Why a trip to Portugal’s Algarve with Tivoli Carvoeiro should be on your bucket list…

This month I was lucky enough to visit Tivoli Carvoeiro on Portugal’s Algarve coast and a short stay was enough to show me that it has all the ingredients for a trip that ticks all the boxes- and more!

Here are just a few reasons to put it on your “to-go” list…

  • Off-season sun – with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, the Algarve is the ideal destination for sun seekers looking to soak up some vitamin D before winter really sets in. Tivoli Carvoeiro’s iconic circular outdoor pool offers the perfect place to catch some rays on a comfortable sun lounger, refreshing drink in hand, or pop down to the secluded cove to feel the sand between your toes and enjoy the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore.

  • Things to do- for those looking for an active break the Algarve doesn’t disappoint. Adrenaline junkies can try surfing, scuba diving or mountain biking, while those looking for a more gentle day out can enjoy boat trips and coastal walks, all of which can be organised by Tivoli’s knowledgable team. Don’t fear- if your idea of a holiday is complete R&R the hotel’s gorgeous pool overlooking a quintessential cove is an idyllic backdrop or perhaps treat yourself to some serious pampering with an indulgent massage or facial in the spa… pure bliss!

  • A foodie haven- with savoury sardines, sweet custard tarts, fresh fish and more, Portugal is firmly on the foodie map and has something for every palette. Those staying at Tivoli Carvoeiro can look forward to delicious local and international dishes in the hotel’s three restaurants, with many more just a short stroll away in the town of Carvoeiro. Don’t miss the chance to try a creative cocktail or glass of local wine or port while watching the sun go down from the hotel’s rooftop Sky Bar- THE place for sundowners and after-dinner drinks in Carvoeiro!

  • Stunning scenery – from rugged mountainous terrain to golden sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, cute coves and caves and impressive coastal arches and rock formations – Portugal’s views just keep on giving. Nestled in a quiet cove, Tivoli Carvoeiro makes the most of its enviable location and you can enjoy impressive panoramic vistas throughout the hotel, from the bedroom, beach or breakfast terrace- it’s an Instagrammer’s dream!

I hope this has given you some inspiration and another gorgeous destination & hotel to add to your travel wish list!

For more information visit www.minorhotels.com/en/tivoli/tivoli-carvoeiro

La Maison d’Ulysse – a hidden gem in the heart of Provence

Nothing else quite epitomises hidden gem as well as La Maison d’Ulysse in the tiny village of Baron in Provence. My taxi dropped me outside a 16th century converted farmhouse and as I rang the bell I had no idea of the sheer beauty that awaited me inside the hotel’s old stone walls. Once you enter the front door of La Maison d’Ulysse, it feels as though you are stepping into a little paradise with lush greenery hanging from the hotel’s exterior walls.

La Maison d’Ulysse is a charming home turned authentic luxury hotel, providing a relaxed, welcoming and warm atmosphere, with the owners Guy Toullelan and Gauthier Vandendriessche personally there to welcome each guest upon arrival into “their home”.

The former house has been beautifully restored and features carefully selected modern furnishings that blend meticulously with the original stonework. Each room features its own design and unique character, whilst none of them compromise on either space or comfort. Featuring only nine bedrooms, each room feels hidden away from the others as if offering its very own secret hideaway. I stayed in the elegantly designed Chant du Murier suite, which resembles something you’d find in a glossy interior design magazine. A beautiful stone staircase leads you up to a private terrace outside the luxury suite. Upon entering, the striking bathroom is what really stands out, featuring colourful circular rugs made by Hay, a Danish designer brand, against a mosaic wall of small earthenware tiles.

On my first day we took a leisurely walk to the peaceful hamlet of Marignac, as part of the hotel’s new ‘Gauthier’s Guides’, a selection of guides left in the rooms for walking, jogging or cycling. With the expert guidance of Gauthier Vandendriessche, one half of the hotel’s founders, we embarked on a 6km walk to the hamlet of Marignac, also referred to as ‘Our little Nice’, simply because it enjoys the most sunshine and is the most protected against the Mistral wind out of all of the villages surrounding Uzès. The walk takes you through beautiful countryside and vineyards, overlooking the valley of Baron and offering magnificent views of the mountains in the distance.

On my second day I visited the medieval market town of Uzès for the weekly Wednesday morning market, during which local producers and agricultures come together to display their produits du terroir, regional products and specialities. Expect cheese, olives, wine, olive oil, fruit, bread, herbs and so much more.

Uzès is a beautiful small town in the Gard department, north of Nîmes, with a history dating from Roman times. The circular streets around the historical centre were once walls that protected the medieval castle in the 11th and 12th centuries.

The ancient centre houses Le Duché, a medieval castle with four towers, the lovely Place aux Herbes with terrace cafés and surrounding arcades, and the tall Fenestrelle tower at the cathedral, fashioned after the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I spent my afternoon relaxing on the sun loungers lined up by the hotel’s outdoor heated pool. Surrounded by wildflower, herb and vegetable gardens, the pool offers the ultimate peaceful setting. Protected by the mistral wind, with the smell of lavender coming from the garden and stunning views of the surrounding Provencal countryside, I couldn’t think of a better spot to relax and unwind.

The breakfast at the hotel is outstanding, Gauthier personally shows you what he’s served up that morning at the breakfast buffet and offers you his own homemade crepes, accompanied with homemade fig and apricot jams. I opted to dine every morning in the restaurant’s beautiful stone-lined courtyard, with a beautiful gate opening up to the sun-soaked wild garden.

On my final night I had the pleasure of dining at the hotel’s restaurant. At the hands of the talented chefs Valerie and Daniel, I enjoyed a sublime butternut squash soup with Brazil nuts, and simply the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had! Trained at the Institut Paul Bocuse, the duo meld French culinary precision with Asian and Caribbean elements to create culinary masterpieces.


Valerie and Daniel’s kitchen at La Maison d’Ulysse serves up fresh and seasonal gourmet cuisine, sourced from the wonderfully rich and fertile environs of the hotel, and chosen by the chefs at a local food market. The menu changes daily in accordance to what is ripe and fresh that day and the couple take pleasure in constantly reinventing and creating new dishes.

To sum it up, La Maison d’Ulysse is an absolute dream and offers an extremely relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the heart of Provence.

Executive Head Chef, Martin Cahill, tells us what’s in store at the newly opened DUKES DUBAI

Martin Cahill

Five-star hotel DUKES DUBAI has now opened its doors and is inviting guests to enjoy a quintessentially British experience on Dubai’s west trunk of The Palm Jumeirah. Part of the DUKES COLLECTION, DUKES DUBAI prides itself on its unrivalled attention to detail and exceptional customer service. Executive Head Chef, Martin Cahill, tells us what we can expect from the hotel’s first-class F&B offerings, including its signature Great British Restaurant (GBR).

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Tell us a bit about food and beverage in Dubai

In Dubai, there are so many options for food and beverage. There are only a few cities in the world where trends are set; London, Paris, New York, Asia, Tokyo and Dubai runs along with them. Food trucks are now popular over there, so the options for food and beverage are huge.

How do you pick your team?

For some nationalities, Dubai is the promised land. I interview everyone because I want to get the character right. I look for positive people. When we look for staff, we obviously look at their the skill set and previous experience, but also character is key. Graeme Dodrill is my Head Chef, Mohammed Issa Ibrahim Ali is the Executive Sous Chef and then Paris Halpawattage Asoka is my Executive Pastry Chef. Pre-opening is a real bonding time and you get to know everyone and their characters.

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From left to right: Paris Halpawattage Asoka – Executive Pastry Chef

Martin Cahill – Executive Head Chef, DUKES DUBAI

Graeme Dodrill – Head Chef, GBR

Mohammed Issa Ibrahim Ali – Executive Sous Chef

Where did you grow up and what inspired you to become a chef?

I grew up in Bolton and have three sisters so there was always lots of cooking and baking in the house. My parents’ family have all got farms in Ireland so there wasn’t necessarily a conscientious decision to become a chef, but every year going over to Ireland, milking the cows and collecting eggs from the chickens was certainly influential. When I was in my final year at school, I was the only one who wanted to go into food, but back then it wasn’t really a masculine thing to do. Being a chef was cool, but it wasn’t THE thing to do!

Have you been inspired by British cuisine when creating the menus for DUKES DUBAI?

In terms of the menus, part of the concept means that it has to have that British element but if we’ve got some great local ingredients, then of course we will use them. The main spine of the menu is dishes that I enjoy cooking; things like Lancashire hot pot, pies. We have a great rotisserie oven in the restaurant so we can do whole chickens on there or ribs of beef. The most important thing is that we cook for the guests. What I love to see is repeat guests in the restaurants, that’s the biggest accolade for me.

What new dish have you brought to DUKES DUBAI that you’re most proud of and why?

I’m really excited about the brand new high-tech equipment we have installed in our kitchen, and the fantastic chefs we are working with. The rotisserie oven is great for succulent legs of lamb, whole chickens and ribs of beef. Also, I don’t think there is anything wrong with opening six oysters with a nice glass of white wine. Sometimes we get too caught up with trends but if you’re confident in the product then it should work.


Can you tell us a bit about the other British brands that you’re working with?

We are proud to be working with British supplier, Paxton and Whitfield for their lovely cheeses, chutneys and breads. In terms of afternoon tea, Rodda’s supply us with their fantastic clotted cream. There is an abundance of rich ingredients in the UK; Menai oysters in Wales, Salmon from Scotland, black pudding from the North.

Can you tell us a bit about the afternoon tea at DUKES DUBAI?

People have tried to re-invent afternoon tea but actually, there is nothing wrong with a good old finger sandwich, so what we offer is an atfternoon tea that is fresh and cleanly presented, with a touch of home comfort. We have put a big focus on the things that you don’t realise are important in afternoon tea; things like warm scones, fresh clotted cream and homemade preserves. There are also some twists on local classics; like a date chutney or scone.

What can we find on GBR lunch menu?

We have staples like the GBR burger and steak sandwich as well as more tapas-like options such as cheese, charcuterie and seafood platters. We have also bought a panini pressing machine for warm paninis. At the weekend we’re offering really big roast lunches, where the waiter comes to your table to carve chicken, beef or lamb and then serves some lovely roast potatoes and vegetables with it. You’ll feel right at home here, only we’ve swapped dull, grey British skies for Dubai sunshine!

What sets GBR apart?

We are very much consistent in our standards. We want to make people happy because of quality and if DUKES DUBAI reminds people of home, then that’s great. GBR is a very timeless restaurant.


What’s the Martin touch?

Simple food cooked well with very good flavours that aren’t overpowering or complicated.

What do you most enjoy about living in Dubai?

I love my work and I’m passionate about DUKES. Dubai is very multi-cultural and there is a strong focus on tourism here so there are lots of things to do which makes it a great place to be with the family.

How do you like to wind down?

I love spending time with my kids and family. I like to take my daughter to the shops and we pick our ingredients and plan what we are going to cook. I think it’s really important that we don’t give kids bland food and that we educate their palate.


DUKES DUBAI, which soft-opened for training in December 2016, consists of 279 guestrooms including 64 suites, with a ladies-only Liberty Duchess floor featuring 20 rooms furnished exclusively by Liberty Fabrics, as well as 227 fully furnished hotel apartments and six distinctive dining experiences.

The remainder of the property’s food and beverage outlets will launch within the next six to eight weeks. This will include traditional Northern Indian restaurant Khyber, marking the first international outpost for the Mumbai-based family restaurant group. Visitors can also look forward to the Tea Lounge for afternoon tea and the Cigar Lounge, offering a sophisticated selection of fine cigars and malts.

For more information, please visit www.dukesdubai.com or www.seventides.com

DUKES DUBAI is located within the Oceana complex on Palm Jumeirah, for exact location please click here




Easter escapes with Park Hyatt & Andaz, our top picks!

For those looking to escape this Easter, here is a roundup of some our favourite places we have travelled to with Park Hyatt and Andaz hotels that we are still dreaming about…

For incredible sunsets and a taste of the exotic, head to Park Hyatt Zanzibar – situated in the bustling cultural capital, Stone Town, right on the beach and boasting incredible sunsets, this hotel will make you feel a world away from your usual routine.


Sun worshippers will love Park Hyatt Goa Hotels & Resorts . A few days relaxing around the hotel’s incredible pool (India’s largest with water slides too!) or on the private beach and you will never want to go(a) home…


For ultimate zen, spa junkies will love the Serenitas Spa at Park Hyatt Mallorca. This place is a peaceful oasis, surrounded by landscaped gardens and gorgeous views of the Serra de Llevant Mountains, home to the island’s only alpha quartz sand bed (a definite USP!)


Culture vultures & history buffs need look no further than the Park Hyatt Vienna, housed in the former Austrian Hungarian Monarchy Bank HQ and within strolling distance of the city’s top attractions including, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Michaelerkuppel, Vienna City Hall and St. Peter’s Church.

After a busy day soaking up the city sights head to the hotel’s Bank Brasserie & Bar for a delicious cocktail…


For city slickers on the hunt for ultimate luxury it doesn’t get much better than the Park Hyatt New York. Retreat to the Spa Nalai, high above the hustle and bustle of city that never sleeps for an indulgent treatment that will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated…


Bleisure travellers in the Big Apple should head to the Andaz Wall Street, in the midst of New York’s buzzing financial district. With the Staten Island ferry (which takes in the Statue of Liberty), the New York Stock Exchange and 9-11 Memorial Museum all a stone’s throw away, it’s a great spot to squeeze in some pre or post-work sightseeing!


Happy Easter!

Where the Grifco girls would spend Mother’s Day…

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, and so many stunning destinations to pick from, some of our Grifco girls choose their ideal place to treat their mums this Sunday!

Lara Good, Senior Account Executive – Tiara Miramar Beah Hotel & Spa
Blog Mum

My mum is a glamour puss from head to toe, so naturally I would take her to the uber glamorous French Riviera to stay at the stunning five-star Tiara Miramar Beach Hotel & Spa for a late Mother’s Day celebration, as it reopens on 16th April for the Summer season. We’d sip on refreshing glasses of dry rose and tuck into a beautifully fresh seafood supper on the terrace, overlooking the sparkling ocean, before snuggling up in our huge pillowy beds. The next day, we’d take our places on a private bed right on the hotel’s private beach and enjoy an indulgent spa treatment to the sound of waves lapping on the shore…


Emma Howard-Smith, Account Director – Rome Cavalieri

Emma Mum

I’m lucky enough to be spending Mother’s Day at Waldorf Astoria’s Rome Cavalieri so my mum and I are in for a real treat! We will wake up to a spread of Italian pastries and freshly brewed coffee, spending the day shopping and soaking in the sights of Rome, indulging in some delicious gelato and enjoying an evening spent on one of Rome Cavalieri’s many balconies and terraces, drinking in the views of the Eternal City and perhaps an Aperol Spritz or two!


Kat Panayotopoulos, Account Manager – La Maison d’Ulysee

Kat Mum

For Mother’s Day, I would take my mum to the beautiful La Maison d’Ulysse in the South of France. It’s the perfect spot for some mother-daughter time – small and intimate, it only has nine rooms including six suites, and each are individually decorated. We’d spend the day exploring the local area using Gauthier’s Guides – not to mention some retail therapy in nearby Uzès! – and then return to the hotel for a treatment in the vaulted spa and Turkish baths followed by a glass of rosé by the outdoor pool to watch the sunset.


Nadia Walford, Senior Account Director – DUKES LONDON

Nadia Mum

This Mother’s Day, I will be saying “Cheers” to my Mother with glass of Prosecco and a Traditional Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea at our favourite DUKES LONDON in Mayfair.  The beauty of this package is that it comes with a gift wrapped DUKES By Floris London Hyacinth & Bluebell candle, so if you’re a bit time-pushed like me, you can let DUKES do the present-shopping for you! If you’re inspired to do the same, the sale is on until 26th March 2017, with a six month booking window period so you can treat your Mummy any time this year.


Charlotte Rous, Associate Director – Abu Camp

Char Mum

Whether you are a seasoned safari buff or have never been anywhere as remote as the African bush, the ultimate elephant interaction experience is at Wilderness Premier’s Abu Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a private concession in one of Africa’s prime wildlife-viewing areas. Where else better to spoil the most important woman in your life?! Spending Mother’s Day with my animal loving mum at Abu Camp would be the ultimate place to get away from it all together. This Mother’s Day treat will be hard to top!


Tamsin Stafford, Junior Account Executive – Amare Marbella Beach Hotel 

Tamsin Mum

If I could take my mum anywhere for Mother’s day, it would have to be Amàre Marbella Beach Hotel. The stunning adults-only beachfront hotel in southern Spain is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a weekend away together. We’d spend the day soaking up the Spanish sun on the beach, enjoy a leisurely cycle over to Puerto Banús, before devouring fresh, local food at the Beach restaurant. What better way to celebrate mum’s special day than at Amàre’s Sunday BBQ! We’d dance to live music whilst sipping cool fruity cocktails and savoring the fresh BBQ’d delights by the pool.


Packing for a safari holiday with Wilderness Safaris

Freelance journalist and fashionista Amanda Bernstein gives us her expert tips on what to pack (and wear!) for a safari trip of a lifetime with Wilderness Safaris

A safari holiday is one of the most magical vacations one can take, especially when being hosted by the incredible Wilderness Safaris, who operate camps all across Africa – I was lucky enough to be staying with them in the Namibian Desert. It’s often a trip of a lifetime, so you need to ensure you pack the correct clothes and toiletries to be fully prepared for your amazing adventure. Be sure also to check visa requirements of the country you’re visiting as soon as you book as some embassies can take a while to complete.

You don’t need to pack much – ‘less is really more’ in the safari world. Most of the luxury safaris offer an express laundry service where clothes are washed and returned to your room within 24 hours. You will need to be aware of the very strict luggage weight and size restriction in place so check before you travel the specific requirements – chances are you will need to take a soft bag of a certain size (especially for a flying safari).


Enjoying a game drive in the desert with Wilderness Safaris


The best type of clothes to take are those made from natural fabrics which will keep you as cool as possible: cotton and linen are your best bet. Try to organise your outfits so they all mix with each other in basic neutral tones of beige, cream, grey, brown and khaki green (but not camouflage). This isn’t a fashion show – it is a safari where you will look out of place in anything other than practical clothing.

You should keep your body covered up as much as possible, both to avoid sunburn and to avoid being bitten. Long sleeve T-shirts teamed with a fleece are best with a long pair of safari (combat style) trousers.  You can peel off the layers as the sun comes up, but early mornings on safaris are often very cold, even in the summer months. If it’s winter, consider packing a warm hat and gloves.

A sun hat is a must – the larger the brim the better in order to protect your neck and face. Take a cotton scarf too so you can tuck it around your neck if the sun gets too hot. It is also a good idea to take two pairs of sunglasses in case one breaks or gets lost.


A rare image of Sossusvlei after rain; Kulala Desert Lodge is the closest camp to the national park gate.

In terms of quantity of clothing, for a 3-day safari considering taking the following:

  • 3 long sleeve T shirts
  • 3 short sleeve T shirts
  • 2 vest tops
  • 2 long pairs of trousers
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 fleeces
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Underwear
  • Walking socks
  • Light-weight socks
  • Two pairs of closed shoes – one should be a sturdy waterproof pair of hiking shoes, the other a lighter weight pair such as trainers
  • Swimming costume/trunks
  • Flip flops or open toe sandals for daytime after a swim – but ensure when wearing that insect repellent is liberally sprayed onto feet and ankles


Spotting elephants in Namibia with Wilderness Safaris


It is imperative to ensure you pack any medication (including any anti-malarials) in your hand luggage, just in case it gets delayed or lost in transit somewhere. You will need to think carefully about all your essential toiletries you use on a daily basis, as it may be difficult to buy anything when you are on the safari – and you may need to purchase the travel-sized varieties to save on space.

Take all your usual toiletries with you but forget the mousse and hairspray – there is really no point in even considering bringing these. And also leave your straighteners at home, because the humidity will see to your hair frizzing at every opportunity, so best just to tie it back with a hair elastic!


Serra Cafema Camp – match your clothes to the natural shades and tones of the bush

Toiletries should include:

  • A high SPF sun cream (minimum SPF 50) – bear in mind it needs to be reapplied often
  • A good quality insect repellent – take a larger size for use after a shower and another for your bag to top up during the daytime
  • Hand sanitizer – comes in handy when eating while in the bush
  • Lip salve, Vaseline or nude coloured gloss – to ensure lips stay moisturised
  • The camps provide their own gorgeous environmentally-friendly shampoos and conditioners, so you don’t need to worry about packing these. Plus, their in-house products are totally bio-degradable so much kinder to the surroundings!


Pack stylish, stay stylish at Wilderness Safaris’ Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp!

Other Essentials

Some other things not to forget to pack include:

  • Camera
  • Telescopic lens
  • Chargers for all your equipment
  • Binoculars
  • Extra memory card
  • Small holdall or rucksack for day trips

A note on the binoculars, I’ve heard that you get better results from using the best rangefinder for hunting that is a single lenses for nature watching. I don’t know about you but the dual lenses always makes my vision difficult. It is important that you leave valuables and jewellery, including designer watches, at home. A safari should be a real vacation in every sense, without having to worry about what you are wearing. Forget fashion – think fun!


COMING SOON: Bisate Lodge in Rwanda. Match your fashion to their colour scheme with this bespoke mood-board created by Artichoke Design…

Amanda stayed at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Little Kulala, and Serra Cafema – three of leading safari tour operator Wilderness Safaris’ luxurious camps in Namibia.

By Amanda Bernstein


Join the team at Grifco PR to be part of the #GrifcoGradsTeam

A fully fledged new internship public relations immersion programme


Could one of these desks be yours??

This year Grifco celebrated its 14th birthday and this month it is moving into a brand new office. After over a decade being based at the Coda Centre in Fulham, it has outgrown itself and is very proud of moving its team to the official Grifco House in Parson’s Green, SW6. Grifco House is a light, airy and dynamic office space with Internship Pods for successful internship candidates.


Work on some of the most amazing hotels all across the world

From 17th October 2016 onwards, Grifco PR has up to six internship spaces which they would like to welcome passionate and enthusiastic interns to apply for. Can you or someone you know answer yes to one or more of the following statements:

I love writing

I love travelling

I love talking to people

I love meeting new people

I love discovering new places

I love brainstorming and coming up with creative ideas

I love being busy with an interesting to-do list

I love being part of an energetic team

If the answer is yes then you could be well on your way to becoming part of the Grifco PR team. Grifco PR is one of the most respected boutique luxury travel, spa and lifestyle PR agencies in the UK looking after a plethora of wonderful clients from big global brands, incorporating hundreds of hotels, spas, to tiny hotels gems in the south of France and Cornwall…..and everything else in between! They have grown from strength to strength and want to grow their team.

Successful internship candidates will be invited to undertake a three month programme where they will learn the complete PR lowdown including how to write a press release, how to put together the perfect pitch, how to mountpress coverage for their clients, as well as being in the thick of an agency office where no two days look the same. Interns will be taken to editorial meetings to meet some of the UK’s leading writers and social influencers plus help the team with the constant steam of events that mark the annual travel PR calendar. Renumeration will be dependent on experience.


Come and join the team!!

Claire Griffin, Managing Director of Grifco PR says: “We are incredibly excited to be in the new office at Grifco House to be able to welcome the next generation of PR superstars, who will be the first to trial our new internship programme. We look forward to receiving applications and meeting a new team.”


To find out more about the #GrifcoGradsTeam or to meet the team in their new office, please visit www.grifcopr.com or contact claire@grifcopr.com or call +44 (0) 20 7 751 8010.

Four nights, Nine Flights, Three Boats and Two Maldivian Paradise Islands – Part 1.

I have never been to the Maldives. I am also not a fan of flying! It was, therefore, with a mixture of trepidation and huge excitement that I departed for London Heathrow to Male earlier this year.


The trip started well. I was bestowed with an entire row in economy to myself. Economy is not nearly so bad when you can stretch out across three full seats. It was at this point, on a blissfully empty Emirates flight with a glass of wine in hand, that I decided flying wasn’t so bad.

14 hours and a stop-over in Dubai later, paradise was within my grasp. If you have never been to the Maldives, I highly recommend booking a window seat for your flight. The view of hundreds of tadpole like island appearing beneath you as you come in to land is unforgettable.


A short stopover in Male and the fear of flying was about to take on a new challenge – a sea plane! I found it however a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Looking out from the window, school upon school of dolphins could be seen – it was spectacular.


The sea plane took me to Conrad Maldives Rangali Island from where I was to embark upon my first short boat transfer of the trip. A speedy 10 minutes later I had seen flying fish, a dolphin, two baby reef sharks and at last – my first paradise island. And what a beautiful gem it is.


Mirihi Island, I had read, has only 37 villas and is a haven of peace and tranquility. Nothing could be more true. The second I arrived my bags were whisked away, a refreshing drink placed in my hand and my shoes handed over – “we will take these to your room for you, please feel welcome to remain barefoot throughout the duration of your stay” intoned a charming member of the team.


capture-4The moment you step onto Mirihi Island, all the travel weariness melts away. It has a comforting charm about it that immediately lulls you into a sense of deep relaxation.

I spent my first afternoon exclaiming at the beauty of the views from my over water villa, jumping straight from my deck into a myriad of fish below and snorkelling with the dive team where, amongst an abundance of fish and coral in every colour imaginable, we spotted turtles, reef sharks and peculiar sea cucumbers! The only thing we were tought to care about was checking our cool dive watches to get back in time (provided by the online store at https://www.ourbeautifulplanet.org/best-dive-watches/.)


This shot was taken by the hotel’s General Manager!

Following an indulgent nine plate tapas and wine tasting, the sound of the sea lapping against the shore is enough to lull even the lightest of sleepers into a wonderfully deep sleep.

The next day I set out on the adventure of a lifetime – a chance to swim with the majestic whale shark.

Whale sharks, though daunting in terms of size, are harmless to humans, feeding mainly on plankton and small fish and moving at the average speed of just three leisurely miles per hour.

About two hours into our blissful sailing trip we spotted the Maldives’ largest sea inhabitant and without a second thought, leaped into the deep water.


Snorkelling alongside these gentle giants is a breath-taking and humbling experience.  They are extremely friendly and seem not to mind humans, swimming nail-bitingly close to you.

Buzzing with adrenaline we enjoyed a pleasant sail back to the hotel where a delicious feast and accompanying cocktails awaited for my second and final night at this slice of utopia, to be enjoyed before an early start and a mammoth journey the following day…

More on that to come! For now, some eye candy…


mirihi-island-muraka-10 img_1625 img_1568










If you go down to Green Park today…A DUKES LONDON Gourmet Picnic

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good picnic! So what better way to spend a hot, Indian summer’s evening in London than with a super luxurious gourmet picnic in Green Park, courtesy of our favourite DUKES LONDON, complete with our very own private butler.

Meet Fidel, our friendly DUKES butler for the evening, who came to meet us after work with a gorgeous hamper of goodies. He put together the most impressive spread you’ve seen in a matter of minutes. Here he is in action…


…eh voila. A Feast fit for Kings!


As the sun went down, thanks to DUKES’ super talented Executive Head Chef, Nigel Mendham, we ate to our heart’s content, with one of London’s finest green parks as our backdrop. From perfectly poached salmon with lemon mayonnaise and avocado, to Piri Piri chicken with chorizo and peppers, to Scotch eggs with honey mustard, it’s fair to say Nigel knows a thing or two about staple picnic food! For some of our 5 a day, we ate cous cous with coriander, tomato and courgette, with a delicious heritage tomato, cucumber, feta and mint salad. A picnic wouldn’t be a picnic without some British artisan cheese, bread, crackers and traditional chutney. As if that wasn’t enough, we indulged in a heavenly chocolate mousse with raspberry and rice pudding crème brûlée to satisfy our sweet tooth. If you want to see what happiness on a plate looks like…well here it is!


If you’re looking for a fun way to see out the last few days of summer, a DUKES gourmet picnic is definitely worth booking. Hurry though, as they’ll be finishing at the end of September.

DUKES’ Traditional British Picnic is priced from £35 per person for a minimum of 2 people with butler service included; a bottle of chilled Champagne starts from £80; DUKES’s Children’s picnic is priced at £12. All picnics include one bottle of water and one soft drink.

For more information on DUKES, St James, contact 0207 491 4840 or visit www.dukeshotel.com.

A Weekend Escape to Edinburgh with Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian


Affectionately known by locals as ‘The Caley’, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian was just the restorative break we needed following a hectic couple of weeks. Escaping the bustling London rush, after a short flight from Heathrow, in less than hours we wandered into the lofty, calm reception of The Caledonian. Greeted by the rousing sounds of the bagpipes and a team of smiling reception staff, the iconic Scottish hotel made an impact on arrival.

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The grand hotel staircase

Following a restful night’s sleep in our plush Deluxe Room, we sauntered down to breakfast. After a sizable breakfast spread at the Brasserie, we set out to explore the sights of Edinburgh.

A historic city filled with character, every cobbled street was lined with street performers, artists, musicians and small craft markets. Thriving with a hub of activity but still managing to maintain a relaxed atmosphere, we soaked up the carefree city as we strolled past the highlights including the castle, St Giles’ Cathedral and The Royal Mile.  Refuelling at ‘The Chocolate Bar’ of Harvey Nichols, a revolving conveyor belt of chocolate delights – well worth checking out for anyone with a sweet tooth – we had lunch at Copper Bloom. A delightful underground restaurant and bar tucked away within a grand Georgian building, the botanical flowers and vintage design offered a great modern twist on the classic city.

Returning to rest our weary feet, we indulged in the beautiful Guerlain Spa of The Caledonian, enjoying a swim, steam and sauna. Selecting the ‘Radiance Facial’, after an hour of being preened and pampered with soothing Guerlain face masks, I re-joined the world feeling fresh-faced and relaxed, leaving the London weariness firmly behind.




Ending the night with a delicious meal at Galvin Brasserie – The Caledonian’s Parisian style restaurant offering an extensive seafood and steak dishes – we ended the night feeling suitably stuffed and content. Returning to our room in a food-fuelled haze, we resolved to return to Edinburgh and The Caledonian at the next possible opportunity…

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Peacock Alley at The Caledonian