Category Archives: Travel

Center Parcs Woburn Forest: it’s reviewer-proof

Center Parcs is practically immune from criticism. With occupancy running at a staggering 97.2 per cent all year round, the private-equity owned leisure company is the envy of its peers.

In spite of the recent kerfuffle about high prices during school holidays, there is clearly no shortage of customers willing to fork out for the Center Parcs experience when just three nights in a two-bedroom lodge can cost £900 in August, even before food, drink and any of the extra activities are taken into account.

center parcs woburn forest
The subtropical swimming paradise at Woburn Forest Center Parcs

And that’s the cheapest price available – a four-bedroom luxury lodge for the same weekend in August will set you back £2,699 and rooms are already selling out.  So clearly it is doing something – no, a lot of things right.

Which is why it opened up its newest parc, Woburn Forest, to journalists, suppliers and so on two weeks before it officially opens to the public on June 6th. Chief executive Martin Dalby was in his element as he hiked around the 365-acre site, talking to visitors and seeing his £250 million-parc finally come to life. Continue reading Center Parcs Woburn Forest: it’s reviewer-proof

Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

It was halfway through dinner at my first two-Michelin-starred restaurant experience at the Fischers Fritz in Berlin when I realised I was far more a ‘drinkie’ than a ‘foodie’ (assuming ‘drinkie is even a word.)

I was dining at the Fischers Fritz restaurant in the Regent Berlin, and had already been thoroughly over-excited at the arrival of my pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar. This was a Prince of Wales cocktail, a €23 Champagne cocktail which contained liberal servings of cognac and  Grand Marnier, topped off with Angostura bitters and brown sugar and served rather incongruously in a silver goblet which grew almost freezing to the touch as the ice inside melted.

PoW
My Prince of Wales cocktail, served in a silver goblet which grew steadily colder

I was happily piling into that when I was invited into the dining room with the most wonderful phrase in the English language: ‘And you must really try our martini trolley.’

A martini trolley! This sounded like a great deal of fun and so it proved. The menu for the martinis alone was a fascinating read, full of information about the origin of various drinks and a whole dictionary-worth of delightfully esoteric ingredients. I could happily have spent the entire evening working my way through the cocktail list and forgetting food altogether, aside from whatever olive or pickled onion garnish came my way. Continue reading Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

Back in Berlin after 27 years – an emotional jump forward in time

Berlin is the kind of city where even a seemingly mundane walk to the local supermarket can turn out to be an emotional experience.

It had been 27 years since I was last in Berlin and was here to attend the travel industry trade show ITB. I was staying in an apartment in the ultra-trendy Berlin suburb of Kreuzberg (trendy in a studenty, grungy sort of way, rather than chic or glamorous) and had popped to the Lidl for a pint of milk.

Ambling along a fairly grey and ordinary street, I suddenly noticed a tiny street sign reading ‘Berliner Mauerweg‘ (Berlin Wall Trail). Continue reading Back in Berlin after 27 years – an emotional jump forward in time

Housetrip Berlin Kreuzberg – a home away from home

It’s amazing how quickly you can feel like  a ‘local’ while staying somewhere completely new to you.

For me it was when I came back from a trip to the supermarket with some eggs and milk and let myself in at my own front door with my own key.

It was only an hour since my plane had landed in Germany but I was already – in my own mind at least – a regular part of the neighbourhood.

housetrip berlin kreuzberg

Even if that neighbourhood was in Berlin, a place I haven’t visited for 27 years. (It has changed quite a bit since then – see next post.) Continue reading Housetrip Berlin Kreuzberg – a home away from home

Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city

Cannizaro House Wimbledon
Cannizaro House in Wimbledon. Sadly that isn’t my car.

There is something rather delightful about packing to spend the weekend in a hotel just four miles from your home.

It yields all the excitement and anticipation of a trip away without any of the angst and despair caused by realising you have to drive across London in the rush hour and then get snarled up on the Hammersmith flyover.

And the journey home! Many a relaxing weekend away has been ruined by roadworks on the M1, a lane closure on the A3, the sheer awfulness of driving through Wandsworth on a Sunday evening.

So to do away with all that unnecessary travelling seems to me to be utterly sensible.

Some would not agree. I recently had lunch with a tour operator who maintained that half the fun of a holiday is the fact you have to travel to get there, thus giving you a sense of achievement and new territories gained when you arrived at your destination.

To which I merely said ‘the journey home’ and ‘the South Circular’ and he paled and said I might have a point. Continue reading Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city