Where to stay in New Forest

Rustic Charm in the New Forest at Cottage Lodge

As we pulled into the drive of our home for the night in the New Forest, we knew within seconds that we were going to love this place.  Set in the little village of Brockenhurst, surrounded by woodland and wildlife all around, the white building of Cottage Lodge with its bright yellow door looked adorably cute.

We even had our own reserved parking sign that had me feeling like Beyonce.  (Okay, so I wasn’t the only guest with my own little sign but it still made me feel pretty special anyway.)

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Cocktail bar London

Cocktails and Canapés at the Polo Bar, Westbury Hotel

This week I’m taking an unexpected break from all my musings and posts on Marrakech to tell you about a wonderful evening we had last weekend when the Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel invited us along for some cocktails and nibbles.  It’s not often that Mr Ayla and I get the chance to have an evening out together in London but when we do get the opportunity we always like to do something a bit different.  Heading to the Westbury Hotel in London’s plush Mayfair, with Christmas lights already twinkling in the streets around us, the evening was definitely one to remember despite all the cocktails that were to come!

As soon as we stepped into the warmth of the bar we felt so welcomed by both Elias the manager and Salvatore who would be our host for the evening.  It’s quite a classy and sophisticated place, yet it still had a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and we sank back into our cosy chairs in the corner and did some people watching while the Swarovski crystal decorations made the dimly lit room sparkle.

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Tips for visiting Marrakech

Mythical Marrakech

During our first visit to Morocco we spent five days exploring Marrakech, a place that I had heard so much about and had dreamed of visiting for years.  Me being me, I obviously planned plenty in advance and gathered as much information and recommendations as I could before our trip.

I love getting advice from other people whether it’s through reading other blogs (you bloggers are the best!), browsing destination guides or asking people I know who have already been.  Everyone has their own style of travelling but when it came to getting tips for visiting Marrakech, my expectations differed quite a lot to the reality.

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Where to eat in Marrakech

Romantic Fine Dining at Gastro MK, Marrakech

Morocco isn’t the sort of place you immediately think of for fine dining and I’d imagined that our few days exploring Marrakech would be spent sampling lots of cheap Moroccan delights in the street markets and in small restaurants.  But then I stumbled across Gastro MK, a beautiful restaurant set in the riad at Maison MK, that serves up a scrumptious sounding five course tasting menu.  I’d never had a tasting menu before (they’re so ridiculously expensive in London) but I loved the sound of their European cuisine with a Moroccan twist.  Although I don’t listen exclusively to TripAdvisor for my travel recommendations, the fact that the restaurant has been number 1 for four years running had to mean something, so we decided to book a table and make a special night of it.

We donned our best outfits (I had been waiting ages for the chance to wear this dress!) and arrived early for drinks before dinner.  After a fruity non-alcoholic shot we were shown up to the roof terrace where we had a view of the Marrakech skyline all lit up at night and the orange glow of Maison MK matched my dress perfectly.

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Where to stay in Marrakech

Riad Assakina: A Luxurious Haven in Marrakech

We’ve stayed in a huge variety of accommodation during our travels around the world, from budget backpacker dorms in Australia to villas with our own private pool in Kerala, glamping while on safari in Zambia to cabins in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, but there are only a select few places that I have found truly stunning and that I would go back to again and again.

Our stay at Riad Assakina in Marrakech definitely comes under this category and I’m already longing to go back even though we’ve only been home a few days.

The riad is in the perfect location in the Medina, just around the corner from the Bahia Palace and only a short walk to the souks and most of the city’s other sights. No matter how noisy and chaotic I had been told Marrakech’s Medina was, this is where we wanted to stay. It’s the heart and soul of the city and we always prefer to experience something traditional and atmospheric over something standard and modern.

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Yotel Gatwick

Smart Luxury at Yotel London Gatwick

Our recent flight to Marrakech was at the hideously early time of 5.45am and when you have to take into account driving to the airport, checking in and going through security, let alone the fact that I’m a totally bad traveller and leave packing till the very last minute, there would have been no point in even going to bed the night before.

So we decided to stay at Yotel, a traveller friendly hotel right in Gatwick airport’s south terminal.  You cannot get any closer to check in, being literally 20 seconds from the check in desk and airport security, meaning we could get much more sleep and not start our trip all bleary-eyed and tired.

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chocolate afternoon tea London

Chic Chocoholic Afternoon Tea at Flemings Mayfair

Afternoon tea is tempting enough as it is, but when all things chocolatey are thrown into the mix, well how could I resist? My mum’s birthday was just the excuse I needed – birthday present for mum, chocolate for both of us. It’s a win win situation.

After a thorough search of all the chocolate afternoon teas that London has to offer, Flemings Mayfair seemed like the best choice purely because of the scrumptious looking array of chocolate coated desserts they provided AND chocolate scones.  Not just plain scones with chocolate chips, but proper full on chocolate scones.  I just had to give these a try. Continue reading

Harry Potter locations

10 of the Best Harry Potter Locations Around the World

It’s safe to say that I’m a little bit of a Harry Potter geek.  Okay, I’m a lot of a Harry Potter geek.  I’ve read the books countless times, I can quote all the films, I have a wardrobe full of HP clothes, I’ve been sorted into my house on Pottermore (I got Hufflepuff.  I wasn’t happy), and I love playing with my wand.  No that isn’t a euphemism, that’s just how much of a geek I am that I actually have a magic wand.  And it’s obviously the Elder Wand because I love you Dumbley-dore.

If I’ve already completely lost you and you’re not a fellow Potterhead then I’m afraid we can’t be friends and I will use said wand against you.  But for you Muggles who do often dream of living in the Harry Potter fantasy world, there are plenty of places you can visit to pretend it’s real (it totally is real – I got my Hogwarts acceptance letter and everything).

So for all you Potterheads out there, here are some of the best locations around the world that really bring the stories we all know and love to life.

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Where to eat in Cinque Terre

Eating Our Way Around The Cinque Terre

Following on from our adventures Eating Our Way Around Florence, I thought it only right that I make you drool over our foodie finds in the Cinque Terre too.

Before we left for this trip, I was a little worried about eating in this region on the Italian Riviera as it’s hugely popular for seafood and pesto, neither of which I eat (I’m not a fan of seafood at all and I’m allergic to nuts).  I knew I’d be so disappointed if I couldn’t try the local delicacies and so my rumbling stomach thanks the food gods that there was plenty for me to eat and the Cinque Terre very quickly became one of my very favourite foodie destinations from all of our travels.

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Addicted to blogging

The Crazy Wonderful Things We Do in the Name of Blogging

That feeling of pure excitement when you arrive in a new destination cannot be compared to anything else.  Stepping off the plane into the humidity of a different country; flicking through your passport to find that new stamp; eagerly awaiting your suitcase so you can rush off to your luxurious hotel, where you stare wide-eyed at the panoramic view from your balcony and flop down on top of the ginormous comfy bed, before going out to explore the city.  So exciting.  So thrilling.  So blissful.

Right?  Well, our trips usually go something a little more like this…

Stepping off the plane into the humidity of a different country; posing for a photo in front of the plane once we’ve waited for everyone else to get off and get out of the shot; flicking through our passports to find that new stamp and, if there isn’t one, holding up the line until we get one; eagerly awaiting our suitcases so we can rush off to our hotel, where Mr Ayla is very nicely told to either wait outside or stand behind the door so I can take an appropriate amount of photos of the room before he messes up the bed or the contents of our suitcases start spilling out everywhere; then finally checking what’s on my huge long list of things to do first and heading straight in that direction.

No Alex, you can’t sit down and relax, we have places to go and things to see.  What do you think this is?  A holiday?!  Tut.

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