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.

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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.

An afternoon of Pure Indulgence in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, South of France

This summer I was lucky enough to spend a week in the South of France with some good friends, and explore some new villages close to Biot and along the coast. While there I was invited to have lunch one afternoon by ONE Authentic property, to see an exceptionally stylish and architecturally designed private luxury villa – The villa Bayview -‘Domaine de Castellet’ in Villefranche Sur Mer.

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We arrive ready for an afternoon of swimming, sunbathing and sipping cocktails over lunch and are met at the gates by the charming in-house Manager Bernard Costa. Villa Bayview is located within a gated entrance at the top of a private road, the property appears to be carved into the rock face and is made from rough stones and glass throughout. This place is on another level with a spectacular roof garden leading down from a sculpted stone staircase in the heart of the property and a lift down to the pool house. It also has the most captivating and stunning panoramic views of Villefranche Bay and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat opposite, from its magnificent terraces.

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Stunning outside lounge area

Stunning outside lounge area

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I’m there to review as part of a new exclusive luxury partnership with aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn and ONE Authentic Properties, have come together to combine their unique talents to offer a seamless fully-inclusive travel service in breathtaking destinations.

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ONE Authentic Properties is a privately owned exclusive collection of super-prime villas in the South of France, chalets in Courchevel 1850 and stunning apartments in Paris. Originally selected for their superb locations and breathtaking views, all the properties have been architecturally renovated and remodelled to a high spec.

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The property sleeps 10 with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and offers every contemporary comfort and state of the art technology – including an uber cool car-turning table; well this is the South of France darling! Our afternoon of pure opulence is truly magical and we enjoy our secluded escape for the day. For those who value their privacy and want to escape the masses, this is probably one of the best ways to truly indulge your family and friends. The property is perfect for entertaining on a grand scale, relaxing or simply enjoying private family time.

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The team of professional and discreet staff at the property are very skilled with years of experience working with high profile individuals and their families. A Chef or Butler can be provided at all times for guests or simply when required. The aim to ensure each stay is a seamless, relaxing and supremely comfortable and luxurious experience.

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Bayview by Marc Berenguer  043

The Bayview villa is totally enchanting, set in one of the most stunning locations in the South of France. It offers the perfect retreat for a special vacation or celebration; with a la carte services, it seems nothing is too much to ask. ‘Encore verre du vin c’est vous plait!’

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ONE Authentic properties can arrange specified flight times to and from any airport on request for their guests and at the most convenient times for their guests. Conveniently they also offer all types of aircraft – including private jets, helicopters and VIP configured airliners – anywhere in the world.

It’s a unique and memorable experience, from seamless travel arrangements to and from your chosen destination, to an incomparable level of service at your selected property, with every conceievable desire already anticipated by the in-house staff.

To book one of these properties or check for rental availability on request.

Hawaii Tourism Board breathes a breath of fresh air this summer by banning smoking on its idyllic beaches

Credit - Hawaii Tourism Authority, Photographer: Tor Johnson

Credit – Hawaii Tourism Authority, Photographer: Tor Johnson

Gone are the days of polluting cigarette smoke and secondary smoke inhalation for Hawaii’s beaches
Hawaii has signed a new policy to include all of its beaches to be smoke free, allowing holidaymakers to truly enjoy and relax in a healthy and beautiful smoke-free environment, when walking along a Hawaiian pristine talcum powder beach. The policy will be enforced by beach lifeguards and will ensure that the environmental threat to the ocean and eco-system will now be abated.
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, later this year see our list of truly inspiring naturally beautiful beaches perfect for a snorkellers paradise or honeymoon destination for the perfect spot to relax and enjoy.

We’ve compiled a list of the best beaches for you to explore and have unforgettable times on:
•Hawaii Island features some of the most picturesque and varied beach landscapes in the islands, from white sand, black sand and green sand beaches with olivine crystals. Some of the best include: Kolekole Beach Park: Twelve miles north of Hilo on the Hamakua Coast you’ll find this jungle garden by the ocean, with a nearby stream lined with smooth lava rocks and a waterfall. A banyan tree leans over the river with a rope swing. Onekahakaha Beach Park: A favourite with locals, this small, shallow sand-bottomed ocean pool is one the safest swimming areas along the Hilo coast, with tide pools and inlets.

•Maui’s Makena Beach known as “Big Beach” is located south of Wailea near the Makena Beach and Golf Resort and provides a secluded alternative to more crowded beaches in Kaanapali and Lahaina. Nestled between two black-lava outcroppings, Makena offers protection from the trade winds and provides great views of the islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe.

•Lanai, Hawaii’s most enticing island is home to The pristine beauty of Hulopoe Bay located on Lanai’s southern coast, Hulopoe Bay greets you with a stunning expanse of pearl-white sand and crystal blue waters. Most of the year, this protected bay fronting the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay is the best spot on the island for snorkelling and swimming.

•Molokai’s hidden gem is has a ‘must-visit’ Papohaku Beach (also known as Three Mile Beach) and discover three miles of soft-sands uninterrupted down Molokai’s west end. One of Hawaii’s largest white sand beaches at about 100 yards wide, there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the “Friendly Island” ambience.

•Oahu, Waikiki beach, located on the Southern shore of Honolulu is most famous for its beaches and every room is just two or three blocks away from the sea. With Leahi (Diamond Head) as your backdrop, the calm waters of Waikiki are perfect for a surfing lesson.

•Kaui, Poipu Beach as you’ve always imagined and dreamed how Hawaii would look – this is it! The inviting waters of Poipu make it very popular with visitors, locals and even local marine life. From December through May, it’s not uncommon to spot humpback whales spouting off shore. Large honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) also swim in these waters. But Poipu Beach is most famous for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals that sometimes sunbathe on the shore.

Divine Decadence At The Legendary Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St.Moritz, Switzerland

A magical weekend at the “Grande Dame” of  St. Moritz, Badrutt’s Palace hotel. Set in the heart of the Engadin region, 1,856m above sea level, It is one of the prettiest Swiss villages. A  jewel of a winter sports resort with over 350km of ski slopes. Home to the famous “Cresta run”, it plays host every year to the “World Cup Polo on snow ” and  “White Turf weekend” horse racing on ice.

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Having always had St.Moritz on my bucket list after a ski season spent in Saas Fee many years ago! The more glamourous ski resorts of Gstaad and St. Moritz have somehow managed to elude me. These are the ski resorts that are destinations and playgrounds for the rich and famous and legendary in their own right. A seasonnaire at heart – for me it is all about the skiing and the snow, although I’m not averse to a little pampering once in a while and staying at the five star Badrutt’s Palace certainly is a taste of a different world.

This legendary  “Grande Dame” is in a class of its own, leading the field in luxury hotels it has played host to European Royal Families since opening its doors in 1896, followed by Hollywood Royalty and today it still plays host to the great and the good of the glitterati. The staff are impeccably mannered and extremely welcoming with generations of  the same families working here, they are clearly very passionate about Badrutt’s Palace hotel and it shows.

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I was of course beyond excited to be leaving a rather dull and overcast City airport for Zurich early Friday morning, transported at the other end by an efficient Swiss train service, which naturally ran like clock work. Within 20 minutes of landing we were on our way to Zurich railway and connecting trains to Chur and on through the UNESCO World Heritage site of beautiful snowy landscape and an awe inspiring winter wonderland before arriving in St.Moritz. We were met at the station by a fleet of Badrutt’s Palace porters with impressive Rolls Royce cars, which whisked us up to the hotel in style.. filmstar moi! Oh alright then…

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For our very first evening we were invited by the Head Chef of the hotel’s  “Le Restaurant” kitchens to dine at the Chef’s table, a first for me and an absolute delight. Each course was matched to a wine and we were treated to an extensive menu of:

– Cooked Egg whites with Imperial caviar and truffles

– Steamed Scallops and foie gras wrapped in Savoy cabbage with brioche bread

– Pumpkin Cream Soup and Caraway purple potato flower and leek

– Two styles of Venison filet seared with a truffle sauce and braised Veal cheeks in red wine sauce with black truffle shavings

For dessert we had a special surprise in the Patisserie Kitchen with Head Patisserie Chef Stefan Gerber and his team whom created a spectacular fireworks and music display to present every dessert imaginable.

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It certainly gave us a good sugar rush to head to the famous “King’s nightclub” dance floor and attempt some cool moves at the ‘ClubHaus’ 80’s evening.  “King’s Club” is situated within the basement of the hotel which proved handy in L.K. Bennett killer heels! This was no ordinary dance floor as the hotel PR informed me its claim to fame is being the richest dance floor in Europe with at least every other guest apparently a billionaire… how could I go wrong?

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Next morning we were up early to enjoy breakfast in “Le Restaurant” including a harpist to play some music to us while we ate. Definitely a new one on me, but relaxing all the same as we looked out across the lake before the morning’s ski activities with our Swiss ski instructor’s, John and Aurelia.

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A little apprehension had sunk in as we climbed the mountian after a few too many bad moves at “King’s” but once on the slopes, we all started to find our ski legs again, before heading up to the highest pinnacle on the mountain range and indulging in some delicious cheese fondue and fantastic Swiss white wine. Yes Swiss wine! surprisingly delicious and perfect for the cheese fondue.. who knew?

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Après-ski in St.Moritz is of course a very stylish affair, so post a few red runs and wobbly mogul attempts after lunch, we took ourselves off  for a Gluhwein and hot vodka or two,  (can you see our common theme here?) hoping to mingle with some of the young, the rich and the beautiful people…

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Post  après ski we donned our most glamourous outfits to visit the underground cellars of Badrutt’s Palace, where they hold guests cases of vintage wine and cases and cases of the finest Champagne in preparation for the winter season. Guests can also reserve a table in the romantic wine cellar on request for dinner during the winter and summer.  After a Kir Royale we headed back upstairs to dine in the classical setting of “Le Restaurant” set with beautiful chandeliers and stunning views across the lake. We indulged ourselves once more with foie gras, lobster and Crepes Suzette on this very classic French haute cuisine menu, I could feel my waistline expanding with every delicious mouthful.

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Badrutt’s Palace hotel is open in the winter season from the beginning of December to the end of March and reopens for the summer season from the end of June. There are 157 rooms and 37 luxury suites, guests can arrive into St.Moritz by car, train or even private jet if they wish to.

A full programme of season highlights in St.Moritz and at Badrutt’s Palace can be found on the website: http://www.badruttspalace.com/en/stay/rooms  it’s a great destination to savour, experience and enjoy a most luxuriously opulent lifestyle, at least for a lovely weekend!

We travelled from London City airport with Swiss airlines 1hr 50 and the Swiss rail service from Zurich airport to St Moritz – 3hr 30 transfer time into resort.