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Afternoon tea in London: Harvey Nichols 5th Floor

Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Restaurant 109-125 Knightsbridge, Belgravia, London SW1X 7RJ     The menu for afternoon tea at Harvey Nicks features a woman’s perfectly manicured hand: “Pinkies up” it entreats. Tea here though is less a prim and proper affair and more about being in the midst of the fun and buzzy environment of a temple of fashion and commerce. Sitting amid the unadorned wooden...

Best bars in London: Swans Bar, Maison Assouline

I love, perhaps a little too much, discovering great places to drink. My latest discovery came to light via my friend Mark. After months of trying, we finally got together for a sneaky afternoon drink — girding ourselves for our separate, taxing evenings to come. He suggested Swans Bar, right smack on Piccadilly. I’d never heard of it and was intrigued — I walk down this street several times a...

Cool, insider places to shop in Reims

This city of 200,000 – the capital of the Champagne Ardenne region – is a great place to visit. It has beautiful, harmonious but varied 18th century architecture, a cathedral that rivals Paris’s Notre Dame, and easy access to the Champagne houses of the region. On my recent weekend in Reims I also learned there are some great little shops where you find special souvenirs too (particularly the kind you eat and...

Hampshire: The Peat Spade Inn, Stockbridge

  Sometimes you just get lucky. A friend of a friend or a colleague or someone you know from somewhere recommends a place to stay and it looks good online so you book it. We’ve all been on the other end of this. Where you book someplace whose website looks marvelous and it ends up you saw the only flattering picture, or it’s next to a tip or is underwhelming or a bit smelly or just meh. But this past...

The luxury hotels that love bees

Honey makes the world go round. It’s not the usual way that phrase goes, but it was certainly the motto at The Joy of Bees, an immersive art installation that took place this month in Soho with the brilliant guys at Bompas & Parr along with Relais & Chateaux. At the event, you could drift from one room filled with a honeybee garden to another with a beekeeper from Bermondsey Street Bees talking about the...

Cotswolds: Staying at Cowley Manor with teens

Take my advice when you visit Cowley Manor. Even if the Isamu Noguchi table in the sitting room is a little ill-placed, don’t try to move it yourself. Even when you know the freeform glass top merely rests on the swiveling wooden legs and even when you think you’re being careful and it just needs a nudge, you won’t be able to predict how the table will move and inevitably the water tumbler, the potted succulent and...

Bath: A video room review of Bath Mill Lodge Retreat

Recently we did that rare thing for parents, we spent a weekend away just the two us. We went to Bath and stayed in the lovely Bath Mill Lodge Retreat, self-catering accommodation situated in a lovely little landscaped campus, just minutes by car from the city centre. We had breakfast and shopped at a fantastic farm shop nearby, hopped into city centre for sightseeing and dinner, then relaxed on our sofa with a cup...

England: Review of Bath Mill Lodge Retreat

My husband and I dropped our daughter off like a sack of potatoes at Granny and Grandpa’s before we turned up at Bath Mill Lodge. I would have felt a twinge of guilt, but that was the whole idea of our stay here: Have a cosy couple’s getaway with access to the delights of Bath.       We were here to try out the facilities for couples at this self-catering property in Newton St Loe just 3 miles...

Secret delights of Moliets, France, with Madame Vacances

  Moliets et Maa has a problem. The French beach destination is an hour and a half southeast of Bordeaux, and merely an hour north of Biarritz. It has pine forests, beaches, lakes, tennis and golf clubs, and cycle paths. There are enough activities to keep kids happy and exhausted for a week. The problem is that when you tell people you’re going, they invariably say, “Where?” so you have to...

Best bars in London: Gillray’s Bar at the Marriott County Hall

  “It’s performance art meets bottle,” says one patron sitting at Gillray’s Bar, at the London Marriott County Hall on London’s South Bank. Forget the image of the run-of-the-mill hotel bar, with bland staff dispensing pallid lager and overpriced vodka tonics. At Gillray’s Bar, drinks are served with inspiring flavours, elan and a little bit of theatre. New ideas spill from...

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