PHOTO: The Punchbowl in Mayfair

I just loved The Punchbowl. How come I have never been before?  I have no idea, but will certainly visit again very soon, it has the Diva seal of approval! Perfectly located in the heart of Mayfair, a stones throw from Berkeley Square, it is certainly a very posh address.

Downstairs is the most perfect little pub. Conjure up a vision in your minds eye of a traditional British pub and this is what you will imagine.  Small and perfect in every way.  Gleaming wooden floor, inviting beer pumps and whisky bottles.

PHOTO: Bar at The Punchbowl, London W1

I would love to know who polishes everything, it was gleaming from floor to ceiling and every glass and bottle sparkled.  This is how a traditional pub should be and I am so happy that a little slice of English Heritage is so beautifully preserved.

PHOTO: Selection of beer and Spirits in the Pub

My husband, who knows about these things, was super impressed by the selection of beer at The Punchbowl.  I should have left him in the pub really!  Enjoy traditional British pub food in the downstairs bar and try the Punchbowl 1750 ale, specially brewed for the pub.

Meanwhile, climb the stairs to find a super chic Dining Room which is just perfect, light airy and with great atmosphere. I loved the styling so much that I want to paint my ceilings gold! The restaurant was buzzing and full when we arrived, I politely waited to take some pics after everyone left.

PHOTO: Dining Room at The Punchbowl where my outfit matches the decor!

The food is very good, made from fresh ingredients using seasonal produce to produce the best British food. The wine is exceptional and we enjoyed a Petit Chablis.

PHOTO: Main course and Pudding at The Punchbowl

I ate crab meat on toast followed by Sea Trout with Samphire, lemon butter,  Razor Clams and vegetables, just delicious! Classic sticky toffee pudding followed.  Stephen enjoyed Sausages and mash, Onion and Wild Thyme gravy followed by Plum Tart and Ice Cream.

Find the menus online at http://www.punchbowllondon.com

PHOTO: I say “Thank You” to chef Marco for a great lunch

The staff at The Punchbowl are lovely! Our waitress Fabrizae deserves a mention because she was so friendly, helpful and efficient, Chef Marco for cooking lovely food!  Everyone there helps achieve a lovely ambience.

HISTORY OF THE PUNCHBOWL:

Built in 1750 and famously owned by Film Director Guy Ritchie in recent years, the present owners have preserved the historic features of the building, retaining the atmosphere and character but refurbished in a modern, light style.  This is quite an achievement.

PHOTO: History of The Punchbowl

Farm Street, home to The Punchbowl in Mayfair  is a quiet little road tucked away with charming little houses, I adored Farm House pictured below.

PHOTO: Farm Street, Mayfair, London W1

Well, I had a lovely time at The Punchbowl in Mayfair eating divalicious food and will be back next time I visit London.  See you there!

The Punchbowl, 41 Farm Street, London W1

Telephone: +44 (0)2074936841  http://www.punchbowllondon.com

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PHOTO: My little travel companion, Freddie

So you want to be a travel blogger?  Oh, goodness… not another one!  I have messages everyday from wannabe bloggers and I don’t like to be rude and always try to be supportive ….. but honestly, I want to scream!

“How did you get to be a successful blogger?”  I am asked this question everyday along with “How do you make a lot of money blogging”?

Lets tackle the first question in Five easy steps

DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING NEW AND ORIGINAL TO ADD TO THE WORLD OF BLOGS?  If the answer is YES continue reading but if the answer is NO, it is time to think again.  The world really doesn’t need yet another ….. I’d better not say for fear of offending the blogging community!

However, I will say, if you are funny, amusing, entertaining and have something new and innovative to to say or are doing something unique and special – go for it!

ARE YOU A GOOD WRITER?  This should be a very obvious question but just take a look at the thousands of badly written blogs floating around in cyber space and it will be apparent this is not the case!  If you can write well, engage an audience and at least construct sentences correctly, well please read on!

CAN YOU BE A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER?  Well, if you can’t write then maybe you could start a photo travel blog.  You have some very stiff competition, so make sure you are talented with good skills.

I know, I  know, this is a very harsh critique but I figure honesty is the best policy!

DO YOU HAVE THE TIME AND INCLINATION TO INVEST IN A BLOG?  Again, it is a misconception to think that blogging is easy.  It takes time to grow an audience, and to develop a blog.  Researching  a project, taking great photos and editing take an enormous amount of time and effort.

If you are lucky enough to be invited to stay in a resort, it is very enjoyable but also hard work.  If you put in 100% effort the rewards are tenfold.

PHOTO: Enjoying the South of France

HOW DID YOU DO IT?  Again, a question I am asked all the time!  To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know the answer.  I started a blog completely on a whim (after reading a couple of really bad efforts, and saying to myself  “I can do better than that!”)  and just got on with it, learning along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed my ‘blog journey’. If it stops being fun, I will stop.  I think it is a big mistake to try and come up with a “formula for success” .  Bloggers who do try and copy others just appear contrived and unoriginal.

Find your own voice and your own interests and don’t follow those who have gone before – be an original not a copy!  This is the best advice I can give you!

OK, well, if you are still reading and I haven’t put you off by being too rude and forthright ….. the next question I am always asked is:

PHOTO: Hard at work writing the blog!

HOW DO YOU MAKE A LOT OF MONEY BLOGGING?

This has a very simple answer, I DO NOT!  To be honest, I was living a lifestyle that involved first class travel and exploring the world in a luxury style long before blogging came along.

Blogging is a wonderful world of invitations, gifts and opportunity but most certainly not a way to get rich.  I know, we all read about these amazing success stories but I believe they are few and far between.

“I make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, learn how you can too!”  I have actually asked several people who offer such services exactly how this works.  I’m afraid it is rubbish!  Don’t be taken in, the only way they make money is by selling ‘courses’ and ‘advice’ to trusting newbies. I know, there are some very successful bloggers but they have put in years on hard work.

There are, however, some great online courses that teach skills and offer advice to beginners. Avoid the ‘get rich’ ones though.

Maybe it is possible to make a living from blogging, but will take a long time to get established so please do not give up the day job just yet. It is hard work and takes time to grow a successful blog.

PHOTO: Home sweet Home for part of the year

START WRITING!

I hope I have not put you off!  Start writing now and become a travel blogger. you will make lovely new friends around the world.  I find everyone to be friendly, encouraging and helpful.  You will make new friends, discover new horizons and new challenges and it will be rewarding and satisfying in so many ways.

Learn new skills, test yourself in unimagined ways and a whole new exciting blogging world awaits.  Set off on exciting trips to places you never even dreamed of before.  I feel so happy when someone says “I love your blog!”.

THE VERY BEST OF LUCK!

HOW TO START A LUXURY TRAVEL BLOG:

There are many useful articles already written on this subject and so I will not write another but here are some of the resources and websites I use.

WORDPRESS – If you can afford to pay an expert to set up your blog, I really would recommend that to you.  I wasted HOURS learning how to set up WordPress and really wish I had just paid an expert!  However, once it is all set up it is easy to use and even I find it user friendly.

GO DADDY – Host my domain and operate wordpress through Go Daddy.  Helpful, inexpensive and really user friendly.  I would not change a thing!

YOAST – Make sure you use YOAST on your WordPress site.  A really useful tool for SEO.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS – Essential! Makes sure you start as you mean to go on and learn the basics of analytics.  Terrifyingly complicated at first but persist, it does get easier.  Google Analytics offer a lot of help and resources to get you going.

PICMONKEY – I love Picmonkey and use it to create collages and edit my photos.

CANVA – I use to create Pinterest long pins (when I can be bothered, which is not very often!)

LIGHTROOM – Good for editing photos but I prefer Picmonkey.

BLOGLOVIN – A good community of bloggers to join. Click the link on the top right of this page.

FACEBOOK – There are so many helpful Facebook groups dedicated to every possible type of blog.  Sign up and join a friendly community!

YOUTUBE – I found to be so useful.  Whenever I needed help with a Website or WordPress problem, I consulted Youtube and always found a helpful video.

SOCIL MEDIA – Grow a good social media following, the best way to tell the world about your blog, engage and chat to your followers.

Well, the best of luck! If you are saying to yourself  “I can do that!” – get writing now!

http://www.picmonkey.com 

http://www.canva.com

PHOTO: Explore the world and blog about it!

 

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PHOTO: Eccleston Square Hotel, Eccleston Square, London Sw3

My review of Eccleston Square Hotel in London.  I think the best people to give advice on a country or city are those that actually live there!  I am going to give you an insiders guide to London most particularly the area around Eccleston Square, London SW3.  If you choose stay at the hotel, here are some Diva ideas of where to go at the bottom of the blog!

Eccleston Square Hotel is a small, boutique hotel in a great location within walking distance of some good restaurants, museums, galleries and other places to visit.  Not to mention some great shopping, which as you know, is my speciality!

A small hotel, in a good location which offers great customer service and is reasonably priced too!  Conde Nast Traveller USA – No.1 Hotel in London.

First the hotel,l which is very chic and stylish.  Beautifully renovated by the owners, it is a relaxing and calm place to stay.  The hotel was originally  two townhouses overlooking a beautiful garden square which can be used by hotel guests.  The staff are friendly and helpful and will make you feel at home.

PHOTO: Beautiful decor at Eccleston Square Hotel

Downstairs comprises a reception area and dining room with a bar.  All absolutely spotlessly clean and in  neutral black, grey and white colours.  The rooms are similarly chic and calming, in the same neutral palette of colour. Here you eat breakfast, lunch  and dinner or have drink at the bar.

PHOTO: Cocktails at Eccleston Square Hotel

Minibar is free if you book directly with the hotel.  Cheers!

PHOTO:  Room at Eccleston Square Hotel. Super Comfy bed – A Diva essential

Regular readers know how fussy and diva-esque I can be about a comfy bed!  This is up there with the best.

Choose from a room facing the front and the garden square.  The rooms here are smaller but some have balconies which are so lovely to sit and watch the world go by or have breakfast. http://www.ecclestonsquarehotel.com

The rooms facing the back of the hotel are larger and quiet, but I would choose a front facing room with a balcony.I think the most important thing in a hotel bedroom is the bed and this hotel certainly excels with the quality of the bed! I slept really well and enjoyed the massaging mattress and all the up and own buttons raising the bed to whatever position is the most comfortable.

PHOTO:  A lovely room at Eccleston Square Hotel

Enjoy the state of the art technology in the room. One of the most technologically advanced hotels in the world – BA Highlife, Daily Mail and Telegraph.  This is really great with a bedside iPad for guests to use and a mobile phone which guests can take around town and make free calls!  A massive TV with a large selection of free films with 3D available too.

PHOTO: An IPad for guests to use in every room

The bathrooms follow the ultra modern them with l’Occitane products to enjoy.  I like the little touches such as Nespresso coffee machine, free tea brought to the room on request, there are plenty of plug sockets in the room (Hooray!), large mirrors and storage space.

The garden, is one of the highlights for me.  Such a joy to be able to enter a wonderful secret garden in the middle of the city and enjoy it almost alone.

PHOTO: Eccleston Square Garden

Luxury Travel Diva stroll:

I am going to tell you my favourite places to visit nearby if you choose to stay here.  Turn left out of the hotel and take a 5 minute walk to Elizabeth Street, SW3.  One of the chic areas of London and you will find two very good restaurants in this street, as well as a very famous cupcake shop!

PHOTO: Peggy Porchen Cakes

Peggy Porchen is a famous cupcake shop, instagrammers from around the world come here for a photo opportunity and a cake!

Some of my favourite designers are here including Philip Treacy for hats and the new Jo Malone owned shop.  There is even a fabulous pet shop which Freddie and Zarya would love to visit, which is very chic called Mungo and Maud.

PHOTO: Philip Treacy Hat Shop, Elizabeth Street

We also discovered a nice restaurant on Elizabeth Street called Olivo Carne, A Sardinian restaurant, meat based menu but some vegetarian options for us veggies!

Keep walking to the end of the street and turn left.  You will come to Orange Square, home of an old favourite restaurant.

PHOTO: La Poule au Pot Restaurant

Keep walking to the end of Elizabeth street, turn left and you come to Sloane Square after a 5 minute walk, another favourite London spot! Large department store Peter Jones is right on the Square but if you turn onto the King’s Road you will find a treasure trove of my favourite shops.  First up is SpaceNK, find them online too, just the best place for ups to the minute skincare and makeup from around the world and UK niche brands. http://www.spacenk.com

One of my favourite galleries to pop into when I’m in London is The Saatchi Gallery, always worth a visit and there are lots of little restaurants and cafes nearby. http://www.saatchigallery.com

Eccleston Square Hotel, Eccleston Square, London SW1

Tel. +44 (0)203 489 1001  http://www.ecclestonsquarehotel.com

 

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Do you want to live a Champagne lifestyle on a beer budget? I love to save money, who doesn’t?    Who wants to pay full price when everyone else has paid 50%?  There are a few tips and hacks that can help everyone enjoy the finer things in life.

CHEAP BUSINESS CLASS FARES

MY TIP OF THE DAY! I just received an email from Qatar offering some GREAT deals on some business class flights.  They are a great airline too, my all time favourite.

DO NOT PAY FULL PRICE! The airlines start off with full price business fares and then reduce them by means of special offers, 2 for 1 deals and all sorts of incentives.

I recently bought a London to Marrakesh flight in the British Airways sale, and at the end of last year bought a British Airways ‘Black Friday Sale’ bargain from London to Abu Dhabi.  All Business Class of course.  At the same time I still accrue a nice lot of Avios points for all the flights! I’m a happy bunny.

So, sign up for all the Airline emails and you will be notified when they are having a sale.

My discounted Business Class Flight to Abu Dhabi in December

If you cannot wait for a sale to come along, then get hunting online!  There are some brilliant bargains to be had, you just have to spend time hunting them down!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

My favourite Discount Websites:

This is my favourite site at the moment.  There are not many Business Class tickets on here but hunt them out!  http://www.secretflying.com

Another favourite and one I refer to very often is http://www.kayak.com I have mentioned it before but it is still an excellent site for cheap deals.

Airline Credit Cards

Most airlines offer their own credit cards with a juicy incentive of airline points if you spend a certain amount on the card.  Only do this if you are going to pay of the amount you spend, in full, at the end of each month.  The points will add up very nicely quite quickly!

Remove Browser History

I’ve mentioned this before too, but delete all browser history before finally booking your flight.  The price goes up every time you look at the Airline website!

Save money for other lovely treats!

Search for unusual routes:

Use Kayak to help you search for unusual routes.  For example, there are some fantastic Business Class flights out of Eastern Europe at the moment.  If you are saving well into four figures, for a long haul flight it is worth a slight inconvenience of another short hop to Prague for example.

There are some great offers flying through Northern Europe too!

Travel out of season:

Stay in Monaco or South of France early Spring for a fraction of the high season price!

Yes, you can stay in the best hotels in the world for peppercorn prices!  It just means avoiding high season. For example have a lovely winter stay at a top South of France 5* Hotel for 10% of the high season rate.  Yes, 10% and you will avoid the crowds too.

Who wants to travel in high season? Not me that is for sure.

St Tropez without the crowds! Perfect

I travelled to Morocco out of season and loved the quiet, crowd free time to visit.

View of Neva River St Petersburg

My 5 favourite places to visit in St Petersburg.

I knew so little about St Petersburg before my visit.  The city was such a surprise and delight, stunningly beautiful, with so much to see and do that I need to make a return trip! The city is clean and safe.

Travelling Alone to St Petersburg:

I traveled alone and pottered around all over the place quite happily on my own.  You will see so much more travelling independently, free to explore the city and meet Russian people.  I would say to my fellow solo travellers, do not hesitate to go to Russia alone.  I felt perfectly safe at all times, did not receive any unwanted attention and really enjoyed the experience.

I do not speak any Russian at all and coped perfectly with sign language!  However, if I visit again I will make sure to equip myself with a translation app on my mobile phone.  If you need to ask questions/directions  it is best to ask a younger person, they are more likely to speak english.

The cars are driven by polite drivers, driving seems to be very straightforward and I would happily drive on another trip.  the people of the city are so polite, friendly and helpful.  I am sure you will find it as enchanting as I did.

Pinterest:

Here are my 5 favourite places to visit in St Petersburg.

Top of my list to visit was The Hermitage Museum and it was a very special day.

THE WINTER PALACE

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum, otherwise known as The Winter Palace is at the top of every wish list for a visit to St Petersburg and with good reason because it is stupendous.  I spent an entire day exploring the museum and will definitely return to see more of the exhibits that I missed first time round.

The Winter Palace

The Palace was built in 1754 by the architect Ristrelli on the order of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. She wanted to construct a palace that eclipsed all other european Palaces.  It is vast, beautiful and such a fascinating museum now.  I am going to write a complete blog dedicated to this amazing museum, so take a look at that if you would like more information.

The Winter Palace

Then take a short walk from the palace and you will find The Church of the Spilt Blood.  I used my google map app on my iPhone to help navigate around the city.

THE CHURCH OF THE SPILT BLOOD

Church of the Saviour on Spilt Blood

This is such a beautiful church. Built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.  Beautifully restored and reopened in 1997 it is now a museum of Mosaics.  Spectacular and beautiful a must visit.

Interior of The Church of the Spilt Blood

Church of the Spilt Blood

Then take a walk a couple of blocks to Nevsky Prospect. See the beautiful Singer building.  Go inside and take look at the fantastic selection of books about St Petersburg in so many languages.  Upstairs is a charming cafe.  The serve delicious soups ands cakes.

NEVSKY PROSPECT:

This is the main street running from Neva River and is nearly 5 miles long.  You will enjoy taking a stroll along this special street. Here you will find great shops and charming little arcades.

Nevsky Prospect Shopping 

A fantastic department store stocked full of International designers.

DLT Department Store

Find some well known high Street stores here too, although it is kind of weird to see Lush and Zara.  One of my favourite places on Nevsky Propsect is The Singer Cafe.

Go inside and take look at the fantastic selection of books about St Petersburg in so many languages. Upstairs is a charming cafe with a lovely view of Kazan Cathedral. They serve delicious soups ands cakes.

Statue on the bridge 

FABERGE MUSEUM

Fontana Canal photo

Also make sure to visit the Faberge museum.   take a left by the Fontanka Canal and you will find the Faberge Museum on the Fontanka River Embankment  This is a treasure trove of wonderful Faberge eggs and other objets d’art housed in the beautiful Shuvalov Palace.  The museum is privately owned, founded by the Link of Times foundation to repatriate lost cultural treasures to Russia.

Faberge Museum

The worlds largest collection of Faberge is housed here.

Faberge Museum

Finally end your day with a trip to the Mariinsky Theatre.

MARIINSKY THEATRE

Opened in 1860, it is famous throughout the world for ballet, opera and music.  I enjoyed a wonderful evening here.  However, remember to book your tickets well in advance because it does get booked up.

Mariinsky Theatre

I enjoyed a wonderful Piano and violin recital and look forward to returning next time for a ballet performance.

USEFUL INFORMATION:

I stayed at: Corinthia Hotel, Nevsky Prospect.  An excellent 5 star hotel perfectly located and absolutely top class.  Read my review to find out more, click on the HOME link at the top of this page http://www.corinthia.com

The really super helpful Saint Petersburg Tourist Information Bureau 

Hermitage museum: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org

Contact me if you want any more information or advice about a trip.

 

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Photo: View from Italy looking back to France

Who loves Italy? Yes, that is just about everyone, I think!  The food, Ice Cream, Coffee, wine and the fabulous people together with perfect weather and beautiful sea views and countryside make it just about perfect.  Enjoy a day out in Liguria.

It is a wonderful day out to drive along the coast of Liguria from the french border town of Menton to San Remo.  I suggest you take your passport as border control is stricter these days.

First stop, if you like gardens is Hanbury Gardens

Photo:  Hanbury Gardens

Hanbury Gardens, Corso Monte Carlo 43, 18039 Ventimiglia, Italy http://giardinihanbury.com

Beautiful Botanical gardens established by Sir Thomas Hanbury, now owned by the Italian State and managed by the University of Genoa.  This is a magical place to walk through the fabulous gardens, I always find inspiration for my own Mediterranean garden.

VENTIMIGLIA

PHOTO: Ventimiglia old town

Continue along the coast road until you come to Ventimiglia.  This is not the prettiest town but the the Old town pictured above is worth a visit.  I like the little seaside restaurants, particularly those in the old town. Find time for a delicious cup of Italian coffee, visit the daily food market where you will find every Italian delicacy possible.

Daily food and fish Market in the Market Hall.  A lot of french people like to shop in Italy because it is so much cheaper than France.  You will see so many shops selling alcohol and Spirits.  Main market day is Friday.

Pinnable Photo:

BORDIGHERA

Continue along the coast road for a few kilometres and you will come to Bordighera, a seaside town with great seaside restaurants and lovely shops!  You will notice that everything is cheaper in Italy than over the border on the french Riviera!

I would recommend you wait until Italy to shop.  Great shoes, chic clothes and low prices!

PHOTO:  Lunch in Bordighera

A fish based lunch in Bordighera is a delicious treat!  However, don’t forget the shop opening hours in Italy.  All the shops close between 12.30 and 3.30 or 4.00pm.

If you don’t have a car, the Italian coast is easily accessible by train from France with trains twice an hour that sop all along the coast.

SAN REMO

PHOTO: SAN REMO

Final destination is San Remo, main market days are Tuesday and Saturday here but again, the Food Market Hall opens every day except Sunday and is well worth a visit.  My favourite delicatessen is in the square before the market.

PHOTO: This is where I buy my Parmesan Cheese

Again, you are spoiled for choice with little family owned restaurants by the sea.  The fish could not be fresher.  One of my favourite treats is lobster and spaghetti and a bottle of Italian Rose, perfect!

There are so many really good shops here.  Choose from the well known names such as Max Mara or explore tiny boutiques with original designs.

PHOTO:  Old Town San Remo

Explore the tiny streets of the old town and discover so many little shops selling absolutely everything!

PHOTO: Shopping in San Remo

PHOTO: SAN REMO PORT

The seafront is full of little cafes and restaurants.

 

 

 

 

 

Emirates Palace Hotel      Photo: by Thomas Gantz @traveller.tom All other photos by me

My review of Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi.

This is my top hotel in Abu Dhabi, my top hotel in the whole of the Middle East!  Actually at the moment it is my top hotel in the world!  What are you waiting for?  Book immediately.  It is quite expensive but you get what you pay for in life!

The Hotel: 

100 hectares of grounds to explore at Emirates Palace

We stayed for Christmas 2016 and enjoyed every second.  I will tell you a little secret, we didn’t leave the hotel once during the stay!  It is so enormous with the most perfect beach front and even a Marina I think you will find it hard to leave too.  It was a bit of a shock arriving home to blighty and having to get our own breakfast in the morning.

 

Do you want to feel pampered, do you want excellent service and amazing staff? Well, I think you will like it here.  I will definitely be back.  Even the most sophisticated traveller cannot fail to be in awe of the impressive hotel entrance and be whisked into the lobby for a stress free checkin.

Top Tip: Wear comfy shoes to arrive, it is a long way to you room or suite!

Yes, the hotel in enormous and you will be escorted to your room and given a little guided tour along the way.

My hotel room at Emirates Palace

The rooms are large, spacious, super luxe and everything you would imagine.  I like to stay in a hotel that represents the traditions of the country I am visiting and this fits the bill perfectly. You will love the Arabian furnishings and Palace living.

My bathroom

A big marble bathroom and large walk in shower with fabulous Amouage products.  I am definitely in love with Amouage and so happy to discover a new brand.

A stylish entrance hall with large wardrobes, need more hangers though as in nearly every hotel in the world.

Entrance Hall with wardrobes

Super comfy bed which is a Diva essential!

My comfy bed and a lovely Rose given to me on arrival 

Lots of lovely little treats kept arriving, well it was Christmas after all! Our butler bought us some delicious fresh orange juice when we arrived and popped in with treats such as a Christmas chocolate log and a Christmas stocking on Christmas morning.

Outside my Room at Emirates Palace

Explore the 100 hectare hotel grounds, with its wonderful private beach, Marina, gardens, swimming pool and even a family of camels to ride!

Camels at Emirates Palace

Stroll round the fabulous gardens which extend as far as the magnificent Presidential Palace

Gardens of Emirates Palace

The pool with its lazy river is magnificent and enormous in scale just like everything else at Emirates Palace!  Sunbeams are scattered all over the gardens so find a quiet and private corner.

Beautiful Pool at Emirates Palace

The pool temperature is just like bath water and crystal clear!  There are wonderful activities for children and the little ones will be very happy during their stay.

Pool at Emirates Palace

Enjoy an Al Fresco lunch on your sunbed.

The beach front is spectacular, watch the hotel and guest boats going past as you sip on a cocktail.

Magnificent Sea front at Emirates Palace

Explore the fabulous hotel, you might be quite some time and we still got lost even by the time we left!

Hotel is on different levels

The only thing I didn’t like at the hotel was the fact that the Public areas are treated like a tourist destination and groups of people from outside the hotel wander about taking selfies and photographs.  This could be quite intimidating to be suddenly confronted by a large group of people who quite obviously were not guests.  The rooms are in a separate wing and cannot be entered and there is a security guard stopping people entering.  My recommendation would be to stop this!

Huge interior spaces, this one leading to one of the residential wings

The hotel interiors are nothing short of spectacular, arabic furnishings, marble floors and no expense has been spared to make this a top hotel and amazing place to stay.

Lounge seating areas

There are so many places to sit and relax or take tea.  Afternoon tea is something of a tradition here with many people coming just to take tea.

A great gym looking out onto the pool and Award winning Spa, which I didn’t get a chance to try, maybe next visit!

Fantastic Gym Looking onto Emirates Palace Pool

Restaurants and Bars:

You will never be bored!  There are 4 bars and 9 restaurants.  The restaurants in the hotel that we tried are all excellent.  This was another reason why we never left the hotel!  I have visited Abu Dhabi a few times and the food has been terrible and expensive.  Emirates Palace was a lovely surprise, the food was excellent and the wine lists very good too!  My favourite was:

Mezlai Emirate Restaurant

What a joy! An Emirati Restaurant, something sadly lacking in the rest of the city.  The Food, restaurant, setting were all absolutely perfect.  The portions are huge!

Lobster Salad

Prawn Starter

Actually, I’m going to write a separate restaurant review!  There are too many great restaurants to write about here.

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Aigues Blanques Beach

Discover the quiet side of the island

Explore Ibiza and discover the quiet side of the island.

Beautiful, unspoilt Ibiza is my favourite of the Balearic Islands.  I will tell you where to go to find the best beaches and unspoilt countryside which has remained unchanged for centuries.

Everyone thinks of Ibiza as a party island, which it is in San Antonio but this is confined to a small and specific area on the West coast and if you want to party this is the place to go.  However, for the rest of us an island full of the prettiest hidden coves awaits.

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The North East coast of Ibiza

Discover the quiet side of Ibiza:

I first visited Ibiza when I was 7 years old, which is quite a long time ago!  It was with some trepidation that I returned many years later to attend a Yoga Detox week – the less said about that the better! Lets just say I’m not cut out for faux Yoga and crystals whilst being fed with vegetable juice!  I went AWOL after a couple of days on the Yoga course and hopped in my rental car to explore the island.  Ibiza hadn’t changed at all! I will be back, it is such a paradise!

Ibiza Old Town, Dalt Vila

I was taken aback because this really has not changed since I was 7 years old!  The gorgeous white washed buildings, higgledy piggledy streets and narrow alleyways are just the same and full of little restaurants, tapas, and bars.

IMG_1212Ibiza  Old Town Eivissa

There are countless little shops full of things you will want to buy from the classic Ibizan lace to straw bags and gorgeous cotton dresses.  Ibiza Town has grown considerable but the old town remains unchanged.

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Old Town Ibiza Restaurant

There are so many little bars and restaurants tucked away in the Old Town

 

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Ibiza Old Town Dalt Vila:

Dalt Vila in the old town is a World Heritage site.  There are lovely little restaurants, a lovely view from the battlements and even an archaeological museum.

IMG_1197Ibiza Marina

Ibiza Town: 

Ibiza Town has 2 marinas, Botafoch and Ibiza Nueva packed full of luxury yachts.  The famous bars and restaurants can be found near the port Blue MarlinLio and Pascha are all here.  There are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from near the Marina you will be spoiled for choice.

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Explore Ibiza Marina

Ibiza town buzzes at night and is packed full of exciting places to go and things to do such as Heart live music nights or dance the night away in Pascha.  For those of you who, like me, prefer the quiet life head into the Old Town for a great selection of little restaurants and bars.

Beautiful BeachesVisit some of the prettiest beaches in Ibiza

You really need a car to explore the island and it is perfectly safe and easy to drive.  My favourite areas are in the North and North eastern area of the island but Ibiza is small so you can reach the North eastern part very easily even if you are staying in Eivissa.  One of my favourite beaches is Aigues Blanques.  Drive along the road from San Carlos to Cala San Vincente and turn right at the sign for Aigues Blanques, the beach is a short walk from the car park.

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Aigues Blanques  Beach

There are so many beautiful beaches in Ibiza that you will be spoilt for choice.  drive up to the north of the island and explore the hidden beaches such as Es Portixol.  It is just beautiful up in the north of the island.

I would definitely consider chartering a boat, even for a day.  The charter prices are very reasonable and you can choose between sailing yourself or hiring a boat with a captain to take you to the best spots.

Where to stay: I would recommend renting a villa so you can enjoy the peace and quiet. http://www.homeaway.co.uk has a great selection of villas.

Hire a Boat: Definitely one of the best ways to explore the hidden coves and beaches of the island.  http://www.charteralia.com or http://www.smartcharteribiza.com

Ibiza Tourism: http://www.ibiza-tourism.net

Nightlife: http://www.pacha.com  http://www.bluemarlinibiza.com

PHOTO: American Tourister Rucksack

My latest Summer essentials!  I love discovering new things, don’t you?  I now have a rucksack, at long last my friends will be very happy not to have to carry my things when we are hiking!

This American Tourister Rucksack is perfect for travelling, unbelievably light and attractive to look at as well as comfortable to carry.  This will be going with me on my next trip, for sure. http://www.americantourister.co.uk

PHOTO: American Tourister Rucksack

I am already finding it to be very handy for picnics and also for carrying Zarya around, as you can see in my  pictures!  Freddie was quite jealous.  It fits an amazing amount in it too.

PHOTO: American Tourister Rucksack

Then, my latest discoveries continue with:

PHOTO: Magnesium and Marine Collagen

I recently suffered from bad leg muscle cramps after running.  I run most days and if I sprint, my poor muscles seem to suffer.  Several people recommended the same thing to help combat this, Magnesium.  I was astonished because it really works.

A lot of people are Magnesium deficient and don’t even realise.  A supplement can help people who are feeling tired too, definitely an essential for my fitness program.

My next discovery is Marine Collagen.  Collagen depletes as we get older.  I never took supplement because most are made up of animal products and, as you know, I don’t eat meat!  A friend recommended this Marine collagen and it is really helping with skin elastisticity.

PHOTO: YSL Or Rouge

I bought YSL Or Rouge on a whim during a Sephora sale.  It was 50% off so I thought I would give it a go! It is a revelation, I LOVE the results on my face.  The skin looks and feels softer with this rich oil made with Moroccan Saffron and Olive Oil.  This is an indulgent treatment that is worth every penny. http://www.yslbeauty.co.uk

Photo: Nuxe Body Oil

As you can see from the half used glass jar, I use this a lot!  I only bought it a couple of weeks ago.  I am sharing my secret of obtaining a soft sheen on sun kissed limbs in summer.  Not oily but absolutely perfect results with this body oil.  I use bottles of it all summer long, definitely a summer essential you should try  this summer.

PHOTO: Lisa Marie Fernandez Gym Gear

I love a parcel from THE OUTNET arriving in the post.  This outfit tempted me in the summer sale, I love the baby blue colour. http://www.theoutnet.com

Last but by no means least are Roland Mouret new collection.  Out now on his website.  Click my link on the right hand side of the page to take you there.  I am very tempted by his black Exclusives allinone pictured on the right.  Do you like it?  An investment piece but one that will last for years.

A gorgeous Roland Mouret dress will definitely be a summer essential.

Happy Shopping my friends.  Let me know if you have any wonderful new discoveries I should try.

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Superluxe jewellery by Charriol.  I love jewellery (show me a woman who does not and I will eat my hat!) and I love Monaco and meeting beautiful and interesting people.  So …. an afternoon with Mme Marie Olga Charriol, who is Head of PR for Charriol as well as wife of M. Charriol and mother to Laetitia, was an absolute delight!

We spent a lovely afternoon sipping rose wine at  the Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel in Monte Carlo, chatting about the jewellery and trying on some fabulous pieces.  She told me all about the Charriol collection, made in Switzerland by talented craftsmen, using superb quality gems and precious metals including gold and silver. Happiness is beautiful jewellery, is it not?

Photo: Marie Olga Charriol of Charriol and me

In the photo above we are both wearing Charriol designs, I would be thrilled to receive any one of these gorgeous pieces.  How about you? Mme Charriol is a chic and elegant ambassador for the collection, I wish I could look so cool and chic!

Charriol was created in 1983 by Phillipe Charriol and is known worldwide as a superluxe brand of jewellery, watches and accessories.  I particularly love the cable designs, perfect for everyday.  How much do you love my new bracelet below?

Photo: Charriol Cable Bracelet

Photo: Lots of colours! Charriol Cable Bracelet

I am now completely obsessed with the cable bracelet! However, I cannot possibly divulge the price ….. I was astonished by how affordable it is, particularly compared to other luxury brands.  I don’t want everyone to  know.  Find out on http://www.charriol.com

Photo: Charriol Cable bracelet and bag

This Celtic Bracelet design, above, is one of my favourites.  Inspired by a visit to the British Museum in London in 1983, Philippe Charriol created the famous cable design.  And the rest is history, the  famous and iconic design continues today.  The Charriol Cable designs all started with this visit to a Celtic exhibition in London!

Photo: Charriol Celtic Design Bracelet

Charriol watches are all Swiss made and have the same understated chic as does the whole Charriol collection. I especially love the Saint Tropez collection, perfect as I am in Saint Tropez right now.

SaveSavePhoto: Stunning Saint Tropez Collection by Charriol

The quality is superb.  I posted a picture of my new Charriol Cable bracelet on Instagram and one of my followers told me she is still wearing a Charriol bracelet purchased 20 years ago and still wears it today.  That is a quality piece of a jewellery with timeless elegance.

Laetitia Collection:

Photo: Laetitia Charriol wearing the collection

Laetitia Charriol wears the Laetitia collection above.  How cool is that? Jewellery collection named after you!  This collection offers a younger, rock inspired look and very affordable pieces and beautiful Letitia looks amazing wearing these pieces.

I suggest you head over to Charriol online and look at the wonderful pieces of superluxe jewellery and watches by Charriol. Can you resist temptation?  My birthday is coming up soon, if my husband is reading this blog……

http://www.charriol.com

 

 

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Photo: Plage de Buse, Roquebrune Cap Martin

Summer essentials for a luxury travel Diva. Summer is all about having fun, chilling out and not worrying too much about anything.  Do you agree? So, when Amara Living invited me to choose some gifts from their online website my first choice was an inflatable swan!

Photo: Inflatable Swan from Amara Living

We are enjoying it so much here in the South of France it was a perfect choice for the beach and at home in the Swimming Pool.  My little Pomeranians love floating about on it too.

The swan does not weigh very much so I can pack it up in my suitcase and take it travelling!

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A summer hike and a picnic anyone? Of course, just great to enjoy the outdoor woods in sunny weather.  My hammock is light and easy to carry on a picnic, a nice little nap after all that walking is an excellent idea!

Photo: Amazonas Hammock from Amara

I’m going to use my hammock at home, out hiking and on the beach for a little afternoon siesta.  Super comfy and made from natural cotton fabric, it is light and easy to carry.

The hammock is made by Amazons, a company that donates 20,000 euros to a Brazilian street children product called “Der Kleine Nazarene e.V.”  If you buy a hammock like this you will be contributing towards their donation.

This hammock from http://www.amara.com 

Lastly but by no means least I chose a super chic cotton beach bag by Elizabeth Scarlett, London pictured below.  This gets lots of compliments a perfect beach essential.  You can find the link to buy on the right hand side of this page.  Its now on sale and half price.

Photo: Beach Bag from Amara

My Summer beach essentials include: Cashmere Rebel Scarf, Boostoxygen, Chanel, Vitage Factor 30 face protection, Caudalie Grape water.

Photo: Summer Essentials in my Amara Beach Bag

However, the most important summer essential is …. remember you are beautiful just the way you are!  Get out and enjoy the summer, do not worry about losing weight, cellulite, looking less than svelt.  YOU ARE PERFECT.

 

 

Photo: Summertime in the South of France

Shop online at http://www.amara.com

 

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Yape Yape at Pampellone Beach

Well, Saint Tropez is a fabulous place to visit!  BUT, nightmarishly busy in summer.  Personally, I would not go there in July and August.  Here are 5 of my favourite things to do and I hope you enjoy them.

Top Tip 1:  Visit The Market

Saint Tropez Market

Saint Tropez 5 top tips. Who doesn’t love a weekly market right?  It is always fun to browse around this eclectic mix.  Some stall holders have been at the market for many a long year and are great characters.

I know, you will find a lot of the usual tourist tat but there are some gems here.  I always like to buy the local fresh fruit and vegetable in season.  The Cherry season is always a special treat, plus local wines, olives and Provencal goodies.

St Tropez Market

How about a hat to keep the sun off? My top tip is to get there early! Arrive and have a coffee and breakfast and then browse the market.

Saint Tropez Market

Top Tip 2:  Then I like to have breakfast at Senequier on the port and then head to the market.  Yes, I know!  It is outrageously expensive ….. but it is an occasional treat.

Senequier on the Port, Saint Tropez

It is always buzzing and has some good things to eat and drink.  My favourite is a Piscine, 15 euros but HUGE.

A Piscine at Senequier, Saint Tropez Port

Top Tip 3: Lunch at La Bouillabaisse Beach, Saint Tropez

http://www.labouillabaisse-plage.com

You will see this on the left as you drive into Saint Tropez, by the roundabout.  A lovely spot for lunch on the most perfect beach with great views and good food.  A laid back and chilled out atmosphere just makes it a memorable lunch.

Le Bouillabaisse Beach and Restaurant

There is a great beach here too.

Tip No. 4: Yape Yape Restaurant, Pampellone Beaches, Route des Tamaris, Ramatuelle

I love this cute little beach restaurant, the people who run it a very friendly too!  It is slap bang on the naturist beach, which is my favourite beach needless to say.  Gorgeous beach, laid back vibe and decent food.  What is not to like?  Give it a try and tell me if you don’t prefer it to spending absurd amounts of money with a load of wannabes on Nikki Beach.

Pampellone Beach, by Yape Yape Restaurant

Enjoying the beach life.

Me on the beach at Ramatuelle

Yape Yape Restaurant

Tip No.5:  Wine Tasting

I love a glass, or two or …. well, maybe three! Chilled Provencal Rose wine, particularly served as a Piscine is heavenly.  Here, you can go on a little wine tasting tour and sample and buy a case or two.  My favourite tour is to continue on the road to the little village or Ramatuelle, after you leave the Pampellone beaches.  Basically turn left instead of turning right back to Saint Tropez.

Inland from Saint Tropez

You could stop off for a little look around the village and then continue along the road and stop off at the wineries en route.  There are several and all are well sign posted, including the famous Minuty vineyard.

 

The famous Port of Saint Tropez

Tourist Information: http://www.sainttropeztourisme.com

 

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 Marrakesh Medina

“Marie, why are you going to Marrakesh? You will hate it! It isn’t your kind of place. ” So said some of my friends.  Well, they were wrong!  I loved it.  It was a great experience and I will be back to explore more of Morocco.

My trip was short so I will tell you about the places that I enjoyed and recommend.  The first surprise was the fabulous, new airport, a modern International airport with great shops.  I was disappointed with the Air Maroc business lounge but everything else was perfect.

The second surprise was the size of Marrakesh,it is BIG and it is impossible to walk everywhere.  This blog will concentrate on the day I spent at the Medina and give you some recommendations if you are planning a visit.

Wearing my new robe co-ordinated with Louis Vuitton bag!

Third surprise was the people!  Everyone is friendly and it is a very tolerant society with people from different cultures and religions getting along.  I had been warned to expect ‘hassle’ from Souk vendors but this was not the case.  Maybe because we were with a local guide but it was totally stress free.

Start at the main square of Jemaa El Fna.  I would definitely take a guide.  Our fabulous guide took us deep into the Medina and we would never have found the secret little alleyways and souks on our own.  I couldn’t resist  the spices, dates and herbs. I bought some traditional robes too.  I caused a great deal of merriment by wearing the robe I bought for Stephen.  It isn’t the done thing to wear a mans robe such as the one Im sporting above!

The Medina was a treasure trove of spices and herbs

The tiny alleyways are packed full of locals riding their motorbikes, weaving in and out of people walking, so many donkeys laden with goods.  The atmosphere is very special! The Medina of Marrakesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and rightly so!  Marrakesh was founded in 1070-1072 by The Almoravids and has outstanding monuments dating from that period including the Koutoubiya Mosque, The Kasbah, The Battlements, doors and gardens.  Later additions include Bandia Palace, the Saadian tombs and Place Jamaa El Fna, which is a huge square and gathering place for locals today.

Shopping in the Souk, foodie heaven

So, spend the morning exporing the Souk.  I bet you can’t resist buying some delicious dates or spices, they are so cheap, fresh and delicious.  My suitcase was definitely heavier on the way home.  Make sure you stop for a delicious glass of mint tea.  It is ubiquitous so will be easy to find!  The sugar content will make your head spin but it is so good.

 

The colourful souk

Make sure your guide takes you deep into the Medina away from the tourists.

Bikes and donkeys add to the hustle and bustle.

Hammam in the Medina

Time was short this trip but next visit to Marrakesh, I will make time for a Hammam!

Lunch:

Charming little restaurants hide down alleyways and behind beautiful doors!  We lunched at La Famille, Marrakesh and ate a delicious vegan lunch made with delicious fresh produce.  Recommended if you like healthy vegan food!

La Famille Marrakesh

The salad was one of the best I have ever eaten, served with vegan Pizzetta.

Lunch at La Familla, Marrakesh

Afternoon:

After lunch we drove to the magnificent  Marjorelle Gardens  the beautiful garden that belonged to Yves Saint Laurent.  See my separate blog all about the wonderful afternoon!

 

Useful information:

Restaurant: La Familla, 42 Riad Zitoun idid Marrakesh Medina near palais Bahia Tel: 00212524385295

Majorelle Garden http://www.jardinmjorelle.com

I stayed in Palmeraie, about 15 minutes from Marrakesh Tigmiza Hotel read my blog about the hotel.  Click on my Booking.com link on the right hand side for up-to-date hotel prices and booking.

http://www.hotel-tigmiza-marrakesh.com

Best Hotels in Marrakesh.  If you stay in the city, my top recommendation would be La Mamounia Hotel http://www.mamounia.com  An incredible hotel, read my Marrakesh hotels blog

Flights from London are very inexpensive.  Easy jet, Ryanair and British Airways all fly to Marrakesh

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Travel to Santorini

Travel to Santorini, where to go and what to do – Reminiscing about my short trip to Santorini.  A few days sunshine, blue skies and crystal clear water would be great, right now!

To be honest four days was enough time to spend on such a small island.  Ideal for a short break or island hopping, it is easy to understand why my yacht owning friends enjoy a summer trip island hopping.  My advice is to stay on a few different islands rather than just one.

I stayed in the quiet, Northern part of the island, Akrotiri was the nearest town, on the coast facing Thera and Oia, which are the white blobs on my photo below.

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The North is by far the nicest part of the island, away from the tourist hub of Thera.  The sunsets in this part of the island are spectacular and every evening there would be quad bikes making there way to watch the sunset.  I stayed in a boutique hotel, in a villa with private pool.  I’m not going to recommend this Hotel because it was very, very expensive and not really worth the money.  Admittedly, this was in June and tourist season, but even so ….  Santorini in general is very overpriced.

One of the highlights was visiting Akrotiri and the archaelogical site, the most important Minoan site outside Crete.  Santorini is one of the Cycades Islands hit by volcanic eruption with dreadful consequences for the people of the island.

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Akrotiri has charming little coves, beaches and restaurants.  If I visit another time I wouldn’t bother going to Thera – except for the iconic photographic opportunities!  I hated the crowds of cruise trip visitors filling up the streets, go early or late in the season and it is probably very different.  However, if you enjoy a buzzing nightlife, this is the place for you!

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Oia –  would be lovely without the cruise trippers.  I read recently that plans are in place to limit the numbers, which is an excellent idea. It is a picture perfect, idyllic white village clinging to the hillside.  Definitely visit but only stay if you enjoy crowds and hustle and bustle.

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Southern Santorini – I shot this in the far South, just stunning isn’t it?  The blue skies and sea are unbeatable.

Wine tasting – You must visit some of the vineyards and sample some of the local and surprisingly good wines.  Wine growing started in Roman times in Santorini and the vines are still grown in the same style, allowed to trail on the ground with the leaves covering the precious grapes.

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I discovered santo winery, Pirgos whilst driving back to Akrotiri.  What a delightful place, probably the best view of any winery I have every visited – and I have visited many wineries! http://www.santowines.gr A little wine tasting with cheese, looking at the stunning view above – not a bad way to pass the afternoon!  This reminds me, I bought a pack of local FAVA beans here – still wondering what I am supposed to do with them!

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Yes, that is 6 glasses of wine you can see on the tasting tray!

The Santorini sunsets are magical and you will see scores of quad bikes heading up to Akrotiri to catch the best sunset.  Everyone gets about on Quadbikes here and they are great fun!

Definitely take a boat trip to other islands or just simply cruise around the island visiting little coves.

My Top Tip

Santorini Airport is horrendous in high season, I mean really disorganised and crowded.  Readers have told me of their horror at the airport conditions.  I must say, it is not good for a European airport! I recommend heading up to the roof after check in, this is the best spot to avoid the Sardine in a tin conditions!  You can admire the view and might actually grab a seat.  Be aware, there isn’t a Club Class lounge – British Airways really need to do something about this, and soon! However, it is very convenient having a British Airways flight out of London City Airport.

http://www.britishairways.com

Useful Addresses:

Santorini boat tours and boat rental  http://www.santorinitours.com

Quad bikes: http://www.motorinn.gr

Tourist info: http://www.visit-santorini.com

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A day in Saint Tropez – Saint Tropez Port

Visit Saint Tropez. Are you spending the summer in the South of France?  Take a day out in Saint Tropez or take a few days out to explore the area. Although the glamorous heyday of Saint Tropez is over, it is still a cool and fun place to spend a few days during your holiday.  I am writing about my ideal day out.

 

Arrive early and beat the crowds.  Park in the new Port car park and walk around to the Port, stay by the sea and you can’t go wrong.

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Saint Tropez Port

The port is always entertaining with enormous yachts somehow squashed like Sardines in a tin into the small port.  It is definitely a paradise for show off’s and to parade their enormous boat to the world! Artists with an array of varying talent display their artworks sit on the harbour front.  Take time out for a coffee and then visit the l’Annonciade Museum which is on the right hand side as you walk into the Port.  Definitely worth popping in with its collection of 20th century art much of it from the Saint Tropez area.  Matisse, Vlaminck, Bonnard are among the many artists represented at the museum.

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L’Annonciade Museum, Port Saint Tropez

Right next door is one of my favourite shops, Hermes.  Time for a little retail therapy.  You will love the gorgeous little boutiques with one off pieces and things you will not see anywhere else.  There aren’t any boring high Street stores.  One of my favourite boutiques is called Marie (very appropriate!) for one of summer dresses.

IMG_3342-2Hermes Shop, Saint Tropez Port

 

 

My favourite shop, Marie, is in Rue de la Citadelle and Sentiers near a little arcade almost next door which has a sweet little coffee shop too!

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Dior also in Rue de la Citadelle, Saint Tropez

There are all the top designer stores here but I like to shop in the little boutiques and find unusual pieces.  Of course, you must buy a pair of Les Tropeziennes sandals at their little shop.

IMG_3333-2Rue de la Citadelle, Saint Tropez

Don’t forget to buy a Tarte Tropezienne available in all the Boulangeries, yummy cream and strawberries in a light sponge – delicious.

Lunch at the Beach:

Time for lunch on the beach, drive to the beach for lunch.  The beaches are my favourite place to have lunch in Saint Tropez and you are really spoiled for choice from expensive places such as Club 55 http://www.club55.fr on Tahiti Beach in Saint Tropez, to little beach shacks.  Actually, this is one of the most interesting things about Saint Tropez.  It is the most egalitarian place!  Multimillion pounds yachts and just up the road caravan parks so there is something for everyone.

I like to drive out of Saint Tropez and turn first left towards Baie de Pampellone and the beaches of Ramatuelle.  Keep going until you start seeing beach road turns on the left and take your pick!  I have to find dog friendly beaches, for my two pooches and this rules out all the Saint Tropez beaches.  If you keep driving along the road, the beaches get quieter with less people.

IMG_3366Turn right for the naturist beaches if you like skinny dipping!

I much prefer the beaches here, rather than in St Tropez, mostly because they are beautiful, relaxed and laid back and also you take take your dogsPhoto: Looking back at the Pampellone Beaches at Ramatuelle

Photo: The perfect place to chill out

Lunch, swim and a little nap in the sun!

IMG_3370Photo: View from the beaches Ramatuelle

Photo: Pampellone Beaches

 

 

Wine Tasting:

Revived and rested you will be ready to try some of the famous Rose Provencal wine!  Again , spoiled for choice by the many little wineries you will spot as you drive along the roads.

IMG_3353Pretty Vineyard at Chateau des Marris

IMG_3351Chateau des Marris

If you keep going along this road you will come to the picture perfect village of Ramatuelle

IMG_3376 (1)Ramatuelle village

Worth stopping off for a little potter about and then continue along the road heading back to Saint Tropez in a circle and you can stop at some more vineyards including Chateau Minuty,

Time for an evening out in Saint Tropez.  I hope you enjoyed our day out!

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l’Opera Restaurant on the port Saint Tropez with a live show while you eat dinner http://www.opera-saint-tropez.com

Tips:

If you are visiting St Tropez just for the day, get here very early if you are driving! The road to St Tropez is grid locked all summer long starting from about 9.30 in the morning and this last most of the morning.  On the return journeyout of St Tropez the road is one long traffic jam from 5 pm approximately until 8.30pm.

It is much better to arrive by boat if you are coming from Nice just for a day, there are regular boats from Nice Port and it is a very nice view all the way and takes about 2 hours.  You can also leave your car in St Maxim or Frejus and take a boat to Saint Tropez.

However, if you are staying here, just arrive outside that morning rush (in the afternoon or very early in the morning).

Helpful information

http://www.sainttropeztourisme.com

Hire a bike to get around http://www.rolling-bikes.com

Hire a yacht http://www.sainttropez-yachtcharter.com

Market days: Tuesday and Saturday

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Where to go in Monaco – the first of 3 blogs about what to do, where to go and where to eat in Monaco

“A sunny place for shady people” so said Somerset Maugham half a lifetime ago.  Does this still hold true?  Well, there is an eclectic mix – just like anywhere else in the world!

That said, I absolutely adore Monaco and love popping into the small state whenever I am staying in my South of France home.  I have friends who are lucky enough to live here and they all sing its praises from the rooftops.  There is another side, far removed from the brash stereotype of gambling, flash casinos, rich people showing off and generally having a good time!  You will be spoiled for choice with all the cultural activities from ballet to art exhibitions.

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Monte Carlo Casino 

This is such a safe place, you can wander around alone without worrying about your safety, there is a policeman around every corner.  It IS an elite and wealthy place, full of attractive, well dressed and well behaved people.  I find it to be like a box of delicious chocolates, I open the box and go WOW, savour a delicious morsel or two and have a wonderful time.   Yes, it is an unreal enclave – but take it for what it is and ENJOY!

You will definitely have a jolly good time if you follow my tips outlined below!   I’m going to give you a list of the good and bad restaurants to frequent, then I will give you a wonderful walk so you can explore of foot.  Monaco is the size of Hyde Park in London and so the best way to explore is on foot.   Also, a list of my favourite things to do – many of which are FREE.

Morning Walk around town

Let’s start with my walk.  Don’t forget that you are perfectly safe in Monaco, you can walk around clad in diamonds and no-one is going to mug you.  You really don’t need a tour guide, it is impossible to get lost and you will have a lot more fun exploring on your own.

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Tip: If you are feeling lazy, take the Bateau Bus (you can see it in the photo) from one side of the port to the other.

The walk starts at the port, for the benefit of those of you getting off a boat of some description.  I love the new Wine Palace below Monaco Yacht Club, if you feel like a reviving glass of wine or stocking up on a few cases.  They have an enormous cellar and will undoubtedly be able to provide whatever you want with some delicious cheese too – make sure you try the Truffle cheese, I’m still dreaming about it! http://www.winepalacemontecarlo.com

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Let’s do the touristy bit, can’t sit around sampling wine all day,  and head on up to the Old Town.  Stop of at the Oceanographic Museum.  I love the top floor with the display of old photographs. http://www.oceano.mc

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Oceanographic Museum – Sometimes they have Orchestral Concerts here during the Spring Arts Festival, a very special place.

Go and visit the Palace.  I love to visit in July when it is such a treat to attend a Monaco Philharmonic  Orchestra Concert in the courtyard of the Palace.  The outdoor cinema is also a favourite in the summertime.

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Princes’s Palace http://www.palais.mc

Take a tour around inside, a fascinating glimpse into another world.  The views from here are just amazing.  It is probably lunch time by now, so choose one of the little restaurants or head down to one of my favourite places for a lunchtime treat, The Hotel Hermitage.  There is a very nice 2 course menu which I recommend. http://www.hotelhermitagemontecarlo.com

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The Terrace Hotel Hermitage with a view of the Old Town, Palace and Port

Afternoon Walk:

After lunch take a little stroll around the Casino Gardens.  I’m a keen gardener and so love to see the variety of trees and plants from around the world.

PicMonkey CollageCasino Gardens – magical

If you want to do a little shopping, you’re in the right place everything from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Valentino to unusual little individual shops abound.  The Metropole Shopping Centre is to the left of of the gardens. http://www.chanel.com

http://metropoleshoppingcenter.com  Stroll along avenue des moulins for little boutiques.

 

Continue our walk down to Avenue Princess Grace and stroll along the seafront.  My dogs particularly like taking a walk here and stopping off for a little aperitif along the way.  Actually, if it is summertime and you want a less formal lunch than the Hotel Hermitage then one of the seafront restaurants is a good choice. http://www.lanotebleue.mc

Hopefully, you are not too tired after all this exercise and are ready to enjoy an evening out in Monte Carlo.  My recommendations for this will follow in Part 2.  Enjoy!

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Cafe de Paris and the Casino

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Embrace your ‘inner James Bond’ and take a speedboat from the airport.

 

What do you think of Venice? Very few people dislike it – despite the enormous cruise boats and hoards of day trippers clogging up the streets and canals. It is still a wondrous place that fills you with excitement from the moment you step into a water Taxi at the airport until the minute you leave.

I’m sure you have all visited loads of times, but anyway, here is my take on how to live like a Venetian.

Tip: Unless the hotel is offering a free speedboat, just hop aboard one dockside and it will only be 100 euros. Turn left out of the airport, make sure you have a porter it is quite a trek, and head to the most handsome Water Taxi owner that you can find.

 

Don’t even think about a Waterbus, unless you want to be squashed and uncomfortable with tourists (we are travellers NOT tourists!) and stop a hundred times en route.

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Safely delivered to the Hotel.

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My ‘Gaff’ for the week

IMG_1191Bauer Hotel http://www.bauervenezia.com

Chosen for its unbeatable location.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be in the heart of Venice and not on some island over yonder!  This is the perfect choice literally a stones throw from Piazza San Marco square but step through the hotel doors and you enter an oasis of calm and tranquility that seems far from the crowded square.

Step out of the door and you have Gondola’s waiting to transport you if you turn left and glorious shops followed by Piazza San Marco on the right.  Louis Vuitton is literally just outside the hotel, which is not great for my bank balance but a lovely treat.

If you want to splurge The Gritti Palace http://www.thegrittipalace.com is just one block over towards San Marco and Harry’s Bar is just around the corner.

Who could ask for more from the Hotel Bauer?  To be honest, I would like to be let loose with an interior designer – but the old world charm, excellent staff and wonderful restaurant are enough to bring me back for another visit.

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It is easy to escape into the ‘true’ Venice, just keep away from the typical tourist itinerary and one street over will be an oasis of calm, just as the photo above which was taken in crowded September.  One of my favourite routes is to leave the Bauer, turn left and cross the canal take a right and then left – you are now away from the crowds! Keep going and meander along marvelling at the hidden delights in the tiny little shops.

You are now in culture lovers heaven, there will be a church, Museum or gallery at every turn.  Once I arrive at Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, there will probably be an exhibition that is too good to pass by, but then cross the bridge.  Galleria del Academia is right there to explore, afterward turn left and keep going and you are now in a completely different Venice. Quiet little canals with sleepy houses and delicious little restaurants to try out.  I love to stop off at Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, an amazing collector.

IMG_1184-2Collezione Peggy Guggenheim

Revived after a cup of tea at the Guggenheim Cafe continue on to Punta Della Dogana and view another wonderful contemporary art collection.  Choose somewhere for lunch and congratulate yourself on a fabulous morning!

Retrace your steps or hop on a Gondola back across to the Bauer for a little nap.  Dinner on the terrace of the Bauer is a highlight, the view unsurpassable and constantly entertaining with guests alighting onto water taxis resplendent in their evening wear and all the canal boats toodling along.

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Another must-do another night is to book tickets for the Opera, put on your glad rags and take a water taxi to the Opera. You will have another James Bond moment, for sure!
IMG_0464Helpful Tips

When to Visit: Try and avoid the busy tourist months of July and August if you can.

Information: http://www.venice-tourism.com  http://www.venice-carnival-italy.com

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Photo:  Cannes Film Festival 2017

Have you visited Cannes Film Festival? No, well, it is great fun and well worth a visit.  I find it is like entering a parallel universe for a few days!  It is super busy, the town packed with film crews, movie executives, directors, actors and everyone you can possibly think working in the film industry.  Throw, hundreds of film enthusiasts into the mix and it is jam packed.

If you don’t work in the film industry, you will feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland when she falls down the rabbit hole!  The film industry is all consuming for those connected with the industry and the whole point of a film festival is to sell your film! Everywhere you go people are doing deals, discussing movies and it is all quite extraordinary.

Photo: Crowds waiting outside Martinez Hotel Cannes for movie stars

I thoroughly enjoyed my time and fun events ranging from a fabulous face treatment at L Raphael Luxury Spa at the Martinez hotel to watching movies, parties and even a private viewing in a gorgeous villa.  I always enjoy meeting young and enthusiastic professionals and so it was a delight to meet the Film Director J P Mandarino and star, Drew Lipson of the new movie The Kaos Brief.  

Photo: JP Mandarino, Drew Lipson and me

They kindly invited me to their gorgeous villa in Cannes and were the best fun.  We enjoyed a private viewing of the movie and a lovely chat afterwards.  The film is and exciting SciFi/horror movie and you will be drawn into the plot and be left wanting more when the movie ends! The young star, Drew Lipson is surely one to watch for the future and I look forward to seeing him in more movies soon.  Handsome and talented, always a great combination.

Photo: Director and Star of The Kaos Brief

This is Drew’s first lead role in a movie and his first time in Cannes.  He was delighted to be “living the dream!”, he told us that the small cast of 4 major characters lived together during filming.  The film took only 2 weeks to make and the cast were firm friends by the end of the movie.

The Kaos Brief is available for worldwide distribution.  JP Mandarin is looking for funding for his next two projects. http://www.thekaosbrief.com

Video: The Kaos Brief

Snippet from Drew Jepson interview

Tips for Cannes Film Festival:

A few tips for you, if you plan to attend next year.

  • The big stars do not stay in Cannes.  The ones who don’t want or need the publicity stay in Monaco.
  • Go early, security really hots up going into hotels etc after Saturday so go for the first few days.
  • Make sure people know you plan to attend and you will receive invitations to screenings, use the cannes hashtags on social media.

Prices shoot up in Cannes so it is a good idea to stay nearby rather than pay inflated price, unless you want to be immersed in the experience totally and pay for it!

Photo: Freddie and me enjoying drinks at The Carlton Hotel Cannes during the Festival

Contact: http:jpmandarino.com

 

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