Oak House No.1 Boutique Hotel – A Celebrity Hang Out In The Cotswolds

Oak House No.1 is a luxury boutique hotel in the Cotswolds packed full of intriguing objects and wonderful artworks. These unique and opulent surroundings have attracted many celebrity guests including Martin Freeman, Peter Andre, Tim Minchin, Kelly Jones and more. These rockstars and royalty are attracted by the immaculate and luxurious rooms and the casual and discreet environment.

Oak House No.1 is nestled in the heart of the picturesque, fudge-coloured Cotswolds town of Tetbury. This little town has been wealthy since the 15th-century wool trade. Today it is packed with antiques shops, boutique B&Bs and cutsey shops selling chutneys, cheeses and other local produce. Even Prince Charles has a shop named the Highgrove deli. Being located in the centre of Tetbury, all the local restaurants are just a few moments from the door of Oak House No.1, although the hotel itself is in a quiet and peaceful corner of the finest Georgian square.

In this wonderful part of the Cotswolds, you are ideally located for the Badminton Horse Trials or Polo at Cirencester Park Polo Club. More often than not you will see Prince William at close quarters playing a match, whilst Prince Charles plays at the Beaufort Polo Club just a few minutes away.

In fact, why not book in for a tea with Prince Charles? It is unlikely he will actually show his face for your tea, but you can enjoy his residence which is just a few minutes from Oak House No.1. Highgrove House and Garden Tours with a Champagne Afternoon Tea can be booked in advance and are not to be missed.

The bedrooms at Oak House No.1 have been re-designed to an exceptionally high standard. The walls are painted in bold colours, the furnishings are hugely high end and invite you to snuggle fireside under a cashmere throw. At night, sleep on the world’s finest quality Frette sheets with pillow choices from the finest Siberian goose down to hypo allergenic.

All the essentials are present along with some nice extras; free WiFi, full Sky TV package, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports Channels, an iPod dock, DVD/CD player, silver tea sets with teas, coffee and hot chocolate as well as fresh milk and bottled water.

They have thought of everything at Oak House No.1. Grab a pair of Hunter wellies and thick woolly socks (they supply these in all sizes) and wrap up for a long stroll across the fields to end by the fire of a local country pub. Isn’t what the Cotswolds is all about?

Oak House No.1

Vivosa Apulia Resort – Beach & Spa Paradise in South of Italy

Name: Vivosa Apulia Resort

In this article, I review the beautiful and all inclusive beach paradise that is Vivosa Apulia Resort. Located in the heart of Puglia (Italy’s “boot heel”), the closest airport to to the resort is Brindisi – Salento Airport (BDS / LIBR) around 120 km away and Ryanair offers direct flights from Stansted from £19.99.

Vivosa Apulia Resort Review
Nestling in a pine forest in the south of Puglia lies the fabulous all-inclusive Vivosa Apulia Resort. The hotel offers the perfect beachside retreat facing out across the Ionian Sea in the Salento region of Italy. From here you can enjoy the best of Puglia: crystal clear waters, wonderful food and wine and a fascinating ancient history at the nearby Ugento, Lecce, Gallipoli and Otranto.

Built out of local stone, this eco hotel blends in with the local environment. There are 10 buildings surrounded by pine trees, which host 333 bedrooms. The main building has a large lobby with fireplace and reading area. There are also a number of bars and restaurants, a Spa and an amphitheatre.

Pool & Beach
The central pool, composed of four basins on different levels, offers a great place to sunbathe. The white sand beach is reached by a pretty path and offers a free beach service that includes sun beds and umbrellas. The crystal clear sea with its gently sloping fine sand beach is ideal for children. There is also a great childrens pool

Spa
The hotel also offers plenty of activities including a spa to help you unwind and relax. The Spa has a sauna, hammam, biosauna, fitness centre, lounge area and treatments rooms. The resort also offers an anti-stress programme with a personal trainer and anti-stress coach together with a specialised team who will provide a programme tailored to you.

Rooms
All rooms showcase local styling and feature a balcony or terrace, private shower, air conditioning, television, safe and hairdryer, superior and family rooms are slightly larger.

Food
The all-inclusive package here includes full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in buffet style with snacks, fruits and ice cream in the afternoon. The main restaurant called Via Appia serves a buffet style breakfast, lunch and diner whilst A’ Puteca serves à la carte menu in the evenings offering Mediterranean and regional specialities (but is not included in the all inclusive package). There are 3 bars where you can enjoy free drinks; the beachside Scirocco, the Dolce Vita pool bar and Damiano’s club lounge bar, perfect for spending your evenings outside enjoying a drink and a dance on the terrace. Soft drinks including tea & coffee are included along with alcoholic drinks, including house wines, beer, national spirits and aperifs and house cocktails, served 10am-11pm.

Other Activities
There is a jogging path through the pine forest, you can hire a bike, go horse riding, try archery and bowls as well as joining the gymnastics, aerobics, yoga and pilates classes. There are 2 tennis courts, aqua-gym, beach volleyball, a Simon Elliott Golf Academy providing beginner and advanced lessons as well as sailing, sea kayaking and windsurfing down at the beach.

Families
A mini club offers children (3 to 12 years) a playground, childrens pool with a slide, baby pool and a dedicated area in the main restaurant with buffet service and high-chairs. For the teenagers age 13 to 15 years there is an entertainment program available from July to August. Of course, the private beach is ideal for children of all ages and the evening entertainment can be enjoyed by all the family and includes live music or a show.

Vivosa Apulia Resort offers sunshine filled days on a picture-perfect beach along with all the food you can eat and wine you can drink. With a renowned anti-stress programme, an excellent spa and enough activities to keep even the most energetic active, you will return home from this hidden gem of a resort feeling completely revitalised.

Vivosa Apulia Resort

Review: Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa

Name: Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa

A newly developed resort on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, Tamuda Bay is the perfect travel destination if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday with plenty of sunshine, a beautiful beach, great shops and restaurants and maybe some watersports. The Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa Hotel is ideally located for anyone considering a break here, and with the luxury accommodation and great facilities it has on offer, you won’t need to look anywhere else. Air Arabia Maroc operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Tangier, with a flight time of just under three hours. It’s around an hour and a half’s drive from the airport to the Sofitel Tamuda Bay.

Hotel

This is a beautiful looking hotel, contemporary in design with a fresh and striking colour palette and an ambience evoking the elegance of the French Riviera. With a relaxed, youthful vibe and friendly staff, you will feel your holiday begin from the moment you step inside. The Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa also boasts a wealth of facilities to help you feel relaxed and pampered, including a wellness centre, gym, kids’ villa, restaurant, bar and of course a fabulous swimming pool and beach access.

Rooms

The fresh, vibrant colour scheme carries through to the rooms at the Sofitel Tamuda Bay. Whichever room you choose, you can be sure that you will enjoy a contemporary design, king size bed, free internet, LCD TV, Bose radio, tea and coffee making facilities, a minibar and a safe. The modern bathrooms offer both shower and bathtub, while each room also boasts a private terrace. Some rooms offer a garden or pool view, while others have a view of the sea and larger rooms incorporate a single sofa bed suitable for a child. The hotel has a wide range of suites, where you can enjoy additional space, and some of which boast panoramic Mediterranean views, kitchenettes, generous private terraces and whirlpool baths. There is even the option to stay in your own villa, with private pool and butler service, which could be a great idea if you are travelling with friends or family.

Restaurant and Bar

Le Marche des Saveurs is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a sophisticated setting with chic, contemporary décor. The cuisine is international with plenty of choice – Moroccan, French, Italian and Asian dishes all feature on the menu. The Koudiaz bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a drink in a cosy and relaxed atmosphere, and there are tasting plates available if you’re feeling peckish. Make sure you try one of their signature cocktails.

Pool and Activities

There is a beautiful heated pool to sunbathe beside, and of course the beach is just a stone’s throw away. Kids are well looked after with plenty of activities on offer, and there is a gym as well as a spa offering massages and traditional Hammam treatments. A marina, shops and restaurants can all be found in close proximity to the hotel.

The Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa is a beautiful hotel in one of the most desirable holiday spots in Morocco.

Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa

Review: Business Class Etihad Studio On Boeing 787 Dreamliner

In this trip report I review my flight in Business Class or “Pearl Business” on Etihad Airways 787-900 Dreamliner in the “Business Etihad Studio” from Brisbane to Abu Dhabi. The Dreamliner replaces the Airbus A300 planes that used to connect this route via a detour in Singapore.

I have published several trip reports about my recent flights with Etihad, in Business and First Class. You can read these reviews below:
Review: Etihad A330 Business Class Review Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Business Class On The A380 Abu Dhabi to London
Review: Etihad Airways A380 First Class London to Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Airways A330 Business Class Abu Dhabi to the Maldives
Review: Etihad Airbus A380 First Class Apartment Review London to Abu Dhabi

Advantages of travelling Business Class on Etihad include a chauffeur service to and from the airport (within a certain mileage), priority checkin and boarding.

Review: Air New Zealand Airport Lounge In Brisbane Airport

The new, stylish Air New Zealand lounge comes complete with private shower suites to freshen up before the long flight to Abu Dhabi, along with tarmac views, plenty of comfy seating and a dining area. The food offering includes a big choice of wraps and sandwiches, hot soup with rolls, mains of seasoned chicken and sweets of muffins, jaffa cakes, scones with jam and cream and profiteroles.

Business Class Cabin & Seat

Etihad’s 787-900 Dreamliner features Business Studio seats. These seating booths offer a fully-flat bed extending up to 204cm, complete with the Etihad turndown service (including a mattress, cotton pyjamas and slippers). Each seat has aisle access and there are plenty of useful tables, storage plus a useful footrest for taller travellers. Four different lighting choices create the perfect mood in your Business Studio, ranging from dimmable reading and table lights through to pretty mood lighting.

Each Pearl Business Class Seat is equipped with a personal 18.5-inch LCD screen with plug and play feature that allows passengers to upload their own games and create personalised music playlists. In-flight telephony and WiFi is also available on newer aircraft. Etihad offers more than 750 hours of on-demand entertainment (so-called E-box) with a wide selection of films, tv shows, live tv channels, audio programmes and CDs.

What are the best seats on Etihad’s B787-9 Dreamliner?

See Etihad seat map. I prefer the A & K window seats which face forward and of course have aisle access. I would not choose seat 5 C & H which are facing backwards and are the seats which are closest to the toilet doors for passing traffic.

Before take-off, an amenity kit was offered to all Business Class passengers. The Etihad amenity kit features in my top 10 airline amenity kits. It comes in a small bag and contained a range of skin products including hand lotion and lip balm as well as essentials like socks, eyeshades, earplugs and dental kit.

Food On Etihad

Upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of water, orange juice or Champagne. I also received a refreshing hot towel. Soon after take off, dinner was served. As as starter, I choose the Arabic mezze, a selection of Middle Eastern hot and cold appetizers served with a side of breads including pita, garlic bread and warmed rolls with butter and an olive oil/vinaigrette mix for dipping. Other options included a rare seared tuna with citrus salad, shiso leaves and ponzu dressing and a carrot and coriander soup with double cream.

For main, the choice was between:
Grass-fed fillet of beef served with morel mushroom sauce, seasonable vegetables, roast potatoes and red onion jam.
Vietnamese barramundi, sambal wrapped in banana leaf served with coconut rice and stir-fried vegetables.
Trio of Arabic koftas: beef, lamb and chicken with tomato basil sauce, sayadiah rice, asparagus spears, pumpkin and grilled peppers.
Roasted vegetable terrine with coriander pesto cream sauce and sun-dried tomato.

Dessert was a choice between
Lemon tart served warm with crème anglaise.
Citrus cheesecake with lemon-orange segments and cinnamon glaze.
Seasonal fresh fruit.
A selection of ice cream flavours.

A separate ‘all day’ menu also provides dishes that you can order at any time throughout the flight.

About 60 minutes before landing in Abu Dhabi, I requested a light breakfast: passionfruit smoothie, yoghurt with granola and stewed apple.

If Abu Dhabi is your final destination, business class passengers get access to the Etihad Airways arrivals lounge just beyond UAE passport control where you can enjoy a light breakfast, along with a shower and a straight razor shave.

Etihad Airways’ has the ultimate First Class offering on their A380’s with The Residence (featuring a private living room, separate en-suite shower room, and a bedroom with a double bed). I have written a full review of my last flight in the Etihad First Class Apartment and have taken further pictures on a second trip in Etihad First Class.

Etihad also features in my comparison of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar in Business Class and Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Suites as well as my top 10 airlines for Business Class.

Etihad Airways

Etihad Expanding Dreamliner Services In Northeast Asia

Etihad will be expanding its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services to routes in Northeast Asia and the Levant in 2017, with the aircraft set to begin deployment from March 1.

Dreamliners will begin operating on daily year-round scheduled services to Shanghai from March 1, Beijing from July 1, and Seoul from August 1. Services to Amman and Beirut in the Levant will also receive Dreamliner deployment this year. The carrier is also planning to deploy the aircraft on its Athens route during the summer months. Current configuration of Etihad’s Dreamliners comprises 28 business studios and 271 economy smart seats.

Etihad has ten B787-9s in its fleet, with the airline expecting a phased delivery of nine more this year. The new aircraft form part of a significantly larger order for 61 Dreamliners over the course of the next few years. The airline currently deploys the 787-9 Dreamliner on its Brisbane (see my trip report), Perth,Tokyo and Singapore routes, in addition to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the US.

According to CEO Peter Baumgartner, the airline’s decision has been partly driven by positive customer feedback regarding the aircraft and Etihad’s cabin interiors.

“Today’s travellers are increasingly looking for greater comfort, higher standards, more choice and better convenience as priorities in their decision-making and we, at Etihad Airways, are striving to meet their high expectations through innovations such as introducing new planes to the fleet and continuing to upgrade our routes.”

Etihad Airways’ has the ultimate First Class offering on their A380’s with The Residence (featuring a private living room, separate en-suite shower room, and a bedroom with a double bed). I have written a full review of my last flight in Etihad First Class Apartment and have taken further pictures on a second trip in Etihad First Class.

Etihad also features in my comparison of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar in Business Class and Emirates Vs Etihad First Class Suites as well as my top 10 airlines for Business Class.

Review: Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort

Name: Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula

In January 2017, I had the opportunity to review the Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Danang, Vietnam. The Intercontinental Danang is located near the back of the Son Tra Peninsula, which is also known as Monkey Mountain. It is a 30 minutes’ drive away from downtown Danang and the Danang International Airport. Danang is located along the coast in Central Vietnam.

Resort

The entrance to the resort is near the top of the Son Tra peninsula. The resort sits on 39 hectares of land on the peninsula, from the high entrance point all the way to a 700 meter stretch of private beach on a bay. The sprawling resort uses the sloping terrain to incorporate the buildings around 4 levels – Heaven, Sky, Earth and Sea. The resort is surrounded by lush forests which were nicely preserved and incorporated to create a forest by the beach design.

As I entered the resort, I passed the conference center area called The Summit which also houses the cinema. The check in building was located shortly after the conference center. The attendants took my luggage and ushered me to the check in counters, where I was served a welcome drink and hot towel. At the back of the check in area was a terrace offering a great overall view of the majestic resort and the beautiful beach. The check in building also houses the concierge area which is located one floor below. Next to the concierge area is the teen center, Project VN, which has a pool table, some video games and board games. There is also a small gift shop here selling some local craft products and souvenirs.

Neat cobblestone paths lead the way from the check in area all the way through the different levels of the resort until the Sea level. There were various lookout points to admire the gorgeous views on the winding road down the levels of the resort, as well as many monkey statues in various poses to pay homage to the original residents of the peninsula.

Rooms

Guests are taken to their rooms and suites by golf cart which was a nice touch. All the regular rooms and suites are housed in the bungalows lining the various levels. The colour schemes of the building, (white walls and black wooden pillars), and the design, are inspired by Vietnamese temples. Great attention was paid to the details of the design, from ornate carvings of dragon, elephant, lion and lotus flower motifs to the layout of bricks in the rooms. The landscaping of the resort also seamlessly complimented the design of the resort. I was told that there were 300 gardeners employed just for landscaping maintenance!

Soon, I reached my terrace suite on the Sky level. The room opened to a triangular shaped partition space with a study table behind the bed, and storage areas along the walls. The bathroom and shower room were separately located on the left after the entrance. The shower room featured two sinks, a circular shaped tub and a nice shower area with an overhead rain shower. The bathroom amenities were from HARNN, a luxury Asian brand. Interestingly, the bathroom also placed 2 amenity kits next to the sinks. These amenity kits were similar to premium travel airline amenity kits, complete with essential toiletries like a dental kit, comb, and even eyeshades.

At the back of the room was the king bed and television. A sliding door opened to the huge terrace which had some lounge seats, a high table and offered great views of the ocean and the soothing sound of the waves. Inside the room, there was also an aroma diffuser, creating a pleasant relaxing ambience.

After settling in, I requested for a buggy service to head to the Sea level. As the resort was very spread out, guests have to call the operator to send a buggy to get around. This generally took about a 10 minutes wait. Soon, the buggy arrived, and I headed down to the Sea level. On the way, I passed by La Maison 1888, the on-site French restaurant housed in an elegant French styled mansion. The award winning restaurant was run by Pierre Gagnaire, a 3 star Michelin chef. The restaurant offers fine French dining, with private dining options available in the various themed rooms. The mansion also hosts Buffalo bar as a separate drinking area.

Sea Level Beach & Pool

Sea level was a long stretch by the beach and houses various facilities. The Barefoot restaurant was located at the left of the entrance of the Sea level, and overlooks the sand and the beach. The restaurant offers casual dining with various live seafood options. At the right of the entrance was the resort pool which was heated. Next to this pool was the HARNN spa and the renowned French pedi:meni:cure studio by Bastien Gonzalez.

The 700 meter stretch of private beach was further back, and features beach chairs with umbrellas to lounge in. Unfortunately, the period in which I visited was at the tail end of the rainy season, so the water was a bit choppy. I was told that during the summer, the water here is calm and has great waves, as it is sheltered by the bay of the Son Tra peninsula.

Bar & Play Area

To the right side of the Sea level was the L_o_n_g bar, which, as its name suggests, was a bar with long tables running the length of the dining area. The bar serves a variety of drinks and signature monkey cocktails which were very delicious. At the side of the bar, there was a kids club, Planet Trekkers, where I saw a few kids playing happily with the nannies. Families who come to the resort can send their young children here as a complimentary service while the parents get some time alone. Opposite this area was a decently size gym with a good mix of equipment and weights. On top of the L_o_n_g bar was the L_o_n_g pool. This pool was an infinity pool, and was much bigger than the resort pool, but it was not heated. There were also lounging chairs here, and even cabanas!

Villas

At the far right end of the beach, there were a few large villas ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms. The villas were slightly further from the resort, but offer more luxurious services such as a butler, a chauffeur, a chef as well as facilities such as private pools. For those who want to be nearer to the facilities, there were also other smaller villas and penthouse options nearer to the pool area. During my stay, I also had the opportunity to visit the penthouse and a one bedroom seaside villa. These rooms were beautifully decorated and suitable for those who desire a larger space.

Another interesting feature of this resort was the cable car system called the Nam Tram, which goes from the bottom of the resort at the Sea level to all the various other levels. The tram was staffed by attendants 24 hours a day. I took the tram back up to the Heaven level. The waiting area at the Heaven level was located in between the check in building and another building housing Citron, the main restaurant where the breakfast buffet was served. The breakfast buffet spread was quite extensive, with various pastries, cold cuts, Asian and Western main courses and pastries available. Fresh egg omelettes and noodles could also be ordered from the counters. At the edge of the restaurant, there were a few balcony seats set on an inverted cone shaped pod. These round tables offered a great view of the resort and ocean, on top of an al fresco dining experience.

Club Lounge

There was another separate building connected to the end of Citron. This was the Club Lounge of the resort, and it was a small rotunda building by itself. There was both indoor and outdoor seating, but the outdoor seatings were largely unavailable during my stay there as the weather was a bit wet. The lounge was more intimate, and had 3 meal services a day – breakfast, afternoon tea as well as evening cocktails and canapes. I had the afternoon tea service one day, and was offered a good combination of Asian and western food. Tea and coffee were also available. In the evenings, the cocktail reception had a good variety of wine, hard liquor, beer and bubbly drinks – champagne, and even blanc de blancs! There was also a small buffet with finger food, on top of the selection of hot canapes served.

One thing that really stood out during my stay here was the hospitality and warmth that was given by the staff. All the waiters and waitresses were very attentive and friendly when they were serving, and often engaged the guests to seek feedback or offer suggestions. Many of the staff were happy to mention that the resort had won many awards. I think that the staffs’ great attitude definitely played an important role in winning the awards as well!

Other facilities that were available in the resort that I saw but did not manage to use were the differently themed karaoke rooms located one storey below Citron restaurant as well as the few retail shops at the Heritage Village. The resort also has daily activities for guests of the resort such as yoga, tai chi, cooking classes, craft classes, movies and karaoke. There was also a daily trekking trip to explore the flora and fauna of the Son Tra nature reserve. I did however, use their complimentary shuttle bus from the resort to Danang city and Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage City about 30 minutes away from Danang. The shuttle bus takes 2 trips a day, which provides ample time to do a day trip to Hoi An.

At the end of my stay, I left this resort with a heavy heart. For those traveling to other domestic destinations in Vietnam, there was still one last chance to experience the resort, albeit partly, as the resort actually has a special Intercontinental Danang lounge at the domestic terminal at Danang Airport. This lounge also serves as an arrival lounge for those who would like to relax and refresh upon arrival at the airport before heading to the resort. Unfortunately, I was taking an international flight, and did not manage to enjoy this lounge.

The Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula had completely exceeded my expectations with their superb setting, facilities and service. The hospitality level that the resort provides is world class, and they definitely deserve their 3 consecutive World’s Leading Luxury Resort award by the World Travel Awards (WTA). I wholeheartedly recommend this resort, and will definitely love to return to the resort in the future!

Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula

Review: Virgin Atlantic’s New Clubhouse At Gatwick North Terminal

Virgin Atlantic has released pictures of its brand new Clubhouse airport lounge at Gatwick’s North terminal. Virgin Atlantic (along with Easyjet) now operates from the North terminal. British Airways now flies out of the South terminal.

The new Clubhouse lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows for natural light and views across the runway. The centre piece of the Clubhouse is a marble bar, and the airline has partnered with East London cocktail bar White Lyan for a selection of exclusive cocktails.

The menu features Virgin’s Clubhouse burger alongside a variety of breakfast and lunch options on the a la carte menu. There is a woodland-themed play area filled with toys and games for children.

There is also a spa area with double the number of treatment rooms from the previous Clubhouse in Gatwick’s South Terminal.

Mark Anderson, Virgin Atlantic’s Executive Vice President, Customer, commented;

“We want our customers to have the best possible experience at the airport and those visiting the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse will be in for a real treat. Cocktails designed by award winning mixologists, hearty food options and relaxing spa treatments, all set within a luxurious environment, really make for a truly and memorable customer experience. Our Gatwick customers travel to a variety of global destinations, and whether they’re planning to relax in the Caribbean or soak up the theme parks in Orlando, our new Clubhouse will make the start of any break truly special.”

I have also reviewed The Clubhouse at London Heathrow. The Clubhouse also has outposts in LAX, Newark, JFK, San Francisco, Boston, Washington Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Gatwick. These lounges are fun, well designed and offer better food than the BA Galleries lounges. To find out which other ways Virgin is better than British Airways read my article on British Airways Vs Virgin Atlantic. Both airlines feature in my top 10 best airlines for longhaul Business Class.

Virgin Atlantic

Tom Ford Spellbinding Fragrances For Valentines

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid Lumière & Private Blend Vert de Fleur are two of Tom Ford’s latest fragrances.

Ton Ford Velvet Orchid Lumière, is a fresh new interpretation of the Velvet Orchid Eau de Parfum. It opens with a blend of Italian bergamot, mandarin, honey and rum. Its heady floral heart includes notes of rose, orchid and jasmine on the base of sandalwood, vanilla and myrrh. The fragrance is strong and boozy with hints of rum and very very sophisticated. Like the original Velvet orchid but a bit lighter. Rich but more velvety, creamy and sunny. Like a bit of milk and honey is added to the original and only the lightest spray will last all day.

Tom Ford also recently released Private Blend Vert De Fleur, which marks the fourth fragrance within the Tom Ford Private Blend. It is completely different from Velvet Orchid but equally lovely. It hints 70s glamour but with a modern flourish of iris and hyacinth. Vert de Fleur is Tom Ford’s floral subversion of classic green. The fragrance opens with emergent hyacinth and galbanum notes wrapped in a re ned embrace of neroli, bergamot and basil. A velvet oralcy lies at the heart of the scent, which includes a luxurious blend of iris butter, jasmine sambac and rose balanced by orange flower. Woody notes include warm vetiver and patchouli against dark oakmoss and brilliant green. Blend Vert De Fleur really does smell green with a touch of spicy pine.

Whatever you prefer, if you are still searching for that special present, these should impress your sweetheart.

Tom Ford

My Flight: a review of Qantas First Class A380 from Dubai to London

Departure: 2.25 am 

Arrival: 6.55 am

Flight Duration: 7 hours (approx)

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite 4

Check-in 

We arrived at the terminal at 11.30pm in the evening, with a good 3 hours to spare before our flight. We made our way to the premium side of the terminal and found the check-in desks dedicated exclusively for this flight. I wasn’t sure if we were to use Emirates’ check-in, but that was not the case.

We did not see a single person by the time we entered this terminal – we checked in alone in about 3 minutes and we made our way to security.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london checking at DXB airport

Security

At this time of the night (and surprisingly, to be very honest), we did not see a single person except airport staff. Security took a minute each and was no trouble at all. We walked a fair bit to the train stop which we had to board to get to the departures area. The shuttle took a good 10 minutes to arrive but we saw other passengers at last as everyone gets the same shuttle, of course.

We spent a few minutes at the Duty Free and shopping area – which was seriously disappointing. With this being Emirates’ new terminal, I was (naively) expecting a world class shopping arcade, but besides overpriced drinks and camel chocolates, there wasn’t much to buy. So we didn’t!

The Lounge

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london emirates first class lounge DXB airport

We made our way to Emirates’ First Class Lounge – due to the codeshare between Qantas and Emirates, all Qantas passengers use the Emirates facilities and I have to say – there were some really really cool features about it.

First… well… the proper shops (or some proper shops like Tiffany & Co. etc) are actually located inside the lounge. I liked that, a lot. You can also get some premium whiskies and I hope next time there will be more fashion. Because it was actually a fabulous concept.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london emirates first class lounge DXB airport dining

The lounge is huge (and a tad sterile at the same time) and I would guess there were probably only 50 passengers using at the time – either that, or everyone was hiding.

We had dinner a few hours prior in Dubai (we actually went to Abu Dhabi on this trip) and weren’t hungry – but had a look at the buffet and the a la carte options which looked excellent. But I can only assume they were as we did not try it.

The only thing I wanted to do was have a glass or three of champagne and the only option was Moet Brut. Yup. Not a mistake. And this really surprised me. The funniest thing was that I posted a photo on Instagram and then got quite a few comments from readers saying exactly the same. What an odd choice of champagne for an airline’s flagship lounge. Drinks are technically self-serve – but there as there were such few passengers, if you looked at one thing, it would be bought to you. The staff always made sure our glasses were topped – to the point where we had to say ‘no more, please’.

I was looking forward to a spa treatment (some are complimentary to First Class passengers), but there were no slots available. Having a few hours to kill, I got excited that there was actually a hair and beauty salon, but there was no one working at at time, which is understandable. More airports should have hair salons!

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london emirates first class lounge DXB airport smoking area quiet area

Worth noting that there is also a separate lounge for smokers – with full food and drinks service and fully staffed. Also, there are various quiet areas with day beds which looked very nice.

And last but not the least… my favourite part of the lounge – you get to your gate directly from the lounge, via a lift. This terminal is exclusive for A380s, so set up for double decker planes. I really liked this and within minutes, we cleared all the boarding procedures (if you look at the photo above, you will see a small boarding desk). Got on the lift, and we were on the plane.

The Flight

–          Welcome 

We got a welcome indeed. The crew were brilliant from the moment we boarded the plane until we left. Lots of smiles, good commentary and yes, we knew we were on an Australian airline. We were escorted to our seats quickly and our jackets were taken from us.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite 1

–          The Cabin 

This cabin had quite an usual configuration, offering 3-per row seats (one by each window, and one in the middle), and it had 5 seats on the window sides and 4 in the middle, making it possible to accommodate 14 passengers.

The ‘first class suites’ and the whole cabin was beige with wooden accents and dark flooring. I did not notice if there was a Qantas logo at all, but it felt very bland. If it wasn’t for the accents of the crew (lovely lovely crew), I would not have guessed where I was, in all honesty.

–          Drinks service 

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london comtes de taittinger champagne menu

We were immediately asked if we would like a glass of something to drink and I asked what champagne they were serving. I loved that it was Taittinger’s Comtes de Taittinger 2005 – a great upgrade from what we had earlier. Not sure how we got into the Moet at the lounge (but another passenger also chimed in, which was hilarious), and the crew made sure we all got a second glass as the first one was to ‘cleanse the palate’. We were also served nuts and olives (the latter is very rare and I loved it because I love olives).

–          The seat 

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite details

Our seats (or suites) were very spacious as you can see from the images above – and as you can see, allowed for couples dining (which we did not test as this was a sleeper service and straight to work the following day for both of us).

I took that photo of me wearing the seatbelt only to show you that it is different from the normal ones, which clasp in your lap. This one is a 3-part seatbelt and the extra bit is necessary due to the design of the suites. Because of its shape, if there was serious turbulence, you’d hit the back of the seat in front, and this prevents it. (I only know this because the lady who was part of the design team of BA’s First Class Suites told me).

There was plenty of storage, including various USB ports and power sockets. I like when there are drawers and nooks so you can hide all your bits – and no complaints there.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite seat controls

I also really liked the ‘remote’ which controlled the IFE and the seat itself. I did try the massage bit for fun and the whole system was very very easy to use. I loved the ‘Time to Destination’ feature which appeared by default – when I am asleep I am obsessed with the time I have left and it meant I didn’t have to have the inflight map (and the TV) on.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite 2

Service was super attentive and friendly and after dinner, we were asked if we wanted to sleep and the crew made up the bed. We had 2 pillows (instead of one, which was very good) and the bedding was nice too.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite flat bed

–          Amenities

There was a his and hers version, but I have to say – it was poor. I knew that Qantas has a collaboration with Kate and Jack Spade in business class (and the actual toiletry bags are fabulous and change all the time – and they sell on eBay for over $75) and I was expecting something even better in First. Well. We were given these fake leather pouches with SK-II products (which are good), but the whole thing (maybe because of the Rexona deodorant) did not feel luxurious or special at all.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite SKII toiletries

I left mine behind on the plane. But a lovely reader has sent me a Kate Spade one (from Qantas business class as he had 2), and I use it all the time. It is brilliant for cables etc when you travel – and in my opinion, Qantas could do a bit better in first class. Just my opinion.

–          In-flight dining

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london dinner and breakfast sleeper service

As I had dinner a good 4 hours before, and I had not eaten at the lounge, I was a bit pecking and the idea of a steak sandwich sounded brilliant. Sadly, the bread was dry and so was the steak, so it really wasn’t a success. The upside? The ice cream was brilliant and I had 3 tubs.

There was a selection of Australian wines (2 reds, 2 whites and 1 dessert), and I had a glass of a Hunter Valley Shiraz which was lovely.

We asked not to be woken up for breakfast, but the request backfired as breakfast started being served a good 2h30 before landing and everyone was awake and quite loud. I understand that the end was near for those flying all the way from Sydney, but for those catching the red-eye from Dubai to London, it was far from ideal. And I am used (and grateful) for British Airways’ letting you have breakfast 1h to 40 minutes prior to landing, so this was pretty strange.

I ended up having some fruit, a lovely peach juice and an espresso coffee. There was also a (seriously) extensive selection of teas available.

–          In-flight entertainment 

No problems here – the screen was massive and worked well. I also really liked the ‘Australian’ flavour in the programming and benefitted from the difference in film release dates (ha!). In honour of Australia, I watched ‘The Dressmaker’ with Kate Winslet which was set there.

We were given noise-cancelling headphones, but I preferred to use my in-ear Bose, which makes it easier to sleep.

flight review qantas first class 380 dubai to london first class suite toilets and stairs

Cost

A return flight from London to Dubai in first class with Qantas costs around £4,000-5,000. We bought a business ticket with British Airways which cost £2,500 and upgraded with Avios (50,000 each, I believe) on this leg, which made it a very good deal.

Final thoughts

I thought the service was brilliant – probably one of the most enthusiastic and personable crews I have met (and I do not say this lightly). I thought the cabin was bland and really beige – it didn’t give me a great sense of place (or airline). But the seats were very spacious and the champagne was definitely Mrs. O approved.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Until the next flight…

xo

Mrs. O

PS. You can also read other flight reviews – BA Club World (Business Class) between London and LA on the A380, American Airlines Business Class between London and Miami,  BA Club World (Business Class) between LHR and JFK, World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) on the new A380, and for the BA001 all business class service from London City to JFK. See also other airlines including Qatar Airways (Dreamliner), Jet Airways (Premiere) and JetBlue (Mint).

A hotel to remember: Baros Maldives

When I ‘announced’ that I was going to Baros Maldives on a recent trip, something quite special happened: I had literally dozens of readers comment and react to the news in a very unique way. Why? Because many of you have discovered this Maldivian secret sailing paradise and have been going back year after year.

Having been there for 5 days on a recent trip – it is easy to understand why. It is a very small island (with only 70 something rooms, both over water and beach villas), service is incredibly attentive and it does feel like home. You all got to know the staff, or better, the staff got to know you over time and you are not interested in anything else except going back. I get it!

We arrived to this little piece of paradise by speedboat from Male airport (takes 25 minutes and transfers are included for all Sovereign customers) and before we knew it, we really were ready to enjoy our gorgeous beach pool villa at Baros Maldives.

Our beach pool villa at Baros Maldives

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays bedroom beach pool villa

Our room was absolutely gorgeous and very very recently updated. The standard was very good and it felt spacious yet very comfortable. These beach pool villas are 130+ sqm and as private as they get.

We had a king size bed with a pop-up TV at the end of it, a seating area and a writing area. The room also had a sizeable storage area which kept our luggage out of sight.

You could also find a Nespresso coffee machine, 2 1.5l bottles of water (replaced every day free of charge), ironing board, iron and new flip-flops.

Being a beach pool villa (which I have to say, is my favourite room category in the Maldives), you have a large outdoor area with your own secluded pool, day bed, 2 sets of sunloungers (one for the pool and one for the beach) and a seating area.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays outdoor beach pool villa

Getting in the spirit of the island, we also ordered breakfast and lunch almost every day – because it rained sometimes, and also because we just didn’t want to leave. And I am sure you can see why we did it!

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays breakfast beach pool villa

But needless to say, the best part is, without a doubt, your own ‘private’ stretch of beach. You have your own sun loungers and no one else can use them. We had neighbours as the hotel was at full capacity when we were there, but they were all very quiet. The hotel caters to adults mostly (children under 8 are not allowed) and those who choose this island resort do so to get away from it all. Literally.

The bathroom at Baros Maldives

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach pool villa bathroom

Our bathroom was mostly indoors and was very spacious. Inside we had a full-sized bath (and don’t you love that bath tray?), separate toilet, shower and double vanity units. The toiletries used were L’Occitane Verbena range which were lovely. My only comment was that we did not have spares for the outdoor shower (but we left a note to housekeeping and they then kept replacing them in both showers).

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach pool villa bathroom outdoor shower nespresso

As expected, the room was cleaned each morning and then turned down before dinner. We never had issues with timings and more often than not, they managed to do it whilst we had breakfast. Overall, service was excellent.

The food at Baros Maldives

Being a smaller island, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of dining options. But they weren’t as limited as I thought: for breakfast you could go to the excellent buffet breakfast (which also offered many cooked-to-order items like eggs, pancakes, etc) or you could order in-villa (with an extra charge).

My highlight for breakfast was having fruit actually cut and prepared in front of you and also what the hotel called ‘Eye-opening shots’, which changed every day. It was a little detail, but a lovely one.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays breakfast dinner food restaurants

Lime was also opened for lunch (we did try it once, but then indulged in our room every day) and dinner – and we loved the curry options they had. Lots of international cuisine (something for everyone), but we really did enjoy the various types of curry.

On two of the nights we went to Cayenne, which has more of a grill concept, with a starters buffet, which had really good sushi and sashimi options. We then chose the Maldivian seafood platter (approx $130 for 2) which we paired with Cloudy Bay, of course ($120/bottle).

On our last night, we tried the Lighthouse, which is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. We started our meal outside but due to the rain, we moved inside. The food was excellent and a meal will cost approximately $100-150 per person, depending on what you choose and excluding drinks.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays dinner food restaurants

On the photo above you can see Lime from 2 different perspectives (and also the Lighthouse restaurant).

Below, you can see the main bar (which I found incredibly quiet at all times, and honestly quite surprising as people did disappear immediately after dinner), and the ‘Lighthouse’ restaurant.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays lighthouse restaurant

I know you must be asking.. what about the drinks? Well, there were also options. We loved watching the sun set every day at the Lighthouse Lounge, located on the first floor of the building and enjoyed what I can call, gin & tonics with a view. (A Gin will cost you around $17 plus service and tax, which you can round-up to $22)

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays cocktails

We asked for them to be served in a wine glass and no one batted an eye lid. Even better, each day they remembered ‘our preference’ – which was kind of followed by other guests too!

After dinner, we did go to the main bar, but as I said before, we found it very quiet at around 9pm. Cocktails are $15 (+service + tax) and we ended up going to the room earlier than normal as we did feel a bit lonely at times.

The Spa at Baros Maldives

As the weather wasn’t brilliant at times, the spa was our to-to place when it rained (in the afternoon). We had a massage every day (60 mins for $159 ++) and one day we even tried a private yoga class ($60 ++ per person).

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays spa massage

Most hotel spas in the Maldives are ‘over water’ and I loved that this one was inland – very different and so so so green. It had ‘little houses’ which were self-contained treatment rooms and the therapists really were fantastic.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays spa massage yoga lessons

What do to at Baros Maldives

I know many readers worry about going to the Maldives ‘as there is nothing to do’. I have said many times that you need to be prepared for something unique: Maldives time. It goes so quickly, it is quite unbelievable.

We had planned to do some SUP and other things (like a sandbank picnic and the unique breakfast in the middle of the ocean), but the weather did not allow it. But when we had sun, which was actually every day for at least half the day, we did something we are very good at: we went to the beach where we swam, sat and read.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach fun beach pool villa

And we did it again and again…

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach reading beach pool villa

But the highlight was a private snorkelling session ($100 for 2) – which I highly recommend you do at the beginning. You will then know where to go, etc. And you also get photos!

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays snorkelling

Final thoughts

It was easy to see why most people go to Baros and return time after time. The island is small – but not too small – but everything has a purpose and place. The service was really attentive and friendly (lots of smiles), the rooms were exceptional and the food was really good too.

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach sunset

And the sunsets were not bad either ?

Until the next time!

xo

Mrs. O

Factbox and disclaimer: I was a guest of Sovereign Luxury, who organised this trip. Opinions are, as always, my own (but I loved it, promise).

Sovereign ( Tel: +44 1293 765 003) is offering a seven-night holiday to the Maldives staying at the five-star Baros Maldives in a Pool Villa on B&B basis from £3,895 per person – a saving of up to £1006 per couple. The offer includes airport security fast track and access to UK private airport lounge (where available), airport transfers, and return international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways in economy class. For business class flights, the cost is £5,279 per person. Based on departures 14 May 2017.