Category Archives: Travel

Only YOU Boutique Hotel – Madrid

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Nestled in the heart of the uber cool Chueca (think Soho) neighbourhood Only YOU Boutique Hotel  has become one of Madrid’s  most fashionable and in demand hotels, during our stay in fact it was completely booked out!

The 125 room property was originally the home of a 19th century palace, with plenty of charm the moment you step through its front doors. A stone throws from the capital’s  famous Gran Via the hotel and its surrounding areas has plenty to keep you entertained with the hippest restaurants and boutiques.

Barcelona-based interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán worked on the hotel’s interiors and they are truly marvellous with the communal areas featuring triple heigh ceilings with chic furnishings and interiors, personal favourite being the Moet champagne lounge. The Instagram famous elevators are a fun touch with its interiors decorated with ‘book shelves’ and walls in blue/white tile work. The main reception area is again another photo opportunity with a converted train station ticket unit adorning the centre. At every corner there are new areas to discover, all with character and charm.

The interiors design flair continues into the bedrooms, we stayed in the Deluxe room,  the room is compact but feels spaces with an  en suite bathroom and charming decorative touches, with retro object and art work. The large bed was the highlight, ultra comfortable for a perfect night’s sleep.

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If you’re after wellbeing during your stay then the hotel has its own on site gym that’s open 24 hours, small but perfectly formed with all the essentials you need to keep your workouts in order. If you’re after pampering then the hotel also houses The Thai Room spa,  which offers authentic Asian massages and therapy treatments,  inspired by therapies used in South East Asia the spa has the Brest treatments from India, Bali, Hawaii, China and Thailand.  On our visit we tried the 90m minute YOUltimate Massage, a treatment specially curated for hotel guests that starts with a herbal steam bath then a full coconut body scrub and lastly a full body Thai-Bali massage, a must to let go of those aches and pains.

The hotel also houses its own restaurant, a beautiful space with indoor and outdoor seating that offers some tasty Spanish fare, guests also have the option of taking their breakfast (which is included in your stay) all day, particularly  handy for those that want an extra long lie in in their ultra comfortable beds.  If you want a drink with friends then El Padrino is perfect, the hotel’s bar is an old converted library and is perfect cocktail sport or a relaxing evening enjoying fine cheese and wine with friends.

If you happen to visit during a Sunday  then hotel’s Brunch is highly recommended, running from 1-4pm, for £44 you get delicious food as well as soft drinks, beer, wine, coffees, teas and juice with a soundtrack provided by resident DJs.

Our stay was wonderful, the staff are warm and friendly and always going out of their way to make you comfortable.  As the name suggests you are in for a very much boutique experience, with a beautifully funky interiors with pently of amenities and in a neighbourhood that is always buzzing.  Although in our stay the hotel was fully booked it never felt crowded or overly busy, with plenty or communal areas to sit back and relax if you want to wander away from your room.

Room are priced from £157, for bookings visit www.onlyyouhotels.com

 

 

 

 

Huîtres Amélie – Barcelona

 

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For the ultimate champagne and oyster experience then French brand  Huîtres Amélie is a must, the brand is globally recognized by gastronomy experts as one of the leaders in Oyster production at the upmost quality. This culinary delight comes from the region Marennes-Oléron in France and is the only designation of origin that exists among this type of ocean products. From there Huîtres  Amélie cultivates, pampers and brings to everybody this exquisite delicatessen so appreciated by the world.

Barcelona has two branches, one in the world famous Boqueria Market, though if you are after a calmer experience then we suggest heading to the pop up branch located at El Corte Ingles in Plaza Catalunña, the famed Spanish department store were Huîtres Amélie has a chic bar space in the food hall, with expert staff on hand to guide you through the dining experience.

On our visit to the branch at El Corte Ingles we got to experience some of Huîtres Amélie’s signature dishes first hand.  If you are new to oysters then we recommend the dish we had, which was the Amélie Sensations (priced at 25€)   tasting menu which includes three oysters; smoked and vaporised with premium liquors (whisky, gin and vodka) with a glass of champagne. The whole presentation was a marvel to the eye that elevated the whole dining experiences, first the oysters were smoked which consisted of a glass vessel encasing the oyster while wood smoke was pumped into a passage opening, known as the “Amélie Fumée” method, then an atomiser is used to infuse them with the spirit of your choice, we went for the whiskey and lastly an oyster with champagne gelée. The oysters themselves are beautifully presented in branded ice trays upon which 2 oysters are places with mini plastic syringes of condiments and lemon juice to add as you wish.

We didn’t have much experience with oysters before but these tasted beautiful, no over bearing salty aftertaste instead a mild and delicate flavour provided by the smoke and infusion process.

A selection of small dishes are also available to compliment your oyster experience, these include tuna tartar, Iberian ham, salmon and salt foie gras with champagne jelly. From the selection we tried the salmon and Iberian ham and they were both delicious and added to the whole experience, and not to mention the glass of champagne to top it off, after all it is a French brand!

So next time you are in Barcelona and fancy a truly unique gastronomy experience and at a reasonable price point then champagne and oysters at Huîtres Amélie is highly recommended, a beautiful location (perfect for pre or post shopping!) a tasty product and helpful warm staff to guide you, a must.
www.huitresamelie.com

Parister Hotel – Paris

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An office block may not sound like the ideal setting for a 5 star luxury hotel but that’s exactly how The Parister began life.Nestled in the centre of Paris the hotel is the creation of hotelier Nicolas Nonon, the entrepreneur created a luxurious 45 room hotel from a 1990s  office block and garden for Parisians and visitors alike.

Located in a narrow street the elegant façade houses a spaces lobby with elegant and stylish decor.  The 45 rooms feature feature suites and duplexes all Wirth large windows and some feature outdoor terraces. The higher priced suites feature  hammam, a sauna and a private terrace, a perfect escape from the busy city street.

On our visit we stayed in a Junior Suite, located at the rear of the building behind a large garden and dining space.  The room was elegantly decorated with a view over the courtyard and large windows, a highlight was the huge bathroom which features separate shower and bath tub and luxury bathroom toiletries by the brand ZENOLOGY.  Ceilings are high  with bespoke walnut headboard and brass wall sconces and bold wallpaper adorn the room.

If you want a workout during your stay then in the lower ground floor is the health and wellbeing space with a on site gym and a 20-metre pool bathed in natural light, a rarity in such a central location. Talking of location it is situated between  Folies Bergères and the Garnier Opera with loads of places to shop and eat, one of the most desirable locations in Paris.

If you face staying closer to home for a drink or bite to eat then on the ground floor you will find Les Passerelles, with extensive menu for both.  Offering plenty of sitting options either outdoors in the garden or indoors in the different library and lounge spaces.  The menu offers plenty of delicious food choices and the cocktail menu is extensive with spirits from around the globe, yuzu powder & Icelandic gin, goji berries & Jamaican rum, or timut pepper & South American pisco.
Our stay was bliss, with a truly boutique and bespoke experience.  Everything from the bedding and decor to the helpful staff made sure our stay was an enjoyable one, so it’s a must for your visit.

Prices for rooms start at €250, for full details and bookings visit hotelparister.com

PARISTER HÔTEL
19 rue Saulnier
75009
Paris

Rilke – Barcelona

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Barcelona is fast becoming one of Europe’s fine dining capitals and the opening of Rilke is sure to carry on with that reputation.  The new restaurant and cocktail is the mastermind of two restaurant group heavyweights, with Grupo Kafka, directed by Karel Schröder and owner of Café Kafka, Bananas, and The Corner; and on the other is Grupo Confitería, owner of Paradiso, Confitería, and Dr.Stravinsky, among others.

Named after the early 20th century poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, the restaurant is located a few steps away from Paseo de Garcia. The Mezzazine space is understated with its Calle Malloraca location almost hidden, with a only a door to greet you but once on restaurant level you can fully take in the stunning space.

First up is the striking cocktail bar, akin to something out of the great Gatsby it oozes glamour with seating on the main floor and also private booths on the side all with plush velvet seating and an ornate stained glass ceiling.

What follows is the main restaurant space, spacious yet intimate with the best seating located by the large windows which overlook the beautiful open garden. Attention to detail is at the upmost at Rilke with the team working with Barcelona based decorator Yolanda Vilalta on the interiors, out favorites were the oversized copper lighting fixtures.

Now for the food, chefs Rafa Peña and Jaime Tejedor have created a menu that looks to fuse simplicity with good taste, literally. With a foundation on traditional Catalan cuisine the two chefs have built on this seasonal dishes that offer a fresh take on the region’s dishes with signature dishes including potatoes Parmentier with veal sweetbreads, oysters and onion, and mackerel with eggplant and crème fraîche.

Our favorites included the Quail and roasted leek salad, the perfectly balanced flavours were delicious. The lam confit was another highlight, served with spinach and garnished with raisins and pine nuts.

If you fancy a drink then the cocktail bar is a must with a menu devised by mixologist Juan Serrano, from the avant garde bar 41 Degrees. Serrano has created an experimental menu full on flavour with the Metrolope being a standout, a fresh and citrus mixture, perfect for these summer months.

After your meal a wonder around the garden is a must, equally as beautiful as the interiors it is a secluded haven from the bustling city streets.  With beautiful interiors, friendly service and top quality food a visit to Rilke is a must.

Meal prices start at €35 with cocktails from €10, for further information and bookings visit rilkebcn.com.

Rilke
Carrer de Mallorca, 275,
08008
Barcelona,
Spain

Barcelona Helicopter Tour – BCN Travel

If you’re after a truly unique and unforgettable experience in Barcelona then what better than a bird’s eye view of the city with a helicopter ride.  Offered by BCN Travel it offers 3 different tour choicest varying tour length and price points.

The one we were able to experience was the Costa Tour, the shortest of the 3 lasts 6 minutes and is priced at €79 per person, you have the choice of booking a single seat and sharing with other passengers or buying the 3 passenger seats available for a private trip.
With only 3 passengers (and the pilot). eat means everyone gets a prime window seat, so perfect to capture the best images of your adventure.

Located in Barcelona’s cruise ship terminal the heliport is a short walk/cab ride from the beach. Upon entering you have to register and get get your weight taken (there is a 110kg limit) and after a short induction you’re ready to go. You are given a headset to wear to protect your ears from the loud sounds made by the helicopter.

While 6 minutes may seem like a short time you actually get to see a lot, the day we visited had fine weather so views were amazing.  All the famous monuments are visible ad the views make for great photo ops.  An unforgettable experience.

If you fancy going on longer trips then there are two further options.

Sky Tour – The summer version of this tour (there is also a winter one) lasts June to October and the tour duration is 12 minutes,  starting with the port along the old town and the beaches to Diagonal and Port Forum and from here we will continue further along the coast and the beaches. Priced at €125.

Montserrat – Priced at €340 but lasting a whopping 40 minutes this tour takes you over all of Barcelona’s highlights and onto Montserrat, which is known as the most sacred place of Catalunya.

So if you’re looking for something a little bit extra while on your visit then a helicopter is a well justified splurge.

For full information and bookings visit www.bcn.travel

Enjoy 5-Star Hospitality in the French Alps with Consensio Chalet

Ever dreamed of 5-star hospitality in the middle of the French Alps? Consensio Chalet has truly defined what luxury stands for. Feel pampered at their award-winning Ski Chalets and luxurious serviced apartments right in the middle of the French Alps.

They bring the best of French Hospitality right to you with award-winning hospitality coupled with some of the best amenities you can enjoy. This hotel offers ski packages not only for bachelors but for families as well. The chalets provided boasts a unique interior design which is truly in harmony with the French Alps.

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That’s not all, the views of the mountains in the background are breathtaking – making Consensio Chalet one of the very best. It has a warm water pool, a London Restaurant, Ski package counter, etc. among a host of other award-winning amenities.

The hotel is packed to the brim during winter when the French Alps receive their magnificent snowfall. They also offer exciting packages during festive seasons and all throughout the year.

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One of the most highly regarded Ski Operators out there, Consensio Chalet will continue to provide its customers with the very best of experiences. If you are planning to visit the French Alps, you know where you must stay. Come visit Consensio Chalet and get blown away by the best in industry hospitality and of course, bask in the glory of the majestic French Alps.

 

Fasano Hotel – Rio de Janeiro

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Located smack bang in the middle of Ipaname beach Rio de Janeiro’s Fasano Hotel is the capital’s premiere destination for the young and happening crowd.

The luxury hotel has a boutique feel with a curated selection of 89 rooms (including 10 suites) but still offers the big facilities of any larger chain but with added warmth and character which makes Brazil so special. French designer Philippe Starck is responsible for the stylish decor of the hotel which uses wood, glass and marble  as its key materials, inspired by the golden age of 1960s Bossa Nova.

Fasano is not only popular with Brazilians but a global clientele which includes several A listers: Madonna, Lady GaGa, One Direction and David Beckham to name but a few, when we paid the hotel a visit Jared Leto was a guest, with fans of the Oscar winner and Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman waiting outside for a glimpse of the star, in town for 2 nights at Rio’s  Fundição Progresso venue.

Gastronomy is also at the heart of the hotel which houses its own restaurant, Al Mare. The restaurant is regarded as one of the best in the city and offers guests breakfast, lunch and dinner dining options and a beautiful setting.  Its menu is inspired by Italian cuisine  with dishes like seared tuna with baked endive and a fish-based lasagne.

If its a drink you fancy then pay a visit to its bar Baretto Londra is named after the owner’s favourite city, London. As well as the signature Brazilian caipirinha a vast selection of drinks and cocktails are available in a setting decorated with leather chairs, aged Argentine red brick, low-lighting and Union Flags.

To keep you looking you best during your holiday then a fitness centre and spa, offering  guests personal trainers and a selection of facials and massages to make your stay even more special.

The highlight of the hotel is the heated marble infinity pool on the roof overlooking Ipanema Beach, the rooftop space also has a bar with staff there to look after your every need. Though the pool is on the smaller side it’s really the views that are the main draw, with sugarloaf mountain in sight it makes the perfect spot to watch the sunset.  Loungers surround the pool, the serene setting a great spot to top up your tan in-between swims. If you fancy beach action then the hotel has a designated private section of Ipanema for its guests.

Fasano is still family owned and operate 4 hotels, 3 in Brazil and a further one in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

The Fasano is truly stunning, a beautifully designed space with top notch staff and what has to be the best view in the city from its rooftop. Unlike its neighbour Copacabana which can be a bit of a tourist trap and busy, Ipanema is the perfect setting for those wanting a relaxing break, filled with Rio’s best bars, restaurants and boutiques.  A definite must stay.

Current rates and availability are available on www.fasano.com.br

 

Row NYC

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Affordable accommodation in NYC? May sound like a fantasy but with the launch of the brand new Row NYC Hotel that dream may just have arrived to the capital.

Launched earlier this year the $140 million development took two years to complete and is located in a perfect location for visitors, a mere stone’s throw from the lights of Times Square (and across the road from Shake Shack),

The stylish new player to the competitive NY hotel scene comprises of 1,331 rooms, with each room offering high end and sleek specs without the over inflated price tag.

Row NYC turned to renowned New York based architectural and interior design firm Gabellini Sheppard Associates to reinvent the property’s public spaces. Inspired by the refined grittiness of New York City, Gabellini Sheppard has delivered grandeur. “The bold aesthetic speaks to the area’s unbridled spirit and engages the excitement and energy that is Times Square,” said Michael Gabellini, Partner.

Upon entering the hotel, located at 700 8th Avenue, visitors are met with a grand 24-foot high crystalline glass façade along with an artistically crafted lobby with industrial and organic materials, including stainless steel drapery, concrete and multiple wood species.

Its reception area is flanked by two light sculptures on which groundbreaking New York-based vartist Yorgo Alexopoulos projects an abstract tableau of graphic animations timed throughout the course of a New York City day. The dynamic lobby also features Iconic M, a satellite location of the cult international news retailer Soho News, as well as an expansive state-of-the-art Internet lounge. Another innovative feature of Row NYC are its time saving elevators, simply type in your room number and the screen will direct you to the next available elevator going to your floor.

The hotel also comprises of its own bar, District M, and restaurant City Kitchen, offering guests a deslicious selection of dishes and drinks.

Rooms vary from standard to penthouses, with varying price points and amenities for each.
Standards rooms are compact, with a large bed, desk, drawers and an en-suite bathroom. Every room is high on tech specs with free high-speed wireless internet included, 32 inch LCD TV, cordless phone and lots of power outlets and iHome docking station. Though a bit on the small side standard room are ideal for those visiting the city for a few days who will be out seeing the plethora of sights he city has to offer.

The real highlight of the hotel is it’s location, every imaginable food and shopping destination is walking distance, and although right by Times Square it doesn’t face it, meaning you’re sheltered away from the hustle and bustle of the masses, the double glazed windows also keep out any unwanted noise from traffic below.

Staff are helpful, although do avoid making queries around check in time as desks can get very busy. If you arrive early or need to store luggage after checking out then the concierge can hold this for you.

Row NYC offers modern and stylish interiors but at an affordable price point, right in the centre of NYC’s famous and iconic sights.

Current prices start from $159 (+tax) and you can book online at rownyc.com

The Arch London – Hotel

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Nestled a few blocks away from London’s famed Oxford Street /Marble Arch is The Arch,  a beautiful  Georgian townhouse hotel.

The five star hotel houses 82 bedrooms (11 of which are suites) and is spread out over seven Grade II listed Georgian townhouses and two mews homes, a perfectly English location for those taking a break in the capital.

Ideally located at 50 Great Cumberland Place it has the appeal of a residential setting but a mere walk to the city’s best shopping and fine dining locations, with Bond Street, Hyde Park and the West End all walking distance.

We recently visited the property for ourselves to check it out. Upon entering  guests are welcomed with  open-fireplace, perfect to nestle around in the freezing temperatures.  Interiors fuse together marble and glass with a specially selected selection of art and installation adorning the communal spaces. The Arch manages to seamlessly merge grand listed Georgian exterior but inside proves modern and stylish decor and facilities.

On our visit we stayed at the Sullivan Studio Suite, which is located on the base of the hotel.  The suite was truly beautiful offering with full height glass doors which open up to the private courtyard, a real rarity in central London hotels! The suite has a comfortable seating area which looks onto the courtyard, with photography from leading London photographer, Amy Murrell.  The king sized bed is handmade with duvets made from duck down for the perfect night’s sleep.  A stocked mini bar is supplied with a generous selection of soft drinks which come complimentary from the hotel.  A handpicked selection of classic novels can be found in the suites, while all rooms have a full Sky HD TV package, DVD Player and internet radio with over 19,000 channels for international guests.

The real highlight of the suite though is the vast en suite which comes with a walk in rain shower and a large bath, with a built in TV, a great touch.

The suite’s location means it’s sheltered from any outside noises and you are on the same floor as the hotel’s gym so perfect if you want to catch a workout during your stay.  The

The Arch also has its own restaurant, Hunter 486, the unusual name derived from the 1950s dialing code for Marylebone. The spacious restaurant is located on the ground floor and
offers a ‘Best of British’ inspired menu carefully curated by Head Chef Gary Durrant.  Light flows into the restaurants thanks to its large windows with table and booth seating available as well as an open plan kitchen so guests can see the skilled staff at work.  On our visit for lunch we opted for the Heritage beetroot and orange salad (£8), light and tasty, followed by their famous Hunter burger (£18), the generously sized burger comes served in a brioche bun with cheddar cheese, onion marmalade, homemade ketchup and hand cut chips.

If you space for dessert then I recommend the hazelnut and apple tart with cinnamon custard (£6.50) , a perfect comforting dish for these chilly months.  If you just fancy a drink then the bar offers a comprehensive selection of drinks and cocktails while sat in original designer chairs by designer Tom Dixon. Cocktails are priced at £12.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and highly recommend you pay a visit. The Arch manages to combine a stylish boutique hotel feel but offering all the latest mod cons and facilities offered by much larger chains. Staff are helpful and friendly and rooms are beautifully decorated making them a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city centre.

Prices start from £350 for a Deluxe Room and from £420 for a Suite.

The Arch London, 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FDFor reservations, please call: 020 7724 4700 or www.thearchlondon.com

Casa San Agustin – Cartagena, Colombia

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Cartagena has become a must visit destination in Colombia, with its beautiful beaches, stunning architecture and warm people aplenty.  A visit to the city isn’t one to be missed, neither is a stay at the  Hotel Casa San Agustín, has been voted top hotel in the city and for good reason, housed within the walls of the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The luxury boutique hotel features 20 guestrooms and 10 spacious suites across three restored XVII century whitewashed Colonial-era homes.

A short taxi ride from the local airport will have you within the walls of the old city and upon first walking into the hotel you are met by a beautiful lobby high wood-beamed ceilings, elegant tile accents all evoking 17th century Spanish designs.

An L shaped pool lies at the centre of the hotel,  with sun loungers and seating surrounding it. Sunlight flows into the space thanks to an open top, perfect to top up your sun tan before hitting the local beaches. If you want to venture out further afield then the helpful staff at reception can also help you organise excursions and tours.

Rooms fuse the hotel’s Colonial past and contemporary touches, spacious with a huge comfortable king size bed, living area and a small patio for some private outdoor space.
The rooms, like the hotel itself, offers a great secluded getaway from the sometimes lively city. A library room also offers tranquil space during your stay in the hotel, with snacks and drinks available.

Though the city offers many great restaurants, included the amazing Candé nearby (recommended by staff) the hotel’s own Alma Restaurant is a great choice, Headed  by
Chef Heberto Eljach, one of the most celebrated chefs in Colombia. The menu fuses Colombian flavours with an international twist and is set a stunning courtyard setting, and if you go on certain days during the week the live music will be on show.

Though the hotel is beautiful, we do recommend exploring the surrounding area, guests can see varied architecture, from Colonial homes draped in bougainvillea, to the church and Plaza San Pedro Claver, the first saint of the new world for his work with slaves. Another point of interest is Cathedral of Cartagena de Indias, one of the oldest Episcopal churches in the Americas. Late at night horse carriage tours are available and very well priced, which give you a ride around the main areas of interest within the walled city.

Though small the hotels offers plenty, with top notch service by a warm and helpful staff. Very highly recommended to anyone thinking of visiting the city, with friends, family or as a lone traveller.

For full information and current rates visit here