A lux weekend in Los Angeles, California

I love LA. I love LA. I love LA. I know it is a love or hate city (and a very large city at that), but I am a fan. I am even a bigger fan of a little nice ‘mini-city’ (in true American style, of course) called Beverly Hills. You *may* have heard about it.

Ahhh Beverly Hills!

Ahhh Beverly Hills!

After a delightful 6 days in Palm Desert, we stopped over in LA for 2 nights, intending to make the most of three full days. We have found that some time in LA at the end of our usual California summer trip, prepares us for returning back to the UK. More about that later.

On our previous trip we absolutely adored the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, so we decided to come back – some hotels are truly special (and in LA you are spoiled for choice, for the record), and this one is one of the O’Reilly favourites. It has a very interesting location, a couple of blocks from everything you would want – and I like the peace and quiet it gets you.

Coolest welcome amenities ever at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills? Gin cocktails and chocolate, please!

Coolest welcome amenities ever at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills? Gin cocktails and chocolate, please!

This time, we were not disappointed either. At all. We had a beautiful suite, very similar to the one we had before, and the most thoughtful welcome amenity ever – Gin cocktails (hum hum) and, well…, chocolate. Mr. O could not resist a bite of the ‘Holly’ bit, bless him.

Our plan in town was simple – meet friends, no shopping as no further luggage space available (it will become clearer later, bear with me), go to the spa and catch some rays at the pool. This was supposed to be a preparation for the return to real life in England. Baby steps, as they say.

So our first stop was… drum roll… the pool.

The lovely pool at the Four Seasons LA

The lovely pool at the Four Seasons LA

Quiet and private – in other words, perfect for me. Really perfect. At the end of the afternoon, Mr. O went to the spa, whereas I got myself a hair appointment at the nearby The Dry Bar in West Hollywood (which is an invention which desperately needs to come to the UK – someone please open one!) When in LA, one needs truly fab hair – and I love my LA hair.

We stayed in at the hotel in the evening. Why? Because I now have a little (well, it is in its 2nd year) tradition, whereby I organise a little drinks party with my LA friends that happen to be in town, and it is always so nice. The bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons, called Culina, is really nice and you just don’t want to leave. And you may even spot some very interesting people, take note. I cannot divulge any further information.

See? I told you! Photo by Four Seasons

See? I told you! Photo by Four Seasons

We went to bed quite early, as we were still on holiday and it would be our last chance for a full 10-hour sleep – no judging, please. And when we woke up, in our stunning suite, We did something we very rarely do – order breakfast in bed. I cannot explain why, but it was just what we wanted.

Simple, tasteful decor and a lot of Old Hollywood charm. Made me very happy!

Simple, tasteful decor and a lot of Old Hollywood charm. Made me very happy!

The next day, we were very lazy and spent most of it by the pool. Because it was so lovely – and we knew the moment we got on that plane, Summer would be over forever. And ever.

I think we did not move for hours, stayed in for lunch (which was delicious, by the way) and at around 4pm, finally decided to explore the city a bit more, just so we would say we did nothing but stay by the pool.

The food was phenomenal. And the cocktails.. well...

The food was phenomenal. And the cocktails.. well…

We went for a little drive around Beverly Hills and after we realised where the restaurant we were due to go was located, we decided to go to the Beverly Center, which is a huge mall, for one last-minute bit of shopping (you never know what you might find. For others, of course). We were meeting my instagram and twitter friend Molly and her husband for a great casual seafood dinner at Son of a Gun, on West Third Street, not far at all from the hotel. I had never been to that street before, and was really pleasantly surprised with the variety of bars, restaurants and boutiques, and promise to go back in day light next time we are in town.

We went back to the hotel for a final round of drinks and the next morning, had to cut our sleep short as we had to be ready to go at 10am. That meant a single-digit- sleep (the horror!), which was totally worth it as we had something very cool planned for the morning: a private 2-hour guided tour of LA with Glitterati, and a photo shoot with Flytographer.

If you are going to do it, do it properly... Top and right photo by Flytographer.

If you are going to do it, do it properly… Top and right photo by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

Bryan, our guide and driver (see? Men can multitask), picked us up from the hotel and I knew I had nothing to worry about for the next 2 hours and a bit. We had plenty of refreshments and cupcakes (ha ha!). I have been to LA a good 10 times and know the area (Greater is LA is really large) reasonably well, but it was really nice to have someone who knew what they were doing show you around and actually take us a) to places where we had never been to before and b) places we had been ages ago and never managed to go back to.

On our tour, we picked the whirlwind version, of around 2 hours, depending on LA traffic, of course. We started with a drive through Melrose Avenue, then made our way into Hollywood to see the last of the major studios still in the area. I also got to stop outside the Scientology Celebrity Centre and Katie managed to take some good photos which no one will never know about, of course.

It was nice to get out of the city for a bit too! photo by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

It was nice to get out of the city for a bit too! Photo by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

Needless to say, a photo-op of the Hollywood sign was a must, so we zigzagged our way into the hills for a close up. Or three.  We then headed to Hollywood Boulevard with its Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese and Dolby Theatres and made our way west through the Sunset Strip to view the some interesting homes of relatively known people of Beverly Hills.

More moments from our Glitterati tour. It was fab having the car stop so close to where we needed to go and just hop in and out. Photo by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

More moments from our Glitterati tour. It was fab having the car stop so close to where we needed to go and just hop in and out. Photos by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

Bryan was really funny and entertaining and I have to say, we had a great time – it went so quickly, I cannot tell you. Kate, our Flytographer, ended up staying with us for the whole tour, as she also found it interesting, despite being an ‘Angelena’ (is that what the inhabitants of LA are called?).

Before we knew it, we were back at the hotel, where we had to finish packing and then slowly make our way to London, via New York (just so I could finally have lunch with Luxury Travel Mom for the first time ever). Mad, I know, but totally worth it.

A decent amount of luggage for 2 weeks, non??

A decent amount of luggage for 2 weeks, non??

But needless to say, we had a really good time in LA – no late nights this time, but of course, there is always next summer, right?

LA has always been kind to us (except with the traffic some times). But we shall be coming back for more, for sure.

LA has always been kind to us (except with the traffic some times). And we shall be coming back for more, for sure.  Photo by Kate Doherty for Flytographer.

xo

Mrs O

Disclaimer and Fact Box: a huge thank you to those who made this trip extra special, namely the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills,  Glitterati and Flytographer.

SLEEP: At the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills from $500 per night, with suites starting from $900.

SEE: A private 2-hour tour with Glitterati costs $139 per hour, with a minimum of two hours (not per person).

REMEMBER: A 30-minute photo shoot with Flytographer costs $250, and $350 for an hour.

My hOtel: Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Turkey

myhotel

Hard to believe it was once a prison...

Hard to believe it was once a prison…

Pre-Arrival

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

My stay was organised months in advance, via email (very organised, I know!) and prior to me arriving, the hotel did send out some tweets indeed. I was arriving very late (you can read about my trip here) and I wanted to make sure I was able to eat something on arrival.

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

They did indeed.

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

At this stage, it is fair to say that the Four Seasons know me quite well – I never ask for anything special and if at a Four Seasons, I know everything I need will be there.

Arrival

I have really never visited a prison, but this one felt very homely.

I have really never visited a prison, but this one felt very homely. Photo by Four Seasons.

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

We arrived past midnight and assume we were the last guests to check-in, so the doorman actually knew our names, which made for a very nice welcome. Our check-in form had been pre-filled in, so we were to complete check-in in our room – something that happens more and more and I find such a nice touch. Obviously at this time of the day (or night!), there were no queues and we really appreciated the gesture.

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

Well, extremely efficient as stated before. We just signed everything and provided our credit card details.

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

Oh yes, right when we stepped out of our airport car.

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

I wasn’t sure which room I got, and was delighted to be given a one bedroom suite.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

In all honesty, the staff were exceptional – and that is what made this stay so unique.

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

We actually never saw our luggage, which was taken straight to our room.

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

All Four Seasons hotels now provide free wifi (at regular speed), and also offer a paid faster offer.

Room Experience

I never stayed at a suite at a Four Seasons I did not love...

I never stayed at a suite at a Four Seasons I did not love…

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Our suite was incredible and huge, and very very well-appointed. I loved how the gentleman who escorted us to our room prepared us for what was to come, by saying ‘you know this was a prison before? we tried to stay as true to the roots of this building and provide an experience as close as possible to the original’. I had to think twice to get what he was saying and really did laugh.

The suite has a large corridor, a great living room, bedroom, dressing area and a fab bathroom. More on that later.

–          Welcome amenity

Tough to beat a Four Seasons welcome... I tell you!

Tough to beat a Four Seasons welcome… I tell you!

Remember when I said I would be hungry and wanted to make sure there would be something to eat? Well, I wasn’t exactly expecting a model of the Bosphorus bridge, complete with a cheese selection, lots of nibbles and a bottle of red wine. But we ate it all, almost!

On the second night, we were surprised by some Gin & Tonics, which really was a nice touch.

–          The bed

Four Seasons beds have a real problem - you don't want to leave them...

Four Seasons beds have a real problem – you don’t want to leave them…

The bed was indeed wonderful and incredibly comfortable, as expected.

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

No problems here!

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

There was a Bose docking station for iPhone 4 which we did not use.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

I always say I never use the bathrobes or slippers unless it is more of a spa hotel, but I had to. I had to. Why? Because the hotel provided me with kids slippers and adult small ones, and I thought it was the sweetest thing. For the record, I have small feet (size 36 EU, 3.5 UK, 6 USA) and hotel slippers are always huge. So I have to report I was heartbroken when the kiddie ones were a tad too small – but the others were OK. The hotel also provided 2 different types of robes, and I adored the printed ones. I did wear them around, and if they were a tad smaller, I would have purchased one.

It is all about the details... and do you recognise who is on that photo frame?

It is all about the details… and do you recognise who is on that photo frame?

–          Coffee and Tea

There was a Nespresso coffee machine, which we did not use.

–          Free bottled water

Of course, and changed daily.

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

I had a copy of Four Seasons magazine.

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

We had a bit of an issue, but found sockets near the desk, where we charged all our devices.

Bathroom

Totally my kind of bathroom

Totally my kind of bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The first thing I noticed was the rug, which was very different from normal and really gave a sense of place to the hotel. I knew I was in Istanbul, Turkey, at all times and I loved the decor of the hotel. The bathroom was very well-appointed indeed.

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

We had a bath tub (which we did not use) and a fabulous shower room, which a very good shower head. I did have to ask Mr. O for instructions, but we now have a system where he goes first and then figures it out.

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

Very very good.

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

We had Bulgari toiletries, which are nice, although I am not keen on the shampoo/conditioner.

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

I LOVED the clear liquid bags provided by the hotel (I only saw them once before at the FS Boston). I am not even ashamed to say that I brought them all back with me.

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

I did not use it on this occasion, but located the hairdryer which looked proper.

Breakfast

The very nice breakfast room

The very nice breakfast room

–          Décor of breakfast room

We loved the breakfast room, especially the fact that we were able to enjoy an alfresco meal on the first day, and had to retreat indoors on the other days.

–          The spread (inc yumminess)

Mr. O declared this to be one of the Top 3 breakfasts he ever had – which is saying something. The spread pleased locals and any international tourists, and I have to say, the ‘Turkish options’ were outstanding. I have very good memories from my breakfasts in this part of the world and I won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry. I also discovered for the first time in 10 years that Mr. O was obsessed with honeycomb, which was one of the stars of the show.

No words, no words. Good thing calories do not count when you are abroad.

No words, no words. Good thing calories do not count when you are abroad.

–          Cost (I have seen a hotel charging €75 for breakfast – a tad much, maybe?)

We paid £35 for two (it was included in our room rate, but we still signed the bill), which was actually incredible value.

Bar

Not my favourite part of the experience, but the cocktails were awesome.

Not my favourite part of the experience, but the cocktails were awesome.

I have to confess, I did not love the bar – I found it too stiff and not very comfortable. There was also another area, where we ended up sitting and having a cocktail, but I found it uninspiring, quite a contrast with the rest of the hotel. The gin selection was quite limited (for Mr. O), but I had a great dirty martini.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

Worked very well indeed. No issues at all.

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

A little bit, yes.

–          Location

How close can you get??

How close can you get??

If you are visiting Istanbul as a tourist and plan to visit the old town (you can read all about my trip here), this is possibly the best location ever. We were actually able to walk to quite a few places.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

Standard rooms start from 380 Euros and suites from 740 Euros.

Beautiful courtyard.

Beautiful courtyard.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Without a doubt.

–          Would I stay again?

Any. Time. Any. Time.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. 

My hOtel: Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen, Denmark

myhotel

The grand dame of Danish hospitality, the Hotel d’Angleterre, in Copenhagen, was the only place on my list on my recent visit to Denmark’s capital. Recently the subject of an incredibly tasteful refurbishment, I must admit it was one of the most beautifully designed hotels I have ever stayed at. Pair that with possibly the best looking team ever, and we were in for a treat.

We arrived in a mid November Friday, which turned out to be a special day in the hotel’s calendar – the day when the Christmas lights come on. There was a crowd gathered outside which tells you how special these are. And they were indeed.

A very special Christmas display at the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen.

A very special Christmas display at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen.

Pre-Arrival

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

My stay was organised a month or so before our arrival, all via email.

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

The hotel actually does not have a presence on Twitter, only on Facebook, so there was no 1 to 1 communication during my stay, which took place over a weekend.

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

As per normal, I did not have any special requests, but had some very nice surprises during my stay.

Arrival

The hotel was... absolutely stunning. No other words can describe it.

The hotel was… absolutely stunning. No other words can describe it. These photos are from the hotel as there was no way I could take photos without people.

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

Stunning. Not only we were slightly wowed with the Christmas lights outside, when we got in I think I just said ‘Ahhh’. There was a lot of grey in the decor, with accent colours and the end result was phenomenal.

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

We waited for less than 2 minutes until a check-in agent was available and it was a breeze.

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

Absolutely.

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

No. The hotel was fully booked (which is often the case) and I had a deluxe guest room confirmed, which was what we got.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Did I ever? As you can read on my post which details our fab weekend in Copenhagen, not only everyone was incredibly helpful and efficient, they were also a delight to look at. I hereby commend the Head of HR of the hotel for the extra eye candy provided to guests. In all honesty, it was part of the guest experience (I kid you not), but also a trait of the Danish. How good-looking were they? OMG.

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

We were escorted to our room and were able to take our carry ons with us. I then realised that a carry-on for a weekend in Copenhagen is not enough, as I learned during the following 3 days. Lesson learned.

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

Wifi was complimentary and worked well during our stay.

Room Experience

Our room at D'Angleterre

Our room at D’Angleterre

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Our room was beautiful – I loved the grey, white and purple colour scheme and it was a good size. It felt incredibly comfortable from the moment we walked in.

–          Welcome amenity

We had a lovely bottle of champagne, and some DELICIOUS sweets, courtesy of the hotel chef. Simple and perfect.

What else would Mrs. O need? Exactly, nothing at all.

What else would Mrs. O need? Exactly, nothing at all.

–          The bed

The bed was fabulous. Incredibly comfortable and I LOVED the individual duvets. You can’t see them in the photo, but after turndown, we actually had a his and hers duvet, which could be the end of many marital problems. I know it is normal in Northern European countries, but no so much where I come from. I wasn’t quite sure about the square pillows though – I missed the sides of them, I must confess. But they were very comfortable and the right height and weight for me.

A bed we did not want to leave!

A bed we did not want to leave!

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

No issues here. At all.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

There wasn’t one, but plenty of well located sockets around the room.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Yes, and smaller ones for me. Yay!

–          Coffee and Tea

Indeed. A Nespresso coffee machine and a kettle for tea.

It was all about the details at the d'Angleterre.

It was all about the details at the d’Angleterre.

–          Free bottled water

Of course.

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

Must confess I did not notice anything in the room, but to be fair, I did not need any.

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

Absolutely. Spot on.

Bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The bathroom was large, with a fab walk-in shower and great windows. The only thing I would say, is that due to the sink layout, we did not have much space for our own toiletries, so we had to be creative, which we managed to, with the help of the trolley.

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

We did not have a bath, but had a great shower. It was very good.

A very sexy bathroom. Loved the underfloor heating.

A very sexy bathroom.

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

Very very good towels.

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

The hotel uses a brand called Laura Bonne, which I was not familiar with. I liked the shower gel, but not the conditioner.

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

One of the best ever, and I have to say, the face wipes were a very nice touch. I brought them with me and have them in my washbag for emergencies.

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

I saw one which looked good, but I did not use on this occasion.

Breakfast

The breakfast was fantastic. And the room, OMG.

The breakfast was fantastic. And the room, OMG.

The room was simply stunning. It is, after all, the hotel’s 1 star Michelin restaurant Marchal. The spread was excellent and I was particularly keen on the rye bread. Don’t ask me why.

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

It worked well throughout our stay. No complaints.

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

No.

–          Location

Possibly the best location in the centre of Copenhagen, moments from all the landmarks and, most importantly, the shops at Stroget.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

A deluxe guest room costs from 3500DDK (approx. £335, $510, €450).

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Without a doubt. She would adore it.

–          Would I stay again?

It is just a matter of when. It takes a bit to impress me, to be very honest, and I adored this hotel.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Hotel d’Angleterre during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Top 5 Destinations for Winter 2015

Baby, it is cold outside, as they say. I have always been very honest about my preference for warmer climates, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time and a place for fabulously warm clothes, a fireplace and a glass of wine.

Brrrrrrr, and then it snowed!

Brrrrrrr, and then it snowed!

So when it is cold in Europe, I try to escape to warmer climates – but also find some incredibly lovely cold places to unwind. Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Destinations for Winter 2015 (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).

Campeche, Mexico

Mexico like I never thought existed...

Mexico like I never thought existed…

I ended 2014 and began 2015 in a tiny town called San Francisco de Campeche, in the Mexican state of Campeche, which is located approximately 5 hours west of Cancun (inland) and to say we loved it, would be an understatement. It was a lovely sleepy town (UNESCO world heritage), with a lovely hotel – we stayed at Puerta Campeche, which is one of five Haciendas part of the same group (and managed by Starwood’s Luxury Collection).

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Postcard pretty Switzerland - good for the mind and the soul

Postcard pretty Switzerland – good for the mind and the soul

My second ski trip of this season took place in St. Moritz, in the Swiss Engadin mountains and we absolutely adored the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, where we stayed for 4-days. We loved how chic, yet incredibly relaxed it was. We were also blessed with 1 metre of fresh snow on arrival and three incredibly sunny days, which made for an unforgettable lux ski weekend away.

Lisbon, Portugal

Time for a sunny city break in Lisbon, my hometown. Photos on the right by Flytographer.

Time for a sunny city break in Lisbon, my hometown. Photos on the right by Flytographer.

January is not particularly warm in Lisbon, Portugal, but it can be sunny – so it does make for an interesting city break. It is my hometown and I do enjoy going back a few times a year – last time this year I went to get my new passport, which was nothing short of a nightmare experience, so I am expecting a lot less drama this time. And some fab seafood, of course.

Prague, Czech Republic

A very special Valentine's Day for Mr and Mrs O!

A very special Valentine’s Day for Mr and Mrs O! Photos by Four Seasons

I wasn’t sure where to head somewhere close to home in February and asked the lovely people who give me part of their time on Facebook – and collectively had some seriously good ideas. One of the favourites was, without a doubt, Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

I have been to Prague once, 10 years ago, and it is where I met Mr. O for the first time. There are no romantic memories, but we always promised we would go back to the city that somehow got us together – and we are looking forward to a magical stay at the Four Seasons Prague, and explore a little bit.

Mumbai and Jaipur, India

And to end winter in style, Mr. O and yours truly are going to search for some sun… in India! I am very excited as it is our first time. We will be travelling with Jet Airways and test its business class (expect some reviews, of course).

Looking forward to this flight!

Looking forward to this flight!

We will fly from London to Mumbai, where we will stay at The Oberoi Mumbai, which looks pretty fabulous. After a few days in town, where there is a lot to discover and I would think a fair bit of shopping, we will fly over to Jaipur, where we will be blown away by the sights and hopefully get a little bit of sunshine at The Oberoi Rajvillas. Visas and vaccines are sorted, so we just need to start the countdown!

A new country for us, which we are dying to get a taste of.

A new country for us, which we are dying to get a taste of.

Have you been to any of these 5 places? Do you have any recommendations? Would love to hear them!

Keep warm!

xo

Mrs. O

Top 5 Winter 2015 Beauty Essentials

Brrrrr, it is cold outside. In our case in the UK, it is seriously cold! And that means there is a real *need* for, well, more beauty products, which are appropriate for the season. Here are my Top 5 Winter Beauty Essentials for the season, all tried and tested by yours truly.

Hermes Le Bain range

Get ready for something quite special...

Get ready for something quite special…

No more stealing from hotels… (to be fair, I don’t do it *that* often)… Hermes has finally launched its Bath and Body collection, which includes shower gel, hand wash, moisturisers and a hair care range. When I spotted this on a recent trip to the shop, I could not resist the ‘Eau the Pamplemousse’ shower gel, and a traditional ‘Eau de Orange Verte’ hand wash, which I absolutely adore. Cost: £38.00 from Hermes.

Aromatherapy Associates Moisturising Lip Balm

My lips 'go' with the cold, so I don't take any chances. And very happy with current choice.

My lips ‘go’ with the cold, so I don’t take any chances. And very happy with current choice.

I didn’t even know that Aromatherapy Associates (a brand that I have been in love with for the last 2 years) did lip balms until a recent flight with British Airways (the brand now supplies the goodies of the BA First cabin). After I finished the one that came in the washbag, I decided to see if I could get some more – and found this beauty.  Cost: £15 from Aromatherapy Associates.

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser Invisible Oil Shampoo (and Conditioner)

My latest obsession....

My latest obsession….

I rotate my hair care products regularly (i.e. don’t use the same brand consecutively), as I am a great believer that one needs to change routines and Bumble and Bumble is a brand that I really like. My hairdresser recommended this new range, which really impressed me since I started using it. These products are sulfate free (hair colour lasts longer, yay) and the mix of the oils has left Mrs. O with super shiny hair. To be paired with matching conditioner (and also check out the primer). Cost: £23 from John Lewis.

Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush

I adore my Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush and take it everywhere with me now

I adore my Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush and take it everywhere with me now

I am now on my second replacement brush head, which means this baby is a keeper and has found a starring place in my very limited daily beauty routine. I have been using this brush for 3 months now and have seen a visible improvement in my skin, and because it is waterproof, you can leave it in the shower, which means I will actually use it for the 30 seconds necessary each day. Cost: £79 from John Lewis.

Elie Saab L’Eau de Couture eau de toilette

Smells wonderful.... and wintery!

Smells wonderful…. and wintery!

New season, new perfume and very rarely I ‘get sprayed’ and have this incredible need to buy a new perfume. But I couldn’t resist this ‘cooler’ version of Elie Saab’s classic fragrance, which I am really pleased with. Cost: £30 for 30ml at John Lewis.

What products can you not live without this season? Let me know your favourites as always keen to try!

Keep warm!

xo

Mrs. O

Back to Mallorca for a long weekend

A_lux_weekend_in_500x100px_HL2

The summer had come and gone and when we got to October, I was missing the sunshine. A lot. I really was. So I started investigating options close to home, in the UK – where could I go for a little tan top up in mid October that wasn’t too far away? And where could I eat some gambas too? Important aspects of a last-minute trip. My beloved Mallorca, the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands was the answer.

I have come to know the island reasonably well over the last 2 decades, but stopped visiting for about 10 years – and after a magic return in 2013, I vowed to add it to our annual places to visit (one of my first world problems, as I am a ‘repeater’).

I decided to get a villa with Mallorca Farmhouses, because I fancied a longer stay, where I could potentially/technically work from a quiet location for some of the days I was to be away – I just really wanted to do it in the sunshine. The only downfall was that because villa rentals go from Saturday to Saturday, Mr. O couldn’t come with me just for a day. So I asked the lovely Ashley from The Lazy Travelers to keep me company for 5 days, under the promise of a lot of gambas eating and jamon iberico. It wasn’t difficult to convince her.

You can now get direct flights from Heathrow to Palma, but as my BA year was coming to an end (and those tier points are precious as they get you a gold card, or not!), I decided to be clever and fly via Madrid – I earned more tier points, the business class flight was cheaper and actually, because we took a 6am flight (ridiculously early), we got to Palma 3 hours before we would had we flown direct. I am all for direct flights, but in this case, humm, it worked rather well.

Saturday

We got to the airport, and sadly had another disastrous car rental experience (seriously, I seem to collect them), where this time the new surprise was ‘No excess’ as opposed to ‘Zero excess’, which means you are liable for any damage to the car without a minimum excess as per normal (obviously solved by purchasing another mysterious and unique € 240 insurance policy – on top of what we had already pre-paid – at the counter). Zero points to Goldcar, which was the supplier of Vipcars.com, with whom we booked this time after some good experiences.

Puerto Portals in Mallorca... one of my favourite places in the island.

Puerto Portals in Mallorca… one of my favourite places in the island.

It was time for lunch and I had been dreaming about it for days – all I wanted was to get to Flanigans, in Puerto Portals, located under 20 minutes from Palma. I have been going to this restaurant for over 15 years and I have been known to return more than once per trip. On this occasion, as we were to be based in the North-East of the Island instead, in the lovely Pollenca, I knew this was my one and only chance to be ‘flaniganed’ and I took it.

Puerto Portals is a small marina, which is absolutely lovely. The boats are quite big and beautiful and would certainly be classified as ‘boat-eye candy’. It has a handful of restaurants and bars (with the best gin & tonics ever, which I sadly did not get to experience as it was lunchtime and I was driving), and my absolute favourite is Flanigans.

Local delicacies and.. the view...

Local delicacies and.. the view…

I thought Ashley deserved a crash course in Spanish beach cuisine and I wanted to test her limits – so I thought nothing about ordering squid croquetas, Galician-style octopus nor on-the-shell gambas, which would have to be peeled using your cutlery (as we do). She documented her experience on her blog, The Lazy Travelers, and it is worth a read. The meal was delicious, and obviously we pre-ordered the apple tart, which is the way to end a meal in style. If you find yourself in the island, I urge you to come to this place.

Not hungry anymore, we wanted to make our way to our villa, but decided we needed to stock up on essentials (one needs to be organised when not staying at a hotel), so we stopped (not so briefly) at Supercor (the supermarket chain owned by department store El Corte Ingles, which is the local equivalent of Waitrose in the UK). We filled our carts with iberico ham, manchego cheese, fresh fruit, ventresca (best tuna in the world), water, wine, Gin Mare (one of my favourite gins, which is appropriately Spanish) and, of course, a full selection of tonic water. I mention the tonic water because if you are a gin lover (I converted Ashley on this trip…), you need to see a tonic water supermarket aisle in Spain. It will make you cry – and want to buy everything, from the cardamom and pink pepper Schweppes (I kid you not), to the lemon Fever Tree (which is impossible to find in the UK).

After a couple of hours (we did lose track of time), we made our way north and after a bit of a struggle with the directions we had been given by the villa company, we finally found Pepi.

Hola Pepi, you are so pretty!

Hola Pepi, you are so pretty!

Pepi was the 2-bedroom villa that was our home away from home in Mallorca, courtesy of Mallorca Farmhouses, which has an impressive portfolio of luxury villas in the island. It was perfect for us. I loved the traditional style of it, and how well proportioned it was – 2 en suite bedrooms, a large open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge (the latter needs some updating in my opinion), a beautiful emerald pool and great outdoor space.

Inside Pepi

Inside Pepi

The outdoor sitting area was were we spent all of our evenings and nights and I was eaten alive by mosquitos. This is what happens to me when I do not take my lovely husband to warmer climates – he usually gets bitten and I get spared. This is obviously karma (and I do remember the evil laughs every time we spoke on the phone…).

On our first night, we stayed in – it was a long day, and feasted on our tapas. And gin. And wine… and slept like babies!

Sunday

In Pollenca, which is the nearest town (about 10 minutes away), there is a local food market on Sunday mornings and we thought it would be rude not to check it out. We were right at the end of the season and were surprised how many people came to town on that day!

We had a good walk around town (which I have to say, was lovely) – postcard pretty and with a great buzz. I also got to have my first ensaimada, which is a brioche-type cake traditional from Mallorca, which was, well…. delicious!

Pollenca was a very nice surprise, and a town we visited a few more times during our stay

Pollenca was a very nice surprise, and a town we visited a few more times during our stay

As we were out and about, we thought it would be a good idea to explore the island a bit more. When we first posted a photo on Instagram with our whereabouts, many of our followers and friends started suggesting places to go. There were some places that we were not so keen to visit, but Sa Calobra, on the west coast, seemed intriguing.

What we did not know, was how hard it would get there – which I have to say, was one of the craziest drives I have ever been in. And not sure if I want to do it again.

Not your average road, and believe me, this was one of the easier bits...

Not your average road, and believe me, this was one of the easier bits…

Once we got down to the beach, the scenery was pretty spectacular. But as we walked via the caves to the actual beach, we couldn’t help but be… disappointed. I am glad it wasn’t August, as the hundreds of people we saw were more than enough. And to be perfectly honest, the food and beverage selection was so unimpressive (so tatty, and cheap), that I am not sure the whole adventure was worth it.

Very pretty, but I am hiding the bits you wouldn't want to see on this photo

Very pretty, but I am hiding the bits you wouldn’t want to see on this photo

We carried on driving west, towards the south, via Deia. And just before we got to this pretty town (which I still did not get to visit properly), we stopped for paella and a glass of cava at El Mirador de na Foradada, which had pretty spectacular views. Incredible, really, so we just stayed and enjoyed them as much as we could.

Cava, sun and a view in Mallorca. Stunning!

Cava, sun and a view in Mallorca. Stunning!

From here, we did a full circle drive around the island, and an hour and a bit later, we got back to our villa, just before the sun set. Because of the type of the roads, it was quicker to drive South and take the motorway back to the North East, then to drive back – Google Maps never lies.

We got home, and decided that the last thing we wanted was to go out again – so we just got our lovely tapas sorted (we did have an impressive selection!) and chatted all night.

Life is all about the simple things...

Life is all about the simple things…

Monday

On Monday, it rained. We knew it was coming (and I was getting worried as we had not tried the pool yet!), and I had a plan. A very good plan. Mallorca, despite being an island, has a proper city, so to speak, which is called Palma. Palma has VERY good shopping. And Ashley and I were in a serious mood to help the local economy.

The action starts on Passeig del Born, which is a short stroll from the cathedral which is a sight for sore eyes – every time I see a photo of this monument, my heart skips a little beat. I don’t know why, but it does. We had a tip of from Twitter, where we were told to head to a particular shop (La Principal, on c/ Paraires 15), where we were to ask for ‘The Map’. It turned out that ‘The Map’ was fabulous, as it was a self-funded initiative by 24 ‘cool’ shops in Palma, which I was not familiar with. As we had time, we ended up visiting them all, with the highlight being Rialto Living, which was incredible.

Never a dull moment shopping in Palma de Mallorca. Never.

Never a dull moment shopping in Palma de Mallorca. Never. Photo by Ashley from The Lazy Travelers

Nearby, it is also worth having a look at Zara’s more upmarket sister shops, like Massimo Dutti and Uterque, as well as Carolina Herrera and Boss (these two really have flourished in Spain and you get a much better selection and value here than anywhere else in the world).

For lunch, we were really in the mood for fish (of course), and walked (in the rain of course) to El Caballito de Mar, where we enjoyed various starters such as boquerones, and a local favourite – fideua, which is like paella, but with pasta (which I adore).

So so so good!

So so so good!

We shopped a bit more (shoes, my darlings, shoes), and drove back home (which took around 40 minutes, and 3 speeding fines, on the same road…. oops).

We got back to our villa, and after changing for dinner (and comparing shopping successes, of course), we headed out to Pollenca, where we had dinner. Being Monday, we were not spoiled for choice, sadly, but had a good meal at Manzanas y Peras, which came highly recommended.

Tuesday

The sun shines on the righteous, and on our last full day, we were very lucky. A decision had to be made and it was unanimous: we were to stay at home and enjoy the pool and do absolutely nothing.

Not a worry in the world or a cloud in the sky!

Not a worry in the world or a cloud in the sky!

We were also excited because we had organised for a private chef, from Delicioso to come round and cook for us (namely as we both had an online class to attend – seriously, we were both on the Google Square course), and it meant that we would finish too late to go out for dinner, even by Spanish standards.

A lovely lovely pool

A lovely lovely pool

I can’t tell you how disappointed we were when mid-afternoon, we were told by Mallorca Farmhouses that they had cancelled last-minute. It was a shame as actually we had no food left and going out was not an option, and we were left high and dry. There are quite a few private chef companies operating in Mallorca and we tried to book someone last-minute, but it was too late as the markets were closed and everyone working was already booked. So we had no option but to go to the supermarket and buy some food.

Wednesday

On our 5th day, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Pepi and Mallorca. Needless to say, it was lovely and sunny – as it usually happens when you leave a sunny place and head to the airport, where we were to fly to London (via Madrid, ha ha) at around lunchtime.

We had to say goodbye to Pepi

We had to say goodbye to Pepi

The villa experience was good, but I must confess I wished we had extra cleaning services (and someone taking out the rubbish). The photographs were spot on and I was impressed with the Mallorca Farmhouses service from the beginning to the end.

Returning to Mallorca was, as expected, almost magic. There is something about this island – very relaxed, but also quite chic, and also very pleasant to the eye. I like the variety that it offers – you can be in places where you see no one, you can do some decent shopping, the food is incredible and the sea is so beautiful, you can’t quite believe you are in Europe. But you are and only a couple of hours away from home.

Hasta pronto! I shall be back.

Xo

Mrs. O

PS: I flew with BA (on that first leg) and Iberia (on the other 3) on this occasion and have to say, it was surprisingly good. As much as I love BA, I do not feel the same way about its sister airline, on the contrary, and do avoid it unless there is no option. I don’t know what happened, maybe some of the BA culture is finally rubbing off and truth be told, service was very good and so were the planes. Everything worked and I may even do this again.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mallorca Farmhouses, who provides villa rentals in the island. The Pepi villa, with two bedrooms, sleeps 4 and costs from £828 per week (not per person), which is incredible value for money. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Gatecrashing Paradise (The Maldives) with Tom Chesshyre @tchesshyre

A few of you may already be familiar with my friend Tom. He is one of the UK’s leading travel writers, and you can see his work regularly featured on The Times. He is also one of the best storytellers I know, and he has recently released his 5th book, named  Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventures in the Real Maldives. His previous book, ‘A Tourist in the Arab Spring’ was also featured on this blog a while ago, and generated a lot of commentary from interested readers who were keen to ask Tom some questions and share some stories.

In his latest adventure, beyond luxury hideaways, Tom Chesshyre travels to see the real, unexplored Maldives, skirting around the archipelagos periphery, staying at simple guesthouses, and using cargo ships and ferries. He discovers that beyond the glossy brochures lies an almost undiscovered country that is brimming with life, yet also a paradise teetering on the brink of trouble.

In the Maldives outsiders used to be banned from islands not officially endorsed as tourist resorts, but now a thousand sandy shores can be visited in this remote nation deep in the Indian Ocean the flattest on Earth. This is island-hopping for the twenty-first century, sailing around 600 miles of the most beautiful islands and atolls on Earth, often to communities that have not seen an outsider for decades, …and gatecrashing the odd posh hotel.

What you may not know, is that we were in the Maldives at the same time – and at the same hotel. I did not know either – it was only for a day, and was gutted that we did not meet on location! I can imagine a great evening with lychee caipirinhas with Tom and Mr. O – but failing that, we catch up regularly in London. I was offered a pre-release copy of Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventures in the Real Maldives and loved it. But being me, I had to ask some questions to Tom – and here is what he had to say!

lux maldives sea

The Maldives is certainly very different from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt soon after the Arab Spring revolutions – or so you might imagine. Yet in some ways there are similarities. Few people who pick the much-lauded ‘honeymoon heaven’ for their holidays have a clue of what goes on behind the scenes on the islands, yet I had heard stable whispers of great discontent. A democratically-elected leader had been ousted – the opposite of the Arab Spring revolutions, perhaps, but obviously a big event on the archipelago.

There was said to be a rise in Muslim fundamentalism: threats to and attacks on those promoting gay rights, for example, just as in parts of the Middle East. Human trafficking of workers from Bangladesh and elsewhere was rife, with passports taken by foremen and pay withheld; effective human slavery. Then also, great questions were unanswered about where all the tourist cash was going, quite possibly into the pockets of cronies of the regime. Local journalists who tried to find out were intimidated. Add to this the vast gulf between the wages of the average Maldivian and tourists spending $1,000 a night on water villas, and the matter of the ‘haves and the have-nots’ of the world that so many people are concerned about was laid bare.

The Beckhams were estimated to have blown the annual salaries of the equivalent of 64 Maldivians during their luxurious 11-night visit. Meanwhile, the country was the flattest on earth and likely to face evacuation of many islands due to rising seas by as soon as 2050. So many of the world’s most pressing concerns seemed to be lurking in the holiday brochure ‘paradise’. I was intrigued.

Tom travelling through Maldives by local transport

Tom travelling through Maldives by local transport

2. What were you expecting from the various trips, before you went on them?

I travelled round the islands on cargo ships and local ferries mainly – and I had no idea what to expect. Finding the right ride was tricky, and when I did I might end up on a simple, open-sided deck sleeping next to sacks of onions or boxes of powdered milk. Ferries timetables seemed to be almost non-existent. I decided to go with the flow and let the boats take me where they would, though I knew that I wanted to cover the entire length of the 1,200-island archipelago in a big circle. I expected to see little islands with no tourists . . . I was not heading for five-star land.

3. What was the best moment of gatecrashing paradise?

There were many memorable moments, but in terms of excitement my overnight tuna fishing trip stands out for me. We gathered at 11pm, and went out into the ink-black waters to collect bait fish with the help of floodlights beamed into the sea; this attracted little fish that were subsequently scooped up. Then at the crack of dawn we took off in search of tuna. The fishermen consisted of 16 guys with joust-like poles who were poised waiting. We soon found the fish and then great sprays of water were fired off the back of the boat to fool the tuna into thinking the water was alive with bait fish – of which a few were flung from the night’s haul to add reality to this illusion. The rods were soon whipping back and forth and tuna flew through the air thudding on the deck before being swept into a hold. It was incredibly dramatic. This is how the little cans of tuna in your supermarket get the fish that’s in them.

Tom on a local ferry

Tom on a local ferry

4. You mention the local Maldivian food a lot (something I also adored and grateful to have been able to try on my trips to this part of the world). How weird was it to have tuna for breakfast? What was your favourite meal?

My favourite meal was called garudia, which consists of smoked tuna with lime, chilli and onion in a thin soup, usually served with rice. It’s very more-ish and healthy too, I’m assuming. I also enjoyed boakiba, fishcakes made with onion, garlic and coconut. As I was off-the-beaten-track I’d be served dishes like this at the homes of people I met. Tuna for breakfast is excellent – the Chinese are much weirder about what they have in the morning: braised duck blood and chicken feet and so on.

Dr Krishnakant Bubhavant of Maldives Climate Observatory

Dr Krishnakant Bubhavant of Maldives Climate Observatory

5. If you had to pick 3 things that negatively surprised you what would they be?

The three biggest ‘negative surprises’ were being followed by the secret police on occasion, meeting young female activists for democracy for had been thrown in cells for no good reason, and seeing that an island rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami was already disappearing back into the sea due to wave erosion (50ft of land already gone).

Tom on Rubbish Island

Tom on Rubbish Island

6. How do you feel about the Maldives as a destination? Has this adventure changed your perspective and opinion?

It is, despite all of this, one of the most beautiful places on Earth – while it is still there. The rising sea is such a huge problem and the Maldives has come to symbolise, I think, our heads-in-the-sand attitude to climate change. And yes, of course, I recognise the paradox of flying and emitting CO2 in order to go on holiday there. Tourism will not go away, so it is a given across the globe now – in fact, if it did go, much of the world’s economy would most likely collapse. My adventure did not change my opinion of the beauty of the watery nation, just the people who run it.

Tom sampling the local happy hour

Tom sampling the local happy hour

7. Where to next? Make us jealous!

Wales is next . . . what prettier a place than the beaches on the Gower Peninsula? You don’t have to take off round the planet to enjoy somewhere heavenly.

Tom Chesshyre is the author of five travel books that have taken him from Hull to Tripoli via assignments in North Korea, Nepal, India and Iceland. He writes for The Times and has contributed to the GuardianThe Financial Times, The Times Literary Supplement and the Mail on Sunday. His magazine work has been for Geographical and Condé Nast Traveller. 

On his travels he has been hijacked in Africa, met tornado-chasers in America and followed in the footsteps of Graham Greene in Haiti. His previous books include A Tourist in the Arab Spring, Tales from the Fast Trains, How Low Can You Go and To Hull and Back: On Holiday in Unsung Britain. For more information, visit Tom’s website.

And to make things more interesting, Tom will be giving 5 signed copies of Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventures in the Real Maldives to 5 lovely readers, which is also available on Amazon. To enter:

1) Answer this question in the comments area below: ‘Where was the most beautiful place you have ever been to, which you would describe as paradise?’

2) Share this post via social media (Twitter, Facebook or Google +) using the sharing buttons on the left hand side or below.

This competition is now closed. Winners have been selected and contacted via email.

And Happy New Year!

xo

Mrs. O

2014: My year in travel – 26 trips, 53 flights and 110 nights away from home

I have started doing these annual recaps (see 2012 and 2013) and I have to say, I love doing them for one reason: it makes me happy to look back and see where the year has taken me, literally.

In 2014, we have been on 26 trips and took 53 flights (and I am not even counting Mr. O’s business trips, which have nothing to do with me!). We have also spent 110 nights away from our lovely bed at home. On average, we tend to go away twice a month, with some exceptions… never a dull moment indeed! I am not a professional travel (nor I ever aspire to be), and this is the balance that works for my husband and I. We have busy lives, and work takes us outside of the UK very regularly (and it would be rude not to enjoy some cheeky weekends away at the end of a business trip, wouldn’t it?)

So here is how 2014 worked out for us!

January

We started our year in Miami, where we stayed for 9 nights but sadly, only managed to go to the beach once! But let’s put it that way, pleeeennnty of time to shop!

Happy New Year from Miami, Florida.

Happy New Year from Miami, Florida.

Most of the month was then spent back in the UK, namely in London and over two weeks, I was able to try two very interesting hotels: The London Marriott Grosvenor Square (which was a very nice surprise!) and the fab London Edition, which I keep going back to.

At the end of the month, I made my way to Val d’Isere, in the French Alps for half a week of skiing (and eating, of course), which I adored.

A kir royale with a view. Je t'aime, Val d'Isere

A kir royale with a view. Je t’aime, Val d’Isere

February

In the shortest month of the year, I took my first ever UK domestic flight and headed to Newcastle, to speak at a conference, which was quite interesting. I also spent 3 lovely and busy days at the Four Seasons Park Lane in London, which is one of my favourite places in town.

I loved loved loved my room at the Four Seasons London

I loved loved loved my room at the Four Seasons London

March

March was full of surprises and contrasts. We returned to Val d’Isere for our annual ski week-long trip with friends (you can tell I like this place!!), and also enjoyed some true luxury at The Stafford in London, which is a legend, and I adored.

Later in the month, we headed to the Maldives for almost 2 weeks, purely in the name of research. And because I was lacking in vitamin D, of course!

The Maldives make me very happy indeed!

The Maldives make me very happy indeed!

April

April is my birthday month, and I started the festivities in the Maldives (of course) and then had a last-minute cheeky romantic weekend in Paris (why not?!).

Who was a happy girl in Paris? Me! Photo by Flytographer

Who was a happy girl in Paris? Me! Photo by Flytographer

We then went in search of some warmer temperatures in Abu Dhabi, which was indeed a surprise and an incredible trip. I loved everything about this trip and really want to go back at some point.

Abu Dhabi was more than I expected. Photos by Bernard Richardson for Flytographer.

Abu Dhabi was more than I expected. Photos by Bernard Richardson for Flytographer.

May

In May, we headed to Cyprus in search for (yet) more sun, but were not very lucky, sadly. But we still had a great time at the Columbia Beach Resort. The following weekend, we had an INCREDIBLE time in Bordeaux, France, which really blew us away. I am a huge fan of La France, and return often but this part of the world was new to me and I adored it.

Absolutely worth a visit. I loved St. Emilion.

Absolutely worth a visit. I loved St. Emilion.

On the last bank holiday of the month (yes, we get 2 in May!), we stayed closer to home and had a lovely time with family in Devon, South West England. It is an area I have come to know reasonably well over the past 9 years and I love it. We stayed in Salcombe at the Harbour Hotel and at the Magdalen Chapter in Exeter, both very positive experiences.

Welcome to Salcombe! What a view!

Welcome to Salcombe! What a view!

June

In June, it was time to return to Italia and discover a new area for us: the stunning Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s boot. We loved everything about this trip and vowed to return in the not so distant future!

La Selfie Italiana - Mary Anne, moi, Mr. O and Jeff and Ashley at the back. Fab memories.

La Selfie Italiana – Mary Anne, moi, Mr. O and Jeff and Ashley at the back. Fab memories.

In June, I also got to try the brand new Cheval Harrington Court, in South Kensington in London, which provided luxury apartment accommodations and a nice home away from home.

July

July is one of my favourite months to travel to Southern Europe (I avoid August at all costs!) and early in the month I returned to the stunning Finca Cortesin (who is possibly my favourite hotel in the world, quite a statement!). This time, I took Mr. O with me and I even got to learn how to make a Spanish tortilla de patatas.

The fab beach club at Finca Cortesin

The fab beach club at Finca Cortesin

Mid-month, we went on an unforgettable journey on the Belmond British Pullman, where we had dinner cooked by 2-star Michelin chef Tom Kerridge. This was the first of two train journeys this summer…

Chic in navy at the Belmond British Pullman

Chic in navy at the Belmond British Pullman

Later in the month, we went back to Portugal for 10 days – part of the O’Reilly pre-nup, non-negotiable. We went back to Herdade do Vau in the Alentejo (which we first visited last year), and then spent 6 days in the Algarve, split between the Quinta do Lago and the Sheraton Algarve, where we have spent the last 10 summers.

One of my favourite beach walks ever...

One of my favourite beach walks ever… Quinta do Lago, in the Algarve

August

I think Henley-on-Thames is so so so pretty

Yes, there can be something called Summer in the UK!

In August, we enjoyed the best of the British Summer and pretty much stayed at home – we spent 3 days in London trying out The Arch London, which is a little gem of a hotel, and later in the month, we headed to California (again, part of pre-nup agreement), where we spent 15 days.

September

Who's a happy girl?? At Domaine Carneros by Taittinger in Napa

Who’s a happy girl?? At Domaine Carneros by Taittinger in Napa

To end Summer in style, we had one of the busiest months travel wise – obviously one of the most fun! We spent the first part of the month in California, starting in San Francisco where we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental and slept through the earthquake. No drama – there really is no story to tell! We then revisited Napa, which we had not been to for 8 years and had a fab weekend indeed.

From Napa we made our way to Palm Desert (one of our spiritual places and where we have a place indeed, hence why I return every year) and then ended the trip in style in Los Angeles, at the one and only Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, which I will keep going back to forever and ever.

I adore the Four Seasons Los Angeles

I adore the Four Seasons Los Angeles

A couple weeks later, we headed to Venice to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary – and to say we had the best weekend ever, would be an understatement.

A very happy moment in Venice. Photo by Serena Genoviese for Flytographer.

A very happy moment in Venice. Photo by Serena Genoviese for Flytographer.

We spent 2 nights at the Gritti Palace (which was gorgeous), but could not wait for the last day of the trip. Why? Because we were to return to London onboard the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express, a journey that took 30 hours and we will never ever forget. If I have to pick the number one moment of this year, this would be it.

Welcome on-board the most iconic train in the world, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express

Welcome on-board the most iconic train in the world, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express

Summer came to and end (and what a summer it was!), and we started Autumn in Istanbul, a city we got to know reasonably well due to my previous professional life and had not returned to in 6 years. We were a tad unlucky with the weather (except for the first day), but that did not ruin it at all!

Istanbul, the city where Europe meets Asia and definitely gets the best of both worlds. And very happy memories for me. I love it.

Istanbul, the city where Europe meets Asia and definitely gets the best of both worlds. And very happy memories for me. I love it.

October

October was a quieter month, for obvious reasons! Mid-month, I needed some Vitamin D and headed to Mallorca in Spain with my friend Ashley from The Lazy Travelers. I did my best to get Ashley half as obsessed with gambas as I am, and it is fair to say I did a very good job (click on the link for Ashley’s version of the trip).

Cava, sun and a view in Mallorca. Stunning!

Cava, sun and a view in Mallorca. Stunning!

November

November is a special moment in our house (any excuse!) as it is Mr. O’s birthday month! But as he was busy way with work, I sneaked away to Paris for a cheeky girls’ weekend with my friend Lauren, and fair to say, we really helped the local economy in the run up to Christmas.

A very relaxed girls weekend in Paris, France. Photo by Flytographer.

A very relaxed girls weekend in Paris, France. Photo by Flytographer.

Then we got back into celebration mode, and I whisked away Mr. O to Copenhagen, in Denmark for a bit of wintery cold, and delicious food. And for a lot of eye candy, because I am a very nice wife. And I have eyes too.

The stunning Christmas lights at the iconic Hotel d'Anglaterre, in Copenhagen

The stunning Christmas lights at the iconic Hotel d’Anglaterre, in Copenhagen

And to end the birthday month in style, we headed to Northern Ireland, which was simply stunning. We knew it would be very nice (or no point in going), but were absolutely blown away by the people, the scenery, the food and do not get me started on the gin and whiskey.

Not a bad view to wake up to in Northern Ireland. We loved it.

Not a bad view to wake up to in Northern Ireland. We loved it.

December

In the final month of the year, I headed to Cannes, France, for the annual ILTM – International Luxury Travel Market, which is the main event in the luxury travel industry. A very busy 4 days, but still with enough time to appreciate the views…

Cannes is a very special place!

Mid-month, and just before the Christmas madness began, we found our ski legs in Alta Badia, in the Italian Dolomites. Whilst the snow was limited (only a few slopes open), the incredible food more than made up for it. Believe me!

The hills were kind of alive in Alta Badia, Italy

The hills were kind of alive in Alta Badia, Italy

Christmas will be spent at home, with friends and family who we cannot wait to see. We shall ring in the new year in a very quiet place in Mexico, and I have to say, I need that vitamin D again.

Thank you for your support over the last 12 months – and for making Mrs. O Around the World a destination in itself. I really do appreciate it, in more ways than I can describe in words.

Here’s to a fab Christmas for everyone, and let’s make 2015 a year to remember.

xo

Mrs. O

A ski week in Val d’Isere, France

It is not a secret that I am a huge fan of Val d’Isere, which I had visited in 2012 and 2013. So much so, that late in March 2013, I decided to go back again. Yes, again. I like it that much. I usually do a couple of ski weekends each season, which are very useful to find my (not so fab) ski legs, and having travelled twice with VIP Ski, with whom I had been to Val d’Isere before and also to Alpe d’Huez, both in France, I decided to book a chalet with 5 close friends of ours, who we usually travel with on annual long ski adventures.

As I had been the organiser of the last 9 annual ski trips, I asked one of my friends to deal with VIP and all the booking process, and also so we would have a completely normal booking experience – I was happy not to be dealing with the financials and all the email correspondence with our group, for once.

One of the decisions we had to make, when we booked was if we were to take the whole package (flight, transfer and catered chalet) or not. When we asked what would the discount be if we were to take scheduled flights and told it would be £50pp, and that the transfer would not wait for us if we were delayed, we hit the first stumble. As a group we decided that we would join the   flight as a) I had flown on an empty (6 of us!) VIP Ski charter flight at the beginning of the season and it wasn’t bad and b) the flight was only 1h20m, so we would not die.

So on an early Sunday, we made our way to Gatwick Airport, South Terminal and naively expected to see a check-in desk for our flight. I am not London Gatwick’s biggest fan, namely the South Terminal, so that in itself was a bit off-putting. But I think I died a little when we were faced with this:

My worst nightmare...

My worst nightmare…

We seriously could not believe it, and tempers started to get going amongst all of us. 50 minutes later, we were done, and because I was slightly prepared, I had organised for me and some of my friends, fast track security and lounge access with No 1 Traveller. I have to say, it was the best moment of my morning (overall!), and a must any time I have to fly from London Gatwick South. It is available to any airline passengers and great value at £22.50.

The No 1 Traveller Lounge at London Gatwick South really was an oasis of calm, with very good bacon sandwiches.

The No 1 Traveller Lounge at London Gatwick South really was an oasis of calm, with very good bacon sandwiches.

Our flight was quite uneventful (and a hint, if you go on these charter flights, ask for a seat in the first rows as they have extra space) and in less than 90 minutes, we arrived to Grenoble Airport. There was a bit of chaos on arrival, with all the luggage, and the coach allocation and I will never forget my friend Steffen who kept saying ‘This is not very VIP’. It wasn’t fun, to be kind, and the whole arrival could have been easier, and shared bus transfers are definitely not for me or my friends. To make it even worse, we were starving and stopped at the most uninspiring petrol station in France (which was a shed with days-old sandwiches, so I had to make do with some chocolate). I don’t know why we did not go to another one… oh well!

After almost three hours, we finally arrived to the centre of Val d’Isere, where the whole VIP Team was waiting for all of us – we had a mini bus to take us to our chalet, and our bags were to follow suit.

We got to Davos, our 4-bedroom, 5-bathroom chalet, which was lovely and a most welcoming sight after our journey, and a huge relief. But all we wanted was to do was to eat, and were delighted with the selection of fresh bread and cakes our chalet hostesses had prepared for us.

Our chalet was very nice...

Our chalet was very nice…

We felt much better at this stage and were impressed by the welcome from our chalet hostesses, as well as the manager, who came to each chalet and answer any questions we had and explain how everything worked. We had pre-booked our ski lift passes, which were then delivered to us (saving us a long walk), and we were also given the opportunity to have our ski equipment booked and delivered that day. As we weren’t sure if that was an option, I had pre-booked with Sweet Ski, who I had used before and really liked, and a lovely gentleman came to us, at 6pm as organised with all our equipment.

At this stage, our luggage arrived and it was time to head to our rooms, which had been pre-allocated by VIP’s team. Mr. O and I got the master bedroom, which was phenomenal, and sadly, not all the rooms where of the same standard (and size). In my previous experiences with VIP they had always been at par, to be perfectly honest, and we did not check this time. The main issue was not the spec, as the rooms were all very nicely done, but the size and the height of some of the rooms. So, always triple check this before you book, as we had some really unhappy guests.

A stunning master bedroom with dressing room and a great bathroom.

A stunning master bedroom with dressing room and a great bathroom.

We had towels (to be changed mid-week, which I wished happened more often), and Molton Brown toiletries (which were actually not replaced at all), which was a nice touch, especially the Lip Saver, which is a great lip balm!

Some of the other bedrooms, the living space and the hot tub!

Some of the other bedrooms, the living space and the hot tub!

On the first and last night of your stay, you have champagne and canapés, which is a good way to start (and end) the experience. We had booked a chalet for 8 (with my share being complimentary for the purpose of this review), but in the end we were only 7 (so we did pay for myself). However, at the last-minute Mr. O and one of the other husbands had important business meetings and were only to join us on Tuesday – which meant we had extra champagne and wine for a few days ?

6 of the 7 nights, you have a 3 course meal with wines (with others available at a supplement), and having had two experiences before with VIP, as I said earlier, with the meals cooked by the chalet hostesses on one occasion and a chef on the other, my friends opted for the first option, based on my feedback. And I have to be honest, whereas on my first stay the food was very good, on this stay, it was only OK.

Some desserts and details, and our fab driver service, which always worked brilliantly.

Some desserts and details, and our fab driver service, which always worked brilliantly.

Our days were pretty much the same, and that is something I love about ski weeks. I love the routine. Each morning, we had our VIP driver taking us to the slopes (a service available from 8am to 8pm each day, on demand, which always worked brilliantly) and then split as a group as we had different ski instructors, except for some of the boys, who skied on their own.

This time around, I spent my mornings with Matteo from Oxygene Ski School, who was Italian and great fun. Very skilled, but also quite relaxed, which makes for a great ski instructor.

It has been 10 years since I started skiing on a regular basis and having a private ski instructor is really worth the money.

It has been 10 years since I started skiing on a regular basis and having a private ski instructor is really worth the money. Because I am not a natural!

Each day, we had lunch at a different mountain restaurant, and we ended our lessons at the agreed location, so I always got to have lunch with the rest of the group. We went to La Folie Douce 3 times (I do like their Fruitiere restaurant), to Le Signal once, and discovered Le Peau de Vache, which was also very nice.

Never a dull moment at La Folie Douce...

Never a dull moment at La Folie Douce…

My afternoons were spent doing 3 different things… walking around town (where there is a bit of shopping to do, but not so much…), napping or using of the chalet’s best feature: the hot tub. It was outdoors and worked brilliantly – and we loved it! Because we all got back at different times in the afternoon, it meant we didn’t have to be in it together.

No sharing!!

No sharing!!

We used VIP Ski’s concierge service a few times – to book our lunches, and most importantly, our dinner on the hostesses’ night off, which is midweek. On our only night out, we started with cocktails at Le Blizzard, which was a very nice hotel bar, and then had dinner at La Casserole, where we feasted on fondue, raclette and other local specialties.

It was great to have a night out, for a change, but we felt very comfortable at the chalet on the other nights.

It was great to have a night out, for a change, but we felt very comfortable at the chalet on the other nights.

This wasn’t the perfect trip, for a number of reasons, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and hopefully, this blog post will be useful when you next decide to book your ski holiday.

What I did not like:

– The charter flight and shared transfer. Next time I will just suck it up and book a BA flight and private transfer or hire a car, which would cost maybe £300 total per person.

– The food. The breakfasts (cooked to order) and afternoon tea were really fantastic, but I thought the dinners were really subpar, so I would definitely have VIP’s Platinum Service, which a private chef and a different selection of wines (from £350, per person, per week). I had that before and it is definitely worth the money.

– The ski room was the next door chalet’s garage and was pretty bad and dirty. If we were all there at the same time there was no place to sit and put your boots on, and even if we were not, the options were not great.

– Pre dinner drinks – we ordered a bottle of gin at the beginning of our stay and tonic water every night (charged extra, great value), but we always struggled with ice every day. We kept asking, but if we could do one round a night with ice for all, we would be lucky (and there was no room in the freezer to make more).

– The room distribution – with a price per person, everyone should get more or less the same as the others, and to be fair to VIP, on all other occasions, they always were. We may have chosen the wrong chalet for us.

What I really liked:

– The quality and spec of the chalet in general

– The concierge service worked very well and always on the case

– The on demand driver service was spot on, and worked very well

– The hosts were nice and all the VIP on location team were very professional and pleasant

– Knowing that any problem would be sorted

Our trip to Val d'Isere was still a lot of fun.

Despite the mishaps, our trip to Val d’Isere was still a lot of fun.

Despite some aspects, we did have a good holiday – we all slept well, skied a lot, spent some quality time together and the snow was divine. And I continue to be a great fan of VIP Ski, but next time I know I need the 2 extras and spend more time looking at the room sizes. Oh well!

Au revoir, Val d'Isere

Au revoir, Val d’Isere

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer and Fact Box:

I was a guest of VIP Ski but the rest of the group were not, of course (and we did pay for the extra person at the end). A week at Chalet Davos costs from £1059 to £2639 per person (based on an occupancy of 8 people), depending on the time of the year and it includes chartered flights from London Gatwick, shared bus transfers and half board accommodation (breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner), including select drinks. Platinum service, which includes a private chef, starts from £350 per person, per week.

 Oxygene in Val d’Isère are an innovative ski & snowboard school offering on-piste, off-piste and adventure activities. They do whatever it takes for their clients to have an amazing time, whether it’s for beginners, children or adults, snowboarders or ladies only, they’ll enjoy every moment. They can even organise everything from heli-skiing to private jewellery viewings and have their own in-house equipment rental shop. Children’s groups start from 295€, adult groups from 222€, private lessons from 60€ per hour and private off-piste guiding from 315€ for a half day adventure.

For Ski Rental, contact Sweet Ski (prices depend on type of skis, of course).

Val d’Isere Lift Passes cost €260 for 6 days (for Espace Killy, which includes Tignes and over 300 kms of pistes).

No 1 Traveller operates stylish lounges at various UK airports, with single-entry access starting from £22.50 (if pre-booked).

A lux weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark

Besides a very quick hop to Helsinki a year or so ago, I must confess that I really have not explored Scandinavia at all. So I have decided that that needed to change and I really wanted to surprise Mr. O for his birthday – Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark was always on our list, so away we went for a quick weekend away (where the flight from London takes a mere 80 minutes!).

The first impressions of the population of this small (but delightful) European country were set from the minute we stepped on the plane: I was like ‘Hello!!’ – everyone was so good-looking, it really was a sight for sore eyes. And in case you were wondering, these gorgeous people were to be found everywhere in town. Everywhere.

Friday Afternoon

The stunning Christmas lights at the iconic Hotel d'Anglaterre, in Copenhagen

The stunning Christmas lights at the iconic Hotel d’Anglaterre, in Copenhagen

We landed at 5pm and were quite sad as we were going to miss one of the pre-Christmas traditions – the turning on the lights of the Hotel d’Angleterre, our hotel for the weekend. But when we arrived, we were stunned by this wonderful display. And obviously plenty of good-looking Danes admiring the view next to us.

The Hotel d’Angleterre, is the grand dame of Copenhagen hotels, having recently re-opened following a serious renovation – and I have to say, it was truly stunning. With the perfect blend of 45 shades of grey (not 50, note that), it was truly beautiful – a great mix of modern design and tradition, and incredible service.

The first thing we did, when we got to our hotel, was to head to our room and change for dinner. And boy, what a fab room! (Interestingly, it really reminded me of Hotel Villamagna in Madrid – just because it was one of my favourite recent hotel experiences, also a classic hotel recently refurbished to incredibly high standards and with great grey and white hotel rooms!).

A stunning hotel room at Hotel d'Anglaterre

A stunning hotel room at Hotel d’Angleterre

We had a bit of time until dinner, so we made our way to the hotel’s cocktail bar (Marchal), and tried one of the season specialties: Glogg wine, which is the Danish version of mulled wine, which is delicious. I had the white version whereas Mr. O had the red version and absolutely worth a try if you are in town this time of the year.

Sorting out our dining experiences in Copenhagen was a bit of an adventure – the food scene is of course very interesting, and most restaurants use the same booking service which allows you to book a table online or get on a wait list. Noma and Geranium are the most booked ones, and despite being able to get on the wait lists for each meal while we were in town, we never got the call back. I did call Noma on the Friday to find out I was #72 on the list and everyone had reconfirmed. Not a chance in hell, but hey, there are plenty of fab options in town (and we booked everything with 2 weeks notice which is not ideal!).

An incredible meal at Fiskebar, in Copenhagen's Meat Packing district.

An incredible meal at Fiskebar, in Copenhagen’s Meat Packing district.

I took advice from a friend, and booked a table at Fiskebar, which is located outside the city centre in the Meat Packing district. We were taken for a ride on our way out (as the taxi fare cost double than the return one… interesting!) and adored this restaurant from the minute we walked in. The service approach in this part of the world is nothing short of spectacular – everyone is so friendly and helpful and seem genuinely happy to welcome others to their country and places of business. Run by ex-Noma sommelier Anders Selmer, it is super hip and the seafood was delicious. We tried quite a few of their small bites and ended with a glorious Danish cheeseboard and a bottle of Chablis. Dinner for two cost approx €170, and €20 taxi ride one-way (€10 on the way back, oops).

We got dropped off just outside the hotel, but felt like doing a little walk around just to understand where we were located, which is as central as it gets. We realised that some serious shopping could potentially take place the next morning (yes!!), and then discovered this amazing champagne bar in the hotel’s back street. It turned out that Balthazar is part of the Hotel d’Anglaterre, and Denmark’s first champagne bar. It was fantastic and we stayed longer than we originally intended to!

Baltazar Champagne Bar (photo by hotel)

Balthazar Champagne Bar (photo by hotel)

The place was heaving and again, we were surprised by the quality of the service – we did not prebook a seat, but a gentlemen still took our coats without making us go to the cloakroom and returned with our ticket. He even found us a table to lean on, and made sure the waitress brought us the drinks menus. Having a look at a table which just became vacant, we asked if we could sit down, obviously expecting a no. We were very politely told that the table was reserved in 45-minutes time but we would be very welcome to sit until then. Living in London, you know this would not happen, and in Paris not a chance in hell (and I am not complaining. *really*). It was just interesting how things were approached in this part of the world.

Needless to say, everyone was dressed in black and looked über stylish and I got to see a lot of fur eye candy (and Danish eye candy), which then I learned it was absolutely necessary to survive the brutally cold days. And nights.

Saturday

I have very few friends who had been to Copenhagen, and did not have a clear idea of what I needed to see, so after a fab breakfast, we decided to have a long chat with the hotel’s concierge. The whole chat was normally different from normal as he wanted to understand exactly what we were looking for and more importantly, where did we want to have our open-faced sandwiches for lunch. Apparently, it is one of Denmark’s delicacies (and we had no idea), so we just went with his recommendations. This was serious stuff as we could not get into any of the top places on Saturday (all fully booked), but managed to get a table for Sunday. So we decided to split our walking day and indulge in a bit of shopping whilst slowing making our way towards the Tivoli Gardens, whose Christmas market started that very same day. Coincidence? I think not!

Stroget, the heart of Copenhagen's shopping district

Stroget, the heart of Copenhagen’s shopping district

Shopping in Copenhagen proved quite an interesting experience – Stroget has a mix of designer and high street stores, many of those you see in other cities, but I found the department stores most intriguing. Danish design made the homeware departments my destination, and rather worryingly for Mr. O, made me want to buy lots of things. I was quite taken with Nomess, which reminded me of Muji, but way better. I was smitten with the small boxes which are perfect for travelling (e.g. earrings, ear plugs, pills, you name it) and LOVED the black toiletry range – finally, cotton buds that match my bathroom at home! I was also very taken by the fur shops – I totally respect those who may not be keen on fur, but obviously no one has to buy anything they do not want. I actually have been looking for a fur coat for a while as a) my mother does not seem keen to let me inherit her collection, b) it has really gotten colder in Europe and the normal wool/cashmere blend won’t cut it anymore (I was wearing my black Max Mara coat on this trip, which is usually very warm, and I almost froze to death) and c) it is part of Danish culture and also mine (blame it on my mother).

Always keen to help the local economy, always.

Always keen to help the local economy, always.

I spent quite a few hours at Peak Performance‘s flagship store as I adore its ski clothes. It is a Swedish brand (but actually owned by a Danish group) and it was good to see the whole collection which won’t make its way to Val d’Isere and other ski resorts. What was also interesting, was the price difference – which I estimated to be 40%, but convinced myself it was 50%, just to make the deals sweeter. They do these really cool slim fit skinny ski trousers and they were indeed half the price. And so was my lovely new jacket.

With a fair bit of shopping in hand, we made our way to the Tivoli Gardens. I am not sure what the best way to describe this place – it was super quaint, and one felt Christmassy instantly, but it also felt a bit touristy with all the amusement park-style attractions. Nonetheless, we spend a few hours walking around and had a great time. I had a Copenhagen Card which included free transportation and entry to many attractions, but whilst I took only taxis, I did use it on this occasion.

We spent a fun afternoon at Tivoli Gardens

We spent a fun afternoon at Tivoli Gardens

Lunch was also fantastic – we had a table booked at Brdr. Price (again, not easy to do it on the day, so do book ahead), which was lovely. I had my first open-faced sandwich (ha ha), and of course, being in Scandinavia, I had to eat as many prawns as humanly possible. The word in Danish for these works of art is ‘smørrebrød’, and I could only guess how this could be pronounced. Mr. O decided to be more adventurous and had one of the Christmas platters, which meant he had a bit of a selection (with salmon, duck, herring and the lot), and I did try his of course (whilst trying not to give him too many of my lovely prawns).

Another fabulous and very pretty meal in Copenhagen

Another fabulous and very pretty meal in Copenhagen

We paired our meals with a glass of wine each and a local delicacy, snaps. I had never had those (and was picturing peach schnapps) and let’s put it this way, it helps you keep warm. Very warm. Lunch for two was €80 including drinks.

We spent the rest of the afternoon just walking around town, and slowly made our way back to the hotel. We also got to walk around and explore some of the Christmas markets, and taste some more Glook, of course.

Mrs. O very happy in Copenhagen.

Mrs. O very happy in Copenhagen.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel, where we had a lovely (and very civilised cup of tea), at the residents lounge, overlooking the fireplace. We felt very relaxed and just happy to be there.

Dinner was to take place at Manfreds & Vin, the sister restaurant of Relæ, the baby of former El Bulli and Noma chef Christian Puglisi. Manfreds is much more casual and very interesting – we decided to be adventurous and had the chef’s menu, which we accompanied with the wine suggestions (and notice that they were not wine pairings and came whenever our waiter fancied, which was quite fun). The focus was on natural organic wines, which we found quite unusual.

A good and relaxed dinner at Manfreds

A good and relaxed dinner at Manfreds (photos by restaurant)

We enjoyed our meal, but I have no idea what we ate – the chef’s menu changes daily and to be honest, I felt we were given way too many picked vegetables – but to be fair, the menu said ‘a lot of vegetables, a bit of meat and fish’. The smoked trout was outstanding.

We headed back to the hotel for an early evening as we were tired (we both worked for the whole week, like any normal person) and the Hotel d’Angleterre was so homely and comfortable, we just wanted to spend as much time there as possible. We headed to the bar to have a round of fantastic cocktails and then to bed, where we enjoyed our half bottle of Pol Roger that came with our welcome amenity and our individual duvets (which may be the end of many marital problems, in my opinion). Our evening was perfect, and we even watched a documentary on Scandinavian cuisine on BBC Lifestyle (no comment!).

The Tanqueray glass that had two parts. We did have the heads up!

The Tanqueray glass that had two parts. We did have the heads up!

Sunday

No sun in Nyhavn but still quite pretty

No sun in Nyhavn but still quite pretty

Obviously we were one of the last people to make it to breakfast at 10.30am, and I had to try again the magnificent rye bread with butter. And some more. But calories do not count when you are abroad, and we fully planned to walk them off. So we walked towards Nyhavn, the port area (whose photos usually equal Copenhagen to many people). As it was (relatively) early in the morning, and bitterly cold, there weren’t a lot of people around. But it was so windy and cold, that we decided not to walk for as long as we planned – but we had a peek at the royal Palace (and sadly no sight of the very good-looking Danish Royal Family).

Amalienborg, the winter home of the Danish Royal Family

Amalienborg, the winter home of the Danish Royal Family

We walked back towards the hotel as we had a couple of hours until lunch, and took shelter from the wind at the Magasins du Nord department store, which conveniently had a fantastic selection of cashmere lined leather gloves, which I could not resist. Because I really needed them!

We spent a little bit more time at this store, and then walked back to Nyhavn, more specifically to Told & Snaps, which is one of the spiritual homes of ‘smørrebrød’, which you know of course, is the word in Danish for open-faced sandwiches. And guess what? I had prawns again (absolutely delicious), whereas Mr. O went for a beef and egg combo, which he also loved. You are spoiled for choice (do have a look at the menu on their website, as it is worth it).

More prawn yumminess, of course!

More prawn yumminess, of course!

We also tried various types of snaps – in keeping with local custom and also to fight the cold. Obviously. And then decided what we should see if the fur shop still had my coat – which they did of course. Lunch for two cost 60 Euros.

Our weekend in Copenhagen was just a little taster of that this part of the world has to offer, and I have to say, we loved everything about it, but the Danish concept of hospitality really surprised us and really makes us want to go back for more. Oh those pretty people.

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: a huge thank you to Hotel d’Angleterre (rooms starting at €450/night)  and Visit Copenhagen who hosted us on this trip. If you are considering a visit to this part of the world, I recommend you have a look at the destination website (which is something I don’t do normally – it is that good and useful). Opinions are, as always, my own.