Lunch at the Kitchen – Lux Le Morne

While we were staying in Mauritius, we took a stroll down the beach from our hotel, the St Regis, and came across the 5 star Lux Le Morne hotel, which also had a dramatic view of the majestic Le Morne.

Le Morne is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the location of the hotel is highly privileged as the beach surrounding it has white, powder soft sand and is spectacular.

We were feeling peckish so we wandered in and asked if we could have lunch there, as there was a beautiful decking area with a gorgeous view of Le Morne. The restaurant was called the Kitchen and is the hotel’s central restaurant.

While we decided what to eat, we nibbled on bread that arrived with a choice of dips.

For drinks I went for a Mojito and Amit tried the local beer, Blue Marlin. The Mojito was not the best I have had and was slightly on the strong bitter side. It was still refreshing on a hot day.

The heat was intense in Mauritius so we opted for lighter dishes for our lunch. The first one was a Papaya Salad and carrot, which was served inside a rice leaf pouch and drizzled with olive oil and with a pink peppercorn crunch. It was lovely and tangy.

Amit opted for a less lighter option and went for a club sandwich with a side of chips and coleslaw. He loved that everything tasted so fresh and the chips (I stole a few) were amazing.

The second of the lighter options was Vietnamese rice spring rolls, which were filled with vegetables and a light soya dressing. It was delish! It was massive too and surprisingly very filling.

The restaurant location was stunning and we found it to be a lovely relaxing spot to have lunch with the sea breeze and the beautiful view.

This was our palm fringed view of the sea on one side which was stunning. It is also a dolphin territory but unfortunately we didn’t spot any that day.

We really enjoyed our lunch and it was nice to try somewhere different so if you are staying around Le Morne during a trip to Mauritius, it is worth checking out the Kitchen at Lux Le Morne.

For more information on Lux Le Morne click here.

 

Hotel review: Hilton Athens

The 5 star Hilton Athens, is located in central Athens, close to main tourist sites and the Plaka District, as well as being in close proximity to the metro lines.

We stayed at the Hilton Athens for three nights, with breakfast provided, during our trip to Athens. It was our first time visiting Greece and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality.  As we were staying in an executive room, our check in was done in the executive lounge, by a lovely lady called Efi. She was so brilliant at recommending restaurants and tours, that we ended up booking everything through her, as they also provided concierge services in the executive lounge.

Room

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The room, which was on the 12th floor,  was really spacious and we had a view of the Acropolis in the distance. It is more of a business hotel so the interiors were minimalist with a focus more on practicality with a long desk and mini lounge area.

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There was a balcony, which if I had visited in a warmer month, would definitely have spent some time blogging in as even when I went outside in January, the cool crisp fresh air was so lovely.

The bathroom was beautiful and had both a bathtub and a shower and was large compared to other hotel bathrooms. I loved the grey and white marble design and did manage to have a lovely soak in the tub after a long day of sightseeing.

Restaurants/Breakfast

The breakfast spread at the Hilton was magnificent. It was a massive buffet choice ranging from fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, cold meats, cheeses to hot dishes which included breakfast classics as well as Greek specialities, such as their spinach pie, which I have to say is amazing. I was totally down with eating feta cheese for breakfast too. The feta cheese in Athens compared to the one you buy in the supermarket back home are so different in taste!

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They also had amazing croissants so I was very happy!

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I also ordered in room service on one day and was so impressed by the way it was presented! I had opted for french toast with maple syrup and strawberries as well as a coffee, but look at this spread that arrived!

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For lunch, we had amazing food at the Byzantino restaurant too. Our dishes were presented beautifully and the service was on point. We had gone for a Greek salad with quinoa and a baked goats cheese roll in kataifi dough with spicy tomato marmalade.

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There are 4 other restaurants but unfortunately we didn’t get to try them.

We did, however, try the cocktails at the Galaxy Bar and Restaurant, which is on the rooftop with a spectacular view. At night it is so magical!

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They had heaters on so it was perfect sitting outside in the evenings. They have a beautiful bar and lounge area inside too. It is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink or a catch up and has a lovely ambience and vibe. The cocktails are really delicious too!

If you are staying on the Executive floor, you also have complimentary meals at the Executive lounge and it is a great place to relax with a coffee or tea too.

Amenities

The hotel has a beautiful spa which I am so gutted I didn’t get a chance to use, especially as access to the indoor heated pool, sauna and other aspects are included for those guests staying on the executive floor. The pool looked amazing!

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They also have a gym, which Amit used each day and was really happy with the equipment that they had and said it was all top of the range.

They also have an outdoor pool, which we could see from our room, but it is open during the summer months and as we went in January, we could not use it.

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All in all we were so happy with the hotel and especially the location, as a taxi ride to anywhere cost under 10 euros!

The service was excellent and the staff were always willing to help. They always gave us such fantastic tips on what we should do to get the most out of our trip and always had a warm friendly smile.

The hotel was busy during our stay as there was a conference going  on, but we really didn’t feel it as it was a large hotel and with so many restaurants, it was easy to get a table at breakfast, for example.

If you are thinking of visiting Athens and are looking for a convenient and lovely hotel to stay at in the central part, the Hilton Athens ticked all the boxes for us.

Thank you Hilton Athens for a memorable stay and for looking after us s0 well.

For more information click here.

5 things to do in a day in Monaco

Whenever I thought of Monaco I imagined it to be all glitz and glamour with high rollers, luxury cars and well dressed people decked out in designer apparel. James Bond came to mind as it was one of the locations for Goldeneye and Never Say Never Again, where the  Casino Monte Carlo was featured.

I visited Monaco and Monte Carlo as part of a day trip shore excursion whilst on my Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, and we arrived via sea. You can, however, if you want a totally luxe experience, arrive in a private helicopter or alternatively for a more affordable option, take a bus from Nice, if you are vacationing there.

Monaco is such an ideal destination for a day trip if you want a taster of it, and here were our highlights. I would like to go back and experience it for a night or two though and check out the food scene and the night life.

An amazing view from the Rock

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With a view of the Mediterranean sea and the port, the Rock is a fantastic vantage point for photo opportunities as well as marvel at the various yachts lined up below at the port. It has a breathtaking view and is worth a visit. It is located in Monaco-Ville, which is also where the Old town is. Close to the Prince’s palace and you can wait here while you wait for the time slot for the changing of the guards at the palace.

The Place du Casino

All things luxurious at the Place du Casino, the epicentre of all things haute in Monte Carlo.

 

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It is also home to the Casino Monte Carlo, which opens its doors to the public at 2pm and it is worth going inside to have a look. There is no dress code and if you are feeling lucky you can try your hand at roulette.

For an extra glamourous stay, there is also the Hotel De Paris 😉

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The Café de Paris Monte-Carlo

This totally instagrammable  Café de Paris Monte-Carlo, also on the Place du Casino, has been legendary since 1868 and is a fabulous spot for people watching, lunch, dessert or mojitos 😉

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The Cathedral

Located in the old town of Monaco, the Neoclassical Cathedral, where the much-loved Princess Grace of Monaco lies at rest, is one not to miss. This 19th century cathedral is gorgeous both on the outside and in and is made from white La Turbie stone. It is really lovely to see inside.

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Changing of the guard

It is so worth watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, where the royal family still resides today.

It happens daily at 11:55 a.m. and is really fun to see. As it is located near the rock, the old town, and other sites, it is worth spending time in the area.

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Have you been to Monaco? What were your highlights? Would love to know in the comments below.

How travel has changed in the past decade

This year marks the decade anniversary for many things in my life such as being employed, being in a relationship and when I properly started to travel (directly correlated to being employed lol). I am also aware that this post also absolutely shows my age!

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It got me reminiscing of what I did 10 years ago and scrolling through my Facebook timeline triggered so many memories that made me realise how different travel was a decade ago to now.

Researching Destinations and Holidays

First of all actually researching where to go was so different. I remember flicking through travel brochures at travel agents, or guide books. To check out hotel reviews, we relied heavily on TripAdvisor ratings as well as to see Traveller photos, as opposed to the professional photos shared by the hotels.

Nowadays, we research and learn more about destinations through blog sites (this is not a shameless plug), destination websites curated by tourism boards, online articles, friend’s photos on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest.

Pinterest boards are so handy to save ideas and articles and share it with your travel buddies. You can even make private boards if you are planning a surprise, for example.

Booking

Once we have picked where we want to go, the way in which we book the trip now compared to a decade ago, has also changed.

I used to book through travel agents a lot but now tend to carry out the price comparison of booking each part of my trip separately vs as a package myself, online and then book accordingly.

I used to actually receive the travel confirmations and trip details in the post, such as the example pictured below from Virgin Holidays, when we had booked our first big long haul trip to the Caribbean, to Antigua and Barbuda. Now everything arrives via email 🙂

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Accommodation

The choice used to be limited to conventional hotels or hostels or pitching up with friends. Now there are design hotels, boutique hotels, Airbnb, unusual accommodation such as the option to stay in igloos, as well as the rise in popularity and change in perception of cruises.


Flights

This decade has seen an increase in budget airlines, as well as some of the traditional players starting to charge for aspects of the flight which used to be free.

For example, we recently flew British Airways from London to Athens and realised it was a hand luggage only flight so if you wanted any checked in luggage you has to pay per bag per leg of the journey. My advice if you find yourself in this predicament is to take one bag (if it is a short haul flight or a short trip you do not need that much) and pay for it in advance to avoid any shocks at the airport.

Food is also sometimes not complimentary so you need to check these things and consider them when choosing an airline to fly with.

Travel Documents

Travel documents are becoming paperless now with the ability to do online check in 24 hours before your flight and have your boarding passes emailed to you or texted to you.

Luggage

You no longer have to carry your own luggage to the airport either if you don’t want to! There are services such as AirPortr, that my best friend recently used, where they pick up your bags from a London home address or office and take it to the airport for you.

Entertainment

Technology has meant that you can watch movies on your own devices, read books on your kindle and even chat to family and friends using onboard wifi on some airplanes! You are no longer limited to the movies shown by the airline or worse, have nothing to do as they don’t have TV screens in the case of some of the budget airlines.

Types of holiday

The types of holidays people are opting for are changing from cliche and conventional destinations towards more experience driven, unusual and off the beaten track trips. Solo travel has vastly gained popularity and people are travelling more than ever due to it becoming more accessible and affordable over the years.


Photography and photo sharing

Once you are on your holiday, you no longer have to take photos on a crappy mobile with low mega pixels, or lug your camera leads and laptop in order to share better quality pics, or wait till you are back home. The Camera quality compared to now was really different (or my photo skills were very questionable or both).

Technology and changes in social media platforms have meant that we can instantly share our experiences through video clips and photos using services such as Facebook Live, Insta Stories, Instagram and Snapchat.

Newer cameras now have wifi inbuilt which means you can upload the photos to your smart phone in minutes and share in seconds, after adding the appropriate filters!

The photo quality on smart phones has improved drastically and newer trends are coming in such as using drones. (Dear Santa, I am going to be good all year if I can have a drone as my present please).

Go Pros are also gaining popularity, especially for more adventurous or sporty holidays.

Selfies are now normal so if you are somewhere and you really want a photo of you and there is no tourist walking about who you can ask to take the photo for you, simply take it yourself 😉


Staying in touch

Sharing pictures or staying in touch with family and friends whilst abroad no longer costs the earth too thanks to wifi being available more widely as well as roaming charges being so much cheaper compared to previous years.

Calling is also free thanks to Whatsapp and Facebook both having free calling services, as well as FaceTime which has taken over from Skype. No more £5 call cards that last 20 minutes!

Navigating whilst on holiday

There is less reliance on using physical maps (apart from my husband who swears by them) in favour of google maps and navigation tools available as apps on your smart phones, which are international, so you literally have no excuse to get lost or to not find that amazing restaurant you read about on my blog (nope not a shameless plug).

Guide books are becoming less favourable as now you can simply read blog posts, google things or have an e-book version on your phone or kindle.

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Complaints and Feedback

While on holiday, if you encounter a bad (or good) service and want to share it with the airline or hotel, you no longer have to do it in a formal way. You can now tweet most of them directly as well as message them on their Facebook pages. This is a much faster way of getting a response, especially as many organizations see the value of keeping on top of their social media accounts due to reputational damage.

Sharing your holiday memories

Once you are back, some things have stayed constant, such as printing out your favourite holiday photos and framing them! Although saying that, you now do get digital frames in which you simply stick in a USB with your chosen photos and they play as a slideshow.

You can also upload your photo albums to Facebook, share your photos on Instagram or send them using services such as Google Drive, if they are big attachments.

You can even play around with video clips or if you are brave enough, upload them on YouTube.

I think this must have been an early attempt at blogging for me!

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I would love to know if any of this resonates with you or if there are other things you have noticed that have changed in the travel space over the years. Drop me a comment in the comments section below 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 things to do in Lisbon

Just a 2 and a half hour flight from London, Lisbon is an unbelievably underrated yet very accessible city full of sunshine, culture, panoramic views (as it is built on 7 hills), romantic cobbled streets and amazing food. It is perfect for a weekend break and there is so much to do and see.

I particularly loved the vibrant colours all over the city contrasted with its historical charm. With castles, colour and custard tarts to look forward to, I very much hope my post encourages you to visit Lisbon if you haven’t already!

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When I visited Lisbon, I had low expectations prior to my arrival but I immediately fell in love with the city and am already planning my return. We visited in late November and it was surprisingly 23 degrees celsius with sunny spells!

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Here are the highlights of my trip and what I consider the top 5 things to do.

Eat Custard Tarts at Pasteis de Belem 

Literally I cannot explain how good these custard tarts are, which are known as Pastel De Nata. This shop has the best ones in Portugal and there is always a long queue. Good things come to those who wait and I recommend eating one or two fresh whilst at the shop, either with a coffee or tea, and taking some as takeaway as trust me you will be craving them before you know it!

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Pretend to be royalty at Castelo de Sao Jorge

This castle, which is located in Lisbon’s old town district of Alfama, sits on a hilltop with a panoramic view of the entire city. The views are spectacular and it is great fun exploring the castle and its grounds.

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You will definitely spot a peacock or two too!

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Stroll along Belem Harbourfront

Take a walk by the waterside and eat at one of the cafes or restaurants in the area. It is a different ambience to the centre of Lisbon and I loved its tranquility. Close by is also  Torre de Belem, which is a  world-heritage listed fortress that was cleverly built in the shape of a battleship to deter attackers from invading the city. You can also get amazing views of the city from this tower.

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Historical sites always leave me in awe, especially the genius thoughts behind their construction.

People watch and eat alfesco at Praça do Comércio

The main square is called Praça do Comércio and it is really lively with restaurants on both sides. It is the perfect place to have lunch alfresco while watching the tourists and locals pass by.

We enjoyed eating Portuguese food and sipping on wine whilst we watched the world go by.
Have a drink with a panoramic view of the city 
There are many vantage points for a view of Lisbon, but one of my favourites in the evening was from the Panorama bar at the top of the Sheraton Lisboa.
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With luxurious and plush interiors and comfortable seats, it was the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing.
Have you been to Lisbon? What were your highlights? I would love to know in the comments section below.

Living the dream of being a pizzaiola for the day in Naples

Whenever I thought about Naples as a destination, the first thing that would pop in my mind would be pizzas. I absolutely love Pizzas and when the opportunity arose to visit Naples as part of our P&O cruise, I ensured that Pizzas would somehow be involved in our plans.

Neapolitan Pizza  is taken so seriously that there is actually an Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana that actually award authenticity certificates to pizzerias around the world who meet the stringent criteria of what constitutes a true Neapolitan pizza.

We visited a restaurant, where I actually learned how to make my own pizza and I achieved a dream of being a pizzaiola for the day! A pizzaiola, in case you are wondering, is a female pizza maker. The male version is a Pizzaiolo.

First things first we were told about was the oven in which the pizzas were made. These have to be the traditional dome shaped, wood-fueled ovens. They are usually made with brick or stone and are sealed. In terms of size, they must be 45 to 40cm high. The door must be 22 to 25cm. Yup it is mega strict!

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Next up was actually making the pizza! The Pizzaiolo showed us how to make the dough and stretch it out. He even tossed the dough in the air but I wasn’t that brave.

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Next up was toppings and we were told that simple and fresh is always best! I topped my pizza with Margherita sauce made with Italian San Marzano tomatoes, Mozzarella and fresh basil.

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The pizza then went into the dome shaped oven for between 60-90 seconds and the temperature was approximately 905°F. It immediately started puffing up and you could smell that amazing aroma of freshly baked pizza.

A criteria of true Neapolitan pizza is that it must be thin. The guidelines are that the crust must be 1-2cm. This is absolutely perfect for me as I love my pizzas thin.

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Once the pizza is ready, you can’t just help marvel at its beauty. That beautiful charred smokey and bitter crust and moist, bubbly centre. Mamma mia! It was absolutely delicious.

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I enjoyed my pizza with my favourite wine – Montepulciano and it was a perfect day. What else does one need apart from delicious wine and a beautiful pizza?

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If you don’t want to make the pizza yourself but want to still enjoy Neapolitan pizzas, you can of course order them 😉

There are so many pizzerias in Naples and I really recommend trying out a couple (in the name of research) as you can never have too much pizza in your life. The pizzeria we went to was called La Tama Dell’arte Pizzeria.

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If you are planning to visit Naples, this is seriously a must do! Naples is such a pretty place and we wandered around the streets looking at the architecture and learning about the history on a walking tour, which was also really interesting.

I did leave Naples feeling like a dome shaped wood fired oven is needed in my life so one day when I have a big house that is the plan!

Have you made a pizza in Naples? I would love to know in the comments below.