A Charmante Luxury B & B in Biot – Bastide Valmasque, Cote-d’Azur

Over the summer I stayed in a charming little family run B & B, owned by the very affable Philippe and his wife. The old farmhouse has been converted into elegant and charming bedrooms, seeping French interiors and Mediterranean essence with a touch of India on the side. The owners are passionate about India and have brought several artefacts from large chest of drawers to glass cabinets which all inter-mingle to make a beautiful contemporary ambience.

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What I loved about Bastide Valmasque was the easiness of the hosts with their guests, breakfast was tranquil and served from 07.00 -10.00am , after breakfast fruit, cheeses and divine biscuits and teas were left out for guests to enjoy at their leisure. The biscuits – Sables des Pres, were irresistible along with the house speciality tea from Kashmir, made from Green Cardamon pods, with Cinnamon and spices.

The rooms were also lovely and spacious with beautiful French white linens and Indian fresh cotton throws, rather too inviting indeed, as one almost didn’t want to leave it was that comfortable.

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La Biere in Biot's Cafe de la Poste

Interestingly I learnt during my stay that Bastide Valmasque also hold cooking classes throughout the year. Guests are invited to shop at the local market for fresh produce and then back to the kitchens to cook up a mediterranaen feast for a 3 course lunch. This can be done as a group or individual basis with other people taking part.

The luxury B & B is well located in the little town of Biot, close to Cap D’antibes and Juan les pins. You will need a car to reach the B & B, but from Nice airport this is quite an easy process.

A double room per night is from 100 euros, and up including a lovely French breakfast with cheese, meats, jams and lots of French baguette.

There is also an apartment to hire by the week or 3 night minimum, which has it’s own private garden and patio area. Phillipe tells me they are also hoping to have a swimming pool by next year once the famous French planning permission has been given.

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Spacious and Stylish – Lech Zurs, a Skier’s Paradise

Lech Zurs the glamourous and glitzy ski resort high up in the Austrian alps, certainly lives up to all the hype and then some… As I got to know the ski runs, après ski haunts and hotels of these two lovely Alpine villages, it struck me just how lovely Austria is and how there is such a sense of space on these fabulous slopes.

Lech Ski Area

Lech Ski Area

The sophisticated Arlberg resort of Lech has a brand new gondola (with heated seats) linking the smaller relatively unknown area of Warth (pron Waart) over the mountains in Austria’s Voralberg region.

The twins are also linked by lift to Zurs, which sits above St Anton, to which it is linked by ski pass and reachable off-piste from the Valluga peak in Anton (not easy skiing).

The White Ring

The White Ring

Group Shot with Lech Ski Schule Instructor, Martin Schneider

Group Shot with Lech Ski Schule Instructor, Martin Schneider

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The link to Warth – by a new-type Dopplemeyer lift of half gondola and half chairlift – adds about a quarter more pistes for skiers and riders and makes a great day out, and one not quite as extensive or as difficult as the present Lech’s hero run, the famous White Ring from Lech to Zurs and then round the high mountains back to Lech, a circuit to rival Sud Tirol’s Sella Ronda.

Warth has around 20 mainly intermediate runs with a few black thrown in to keep you on your toes, and half a dozen good-value eating lodges on the mountain.

We stayed at The Gotthard hotel, about a 5-8 minute walk from the Ski School and main lift area, the spa facilities and sauna area were excellent and much appreciated after a day’s hard skiing. The food was also very good and we stayed at the hotel on a half board basis. Crystal Ski are the tour operators and you can book via Crystal or book directly with the hotel. http://www.gotthard.at/en/

Charming bedroom suite

Charming bedroom suite

More good news for Arlberg and Swiss fans – you can now get to Western Austrian and Eastern Swiss resorts faster and cheaper via Monarch’s new service from London Gatwick and Manchester to the southernmost German airport of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, which knocks up to half an hour off the Zurich route and slashes the price too and it cuts out the winding route and traffic from Zurich to the Alps.

Monarch’s service costs from £37 each way – and you can get its Premier service with extra leg-room and a cooked breakfast, for only £9.99 more. And because it is an early-morning flight you can get to resort in daylight and maybe even sneak in a warm-up run or two on Day One.

Monarch airlines at Friedrichshafen airport

Monarch airlines at Friedrichshafen airport

Friedrichshafen airport, has the largest and widest runway in Europe, often taking lots of winter diversions, unable to land at Innsbruck airport. It is a great gateway to the alps, with 4 countries close to its proximity it is a much easier, less hassle airport to navigate around on arrival which will ultimately mean swifter transfer routes into resorts. It is located next to Lake Constance, which in the summer is a stunning location to take a few leisurely days before heading off on tour – with good bike routes around the lake and water sport activities on the lake it is a great destination in itself.

A weekend in Historic Bath, England

I recently went to Historic Bath for a long weekend and stayed at Dorian House, a stunning Georgian stone
property. On arrival we received a warm welcome from the owner who took us through lots of options and helpful suggestions on what to see and do in the City of Bath. The standard of the rooms were very good, clean and good quality linen and fresh towels made us feel comfortable and relaxed immediately.

Luxury B & B  Dorian House, in Bath

Luxury B & B Dorian House, in Bath

The breakfast each morning offered a good choice of hot and cold options, plus vegetarian options and was of a good standard and ample servings. We also visited several local pubs and a couple of the local restaurants which offered hearty British Cuisine at a good price point, we chose the Green tree pub for some local chat and experience and were not disappointed by the cosyness and history of the bar. The restaurant we went to was also extremely good I chose a classic steak served rare, with fries and salad and would certainly go back again.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey - Posing

Bath Abbey – Posing

We also visited several historic sites and took a free walking tour on Saturday morning, which is given by the City of Bath Council, as Bath is an historic and UNESCO site they provide this service for free. The walking tour started at 10.30am from outside the Roman Baths and took us along the River Avon, to Pulteney Bridge pointing out interesting facts and historical points of reference.

Typical Bath Bridge

Typical Bath Bridge

As a final treat we also visited the Jane Austen centre and toured the museum, which held special editions of Jane Austen novels, period dress and furniture as it had been preserved from the period. On our final day we also visited the Thermae Baths for the Spa waters and ended the trip on a high at Sally Lunn’s, tea shop for an afternoon tea. Sally Lunn, originally came from France and brought with her a sweet bun which then became the famous ‘Bath Bun’ of today, she saw an opportunity to market her wares and developed a little tea shop which still stands today on the same site and it believed to be the oldest building in Bath.

Afternoon Tea at The Mad Hatter's Tearoom

Afternoon Tea at The Mad Hatter’s Tearoom

Cup of Tea

Cup of Tea

Bath, is visually very beautiful and worth seeing if you are visiting for a day trip or weekend, there is so much to take in historically. Beautiful Palladium and Georgian architecture, the Roman Baths and new Thermae Baths, as well as a huge choice of local restaurants, pubs and bars and lots of great shopping. Spring and Summer are the most popular times to visit when the weather is not so dreary or rainy. VisitEngland or VisitBritain are both excellent sources of information and will advise on the best time to visit and what to see when you arrive in Bath and the surrounding areas.