London

London

It’s been longer than I care to admit since I had visited London, and to be honest, I was both nervous and excited for this walk down memory lane. However, some of my newer discoveries in this city, left me with memories of a trip I shall not forget. In a city where the new and modern meets the old and historic, I found these gems worth every penny and every moment.

To Get English TeaThe Montague on the Gardens : It’s impossible to come to the UK and not be offered tea during your stay, but if your’e going to do ‘tea’ you might as well go the whole way, and get a full afternoon tea at a traditional English spot. The Montague on the Gardens in Bloomsbury, is a truly charming hotel, with a tea room and patio garden where once can order a selection of high-teas, with all the works, from champagne to cucumber sandwiches and scrumptious little pastries. They even have a tea of children, with alternative options such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and home made cookies. At this hotel, the atmosphere,  the service and the price are just right.

To Stay: The Devonshire Club: This private members club combines the allure of a West End private members’ club with the chic-cool of East End style. Nestled in a quiet pedestrian square away from the hustle and bustle of the city and just two minutes walk from Liverpool Street, the main building has its own boutique hotel with 68 bedrooms and suites. Spread over 5 floors at the heart of the club is a stunning 120 seat brasserie with a huge marbled seafood counter.

A Champagne bar leads into a wonderful Garden Room and the club has its own secret garden. On the first floor is the Library, the elegant Causerie, drawing room and Cocktail Bar, rich in atmosphere. Service is first class, but nothing feels stuffy. Rooms are airy, spacious and filled with light, yet the club feels comfortable and luxurious, with wood, marble and rich deep color to bring it the kind of warmth that makes staying here, taking a meeting or just having a cocktail – easy, enjoyable, and well worth the visit.

To Dine: The Ivy Soho Brasserie : A spin off from The Ivy of London, this newly opened brasserie was a hit from day one, serving high quality food at a more casual location with a moderate price. In the heart of the quickly developing Soho area, it serves as a buzzing spot to grab lunch, a drink or simply catch up with friends. Dishes such as their Roast Salmon Fillet (served with asparagus spears, baby watercress and soft herb sauce on the side) pair well with salads such as the Roasted Butternut Squash (served with grains Buckwheat, chickpea, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate with crumbled feta, harissa yoghurt and coriander dressing.) Accompanied by a chilled glass of wine and some great company, it’s a spot worth stopping by whilst in town.

The Montague in Bloomsbury Tea

The Montague in Bloomsbury Tea

The Devonshire Club

The Devonshire Club

The Ivy Brasserie Soho

The Ivy Brasserie Soho

The Devonshire Club

The Devonshire Club

AmaWaterways – Paris & Normandy

AmaWaterways – Paris & Normandy

This summer I tried something I had never tried before, a river cruise. Not just any river cruise, but one aboard AmaWaterways, along the River Seine from Paris to Normandy and back. Europe in itself over summer months is a magical experience, but seeing it from the waterways is something altogether different.

Embarking on this kind of trip is always different for everyone, but that I think is what makes it so unique. I truly didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised but so many aspects of this voyage.

Walking onboard the ship from day one, I was immediately taken aback by the warmth of the ship aesthetically and in terms of hospitality. Every need was catered for one what was essentially a 5* hotel on the water, from a champagne arrival to luggage that awaited me in my cabin.

The cabins themselves were quaint, like the ship; comfortable with floor to ceiling windows on one wall that gave me my own breathtaking view of the river and all the sites we would pass on the upcoming week. It was hard to believe that so many of these rooms could fit on a boutique hotel sized vessel. Incredibly, despite traveling with the same people for one week, not once did I feel my privacy was compromised; far form that I felt a sense of calm and relaxation in the luxury of my cabin.

The cabins

The cabins

Gorgeous Cliffs

Gorgeous Cliffs

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

The Chefs Table

The Chefs Table

Sun Deck

Sun Deck

Honfleur

Honfleur

Onboard the ship we embarked form Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world, as guests savored an exceptional meal at one of the two restaurants on board, serving locally inspired dishes that changes each day, paired with incredible wines each night. After dinner, there was the gorgeous bar and front terrace to take a cocktail out and wade away the night gazing at the glittering Eiffel Tower.

Over the coming days, tours allowed guests to discover the picturesque landscape of Normandy, each day awaking at a new breathtaking destination. Tours embarked from the boat, guiding guests to historic spots and towns where we could browse local markets, try the wine or bike along the River Seine.

A gourmet breakfast buffet, and light lunch was always served with the option in the evening between the main restaurant and the infamous Chef’s Table, where course after course the chef would suprise you with cuisine from freshly prepared meats and fish to a range of cheeses, wines and pastries. In the evenings entertainment from classical violinists to Edith Piaf performers would take to the stage on ship, and bring you an unforgettable end to the night.

Destinations over the week included Giverny and the enchanting home and gardens of Impressionist master Claude Monet, as well as the Impressionist Museum. There was also a stop at the old fishing village of Caudebec, where you could visit Honfleur (famous for being the subject of Courbet’s, Boudin’s and Monet’s paintings) as well as the Normandy Beaches, where guests were able to visit the landing spots of WW2 soldiers. Rouen was a particular personal favorite – a gorgeous medieval town rich in history to bike around, before we headed to the picturesque Les Andelys, with it’s dramatic cliffs to hike up and the former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart crowning the peak.

On my last day back in Paris, with the options including a visit to Château Malmaison, “Artists’ Walk” tour or just to explore all the magic Paris has to offer, I found myself saddened at the prospect of leaving this unforgettable experience and all the people I had met behind.

It didn’t matter, who you were or what you decided to do, being aboard the Amalyra through Normandy, had it’s own impression on everyone. The world class service and hospitality I had received from the team onboard, the friends I had made, and the places I had seen, all created memories to last a lifetime. I may have just have become a river cruiser. So where to next?

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a haven for all those who who want to drop off the map and wake up in another world. A long line of land that drifts and drags in parts from the tip of the state of Florida, The Florida Keys is for many the ultimate vacation destination between food, fishing, fun and fabulous weather.

On my recent trip there, I made a few stops!

KEY LARGO

  1. To stay – Amoray Dive Resort – This is considered one of the best scuba dive destinations in the world, with an extra touch in style, comfort and service located in Key Largo, Florida. Amoray Dive Resort offers a favorable location with spectacular views of the sunset over bay waters. Step out from one their rooms directly onto our 45 ft catamaran dive and snorkel boat, located conveniently at the resort.
  2. To eat – Sundowners – Here you can experience sunset at it’s best whilst sipping on a Key Lime Martini and munching on appetizers like their crispy fresh Tuna Pizza with olives and jalapenos or Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Pommery mustard. Main wise, their Caribbean Glazed Mahi Mahi with spinach and kale, accompanied by some Oregano and Sea Salt Cauliflower is a stand out dish.
  3. To experience – The African Queen – The iconic vessel the African Queen is located in Key Largo Florida. Made famous in the 1951 movie of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn she still remains a timeless classic. This famous steamboat is available for daily canal cruises and dinner cruises in the Port Largo Canal area and also for private events, and is well worth the nostalgic experience.Amoray Dive ResortAmoray Dive ResortSundowners FishThe African Queen

MARATHON

  1. To eat – Tarpon Creek – The restaurant’s water-side Tiki Bar is known as a spot where folks meet and mingle from early in the day to the cool of the night. However more than tropical drinks and good cheer are is served here. Food wise, it’s worth stopping in for lunch or dinner to try everything from their wood fired pizzas (prepared fresh on site in their wood fire stove) to fresh fish dishes and unique salads such as their Signature Watermelon Salad, with arugula, fresh watermelon, feta, olives and balsamic glaze (add the grilled shrimp for a sensational touch!) Clean this off with a slice of their Key Lime Pie, and you are set.
  2. To experience – The Sea Turtle Hospital – Which provides a unique look at the lives of one of the area’s most beloved creatures through on site tours of the turtles that reside their. The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) is a charitable corporation and fully functioning veterinary hospital for sick and injured sea turtles. Here they rescue, rehab, and release sea turtles in the Florida Keys, whilst providing an eye opening and educational experience for all ages.Sea Turtle HospitalTarpon CreekTarpon Creek SaladTarpon Creek

KEY WEST

  1. To Stay – The Perry – Inspired by the industrial nature from which Stock Island has developed, The Perry Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina blends smooth wood finishes with rustic metal details, paying homage to the area’s iconic maritime heritage. Perched at the edge of a brand new state-of-the-art 220-slip marina (the largest deep water marina in the Florida Keys) the 100-room boutique hotel’s pool deck overlooks the working waterfront. Guest rooms with spacious, private balconies and waterfront views welcome visitors from all walks of life, while two ‘boat-to-table’ seafood-driven restaurants, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar and The Salty Oyster Bar and Grill offer classic Key West comfort food with an innovative twist.
  2. To eat –The Stoned Crab – Experience Paul’s culinary magic in action during this three-course fresh seafood extravaganza at The Stoned Crab restaurant, located on Ibis Bay’s marina. The seafood caught earlier that day by Ibis Bay’s commercial fishermen is prepared for you that same night. Grab a drink from their eco bar, featuring cocktails made only with fresh local fruit and sustainable liquors and head to dinner. Guests should be sure to tuck into the restaurant’s We Smoked It Fish Dip, Conch Fritters or Key Lime Ceviche Salad before moving onto any of the pasta or Steamer Dishes, all decorated with the freshest fish around.
  3. To experience – Ibis Bay Nightboarding – There’s no better way to enjoy the twilight hours of Key West than on LED-lite stand-up paddle boards or kayaks in the Ibis Bay. Led by an expert tour guide, you can explore the underwater world of Ibis Bay after dark, when the lobster, fish, and coral are most active and vibrant.
The Perry Hotel

The Perry Hotel

Dining at The Perry

Dining at The Perry

Ibis Bay Nightboarding

Ibis Bay Nightboarding

The Stoned Crab

The Stoned Crab

Montauk, The Hamptons; Dining Out

Montauk; Dining Out

On the farthest tip of Long Island you will find Montauk- a hippy-chic beach town with great eats, buzzing bars and a prime oceanside location. Every summer, I make a point to visit and try something new.

To grab a quick drink or a light dinner – South Edison: Pick up some salt water taffy on the way in and park yourself at the bar of this fun  and quirky beachside restaurant. Their selection of beverages has something for everyone, but particular favorites include the Coconut Thing, made with mezcal, plantation pineapple rum, fresh lemon and lime, cream of coconut, cinnamon dust. Their customizable Pickle Martinis also throw a twist on the classic cocktail, with choices from fresno chili to beet and more.

Stay for dinner and sample some great dishes like their Summer Salad (of mesclun greens, watermelon radish, sungold tomato, feta, macadamia nut and prickly pear vinaigrette) or fish dishes like their Black and Blue Scallops (with green pepper pine nut romesco, graffiti eggplant, garlic scape, asparagus, fresno chili and garlic-chive oil.) Food is made to share but with great care, and a tonne of eclectic oceanfront flavor!

To dine out – Arbor – If you’re looking for a chic yet romantic spot, this is a pretty spot on choice. This summer in particular, Arbor has a great al fresco pop up bar (in partnership with The Garret from New York) serving drinks like the rosemary cocktail (Mezcal, Aperol, rosemary infused Velvet Falernum and lemon juice,) the tarragon (rum, pineapple, tarragon and Greek yogurt) and the habanero (gin, elderflower, cucumber, habanero and lime.) Pair any of those with their tuna taco appetizer or head to the glittering inside bar for a selection of raw local seafood to start (from fresh oysters to topneck clams.)

Whether you choose to eat inside, or dine outside in their majestic outdoor garden, this menu boasts a little bit of everything. Personal favorites include their Organic Quinoa & Kale Salad with chickpea vinaigrette and the Pan Seared Scallop with cauliflower purée, asparagus spears. Paired with a crisp glass (or bottle) of Rose and some good company, Arbor very much embodies the term ‘a midsummer night’s dream.’

To get in the mix – The Grey Lady – The simple, yet charming waterfront feel of The Gray Lady, may seem calm, but don’t be suprised – this spot fills up fast at night. The bar and restaurant here provide that laid back cool, that continues to draw young New York escapees to Montauk. Come for a Gray Lady brewsky or a Spicy Watermelon Margarita (with jalapeno infused tequila, watermelon juice, agave, fresh lime juice) or stay longer and reserve a spot to dine.

Raw seafood is a must to start, as are their Mussels Escabeche with pimenton de vera oil and tuscan grilled bread. Then tuck into dishes like their Saffron Lobster and Shrimp Tortellini, with lemongrass veloute, chervil or Crispy Whole Branzino, with cherry tomato confit, grilled lemon. If you still have the energy after dinner, take it back to the bar where you’ll find a lively young scene that builds with the hours. Yet, as an all-in-one experience goes, The Gray Lady is up there, with an atmosphere that transforms from cocktail bar, to dinner spot to late night busy bar.