Amare Marbella Beach Hotel is on Our Mind

The sun has come out in the UK, which is lovely, but now what we’re really craving is some HEAT.

Did you know that Marbella, only two hours hop away on a flight is currently enjoying English summertime weather of 20C? After a weekend away there last weekend, we are already penning in our next trip.

View from the Ooh La La Room

View from the Ooh La La Room

Instagram friendly we love it - also, so very true

Instagram friendly we love it – also, so very true

Amare Marbella Beach Club is the newest and coolest kid on the block – perfectly placed in its own beach oasis and only a five minute walk from the charming Marbella Old Town.

Amare is a sleek, contemporary, new lifestyle hotel, that has named its rooms playfully from the Sea Lovers room to La Dolce Vita and the ultimate Ooh La La room.

Ooh La La

Ooh La La

The dining options take you to Mare Nostrum Restaurant for the glorious breakfast buffet….(also open for dinner during the summer months)…

Breakfast on Mare Nostrum's beautiful terrace

Breakfast on Mare Nostrum’s beautiful terrace

The Amare Lounge for delicious contemporary Spanish cuisine for lunch and dinner….

Iberico ham and piles of cheese - perfect

Iberico ham and piles of cheese – perfect

Amare Lounge also plays host to a schedule of contemporary Spanish events, including Fusion Flamenco. Olé!

During a sunny day, you must also make sure to sit back and enjoy the Amare Beach with a chilled glass of wine….feel the sea breeze in your hair and try the catch of the day.

Freshly caught hake dripping in chorizo

Freshly caught hake dripping in chorizo

Amare Beach

Amare Beach

In the evening, there is only one place to go….Belvue Rooftop Bar – the only rooftop bar in Marbella, that looks over some of the best beach views on the coast.

The prettiest cocktail you ever did see...

The prettiest cocktail you ever did see…

....it even matched the sunset!

….it even matched the sunset!

And when you just want to soak up the sunshine and not move from the pool, we have the Amare Club Call Button. Once pressed, within seconds one of the smiley Amare team is by your side to take your order – that will be a sangria, please!

The Amare Call Button = dial to heaven

The Amare Call Button = dial to heaven

Bird's Eye View of the Pool

Bird’s Eye View of the Pool

Amare is fast becoming a hub of contemporary art, with some superb art installations…

Video installation in the lobby

Video installation in the lobby – a delightful combination of moving lights and colour

Disco Elephant in front of water feature

Disco Elephant in front of water feature outside the Amare Lounge

Bringing the outside in....the living green wall

Bringing the outside in….the living green wall

Make sure to also check out the Germaine de Capucini Spa which houses a hydrotherapy circuit to enjoy an hour before treatments. The Aromas of Andalusia massage comes highly recommended.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the hotel, hire one of their easy-to-use bikes and ramble along the beach promenade to neighbouring Puerto Banus. Top tip – get there early when you have the promenade and Puerto Banus. Opportune moment for some serious superyacht ogling!

7km to Puerto Banus

7km to Puerto Banus

Or take a trip to Old Town Marbella…..only a 5 min walk away…

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One of our favourite aspects of Amare Marbella Beach Club is the music that seamlessly flows from one area of the hotel to the next….the highlight being a saxophone serenade on the beach.

For the highest category rooms, there is also the exclusive Amare The One, which is an open space, situated off the lobby to enjoy a little bite to eat and a beer, if you fancy, while flicking through the papers.

For a Spanish sejourn to remember, make sure to check out www.amarehotels.com for your next trip to Marbella. The closest airport is Malaga – a 30 min drive away from the hotel.

Massage bed on the beach.....for our next visit.

Massage bed on the beach…..for our next visit….

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day at Grifco PR!

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Grifco PR is sharing inspirational stories and asking for some words of wisdom from five of the fantastic women we are proud to work with around the world.

Tracy Bamber, Strategic Sales Manager for Wilderness Safaris

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2016 is an incredibly special year for Tracy, as she celebrates 21 years of working at luxury safari operator, Wilderness Safaris and will be competing in her 10th Comrades Marathon, a huge achievement in ultra-marathon running, particularly for someone who became a runner by accident!

After taking up running to get back into shape, Tracy went head first into the Two Ocean Marathons, one of the toughest in the world, after making a bet with a colleague who didn’t believe she could finish the gruelling route.

“He looked at me and laughed, saying, ‘You’ll never be able to do it – it’s one of the toughest marathons.’ His words immediately challenged me and I was determined to prove to him that I could do anything I wanted to do! At this stage of the evening he’d had a few drinks and I suggested that we bet on it! He said that I would not be able to complete it, while I said I would – the bet was on… I challenged him to pay me £900 if I completed the run. This money would go to Children in the Wilderness.”

In her first year of running Tracy raised around £3665 and since then she has run 10 consecutive Two Oceans Marathons, known as the ‘world’s most beautiful ultra-marathon’ and has finished nine consecutive Comrades Marathons, ‘the ultimate human race’.

What makes Tracy’s achievements even more special is that she has raised more than £45,780 for charities in Africa through her running, supporting Children in the Wilderness, the Starfish Greathearts Foundation and the Wilderness Wildlife Trust.

To read more about Tracy’s inspirational running and charity fundraising visit www.wilderness-safaris.com/blog/posts/my-big-year-an-interview-with-tracy-bamber

Lorena Puica, Founder of iamYiam.com

Lorena Puica

Lorena’s journey from leaving home in Romania at the age of 17 with 300 euros in her pocket, to founding her own social wellbeing hub, iamYiam.com, via the world of finance is remarkable.

Serious health problems led Lorena to turn her back on traditional medicine and discover the benefits of natural health. Last year, she left her City job to set up online natural health and wellbeing hub, iamYiam.com, whose aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of 1 billion people by 2025. A bold statement indeed, but Lorena is not one to shy away from a challenge!

At only 31 years old, Lorena has gained four degrees in finance and business, published a book on microfinance at the age of 26 and gained eight years of investment management business development and strategy experience across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. She speaks four languages and not only pushes her mental boundaries but also her physical ones.

Last February, she ran seven marathons in seven continents in 10 days finishing in Antarctica (world record pending!). She has also climbed Kilimanjaro in four days and her first ever extreme adventure was walking 861km in 19 days (about 46km per day – without any rest days).

iamYiam.com is set to be a game changer for the wellness industry and Lorena is definitely an entrepreneur to watch. Hailed the Airbnb of Natural Health Experiences, iamYiam.com brings together quality practitioners of natural health in London (e.g. meditation, yoga, acupuncture, nutrition etc.) with consumers and makes it easy to book the best experience for exactly their needs and goals.

Denise Leicester, Founder of ila

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A qualified nurse, aromatherapist, yoga teacher and yogic healer, Denise’s hands-on experience extends from the rural communities of India to the Dubai royal family, and spans Eastern and South American healing traditions.

In 2005 Denise developed a unique concept of wellbeing that addressed the inner essence through the skin, an absolutely pure product range created in complete harmony with nature and delivered with conscious, healing intent.

She spent the first 12 months of the company’s inception researching, travelling and sourcing the purest ingredients from the most ethical international farmers and growers- simple but extraordinary people who inspired her with their deep love of the earth.

From women of the ancient Berber tribe in Morocco to a co-operative of farmers in India, Denise champions the extraordinary tribes and indigenous communities who ‘hold the world’ for us and reminds us how vital it is for us to truly vale and support them if existence is to continue.

Debrah Dhugga, Managing Director of DUKES LONDON and the soon to open DUKES DUBAI (September 2016)


debrahDebrah Dhugga, Managing Director of the luxury Hotel Group DUKES, is one of the few female MDs in the hospitality industry. Already, this makes Debrah extra aware of the importance of her position and the extent of her influence on fellow women, especially younger generations. Debrah’s dedication to this cause is clear in her recent placement on the Northern Power Women’s Top 50 Power List, along with previous recognition such as the Business Women Mentor of the Year Award back in 2013.

In the past, Debrah has taken pride in mentoring students under the Savoy Educational Trust mentorship programme and has encouraged mentoring and support of female managers as a founder of the Leading Ladies of London networking club. More recently, Debrah hosted a lunch at DUKES for the Women in Journalism initiative, showing her support of females in positions of success and power in industries wider than just hospitality.

As well as wishing to impart her wisdom and experience on younger generations and mentees, and to lead the way in diversifying the work place, Debrah easily relates to fellow successful female businesswomen from across the world. As the head of an ever expanding luxury hotel brand, soon to open its doors in Dubai, Debrah flies all over the globe on business. Drawing on personal experience as a frequent solo female business traveller, she created the Duchess Rooms at DUKES, a unique category of luxury accommodation that caters solely to the solo female traveller. With pampering toiletries from REN, female amenities, and a personal welcome note from Debrah herself, this is the dream set up for any female traveller, serving to make business or leisure trips that little bit easier for women travelling alone.

We’d like to extend our admiration to Debrah for all the work she has done and continues to do to celebrate the place of women in her own industry, and in the wider business world.

And last but not least…we couldn’t forget our own MD at Grifco, Claire Griffin!

Claire Griffin, Managing Director of Grifco PR

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Claire wanted to run a boutique PR company that nurtured the needs of its travel clients. In May 2012 she set up Grifco, which now has over 45 of the top travel, spa and beauty clients in the world.

Claire has 24 years’ experience in luxury PR working on high-profile global campaigns, but she started out, armed with a degree in Law and American Studies, as a journalist for The Chester Chronicle & Evening Leader.

She moved into public relations in 1990 with one of the UK’s biggest PR agencies, the Grayling Company, and three years later took up a role as Account Director at Barclay Stratton PR. Always up for an adventure, Claire jumped at a fantastic opportunity to work in Sydney as Communications Director for one of Australia’s leading law firms, Allen’s.

On her return to the UK in 1998, Claire ran, developed and grew business for Columbus Communications, sister company to ZFL (now named PRCO), looking after accounts including Four Seasons Hotels Worldwide, Mediterranean Experience, Cap Juluca in Anguilla and Rome Cavalieri Hilton.

When she is not heading up the Grifco team, Claire is busy being a mother to two young boys. We admire how she effortlessly manages to juggle work and family life, proving (to an office full of women) that you can have both! In her down time, Claire enjoys spending time with her boys, or going for a run along the River Thames.

Happy International Women’s Day from the Grifco PR team x

A New Series of Relaxation Programmes from Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland helped to relieve a stressed Australian Financial Director! By John Maiden

As a child growing up in the middle of nowhere in outback Australia, Switzerland had, and has always been a dream destination for me. Everything about Switzerland was the antithesis of my life as a child and it was with eager anticipation that I was excited about visiting Grand Resort Bad Ragaz with my lovely wife. The train ride from Zurich central station was painless, efficient and timely almost to the second (I wish the trains in the UK would take a leaf) and the views along Lake Constance are quite breath taking although admittedly we were blessed with a lovely crisp sunny day.

Bad Ragaz

The Mountain scenery at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

On arrival, what impressed me (among other things) was the divine scenery and the fact that you can smell the air. I mean smell in the clean sense. It just smells pure and it is very easy to just stand still and simply breathe, breathing in the fresh mountain air hoping that it will last longer than that one breath. A huge bonus to this rarefied air is that standing at the front of the Grand Resort the mountain views are seriously impressive. The Resort is located in a valley on the outskirts of the town of Bad Ragaz. The mountains on either side were snow capped and the village is a lovely little quaint Swiss town with all the effortless charm and sophistication that is Switzerland.

As our arrival at the hotel was a little later than initially expected due to a cancelled flight which resulted in the minor fact that it had taken us about 12 hours to get there (as opposed to the scheduled 4 hours), we thought it best to retreat to our Spa suite. We were on the 7th floor and our 2 balconies had views over the resort’s golf course and each side we had the mountain views that only a location like this can provide. The services were efficient, the TV’s (yes plural as there are 3 in the suite) are Bang & Oulfsen, the shower can be used as a steam room, the bath can be a spa, the beds are movable and the stiffness of the mattress can be adjusted to ease those aches and pains and the lights are dimmable to create a calm ambiance.

View from spa suites

The View from the Spa Suite

After a great night sleep, we woke as fresh as daisies, ready for a day of treatments. We started our 1 day therapeutic relaxation programme with a private pilates personal training session and having not done this before, it certainly highlighted my lack of subtlety, flexibility and general fitness. This said, it was hugely satisfying and if we had the time we would do it on a regular basis (as God knows, we, or more specifically I, need it).

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Private Pilates Session

Following a short tea break (well thermal water break to re-hydrate after the workout we’d just had), it was on to a “Sequoia ceremony” massage. This is an hour and a half massage from top to toe, or in this case, toe to top as it starts with a relaxing foot bath and foot massage. I wish I could tell you more about it but I think that I spent most of the 90 minute session asleep and dreaming of the mountains and if it was that relaxing, that has to be a good thing. To be honest, it was excellent.

Then it was on to our lunch which we had chosen at our morning introduction. We chose the “Cuisine Équilibreé” which is fundamentally a 3 course meal that is designed and prepared to keep your body in balance. As to the taste and quality of the food, if I had this exact meal for the next week, I would be very happy. It was exquisite and the perfect top up for our afternoon activities planned.

Enjoy healthy yet delicious dishes from the resort’s Cuisine Équilibreé menu

Following lunch it was to the “Thermal Water” and there are many, many different bathing activities and iterations that come under this category and we followed a programme suggested by our morning advisor as closely as we could.

The Helena Spa Wellness pool

We started with swimming a few lengths in a pool at a temperature of 36.5 degrees. We then had a spa and water shower in the pool, time in a steam room, then a different wet sauna, then dry sauna (showers throughout). Then it was with a little trepidation that we ventured into the “naked” area.

A Sauna World

Although I was at first very reluctant to even enter, once you enter this bastion of purity, I was surprised at how liberating it actually is although don’t worry, we were not parading around like Pamela Anderson. In this area we did many of the same sauna type activities with the addition of an ice facial and a final naked dip into a 10 degree plunge pool which needless to say was incredibly refreshing while having other reductive effects on other parts of my body. As an experience it was brilliant and would I do it again, absolutely.

Then it was our last activity of the day which dressed in my pants and robe felt relatively sedate. It was facial time with Nadine. A refreshing young Swiss lady that had worked in the Resort for 7 years and obviously has a passion for what she does.  I think she assumed that I knew what I was doing. She asked me what I type of facial I would like, to which I replied, “whatever you think”, she asked me what products I wanted, I said “whatever you think” and she suggested “La Prairie” to which I happily replied, “brilliant” having no idea what I had just agreed to and the facial proceeded.

How was it? Well, I remember some warm things on my closed eyes, a bit of face scrubbing and then what seemed like a few minutes later albeit 45 minutes later, “OK, John all done”. I’d done it again, it was so relaxing that I’d fallen asleep which to be honest, is a little embarrassing but hey ho, I’m the client. It was a fitting and fantastic way to end our treatments. The 9.30am to 5pm seemed to fly by and I, and I know my wife enjoyed every minute of it. What a great way to spend a day and I would recommend this to anyone and everyone.

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Nadine, the Resort’s specialist Beauty therapist, has been doing facials for 7 years at Bad Ragaz

During the day and in light of the activities/treatments etc we did, we were often and unsurprisingly, quite thirsty. To overcome this issue, the Resort has thoughtfully made thermal water available everywhere which supposedly has healing/healthy effects on the body. Although I don’t actually know if this was true in my case, I was drinking it by the bucket loads, firstly as I alluded to earlier, because I was rather dehydrated by the activities and secondly, I had convinced myself that it was going to make me 10 years younger and I’ll give it a bit more time before I test again.

Wow, what a day and although I don’t know if I actually was medically, any healthier, I certainly felt it and it was amazing how the whole day and our visit as a whole had completely de-stressed us. We have quite a busy life in London and this trip and its activities had taken our minds away from our working lives and given us a complete break from it and if you knew my wife, that is impressive in itself and incredibly worthwhile.

What we didn’t do (among many, many activities and services) which I would have liked to was play golf, go mountain walking, go bike riding, go for a ride on a Harley, eat at the Michelin starred restaurant in the resort, have a flutter in the Casino although we’ll save those for our next trip. Thank you Grand Resort Bad Ragaz and I hope we’ll see you again soon.

www.resortragaz.ch

The Most Delicious Place In The Maldives

When I told a travel editor I was going to visit the Maldives for four days and that the resort I was staying at had 12 – yes 12 – restaurants and bars, she wondered if I could visit them all. The challenge was set. Could I visit all of the eateries at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, the resort with the most bars and restaurants in the Maldives, in four days?

I arrived at Malé airport tired and hungry, keen to get to my final destination to begin my challenge. The Conrad team there appeared like a mirage – I was whisked up to their private lounge to wait for my seaplane transfer, and a masseuse offered me a soothing back, shoulder, neck and head massage to counter the long flight. There was breakfast and wifi too. Happy days!  photo 1

It wasn’t long before I was transported from one cocoon to another, with a short seaplane hop. As we approached the resort we could see the two islands and the long bridge that connects them, stretching across the most perfect calm blue waters I have ever seen.

Cold towels and a chilled drink await as you step off the plane and onto the resort’s welcome pontoon. From there I was whisked to my room, a beach villa with tropical outdoor bathroom – including a giant rain shower and a square bathtub beneath a canopy surrounded by candles and leafy foliage.  There are a number of different rooms at the resort, including the iconic villas on stilts above the water, but I loved being right on the beach and having a little sandy pathway from my  door to my sun lounger by the sea.

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I had three mornings so plenty of time to try breakfast at both Atoll Market, the buffet style restaurant, and Vilu, located across the bridge with really amazing views out over the beach and sea. Atoll had a fantastical, mind boggling choice of dishes and a troop of chefs on hand to make any breakfast dream come true including a green juice bar and plump dim sum. Vilu was my favourite though – it was more boutique in feel with a small buffet and a la carte menu. They made a great Maldivian reef fish omelette with chilli and herbs,  delicious with fresh watermelon juice.

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The Rangali Bar on the beach was a lovely spot for lunch as well as refreshing cocktails before dinner – the menu there was classic dishes and deli dining, lots of great wraps and salads. I loved Mandhoo Restaurant, opposite the spa. It follows the spa’s five elements philosophy, and you choose depending on the elements you feel inspired by. Or just what sounds good on the menu! Really great fresh seafood and fish that practically jumps off the plate – in an amazing setting. If you are lucky you can spot manta rays swimming past you.

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Dinner was where choices started to get really difficult! So many places to choose and so little time. A highlight for me was an amazing Japanese tasting menu at Koko, an intimate little restaurant that sits a very small group, sunken into the sand. The Maldivian chef whipped up melt in the mouth sashimi and perfectly cooked Kobe beef right before our eyes and spoke perfect Japanese to one of our fellow diners.

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I also made it to Sunset Bar and Grill to tuck into local lobster and wine from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s French estate, Miraval – a beautiful rosé that the Sommelier managed to lay his hands on because he worked there previously.

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Another evening we paired fine wines with tapas and delectable cheeses at the Cheese & Wine Bar – an amazing room underground where guests can enjoy a menu of 101 of the world’s best cheeses and wines to match. The floor in this hidden away room is silky, cool sand that you can dip your toes into.

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I failed my challenge though – I needed a few more days and a few more dinners. Ufaa, a brand new gourmet Chinese restaurant – was soon to open (it is now), and I had a look around Ithaa, the amazing famous underwater restaurant but will save dinner there for another trip.

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The wine cellar was somewhere all the guests were talking about – I popped down to check it out and it’s quite a sight – thousands of bottles of the best wine kept at perfect temperature and displayed beautifully underground. Guests are given fluffy slippers and blankets to keep cosy while they enjoy a personalised wine tasting experience with the Sommelier, paired with a delicious degustation dinner.Conrad Maldives_The Wine Cellar (7)

I also found time amidst the wining and dining to try outdoor yoga, snorkelling around the house reef, and a visit to the fantastic Spa to visit Christelle, the resort Naturopath for energy-boosting ear acupuncture and reiki. I actually didn’t feel jet lagged at all, during or after my stay and I’m sure the treatments helped. I did however feel rather full – I’ll be working this trip off for a while!

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www.conradhotels.com/maldives

 

 

A Sneak Peek Of Park Hyatt Vienna, Austria

Grifco were fortunate enough to recently visit Park Hyatt Vienna, which is scheduled to open on 1st June 2014, marking the first ever Hyatt hotel in Austria. Despite being partially hidden behind the construction during our preview of the hotel, the 100-year-old building is magnificent in appearance.

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Park Hyatt Vienna is located in Vienna’s new pedestrian Goldenes Quartier and on the Am Hof square; a central location minutes away from the important city sights surrounded by luxurious shops and fashion houses. The area is brilliant for business and leisure guests of Vienna. We put on our hard hats (safety first!), and had a look for ourselves around the making of Park Hyatt Vienna.

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We toured the hotel’s bar ‘Pearl,’ Ballroom, lobby, ‘Lounge’, Whisky and Cigar Lounge ‘Living Room, restaurant ‘The Bank’, the spacious Arany Spa, several different styled guestrooms and a gigantic penthouse equipped with an outdoor terrace. Although it was still very much under construction when we visited, it is clear to see that Park Hyatt Vienna is filled from top to toe with hints of Viennese culture, art, history and of course, Park Hyatt’s sense of intimate yet understated elegance. Here is a look at some of Park Hyatt Vienna’s gorgeous interiors, fabrics, carvings and materials integrated into the hotel’s design:

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We craned our necks to gaze up at the magnificent ceiling in the hotel’s Ballroom.

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Every detail in the hotel’s interior colouring, textiles and resources have been meticulously sourced to reflect the connection with Viennese culture.

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The building that Park Hyatt Vienna will occupy was formerly an Austrian Hungarian Monarcy Bank, which is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The subtle historic design influences around the hotel, like this dramatic wooden embellishment, are truly remarkable.

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We were able to see some of the luxurious hotel fabrics being used…

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… along with lush metallic tiles, which will be present in the hotel’s spa.

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The Bank will be home to Park Hyatt Vienna’s all-day dining restaurant. It is a former cashier hall boasting an extraordinary sense of space. Check out the ceiling!

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The highly esteemed and passionate team at Park Hyatt Vienna let Grifco see the first glimpses of their incredibly glamorous staff uniforms, which looked as if they were right off the runway.

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Functional whilst highly fashionable, the hotel’s employee uniforms are designed by Magdalena Adriane and Nina Eiber from enVie heartwork.

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Whilst Park Hyatt Vienna is still making final alterations to the hotel and their employee uniforms before the grand opening, we are most impressed with what we have seen so far.

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Grifco are waiting with high anticipation for Park Hyatt Vienna to officially open on 1st June 2014! For further information in the meantime, please see vienna.park.hyatt.com

Emirati Safari

Who would think of setting out to the Emirates for a Middle Eastern road trip? You might not have until now but with the fantastic option of luxury hotels opening in a number of the lesser known Emirates, I was very excited to set off on a Middle Eastern adventure visiting new properties in the ever growing exciting metropolis, Dubai, and its grown up sophisticated sister, Abu Dhabi.

Anantara Dubai is one of the newest and exciting luxury openings on the exclusive Palm Jumeirah. The over water villas are the first of their kind in the UAE and the lagoon access rooms are a perfect option for those who prefer a pool dip rather than plunging in the ocean, accessible right from your room!

The view from one of Over Water Villas

The view from one of Over Water Villas

Everyone is always struck by the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff who make you feel like a veritable Sheik during your stay!

Anantara’s unique culinary and gourmet experiences are a must try for foodie guests and those looking for a bit of an adventure at Anantara Dubai The Palm. T

Dining by Design is a very special dining experience….expect lanterns on the beach and endless courses of exquisite food. We had the Arabian experience so were lavished with delicious mezze!

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Fans adorn the ceiling of the private dining room at Mekong

The Spice Spoons Culinary Journey was led by the charming Chef Piroon Pumicome, who guides you through a three course Thai feast that you enjoy for lunch. We made a deliciously fresh green papaya salad (make sure you go easy on the chili…I was far too ambitious), green curry made with a fresh curry paste (the store bought version will never be the same!) and mango rice pudding. If you weren’t proud enough of the fruits of your labours you are also awarded a certificate and given a bag of treats to go home with!

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No trip to Dubai is complete with a trip to the souks where you can feast your eyes on piles of spice and gold…..

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The Beach House is a relaxed dining option by the beach. Check out the Octopus Carpaccio – one of their signature dishes!

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Next stop was the fabulous Desert Palm Dubai, nestled out of town and in its own haven of stables, polo fields and beautiful scenery.

Desert Palm is one of the world’s leading polo venues. In fact from the 18th – 22nd February, they are hosting the Cartier Cup, when the hotel  will be overtaken by a gorgeous and glamorous crowd.

Make sure to take in one of Desert Palm’s famous afternoon teas over a game of polo. Gosh, how civilised!!

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Taking in a chukka

 

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Where do I start?!

Abu Dhabi was the second stop on the Emirati Safari. Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara provides the Abu Dhabi traveller with a very interesting option. Set upon an enormous mangrove marsh, guests can ride across its waters with Ali who tells tales of UAE history or try kayaking at Abu Dhabi’s only kayaking venue.

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I was most impressed by its Anantara Spa which houses Abu Dhabi’s largest hammam. Try out the hammam experience for total relaxation after a long journey or day at work. Have a drink at the rooftop bar that looks over the mangroves for a perfect end to the day.

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A short flight away from the city of Abu Dhabi is the small private Sir Bani Yas Island, that was set up as a Wildlife Reserve by Sheikh Zahed in the 1970’s. Anantara are the only hotel group to have properties on the island making it feel exclusive from the moment you step off the tiny plane.

Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara was the first property on the island, a 64 room hotel perfect for families with numerous activities on offer and a superb spa.

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Anantara’s Al Sahel Villa Resort is Anantara’s newest opening on the island – a South African savannah right in the heart of Sir Bani Yas Island. 30 villas look out on to the Arabian Wildlife Park so prepare to open your curtains in the morning to an inquisitive gazelle or beautiful peacock. The Savannah Grill & Savannah Bar serve up the finest steaks and catch of the day.

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Over the mountain range is the Anantara’s Al Yamm Villa Resort, 30 villas tucked away along the Arabian Gulf coastline (Al Yamm means by the sea). 10 of the villas are set in front of a mangrove marsh and the rest open their doors straight on to white sands and crystal blue waters.

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Al Yamm villas are so tranquil and it is such a romantic spot for escapist couples wanting to feel like the only people on the island. The hotel’s Olio restaurant serves up gourmet Italian cuisine. I went for the Al Yamm Seafood special – a plate piled high of fresh lobster, king prawns, sea bass and juicy mussels.

And of course there is the unforgettable safari, an unmissable activity on the island where some of the world’s most beautiful creatures are almost at arm’s length.

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The Palm Jumeirah from the sky. See you next time, Dubai and Abu Dhabi!

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Ras Al Khaimah: Desert Meets Development

A mere 45 minute drive, or dock to dock sea plane, from Dubai you’ll find Ras Al Khaimah, until now a lesser known Emirate making big leaps in the luxury hospitality world. The palatial new Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is one of the latest properties to open its doors to a burgeoning 5 star crowd here. We checked it out and found it a great accompaniment to Dubai with its proximity to endless sand dunes, stellar service and acres of luxuriant space.

A few of our favourite things:

Beach and pool chilling: The Waldorf Astoria is set on a wide strip of private sandy beach, equipped with super comfy sun beds looking out to sea. By the main pool, they bring round complimentary mango ice lollies and iced water regularly – ideal for us sun-worshippers! The sleek infinity edged lap pool on the other side of the grounds is great for those wanting to get some “proper” swimming done if pool side posing is not your thing.

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Mint tea in Peacock Alley: Peacock Alley is a Waldorf Astoria hallmark – the original being the area at Waldorf Astoria New York where ladies used to strut like peacocks in their evening finery on their way to dinner in the early 1900s. The Ras Al Khaimah modern-day version is a glamorous Arabian take on the space – sweeping staircases, a beautiful fountain and high ceilings. It’s a great spot to people watch whilst enjoying a refreshing mint tea, served on a silver platter in a fabulous tea pot, natch!

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Meze: So fresh and delicious, the meze at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is addictive. The food at the hotel and all its restaurants is amazing without exception, but simple meze enjoyed by the pool was my favourite. Yum.

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Having a personal concierge: Every guest at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah has their own expert personal concierge who is on hand to make sure your stay is seamless. These ladies and gentlemen greet you as soon as you arrive, show you around your (humongous) room, and then act as your first point of call for any request, so it’s super personalised service for every guest.

Sailing: If the heat gets too much, take to the water! A catamaran trip and a dip in the warm Arabian Sea is a fun way to spend the afternoon – you can catch a beauty of a sunset too.

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The Desert: It’s on your doorstep, literally, so it’s a real must to experience. Just a short drive away are dramatic sand dunes – the proximity to space and quietness is surprising especially after a few days in Dubai. Waldorf Astoria can arrange an unforgettable picnic with a difference out on the dunes – a really spectacular experience, complete with Persian rugs, a chef and tea and macaroons on the sand.

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Check out www.waldorfastoria.com for more information.