Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel Glasgow | Hotel Review

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Where is the most iconic hotel in all of Glasgow? 

Answer: The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel notorious for its historic gardens, it's award winning spa and stylish interiors. Whilst out on a press trip with Diageo exploring the Haig Distillery, I got to visit this wonderful hotel and today I'm going to share some photos and thoughts. 

The Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel is the only AA five-star hotel in Glasgow and a fantastic landmark for this beautiful city. Upon arrival I really felt at home with Xavier my concierge greeting me with warm smiles and pleasantries. Not to mention a solid handshake. 

I admired the modern art that festooned the walls of the lobby before being shown to my room. Once inside I slumped on the bed after a long journey, the quality of the mattress did not go unnoticed. The bedding and the soft furnishings were sublime. The design of the hotel has this great alchemy, fusing traditional architecture and design with a fresh modern look. Everything was immaculate and ahead of my evening meal, I was chuffed to find there was an iron and ironing board to get me ready for the evenings frivolities. 

Another great facet of this hotel is the thermal experience. It's actually a very romantic and antiquated hotel that prides itself on tradition and comfort. I'd certainly recommend getting a relaxing massage and some afternoon tea. 

The dinner service is also top notch. Although if you'd like to experience more of the city's culinary delights then the hotel is situated very close to a wonderful restaurant called Two Fat Ladies. You're also only a ten minute walk to the centre of Glasgow where you'll find a plethora of restaurants and shops. 

I was sad to leave the comfort and hospitality of this fine hotel. However, the service was good and true to the end. The concierge loaded my luggage into the taxi and waved me off like a family member. I'll certainly be back next time I'm in town. 

Alpas Hostel in Siargao: Hostel Review

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Another day another hostel. Today I'm going to review the Alpas Hostel in Siargao. The quaint retreat is located in General Luna, within 1.4 miles of Guyam Island and 1.4 miles of Cloud 9 Surfing Area.

I am starting to feel like Ed Norton in Fight Club. Letting go of all material possessions. I'm not missing TV. Not missing the meetings, the photoshoots, the constant chase for payments from brands. 

I am missing my family, a certain someone and of course, twinkle toes himself, Charlie the Frenchie. When we are reunited I imagine it will look like the end credits of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Timely reference. 

The Alpas Siargao offers a garden, a shared lounge a bar and most importantly a hammock. The property is 4.3 miles from Daku Island and 7.5 miles from Naked Island. (Not as kinky as it sounds). 

So let’s start with the bad and work our way to the good. 

TRUE - there are mosquito nets to use although I survived the night just fine with anti-pest repellent spray. 

TRUE - in some reviews I've read there is apparently an, 'unwater-like' smell to the supply. It was something I came across but wasn’t bad at all.

TRUE - There is WiFi, although quite slow. But there are many local bars and cafes where you'll be able to post those precious photos. 

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The best things about Alpas Hostel 

The ambience is really is what you'd expect. Relaxed, serene, picturesque. The staff are helpful and the owner was very good to me. Helping me hire a motorbike and giving me an itinerary of things to see and do around the islands. 

It can't be underestimated finding non-objective local advice. So many places are dependent on sending you to certain bars, shops and restaurants to earn commission. You only have to visit Hoi An to figure that out. 

The property is a hut style accommodation and whilst it doesn't come with a beach view, it is walking distance to the beach. Also you'll find a laundry shop, very important finding these conveniences when on the road.

It's a relatively new place so I'm hoping next time I'm back they'll make some modifications. But I'll definitely come back here. It's very chilled. It's very quiet. It's a bit of me. 

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The Six Senses Uluwatu Hotel Review – The Most romantic Hotel in Bali?

The Six Senses Uluwatu, Bali is the sort of cliff face resort that you'd expect to see in an Iron Man film. Tony Stark would probably have this as a holiday home.

This review of the Six Senses Uluwata will possibly be the easiest one yet. As many of you might already find on Trip Advisor, it's hard to find a fault with this luxury hotel.

It's located in Pecatu, in the southernmost tip of Bali. It's a popular hotel for wedding and honeymoon destinations as it's incredibly romantic and quiet.

My Brother and I checked in at the top of the hill. The rest of the resort is peppered throughout the cliff face, populated further with villas, private and communal swimming pools the further you venture down.

The room was designed with luxury and convenience in mind. UK plug sockets and USB sockets dotted everywhere. There was an outdoor shower and the pressure was sensational.

Inside you have a lot of advanced luxury technology. For example the toilet seat lifts up before you even get a chance to think on whether it's a number 1 or number 2.

But the main USP of the room is the infinity pool that's on the terrace. It overlooks the resort and ocean and the vistas of the ocean are staggering. The colours of the sky changes every other minute.

I did notice there was no milk in the room for coffee. But that's me being quite pedantic. Plus, Six Senses Uluwatu is heavily themed around wellness and planet protectionism.

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The breakfast bread had no gluten, they bottle their own water and we had the option of hand picking our vegetables from the resorts organic garden for our morning juice.

There are two restaurants in the property. We gorged on Japanese food one night, grilled prawn lobster and squid. The second night we had the BBQ. The prices are often something that gets flagged for luxury stays like this.

However, I thought for the money (£50 per BBQ) we got great value. We had some amazing food from the restaurant that was sourced locally and tasted phenomenal.

You're also paying for the views. You're paying for the exceptional service. You need to think of this as more than just food. It's a package deal that quite frankly, I won't find anywhere back home.

TIP for the Six Senses Uluwatu

Don't forget to experience their Kundalini massage at Six Senses spa. I had an hour massage and took full advantage of the gym whilst there. Again, some of the equipment and technology they have in this gym I've not even seen back home.

Treat yourself to an amazing experience, you'll not regret it. If you're planning an Asia trip that involves Singapore, be sure to check out my review on the Six Senses Maxwell on my blog.

The Legian Seminyak Bali Hotel Review – Paradise, I’m Home!

Today I'm going to rhapsodise about the incredible Legian Seminyak Bali Hotel. I read some rave reviews about this place before heading out there and I'm here to tell you, they're all true. 

The Legian Bali is a beachfront property facing the Indian Ocean, if you're booking ahead I can recommend asking for my room 132 for some of the most amazing views from the balcony. 

The luxurious accommodation set in landscaped tropical gardens can be found along Seminyak Beach. 

The hotel is heavily centred around wellness which is a growing trend in exotic resorts. My brother has joined me on this tour and we both enjoyed some morning Yoga sessions on the green outside, followed a spin in the cycling studio. 

Top TIP for The Legian Bali

I signed up for the Hommage Package which entitles you to a free facial. The facial was incredibly soothing and my skin was treated to a treatment that used a combination of plant extracts and essential oils. My face was cleansed, exfoliated and massaged leaving it looking bright and feeling rejuvenated. 

After a workout we enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours in the spa, sauna, steam room and the plunge pool which got us down to minus 20. That was followed by a quick swim in the  three-tiered outdoor pool. I know it sounds like I've stole some poor kids ticket from the Make a Wish Foundation. 

The dinner was michelin star-esq! Tuna tartar slices, scallops, marinated chicken finished with wasabi ice cream. 

Location 

As I mentioned you couldn't be any closer to the beach. The Legian Bali is under ten miles away from Ngurah Rai International Airport and airport transfer is available at an additional charge.

You're within walking distance to the local clubs Ku De Ta and Potatohead which keep their lights on until 2am. It's close to Seminyak village and lots of cafes and shopping.

The Seminyak Square Shopping Mall is 450 yards from the accommodation, while Petitenget Temple is 450 yards from the property.

The rooms 

I got my own desk to write this blog, currently listening to the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. I could listen to that all day. The rooms are spaces, the suites are beautifully decorated with natural fibre furniture and flooring against white walls minimally accented by original artwork. 

The open air lobby is gorgeously decorated in rich dark wood and an array of local art. Check-in was efficient and comfortable. You will never encounter a face that isn't smiling.

Conclusion 

I can't fault any part of this hotel. Every member of staff had a smile on their face. Every pillow was fluffed, every single facet in this hotel was a joy to experience. Many thanks to all the staff at The Legian Seminyak Bali Hotel for making this a stay to remember. 

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Six Senses Maxwell: Singapore's Latest Gem

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If you're thinking of traveling to Singapore this year I can certainly recommend the Six Senses Maxwell where I stayed. 

From Singapore Changi Airport, Six Senses Maxwell is a 20-minute taxi ride in the heart of the city and provides the perfect base from which to become acquainted with Singapore’s inspiring sites.

Each of the hotel’s 138 guestrooms and suites are carefully decorated with custom furnishings and original artwork. 

Together with Six Senses Duxton, (just around the corner) the two hotels become Six Senses Singapore and showcase the brand’s ongoing commitment to responsible restoration and conservation. 

The Duxton has more of an Oriental flavour, whilst the Maxwell is steeped in more colonial decor and tradition. 

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The Six Senses Maxwell is exactly the retreat I've been looking for. You can't escape it's underlying themes of wellness; the slim lap pool on the rooftop, the one on one yoga sessions. What better way to start the day?

They run the yoga sessions twice a week and after it left me feeling invigorated and centred for the rest of the day. The pool is also perfect just to jump in and cool down when it gets too hot, which is all the time out here. 

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I've been trying to keep on top of my fitness so having a gym here is paramount to me. So many times people use holiday's as an excuse not to work out. Then when they return from a week of sunning and drinking, they find it that much harder to get back into the routine. 

It's an eco-conscious hotel, they promote sustainability and do not use anything plastic in their hotel. Their turn down service has a very personable feel. Little vessels of Tiger Balm were left and messages of peace encouragement on my pillow. Very Zen, I like it. (I'm assuming they do that for all the guests). 

The Six Senses Maxwell only opened in December 2018 yet it feels like they've hit the ground running. Friendly staff, very well organised as you'd expect. The barman can also knock out a very tasty Sloe Gin Fizz and tonic. 

The bar area is quite resplendent, presented as a cosmopolitan library with thousands of books curated across every genre. I would have loved to have spent a couple of hours reading some, but I didn't. Singapore was on my doorstep, it was time to venture out. 

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Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa | Hotel Review

Today I'm going to regale some thoughts on a recent trip to Cardiff and my stay at the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa. I visited Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel as part of the Local Stories campaign, to explore how the hotel is inspired by all things Cardiff.

It's situated in the heart of Cardiff, a breezy 15 minute walk from Cardiff Central railway. The city itself is renowned for its love affair with sport. Us Englanders should be indebted for allowing Cardiff to host our beloved FA Cup at the Principality Stadium, formerly The Millennium Stadium whilst Wembley was getting redeveloped. 

It's a city that embraces sports fans from all around the world. I was at the game on Saturday and saw first-hand their unbridled enthusiasm for the nation’s number one sport; Rugby, with a 20-11 trouncing over South Africa. A ninth consecutive win for the Welsh who look like serious contenders for the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel. By now my readers will know what I appreciate more than anything else in hired accommodation, decent WiFi. I'm pleased to announce the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa has Fibre Optic WiFi internet access. 

I hope you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave some comments in the section below. 

Only kidding. 

I was deeply enraptured by the kind hospitality and the facilities of the hotel. At every stage and every moment of my visit I felt like the staff were willing to go that extra mile to ensure my stay here was a pleasant one.

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Although it was the weekend, I wasn't taking any days off from training. (That Bali bikini body won't sculpt itself). I struck up a great rapport with Scott the personal trainer who gave me some great tips on deadlifting, whilst Cerys gave me the best back massage. I'm not sure why I was so bewildered by the superior quality of the spa facilities, I joked with Cerys the masseuse that I'd seen worse facilities in a dedicated spa. 

Breakfast was 'buffet style' with continental cheeses and Starbucks coffee served at the bar. The bar was a very plush, dual concave semi-circular structure with green and grey fleck marble brick. Finished with a black trim counter top and scrutinised by multiple metallic hanging lampshade shaped like huge chess pawns.

The meetings areas surrounding the bar can accommodate you and your friends should you wish to watch any of the sports games. There are loads of TV's you won't struggle for a spot.

The bartender Luke displayed great flair and had an encyclopaedic knowledge for cocktails. My only gripe would be the lack of Craft Ale which I've had a renewed love affair thanks to my introduction to DiscoverBrew subscription service

It's difficult to characterise this hotel as strictly one of anything. It ticks so many boxes. Perfect for the quiet professional flying in from out of town. (30 minute bus ride from Cardiff airport) also caters for the social element thanks to its vastness, ergonomic seating areas. 

My biggest takeaways from the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa was the quality of service throughout, I had a great night’s sleep (super quiet) and the city in general is just a wonderful orbit to be in for sports fans from all backgrounds. 

Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa Location

La Mamounia in Marrakech, Morocco | Hotel Review

La Mamounia embodies the Moroccan refinement; an oriental atmosphere made of noble materials worked with ancestral know-how, games of perspectives and lights, harmony between the plant and the mineral. I was tempted to take a complete hiatus from social media the other week whilst out in Morocco. But with an oasis like this, it's hard to holster the smart phone. You feel naturally compelled to document the splendour of La Mamounia in its entirety. 

Although founded as late back as 12th century,  it wasn't until the 18th century that Prince Al Mamoun gave his name to the hotel after receiving the gardens as a wedding present from his father.

Fast track to 1923 and the hotel La Mamounia opens its doors, a subtle blend of Arab-Andalusian architecture and the Art Deco atmosphere. 

A retinue of my well-heeled heroes have graced these ornate marble with fleck floors. (All of the rooms are marble floors and have local artwork and mosaic tiles).

What the hotel likes to call "An anthology of Great Men" (yet fail to realise that two of the ones cited are women, tut-tut). 

Nevertheless knowing that some of the style greats, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Marlene Dietrich have found solace here makes me feel like I'm part of a rich eclectic history. Of course they have a Churchill bar named after the nodding dog from the insurance adverts. (Only joking, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention). 

La Mamounia is in the heart of the city. It is walking distance from the souks, the medina and Jemaa El Fina square, not to mention countless bars and restaurants.

When you enter the hotel you'll do well not to appreciate the surrealism of the 12th century wall and dazzled by the play of light - between inside and outside - by the colour contrasts - zelliges between Majorelle blue, green and orange. 

Side note - I keep telling people it's the little things in life that make a difference. For example given an authentic leather key card for your room and for unimpeded access to the luxury mosaic tiled spa and swimming pools. 

 

My takeaways of La Mamounia

The astonishing attention to detail and rich proud history reverberates around this cavernous palace. It embodies it's heritage, it doesn't disappoint with its reputation for supreme levels of service. 

You can lose yourself here. There are 8 hectares brimming with over 1200 plant species! The idyllic snow-capped mountains of the Atlas provide an indefatigable backdrop whilst the medieval ramparts for protection and lush gardens for cocoon, the "Moroccan House" is steeped in culture, traditions, scents.

You are invited to share a dinner in the hotel with the choices of Moroccan, French or Italian cuisine. Each can be served on the terrace should you wish. 

And in the mornings you can have breakfast at the pool pavilion, no black pudding or HP sauce but instead a superb buffet to savour at the water's edge. 

The Spa is an inevitable indulgence with which one must lose themselves. If you're taking your girlfriend or 'willing accomplice' then this is where you earn your brownie points. 

This is a space dedicated to the well-being, between massages, body care, hairdresser not to mention the legendary indoor pool, to totally decompress in water at 28 ° C. I recommend the Hammam treatment followed by a massage.

That’s it from me. This hotel provided me with what Lance Richardson might class as “A rare starburst of unadulterated joy”.  This being my second review of hotels and resorts in Marrakech, be sure to email me if you need any help or advice on visiting the area.

 

WHERE IS LA MAMOUNIA?

 

INSTAGRAMMABLE?

Es Saadi Marrakech Resort | Hotel Review

The other week I took a mini trip over to Es Saadi, a luxury 5 star hotel and resort that boasts eight hectares of gardens in the heart of Marrakech. The resort sits in a lavish private park where you'll be invited to unburden your city woes to the singing birds that thrive amongst the palm trees, banana trees, olive trees, bougainvillea and small roses of Marrakesh.

The resort reflects a rich cultural heritage, and since 1952 has housed some of icons of mine and bygone eras; the couturier Balmain, Josephine Baker, the Rolling Stones and Leonardo DiCaprio have all frequented. 

Footnote - I did enjoy the caption on the companies website;

As you enter the hotel grounds, you have to imagine Mick Jagger, who is young, posing by the pool, .. (let's not think of a 75 year old wrinkly Mick Jagger clutching onto an 18 year old cocktail waitress shall we?). 

Here, the walls and furniture have kept the legendary Es Saadi intact, with 50's lines that delight connoisseurs. Examples of Moroccan art can be seen on every wall and corridor. It's emblematic of the young artists in the country that provide a great source of optimism and energy to the decor. 

On the quest for 'best son 2018' I took my Mum who conveniently seconded as my camera-woman for the trip. Mum is a dab hand in the kitchen so luckily the boys in the kitchen at the Moroccan restaurant Coeur des Lions and at the Gastronomic French restaurant did not disappoint. A great breadth of wines and cocktails are on hand at the Palace. 

The Spa with the indoor pool is a bloggers dream and I certainly dipped my bread, getting enough 'throwback' pictures to last me through a nuclear winter. 

The Es Saadi is conveniently located, a short ten minute ride by taxi and the old town is about 25 minutes on foot. I can recommend. It's a little slice of heaven if one wants an option to stay out of Medina and very reasonably priced too.

 

HOTEL ES SAADI MARRAKECH LOCATION

Essque Zalu Zanzibar | Hotel Review

I snuck away the other week to the Essque Zalu Zanzibar hotel, in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Joining me in toe - the redolent, Beth Norton. Red being the operative word if you saw the pictures of her in THAT dress.

Essque Zalu Zanzibar is an hour and change in a taxi from the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) in the coastal and picturesque village of Nungwi. Whilst other hotels in the area reportedly aim to blend in with their local environment, Essque Zalu is more contrarian to its surroundings.

High makuti thatched roofs ameliorate its standing amongst the palm, mangrove, and casuarina trees whilst the seismic lagoon-style infinity pool bleeds into the horizon. From there a serene yet antiquated jetty reaches out from the shoreline, its elongated stilts prize it from the ocean bed and it has the look of a wooden millipede if you stand and squint. Or maybe if you've had a few G&T's.

Once the tide has rescinded you can advance easily across the flattened rocks before you meet a long palm-fringed sandy stretch coastline. Although admittedly we didn't venture far from the complex. If the Essque Zalu Zanzibar has one negative, it's really like Disney Land in the desert; the only thing worth seeing.

Luckily the place is immaculate, there is a cornucopia of food menus with daily specials and nighttime entertainment. The entire menu was artfully presented, and as for the staff, I can't heap enough ebullient praise especially for Solomon who served us most mornings, afternoons and evenings...I mean does he ever sleep! They were all well-heeled, wore crisp ironed uniforms (I know I'm on holiday but I’m still sizing up whether a shirt fits a guy or not) and they waited on us like royalty.

The suites located in thatched cottages are well appointed and boast a maximum occupancy of 3 adults, or 2 adults and 2 children. This ensures that they are the ideal destination for both couples seeking a romantic getaway, and families who do not wish to compromise on luxury.

This time of year (mid-May) Zanzibar is just coming out of the rainy season and unfortunately, we did catch the tail end of it. But regardless, the weather is still humid and it the grey clouds added a little drama to the photos.

For a more spacious stay, Essque Zalu Zanzibar offers 8 Residences ranging from 3 to 4 bedrooms all of which feature their very own plunge private pool, dining room, a private spa, spacious living room and fully equipped kitchen. As expected, the Residences also boast either a terrace or balcony, with exquisite views, upon which to laze.

For more hotel recommendations like these check out the travel review section on my blog. 

King Street Townhouse Manchester | Hotel Review

Central Manchester…Manny…Madchester and finally I had a chance to break out my Wanup card.

I have to admit; in the past I’ve been loath to add many more cards to my wallet. As regular readers may have noticed, I travel a lot and it doesn’t take long before I end up with a full deck of local metro and coffee cards. The result being that my Visa is nowhere to be found when I need it and very few shops accept 3/7 of a free coffee as legal tender, so recently I’ve operated a strict ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. As a regular traveller it’s like travelling with a two star upgrade, so the card’s now holding pride of place…next to three Berlin U-Bahn tickets.

Anyway the first Wanup introductory cherry is 40 Euros to spend wherever you wish. I briefly considered splashing out on the luxurious spa on the seventh floor. However when I saw our view of the magnificent town hall from our bathroom, decadence was in order. Strawberries and champagne in the bath.

King Street Townhouse calls itself ‘A little bit grand’. Whoever thought up that slogan hit the nail on the head – or rather top hat – ‘a little bit grand’ is exactly what it is. It’s like a boutique hotel that blossomed. The ground floor is leaning more towards the grand end: gleaming marble, smartly dressed porters and décor that has a little 1930s New York about it, while still being fresh out of the box (as they would say in the ‘30s).

The infinity pool overlooking the clock tower of Manchester Town Hall is obviously an impressive scene and one which you’ll find in any press photos for the hotel. If you don’t fancy a swim you can take in the same view at the South Terrace bar on the floor above.

Perhaps my personal favourite touch, however, was the proper rain shower in the wet-room bathroom. There’s just something about tropical, indoor rain when it’s -2 outside that I can’t get enough of.

There are over 40 rooms, yet each one has had so much time and thought poured into it, it feels like an upmarket B & B. From the artwork, bed linen books in the rooms and suites to the soft furnishings scattered throughout, everything has been picked out by the owner, Sally O’Loughlin. I was reminded of the Channel four programme ‘Escape to the Chateau’, where a newlywed couple (they married on the series) buy and refurbish a French castle.

Kings Street Townhouse has that same mix of eclectic taste and attention to quirky detail that comes with owning a property yourself. A quality that’s hard to fake.

I usually talk a little about the city or countryside I’m in. However on this trip to Manchester it was averaging zero degrees outside and warm raining inside, so I was very happy to stay put the whole weekend.

The Henry Hotel Manila | Reviewed

Manila is not somewhere you go to get away from it all, it’s somewhere you go to embrace it all...all the honking, beeping, bartering, sweating, struggling, life that East Asia has to offer crammed into 16 square miles. It’s the most densely populated city on earth; there’s more humanity per square, sweaty inch here than anywhere else on the planet.

Thankfully I’d organised a transfer with Henry hotel, so another smiling driver was waiting to whisk us away to this little oasis in the city…somewhere to get away from Manila, while staying right in it.

The Henry hotel is a beautiful, award winning colonial style hotel, barely ten minutes’ drive from the airport. It’s such a pleasant hideaway that I was sorely tempted to just hole up here for our entire Manila stay.

On our first day we did a very little of the semi-compulsory historica, taking in Intramuros (the walled city). However I’ve had my fill of churches recently and Manilla really feels like a modern, perhaps even futuristic city, so this was mainly the side we explored.

I enjoy aquariums so this was our next stop. This has all the usual bells and wet whistles you’d expect from a major city’s aquarium – an oceanarium, a transparent tunnel so you can walk through the middle of the ocean-within-an-ocean and tropical fish and tortoises aplenty. But what separates this aquarium from others like it are the experiences: swimming with sea lions, sting rays and even donning a mermaid/merman costume and learning to swim like a giant fish.

Day two was a lazier affair – a short walk to the shops…all of them…at once. The nearby Mall of Asia is a city under (and on top of) a roof. There really is everything here – cinemas, swimming pools, an ice rink, an enormous ferris wheel, numerous miniature gardens, a planetarium, all the restaurants under the sun (or at least hiding from it)…and it never ends; at one stage I could swear we were nearly back at my place in London…

After that we meandered back to the hotel and straight into the big beautiful pool.

I did enjoy Manila but I’m not sure I could live here. It’s a constant assault on the senses.

I could, however, quite happily settle down in the Henry hotel. Like many things in this part of the world it’s younger than it seems. Built just after the War, it has a turn-of-the-century look and feel. It’s a tropical homestead, complete with Spanish moss draped across the many trees in the surrounding gardens/jungle. The style is cool, minimal and understated throughout.

The service was also excellent while still managing to be relaxed and not in the least bit officious.

We were lucky enough to have booked the garden suite and I’m so glad we did. It resembles an antipodean bach or a Finnish sauna, though of course the last thing you’d want to do here is add more heat. The semi-outdoor rain shower adjoining the back of our suite added to the sense of being at one with nature, an amazing feat given the proximity to manic Manila.

There’s a small outdoor patio where we breakfasted before retreating back to cool, air-conditioned bliss.

It’s no surprise it has so many glowing five star reviews, nominations and awards. It deserves all of them and more. Quite simply, if you’re going to Manila, book early and go the Henry Hotel.  

 

THE HENRY HOTEL MANILA PHILIPPINES

Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa Review | The Luxurious Treehouse Suite

There are so many pockets of the UK that feel like untapped riches when I'm lucky enough to stumble upon them. One of those being Chewton Glen, a quintessentially English, privately owned luxury Country House Hotel & Spa on the fringe of the New Forest boasting 72 rooms and suites in total with 14 of them being luxury Treehouses, for a one-of-a-kind experience. I recommend the Treehouse Loft Suite, suspended 35 feet above ground with an outdoor hot tub on the terrace deck.

Wow, sounds the business Carl, but don't bury the lead, how many variant bottles of wine do they have on their wine list? The answer? 1900. But we'll get into their fine dining momentarily.

The train ride down to Chewton Glen splinters the campestral fields of New Forest and if you've not left the city melee for a while, you'll be forgiven for being mildly over-awed by some of the endless, almost other worldly views of this idyllic retreat. With over 130 acres of woodland, gardens and parkland the Chewton Glen estate extends to the edge of the New Forest National Park and down to the Solent coastline.

Formerly the hotel was family owned before being sold to private owners who were previously long standing guests, with a long-standing love of the hotel. It hasn't lost any of the essence of a family owned hotel, reflected in the sophisticated and personable service available to residents 24 hours a day. No better feeling than ordering a couple of cocktails to the room after a long day of relaxing in the spa.

The Spa exudes decadence with 12 treatment rooms and 17 metre swimming pool which is overlooked by three towering windows that stretch from floor to ceiling. These windows overlook some equally impressive Corinthian columns before a picturesque view of the grounds. There is a sauna and steam rooms, nail Studio, hydrotherapy pool and hot tub. Though it's worth noting that the sauna and steam rooms are in the changing rooms which might be a little disappointing to any couples looking to share a romantic tub.

The Dining Room has delicious meals that range from the typically English to the totally cosmopolitan. Breakfast was served in a partitioned tray full of muesli, Greek yoghurt, fresh and dried fruit, coulis and granola, croissant and pain au chocolate. It's incredibly indulgent with a plethora of pots of homemade Chewton Glen jam to choose from. The expansive dining space gets plenty of natural light thanks to its gazebo-esque glass apex ceiling.

For dinner I enjoyed two of the four tapas inspired starters - the gin and lime tempura battered shrimp and the wood grilled sourdough served with an aioli which tasted like the rouille that is served with bouillabaisse. Some serious Fleming stuff going on there. 

Summary

Talking of Fleming, this felt like my own little Goldeneye; a picturesque retreat where I could distill my thoughts, decompress and unload my mind onto paper. An idyllic escape pod, romantic and adventurous. An added bonus is Highcliff Beach which is a short 15 minute picturesque walk from the hotel where dogs are allowed and it has the most amazing sunsets. 

CHEWTON GLEN HOTEL & SPA LOCATION

Mercure Perth Hotel Review | A Stream Runs Through it

Perth, Western Australia definitely has its charms. It’s located a handy 45 minute commute from the sun, has more swimming pools than people and does pretty good ice cream. At around 19 hours flying time from Heathrow, however, it’s not ideal for a quick getaway. You don’t want to get all that way and find you’re lactose or chlorine intolerant.

70 minutes’ flying time from London is the considerably more convenient and picturesque city of Perth in Eastern Scotland, from which the Southern imposter stole its name.  

Perth reminded me a lot of Bruges, especially the much-photographed and painted views of St Matthews and its neighbouring buildings, snapped or painted from alongside the river Tay. ‘The fair city’ used to be the capital of Scotland. With that accolade and so much of the tourist press heading south to Edinburgh, Perth today is a quiet gem; little hyped but all the better for it.

This chapter of the Mercure story is one of the more storied ones: Mercure, Perth Hotel is based inside a renovated 15th century waterworks. There has been a mill on the site in the early 12th century and people have lived in what is now Perth since prehistoric times.

The lade (man-made stream) is still flowing as quickly as ever, part of it even flowing right through the centre of the hotel. I am a sucker for a hotel with a unique selling point. With a stream running through the middle and much of the auld mill machinery used to decorate inside, this place definitely qualifies.

The hotel is centrally located. If you’re coming by train it’s less than ten minutes’ walk from the station and the same again from the town’s iconic landmark, the spire of St Matthews. As far as cafes, restaurants and other shopping goes, they’re all around. As with so many Mercure hotels, there was a large number of communial areas and a super comfortable bed to come back to.

As a self-contained ‘city break’ Perth is a pleasant getaway from the big smoke. However its other nickname – ‘Gateway to the Highlands’ is how I used it. For the hardier traveller with time on their hands, trekking in these parts is no doubt the proper outdoorsman’s way to ‘do’ this achingly beautiful part of Scotland…I did it the cheat’s way.

After a hearty full Scottish breakfast, we left Perth and drove North, making a quick detour mid-morning to call in at Scone Palace for coffee and a…well, you couldn’t not have one there, could you? Back to the main road, next stop was the ethereal Hermitage, Ossian’s Hall and the Black Linn falls. We then headed West, stopping for lunch at the sleepy little town of Aberfeldy, then onwards to our second castle of the day – Menzies – a more brooding prospect than the majestic Scone.  

After that we headed South, through another section of the Tay Forest and along (you guessed it) Tay lock, stopping briefly to take in the Queen’s view. Then it was full steam ahead, on to castle #3 – Drummond – and its famous gardens, before completing our loop and returning to base. After our mini tour of Perthshire it was great to return to our own medieval mill hotel, with its babbling brook (sorry, I mean ‘lade’) and friendly staff there to welcome us home.

PS: My favourite castle? Scone and Drummond were both stunning with beautifully manicured gardens…but my Perthshire castle award goes to the menacing Menzies.

 

MERCURE PERTH HOTEL

Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel Review | Town Centre Location

The next stop on my tour-de-North was Darlington.

I’ve stayed in a few places a little or quite a long way out of town recently so, in the name of change, this time I went right to and stayed right in the hub of the city. The hotel really is the epicentre of Darlington, so you needn’t get back in the car until you’re ready to leave town. The hotel backs right on the main shopping centre, overlooks the Pease statue and the town square and is within two minutes’ walk of everything. Mercure King’s Hotel Darlington puts the ‘location’ in ‘location, location, location’.

Northern hospitality was on display as soon as I walked in. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful during my stay and the restaurant – the Kings grill – served up a steak befitting the name.

After a drink at the rather ritzy bar on the second floor I was ready to turn in. The room was comfortable and relaxed and, as with all Mercure hotels, a large comfortable double bed ensured I had a good night’s sleep.

There’s plenty to do in and around Darlington. Just outside the city, the Locomotion museum and Walworth Castle’s birds of prey experience are both worth a day out, especially if you have a young family with you. With fewer killer birds but more impressive architecture, Raby castle is a classic of its kind; one of England’s best preserved medieval castles. Dating back to the 14th century it still feels ready to live in today.

But, of course, you really don’t need to leave town, especially if you’re staying at the King’s Hotel. You don’t even need to start up your car.

Last, but not least (if fact for me, more like the most), if you’re a fellow art & fashion lover, then a leisurely half hour drive from Darlington is Bowes museum, an enormous French chateau perched incongruously in the middle of the Durham countryside. If you’re an art lover of any kind and are anywhere near county Durham it’s my local pick as a compulsory visit.

 

MERCURE DARLINGTON KINGS HOTEL

Fairmont Makati Hotel Review | Financial Hub District in Manila, Philippines

From the outside, Fairmont Makati hotel in Manila, is an imperious yet featureless, searing glass tower supported by a protruding belly of stack bond masonry. I took a picture but know immediately that no editing or framing can heighten its appeal aesthetically. Still I was here, and it only took fifteen minutes in the taxi from the airport. 

The lobby chimed with wafts of waling. An explosion of yellow and green Chrysanthemums, tulips, lilies, sat centrally beneath strings of gold and yellow willowy glass, undoubtedly Murano. I jotted a puerile note in my diary whilst checking in, 'a beautiful mesmeric chaos of gigantic illuminated sperm'. Eat that Graham Greene. 

The red quartz stairwell that folded back upon itself to the upper floors was centred by a glass chandelier made from a hundred or so baubles, that had the drooped in a shape children do when they throw bed linen over themselves and pretend to be ghosts.

The room has an open feel and the hotel offers 280 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites with unparalleled views of the stunning Makati skyline. Mine was modern yet utterly utilitarian, with traditional ornate mahogany trimmings around the head of the bed. I cracked up a San Miguel from the fridge, a handsome $5AUD but there was simply no debating not having a beer after flying halfway around the world. I took a shower immediately after. The rain shower had a sublime pressure, probably in my top 3 showers I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. (Note: Idea for a coffee table book, Top 100 Best Hotel Showers. Actually scrap that, that's probably the worst idea I've ever had). And -there were towels aplenty.

The location of this hotel is great - right next to the Greenbelt which is known for its fantastic array of restaurants and boutiques. The Fairmont has a private underground walkway that provides guests with direct access to the nearby shopping malls and it is also connected to the Raffles hotel, which has a highly what some critics would call 'instagramable' rooftop bar.

The breakfast buffet had everything and now I'm back in the UK I'm already longing for some coconut drinks to go alongside my morning eggs. In the Spectrum dining area I chanced the seafood ceviche and the chicken adobo which didn't disappoint. 

SO Fairmont, your food is uniformly good, your location is ideal, your humble and courteous staff members need to be cloned and sent to the UK to show our hospitality industry how it's done, but whats going on with the WIFI? It was usable and the range reached everywhere in the hotel, but on occasions a pedestrian speed. At the time I thought the WIFI was great but that was only because I spent the last 4 nights in remote Philippines and was comparing it to a snails pace. That and the lack of USB ports by the bed to charge my electrical farm is something I'd look at for improvements. 

 

Fairmont Makati Hotel

Mercure Chester Abbots Hotel Review | Down-to-Earth & Contemporary

Next on my historic UK tour with Mercure Hotels was the Roman city of Chester. With its electric blue entrance and curved futuristic frontage, the Mercure Chester Abbotts reminded me of either Star Trek or The Jetsons; I couldn’t quite decide. 

Inside though, everything was down-to-earth and contemporary. I received a very warm welcome and helpful service during my too-brief, but enjoyable, stay.

As with so many Mercure hotels, Chester Abbotts boasts a great indoor pool. This one also has a spa and sauna right alongside. It has a laid back vibe, comfortable, roomy rooms and also delivers a great early-bird breakfast at a very reasonable price.

Location-wise, of course it’s pretty close to Liverpool. If you’re in the North-West for a visit to Beatletown then that’s less than 40 minutes’ drive or slightly more if you want to do like the song and ‘Cross the Mercy’ (take the ferry across the river).

However if you like your history more historic, then you needn’t even travel that far. Chester is just over catapulting distance (two miles) away. It boasts what appears to be a classic medieval town centre, lined with beautifully restored Tudor-style - but actually Victorian - buildings. A very real and impressive Tudor remnant is the Cathedral – a mere outhouse compared to the neighbouring Liverpool’s vast cathedral, but better looking and with much more of that not-so-new medieval church smell.

Most remarkable is the Roman wall, which is now a walkway, encircling the whole inner city. Built in 79AD, added to and shored up over the ensuing centuries, the wall is a fantastic reminder of Britain’s distant past. At the risk of sounding like a children’s TV presenter, being in such great condition it really does bring history to life. While Bath gets most of the Roman-related press, I think Chester deserves a little more mention.

Mercure Chester Abbotts gave me a very friendly welcome to a fascinating and rarely heralded historic gem of a city.

Give yourself more time than I did. Chester deserves at least a weekend!

 

MERCURE CHESTER ABBOTS WELL HOTEL

Mercure Peebles Barony Castle Hotel Review | Spectacular Views

There’s a rich history attached to some of the more imposing architecture in the Scottish Borders; most of it’s even true! The ethereal Melrose Abbey was rumoured to have had Robert the Bruce’s heart buried there, it still has its own resident vampire and, of course, it provided the name and inspiration for Melrose Place (Heather Locklear – a suspiciously Scottish name if ever there was one).

The Mercure Peebles Barony Castle hotel has an equally colourful past. A building has stood on the site since the early 1400s, provided a military stronghold and was used at one stage to conduct witch trials. The current façade dates from the early 18th century and was built to resemble a French chateau…successfully.

While there is no longer room at the Abbey (with most of it being in ruins, the central heating bills were a nightmare) the Barony Castle hotel provides travellers with a real Franco-Scotch castle of their own from which to base any adventures around the Scottish borders region. It’s a rare treat when your accommodation is one of the most iconic buildings of the whole region.

The food is delicious and pleasingly healthy: no deep-fried stereotypes here. The rooms were comfortable and casual. But it’s the outside that really makes this hotel …well that and the indoor pool.

While French inspired, the front of the building resembles nothing so much as a Swiss Castle: gleaming white, square shouldered and politically neutral. It overlooks a classical wedding venue setting – a vast expanse of lawn, leading to forest walks and a wedding photographer’s dream of a tree-framed avenue. Add to this the ravine, a gazebo, numerous waterfalls, the sunken and hidden gardens and the place is just begging to play host to a murder mystery or muse to a children’s author.

If the 100 (or so) acre wood isn’t enough for you then the beautiful medieval market town of Peebles is only five miles away. Running quickly through the middle of town is the so-called “Queen of the Scottish salmon rivers”, the quintessentially British-named River Tweed, which draws in much of the outdoorsy tourist pound to the town.  

Once you’ve had your fill of rugged country-file activities the town has plenty of shopping, a growing café culture and nearly a millennium’s worth of history – from the impeccably manicured Kailzie gardens to the Old Parish Church to the considerably more rugged, Highlanderesque Neidpath castle.

At the end of the day it’s back to the castle for another look around this grand building. It’s a great place to base yourself for travels around the Scottish Borders or to honour the old building’s heritage: barricade yourself in, not move off the property for a few days and add your own chapter.

 

Mercure Peebles Barony Castle

Mercure Perth Hotel Review | Beautiful Location for Good Value

Geographically, Perth is the Bullseye on the Scottish dartboard. A beautiful ancestral city that runs adjacent to the River Tay in central Scotland, home of the Black Watch Museum which provides a unique insight into the origins and heritage of this famous Regiment.

Those keeping up with my travels on Instagram will know I spent a few days there at the good grace of the fine people at the Mercure Hotel; located in the very heart of the historic town on West Mill Street, it’s a short walk to the Perth Concert Hall, Museum and Art Gallery. This converted 15th century watermill is quite simply, utterly beguiling. On arrival you're greeted by thick stone walls overlooking a few scattered white willow trees; guarding a stream that runs serpentine through into the valley below. 

Inside, the reception desk is low-lit, ameliorated with solid oak beams off-set by the spiral-wave carpet motif that is in keeping with the aquatic theme. The mill stream is visible through the floor of the Reception and Brasserie Lounge Bar, which is pristinely decked with rustic coloured chairs and a piano that's become a clothes horse for board games and a single candelabra. 

In total the hotel boasts 76 bedrooms all of which have garden views. Mine was adequately sized with an open feel, but fairly run of the mill (pun intended) furnished with violet dandelion wallpaper.

The staff are pleasant, (and had some hustle which was good to see) the location and the history of the building are really the main draws. You'd want to stay in this hotel to optimise your time in the city. If you were here on business the original medieval oak beams, period features and private balconies that can be found in The Kinnoull Suite will offer a nice alternative to the usual uniformed-corporate atmosphere. 

If I were to be hyper critical the insides could be a bit lighter. Perhaps some of the interiors, outside of the beautiful oak beams, could do with a little 'reimagining'. I appreciate this is a 3-star hotel. The amenities, the service, the food all superseded expectations of a 3 star, but with the character of the building and it's heritage already in place it is far capable and deserved of much much more. 

M Summit 191 Executive Suites in Penang, Malaysia | Hotel Review

M Summit 191 sounds like a cologne that Roger Federer would endorse, or maybe a Liam Neeson hijack movie where he plays a troubled anti-hero with a special set of skills. It's actually a 23-storey spire standing proud in the heart of George Town, housing 96 executive suites available in 6 different interior designs, to match all your business travel needs.

The lobby features an elongated black marbled desk with white veins covering meshed grills that encase a boxed alcove made of European pine. This wood tone is consistent with a centre-piece composed from tubular tiered stalactites, almost like some goliath had taken a calculated bite out of the pipes of a cathedral organ. 

Imagine in your minds-eye, the best WeWork office imaginable. One that is brand new that targets the business market with an electric white board in every room plus free legal advice. Not every hotel has to come with a pool in order for you to relax. My idea of relaxation is not having to worry about parking when I arrive at a hotel (complimentary parking at automated tower car parking) having a concierge on hand 24 hours (God do I sound like Madonna?) and above all, fast free internet (high speed internet up to 50 mbps). 

Whether is a corporate meeting, seminar, social event or even an exclusive wedding reception, Summit 191 with state of the art technology will ensure your show and planned event has everything you need. The combination of old and contemporary design ranging from the Peranakan to Modern European style room facilitates an odd sense of familiarity, or as they would like to coin, the feeling of "home Feel"

The hotel is very much geared towards the working professional. Speaking to some of the locals they evangelised about the 6 types of suites on offer and how they were accommodated with projectors, screens, printers and microphones for their meeting requirements. For the tourists its location in the heart of Penang City makes it easy to navigate. You can access Penang's city highlights such as malls, famous hawker food stalls and even some museums with transportation services provided. 

Overall a very relaxing visit and an enviable, stylish work space I wish we had back in London.

PARK ROYAL Penang Resort | Hotel Review

Located along the beautiful shorelines of Penang, PARKROYAL Penang Resort boasts spacious areas accentuated with modern décor and local touches. Put simply, this place is a living-breathing screensaver. The arrival into the recently remodeled lobby is frictionless. Wooden slats hover over the porte cochere, suspended in an ethereal and syncopated fashion.

For dining; the expansive all-day dining outlet, Cinnamon, serves up authentic local and Asian cuisines. It's one of these places you don't quite know where to look. The flooring of this outdoor dining area is made of vibrant Peranakan-inspired tiles that reminiscent of Penang’s Peranakan heritage, whilst the ceiling is adorned with the same wood-tone motif found above the reception. Imagine the sort of place David Bowie would hang out if he was still alive and filming a cameo for some arthouse Christopher Nolan flick.

Okay, I get it Carl it's all singing and dancing, but what is the WiFi reception like and can you get the movie channel on the tele in the bedroom? I can confirm that all guest rooms are now equipped with interactive television and the WiFi is lightning, making it an ideal place for working travelers like me. (Yes I didn't spend all day in the pool drinking Jungle Bird's, eating foie gras canapes).

A nice touch to the room were the day beds, accompanied with bolster and throw pillows that were just ideal for slinging on the balcony, from which you can see the monkeys in the trees feeding morning and evenings.

One minor complaint, although it could fall under the header of a 'societal problem' is that there was seeming a lack of sun beds and parasols. Unfortunately, this encourages man to be territorial as guests start to claim their loungers by placing a towel on it. Which is fine if you're just nipping to the bathroom and don't want to lose your spot, but not if you're heading out to the beach and won't be back for five hours. The towel on the lounger is the modern day equivalent of planting a flag in the ground (we've all seen Far and Away right?) and historically, before planting a flag and claiming a land you had to conquer the forces willing to fight for their claim. I say if someone wants to put a towel on a lounger it's game on, but surely there must be a spirited duel (civilised of course) before that claim is given. Not sure what the hotel can do about this, it's not a problem that is exclusive to Park Royal. 

Overall a pleasant stay, an immaculately turned out hotel, perfect location by the beach and you can't fault the service from the front of house to the bar staff; all highly approachable and accommodating. I can't wait to stay here again.

 

PARKROYAL PENANG RESORT LOCATION