Meet Me in St Moritz – Schon Magazine

Hungry for a Winter adventure? Recently I wrote a travel article for Schön! (a London based creative magazine) about an exclusive ski resort in St Moritz, Switzerland that boasts moonlight skiing and Europe’s highest jacuzzi. Read my introductory paragraph below and find out more about Schon Magazine here.

Schon Magazine

 

 

“Amidst the rolling Engadin mountain range, near St Moritz in Switzerland, is a ski resort made for thrill seekers. Famed for its adrenaline pumping 10km slope (the longest glacier descent run in Switzerland), Diavolezza is the perfect mountain retreat for ski enthusiasts. Challenging red and black runs, a breathtaking view of the Eastern Alps and an extraordinarily long season (October-May) have made the area immensely popular in recent years.”

 

Meet me in St Moritz 1

Meet me in St Moritz 2

Travel – Natural History Museum – Wildlife Photographer of the Year

One of my favourite things to do in London is visit the Natural History Museum and marvel at all the wonders of our planet’s floral and fauna. Every year this wonderful natural archive hosts an exhibition dedicated to the winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Queue a happy morning spent admiring an unforgettable collection of images taken by photographers from 27 different countries, all with their own styles and stories to tell.

 The jury received over 43,000 entries and chose just 100 pictures depicting dramatic landscapes, thought provoking reportage and snapshots of animal behaviour. Here I pick my three favourite images from the animal portrait, wildscapes and endangered species categories….

Animal Portrait:

One of my  favourite images titled ‘Travelling Companions’ by Douglas Seifert shows a graceful dugong swimming through the Red Sea with two golden fish. His little companions are dwarfed by his huge head and as they ride the ocean’s pressure waves together they form a close bond.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year Animals

Wildscapes:

Sergey Gorshov captured the eruption of a Russian volcano (Plosky Tolbachik) as he travelled across the volcano’s crater in a helicopter. A fleeting moment of wind swept aside the cloud of ash giving Sergey the perfect window to take his winning photograph titled ‘The Cauldron’.

 image14

Endangered Species:

The Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species is named after a legendary conservationist and highlights the plight of wildlife that’s under threat. This image instantly grabbed my attention. The female gorilla and her six-month old twin babies had been caught in a rain shower and were wrapped up together to stay warm. In ‘Twin Hope’ by Diana Rebman the young gorillas (who are only the fifth set of twins ever to be reported in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park) are cuddled in their mother’s arms as if she knows their future may be uncertain.image

All images shown are taken from the official ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ Book (Portfolio 23). No photography is allowed within the gallery itself. For more information visit www.wildlifephotographeroftheyear.com

TRAVEL – Hotel Anthelia – Sunshine in Costa Adeje, Tenerife

Happy Monday everyone! Did you miss the blog last week? If so, you’ll be pleased to hear Frock Trade is back with a luxury hotel review to warm you up on this windy Autumnal day. After a busy Summer I took a week off to enjoy some rest and relaxation at the Iberostar Hotel Anthelia in Tenerife. Here’s how I spent my week….

Hotel Anthelia

With a giant clam shell bar, a soothing central fountain and a sleek grand piano, the lobby of the Hotel Anthelia is mesmerising. We were still in awe of its five-star grandeur as we were welcomed at reception by a friendly face offering us champagne and an efficient porter who barely let our bags touch the floor.

Hotel Anthelia

Our first impressions of the hotel were exceedingly positive with a thorough explanation of our surroundings plus a comprehensive guest pack filled with optional activities and menus for the hotel’s 4 restaurants. We were told our room was ‘a nice one’ and our hopes weren’t dashed as we were shown to a top floor superior double with stunning balcony and alcove window views within the hotel’s ‘Aida’ complex.

Hotel Anthelia Balcony View

The room was bright, airy and decorated elegantly in neutral tones with a marble bathroom and seating areas both within the window alcove and outside on the balcony. Our one and only disappointment were the two single beds pushed together against an iron headboard rather than a standard double, however this appears to be the norm in most European hotels so we weren’t surprised and laughed about the prospect of getting lost between the beds (they moved of their own accord!).

Hotel Anthelia

After a four hour journey to the resort we needed something substantial to eat so headed straight for ‘Zeus’, the hotel’s buffet restaurant. After a long Easyjet flight nothing is more welcoming than a sea of freshly prepared cuisine from prime beef steaks to designated pasta chefs and huge antipasti selections. After helping our selves to firsts, seconds and thirds we rolled upstairs to bed feeling happy and full of carbs.

In the morning we woke to the sun glittering through our windows. The weather was scorching all week reaching highs of 30 degrees which is difficult for us Scots to comprehend in the month of October.

The Anthelia has 3 swimming pools so we weren’t struggling for a spot to cool ourselves down. The largest of the 3 is a saltwater pool looking out to the ocean where the island of La Gomera can be seen on a clear day. There are also spa facilities available at the hotel but we were reluctant to venture inside in such glorious weather and decided to make the most of the sun by exploring nearby beaches and fishing villages. We even spent a morning on a Jet Ski bouncing along the coastline, travelling to the imposing Los Gigantes cliffs and back to our nearby beach in Costa Adeje. Here I am enjoying the sunshine…..

Costa Adeje, Tenerife

The Hotel Anthelia is the perfect combination of five-star luxury and relaxation. There’s no stuffiness about your surroundings or the service which made us feel completely comfortable and able to enjoy our week in the sun.

We stayed for a week at the Hotel Anthelia in Tenerife from 27th September – 4th October 2013. The average cost is approximately £220 per night for bed and breakfast in September/October. We flew with Easyjet from Edinburgh Airport to Tenerife South. For more information about the Hotel Anthelia visit their website here.

Travel – Blue Bike Tours of Paris

Before going abroad I like to browse Trip Advisor for hotel recommendations and suggestions of things to do. I don’t take the reviews too seriously as I know everyone measures quality differently. However when looking for things to do in Paris I was really impressed by the consistently positive reviews written about Blue Bike Tours (run by a French–American family living in Paris) We decided that cycling around Paris would be a unique way to see and learn more about the city’s main landmarks.

18km and 4 hours later…..saddle sore but happy….we’d seen tourist traps and hidden streets, eaten delicious patisserie at an outdoor market and survived cycling amongst the notorious Parisian traffic.

Despite the distance this tour doesn’t require Chris Hoy leg strength. The streets of Paris are very flat meaning all ages and stages can use a bike to get around the city. On the ‘Paris Landmarks’ tour there are plenty of stops along the way at key points of interest including the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. You’ll also learn lots of new facts about the city from your tour guide including where to find the short cut into the Louvre that saves you queuing for 2 hours.

Watch out for pedestrians, stick to the cycle lanes and you’ll feel just like a local. Book a Blue Bike Tour by visiting their website here

TRAVEL – Hotel Le Six – Springtime in Paris

It’s hard to capture the magic of Paris in words. Much like the Parisians themselves, the city is effortlessly cool and was a  joy to explore last weekend. This was my third trip to the city so I chose a local hotel in an area I hadn’t visited before.

Hotel Le Six is a 4 star boutique design hotel in the Montparnasse/Latin Quarter area of the Left Bank. After a quick flight from Edinburgh we found the hotel really easily and discovered there are three Metro stations (Vavin, Notre-Dame des Champs and Montparnasse) within walking distance. These transport links were a huge benefit when navigating our way around the city.

We were warmly welcomed by the hotel staff and shown to our room on the 4th floor. The hotel has 37 guest rooms and 4 suites in total plus added perks like free wifi and L’occitane bathroom products. We were pleasantly surprised by the size of our room. Space is at a premium in Paris and we’d expected something much smaller. Our clean and contemporary room was the perfect base to explore the city.

bedroom, hotel le six, paris

The genuinely helpful hotel staff were happy to point out areas of interest on the map, book tours and recommend local restaurants. Our stay included a buffet breakfast which I would highly recommend. Both continental and cooked options were on offer and filled us up for a day of sightseeing. The hotel also has a well stocked bar (below) and a glass roofed lounge where you can enjoy a few relaxing drinks.

Hotel Le Six

Hotel Le Six, Paris

The best way to explore the city is to grab a map from the hotel and walk.  Comfortable shoes and blister plasters are a must! All that walking can be tiring so enjoy the large rainforest shower and fluffy robes in your room or relax in the hotel’s spa area by booking an appointment for a massage, treatment or manicure.  If you’ve got energy left there’s also a fully equipped fitness room in the hotel.

The reception staff helped us book one of the highlights of our trip – a Blue Bikes cycling tour. Read more about the tour and other great things to do in Paris on Friday.

For more information about Hotel Le Six (14 Rue Stanislas 75006, Paris) visit their website here.

TRAVEL – Blythswood Square Hotel – Relaxed Luxury in Glasgow

Blythswood Square Bedroom

The arrival of a boutique hotel at Blythswood Square four years ago changed the local area from a destination of ill repute to a luxury break haven.  Locals and tourists alike have been intrigued by the 5 star attraction ever since and it’s easy to see why.

We’d heard stories about the hotel (all were complimentary) but had to experience it for ourselves. First impressions didn’t disappoint as we were welcomed with big smiles and friendly efficiency at check in. The smiles continued as we were escorted to our classic room in the newest section of the building.  A large double bed, feature lighting and mirrored walls gave the feeling of luxury whilst a sliding wooden partition allowed light to filter through from the sleek marble bathroom giving the room an even greater feeling of space. A monochrome racing frieze behind the headboard alluded to the hotel’s past as the former home of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club.

Thoughtful touches like free new release movies, free high speed wifi and a 24 hour room service menu made the hotel stand out from others we’d visited. The function facilities are also different with spacious dining rooms and a unique private cinema complete with 40 Harris Tweed seats and an old fashioned popcorn machine. If you fancy popping out the hotel is a short stroll from the nightlife of Bath Street and Sauchiehall Street and a 10 minute walk from shopping heaven on Buchanan Street.

Friends had raved about the hotel spa so we popped downstairs to test the infamous thermal experience before dinner. Floating around in what can only be described as a hot bath was beyond relaxing. We explored the range of thermal rooms including the Laconium, Steam Room, Jacuzzi and Sauna then finished up stretched out on a heated bed in the relaxation room with an icy cold bottle of water. Staying awake was practically impossible.

Blythswood Square

In a happily drowsy state we went for a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant (above). The menu was extensive and the variety appealing. For starters we chose Chicken Liver Parfait (£5.95) and Butternut Squash Veloute (£4.95) which was silky smooth to taste. We were perhaps unadventurous by ordering two of our favourite 8oz fillet steaks (£32) with twice cooked chips for mains (one with red wine sauce and the other with peppercorn) but the 21-day aged Campbell’s Gold beef sounded too tasty to resist. For dessert we shared a wonderfully light blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake from the market menu. Fruity cocktails in the upstairs bar (below) were a perfect end to the meal.

Blythswood Square Bar

After a sound sleep we revisited the restaurant where we found a large choice of continental and cooked breakfast options. We tried the full Scottish breakfast and helped ourselves to healthy bowls of fruit and cereal. The continental spread was very comprehensive with everything from carved meats to Belvedere vodka and Bloody Mary mix catering to guests looking for a quick cure after a late night.

During our stay the hotel spa was offering half price treatments (rude not to take advantage I thought) so I enjoyed a half hour Ila Rose Facial which was reduced from £42 to £21. The spa facilities were impeccable and my therapist was very knowledgeable about skin types and complimentary products.  She used a rich Ila rose oil which rehydrated my weather-beaten skin and left it smelling sweet.  Worth every penny!

It’s testament to Blythswood Square’s charm that we discussed a return trip during our visit. The hotel’s interior and location alone are worth the room price. Add the spa and the cocktail bar and you’ve found a luxurious yet unpretentious weekend destination.

Frock Trade stayed in a classic double bedroom. Prices start at £140 including breakfast. For more information about Blythswood Square and other Townhouse Company hotels visit their website.

TRAVEL – ‘The Hobbit’ Guide – New Zealand Film Locations

Put your hand up if you’ve seen ‘The Hobbit’. If your hand isn’t up you’re missing out my friend. PeterJackson’s latest blockbuster hit our screens at the close of 2012 and it’s not to be missed. The film follows a young Bilbo Baggins who joins a group of dwarves to set out on an ‘unexpected journey’. Some of our favourite characters make an appearance including Gandalf and Gollum but the real stars are the gang of dwarves who have their own eccentric personalities.

If you’ve been living in a cave and missed the Lord of the Rings trilogy this movie is still worth a watch. On the other hand if you’re a hairy-footed fanatic of the series you’ll have these three Hobbit hotspots on your must visit list for 2013.  

Hobbiton, Matamata

The Hobbiton movie set is officially open to the public and it’s exciting stuff. Lord of the Rings fans can prance around The Shire and crouch in real Hobbit doorways (don’t forget to take off your shoes and kneel in them – has to be done!).  Since Hobbiton set tours began over 266,000 visitors have excitedly explored Bilbo’s manor. This place is magical and I guarantee you’ll want to dash home and watch the trilogy all over again. Make a pit stop in the centre of Matamata town before you leave to pose with the giant Gollum statue, that’s definitely one for the photo album.

Hobbiton

Milford Sound, Fiordland

Rudyard Kipling spoke sense when he said this is the eighth wonder of the world. Breathtaking Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Maori) is a dramatic fjord in New Zealand’s South Island. Aerial shots of Fiordland were used in the Lord of the Rings films because of the area’s vast natural beauty. You can explore Milford Sound by boat or kayak. My advice is to avoid peak-season as the Sound is a popular stop on the tourist trail. Visit it in quieter months for a more tranquil experience.

Milford Sound

Mount Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

Explore Mordor. No really. The volcanic landscape of this national park in the North Island of New Zealand was used as the realm of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Make sure you save time for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a one-day hike that will reward you with some wonderful views.  Take my advice – hike in Summertime to get the best views of the stunning aquamarine crater lakes. I visited in Winter and I confess that  hiking in a blizzard wasn’t the most uplifiting experience!

If you have time check out the Weta Cave Museum in Wellington where you can learn more about the character development process and watch behind the scenes videos with Peter Jackson and crew. What an adventure indeed!

Images: Taken by Ann Russell

TRAVEL – A stylish stay at Hogmanay

Hotel Missoni Edinburgh

Planning to spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh? Mark the close of 2012 in style at the city’s only fashion-led design hotel. Hotel Missoni marks its third year in the city from its home near the Royal Mile. I was lucky enough to visit the debut property from the iconic Italian fashion label to find out just what makes it so special.

Before visiting Missoni I wondered if, like some design hotels, it would be so full of overwhelming grandeur that it would feel uncomfortable. Fortunately I’m happy to report this wasn’t the case, in fact quite the opposite. The service at Missoni is so good that you can’t help but relax.  

It’s hard to miss the enormous urns framing the hotel’s entrance. These aren’t just token space fillers, they are floor to ceiling patterned sculptures that herald the carefully considered design-led decor found throughout the property. Further exploration reveals colourful wall colours, geometric patterns and zig- zagged soft furnishings. Creative Director Rossita Missoni has cleverly brought together bold colours, subtly merging bright purples and blues with a monochrome palette. The result could be overpowering but instead the hotel exudes style and is a refreshing change from the magnolia norm. Quite simply it’s a feast for the eyes.

Speaking of feasts, a highlight of the hotel is its beautiful restaurant ‘Cucina’. It offers pre-theatre, lunch and á la carte meals plus an extensive wine selection. This year a New Years Eve dinner will be served in the restaurant from 6pm and costs £90 per person. A favourite foodie indulgence at the hotel is afternoon tea served in the hotel’s Bar Missoni from £20.50 per person daily. Whilst in the bar why not try ‘Neve’, a delicious festive cocktail with Ketel One Vodka and Limoncello chilled with a ball of homemade lemon sorbet and finished with Prosecco. Delicious.

All the usual room amenities we expect from luxury hotels are available here – espresso machines, complimentary Wi-Fi, iPod’s and docking stations, 26” LCD televisions. A few added touches add to the experience – a complimentary ‘healthy minibar’, 50 free on-demand films and 2 items of in-house laundry. Each one of the 136 bedrooms and suites is kitted out with Missoni bathrobes and slippers, Missoni Home sheets and bathroom products scented with Missoni fragrance.

During my visit I sampled the spa facilities and was not disappointed. The hotel has no swimming pool which could be a disadvantage but after an hour in the spa I’d forgotten about the lack of wet facilities entirely. The spa is small but perfectly formed and plays to its strengths by offering luxury skincare treatments from two cosy rooms. I chose the Natura Bisse ‘Rapid Recovery Facial’ (60 mins – £80) which promised to hydrate my Winter worn skin. I hadn’t heard of Natura Bisse skincare before but their gentle natural ingredients smelt amazing and appealed to my sensitive skin. 

This facial is ideal for a post- Christmas / pre-2013 lift. After the treatment my skin was soft, plumped, glowing and restored thanks to my therapist Zoe’s healing hands. I’ll even admit that whilst relaxing in the chill out area post-treatment, with cucumber-flavoured water in hand, I was very close to falling asleep. No better recommendation than that.

A Hogmanay visit to Hotel Missoni costs £370 per person and includes 2 nights bed and breakfast, dinner in Cucina on New Years Eve, a bottle of Prosecco on arrival, access to Bar Missoni and 2 street party tickets. Visit Hotel Missoni for more information.