Where to stay in Los Angeles

A Chic Beachfront Stay at the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica

Los Angeles was the last stop on our American adventure and I couldn’t think of a better way to finish our trip in style than with a stay at the luxuriously glamorous Shore Hotel in Santa Monica.  Although this part of town is a fair bit pricier than central LA and Hollywood, Santa Monica is a whole lot classier and prettier, with a chilled out beach vibe, miles of sandy beaches, the bright blue sea, and a host of sophisticated restaurants and bars.

We had driven from the sunny blue skies of the Big Sur coast but almost as soon as we made it to Los Angeles, in typical fashion, it started to rain.  Isn’t LA supposed to have year round sunshine?! Apparently not for us.  It seemed that we weren’t going to get our chance to frolic on the miles of gorgeous sandy beaches.  No watching surfers catching some waves or seeing the pumped up bodies working out at Muscle Beach.  But it was still a beautiful part of California and a little bit of rain has never stopped us from doing anything!

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Carmel California

Carmel-by-the-Sea: The Prettiest Little Town in California

Having lived in London my whole life I’ve always been a city girl, craving the flurry of people and the buzz of city life.  Never have I imagined myself living anywhere quiet or calm, away from the tall skyscrapers, the hum of traffic and the fast-paced way of life.  Not until I visited Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Surrounded by the seaside town of Monterey Bay, the mountainous wineries and one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, this picturesque village on the coast of California is charm personified.  The pretty streets, quaint cottages and ocean views made me feel as if we’d driven straight into the pages of a story book and its quirky laws and restrictions – such as no postal addresses, high heels or fast food restaurants – just make this town even more quirky and endearing.

Being such a pretty town it was only right that we also stay in the prettiest of accommodations and the Colonial Terrace was just that.  As soon as we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the glittering blue sea just a 2 minute walk from the doorstep.  A difficult feature not to notice when the waves and white sand are calling you towards them, but first we went to check in and unwind in the comfort of our room.

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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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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

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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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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