St James’s Club Morgan Bay hotel review, St Lucia

Balcony at St James Club Morgan Bay by Jenography
The morning view over the resort from our balcony

Visiting St Lucia with children provides all kinds of delights and fun. Here, we review St James’s Club Morgan Bay — one of the best all-inclusive resorts in St Lucia. [NOTE: Be sure to check the site about openings because of the pandemic.] Some of the best things about the resort:

  • most motorised sports and included with your stay
  • free tennis lessons
  • staff organise and play loads of fun games
  • the kids’ club could pass for any well-equipped nursery
  • you could signal for drinks on the beach by raising your red flag
  • the food and drink is delicious

…and much more! Scroll down to find out what it’s like to stay with children and teenagers as well as the best activities to do on the island.

My star rating (out of 5): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

St James’s Club Morgan Bay | Corinth Grand Riviere Rd, Corinth | St. Lucia | +1 758-457-3700 |

A family review of St James’s Club Morgan Bay

Thursday we were taking it easy.

That meant we woke up ‘late’ — 8:30 — and ate breakfast at the restaurant overlooking the beach. We swam in the ocean, playing on the round tethered floats. We took waterskiing lessons. We wondered if 11:30 was too early to celebrate my successful ride around the entire bay without falling by ordering a St James’s Club Special with rum from the adults-only swim-up bar. We floated in the pool while the kids walked back to the beach to rent a kayak and stand-up paddleboard.

When we finally sat down to our buffet lunch at the Palms Restaurant, the kids had already compiled their list for the afternoon.

‘Definitely sailing,’ said the teen boy.

‘Yes, definitely sailing,’ echoed the tween.

‘Should we do the Banana Boat?’ I wondered.

There was no question of what we would do at 4pm. That’s when the beach volleyball game would begin.

watersports at St James's Club Morgan Bay
We hired the jet ski; all the other watersports were included
Horseshoes at ST James Club Morgan Bay
Playing horseshoes with sports staff and other guests

The luxury all-inclusive on St Lucia

When you hear about all-inclusive resorts where even drinks are free and the staff organise group activities you may – like I did – wonder if it’s really for you. Will the food be mass-catered blandness? Will the organised activities be painfully awkward? Will you end up stuck miles from anywhere, with only a kiddy pool and ping-pong table for company?

The answer is an emphatic no. A holiday at St James Club Morgan Bay — while good for families, with a kids club for younger children — is particularly good with older kids, like our 16-year-old teen and 11-year-old tween. We could do loads of activities together as a family, experimenting and doing the ones we liked — such as sailing and waterskiing — over and over, at no extra cost.

What are the organised activities at St James’s Club Morgan Bay?

There were other teens there, taking part in the organised activities. In fact, visitors of every age seemed to get in on the act and enjoy the fun. (The midday water aerobics class was always packed. A staff member told us that the hotel toyed with the idea of replacing it with something a little less, well, Eighties…but there was a revolt and so it remains a popular part of the schedule!)

Cornhole at St James's Club Morgan Bay
In an unexpected turn, playing cornhole became a daily pasttime

When to go to St Lucia

We visited St James’s Club Morgan Bay in St Lucia for a week in October half term, as part of the BritMums #EliteIslandFamilies project. October is warm and rather wet. (We loved our rainforest walk in actual rain!) The high temperatures throughout the year in St Lucia range from 29°C / 84°F to 31°C / 87°F. The rainy season runs from December to May. In May, the renown St Lucia Jazz Festival takes place, with loads of concerts and shows for all ages.

Where is St James’s Club Morgan Bay?

St James’s Club Morgan Bay resort is located right on the beach on northern part of the island, on the western coast, about an hour and a half from the airport via shuttle. It is part of the Elite Island Resorts group, with properties on Antigua, Tortola, Barbados and the Grenadines.

It’s organised around a central family pool and an adults-only pool as well as entertainment pavilion where music and shows take place nightly. There are 6 restaurants. All of the restaurants – from buffet-style to a la carte — are family-oriented, save for Le Jardin, which is over-12s only, and serves French Creole cuisine with a surcharge of £35 per person.

Besides the centrally located pools, there is also a family pool with small slide, and the casual Plum Tree Bar & Grille just next to the gym. The adults-only pool sits on the other side of the resort complex, with a view of the bay and a spa. (Both this pool and the spa were being refurbished during our visit. We still enjoyed an incredibly relaxing couples massage by a couple of therapists in the spa’s temporary headquarters in several hotel suites.)

The beach at St James's Club Morgan Bay by jenography
Fancy a drink while on the beach? Just raise your flag and they’ll come

What Activities can you do at St James’s Club Morgan Bay?

The beach sports are fantastic but they aren’t the only things on offer.

At the tennis courts you can sign up for free lessons (children’s and adults’, provided free every morning) or court time. You can take a morning stretch class or afternoon spin class or join in the water volleyball in the afternoon or set and bump in the 4pm high-energy beach volleyball game.

(Prepare yourself: it might make you feel a little uncomfortable to be a grown woman get overly competitive with mere boys, but when a particular sweet-looking teen playing opposite you on the net is ridiculously tall and has freakish spiking abilities, you won’t be able to help yourself.)

St James Club Morgan Bay view from beach
Looking back at the resort from the restaurant on the pier

What to do on St Lucia with kids

In addition to all the activities at the resort, there are loads of excursions you can book directly through them. We went to Hotel Chocolat for a tour of their chocolate plantation and then made our own chocolate bars by pummelling ingredients in a mortar and pestle. We went on a rainforest tour during which it bucketed down and our guide cut massive leaves to use makeshift umbrellas.

But our favourite excursion was on the resort’s Calypso Cat. We went down the coast to Soufrière, on a full-day outing.

A great full-day excursion in St Lucia

We drank fresh milk, from coconuts machete'ed open by a plantation worker
We drank fresh milk, from coconuts machete’ed open by a plantation worker

On our day trip to Soufrière, we set out from the hotel on the Calypso Cat catamaran. The first stop: the Morne Coubaril Estate where learned how the old plantations used to work. We watched a worker chop open coconuts and tasted the fresh meat. We saw how they used to process cacao beans and ate some straight from the pod. You could also do the zipwire on the estate.

The stop at the Toraille Waterfall (another prime photo opp) allowed us to dip into its bracingly cool waters. Then it was back onto the Cat. We swung round the posh Marigot Bay and went snorkeling at Anse Conchon, which is one of the best snorkeling and diving spots on the island. We did snorkeling rather than diving — swimming in the clear waters, watching fish, admiring the underwater plants and swimming through passages in the underwater coral was absolutely stunning. At 4pm we arrived back in Morgan Bay with the crew playing pulsing music, dancing with the staff before wading back to the beach.

Visiting the drive-in volcano in St Lucia

The highlight of this outing trip for me was visiting the famous ‘drive-in’ volcano, also named La Soufrière. This is a must-visit: You walk down and then ease in slowly to mud bath — it’s hot! We marinated a bit, then our guide helped us slather on the mud artistically for one of my favourite family photos ever! (It’s a good idea to bring a towel and wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a little muddy afterward.)

Mud baths at the drive-in volcano St Lucia
Enjoying the mud baths at the ‘drive-in’ volcano

About Calypso Cat boat trips

The Calypso Cat does several different excursions, from a sunset cruise to an excursion to Pigeon Island and more, all bookable at the concierge desk, with discounts for children under age 12. Once onboard, drinks and food are included.

The best restaurants at St James’s Club Morgan Bay all-inclusive resort

Staying at an all-inclusive resorts in St Lucia means no worrying about meals. At St James’s Club Morgan Bay, you’re spoilt for choice with six distinct restaurants. These dining options make our ‘best of’ list:

  • Best resort restaurant for breakfast: Bambou Restaurant – right next to the beach, with a brilliant buffet of fresh fruit, cereal, pancakes, bacon, chicken or fish goujons (yes) and eggs cooked to order
  • Best restaurant for a quick meal: The Palms Restaurant – a quick buffet with drinks brought to your table by friendly staff
  • Best restaurant for special celebrations: Le Jardin (requires a reservation and per-person supplement). Dress up for dinner in air-conditioned comfort and a live pianist. Several diners had their tables set with decorations, celebrating their anniversaries or weddings
  • Best evening celebration: The Wednesday night dinner on the beach, with log fires, a steel band, dancers – you can even get a drink served in a coconut
  • Best mocktail: St James’s Club Special, made with coconut cream, grenadine, a banana and milk.
  • Best cocktail: The Dirty Banana, which includes a banana, rum, milk and coffee liquer. That means it’s healthy!

Things we didn’t love

There wasn’t much we could find fault with. The grounds were well-tended, the staff friendly. My stepson was delighted to find they even organised a special lunch one day around a key Rugby World Cup match (sandwiches, drinks and snacks served in the open-air TV room).

But there were a few niggling items:

  • The mattress on the fold-out bed in our suite was comfortable enough for kids, or possibly an adult for 1 or 2 nights, but sagged it in the middle and could use an upgrade – something Elite Island Resort says they are addressing throughout the resort.
  • The entertainment takes place every night, which means music til about 11pm. We were always so wiped out that it didn’t stop us from dozing off, but light sleepers or people with small children should request a room behind the stage, closer to the tennis courts, rather than up on the hill.
  • Occasionally our favourite beach volleyball game got very heated, with the older teen boys and staff dominating – something I imagine that’s down to the lineup on the particular day you play.

How to make the most of St James’s Club Morgan Bay, St Lucia

  1. Head to the watersports cabin every morning to sign up for the activities you want to do that day
  2. Go in the shoulder season – the weather is still warm, the rain is intermittent and it’s easy to get the activities you want. We were able to try everything we want
  3. Take advantage of the motorised sports onsite. Often they aren’t included in ‘all-inclusives’ but here you can do them to your heart’s content
  4. Book your restaurants when you arrive. You’ll want to try them all, from the Tree Tops Pizza and Pasta to Morgan’s Pier Restaurant
  5. Want girl-time with your teen? Book in for one of their teen treatment specials together
  6. For a real Caribbean experience, get your braids done at the small hair-braiding stand, but do it early in your visit so you can enjoy fuss-free plaits while swimming and doing sports

Disclosure: Jenography’s stay at St James’s Club Morgan Bay is part of a #EliteIslandFamilies sponsored editorial project with Elite Island Resorts. The resort stay and excursions were covered as part of the project. Flights were partially covered by Virgin Holidays. All opinions are my own.

More advice and reviews for Caribbean travel

Watch a video of all-inclusive resort St James’s Club Morgan Bay

Review on A Modern Mother: 24 fun things to do at St James’s Club in Antigua

Tips for visiting the Caribbean with kids

Mummy Travels: 14 reasons to visit Antigua

10 bars every American should visit in London

There are world-class bars in cities across the globe, but the best ones in London have a particular style when it comes to drinking.

You can lift a glass in a room of bedecked in period lavender cornicing or in a historic music hall that references several eras of its history all at once. For Americans, these drinking hotspots showcase the grand buildings, the hidden societies, the plummy style and the London buzz that captivates residents and visitors alike. NOTE: Some of these establishments may be temporarily closed due to Covid-19.

Here, the places I recommend every American (as well as other visitors) should go for a drink in London. Don’t think of it as mere “drinking”. Think of it as cultural and historical research.

1. The Blue Bar, The Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge

Best for: Dress-up cocktails

Sultry, sophisticated and, yes, blue, this bar designed by the David Collins (who also designed The Wolseley) oozes savoir faire of the British variety. Drinks both classic and complicated are poured by attentive bartenders, served with ice chipped from a crystal clear block at the end of the bar. It’s chic enough to bring your tech friends who work in Mountain View, California, and cosy enough that other patrons won’t overhear you pitching an idea that Google will acquire for billions in 2 years’ time.

The Blue Bar on

2. Wilton’s Music Hall, Grace’s Alley, Tower of London

Best for: Run-down glamour

You’ll get a real taste of East End heritage at Wilton’s, which bills itself as the world’s oldest music hall. The buildings that make it up began life in the 1690s as individual houses and over the years the property has been an ale house serving Scandinavian sea captains, a saloon theatre and a music hall, before falling into disrepair for three decades. Thanks to a restoration campaign begun in 1997, it’s home again to theatre, music, and events. Go for drinks in the delightfully scruffy bar and stay for a show in the historic hall.

Wilton's Music Hall front door on Jenography
Picture by James_Perry. Courtesy of Wilton’s

3. The Grand Cafe at the Royal Exchange, Bank, The City

Best for: After-work Champagne

Socialising in this interior courtyard of The Royal Exchange reminds me when I used to have cocktails in Grand Central Terminal in New York City: Here it’s all dazzling space and buzz. The imposing columns outside were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and Queen Victoria officially opened the building in 1844. If you try to take a picture, one of the nice security guards will tell you it’s not allowed, so sit at the circular bar or one of the tables and simply enjoy the hubbub from City drinkers, the grand soaring space, and the lure of the luxury shopping boutiques.

The Grand Cafe at the Royal Exchange on Jenography
The Grand Cafe at the Royal Exchange

4. The Boundary, Shoreditch

Best for: Rooftop views

You can’t help but feel a little bit more chic when you visit this East London destination, which features 3 restaurants, a hotel and one of the best rooftop bars around. In summer the open-air garden space beckons, while an enclosed heated orangery populated with citrus trees keeps things warm in cooler months. There are sofas, blankets, an open fire and views across the trendiest quarter of London.

The Orangery at The Boundary / Picture by Paul Raeside
The Orangery at The Boundary / Picture by Paul Raeside


5. The George Inn, Borough

Best for: A traditional pint in a cobbled courtyard

London is full of great, picturesque pubs, but this one has some quite special hisstory behind it. Owned by the National Trust, it’s the last remaining galleried coaching inn in London, built in 1677 and mentioned in Dickens’ Little Dorritt. On fine days, sit at one of the outside tables in the courtyard, overlooked by the galleries, or enjoy a pint in one of the snug interconnecting rooms with oak beams and latticed windows. It’s just a few minutes from London Bridge station and if you visit on one of the days the full market is running at Borough Market, you can combine it with a wander through the mouthwatering food stalls.

The George Inn in London on Jenography
Image courtesy of The National Trust

6. The Beaufort Bar, The Savoy, Covent Garden

Best for: Jazz Age-inspired hijinks

Everyone knows about (and recommends) the American Bar at this iconic London hotel. With a name like that, it seems made for Americans, and it is nice. But the Beaufort Bar, just off the hotel’s Thames Foyer, is a stunning, low-lit Art Deco venue for sophisticated drinking. (Some of cocktails feature rare and vintage spirits that run to three figures.) Come and listen to nightly entertainment, catch the regular cabaret and burlesque performances, or order a gimlet and canoodle at one of the tables that gleam like ebony piano keys.

Beaufort Bar at the Savoy on

7. The Nightjar, City Road, Shoreditch

Best for: Artful drinking

Bartenders at other hip spots in London will tell you where they like to drink: The Nightjar. It regularly makes every list of best bars, but don’t go here to get a dry white. Drinks are described as Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Post-War and Signature, and ingredients range from truffled potato puree to bee pollen to pumpkin bitters. You might be drinking something nestled in a cloud of dry ice smoke or out of container akin to a bong. There is live music every night (a cover charge can apply). Make reservations early — they book up — or check out their sister bar, The Oriole.

The Nightjar bar in London on Jenography
Picture by Jerome Courtial

8. Bars at the Shard, London Bridge

Best for: Sky-high views

Bars at this iconic skyscraper are situated on levels 31, 33, and 52 and they’ve got a system for people who want to visit them. We’ve rocked up on a last-minute whim, waited 20 minutes, then been escorted into Gong on the 52nd floor at a small table in the middle of the room. Thirty minutes later, a woman approached us: “Would you like a window seat?” We were duly moved to seats up against the glass, overlooking the Thames and London Bridge. Aqua Shard (31st floor) has double-height windows. It’s dramatic, pricey, and fun. Leave your trainers and shorts at home; the dress code — as one would expect — is smart casual. Gone one further: Match the view by dressing with pizzazz.

Aqua Shard
The bar at Aqua Shard

9. Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown

When you’re in this part of town, near the chain wine bars and crowded restaurants of Leicester Square and West End theatres, a decent drink can seem like a tall order. The Experimental Cocktail Club is in the heart of Chinatown’s Gerrard Street, amid the noodle shops and golden ducks hanging in restaurant windows. Look for the anonymous door at No 13a and dress smart to gain entry via the doorman (or better yet, book ahead via their website). Up the stairs in this townhouse, you’ll find brick walls, cut glass tumblers and masterful mixology. The vibe is Parisian louche (the French owners also run bars across La Manche) but without a whiff of pretension. Night owls take note: They’re open til 3am.

Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown on
The door of the Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown

10. Private members’ clubs, Pall Mall, Soho, Shoreditch, and more

You have to finagle an invitation from a member to get inside one of these clubs, but it is oh so worth it. Long-established places like the Reform Club (with architecture by Sir Charles Barry, best known for the Houses of Parliament) and the Royal Automobile Club have stately architecture and guidelines for comportment. Relative newcomers like The Groucho or Shoreditch House promote bohemian buzz. Whether you’re in an 18th-century, Grade II listed building or amid media screening rooms and art galleries, visiting one of these private enclaves is an exclusive — and coveted — experience. See a list of some of the best clubs in this article and start cultivating friends who can get you in.

The Royal Automobile Club on
Picture courtesy of The Royal Automobile Club

Where do you like to drink in London? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Pin for later

10 best bars for Americans in London

More London travel advice

Another great London bar: Swans Bar, Maison Assouline

Where to drink on the South Bank: Gillray’s

Afternoon tea: Harvey Nichols 5th Floor

11 best British gifts to give Americans (and anybody else)

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the 8 best British gifts to get Americans (that I would never give to a Brit). Whoa! People went crazy for this post. It was the hit record of posts. Styles and tastes move on, so I’ve updated my (modestly) blockbuster post, featuring the best budget and luxury gifts from London, England and the rest of the UK.

These days it can be hard to find gifts that feel truly unique and related to the place you’re visiting. But as an American living in London, I’ve seen a whole different range of gifts that feel novel and different and also highlight an aspect of English or British life. British folk might give you a funny look if you handed over these gifts from the UK, but they will wow everyone else.

Want to give specifically best summer-themed British gifts? Check out my list of 10 best British gifts to give in summer.

1. Confectionery

Brits do not eat candy. They eat confectionery or sweets — words that sound quaintly old-fashioned to my American-born ears. But there is a great array of confectionery that’s unique to the UK  These are on my brother’s Christmas list every year. I once forgot them and he pouted for a week. British chocolate is different from the American kind. I think it’s something to do with the sweeteners and pasteurised milk. In the UK, it says, ‘I got three packets of these for £2.’ But in America, a gift of Revels — or just about any chocolate — says, ‘This is the way Brits eat sweets.’ (Be sure to call them sweets or confectionery when you hand them over. We never use the word ‘candy’.)

2. Beach hut artwork

These sweet/twee/pastel images on this side of the pond sometimes bring up uncomfortable observations about the people who buy eye-poppingly expensive ones and commute to them via their vintage style VW vans. Yet for the vast majority of Americans, they are incredibly exotic. In the U.S. you have mere beaches, but in the UK you have the seaside, which is full of charm, 99 Flakes and these little beach huts. Also for Americans, the idea of a tiny hut on the beach, sitting check by jowl with a bunch of nearly nude people is utterly incomprehensible. Especially if it sits on a beach where cold weather and rain is a given for most of the year. Only the British would do this kind of thing, and do it with aplomb. Images available in posters, trays, tea towels, bird houses and other things they’ll find absolutely essential.

beach hut box
Little beach hut boxes. What are they for? Nevermind, they’re cute!

3. British-style toiletries

There’s nothing quite so lovely on a dressing table or in a well-appointed bathroom than an elegant bottle or container with olde worlde style writing that harkens back to the heyday of the British Empire. For real hardcore lovers of the English image, I’d love to give Penhaligon’s Maduro Leaf Candle, which fills the home with “a scent reminiscent of a smoking room in an elegant gentlemen’s club… wood panelled walls, soft leather armchairs, a fire burning in the grate and the heady scent of cigars.” This kind of present would only suit a small number of Brits, but I’d give it to almost any American I know. That whiff of privilege, a country estate and old money are sold separately.

Penhaligons Maduro leaf candle
Mysteriously “British”: Soap in a wooden box, talcum powder and Maduro Leaf Candle

4. Keep Calm and Carry On gifts

The simple design and duo-chrome palette is ubiquitous over here – posters, tea towels, mugs, cringe-making versions that say Keep Calm and Carry On Shopping – it makes you want to invade Poland. But in the US, Keep Calm reacquires its stiff-upper-lip charm. The simple graphic design has widespread appeal. And these gifts come with an interesting backstory about how the slogan was mostly unknown until recently rediscovered. It wasn’t until I moved here that I realised how much WWII continues to affect the British mentality.

5. Cath Kidston

Cath Kidston’s ominpresence has just expanded to a whopping big flagship store in Piccadilly this Christmas season. People were lined up down the street for a chance to buy flowery wash bags and sweet homewares that you can get without a wait, oh, just about everywhere else in the country. Cath *owns* us in a way, but sometimes you just need a retro Christmas jumper, dog-shaped salt & pepper shakers, or a classic rose-adorned satchel. Great for kids and a true homegrown brand. Resistance is futile.

Liberty of London yellow silk print - Jenography
One of Liberty’s silk prints

6. Liberty of London prints

This upscale department store in middle of London, just a few minutes from Oxford Circus tube, is known for its collection of fabrics and prints. They are richly coloured, distinctive, soft and beautiful: delicate roses on a vivid teal background, densely patterned flowers on a field of black silk, eye-catching stripes of orange and turquoise. Pick up one of their scarves or head to the haberdashery department for several bolts of fabric to recover furniture or sew your own piece. Give yourself time to wander the floors of the store, which is a warren of rooms and displays, each more beautiful than the last. Liberty of London

7. Tunnock’s Tea Cake cushions

I’ve written before about my deep and abiding love of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. I’ve never tasted marshmallow so soft, never experienced elsewhere the perfect proportions of biscuit and chocolate. Nobody in America knows what a teacake is — that’s how exotic they are. To emulate their pillowy deliciousness, I’d love to give these cushions that look like giant Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you can throw in a box of the real thing. Other “cookie” cushions sure to delight: the custard cream, the caramel wafer, and a motto that Brits live by.

tunnocks tea cakes cushion
The throw cushion that’s good enough to eat

8. Celebrity magazines

UK footballers, British Love Islanders, Coronation Street actors: these are exotic and unusual creatures that inspiration fascination among your American friends. ‘Who ARE these people?’ they want to know, ‘and why are they acting this way?’ Whenever I see girlfriends in the U.S. straight off the plane, they fall upon my collection of magazines: British Vogue, Grazia, OK! and Hello, even the full-on celeb mags, the ones with lots of colours and exclamation points on their covers. They don’t have to be avid star-gazers or fashionistas to enjoy a peek at our fashion and fascination with certain C list celebrities. Roll one up, tie with a bow and lovingly hand to the pop culture hound in your life.

9. Hunter Wellies

A few years ago these were all the rage in New York City, where everyone takes a taxi when it rains. Having been adopted by the fashion establishment, they are celebrated across the US as the classic Scottish-based solution to rain, mud and fashion dilemmas in advance of pheasant shooting. All your British friends have a pair already; the Americans are just learning.

The Lost Art of Having Funn book of games10. The Union Jack

The UK flag — which features elements from the English, Scottish and Welsh flags — is a design classic. Many of the things decorated with the British flag these days are a bit naff. But in America, a Union Jack scatter cushion references Blow-up, RP, the BBC, the Empire and the Royal Family.

11. Old-style parlour games

The British are particularly good at games, what with all those house parties and weekends with time to fill between fox-hunting and sherry-drinking. The Lost Art of Having Fun: 286 Games to Games to Enjoy with Family and Friends is one of the best sources of fantastic classic games for car, with kids, and, ahem, drunken evenings. Still need convincing? It’s written by a former MP and founder of the National Scrabble Championship and his daughter, named Saethryd, who come from a long line of fun seekers. Anyone up for a game of Parson’s Cat?

Have you acquired any great souvenirs or gifts in the UK? Leave a comment or message me on social — I’d love to hear about them!

How to make the perfect classic margarita

margarita on the rocks with salt

A great margarita is a paradox: Incredibly simple and incredibly complex to create. One of the best things about visiting my home state of Texas is being able to drink great margaritas almost everywhere you go. One of the best things you can bring back as a souvenir from Texas is an enjoyment of margaritas (and perhaps even tequila in a bottle shaped like the Lone Star State).

The perfect margarita recipe will have a balance of citrus from fresh lime juice, sweetness and orange from the Cointreau or triple sec, a depth (and an alcoholic kick) from the tequila and a tang from the salt on the rim.

Read on to learn more about formulating and serving delicious margaritas, or jump to the recipe now!

What kind of tequila for the perfect margarita?

Step one is choosing a tequila you like. Naturally you can use any kind of tequila at any price point to make a margarita. Even when they are bad, they’re good!

But I always use silver or blanco tequila that’s 100% agave. It’s unaged and clear like vodka, My favourite is Patron Silver. Gold tequila or reposado is also good. Anejo is high quality but better saved for sipping, in my opinion. I really do recommend trying a variety of tequilas over time and pick one that produces the best tasting margaritas for you.

An important margarita tip: Use fresh lime juice

Necessary for any margarita recipe worth its salt is fresh squeezed lime juice. Mixes and premixed versions are fun and easy but nothing beats the crisp flavour of natural juice. I have a special lime press that makes short work of squeezing enough limes for a party. You can also easily use a fork as well. Half the lime, stick a sturdy for in the centre, then squeeze and twist the lime and the fork in opposite directions — you’ll get some nice pulpy lime juice. Just be careful you don’t have any cuts on your hands because it can get messy.

What equipment do you need to make a margarita?

To make a margarita on the rocks you don’t need any special equipment. You don’t even need an official jigger or cocktail measure — it’s all about proportions. So to answer the question of how much tequila, how much triple sec or Cointreau, how much lime juice, you just need some element to measure and make sure you use the same one for all three ingredients.

That said, I do like to use the following equipment to make mine. There’s something delightful about a perfectly measured and executed recipe for margaritas.

I use:

  • A jigger/cocktail measure. Mine has 1.5oz on one side and .75oz on the other
  • A shaker. A silver shaker is elegant and classic. If you get one with an integrated strainer, then that’s one less piece of equipment rattling around in your kitchen drawer
  • A long handled cocktail spoon — the kind with a curly handle. Even after I shake up my margaritas, I like to give them a little swirl in the glass
  • A lime juicer — similar to a garlic press

glasses for margaritasWhat type of glass do you serve margaritas in?

This is a great question! There is of course the iconic wide-mouth margarita glass with a globelike bottom. I think this shape works best with frozen margaritas. For margarita rocks, I like to serve the drinks in low-ball or short cafe-style glasses with lots of ice. This is perfect when having them in the garden or in hot weather.

It can also be quite sophisticated to serve them in a martini glass, straight up. To serve your favourite margarita recipe in a martini glass, put a little ice and cold water in the martini glass to chill it while you’re mixing it. Pour the ice water out, rim the glass with salt if desired, pour the margarita in and serve immediately.

How to make the best margarita recipe for you

The great thing about this recipe — besides the fact that it’s simple and delicious — is that it’s so adaptable. So try my basic version, then adjust, make additions and tweaks and create a variety of recipes that you love. Some ideas of what you can add to the mix, so to speak:

  • A splash of orange juice
  • A splash of jalapeño juice, garnished with a fresh or pickled jalapeño
  • A splash of olive juice and garnished with an olive to create a ‘dirty’ margarita
  • A fruit puree, such as strawberries. In a rocks margarita these work best if they are very loose, very smooth purees, more like a coulis. Whizz up frozen strawberries then strain through a fine sieve

Can you make margaritas with lemons instead of limes?

The Houston Press says yes but advises using Meyer lemons. Here’s a recipe from a food blogger for making margaritas using regular lemons. I’ve done it — they are nice. Not margaritas, really, but still nice.

Without further ado: An easy delicious recipe for margaritas


The Perfect Classic Margarita

With a few simple ingredients you can mix a margarita perfect to have on its own, with snacks or with a Mexican meal. This recipe is for a margarita on the rocks (i.e. over ice) and is great as is or adjusted with some of your favourite flavours.
Prep Time15 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: easy, quick
Servings: 2 Margaritas
Author: Jennifer Howze


  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • jigger
  • shaker or long spoon for mixing


  • 1 Measure of fresh lime juice 2 limes makes enough for 2 drinks
  • 1 Measure of tequila I use a 1.5oz jigger
  • 1.5 Measure of Cointreau You can also use Triple Sec
  • Ice
  • Additional limes for garnish
  • Salt for the rims Fine table salt is easiest unless you want to specifically buy margarita salt, available in some off-licenses


  • Cut the limes in half and juice. Reserve the juiced halves to run around the rim of the glasses
  • Fill a shaker or large glass with ice
  • Pour in the lime juice, tequila and Cointreau, then stir or shake well
  • Sift salt into a small flat plate, run the lime halves around the rim, then upend the glass to get salt on the rim
  • Add fresh ice to the glass and pour over the margarita
  • Garnish with a wedge of lime


I enjoy this as it comes, or sometimes I play around with it, by adding a bit of orange juice, some pureed strawberries, or a splash of jalapeno juice to make it spicy (that turns it into a 'Mexican Martini').

Cotswolds: Staying at Cowley Manor with teens


Take my advice when you visit Cowley Manor, the chic family hotel in the Cotswolds. 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 the whole glass shebang will tumble dramatically – and loudly – to the floor.

In a cool and stylish place like Cowley Manor, this can make you feel extremely unhip. But don’t worry. Two nice ladies from the bar ran over to help me as I tried to explain I was just trying to shimmy it this way *a little bit*. Surely I must have been one of the most uncool patrons to have committed such a hotel faux pas.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came in, sat on a sofa across the room in front of another Noguchi table…and did the exact same thing. This time I helped along with the two ladies from the bar.

Which is to say, we’ll all in this together.

While the hotel certainly doesn’t recommend this little manoeuvre, it is the kind of place that oozes style and ease while still allowing for that bit of chaos that comes with kids…or slightly clumsy parents.


Cowley Manor Hotel


Papier Mache head at Cowley Manor Hotel


wellies at Cowley Manor


A retreat not just for young families

Cowley Manor is not a secret – it’s a favourite luxury country house and spa for families looking for a pastoral getaway that’s stylish and off-beat. Ever since my daughter was born, fellow parents have recommended staying there with young children. But thinking of it only as a place for young families misses its appeal for tweens and teens too.

The former dilapidated 19th-century manor, set in 55 acres of land with a Grade II listed garden, eschews the traditional approach of chintz and Chesterfields. The wellies lined up outside the front door are a crayon-box of colour. The original art is modern. The bright colours offset the Cotswold stone fireplaces, arched doorways, pastoral views. The furniture is modern, the textiles British, the vibe fresh.

For the kids, the things that interest are the play areas with croquet, blocks, hammocks, the funky slide on the lawn, the games room, the pools at the C-side spa. Our two 12-year-olds made a beeline for the pool table, covered in brilliant blue baize, before we’d even checked in.


Billard table at Cowley Manor Hotel


treats in the room Cowley Manor
Treats in the room

What a family suite at Cowley Manor looks like

In the room, the two tweens were all oohs and ahhs, from the moment we unlocked the door. ‘Why don’t we always stay here?’ they asked. As soon as we walked in, they stepped outside again. ‘I have to show Hannah how this works,’ my daughter said, closing the door so they could open it themselves with novel electronic key.

We stayed in room 8 in the Stable Block. My husband and I slept in the main room, with an upstairs bathroom cantilevered dramatically over the bed. The bathroom has both a tub and a shower and features the spa’s Green & Spring toiletries. The girls swooned at the smell of them.

Just off our room was the girls’ nook. A mid-century style sofa had been very cleverly flipped, lifted and locked to make two single bunk beds. A large sliding glass door led to the stable courtyard, with a serene view of a few young trees and some colourful plastic bottles scattered around. ‘What are those for?’ the girls mused. ‘Art,’ we said. They were skeptical.

I guess, you can lead a tween to a modern art installation….

The room was its own self-contained if small unit. The girls had their own TV and – crucially for family happiness – their own loo.


bed at Cowley Manor Hotel
The master bed. The bottom of the cantilevered bathroom is visible above the bed


The view of room from the courtyard


A view of the bathroom


A view to the courtyard from the girls’ room


What teens will love

The pools

The indoor and outdoor pools have family swimming times both morning & afternoon, which means you can splash around without worrying about being “those people”, annoying everyone else. Both pools are heated year-round. Children under-16 must be supervised. I found that wasn’t a problem as I was drafted in to judge the underwater handstand contest.

Lounging here is no hardship, with the fieldstone and slate design.

The gardens

“The gardens are so big – you can really explore,” my daughter says. With younger children, you’ll need to watch them near the stream that runs past the back of the house. Older kids can be left to roam. They’ll roll themselves up in hammocks, knock around a croquet ball and venture amid the award-winning sculpture in the gardens.


The indoor pool with lounge seating


A moment from the underwater handstand contest


Playing chess in the Sitting Room


The games

Naturally there’s a games cabinet filled with the usual assortment of half-complete board games. Better to nab a seat at the chess board and test your strategy. The beautiful blue pool table is a joy to play on and even with plenty of families around you’ll be able to claim a slot. The hotel also organises kids’ activities such as learning workshops and animal experiences.

The food

The Malt restaurant is fancy enough to make eating there as a family an occasion, but casual enough, with a Scandi-design feel, that you won’t feel out-of-place with the kids along. We ate in the dining room on the evening of our stay, ending our meal with a bombe that melted under a stream of hot chocolate poured from a jug. The next morning we ate the breakfast buffet on the sunny terrace, a vista of the water and rolling hills racing out in front of us.


Facts to know before you go

  • There are 2 dog-friendly rooms
  • For children under 12, stays include complimentary breakfast and dinner from kids menu
  • The Hambledon shop, a miniature version of the gifts, homewares and accessories boutique in Winchester, is a great place to pick up cute items like vintage games, funky tattoos (I loved the robot one), delicious-smelling toiletries and more


Cowley Manor
GL53 9NL
01242 870900


Have you visited Cowley Manor with your young children or teens? Tell me what you thought!



Video: How to make perfect guacamole

avocado on chopping board for guacamole recipe

As a Texan, I grew up eating guacamole. I moved to New York City and went to expensive restaurants where the waiters made the guacamole at your table with a flourish of movements and dashes of this spice and that. It wasn’t until I went to a pool party and took charge of the guacamole recipe for 50 other guests that I realised not everybody understands the dark art of making a satisfying bowl of the green stuff. It needs a perfect combination of richness, chunky texture, fresh zing and spicy zip.

There is no single perfect guacamole recipe — ongoing debates persist around the inclusion of tomatoes, the presence of garlic or onions, the ratio of spices. However, there are perfect versions of all of those. This is mine.

How to get guacamole right every time

I’m all about the adjust and test method. Add a little, taste, adjust, taste. Does it need more of a bright lift? Squeeze in a bit of fresh lime juice. Is the taste nice but a bit bland? Think about adding garlic, jalapenos or chili powder.

To help with your parties, I proffer my guacamole-making methods, complete with secret ingredients (oh yes, they are). Take advantage, while the avocados are ripe!


What to serve with guacamole

Guacamole isn’t just great on sourdough toast. Eat it with tortilla chips, warm flour or corn tortillas, on crisp lettuce and tomato salads. Pair this a pomegranate margarita and 7-layer dip. Hey, there is a reason that these classics are served over and over at practically every gathering in Texas — they are delicious and easy to make, which translates to more time in the sun or in the pool.

For a margarita on the rocks, my Classic Margarita Recipe is inspired by The Definitive Cocktail Book by Jeffrey Benson and Stuart Walton. Jeffrey used to be my neighbour and this is an old-style cocktail book — a paperback with the kind of pages that look great with a patina of spilled vermouth and caster sugar.

The perfect guacamole every time

An easy guacamole recipe from a real Texan that's the perfect combination of richness, chunky texture, fresh zing and spicy zip. Make this ahead and the flavours will improve. To prevent brown oxidation, place cling film directly on top of the surface of the guacamole, making sure to use non-PVC cling film.
If you open an avocado and it looks unappealing, toss it. I know it's painful as they are expensive but it's no use using unpalatable avocados. You can however easily cut off small black or brown areas.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time20 mins
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: easy, family friendly, guacamole, kids, snacks
Servings: 2 people
Author: Jennifer Howze


  • 1 Avocados I like Haas and always buy perfectly ripe.
  • 1 clove Garlic minced or 1/2 tsp easy garlic or 1/3 tsp garlic granules
  • 1/4 tsp Ground cumin Secret ingredient! It makes all the difference
  • Juice of 1/2 lime Adjust depending on desired level of acidity
  • Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Jalapeno juice, from a bottle of slice jalapenos You can also use chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • Halve an avocado, scoop out the flesh and roughly mash with a fork
  • 1 clove garlic for every avocado used and mix in
  • Add in ground cumin
  • Squeeze the lime juice into the bowl -- using a juicer or inserting a fork into the middle of the halved fruit and twisting it around the tines
  • Chop and add a handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, stems removed
  • Pour splashes of jalapeno juice from a bottle of sliced pickled jalapenos
  • Season with salt & pepper to taste



The great thing about guacamole is that you can add all kinds of spices and ingredients to suit your taste. Some ideas for additions:
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • chopped cherry tomatoes
  • chopped fresh or pickled jalapenos
It can also be delicious as a salad served atop shredded rocket/arugula or crips leaves like shredded little gem.

Things to do in Paris with kids: 7 do’s and don’ts

girls on bridge in Paris - Jenography

What to do in Paris with kids? Paris is no secret destination when it comes to travel, whether you are on your own, with a partner or taking the entire family. When I lived in the City of Light in my early 30s, I discovered just how wonderful the city is — not just the headline activities like visiting the Louvre and mooching around Père Lachaise cemetery, but also smaller, less flashy attractions that make the city so wonderful. Discover the best things to do in Paris, with my 7 top do’s and don’ts.

Discover some of the best things to do in Paris with children — and what to avoid — to give your kids a more delightful experience of the city.

Do’s and don’ts of visiting Paris with kids

Here are my suggestions of top things to do in Paris with kids, from the perspective of a Paris-amant and former resident. (Be sure to check destinations and attractions for updates regarding opening hours and accessibility because of Covid-19.)

DON’T: Overschedule
DO: Just walk around

Unlike sprawling cities like London or Tokyo, the Paris city centre is manageable and easily walkable.
TIP: Here’s a big tip with kids: take your pushchair. On a mothers-and-daughters visit with a friend, I debated whether to take our stroller, since our girls were a shade too old/big for them. My friend convinced me that it would be good for the moments when they got tired. Sure enough, after racing around the city, they climbed into their little pushchairs and dozed while we relaxed over a glass of wine.

DON’T: Fixate only on the “big” museums
DO: Explore smaller gems

Danaïd by Rodin
Danaïd by Rodin. Picture: The Rodin Museum

Visit small museums to see a different side of artistic Paris. We wanted to take the girls to the Centre Pompidou but there was a daunting queue. So we walked around the corner to a small museum devoted to dolls in all their permutations, from china-headed versions with teeth (fascinating/creepy!) to the blonde bombshell Barbie. Sadly, the museum is now closed, but there are so many small museums and galleries to see. Check out Conde Nast Traveller’s list of Paris’s 10 best small museums, where you can admire everything from a mammoth’s molar to an actual artist’s studio. The Rodin Museum, near the Invalides, is another great museum, with stunning works by the artist.

DON’T: Just drink Orangina and wine
DO: Savour the best hot chocolate ever

You can stop just about anywhere for refreshments, but you should make a special trip to Angelina to partake of their hot chocolate, the most heavenly, divine elixir made from cocoa available on either side of the Seine. The tearoom is classic Belle Epoque chic (Angelina was founded in 1903). Make a reservation at the original Tuileries, have everyone dress up, and splurge.

playgrounds in Paris on Jenography
A playground roundabout and on the trampolines in the Tuileries

DON’T: Stay indoors
DO: Devote time to the parks

Paris parks are beautifully designed, genteel spaces…and also home to so much more than swingsets and roundabouts. Visit the Jardin des Tuileries where they can jump on trampolines, ride a carousel, and play in an amazing playground (nominal fee to enter). Or you can explore my favourite garden, the Jardin de Luxembourg, which has apiaries, a pond for sailing toy boats, a carousel, pony rides and puppet shows.
TIP: After making the most of the Jardin de Luxembourg, walk over to Place Saint Sulpice, dominated by the dramatic 17th-century Roman Catholic Eglise Saint-Sulpice. I like the Cafe de la Mairie, cattycorner from the church, where you can sit outside overlooking the square, have a snack or drink and get invited to the opera by a Parisian surgeon at the next table (or maybe it was just that one time…).

DON’T: Restrict yourself to posh boutiques
DO: Visit markets across the city

It’s delightful to window shop in the swisher districts like the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, but the markets for fashion, furniture, food, books and more allow families to touch, smell and taste the city. Time Out Paris has a full market list; I love Marché Mouffetard, just around the corner from my former apartment, where you can buy fruit and vegetables along a cobbled street in the 7th arrondissement; the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen has 3,000 traders hawking flea market fare; the Marché aux Timbres specialises in stamps, for your budding philatelist.

DON’T: Stay on street level
DO: Go underground to Les Catacombes

This tunnel system underneath is a municipal ossuary, featuring the bones of thousands of Paris residents relocated from overfull cemetaries. After its consecration in 1786, the bones were originally placed in the tunnels pellmell, but from 1810 they were arranged into patterns seen today. It can get busy so time your visit to slower periods (the website provides suggestions). Perfect for the little ghoul in your life.

Eiffel Tower from child's point of view

DON’T: Go up the Eiffel Tower
DO: Admire this iconic building from other perspectives

It’s gorgeous. It’s an engineering feat. It says in one look “You’re in Paris”. In another look it says, “There’s nowhere to stow your pushchair and expect to queue for at least an hour.” My advice: Go visit La Tour Eiffel. Let the kids loose with a camera to stand underneath and snap it from their perspective. Take a ride on a Bateaux Mouches or Bateux Parisiens to see it from the Seine. Then go get ice cream. Everybody wins.

More family-friendly places to go in France

Surfing in Moliets, France with Madame Vacances

10 top tips for visiting Puy du Fou, France’s amusement park that rivals Disney

What to do in the French Ardennes with children and teens

Cool insider places to shop in Reims

Pictures that will inspire your next trip: Follow @JHowze on Instagram!

7 dos and don'ts of Paris with kids with Eiffel Tower
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Afternoon tea in London: Harvey Nichols 5th Floor

The esteemed high-end department store Harvey Nichols serves afternoon tea in its light-floored fifth floor restaurant. Should you go? Here’s what the experience is like. (Be sure to check with the venue on Covid restrictions.)

Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Restaurant

109-125 Knightsbridge, Belgravia, London SW1X 7RJ

Harvey Nicks 5th Floor cafe - Jenography
A modern setting for afternoon tea, with an open kitchen and skylights
afternoon tea menu at Harvey Nicks

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.

Who goes to afternoon tea here?

Sitting amid the unadorned wooden tables, you might be next to a trio of women having cocktails, a family having a light meal, a couple with toddler twins who had popped up for snacks and other afternoon tea-ers. The mood is lively, the sound level is high. Just across the low edge of the restaurant lies a conveyor belt sushi restaurant and the bubble tea counter. At times my mother found it hard to hear our conversation — something to keep in mind with large parties or those who have difficulty hearing.

Within this casual atmosphere, we were served a range of savoury and sweet treats that ranged from interesting to sublime.

Scones at Harvey Nichols
Scones are served with strawberry jam and salted caramel (just visible in white pot on the right)
afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols London

What is the food like?

The scones — plain and raisin — were tasty, and served with strawberry jam and salted caramel (my mother enjoyed it but is it gilding the lily?). I inhaled the coronation chicken on brioche, my sister-in-law liked the cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. The roasted vegetable wrap looked tempting, but the filling had made the tortilla soggy and unappetising, disappointingly. After one bite we skipped it to move onto the French pastries.

Harvey Nicks afternoon tea pastries - Jenography
Jenography eating an eclair at Harvey Nichols
Enjoying my favourite item

There we discovered the tangy delights of the lime pie, a perfect pistachio macaroon, a red velvet cupcake with its swirled hat of icing topped with a black and white decorated disc, and a light and heavenly mini-eclair. At the 5th Floor, the food was the highlight for a casual, light-hearted afternoon tea experience. And where else can you sip tea, eat tiny sandwiches, then admire the Jimmy Choos, the Alexander McQueens, the Balenciagas and the Victoria Beckhams on the way out?

Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Afternoon Tea at a glance

The look: Buzz, chatter and high-gloss clatter

Tasty highlight: The mini chocolate eclairs were the best I’ve ever tasted

Perfect for: City lovers who enjoy a buzzy atmosphere with a bit of luxury shopping on the side

Child-friendly? Yes! From babies to school-age kids to teens enjoying cream tea, we saw a range of ages, and the casual vibe means no need to coax them into “fancy” clothes

Price: Available from 3-5pm. Traditional Afternoon Tea, £35 per person, Champagne Afternoon Tea, £40

You can make reservations, but on the day we went (Sunday late afternoon) there were plenty of tables.

+44 207 235 5250 /

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Harvey Nichols afternoon tea for pinterest
Wander Mum

More insider London tips

The London Eating & Drinking Map

Afternoon tea at the Royal Horseguards Hotel

Afternoon tea at The Savoy Hotel

Is being a mother an important job? (And what do you wear?)

Image: Michal Marcol /

At careers day at primary school, my daughter knew what she wanted to dress up as: ‘I’m going as a mother!’ she said.

Of course that’s great. But we talked about how mothers can also be other things, like, y’know, Freudian analysts. In the end she decided to go as Amelia Earhart, whose flying attire is way jauntier than that of doctors, lawyers or shrinks.

But in recent years the ‘job’ of being a mother has been hotly debated. The mother’s role in her children’s lives and development has been analysed, focussing on one question in particular: How do you best do your job as ‘mother’? Often it’s described as being the most important job in one’s life.

And like any job, there are targets to hit. Career goals, as it were. Your success is measured by your children’s success and the desired result: violin virtuoso, scholar, what have you.

What we mean when we call parenting a ‘job’?

There’s been so much emphasis on the ‘mother’ in that concept and what this mythical mother should be doing that we’ve overlooked the obviously dysfunctional word: ‘Job’.

We would never say our marriage is our most important job or we’re making a career of our role as sister or daughter. So why define the relationship we have with our children, with all its emotional nuances, as a results-oriented role that we apply ourselves to? All relationships require work. But I don’t want to reduce a rich and varied interplay of personalities and responsibilities into some kind of vocation I’ve hired myself into.

How do kids learn from parents?

This attitude also promulgates the idea that the only opportunity to teach kids is at the piano or over a stack of schoolbooks. Yet some of my most vivid ‘lessons’ from my parents came from watching how they conducted themselves and how their values played out within the family and without.

One time, I remember my father and a colleague discussing a university official in their department where they taught design. ‘He doesn’t know much about art,’ they scoffed. ‘He’s all politics.’

I knew in that sentence the importance of study, of earning your position, of focusing on things of value and aligning yourself with people who share your values.

What our ‘most important job’ means

Defining parenting as a job ignores the profound influence parents can have on their children by being role models and being present. There’s another thing I don’t like about the idea of parent as job description. With jobs you’re always looking forward to your time off.

What do you think? Do you consider being a parent a job?

(And if so, what do you wear?)