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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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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Bedruthan Steps Cornwall

Exploring North Cornwall’s Beautiful Coastline

When I think of a relaxing beach trip, I automatically think of some far off exotic destination with white sandy beaches and a deep blue sea, palm trees swaying in the cool breeze and a cocktail in my hand (there’s always a cocktail).  The main thought though is that it’s far away from home.

This daydream is never, ever, set anywhere in the UK because, well, because it’s England where most of the beaches are full of pebbles and the sky is more likely to be grey and cloudy rather than bright blue.  I also usually picture myself soaking up the sun’s rays on the beach, so getting drizzled on by the UK’s wet rain isn’t exactly an idyllic fantasy.

So imagine how stunned I was when we arrived in Cornwall to find some of the most gorgeous beaches that I would never have imagined were only a few hours drive from our home in London.

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Cottage in Cornwall

A Cottage Getaway in Cornwall

When we first visited Cornwall shortly after our wedding eight years ago, we stayed in the bustling town of Newquay, in a luxurious hotel up on the headland overlooking Fistral Beach and the blue sea.  Maybe this shows how travel tastes change as you get older, but this time around we wanted to stay out of the centre for a more relaxing and peaceful weekend, so when I came across Hendra Paul Farm which is home to a group of four adorably cute cottages, I just couldn’t resist.  The Wild Flower Cottage, the smallest of the four, was perfect for us with one bedroom suitable for a couple, out in the countryside surrounded by the rolling green fields yet only a short drive from the main towns and beaches of North Cornwall.

Driving down the narrow winding country lanes, passing trundling tractors, horses in the fields and little bunnies hopping across our path (that I totally wanted to jump out of the car and take home with me), we finally found our way to the farm and as soon as I spotted our home for the weekend I completely fell in love.  I mean look how utterly adorable…!!

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Bob Bob Ricard

An Anniversary Celebration at Bob Bob Ricard

It was our 8 year wedding anniversary last weekend (yes that does make me feel very old!) and we wanted to celebrate the occasion somewhere special.  I had the perfect place in mind – Bob Bob Ricard, a glamorous restaurant in Soho serving up a luxury English and Russian menu.  Okay, in all honesty I really wanted to go here for the famous “Press for Champagne” button that every table has, making it the restaurant that pours the most champagne in the whole of the UK.  But silly me had left it till the last minute and being a Saturday night meant there were only super early or ridiculously late times still available for dinner.  Thankfully, with lots of patience and perseverance, I managed to grab ourselves a cancellation at a reasonable time.

Bob Bob Ricard is a far cry from the little quirky independent restaurants we usually eat at.  Mr Ayla’s reaction to the sparkly gold exterior and well dressed doormen as we walked past a couple of months ago was something along the lines of “That’s somewhere we would NEVER go”.  Clearly he had underestimated how much I wanted to press that button.

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Mayfield Lavender

A Floral Fantasy at Mayfield Lavender

I have always been a self-confessed girly girl; I like pretty, pink, sparkly things, I always wear a bit of mascara, and everything Disney makes me happy.  But when it comes to flowers, supposedly one of the most romantic gifts for us gals, I am just not impressed.  Mr Ayla knows that I would rather be treated to a book over a bunch of roses because, while they may be beautiful, what’s the point when they just die?!

Lately however, I seem to have taken a liking for all sorts of beautiful bright flowers.  Not the ones that I can quickly kill off at home, but those I can visit in abundance and know that they will still be blossoming long after I’ve left.  We had some Adventures in Kent’s Bluebell Woods earlier in the year and this weekend we visited Mayfield Lavender Farm in Surrey where 25 acres of bright lavender blossom over the summer months.

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Windfalls Boutique Hotel

Pre-Holiday Luxury at Windfalls Boutique Hotel

Staying at an airport hotel seems to have become my favourite way to start off a holiday, especially when we have to get up at a ridiculously early hour for our flight. Not only does it make the start of a trip so much less stressful but it also means we can technically start the trip a day early!

As soon as I came across Windfalls Boutique Hotel, a small luxury guest house just a short drive from Gatwick Airport, I knew this was where I wanted to stay the night before our trip to Gibraltar. Each of the five rooms looked like pure luxury decorated in calming colours with huge four poster beds. It looked like the perfect place to start off our relaxing break.

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