A Weird and Wonderful Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson

My sister loves Alice in Wonderland and I love cake, so it seemed only fitting that I take her to an Alice inspired afternoon tea for her birthday.  I’ve decided that this is the best possible gift to give someone.  Not only do they get the enjoyment of the afternoon tea but so do I, which is totally a win-win situation.

Themed afternoon teas are my favourite – there’s always something different to both fill you up and to entertain you and the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea didn’t disappoint.  Set in the Sanderson Hotel just off Oxford Street, from the outside it looks like a simple office building and nothing fancy at all.  Inside though, the reception and bar area is decked out with a random collection of various shaped chairs which we obviously both got comfy on straight away.  I guess it made sense that such a unique hotel would hold something as quirky as a Mad Hatter’s tea party!

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A weekend in the New Forest

Weekend Adventures in the New Forest

Proving he can be a romantic when he wants to, Mr Ayla surprised me last month with a weekend in the New Forest, a beautiful area of natural woodland and wildlife and a part of the UK that we had not yet explored. An easy 2.5 hour drive from London, the busy roads gradually turned into quiet country lanes with high trees stretching into the distance and wild ponies munching grass by the side of the road.  Every now and then we would pass a quaint little village or country pub – the sort of place where you can imagine everyone knowing each other. It was so peaceful and serene and we knew straight away that we would love it here.

Our first night we stayed at Eastclose Country House Hotel, a beautiful place that is said to have been the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland. Waking up in the pretty white Georgian building and looking outside, I could just imagine the White Rabbit dashing behind the giant tree and down a hole in the grassy garden!

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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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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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