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.  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.  The cars are driven by polite drivers, the people of the city are so polite, friendly and helpful.  I am sure you will find it as enchanting as I did.  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

Then 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.

 

My Review of Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg:

Are you wondering where to stay in St Petersburg?  It is so difficult when you don’t know a city, or the best areas in a city in which to be to be located, or have any clue about the hotels!  I know this because I faced the same dilemma.  I chose Corinthia Hotel because it is an excellent hotel and also it is located right on Nevsky Prospect.

Nevsky Prospect is the main street in St Petersburg and could not be a more perfect location!  A lot of the places you will want to explore are within walking distance including the main shopping area, the best stores, Faberge Museum, canals and famous churches.  The  Neva River is at the beginning of Nevsky Prospect alongside the Hermitage Museum.  The Metro is also close by. The Hotel is situated in the middle of Nevsky Prospect. Perfect!

Hotel Entrance

Another reason I chose this hotel is because it is a Corinthia Hotel, a company which has such a great reputation.  The Hotel Group is still relatively small and family owned and this makes such a difference.  You cannot go wrong with this hotel, I was so happy with my choice and it definitely has the LuxuryTravelDiva seal of approval.  Regular readers know how fussy I am!  This is one of the cleanest hotels imaginable, the attention to detail cannot be faulted in any way.  It is a beautiful, comfortable hotel with lovely staff.

The Lobby:

First of all, arrive and enter the stunning lobby and check in at Reception located on the right hand side.

The Lobby with perfect floral displays

Enjoy the absolutely stunning Lobby area with a magnificent staircase.

Lobby with great artworks

The Lobby is very impressive with its high ceilings, comfortable seating and  perfectly placed bar right in the middle! Then you will be whisked up to your fantastic hotel room.

HOTEL SUITES AND ROOMS:

There is a good choice of hotel Suites and rooms to choose from here.  Take a look at the hotel website for all the information.

Junior Hotel Suite:

Junior  Suite at Corinthia St Petersburg

I was lucky enough to stay in a lovely Junior Suite with its own outside terrace.  Although it was too cold in early March to sit outside.  The bed was a Super King size and really comfortable.  I like the Pillow menu very much!  You will feel so comfortable in these super stylish hotel rooms which so beautifully decorated.

Welcome Treats

Great little touches such as the Nespresso machine, tea and coffee are always welcome in a hotel room as are welcome gifts, the Macarons and cake made me feel very special and welcome.

Nespresso Machine, tea and coffee

The room was so restful, the perfect calm retreat after a busy day exploring the city of St Petersburg.  There was a nice working area with a desk and plenty of electric plugs and large wardrobe space with plenty of hangers.  A particular bugbear of mine!

Work area in the Junior Suite

There is a really good 24 hour Room Service menu.  I tried a Prawn Caesar Salad which was delicious!

Room Service

Bathroom in the Junior Suite

Who doesn’t love a fabulous bathroom? Especially with a large bath and a built in TV to watch!  Also complete with a large shower, great lighting and sumptuous Espa products.

Bath room in the Junior Suite with built in TV

Luxurious Bathroom in the Junior Suite

The Royal Suite:

Then I took a peak at the Royal Suite, which would be amazing if money is no object!  You would be joining some very famous faces who have slept in the Royal Suite, I will be discrete and not name names!  It is absolutely splendid.

The Royal Suite

Have you noticed the lovely light fittings and lamps?  Every light fitting in Corinthia Hotels is unique and made especially for the hotel, they are very beautiful and another example of attention to detail.

The Royal Suite

If you feel like splashing the cash, I really recommend this gorgeous suite with 2 bedrooms, dining room and super luxe sitting room.

Royal Suite, you will never want to leave!

The Executive Lounge:

Executive Lounge.   This Photo is by Masha Vetchinkina

The Executive lounge was a quiet haven to relax and enjoy a glass of wine or light meal or snack through out the day.  It was a nice place to enjoy breakfast away from the busy Breakfast in the Dining Room.  I travelled alone and particularly enjoyed the peaceful lounge as I was by myself.  The staff are so wonderful too.

Executive Lounge at Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg

HOTEL LOBBY AND NEVSKY BAR:

There is a cosy bar located right in the lobby so you can enjoy a drink while relaxing and watching the world go by.

Bar located in the Lobby

I can recommend the Russian Champagne (a new experience for me) and the local beer. But all sorts of  delicious treats await!

RESTAURANTS:

The Imperial Restaurant is located on the first floor.  Have your breakfast here and delicious lunches and dinners, enjoy Mediterranean dishes.

Imperial Restaurant

The restaurant enjoys magnificent views of Nevsky Prospect.  Watch the world go by as you eat a delicious meal.

Breakfast at Imperial Restaurant

Delicious Omelette for breakfast together with a glass of Champagne which is a very nice treat at breakfast time. The breakfast selection is huge.   I’m missing all the Champagne since I arrived home!

Vienna Cafe

A celebrated Tea and Coffee house which has an amazing selection of cakes and pastries.  I noticed that St Petersburg is full of delicious Patisseries actually!  Lunch and dinner are also served here.  I enjoyed a delicious Caesar Salad here.

FITNESS CENTRE:

Keep fit while you travel in the well equipped Fitness Centre.

 

Work off your lunch in the Fitness Centre which enjoys stupendous views over the rooftops of St Petersburg.  The gym is small but well equipped, I enjoyed using it every day and a took a Sauna up in the Fitness Centre too.  I particularly like the fact that men and women both have their own Sauna in the changing rooms.  Everything was absolutely spotless as it is throughout the hotel.  Credit must go to all the Housekeeping staff.

BUSINESS MEETINGS AND FUNCTIONS:

The Corinthia Hotel is in popular demand amongst the Russian and International business community.  There is a Business Centre located on the First Floor ready to help with all business needs.  Conference Rooms and Function Rooms are first class.

The hotel has the largest ballroom in St Petersburg and holds some wonderful functions throughout the year.

Function and Ballroom details

The tiniest details are just perfect, look at the gorgeous pompom curtain ties and magnificent Chandeliers.

Ballroom at Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg

THE STAFF:

A hotel, no matter how fabulous, is as nothing without good staff.  Everyone at Corinthia Hotel is super professional, helpful, welcoming and very kind.  I found them all to be delightful.  I was particularly impressed with the Lady concierges who went above and beyond to make my stay special.  However, everyone from the luggage handlers upwards could not be faulted.  Thank you all for making my stay so enjoyable and I look forward to a return visit.

Helpful information:

Corinthia Hotel, Nevsky Prospect 57, St Petersburg

Tel: +7 812 3802001  E.mail: reservationsstpetersburg@corinthia.com

There is 50% off bookings at the moment  so check the hotel website http://www.corinthia.com or click on the Booking.com link on the right hand side of this page.

The Hotel has secure parking, Free WIFI and late check out

 

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

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.

Photo at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

5 Top places to visit in 2017.  Well, this is based on my recent Travels rather than all time favourites. I would find it impossible to choose five, wouldn’t you?

VENICE

I know, everyone loves Venice but that it is because it is one of the best places to visit in the world!  Venice has everything from beautiful architecture, magical ambiance, excellent shops, interesting museums and so many art galleries you will never see them all!

Iconic Venice, I will never tire of visiting this magical city

Avoid high season, is my biggest tip!  Treat yourself to a water taxi, by far the best way to see everything.  Avoid the touristy Gondoliers and take a fabulous Riva Water taxi.  However you can avoid the crowds by staying off the well worn tourist route, they generally do not stray very far!  Read all about Venice in my Venice blog.

PALAWAN ISLANDS, The Philippines

El Nido Islands, Palawan, The Philippines

If you want to take a long haul trip, I really recommend visiting the islands of The Philippines.  They are not called the most beautiful in the world without good reason.  Yes, it is a bit of a trek to get there but well worth it.  Go now before the world discovers them and they become spoiled.  Avoid the more touristy Boracay and head to Palawan.

Read my blog to find out where I stayed and more information.

ABU DHABI

Regular readers will know how much I love Abu Dhabi and visit every year!  Don’t just use it as a stop over, stay and see the country.  I particularly like the Liwa desert and stayed at the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Hotel for the second time.  The desert is a very special place and it is nice to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of the hotel.Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi, UAE

You will enjoy the city of Abu Dhabi too, there is so much to see and do, including the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is awe inspiring.  I loved staying at the world famous Emirates Palace hotel Read my blog for more information.

Emirates Palace Private Beach

If you stay at Emirates Palace, I promise you will never want to leave!  However, get out and explore the country in a hire car.  It is perfectly safe to drive and you will feel very comfortable and safe driving anywhere in Abu Dhabi.  Almost impossible to get lost too.

MOROCCO

Atlas Mountains of Morocco

My latest discovery!  Indeed, I am already planning a return trip. Explore Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains.  Read my blogs to discover more details, see the HOME page at the top.  Marrakesh was a delight and so much nicer than I expected, perfect for a few days short trip if you are travelling from europe.

The Medina in Marakesh

Explore the Medina, Majorelle Gardens eat delicious Moroccan meals and so much more.

Cote d’Azur France:

Cap Martin, Roquebrune Cap Martin, France

I know, I live here part of the year and so am a little biased but please come and visit! You will love it.  Monaco is one of the safest places to be and you will enjoy a trip very much.  Again read my blogs on the subject for more information.

MonacoDon’t forget to visit Monaco or stay a while during your trip. There are wonderful hotels, great events throughout the year, terrific restaurants and so much to see or do.  Enjoy the beautiful weather and beaches too!  Avoid high season on the Cote d’azur and Monaco would be my top tip.  High season is during July and August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Atlas Mountains, Morocco

My 5 Top Tips for a Trip to the Atlas Mountains.  Are you taking a trip to Marrakesh?  Make time to get out to the Atlas Mountains.  They are only a two hour drive from the city and so breathtaking,  I would not miss the chance to get out there and see for yourself.

I took a couple of day trips out from Marrakesh, but next visit I will definitely go and stay out in the mountains at Kasbah Tarandot.  More later!

TIP No.1:

Hire a car and driver to show take you into the mountains.  We went with Ali Bouramdane from ATM Journey   and enjoyed a memorable day exploring the mountains.  The morning was spent winding our way up higher and higher,  stopping to take in the view on the way.

Ali from ATM Journey

The road from Marrakesh to the mountains

An easy drive into the mountains, one long road ahead.

Spot Goats, Donkeys and wonderful views en route.

Top Tip No.2:

I ‘borrowed’ this bike for a photo!

If you hire a car and drive yourself watch out for speed traps!  I have never seen so many police catching speeding motorists, they have very strict speeding laws.  Also, make sure you buckle up or prepare for an on the spot fine.

Morocco is perfectly safe with well maintained cars and good roads.  It was a pleasant surprise. Just make sure you stick to the speed limit.

Top Tip No.3:

Ignore all the warnings you have read!  I avoided Morocco for years after being told ‘You will be hassled all the time, and it is not safe!’  and ‘It is so dirty everywhere’, ‘Marie, you will hate it!’.  Well, regular Divalicious readers know just what a pampered Princess I can be and I just loved it!  My advice is ignore all those warnings.  If a street vendor tries to sell you something (remember the poor chap is just trying to earn a crust for goodness sake!)  Do NOT engage in conversation, politely ignore.

I felt perfectly safe at all times, was not hassled in any way.  Morocco is a surprisingly enlightened country compared with others in the region and Marrakesh is a wonderful melting pot of cultures.  The people are a delight and you will love them!  This comes from a tall blond who doesn’t exactly blend in with the locals.

Top Tip No.4:

Kasbah Tamadot:

Visit Kasbah Tamadot.  This is a very special place, above and beyond Diva expectations.  Friends of mine stayed there and recommended a visit.  I was not disappointed and I will be back to stay.  The location is magical and the hotel is a perfect mountain retreat in every way.  The staff are a delight.  The hotel, with its Berber tent suite accommodation is just a heavenly, with exquisitely tasteful design and spectacular mountain views.  I almost cried  and clung to the gatepost when it was time to leave! (I didn’t really, but you know what I mean?)

Lunch with a view anyone?

Start saving now, it is worth every penny!  The suites, designed in the style of traditional berber tents, are the epitome of understated chic.

Kasbah Tarandot

Suite with a view of the mountains

Everywhere at Kasbah Tamadot is super chic, it is impossible to take a bad photo.  Lunch was simple but delicious.

Kasbah Tamadot, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

I enjoyed meeting the resident pets, including Camels, Goats, Donkeys, Mules and even Peacocks.

Even the Camels are friendly at Kasbah Tamadot!

TIP No.5:

Hike in the Atlas Mountains!  Whether you make time for a post prandial stroll or a two day trek, just walk and breathe in the pure mountain air and enjoy the views!

After lunch, we asked the hotel for advice on a suitable short hike.  They were amazing and provided us with water, a map and even a guide to set us off along the right track.  We were invited to shower on our return.  Such wonderful hospitality considering we only stopped for lunch!

Hike with a view at Kasbah Tamadot

I look forward to returning to http://www.kasbahtamadot.com

After lunch we clambered back into the 4 x 4 and Ali drove on to a Lake about another 20 minutes further into the mountains.

We were really tired by this time, the fresh mountain air, a good lunch and hike completely finished us off. Ali drove us serenely back down the mountain to Marrakesh and a nap before dinner!

Ali Bouramdane from ATM Journey:

It is not easy taking pot luck and finding a guide in a new destination.  Ali was a delight.  A  good and safe drive, comfortable 4 x 4 and informative too!  I recommend a trip with ATM journey whether it be for a day trip or for a longer excursion around Morocco.

Book A Trip:

I am already planning my return trip to see more of Morocco and will travel around the country with ATM journey.

http://www.atmjourney.com

 

Decisions, decisions! Trying to decide what to pack…..

WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO RUSSIA!

Im trying out a new discovery BoostOxygen

I use it to help recovery after my daily run.  I absolutely love it, helps me to feel energised after exercise rather than needing a lie down!.   It can also help with tiredness after a flight, so I will give it a go and let you know how it works!  Popping it into my suitcase to use at the hotel.  Boost Oxygen

 

Christian Louboutin Beauty Lipstick

This is my latest indulgent purchase.  Lusciously rich colours that last for ages in the most gorgeous packaging.  Who can resist?  Not me!  Just whisper the price because it is quite expensive, £70 from Net-a-Porter

My gadgets and books, essential for a luxurious trip. What to pack for my trip to Russia?

iPhone 7 and IPad, I’m not sure how I survived before IPad’s were invented – an I’m sure it is the same for you.  Actually, an iPad is my No’1 must-have – even if you are on a tight budget, you will never regret travelling with an iPad, Promise! Amazon link below for a great price.

Kindle, I take a Kindle as well on long haul trips and my trusty Canon EOS 100D, reliable and idiot proof.  AMAZON  link below for a ridiculously cheap price.

 

Books for my Journey: We all depend on ibooks these days, but sometimes it is nice to add an old fashioned book into the mix for travelling.  What do you think of these two? Buy on Amazon link below.

Women Travellers  edited by Mary Morris

Who loves reading about intrepid Women travellers?  This book is a source of great inspiration and some very interesting tales.  I recommend it.

La Prisonniere by Malik Oufkir  A good read that is fascinating and you will not put it down until the last page is turned.  A true story of a brave woman held captive in Morocco for a large part of her live, she tells her story so beautifully.

 

 

 

MOVIES

We all download movies to watch on our travels.  I always pack some good old fashioned CD’s of movies.  I can’t tell you how many times these have been incredibly useful.  Yes, most of the time you won’t need them but they can be wonderful, stuck in a jungle somewhere and nothing is working!

My first suggestion is from a reader and fellow blogger Janna, who thought my Venice blog reminded her of ‘The Tourist’ a movie with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

All squeezed into a Hermes Kelly shoulder bag, along with LV sunnies and wallet.  Voila! I’m good to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Where to stay in Marrakesh?  You have so many places to choose!  There is something for every budget from the super luxe to basic.  I chose Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie.  I wanted to escape the busy city of Marrakesh and relax and unwind in a tranquil haven.  Tigmiza certainly lived up to my expectations.

The hotel is a 20 minute bus ride from the city of Marrakesh and the hotel provides a minibus twice a day to take you into town. I loved going back to the tranquility of Palmeraie, a very safe and quiet area. I went for a morning run early every morning and felt perfectly safe and at home in Palmeraie.

Marrakesh, the city was a lovely surprise though and much nicer than I imagined!

Rooftop Lounge and Bar at Tigmiza

The staff are very friendly and everyone was helpful.  We were welcomed with a delicious pot of mint tea on arrival at our villa, Number 7.

Welcome Tea on arrival at Villa No7

The fruit bowl was also a nice welcome.  The villas are lovely, comfortable and quiet with only the sound of the birds tweeting in the trees. The beds exceptionally comfy which is a Diva essential!  You have plenty to choose from at Tigmiza from a suite to a villa, villas are varying in size and I would choose a villa if your budget allows because they are good value and very nice places for a stay.

 Single beds as requested, travelling with a friend

The bathroom and shower were well stocked with an array of products and the shower and bath were both absolutely enormous and could not be faulted!  The bedroom enjoyed a terrace with lovely views of Palmeraie.

Living Room at Villa No.7

Downstairs we enjoyed a large living area with an alcove containing another double day bed,  a big TV and patio doors leading out into our own private garden.  What a treat! and our own small pool too.  Sadly, the weather in early February was cold.  I want to return in the Spring time and enjoy warmer weather!

The hotel has a very pretty pool area with two pools.

Pool at Tigmiza Hotel, Marrakesh

One is heated to 30 degrees and the other, above not heated.

I’m admiring the heated pool!

The reception area is very chic as you can see with the Dining room adjacent.  The breakfast was very good indeed, with a wide array of choice including an outdoor barbecue area for delicious omelettes and so many other good things!

Reception area at Tigmiza Hotel

I looked around the Royal Suite, which was magnificent!  Boasting its own Spa, magnificent lounge area and of course large garden with a pool.  This is really exceptional and an enormous space.  Treat yourself!

Lounge area in the Royal Suite

A bedroom in the Royal Suite, Tigmiza, Marrakesh

If you have any questions about a stay at Tigmiza Suites and Pavillons, please contact me.  I will be happy to answer your questions.  The hotel is set in large, spacious gardens.  I visited during low season but everything is well designed, so it will never feel crowded.  A perfect spot for a restful and tranquil stay. And make time to enjoy the Spa and Gym.

Roof top sunset enjoyed at Tigmiza Hotel, Palmeraie, Marrakesh

Useful information: Prices are on my Booking.com link on the right hand side of this page

Tigmiza Hotel, Route de Bab Atlas, Palmeraie, Marrakesh, Morocco

Telephone:212 524393700  website: http:www.hotel-tigmiza-marrakesh.com

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.

 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

 

This is my review of Anantara Qasr Al Sarab following my stay in December 2016.

Visit Abu Dhabi:

A little piece of my heart belongs to Abu Dhabi.  I return time and again for so many reasons. Some are practical such as it is only 7 hours from London, guaranteed sunshine, low humidity, fabulous hotels, a stylish and top class destination, perfectly safe with lovely people.  It is also very liberal towards Western tourists, you can comfortably walk around without any problem.

The other reasons are more heartfelt, such as the magical desert, enchanting culture, the fascination of watching the country develop in such a positive and enlightened way, my love of the Arab horses, Camels, Falcons.  There are so many exciting adventures to be had here, make sure you explore the country properly and don’t just sit in your fabulous hotel when you visit!

Entrance to Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

The Empty Quarter – Liwa Desert

I would not visit Abu Dhabi without a trip into the empty quarter.  Hire a car and driver or, like me hire a rental car and drive yourself around.  Do not hesitate for a minute!  Abu Dhabi drivers are the most polite in the entire world!  There is no horn beeping or pushing and they drive in a very civilised way.

We stayed at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Hotel which is approximately 2 hours drive from the city of Abu Dhabi.  A really easy drive, with hardly another car on the road and quite an adventure out into the desert.  Pass a few Camel farms on the way, so look out for Camels as you go!  This is the only 5 star hotel in the area.

Villa Complex at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab.

The hotel is well sign posted, you cannot miss it. Pass through the security check and drive for 11 km until you reach the hotel.  The hotel driveway is extraordinary in the the most magical desert setting.

Hotel entrance

Arrive and be whisked away by super efficient staff.  Every Anantara hotel has impeccably efficient staff!  The last time we stayed our room was in a super location on the left side of the main complex, number 400 plus.  This time we were in 121 which was not so great.  A lengthy walk away from everything and with far more rooms around, I did not like it nearly as much.

Hotel buggy takes you to the room on arrival

I would definitely splurge on a villa!  The first time we visited, a few years back the hotel was new and everything was immaculate.  This time, I think it is ready for a room revamp because it is starting to look a little bit tired.

Very comfy bed at Anatara Qasr Al Sarab

My favourite thing about the room is the super comfy bed, gorgeous arabic styling and lovely relaxing terrace and private garden.  The best bit is the bath!  I have never seen such a magnificent bath.  This is  a joy after visiting so many new hotels this year that are just offering showers!

The biggest round bath I have ever seen!

Admittedly, I do travel with a lot  of clothes but the lack of drawer space was a real problem.  We lived out of a suitcase due to lack of anywhere to put things.  As usual, way too few clothes hangers!

My Top Tip: Visit during the week if possible, the weekends are very busy

The Swimming Pool:

Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Pool

Who loves a pool? We all do!  This is a fabulous pool, spacious and with a separate children’s area.  Great pool bar serving light lunches and so on around the pool.

Delicious Poolside lunches

Pool with a fantastic view of the desert!

If I was in charge at Anantara, I would build another quiet pool on the other side of the hotel for adults to chill out.

The Hotel

The main part of the hotel is exquisitely designed in an arabic style which is just enchanting.  The reception is large spacious and welcoming leading onto a big lounge area.

Lounge area

A charming library is adjacent, look out for the lovely books with old pictures of Abu Dhabi

Library with interesting books

Outside terrace next to the Library

On the other side is a shop selling some interesting gifts and great Kaftans.

Gift Shop

On the lower level is a fabulous gym and Spa.

Good, well equipped gym

Restaurants:

The food here is eye wateringly expensive!  There is nowhere else to eat so my advice would be to take a meal package when you book.

Breakfast:

Buffet breakfast is served at the Al Waha restaurant.  A huge buffet selection of everything you could possible want for breakfast!

Pastry Selection at Breakfast

Lunch and Dinner:

A good selection of different places to eat.

Ghadeer

Situated near the pool and serves Local and Mediterranean dishes.  It also has a Shisha Lounge.  The food was good, with an informal vibe.

Ghadeer Restaurant

Ghadeer Restaurant

I enjoyed fish en Papillote and it was delicious, followed by Tiramisu, below.

Dessert, absolutely scrummy Tiramisu

A good selection of wines too.  The second night we ate at:

Suhali Restaurant

An upscale rooftop restaurant with an award winning wine list.  Again the food was delicious.

Other restaurants are Al Waha Restaurant which has a Middle Eastern and International cuisine buffet.  Also, Al Falaj, serving Middle Eastern food and barbecue in a wonderful tented area!

Activities:

Apart from the beautiful desert location this is my favourite thing about Anantara Qasr Al Sarab.  Especially the Camels and Camel riding, who an adventure!

Camel Trek at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

You can Camel Trek in the morning or evening.  I chose the evening trek which lasts about 50 minutes with a very small group, which was perfect!  There were 10 of us in total.  A truly spectacular way to see the desert and this is followed by drinks watching the sunset.

Sunset in the desert

Trek in the desert, use the hotel fat tyre bikes, go dune bashing in 4 x 4 vehicles, see the Falcons, go riding on the Arab horses or explore on a Camel.  You can see why people come back time and again!

Top Tip:

Go to Abu Dhabi in the winter when the weather is a perfect 27 degrees in December.  The summers are very, very hot obviously!

Information:

Dress.  For the desert take clothes and shoes that are suitable for hiking and walking.  Smart casual the rest of the time  http://www.VisitAbuDhabi.com  http://www.qasralsarab.anantara.com

 

Luxury lifestyle beauty products made by WoMn.  Who likes trying new skincare and beauty products? Yes, me too!  I was thrilled to try an exciting new, natural brand WoMn made in Abu Dhabi natural ingredients.  I’m becoming more and more aware of what I put on my skin these days.

I wouldn’t dream of eating chemical packed food, so why put it on my skin? I love products with natural ingredients.  WoMn certainly fits this brief!  And is a new niche brand too.

WoMn moisturiser and Hair and Body Oil

As you know, I only write about places and products that I really love and these certainly fit into that category.  The body oil smells divine and instantly makes your skin feel soft and smell divine with a subtle fragrance of Argan and Rose.

The Vanilla and Lemon Facial scrub was a revelation!  The results are instantaneous after the first scrub.  I tried this out on Stephen and he has baby soft skin now too.  I have used the Argan and Neroli moisturiser and the Anti ageing serum everyday for weeks with great results.

My skin looks great after using WoMn skincare

I want to introduce your to Goran, the man behind this exciting new brand.  He has an interesting story to tell us.

Goran Vestermajer from WoMn:

Q. Hi Goran, How lovely to chat!  Tell us a little about yourself?

I am MPharm from Croatia and I have more than 16 years of professional experience in pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy. R&D was my first position after graduation and it remained my “first love” in pharmaceutical industry. I always loved exploring nature so naturally there was only a small step to start combining those two together.

Q.  What are your favourite things about living in Abu Dhabi?

We moved to UAE three and a half years ago in a search for better opportunities and felt it would be beneficial to our children. Here they are going in international school and are exposed to many different cultures and experiences so they have good chance to grow up reaching and meeting to their full potential. This is what we like about living in Abu Dhabi. And of course the fact that it never snows nor the temperature goes below 10 🙂

Q.  What inspired you to start making WoMn products?

Inspiration for WoMn came to me in a dream. I know how unreal that sounds, but it is the truth. Like you already know I was and still am a stay-at-home Dad and this idea was in my head for long but have never materialized. Finally after 3 years in Dubai when we realized that finding a job in UAE for me would be mission impossible, one morning I said to my wife – I am going to make organic skin care products. But not just any kind of products. I will combine proven natural ingredients and scientific data to make products that nobody else is making here.
After that everything started and the name WoMn came as a tribute to my wife, because it is in fact acronym for Wife Of Mine Nena.

Q. Are you influenced by The Middle East and the ingredients you find there?

When researching for any of my products I try not to be influenced with just one region or country. People all around the world use different natural ingredients for skin and hair care and I try to follow that same path. Still, there are few rules that I follow strictly. First, there has to be scientific data and studies behind every ingredient, and I use only proven and reliable suppliers. That means that some ingredients I will be able to find locally but most we need to import.

Q.  How do you see the business growing?

WoMn is still in the beginning phase. We are still a handmade brand but actions for turning it to company are already in motion. We are currently finalizing negotiations to start production and registration of our products in EU and after that we will do the same here in UAE. There is still so much to do in order to make WoMn recognizable brand and but also in educating people about natural and organic skin care products.

Q. Tell me how we an all buy Womn Products?

Until that we are present online on Instagram and Facebook and can physically be found on local Abu Dhabi and Dubai markets. We are also developing our webpage that should be active soon.

Thank you Goran and good luck!

http://www.instagram.com/womn.cosmetics

Perched villages of the Cote d’Azur

eze

French peculiarities 

Before we get on to the perched  villages of the Cote d’Azur, I would like to mention that I have noticed some strange french characteristics after many years travelling to France.  France is a huge country and I’m not talking about the WHOLE country.  The people in northern France are very different and more akin to Northern Europeans in outlook and lifestyle.  No, I’m talking about the Eastern section of the Cote d’azur.  Here, they are a very singular, insular people and have developed some strange habits!  Well, strange to the rest of the world, perfectly normal for them of course.

Many is the time I have queued in a french supermarket in a rural area, only to blush bright red as the elderly gentlemen standing behind me discuss the size of my bottom – quite openly and unashamedly!  This is a daily occurrence, sexism laws just do not affect the french who blatantly ignore such dictate from the EU.  Oh, and they really do say ooh la la – a lot – again usually with reference to some part of my anatomy!  I was reminded of this at the weekend during my visit to St Agnes, victim again of casual sexist remarks.  I have concluded it is much better not to learn french and then you will be blissfully ignorant to all the insults. Xenophobia is rife and far right politics are popular in many  areas of Southern France.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I know this is a huge generalisation, but xenophobia, misogyny and sexism are rife.  I don’t know how french women put up with it.  Oh another peculiarity is that cinq a sept really does exist!  If you don’t know what this is then Google it!  I think this explains the mad rushing about in cars, tooting horns and suffering from road rage

The beauty of the Cote d’azur more than makes up for these annoying french habits as does the food, politeness in general, delicious food and many other things!

 

There are over 120 perched villages on the Cote d’azur!  I’m just visiting a handful that are near my villa.  My visitors always enjoy them and I hope you will too.  It might give you some ideas for a day out – great to escape the heat of summer, it is always cool in the hills.

Eze

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The most popular with tourist is the Medieval village of Eze, perched dramatically above the sea.  Meander through the streets visiting tourist junk shops interspersed with some nice art galleries and stop the Chèvre d’Or for lunch.  If however, like me you avoid anywhere with tourist buses then visit in the evening when they have all gone home.  The village is dramatically lit at night too.

After Eze you can drive towards La Turbie –  good place to stock up for a picnic if you are planning an al fresco feast. Take a tiny road on the left going out of the village towards Menton signposted Peille.  Keep going until you come to Peille.

Peille

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This is my least favourite of the perched villages, maybe it is me but I find it slightly creepy and more shabby than chic!  Although it makes for a great photo with the 14c remnants of buildings.

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You may disagree but if not, just stop and take a few snaps and then retrace your steps a couple of kilometres and take a tiny road on the left to Saint Agnes.  The road alone is worth the trip breathtaking views and hairpin bends, quite an adventure!  This route is often used for car rallies and the sometimes the tour de France – you will see why!

Saint Agnes

stagnes

It looks like something from a fairytale doesn’t it?  A sign is proudly displayed at the entrance to the village stating it is one of the most beautiful villages in europe and at 800m the highest Littoral village in europe – quite a claim.  It is certainly very pretty and with an interesting history, including the church which dates in part from 1535.  At the southern end of the village you can visit a fort built into the cliff that was built as part of the maginot line of defences in the second world war.

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Village of St Agnes 

Another peculiarity of the french is that they will eat anything that moves!  Again, this is a leftover trait from times when food was scarce and one that is still practiced today.  All of the bits that we generally throw away, and even my dogs would refuse to eat, appear as delicacies on a french menu; brains, guts, tripe are very common.  They also have a love of hunting and freedom to hunt anywhere during the hunting season is still widely practiced today,also a tendency to shoot themselves by accident.

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little restaurants and art galleries in St Agnes

The food in the isolated villages is generally good and in season. I’ve eaten delicious fresh Trout in the restaurant above but you will also find rabbit and wild boar in season.  Well, after a good lunch you can get back into the car and drive down towards Menton.  Enough for one day!

To be continued …. Roquebrune Cap Martin and Eze in detail

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are only a personal opinion and any resemblance to anyone is entirely coincidental!

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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

MC blog

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.

mcblog

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

5 Beauty essentials for travel. I want to share my 5 beauty essentials for great skin.  I think this is the worst time of year for our poor skin.  The harsh cold winter weather takes its toll.  Also, if like me you travel a lot this makes your poor skin dry and dehydrated.  The dreaded little lines around the eyes are in need of serious help!

CAUDALIE GRAPE WATER

I have used Caudalie products for years.  I love the pure, organic ingredients with no nasty chemicals in the products.  This Grape water contains 100% organic grapes, is preservative free, fragrance free and Caudalie are against animal testing!  Also contains no nasties such as Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, Phlatates or animal origin ingredients.  Fabulous, music to my ears and yours too I hope.  Be careful what you are putting on you skin.  Read labels and be aware.

I spray this wonderful Grape Water liberally over my face to rehydrate after running, when on an aeroplane indeed throughout the day!  Your skin feels instantly hydrated and revived.

CAUDALIE PREMIER CRU eye cream

Caudalie Premier Cru Eye Cream

The latest product from Caudalie is this luxurious eye cream!  It now has a permanent place on my dressing table.  The results are instant, the crepy skin around my eyes is firmer and looks transformed and hydrated. As always with Caudalie, there are no nasty Parabens etc and no animal testing!  Give it a try, click on the Caudalie link on the right hand side of my page.

Argh! No make up.  Skin looks good though.  Do you like natural products without harmful chemicals and that are not tested on animals?  Me too, and I try and use these products as much as I can.  Be aware of what we are putting on our skin as well as into our bodies.  Talking of which I use a great vitamin from Solgar Skin, Hair and Nails.  Again this is great for travelling, especially when it is difficult to get a healthy balanced diet on travel days.

My 5 essentials plus Vitamins from Solgar

NUXE BODY CONTOURING SERUM

Another new discovery I want to share with you because IT WORKS!  An anti cellulite treatment that firms and contours and it really does work.  Just slather it on your body twice a day and get travel ready.

WOMN ARGAN AND ROSE BODY OIL AND ARGAN AND NEROLI ANTI AGEING CREAM

I love finding new beauty discoveries that really work.  The Womn products really deliver great results!  I am writing a whole article about them so won’t go into much detail.  the hair and body oil I use all over my body for super soft skin.  Also the anti ageing cream has wonderful results.  I even tried it out on my husband and the results are astonishing.  They are all organic and handmade in the UAE.

I hope you enjoy trying some of these.  Let me know if you do and what results you get!

Information:

Caudalie: http://www.caudalie.com   Nuxe:  http://www.nuxe.com  Solgar:  http://www.solgar.com

 

 

 

Where to buy those designer bargains?  I love shopping in Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton from time to time and have some treasured pieces from many top designers.   A trip to Chanel is a treat  and everything I own has proved to be a great investment and actually increased in value.  A much better investment than money in a bank (this is what I tell my husband anyway!).

BICESTER VILLAGE

However, I also love shopping for a bargain especially when I travel such a lot.  I own over 100 bikinis and kaftans, and like to get them on sale wherever possible.  These are definitely not investment pieces so get them in the outlets or at sale time.

One of my favourite places to shop, which is not so secret seeing as it is the No.1 destination for Chinese visitors to England!  This is Bicester Outlet Village.  I have written about this before but it is worth revisiting as a big expansion programme is underway right now at the village.

ROBERTO CAVALLI AT BICESTER VILLAGE

Every favourite store you can imagine is here from Christian Dior, Prada, Burberry to Max Mara and Gucci.  It is situated in Bicester, a market town near Oxford.  It is very easy to get to Bicester if you are staying in London.  Take a look at their website where you can book a seat on their Shopping Express coach which picks you up from all the major hotels in London.  It costs £28 for adults and £20 for children.  It will drop you off with all your shopping bags at your hotel at the end of the day!

 White Company at Bicester Village

My favourite White Company can be found at Bicester.  Shop here by clicking on my link on the right hand side of the page here.

The best time to bag a bargain here is at the end of the sales.  Right now!! At the end of the January sales and in early July at the end the summer sales.

PARIS:

VESTIAIRE COLLECTIVE

Where do I sell my Designer clothes, bags and shoes?  I sell some of them here, at Vestiaire Collective.  I give the proceeds to my favourite charity.  They offer a great service selling the stuff and verifying the condition and authenticity before it is sent on to the buyer.  I can recommend this for buying and selling and the service is available in most parts of the world.  Check out their website by clicking on the link.

VALOIS VINTAGE PARIS  

Valois Vintage is a fabulous luxury resale store or Depot Vente as it is called in french. They check every item for authenticity and condition before they accept it for sale.  You will be assured that it is an original item as described.  If you are selling with them, the service is professional and recommended.

Valois Vintage stands above other Depot Vente second hand resale shops in Paris.  Take a look at their website.

Beware of some Depot Ventes, they are full of fakes at expensive prices!  Unless you really know your stuff, avoid them!  Valois Vintage is totally reliable for genuine designer goods.

SAMPLE SALES:

Get on the lists for sample sales in Paris and London, if you are visiting either of these cities.  Check out http://www.chicmi.com and http://www.samplesaleguide.co.uk

AUCTION HOUSES

I LOVE an auction and buy absolutely everything from auction houses from Diamonds, Hermes bags right through to antique furniture!  I’ll share my favourites with you.

Bonhams Auction house and Montpelianos for lunch next door!

Bonham Auction House – Bonhams, They have auction houses worldwide but you can bid and buy online, watch out for fabulous watches, jewellery and sometimes handbags.  http://www.bonhams.com

 

No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to Artcurial if they have auction going on at the time.  Perfectly located on the corner of le Champs Elysees and avenue Montaigne, 7 Rond-Pointe, 75008 Paris, in a beautiful belle époque mansion.  They have the best Hermes sales in the world!  Take a look at their website http://www.artcurial.com  I have many a beautiful good buy from Artcurial.

Artcurial have a Hermes auction coming up in Monaco on 21 January 2017.   There are some gorgeous bags in this auction!  I have my eye on one, but I’m not telling you with one.  Viewing is in Monaco from 17 to 20 January 2017.  The auction will take place at the Monaco Yacht Club.  I’ll see you there!

Tip: If you buy from an auction remember to take into account the tax and auction house costs!

 

I’m celebrating the end of my first year as a travel and lifestyle blogger! What a year it has been and I don’t regret a single second.  I have learnt so many new things, met so many wonderful people and had a brilliant time!

The Best bits:

Well, the best bits are meeting so many amazing people around the world and online.  I have a new online world now that did not exist for me a year ago.  I love writing and exploring, my photography skill have improved and my website building is challenging but rewarding.

Travel the World  

Well to be honest, we travelled the world anyway but just decided to write about it and take more photographs along the way!  However, I did get to explore places that I would not ordinarily travel to, such as the Philippines to attend a TBEX conference, and blog about my trip.

Blogging at the fabulous El Nido Resorts Lagen Island

I stayed at the terrific new Conrad Hilton Manila, thanks to a friends recommendation,during that trip which was such a joy.  Manila was definitely not on my bucket list but this hotel alone was worth the trip! Travelled to The Middle East too, which is always very special.  I hope to be back soon!

What surprises along the way:

Social Media  Well this was an enormous shock!  I had no idea that hours and hours of my life would be consumed by social media.  Who knew? This is a fate that befalls every blogger in the world I believe.  In some ways this has enriched my life enormously.  I have so many Social Media friends throughout the world, in countries and places that would not normally be accessible at all, let alone on a daily basis via online chats!

If you had told me a year ago that my social media reach would be getting on for 250,000 I would have laughed!  But there we go!  The power of the internet is extraordinary and people enjoy reading  about each others lives, travels and recommendations.  Again, my life is so enriched by this.  BUT,  I must find a way to spend less time tapping away.  I drive my friends and family completely mad staring at my screen typing away!  Be warned of this fate if you decide to blog!  It is addictive and all consuming.

Photography:

My skills as a photographer have improved!  I take pictures all the time!  I insist friends take my picture at all times, again thank you for my patient and lovely friends and husband!  Cries of “Don’t touch it!  I have to take a picture” as they reach for their cocktail in a bar!  and ‘Don’t sit on the bed or touch anything!” every time we arrive in a hotel!  Actually, its a miracle I have any friends left really!

Delicious dishes have to be photographed!

It is quite funny!  At least everyone has a good sense of humour about my obsession with taking a nice photo!  Hanging out with fellow bloggers is great, they all behave in the same way.

Selfies!

We all try not to take too many selfies but in the life of a blogger this can be difficult if travelling alone. What to do?  Grab an unsuspecting passer by? Well, yes have done this before but it is not always very successful.  The unsuspecting tourist might be quite keen to help ….. until the 10th time the photo has been deleted with my cries of “sorry, you chopped off my feet, do it again!” I must confess that I now own a selfie stick (just don’t tell anyone please)

Photo Memories  The upside of this, is that we have some great photographic memories of our travels.  My top tip if you are taking a hotel picture, take it immediately you arrive before it is messed up!

Invitations:

Well, this is a huge bonus to your life as a blogger.  I have been invited to some lovely events and places to write as a blogger.  In fact, a whole new and exciting world has opened up.  Who know I would be at Press events aboard Super Yachts, at London Press events, the worlds best restaurants and clubs, and having a fascinating and fabulous time.  Definitely   a huge bonus now I’m in the blogging world.  I have received some lovely clothes, products and beauty treatments to to wear, try and write about.

Superyacht life

The not so good bits:

Everything has a downside!  I did not realise quite how exhausting it is being a blogger.  I know, you are laughing at me right now, thinking how pampered I am!  BUT, trust me is hard work!  I like to go away on a holiday from time to time without the pressures of blogging.

Another downside is too much time spent online.  I really want to moderate this coming into my second year but I’m not sure how?  Any ideas from my blogger friends, please let me know.

Editing photographs.  This takes forever!  Hmm, can’t think of any more downsides so it isn’t too bad really.  Diva rest time in Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

I think I chose a good name for my blog.  I must hear cries of  “YOU ARE SUCH A DIVA!” every single day hehe!   I’m looking forward to a second year and hope you will join me along the way.xoxo

 

 

My fabulous trips for International travel, save money too! It is a great time of year to find a bargain.  Make sure your get online and follow some of my tips.  I’m busy looking for some bargains myself right now!

Booking A Trip:

– Have you ever noticed that the price of airfares seems to go up if you search several times for a flight online? This isn’t your imagination! The price goes up incrementally if you browse several times for a flight on the same website. My top tip is to look around websites for the flight  and erase your browser history before you book.

This applies to hotel booking websites as well so make sure to erase all of your browser history before booking.

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– Join as many airline loyalty programs as possible. Those points and Airmiles really add up and you will soon be getting upgrades or upgrading with points accrued. I also think the airline treats you better apart from remembering all of the little things that make longhaul trips that little bit more comfortable such as meal and seat preference.

– Stay in new hotels/resorts. These are the places that want to fill up with guests and establish a good reputation and they are the ones that will upgrade you to a suite or give really good rates. Alternatively, get a hotel loyalty card and stay within the same hotel group, using the card each time and you will always be upgraded.

Apply for Airline Credit Cards with Free Airmails.  Often you have to spend a certain amount on the card to get the free airmails.  Only do this if you can afford to pay off the card, do not rack up debt. If you make sure you spend the minimum amount to get the free airmails but be careful to pay off the card each month, you will accrue enough for a trip before you know it!

This tip might be stating the obvious but DON’T travel in high season!  Go during the cheaper months.  November, for example is a great month to travel and has the bonus of being miserable weather in Europe at that time!

Packing for A Trip:

I’m always being told “Travel light” to which I say “WHY!” Take everything you could possibly need for a comfortable trip and more.  I always have to buy things travelling light and so it can be a false economy. I take an empty case too, whenever possible, to fill with treasures I buy on the trip.

Jetlag:

You will never suffer from jet lag if you follow my tips!
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1. Don’t drink alcohol on the day you fly or during the flight.  It doesn’t matter if everyone around you is guzzling champers – just stick to orange juice, water and Camomile tea. Boring, but it makes a big difference to the way you feel on arrival.

2. Take a Vitamin C tablet with the water to boost your immune system, Berroca is perfect also, use eye drops throughout the flight to stop horrible dry eyes.

3. Apply Lavender essential oil to pulse points to soothe and calm – you will sleep well and relax.

4. Splosh your favourite moisture on your face and spray with an Evian face spray throughout the flight.  I probably drive anyone near me completely mad with all my spraying!  IT WORKS, I don’t know why more people don’t do it.  I use eye drops throughout the flight whenever I am awake.

5. Wear the airline pyjamas, or take your own lounge wear and be comfortable.

6. Go to sleep! Don’t waste time watching terrible films. Put on an eye mask and the headphones with some soothing music, press the ‘bed’button and sleep. Wake up in time for breakfast fully refreshed.

7. Oh, one more thing – Ignore all the gourmet menu offerings!  I know, it all looks very tempting but you will thank me when you arrive as fresh as a daisy. Eat a light salad and maybe some fruit.

8. I also adjust my watch to the destination time about 3 hours into the flight, this allows your body clock to slowly adapt to the new time zone.

9. Longhaul – try and book an overnight flight, it is easier to sleep and be well rested.

10. Always adapt immediately to the time at your destination. Do not be tempted to sleep before nighttime. If you feel tired, take a walk.

11.  Go to the hotel gym and exercise, you will feel great after a run!  Energised and your tired muscles will wake up.

_ It doesn’t matter if you are travelling First, Business or Tourist, the same rules apply.

Voila! You will look as fresh as the mountain dew when you arrive and feel great.

 

TRAVELLING WITH DOGS
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– Travelling in Europe, you will need to get a pet passport.  This is really straightforward just go along to your vet, check all injections including rabies are up to date.  The only other requirement, other than a pet passport is a health check which must be undertaken by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days before travel.  Now you are ready to go!

– Air France, Iberia, Vueling and various other european airlines will allow dogs to travel in the cabin with you.  However, this only applies to small dogs and they must be in a pet carrier.

– It is a pleasure to take your dogs around Europe, especially France and Monaco – probably the most dog friendly countries in the world. Dogs are welcome in hotels and some restaurants and always on restaurant terraces. Some hotels do charge a fee for a dog to stay.

My favourite airlines:

Qatar Airways: http://www.qatarairways,com Etihad http://www.etihad.com

Emirates: http://www.emirates.com

Pet Travel:  http://www.eurotunnel.com  http://www.gov.uk

Well, what a year that was!  My first year as a blogger is nearly at an end.  I have enjoyed every second, well nearly, and want to share some of the highlights with you.  I present to you my favourite hotel of 2016, favourite airline and favourite destination.  Enjoy reading and let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

FAVOURITE HOTEL:

Spacious Pool of Emirates Palace

Well, this hotel was so good it will be my favourite for a long time to come!  In December 2016 I stayed at Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Regular Diva followers will know that I adore Abu Dhabi and visit a couple of times a year.  The hotels are good but not exceptional, the usual Hotel groups one finds all over the world.

Well, that was until I discovered Emirates Palace.  This is exceptional and really is the jewel in the Crown of Abu Dhabi!  I will be back and would not consider staying anywhere else in Abu Dhabi.  Everything, from the stunning architecture, enormous palatial size, exceptional and exquisite furnishings and decoration are unsurpassed.  Well, I can be a rather demanding Diva but even I could not find fault.

Enormous Lobby and halls of Emirates Palace

The food at Emirates Palace is the best in Abu Dhabi, a wonderful selection of restaurants awaits.  I will write another blog about the restaurants!  The staff are exceptional, every single one of them are a delight, professional, kind and helpful.  The Hotel rooms are spacious, beds super comfy.

My super comfy hotel room

The hotel gardens, all 100 hectares are exquisite and a credit to the gardeners tending them.  The sun loungers are spread all around the gardens as well as by the pool.  You will find a tranquil spot even when the hotel is full.

Hotel Grounds of 100 hectares

I am saving a trip to the Spa until my next visit but it has been voted Best Spa Worldwide, so must definitely try it out next time!  The Hotel beach is perfect and enormous, there is even a Marina if you wish to take your Yacht along for the trip.

My full hotel review will be up in a few days time.  http://kempinski.com

Disclaimer: I paid in full for my stay, this was not a subsidised trip

FAVOURITE AIRLINE:

OmanAir seats in Business Class

Again, Top spot goes to the Middle East!  I have three joint favourites Qatar Airways, Etihad and OmanAir.  All the Middle Eastern airlines are exceptional and the best in the world by some considerable distance.  I recently experienced a truly horrible British Airways flight and will never fly BA Longhaul again.

OmanAir delicious food

Middle Eastern Airlines have the best planes, the best staff, the best food and the best on board experience in the world.  I will always fly with one of them if possible.  This year was my first trip aboard OmanAir, a small and fledgling airline which has made a terrific start and I recommend to you.

http://www.qatarairways.com   http://www.omanair.com  http://www.etihad.com

Disclaimer: I pay in full for my flights

2016 Favourite Destination Palawan Islands, The Philippines

El Nido Islands beach

We all love finding somewhere new and exciting to visit, don’t you think? Well, this year it was the islands of The Philippines.  I flew to El Nido airport on Palawan and sailed to El Nido Resorts Lagen Island. Palawan is an archipelago made up of 1780 islands.  The waters are crystal clear and it is an unspoiled paradise.  I have never seen such pristine, crystal clear water, perfect sandy beaches.  The island landscapes are amazing with diverse Flora and Fauna.

El Nido Resorts Lagen Island Water Villas

The El Nido islands are characterised by Limestone cliffs and jungle hillsides on the islands.  It is an enchanting place to stay and you will see many different types of bird, fish and other animals. There are 5 varieties of Turtle.

This is a magical destination and one I whole heartedly recommend.   Stay at El Nido resorts Pangulasian island.

http://www.elnidoresorts.com  Destination information http://www.palawanisland.org