Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Work hard, play in the sun!

Windjammer Landing Resort
Saturday cannot come soon enough! I'm not wishing my life away but it's been a busy few months and I am so ready to go somewhere warm and beautiful to enjoy doing whatever I want!

My destination is St. Lucia - somewhere I've always wanted to visit. Four years ago I had actually booked to go and a few days before my departure hurricane Tomas destroyed the infrastructure of many roads and resorts and made the beaches unusable. The hotel and airline were quick to advise and quickly rearranged the trip to Barbados instead which was largely untouched by the devastating storm. Thus began my love of that gem of an island and my frequent visits back!

Look out for my photo du jour on HQ's facebook page and blog post to follow on my return!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The hotel experience

I've stayed in a few hotels in my time and I would really love to give some of those interior designers a little kick up the backside. The way some of the rooms are 'designed' tells me that they either have not had much experience of living in the spaces or they just care more about the way it looks than it's practicality. Of course it matters that it looks good and welcoming but we have to 'live' in it for a while!

For me my ultimate expectation is cleanliness and functionality. After that there could be a few things that are available and accessible to make life a bit easier.

Bearing in mind your stay may be one night or a week or two I think all the things listed below should be considered.
  • An easily reachable power point next to the bed for phone/ipad/tablet
  • A power point on the dresser/desk for laptops, ipod dock, hairdryers, hair tools
  • A mirror above the dresser plus a full length mirror near the wardrobe
  • Good lighting over the desk
  • Enough hangers in the closet to hang dresses, jackets, trousers
  • Shelves or drawers for smaller items
  • A shelf in the bathroom to put your toiletries on - quite often there is no space and I often end up putting my bag on the floor
  • Good lighting over the mirror
  • Towel rail!
  • Hooks to hang robes/towels 
  • A window that opens when you don't want to use the air con
  • A sleep button on the remote control for the TV
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
These are just the basic requirements .. not too much to ask .. is it?

As nice as it is to see a little chocolate on the bed at night it is totally unnecessary .. it's the last thing I want before bed.

I also wonder about that message that is always left in the bathroom about reusing your towels. They bang on about the amount of towels that get washed every day being bad for the environment so I hang my towel for reuse and they always replace it .. so irritating! What's the point of the message?

At the last place I stayed at even the hand soaps were replaced daily .. what a waste!  It's only me using it so I really don't mind it being there for the duration of my stay.

A sweet treat at Star Rosa Milano
Another bugbear that I've come across recently is the fluffing up of the tissues in the bathroom! I want to use tissues that have been untouched by another human hand so please don't mess with them!

You get what you pay for but a little bit of consideration for what your customers really need
would go a long way. I guess as long as you have a comfortable bed to sleep in that's really the most important thing!

The next trip for HQ is coming very soon .. swimsuit and sunglasses at the ready!!

Monday, 3 November 2014

A slice of country life .. Idyllic Cotswolds charm

I'm always happy to get away and having a weekend off when there's nothing pressing that needs to be done at home, there's absolutely no reason not to. Being so close to continental Europe I could have gone anywhere .. Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam .. all fab places to spend a weekend but this time I chose to be closer to home with no trains or planes to catch. I just wanted to hop in the car and drive for a couple of hours and find myself surrounded by fields and gently rolling hills dotted with sheep .. and what better choice than the Cotswolds.

We arrived in the village of Burford on Friday afternoon, checked into The Highway Inn and wandered down the high street to have afternoon tea in the renowned Huffkins bakery and tearooms. They have wonderful produce for sale in the shop next door and I managed to come away with a bag full of goodies for gifts! Apparently their Christmas cake is 'to-die-for' .. a secret recipe made with locally sourced ingredients .. I look forward to a slice or two.

The weather was positively gorgeous for the time of year. Unseasonally warm and sunny at 21C .. it was a lovely surprise. I expected grey misty mornings and possibly rain and I actually wouldn't have minded .. I had already visualised taking walks through the woods all rugged up for the cold. I don't like to let the weather phaze me. For a city girl like me the thing I noticed about being in the Cotswolds is the quietness .. there is no motorway noise coming from the distance as is noticeable in many other parts of the country. 

Saturday morning after breakfast we went to visit the Chedworth Roman Villa which was about a 15 minute drive away from Burford. The roads were empty as we meandered the beautiful partially stonewalled country lanes through undulating hills, past fields of dying sweet corn crops and with brightly coloured pheasants flying overhead.

After spending a couple of hours in Chedworth we drove through more very narrow country roads for about 20 minutes to the village of Northleach. A friend had recommended a great place to eat The Wheatsheaf Inn. There didn't seem to be much going on in this tiny town but the Inn was very busy and we were lucky to get there a little on the early side to secure a table for lunch. We only wanted a light bite but what we had was absolutely delicious .. spicey roasted pumpkin soup and the cheese souffle .. cooked to perfection. Their New Year's Eve party looks like fun too .. rogues, wenches, highwaymen, scoundrels and villains and promising 'thoroughly disgraceful behaviour'. If you're interested I suggest you book now!

Moving on we then drove up to Stow-on-the-Wold, an ancient market town with a town square and a wide variety of shops, antiques and places to eat. It's larger and busier than Burford and we spent an hour or so browsing before heading back to relax before dinner.

The Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote was another restaurant which came highly recommended by a friend and I couldn't wait to go. We were told that cabs were few in the area so we booked one in advance through our hotel. As we waited in the bar it got later and later and it became evident that our car was not coming. The manageress at the Highway Inn came to our rescue and offered to drive us and got us there on time .. we were very grateful to her .. thank you Michelle! I didn't really relish the thought of driving myself and not be able to sample a good wine with my meal!

We had drinks at the bar which featured some unusual bar stools, probably not the most comfortable or practical (for ladies anyway) but quirky! We then moved to a lounge area (with the only open fire of the weekend) and ordered our food before being shown to our table. The wine list is extensive with wines ranging from around £30 to around £700 and there is a somellier there to offer his expert advice. The food was most delicious and lived up to all our expectations and more .. between us we had starters of monkfish and crab, to follow grouse and pork .. the dessert was the pièce de résistance .. pistachio souffle with chocolate ice cream .. light, fluffy, delicious, superb!!

However, the service on the night was not what I would call exceptional. I won't go into it but we did tell them and they took it on board so hopefully it was because they were short staffed on the night. It wouldn't prevent us going again. We did also manage to get a cab back too!

Sunday morning brought with it rain so we decided to grab a few goodies from the local produce stores and head back to London before the build up of traffic. A fabulous weekend in the beautiful Cotswolds .. would I go back? In a heartbeat!!

ps .. the food at the Highway Inn was also very good as were the breakfasts!