A Weekend Break at The Royal Garden Hotel London

Royal Garden HotelWe’ve been to London for Weekend Breaks a fair few times now but I don’t think any hotel we’ve ever stayed in can beat The Royal Garden Hotel for location.

The Royal Garden Hotel is smack bang opposite Hyde Park and Kensington Palace and when we stayed there a few weekends back, we were fortunate to have a Garden Room with a beautiful view over The Park. We had a pretty fantastic view when we stayed at The Cavendish  but that was mainly because of the sheer number of landmarks we could see from our high-floor room. In the case of the Royal Garden it was just so peaceful to be able to look out of our window over Hyde Park and all its greenery. We Royal garden Hotel garden roomwere in the centre of a big bustling city yet were surrounded by green.

We checked in around 3pm to maximise our stay and went out almost straightaway for a picnic in a very hot Hyde Park. Sitting under a leafy tree for shade, I lost count of the number of times we were asked for directions to The Princess Diana Fountain and Kensington Palace. The heat-wave had definitely brought out the tourists. A few hours lazily enjoying the sunshine wound us down nicely after a busHyde Parky week in work and so we wandered back over to the hotel for a quick tidy-up before going down for cocktails in The Park Terrace.

There’s nothing quite like winding down for the weekend with a few Friday evening cocktails and The Cocktail of the Week Purple Rain was a right treat reminiscent of childhood Parma Violets! We caught the tail-end of the Afternoon Tea crowd and seeing the various baked delights on the tiered stands almost made me wish we’d opted for Afternoon Royal Garden Hotel barTea and not Tapas & Cocktails. Nonetheless, we did go for the Tapas option and the ones we chose complimented Mr. C’s Margaritas and my subsequent Mojito perfectly. Considering Tapas are meant to be ‘little nibbles’, the portion sizes were pretty big and it’s probably the first time ever we’ve been defeated by what’s meant to be a kind of snack!

The Park Terrace was where breakfast was served in the morning too. The ‘egg man’, who happened to be the image of cricketer Kevin Pietersen (thank goodness I’d put mascara Mojitoon before coming down!), made me some fresh waffles with blueberries, raspberries and maple syrup and Mr. C went for the usual Full English. The breakfast buffet was pretty spectacular and one of the best we’ve seen, to be honest. Lovely fresh fruit and delicious pastries galore. Thank goodness we had time to go for a long walk to at least attempt to walk it off before going out for Afternoon Tea  at The Grosvenor House later in the day.

Without exception, every single member of staff we encountered at The Royal Garden Hotel London was spot-on. Friendly, polite, smiley, efficient and attentive without that overbearing Royal Garden Hotel receptionhauteur that so many of the staff in 5 Star hotels used to have. Our room was quiet, light, airy and contemporary and we both slept like babies the whole weekend. The only place we could see any room for improvement was in Bertie’s Bar which was distinctly lacking in atmosphere and way too quiet for any bar on a weekend. We couldn’t really figure out why but assume it’s something to do with the huge choice of bars and restaurants nearby.

So would we return to The Royal Garden? You bet! I’m already contemplating a Spring break.

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Quality
Ambience
Staff
Facilities
The WOW! Factor

A Champagne Afternoon Tea Gift Voucher – What a Great Birthday Present!

Buy A Gift Afternoon TeaAlthough my birthday was back in June, we’ve only just got round to using one of my gifts. I was given a gift voucher from BuyAGift for a Champagne Afternoon Tea at The Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane . Unlike with most of these vouchers, this particular one offered two glasses of champagne per guest. How good is that!

Royal Garden Hotel garden roomAnyway we were going to London to stay at The Royal Garden Hotel  for the weekend so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to use the voucher and booked us in . So on a sunny Saturday a few weeks back, we mosied on down to Mayfair and made our way to the Park Room and Library at Grosvenor House for what turned out to be a quintessentially British Afternoon Tea.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore Afternoon Tea and I’ve often said I think it’s probably my favourite meal/occasion. The Park Room and Library couldn’t have been a better location. Everything about the whole experience was perfect from start to finish – the room lovely, the pichampagneanist enchanting, the staff attentive, the food ‘to die for’ and the Piper Heidsieck Champagne seemingly endless. With the staff constantly topping us up, we certainly had more than the expected 2 glasses.

Mr. C and I are big eaters, way too big really but we were full to bursting when we left and we didn’t take up any of the offers to Grosvenor House hotel Park Roomtop up our finger sandwiches, raisin buttermilk scones and delicate pastries There was more than enough food and we couldn’t even begin to attempt choosing one of the fresh home-baked cakes to eat at the end. We opted to take ours home with us as we couldn’t have squeezed anything else in. Some of the people in the full room on the day must have starved themselves for weeks as they seemed to say ‘Yes’ to every offer.

BuyAGift logoIt was so easy to book the treat with my BuyAGift Voucher and knowing how much we enjoyed our experience, I can safely say I’ll be buying these vouchers for an awful lot of people in the years to come.

Our Champagne Afternoon Tea at The Grosvenor House Hotel was pretty much perfect and I heartily recommend!

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Quality
Ambience
Staff
Facilities
The WOW! Factor

The CHC Seaside Resort

Picture this: perched on a rocky headland, looking down into crystal clear azure waters, the smell of fresh herbs wafting around, warm sunshine beating down onto your skin.  The CHC Seaside Hotel and SpaThe sound of waves lapping against the rocks below and the calls of spring swallows as they fly past every few seconds.  Imagine having your own secluded private pool right outside your bedroom, with views over the sea and your own sunbeds and chairs to sit back and relax on.

This is the sort of thing we all dream of during our dreary winter nights when we’re washing up, watching the rain beating against the window and listening to the wind howling around outside.  We even say to ourselves that if those ever elusive lottery numbers were forthcoming we’d treat ourselves to that once-in-a-lifetime holiday we’ve always dreamed of.

Wiew from the room at CHC Seaside ResortWell, the numbers didn’t come up, but this year we found ourselves in a little corner of Crete that fulfilled almost all of the above.  When we booked our holiday with Secret Escapes at the CHC Seaside Resort and Spa, we pushed the boat out and ordered a ‘Junior Suite with Sea View’.  Mrs C loves a ‘sea view’.  She says it’s one of the most important parts of her holiday; waking up and seeing the sea, reminding her that this is time off.

Arriving very late at night is never the best time in our opinion, as you don’t really get that ‘first impression’ that often makes or breaks your holiday.  We arrived around midnight and were promptly informed that the room we had booked – our Junior Suite – had been overbooked and that they were going to have to put us in another room for 2 days until our original room was free.  And bear this in mind… it was dark, wet and windy – never the best environment for arriving on a holiday.  We weren’t overjoyed to say the least.  There was some discussion; firstly in the form of all the assistance we needed in moving our stuff from one room to the other when the time came.  Nods and tuts ensued.  Then came the offer of little ‘favours’ in exchange for our inconvenience – such as a free back massage or another treatment of our choice in the spa.  More nods and tuts.  Then, because of our ever-apparent fatigue and their ever-apparent frustration, we called it a night and agreed to meet the customer relations manager the following morning after breakfast.Private pool at CHC Seaside Resort

We woke early and threw open the curtains and… Wow!  Now that’s what you call a view!  Looking over the top of our own little private pool there was a really big dose of paragraph 1 above!  Our resolve was strengthened.  We liked ‘our room’.

Oh how pleased we were then, to find out that after some discussion with his managers, he was able to allow us to stay there for the whole of our stay.  We were both beaming from ear to ear when we walked out out of reception and headed back to the room.  This was fantastic news.

One thing we both really hate about sunny holidays is the ‘sunbed wars’, where you get to the pool or beach and there are rows and rows of sunbeds with no-one sitting on them, but some personal belongings strewn about each of them, I assume in an attempt to reserve the best spots.  It’s really selfish and unfair, so we often risk confrontation by simply removing the items and placing them nearby and using the beds ourselves. This time though, we didn’t have to worry as we had not just 2, but 4 for our exclusive use, beside our exclusive little pool.

The Beach near CHC Seaside ResortThe whole resort seems to have it so ‘right’.  The food is good, the views are fabulous, the room was great, the staff were all lovely without exception.  The places on the resort are the main ‘Panorama’ bar, 1 level below reception, with its own outside terrace overlooking the bay, a daytime bar up at the Pelagos pool, where we ate our lunch each day, and there’s the delightful Thalassa Pool bar, which was the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail.

There are two ‘a-la-carte’ restaurants – the Jasmine Chinese Restaurant and the Kullinarium.  We ate at both – and it was nice to have those couple of nights where you were waited on and the food was brought to you, instead of collecting from the buffet.  Mind you, the buffet was really good, with a good selection on each night, and a good variety of foods throughout the week.

The lunch buffet at the Pelago was particularly good with a selection of prepared and freshly cooked choices available.  With ample well-shaded seating and glass screens between the restaurant and the pool, it’s a really nice way of spending a lunchtime out of the sun.

There’s a little beach a short walk down from the hotel, with a few bars and restaurants, along with a car-hire dealer (significantly cheaper than that offered at the hotel) and a few little souvenir shops.  The water is crystal clear and every day we saw people snorkelling around the little bay, exploring the rocky promontories each side of the beach.  There’s a PADI diving school and it seems like a fantastic place to get to grips with it all.

View from the Thalasso Bar at CHC Seaside ResortLittle ones are catered for at the Mini Club, just a short hop from Reception and there’s an outdoor arena there too, where evening activities are held when the weather’s good, which it was for just about all of our stay.  Talking of activities and entertainment, we don’t normally feel the need to be entertained by others, but we thought we might take part in the ‘Music Quiz’ on one of the nights for a change.  What a mistake.  It bore no resemblance to a music quiz.  It was a shouting, foot-stomping, screaming, frenzied “whoop-fest” orchestrated by the resident egotistical animation chief who, though never impolite to us at any point, still struck us as a bit weird and ‘inappropriate’.   We looked at each other in sheer disbelief before looking around and seeing that everyone over the age of 30 was thinking exactly the same.  One of the very few questions we stayed for was ‘What’s my name?’, the winning team was the one who could shout it out the fastest and loudest.  No, not for us I’m afraid, so we promptly upped and left.

We often say how impressed we are with places we visit on holidays, but there are always good and not-so-good things to say and remember.  Having seen the CHC Seaside Resort and Spa on the Secret Escapes site, it really did look good and seemed to offer very good value for money.  On this occasion we can honestly say that it is one of the best and most relaxing holidays we’ve ever had and wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to go back there again.  It not only lived up to its promises, but in our opinion, actually exceeded them.  The booking and travel was organised by Fleetway Travel, who were a pleasure to deal with throughout and the resort staff were friendly and pleasant in every respect.

We flew with EasyJet from London Gatwick. To add that extra little something to the holiday we used Airparks ‘Meet and Greet’ parking and The No1 Lounge facilities, which we booked with HolidayExtras.co.uk

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Quality
Ambience
Staff
Facilities
The WOW! Factor

Win KORRES Wild Rose Advanced Repair Sleeping Facial

KORRES Wild Rose Sleeping FacialThe KORRES Wild Rose Advanced Repair Sleeping Facial is more than a mask and more than a night cream as it claims to enhance natural cell renewal overnight to moisturise and rejuvenate the skin. The combination of Wild Rose oil, vitamin C, Jojoba, Mimosa & Sunflower waxes and Hyaluronic acid repairs and moisturises while you’re sleeping. Its soufflé-like texture melts instantly into the skin and your complexion becomes continuously brighter and more even-toned.

According to the ‘blurb’, 97% of women reported improved skin Wild Rose KORREStexture after one use and after two weeks 100% of women reported a ‘visible reduction in appearance of expression lines’. I usually take facts like this with a pinch of salt but hey Ladies, it’s always worth a shot, isn’t it?! There hasn’t been one single KORRES product yet that I haven’t loved so I’m going to give this Sleeping Facial a go anyway!

To WIN the KORRES Advanced Repair Sleeping Facial worth £26, just RETWEET THIS TWEET and for an additional entry, comment on my blog and tell me what your favourite beauty product is.

Winner will be announced on Twitter on July 6th and will also be posted on my Twitter Winners Page

In case you didn’t know…….. KORRES is a Greek skincare brand with roots in Athens’ first ever Homeopathic Pharmacy and today KORRES offers a natural and certified organic range in all areas of beauty and skincare.

Here’s what I thought of the Korres Wild Rose Exfoliating Cleanser 

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Availability
Quality

A Night In The Park Plaza Cardiff

Park Plaza Cardiff roomLast weekend Mr. C and I did something that some people might think was a bit odd. And for those of you whose minds are wandering in the wrong direction here, it was all good clean fun!

Ok, so this might sound a bit mad but bear with me……. We live in Cardiff, we work in Cardiff but last week we went on a 24 Hour ‘Mini-Break’ in Cardiff……. Yup, you did read that correctly!

Cardiff really is a fantastic city but I think when you live somewhere you kind of take it for granted. We trundle off to Brighton, London, Aberdeen etc for occasional weekend breaks and always have a whale of a time but the getting-there is always a bit of a pain frankly. Particularly as weekend breaks usually entail driving on motorways on a Friday. And as Michael MacIntyre will confirm, for some obscure reason everything takes twice as Park Plaza Cardiff Spalong on a Friday and sitting in a traffic jam is almost inevitable.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we fancied a night or two away without the hassle of ‘getting there’ and after I saw a Tweet mentioning cocktails at the Park Plaza Cardiff , I thought I’d see if we could get a good price room for just the one night. Obviously staying in a hotel was going to be dearer than the price of a taxi home at the end of the night but all things considered, I thought it was going to be worth it for the fun-factor alone! And so it was!

Strawberry MojitoTo maximise ‘value for money’ we checked in at 2pm, checked out our huge, contemporary Executive Room (Yay, we got an upgrade!), clocked the toiletries, sat on the comfy sofa, stretched sideways out on the massive bed, unpacked our few bits and bobs and went straight out over the road to Revolucion de Cuba for a quick beer or two before going down to the amazing Cardiff Street Food Circus. A few nibbles and a Sticky-Toffee Creme Brulee later, we mosied on back up to the Park Plaza Laguna Kitchen & Bar for a few of those afore-mentioned cocktails. I’m a sucker for a Park Plaza Afternnon Teagood cocktail and boy were these good cocktails! Mr. C worked in Brazil for a long time and loves his Caipirinhas and my Mojito hit the spot perfectly.

We’ve already decided we’re going to back for another ‘mini-break’ as it was fun and it genuinely felt like we were ‘properly’ away. Next time though we’re going to call it a Spa Break and do Afternoon Tea again and make sure we find time for the fab Park Plaza Spa. In Arnie’s words ‘I’ll be back’!

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Quality
Ambience
Staff
Facilities
The WOW! Factor

Premier Inn Southampton

Premier Inn Southampton roomWe’re quite the gadabouts really, aren’t we!  One month in Scotland, the next down on the South Coast.  That’s what comes of having offspring scattered all around the place.  It’s a reason (or excuse) to travel from one end of the country to another on a regular basis.

Our latest venture took us to Southampton – the land of the cruise ship and…. hmm, I’ll have to get back to you on that.  Come to think of it, what is there in Southampton apart from the Cruise terminals and Isle of Wight Ferries anyway?  I’m wracking my brain to think of something else, but nothing’s ringing any bells yet.  There are quite nice parks that run all the way down toward the town from the University in the North of the city, a few nice pubs and restaurants in the Oxford Road area, an airport and… and… ??? Our main reason for going was to take Daughter Southampton Premier InnNumber 2 out for a meal for her birthday. She’ s a medical student at The Uni and as Daughter Number 3 is studying in the same neck of the woods, we were able to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak)……

We stayed at the Premier Inn Southampton City Centre, situated conveniently close to the centre, yet far enough away to avoid any of the noise, hustle and bustle associated therewith.  It was very quiet actually, despite discovering that the South Coast mainline railway ran through the back of the hotel reception.  The soundproofing was obviously very effective and we slept like logs – as we always seem to do in Premier Inns.  Lenny’s Good Night’s Sleep Guarantee is built on pretty sound foundations if you ask me.

The other thing we like about Premier Inn is the ease with which you can check-in.  It really is as simple as typing your surname or Number Four Wine Bar Southamptonbooking reference into one of the machines in reception and voila! Here are your keys and ‘Have a Nice Day!’.

Breakfast was excellent, all nice and fresh, hot and tasty.  Just what the doctor ordered.  There’s plenty of choice including Continental and Full Monty and it was all laid out in a simple and queue-avoiding arrangement.  There’s nothing worse than standing in a queue with a half-filled red-hot plate waiting for Mrs Bloggs to get her toast out of the toaster before you can get your baked beans.  Well there is, but I won’t go into that here and now.

To summarise, this isn’t my first Premier Inn experience, neither will it be my last.  But the one thing I’ll say is that they never disappoint.  The standards are so very high for the price you pay and standards seem to be well maintained wherever you happen to be – from the top to the bottom of our mighty land.

PS: If you do end up in Southampton, then The Number Four Coffee and Wine Bar has a great ambience, the wine is good and they do a mean Baked Camembert!

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Availability
Quality
Website – Ease of Use

Aloha Hawaii Talented Tote Bags!

Hawaii Talented Tote BagI live in Wales and as a ‘green’ nation, there’s a charge for carrier bags in all the shops here so we tend to carry around our own ‘bags for life’, cotton shoppers, totes or whatever you call them.

Last week I picked up a really bright and snazzy new tote bag, primarily to keep in my handbag for extra shopping. When it arrived though, I fell in love with it and have decided to use it as my ‘Summer Bag’. It’s defintely coming on holidays with me to Crete in the Summer as it’s a good size and will easily fit all the bits and bobs I need for a day by the pool or on the beach.

Talented Tote BagsI’ve got the cerise and the blue ‘Things I Know About Hawaii’ tote bags and they’ve been designed by Julia Gash at Talented. I know, I know…. it’s greedy buying two but hey, I couldn’t resist them. British sustainable tote bag brand, Talented really has got a stunning collection of tote bags using vintage Hawaiian themed canvas fabrics which have been overprinted with geeky geographical facts.

Facts such as:

Did you know there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet? And that Aloha means hello, goodbye and is also the word for love?

“Things I Know About Hawaii” totes are made of 100% cotton and are perfect for just about everything!

You can get Talented tote bags  from www.doodle-bag.com and from www.madebytalented.com

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Availability
Quality
Website – Ease of Use

Face Mask Fun

orchid-extract-beauty-maskLast weekend, Mr. C. had the fright of his life after walking into the bedroom to see me practising my ‘mindfulness’ wearing a face mask. And this was no ordinary face mask either as to say I looked like Hannibal Lector at his scariest was an understatement!

It wasn’t one of those sticky masks which set rigid on your face so you have to peel them off, it was more of a Facial Sheet Mask, I suppose. I used the Orchid Extract Replenishing Mask from the Luxury Range at Timeless Truth and it was made from elastic cotton, bio-cellulose and silk fibres. The elasticity ensures that the mask fits perfectly to the Orchid Extract face maskface and neck so that the serum comes into contact with all the contours of the area. Perfect!

Even after the recommended 20 minutes, the mask was still lovely and moist and continuing to hydrate my skin. When I took it off I actually used it to wipe over my arms, legs and chest as a kind of body moisturising treat! My face felt lovely and soft and smooth all day and the next. Not entirely sure I looked radiant or 21 again but hey after my half hour relaxing Me-Time, I definitely felt it!

My mask came from TheBeautyMask.co.uk .

 

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Availability
Quality

May 2015 in Pictures

Win KORRES Water Lily Bath & Body Collection

KORRES Water LilyI love KORRES products and always have and I love to bits the new KORRES Water Lily Bath & Body range. I think you’ll like them too so below there’s a chance for you to win them! Yay!

The KORRES Water Lily Shower Gel is lovely and moisturising. Apparently it’s something to do with the wheat proteins which create a kind of protective film on the skin to keep your skin hydrated. The Water Lily Body Milk is gorgeous too. It’s got all sorts of goodies for the skin in it including almond oil and shea butter.  The scent is ‘just right’ – not too strong and light enough for you to still wear your usual perfume after applying.  Having said that if you don’t want to put perfume on tKorreshen you’ll still be aware of a subtle water lily scent all day.

 

Anyway, if you’d like to Win the KORRES Water Lily Bath & Body Collection, all you have to do is:

Follow @TheThumbsUp on Twitter

RETWEET THIS TWEET

Winner May 22nd

The Winner can be seen on My Twitter Winners’ List

The Thumbs Up Rating
Editor’s Rating
Value
Availability
Quality