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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Après London- A cool ‘Sex in the City’ Cocktail bar

A heaving Oxford Street gives way to a trendy side street, where Après London drinks bar and club lives. It’s my Sex in the City moment post work,shopping cool cocktail bar. Après is a nice little find around the busy West End and Mayfair area, conveniently situated opposite Selfridges. It has an outside area for summer drinks and tasty nibbles and some very comfy leather seating inside by the bar to relax and chill out in post a busy day at work.

Apres London, Terrace area

Apres London, Terrace area

Serving an eclectic mix of cool cocktails ranging from some fabulous martini and mojito concoctions with a twist to wine and beers, as well as non-alcoholic cocktails with some pizzaz!

Cucumber cooler

Cucumber cooler

Mojito with a twist

Mojito with a twist

When we arrive at the bar it’s fairly busy and the Thursday night DJ who is too ‘Cool for Skool’ starts setting up next to us. To the left of us a couple on a date and another table of very chic London girls are sipping cocktails and avidly catching up on the gossip over some cool tunes. I notice it’s mainly Londoners in here, everybody is achingly on trend and looking very London, there are a few wealthy looking ex-pat types but it feels quite local in here as well.

ApresLondon

ApresLondon

After the initial cocktail we veer towards the menu, which is certainly a fun eclectic mix of some different and favourite cuisines. We decide on some beef sliders, steak tacos, hummus with fresh large green olives and hot pitta bread, as well as chicken satay sticks, simple but good ingredients, which certainly hit the spot.

Beef Sliders

Beef Sliders

Well stocked bar

Well stocked bar

Apres has an easy and fun atmosphere for a quick drink and bite to eat. It’s a lovely relaxed spot with cool tunes and an even cooler DJ, who was good when we were there on the Thursday evening. Weekends the basement club is also open and holds bigger numbers, there is a doorman policy at the weekend and you can ring ahead to reserve a table as it does get busy with the cool set.

For a few cocktails and 2-3 tapas style dishes the average cost would be £30-35 per person. The location is easy for Bond Street/ Oxford Street tubes. http://www.apreslondon.com
Apres

Ratings:
Atmosphere: 7
Food: 8
Drink: 9
Overall Experience: 8

Lessons from the Master, Charles Metcalfe, on food & wine pairings for the Summer

Charles Metcalfe, was recently at foodie festival Bristol to host a master class for some very lucky festival goers. Charles is the renowned co-founder of Wine International magazine, and former wine expert on Richard & Judy’s ‘This Morning’. Honorary President of the Association of Wine Educators and Chairman of Judges for the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards and author of ‘The Wine & Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal’

Charles at Bristol Foodie Festival

Charles at Bristol Foodie Festival

Charles, was there to host a food and wine pairing session in the marquees for the European Union campaign Discover the Origin.

Discover the Origin, aim is designed to raise awareness around five Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products:

 Burgundy Wines
 Parma Ham
 Douro Wines
 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
 Port

The short online video is of Charles giving his top tips on wines for the summer and challenging some conventions of wine pairing. We often get stuck in ruts when it comes to food and wine pairing, in this video Charles explains how we can in fact cool down red wine for the summer and much more.

Charles Metcalfe, Wine Expert

Charles Metcalfe, Wine Expert

Discover the Origin Campaign spokesperson says: “The Bristol Foodies Festival offers a wonderful opportunity to interact with consumers who are keen to discover our products and learn more about the notion of provenance. This year we are excited to have one of the UK’s biggest name in food and wine to talk about the Discover the Origin products, provide tips on best ways to fully enjoy them and highlight what makes them so special.”

Parma Ham

Burgundy Wine

Burgundy Wine

Trained professionals were on hand to demonstrate the finesse required to skilfully slice Parma Ham as well as the authentic way to cut Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.

Visit the new Discover the Origin website at www.discovertheorigin.co.uk

Discover the Origin is also on Facebook and Twitter. For latest news, consumer events, trade shows and Masterclasses search ‘Discover the Origin’ on Facebook or follow on Twitter @discoverorigin.

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.

Canada’s Capital City – Ottawa an undiscovered Culinary and Cultural Haven…

Stepping off the viarail train from Kingston to Ottawa, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Capital of Canada. I had done a little research on each area I was visiting in Ontario, but nothing indepth. Taking a taxi (Blueline taxi service) from the station to The Fairmont Chateau Laurier, I was struck by the beauty of the city, the stunning architecture of the buildings and characteristic French style limestone and cooper roofed buildings was aesthetically pleasing.

The Fairmont -Chateau Laurier

The Fairmont -Chateau Laurier

View from My bedroom Suite

I was lucky enough to be staying at Chateau Laurier in one of their suite’s with a view over the main shopping street area. The hotel is the ‘Grand Dame’ of Canada’s capital city, it is a beautifully elegant and charming hotel with a long and distinguished history of past Presidents and Royalty as its guests. Located in downtown Ottawa next door to the Parliament Buildings, Byward market shopping area and the Rideau Canal which offers miles of bicycle and inline skating paths in the summer and the world’s longest skating rink in the winter. It’s the perfect luxurious treat for a romantic weekend getaway or indulgent girls’ weekend.

Chateau Laurier

Chateau Laurier


Parliament on the hill

Parliament on the hill

Ottawa is easy to navigate around and I took a walking tour courtesy of the Ottawa tourism board to get the ‘local insider’ track on the best things to see and do. We started at Byward market, which is not just a local produce market, it is also home to boutique designer shops, restaurants and bars and is where the local nightlife happens. I was introduced to my first delicious ‘Beavertail’ and devoured it in seconds – it’s a local delicacy of fried pastry with any topping. I went for a classic with lots of cinnamon atop and had to stop by the following day for another one before I left, it was that good.

Beavertails Pastry at Byward Market

Beavertails Pastry at Byward Market

Obama Cookie at Byward Market

Obama Cookie at Byward Market

There are also several noteworthy museums and art galleries; I visited the National Gallery of Canada which is housed in a stunning contemporary building. A light-filled structure of glass and granite, in which visitors can find a cloistered garden courtyard, a glass-bottomed pool, and a reconstructed 19th-century chapel, is well worth the time to visit. My other museum of choice was the National Canadian Museum of Civilization, it currently has an interesting and unique ‘Voodoo exhibition’ ,. Take a 5 minute ferry taxi across the river from Ottawa, or cycle the scenic Voyageurs route if preferred.

Ottawa River and Rideau Canal

Ottawa River and Rideau Canal

Culture done and ticked box, it was naturally time to eat and discover the new and emerging culinary delights of Ottawa. I checked out a local restaurant close to Byward market – Play, Food and Wine on 1 York Street <a href="http://www.playfood.ca/”>, a contemporary modern, open and friendly ambience in the restaurant, an interior of dark wooden floors and light wood coloured tables worked well. Play,food & wine offers with a good wine list and contemporary fresh modern menu. To start I choose a dish of scallops with snowless cauliflower puree, scallions and a parsley vinagarette, the scallops were cooked to perfection although the scallions slightly overpowered the dish for me. I also choose a Moroccan radish salad with raisins, carrots, white cabbage and harissa spice accompanied with a fruilli white wine.

Restaurant - Play, Food and Wine

Restaurant – Play, Food and Wine

Moroccan Salad

Moroccan Salad

My other restaurant of noteworthy comment was the surprisingly awesome Vegan restaurant – Zen Kitchen – 634 Somerset West Street http://www.zenkitchen.ca/ which is a definite ‘local insider’ knowledge tip. From downtown Ottawa you will need to take a taxi and the Blueline service was the taxi company I used. The restaurant concept is healthy, environmentally sustainable food and produce. I absolutely fell in love with all of the dishes I was served by Executive Chef Kyle Mortimer -Proux, even down to the vegan organic wine, which worked to compliment the different courses. The staff and owner were adorably attentive and I tasted several dishes including: Vegan cheeses, and pickles with hummus and homemade bread, a fine herb gnocchi, with locally farmed ‘Le Coprin mushrooms from Ottawa with a white Chardonnay from Prince Edward county ‘Rosehall Run’. For dessert a trio of vegan desserts of raw chocolate, vanilla swirl cheesecake, a warm chocolate mexican cake with cumin and mexican spices and a peanut butter and chocolate pie (100% vegan and raw).

Ottawa is also well known for its festivals in particular Winterlude, the Tulip Festival and countless other special events, Ottawa is a flurry of activity. Your stay is guaranteed to be a memorable one and its worthwhile using the Ontario Tourism board’s website to research and book your trip, if you plan to also go beyond Ottawa.

Summer or winter, Ottawa is certainly worth a visit from its plethora of good quality restaurants and first class shopping it’s a good alternative to a weekend in NYC and only 7 hours from London Heathrow. It’s a capital city with a relaxed Parisian Cafe culture and laid backed leisurely friendliness, the locals are only to willing to have a chat or help with recommendations on what to see and do.

Zen Kitchen, Deep Fried Locally grown mushrooms

Zen Kitchen, Deep Fried Locally grown mushrooms

Zen Kitchen - Vegan Gnocchi

Zen Kitchen – Vegan Gnocchi

Byward Market - Locally loved, French Patisserie Shop

Byward Market – Locally loved, French Patisserie Shop

Byward Market - Mello's Restaurant

Byward Market – Mello’s Restaurant

Travel details:
Train travel Ottawa from Kingston on Viarail – http://www.viarail.ca/
Return flights with Air Canada – Ottawa to London – http://www.aircanada.com/
Ontario Tourism – http://www.ontariotravel.net

Ski and Snowboard Show London, celebrated its 40th year

The Ski and Snowboard Show London took place at Earls Court 2, London and celebrated its 40th year from 30th Oct – 3rd November. Check out the video to see what the event was all about!

Hundreds of people made the annual pilgrimage to London to enjoy beginner and advanced ski and snowboard lessons inside Earls Court on a custom built slope, as well as stocking up on their ski essentials for this winter. Headline Sponsor Monarch Airlines now the ski airline of choice, hosted an Ice Rink and Curling Lanes, and Tubing for visitors to try. With top ski resorts from Aspen to Alpe d’huez set to open this weekend, three weeks early thanks to all the snowfall; it’s already shaping up to be a great looking ski season

With top destinations, tour ops and retailers too, the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard Show London was a great place to plan a ski or snowboard trip and pick up everything for your ski holiday.

The Iconic Lanesborough hotel set to hold glamourous auction

The Lanesborough is following in the footsteps of ‘Grand Dame’ The Savoy, with an auction from its beautiful and opulent collection of interiors. The auction will be held between 9 – 13 December next month.

It will be an unprecedented opportunity for any avid collector or aficionado of the ‘Lanesborough’ to own a little piece of luxurious history.

There will be 3,000 lots existing of furnishings, artefacts and decorations, with over 3,000 lots at auction. The contents will be exclusively available prior to the extensive renovation project which will see The Lanesborough closing its doors on 20th December.

View PDF Version: http://goo.gl/ecxWPM

Led by auctioneers Pro Auction, original and reproduction period furnishings, authentic artwork reflecting the grand era of the Regency period will go under the hammer at the hotel’s premises and webcast live over the internet.

Viewing is available to the public by appointment on Saturday, 7th, and Sunday, 8th December, and prior to the sale commencing each day at 10:30 a.m.   The Lanesborough’s signature style combines the elegance and sophistication of an eighteenth century private residence with the contemporary luxuries expected of a leading hotel. In addition to the contents of the 93 guest rooms, including 43 suites, the auction will extend to areas of the hotel including private dining rooms, The Library Bar and Apsleys Restaurant.  

The new designs by world-renowned interior designer, Alberto Pinto, will enhance all guest rooms and public areas and integrate the latest innovations whilst honouring the building’s architectural heritage as one of London’s most revered Regency landmarks.  

The auction takes place at The Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner London, SW1X 7TA, United Kingdom) commencing at 10.30am. Online bidding will also be available via a live webcast. The viewing takes place from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on 7th and 8th December 2013 by appointment only, and virtual tours of the bedrooms are available online. Catalogues are available by calling (+44) 0207 206 2690 or via download from http://www.thelanesboroughsale.com.