Back in January 2015 I wrote a blog post in defence of little yellow photobombing cars, as the car owned by Peter Maddox, 82-year old resident of Bibury village in the Cotswolds, had attracted the ire of tourists come to photograph Arlington Row, supposedly one of the prettiest streets in England. They were complaining that their photographs of said street were being ruined by Mr Maddox’s cheerful little Vauxhall Corsa. Now it seems the car has been sent to that great Vauxhall garage in the sky by a vandal who destroyed Mr Maddox’s car beyond repair, while scrawling ‘move it’ on the bonnet.
Not only is this a horrible thing to do to anyone or their car, it totally misses the point of visiting living, breathing places inhabited by living, breathing people (and their means of transport): one of the attractions of Cotswolds villages such as Bibury is that they are real places, not museums covered in dust or protective barriers. If you want an uninterrupted, sterile, pristine picture of something – buy a postcard. Otherwise be happy that you had the privilege of travelling the world and recording what you see – not an artificial, sanitised version of it.
So in defence (once again) and now in memory of photobombing little yellow cars everywhere, here’s my Fiat spoiling (or enhancing) the view at some of the loveliest hotels in the UK.
There is something rather special about a rooftop bar in London. The views might not be spectacular – we’re not taking Rio or Hong Kong harbour here – but to rise above the traffic and gaze down at the crowds from on high feels incredibly luxurious. Good rooftop bars in the capital are few and far between, so the arrival of a new one is cause for celebration. Enter the Aviary, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Montcalm luxury hotels group’s sixth and newest hotel, Montcalm Royal London House.
I visited on a cold winter’s evening, so my friend and I had the pick of dozens of comfy sofas and retro chairs on the deserted terrace, while more sensible patrons enjoyed their cocktails in the warmth of the restaurant inside. However there were heaters and thick blankets so we were able to enjoy the delights of the Aviary’s eclectic cocktail list al fresco – a sour cherry bomb with Sipsmith vodka and rhubarb bitters was especially tasty.
It’s been quite a year! It started with an amazing culinary tour of Japan – a week full of sushi, puffer fish and bullet trains – and ended with a trip to Antarctica (which felt at times like a trip to another planet). During the rest of the year I discovered mermaids in Las Vegas, had lunch (almost) with The Queen on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace, learned to cook at the River Cottage, found my way onto black runs while skiing in Austria and stayed at some of the best hotels in the country.
In 2016 I reviewed just under 50 amazing hotels, restaurants, bars and holidays – which were read by several thousand unique (and travel-loving) readers a month, plus shared across Twitter and Facebook and from now on, Pinterest.
Huge thanks to all the venues that made such an exciting year possible and I’m really looking forward to reviewing the best hotels, restaurants, holidays, bars and all things leisure-related in 2017. There’s a full list of reviews below – lots of inspiration for you!
Dormy House, the Cotswolds: so snug, you’ll never want to leave Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham: the perfect place for a day at the races Burley Manor, Burley: the New Forest’s newest, oldest hotel Balans, Kensington: it’s smarter, sexier and has its very own tree
It’s Oscar time: but who is going to triumph in my very own ALadyofLeisure.com awards? The Levin, Knightsbridge: a calm retreat from the shopping frenzy The Crab and Boar, Chieveley: classic country foodie pub (with hot tubs)
If you are looking to start off the New Year with some bracing countryside walks, a hearty pub meal and then a nightcap in front of a roaring fire, then The Old Swan and Minster Mill must surely be high on your list.
Located in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell – and set in 65 acres of Cotswolds countryside – the exterior of the Old Swan alone is so picturesque that it could go straight on a chocolate selection box or feature in a Cotswolds calendar.
Its twin, the Minster Mill which is just across the road, isn’t too far behind in the ‘quintessentially English’ stakes. The surrounds here are stunning and perfect for weddings: the River Windrush runs – as you’d expect – right alongside the Minster Mill (there’s even a fish-friendly Archimedes screw turbine which harnesses the power of the running water) and there is outside seating so that guests can fully enjoy the view in warmer weather.
Of the two, the Old Swan is definitely more of a classic pub inside, with a low roof, flagstones, warming log fires, cosy sofas and classic pub fare served in the restaurant. There are some small but pretty gardens and upstairs there are 15 rooms, some with four-poster beds.
As skiing is such a sociable sport – there’s the long lunches, the dancing-on-tables après-ski, the cosy chalet dinners and oh yes, the skiing itself (who wants to go on a ski lift on their own?) – going on a ski holiday by yourself with a tour operator such as Mark Warner might be an alarming prospect. However sometimes friends or family can’t get the time off work/can’t afford it/hate skiing/hate each other and so it’s either a choice of going solo or not going at all.
But if the thought of going on a skiing holiday especially for singles is even scarier than a black run on a icy day, then thankfully there are other options. This January I went on a Mark Warner ski holiday to St Anton in Austria completely on my own and rather to my surprise, never once felt that I was travelling alone.
A lot of this was to do with the friendly reps who you got to know the moment you stepped off the plane and ushered onto the transfer bus. The hectic nature of travelling means you never know who’s on their own, who’s with friends, in a couple or in a family group, so there certainly wasn’t a feeling of having to walk down the aisle of the coach all alone under the pitying gazes of smug marrieds sitting in pairs holding hands. Continue reading Skiing on a Mark Warner ski holiday – on your own but never alone→