Southern hospitality at Nottoway

We loved the Southern hospitality at Nottoway

We did not stay at the main house – we stayed in the cottages instead. $99 buys you a night at this place – exceptional value for money. We were treated to a tour the next morning, after a delicious and hearty breakfast. I know this was a trip where I would eat. A lot.

Postcard Pretty

Postcard Pretty

I was very curious to understand what a plantation was – and loved it. I would certainly come back to this part of the world again and spend some time eating, sleeping and relaxing. A good plan indeed!

But no rest for the wicked, as they say, and we were off to our next stop – Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana. When I first researched this trip, I noticed we were not far and insisted we drove in. Why? Because this is John Grisham’s territory – I love his books and Baton Rouge, LA was always mentioned. Never in my wildest dreams I thought I would visit this small city, on the banks of the Mississippi river, but there is life for you!

Baton Rouge Capitol Bulding

Baton Rouge Capitol Building

We weren’t quite sure what to see or do, so we headed to the Capitol Building – without a doubt, the tallest building in town. And luckily, we were allowed in! I loved seeing the Senate room, which was beautifully decorated and also to see the city from the very top. It wasn’t a sunny day, but it was a good experience nonetheless. My favourite bit? The 50 steps to the main door, with the various US States. I thought it was only appropriate to say hello to Louisiana!

After this, we could feel the excitement building up – New Orleans was closer than ever – and it was time for lunch! We were invited by the Heritage Grill, one of the many restaurants owned by local restaurateur Ralph Brennan to stop by and taste the delicious crab melt. Also, it was quite interesting to look around the other tables and think.. interesting, everyone is drinking iced tea.. it was only when I got our cocktails that I realised what they were indeed. How cheeky! And lovely!

I like this version of iced tea ;)

I like this version of iced tea ?

New Orleans awaited, and so did our hotel for the night – the swanky International House. I had heard great things and loved the look of it and was looking forward to this stay. First impressions count, and you can see for yourself. Nice, indeed!

International House Hotel - New Orleans

International House Hotel – New Orleans

We then walked around the “world-famous” Bourbon Street and I must confess: not sure it was for me. I was not prepared for the amounts of alcohol behind consumed at 5pm – and was quite disappointed. But as with everything, one just needs to leave the tourist traps and find delightful new places. We went to Pat O’Briens and everything was so much quieter – and people were so much nicer! I even had my first Mint Julep, a bourbon-based cocktail, which is now a firm favourite!

The streets of NOLA - photo by Leah Walker

The streets of NOLA – photo by Leah Walker

Mint Julep - one of my new favourites!

Mint Julep – one of my new favourites!

Dinner that night took place at one of New Orleans’ classics – the Commanders’ Palace. It was a good meal, but I must confess I was expecting way more – but nevertheless, the ambiance was great and super classic. I loved the bread and butter soufflé pudding – one more to add to the ever-expanding waistline!

The Commander's Palace - photo by hg2.com

The Commander’s Palace – photo by hg2.com

I slept really well and the second day it was time to change hotels and get to know the city better. For our second night, we stayed at the W New Orleans, who kindly upgraded us to a WOW suite. Priced similarly as the International House (around $250-300 per night), I personally think you get better value for money with the W. Service was friendlier, and the bathrooms were also more modern. I thought the International House was great, but if we are being truly honest (like I always aim to be with my blog), our second night’s accommodation choice was better suited for us.

A room with an outstanding view - W New Orleans

A WOW Suite with an outstanding view – W New Orleans

But the best place to stay in town? In my opinion? The newly refurbished W French Quarter. We tried to stay there, but as it was New Year’s weekend, the hotel was fully booked. But I had to go and have a look – and wasn’t disappointed indeed. Located IN the French Quarter, the hotel is outstanding and the pictures speak for themselves. I absolutely adored the new restaurant and bar areas, and couldn’t help take photographs of the walls – so simple and yet so so nice!

The W French Quarter

The W French Quarter – photo by spg.com

Loved the light decor at the W French Quarter

Loved the light decor at the W French Quarter

I loved walking around New Orleans – Rue Royale was a firm favourite with its quirky boutiques and vintage shops. This is what I thought New Orleans was like, and was not disappointed at all. People were friendly (I love the local accent!) and I loved the architectural style.

Rue Royale in NOLA

Rue Royale in NOLA

But, of course – I know you must be wondering – where did we eat? Well, we went to Couchon in the Warehouse district (which reminded me ever so slightly of NYC’s Meatpacking District 10-15 years ago) and we almost tried the whole menu. From chicken liver with picked watermelon, to cold meats, incredible sweet potato mash to the most interesting dish of all: alligator. Yup, I am not kidding. It was delicious! Something else worth mentioning, that we also had while we were in town: crayfish? A pound for $15, boiled, with of course a touch of Cajun spices. Every food we ate was slightly spicy – we cried on the first meals, but not so much as the weekend went on!

Post alligator-eating happiness!

Post alligator-eating happiness!

I needed to walk off the meal, so we decided to take it easy – I managed a bit of shopping (shoes, of course at J Crew) and a massage. And after that, it was time for another meal…

ACME Oyster House

ACME Oyster House

ACME Oyster House is a New Orleans classic – and being an oyster and seafood lover, I was really looking forward to this meal. I was a bit afraid when I saw the queue outside – but this is when it pays to be organised.. and pre-book a table! I love oysters, and always have these babies when I am in the USA. But what I never had before? Grilled and baked oysters. With a touch of Tabasco, of course – and I loved them! As this was my last meal in town, I needed to catch up with the long list of specialties, so we had a “New Orleans medley” , made up of Gumbo, jambalaya and grilled smoked sausage.  Needless to say, we could not move afterwards!

But we did.. and we headed to Café du Monde, for the “world-famous” (I love this expression) beignets – which are lovely and soft donuts sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Cafe du Monde - a single portion of beignets.. for 1 apparently!

Cafe du Monde – a single portion of beignets.. for 1 apparently!

And with this, and a good night’s sleep, it was time to head back to Houston and ring in the new year. That, of course, will be a different story to tell y’all!

xo

Mrs. O

PS. A huge thank you to those who helped us organise this trip with really short notice, namely the New Orleans CVB, who was brilliant. All 3 hotels provided us with free or discounted accommodation throughout our stay, and looked after us really well. Thank you to Heritage Grill and ACME for hosting us for meals. Opinions are, as usual my own. You can’t buy the love and I now seriously need to go on a diet.

Mrs. O goes around Europe to start 2013

First things, first.. happy New Year! I am now back from my mad Christmas-New Year trip with took me to the south of the UK, Portugal, back to England, followed by an incredible road trip to New Orleans in Louisiana and Houston, in Texas. It was tiring, but absolutely worth it! Needless to say, I ate a *little* bit too much, so caution is required over the next month or so. And where I am going will not help!

My travel plans for 2013 are very promising, and hopefully I will be doing my alter ego’s name some justice. But I am not going around the world.. I am going to be exploring Europe and quite a bit!

January

An apartment with a view

An apartment with a view

As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea”. And I totally agree. I haven’t been back to the French capital for almost 2 years, and I think it is the perfect location to kick off 2013 in style. This time around, I will not be staying at a hotel. Where am I staying? I was invited by Avenue Story to sample one of their incredible luxury apartments in the city of light.

I have never stayed at an apartment before and was very keen to experiment and report back. All apartments in their books (in Paris and London) look incredible and I believe it can be a very cost effective alternative to a 5-star hotel. You can read about my lux weekend in Paris here.

Verbier still has some time to get ready for us!

Verbier still has some time to get ready for us!

After a week’s rest, it is time to give Switzerland some loving. Invited by the Swiss Tourist Board (who has heard about my love for chocolates, lux and snow) and  the exclusive ski resort of Verbier Vallee des Bagnes, I am going to be reunited with my 2 favourite American friends in the world – the wonderful Leah and Lola.

This is going to be an emotional reunion and we have warned Switzerland! The 3 of us were together last year in California (USA), and Girona (Spain), so we are really looking forward to a fab girly long weekend. And with wonderful food, chocolates (a special type of food), accommodation, safety and incredibly punctual transportation, we think Switzerland is the perfect location for us. You can read about our trip to Verbier, right here.

Geneva and its wonderful Lake

Geneva and its wonderful Lake

After a bit of skiing (Lola is particularly looking forward to the après-skiing, and I don’t blame her), we are heading to Geneva for a bit of chocolate, food and shopping! We will be staying at a luxury apartment, courtesy of Swiss Luxury Apartments.

Seriously think I am going to like this hotel!

Seriously think I am going to like this hotel!

In Zurich, to which we will be travelling by train (I am seriously excited about this journey), we will be hosted by the wonderful Baur au Lac, one of Europe’s grand dame hotels.

February

Piazza del Duomo as seen from the rooftop

Piazza del Duomo as seen from the rooftop

The shortest month of the year, is promising to be packed with more Euro excitement! I was delighted to be invited by the organisers of the Milan International Tourism Exchange, BIT Milano, as their blogger ambassador. That means, of course, an exciting weekend in Milan, which is a city I love, and had a quick glimpse of late last year.

The Four Seasons, Milan

The Four Seasons, Milan

Milan has welcomed a series of fabulous new hotels in recent years, and I am very keen to try something new. The Four Seasons will be my home away from home in this exciting city.

The Pulitzer is one of my favourite hotels in the world

The Pulitzer is one of my favourite hotels in the world

Later in the month, I will be returning to Amsterdam, a place I have not been to in almost 8 years. Have great memories from our last trip and looking forward to catching up with friends who live here. We will be staying at the Pulitzer, and a classic and where we stayed last time we visited, and also the Sofitel, which I am very keen to discover.

Sofitel The Grand, Amsterdam

Sofitel The Grand, Amsterdam

March

Roasted Chestnuts in Chiado, just outside Hermés - why not?

Roasted Chestnuts in Chiado, Lisbon, just outside Hermés – why not?

March is also looking exciting! I will start the month in Lisbon, to celebrate my mother’s birthday. I will also try to get there before then, if possible. I would like to get to Lisbon once a month, but sadly, not always possible. I need a little Lisbon love in my life – and see my family and friends. This time, I will be staying at the Sofitel – it is funny as I used to work next door to it when I lived in Lisbon.

The Sofitel in Lisbon

The Sofitel in Lisbon

I will be going to Berlin, which will be my third time in Germany – a country which decidedly deserves some more love from Mrs. O. I went to Frankfurt on business trips previously (and quite liked it!), and am very excited about visiting Berlin.

Can't wait to get to Berlin

Can’t wait to get to Berlin

I am going to attend ITB travel exhibition, which will mean a fair bit of walking, but planning to enjoy the weekend in this incredible place. The Westin Berlin and the Sofitel Berlin will be my homes in this city, and I am looking forward to spending some time here.

Lastly, time for the last skiing trip of the season – which in late March, means it would be sunny! As usual, we will head with our friends to Val Thorens, in the French Alps, for a bit of skiing, eating and resting.

View from the top - Le Caron - Val Thorens (by Jim Newton)

View from the top – Le Caron – Val Thorens (by Jim Newton)

I think this is a great way to start the year – don’t you think? A bit of old, new and firm favourites – lots to discover around the Old Continent. Obviously, I am plotting other great trips for the rest of the year – it will be time for a bit of sun too! Interestingly enough, none of these destinations were on my list to Santa. Amazing how things and travel plans change!

So, any recommendations for Paris, Zurich, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam or Berlin? Would love to hear about your favourite places in town.

And here is to an amazing 2013!

Happy Travels

xo

Mrs O

2012 – My year in travel: 40 flights, 80 hotel nights and 100,000 km+

Inspired by the lovely Lola, who has been reflecting on her travels over the past year, I started thinking about the incredible year I have had as well.

I actually went through my calendar and counted every single trip that involved air travel – and the numbers did not lie. 40 flights (actual flights), 80 nights spent in hotels and over 100,000 km travelled, which is over 75,000 miles, by air. Which is mad – even for me. I obviously didn’t add up the actual number of hours inside airplanes or airports.

Every flight, with 1 exception (due to a cancellation and rerouting), was flown with the same airline – one needs to work hard to earn the gold card!

Where did I go?

Brazil

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio, seen from the Corcovado

The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio, seen from the Corcovado

Our semi-private beach in Rio de Janeiro

Our semi-private beach in Rio de Janeiro

We started the year in style – I am a great believer that one should begin the way one wishes to continue the year.. and that was in Brazil. We were very surprised with how much we actually loved Sao Paulo, where we spent a couple of days, but Rio is where we left our heart. This was our second trip to the “cidade maravilhosa” or wonderful city, and we really fell in love with it. The food was incredible and so were the people.. and the shops. This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in the world.

Portugal

The River Tejo and the traditional ferries

The River Tejo and the traditional ferries

Lisbon, Portugal, for obvious reasons was the place we went to the most throughout the year, with over 6 trips. I am very fortunate that “home” is 2 hours away on a plane, and that we get to go. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go every month like I used to, but I will try to in 2013. Lisbon has changed a lot in recent years, and it was great for me to revisit old favourites, but also to try new places!

Not a bad view, is it?

Not a bad view, is it?

In the summer, I also did my usual trip to the Alentejo, one of Portugal’s better known wine making regions, and also managed a hop to the Algarve, which is an annual pilgrimage!

Spain

Barcelona got a lot of my love this year. I hadn’t been back to this city for 5 years and decided to break the spell for my birthday in April. Oh and I did…

2 orange juices with a view

2 orange juices with a view

I went to Barcelona not one, but 4 times, to be precise! Firstly in April, which was the big rendez-vous, then on the final leg of my very first cruise in July, which was an experience and a half. I then had a girly getaway in late August, and I also spent a little time in this amazing city on the way back from Girona, which was a place I never visited before.

Italy

Italy welcomed me 4 times during 2012 – I personally think there cannot be too much Italy in one’s life. It all started in Rome, in early July, where I shot my first film ever – just before I boarded my first cruise. I was a little bit nervous, but must admit it was fun. I may have even enjoyed it a little bit too much, as I got to shoot 3 little stories. One of them, of course, involved making cocktails.

Looking happy in Portofino, Italy

Looking happy in Portofino, Italy

Genoa, in Liguria, welcomed me not once, but twice during 2012. It is a little undiscovered gem of a city – a city is highly recommended if you find yourself in the area. Home to pesto and focaccia, I was delighted to discover!

I also had the chance to spend some time in Milan, which most people think is grey and industrial – I think it is a great weekend destination, and cannot wait to be back in February 2013.

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle - always busy

Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle – always busy

United States

I am not going to lie – I have a lot of time for the USA. May not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a firm favourite at the O’Reilly household. This year, we have been 4 times, which is actually a low average for us.

The first trip of the year, in June, was the most special – we headed to Scottsdale, in Arizona, and then drove to California, more precisely to Palm Desert, which we have been visiting every year for the past 6-7 years religiously (we went there by mistake once, and have been back ever since).

California is one of Mr. and Mrs. O's favourite places in the world. Glad we found it by mistake!

California is one of Mr. and Mrs. O’s favourite places in the world. Glad we found it by mistake!

We finished this special trip in San Diego, which is also one of our favourite places in the world. Understated, excellent food and stunning scenery.. what’s not to like?

La Jolla near San Diego, California - one of my happy places

La Jolla near San Diego, California – one of my happy places

We then headed to Miami, for a couple of days in early October – and this is also one of our favourite places in the world. I love the combination of fab hotels, the warm turquoise sea, great dining scene and, I am not going to lie, the shopping. It is pretty close to perfection to me!

My beach in Hollywood... Florida!

My beach in Hollywood… Florida!

In November, we celebrated Mr O’s birthday in NYC – I know I haven’t written about it – but promise to do so in the New Year. And we will be ending our year also in this country – we are heading to Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana for New Years. I am seriously excited!

France

We gave France a miss this year, which means it needs to be corrected asap. We visited twice – and both times for skiing in the French Alps. In March, we headed to Val Thorens, where we have our family and friends annual ski holiday, and in December, I was invited to open the 2012-2013 ski season in Val d’Isere, which we absolutely adored.

The mountains are calling Mrs. O!

The mountains are calling Mrs. O!

But I promise La France a bit more love in 2013 – my first trip of the year will be to Paris, and I am hoping to get to Lyon as well.

I know I am forgetting a place or three, but going through photos and my calendar really brought incredible memories back to life. I know I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel so much – but if you weren’t here reading this article, it would all be pointless.

2013 is looking fantastic – besides my “wishlist” of places I said earlier in the year I would like to visit, we are firming up plans for most of the year. I will be doing a little “Euro tour” in the first quarter of the year, with hops to Paris, Milan, Geneva, Zurich, Verbier, Amsterdam and Berlin already confirmed. I haven’t been to any of these cities for a number of years and will be delighted to go back. Berlin is a place I have always wanted to visit, and delighted to be finally making my way there!

So 40 flights, 80 nights and over 100,000km later, I am happier than ever – I went to incredible places, ate a lot of great food, drank a glass or two of wine, and managed to meet a lot of my friends who are now pretty much anywhere.

Cheers, everyone! Happy 2013!

Cheers, everyone! Happy 2013!

Thank you for your support over the last year, where mrsoaroundtheworld.com got discovered. It was incredible to have been nominated as one of the Top 4 Best Luxury Blogs of the year by TBU, Blogger of the Month by Easyjet and one of the Top 15 Travel Blogs to Watch in 2013 by 101 Holidays (you can read all about those here). I write my blog so my friends and family can refer to when they travelled – I never dreamt that over 25,000 people each month would come back time and time again and follow my tips and trips.

Thank you so much for your time, care and attention. It means the world to me. And a special thank you to Mr. O (who exists, by the way) – who thinks I am a bit mad sometimes, but shares my love for travel and is the best travel companion in the world. And in my life.

Lots of love and wishing for many trips in 2013!

xo

Mrs. O

The Westbury Hotel in Dublin by @lazytravelers

When I heard that The Lazy Travelers were plotting European domination (i.e planning a trip to Switzerland and Ireland) in December 2012, I had to interfere. I had to make sure they would sleep well. In a nice hotel. Having been to Dublin earlier this year, I didn’t have a chance to go back again to this incredible city and accept the lovely invitation from The Doyle Collection. So I sent these lovely New Yorkers instead. Xo Mrs O

The Westbury Hotel in Dublin

The Westbury Hotel in Dublin

On our recent trip to Switzerland and Ireland, we realized something: we are absolute masters of the high-low travel mix. Over the course of seven days, we managed to stay in every type of accommodation: ranging from one very sketchy hostel to an incredible five star hotel – The Westbury Hotel in Dublin.

Along with learning that we have a very low tolerance for shared bathrooms and abnormally small bath towels, we ended our trip learning a much bigger lesson: always finish your vacation in the nicest hotel you can manage.

Though we’ve been fortunate to stay in some amazing hotels before, we usually splurge on properties that are true getaways. As New Yorkers, we’ll spend more money to escape to somewhere with a beach or out in the country, but tend to grin and bear it in cities (see: our hostel in Geneva and every single time we’ve thought it was a good idea to crash on someone’s couch).

Though we pride ourselves on our low-maintenance attitudes, we’re afraid The Westbury completely jaded our expectations of future travel. We got seriously spoiled. Like, seriously.

Location

Situated just off of Grafton Street, The Westbury is in the ideal spot for shopping addicts but is set back just far enough from the hustle and bustle of the main street to maintain a relaxing and quiet environment. We were in the heart of Dublin, which made exploring a city we know so well that much easier, and since we were short on time, we were able to bounce around our favorite neighborhoods with frequent stops at our hotel… i.e. dropping off our shopping bags before hitting the pubs.
Tip: To avoid crowds on Grafton Street during the busier times of the day (so, basically any time after 2 PM, especially during the holidays), use the back exit that takes you out onto Clarendon Street.

The girls loved Afternoon Tea

The girls loved Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

When we arrived at The Westbury, we were enamored with the Christmas decorations adorning the lobby. Afternoon tea amidst the Christmas trees sounded like the perfect way to unwind after the busy morning we had planned, and that couldn’t have been more true. Lucky for us, The Westbury offers a champagne upgrade to the standard tea and sweets, and we can now say that nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like sipping champagne under a giant holiday wreath while spying on tourists buying gifts.
Tip: Try and nab a seat by the window, where it feels a little cozier and you have a view.

The Service

The staff at The Westbury takes care of you. There’s no better way to say it. Upon arrival, our heavy backpacks were whisked off our shoulders and delivered directly to our rooms without a moment’s hesitation. The general manager personally greeted us, and the concierge who escorted us to our room offered us an “orientation” to the room amenities before leaving us to explore. Regularly, the staff checked on us to see if we need water refills, fresh towels, or tidying up.
Tip: The wi-fi wasn’t stellar, though the staff was eager to fix the issue. Keep this in mind if you have an unhealthy addiction to social media.

Not too shabby, is it?

Not too shabby, is it?

The Comfort

Ahhh, the comfort. After two nights sleeping in bunk beds and drying off post-shower with a towel the size of a dinner napkin, we were practically swooning over the plush accommodations in our Westbury rooms. We had to fight the urge to put on our white terry cloth robes, slippers, and toss our feather pillows in the air. Disclaimer: the wino actually did two out of three of these things.
Tip: Ok, don’t actually toss your feather pillows in the air. This is a classy place.

From the towel warmers in the bathrooms to the in-room Nespresso machines offering complimentary coffee to the crystal champagne glasses, The Westbury rooms have absolutely everything you need to make your stay comfortable and luxurious. With a second property in Dublin (The Croke Park Hotel), as well as hotels in London, Boston, and DC, we’re eager to visit more Doyle Collection Hotels in our (hopefully!) near future.

xo! the romantic & the wino

The Lazy Travelers

We are two girls who have survived driving across ireland without a valid license, sleeping on a sailboat in St. Thomas, singing along with drunken expats in a Parisian piano bar, food poisoning in Egypt, and many poorly packed last-minute getaways. we’ve gone on an 8-day proper Irish bender and navigated London in less than 24 hours.  Collectively, we’ve covered four continents, 19 countries, and more than half of America. Maybe we haven’t seen the Spanish Steps due to the world’s worst hangover, but we think we’ve got traveling the globe down to a science.

Disclosure: The Lazy Travelers were guests of the Westbury Hotel. Opinions stated here are, as always, their own