Top 5 Autumn beauty essentials for 2014

Summer has come and gone, sadly, but there is something comforting about colder evenings and shorter days. I know it is wishful thinking, but it is what it is. But there will be jam, and more tea, and scones. And a slightly different beauty routine. Here are my Top 5 Autumn beauty essentials for 2014.

 Always smell lovely

I love love love this perfume.

I am making summer last as long as possible, as I am obsessed with Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Eau de Parfum. It made me change perfume, which says a lot! From John Lewis, £142 (50ml)

For your pretty face

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I have been using Liz Earle’s products for a couple of years now and from the whole range, this is my favourite. It is very much a all-in-one product and also great value. You can now buy, for a limited amount of time, the  Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser Starter Kit (with the cloth included) for a discounted price. From John Lewis from £14.75 (100ml)

For your body

I love ESPA products and was introduced to its home range when I stayed at the Corinthia Hotel in London. I visited their spa and left with a very impressive selection, which I bought from their shop, as it was wonderful. The ESPA Zesty Lemon, Ylang Ylang & Crushed Tonka Beans Body Wash is fantastic and my favourite. From John Lewis from £16 (250ml)

For your uber healthy hair

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I must admit that the fact that Jennifer Aniston is one of the backers of this brand did make me try it, but I was not disappointed. I stocked up on Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo when I was in the USA, but delighted now that I can also buy it in Europe. From John Lewis from £9 (60ml)

For a good night’s sleep

support-breathe-essence

I am a huge fan of Aromatherapy associates and this is a new discovery for me. I have been using the  Support Breathe Essence both at home and when I travel, which is quite often, and I have to say, things are better. I love the smell, it is very calming, and I do feel that I sleep better. Coincidence? May be not! From Aromatherapy Associates , from £18 (10ml)

What products can’t you live without? Tell me more!

xo

Mrs. O

Top 5 destinations for Autumn 2014

Summer has come and gone – and I have to say, mine was fantastic. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is time to start thinking about cooler weather, and of course a whole different wardrobe. Not bad things indeed!

So this Autumn, I shall be travelling to 5 places – 2 new, 3 not so new. What can I say? I am a repeater, and I love it.

‘Where I am going next?’, I hear you ask…. well.. here you go!

Istanbul, Turkey

Stunning Istanbul...

Stunning Istanbul…

Istanbul is a very special place for me, as I worked for around a year in this part of the world (not lived, but travelled very often) and I have not been back since 2008, before I was even Mrs. O (but Mr. O was there with me, worry not!). It will be fantastic to see how the city has changed in the last 6 years. As the Four Seasons has not one, but two incredible hotels in this part of the world, I decided to be greedy and try both. We are going for a very long weekend, so it will not be a problem, at all.

Mallorca, Spain

I really miss Mallorca and you can guess why!

I really miss Mallorca and you can guess why!

I need a bit of sun before it gets dark at 3.30pm in England, which will happen before the end of October, so I am heading to Mallorca, an island I love. I went back last year (after a long hiatus) and promised I wouldn’t wait years until I went back, so I am keeping my promise. On this occasion, I will be staying at one of Mallorca Farmhouses‘ signature properties in Pollenca, which looks lovely. It is the only property which happened not to be fully booked on these dates, and a little preview of the fantastic villa I will be visiting in June. Never too much Mallorca, believe me.

Copenhagen, Denmark

I am praying for a bit of sun in Copenhagen - can you imagine seeing this live?

I am praying for a bit of sun in Copenhagen – can you imagine seeing this live?

A city I have always wanted to visit, it will be the perfect place to kickstart Mr. O’s birthday festivities. I was keen to visit a Christmas market, and following your suggestions on Facebook, Copenhagen was very high on many people’s list. I will be staying at the Hotel D’Anglaterre, one of Copenhagen’s landmarks and I cannot wait to see what was one of the most awaited hotel refurbishments in recent hotel history. It looks amazing and I also know I am in for a culinary treat in town. And keeping everything crossed for a cancellation at Noma.

Northern Ireland, UK

This seems perfect for the Os..

This seems perfect for the Os..

This will be my first trip to Northern Ireland, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. I know very little about this part of the UK, and very keen to discover more (and see how good Mr. O’s Northern Irish accent really is!). On this trip, I will be staying at two hotels, which will offer very different experiences. We will start at the Culloden Estate and Spa, not far from Belfast and then explore a bit more of the stunning countryside at the Ballygally Castle, in Co. Antrim.

Cannes, France

A bit more France, oui oui

A bit more France, oui oui

Who needs another French fix? Well, I do! I will be heading to Cannes to attend ILTM – International Luxury Travel Market, which is the event to attend in the luxury travel industry. I attended last year for the first time, and thought it was brilliant.

What do you think of my destinations? I won’t be going very far as I have a lot of London-based work, but I am very excited. Do let me know if you have any suggestions for each place, as they will come in handy!

Happy Autumn!

xo

Mrs. O

My hOtel: Mandarin Oriental San Francisco

myhotel

Located in San Francisco’s financial district, within walking distance of Union Square shopping and the Pier, the Mandarin Oriental was a fantastic choice for us when we recently visited this great city.

Being one of the city’s tallest buildings, it provided us with possibly the best photos of the San Francisco, better than any postcard I have ever seen.

This is what I call a 'Room with a View'

This is what I call a ‘Room with a View’

Pre-Arrival

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

My stay was organised via email months before and everything was very straightforward.

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

Not during my stay, as it fell outside office hours. I did get some tweets the day before and after I left.

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

Yes, but as usual, I had no special requests (but was keeping everything crossed for a view!).

Arrival

Arriving at the MO. Photo by Mandarin Oriental.

Arriving at the MO. Photo by Mandarin Oriental.

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

We landed quite late in San Francisco and were delighted to arrive. I was expecting quite a large hall, but was surprised with a very cozy lobby and hotel in general. Despite being in a very tall building, the hotel only occupies the top floors and I felt it was quite a small hotel. In fact, with only 158 rooms it felt quite special. Everything was uber understated and calm, and I loved it.

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

It took a mere 4 minutes as obviously not many people check in at 10pm!

–          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 and throughout our stay.

The reception area. Photo by Mandarin Oriental.

The reception area. Photo by Mandarin Oriental.

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

I wasn’t sure which room I was going to get and was delighted with our Bay View King.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

We thought the staff were brilliant.

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

We had our many bags taken from the car to the room and didn’t have to worry about anything. The same person brought them over.

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

Yes, at $12 per day.

Room Experience

A very spacious and well designed room

A very spacious and well designed room

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Located on the 44th floor, our room (4405) was very spacious. I liked how simple the decor was – it was also very well designed and adequate for either a leisure or business stay.

–          Welcome amenity

We had some sweet treats and water.

Sweet treats awaited

Sweet treats awaited

–          The bed

Was absolutely fantastic. The mattress and pillows were great and the sheets were heavenly – with a touch of silk (or a silky feeling, which became my new obsession).

–          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.

Great and with plenty of hangers.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

We had an iphone4 dock but did not use.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

I usually don’t use hotel robes, but couldn’t help noticing these ones. For once, they weren’t matching and I thought they were fantastic. I obviously chose the one on the left and did wear it.

I loved the non matching robes

I loved the non matching robes

–          Coffee and Tea

We had no facilities in the room, but again, it is something I never use. Surely if we wanted a cup of tea or coffee, it would be brought quickly to us.

–          Free bottled water

Yes, and replaced every day.

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

We had a few magazines which were OK, but we had something even better, which I only noticed on the second day. There was an app to download free of charge, where we could choose which magazines (from a huge selection) to download. It was the first time I saw this at a hotel and believe it is a fantastic idea.

One of the best ideas ever.

One of the best ideas ever.

–          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.

Oh yes, I thought they were very clever as they were incorporated in the furniture by each side of the bed.

Small details but oh so important

Small details but oh so important

Bathroom

A smart classic bathroom

A smart classic bathroom

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

The bathroom was very classic and smart – spacious and had everything we needed.

–          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 fantastic walk-in shower, which I was able to operate without third-party help. It is not always the case.

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

Yes, plenty and very good.

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

Toiletries and vanity kit

Toiletries and vanity kit

We had MO’s signature range in small size. The shower gel was nice, but not so keen on the conditioner, to be honest. I thought the packaging was also lacking. Room for improvement here.

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

We had a shower cap and cotton pads/buds and did not need anything else.

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

Yes, but I did not use it.

Breakfast

Yummy French Toast

Yummy French Toast

We had a delicious a la carte breakfast with great choices. Mine was the baguette french toast ($16), with a green juice ($9) which was delicious. Breakfast takes place at the brasserie on the ground floor, next to the bar.

The breakfast and restaurant areas were nice and always quite busy.

The breakfast and restaurant areas were nice and always quite busy.

Bar

I tried the bar on two evenings and really liked our cocktails. I also thought the ipad menu was a nice touch.

A lychee martini for me, and a local small batch gin for Mr. O

A lychee martini for me, and a local small batch gin for Mr. O

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

It wasn’t fantastic, and it ended being removed from our bill.

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

Not during my stay, but before and after.

–          Location

The hotel is located on Sansome Street, very close to Market St, the Piers and Union Square. Being in the financial district, it was very quiet during the weekend.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

A Superior Bay View Room starts at USD 445 plus tax and a Deluxe Bay View King Room (our room) starts from USD 565 plus tax

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

I would.

–          Would I stay again?

Absolutely. We felt very at home at this hotel – it felt quite boutiquey, which we were not expecting. Everything was very understated, and calm, and there wasn’t a lot of noise for a city hotel (despite being almost full) and it was just what we needed.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mandarin Oriental during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.

Best of Summer 2014 in 14 photos

My plans for Summer 2014 were nothing short of epic – I was really looking forward to the 5 fantastic trips I had planned for this season. But what I loved the most? The incredible memories that I made, alongside family and fabulous friends around the world. We stayed mainly in Europe, but our 2-week annual pilgrimage to California was one of our best ever. Needless to say, I am about to book the flights for next Summer…

Here are 14 moments to remember the Summer of 2014 (in no order, of course!)

1 – Priceless sister time at Herdade do Vau, Alentejo, Portugal

The most peaceful location in one of Portugal’s top wine regions. A little oasis.

Nothing beats some proper sister time.

Nothing beats some proper sister time.

2- The best sushi ever at Finca Cortesin, Andalucia, Spain

Once you have been cortesined, like I was last year for the first time, there is no going back. I adore this hotel and cannot wait to go back.

I was lost for words. It was incredible.

I was lost for words. It was incredible.

3 – The sweetest hotel welcome ever? Only at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, California, USA

More than just attention to detail…

And gin cocktails, I kid you not.

And gin cocktails, I kid you not.

4- There are no beaches as civilised as in Portugal.

Yes, I am Portuguese and totally biased, but ask my British husband… decent space between chairs and outstanding beach restaurants with fresh fish and white wine sangria. Lovely indeed.

Oh Portugal, you can be so special...

Oh Portugal, you can be so special…

5 – A 5-hour dinner on board the Belmond British Pullman

On a train to nowhere. It was an unforgettable experience.

Possibly one of the best 'day-out' excursions one can do if visiting England.

Possibly one of the best ‘day-out’ excursions one can do if visiting England.

6 – A long walk to the beach at the Quinta do Lago, Algarve, Portugal

But possibly one of the prettiest ever.

One of my favourite beach walks ever...

One of my favourite beach walks ever…

7 – Finding a gin bottle the size of my head in Palm Desert, California

I am totally in favour of America super sizing gin bottles. This was a first for me.

If you look to my right, you will see that the Tanqueray bottle has a handle. God bless America. Our normal bottles look like mini bar ones. I wished I had space to bring them with me.

If you look to my right, you will see that the Tanqueray bottle has a handle. God bless America. Our normal bottles look like mini bar ones. I wished I had space to bring them with me.

8 – Never travel light. Ever.

Even with 6 suitcases between us (4 of which were empty on our way out), we did not have room for the gin. But Christmas shopping has been taken care of.

Needless to say no one batted an eyelid at our ridiculous amount of luggage at the Four Seasons LA. It is totally normal.

Needless to say no one batted an eyelid at our ridiculous amount of luggage at the Four Seasons LA. It is totally normal.

9 – One of the prettiest hotel rooms ever at Rosewood Cordevalle, in San Martin, California

Due to the nature of our road trip, our visit was short but very very sweet. I adored this hotel and shall go back for more. A lot more. It was that good.

It wasn't the jacuzzi or the champagne that made it special - this hotel was nothing short of perfection. And I loved how comfortable it felt. Only 40-something rooms...

It wasn’t the jacuzzi or the champagne that made it special – this hotel was nothing short of perfection. And I loved how comfortable it felt. Only 40-something rooms…

10 – The awkward moment you realise your husband has an auto-parts empire and never told you..

We couldn't resist this photo.

We couldn’t resist this photo.

11 – A train with a difference. A wine train!

And possibly the best organised trip ever. Even with an earthquake before our arrival, I have to say, I was very impressed with the Wine Train team.

A very nice surprise in Napa, California.

A very nice surprise in Napa, California.

12 – Going on BA001, the all business class flight from London to New York.

With under 40 passengers, it was a very good flight experience.

The most civilised flight ever, in my opinion.

The most civilised flight ever, in my opinion.

13 – Ending summer with the best tan ever in Palm Springs, California

Where we have been going year after year for the last 9. And already thinking of returning. We love it there.

The best tan ever...

The best tan ever…

14 – Seeing San Francisco without clouds or fog. 

It took us 5 visits and a few years, but it happened. Even if there was an earthquake the night before.

San Francisco on that clear day...

San Francisco on that clear day…

What were your favourite summer moments?

xo

Mrs. O

My Flight: British Airways BA1 business class service from London City to JFK

British Airways Business Class London City – New York JFK Review

For ages I had been wanting to try this flight with British Airways for quite a few reasons – it has the Concorde’s flight number (BA1), it is a single class service (40 something passengers in business class) and with its stopover in Shannon (Ireland), one gets to clear US immigration and customs procedures, which can save hours when you land in the USA (in this case, New York’s JFK airport). The fact that it departs from London City was also interesting (an airport which I never use as it is almost 2 hours from where in live, but perfect for those working in the City).

This flight departs from London City airport and makes a brief stop in Shannon, Ireland. Here, you clear US customs and immigration and then arrive into JFK as a domestic passenger.

This flight departs from London City airport and makes a brief stop in Shannon, Ireland. Here, you clear US customs and immigration and then arrive into JFK as a domestic passenger.

So on a recent trip to the USA (to San Francisco, to be precise), we decided that the potential cons (longer travel time to airport and a longer flight to NYC) would be lost in what would be a long travel day. And I have to say, it was worth every minute.

Check-in

Check in at London City airport

Check in at London City airport

To say it was a breeze, would be an understatement. BA operates more and more flights from London City Airport, but the JFK route has its own check-in desk. We had no one ahead of us and were done in exactly 4 minutes, I kid you not. The staff were chatty and asked if it was our first time on this service. When we said yes, he briefly explained what we should expect – a gate lounge from where we would board the plane (and not your normal BA lounge), and that after 1h from departing from London, we would be stopping over in Shannon (in Ireland), where we would leave the plane and clear US immigration and customs procedures, which would speed up our arrival at JFK as we would land as a domestic flight. Exciting stuff!

Security

Security was possibly one of the quickest we have ever experienced and I do not recall if there was a fast track lane or not (I think not). It was all over very quickly, and it wasn’t a problem at all.

I was very curious about this gate lounge!

I was very curious about this gate lounge!

 

The Lounge

We walked around the shops for a bit (not too long as there weren’t many) and made our way to the gate, where we expected to have breakfast. My love for BA breakfasts is well documented (they do possibly the best bacon sandwiches in the world) and I have to say, I was disappointed with the selection – I did not know that is was just a boarding lounge with a bit of food and for breakfast, you could only choose between pastries, muffins and cereal. There were no cooked items at all, I am afraid. The drinks selection was absolutely fine, but we were actually quite hungry and had I known, I would have had breakfast in other places at the airport.

The Gate Lounge at London City airport

The Gate Lounge at London City airport

Obviously everything was spotless, but I did feel I missed out on the usual BA Heathrow Lounge experience. I know I wasn’t at Heathrow, but…

From the lounge, the 40 something passengers (there weren’t seats for everyone) boarded the plane via bus (for a 1 minute ride as the plane was quite close by). This was the most democratic flight experience I ever had – everyone was flying in the same class, with the same privileges. Result: proper queuing, no noise, no rushing. It was pretty perfect.

Possibly one of the most civilised flights ever...

Possibly one of the most civilised flights ever…

The Flight

Not your usual cabin!

Not your usual cabin!

–          Welcome

We were welcomed by the purser with the usual ‘Welcome back Mr. and Mrs. O’Reilly. BA has recently stopped checking boarding passes on planes (in routes/places where there are at least 2 previous BA ID checks), and this will be one of the service aspects that will go. It is that brief moment where the cabin crew glances at your boarding pass which then allows them to greet you by name. A glance at the passenger status gets you the welcome back. We were very pleased we had it!

Boarding took about 15 minutes all in, it was so quick (and quiet!!)

On your seat, you will also find a very thorough guide that explains all that will happen on the flight, especially the stopover at Shannon Airport.

–          Amenities

Ahead of our seats, we all had a coat hanger, which I thought was a very good idea. Usually the crew comes around in business class to get your coats seat by seat, but this certainly made it easier.

We got the standard his and hers Elemis amenity kit (you can see more details about it on a previous flight review).

–          Drinks service 

We were not offered a pre-flight drink – because it wouldn’t make sense, to be perfectly honest. On this service, boarding takes next to nothing and surely we had to be entertained on our short hop to Shannon airport.

Taittinger makes me happy, what can I say!

Taittinger makes me happy, what can I say!

During our first flight, the crew took our orders for lunch (to be served after the Shannon stopover) and we also had canapés and the first drinks trolley visit, which offers champagne (Taittinger Brut and Castelnau Rose). Not sure about the new rose choice – but it was sad to see Taittinger rose disappear. You can also order from the full bar, which includes a selection of gin, vodka or whisky, liqueurs, beer, juices and soft drinks. From the gin selection, I honestly still think that the gins (Tanqueray and Gordons) should be different from those served in economy (on other flights). I can’t comment on the other spirits as I don’t drink them.

– The Shannon Airport experience

After a short hop from London, we landed at Shannon airport in Ireland. We had to leave the plane, take all our personal belongings with us (including passport and US customs form) and head to the airport terminal. Those with checked luggage were asked to have a seat in a pre-determined area, whereas those with hand luggage only could proceed through immigration. After a brief wait, we were told to proceed though security. There were no queues and it did not take long at all. We then went through US immigration, in the same style that we would in the USA, minus the queues.

Something interesting happened – our luggage tags were checked and we were asked to visually identify each of our suitcases via a computer screen. I am not quite sure how this was done so quickly (while we had that short wait).

All done within the hour, very efficient.

All done within the hour, very efficient.

We then made our way to the BA departure gate before we boarded our flight again. The airport has very limited shopping and something worth noting.. the flight will not have duty-free on board. I hadn’t figured this out until later on and it was a shame as I actually planned to buy some items! You know now!

–          In-flight dining

 After we got back on the plane, we were served lunch. My choice was grilled rack of lamb which was fantastic, whereas Mr. O went for the garganelli pasta with oxtail ragout, which was also very good.

Wine choices were also good – Chateau de Thayvenay, a lovely Sancerre from France or a Clos Pegasse Chardonnay from California as whites and a Barbera d’Asti superiore from Italy or Cartlidge & Brown Pinot Noir, also from California, as reds. I tried the sancerre and the pinot noir and they were very good.

Couldn't fault the food on board.

Couldn’t fault the food on board.

To end the meal in style, I had a selection of cheese, paired with Port, which included Lincolnshire blue and cheddar.

90 minutes before we landed, we had afternoon tea, which is possibly one of the simplest meals an airline can serve, but certainly one of my favourites. I always start with the scone (served with jam and clotted cream, of course!) and then have a couple of bites of the sandwiches. I cannot fault the food options in any way.

The Club Kitchen which I love, was also available, so you can help yourself to snacks, sandwiches, salads and fruit in between meals. I am afraid to report that I slept for the rest of the flight and forgot about the chocolate stash and did not make a visit on this occasion.

–  In-flight entertainment

The future of in flight entertainment? Possibly!

The future of in flight entertainment? Possibly!

On this flight, we didn’t have the usual TV screen. We were handed an iPad which was pre-loaded with various TV and Film choices. It worked really well, it was easy to place the device on the cocktail table and I really liked it. The selection of programmes was good, albeit limited (only 20 films, for example).

–          The seat

Fully reclinable (180 degrees) seats, which were roomier than normal Club World seats.

Fully reclinable (180 degrees) seats, which were roomier than normal Club World seats.

The cabin looked smart, and the seats were different from the usual Club World cabin. For once, they all faced forward – I personally do not mind either option. They obviously reclined to a fully flat bed, and we had a nice pillow and throw.

Useful details...

Useful details…

We also had a 3-in-1 plug which worked on UK, USA and European devices, which was quite clever, but no USB ports. I also have to mention as this was an Airbus A318, we had control of the ventilation system (like on a normal short haul flight), which I loved. On long haul planes (and I do not speak plane, so bear with me), you can never control the air, which I do not love.

Final thoughts

The most civilised flight ever, in my opinion.

The most civilised flight ever, in my opinion.

I have to say, it was one of the most civilised flights I ever had. There were never queues to the loos, everyone was smiley and quiet (very important) and the whole journey was a breeze. The stopover in Shannon adds a bit to the journey, but that is offset on arrival as you head straight to the baggage claim at JFK as a domestic passenger and that can save you hours. Service was friendly (we had a 3-strong crew on this flight, and they were quite busy!!), the food was good, and we landed early, which is always a bonus.

The only issue for me is the fact that the service departs from London City, which isn’t convenient at all – but then again, I have Heathrow 30 minutes from home, and I am not the target audience of this flight. For businesspeople based in the City, you can get in and out of the airport in 15 minutes and be at your office, which I am sure is priceless.

Until the next flight…

xo

Mrs. O

Factbox: A return flight from LCY to JFK costs from £2600 per person including taxes. To find out more about this service, click here.

Introducing #LuxTravelChat, the first Twitter chat dedicated to luxury travel @luxtravelchat

Twitter's first weekly travel chat dedicated 100% to Luxury Travel

Twitter’s first weekly travel chat dedicated 100% to Luxury Travel

Founded by two avid luxury travel twitterers and influencers, UK-based Ana Silva O’Reilly aka Mrs. O Around the World (see twitter profile) and US-based Kim-Marie Evans, aka Luxury Travel Mom (see twitter profile), #LuxTravelChat aims to build a global luxury travel community on twitter, where like-minded brands can converse and identify like-minded consumers.

#LuxTravelChat is the first and only UK and USA-based luxury travel-themed Twitter chat, held Thursdays at 9.30am LA (PST), 12.30pm NYC (EST), 5.30pm London (GMT) and 6.30pm Paris (CET) for 3o minutes.

Every week, we will introduce a new topic and will seek your input by asking 5 different questions.

Each question will have the same format, i.e. “Q1 What is the best hotel you have ever visited? #luxtravelchat’ and answers should follow a similar pattern, i.e. ‘A1. Hotel 123 #luxtravelchat’.

Love all things luxury travel? Don’t be shy and follow @LuxTravelChat on twitter now.

New to twitter chats? Here is all you need to know. And don’t be afraid or shy, I promise we do not bite.

1. Don’t be afraid to lurk. – Especially if you are new to the world of Twitter chats as a whole, lurking is a great way to test the waters. You can just watch the stream in real-time or after it’s over and still learn like you were participating. You may not be introducing yourselves to the moderator and other participants, but it’s an excellent start. From here, you may move on to semi-lurk, meaning you retweet participants now and then but don’t jump in with your own thoughts. This is also the best way to find out if there are specific rules for the chat without accidentally breaking one first.

2. Remember your environment. – If you are planning to participate in the Twitter chat and tweet about other topics at the same time, remember your platform. This goes for participating in more than one chat, too. Try not to accidentally add even more content to an already busy stream.

3. Retweet the questions. – If you are in a chat that has structured questions rather than an open conversation (such as #LuxTravelChat , the moderators will tweet out the questions, most likely one at a time. Retweeting the question before answering it is helpful to both participants and your followers. Followers may be interested in your tweets but won’t know what questions you are answering. For fast-moving chats, having the question reappearing in the stream makes it easier for participants to find the questions without excessive scrolling.

4. Number your answers. – Most moderators number the questions that are asked in the Twitter chat by starting the tweet with “Q1:” or “Q2:” and so on. When answering the question, either include that or use “A1:” or “A4:”. People move through the chat at different paces and some conversations are longer than others, so not everyone is answering the same question at the same time. This makes it clear which question you are answering in your tweet. At the end, always use #luxtravelchat, so that those following the chat via the hashtag do not miss your input.

5. Don’t be afraid to reply and start conversations. – There is more to the chats than just answering questions in a single tweet. You’re on SOCIAL media, so be social. Discuss your answers with other participants and if you have any questions of your own related to the topic or someone’s answer, don’t be afraid to seek answers. Likewise, there may be other people asking questions that you would like to weigh in on.

6. Don’t veer too off topic. – Side conversations often pop up in Twitter chats, especially when the participants know each other well (either offline or just online). This is completely okay and often encouraged, but try to keep tweets using the hashtag at least somewhat on topic. If it veers too far off course, continue the conversation without the chat’s hashtag.

7. Twitter chat time is not promo time. – Do not use the Twitter chat as a promotional platform or try to advertise during it. Please respect the moderator’s wishes and keep the rest of the chat focused on the conversation.

8. Remember the rest of your followers. – When you’re looking only at the hashtag’s stream and not your whole timeline, you may forget that the rest of your followers (and Twitter users, for that matter) can see your tweets. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to see. Also keep your followers in mind with frequency of tweets. If you are replying to people, it will only show in your followers’ timeline if they follow the other person as well. But they will see all of the other tweets. Some people get annoyed by Twitter chatters, so you may want to shoot off a warning that you’ll be tweeting a lot right before the chat starts.

9. Follow up. – After the chat, it’s a nice gesture to thank the moderator, any special guests or co-hosts, and the individuals you personally interacted with. While not necessary, it definitely deepens the connections made during the chat and is a nice way to show your appreciation to the chat. You can also reach out to these people to start other conversations in between Twitter chats.

10. Use the hashtag throughout the week. – This may be more encouraged in some chats than others, but hashtags are meant to be active. Participants frequently add the hashtag to their saved searches or as a stream in their Twitter client. If you share content in between chats, they’ll likely see it. If you find anything else related to the previous or upcoming chat’s topic, share a link with them.

We cannot wait to have you joining us!

Remember, @LuxTravelChat takes place every Thursday at 9.30am Los Angeles (PST), 12.30pm New York (EST), 5.30pm London (GMT) and 6.30pm Paris (CET).

Discover more with American Express and TripAdvisor

This article is sponsored by American Express

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have a lot of love for my American Express card – it is the card that literally takes me places (and I also love the extra services they offer). What I am not so familiar with, is TripAdvisor – I am not a regular user, although I must confess I have spent a few hours perusing some very bad reviews of places I will never visit.

So when American Express launched this new joint initiative, I was intrigued – why would they partner with TripAdvisor? Since Wendy Peryn joined their team, I have actually been reading some of their content (because of Wendy, who I respect and admire) and I really wanted to understand the point of it.

If you know your local American Express website like your favourite book, you will see that more and more, you can ‘connect’ your card to various initiatives (like Foursquare, for example), or pre-load offers into your card so that if you spend x money in a particular retailer, you will get statement credits. It is a no brainer, and as it is ‘pre-organised’, you know that if you use your card on a particular place, you will then get your money back. Or a bit of money back.

The American Express – TripAdvisor initiative is actually quite interesting: by connecting your accounts, you will be tagged as an Amex Cardmember, and that tag will start creating a pattern based on your reviews – and those of other American Express Cardmembers around the world. And because it is a little (or not so little) club, where the card opens a lot of possibilities, it is possible that you may have some things in common with these other club members.

So I logged on to the American Express – TripAdvisor page.

A special offer from Jetsetter is something most likeminded people wouldn’t say no to, and I have to say, with that Maldives photo, we were off to a great start.

I scrolled down and got more information – and quite relevant, I have to say (and it all seemed to make sense).

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 13.27.19

I clicked on ‘Connect Now’, and was asked to connect with a TripAdvisor account and provide my personal details, including my American Express card number. And then this screen appeared: and I found something quite cool – in return for your first review as an Amex Cardmember, you can get a £5 statement credit. This offer is valid until December 31st. I also read the bit where is said ‘limited to 15,000 posted reviews’ and started doing some math (I could spend a couple of days writing reviews). BUT NO! I then read the full terms and you are limited to 1 review per card (but if you have more than 1 card and 1 TripAdvisor account, then, well, the world is your oyster).

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 13.28.16

So for the promise of a small glass of wine, I wrote my first review. I decided to be quite clever and actually review a wine place (where you can get glasses of wine for £5, so it all works subconsciously. Instant gratification and all!

My review of 28-50 Marylebone

My review of 28-50 Marylebone

Reviews take up to 48 hours to be posted (they need to be verified and rightly so), so it is just a matter of days until I get those £5 back.

But then, I decided to test the system, just to see if it did what it said on the tin – so I explored this part of the website a bit further.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 13.31.38

So I picked London and a particular type of restaurant, and the results were not bad at all. If the results for a place I know are good enough (which they were), the potential for good recommendations around the world is quite interesting. Imagine going to Buenos Aires and not knowing where to eat, shop or drink, well, you can follow other American Express Cardmembers’ suggestions.

While I wrote this post, I got some mail (or e-mail, rather)…

So I know where I went for dinner in London last week, and when I had that glass of wine and know that is was with compliments from American Express and TripAdvisor. It is small, but could be the beginning of something great.

Join me on TripAdvisor and keep those reviews coming – but only places that Mrs. O would approve!

xo

Mrs. O

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by American Express. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Rediscovering Lisbon, Portugal

As you may know by now, Lisbon is my hometown – I go back a few times a year, but never as a tourist. Either I go to see family and friends (and have every 10 minutes of my time accounted for, usually around meals of course), or it is a strictly business trip, where I spend days with clients and never get to see the sights.

Lisbon is definitely one of our cities. Photo by Flytographer.

Lisbon is definitely one of our cities. Photo by Flytographer.

But this Summer, and with the help of Exclusive by TLC I decided that I deserved some touristy time – and see the many sights and the beauty that Portugal’s capital has to offer over 2 days. And I have to say, I loved every minute of it. Mr. O was also really looking forward to it, as he tells anyone that who will listen that he hasn’t seen Lisbon properly since he was courting me. That started almost 10 years ago, so we really had to do this.

We were met by Catarina and Joana from Exclusive by TLC outside our hotel and basically everything that was to take place was to be a surprise. And I love surprises. The first thing we did was actually to get on a tram. I have not been on a tram possibly for 30 years. Mr. O had never had the pleasure either. We rode on the 28 line, which is obviously one of the most touristy ones, but you can see why – it takes you from Alfama to Chiado (and many other places) and you do see a lot! We stopped at Praca Luis de Camoes, in the intersection of the Chiado and Bairro Alto districts,  both areas we knew well.

A very hot and sunny day awaited... and we were really looking forward to it!

A very hot and sunny day awaited… and we were really looking forward to it!

We had arrived that morning from the Algarve, so it was fair to say that we were hungry. Starving, even. So the priority was to eat – which is always a delight (note how Unbiased I am!). Cafe Lisboa, by chef Jose Avillez was the chosen place – and we loved it! Located inside the Sao Carlos National Theatre, it did remind me of ‘Old’ Lisbon. It was beautifully restored and the menu was fantastic. All Portuguese classics (with things I hadn’t eaten in years) – we chose the Executive Menu (incredible value at €16/head) which featured all the classics and I loved my veal croquettes and tomato rice. Mr. O went crazy with his Pastel (a meat filled pastry). The cherry gazpacho was also divine, as were the codfish nuggets.

Cafe Lisboa was a great choice for lunch. Great location too.

Cafe Lisboa was a great choice for lunch. Great location too.

From here, we decided that a walk was just what we needed. So we made our way towards Praca Luis de Camoes again, and headed up towards Principe Real via Rua da Misericordia. Along the way, we made some photo stops, of course. It would be rude not to!

Lisbon, we were so happy to be back!

Lisbon, we were so happy to be back!

Lisbon is built on 7 hills, and it is very true – and take my advice, avoid heels at all times. We walked and stopped – and I annoyed everyone when I wanted to stop every 5 minutes – but I really wanted to see the city. We stopped at this miradouro, where we took the photo above – I had driven past 100 times, but when was the last time I stopped? Possibly 15 years ago. I wanted my photo ops.

As we walked towards Principe Real (another district, or bairro, in Portuguese), it was very interesting to see how the retail scene had also evolved. Lisbon is great for shopping (both designer and high street), take my word for it, but this area was very different. It was great to see so many vintage, unique and local shops – with great things to buy!

One place I loved was Embaixada (or Embassy if we were to translate it) – it was basically an old building, which was restored and then each retailer took a room (or more). It resulted in an interesting mismatch.

A great idea - from a design perspective but also commercial. Up and coming brands can all be present in a special location.

A great idea – from a design perspective but also commercial. Up and coming brands can all be present in a special location.

From here, we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the atelier and workshop of painter Diogo Munoz – I have to confess I knew very little (or nothing, actually) about him, and couldn’t even pretend I did as I didn’t know that I was going to meet him (and let alone spend an afternoon with him). Diogo was a delight and not only we were very impressed with his work – everything you see below are paintings, not photographs – we really liked him as a person. He was quirky, very honest and direct, and quite funny. Mr. O and yours truly really warmed to him and actually learned a lot.

How cool are these? Photos by Diogo Munoz

How cool are these? Photos by Diogo Munoz

It was very interesting to learn about Diogo’s career (and how successful he is being around the world, namely in Asia, which I found most curious). It was even more interesting to open a few magazines the following day and see a lot of articles about Diogo. Coincidence? Maybe not.

We then left his workshop and there was a vintage car outside. I had seen it before we arrived, but I never put the two and two together. It was obviously our ride.

How's this for a very cool car?

How’s this for a very cool car?

Our 1930s Mercedes (with its driver of course) was fantastic! Diogo was to escort us to the Ancient Art National Museum (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), where we he was to show us only two of his favourite paintings. I had to confess that the last time I had visited was probably on a school trip.

It was very interesting to hear Diogo’s theories about the St. Vicente panels, which he thinks are ordered in the wrong way.

Diogo and the St Vicent Panels at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

Diogo and the St Vicent Panels at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

It was so hot, we had to stop for a drink – and luckily for us, the perfect place was just outside the museum. Glass of water with a view, anyone? I had been to Le Chat a few times before, but never during the afternoon. It was packed with locals just enjoying a drink and the view – not hard to imagine why.

Not a bad view of the river indeed!

Not a bad view of the river indeed!

We walked a little bit down Rua das Janelas Verdes, and out of nowhere, there was a shop with a queue. I found it most intriguing as this is not a retail area at all – and the shop was packed. Turned out that Argentinian shoe sensation Paez has eclipsed Portugal and now I knew where everyone’s shoes came from. I was familiar obviously with Toms, but had never heard of this other brand. Needless to say, I had to have a pair!

Beach shoes, anyone? Mine were obviously blue. No surprises there.

Beach shoes, anyone? Mine were obviously blue. No surprises there.

From here, we went back on our fabulous car, and drove through Lisbon towards our next stop, which was, obviously, secret. So secret, I had no idea it existed. One of Lisbon’s landmarks, the Arch on Rua Augusta, can now be visited. I had no idea, but was even more surprised, and impressed, when the viewing terrace at the top, with possibly the most amazing views I have ever seen of Lisbon, was opened, after hours, just for us. This is one of the things that Exclusive by TLC handles extremely well – having access to special places and people – our experience was nothing short of stellar.

How to get to the Arch? It is on the left hand side of the actual arch, and a bit 'Blink and you will miss it'. I took these photos with the hope that it will make it easier for others to find it.

How to get to the Arch? It is on the left hand side of the actual arch, and a bit ‘Blink and you will miss it’. I took these photos with the hope that it will make it easier for others to find it.

And when we got to the top…

The most stunning views of Lisbon, ever! 360 degrees!

The most stunning views of Lisbon, ever! 360 degrees!

It was definitely a wow moment – not only to have the whole place to ourselves (seriously amazing), but to have such beautiful weather (that is more normal than you’d think). But the piece of resistance? When 2 lovely waiters arrived with canapés, wine and sparkling wine (Portuguese, of course). I was seriously blown away. It was beautiful and this moment will be one we will take with us forever.

Lisbon, I missed you, oh so much.

Lisbon, I missed you, oh so much.

From here, we walked towards the square you see and had another driver (with another modern Mercedes), waiting for us to take us back to our hotel. As we only had a night in Lisbon, we wanted to take it quite easy and see some friends, who were to join us at the Memmo Alfama Hotel, where we enjoyed fantastic gin & tonics, and a simple but delicious tapas meal.

Not enough views? Of course not!

Not enough views? Of course not!

And who says only the Spanish do the best gins? I beg to differ!

My Gin Mare was Spanish and delicious, but the view was 100% Portuguese. Cheers.

My Gin Mare was Spanish and delicious, but the view was 100% Portuguese. Cheers.

The next morning, we slept late (being in touch with the local culture and all) and met Catarina and Joana outside the hotel for one final surprise – a very lazy brunch at actually one of my favourite places in Lisbon.

I am sure Exclusive by TLC wanted me to try as many means of transportation as possible, so again, we were surprised with a… tuk tuk! It was so much fun, I cannot tell you!

This was totally unexpected and so much fun!This was totally unexpected and so much fun!

This was totally unexpected and so much fun!

I obviously did not drive, but I had to have a photo taken. And in 15 minutes, we made our way to one of my favourite Lisbon places: the rooftop terrace at the Bairro Alto Hotel, where I used to go almost every week after work to see the sun set.

We had a fantastic and very relaxed brunch, which was delicious. You can also have it exclusively to yourself (with the help of Exclusive by TLC), but I chose to sleep late and do not regret it, at all!

I know I am biased (and I am not even pretending not to be), but there is nothing like a good Portuguese breakfast. And fab views.

I know I am biased (and I am not even pretending not to be), but there is nothing like a good Portuguese breakfast. And fab views.

We said goodbye to Catarina and Joana and were quite sad. We were so ready to continue and explore Lisbon – it was wonderful to see it as a tourist, and actually have things planned just for myself, according to what I liked. That was very special.

All good things come to and end, and that meant we only had a couple of hours before we had to be at the airport. And that meant that I just had to have some delicious fresh fish and hug my family goodbye.

Red mullet - my favourite fish in the whole world.

Red mullet – my favourite fish in the whole world.

And buy some shoes.

Never too many shoes. And as responsible tourists, we should *always help the local economy*. Amen.

Never too many shoes. And as responsible tourists, we should *always help the local economy*. Amen.

I loved the 2 days I spent in Lisbon and I promise to go back as soon as I can… as they say, you can take a girl out of Lisbon, but not Lisbon out of the girl.

xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer: a huge thank you to Exclusive by TLC , who create exceptional luxury holiday experiences throughout Portugal for individual travelers or small groups. Their tailor-made programmes give you access to some of Portugal’s most talented artisans from private family wine estates and wine makers to award winning restaurateurs who will show you their secrets in culinary master classes; private tours that reflect the hidden Portugal whether in Lisbon, Porto or on the Algarve. I was very impressed by their team and the quality of the programme. Prices on request.

 

The post Rediscovering Lisbon, Portugal appeared first on Mrs. O Around the World – a luxury travel blog by Ana Silva O'Reilly.

Mrs. O Around the World’s Summer 2014 Luxury Giveaway

I have said many times before that Summer is indeed my favourite season of the year – there is something about the heat indeed! Mine has been very good so far – from the 5 trips for Summer I had planned, I have been on 3 of them. Needless to say, I cannot wait for the other two (my beloved California and the Venice-Simplon Orient Express trip from Venice).

If I moved any further.. where would I be? Not a bad place

I am *very* good at enjoying summer, I have to confess!

But you know me, I don’t want to keep these experiences all to myself – and 3 times a year, I organise some very special giveaways to share with my lovely (I mean it, seriously lovely and fab) readers. Around my birthday, the blog’s birthday and Summer!

So without further ado, here are the 4 summer prizes I will be giving away soon:

A day trip for 2 onboard the Belmond British Pullman

A fantastic day out in the UK for two on board the Belmond British Pullman.

A fantastic day out in the UK for two on board the Belmond British Pullman.

A reader (and a very lucky guest) will win a day trip on board UK luxury day train, Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Departing from London’s Victoria Station, the winner will travel in the stylish 1920s carriages that evoke the golden age of travel. The winner can choose their prize from an array of day trips available, including visits to stately homes, cathedral cities and culinary journeys. Guests will enjoy excellent cuisine, fine wine and liveried steward service as the train journeys through the British countryside. With its vintage carriages, fine dining and breath-taking scenery, a trip on Belmond British Pullman will create memories that last a lifetime. To read about my recent experience onboard the Belmond British Pullman, click here.

Terms and Conditions: The prize consists of a day trip for two people only, aboard Belmond British Pullman. The prize excludes “The Dinner” and “Weekend breaks” journeys and is subject to availability, and must be redeemed before 31st August 2015.  Includes table d’hôte meals on-board and drinks as described in the itinerary provided at the time of booking. Additional drinks and any off-board or additional expenditure are not included as well as transport to and from the departure station. Once a trip is confirmed it cannot be cancelled or changed. 

3 nights at The Clubhouse in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is totally calling my name.... is it calling yours too?

Buenos Aires is totally calling my name…. is it calling yours too?

Yes, you read it well – someone will be making their way to stunning Buenos Aires, in Argentina, courtesy of Oasis Collections who is an innovative hospitality company offering more than just a set of house keys, offering a handpicked portfolio of luxury apartments, houses and villas in the world’s most exciting destinations, on-the-ground concierge and unique social perks such as access to private Members’ clubs and exclusive events.

Housed in a converted four-story residence in Buenos Aires’ chic Palermo Soho neighborhood, The Clubhouse is Oasis Collections’ private members club where one lucky winner will win a complimentary 3-night-stay, a VIP welcome basket and dinner for two at The Clubhouse restaurant. Get the inside scoop on all things Oasis and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. All other readers visiting this city can also send a tweet to @OasisCollection and get a free cocktail at The Clubhouse.

Terms and conditions: The prize will be valid for a 12 months from the day the winner is contacted, subject to availability and blackout dates.

LONDON CALLING

And last, but certainly not the least, I have organised 2 London experiences – one in a luxury hotel, and another in a luxury apartment. I have experienced the Irish welcome (and lux) at the Kensington Hotel, a property I love to revisit and cannot recommend it enough. I have also recently discovered Cheval Residences‘ luxury apartment portfolio and really loved living in London like a local. Which one would suit you best?

An overnight stay at The Kensington Hotel

The Kensington Hotel is one of my favourite London stylish hotels...

The Kensington Hotel is one of my favourite London stylish hotels…

London’s Finest Townhouse, The Kensington Hotel, is perfectly located on Queen’s Gate in leafy South Kensington, moments from Hyde Park, Knightsbridge and Sloane Square.  The 150 unique and stylish guestrooms, and suites with roll top baths and four-poster beds, are truly befitting of this Regency quarter. An exuberant bar, magnificent lounge areas, and period drawing rooms offer a traditional but contemporary setting for cocktails, afternoon tea, lunch or evening dinners. A haven of timeless Georgian elegance surrounded by the most important museums in the capital.

Enjoy an overnight stay in one of The Kensington Hotel’s beautifully appointed guest rooms, full a la carte breakfast in The Library and a drink in its fab cocktail bar. To find out more about The Kensington Hotel, have a look at its social profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Terms and conditions: The prize will be valid for a 12 months from the day the winner is contacted, subject to availability and blackout dates.

A 2-night stay at a Cheval Residences luxury apartment in London

An apartment with a London view? Yes, please!

An apartment with a London view? Yes, please!

Sitting amongst London’s most sought after neighbourhoods are the eight luxury serviced residences by Cheval Residences.  Elegantly located within Knightsbridge, Kensington, Chelsea and The City, the apartments, townhouses and penthouses offer more than just a home, offering a style of management and quality of service rarely found outside of London’s finest hotels.

In 2014 Cheval Residences launched two new flagship properties.  Cheval Harrington Court in South Kensington and Cheval Three Quays at the Tower of London, offering the famous 5 star service for which Cheval Residences is renowned for.

To celebrate the openings of both these luxury residences, Cheval Residences is offering a short break for 2 nights, in a 1 bedroom apartment, in a residence of your choice in Central London.

Terms and conditions: This prize is valid until 30th June 2015 and is subject to availability.

 

Like what you see? Well, to take part in this competition, it is simple….

1. Subscribe to the blog by email (see box on the right of the screen). 

2. Share this post via your preferred social media channel (Facebook, Twitter or Google +)

3. Answer this question, by commenting below: what was your favourite summer trip ever? What did you do? Also, let me know which would be your favourite prize.

Entries will be accepted until Thursday 21st August 2014, 12pm noon UK time. Winners will be randomly selected and announced at 5pm UK time on the same day. Please note that all entrants must be over the age of 18 and prizes are not transferable or refundable and there is no cash alternative.

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

Wishing you a fab summer (for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere)!

xo

Mrs. O

My hOtel: Cheval Harrington Court, London @cheval_london

myhotel

Located in South Kensington, seconds away from the tube station and in the heart of one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods, Cheval Harrington Court is the latest development by London-based luxury serviced apartment company Cheval Residences. I have stayed in apartments maybe twice or three times in my life (and all were pleasant experiences), but I was very keen to try this new place, in one of my monthly ‘London stays’.

Needless to say, it is not a hotel – so ignore the word ‘hotel’ from now on. I accepted this invite as I believed it would be a solid luxury stay alternative in London, by a company who has undoubtedly developed a great reputation around town, and different from staying in a ‘unique’ apartment rental.

Pre-Arrival

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

Yes indeed. My stay was organised a couple of weeks before Cheval Harrington Court actually opened and the dates and details were set without any issue.

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

I did indeed, and this continued throughout my stay.

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

I did not have any special requests, as per normal.

Arrival

The lobby at Cheval Harrington Court

The lobby at Cheval Harrington Court

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

If I am going to be honest, as I always am, the lobby wasn’t 100% impressive. There was still a fair bit of work going on (cosmetic, of course), but I felt it a bit cold and not with a lot of personality.

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

It was absolutely fine – I had a normal hotel-style form to fill and also left my credit card details for any extras. I was explained how the apartment worked, escorted to it and shown around. I also noticed that the apartment had a little balcony, so I asked for a key (which I received after signing a form stating that I wouldn’t try to jump).

–          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)

I was when I checked in, but not again throughout my stay.

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

I wasn’t sure what room I was supposed to have – and was delighted with our 2 bedroom apartment.

–          Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?

Everyone I encountered was very pleasant.

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

I had a small carry-on and was able to take it to the room.

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

 I was told about it when I asked, and given the password code which was exclusive to my apartment (meaning I had my own router and wouldn’t be sharing it with any other guests).

Room Experience

A very stylish brand new apartment

A very stylish brand new apartment

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

Although I thought the corridors were also somewhat clinical (but smelled lovely, for the record), I was very impressed with our 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. It was spacious, had lots of natural light and tastefully decorated. You had a small entrance hall which led directly to the lounge/dining room, to your left you had the second bedroom and bathroom (which wasn’t ensuite and perfect for non-staying guests), to the right you had the kitchen and finally, the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom.

–          Welcome amenity

I took longer than normal to inspect the room, as I was quite curious about what I would find. The first thing that I saw was a lovely welcome basket, which included Nespresso pods, biscuits, tea, and other staples. I thought it was very nice. When I got to the kitchen, I saw fresh bread on the counter and in the fridge fresh milk, still and sparkling water, butter and…a bottle of champagne. I thought things were off to a great start indeed.

Very interesting details indeed.

Very interesting details indeed.

I was particularly impressed with the kitchen – it was modern and had everything you would need for a shorter or longer stay and one thing I have to confess I did not expect was the vast collection of quality glasses. They were seriously very good (and plenty) – from water to proper wine and champagne glasses. I was also intrigued by the in-room dining menu, which came from a catering company nearby which clearly catered to western, middle eastern and asian customers. The selection was outstanding – I was tempted to try, but to be honest, there are so many great restaurants nearby, that I just picked somewhere different each day.

–          The bed

A very smart bedroom.

A very smart bedroom.

You cannot fault this bedroom anywhere in the world. The bed was comfortable and I liked the pillows, the bed linen was of very good quality and I like grey, what can I say? The only thing that I only noticed later (and throughout my stay), was the noise from the street at night. The apartments are obviously double-glazed and following guest feedback they are to be quadruple-glazed very shortly. This was the only thing that didn’t make for a perfect stay and I am glad that it is being addressed.

–          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.

Absolutely great, with LOTS of proper hangers. I also found laundry bags in the chest of drawers.

The welcome basket I mentioned earlier, as well as some other in-room details.

The welcome basket I mentioned earlier, as well as some other in-room details.

–          Iphone Charger/Dock

There was an iHome dock, which I did not use, in the lounge, and a clock in the bedroom.

–          Bathrobes and slippers

Yes, but I did not use.

–          Coffee and Tea

Yes, including a Nespresso coffee maker. I did not try it.

–          Free bottled water

Yes, and replenished daily, both still and sparkling.

The second bedroom.

The second bedroom.

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

I did not find anything.

–          Working area

I used the dining table in the lounge as my working area, and I did spend a fair bit of time on it. It was close to power sockets and had comfortable chairs. There was no dedicated working area in the bedrooms (just like one wouldn’t have at home!).

–          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.

There were plenty of sockets around the apartment and in actually useful places.

Bathroom

A very neutral bathroom.

A very neutral timeless bathroom.

–          First impressions – décor, size and wow factor

It was absolutely fine – beige and white is a winning combination and everything was of the highest spec.

–          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 (with a shower) and everything was Duravit and Hansgrohe and worked very well. I did master the shower without any help, which was just as well as Mr. O only joined me on the second night.

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

Very good.

Lovely toiletries indeed!

Lovely toiletries indeed!

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

I loved the Arran aromatics products, which I hadn’t seen in years. They were not baby sized and they were replaced every day. My friend Fi came for a drink one night and as she loves them so much, I gave her some to take home.

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

We had everything we needed.

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

Good quality hairdryer, found in the bedroom.

Dining

A fully stocked kitchen

A fully stocked kitchen

There is no bar or restaurant – you can obviously cook your own meals and have every means to do so. I chose to go out for all meals, as there was so much choice in the area (some great new finds too!). You can also order meals in.

I had guests (read: friends) over each night as it was actually nice to be able to welcome them to my 'London pad'. The little balcony was perfect. We stocked up on champagne from a drinks shop around the corner and everyone really enjoyed the sun!

I had guests (read: friends) over each night as it was actually nice to be able to welcome them to my ‘London pad’. The little balcony was perfect. We stocked up on champagne from a drinks shop around the corner and everyone really enjoyed the sun!

General thoughts

–          How good and reliable was the wi-fi?

It was very good and worked very well. Needless to say, it is free of charge.

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

They did indeed and we had a bit of fun.

Cheval Harrington Court from the outside

Cheval Harrington Court from the outside

–          Location

Absolutely fantastic – literally 1 or 2 minutes from South Kensington underground station, with a taxi rank outside the door.

–          Cost – rooms starting from…

For short stays, a 1 bedroom apartment costs from £170+VAT per night, and a 2 bedroom apartment costs from £330+VAT per night. Includes daily maid service.

–          Would I recommend it to my best friend?

Absolutely.

–          Would I stay again?

I would indeed. I had a very pleasant stay and with the window issue being sorted, I wouldn’t even think twice.

Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?

xo

Mrs. O

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Cheval Residences during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property.