6 reasons to visit Beau Vallon and Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa
Beau Vallon is the only beach on the Mahe island on the Seychelles that has it all. A peaceful ocean laps onto a sandy beach offering two impressive snorkeling sites, several restaurants serving delicious food jostle for attention while the city beckons with an active and buzzing night life.
There’s also a range of 5 star hotels by Beau Vallon. The biggest is the Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa hotel. Within its expansive grounds is a high-class Spa and fitness centre and 700sqm swimming pool – the biggest outdoor pool to be found anywhere on the islands.
If that’s not enough here are another 6 reasons to stay there. Once there, you’ll find more – we are sure of it. Here’s some to get you started:
1Ocean is by your side
Beau Vallon stands for “beautiful valley”. And this is indeed a beautiful valley with a curved ribbon of beach that stretches over 3km along the ocean. It is peppered with trees that hang lazily over the water and its soft sand.
The calm waters and sandy ocean bed has no underwater current, stones or corals making Beau Vallon a safe and ideal place for young families to holiday.
Close by are couple of excellent snorkel sites. One of them is Anse Major – a small bay in the northern part of the Mahe Island. You can reach it in around an hour by foot hiking through the forest or by taxi from Beau Vallon.
Reef Anse Major has well-preserved corals home to various fish and marine life that hide in their crevices. In particular you may find blue-spotted grouper, the green birdmouth wrasse, the white-spotted boxfish, or young specimen of several species of moray eels.
The other is Ste. Anne Marine Park. It is about 5 km by boat from Victoria. Fishing is forbidden but among the sea grass you can see big sea turtles and friendly fish who will swim right beside you. A huge amount of plankton attracts big manta rays into these waters throughout April to December.
3Bars and Restaurants
There are 7 restaurants and bars at the Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa featuring local, Indian or orient cuisine as well as bars with local draft beer.
The best is the Mahek restaurant widely considered to be the best Indian restaurant on the islands. And it deserves its fame. Look through glass wall that divides the restaurant from the kitchen and you may pick up some tips as you watch the food is cooked.
Relax in the calmness and comfort of the hotel’s Spa after an active day on the beach or a hectic long night filled with music. There are several treatments including massages, wrapping and some signature treatments that exclusively use Sothys products. Romantic couple treatments are available too.
5Local markets and fairs
The popular Bazar Labrin market opens on the beach every Wednesday and on the last Saturday of each month. There’s an abundance of fascinating stalls and the market gets particularly lively from around 4 pm until 8.30pm.
Stalls sell delicious food, spices and fish alongside local arts and crafts while barbecues offer freshly caught fish and banana St Jacques fritters, grilled breadfruit and plenty of other local delicacies including papaya chutney, mango salad or red lentils.
Live music ensures a party atmosphere, as local musicians and bands often hold impromptu performances.
For some heady nightlife hop into a taxi for a short 15 minute ride into the city. Located on Francis Rachel Street, the Gran Kaz Casino boasts a bar area with a widescreen TV that shows the latest sporting events.
Barrel Night Club on Revolution Avenue is a good place to meet local people, play some pool and to hear a mix of music including reggae, local Creole music, dance and hip-hop. Open from Thursday through to Sunday, it is spread over two floors – the lounge bar is on the ground floor and the music hall is in the basement.
The Boardwalk Bar and Grill on Eden Island, around 3.5km from Victoria has superb views of the mountains, marina and ocean. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between – including morning coffees and cocktails. Special events include karaoke every Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday with live music from La Mezcla, resident DJs and live bands on a Friday and Saturday.
Rogan’s Irish Bar (Level 3 Docklands, Latanier Rd) is an authentic Irish pub run by an Irishman. It is the only place on Seychelles where you can taste a legendary Guinness watch sports on big TV screens and even enjoy some karaoke.
But you can enjoy the night and the ocean staying at the hotel and on Beau Vallon. The Ocean Deck Bar is open till midnight and you can drink a draft Seychelles beer while being entertained by live music band.
If you have visited, feel free to share with us your reasons to spend your holidays on the Seychelles and Savoy Resort and Spa.
Disclaimer: this article was written in partnership with Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa
Great Rail Journeys takes to the water with their first ever river cruise charter
Great Rail Journeys are on track to launch river cruises to their portfolio. The company has chartered three state-of-the-art vessels under the banner, The Great Rail Journeys River Cruise, and these will set sail in April 2019.
The trio of river boats are modern luxury five-star state of the art vessels with, they say, some of the most generously sized cabins available on Europe’s waterways.
Holiday makers can choose one-way itineraries so that they won’t have to see the same section of the river twice. There’s plenty of flexibility in catching the cruise either by flying in or by escorted rail service and the cruise can be added on to the end of an existing Great Rail Journeys tour.
There’s a range of tours and cruise itineraries and holiday makers can pick up their boat by flight or escorted rail. They also allow you to select the exact cabin the time of booking via an agent – just like choosing an airline seat.
The charter itineraries include tours along The Rhine, The Danube and the Waterways of Belgium and Holland.
CLICK HERE to check itineraries and prices
Commercial Director Julian Appleyard said:
All of us here at Great Rail Journeys are excited about the launch of our new cruise charter. It gives us the opportunity to offer the high level of customer service our rail holidays are known for on to these spectacular ships.
We are particularly proud of our flexible approach, allowing customers to choose their own excursions and cabins at no extra cost, whether it’s an onboard concert with members of Vienna’s acclaimed Philharmonic orchestra, or exploring the Keukenhof Gardens with Charlie Dimmock. Our river cruises will help travellers make memories that will last a lifetime.
All river cruises are now live on the Great Rail Journeys website and available to book.
The Olivier da Costa restaurant experience in Lisbon
I’ve never met the 42-year-old chef Olivier da Costa, but I hear he is a bon vivant, a bit of a party animal, and a larger than life personality. And a salubrious celebrity chef in Portugal.
What I can say for sure is that this serial restaurateur has managed to stamp his personality with a quartet of restaurants in Lisbon, the country’s capital. So, hoping a little of his exuberance would rub off, I decided to go on an expedition of his much talked about gastronomy while I was in town.
I got the opportunity to dine at three of his four restaurants over a long weekend. Yakuza First Floor, Avenida and Guilty.
He also has K.O.B. Steakhouse but that was was fully booked during my visit. Frustratingly, no string pulling could get me a table at this cosy, dimly-lit meat restaurant that, Olivier says, serves “the best mature meat in the world” – if you get to dine there do let me know.
Out of the four offerings, Guilty is the most casual and a pleasantly relaxed affair “with a twist” – so says the tag line on the logo of the restaurant door.
Leather sofas, simple wood tables, open brick walls, tanned floor tiles, it all sets the scene for a lavish amount of food but not necessarily lavish food. That’s available in another of his restaurants.
Here it’s about burgers (around 10 including a French one which is a fois gras escalope), pizzas, pastas, salads milkshakes and cocktails.
If you have a huge appetite you may like the super size burger with 500 grams of meat and a side order. It costs 50 euros, but if you can eat it within 60 minutes, you don’t have to pay.
Sure, I was hungry but instead started with beef carpaccio (Octopus Carpaccio is available too) followed by the American (200gr) burger which comes with lettuce, tomato, pickles, confit onion, cheddar cheese and cocktail sauce burger and chips. It was a sublimely juicy burger and cooked medium rare as requested with all the trimmings.
I went all the way with a milkshake and a glass of his house white wine. For desert it was a chocolate cake and ice cream. My partner opted for prawn pasta, a pizza (that is baked in an open fire) which had a divinely thin crust Blanco truffle pizza. Followed by a nuttela pizza – yes really.
Is that something we should feel guilty about? Well perhaps just a bit.
Tip: If you are on a stags and hen do ask for a cocktail to share. It’s served in a huge cocktail glass and comes with several straws.
2Yakuza First floor
It’s all about the sushi at Yakuza First Floor and boy is it good. It’s located in Rato on the first floor of the Fabrica das Sedas building – a former Royal Silk Factory – and sprawls out into three rooms with very different environments from sedate to party.
It’s the same menu in all three – a creative take on Japanese fusion cuisine. But the best vibe, hands down, is the one where the sushi bar is the central hub surrounded by tables. There is a gorgeous Japanese themed mural on the ceiling inspired by the Japanese mafia and a Japanese garden that leads off it – with a quaint oriental bridge.
There’s tempura, pasta, salads and robata, beef and octopus carpaccio, but best of all this is the perfect environment for the beautifully decorated sushi and sashimi dishes. And the odd flourish of theatre.
Tip: If you are feeling extravagant go for the €80 menu. Sure it sounds a lot until you see what it includes – Yellowtail Hiramasa and truffled ponzu, sashimi selection (see above), tuna roes and so on: prepare to be dazzled by taking a look at the menu [PDF].
Avenida is a classy joint, a place where diners chat in discrete tones, dress to impress just to blend in well with a finessed yet relaxed environment. Blue velvet curved sofa/seating, leather sofas, ceiling chandeliers and mirrors and creamy walls set the scene.
The cuisine is a twist on Mediterranean gastronomy. Olivier must be a huge fan of his octopus and beef carpaccio as both these dishes turned up here yet again. But before cuisine boredom could set in the Alheira de Caca om ova estrelado de codorniz (bite sizes sausage topped with fried quail eggs) or the chicken and cheese catupiry (a sort of pie) served to create some taste bud tittilation turned up.
Other must-trys are the tuffed mushrooms which are teamed with green asparagus and gorgonzola, and the tender, juicy Wagyu Picanha which is seasoned to perfection with tiny rocks of salt to ensure optimum taste oozed from the succulent meat.
Get there on a Sunday for brunch lunch buffet. This is a lazy all-you-can-eat afternoon affair. Tables are strewn with all you can eat pastries, sushi, meat and fish.
This gourmet munch is superb value at just €25 (£20) per person.
Tip: Go with a posse, fill up your plates (several times if you like) and down all the gorgeous flavours with some bubbly and have yourself a fun celebration in lovely surroundings.
ALSO READ: Top 10 things to see and do in Lisbon
ALSO READ: Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Lisbon
7 sumptuously luxurious Autumnal getaways
Fancy squeezing in a top notch luxury short break this autumn? Check out our suggestions below for a truly relaxing few days staying in special locations:
1Vidago Palace Hotel – Northern Portugal
Hidden in ancient woodland, this beautifully-renovated Belle Epoque palace is an unexpected countryside retreat, in a little visited part of Portugal. With impeccably-decorated rooms, a sleek, thermal water spa, three swimming pools, innovative regional cuisine and acres of grounds, Vidago Palace Hotel offers tranquillity and activity whenever you want it.
This autumn, the hotel can arrange languid, wine tasting picnics in the Douro vineyards. Or even a forage for wild mushrooms in the Tras-o-Montes forests surrounding the hotel and pickings can be included in a funghi feast by new celebrity Chef Vitor Matos.
Read 642 reviews (rated 5/5)
How much: Rooms: 234 Euros (£208) a night
2Wellness in Evian Resort
Evian Resort has put together a seasonal wellness sojourn. Nestled between the striking French Alps and Lake Geneva, Evian Resort’s Hotel Royal has introduced a holistic weekend that encourages guests to hit pause on their busy lifestyles and harmonise mind, body and soul.
Start the day with meditation before a group session of leisurely asanas and pranayamas and follow with a massage in the tranquil Spa Evian Source.
Read 347 reviews (rated 4.5/5)
How much: Available from 15th October to 31st October and prices start from €2,450 (£2256): based on double occupancy, two nights at the Hotel Royal, treatments each day, three vegetarian-based meals each day and one meditation/yoga session and activities daily.
3Gourmet Gallivanting at the Baur Au Lac in Zurich
With captivating views of the surround lake, Baur au Lac in Zurich popular with the jet set for almost 200 years.
It is a gourmet haven in its own right with Michelin-starred restaurant Pavillon restaurant and much loved “1884” chocolate, with behind-the-scenes culinary talents, including the renowned Daniel Humm.
Gourmet gallivants can indulge in a two-night stay with a four-course dinner atop the Baur au Lac roof top and a Rolls Royce transfer to the vineyard of Eric Meier for an exclusive tour and tasting of rare wines.
Read 688 reviews (rated 4.5/5)
How much: Stays from CHF 819 (£660) per night. Wine & Dine Package from CHF 4,911 (£3,966) available till the end of October.
4Masseria Trapana – Puglia
Temperatures remain pleasantly warm in this southeastern corner of Italy during autumn, averaging around the early 20’s. This is also the optimum time for foodies to visit with olive oil and wine harvests taking place across the region.
Stay at Puglia’s most stylish bolthole, Masseria Trapana nestled amongst olive groves and fruit trees offering nine individually-designed suites, each with private courtyards and outdoor bathtubs. In the evening guests can kick-back by the large open fireplace and enjoy a warming appertivo or are welcome to try their hand at the local Cucina Povera, (Peasants Kitchen), and join chef, Cristina Cudazzo in the Masseria’s large open kitchen.
Read 52 reviews (rated 5/5)
How much: Rates start from €300 (£264) per room, per night in a courtyard room including breakfast.
5Escape to the sun – Vila Vita Parc – Algarve
Overlooking the glistening Atlantic Ocean, Vila Vita Parc celebrates the very best of Portugal, with food, beaches and a warm welcome. As the Algarve gets over 300 days of sunshine, the hotel is the perfect destination for families or couples looking for a quick and easy summer getaway this autumn.
A magnet for foodies, guests can enjoy sampling two Michelin-starred cuisine at Ocean, rustic cooking at Adega and Mediterranean cuisine at Aladin Grill. For some downtime, explore wild beaches that promise stretches of golden sands and azure waters.
Read 1391 reviews (rated 5/5)
How much: Rooms start from 272 Euros (£250), based on two people sharing a room.
6Hotel Excelsior – Dubrovnik, Croatia
Stay at the newly refurbished Hotel Excelsior in Dubrovnik this autumn and explore the much quieter and very beautiful Old Town of Dubrovnik.
It’s new look is fresh and elegant with earthy tones of grey and walnut, flawlessly combined with shades of blue and green, the hotel’s new colours have been inspired by its magnificent surroundings and spectacular vistas; the verdant peninsula, vibrant sea and the warm stone of the medieval Old Town offset by the sun.
Its oceanfront location is just a stone’s throw away from the iconic ancient UNESCO heritage city which means you can go and explore while the weather is still temperate with without the crowds of the high season.
Read 122 reviews (rated 4.5/5)
How much: Rooms start from 680 Euros (£626).
7It’s all about the Spa at The Peninsula Tokyo
To celebrate their 10th Anniversary, The Peninsula Tokyo has put together a substantial wellness package dubbed “Pen10Tokyo” Wellness package. It offers the Ten Element Spa Journey that incorporates a combination of the five senses and five natural elements based on the Chinese philosophy for rejuvenation and restoration of body’s balance.
The “Pen10Tokyo” Wellness package also includes a 45-minute one-on-one training session with a personal trainer, a Naturally Peninsula bento box, a luxurious 70-minute Bastien Gonzalez Pedicure, complimentary fitness gear, access to pool and fitness centre and complimentary eight-hour valet parking.
Read 1706 reviews (rated 4.5/5)
How much: it is priced at JPY 100,000 (£663) or The Ten Element Spa Journey can be purchased separately, at a price of JPY £37,000 (£245)
10 new hotel openings in the Maldives
The next year or so is going to be a busy time for the hospitality trade in The Maldives. A clutch of 10 new hotels will fling open their doors throughout 2018 and into early 2019, expanding its already well-established portfolio of luxury resorts.
Much loved by tourists for its beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs tourism in the Maldives has been steadily growing and recent figures reveal that it is 7.9% up on the same time last year. To accommodate the influx of holidaymakers an impressive 20 resorts have opened since 2013, 20 new resorts have already opened.
The most recent opening of Fushifaru Maldives, Reethi Faru and Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort have been well received but hotly anticipated openings for 2018 and 2019 include Mӧvenpick Resort & Spa Kuredhivaru Maldives, Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, Carpe Diem Beach Resort & Spa, the Italian-designed Baglioni Resort Maldives, ultra-luxurious Waldorf Astoria Maldives, LUX* North Malé Atoll, and four-star OBLU SELECT at Sangeli.
Scheduled to open in late October 2017, Fushifaru Maldives goes beyond the typical confines of sun, sea and sand. Located on the eastern fringe of Lhaviyani Atoll, the island’s surrounding ocean is a nature-lover’s paradise and home to eagle rays, parrotfish and even the occasional hammerhead shark. Accommodation options at the resort include Beach Villas and Water Villas and the island also has three restaurants, including Raakani Grill, which serviced flavourful Asian delicacies and a wide range of fresh seafood. For a more private dining experience, guests can also pick a spot anywhere on the island or sandbank to enjoy a customised meal.
2Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort
Bringing stylish mid-scale accommodation to the pristine south of the Maldives, Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort provides travellers with one of the best value accommodation options. The resort has 68 villas, including 43 over the water and 25 on the beach, and is built using local materials, bright colours and stylish furniture and interiors designs, all of which reflect traditional Maldivian culture and the spirit of travel.
Opening November 2017
Translated to ‘beautiful reef’ in English, Reethi Faru is unsurprisingly surrounded by stunning white beaches, coconut groves and lush vegetation. Along with a beautiful house reef to explore, the four-star resort promises to offer guests a relaxing atmosphere, friendly service, a comprehensive selection of activities and facilities, and a tasteful choice of cuisine. Located on the compact Maldivian island of Filaidhoo in Raa Atoll, the resort will feature 150 well-furnished homely detached and semi-detached villas. All of which will be set amid tropical foliage or on stilts over the lagoon and built in a traditional style to blend perfectly into the natural beauty of the environment.
4Baglioni Resort Maldives
Opening March 2018
Italian-owned Baglioni Resort Maldives, located on Maagau in Dhaalu Atoll, will offer a piece of island paradise when it opens in spring 2018. Its comprehensive comforts will offer an unforgettable stay with a blend of sport, relaxation and mouth-watering gourmet dining. The 96-villa resort’s elegant Italian design will be complemented with the Baglioni Spa, which along with a yoga pavilion, will offer guests a deeply relaxing experience via a host of deluxe natural treatments in a lush, tropical setting. Meanwhile, beach volleyball, the beach gym and a range of watersports will keep the more active guests entertained.
5LUX* North Malé Atoll
Opening Early 2018
Following the successful re-launch of LUX* South Ari Atoll in September 2016, LUX* Resorts is pleased to announce the opening of its second resort, LUX* North Malé Atoll. Blessed with a pristine reef teeming with sea life, the innovative resort is set to redefine island hospitality when it opens in early 2018. A short transfer from Malé by luxury speedboat, LUX* North Malé Atoll will disrupt the mould by replacing traditional thatched villas with over-sized, penthouse residences. With sweeping ocean views and a fleet of luxury yachts, this is a one-of-a-kind escape for confirmed epicureans.
6Mӧvenpick Resort & Spa Kuredhivaru Maldives
Opening Early 2018
Situated on the remote Kuredhivaru Island in Noonu Atoll, Mӧvenpick Resort & Spa Kuredhivaru Maldives will be the brand’s first resort in the Maldives when it opens during the first quarter of 2018. The planned 102-unit resort will provide guests with a choice of 32 Beach Villas and 70 Over Water Villas, all designed with both comfort and style in mind. While intended as a destination for relaxing and rejuvenating escapes offering a high degree of privacy, the resort will also feature an array of onsite recreational facilities to entertain a wide range of guests, from honeymooners to adventurous families. The waters surrounding the resort are also rich in marine life and the first Marine National Park in the Maldives is just a 15-minute speedboat ride away, providing guests with excellent diving opportunities. For more information,
7Carpe Diem Beach Resort & Spa
Opening Spring 2018
Set to open in spring 2018, Carpe Diem Beach Resort & Spa will be the first resort opening for Carpe Diem Maldives, one of the only hospitality brands in the Maldives to offer both liveaboard cruises and resort stays. Located in Raa Atoll, on one of a trio of uninhabited islands on the edge of Baa Atoll, the resort’s vast lagoon will be home to 115 Pool Villas, a spa, a selection of restaurants, and a private water park of inflatable slides. The Carpe Diem name has become renowned in the travel industry for diving and leisure, and the current portfolio includes three high-end liveaboard cruises, each catering 20 guests at a time.
8OBLU SELECT at Sangeli
Opening 1 July 2018
Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts is to continue its ongoing expansion with the opening of another addition to its Maldives resort portfolio: OBLU SELECT at Sangeli. Opening on 1 July 2018 and located in Male Atoll, the four-star deluxe resort will feature 137 villas, positioned both along the beach and over the water. For newlyweds, the resort will also play host to exclusive overwater Honeymoon Pool Suites, situated in a separate sand bank within the Sangeli Lagoon and each providing skylight features and a private pool. Activities at the resort will include music and DJ nights, sunset fishing, daily kids’ activities, and facilities will include a full gymnasium and a recreation centre.
9Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
Opening October 2018
Opening in October 2018, Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa will offer 60 beach villas and 60 over the water, all including contemporary and tropical touches. The resort will be located on the island of Fasmendhoo in Raa Atoll and guests will be able to reach the island via a 40-minute scenic seaplane journey from Malé. Along with a spa and gym, Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa will have four restaurants, including a grill restaurant, which will be situated on the beach, and a South American-style steakhouse.
10Waldorf Astoria Maldives
Opening Early 2019
Spanning three islands in the South Male Atoll, approximately 23 kilometres from Velana International Airport and about 20 minutes away from the Maldivian capital of Male, Waldorf Astoria Maldives will offer travellers the best of both worlds – an exclusive, charming escape with easy access to the mainland. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives will be the second hotel in the Maldives for Hilton and will boast 10 dining outlets, including nine specialty restaurants, providing guests with a selection of unique experiences.
Emirates launch moisturising pyjamas for high flyers
A new perk has landed in Emirates First class. After dining on the a la carte menu, you may want a snooze in your seat-cum-bed. So, say hello to Emirates’ new freebie – the seaweed-infused pyjamas that moisturises your skin as you sleep.
The airline has announced the launch of its “moisturising lounge-wear” whose sea algae extracts make these jim jams into a beauty treatment.
“The fabric gently releases naturally nutrient rich sea kelp as you move around, preventing dehydration and stimulating circulation,” said the airline on its website. “The patented Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology uses billions of capsules applied to the fabric which gently releases naturally-moisturising sea kelp during movement.”
What is sea kelp?
This is a type of seaweed found in the Antarctic Ocean. It is known for its hydrating qualities and there are plenty of luxury skincare products that has sea kelp in the list of ingredients.
Alongside the pyjama kit travellers will also be given faux sheepskin blankets, and a range of toiletries by Bulgaria and Voya.
London to Venice on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Over 20 years ago, when Britain became linked to the rest of the European rail network, the prospect of London to Venice on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express became a reality with a through rail journey. This is a step back into the nostalgic past of the 1930’s experiencing the opulence of Rene Lalique glass carvings, marquetry wood engravings and sumptuous seating and to-die-for silver service meals.
So I booked on the first departure of the season’s 2016 Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from London’s Victoria station bound for Venice. I knew the UK stage of the journey would be on board a former Pullman (similar to the Golden Arrow) with the second stage through France, Germany, and through the Alps to Switzerland and then into Italy.
Imagine my surprise, horror and disappointment big time when having arrived at Folkestone on board the Belmond British Pullman, it was “everyone off”, then onto a bus for a drive to the Channel Tunnel terminal, off the bus, a walk through Passport Control, back onto the bus via a car park and then the bus drove into a shuttle train and onwards through the Tunnel. Inside the bus and once at Calais, it was stay on the bus for 25 minutes and a drive through the back streets of Calais to a railway siding where the real Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train sat waiting to “greet UK travellers!”
And when I asked “why the bus ride through the Channel Tunnel and not stay on board the train”, a spokesperson for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express management said: “Our train is not licensed to travel through the Channel Tunnel”. Now that is what I call progress!
Once the real Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train set off from Calais everything was perfect. Staff were dressed in regal 1930’s uniforms; compartments were of the highest standard; food was outstanding although be warned, drinks ranging from a simple G&T to a bottle of wine were expensive. A Sainsbury red of about £9 costs about £80 on the train – but it was nicely served!
It was James Sherwood, owner of Sea Containers, who struck on the idea of resurrecting the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in the 1970’s and he purchased two of the original carriages at a sale at Monte Carlo in 1977.
One of the carriages was “Audrey” which had been located in the back garden of a lady’s house. As part of the “sale” the lady makes an annual pilgrimage to Venice in the carriage which was once her garden shed!
I was one of the fortunate ones to travel to Venice in carriage “Audrey” which is unique with the opulent wood panelling and fittings. One of the other dining cars displays the famous and glorious Rene Lalique glass carvings.
There is little doubt the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is an experience worth the expense – and worth paying for.
Even the Belmond British Pullman provides luxury of a bygone era starting with Brunch of smoked salmon and scrambled egg, Champagne and a variety of nibbles to enjoy as the Pullman train slowly makes its way through the Kent countryside to Folkestone. At Calais Ville station you are greeted with the full regalia of 1930’s era uniforms, your own carriage attendant, drinks in your compartment and no luggage to worry about at all as your main suitcase is taken care of until you reach your Venice hotel and your “flight bag” is already loaded and waiting in your compartment once you board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train at Calais.
On the first evening you are “encouraged” to dress for dinner. Men in black tie; ladies in an evening attire of their own choice such as a cocktail dress. It is Champagne in the Lounge Bar dining carriage before being called for either the 19.00hrs or 21.30 hours dinner. The menu is a mouth-watering choice of fish and steak of cheese and dessert. The wine list is extensive and wines are of the highest quality but be prepared to “gulp” at the prices. But then I suppose you would not be making such a journey without taking “add-on costs” into account first!
There is a first class pianist; a Chef du Tran; a Head Waiter who ensures everything is “tip top”; and silver table service leaves you in no doubt people in the 1930’s really knew how to live and enjoy life.
The compartment is compact and you have only a wash basin. The toilet (one per carriage) is at the end of the corridor but the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express do provide passengers with a very nice (for keeps) dressing gown and slippers to make that middle-of-the-night corridor visit that much more comfortable!
After a night’s sleep of sorts and waking up to the snow-covered Alps and the start of the journey into Italy, breakfast is served in your compartment. There is an alternative of a Champagne and lobster breakfast for the romantic at heart in the dining carriage at around £150. Very romantic.
After breakfast you take in the fantastic scenery of the Southern Alps and northern part of Italy. Down the sides of Italian lakes before heading into Milan for the fourth and final locomotive change. At each frontier you have a new locomotive and driver from that country you are about to travel through.
Lunch on the second day comprises: Pan-friend scallops on the bed of pureed peas in mussel emulsion and red beetroot; this is followed by Duck breast roasted with redcurrants and accompanied by green beans. Then there is Zucchini flower stuffed with lemon grass-scented black and white quinoa. Finally, orange cheesecake with lime zest. And – oh yes – do not forget the wine and a generous opened-ended credit card to pay for a bottle of appropriate wine – or you will look the odd-one-out!
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express approaches the coast and soon Venice comes into view. It was Mussolini who dreamt on the idea of linking the main island with a rail connection across the Lagoon. These days a road runs alongside the railway with a huge parking house as cars have nowhere to go – nor are they allowed to go anywhere – on any of the islands. The train station is large, reasonably modern and hectic but once again Venice Simplon-Orient-Express staff are waiting on the platform for travellers. You are escorted – by water taxi – to one of the numerous hotels. The main hotel used by the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the Belmond Cipriani Hotel (read our review) but I selected the Londra Palace Hotel on island where St. Mark’s Square was just a 10 minute walk away. This proved an excellent choice as not only was my hotel first class with excellent service but I avoided water taxis as I could walk to the Basilica, museums and explore the many narrow canals and bridges between this and the Grand Canal. I had an excellent choice of small cafes and restaurants for meals during my four days in Venice although nothing was “cheap” with the exception of a slice of pizza (3 euros) or “just one cornetto” (2 euros)!
A simple evening meal was about £20 and a good bottle of wine £15-£20.
If you hire a private water taxi – hotel back to the railway station – the cost was 70 euros for a 15 minute journey.
I took a 45-minute gondola ride through the narrow canals with an excellent Gondolier named Marco (everyone knew Marco). Coming from a family of many centuries existence in Venice his knowledge of buildings, construction and prediction that not only is Venice sinking and the water level rising but in 100 years’ time Venice will “be no more!”
Costs: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, hotel and flight return. Approximately £2,250
Costs: Extra hotel days in Venice. At least £150 a day – without meals
Meals: Allow up to £200 per day for lunch and dinner with some wine
Hotel Londra Palace: Book On-Line for “deals” or use your local travel agent to plan and book your entire trip. I used: Howard Travel of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and was expertly guided through each stage by their representative “Wayne”.
Top 10 hotel baths with a view
With designer bathrooms quickly becoming a highly lusted-after interior design trend, the world’s most luxurious hotels have unveiled their own bath time eye candy. Imagine sinking into some bubbles looking out across an azure sea, or enjoying a soak with a chilled glass of champagne over a cityscape? Look no further as we round up our top ten hotel baths with a view.
112 Apostles Hotel & Spa, South Africa
Forget whale watching from the hotel’s Leopard Bar Terrace and ignore the private cinema – Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa is all about the bath-time views. The hotel is flanked by The Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and the majestic Table Mountain, proving the most gob-smacking vistas of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site as you soak in the tub.
2InterContinental, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is famed for its dramatic skyline, boasting an impressive array of skyscrapers, surrounding mountains, beach-fringed coastlines and Victoria Harbour, which separates Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The really city bursts to life in the evenings though, as the imposing buildings light up in an array of colours and the harbour plays host to the daily Symphony of Lights. Where better to watch than from a vast, circular bath at the InterContinental hotel? Fits two people comfortably – a perfect setting to share a bottle of champagne or two.
3Chalet Grace, Zermatt
Keen skiers find it hard to tear themselves away from the powder slopes and the stunning mountain views at the best of times. If reluctantly huddling up in a wooden chalet at the end of each day isn’t your thing, then staying in Firefly Collection’s Chalet Grace may be just the tonic. Facing across the valley, Zermatt’s hidden gem offers heart-stopping and uninterrupted views from the deluxe bathroom – the perfect place to thaw out.
4Raffles Praslin, Seychelles
With the nearby Anse Lazio beach often referred to as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bath with a better sandy view than from Raffles Praslin in the Seychelles. Each villa features a carefully placed bath to maximise star gazing at night or to drink in the lush green hills, white powder beach and opal-hued ocean during the day.
5Lake Vyrnwy, Wales
Part of Welsh Rarebits, a collection of hotels with distinction, Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa surprises and delights with a view that wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of New Zealand. If there was ever a reason to visit Wales, it’s this. The bath with a view overlooks a stunning, mountain-ringed lake; there seriously is no better place to shrivel like a prune in the UK.
6Pier One Sydney Harbour, Australia
Pier One Sydney Harbour is a stunning boutique hotel that offers bath views directly over Sydney Harbour Bridge. Epitomising ‘Exactly Like Nothing Else,’ Autograph Collection’s tagline, the hotel is a shining example of Marriott’s group of boutique, stylish properties. Book the harbour view balcony suite and enjoy a soak overlooking Sydney and the famed landmark bridge – the perfect way to start a trip down under.
7Singita Boulders Lodge, South Africa
Did you know you can bathe in an alfresco tub whilst watching elephants enjoying some light refreshment? We didn’t either until we happened upon this South African 12 bedroom lodge, set in a wildlife reserve. Soak away your stresses overlooking the Sand River, and you might be lucky enough to spot herds of elephants drinking at its banks.
8Hideaway Beach Resort and Spa, Maldives
There are few places better than the Maldives when it comes to ocean views, with most over-water villas on the collection of islands offering unbeatable vistas of the Indian Ocean as far as the eye can see. Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa boasts a vast number of these following a recent $50 million renovation, and also offers a personalised butler service. This popular honeymoon destination is the perfect place to order a bottle of Bolly to enjoy in your rose petal bath.
9Mandarin Oriental, New York
There’s arguably no better skyline than that of New York, and Mandarin Oriental‘s stateside offering boasts unparalleled bird’s eye views of Manhattan. Book the Oriental suite to enjoy a bath not only with stunning views of the Big Apple shimmering below you, but also of the city’s much loved greenery. There’s no better place to immerse yourself in bubbles in the city that never sleeps.
10Villa Kalisha, Bali
Nestled in the lush Bali jungle, Villa Kalisha sits almost suspended about a steep gorge, overlooking show-stopping vegetation and the volcanoes of Bali. The dramatic open-air bathroom opens up in three directions, with tropical vistas in your eye line which ever way you look from your indulgent copper tub. You will never feel further from home or civilisation than you do here – perfect for the ultimate relaxing soak.
– Bathroom City
Be the first to go to Tulia Zanzibar
When two men from the Czech Republic decided to build a hotel hundreds of miles away on a small beach resort in East Africa’s Zanzibar they never imagined how problematic following their dream would be. They could hardly speak the local lingo and it took three years of haggling just to procure the necessary permits.
They employed 200 local workers and began to create their vision of a luxury beachside resort even though they had not an iota of experience in construction. Their style was pretty hands on, but their inexperience, inevitably, led to disappointment when their imagination and the reality differed. After two years of building they realised there were flaws and demolished everything only to start again.
Later than hoped and with the help of architect Barbara Mluvkova, the duo have finally launched the Tulia Zanzibar. Their offering is an all-inclusive 5* boutique beach resort. It’s pretty exclusive with just 17 bungalows. Each is made of local stone and wood, and has its own path that leads through the lush gardens to its door.
Click on the image to enlarge:
Imagine waking up everyday to the sound of the torquoise waters of the Indian Ocean lapping onto the Pongwe beach just 10 steps away from your bungalow.
There are no meal times which means you can dine in the resort at restaurant any time you like, and snacks are available all day long. And if you fancy a change of scene and even more seclusion you can have it. A short walk along the secluded beach there’s a tent with cushions and even a mini bar. Your butler will take you there with a gourmet picnic and later when the day slips away, your butler will collect you to escort you back to your bungalow.
Every day with the tides the water retreats for hundreds of meters in places to reveal a the lagoon floor of sand, coral and seaweed. This is an incredible opportunity to explore the Indian Ocean on foot and watch as locals living the surrounding villages, earn their living by fishing and seaweed farming in the lagoon.
This is a peaceful, sun-drenched resort but you can weave in some activities with excursions into town, dolphin watching, forest tours into the Jozani forest, home to the colobus monkey and a safari in Kenya and Tanzania.
Disclaimer: this article was sponsored by Marco Polo travel agency
Embassy Gardens in London will feature the world’s first Sky Pool at 115 ft
Everyone is familiar with open-air swimming pools, infinity pools and even roof top pools, but how does a pool 115 feet (35m) in the air grab you?
The “Sky Pool” is destined to appear in London’s skyline in the summer of 2019 as part of the £15bn luxury property development – the Embassy Gardens at Nine Elms – in West London adjacent to the new US Embassy on the South Bank. The first phase of Embassy Gardens sold out within a weekend some three years ago.
The second phase of the development project will create 179 suites, 1, 2, 3 bed apartments and a penthouse. Ultimately there will be 2,000 new homes in this landmark development effectively creating a new community living within landscaped gardens, a riverfront walk threading between Embassy Gardens to Battersea Park, a boutique hotel and vibrant new bars and restaurants providing a variety of al fresco spaces and 130,000 ft² of shopping space.
Check out the promotional video:
The suspended Sky Pool will link two 10-storey towers on the tenth floor. It is the first of its kind in the world. Entirely transparent and structure free, the pool allows residents to swim from one building to the other and will allow swimmers to peer downwards through the transparent bottom (made from acrylic).
The pool connects the Legacy Building to the EG:LE club; the exclusive private members club for residents of Embassy Gardens. Along with the Sky Deck, EG:LE club includes a private gym and yoga studio, a boxing ring, a private cinema called The Maureen O’Hara and a traditional private library and lounge area named after the Irish playwright The John B. Keane.
However, to use this 25m swimming pool you will need to be a resident and this means splashing out from £602,000 upwards to buy home in the development.
After a few laps, swimmers can relax on the sky deck, in the spa or in the summer bar and Orangery while enjoying views over London and the Houses of Parliament.