Posts tagged “romantic

Hotel Lancaster, Paris – sublime.

Review:

This post is part of the same Parisian story that saw my partner and I leaving Hotel Costes rather earlier than expected after a run in with some particulary obnoxious staff.

Having either been bumped from our room, or just downright lied to by that hotel, our lifestyle manager, who was distraught that we’d been screwed about, got us booked into a suite at the truly 5* Hotel Lancaster just off the Champs Elyseés instead.

As soon as we entered the serene lobby and the receptionist smiled winningly at us, I fell in love with Hotel Lancaster.

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When I stepped into Suite 75, I knew I was home. It was the most perfect, elegant Belle Epoque apartment for a romantic stay in Paris. It was everything Hotel Costes wanted to be, but would never, ever achieve.

It’s full of carefully chosen antiques and artwork, has all the modern facilities you could want, from iPod docks to wifi, and is the ultimate in quiet sophistication.

The bedroom of suite 75 opened up onto a lovely long balcony overlooking Paris and the Zen garden below.

lancaster_75_bedroom_parisWe had a lounge where we would be served an enormous breakfast every day, and was so cosy and sumptuous in the middle of winter I hardly wanted to leave it.

salon_lancaster_paris_75And the suite had one of my all time favourite bathrooms.  Just look at that art-deco dressing table. Absolutely gorgeous, and so much light. I was also introduced to a wonderful range of Greek beauty products - Korres – their citrus body milk is my particular favourite.

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outside_lancaster-parisThe service at Hotel Lancaster is as good as it gets. They are on the Mandarin Oriental level of excellence in my books. The concierge introduced us to a really good modern Sichuan restaurant, and helped us find out about particular shops etc. The housekeeping and room service staff were efficient, friendly and discreet – what more do you need?

The hotel has lots of facilities and a 2* Michelin restaurant, but we really didn’t take advantage of all that because we were so cosy and wrapped up in our suite. Having spent weeks on the move traveling around Europe, being able just to lounge around in this gorgeous set of rooms and having Paris outside the windows was blissful. I have to admit I got rather too used to it.

Location: 7 rue de Berri, Champs Elyseés, 75008, Paris. Tel: +33 1 40 76 40 76. Pretty close to the George V Metro, close to the Place d’Etoile end of the Champs Elyseés.

Boys – if you ever want to take a loved one to Paris, I promise you that if you book into either the Dietrich, 75 or 76 suites at the Lancaster they will be yours forever. It is captivating, exhilarating, elegant and utterly sophisticated – and some of that is bound to rub off on you…

36 Hours in Verona – great place for a romantic weekend getaway, or foodie jaunt.

Not a lot of time to do stuff in 36 hours, but that’s long enough for two evening meals, and scoot around the city sites and shops.

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We ended up in Verona by chance after discovering rather belatedly (we rarely plan our trips) that the Italian lakes were completely shut up  for the winter. I’m so pleased we were forced to make this switch – Verona was lovely, has great restaurants and is slap in the middle of wine country, (Valpollicella and Soave to be exact).

ampitheatre_verona_causticcandyVerona is a perfect place to wander around for a day (You could spend two with ease). It’s an ancient town, and of course has that world famous Roman ampitheatre where they hold the opera every summer. Couple that with the opportunities it presents for day/evening trips to the Italian Lakes and various wineries and it’s actually a pretty good base for a longer stay.

Outside the old town Verona is pretty grubby, as is most of Northern Italy in between their ancient cities. There seems to be absolutely no planning rules and it’s pretty damn ugly.

Places to stay: I really enjoyed staying at Villa Amista, 10km out of town – fascinating place with superb service.

The other hotel we were offered was Hotel Gabbia D’Oro, a pastiche of an old house. It’s stuffed with antiques, and seems to be medieval in structure, but apparently was put up from scratch in the 1980′s. It’s meant to be a good hotel, but we didn’t fancy trying to drive into the centre of old Verona, and were told that Amista was better.

If I went back to Verona outside winter, then I would probably be tempted to give Villa del Quar a go as this has a 2* Michelin restaurant, is in an ancient building, and is in the middle of a winery. Looks good.

Where to eat: There are a bunch of great restaurants in Verona. Obviously I wasn’t there very long, but I can wholeheartedly say don’t bother with Il Desco, even though it’s 2* Michelin. If you are not staying at Villa Amista, then it’s well worth going out to their restaurant Atelier for lunch or supper. The food is brilliant (without doubt better than Il Desco), the decor wholly unexpected, and the service and sommelier wonderful.

veronatower_causticcandyWe had to make a decision whether to go to Il Desco or Dal Pescatore. The latter is 3* Michelin and has an amazing reputation wherever you look, but it was nearly an hour away from the hotel, and obviously we both wanted to be able to drink. At the time we thought that going to Il Desco was a suitable alternative. How wrong we were. I wish we’d gone to Dal Pescatore. Opportunity missed there.

Pottering: The old town is pretty small and it’s a great pleasure to go pottering about, stopping off for coffee or drinks as often as possible. As well as all the churches, Roman architecture, palazzos, piazzas and museums all dripping in history and romance, there are some great furniture and homeware shops, as well as delis and wine shops.

In fact, if I was traveling around Veneto in summer, I’d definitely go to Verona over Venice, as Venice is ruined when it’s hot, and jammed with far more tourists. I’d also choose Verona as a great location for a long romantic or foodie weekend in Europe.

Ca Maria Adele – perfect, bijou hotel in Venice.

Review:

With all this recent brouhaha from debating the banning of day-trippers from Venice, I thought it time to put together some posts on that rather wonderful city.

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I have to admit that I am a lucky so-and-so to have stayed in such amazing places over the years, and for me, one of the most memorable was Ca Maria Adele in Venezia. There is nothing like staying in the city, roaming the streets at night when all the day-trippers have left. Magic.

My first time in Venice, we took a Riva directly to the hotel. We’d stashed the car at the railway station after an horrendous drive through the industrial wasteland between Verona and Venice, and I was seriously doubting whether Venice was going to live up to it’s promise. But when we got in that taxi and made our way through the foggy, almost deserted canals I was utterly blown away. Venice, in winter, in the fog is an astonishing place, and to pull up outside this little palazzo with it’s front door flanked by huge hurricane lamps, with no other life around and just the hulking presence of the basilica – thrills me just thinking about it again.

Ca Maria Adele is perfectly positioned (opposite the basillica of Santa Maria della Salute), right at the far tip of Dorsoduro, which is arguably the prettiest and most non-touristy part of the city.

It is perfectly proportioned, having only 12 rooms.

It is perfectly sumptious – 5* luxury, with an incredible mix of materials, fixtures and fittings, from original 16th century oak beams, to Murano chandeliers, to african wood nicknacks and even furry walls…

And your hosts are perfectly delightful too. Very helpful, very accommodating.

I challenge anyone to try and find a more romantic bolt-hole in Venice.

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Rooms: 12. 2 suites. We stayed in suite 339 which has a little roof terrace, and is all gold brocade and exposed oak beams. If you don’t need the outdoor space then there are some gorgeous themed rooms with huge Murano chandeliers, red velvet walls etc definitely worth a look on the website.

Dining: There is a beautiful breakfast room on the 1st floor with windows that open out onto the church and canal, as well as a Moroccan inspired terrace round the back, where you can sit and sup. There is no lunch or dinner served at the hotel. The breakfast room, terrace and lounge are for tea and cocktails (and breakfast…).

Service: Impeccable service. It can take them a little while to get to you as there are lots of twisty-twiny stairs to climb to get to certain rooms. The concierge was very good and the GM Nicola Campa is often at reception and he is just the bees knees when it comes to hospitality.

Facilities: This isn’t a place crammed with facilities, it’s a tiny palazzo.  It’s more like going to stay in someone’s incredibly beautiful home. No swimming pools, no gyms etc.  It’s just utterly private and gorgeous.

Access: If you have mobility problems then this hotel isn’t for you as there are no lifts, and you can only get there by boat.

Price: Now, I have only ever been to Venice in winter, and frankly would never go at any other time. We stayed in a suite for about €400 per night  in Feb over Carnival. This was a lot cheaper than high season, and an utter bargain as far as we were concerned.  Our concierge service at Coutts World found this hotel and sorted the price, and is probably still one of their most impressive finds/deals for us.

Location: Dorsoduro 111, 30123 Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 520 3078. email: info@camariaadele.it

If you are looking for somewhere awesome to stay and love small, high-end hotels, then this is an absolute must. It’s tucked away in a lovely, quiet part of Venice but within spitting distance of many of the major attractions.

Also if like us, you have to have outside space wherever you stay, then room 339 is one of the most romantic you will find with the little roof terrace tucked amongst the eaves (you don’t get a big view, but it’s just secret and hidden). My other personal favourite roof terraces at the moment are Hotel Gallery Arts in Florence, and the Lancaster in Paris but that’s for later…

Suan Thip – great way to spend a few hours in Bangkok

Review:

Follow these instructions carefully and you will have a great half day in Bangkok, and one of the best Thai meals in the capital.

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1) Get your lifestyle manager (I have mine through my Vertu mobile phone ) or your hotel concierge to organise a longtail boat for half a day’s river trip.  We paid Bht5000 for 5 hours (no doubt you can get it cheaper, but I like to spread my money into the economy).

2) Set off around 10:30am and go on an explore around the Klongs for an hour or so.  Well worth it to see the wildlife, the temples and businesses along the canals.

3) After an hour or so head upriver to Suan Thip, it takes around 60mins and it’s just fascinating seeing all the action on the river.  The barges, the military installations, the temples, the timber yards, the houses etc.  It’s a lovely way to spend an hour relaxing whilst watching the world go by.

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4) Stuff face at Suan Thip which is a lovely old complex comprising a restaurant/cooking school/banquet hall and a beautiful garden. (If you are there in the daytime then ask to sit in a sala by the river.  At night I’m not sure how horrific the mozzies might be, so consider carefully whether you want inside or out for dinner).

5) Roll back in your boat and digest the huge amount of food you are likely to have eaten whilst you whizz back to BKK, in time for a shopping spree and a massage before dinner.

Suan Thip is very popular at night, and I’m sure it would be all sorts of romantik in the garden but you would miss seeing all the life along the river if you went in the dark. Lunch wasn’t very busy so it was super relaxing.

Food: Surprisingly it’s Thai… They have a huge menu, and they do pride themselves on showcasing the country’s cuisine, and it’s really very good.  We particularly like the more jungle style soups and curries, whose flavours were incredibly delicate yet still lovely and hot, certainly not your bog standard fare.

If you like your Thai food proper Thai-hot then do impress this on your waiter as they automatically tone it down for foreigners.  The other great thing is that all the dishes come in small or large portions, so if you are a couple you can let rip and order lots of different things – very smart thinking that restauranteur.

Ambience: Just lovely in the salas in the garden. Insects chirupping, the occasional roar of boat engines, surrounded by palms and pot-plants. There was a massive tour group in the main restaurant when we went and I was glad to be out in the garden.  As I say – if you go for dinner make sure you have the mozzie repellant.

Service:  Very good service.  Staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about the food.

Price: Incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of the food and the venue.  Delightful meal, around US$20-30 a head – good value.

Location: 17 Soknai,Wat Koo Road, Pakkret. Tel: +66-2583-3748

You can also get here by going to Mo Chit Skytrain station and then it’s a 10km taxi ride – but why would you bother when the river trip is so much part of the experience.

Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.

Note: If you’re not a regular to BKK then take the advice and make sure you send a lunch-box down to your boatman at the restaurant and if you buy food and drinks on the canals then share with him too. Sometimes when you are enjoying yourself these things slip your mind.