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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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

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Beach at Paradis Plage Resort

My second stop on our Diva Road Trip around Morocco was at Paradis Plage Surf Yoga and Spa.  Set on a stunning beach, popular with surfers and holiday makers looking for a chilled out relaxation break, it has stunning views of the coastline.

Paradis Plage, view from my hotel suite

A lovely welcome at Paradis Plage!

Enjoying a welcome drink!

The resort is a 20 minute drive from Agadir and I enjoyed a two night stay here.  I spent my time walking on the beach, riding, exploring the area, practicing Yoga and chilling out!  There was a mix of guests from couples, to young families.  There were a lot of children staying and they have a Creche to enjoy.

View from my Premium Suite

My suite was very comfortable and enjoyed a terrace with spectacular views, pictured above.  It was comfortable, modern and clean with a little sitting room, looking out over the sea.

My living Room in the Premium Suite

The bedroom was small but the bed very comfortable and quiet.  I would recommend more wardrobe space!  My usual Diva problem of living out of a suitcase.

My bedroom at Paradis Plage

The bathroom was large with a big shower.  A little kitchen area was a very useful addition too.  You can enjoy the gorgeous Yoga Studio overlooking the beach, a good Surf Centre with instructors, The Spa is very luxurious with a Hammam, Sauna, massages and all the usual Spa treatments.

The Gym at Paradis Plage

I enjoyed the gym at Paradis Plage and a training session with the excellent trainer and a wonderful Yoga session.

Stunning, endless beach at Paradis Plage

For me, the setting of the resort was just so special.  The coastline is unspoilt with unrivalled views and crystal clear sea water.  Enjoy horsehides along the beach on well cared for horses or even a Camel ride!  Relax and unwind in this eco friendly resort.

Resort Pool

Breakfast at Paradis Plage

Then you can enjoy the restaurants here, breakfast pictured above in the Ocean Restaurant was a good selection and choice. We enjoyed a nice evening meal  by the beach at Chiringuito.  There is a good selection of restaurants to enjoy or visit the local restaurants in the nearby villages if you have a car.

 

Information:

http://www.paradisplage.com   Tel: +212 (0)528200382

26 km from Agadir on the route d’Essaouira, Imi Ouaddar

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IMG_2428-3Ventimiglia Italy

Go to Italy!

A visit to the markets of Liguria, Italy is a very popular activity especially for food lovers and bargain hunters.  Ventimiglia is just a short train ride from France and people flock over the border on market days, particularly on Friday when hundreds of stalls have something for everyone.  My friends and I love going to Italy – as soon as you leave the french border and (some of, most are nice)  grumpy french people behind you will find a happy, smiling and friendly Italian!  I know, I know it is a huge generalisation but it is TRUE!

Well pop over the border to Italy for some happy people!

The change in the temperament of the people is quite unbelievable!The Italian joie de vivre is infectious and you will soon be smiling too!  Loud and gregarious but quite mad behind a steering wheel, so take care on the roads.  They can be very excitable too and are not as keen on dogs as the french, which is annoying for my pooches Freddie and Zarya .  Although in general the dogs are welcome everywhere they are not doted on quite as much as in France.

Ventimiglia:

I’m not keen on market tat and fake handbags but I do love to buy all my fruit vegetables, pasta Parmegiano cheese and all sorts of delicious foodie delights.  The main market Hall is right in the middle of town, one block over from the river.  Then find the Fish Market right at the back of the Market Hall.  The Market Hall is open every day except Sunday.

Friday is the main market day when hundreds of people descend on the town to rummage through the market stalls set up around the town.  If you are not looking specifically for their market, it is more enjoyable to go on another day.

If you go to Ventimiglia there are some wonderful little local seafood restaurants for lunch right on the beach.  Turn right before the river and drive into the lovely old town and you have 3 good seaside restaurants by the beach.  Do not forget to try a Coffee or Ice Cream, just the best in the world!

Tip: Everything shuts for lunch in Italy.  Shops close from 12.30 to 3 or 3.30pm

San Remo, Italy:

I prefer the market in San Remo.  The town is much prettier with beautiful gardens and little restaurants along the seafront.  My favourite food shops are here too!  I go to the Tuesday market.  Catch a train or drive from France.  However, if you are not going specifically for the market, non-market days are far more relaxing to walk about town and by the sea.

PicMonkey Collage-2My favourite deli in San Remo – you can’t miss it near the market

PHOTO: My favourite deli!

Say hello if you go to this Deli, with the best aged Parmesan I have ever tasted.  I buy a massive chunk and pop it in the fridge at home, it lasts for months.  Say hello if you visit, maybe they will give me a discount!

There are many plant growers in this part of Italy too and I buy some fabulous things for the garden.

italy-2San Remo town centre flower stall and food stall at the indoor market

The indoor market in San Remo is a treasure trove, keep walking up the hill and you will see it on the left hand side.  The usual fresh fruit and vegetables along side some Ligurian delicacies.

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Old town in San Remo

You will love all the little clothes shops in San Remo and rummaging around in the old town before indulging in a delicious real Italian food lunch at any of the countless family run restaurants.  My favourite market day lunch is lobster spaghetti – yum!

There are so many little family run restaurants to choose from scattered through the old town.  I like to lunch near the sea and the Port and enjoy the catch of the day fish.

PHOTO; Port at San Remo

There are some nice beaches just outside the town going towards Genoa.

And now over to my collaborators Paolo and Amalia, who are a little further south in Genoa, a wonderful city and if you are there make sure not to miss the red and white museums.  They are Italian and so can give us a real Italian perspective, which is great. Hang around the World:

italiano
The markets are really interesting places where you can learn about different aspects of the city, such as: traditions, history and the smells of the city but also everyday life. It is an opportunity to get inside the city and meld with it.
Every city has its own market and Italy is full of typical markets but today we’re going to know one in particular… Mercato Orientale located in Genova.
The market is in via XX Settembre and it is housed in a large and historic structure. Entering you can already immerse yourself in the flavors and in the smells of the city, thanks to the various street food stalls that sell typical products of the city.
We tasted the delicious pinolate (almonds and pine nut cookies). Continuing the tour you can find fruit and vegetable stalls. Looking through these, we knew the preboggion a mixture of wild herbs typical of Ligurian cuisine. There are also stalls with a wide assortment of meat and fish from the Ligurian sea (such as: triglia di scoglio, orate, acciughe, pesce spada… ). We also have spotted a bakery and a fresh pasta stall that had a really inviting look. Then we had a break in a cafè always inside the market.
After this we continued our tour and we headed to a colorful exposition of plants and flowers of all kinds. Continuing in that direction we came across other stalls that sold clothing, housewares, footwear and there was also a costume jewelry store. Finished our tour we can say that we have found lots of cordiality (in fact we chatted with a sweet old lady who was at the fruit stall with us and she has revealed that what is not in the market, doesn’t exist that means that there you can find everything you need) and also organization and cheapness of the products.
If you were there we hope we have made you relive those moments, if you haven’t been there you just have to visit it and watch the market with your own eyes.
We hope you enjoyed this tour in the Genova market and we hope that it has been helpful. Bye and a big kiss to everyone – Hang Around The World

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

img_4203-2Afternoon Tea at C Lounge Conrad Manila Hotel

Who likes afternoon tea? Yes! we do.  Especially when it is set in the most glamorous,super chic C Bar in the Conrad Manila Hotel.  My favourite hotel in Manila and a delicious afternoon tea with a twist.

img_4215-2Green Tea Scones

The tea was definitely up to Diva standards,  and you all know how demanding I can be!  We chose the traditional Tea menu which included a choice of Tea by Harney and Sons, Sandwiches, delicious cakes, the most yummy chocolates.

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Room with a Room with a view, and a traditional teapot

It is always nice to try something new and Green Tea Scone were a first as were Ube Macarons.  Use is a local vegetable and the Macarons were a triumph.  We polished off the lot and there was barely a crumb left!

img_4213-2Chocolates!

Go and enjoy afternoon tea if you are in Manila, I promise you will want to check into the hotel and never leave.

img_4202-2Beautifully presented afternoon Tea

C Lounge:

A wonderful bar to meet for cocktails and enjoy the spectacular sea views from the stunning windows.  The Hotel is designed to look like a ship at sea and it certainly succeeded with this brief.  You will feel as if you are sitting on board a fabulous private yacht sipping a delicious cocktail.

img_4225-2C Lounge, Conrad Manila Hotel

A dizzying array of cocktails awaits you!  Particularly intriguing are this with fizzy Sake, definitely something different to try.

img_4224-2Sparkling Sake for exotic cocktails

 

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the music!  There is a live band playing in C Lounge every night!  Also delicious bar snacks.

img_3981Tasty Bar Snacks

Enjoy some live music, the best view in town, cocktails to die for and delicious snacks!

img_4229-2My favourite Conrad Manila Hotel

Useful Information:

http://www.conradhotels3.hilton.com/Manila

Afternoon Tea prices:  1,450

Cocktails: 350/400

Dress: Smart Casual

 

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Beautiful Abbaye de Lerins                http://www.abbayedelerins.com

My favourite things to do on Ile St Honorat

Visit Ile St Honnorat.  If you are staying anywhere near Cannes on the Cote d’Azur, I recommend a visit to Ile St Honorat.  Spend a day on this peaceful and beautiful island and you will have very special day.

Firstly, you have to get there and ferries run from the port of Cannes every hour on the hour in summer time and the trip is very short,just 15 minutes.  You can of course hire your own boat and moor off shore or in a tiny harbour on the island.  The waters between the two Iles de Lerin are really popular with yachts and there is a veritable traffic jam in the summer months as people all enjoy the crystal clear sea water and beautiful environment.

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The water between the two Iles Lerins is always popular in summer!

I like to take a stroll round the island taking a peek at the immaculate vineyards, growing a variety of grapes which are then turned into delicious wine by the monks living on the island.  The plants and flowers are wonderful and a lot of work must go into making everything look so perfect.

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Perfectly tended vineyards

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Lavender growing on the island

The olives from the trees, grapes from vines and lavender growing in the gardens are turned into wonderful products by the monks and you can buy these online if you aren’t lucky enough to visit the island.  The quality is superb and I recommend them all! http://www.excellencedelerins.com

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I adore the feeling of peace and tranquility on the island, as soon as I step ashore all stress seems to  miraculously vanish.  There is a very special atmosphere here, after Saint Honoratus founded a monestery in the year 410 and 16 centuries of monastic life on the island interrupted here and there.  The Cistercian monks have lived and worked on the island and living a life of prayer in the Abbaye since 1869.

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Dogs are welcome on the island, Freddie and Zarya enjoyed their day out.

After a walk, visit the Abbaye which is absolutely stunning with the most beautiful gardens.  I can’t honestly say I have ever considered becoming a monk but a visit to Ile St Honnarat makes me think that it is a very wonderful way of life.

IMG_3019-2The Abbaye organises retreats for people to go and stay on the island, which must be a perfect place for contemplation.

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Every plant is beautiful here

abbaye

A short stroll away teetering on the sea edge is a 15th century fortified monastery which you can also visit. Don’t forget to pop into the shop by the Abbaye and buy some products made on the island by the monks, including honey and olive oil.

IMG_3004-215c Fortified Monastery

Then Time for lunch at Le Tonnelle Restaurant a short 5 minute stroll away.  The food is delicious, as is the wine.  The island and the restaurant allow dogs, so Freddie and Zarya were able to come along and enjoy the day too.

le tonnelle

You can buy some wine to take home at a pretty shop right by the restaurant.

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After lunch, time for a little nap and swim in one of the pretty coves that you find dotted around the island so don’t forget to pack your swimwear.

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Beautiful little coves for swimming

 

You can wear a swimsuit for a little swim but dress respectfully everywhere on the island and don’t wander around scantily clad.

After a reviving cup of tea back at Le Tonnelle restaurant, head back to Cannes on the ferry.  The end of a perfect day!

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The view on the boat ride home to Cannes at the end of a lovely day!

Practical Info:

Ferry information: http://www.trans-cote-azur.com   Abbey: http://www.abbayedelerins.com  Restaurant La Tonnelle (reservation recommended: http://www.tonnelle-abbayedelerins.fr

 

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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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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: BURLINGTON ARCADE

Spend a luxury afternoon exploring Mayfair.

BEADLE TOUR OF BURLINGTON ARCADE:

Have you ever visited Burlington Arcade in London? This is such an iconic landmark in the heart of Piccadilly it would be hard to miss!  I must have walked through hundreds of time and never noticed the smartly dressed Beadles.

Situated a stone’s throw away from the Royal Academy it is easy to find.  I would recommend a tour with a Beadle, we found it to be so interesting and informative!  Just telephone the number below and arrange an appointment for a free tour. Tel. +44 (0)207 493 1764

PHOTO: My Burlington Arcade Beadle tour with Kevin

BURLINGTON ARCADE:

Burlington Arcade is a beautiful place to visit,  calm and serene away from the hubub of Piccadilly.  Choc full of the most fabulous stores such as N.Peal Cashmere, Eres, Chanel perfume, Penhaligon’s and luscious jewellery stores.  A lot of my favourite stores are here.  I really want a Tiara now! I think it befits my Diva image.

Anyway, the history is fascinating.  The Beautiful Arcade was built in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish as the first shopping Mall in England in the style of the famous continental Arcades.  George lived in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy) which is nearby and the arcade was designed to protect his privacy from the local riff raff.  They would throw Oyster shells into his garden and he couldn’t be having that now, could he!

Burlington Arcade was designed “for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females”.  It certainly fulfils the brief, right up to the present day.

PHOTO: Entrance to Burlington Arcade

The Beadles, were originally recruited by Lord Cavendish from The Royal Hussars which was his own regiment.  They have continued to protect the Arcade right up until the present day.  You will spot them patrolling the arcade wearing their distinctive uniform with purple waistcoat and gold brocade.  Say ‘hello’, they are very friendly and helpful even if you are not taking a tour.

BURLINGTON ARCADE SHOPS:

A perfect place to windows shop, every store has something interesting to see.

PHOTO: Fascinating finds in the shop windows

Look at my photo above and you will see a bracelet for sale once owned by Shirley Temple, Victoria Cross medal and an Omega watch as worn by the astronauts travelling to the moon.

 

FREDERIC MALLE

Then I stopped by Francois Malle to enjoy a perfume profile.  You can do this too, just make an appointment, telephone number below.  Discover the perfect perfume for you by sampling a selection.  A real treat, my favourite was called ‘Portrait of a Lady’. First of all, choose your perfume ‘type’, floral or spicy, amber base or do you like cucumber.

PHOTO: Frederic Malle shop in Burlington Arcade

A calm oasis of perfume awaits at Frederic Malle with the portraits of the iconic perfumers who created Frederic Malle scents adorning the walls. http://www.fredericmalle.com

N. PEALE CASHMERE:

A quick stop off at N Peale rounded off my trip to Burlington Arcade.  Time to try on some Cashmere pieces and learn more about the store.  I have many N. Peal Cashmere sweaters in my wardrobe but had not idea that they were completely manufactured in Mongolia!

PHOTO: N. Peal Cashmere

My taste in Cashmere is shared by James Bond 007, who wore some sweaters in the last film.  I always knew he had good taste!  I also learnt that I can send my older sweaters back to be repaired for a nominal fee.  Did you know that?

PICKETT:

Mayfair is full of British Heritage and British manufactured goods, and I am so happy to see traditional skills thriving.  A visit to  pickett  just around the corner from Burlington Arcade was a delight.  Full of beautiful British made and designed leather goods.

PHOTO: Pickett shop, Burlington Gardens

Adorable little shop in Burlington Gardens.  Don’t you love the Burgundy suede collection?  Perfect for a Diva! http://www.pickett.co.uk

Time for lunch at The Punchbowl, Farm Street, London W1 http://www.punchbowllondon.com A new discovery and the subject of its very own blog it was so good.  Link on my homepage

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo: I’m about to take a dip in the sea. 

Skinny Dipping in The South of France. I’ll tell you which are my favourite beaches.

IMG_3365Baie de Pampellone, Saint Tropez. View from the naturist beach

The best naturist beaches in the South of France. Who loves skinny dipping in the sea?  Is there any better feeling than being at one with nature and stripping off on a hot day?  I’m going to tell you about the best naturist beaches in the South of France and where to avoid.

You have to be careful which beaches to visit in the South of France.  There is a naturist beach in Eze but it is a beach mostly enjoyed by gay men.  I would avoid this beach unless this is the kind of beach you like.

SAINT TROPEZ

Photo: Pampellone Bay, Ramatuelle

Let me know if you have any beaches to add to this list!  I would love to hear of new discoveries.

However, I love the naturist beach at Saint Tropez which is full of fellow naturists and you will not receive any unwelcome attention and it is not sleazy.  All different nationalities and ages happily enjoying the sunshine in a totally natural way.  This is my favourite beach and great restaurants too!

IMG_3366Saint Tropez Ramutuelle Beaches

Follow the Ramutuelle coast road out of Saint Tropez for a few kilometres until you see a sign on the left for the beaches, turn left.  Drive until you see the sign above and take the right turn.  You will come to a huge car park which costs 4.50 euros for the day.  Park your car and walk straight onto the beach, it is flat and just a few metres away.

Photo: Freddie and Zarya on the Naturist beach

The beach is allows dogs on leads, so Freddie and Zarya love to visit too!

IMG_3370Yachts mooring in Baie de Pamplona

They wonderful thing is that there is a lovely mix of naturists, families picnicking and clothed sunbathers so there is a lovely,  cool atmosphere and it is very laid back.  Take your pick from several little beach cafes and restaurants along this stretch of beach.  The water is sparkling, clean and very beautiful in the Baie.

Photo: Restaurant Yape Yape

Then you can have lunch right on the beach at a sweet little beach shack restaurant called Yape.

Photo: Yape Restaurant, Ramatuelle Beaches

Might just see you there!

SAINT RAPHAEL:

Plage Villa Dani

Another favourite spot is on the road between Theoule sur Mer and Agay.  This is the most stunning coastline with gorgeous little coves amongst the red rock of l’Esterel, drive along and take your pick of beaches that will not be crowded even in high season.  This is because of the accessibility.  You will need a car or get on a bus at Theoule sur Mer.

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L’Esterel red rock along the coastline

The beach is a little tricky to find.  It is Cap Roux Naturist Beach, Route de Trays, 83700 Saint Raphael – Agay.  Park at Cap Roux car park and walk along the road until Villa Dani bust and you will see the steps down to the beach.

photo 4Empty beach even in July!

photo 3Saint Raphael to Agay Beaches

If you do not like the idea of a naturist beach, there are countless little beaches and coves all along this stretch of coast road.  Look out for the blue signs and steps down to the beaches.

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My Favourite Naturist Beach ever? The small island of Formentera near Ibiza has the best, most beautiful naturist beaches!

Helpful Information

Tourist Office Saint Tropez http://www.sainttropeztourisme.com

Saint Raphael Tourism: http://www.saint-raphael.com

Where to eat on the beach in Saint Tropez: There are lots of beach restaurants to choose on the beach.  My favourite is Yape Yape on the naturist beach.  Friendly, not expensive and very chilled atmosphere.   A slightly longer stroll towards Saint Tropez is  Club55, 43 Blvd Patch, Ramatuelle http://www.club55.fr

Where to stay: How about renting a villa or an apartment nearby http://www.abritel.fr

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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: 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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 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, Southern 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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PHOTO: Looking over to Thera

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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PHOTO: Akrotiri

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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PHOTO: Northern Santorini

Northern  Santorini – I shot this in the far  North, 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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PHOTO: Santo winery

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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PHOTO: Wine tasting

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.

Travel to Santorini would be much nicer early or late in the season.  Cooler and less crowded.  Try and avoid August!

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

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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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