Category Archives: Travel articles

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?’

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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

A trip round Beefeater’s London distillery – and a limited edition launch

Vauxhall in London is known for many things – the Oval cricket ground, a permanently traffic-snarled gyratory system, a disused gas works – but a pleasant afternoon drinking gin and tonics is not usually the first thing that springs to mind.

However last Tuesday I did just that, having just been exploring the brand new visitors’ centre at the Beefeater Distillery.

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The Beefeater distillery in London’s Vauxhall, where gin has been produced since 1958

Beefeater – which lays claim to being the world’s biggest-selling premium gin (Gordon’s being just ‘standard’ gin, apparently – unsurprisingly Diageo disagrees) – has been made in Vauxhall since 1958 and has been a London-based spirit throughout its history.

It was in 1863 when pharmacist James Burrough bought a small distillery in Chelsea for £400 and after a decade of experimenting with different spirits and punches, and started making Beefeater gin, named after the Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London (who each get a bottle of Beefeater gin a year). Continue reading A trip round Beefeater’s London distillery – and a limited edition launch

No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner skiing Tignes

You could never accuse Mark Warner of skimping on the apres-ski hospitality – or, for that matter, the pre-ski and the in-ski.

A three-day trip to French Alpine ski resort Tignes to check out its newly refurbished chalet hotel, the improbably-named Aiguille Percee, was notable for epic amounts of drinking, dancing, eating and yet more drinking.

In between drinking sessions there was some rather fabulous skiing, which also included a fair amount more drinking.

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Mark Warner’s newly refurbished chalet hotel, Aiguille Percee

The scene was set from the beginning. Even before the tyres had started turning on the 2.5 hour coach transfer from Geneva airport to Tignes the first bottles of wine and beer were being opened. (The return trip was a rather more sedate affair, with several passengers having partied so hard over the long weekend that frequent stops to ‘take in the air’ had to be made on perilous hair-pin bends and people started to worry we were cutting it fine for the flight. To render hard-drinking members of the press and travel industry in such a state is tribute to the press team’s dedication to the cause).

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Check out the latest prices and info at MarkWarner.co.uk

Check out the Club Mark Warner weeks here: Club Mark Warner
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Continue reading No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner skiing Tignes

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.

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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.

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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