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Is there anything more romantic than a massage for two?

Yes, yes there is. A massage for two in the south of France.

There’s something about this part of the world that carries with it an air of luxury a cut above anywhere else in the world. The glamour and beauty of places like Cannes or Monaco has an old school romance that is hard to beat in the showing off to friends afterwards stakes.

So chaps, if you want to impress a girl, this is the place to take her. Or (to avoid any accusations of being old fashioned) girls, if you want to impress a boy, take him.

Henry is taking me next month (the right way round as far as I’m concerned) in an attempt to squeeze in a little more sunshine as London quickly enters into the cold, wet and dark months that we Brits love to complain about.

We’ll be staying at the Tiara Miramar Beach Hotel & Spa in Theoule-sur-Mer near Cannes and I must say Henry has outdone himself with this choice.

Tiara Miramar Beach Hotel & Spa 2

Tiara Miramar Beach Hotel & Spa in Théoule-sur-Mer, France

The hotel’s backdrop of the Esterel Hills coupled with its red rock seat above the Mediterranean makes for a postcard setting that’s as much fun to look at as it is to look out from.

It’s been renovated recently which is always an exciting time to visit a hotel. Largely because on the whole (and this might sound a little obvious) renovations make a place better than it was before. And considering how highly people spoke of this place before they threw a load of money at it, this can only mean an exceptional weekend coming my way. Mostly I’ll be by the pool, on the private beach or sipping cocktails on the terrace. Perhaps I’ll stretch my exertion levels to game of tennis even.

But what really caught my eye was the double treatment room. Double treatment room means duo massage and duo massage means doing my favourite holiday activity but with Henry alongside me. I know some people prefer to be on their own for such things but I always enjoy a bit of company whatever I’m up to.

Henry thinks he’ll probably fall asleep, snore and ruin the entire thing but if I can just keep him awake somehow then I think it’ll be just about the most romantic thing possible in just about the most romantic place possible.

There’s more to it than one double treatment room by the way. In case you prefer to get away from your other half for an hour or two while being pampered. Apparently there’s more than 350sqm of facilities at the Tiara Spa by Sothys. That means absolutely nothing to me as I don’t really know what a square metre looks like never mind 350 of them but it sounds big. What’s important though is that there’s a sauna, steam room and something called a sensory shower. I love a bog standard shower at home so who knows how much fun this will be. I’ll let you know.

I’ll also let you know how the gommage goes. For those of you who don’t know what gommage is, fear not I didn’t know until about 20 seconds ago. It is to exfoliation what Ferrari is to cars. The best one. So I fully expect to have the skin of a movie star afterwards.

 

It’s a dog’s life

Do you ever look at your dog and wonder what they are thinking? What is on that furry mind and how could I make them happier?

Does he look like he’s a little discontented with his current hairstyle? Or that he would prefer to have a chef prepare his food rather than you emptying a ready meal into his bowl?

It’s quite possible you haven’t ever asked yourself these questions. But people do. I do with my mother’s dog. Although Hugo (mum’s bichon frise) wants for nothing to be honest. I remember seeing the most delicious looking bowl of the finest chicken breast I’ve ever seen in the fridge last time I popped over to say hello.

“Can I have some of this mum?”

“Don’t you dare touch that, that’s Hugo’s.”

“But you love me more than Hugo don’t you?”

“I’m very fond of you darling but if you touch that chicken I’ll have you arrested.”

So Hugo is spoilt. And quite possibly my mother’s favourite ‘child’ as she calls him. But in comparison to some pups around the world Hugo is roughing it.

I know this because SLH asked 8,000 people across the globe what they would like hotel’s to provide for their dogs. And the results blew my mind.

Here are a few of the requests:

  • Pata negra ham (not just ham take note, a specific type of ham)
  • Caviar (any caviar will do apparently, this pup is willing to sacrifice the Beluga from time to time)
  • Blueberry facials (This is a real thing, Raithwaite Estate in Whitby, UK offers it)
  • A sausage dog girlfriend (Fair enough, sausage dogs are very cute)
  • Luxury bedding (I can’t find a flaw with this demand, we all enjoy a high thread count and fluffy pillows)
  • A personal butler (A good butler should be able to look after the homo-sapiens and canines in a family so this may be a little extravagant)
The Raithwaite Estate Whitby, United Kingdom

The Raithwaite Estate in Whitby, United Kingdom

Not content to let the dogs hog the five star pampering one Australian cat apparently wants someone to spend the day telling her how beautiful she is, while an American feline would rather go bird-watching at the zoo.

Obviously these are the grander requests from pet owners but some serious stats came out of the survey. 7.3% like to travel with their pet whenever possible. 15.1% are willing to pay a supplement for their pet to be pampered on holiday. That’s about one in every six people.

Of the extras people want for their pooches bedding, food and grooming are the most important so it turns out our pets want pretty much the same things we do.

Despite this there are lots of hotels that don’t let you take your pets with you. But thankfully there are plenty that do including Lainston House Hotel in Winchester, UK which not only welcomes dogs it has created a VIP (Very Important Pooch) package. And this isn’t just a gimmick. The package includes a room or suite with a patio door that leads straight out to the hotel’s 60 acres of grounds, a dog bed, water and food bowls, and a treat.

Lainston House Hotel

Lainston House Hotel in Winchester, United Kingdom

Then there’s the home of the dog blueberry facial, The Raithwaite Estate in Whitby (UK). It might sound silly but in fact it’s actually the best way to remove stains from a dogs face.

After the facial dogs can enjoy the rest of the dog spa (yes a spa for dogs) where they can have mud baths or perhaps jump in the Jacuzzi.

The more I read the more I start thinking about disguising myself as a Great Dane for my next holiday. It’s a dog’s life? That phrase clearly needs some rethinking!

 

Blog Winner Announced!

blog-congrats

 

Congratulations to Nick Holland, who’s won SLH’s recent blog competition!

He’s won 2 nights at Kandolhu Island in Male, Maldives.

Stay tuned for our announcement of the second winner…

http://www.slh.com/hotels/kandolhu-island-resort/

“I think we might be lost Henry”

He denied it. Ever since making an executive decision to turn down the hire car company’s offer of a sat nav we hadn’t been lost once… Apparently.

“Where are we then dearest?”

“Italy Melissa”

I laughed and he laughed and we stared at the paper map together.

And I was actually rather pleased we were lost. How dull would it have been if we had jumped in the car at Bari airport, typed in the name of the hotel and followed an arrow through Puglia.

Then we wouldn’t have been able to marvel at the spectacular unhelpfulness of the signs in this part of the world. We wouldn’t have puzzled over which turn to take when both directions apparently go to the same place. And certainly we wouldn’t have noticed a sign telling us our destination was 2km away and then driven past one five minutes later informing us we were now 3km away.

The places we’ve stumbled across by accident while here proved to be the most interesting to such an extent we started trying to get lost deliberately. At one point we put the map away and just used the sun to give us a vague idea that we were going in the right direction. And this turned out to be the most fortunate of all our decisions as it led us to a little town called Melissano. There’s something about walking through a town that has (almost) the same name as you that makes it a touch more exciting. Naturally I bought everything I could find with Melissano written on it. Including all the postcards I’ve sent home. If you haven’t received yours yet mum sorry for ruining the surprise!

Relais Histo 3

Relais Histó San Pietro sul Mar Piccolo in Taranto, Italy

Another interesting find was a town called Diso, deep in the heel of Italy where a huge party had erupted for no particular reason. It was there I was asked to dance by a little old Italian man who stepped in when Henry failed to do his duty. I’ve given up trying to make him dance now, he will forever remain 99% perfect. The Italian spent 10 minutes showing me the moves required without much success and then chatted to me for 10 minutes as I tried to keep up before realising that I hadn’t understood a word. When he spotted the blank look on my face he just laughed and span me around a few more times before delivering me back to Henry.

We finally settled into Relais Histó San Pietro sul Mar Piccolo in the charming coastal town of Taranto. Luckily we did manage to find this hidden beauty and didn’t end up roaming the coast line arguing again. And boy am I glad we did!

The stories I have about this stunning part of Italy are all with me because of Henry’s decision not to pay the 10 euros a day for the sat nav. And looking back on it I think that I’d pay 10 euros a day not to have one.

So next time you fly-drive just say no to technology, point your car in roughly the right direction and see what happens. I guarantee you’ll have a far more exciting trip.

I’ve got a bit of a crush – on a Teddy Bear.

I’d like to tell you about Claude Debussy.

Claude is well travelled. He lives in Eastbourne by the sea and is popular on Facebook with an ever-growing fan base.

He is also something of a daredevil: last year he strapped himself into a Jet Provost at Airbourne – a big air show in Eastbourne – and was flown around at huge speeds putting himself through some serious g force.

Grand Hotel Eastbourne Teddy 2

You’d think having done that last year he would relax this year and just enjoy the show. But no. He isn’t the type to rest on his laurels. So this year he decided to try his hand at wing-walking.

For those of you who don’t know this involves being strapped to the wing of a plane which then takes off and flies around for a while. So it’s pretty terrifying.

Oh and one more thing about Claude. He’s a teddy bear.

The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne had the clever idea of adopting Claude – who they named after the author who stayed at the hotel – and sending him around the local area and indeed the world for photo ops.

So far the bear has had rather a nice time visiting places as far afield as the Great Wall of China and home of Neighbours, Ramsey Street in Australia.

He is also clearly a bear with great taste having stayed at a new and rather stunning SLH hotel in Menorca Torralbenc recently.

It’s probably a little odd to be jealous of a teddy bear but looking through his photos on Facebook he seems to be having a ball, I bet he doesn’t get charged full price for a flight or need to pay for excess baggage. He doesn’t even have to worry about losing his passport or getting stuck in a huge queue at security.

Grand Hotel Eastbourne Teddy

And of course he had the chance to do something very few people ever get to do – wing-walking. It does sound terrifying but imagine the buzz of soaring through the air with the wind in your face and the world stretched out beneath you. I, sadly, was not invited to be strapped to a wing as I don’t have the sway, influence or access that Claude does.

But the next best thing was front row seats for the air show while having a G&T close by at all times. I was staying at the aptly named Grand Hotel which is essentially like having very plush front row seats to the whole thing without having to move more than a few yards from my room. And what a front seat it was with military fast jets, helicopters, parachutists and aerobatic teams including the Red Arrows entertaining me with the English Channel and the cliffs of Beachy Head as a back drop. Not just me of course but I felt so important sat enjoying it from the hotel grounds that it felt like a private show!

And I must say Mr Debussy looked a rather dashing daredevil up there. This teamed with his international jet set lifestyle and soft furry coat and it seems I’ve developed a bit of a crush on him. Hopefully he’ll join me on a trip one day soon.

Getting hot and sweaty at the airport

Flight delays are annoying.

I think I can safely say that on behalf of everyone that has ever flown.

But imagine a world where a flight delay made you smile. A little too fairy tale a concept for you?  Well it’s time to start believing in happy ever afters because it’s real. This world does exist and its name is Finland.

There I was, waiting impatiently in Helsinki airport tutting and cursing when, like an angel descending from heaven, a lady came over to me and told me of a magical place. A place with a sauna. Just a few yards from where I was sitting sipping overpriced tea, there were soft white towels and a hot room made of wood.

This wondrous steamy cave only opened in the last couple of weeks and I’d quite like to send flowers to whoever it is at Finnair that decided to build it.

 

As I sat in that toasty enveloping mist, glorious sweat glistening all over my tingling body I could barely remember what it felt like to be annoyed, bored or in a rush.

Eventually of course I had to get out. But a glimpse at the board told me I still had a little time to kill. Another sauna? No no. Ohhhhh no. Because another angel appeared and sent me off to ‘yoga gate’.

Yoga. Gate. Not gate 7, gate 17 or gate 94f, the kind of gates where people go to sit and wait in a grey room with not enough chairs. Yoga gate. A gate where one doesn’t get on a plane, one lays on a mat and does yoga.

Helsinki Airport Yoga

If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know I am rather keen on this particular pastime so this revelation on top of the already mind-blowing sauna revelation almost brought a happy tear to my eye.

Helsinki Airport you clever, clever airport.

Despite a three hour delay and getting there early in the first place I almost missed my flight. And almost wouldn’t have cared if I had.

I’ve always considered airports to be unpleasant places. Not quite the dentist but a far cry from cucumber sandwiches in a meadow.

But that’s changed now. Granted most of them are still a little on the purgatory side but now I have hope. Helsinki has found a way to make an airport a happy place.

And if we all shout loud enough then every airport will have to give us saunas and yoga and the world will be a happier place. If airports can be fun, there’s hope for everywhere else we deem annoying. Except perhaps the dentist.

 

Let there be light

Did you know there’s a problem with hotel lighting?

I didn’t. I’ve never really thought about it to be honest. If there’s a light switch, I’m happy. Sometimes there can be too many light switches I suppose. And sometimes the hotel wants you to select a lighting mood rather than whether you want the lights to be on or off.

That can be a little annoying as often the mood options are not moods I’ve ever had. I am sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes excitable or even childish. But those moods are not offered. Instead one must choose between options such as ‘cosmic’, ‘radiate; and ‘uplift’. Bleaugh.

But on the whole during my travels I’ve been perfectly content and certainly never thought to complain.

Others are not content and more than happy to complain it seems. I saw some research this week that said the majority of 350,000 global hotel reviews that mention lighting are criticising it. Lots and lots of people are being mean about light. Which is sad as light is so nice.

My home town London gets a particular beating by the light police with close to 10,000 reviews complaining about “dim, bad and sparse” lighting in their rooms.

One hotel’s lighting was compared to a railway station waiting room. Poor train station lights being held up as the what not to do of the lighting world. And plenty of people apparently can’t work in their room because of poor lighting.

I did not know this was happening. That we all got so pernickety about the way in which our light is delivered. I wonder if Thomas Edison saw this coming?

According to Osram, the folk who commissioned the research (and who help hotels with their lighting – they’re bound to be delighted with so many people being disillusioned with illumination!) guests will look for somewhere else to stay next time if the light doesn’t work for them.

How terrifying for hotels! Spending so much time making sure the place looks great, has a super view or location, excellent food and wine, lovely staff… and now they have to worry about whether or not people like the light bulbs.

My office lights don’t care if I like them or not. They occasionally switch themselves off for no particular reason. It’s very annoying.

I, a grown woman, have to stand up now, wave my arms around and jump up and down for five minutes if I want to be able to see. So to the people out there who aren’t happy with their hotel lighting I say this: no matter how bad your hotel lighting is at least it doesn’t make you dance.

Shopping in the Dark

Sometimes, if I can’t sleep or just want a late stroll after supper, I quite enjoy window shopping at night time.

The beauty of this hobby is that however much I like the beautiful clothes I see, there’s a thick pane of glass, a lock and no doubt a high tech security system preventing impulse purchases.

But alas the clever people who invent things may well have found a way to help me walk through the glass, bypass the security systems and buy the dresses and shoes all without being arrested.

Something called beacon technology may well be responsible for creating a poorer (but much better dressed) version of Melissa. I can’t tell you the technical details but basically once a beacon is in place as I’m walking past the window on one fine future evening the items in the shop will be able to talk to me.

They’ll be able to tell me all about themselves. Who designed them, what they go perfectly with, which magazines have written about them, which occasions I might like to wear them for, what’s on special offer or discounted and, here’s the killer, one tap of a button and I can buy them. Ouchy.

Part of me is a little annoyed. But most of me is seriously impressed. And now I’m just a little bit excited about the possibilities, it could really take over in so many different sector of one’s life. Imagine walking through the airport (since I spend so much time there) and not having to actually go into the shops because your phone will tell you the bargains all around you. It’ll point you towards a restaurant with a special offer on or it’ll alert you if a bikini has just been made half price. And when it’s time for you to go to your gate it’ll give you a firm nudge in that direction.

The Capital Shopping

Shopping at The Capital Hotel & Apartments in London, UK

And then you’ll be in your beautiful hotel, wherever that may be, cosy in a dressing gown and slippers. Smelling divine having covered yourself in all the delightful lotions and potions in the bathroom. Enjoying a glass of wine on the balcony… and beacon could well strike again. If I understand it correctly it could tell you all about the dressing gown and what it’s made of, the brand of skincare products you’ve just doused yourself in and give you a run-down of the wine in your glass. And all three could be waiting for you when you get home with very little effort involved. That’s exciting.

Most technology in the hotel world has not been exciting lately. I don’t like a complicated lighting system with moods to choose from. I like to talk to the concierge, not have an iPad that tells me where to go and what to do. And I prefer to draw the curtains with my hands rather than fiddle around with a remote control. But this beacon lark might just be very clever indeed.

Anyway my phone has just told me it’s time for me to stop writing this and check the chicken in the oven. I think I’ll like my phone a little more when it’s talking to me about shoes.

PS – if you didn’t see last week’s blog post make sure you have a look because you could be jetting off to a luxury hotel for a couple of nights.

WIN 2 nights at any SLH hotel around the world…

I went to a seminar the other day about getting people’s attention. I don’t mean shouting at them in the street or throwing a water balloon at them. I mean online attention. It’s a busy old internet out there and I get about 500 emails a day now. So if you can discover the secret to getting that attention and keeping it you’re on to a winner.

As I listened it also sounded very complicated indeed until one person stood up and just said: “Put the word ‘WIN’ in the title in capitals.”

So, as you should hopefully have noticed, I have.

The question is… do I have your attention?

We’ll find out soon won’t we!

Blog Competition Real Image

Because in my hand I have a voucher for four free nights at any SLH hotel in the world. But four seems greedy to me. Two will do. So I have two to give to one of you dear readers. But first you must do something for me. You must tell me where I should go next…

There’s something rather liberating about going somewhere having had no role in the decision making process. So whoever of you comes up with the best reason for me to go to one of the several hundred SLH hotels will be going to that very hotel for a couple of nights of free luxury. And shortly afterwards I’ll be going there too to find out if my winner chose wisely.

So if you fancy a free stay somewhere and have a spare minute to let me know why I should go there comment below and tell me where I should go and why I should go there.

And entitle the comment “WIN TWO NIGHTS IN A LUXURY HOTEL.” That way we can be sure yours gets my full attention.

T&C’s:

  • Competition will close on 20th August 2014
  • To enter competition write name of hotel and country as a comment below blog post
  • Winner will be drawn at random and notified by the email address attached to their WordPress account
  • Entrants can only enter competition twice

 

A faster horse and a menu? No thanks.

Choice is my chosen topic today. Are choices good or bad?

Every day I head out in search of something to eat at lunchtime and every day I have an internal debate about what to have. If I’m with someone it becomes external and lasts even longer.

Choice doesn’t end when a restaurant is selected either. If you’re like me and enjoy most things that can reasonably be placed in one’s mouth and swallowed then the terrible burden of choice multiplies when a menu arrives in one’s chosen eatery.

Zeavola's yummy skewers!

Zeavola in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand delicious skewers

“IT ALL LOOKS YUMMY” says the message my tummy to my brain.

“WHAT DO YOU FANCY?” says the message that goes back rather desperately hoping for some vague focus.

“EVERYTHING PLEASE.”

Not helpful.

So suddenly I’m sat with a menu the size of my torso, 50 possible meals and a waitress hovering over me desperate for me to eat and get out so that more people can come in.

I was whinging about this problem at lunch today which is why it’s on my mind. I didn’t have to worry about where to eat and what because as it happens I was eating with the general manager of one of SLH’s hotels. I find GMs of hotels always seem to know what they want, when they want it and what will happen if they don’t get it how they like it when they want it.

As I laid out my inability to choose he said something rather interesting. Choice is not always a luxury. Occasionally it’s a total pain in the you know what.

The logical argument is the more things you have to choose from the better because then you can have exactly what you want.

But he said: “If Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.” Henry apparently made this point himself back in the Model T days.

His argument was that often we don’t know what we want. And we don’t want to have to decide. Especially on holiday when often main aim is to use our brains less. A real luxury is to have a chef or waiter tell you the red snapper was caught half an hour ago and is delicious. Job done, I’ll have one of those.

Or if you don’t know what to do in a city you’ve never been to, don’t try to work it out. Just ask the concierge whose job it is to know what you might enjoy.

Relax. Stay somewhere small with knowledgeable personal service. And let them point you gently in the right directions. That’s luxury.

Chocolate Tort with Orange Syrup at Rockliffe Hall

Chocolate Tort with Orange Syrup at Rockliffe Hall in Darlington, UK

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