A hotel to remember: Baros Maldives

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

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

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

Our beach pool villa at Baros Maldives

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays bedroom beach pool villa

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

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

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

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays outdoor beach pool villa

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays breakfast beach pool villa

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

The bathroom at Baros Maldives

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach pool villa bathroom

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

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

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

The food at Baros Maldives

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

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays breakfast dinner food restaurants

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

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

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays dinner food restaurants

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

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays lighthouse restaurant

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays cocktails

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

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

The Spa at Baros Maldives

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays spa massage

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays spa massage yoga lessons

What do to at Baros Maldives

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

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

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

And we did it again and again…

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

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays snorkelling

Final thoughts

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

baros maldives hotel slh sovereign luxury holidays beach sunset

And the sunsets were not bad either ?

Until the next time!

xo

Mrs. O

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

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

 

Top 5 Luxury Apres-Ski clothes you must take on your ski holiday

You have all the ski and snowboarding gear – the jacket, the trousers, the boots, the helmet, goggles, sun glasses and the rest. But what do you wear when you are actually not skiing?

I have been upgrading my apres-ski wardrobe recently – where comfort comes first and of course, making sure I keep warm.

Here are my Top 5 Luxury Apres-Ski clothes you must take on your ski holiday: (well, I am!)

Sorel Caribou Boots

Get it from Amazon for £96.

top-5-luxury-ski-apres-ski-boots-shoes-sorel-caribou-beige-black-weatherproof-waterproof-shearling-boots-men-women

Sorel boots are a classic and they actually look great. The Caribou range is their most upmarket one, where the boots are actually in leather and they have a faux shearling inner boot lining for warmth, comfort and protection in cold and wet winter weather. You can get this version in various colours for women and also men. Also, I have done some shopping around the prices vary dramatically from £160… down to £96 at Amazon. I just had mine delivered and couldn’t quite believe it.

You can also look at the Sorel Winter Carnival/ Pac range, which are similar but the boots are not in leather – see here for womens, mens and kids.

Falke socks

Get it from Falke from £25.

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I mentioned apres-ski items, but I had to mention these actual ski socks – which are outstanding. Falke is our go to brand for all types of socks and you really get what you pay for. Click here to browse all ski socks (for men, women and kids) and their lovely cashmere sock range (perfect for apres-ski, of course). And also check out their base layers too (available for all the family).

Uniqlo Heattech range

Get it from Uniqlo from £10

top-5-luxury-ski-apres-ski-uniqlo-layers-tops-underlayers-men-women

Uniqlo has been a recent discovery for me – they have the best jegging trousers in the world, which fit wonderfully, look like trousers and have pockets. But I am borderline obsessed with their Heattech clothing range, which has a variety of tops, leggings and other items for women, men and kids. They are perfect for lounging around your chalet, at home when it is cold and also I found them a godsend for working out during the Winter. Vogue seems to agree to as they said, and I quote “The collection is a firm Vogue favourite, thanks to innovative technology that retains heat in winter months despite coming in the softest, thinnest of layers to allow for extra stretch and mobility.”

A gorgeous cashmere jumper

Get it from John Lewis for £199

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I love cashmere and I believe one cannot have enough! I also loved this top as it is ‘airy’ and loose – and you know what happens when you are up in the mountains. This one is perfect for lounging around and you can pair them with the Uniqlo denim jeggings or heat tech jeggings.

A warm cashmere beanie

Get it from John Lewis for £45

top-5-luxury-ski-apres-ski-clothes-women-cashmere-beanie-hat-john-lewis

I personally don’t love wearing hats (because hat hair), but you will freeze without one. I also find them quite boring.. until I found this one. Has a bit of sparkle, is 100% cashmere and ties in very nicely with the rest of your perfect ‘apres-ski outfit)

And a bonus item: the perfect chalet slippers

Get it from Amazon for £62.50

minnetonka-cali-fur-suede-slippers

Don’t fancy regular shoes at your chalet? Or are you looking for a pair of slippers that do not look like your grandmothers’? The Minnetonka range is great – super comfy, warm and they look like real moccasins. You are welcome!

What do you think about these items? And what would you recommend in terms of apres-ski clothing? Also, check out my Top 5 Sunscreens for Skiing.

xo

Mrs. O

Top 5 Sunscreens for Skiing

Still using your Summer sunscreen when you go up the mountains for some skiing or snowboarding? May be it is not the best idea. High altitude conditions call for a different type of protection and quite a few of my favourite beauty brands have now developed mountain-specific sunscreen ranges.

When choosing your sunscreen for skiing (or snowboarding or just going up to the mountains for some peace and quiet) bear two things in mind: pick small sizes so they can easily fit in one of your outfit pockets and do not forget lip protection. Your lips will thank you.

Some products actually come with the combo, which makes them very handy. But others don’t, so here are options.

And one little last thing: get rid of last year’s cream. Here are my Top 5 Sunscreens for Skiing:

Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution SPF 50 Day Cream, 30ml

Costs £32.50 and you can buy it from John Lewis and Amazon.

A must have in your toiletry case for every day use and perfect for skiing.

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-clarins-uv-plus-anti-pollution-spf-50-transparent-translucent

Sun Sport by Lancaster Ski Wind & Cold Protection Cream & Stick SPF50 20ml

Costs £18 and you can buy it from Amazon.

Very difficult to find in the UK (but Selfridges stocks it in season).

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-with-lipstick-lancaster-sun-sport-ski-spf-50-cream-stick

Sisley Sunleÿa Age Minimizing Global Suncare SPF 15, 50ml

Costs £142 and you can get it from John Lewis

Probably the most expensive sunscreen in the world, but it is pretty special. Just careful when using it later in the season as it only offers SPF 15.

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-sunleya-sisley-spf-50-transparent-translucent

Bioderma Photoderm Ski Cream + Stick SPF 50+

Costs £11 and you can get it from Amazon.

Although this brand is now available in the UK, the ski range isn’t. Amazon comes to the rescue but I would also think you’d be able to find it at a Pharmacy in France ?

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-with-lipstick-bioderma-photoderm-ski-spf-50-cream-stick

Piz Buin Mountain Sun/Lip Protector with SPF 50

Costs £8.50 and you can get it from Boots or Amazon

The most basic of options and the brand you are most likely to find on the slopes (for 3x the price) if you don’t buy it before you leave. You can get this product with SPF 50, 30 or 15. And it does smell wonderful.

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-with-lipstick-piz-buin-mountain-ski-spf-50-30-15-cream-stick

And for the lips, if you don’t buy a combo solution, here is my favourite:

Clarins Sun Control Stick UVB/UVA30 8ml

Costs £17.50 and you can buy it from Boots, Amazon or John Lewis.

best-ski-sun-cream-sunscreen-clarins-sun-control-stick-for-sun-sensitive-areas

Do you have any favourite ski beauty products you have tried and loved? Let me know!

xo

Mrs. O

10 Christmas gifts for luxury lovers

I am now finally feeling festive – it took me a bit longer than usual this year. But Christmas shopping is done and here are some ideas for christmas gifts for luxury lovers from £50 to £500 (so you can get a few!)

Christmas Gifts for the Ladies

Aromatherapy Associates Pure Indulgence Set

I love Aromatherapy’s Seasonal Sets and this year’s is fantastic. I also bulk buy for friends and one has never been disappointed.

Buy it from Space NK for £45

aromatherapy-associates-pure-indulgence-gift-set

Molton Brown Vintage 2016 With Elderflower Bath & Shower Gel, Body Lotion, Scented Candle and Bauble Gift Set

I am still using the 2015 Vintage (yes, I bought loads) and this is one of MB’s loveliest seasonal ranges.

Buy it for £90 from Molton Brown

molton-brown-vintage-2016-with-elderflower-bath-shower-gel-body-lotion-scented-candle-and-bauble-gift-set

Valentino Rockstuds

Because a girl can never have too many rockstuds. You have been warned.

Buy it on sale for £499 from SecretSales

valentino-rockstuds-heels-burgundy

Nespresso EN 550 Lattissima One Touch Coffee Machine

We have been Nespressoers for over 10 years and Latissima addicts for the past 4. That should say it all. (PS. and buy the clear glasses, makes a huge difference).

Buy it for £199.95 from John Lewis (including £75 Nespresso Credit) 

nespresso-en-550-lattissima-one-touch-coffee-machine

Love Molly 7-in-one Cashmere Wrap

One of my best buys of the year – discovered them in Scotland and have got this in 3 colours… and have been delighting friends all over the world. Outstanding quality and so so so useful.

Buy it from Love Molly for £120

love molly cashmere wrap

Christmas Gifts For the Gentlemen

Smythson Panama Card Holder

Very simple and classy – I am ever so slightly obsessed with Smythson’s Panama Range. Lots of colours and options.

Buy it for £95 from Smythson

smythson-panama-card-holder

Frescobol Carioca Buzios swim shorts

Mr. O loves swimming shorts and this brand has not disappointed us. Obviously get matching polo.

But it for £135 from Frescobol Carioca

frescobol-carioca-buzios-mens-swim-shorts

Amazon Echo

We love our Echo – but we call it Alexa. She now understands us and it is a fixture in our kitchen.

But it for £149 from Amazon

amazon-echo-black

Cole Haan Zerogrand Wingtip Oxford Shoes

Best travel shoes ever. I have the female version too – very smart, light as a feather and so so so comfortable it is almost ridiculous.

Buy it for £240 (including shipping and duties) from Amazon’s Global Store

cole-haan-zerogrand-wingtip-oxford-shoes

Smythson Panama Currency Case

More Smythson goodies. Because one cannot have enough.

Buy it for £185 from Smythson

smythson-panama-currency-case

What have you asked Santa this year? Tell me!

xo

Mrs O

Ten champagnes perfect for any party

Champagne is, without a doubt, one of my favourite drinks. And this time of the year, a Christmas party isn’t a party without these delicious bubbles. Or a Monday, or a Tuesday. If you want to brush up on your champagne knowledge, click here (you will enjoy studying this subject, I promise!).

Here are 10 Champagnes perfect for Christmas (or any party):

Non-Vintage Champagne

Taittinger Brut Reserve Non Vintage Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £25.99

taittinger-brut-reserve-non-vintage-gift-box

Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne NV 75 cl 

Buy from Amazon for £30

bollinger-special-cuvee-champagne-nv-75-cl

Gosset Grand Reserve Brut Champagne NV 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £44.95

gosset-grand-reserve-brut-champagne-nv-75-cl

Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV Champagne 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £43.95

laurent-perrier-cuvee-rose-champagne-pinot-noir-nv-75-cl

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne Non Vintage, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £48

ruinart-blanc-de-blancs-champagne-non-vintage-75-cl

Vintage Champagne

Taittinger Comtes de Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006 Champagne in Gift Box 2006, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £98

taittinger-comtes-de-blanc-de-blancs-brut-2006-champagne

Bollinger Champagne La Grande Annee Vintage 2005 Champagne in Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £69.40

bollinger-champagne-la-grande-annee-vintage-2005-champagne-in-gift-box

Dom Perignon Vintage 2006 Champagne with Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £115

dom-perignon-vintage-2006-champagne-with-gift-box

Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut 2009, 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £144

louis-roederer-champagne-cristal-brut-2009

Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne Brut 2007, 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £97.50

perrier-jouet-belle-epoque-champagne-brut-2007

So what do you think about my selection? Which are your favourite champagnes? Let me know

xo

Mrs. O

Ten champagnes perfect for any party

Champagne is, without a doubt, one of my favourite drinks. And this time of the year, a Christmas party isn’t a party without these delicious bubbles. Or a Monday, or a Tuesday. If you want to brush up on your champagne knowledge, click here (you will enjoy studying this subject, I promise!).

Here are 10 Champagnes perfect for Christmas (or any party):

Non-Vintage Champagne

Taittinger Brut Reserve Non Vintage Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £25.99

taittinger-brut-reserve-non-vintage-gift-box

Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne NV 75 cl 

Buy from Amazon for £30

bollinger-special-cuvee-champagne-nv-75-cl

Gosset Grand Reserve Brut Champagne NV 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £44.95

gosset-grand-reserve-brut-champagne-nv-75-cl

Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV Champagne 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £43.95

laurent-perrier-cuvee-rose-champagne-pinot-noir-nv-75-cl

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne Non Vintage, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £48

ruinart-blanc-de-blancs-champagne-non-vintage-75-cl

Vintage Champagne

Taittinger Comtes de Blanc de Blancs Brut 2006 Champagne in Gift Box 2006, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £98

taittinger-comtes-de-blanc-de-blancs-brut-2006-champagne

Bollinger Champagne La Grande Annee Vintage 2005 Champagne in Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £69.40

bollinger-champagne-la-grande-annee-vintage-2005-champagne-in-gift-box

Dom Perignon Vintage 2006 Champagne with Gift Box, 75 cl

Buy from Amazon for £115

dom-perignon-vintage-2006-champagne-with-gift-box

Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut 2009, 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £144

louis-roederer-champagne-cristal-brut-2009

Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Champagne Brut 2007, 75cl

Buy from Amazon for £97.50

perrier-jouet-belle-epoque-champagne-brut-2007

So what do you think about my selection? Which are your favourite champagnes? Let me know

xo

Mrs. O

Mrs. O Around the World’s 5th Blog Giveaway #MrsO5

5 years. 5 years. I honestly cannot believe it – where has the time gone? And omg, the places I have been to ever since – and been able to share my experiences with those of you who give me your time. I am incredibly grateful by the opportunities and experiences that the blog has given me – but as I said many times, without you wonderful people, there is no Mrs. O.

So, to celebrate these 5 years in style.. the gifts are for you. I have worked with incredible companies over the last year and would love my readers to enjoy some of the same moments I had – or pretty similar ones!

I have rounded up a selection of incredible prizes – and I hope those who win them love them as much as I do. So without further ado… let’s get the Mrs. O Around the World’s 5th Blog giveaway started, shall we?

Enjoy Spain in Style with The Luxury Villa Collection

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The Luxury Villa Collection is a boutique portfolio of luxury Spanish villa rentals with a tailored Concierge service to help you indulge in the finest of Spanish culture and gastronomy. Each property is hand picked so you’ll only find villas that they personally know and love, and with a personal ‘Human’ service from first enquiry through to being met at the villa and during your stay, you know you’ll be in safe hands while you enjoy Spain in Style! I have stayed with them in Marbella earlier this year and you can read about my luxury villa experience here.

Villa Cezanne is one of the newest additions to The Collection. Located in the exclusive El Madronal Estate above Marbella, this outstanding villa is a picture-perfect testament to the natural beauty of Andalusia. Here you can enjoy breath-taking panoramas from mountains to sea, stylish architecture, high-tech interiors and leisurely indoor-outdoor living. Set into countryside that would inspire Cezanne himself, this is a 4 bedroom modern hideaway that blends Andalusian charm with its owners’ South African warmth and unique personal touches.

The Luxury Villa Collection are giving away one free stay at Villa Cezanne for up to 8 people including a gourmet hamper to welcome you to Spain. The prize is for the villa accommodation only, including light housekeeping 3 times a week, a personal meet & greet at the villa and free membership to The Luxury Villa Collection Concierge service who can assist with car hire, restaurant reservations, shopping service, private chefs, and more.  You may stay for any duration up to a maximum of 7 nights, between 15th January to 31st May 2017, or from 15th September to 15th December 2017, subject to availability. Flights are not included and there will be a refundable breakages deposit payable of £2,000.

Six months’ membership of Ten Concierge

Joining Ten Concierge ensures that your evenings, weekends and holidays are spent exactly as you would like.

The service offers exclusive access to the best restaurants, premium travel flights, luxurious hotels, and global entertainment as well as hundreds of member benefits such as complimentary upgrades and discounts with the world’s top brands.

Their expert lifestyle managers will keep you in the know about the latest and hottest places to visit and get you booked in before anyone else. From dinner with friends to next summer’s holiday or once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Ten Concierge will become your best kept secret. Membership starts from £130 per month and the winner will receive a six-month Classic membership.

But nonetheless, all readers can use the code MrsO for a month’s free trial of Ten’s Classic Concierge service. Sign up here.

One hand-crafted beyond the guidebook tours in Spain, designed exclusively for Mrs O Around The World by Toma

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The Secrets of Andalucia´s Liquid Gold – Did you know that Spain produces 55% of the world´s olives?  There are close to 200 Million trees in Andalucia alone. Delve with TOMA into the deep-rooted traditional values and tight working network of olive producers. Take a step into traditional Spain and learn about this incredibly valuable crop. We will take you on an unforgettable voyage of discovery where you will visit an Andalucian Cortijo/Hacienda where olive oil is produced, enjoy an olive tasting, visit 2 marvellous Andalucian villages and enjoy a succulent, traditional Spanish lunch.

A Foodie Tour of Malaga Old Town  – Dubbed by many as the new Barcelona, the city of Málaga is enjoying a surge of increased visitors all mesmerised by the charm of this authentic Spanish city. It is quickly becoming a mecca for foodies and during this day trip TOMA will share with you the many culinary delights the city has to offer. You will visit the old taverns and bodegas, see a market in full swing and taste delectable tapas as our favourite haunts in the Old Town. This is a marvellous way to get to know the city; tastes and memories will linger long after your visit.

Ronda Wine and Jamón Ibérico Tour – Discover why everyone is talking about Ronda wines on this fabulous day trip into the hills in and around the world famous white town of Ronda. This town, perched high on an escarpment above the gorgeous valley floors and surrounded by mountains has been a TOMA favourite for as long as we can remember .We want to share with you an exclusive winery, steeped in history and charm that can only be compared to the Garden of Eden. A micro-climate and a secret water source are jey to its incredible success. After a very special tasting session sitting under an avocado tree in its sumptuous gardens, we will venture into town to visit a local Iberian Ham or Jamón Ibérico business and learn all the intricate details of this world famous ham. In the afternoon, we will stroll into the old town of Ronda to sit at a traditional table and be served an array of local delicacies.

Which of these 3 tours will you choose? Visit Toma’s website for more details and read about my experience of 2 of their tours. The tour is for 2 people.

A 3-night stay at Nizuc Resort & Spa, Mexico

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Once a base for Mayan astronomers and then a presidential retreat for world leaders, NIZUC Resort & Spa is a 29-acre private beachfront escape on the secluded Punta Nizuc, within a paradise of protected mangroves and lush local foliage facing the white sands of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – the second largest coral reef in the world – and yet within easy reach of Cancun international airport.  A collaboration between artists and architects who have created a resort that fuses modern sensibility with Mayan ethos, NIZUC was opened in March 2013 and offers 274 suites and villas, as well as multiple pools, including family friendly and adults only options, six world-class restaurants including Mexican, Peruvian, Italian, Asian and a beachside Grill, and a 30,000 square foot ESPA spa complete with male and female hydrotherapy areas and 10 indoor/outdoor treatment rooms.  Guests wanting to get more active can collect a paddleboard or kayak from one of NIZUC’s two beaches or explore the region’s natural wonders, archeological sites and amazing attractions, including the world’s first Underwater Art Museum.

Experience modern Mexican luxury redefined at the Yucatan Peninsula’s newest and most exclusive destination, NIZUC Resort & Spa.  Winners  (you can read my review of this fabulous hotel) will receive a three-night/four-day stay for two at NIZUC in an Ocean View Junior Suite on a room only basis.  The prize is valid until 23 November 2017 and is subject to availability.  It is not valid during blackout dates (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Easter) and is subject to availability.  Prize is non-transferable, non-refundable and non-redeemable for cash.

A 2-night stay at the Belmond La Residencia, Mallorca

mrs-o-around-the-world-luxury-travel-blog-giveaway-belmond-la-residencia

Belmond La Residencia is a beautiful luxury 5 star property located in the tiny mountain village of Deià, Mallorca, in the heart of the Tramuntana mountains, a Unesco world heritage site.  Nestled between stunning mountains and the Mediterranean sea, this property not only boasts a privileged position but its unique ancient manor houses provide a sense of home rather than a hotel.  With beautiful pools, hillside Spa, and tennis courts with sea views, the 73 room property is further enhanced by its fabulous restaurants and cuisine, and the warmth and personal care of its staff, making you feel immediately welcome and part of their family.

The property is a paradise for art lovers, with a permanent collection of over 800 works of modern art by local artists, a Sculpture Garden, an Art Gallery running continuous temporary exhibitions and a wonderful collection of 33 original Miró artworks hanging in the Café Miró.  The place lives and breathes art and culture.

Belmond La Residencia is offering a two night stay in a junior suite. Prize includes full breakfast and of course, use of the gym, Jacuzzi and pools.  Offer available between 31st March and 9th November 2017 (excluding 15 June-15 September), and subject to availability.

Luxury Nespresso Coffee Machine & Limited Edition Christmas Collection

mrs-o-around-the-world-luxury-travel-blog-giveaway-nespresso-touch-christmas-season

Nothing can top a perfect cup of coffee, especially one made in the comfort of your own home. 30 years ago, the Nespresso system transformed coffee making at home and since then, a cup of coffee has become so much more than a simple daily routine. It is a ritual, which can be personalised according to preference. Whether you prefer a powerful Ristretto or a smooth latte, enjoy expertly sourced single origin coffee or a crafted blend, there is a Nespresso Grand Cru to suit all tastes. Nespresso sources its range of 24 Grands Crus from the top 1-2% of coffee beans grown around the world, providing unique tasting experiences.

Giving the gift of coffee is simple this festive season with the Nespresso Christmas range. This year’s Christmas collection features Limited Edition Festive Variations inspired by the rich traditions of Vienna, smart, contemporary and sleek machines and beautifully designed accessories – visit the Nespresso website for even more gift ideas. Nespresso has partnered with Milan-based illustrator Lorenzo Petrantoni who has added his unique design flair to the Christmas Variations coffee sleeves and festive accessories. Famous for his intricate graphic artworks inspired by the 19th century, Petrantoni has created a simple and stylish pattern featured on the Festive Pure Collection cups.

Just in time for the festive season, Nespresso is offering one lucky reader the chance to experience coffee connoisseurship by giving away a sleek Lattissima Touch machine, a selection of festive accessories as well as the Festive Variations coffee range. The three unique limited edition coffees have been crafted to reflect the splendour of Vienna using the flavours of the region’s most famous desserts and are perfect to enjoy on a cold winter evening.

30 Minute Flytographer Vacation Photo Shoot

mrs-o-around-the-world-luxury-travel-blog-giveaway-flytographer-photo-session

Flytographer is an online marketplace that connects travelers with local photographers in 200 cities worldwide for fun, candid vacation shoots (about an hour). Often people return home from a special trip with no decent photos together.

With Flytographer, travelers not only return with a beautiful souvenir  but they learn cool insider tips on what to eat/see/do as they stroll the streets chatting with their passionate local photographer. Customers book their preferred photographer online, and photos are delivered five days after the shoot, often before they’ve even unpacked. If you read this blog regularly, you will have seen some of the photos in places like Bali, Venice, Prague and Santa Monica, just to name a few! (I have now done over 20 shoots!).

For travelers who value experiences vs. things, it’s the perfect souvenir and it will remind you of your trip for decades to come. Flytographer has been featured across A-list media such as: Oprah, Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes, The New York Times, InStyle, and many more. Flytographer has also partnered with global brands like Fairmont, Expedia, Context Travel and Virtuoso.

The prize? A 30 minute Flytographer gift card, redeemable in over 200 destinations world wide with no expiry date.

The Ultimate Hendrick’s Gin Experience

mrs-o-around-the-world-luxury-travel-blog-giveaway-hendricks-gin

Delve into Hendrick’s Gin peculiar portmanteau from the purveyors of the unusual and you’ll discover a host of gifts guaranteed to file your life a certain degree of wonderment.

From an umbrella designed specifically to stop water moisture penetrating your overcoat, to a watch made entirely for holding in one’s pocket.  It doesn’t stop there though, the wonderful cucumber and rose infused pedlars at Hendrick’s have bestowed upon us a box of tricks that include, a number bottles of Hendrick’s in varying degrees of size, a wonderful cocktail book, as well as some scales to ensure you always know how much of your beloved gin you have left.

You can learn more about gin, by reading the Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin, right here on the blog.

To enter this competition, simply do the following:

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

b) share this blog post via Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus. Make sure it has the hashtag #MrsO5 so I can see it!

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

This competition is now closed.

Winners will be selected by each prize sponsor, based on the answers and will be contacted by email.

The Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin

This post is brought to you by Hendrick’s Gin

 

It is no secret that Gin plays a very special part in my social life. Life without gin, and excellent gin at that, would not be the same. I remember my first Hendricks – I was in Barcelona, in 2004 and was served this beauty in a fish goblet glass. 12 years ago. Exactly. And I am delighted to share the Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin, with a bit of help from Ally Martin, Hendrick’s Brand Ambassador, who knows a thing or fifty about this magical spirit. Mrs.O

 

What is Gin?

To put it simply Gin is a grain spirit flavoured with berries, seeds, barks, herbs, peels and flowers which are much better known as “botanicals”.  For something to be considered a gin it must abide by three simples rules.  Firstly, it must be NGS (neutral grain spirit) redistilled with botanicals.  Secondly, it should be at least 37.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).  Finally, the predominant flavor must be juniper.

 

How is Gin made?

 

The base

Gin can be produced in a number of different ways but it all begins as Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS).  GNS can be made from any starch or sugar rich agricultural products, the most common is wheat but you’ll find people using anything from potatoes to molasses.  It will then be fermented to create a wash which will be distilled within a column still.  The best way of imagining this is as the blank canvas upon which the flavour will be painted.  The GNS will then be taken and distilled with botanicals.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-botanicals-1

 

The Botanicals

It is the botanicals that give gin its distinctive flavour and they are the key thing that allows each brand to differentiate itself from others.  When we are making a gin what we are basically doing is flavouring the GNS with the oils and flavours of botanicals.  For the most part this will be done in 3 different ways.  Hendrick’s Gin use all three of these techniques so let’s take them as an example.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-botanicals-2

 

  • Maceration

Macerating Ingredients is best compared to making a curry.  The botanicals are “macerated” or infused into GNS for a period of time before being distilled.  During that time the flavours of the botanicals infuse themselves into the GNS.  This will traditionally be done inside a copper pot still.  It is a technique utilized by a large number of brands including Tanqueray, Beefeater and Sipsmith as well as the aforementioned Hendrick’s Gin.

 

  • Vapour Infusion & Carter Head Distillation

This is very much like making a cup of tea except…only making a cup of tea in quite a strange way.  During the process of vapour infusion the botanicals never come into contact with the GNS. As the GNS is heated it turns into a vapour and it is that vapour that comes into contact with the botanicals that are suspended above.  This technique is done using a Carter Head still or by using tool called a Berry Tray.  Bombay Sapphire & Hendrick’s Gin are best known for this technique.

 

  • Low Pressure Distillation

The final form of infusion that we’ll discuss is called Low Pressure Distillation.  This is done utilising a Rotary Evaporator, a tool which has its origins in organic chemistry. Rotary Evaporators allow you to split and concentrate liquids at very low boiling

points. It is ideal in use for botanicals that are heat sensitive, the beauty of it is that it
allows the distiller to take the best most exciting nuances of a fragile botanicals without destroying it. At Hendrick’s Gin this technique is used to create the Cucumber and Rose essence that the brand is so well-known for.

 

The Distillation Process

 

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery-2

During the distillation process the still will be heated.  Because of that heat the GNS will turn into a vapour.  That vapour will then travel up the still into the condenser.  The condenser will have cold water running through it so as the vapour makes contact it will turn back into a liquid forming a compound of alcohol, water and the aromatic components.  The distillation process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day. The first drops that come off the still are known as the heads. These will generally be cut away and either saved for the next batch or discarded.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery-3

 

When was Gin invented?

 

Gin has a rich, interesting and at times debaucherous history. There are many important points along that timeline but the important thing to say at the off is that we can’t trace an exact date or person or location of the invention of gin.

 

What we can say though is that gin as we know it today derives from the Dutch spirit Genever.  This spirit emerges in the Low Countries in the 16th Century.  The spirit emerged from a local brew called Korenwijn, grain burnt wine, a very raw, very harsh spirit which would have been closer to whisky than gin.  The fact it was so harsh forced its producers to begin to add sugar to making it slightly more palatable.  This wasn’t enough though so they began turning to their spice cupboards to aide them in their quest.  They found that spices would cover the harsher notes of the spirit and the spice which was the most aromatic and, hence, the best at covering up those flavours, was the humble juniper berry.  As a result korenwijn became known as Genever (the Flemish word for juniper) and I suppose the rest is history.

 

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-scotland

 

How did the English lay their hands on it?

 

The spirit begins to spread its way across the world as a result of two things.  Firstly, the 80 years war and, secondly, the VOC or the Dutch East India Company.  Both of these saw huge numbers of Dutch soldiers and sailors begin to traverse the globe.  Every Dutchman on board those vessels was entitled to a daily ration of around 200ml of Genever which they traditionally would have kept in a small hipflask attached to their belt.  In 1585 English soldiers went to war alongside the Dutch to provide support against the Spanish Armada.  The Dutch were renowned for their bravery in battle and saw them charging off into battle and attributed that bravery to the hipflasks they swigged from.  The English christened it Dutch courage and began drinking it themselves in order to fashion themselves with the bravery of the Dutch.

 

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery

 

What was the Gin craze?

 

The Gin Craze is perhaps the most famous period in the history of gin.  In the 1600s genever would have been present in English taverns it wasn’t something which would have been drunk frequently.  In 1689 a man named William of Orange ascends to the throne of England.  A fairly nasty fellow, he declares war on France because he hated catholics, he banned the import of all French goods and lowered the tax on grain to butter up the nobleman of the country.  He even loosened up the rules on distilling so more people bought the grains.

 

What happens as result of these political machinations is perhaps the worst crisis in English History as everyone began producing their own gin.  The stuff they were drinking would have been horrendous a mix of things like raw alcohol, turpentine, sulphuric acid, alum, almond oil, lime, salt and basically anything which would allow the bootleggers to stretch out their product.  This was served up across 17,00 liquor shops across the city of London each emblazond with the sign get “Drunk for a penny. Dead drunk for tuppence. Straw Free.’  The rich turned a blind eye to this for years.   It wasn’t until the late 1720s that they began to try and put a stop to all this horror.  They put 6 acts through parliament but none of them seemed to work and by the time you hit 1750 the city was consuming 40 million litres of alcohol enough for  1 pint per week for every man, woman and child living in London.  A child born in the city had an 80% chance of reaching the age of two. It was until the Tippling Act of 1751 that the Gin Craze ended and London could try and recover.

 

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-mobile

 

Does Gin go by any other names?

 

Mother’s Ruin, Madam Geneva, The Makeshift, Slappy Bonita, Scorch-gut, Kill-me-quick, Strip-me-naked, Comfort/Delight, Royal Poverty, Parliamentary Brandy, South Sea Mountain, Nig, King Theodore of Corsica, The Cure For The Blue Devils.

 

What is the best way to enjoy your Gin?

 

Gin can be enjoyed in a great number of different ways.  It’s perhaps the most versatile of all spirits out there.  The most frequently drunk thought would probably be the Gin & Tonic & the Gin Martini.  Both have been around since the turn of the 20th Century and will be here for much longer I’m sure.  Below are two recipes one for the Perfect Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic and one for a Hendrick’s Gin Martini.

 

Gin & Tonic

50ml Hendrick’s Gin

125ml Tonic Water

Fill a tall glass with ice and then add all ingredients.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-tonic

 

Gin Martini

60ml Hendrick’s Gin

7ml French Vermouth

1 dash of Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass.  Stir and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-martini

 

 

 

 

Most importantly, enjoy responsibly.

 

 

Hendrick’s is a delicious super premium gin, made with a number of unusual twists to deliver a most curious arrangement. Unlike ordinary gins, Hendrick’s is distilled in the little fishing village of Girvan, Scotland. Only Hendrick’s is made with infusions of Cucumber and Rose petals, producing a wonderfully refreshing gin with a delightfully floral aroma. Hendrick’s is the only gin made in a combination of a Carter-Head and copper pot stills, creating a divinely smooth gin with both character and balance of subtle flavours.

The post The Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

The Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin @hendricksginuk

This post is brought to you by Hendrick’s Gin

It is no secret that Gin plays a very special part in my social life. Life without gin, and excellent gin at that, would not be the same. I remember my first Hendricks – I was in Barcelona, in 2004 and was served this beauty in a fish goblet glass. 12 years ago. Exactly. And I am delighted to share the Hendrick’s Beginners Guide to Gin, with a bit of help from Ally Martin, Hendrick’s Brand Ambassador, who knows a thing or fifty about this magical spirit. Mrs.O

What is Gin?

To put it simply Gin is a grain spirit flavoured with berries, seeds, barks, herbs, peels and flowers which are much better known as “botanicals”.  For something to be considered a gin it must abide by three simples rules.  Firstly, it must be NGS (neutral grain spirit) redistilled with botanicals.  Secondly, it should be at least 37.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).  Finally, the predominant flavor must be juniper.

How is Gin made?

The base

Gin can be produced in a number of different ways but it all begins as Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS).  GNS can be made from any starch or sugar rich agricultural products, the most common is wheat but you’ll find people using anything from potatoes to molasses.  It will then be fermented to create a wash which will be distilled within a column still.  The best way of imagining this is as the blank canvas upon which the flavour will be painted.  The GNS will then be taken and distilled with botanicals.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-botanicals-1

The Botanicals

It is the botanicals that give gin its distinctive flavour and they are the key thing that allows each brand to differentiate itself from others.  When we are making a gin what we are basically doing is flavouring the GNS with the oils and flavours of botanicals.  For the most part this will be done in 3 different ways.  Hendrick’s Gin use all three of these techniques so let’s take them as an example.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-botanicals-2

Macerating Ingredients is best compared to making a curry.  The botanicals are “macerated” or infused into GNS for a period of time before being distilled.  During that time the flavours of the botanicals infuse themselves into the GNS.  This will traditionally be done inside a copper pot still.  It is a technique utilized by a large number of brands including Tanqueray, Beefeater and Sipsmith as well as the aforementioned Hendrick’s Gin.

  • Vapour Infusion & Carter Head Distillation

This is very much like making a cup of tea except…only making a cup of tea in quite a strange way.  During the process of vapour infusion the botanicals never come into contact with the GNS. As the GNS is heated it turns into a vapour and it is that vapour that comes into contact with the botanicals that are suspended above.  This technique is done using a Carter Head still or by using tool called a Berry Tray.  Bombay Sapphire & Hendrick’s Gin are best known for this technique.

  • Low Pressure Distillation

The final form of infusion that we’ll discuss is called Low Pressure Distillation.  This is done utilising a Rotary Evaporator, a tool which has its origins in organic chemistry. Rotary Evaporators allow you to split and concentrate liquids at very low boiling

points. It is ideal in use for botanicals that are heat sensitive, the beauty of it is that it
allows the distiller to take the best most exciting nuances of a fragile botanicals without destroying it. At Hendrick’s Gin this technique is used to create the Cucumber and Rose essence that the brand is so well-known for.

The Distillation Process

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery-2

During the distillation process the still will be heated.  Because of that heat the GNS will turn into a vapour.  That vapour will then travel up the still into the condenser.  The condenser will have cold water running through it so as the vapour makes contact it will turn back into a liquid forming a compound of alcohol, water and the aromatic components.  The distillation process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day. The first drops that come off the still are known as the heads. These will generally be cut away and either saved for the next batch or discarded.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery-3

 

When was Gin invented?

Gin has a rich, interesting and at times debaucherous history. There are many important points along that timeline but the important thing to say at the off is that we can’t trace an exact date or person or location of the invention of gin.

What we can say though is that gin as we know it today derives from the Dutch spirit Genever.  This spirit emerges in the Low Countries in the 16th Century.  The spirit emerged from a local brew called Korenwijn, grain burnt wine, a very raw, very harsh spirit which would have been closer to whisky than gin.  The fact it was so harsh forced its producers to begin to add sugar to making it slightly more palatable.  This wasn’t enough though so they began turning to their spice cupboards to aide them in their quest.  They found that spices would cover the harsher notes of the spirit and the spice which was the most aromatic and, hence, the best at covering up those flavours, was the humble juniper berry.  As a result korenwijn became known as Genever (the Flemish word for juniper) and I suppose the rest is history.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-scotland

How did the English lay their hands on it?

The spirit begins to spread its way across the world as a result of two things.  Firstly, the 80 years war and, secondly, the VOC or the Dutch East India Company.  Both of these saw huge numbers of Dutch soldiers and sailors begin to traverse the globe.  Every Dutchman on board those vessels was entitled to a daily ration of around 200ml of Genever which they traditionally would have kept in a small hipflask attached to their belt.  In 1585 English soldiers went to war alongside the Dutch to provide support against the Spanish Armada.  The Dutch were renowned for their bravery in battle and saw them charging off into battle and attributed that bravery to the hipflasks they swigged from.  The English christened it Dutch courage and began drinking it themselves in order to fashion themselves with the bravery of the Dutch.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-distillery

What was the Gin craze?

The Gin Craze is perhaps the most famous period in the history of gin.  In the 1600s genever would have been present in English taverns it wasn’t something which would have been drunk frequently.  In 1689 a man named William of Orange ascends to the throne of England.  A fairly nasty fellow, he declares war on France because he hated catholics, he banned the import of all French goods and lowered the tax on grain to butter up the nobleman of the country.  He even loosened up the rules on distilling so more people bought the grains.

What happens as result of these political machinations is perhaps the worst crisis in English History as everyone began producing their own gin.  The stuff they were drinking would have been horrendous a mix of things like raw alcohol, turpentine, sulphuric acid, alum, almond oil, lime, salt and basically anything which would allow the bootleggers to stretch out their product.  This was served up across 17,00 liquor shops across the city of London each emblazond with the sign get “Drunk for a penny. Dead drunk for tuppence. Straw Free.’  The rich turned a blind eye to this for years.   It wasn’t until the late 1720s that they began to try and put a stop to all this horror.  They put 6 acts through parliament but none of them seemed to work and by the time you hit 1750 the city was consuming 40 million litres of alcohol enough for  1 pint per week for every man, woman and child living in London.  A child born in the city had an 80% chance of reaching the age of two. It was until the Tippling Act of 1751 that the Gin Craze ended and London could try and recover.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-mobile

Does Gin go by any other names?

Mother’s Ruin, Madam Geneva, The Makeshift, Slappy Bonita, Scorch-gut, Kill-me-quick, Strip-me-naked, Comfort/Delight, Royal Poverty, Parliamentary Brandy, South Sea Mountain, Nig, King Theodore of Corsica, The Cure For The Blue Devils.

What is the best way to enjoy your Gin?

Gin can be enjoyed in a great number of different ways.  It’s perhaps the most versatile of all spirits out there.  The most frequently drunk thought would probably be the Gin & Tonic & the Gin Martini.  Both have been around since the turn of the 20th Century and will be here for much longer I’m sure.  Below are two recipes one for the Perfect Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic and one for a Hendrick’s Gin Martini.

Gin & Tonic

50ml Hendrick’s Gin

125ml Tonic Water

Fill a tall glass with ice and then add all ingredients.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-tonic

Gin Martini

60ml Hendrick’s Gin

7ml French Vermouth

1 dash of Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass.  Stir and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber.

a-beginners-guide-to-gin-hendricks-gin-martini

Most importantly, enjoy responsibly.

Hendrick’s is a delicious super premium gin, made with a number of unusual twists to deliver a most curious arrangement. Unlike ordinary gins, Hendrick’s is distilled in the little fishing village of Girvan, Scotland. Only Hendrick’s is made with infusions of Cucumber and Rose petals, producing a wonderfully refreshing gin with a delightfully floral aroma. Hendrick’s is the only gin made in a combination of a Carter-Head and copper pot stills, creating a divinely smooth gin with both character and balance of subtle flavours.

A luxury weekend in and around Santa Monica, California

It had been a good 3 years since we last visited Santa Monica – and that was for a day at the beach. But whereas 10 years ago we actually used to stay in Santa Monica as our base in LA, in the last visits, we have chosen to go elsewhere.

And a bit of background here – on this trip, where we visited Palm Springs for almost a week, I was with Mr. O, Miss O and my BFF Trudi who had joined us from New Zealand. As we had a gorgeous villa in the desert, we had booked another fabulous villa in Beverly Hills… which was cancelled 3 days before our arrival.

What? You read it right – we had booked a villa and the owner decided to allow the current guests to extend their stay… and couldn’t care less about honouring our reservation. The downside of private rentals. And a great way for me to waste a day by the pool in Palm Springs and desperately try to find somewhere nice to stay and, more importantly – with availability on our dates, which were totally not flexible as we had 3 nights planned for LA and a flight to Charleston to spend the rest of the week in Kiawah Island with my friend Luxury Travel Mom.

But somethings happen for a reason – and this gorgeous townhouse on Santa Monica beach was to be our home away from home. That meant some other last minute changes – because if we were going to stay in Santa Monica, we did not want to spend our time stuck in traffic between the various LA cities. So for half of the trip, we were literally winging it. Mrs. O living dangerously, I know!

santa-monica-beach-california-luxury-vacation-rental-flytographer

Could we get any closer to the beach? No!

The house

We needed a 3 bedroom and 3 bathroom house and this house actually offered us a bit more than that – I would love to share the booking link with you, but it seems that it has been de-listed on Homeaway.

It was advertised as being just redecorated and we kind of felt it was, but some things were missing – but not that it ruined our stay or anything!

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-4-flytographer

Some of the best views in Santa Monica, for sure! Photos of us by Flytographer.

Design-wise, we felt that the living and dining area, as well as the kitchen and the master were excellent – really cannot fault it. However, we felt that the other bedrooms and bathrooms were far from what we expected. There was room for improvement – and not difficult to improve and that is my negative comment about the house.

Before arriving to Santa Monica, we stayed at the most gorgeous villa in Palm Springs, where nothing – and I repeat, NOTHING – was missing and everything in the house was thought about.

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-3

The master bedroom which we cannot fault. We particularly liked the sea views!

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-2

Bedroom 2 and 3 and one of the bathrooms. Just OK would be the fair assessment.

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-1

Bedroom 4 could be much better – look at the curtains. Really? Also see ground floor outdoor area.

Needless to say, we spent a fair bit of time in the living and dining area. The kitchen was very well stocked and I have to say, everything was spotless. Super clean and we really had everything we needed and more.

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-4

Some ‘lifestyle’ shots by Flytographer.

We only used the kitchen to prepare drinks – sunset drinks mostly. We really were not in the mood to cook and wanted to explore Santa Monica’s dining scene.

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-5

We really did spend a lot of time in the balcony. I am sure you can understand why.

Getting in and out of the house was ‘interesting’. Coming from Malibu was relatively simple, as you literally pulled to the right and got in. But coming from Santa Monica (where we did 98% of times), you had to stop at a U-turn area… and pray that the oncoming traffic stopped. At night it wasn’t bad, but during the day, it could take 5-10 minutes (and I am not exaggerating). Also, to leave the house… you had to be brave and just join the dual carriageway. We could have walked to and from the centre, but chose not to as we weren’t sure what the walk would be at night. This is the price you pay for the location.

santa-monica-california-luxury-beach-oceanfront-townhouse-vacation-villa-luxury-rental-6

Some house details. I wasn’t a fan of the mismatched beach towels, but I am being picky.

The beach

santa-monica-beach-california-luxury-vacation-rental

Our own baywatch moment!

We couldn’t get any closer. The beach was there and we did enjoy walking around it. It still beats me why on earth California does not allow for sun loungers like they do in Florida or in Europe. That would make for such a civilised and nice beach experience. This is obviously my personal opinion.

With the scene set, here’s what we did in and around Santa Monica during our stay.

Day 1

We got to the house at around 1pm, as we had an early check-in. We really only wanted to drop our bags and go to lunch!

bp-oysterette-santa-monica-california-seafood-oysters-lobster-roll

Imagine a place like this right on the beach. OMG.

As we had not planned to actually go to Santa Monica.. we did not really have meals planned or booked. So we started driving around Ocean Avenue and came across this place. It was packed and had a little queue, which obviously meant it would be good. We waited 10 mins for a table and I have to say – BP Oysterette was really nice and we really enjoyed our meal there. Lobster rolls, oysters, lobster mac & cheese. It was lovely. (Lunch was $50 per person)

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the shopping options which, in this part of the world, are ‘a plenty’. We went to 3rd Street Promenade, where you can find a selection of the main US high street retailers, then made a stop at Santa Monica Place, which has Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and some more upmarket shops and ended our shopping afternoon on 4th Street, where you can find West Elm, Pottery Barn, CB2 and other ‘home shops’ which we love.

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Breakfast at Shoops, Santa Monica Place and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica

What I couldn’t find was Williams Sonoma (which is the parent company of West Elm and PB) and I asked the lady there and she told me it was on ‘Montana’. I had no idea where Montana was, but funnily enough it where the Dry Bar (where we had pre-dinner hair appointments was located). Little did I know that ‘Montana’ was indeed the gem of our stay in Santa Monica, and where we were to return to every single day.

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We loved Montana Av (the shopping area is located between 4th and 18th Streets)

After a fab blow dry, we went back to the townhouse to change for dinner, and of course have a little sunset drink.

We managed to get a last minute reservation at Ivy at the Shore, a restaurant we have been to a few times but not in recent years, and it really was fantastic. (Dinner was $150 per person).

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Mr. O still wasn’t sure how he managed to finish the lobster pasta. But he LOVED it.

Day 2

As we woke up, we thought that having breakfast within walking distance to the townhouse would be feasible and a fab idea. Sadly there is only 1 eating option in the area – which we tried on the first day for breakfast. Think about the dirtiest and stickiest beach cafe – and that is sadly what Santa Monica offers you. This company, called Perry’s Cafe has the ‘exclusive’ of Santa Monica beach eating and drinking and it is stuck in time. Imagine what they could be offering – from juice bars (so California), to fresh fish, lovely breakfasts. Nope. I obviously don’t know anything about the contract, but something tells me a little competition wouldn’t hurt.

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I honestly think Santa Monica deserves better beach dining options.

You can rent beach chairs (from the 80s) and if you saw how dirty everything was first thing in the morning, I can only imagine what it would be like mid-morning. We never went back and had to be creative when it came to breakfast, which was a real shame. Perfect location – and so little choice.

After a little walk on the beach, we were really to be collected by our private guide and driver from Glitterati Tours, a company we had used the previous year and absolutely loved their services. Basically, you select from a set of half day or full day tours, and a big mamma Escalade comes and picks you up, complete with a very good looking male guide and off you go. I like how their service is priced – very simple, it is per car, by the hour and not by the number of people. The cars are great, complete with snacks and drinks and it really is a great way to see the local sights.

Last year we explored Hollywood and Beverly Hills (and made lots of mental notes of places to visit), and this year, as we were based in Santa Monica, we managed to change the tour we had to a Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu discovery.

I couldn’t help but smile when we got to ‘Montana’ – but I was curious about going back to Venice, which I really had not bothered in at least 8 years.

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Venice Beach… but the canals were nice.

In all honesty, Venice Beach really had not changed much. If you have never been, by all means schedule half an hour to see it (and the ‘world famous’ Muscle Beach), but the beachfront is tacky and well, not really worth it.

But what was fantastic? He took us down Abbot Kinney Boulevard which had been gentrified to an inch of its life and OMG, really was cool. Almost too cool for us – but we made a mental note to spend some more time there. Bear with me.

From Venice, we made our way to Malibu and our first stop was a winery which really was nice. The wines were fine – but the venue really was so cute. We felt we were miles away from the city and loved it.

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Isn’t this the cutest winery?

We went on a little drive around – to the centre of Malibu town and then we stopped by the beach. I never understood how the ‘beach’ in Malibu worked, but turns out that there are some public passageways between the houses and if you can find a parking space, well, you can just go.

We just went for a little walk around and I have to say, it felt weird being so close to these very nice houses. It wasn’t difficult to put yourself in the other shoes – you pay $10 million+ for a house here and anyone can just come and seat by your ‘front yard’, very very close to you.

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Beach in Malibu – I love that one owner bought a bunch of houses and has ‘pretend workers’ just so you don’t park in front… If you look closely, you can see people sitting just outside the house, enjoying the beach. Surely they could move a couple metres?

Our driver dropped us back to our townhouse and it was time for lunch. We knew what we wanted to do – go to the beach in Malibu. Sadly we could not get a table at Nobu, so we just went back to the oyster place in Santa Monica and made our way to the same Malibu beach spot and spent a few hours there. It was perfect – we were at least 20 metres away from any house and I swam in the US West Coast for the very first time. I must have visited 20 times but I never had the chance. I still think some beach loungers would have been amazing. Just a thought.

After a shower, and changing for dinner, we made our way to Beverly Hills, where we had organised to meet our friends Molly and David (the best looking couple in the world) and the restaurant was so cool the first time around, we really couldn’t care less about driving and just wanted to go back to AOC. (Dinner was around $100 per person).

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We loved AOC so much – we had first been the previous year but had to go back again.

Day 3

We spent our third morning.. at ‘Montana’. We found this great place for breakfast called GroundWorks (see photos above), and some really really good shops (including my obligatory trip to Williams Sonoma). From there, and with a little help from Jim (the owner of Glitterati Tours), we managed to find out way to the Hollywood sign (we had first visited this particular spot the previous year with the guide).

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The obligatory touristy shots. And if you know this guy, can you let me know? He was filming a latin music video here.

For lunch, we went back to Tortilla Republic (I know, I am a creature of habit) in West Hollywood which was just around the corner – and the girls loved the jalapeno margaritas. I love Mexican food in California and this place really is excellent. We love how varied the menu is, and the shopping around the restaurant really isn’t bad either. (Lunch was around $50 per person)

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We love Mexican food. And drink! ?

In the afternoon… we just went back to our townhouse and just spent some time outside. We also had a Flytographer session (which explains the very decent photos of us) and gorgeous sunset Gin & Tonics with our good friend Kiera who is also LA-based and we see everytime we visit.

The most gorgeous sunset in Santa Monica

The most gorgeous sunset in Santa Monica

For dinner, Kiera had picked Red O, almost next door to The Ivy and it really was a great choice. It was very lively, the food was great and not far at all. What else could we ask for? (Dinner was around $90 per person).

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A fabulous way to enjoy the last night in town.

Day 4

Day 4 was our last day in town, as we had a midnight flight to Charleston via Charlotte. But we had a full day to enjoy! The first thing we did was make sure half of our bags were picked up by Luggage Forward and shipped directly to the UK (because shopping and internal US flights). This worked like clockwork and it really was a godsend, as we then only had 4 suitcases to take East, of which 2 were still empty.

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Half our bags were taken away from us by the lovely people at Luggage Forward. And you can guess where we had our final lunch?

We wanted to take a break from shopping – well, I didn’t really – but Miss O really wanted to visit the Getty Museum, which we had not been to in 10 years. So that is there we spent out morning (which was lovely), before we had a very special meal. Yes, we went to In-n-Out for a burger, because it would be rude not to!

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The J. Paul Getty Museum

Well, we did not want any extra stress, so in the afternoon, we went to get mani-pedis, massages and get our hair done – guess where? At ‘Montana’. Because ‘Montana’ was the best discovery of this trip to Santa Monica.

But not before we made a final stop. Where? Miss O had organised bookings at Gjelina in Venice weeks before, and that is where we spent out last hours (dinner around $75 per person). You know when Caudalie is doing graffiti, the place is possibly way too cool. But we loved it.

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Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice really is fantastic, and I would highly recommend a shopping session in this area. You will not be sorry.

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Gjelina really was fab – and the perfect type of food before travelling.

We were sad that our California trip was coming to an end – but the thing about California is that I know that I will always go back. The mix up with our accommodation really was a fortunate accident and we were delighted to have explored Santa Monica a bit more.

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Not a bad place for a sunset walk! Photo by Flytographer.

Until the next time!

xo

Mrs. O

How to book:

  • We paid $1000/night for the beach house including a last-minute discount. Normal price is around $2000 which is great value for 5 bedrooms! I cannot find a link to the house, but I will contact the owner as really I would have no problems recommending it.
  • A 30-minute session with Flytographer costs $250 and we loved this shoot (as per normal!)
  • I used Luggage Forward for the first time and they have offered 1 bag to be sent from LA to London free of charge. We paid for the other 3 bags (around $125 each).
  • A private tour with Glitterati for 4 guests costs $179/hour, with a minimum of 2 hours.
  • We flew British Airways from London to LAX – and we managed to use our Avios this time. You can read my review of its Business Class service on the A380 here.