Tag Archives: hotel

Washington, DC Monuments

Our first stop in the USA was (but of course) the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

We were expecting glorious blue skies and lots of sun, but we weren’t prepared for the bitter, freezing cold. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival had begun, but there were no puffy blush blooms on any of the trees! It was a crushing disappointment.

Still, there were sights to be seen!

Hay Adams Exterior

Hay Adams Lobby Lift Chandelier

Hay Adams Lobby Telephone Table Chairs

Hay Adams Lobby Brass Letterbox

Hay Adams Lobby Chair Check in

Hay Adams Lafayette Dining Room

We had breakfast at the hotel, at a table basked in morning light, reading over the papers. The Washington Post is running a segment on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War!

Hay Adams Breakfast Washington Post Lafayette

Smoked salmon and chive scrambled eggs with herb oil

Smoked salmon and chive scrambled eggs with herb oil

It was hard to leave our sun-drenched spot and head out into the numbing cold, but we felt obligated to pop across the street and say hello to the neighbours.

Washington DC White House Lawn

Thankfully, Barry and Michelle didn’t answer the door. So we continued on our sprightly stroll around town – taking in the monuments in all their glory.

Washington DC White House Cabbages and Roses Coat

Washington DC Executive Building

Washington DC White House Square

Washington DC White House Oval Office

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Steps

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Seated Marble

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Seated Side

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool Drained

Well, most of their glory…

As if the lack of cherry blossoms wasn’t disappointing enough, the powers that be didn’t see fit to put any water in the reflecting pool. So the vista across the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument was a little lacklustre.

Thankfully, there was still inspiration to be found in Honest Abe’s historic Gettysburg Address, which  gives me chills every time I read it.

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Fore Score

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Washington DC Korean Memorial Statues

Washington DC United States Park Police Horse Trailer

After our long walk, it was time for lunch. Well, technically, brunch.

We headed to Logan Circle and grabbed a booth at Birch & Barley.

Birch and Barley Exterior

Birch and Barley Surprise

Dill Bloody Mary

Dill Bloody Mary

I was thrilled when they told me I could get a wheat-free version of their delicious flatbreads. This gluten-free beast was a sausage and cheese dream!

Spicy Muffaletta Flatbread Oil-Cured Soppressata, Olive Relish, Ricotta, Provolone

Spicy Muffaletta Flatbread Oil-Cured Soppressata, Olive Relish, Ricotta, Provolone

The homemade donuts were also a must-try.

Freshly Fried Donuts: Toffee-Bacon, Lemon-Poppy Glazed, Bittersweet Chocolate

Freshly Fried Donuts: Toffee-Bacon, Lemon-Poppy Glazed, Bittersweet Chocolate

After several cups of coffee, we headed back out into the streets for more exploring!

It’s so good to be back 🙂

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

Sea Containers

Mondrian has arrived in London!  A familiar name we all know and love. For me, the brand conjures memories of an epic stay in Miami celebrating Art Basel many, many moons ago. This one is decidedly more Southbank than South Beach, but sits proudly on the water, the mighty River Thames. Housed in part of the old Sea Containers building, the new hotel has an understated nautical theme, and vibrant river views from its new ground floor restaurant.

We went to check it out on a blazingly bright afternoon for lunch.

Sea Containers From Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge Treacy Black Felt Hat

Sea Containers Dining Room

Sea Containers Dining Room Crest We Serve

Never take pils on an empty stomach.

Never take pils on an empty stomach.

There’s quite a bit of seafood on the menu, which is no problem for me! We ordered a selection of starters, then shared a chicken and a sea bass.

Raw scallops with cilantro, espelette pepper and drizzled with Arbequina olive oil

Raw scallops with cilantro, espelette pepper and drizzled with Arbequina olive oil

Crab salad on toast, with pickled peppers & citrus aioli

Crab salad on toast, with pickled peppers & citrus aioli

Oven-roasted Lamb Meatballs with soft sheep's milk cheese, cucumber and a Moroccan spiced vinaigrette

Oven-roasted Lamb Meatballs with soft sheep’s milk cheese, cucumber and a Moroccan spiced vinaigrette

Smoked and Roasted Corn-fed Chicken with  charred lemon vinaigrette

Smoked and Roasted Corn-fed Chicken with
charred lemon vinaigrette

Shredded Kale Salad with apple, pecans, avocado, yoghurt, chilies and a dill vinaigrette

Shredded Kale Salad with apple, pecans, avocado, yoghurt, chilies and a dill vinaigrette

Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass  with citrus, salsa verde

Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass with
citrus, salsa verde

Sea Containers Lunch Apple Pie

The desserts were great, and they even let us order a crème brulee off menu.

Sea Containers Lunch Creme Brulee

Sea Containers Faces

Sea Containers Faces Smiles

The sun was setting as we finished lunch (damn you, winter days!), so we headed upstairs to the rooftop bar, Rumpus Room, for the view – and ended up staying a little bit longer than planned.

Rumpus Room Signage

Rumpus Room Area

Rumpus Room Bar

With unobstructed views across the pulsing heart of London’s business and financial district, the rooftop terrace is no doubt going to be a popular al fresco destination this spring and summer. Have fun, people!

Rumpus Room Outside Rooftop Bar

Rumpus Room View

Rumpus Room View Rooftop Thames

Rumpus Room Drinks Table

The drinks were impressive (aka exceptionally strong) and before we knew it, we were all a bit sozzled.

Rumpus Room Drinks

Rumpus Room Rooftop Silly face

The only thing I would say if you visit Rumpus Room (and you aren’t expensing it to the bank you work for) – check your itemized bill before paying. The service is attentive and pleasant, but they definitely added extra items to our check that we didn’t order. Other than that, go forth and enjoy!

Walk This Way: Shaftesbury, Dorset

Following the end of the festive season, I needed nothing more than a quick escape from the city to unwind before starting the New Year afresh.

Loaded with refreshments and entertainment for the train journey, we departed Waterloo station and hurtled down to the lush pastoral lands of Dorset.

Train Journey Reading Drinks

We arrived in the picture-perfect hilltop town of Shaftesbury and checked in at The Grosvenor Hotel, formerly a busy Georgian coaching inn.

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Sofa

Grovesnor Hotel Lounge

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Dining Room

We had a perfect lunch of pizza, cooked while we watched in the brick wood-fired oven.

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Counter

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Room

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza in Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza

After polishing off our pies, we took a walk around town, past the old 14th century church, down the scenic Park Walk, and to the summit of Gold Hill.

Gold Hill is famous for its striking views across Blackmore Vale and Cranbourne Chase. If you’re English, you might recognize it from Ridley Scott’s memorable commercial for Hovis bread.

Shatesbury Gold Hill Cover

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Morning

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Back View

Shaftesbury Gold Hill View Down

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Cottages

Park Walk is a wonderful, spacious promenade with serene southerly views across the Dorset countryside. From the viewpoint near the sundial you can see for twenty miles on a clear day. I strained my vision to see Dunclie Hill and Gillingham in the distance.

Shaftesbury Lovers Walk Countryside View

Shaftesbury Sundial

Shaftesbury Lover's Walk Downhill Path

Shaftesbury Town Wreath Door

We passed by the old Pump yard – a quaint reminder of Shaftesbury’s need to pump water from the wells in St James up the hill into town until a pipe network was laid in the mid-19th century.

Shaftesbury Pump Yard Gate

Shaftesbury Pump Yard

Our Shaftesbury walk looped us back to Gold Hill, and this time we heaved ourselves up the steep cobbled path.

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up Swing

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Hanging Basket

Gold Hill Eddie

Huffing and puffing, we reached the summit and staggered back to the hotel just before dinnertime. We had an outstanding supper at the Grosvenor, arguably some of the best gnocchi ever…

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Olives

If you visit Shaftesbury, definitely pick up a complimentary copy of the Grosvenor Arms Walk booklet. It gives some excellent routes to help you explore this lovely historic town and surrounding countryside.

 

Anyone for Venice?

We got stuck in Italy this weekend!

We were in Trieste to attend a wedding, only to find out our return flight had been cancelled. Forcing us to stay another night.

I know… tragic, isn’t it?

We had some other friends booked on the same cancelled flight, so we asked around if anyone fancied a whirlwind night in Venice.

Unsurprisingly, they all did!

So we chartered a private speedboat together and sped into the heart of Venice.

Venice Boat

P1150670

Venice Boat Chels

Venezia is actually made up of many tiny islands, connected by over 400 bridges and a complex network of murky canals.

As we skimmed over the water past the walls of the city’s perimeter we all caught our breath, gaping at the scene around us.

Venice Boat Canal

Venice Boats

History soundlessly seeped from between the bricks of buildings, some over 900 years old.

B Venice 900 Year Old

When we rounded a bend and coasted into the main thoroughfare of the Grand Canal, it was one of those rare travel moments when a faint shiver set my hairs standing on end.

The scale and faded grandeur of the architecture booming down upon us was staggering.

Venice Boat Grand Canal

B Venice Buildings

The watertaxi dropped us at our hotel, and we clambered onto the dry decked landing of Palazzo Barbarigo, holding onto the striped mooring poles for balance.

Venice Barbaregio Entrance

Promptly checked in, we bounded up the dark wooden staircase to our room. When it comes to interior design, Italians don’t do understated. They do heavy, sumptuous, borderline chintzy.

Gleaming inky parquet floors, tufted velvet, textured brocade, and even a pair of feather-trimmed lamps constituted an asthetic I can only describe as “Venetian boudoir kitsch.” Which we instantly loved, because even holed up in a hotel room we felt positively, authentically in Italy!

Venice Barbaregio Room

Venice Barbaregio Lamp

And the view from our room was this…

Venice Barbaregio Room View Grand Canal

As easily as I could have perched on the windowsill all evening watching gondolas manoeuvre along the waterway, it didn’t outweigh my need to wander!

So we slipped out the back of the hotel and padded down the narrow labyrinth of lurching alleys to explore on foot.

Venice Canal

Venice Cancal Bridge

 

Venice Husband

View from Rialto Bridge

View from Rialto Bridge

Venice Gondola

Venice Standing by Gondola

Venice Gondola Portrait

B Venice Signs

Venice Bridge Us

We spent the ebbing twilight hours roaming the ancient streets, crossing various bridges (island-hopping, so to speak) and popping in and out of shops. I suffered a minor wardrobe malfunction when one of my sandals broke on a tricky step, but thankfully there was a shoe store within hobbling distance!

The holiday must go on…

Marrakech: Palmeraie & Guéliz

Our base in Marrakech was Dar Sabra, just one of the many luxury resorts and spas concealed amid the palm trees of the Palmeraie district. This desert oasis is only navigable by red dirt roads that look better suited for four-wheelers and motocross than taxi traffic. Thankfully, our driver was willing to risk his suspension (and probably his sanity) shuttling us blathering American girls back and forth to the city!

DS2

DS5

DS4

DS3

We decided to spend the day in the buzzing Guéliz district, or (thanks to French colonialism) the ville nouvelle.  Its broad avenues speckled with art deco architecture of bygone glory days, this is Marrakech at its most urbane.

For a little bit of Moroccan glamour, look no further than the 1980s love shack of designer Yves Saint Laurent. Jardin Majorelle is a stunning cobalt pavilion sprouting with exotic flowers and cacti.

Chelsea's Bday

2

3

Fountain

Cacti

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P1100831

Jardin1

It has a brilliant boutique with an array of YSL accessories and traditional Berber crafts to tempt you!

Jardin shop1

Jardin shop

dountain1

We sought out the most incredible Lebanese eatery for lunch. La Cuisine de Mona came highly recommended, and it more than lived up to its celebrated repute. Hardly noticable down a residential side street, we lucked out getting an empty table on the itty-bitty shuttered terrace. We ordered Ses Assortiments de Mezzés to share, only for owner/chef Mona to spoil us rotten with plate after plate of freshly prepared, sensational food. A true testament to her culinary talent, Mona had cooked that very morning for the King of Morocco!

House lemonade - made with a dash of orange blossom water

House lemonade – made with a dash of orange blossom water

Tabouleh and eggplant

Tabouleh and eggplant

Moujadarah (Lentils with grilled onions) and Hummus

Moujadarah (Lentils with grilled onions) and Hummus

Baba Ghanouj  (Smoked eggplant puree, sesame cream, lemon juice)

Baba Ghanouj (Smoked eggplant puree, sesame cream, lemon juice)

Mona3

Arayes Lahmé (Lebanese bread stuffed with ground beef, parsley, onions and broiled)

Arayes Lahmé (Lebanese bread stuffed with ground beef, parsley, onions and broiled)

Falafel

Falafel

Mona9

P1100949

Mouhalabiyeh (Yogurt with pistachio nuts and orange blossom water)

Mouhalabiyeh (Yogurt with pistachio nuts and orange blossom water)

After our meal, Mona scuttled out and crowned us with traditional fez hats for a photo! What a dear, she is!

with chef/owner Mona Farah

with chef/owner Mona Farah

We spent the remainder of the sunny day exploring the modernized parts of the city – including an invigorating scrub-down at a traditional hammam – then retreated back to Palmeraie for a well-deserved glass of wine by the fire. Bliss!

Zannos Melathron, Pyrgos

The best part of our hotel was its fantastic location in Pyrgos – a quaint, sleepy Santorinian village that has managed to lay low despite the overwhelming crush of tourism besieging most of the island. When we arrived in the town square, this dashing young lad was waiting to carry our luggage up the steep ascent our room.

donkey

Zannos Melathron is a Relais & Chateaux property at the tippy top of the village. Settled into the slope of the hillside next to the brilliant blue-domed Agia Theodosia, the hotel has a bird’s-eye view of the island’s northern tip. From the restaurant terrace, you can see the cliffs of Fira, and then Oia further in the distance.

The mansion is the former mid-19th century home of a powerful Greek shipping family. The main public rooms of the interior still evoke a nostalgia for the charmed life this glamorous home once contained.

front

Agia Theodosia

Agia Theodosia

ent2 ent

3 4

bar

bed

The suites are cavernous – in the truest sense of the word! While some might find this cosy, I actually felt a little bit claustrophobic. Everything was clean and thoughtfully arranged – and I loved this little nook.

nook room

Outside on the terrace was shaded seating for two, a couple of stripey sun loungers, and a jacuzzi.

patiochaise

jacuzzi jacuuzzi

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1 2

And how about these views from the pool?

pool pool4 pool5

After settling in and unpacking at the hotel, we made our way down into the village to the best lunch joint on the map – Selene. It serves mouth-watering local dishes with the warm welcoming service characteristic of the region. I have to admit, it was so good we went back again (though I won’t say how many times).

outside int

House baked bread with tomato tapioca

House baked bread with tomato tapioca

Squids with tomato crust

Squids with tomato crust

calamari2

Octopus carpaccio with white eggplant salad

Octopus carpaccio with white eggplant salad

5

Chicken leg (gyros style) in pitta bread with grilled Santorini zucchini and yogurt-spearmint sauce

Chicken leg (gyros style) in pitta bread with grilled Santorini zucchini and yogurt-spearmint sauce

chickenclose

And of course, what Greek meal would be complete without an oozy warm slice of baklava? baklava

On that sweet note, I’ll save the rest for tomorrow – when the real adventures begin!