Category Archives: Travel

Epic diving, blue iguanas, stingrays and deserted golden beaches in the Cayman Islands

‘The thing about the Cayman Islands is that the best sights are underwater,’ said my taxi driver as he drove along the dusty road from the airport. ‘There’s just not a great deal above sea level.’

After a week in the Caribbean exploring the trio of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman islands which make up the Cayman Islands, I wasn’t sure I agreed with him.

While the Cayman Islands – the name comes from the word for crocodile, although they were originally named Las Tortugas by Christopher Columbus due to all the turtles he saw swimming there – lack the ‘bling’ factor of their Caribbean neighbours such as Barbados and St Lucia or the flamboyant night-life of Jamaica or Cuba, it is certainly not just a diving-only destination.

cayman islands holiday reviews
The sights underwater in the Cayman Islands are incredible – but it’s pretty good up on the surface too
cayman islands holiday reviews
The beaches are certainly not overcrowded

With spectacular beaches plus luxury hotels, a vibrant restaurant scene including a ‘Flavour Tour’ on Grand Cayman where you can visit four or five different restaurants in a night, sampling the menu of each, and the deliciously warm Caribbean climate, there is certainly more than enough to keep landlubbers happy. Continue reading Epic diving, blue iguanas, stingrays and deserted golden beaches in the Cayman Islands

St Martin’s Lane hotel: top location and afternoon tea with a difference

It’s just as well that an overnight stay at St Martin’s Lane hotel comes with complimentary membership of the gym next door.

By the time I finally checked out after what seemed like 24 hours of continuous eating, I would not have been at all surprised to find that I had doubled in size.

st martins lane hotel
The lobby at St Martin’s Lane hotel – complete with chaise-longue and gold teeth stool…

Dinner the night before had involved a pretty huge amount of food on its own, but added to a hefty breakfast and a frankly massive amount of food which I dutifully sampled as part of its signature ‘Cafecito‘ afternoon tea and I felt as I rolled down St Martin’s Lane towards Trafalgar Square that I wouldn’t need to eat again for at least a week or two.

Continue reading St Martin’s Lane hotel: top location and afternoon tea with a difference

Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some lovely country house hotels recently – sadly, Tylney Hall was not one of them.

To clarify: as a building, the house is really impressive, a massive 300-year old pile in 66-acres of Hampshire countryside. The ceilings are high, the rooms are oak-panelled and hung with portraits, and as a structure goes, it is everything you could ask for if you want to stay somewhere that really looked the epitome of a country estate.

tylney hall hotel review
It looks really impressive from far away…

Unfortunately, the experience of staying in Tylney Hall was somewhat different. Its website claims, rather ungrammatically, that: ‘Hampshire hotels simply don’t come any grander or offer such heights of luxury anywhere in the UK.’

This doesn’t actually make much sense, which is fitting as a lot about Tylney Hall didn’t make much sense. I had arrived really looking forward to a lovely overnight stay with my mother and left feeling as if Fawlty Towers was alive and well and had just relocated 200 miles east. Continue reading Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

The Ampersand and MyHotel Chelsea: stylish sleeping

Staying in a hotel just half a mile from your house inspires some unlikely behaviour.

If I were at home on a Sunday evening, I would probably make myself a drink and something to eat and happily settle down with a good book or in front of the telly.

Check into a hotel however and it’s a very different story. Even though I pass through South Kensington every day on my way to work, all of a sudden I’m infused with the spirit of adventure, of exploration, of discovery. I’m on holiday! Somewhere new! What’s outside? Quick, let’s go and find out!

ampersand hotel south kensington reviews

So when I spent a couple of nights in two of its hotels – MyHotel Chelsea and the Ampersand – I ended up spending my Sunday evening having a very pleasant time walking around the streets of South Kensington, Knightbridge and Chelsea, discovering all sorts of places I never knew existed, and wondering why I would never get inspired to do this kind of thing at home, even though it was precisely 10 minutes walk away.

And what I discover is that South Kensington, far from being the fairly dull district dominated by a tube station that I’d previously dismissed it as, is actually incredibly lively on a Sunday evening.

Continue reading The Ampersand and MyHotel Chelsea: stylish sleeping

The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location

The Swan at Lavenham is located in one of those villages where you catch yourself thinking; ‘Is this actually real?’

The chocolate-box gorgeousness of some Cotswold villages for example: Bampton (the real-life Downton Village) and nearby Burford can look exactly as if imagined by an American director making a film about quintessential England, or Clovelly in North Devon which ticks all the boxes of a beautiful fishing village.

The Swan at Lavenham
The Swan at Lavenham – 400 years of charm and a lot of timber beams

Lavenham in Suffolk is much the same. After a perfectly fine if mundane journey along the A1141 or whatever road has taken you there, you suddenly find yourself in a village so packed with crooked cottages and half-timbered buildings that you feel as if you have been suddenly transported back to medieval England.  (Or magical England  – some of the Harry Potter films were shot here).

A short walk down the High Street – in which you expect to see horse-drawn carts and straw everywhere – turns into a succession of picture-taking and marvelling at ‘Why have I never been to this place before?’

the swan at lavenham
The High Street is full of crooked, timbered buildings
the swan at lavenham
Lavenham’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Continue reading The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location