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“The Man & the Monarch” – Sir Edwin Henry Landseer unveiled @ Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is synonymous with the powerful depiction of animals, from Queen Victoria’s hounds and horses to lions and polar bears. However, more than any other animal, the Highland Red Deer is most associated with his art, notably ‘The Monarch of the Glen’, painted in 1851.

“The Monarch of the Glen” Sir Edwin Landseer

This majestic portrayal of a royal stag against the moody backdrop of misty mountain peaks led to numerous reproductions, engravings and marketing images from whisky to shortbread and even butter,  spreading the image worldwide.

An early advertisement for Dewar’s Whisky

Shortbread tin

This iconic image of Scotland’s wild, natural landscape encapsulates its sense of tradition, heritage and romance.  As one critic noted, ‘Landseer may be said to have mastered other animals, but the deer mastered him”.

Having been on loan for seventeen years to the National Gallery of Scotland, in 2016 the owners Diageo, decided to put the painting up for auction through Christie’s, which sparked the very real threat of a sale to an overseas gallery or collector.

Following an urgent appeal by the NGS to save the Monarch for the nation, Diageo agreed a partnership deal offering a £4 million purchase price, half its market value. Financial support came from Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, Scottish Governnent,  private trusts and an international fundraising campaign (#loveitdeerly), with generous donations from art lovers around the world.

On 17 March 2017, it was announced that Landseer’s famous Stag had been secured, now in public ownership to remain in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Scotland.

To celebrate this extraordinary painting, an exhibition entitled “The Man and the Monarch” is on display throughout April in a pop up gallery at the Peacock Alley, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.

The Art Consultancy firm, Artiq advises on and selects works of art for private homes and public spaces.  Companies and clients can also lease artworks on a regular revolving basis. It is the perfect opportunity for restaurants and hotels to enhance ambience and decor for the benefit of guests:  “In the hospitality industry, a great piece of art can leave a lasting impression and resonate on a deeper level than any other aspect of design or service.”  Hotels which have collaborated with Artiq on art collections include London Heathrow, Marriott, and Gleneagles, Perthshire.

Katie Terres, art consultant, with Franck Bruyere, Deputy Manager, Waldorf Astoria, delivering a Landseer painting to the hotel.

Kate Terres, an Art Consultant from Artiq,  is the enthusiastic curator behind this fascinating showcase of prints, photographs and portraits with works by Landseer, John Ballantyne, Albert Mendelssohn and eclectic range of contemporary artists.

A stunning, stark photograph is “White Stag” by Kristian Bell. Perhaps snapped at dusk, the pure white of its coat illuminates the soft tones of green and brown foliage with the two central deer staring directly at the lens.

White Stag, Kristian Bell

As Kristian explains “I had heard a few rumours of a white stag hanging around the Arne RSPB in Dorset so was pretty pleased when we came across a group of deer including two white stags…. they were flighty and this was the closest I could get.

The award winning London-based German artist, Alma Haser specializes in carefully constructed portraits using imaginative paper-folding techniques which distorts the face, Picasso-esque style, such as in her series Cosmic Surgery.

“I hope that people find them beautiful but at the same time are taken aback because they are so awkward and weird. I just want them to look closer.”  Alma Haser

Thistle Face, Alma Haser

Haser also alters the shape of a head and facial expression with decorative adornments in a series entitled Brainstorm, and here you can see her powerfully enigmatic portrait “Thistle Face,”  showing  a man’s face obscured by the flower of Scotland.   Landseer suffered bouts of depression throughout his life and this vibrant image of sharp, spiky leaves and purple tone, subtlely reflects the blocked mind and dark thoughts of mental illness.

To complement a fine print of “The Monarch of the Glen” itself, there is also “Scene in Braemar – Highland Deer”.  In 1888, this Landseer painting was purchased  at Christie’s for 4,950 guineas by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, remaining in the family, (on loan to the National Gallery of Dublin) until sold to a private collector over a century later. The dramatic painting, nearly 9ft high, portrays the artist’s most familiar subject, the Red Stag, surrounded by young fawns and a cute little hare with a soaring eagle overhead against menacing grey storm clouds.

‘Scene in Braemar, Highland Deer” Sir Edwin Landseer

This small yet comprehensive exhibtion captures the essential spirit of Landseer’s life and work: a violent scene of eagles attacking three swans, portraits and photographs which illustrate his close association with Queen Victoria (who commissioned numerous pictures), and his epic project to model the lion sculptures for Trafalgar Square.

It would have been fantastic to have also included a print of Sir Peter Blake’s own striking interpretation, “After The Monarch of the Glen” (1966), hanging side by side Peter Saville’s dynamic tapestry, “After, After, After The Monarch of the Glen,” (2012).

Within the former Caledonian Station concourse, the Peacock Alley is a most elegant Salon for hotel guests and non residents to relax over afternoon tea or a coupe of champagne. The Bartender has invented a special Scotch Whisky, Earl Grey and orange-flavoured “Monarch” cocktail, the perfect tipple as you browse around this artwork.

It makes you wonder that if Landseer were alive today, he would be invited to work for fashion houses and jewellers to create promotional advertisements .. you can just visualise Landseer’s Stags, dogs and lions joining Cartier’s Panther as a symbol of artistic style and luxury.

Peacock Alley, The Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh, The Caledonian,

“The Man and the Monarch” is on show until the end of April 2017

The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Princes Street, Edinbugh EH1 2AB.   tel. 0131 222 8888

http://www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Perthshire – Summer season, 2016: “stay six days, see seven shows.”

Pitlochry Festival Theatre on River Tummel

Pitlochry Festival Theatre on River Tummel

Best Theatre in Scotland

I can’t rate this place highly enough.  It’s a repertory theatre so you can see different shows each night, and two shows on matinee days. The standard is excellent, there’s a lovely restaurant and always delightful staff.”

The comments of a happy theatregoer this summer who clearly shares my passion for Pitlochry Festival Theatre, which I have been visiting since a young teenager during summer family holidays at Loch Tay; we would drive over to see a matinee, (such as a thrilling performance of “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier), followed by fish and chips in town and then head back to Kenmore. Happy memories!.

Pitlochry - holiday town for generations of visitors

Pitlochry – holiday destination for generations of visitors

Latterly, I have continued to visit most years to see a few productions from the usual culturally diverse programme – the wit of Oscar Wilde, sizzling satire from Noel Coward, bittersweet romance from Somerset Maugham,  murder mysteries, (more please!), American drama, (ditto), whimsical fantasies by J M Barrie and contemporary Scottish plays. Artistic Director John Durnin balances period classics with comedy and a lavish musical to suit both the local residents and visitors who flock to Pitlochry every summer.

The PFT Ensemble 2016

The PFT Ensemble 2016

The PFT’s Repertoire Season 2016 featuring an ensemble cast of eighteen actors, kicked off on 27th May with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, “Carousel” which quickly proved a hit with theatre-goers .. “Carousel was absolutely marvellous – acting, singing, costumes, set, orchestral music could not be faulted.” 

and Critics …“The opening production of Pitlochry’s 2016 season has set the bar high for the rest of the year with a sparkling version of Carousel”. The Stage

Carousel the Musical

Carousel the Musical

Ayckbourn’s  trilogy, “Damsels In Distress” offers three comedies – GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay – featuring totally different characters and plots but sharing the same stage set, a smart Docklands penthouse apartment, and performed by the same seven actors. Each play can be enjoyed on its own, see two or three, and if you fancy a farcical feast, a trilogy marathon in a single day.

Gemma McElhinney and Stephanie Wilson as Rosie and Annette in FlatSpin

Gemma McElhinney and Stephanie Wilson as Rosie and Annette in FlatSpin

GamePlan –  “The set is sumptuous – a riverside apartment with large sliding doors leading out to a balcony with an impressively realistic view across the Thames”.  RolePlay – ” Vintage Ayckbourn performed by a capable cast – the highpoint in Pitlochry’s ambitious three-play revival.”  The Stage

5 star visitor review: “We were in Pitlochry for 3 nights.  Game Plan and Flat Spin were excellent and the theatre restaurant a good place for a meal before the show“.  27 July, 2016

“Thark” is a vintage Ben Travers classic from 1927, an hilarious comedy of manners in a country house featuring a disparate bunch of English stereotypes, the philanderer Sir Hector Benbow, who fancies the delectable, sweet Cherry Buck; but his romantic plans for the weekend are scuppered by the unexpected arrival home of his wife.

George Arvidson and Jacqueline Dutoit as Lionel and Mrs Frush in Thark

George Arvidson and Jacqueline Dutoit as Lionel and Mrs Frush in Thark

Noel Coward is back with a timely revival of his family saga, “This Happy Breed” in which he starred himself in the 1942 premiere.

Noiel Coward in This Happy Breed, 1942

Noiel Coward in This Happy Breed, 1942

In contrast to his inimitable, romantic encounters between fashionably glamorous martini-sipping socialites such as in “Private Lives” and “Design for Living,”  this play observes the gritty suburban life of the lower middle class Gibbons family between the wars, illustrating heartfelt patriotism with warm affection.

The final summer season production is “Hard Times” based on the novel by Charles Dickens, a master chronicler of Victorian life and family strife; set in 1870s Lancashire, Thomas Gradgrind is a retired merchant and schoolmaster, who abides by his philosophy of rationalism and fact, lacking any sense of imagination much to the despair of his children and his young pupil, Sissy.

The wonderful, romantic history of the Festival is all due to a passionate vision to create a Theatre in the Perthshire town by its founder, John Stewart.

When staying in Pitlochry during the early part of the war, I chanced to see a stately house with a fairly large garden, quite close to the town. I at once realised that here my dream theatre might well be established in this fashionable resort right in the heart of Scotland

The original Theatre Tent at Knockendarroch

The original Theatre Tent at Knockendarroch

His dream did came true, and in 1951, the launch of the Pitlochry Festival Theatre took place in a huge tent in the garden at Knockendarroch. The house became the theatre headquarters and the home of Kenneth Ireland, the Artistic Director.

1951 programme

1951 programme

A tea room and box office were built and soon after, the tent was replaced by a more permanent Marquee where the theatre remained until 1981; on a gloriously sunny May day, with bagpipes heralding the occasion, the new spacious,  sleek, glass-fronted theatre opened in such a perfect location on the banks of the river Tummel.

The tranquil Highland setting is surrounded by gardens, woodland and hills, yet an easy walk from the town centre.  The Theatre has recently been shortlisted as one of Scotland’s favourite buildings of the past century as part of the Scotstyle Festival of Architecture.

2016 marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Theatre and 35 years since the opening of the new auditorium.  In recent years, the summer season (May to October), has gradually been extended with a Christmas-time Musical, the Winter Words Festival as well as a concerts, talks and shows on Sunday evenings.

In the Autumn, the entertainment continues with “Para Handy” by Neil Munro about life on board the Vital Spark puffer, featuring stories, songs and a live band. And then it’s time for the Musical, which this year is “Scrooge”, based on A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Having been wowed in recent years by “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”,  this will once again offer a great Festival show for all ages.

With an international reputation for high quality productions,  over 100,000 visitors every year have the opportunity to see six or seven plays in six days. The theatre with an art gallery, shop, Restaurant and café bar, is a buzzing social hub day and night.  Pitlochry is the ideal holiday town with a wide choice of hotels, award winning B&Bs, cafes and restaurants, (see below);  shops galore, (gifts, tweed, country clothing, jewellery, arts and crafts), and Edradour whisky distillery. Perthshire is an outdoor playground for hiking, biking, river rafting,  hill climbing and scenic drives around Loch Tummel.

PFT - a bold new theatre re-envisioned for 2021

PFT – a bold new theatre re-envisioned for 2021

The PFT is now looking ahead to its 70th birthday celebrations and has launched a £25 million fundraising scheme, “Through the Vision 2021,” a major project to establish a national centre of theatrical excellence in Perthshire.  Across several phases over the next five years, the plan is to extend and improve the front of house,  refurbish the auditorium and build a full height fly tower.

Artist impression of the expanded theatre

Artist impression of the expanded theatre

In addition, to create a second, smaller auditorium as well as a national centre for production services for skills training, set design, costumes, lighting,  sound, technology, which would be available to other theatres.   The architectural design includes new riverfront terraces, landscaping, improved access and an enlarged car park.

Pitlochry Festival Theatre is already one of Scotland’s leading cultural tourism destinations, which economically for the local community, is far greater than any comparable UK theatre, and in Scotland, second only to the Edinburgh Festival.  By 2021, with a longer season running from Spring to Winter and two auditoria, it is estimated that theatre attendances will rise by 40% to around 140,000 annual visitors.

The PFT aims to play more of a significant and key role within the performing arts sector in the UK through partnerships with other theatres, producers and venues. It will programme the best touring work across theatre, opera and dance and in turn,  tour a selection of own productions around Scotland and further afield.  The artistic programme will be increased and greatly diversified with more drama, concerts, events and tours year-round.

“Through the Vision, 2021” is a challenging and exciting development, which preserves the legacy of John Stewart and his inspirational dream to establish a Theatre in the Hills.

 ” ….if you’ve never been to Pitlochry Festival Theatre, you really are missing out. Just try it!”.  Theatre visitor, July 2016.

http://www.pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Port na Craig, Pitlochry, PH16 5DR.  01796 484626.

Pitlochry-festival-theatre-2016

Recommended places to stay and eat:

Craigatin House & Courtyard – Guesthouse of the Year, 2016, Scottish Hotel Awards

Craigmhor Lodge – Best Breakfast award, 2015, Scottish Hotel Awards

Fisher’s Hotel –  Old Coaching Inn near the train station; 2 bars & restaurant, lovely garden.

The Old Mill Inn – Scottish Inn of the Year, 2016, Scottish Hotel Awards

Killiecrankie Hotel – Charming, luxury country house with first class, homely hospitality.

Fern Cottage Restaurant – 10 minutes walk from PFT,  perfect for pre-theatre meals.

Victoria’s Restaurant  – Morning coffee, lunch and dinner – open all day.

The Venice Simplon Orient-Express – a timeless, luxurious travel experience

The exquisitely elegant era of train travel

The exquisitely elegant era of train travel

To step on board the Venice Simplon Orient Express is a dream of journey and an exquisite privilege to step back in time to the glamorous era of train travel.

“I would like to say that I was born on the Orient Express as my mother took her bi-monthly trip to Istanbul, or that I was smuggled out of China as a tiny baby wrapped in silk and hidden in the guard’s van in a trunk of geological specimens”  Lisa St. Aubin De Teran – Off the Rails.

Like Lisa who is a self-confessed train addict, I have a passion for the gracious, golden-era of train travel. My partner and fellow world traveller Ken and I have been fortunate to experience several classic railway journeys – the 1920s vintage Al Andaluz around Andalucia, Spain, Belmond Northern Belle (for dinner), Belmond The Royal Scotsman for a marvellous tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands and West coast of Scotland, and an enriching few days on board the Belmond Eastern and Oriental, right across the Malaysian peninsula from Bangkok to Singapore.

But now it was time for a truly aspirational adventure: the excitement began when our Orient Express Venice-Simplon Travel Journals arrived, like a slim novella full of facts, city guides, photographs and official train tickets from London to Venice:

“Welcome …You are about to embark on a journey like no other, travelling across Europe in a fashion redolent of the glamorous 1920s…… to rediscover the sheer pleasure of elegant rail travel.

The first part of the journey is from Victoria Station, London to Folkestone, on board the Belmond British Pullman departing at10.45am on Thursday 26 June. We therefore take the very comfortable East Coast train, First Class,  from Edinburgh to Kings Cross the day before,  to ensure we are there in a timely manner.

The Guoman Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria is a grand Heritage Railway hotel, where train travellers have stayed, wined and dined since 1862. The Reunion Cocktail Bar is the former First class Waiting room. The next morning, the concierge takes care of our luggage and personally escorts us out the side entrance directly onto the concourse and over to Platform 2 on the far side.

Here is the red carpet and box trees outside the Orient Express Lounge where we check in at Reception. Passengers may have a small overnight bag in their Wagon Lit suite, while all other luggage is stored in the Guard’s van until we reach Venice … rather like trunks on a transatlantic crossing which were labelled, “Not wanted on voyage.”

A few guests dressed appropriately in 1920s – 30s, ladies in vintage frocks and veiled pillbox hats and men in cream blazers and panamas. We are very smartly dressed for a summer’s day, but had not thought of such theatrical flair (next time we shall!).

“ Everyone was smiling, chattering, wrapped up in the romance and the glamour. They had all dressed for the occasion, and were groomed and coiffed and polished. The air was heavy with scent and cologne and expectation”.
Vernonica Henry “A Night on the Orient Express”

Dashing past us are the daily commuters, day trippers and shoppers, pausing briefly to observe, perhaps rather enviously, this distinguished group of travellers, as the magnificent chocolate brown and cream Pullman train, pulls gracefully into Platform 2.

Boarding the British Pullman at Victoria

Boarding the British Pullman at Victoria

Within a few minutes, the doors in the glass partition open and with uniformed staff directing passengers, we are soon walking along to find our compartment, named Gwen. Now we feel like time-travellers, stepping not so much on board, but back to the Edwardian era. Settling into velvet armchairs, we can admire the plush furnishings, brass, glass lamps decorative pearwood and marquetry of this 1932 carriage.

british pullman seatsOur table for two is elegantly set with white linen, OE-crested crystal glasses, silverware and fine china; A waiter serves Bellinis, Prosecco with fresh peach juice, invented at Harry’s Bar, Venice – the perfect taster to herald our final destination.

We enjoy a delectable Brunch – fresh fruit, Scrambled Egg with Scottish smoked salmon, pattiserie dessert and coffee – as we saunter at a gentle pace through the Garden of England, via Canterbury and finally reach the White Cliffs of Dover.

Folkestone is a pertinent port for the next section of the journey. This was the first link between London and Paris from 1843, when the SE Railway company launched the paddle steamer for the 26 mile crossing to Boulogne. From the Channel Tunnel terminus at Cheriton, we are whisked through the Channel Tunnel by coach on board the dark, windowless freight trains, which is rather surreal.

OE stewardsThe anticipation is almost over as we arrive at Calais station to see the gleaming Blue and White OE V-S wagons-lit cars, the team of staff standing in military precision at each carriage door.  The traditional royal blue frock coats with gold buttons uniform for the Stewards was designed by Balenciaga.O E steward blue

Our reserved Cabin Suite is Carriage D, Cabin 3 and we are welcomed on board by Rupert Aarons, our ever smiling and attentive steward for this iconic journey to Venice.

Cabin Suite - day time sofa and vintage decor

Cabin Suite –  beautifully crafted, authentic decor

The exquisite woodwork, fabrics and furnishings is all so authentic, especially the vintage porcelain washhand basin hidden in a cupboard complete with fine toiletries and crisply laundered towels.   With just an overnight bag we unpack quickly and settle down in our comfortable compartment. A bottle of champagne awaits our arrival.  Bliss.

Our OE Suite

The perfect start to our journey

Don’t think about booking a ticket if you cannot be bothered taking part in the time-travelling experience. It’s like being extras in a Noel Coward play or a Marple or Poirot film  (although hopefully there is not likely to be a murder in the night!) – you don’t have a script to learn, just look the part.  As part of maintaining tradition, you are expected to wear formal attire for dinner.

And it’s such fun dressing up in our glad rags and jewels as the train speeds through the French countryside towards Paris; at around 6.30pm we make our away along to the Cocktail Bar where like us, the majority of men in smart Tuxedos and the women in cocktail dresses and evening gowns, with a few in 1920s flapper frocks and boas.

Vivien - vintage evening gown and gloves - with Champagne

Dressing up in  silk gown and gloves

Classic Martini in Evening Dress

Bond-style Black Tie and Tuxedo

The pianist plays all the familiar American song book tunes, while Walter, the senior barman and his team are shaking and stirring delectable cocktails.  Ken sampled a speciality martini called Guilty 12, inspired by Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”, a mystery concoction of twelve ingredients.

“All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express, Trains are wonderful, to travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers – in fact to see life”.  Agatha Christie, My Autobiography.

Like a house party, we mix and mingle with other guests, many of whom are celebrating a special occasion – 50th birthday,  honeymoon,  25th wedding anniversary – couples of all ages and nationalities;  everyone agrees this is a Bucket List trip of a lifetime.

Le Diner is grand, gracious and leisurely: classic French cuisine, (Lobster, Beef Carlois, Fromage, Chocolate noir et creme brulee), artistically presented dishes, beautiful plates, silverware and crystal glasses matched with exemplary service.

After a night cap in the Bar, we eventually retire to our small, yet luxurious Suite  where Rupert has transformed the daytime sofas into two lower beds with soft pillows, white linen, bathrobes and blue embroidered slippers.

A cabin suite

A cabin suite with two lower berths

The adventure continues as we slumber, fitfully with the rocking movement, whistles and signal stops,  through eastern France and into Switzerland.  Raising the blind around 6am the view is of green fields, grazing cows, chalets and mountain peaks.

Picture postcard Switzerland

Picture postcard Switzerland

Breakfast, served in our cabin, is Swiss-themed, creamy yogurt, fresh fruit, Emmental cheese with bread, coffee.   We enjoy a lazy morning browsing the route map and seeing panoramic views of lakes and mountains all the way.

Italian lakes and mountains

Italian lakes and mountains

12 noon and time for a Bloody Mary in the Bar, followed by a pre lunch aperitif – an ice chilled glass of champagne – to keep up this glamorous lifestyle.

Champagne before lunch

Lunch is a late, leisurely affair after we have crossed the border featuring distinctly Italian cuisine …Caprese Salad, San Daniele ham and melon,  Eggs with truffle,  Aubergine cannelloni, Pan fried Turbot and king prawns, Black and Red berries & gelato ).

Black and red berries with gelato

Black and red berries with gelato

A leisurely Italian inspired Luncheon

A leisurely Italian-inspired Luncheon

6pm – the train glides gracefully into Santa Lucia Station, Venice on schedule,  as stewards and staff rush around assisting passengers with luggage and onward travel arrangements.  The journey is over but the ethereal beauty of Venice awaits as we step aboard a gleaming teak motor launch to be whisked off down the Grand Canal to our 5 star hotel, the Danieli.   Slow, slow, elegantly sophisticated train travel is the way to arrive in La Serenissima.

Plan your luxury Belmond journey here:

http://www.belmond.com/luxury-trains

London to Venice

http://www.belmond.com/journeys-and-tours/europe/to-venice

Paris to Istanbul

http://www.belmond.com/journeys-and-tours/europe/paris-to-istanbul

Venice

Relish Scotland (Third Helping) is an appetising and very tasty Travel Guide for gourmands

oliver twistChild as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel and then clung for support to the copper. ‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.
‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’

Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist.

It was in 2009 when Relish Publications was launched by food lovers Duncan and Teresa Peters, a series of Regional guides to the best restaurants across the UK. Relish Scotland (2010) was followed by Relish Scotland (Second Helping, 2013).   And now, rather like Oliver, hungry for more of the same, restaurateurs and readers have asked for Relish Scotland (Third Helping), just hot off the Press – or should I say, hot off the Grill.!

Layout 1Scotland is a food lover’s dream destination. Farmland, Highland moors, rivers, lochs and sea provide prime produce which is a global best-seller – Exports to the US, Singapore, Japan, Middle East and across Europe now reach £1.1 Billion. If you add Scotch Whisky and Gin, Food and Drink exports totals over £5 Billion.

Relish Scotland (Third Helping) takes us on a road trip across Scotland, from Ayrshire to Argyll, Edinburgh to Skye, Fife to the Hebrides to the best places to stay and eat.

Here are a few of my own favourite hotels, restaurants, bars and bistros which I am delighted to say are included in this book.

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is an ancient land of wild scenic beauty, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, whisky bars and romantic hotels.

Kinloch Lodge is the ancestral home of Lord and Lady Macdonald, welcoming guests for over 40 years, with exemplary hospitality and house party ambience on the shores of Loch na Dal.

Kinloch Lodge - a G&T in the cosy lounge before dinner?

Kinloch Lodge – drinks are served in the cosy lounge before dinner

Marcello Tully, the Michelin starred Head Chef creates an innovative tasting menu of local Langoustines, Rabbit stuffed with venison and prunes, Mallaig Hake and Mussels, Chocolate Ganache, with wine or whisky flights to complement each course.  The next morning, experience a classic breakfast fit for a King. Residential Cookery courses from Lady Claire Macdonald too.

The Torridon is a former Victorian shooting lodge, surrounded by majestic mountain peaks in Wester Ross –a twice winner of the top award, Scottish Hotel of the Year.  Luxurious bedrooms,  superlative cuisine and wonderful country sports for the perfect rural retreat.

The Torridon

The Torridon

Chef David Barnett is able to source beef from the hotel’s herd of cattle, pork from their own Tamworth pigs, Estate venison and fish from Gairloch. Speciality dishes include Isle of Ewe Smoked Haddock ravioli, Roast Grouse & Savoy cabbage, Malt whisky parfait with fresh raspberries for a true taste of the Highlands.

Heading over to the Moray Firth, Boath House, is an art-filled Georgian mansion owned and personally created with care by Wendy and Don Mathieson. Based on the Slow Food ethos, the cuisine is always seasonal and local – lamb, beef, shellfish and artisan cheese. The kitchen garden supplies vegetables, herbs, salads, flowers and fruit.

Boath House - fine art and Michelin star dining

Beautiful Boath House – fine art, tranquil gardens and Michelin star dining

Head Chef Charles Lockley goes foraging for wild leaves, mushrooms, berries and flowers and bread, ice creams, jams and biscuits are home-made. A distinctive Michelin Star dining experience – and for breakfast too!

Perthshire is a wonderful county for outdoor sports, fishing, shooting and woodland walks.  Ballathie House is a traditional country house with a warm, welcoming hospitality from afternoon tea in the lounge to a G&T in the Bar before dinner.  ballathie hotel

Start perhaps with Terrine of Salmon and Sole followed by Venison with butternut squash fondant. Head Chef Scott Scorer and his team work with the gamekeeper and ghillie to source Ballathie Estate beef and lamb and freshly caught fish from the River Tay.

Scott Scorer and Chefs, Ballathie

Scott Scorer and his team of chefs, Ballathie

Pitlochry is a year round visitor destination thanks to the Festival Theatre, Erdradour Distillery, House of Bruar (Harrods of the North), and fine places to stay.

Fonab Castle

Fonab Castle

Fonab Castle is a stunning redstone turreted hotel on Loch Faskally with two restaurants, the casual brasserie and Sandemans for fine dining. Selected dishes in the book include Beef Fillet with Foie Gras & Morel mushrooms, and finish with a palate cleansing Lemon Posset and sorbet.  Head Chef Paul Burns goes foraging for wild mushrooms in the woodlands nearby and picks berries through the summer.

Table with a view at Fonab Castle

Table with a view at Fonab Castle

Look at this fabulous scenery over loch and forested hills as you enjoy a superb dinner.  Fonab Castle is the place for a time at leisure – culture, sports, touring around by day, relax in the Spa and experience fine wines and cuisine.

Set off again south to Fife an the quaint historic town of St. Andrew. The Old Course Hotel, is described as “ the home of Scottish cuisine in the home of Golf,” under Executive Chef, Martin Hollis.

As part of five venues to eat and drink at the Resort, do visit the Road Hole Bar (specialising in 250 whiskies, Scottish Caorunn gin and classic Cocktails) and the adjoining romantic Restaurant, both with stunning views over the golf course and West Sands beach beyond.

Road Hole Restaurant,  overlooking Old Course, St. Andrews

Road Hole Restaurant,
overlooking Old Course, St. Andrews

Hollis strongly advocates Food From Fife, following a seasonal calendar to serve fresh produce from crab to asparagus. Signature dishes include East Neuk Lobster and Heather honey parfait with home-grown rhubarb sorbet.

The buzzing Adamson bar and brasserie

The buzzing Adamson bar and brasserie

The Adamson is a popular place for local residents, students and golfers to St. Andrews, the decorative Brasserie now extended with a new Bar. The selected starter is Quail, Sweetcorn, Soy and Mushroom Broth, garnished with a soft quail’s egg on the top.

Explore further around Fife – eating well all the way; warmly recommended is the Peat Inn, dating back to the 1750s, now a Michelin starred Restaurant with Rooms run by Geoffrey and Katherine Smeddle – so the best plan is to stay the night, or two, after a sumptuous dinner of Warm Duck salad and Roast salmon.

Relax, eat, drink and sleep at the historic Peat Inn

Relax, eat, drink and sleep at the historic Peat Inn

Let’s now zoom south east, over to the tranquil countryside and seashore of Dumfries and Galloway. Knockinaam Lodge is the place for a peaceful getaway – log fires, antiques, lovely bedrooms, vintage bathrooms and sea views.

knockinaam on the seashore

Knockinaam Lodge located near the seashore

Winston Churchill stayed here for wartime meetings with Eisenhower. Head Chef Tony Pierce has held a Michelin star here for 20 years for his classic French menu: Galloway Roe deer, scallops, lobster, with garlic, aubergine, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, courgette flowers and peas grown in the kitchen garden.

Just outside Glasgow, on the banks of River Clyde, Mar Hall is a five star Golf and Spa Resort.  It is sumptuously furnished with original period architectural features.

The elegant Crystal Restaurant overlooks the garden.  Head Chef Jonny MacCallum and his team prepare such dishes as Roast loin of Lamb and Cranachan Souffle – modern Scottish cuisine indeed.

Grand Victorian design, Mar Hall

Grand Victorian design, Mar Hall

Edinburgh is home to several Michelin star restaurants – The Kitchin, Number One, Martin Wishart, 21212., Castle Terrace. Profile interviews with all these superlative chefs are featured in Relish Scotland.

Tom Kitchin in The Kitchin

Tom Kitchin in his newly expanded retaurant,  The Kitchin

Superb eating and drinking in Bars and Bistros around the city; On The Shore, Leith the charming old waterside pub, The Ship on the Shore is a classy place with a Champagne Bar and seafood Restaurant – Crustacean and Molluscs, classic Fruit de Mer platters, Fish Pie, Bar meals and Sunday Brunch.

The Ship on the Shore, Leith

The Ship on the Shore, Leith with champagne bar and lobster platters

In the urban village of Stockbridge, eat and drink well at the welcoming Hamilton’s Bar & Kitchen. Lunch: Salads, Burgers, Fishcakes, gourmet sandwiches & chunky chips; Dinner: Ale battered Oysters, Venison & Haggis fritters; Cool cocktails and Hamilton’s own label wine.  I am just so pleased I live five minutes walk away from here – my Local!

Hamilton's Bar and Kitchen

Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen

This new edition of Relish Scotland is an excellent, appetising guide to a handpicked selection of restaurants. Stunning colour photographs illustrate locations, interior designs and the Kitchen brigade.  It’s also a Cook Book of Recipes including suggestions for paired wines for the reader to prepare Masterchef and Michelin Star meals at home.  Pick up a copy and plan your foodie tour of Scotland soon!

Relish Publications – details of all the books @ http://www.relishpublications.co.uk

Chefs celebrate the new Relish Scotland at the Old Course Hotel, St. Andews

Chefs celebrate the new Relish Scotland at the Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews

Fauhope Country House – a graciously artistic place to stay in the Scottish Borders

“Yet was poetic impulse given, by green hill and clear blue heaven”  

Sir Walter Scott

The green hills of the Border Country

The green hills of the Border Country

The Scottish Borders, Scott’s beloved countryside, offers gentle, rolling landscape, rivers, lochs and a dramatic sense of history with its abbeys, castles and grand mansions. The quiet Border towns and villages preserve a rich literary, cultural and rural heritage: this is the home of fine tweeds and knitwear, sheep farms, world class fishing, walking and mountain biking and the Rugby 7s.

Fauhope Country House, built in 1897

Fauhope Country House,
built in 1897

Just an hour or so south of Edinburgh, Melrose in the heart of the Tweeddale valley is the ideal base to stay awhile and tour around. For perfect tranquility, scenic views and architectural beauty, I warmly recommend Fauhope Country House in Gattonside, just across the River Tweed from Melrose. Their private drive is up a rather steep and rugged road, but when you turn the corner at the top, my word!

Surrounded by lovely gardens, this stunning white-washed Arts and Crafts house was designed by Sidney Mitchell in 1897 for Major General Lithgow, a shipping tycoon. With its gable roofs, turrets and bay windows, it’s charmingly, graciously elegant. As you step into the spacious hallway, the windows frame a panorama of the Eildon Hills across the valley.

Eildon Hills across the Tweed

Eildon Hills across the Tweed

And this is the same magical view from our Turret Bedroom; decorated in calm shades of mushroom and cream, with antiques and period furnishings, it’s all very homely – soft towels, soaps, lotions and even emergency medication essentials in the spacious bathroom.

Classic bathrooms, vintage style

Classic bathrooms, vintage style

All one would need to feel at home –  armchairs, flat screen  TV,  a bookshelf of classics, crime fiction, poetry & local travel guides, not forgetting the tea tray and decanter of sherry for the weary traveller.

The bedrooms are all indivually designed with care.

Decorative bedrooms

Decorative bedrooms

Fauhope has been owned by Ian and Sheila Robson since 1986 and for the past fifteen years they have opened their door to welcome Bed and Breakfast guests. It remains very much their family home decorated with personal photographs, artwork, ceramics, books and a child’s rocking horse;  huge vases of flowers throughout the house, arranged with style.

Stunning flower displays

Stunning flower displays

In the Lounge, it was so lovely to sit in front of the log fire to enjoy a cup of tea and home made chocolate cake. Sheila and Ian love to chat with their guests to ensure that they experience a great time while visiting the Borders, suggesting what to see and do.

Welcoming lounge to read and relax

Welcoming lounge to read and relax

If they are free to do so, they will even offer to drive you over to Melrose for dinner so that you can have a drink or two!.   There are some excellent places to eat out, such as the cosy Burts Bar serving hearty pub grub.

Marmions Brasserie is also a well established and popular place for locals and visitors. Its name is inspired by the epic poem, Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field by Walter Scott.  This is like a country inn with pine wood furnishings and paintings for sale around the walls.

Border country is renowned for its meat, game and seafood and the Marmion’s menu emphasises the provenance of food with local Salmon, Venison and Lamb. I selected delicious Fish cakes and Seabass, Mediterranean vegetables and crushed potatoes; across the table, Ken had Arancini and then a huge platter of Eyemouth haddock and chips. You can’t get fresher than this. The well selected Scottish cheese plate was excellent and with a bottle of fruity Merlot, this was a very tasty dinner indeed.

Then it was just a quick taxi ride back to Fauhope Country House.

You are sure to sleep well in this quiet rural retreat, with just the dawn chorus of bird song as a gentle alarm call. Breakfast is a gracious affair served in the blue-painted, art-filled dining room. Classical music on the soundtrack. Our table, with lovely garden views, was laid with linen napkins, vintage silverware, crystal bowls.

Our Breakfast table

Our Breakfast table

First a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a selection of cereals and fruit – berries, prunes, apricots and Sheila’s own rhubarb compote – this was all delicious with natural yogurt. You can then expect a choice of Full Scottish (bacon, eggs, mushrooms, potato scones et al), scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. and perhaps the Edwardian dish, kedgeree, all in keeping with the period of the house. With toast and marmalade and a large pot of coffee, this was a fine start to the day.

With this style of hospitality, no wonder Fauhope has received 5 star ratings from the AA and Visit Scotland and warmly recommended by two renowned hotel inspectors:

In Alex Polizzi’s Little Black Book, she writes “staying at Fauhope House is quite simply a joy because of the owners and hosts, Ian and Sheila Robson. The care and attention they spend on their guests would put many top-class hotels to shame, and if all B&Bs were like this I suspect most hotels would go out of business!”

And in his Special Places to Stay, Alastair Sawday describes it thus: “ Views soar to the Eildon Hills through wide windows with squashy seats; all is luxurious, elegant, fire-lit and serene with an eclectic mix of art.”

From the Visitor’s book at Fauhope, it seems that many guests stay here before and after setting off to walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way, the 62 mile, ancient pilgrimage trail to Lindisfarne, the Holy Isle. The Borders is an adventure playground for outdoor activities, fishing, biking, hiking and hill walking.

The magic mountain in the Eildon Hills was believed to be sacred by the Celtic priests, who had fire festivals to ward off evil spirits, and still a place of mystery evoked in ballads and legendary tales. And at the heart of this local literary tradition, you can Abbotsford, the former majestic home of Sir Walter Scott, where you can view his library, study, and stroll in the landscaped gardens.

After a tiring day of exploration out and about, return to Fauhope to relax on the sofa in front of the fire, or a seat on the lawn surrounded by trees, flowers and extraordinary metal bird sculptures brought back from a trip to Zimbabwe.

Ducks and bird sculpture in the garden

A real duck beside the quirky bird sculptures in the garden

And you can also book a facial, massage or other beauty treatment from their in-house therapist.

While it is best to have a car to tour around, you could certainly enjoy a few days at Fauhope and enjoy walking here and there. It is just a 15 minute stroll down the hill and over the Chain footbridge to Melrose with its many restaurants, bars, attractive shops, (antiques, tweeds, woollens, books.). And of course, do visit the dramatic ruins of Melrose Abbey.

I completely concur with the comments of these guests and could not describe our stay at Fauhope House better myself. …
“ … a dream of a place to stay; it has charm and character ..extremely warm and comfortable. Sheila & Ian are very welcoming with nothing too much trouble..”

Fauhope Country House
http://www.fauhopehouse.com

Gattonside, Melrose, TD6 9LU, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders
Tel. 01896 823184

Marmions, 5 Buccleuch Street, Melrose. http://www.marmionsbrasserie.co.uk

Travel Information.

The new Borders Railway is due to start its passenger service on 6 September 2015 linking Edinburgh with Tweedbank, Scottish Borders. http://www.bordersrailway.co.uk

Check out the bus service from Edinburgh to Galashiels > Melrose and local Borders bus routes. http://www.firstgroup.com

Experience a fabulous, fun city break in Manchester

My sister June lives in South London and I am in Edinburgh. As we were not going to be meeting up for Christmas this year, she suggested that we plan a Girly weekend – in Manchester. The perfect destination roughly half way between our two homes.

Transpennine Express - Scotland and North of England

Transpennine Express – Scotland and North of England

I set off on the Transpennine Express from Edinburgh Waverley at 10.08am on Friday 14th November, heading south west via Lockerbie, Carlisle, Preston and on to Manchester in just over three hours. It was a long snake of a train en route to its final stop at Manchester Airport.

A comfortable journey all the way, during which I had morning coffee and bagel breakfast and later,  an egg and salmon sandwich with a tiny 37.5ml bottle of wine for a picnic lunch. The time passed quickly as I read my murder thriller.  Scenic views too across the Border country and Lake District with its wild moorland dotted with grazing sheep.

Meanwhile my sister had taken a Virgin train from Euston and we both arrived around the same time, early afternoon.  Our rendezvous at Manchester Piccadilly Station worked well.

Doubletree by Hilton,  Manchester

Doubletree by Hilton,
Manchester

The Doubletree by Hilton is a fashionably smart, modern hotel just five minutes walk from the Station – a perfect location for the weekend. The lobby is bright and spacious with rainbow coloured sofas; two bars and City Cafe restaurant are also on the ground floor.

The hotel lobby

The hotel lobby

Our standard Twin Room was compact in size but offered all facilities for a short break: shower-room (baths are available in the Suites), quality toiletries, bathrobes; Mac TV, fridge – bottled water, Tea and Coffee tray.

Standard double room

Standard double room

Armed with a map, we ventured out for a stroll to get our bearings. Just ten minutes up Piccadilly is Market Street, the pedestrianised shopping area.  It is very easy to walk around – there’s a free city centre hop on hop off bus too.

Market Street shops

Market Street shops

Friday night we had tickets for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Royal Exchange Theatre, the classic 1950s American play by Tennessee Williams. First, supper at Annies nearby at 5 Old Bank Street. The logo is a top hat over the capital A of Annies.  Founded by the actress Jennie McAlpine (Fizz in Coronation Street),  no wonder it has a showbiz mood.!

Jennie McAlpine and Chris Farr, owners of Annies

Jennie McAlpine and Chris Farr, owners of Annies

I warmly recommend Annies – for coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, evening meals. Upstairs is a cosy café and downstairs, restaurant and lounge bar where we sat in comfy armchairs for a cocktail as we studied the menu.

Homely British pub-grub at Annies

Homely pub-grub at Annies

The cuisine is traditional British hearty food. Soup, Prawn Cocktail, Lancashire Rarebit, Sirloin Steak. I selected Fish and Chips with mushy peas – delicious, lightly fried fish and fantastic hand cut chips. June had Annie’s Hotpot, chunky lamb and vegetables followed by Sticky Toffee Pudding.  We sipped a couple of glasses of House white wine.

Casual ambience, good soundtrack (Michael Buble, Jazz, Blues) and friendly service. And well done, the Ladies Loos have small towel flannels, (not a blast of hot air!). Live Music on Friday nights, Cocktail deals and seasonal menus.

The Royal Exchange theatre is like a glass and steel Spaceship inside the historic Great Hall. We had excellent seats near the front of the stage for a perfect, close up performance. (See review on separate page of Smart Leisure Guide).

Royal Exchange theatre

Royal Exchange theatre

Saturday, 9.30am – Hotel Breakfast. We were to be out all day so needed extra fuel to keep us going. Buffet for juices, fruit, cereals and hot dishes. Alternatively, your choice of eggs and omelettes, freshly made to order.

Time to hit the shops: Christmas markets near City Hall – arts, crafts, toys, candles, woolly hats, Festive Hog roast, mulled wine.

Selfridges

Selfridges

Manchester is fashion shopping heaven from Primark and H&M to Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Armani and Vivienne Westwood and all very near each other and if it’s a cold wet day, go inside the Arndale Centre with dozens of stores under one roof.

From Market Street, it was just a short walk to Spa Satori, the Holistic Health & Beauty Retreat. (112 High St).  Our therapists, Devon and Maria took us to a warm, candlelit room with two beds for our treatment.

Massage and Facial at Spa Satori

Massage and Facial at Spa Satori

We experienced a relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minute Massage and Facial each with silky Eminence Organic oils and lotions. Perfect pampering!.

From the Spa, it was then off to Bill’s (8-12 John Dalton Street) for a late lunch. You may have come across another branch of Bill’s café-bar-bistro-delis across the UK, which have the tag line, “Serving delicious food from breakfast to bedtime”.  Industrial design with funky, vintage decor sets the scene.

Bill's Cafe Bistro Deli.

Bill’s Cafe Bistro Deli.

The menu is mouthwatering, a fusion of Mexican, Greek, American and British. We had two fantastic dishes, Mac ‘n Cheese with butternut squash, and Smoked haddock fish cakes with avocado salsa and chunky chips. This is seriously fresh, healthy and global home cooking with pizzazz.   Please open a Bill’s Bistro in Edinburgh!

Later on after more shopping, back to the hotel for a breather and then glammed up with lippy and posh LBDs.  Next port of call was Cloud 23, the ultra cool Cocktail bar at the Hilton Deansgate on the 23rd floor of Beetham Tower.

Cloud 23 - sky high cocktails

Cloud 23 – sky high cocktails

Reservations are recommended – often essential at night – as this is a sassy, stylish place for a drink with a skyscraper view.  Very romantic for a couple – or reserve a corner lounge area for a small party of friends.

Signature Cocktails feature five iconic drinks to celebrate historic people and places of Manchester. The Stratospheric blends Tanqueray 10 with passion fruit and Champagne for a sparkling celebration of the Hotel’s Tower. Gold Phantom (Cognac, Honey, Pineapple) commemorates Henry Royce and his famous motor car.

Night view from our window seats

Night view from our window seats

Described as a Forgotten Classic, June sampled the 1930s Cosmopolitan – the original version of the Vodka and cranberry cocktail made famous by Carrie Bradshaw on the girls’ night out around Manhattan.

Cosmopolitan - Carrie's cocktail

Cosmopolitan – Carrie’s cocktail

At Cloud 23, this is a pretty pink Gin with Raspberry Cosmo and tastes divine.   Non-alcoholic drinks too such as the refreshing Cloud 23 Lemonade. The Bar-tender will make anything you fancy, such as my fresh, tangy Marguerita, (Tequila with fresh lime) and a Dirty Martini, straight up with a twist – which hit the spot.

A cab back to the Doubletree by Hilton hotel for dinner at the City Cafe. First a glass of bubbly in the gorgeous little Blue Bar which is a hidden gem. Gorgeous black and white portraits,  soft sultry lighting, it has a touch of class.

Ice cold Champagne in the Blue Bar

Ice cold Champagne in the Blue Bar

After our aperitif we were taken next door to the Restaurant and seated at a window table. The Terrace outside here is popular on warm days for alfresco wining and dining.

The A la Carte menu is small but select.  We shared a platter of bread and olives as a starter. For my main course I loved the seafood pasta – thick pappardelle ribbons with a mountain of prawns, squid and mussels. Across the table, my sister had an imaginative Chicken and chorizo Risotto. And to finish – Cheese and crackers and Pear Tart.

After our buzzing day of retail therapy, beauty treatments, cocktails, good food and wine, we were ready for bed before the bewitching hour.

Sunday morning, after a Continental breakfast (coffee and croissants), it was soon time to pack, check out and make our way back to the station for our train journeys home – north to Edinburgh and south to London.

Tried and tested on this trip, Manchester is a fun, friendly, Cosmopolitan city for the ideal short break. With traffic-free shopping areas, theatres, arts festivals, buzzing bistros and style bars, it has a lively European Café society style; with sleek trams trundling around street corners, we felt we were in Amsterdam.!

Wishing you a marvellous, magical time in Manchester ….wherever you may wander.

City signposts to help tourists explore the city

Street signposts help tourists explore the city

Quick Facts

www.tpexpress.co.uk

www.doubletree3.hilton.com – Manchester Piccadilly

http://www.visitmanchester.com

www.wheretogomanchester.co.uk – Colourful city guide

www.anniesmanchester.co.uk

www.royalexchange.co.uk

www.spasatori.co.uk

www.bills-website.co.uk – Bills Restaurant.

www.cloud23bar.com at Hilton Deansgate, Manchester

Experience a taste of romance, luxury and tradition in the beautiful world of Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice

Vintage glamour and glitz from London to Venice

Vintage glamour and glitz from London to Venice

Having previously visited Venice by car and by ship, this year the arrival was the most magical. My partner Ken and I travelled in vintage luxury from Victoria Station London on the British Pullman and then in Calais Ville, we boarded the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express for our exuberantly romantic journey to Venice.

Champagne lady

Champagne lady

Marcel Proust apparently delayed going to Venice because for him cities were like women, and the best confined to his dreams. But when he arrived he was not disappointed and he described it lovingly and at length.

The surreal, dreamlike panorama of Venice

The surreal, dreamlike panorama of Venice

Writers, artists, actors, musicians have always been enticed like a magic spell to visit Venice. In no particular order, Balzac, Byron, Claude Monet, Somerset Maughan, Noel Coward, Peggy Guggenheim, Cole Porter,  Orson Welles, Maria Callas, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, …. George Clooney, Woody Allen.

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go” – Truman Capote

Giuseppe Cipriani outside Harry's Bar

Giuseppe Cipriani outside Harry’s Bar

It was the entrepreneurial vision of Guiseppe Cipriani (and a generous loan from Mr Harry Pickering), which launched the quirky, quintessential Harry’s Bar on May 13 1931 at Calle Vallaresso in 1931. Beloved by the artistic and literary elite of the day, sipping Bellinis (white peach puree & Prosecco),  and lunching on Beef Carpaccio, today the art deco bar remains one of the most famous watering holes in the world.

Hemingway would order a Montgomery. This very dry Dry Martini, (15 parts gin to 1 part dry Vermouth), is named after Field Marshal Montgomery who liked a 15 to 1 ratio of his troops to teh enemy  on the battlefield.  A typical lunch for Orson Welles was shrimp sandwiches, washed down with two bottles of Dom Perignon!

Giuseppe Cipriani

Giuseppe Cipriani who invented the Bellini

Its legendary enduring success was due to Cipriani’s philosophy: quality, a smile, and simplicity, to ensure genuine hospitality, fine food and drink. By the early 1950s it was time to develop more ambitious plans:

“In 1953 my father bought a piece of abandoned land next to a dilapidated workyard on the island of Giudecca. My father often went there. He stood among the wild undergrowth and looked out at the broad calm lagoon. He firmly believed it was a perfect spot for a hotel.”Arrigo Cipriani

Once again Giuseppe was assisted by a wealthy benefactor, Lord Iveagh (the owner of the Guinness brewery) and Hotel Cipriani opened its doors in 1958.

Belmond Hotel Cipriani

Belmond Hotel Cipriani

For those seeking peace and privacy of a romantic island retreat, the Cipriani became the address for VIPs, honeymooners and anyone in search of a taste of luxury.

Vintage image of Hotel Cipriani

Vintage image of Hotel Cipriani

In 1976 it was purchased by Orient-Express Hotels – and now renamed Belmond Hotel Cipriani  (the exciting rebranding of Orient-Express collection trains, cruises and hotels) –  preserving the high standard of gracious comfort and Venetian hospitality since the 1950s.

Courtesy Motor Launch take guests to Belmond Cipriani

Courtesy Motor Launch take guests to Belmond Cipriani

During our visit to Venice this summer, Ken and I took the opportunity to visit the legendary resort, taking the courtesy motor launch over to Giudecca. We arrive at 5pm, Aperitif time at the Gabbiano Bar, overlooking the swimming pool and surrounded by lush greenery and fragrant flowers.

Gabbiano Bar

Gabbiano Bar

The charming Head Barman, Walter Bolzonella is the star turn here – for 37 years he has been blending Bellinis and shaking Martinis with exemplary care. His ethos is Hospitality with heart. The Gabbiano is like his home, the guests, treated with the warm welcome of personal friends.

Walter Bolzonella, Head Barman

Walter Bolzonella, Head Barman

Lounging on our well cushioned Rattan sofa, we browse the Bar Menu with a mouthwatering choice – Watermelon Spritz, Hemingway Daiquiri, Cipri-Ami Martini, Ferrari Perle Fizz, Dom Perignon, wines, spirits, beers and dozens of signature Cocktails.

Gabbiano Bar Menu, illustrated by Lele Vianello

Gabbiano Bar Menu, illustrated by Lele Vianello

The Buona Notte was invented by Walter for George Clooney (a regular hotel guest), to celebrate his movie Good Night and Good Luck at the Venice Film Festival, 2005. On the night it was created, “100 people came to the bar to experience the new cocktail,” Bolzonella recalls, “It was a disaster!”.

Buonanotte cocktail

Buonanotte cocktail

This is the perfect choice for Ken: A cool refreshing concoction of cucumber, lime, fresh ginger, angostura bitter, vodka, cranberry with crushed ice, it’s like a sophisticated Cosmopolitan with a sharper kick.

A few years later, Walter asked Clooney to suggest a name for his new Elderflower, passion fruit and Prosecco Cocktail. La Nina’s Passion was born, named after Clooney’s mother.

La Nina's Passion

La Nina’s Passion

Fresh, fruity with the sparkling taste of summer, it’s elegant and ladylike to be sipped slowly. With our drinks, we are served a platter of delicious Ciccetti,  bar nibbles, fat green olives, smoked salmon blinis.

Fast forward to August 2013 and the gorgeous George arrives back at the Cipriani; to ensure he has his favourite tipple in Venice, he brought a crate or two of his own specially distilled Tequila.  Clooney, with his friends Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, are the creators of Casamigos premium tequila made from hand-picked Blue Weber agaves grown in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico – which he describes as, “ the best-tasting, smoothest tequila around.”

Casamigos Tequila with delivery boy, Mr Clooney

Casamigos Tequila with delivery boy, Mr Clooney

Originally intended for their own personal use at home, it is now marketed by the slogan “brought to you by those who drink it.” Casamigos is now gaining wide recognition, winning Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition.

The Gabbiani bar is the first in Europe to serve the Casamigos Tequila and to celebrate the occasion, Walter Bolzonella is the master mixologist behind his new cocktail, BuonaNotte Amigo.

Buananotte Amigos  cocktail

Buananotte Amigos

As a partner to the original Buonanotte, into the shaker goes crushed lime, ginger, orange bitter, cranberry juice and Reposado Tequila – a fresh, citrusy punch of a cocktail with a hint of Mexican spice.

Venice is the most romantic city in the world”  Woody Allen

Over the weekend of 26- 29th September, 2014 George Clooney and Amal Alamudden reserved the Hotel Cipriani exclusively for their wedding celebrations with family and friends. A few Casamigos Tequila shots and cocktails were sure to be consumed. !

Hotel Cipriani expressed all of my father’s splendid, intelligent experience. It was the embodiement of luxury service, sincere people providing simple service “ Arrigo Cipriani.

This manner of traditional Italian hospitality continues today with the same sense of personal pride and passion with which the Hotel was created, nearly sixty years ago. Casually glamorous in style, it’s as cool and classy as the cocktails at the Gabbiano Bar.  Salute Giuseppe!

Fast Facts

Belmond Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin,  Giudecca 10, 30133 Venice, Italy
Tel: +39 041 240 801
www.hotelcipriani.com
UK Reservations: 0845 077 2222

Accommodation: 39 guestrooms and 26 Junior Suites, 14 Suites, 1 Palladian Suite.  Pallazzo Vendramin.
Complimentary courtesy motor launch for guests to and from St. Mark’s Square.
Yachting Marina; Private Boat Tours
Oro Restaurant – Italian and Venetian cuisine. Cip’s Club – Dining Room & Terrace. Gabbiano Bar,  Porticciolo Pool bar
Wellness Centre and Spa; Olympic-size saltwater heated swimming pool; Tennis court; Children’s Holiday Club. Hairdresser; Boutique.

The Raeburn: a casually sophisticated Restaurant with Rooms, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

 

The Raeburn: B listed grand Georgian mansion

The Raeburn: B listed grand Georgian mansion

Hoteliers and Restaurateurs can have the funding, innovative designers, architects, a champion chef and a brilliant bartender, but what you can’t buy is the perfect ambience.

What does help is preserving the heritage of a building through design and décor, tracing a link with the past to the present to create an authentic sense of place.

On the edge of the New Town in Edinburgh, Raeburn Place was built between 1814-25 in the estate owned by Henry Raeburn the portrait painter, featuring grand villas, one of which was Somerset Cottage.   In the 1960s it was transformed into the Raeburn House Hotel, but after falling into disrepair, it finally closed in 2007.

The Raeburn - renovation and design

The Raeburn – award winning renovation and design

Thankfully, the abandoned property was bought four years later by the Maclean family,  undertaking a major refurbishment project to preserve and enhance the prime Georgian architecture.   The Townhouse hotel opened again in April 2014 with ten bedrooms, bar, restaurant, beer garden and outdoor terrace, private dining room and conference suite.

The Raeburn with Beer garden

The Raeburn with Beer garden

Within a month, it was named Boutique Hotel of the Year, and given a special merit for Exceptional Achievement at the Scottish Hotel Awards.

My partner Ken and I stayed overnight to experience the new look Raeburn hotel, checking out every aspect of guest care from check in to interior design, pillow test, dinner and breakfast.

Fashionable comfort in stylish bedrooms

Fashionable comfort in stylish bedrooms

Our room Number 5 is stunningly designed with sumptuous tweed fabrics, cool grey painted bespoke wood panelling with fine attention to guest comfort and homely facilities. For those who cannot exist without gadgets and entertainment – Smart plasma television, Wi-Fi access point, Bose Airplay box + iPod (pre-loaded music). Your morning coffee fix is sorted with an espresso machine and mini bar is stocked with complimentary water, as well as drinks and snacks.

Be amazed by a huge walk in wardrobe with dressing table, hair dryer and GHD straighteners. Sleep under Egyptian cotton and indulge in the traditional bathroom with Rainforest shower and (in six rooms), a Roll top bath; quality toiletries, soft towels, slippers and gowns. I love the use of the R logo to signify a strong brand name of a design hotel.

Vintage bathrooms

Classic bathrooms

Time to explore downstairs and as it was a glorious summer evening, we took a seat outside under a sunshade and were soon sipping a glass of crisp, refreshing Chenin Blanc.   Thie first floor Terrace overlooks the historic Sports grounds – the first Rugby international between England and Scotland was played here in March 1871.  The Royal Botanic Garden is just a short walk away too – such an excellent location to stay for a few days and explore all the visitor attractions of the city.

Terrace overlooking the rugby and sports park

Terrace overlooking the rugby and sports park

Stockbridge is an upmarket neigbourhood of families, students, young and retired couples. A clear vision for the reinvention of Raeburn House was key to its success: A Restaurant with Rooms appealing to city visitors and residents from around this cultural district of  gift shops, galleries, quality food shops, pubs, cocktail bars and bistros.   A farmer’s market on Sundays draws a huge crowd.

The Bar -classic cocktails are a speciality

The Bar -classic cocktails are a speciality

8.30pm – dinner in the Brasserie; thick stone walls, artisan wood flooring, tweed and leather fabrics, booths, armchairs and oak tables, it’s like a modern Urban Inn.   With a small army of staff, service is friendly and knowledgeable; we settled in to study the menu, a wide choice of starters and mains as well as speciality Steaks.

The Brasserie Restaurant

The Brasserie Restaurant

Head Chef Pavel Broz and his team offer fresh and seasonal Scottish cuisine where the provenance of produce is clearly given. Limouson –Angus beef from the Tweed Valley, East Lothian vegetables, North Sea and West Coast seafood, fine cheese. The kitchen also supports the local neighbourhood fishmonger and butcher.

We dined on superb home-cured and smoked Trout, sweet Seared Scallops, an exceptional Cod dish, and a tasty Wild Mushroom ragout. The Cheese board as we finished off our soft, velvety French Pinot Noir.

Drinks and meals in the Bar

Drinks and meals in the Bar

The Bar serves lighter meals of everyone’s favourite dishes – soup, salads, burgers, steak, pasta. Drinks include classic cocktails, beers & craft ales from Scotland, Belgium and USA.

Thankfully, there’s no TV showing endless News and Sports – just occasional screenings of Rugby and Tennis.   For a birthday party, leisure or business event, you can reserve the Library and Private Dining Room.

The Library

The Library

On Sundays, the Raeburn quite rightly reflects a lazy day of eating out with friends – Brunch and traditional Roast Beef as part of an all-day lunch menu. This is also a family, child and dog friendly place.

After a comfortable night’s sleep and power shower to wake us up, time for Breakfast: freshly baked croissants, healthy Granola with yogurt and berries, then perhaps Bacon Roll, Eggs Benedict or the delicious Vegetarian platter. Breakfast is popular with non-residents too, served from 7am to 12 noon.

The professional standard is exemplary, from a welcome smile on arrival to smooth, seamless service and Hospitality with a capital H. Creating the right ambience is an allusive ingredient. Here, the staff are having as much fun serving, as we are sipping our ice chilled Martinis…..

The Raeburn has been a smash hit since day one, a buzzing place to eat and drink, morning noon and night. With a touch of casual sophistication, it’s contemporary with vintage style. 3 F words to describe our experience = Fun, Fabulous, Faultless.

But what do other guests say?

We stayed at the Raeburn for one night during the festival; from the minute we were welcomed to the minute we left were treated like royalty.

I would recommend this hotel to anyone who enjoys the luxury of things a quality hotel should deliver. The Raeburn delighted with ease.

We cannot stress enough how great the service is; every detail of the hotel is sheer Perfection

The Raeburn Hotel is WONDERFUL!! I will totally stay here again!! Top notch.

So why not plan your visit soon …..

 The Raeburn,

112 Raeburn Place

Edinburgh Eh4 1HG

 www.theraeburn.com

tel. 0131 332 7000

 

Innovation, Style and Pampering Perfection at Sanctorium Beauty, Princes Street Suites, Edinburgh.

The Sanctuary at the Suites – Princes Street Suites, 16 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EG

http://www.sanctoriumbeauty.co.uk. t. 0131 557 1766.

http://www.princesstreetsuites.co.uk  t. 0131 558 1600

sanctuary 2
The Sanctorium is a hidden gem of a Spa, downstairs at the Princes Street Suites, the deluxe, designer serviced apartments in Edinburgh.

Princes Street Suites,  Edinburgh

Princes Street Suites,
Edinburgh

Located at the East End of Princes Street, (conveniently just a few minutes walk from Waverley Railway station and also the new Tram route), this is certainly a perfect place to stay if planning a cultural or business trip, romantic getaway or weekend with the girls. The range of one to three bedroom apartments offer a home from home environment.

Designer chic suites

Designer chic suites

The Roof Terrace is a real asset – a private Penthouse Garden with tables and chairs where guests may sit with a bottle of wine and snacks at from lunchtime to cocktail hour and admire the city views.

Roof Terrace - a private garden for guests

Roof Terrace – a private garden for guests

Due to the quality, contemporary furnishings, décor and guest facilities, it won Serviced Apartments, Style Award, at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2014.  But you don’t have to spend the night or two here to enjoy a range of beautifying treatments at the Sanctuary Spa – it’s open to all.

As I live in Edinburgh, I spent an afternoon here recently to experience a couple of signature rejuvenating treats for the body and face.
The Spa is small and intimate offering a bespoke personal service. The moment you step through the door, the hustle and bustle of the city centre disappears as you enter a tranquil haven with an Art Deco touch of glamour. Sitting in the smart reception to fill in the questionnaire, I sipped a glass of champagne and began to relax immediately.

Sanctuary Spa - a tranquil haven

Sanctuary Spa – a tranquil haven

Then I was taken to one of the two warm, comfortable Spa Salons for my treatments. The heated bed was luxurious and I settled down ….

The Spa menu covers all the usual suspects for body, face, eye and hand and feet beauty care, from Swedish and hot stone massage to Shellac nails, eyebrow grooming to Facials.

What is special here is the fine selection of unique cosmetic brand products from Tibby Oliver and Eve Taylor to offer a different experience from other Spas.  The Tibby Olivier Empire founded by Julieann Parry, has grown from a small British company to open in Canada, America, Japan, Spain, Korea, Russia and Australia. The pure organic cosmetics are handmade in the UK, free from synthetic fragrances, artificial colours and not tested on Animals.

“I would not ask anyone to use a cosmetic product that I would not put on my own skin. I only use the best cosmetic ingredients that I can trace back to its origins, Eco friendly and preferably Fairtrade.” Julieann Parry

The Tibby Oliver range of treatments includes Faith Lift, the Non- Surgical Face Lifting Skincare System, and the Shrinking Violet Body Wrap. So, as I need to be beach bikini slim for the summer, I though I should try this “revolutionary” inch loss programme.

Wearing no more than a pair of disposable pants, my therapist Ashleigh measured my thighs, hips, waist and bust for the Before and After comparison. Then she rubbed a blend of cellulite-active oils over my entire body, before wrapping me in heat inducing “cellophane” style sheeting.

I then just had to lie on the bed to relax under a cosy duvet, while the oils penetrated the skin with fat-busting energy. The soft ethnic mix of music soundtrack was ideal. (Some Spas get it so wrong with orchestral muzak). After 20 minutes or so, still wrapped snugly, Ashleigh began to prepare for my second treatment – an Eve Taylor Ultimate Facial.

Eve Taylor (London) Ltd was founded in London in 1963, and today the world renowned company exports over 60% of its products worldwide. Eve Taylor started her career in the beauty industry as a beauty therapist and quickly became fascinated by Aromatherapy. After extensive research and study, she decided to develop her own range of pre-blended aromatherapy oils along with specific treatment methods and techniques.

My facial was certainly very distinctive in its “journey” from deep cleansing exfoliation to a gentle facial massage – the aromatherapy oils were lavender, ylang ylang and geranium. Two masks were applied to penetrate the skin layers for sublime softness and smooth appearance.

And finally, time to remove the Wrap and to find out if the Shrinking Violet magic had worked. Yes, in total I had lost 8 inches – simply by being rubbed with these active oils, and the heat within the skin tight wrap does the work over two hours.

As they say, “All I Need to get into My Little Black Dress Is Shrinking Violet Body Wrap”.

You are advised not to drink alcohol or caffeine over the next day as the oils continue to work under the skin. It’s a very popular treatment, news of which is spreading widely.

Pampering Parties in one of the Suites

Pampering Parties in one of the Suites

Pampering Parties for a small group of Ladies is also offered by the Sanctuary – a package of selected treatments – facials, massage, manicures, and glamorous makeovers can be experienced in one of the apartment Suites.

This brilliant concept is absolutely geared up for visitors to Edinburgh – an ideal weekend destination for Hen parties, Birthday celebrations, or Fashionable Girls who shop till they drop. And of course Pampering parties are a fun Day Out for ladies who live nearby.

Your tailor-made package can also include champagne, chocolates, canapés and light lunch snacks for a super indulgent “Me Time” with friends and family.  The Pampering Parties were awarded with an Innovation Award at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2014.

As I have not personally experienced this day of beauty and bubbly, I shall leave it to these guests who have recently visited the Sanctuary at the Suites – and by all accounts, had a seriously wonderful time. !

Pamper Party perfection

I was arranging a hen party to Edinburgh for 10 girls and decided that a spa day would be a perfect way to end our trip. At Princes Street Suites, we started with drinks on the roof terrace which has amazing views of Edinburgh. We then moved into the suite and given robes and slippers. I had a back, neck and shoulder massage followed by an ultimate facial. All the girls agreed we had never felt so relaxed. The champagne did not stop flowing. All of the beauty therapists were lovely and friendly. They really did a fantastic job. The experience really was one of the highlights of our trip. I am already thinking about taking my mum to Edinburgh and we will without a doubt be visiting the Sanctuary at the Suites again.”

 

“I booked a full body massage and shellac pedicure for myself and my mum (a birthday pressie for her) the massage was amazing and my toes look fab. Afterwards we sat out on the Roof Terrace and it was great. We are looking to go back and I would definitely recommend this place”
“What a lovely relaxing morning a friend and I had at the Sanctuary! The staff were all lovely, we got fizz and chocolates on arrival and the massage itself was amazing. I have had a few massages over the years and this one has to be one of the best I have ever had. I look forward to going back!”

 

Motel-One Edinburgh-Princes: a cool design concept for travellers on a budget

As featured in a recent news report in The European, Edinburgh is such a thriving and popular city for business and tourism, it’s prime for hotel development. And no wonder!

edinburgh

Scotland’s capital beat London, Paris, Venice and Barcelona to attain the title “Europe’s Leading Destination” at the World Travel Awards. The Guardian/Observer poll named Edinburgh as the “UK’s Favourite City” for the 14th year. Edinburgh Airport was named “Best in Europe” for the third time, as passenger numbers reaching a record high, and more direct flights to and from the USA, Middle East and across Europe have been launched to offer visitors easy global travel connections.

So, it’s clear that Edinburgh needs good quality, well priced city hotels to attract all these global visitors. After the launch of the first Motel-One Edinburgh-Royal in 2013, the doors have just opened to welcome the first guests at  Motel One Edinburgh-Princes.

Edinburgh-Princes at the East End of Princes Street

Edinburgh-Princes on Princes Street

Located at the East End of Princes Street, the purpose built 140 bedroom hotel on four floors offers views of Calton Hill, Princes Street Gardens and up to the Castle. Quick and easy access from Waverley station and the Airport bus is just a five minute walk and the brand new Tram link is up and running on a route from the city centre to the Airport.

The term “No Frills” was coined to describe the low cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easy Jet, giving passengers the basic flight with no extra facilities or hospitality.  The ingenious concept behind Motel-One which was launched in 2000 in Munich, is based around “Viel Design fur wedig Geld” – “Great design for little money.”

Motel_One_Princes-Edinburgh-Interior_view-11-579624

The distinctive, cool, clean colour palette of turquoise and cappuccino- brown creates a fresh and fashionable décor. Architectural design is guest friendly: the Reception lobby leads seamlessly into the spacious L shaped One Lounge Bar and Breakfast café, where huge picture windows show off panoramic city views.

George III Royal family artwork

George III Royal family artwork

While there’s a Motel –One Brand Look, the bespoke One Lounge-Bar is inspired by the heritage and culture of each city destination. Princes Street is named after the two sons of King George III., Prince George and the Duke of York. To reflect this, here at Edinburgh-Princes a stunning mural illustrates the grand and opulently dressed Royal family.

Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs

Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs

This multi purpose One Lounge has ample tables and banquette seating to cater for guests from morning coffee to late night drink.  Stylish Arne Jacobsen Egg chairs dressed in a unique Motel-One blue tartan add an ironic Scottish touch. As a modern take on a Highland country house, you can sit beside the “blazing log fire.” Well, it looks cosy, but may not keep you warm.!

Lounge with cosy fireplace!

Lounge with cosy fireplace!

Bedrooms are economically furnished in the blue-brown-cream colours with everything you need for a good night’s sleep: comfortable kingsize bed, quality cotton, soft pillows & duvet, moveable desk-dressing table, armchair, television; Shower room. In a nutshell, expect a smart, compact design which is ultimately practical for the modern traveller.

Practical, stylish bedrooms

Practical, stylish bedrooms

The clever concept behind the Motel-One collection of hotels is based on three simple facts:  central location, affordable prices and high quality in service and design. With a diverse choice of local restaurants with easy access to public transport, no requirement for in-house Dining or hotel car park.

Breakfast is served as an optional extra (£7.50) – a healthy Continental buffet of fresh fruit, croissants, boiled eggs, tea and coffee. The Bar also offers a mini menu of tasty ham and cheese toasties, the ideal homely One Snack, day or night.

motel 6 breakfast

Motel-One currently operates 50 hotels in Germany, Austria and Scotland and this fast growing, ambitious company has a bold vision aiming for 72 hotels by 2016.   Around the UK, London Tower Hill opens this year, followed by Manchester and Glasgow in 2015. The Glasgow hotel beside Central Station will be the largest hotel in Scotland.

One Lounge - Bar and Breakfast Cafe

One Lounge – Bar and Breakfast Cafe

I have had a sneak preview of the Edinburgh-Princes and look forward to visiting soon for an overnight stay. I just love the fun and funky Bar with unique city views. In the meantime, this Motel-One virgin checked in at this brand new hotel and was clearly won over.!

This was the first time I had ever stayed at a Motel One and based on my experience will not be the last. From the moment I arrived I felt welcome. The member of staff on the reception was happy, bright and extremely efficient. My room was cleverly fitted out to maximise the space, fresh crisp linen on a super kingsize bed and a great shower. 10/10 for the hotel, quality, staff and price.”

Motel-One Edinburgh-Princes, 10 – 15 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AN
www.motel-one.com t. 0131 550 9220. Room rate per night from £89.

Review of Edinburgh-Royal

https://smartleisureguide.wordpress.com/?s=motel+one