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cheriecity

Beauty

Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom & Blasted Heath

Penhaligon’s captures the wild essence of coastal Scotland with its twin fragrances Blasted Bloom and Blasted Heath.

Inspired by the extreme, wild and passionate northern lands, these fragrances are a breath of fresh air for perfume lovers and instantly transport you to some of the most beautiful, untouched scenery in the world.

Master perfumer Alberto Morillas drew on the sights, sounds, colours and aromas of this breathtaking region to create a stunning olfactory experience.  He said: “I am a very visual person; I imagined the fragrances like spontaneous photography.  I see a powerful wave breaking itself on the rocks for the masculine fragrance.  For the feminine frangrance I was inspired by wild flora under the wind and sea breeze”.

Having lived in Scotland and by the English coast, these fragrances have a special place in my heart, as they successfully convey the dramatic, raw energy and free-spirited, heightened emotions of being at one with nature.

Blasted Heath is an intoxicating fragrance that evokes the rugged romance of the rural Scottish landscape and the rhythm of the sea.  It opens with a wave of aquatic freshness with soothing clary sage and salty seaweed. This leads to a hint of fresh green leaves, seductive tobacco and peaty whisky, making my mind wander to roaring open fireplaces, woolly jumpers and rustic living.

If you’re not already getting lost in a Scottish dream, the fragrance develops further to evocative notes of patchouli, Alaskan cedarwood, gaiacwood, stirring vetiver and sultry musks.  I love how this fragrance takes you on a journey from the sea to the land with a few boozy episodes along the way.  It’s a very unique scent that bridges aquatic and spicy fragrances, making it very wearable and appealing for all seasons.

Blasted Bloom is a complex, intriguing fragrance that perfectly complements Blasted Heath.  It’s spiky, wild and completely unbridled and makes me imagine running through a field on a dewy morning with the wind blowing in my hair.

Like Blasted Heath, the fragrance has notes of aquatic accord, green leaves, Alaskan cedarwood, clearwood and musks, however the overall effect is remarkably different.  Blasted Bloom is a feminine fragrance but eschews the typical sweet or floral notes in favour of crisp wild berries, piquant pink pepper, tart hawthorn and earthy moss.

Each fragrance can be worn by men or women and I personally find myself more drawn to Blasted Heath, as it becomes slightly softer and sweeter on my skin.

Watch the stunning Penhaligon’s Blasted Heath and Blasted Bloom campaign video created by Cereal…

Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom and Blasted Heath eau de parfum are both priced at £124 for 100ml and are available to buy at Penhaligon’s online and in-store.

Sample

Hotels

Revisited: The Gallivant Hotel, Camber

When I fist visited The Gallivant back in 2013, I was amazed to find such a dreamy beach destination just over an hour’s train ride from London.

My first stay was with a lovely press group for the Rye Scallop Festival and I was delighted to head back there for a more romantic getaway and check out the hotel’s brand new look.

Nestled in the seaside village of Camber, The Gallivant is inspired by the coastal motels you might find in California, but with a very British feel.  This tranquil 20-room retreat has become a popular bolthole for weekending Londoners and with Camber Sands on the doorstep, there are plenty of pooches in residence.

We arrived on a cold and wet Saturday (not like the photos above suggest) after exploring the nearby town of Rye and were shown to our gorgeous Garden Room.  These newly-renovated rooms outside of the main building are super-deluxe with design features that you might not expect in a beach hotel.

Our spacious wood-panelled room was designed in Maine-style colours with accents of teal, soft grey, marble and gold.  It felt so homely with travel-inspired ornaments and interesting books adorning the shelves, free streaming wifi, a Nespresso machine and a kettle with a selection of Luponde teas and fresh milk.

I remembered from my first stay at The Gallivant how heavenly the bed was and this Hypnos king-size bed covered in 300-count linen sheets didn’t disappoint.

One of the best thing about the Garden Rooms are the open-plan bathroom with a fabulous roll-top bath, marble sink, walk-in rainfall shower, luxurious towels, bathrobes and a set of full-size Noble Isle bathroom products to use during your stay.  It was a treat to watch TV and listen to music on the blue-tooth speaker from the comfort of an enormous bathtub.

In the evening we dined in The Restaurant – a stylish dining room with a Scandinavian/New England feel, overseen by Oliver Joyce and Kevin Bennett (previously at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Chapter One and Buckingham Palace).  The tempting menu features ingredients locally sourced within 10 miles of the hotel, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood and Romney Marsh lamb.

I started with Scallops, cauliflower purée & beignets, cumin and coriander, which were perfectly cooked with complementary flavours.  Steven tried Confit chicken terrine with pickled mushrooms, a satisfying dish with rich notes of prunes.

I followed with Venison loin, glazed chestnuts, brussels sprouts and quince purée.  The medium-cooked venison was tender and juicy with a meaty jus and I loved the wintry accompaniments of sweet chestnuts, colourful sprout petals and crispy silvers of parsnip.

Steven also enjoyed his Braised Romney Marsh lamb rump and braised shoulder, rarebit, cauliflower cheese and beets.  The succulent local lamb was served in a creative way with many different textures at play – the crispy croquettes were particularly tasty.

Both dishes were very accomplished and a joy to eat, but with petite portion sizes, you’ll want to add a side dish or two.  We shared a side of yummy Butternut squash and sage mash and it went very well with both dishes.

Because the starter and main courses were quite light, I had some room left to indulge in the Dark chocolate fondant, honeycomb and malt ice cream.  The fondant arrived freshly from the oven and it was simply divine – warm cake on the outside with a molten, oozing centre.  I loved the velvety malt ice cream and the honeycomb and chocolate pebbles added a delicious flourish.

Steven finished with the Banana and caramel parfait, lime curd, coconut cream and rum jelly.  It was a lovely, exotic dessert that  added a bit of sunshine to a rainy evening.  We accompanied our desserts with a glass of sticky, honeyed Moscato d’Ochoa (Spain) and had the luxury of rolling back to our room.

Breakfast at The Gallivant is a leisurely affair, so leave plenty of time to graze on all of the morning delights. The high quality breakfast buffet is full of sweet bites including home-made granola bars, natural yoghurt with fruit compote, sticky cinnamon buns, home-baked madeleines and even blueberry panna cotta.

If you’re in the mood for something heart before a day at the beach, there is a good selection of cooked dishes such as Eggs Benedict, The Full Gallivant and waffles.

A trip to The Gallivant wouldn’t be complete without a wander around the nearby historic town of Rye.  Stroll around its cobbled streets, shop for unique pieces at its independent boutiques or refuel over lunch at The George or a gourmet hot chocolate at Knoops.

I’d been raving to Steven about the beautiful Camber Sands beach, but unfortunately the continually wet weather kept us away from the dunes.  However, that cloud has a silver lining, as it means another excuse to revisit The Gallivant on a guaranteed warm day in the summer!

For more information and booking, visit: www.thegallivant.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of The Gallivant

Photos by Chérie City and The Gallivant

Beauty

Beauté Mediterranea Cosmeceuticals Skincare

The winter season tends to play havoc with my skin and I rely on a skincare routine that works that little bit harder.  So, in an effort to bring back the glow, I tried a selection of products from the sunny-sounding Beauté Mediterranea, a Spanish laboratory-led skincare brand that has just arrived in the UK.

This cosmeceutical brand is available online exclusively through Mitonia and features four ranges to address different skin concerns.  It promises effective results with ‘buzz ingredients’ such as bee venom, syn-ake, ECO snail, dragon’s blood and high tech hyaluronic complex.

I’ve been testing the Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Aging Power Cream and Anti-Wrinkle Eye Contour for a few weeks now and I’m already hooked.  Both products contain a potent mix of Matrixyl 3000, argan oil, aloe vera and grape seed to help to improve elasticity, skin tone, skin firmness and smooth wrinkles.

I wasn’t previously familiar with Matrixyl 3000, but it’s a surprisingly widely-used key ingredient in anti-aging skincare ranges.  This game-changing peptide significantly promotes collagen, repairs damage caused by ageing and encourages the skin to behave as if it’s younger.

Anti-ageing creams can often be too oily or heavy for my combination skin, so I tend to go for a high-powered serum and layer with a moisturiser that can be easily absorbed.  Luckily,  Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Aging Power Cream has a cool, light texture and it glides on smoothly, leaving no oily residue.

I find that it deeply hydrates and plumps up my skin, diminishing my expression lines.  It also refreshes and calms the skin, making it feel good at the start of the day.  It has a very pleasant aroma that reminds me of sun cream and summer holidays and I like the bold, design-led packaging.

Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Wrinkle Eye Contour has a light gel-crème texture and it instantly hydrates and brightens the eyes.  It sinks in quickly and preps the skin well for eye make-up.  I’ve been using the Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine products with Ole Henriksen Truth Serum (sunshine in a bottle), but there’s also an anti-ageing serum in the range.

I was surprised to find that all products in the Matrikine range are around the same price (£32-34.50), which is rare for skincare brands.  This makes it easier to invest in the range, but if you want to start with just one, the Power Cream is a joy to use and excellent value.

It’s still early to be talking anti-ageing results, but I’ll post an update once the products are finished.  I’m often a bit sceptical when it comes to anti-ageing claims in skincare (it doesn’t help when brands use the word ‘miracle’ and keep you waiting to see it), but Beauté Mediterranea has a straight-forward, pharmacy-led approach to results.  It already makes my skin happy, so I’m looking forward to seeing just how effective the matrikine complex is.

For more information and to buy online, visit: www.mitonia.co.uk

*sample

Cafes, Paris

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal

One of my favourite things about a short break in Paris is having the time to sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.  Of course there is no shortage of cafes to refuel in Paris, whether you’re after a traditional espresso at the counter of a tabac, a chic café crème on the terrace at Café de Flore or a chai latte and vegan cake at a hip place near the Canal St-Martin.

Café Kitsuné Paris at Palais Royal is rather special and a joyful blend of all of the above.  Best of all, it was right on our doorstep when we stayed at the beautiful Grand Hotel du Palais Royal for two nights.

Created by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki in 2002, Maison Kitsuné is a music, fashion and lifestyle brand that’s always ahead of the rest.  I became a fan of Kitsuné soon after its launch from seeing the label’s bands and DJs play at their gigs and club nights.  I also can’t resist the modern-classic, well-cut clothes – one day that luxurious lambswool fox sweater will be mine.

So, I was pleased to find that Café Kitsuné lived up to expectations and is the perfect place to sip a matcha latte in the heart of Paris.  It’s a tiny cafe in the Galerie de Montpensier with simply a mirrored counter to stand and drink.  However, there are plenty of tables outside where you can watch the ebb and flow of the Palais Royal gardens.

We ordered a chai latte and an almond milk matcha latte and browsed the Maison Kitsuné products while waiting at the bar.  The extensive drinks menu also includes coffee using Daterra Santa Colomba beans from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil (roasted in London), artisan teas and cold-pressed juices from Parisian favourite Bob’s Juice Bar.  For something to munch on, there are slices of cake, cookies and cute foxy shortbread from nearby organic, gluten-free bakery Noglu.

My almond milk matcha latte was so dreamy and delicate (the trick is not to burn the matcha with boiling water) and Steven’s chai latte was punchy and aromatic, made with proper spices rather than syrup.

There is a a larger, colourful Café Kitsuné at Filles du Calvaire which I’m planning to visit on my next trip, but the Palais Royal cafe is a must for its picturesque, inspiring location.  What better way to spend an hour or so in Paris?

Photos by Chérie City

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide 2016

Whether you love or hate Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to resist shopping for something pretty.  Well, we all need a pick-me-up to get through the cold month of February.

Here are some gift ideas to treat yourself or the love of your life…

 

Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon, written by Megan Hess, £12.99, Waterstones
Dior Glowing Gardens palette, £43, Debenhams
Diptyque x Olympia Le-Tan Rosaviola scented candle, £44, Liberty
Shay & Blue Framboise Noir fragrance (100ml), £55, Shay & Blue
Pierre Marcolini 36 Coeurs, £19.90, Pierre Marcolini
White Pearl Bracelet by Dafne, £55, Kabiri
Jin Soon Cherry Berry nail varnish, £15, Liberty
Mulberry Small Kite Tote, £645, Mulberry
Christian Louboutin Doracora patent leather pumps, £475, MATCHESFASHION.COM
Rifle Paper Co Global Greetings set of 12 assorted flat notes and envelopes, £18.50, Tea and Kate
Mariage Frères Earl Grey French Blue tea, £14.95, Harvey Nichols

Food

Biscuiteers Butterfly Biscuit Collection

Biscuiteers are officially my new obsession.  I’ve enjoyed some creative Biscuiteer biscuits at events over the years, but it was the delicious Christmas Advent Calendar and a special engagement Biscuiteers floral bouquet card from a good friend that got me hooked.

So, when I discovered that Biscuiteers offer stunning gluten-free collections, I was delighted that biscuit lovers with allergies or intolerances can now join the party.  Best of all, they taste as gorgeous as they look!

I was sent a gluten-free Butterfly Biscuit Tin to try and they impressed on all levels.  The butterflies are so pretty and colourful, hand-painted in vibrant colours with a flash of silver.  With Biscuiteers’s fashion connections, they remind me of Matthew Williamson and warm summer days – definitely what you need to get through a dreary January.

I also like that the nine butterflies come in different sizes, from the tiny bite-size golden vanilla biscuits to larger ones with exquisite icing that are perfect for afternoon tea.  The only difference is that the biscuit texture is slightly more grainy than the originals, but I found them equally tasty and satisfying.

The Biscuiteers Butterfly Biscuit Tin makes the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day or simply a scrumptious treat that everyone can enjoy.  I also have my eye on the New York biscuit tin for my Central Park wedding in May.

Are you a fan of Biscuiteers?  Which Biscuiteers collection is your favourite?

Photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Newcastle

A Luxury Stay at Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle

Growing up in Newcastle, one of my favourite places to get out in the fresh air was leafy, wild Jesmond Dene.  It’s an incredibly beautiful wooded valley where you can walk alongside the river Ouseburn with stunning waterfalls and spot exotic trees and wildlife including red squirrels and kingfishers.

I have happy memories of going to see the peacocks and goats at Pets Corner and rollerblading down the bank to the local artist market on the bridge every Sunday.  So you can imagine how excited I was to visit Jesmond Dene House for a rare luxury staycation in my home city.

Jesmond Dene House opened as Newcastle’s first independently owned boutique hotel in 2005 and the building itself has quite a history.  The original Georgian house was bought in 1871 by Captain Andrew Noble (business partner of Lord Armstrong), who moved in high society and hosted luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and royalty from the Far East.

Today, Jesmond Dene House enhances its historic features with contemporary design and a striking art collection.  I adored the charming little dogs made from twisted wire dotted around the hallway and sitting next to the fire in the lounge.  It’s also a real foodie destination with many locals visiting the restaurant for its popular afternoon, Sunday roast and innovative tasting menus at dinner.

We received a warm welcome at check-in and were shown to our Deluxe Room on the second floor.  It was lovely and cosy with high ceilings and a partial view of Jesmond Dene.  The room was designed in a classic-contemporary style and soft neutral shades and featured a comfy seating area, writing desk, flat-screen HD TV, an iPod docking radio and free wifi.

The hotel knows how much Northerners need a good cuppa and they’ve really put some thought into the tea and coffee making facilities.  I was impressed with the plentiful selection of JING teas, freshly-ground coffee produced by Ringtons for Jesmond Dene House, mini bottle of fresh milk and ginger cookies.  A china tea pot and cafetiere completed the very civilised tea experience and we were also provided complimentary bottles of mineral water and fresh fruit.

The bed was very comfortable with high quality linen and the room was so quiet that we had an excellent night’s sleep.

The bright, modern tiled bathroom was pristine and featured a wide soaking tub, high quality towels and face cloths, plush bathrobe and slippers and a full set of uplifting Arran Aromatics bathroom products.

That evening, my mum and I dined at The Restaurant with a modern British menu by Head Chef Michael Penaluna.  The restaurant is stylish and colourful with intriguing artwork and pleasantly dimmed lighting and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.  However, fine dining touches are in place, as we were offered a selection of freshly-baked breads with a choice or salted, unsalted or seaweed butter and presented a yummy amuse-bouche before our starters and desserts.

My mum and I both started with Celeriac soup with roasted chestnuts, apple and Stilton tortellini.  The velvety, creamy soup was simply lovely and the single tortellini filled with potent Stilton packed a real punch – only one piece was required to make an impact.

I followed with Roast chicken with fondant potato, wild leeks and baby carrots.  The chicken breast was succulent and juicy with a well-seasoned crispy skin and the delicate roasted vegetables and rich, meaty jus were the perfect accompaniment.

My mum also enjoyed her Flat iron steak with fat cut chips, watercress and Bearnaise sauce.  The lean, tender steak had a deep, mature flavour, the chips were crisp and moreish and the Bearnaise was silky and tangy with plenty of fresh tarragon.

Since my mum is a rhubarb fan, it was only right that she should order the Vanilla and rhubarb gateaux with rhubarb sorbet.  Not only did it look ever so pretty, but it was delicious with a thick layer of rhubarb jelly, springy golden sponge and vanilla cream that was light as air.

My Chocolate and salted caramel tart with vanilla ice cream didn’t disappoint either.  The dark chocolate ganache was full of deep flavours and went perfectly with the indulgent, sticky salted caramel, light and buttery pastry and home-made ice cream.

The staff were so welcoming and friendly and we liked that seasonal ingredients are locally sourced from Northumberland and the North Sea coast.  If you fancy a nightcap, there’s a relaxing wood-panelled bar next door or a cosy place next to the open fire in the lounge.

Breakfast in the Garden Room is quite an event at Jesmond Dene House, with everything you could possibly want to start the day.  We enjoyed the Continental Breakfast spread, which included Neil Robson’s smoked salmon, home-cured gravlax, cured meats, Continental cheeses, delicious pastries, banana bread, French set yoghurts, Bircher muesli, cereals, fruit compote and poached pears.

You can also order hot dishes such as Haggis and duck egg with salsa verde, Grilled Craster kipper, Eggs Benedict or French toast with the Continental breakfast included in the price.  Be sure to leave plenty of time for a long, leisurely breakfast – it’s worth it!

Jesmond Dene House feels like a secret hideaway retreat surrounded by lush greenery, but it’s also close to Jesmond’s lively Osborne Road and Newcastle city centre for shopping and dining.  We loved our relaxing staycation and will no doubt be back at Jesmond Dene House soon – a decadent afternoon tea on the terrace among the palm trees is high on my ‘to do list’.

For more information and booking, visit: www.jesmonddenehouse.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Jesmond Dene House

Photos by Chérie City and Jesmond Dene House

Jesmond Dene House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafes, London

January Detox at maple&FITZ, London

January is the month when we tend to think about detoxing and ‘eating clean’ that little bit more seriously, but I can see my love affair with maple&FITZ lasting all year-round.  If like me you’re always on the hunt for quick and healthy meals that are wholesome, filling and super-tasty, this little Fitzrovia cafe and counter should be top of your list.

Canadian Cordon Bleu-trained chef Adria Wu opened healthy eatery maple&FITZ just last year and already it’s become a hotspot for health-conscious Londoners.  Her philosophy is all about happiness, balance and nourishment, whether it’s refueling the body with a cleansing cold-pressed juice or indulging in a guilt-free treat.

Walking into maple&FITZ, my eyes lit up when I saw the counter laden with colourful, tempting dishes.  Everything is made fresh from the kitchen throughout the day using high quality seasonal ingredients, so you know it’s only full of good stuff.

Noticing that I was struggling to choose just one salad, the lovely staff suggested a large box with room for a few different tastes.  I enjoyed a rainbow of three salads – Julius Caesar, Sweet Caroline and Blackjack, topped with a few slices of grilled halloumi for good measure.

My favourite salad was Sweet Caroline – a crisp kale base, studded with vibrant shredded beets, juicy roasted sweet potato, celeriac and toasted pecans, finished with a tangy, sweet maple balsamic dressing.  This went exceptionally well with Blackjack – a warm, comforting salad of hearty black rice and roasted squash with winter sea salt, baby spinach and cinnamon, garlic and lemon dressing.

For something really light and zingy, try Julius Caesar – shredded kale, romaine, mangetout, toasted buckwheat, cabbage, toasted pumpkin and sunflowers seeds, Pecorino and Dijon-lemon tahini dressing.  It really complimented the other two salads, but if you’re going for a smaller pot, it’s worth choosing a salad with those glorious pieces of roasted sweet potato or butternut squash – they’re just so good!

I also recommend adding a protein for that extra bit of indulgence.  Grilled halloumi with sage was an absolute winner, but you can also add grilled chicken, turkey meatballs, grilled salmon, tofu or a poached egg.

I accompanied my salad box with one of two delicious soups – Take My Broth Away.  This light vegetable miso broth was subtle and not at all salty, filled with plenty of silky gluten-free buckwheat noodles, baby spinach, mushrooms and small pieces of smoky tofu.  If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, there’s the Love Root soup with carrot, sweet potato, toasted spices, green apple, onion and garlic.

To finish, I couldn’t resist a highly-recommended Gluten-free brownie with dark chocolate and salted caramel swirl.  It was absolutely divine – rich and sticky with a pleasant texture and an intense chocolate flavour.  It was the perfect match for my gorgeous Choco Dream raw cold-pressed drink made with almond milk, raw cacao, honey and sea salt – so decadent yet nourishing.

maple&FITZ is one of my favourite new discoveries and I was amazed at how much it energised my body and lifted my spirits.  I know I’ll be back soon to work my way through the salads and try the matcha energy balls and banana loaf.  Breakfast also sounds yummy with sunny dishes such as Maple porridge, Salted date caramel toast and Avocado chili toast.

To help you keep those New Year’s resolutions, maple& FITZ is offering a January Resetting Package including a choice of soup, salad and cold-pressed juice for £10.  For more information, visit: www.mapleandfitz.com

Chérie City was a guest of maple&FITZ 

Photos by Chérie City (interior by maple&FITZ)

Maple & Fitz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Berlin, Hotels

A Luxury Stay at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin

Hotel Adlon Kempinski is the grande dame of Berlin hotels, standing majestically on the corner of Pariser Platz overlooking the Brandenburg Gate.

It’s a legendary hotel with quite a history and a stellar list of iconic past guests including Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker during Berlin’s Golden Twenties.  Greto Garbo delivered her famous line, ‘I vant to be alone’ in one of its rooms while filming Grand Hotel and the hotel also gets a name-check by Liza Minnelli’s Sally Bowles in Cabaret. As a fan of historic hotels with character, that alone was enough to get me through the golden revolving door.

While the Adlon is steeped in history, in fact the building was destroyed in a fire in 1945, leaving ruins in its place for decades before it was entirely rebuilt and restored in the style of the original hotel in 1997.  So accomplished was the regeneration, with its French-style balconies and verdigris roof, that it’s easy to believe the hotel had never went away.

Arriving at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, to a red carpet and a flurry of traditionally-dressed luggage porters, you know you’re somewhere very special.  The bright, flower-filled Lobby Lounge and Bar offers plenty of old world glamour and a sense of calm, with a pianist playing jazz classics while guests enjoy afternoon tea, or a signature Adlon-Currywurst.

We were warmly welcomed by the front desk staff and were shown to our Junior Suite with a spectacular view of the Brandenburg Gate.  The circular entrance hall soon became my walk-in dressing room, as it was handily lined with fitted wardrobes and had a centre table and an additional door to the bathroom – excellent hotel room design, no?

Sliding doors led on to the large open-plan suite, designed in a colour palette of cream and ochre with highlights of mahogany and cherry wood.  It felt stately yet cosy with a plush suede sofa in the living area and a very comfortable king-size bed.  On the executive writing desk was an iPad for use during our stay and thankfully free wifi (it’s hard to believe but some high end hotel groups still charge for this).

We were kindly welcomed with Moët & Chandon Champagne chilled on ice, copious fresh fruits and the most exquisite hand-made chocolates on a bed of mini chocolate chips (most likely for decoration but I couldn’t resist grazing on them later).  There was also complimentary bottled mineral water by our beside and our room was thoughtfully turned down for our late-afternoon arrival.

Another lovely touch was the wake-up call complete with complimentary tea and mini pastries delivered to our room.  Be sure to request a wake-up call the night before, so you can start the day in the sweetest way possible.

The sleek mahogany wood and black granite bathroom was a real highlight, with a deep soaking tub in the centre of the room, a powerful walk-in shower, double sinks, plush bathrobes and slippers, a full set of Elemental Herbology bathroom products and Blaise Mautin bath salts.

After settling in to our suite, we hit the pool and sauna to unwind after a day of travelling.  I was thrilled to find an opulent, Italian garden-inspired oasis with a tranquil, perfectly heated pool and a blissful whirlpool. The separate and mixed sauna and steam room were some of the hottest, most effective that I’ve encountered and there are plenty of mini Evian bottles and iced teas to keep you cool and hydrated.

The three-level Adlon Spa by Resense is quite spectacular, with beautiful Asian-style interiors by Anne Maria Jagfeld, stylish treatment rooms and a yoga studio.  I highly recommend treating yourself to a spa treatment there if you have time for some serious pampering, as the spa is really something to see.

Dining is a big event at Hotel Adlon Kempinski with no less than four restaurants.  The crown jewel of the hotel is the two Michelin star Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer with innovative fine dining by Chef de Cuisine Hendrick Otto and the hip, seductive pan-Asian Sra Bua by Berlin’s renowned chef Tim Raue.  Le Petit Felix serves sunny Mediterranean dishes with a focus on the south of France while Quarré Restaurant is a classic brasserie where breakfast is served.

And what a breakfast it was!  The bountiful breakfast buffet with live cooking stations is widely known as the most luxurious in Berlin – where else is Champagne and a selection of caviar included?  You’ll want to schedule at least an hour to navigate the offering and indulge in pancakes, pastries, cured meats and smoked salmon before ordering some tasty Eggs Benedict (also included) to really ensure you’re set up for the day.

As if the breakfast buffet of dreams wasn’t enough already, our charming waiter presented us with a paper bag of Berliner doughnuts to munch on later – such a fun, thoughtful touch.  We left feeling comfortably full and ready to explore the city.

While this prestigious part of Mitte isn’t the most lively at night, I thoroughly recommend staying at Hotel Adlon Kempinski if you’re planning to see sights such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Platz and the leafy Tiergarten.

Our stay at Hotel Adlon Kempinski was so memorable, luxurious and incredibly relaxing.  The friendly, enthusiastic staff really enhance the charm of the hotel and we always felt welcome and well looked after – everything that you could possibly desire from a five star Berlin hotel.

For more information and booking, visit: www.kempinski.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Hotels

Looking Ahead to 2016 Travels

While some years can feel like months of simple coasting, 2015 was a significant year for me, with some blissful highs and  a few lows that are now resolved.  I don’t always like to categorise and evaluate my life by years, but it is worth stopping to reflect on everything we have to be thankful as a new beginning is on the horizon.

But let’s get the drama out of the way first, because if you’ve had any recent dealings with the ridiculousness that is the London rental market, you will surely share our frustrations.  For half of 2015, there was a constant dark cloud hovering over us, with the threat of having to leave our first home together (where we’ve lived since 2008), as our landlord was selling up.  Cue months of living on edge and in limbo, but finally, a new buy-to-let landlord meant we were able to stay in our little Hackney nest and now travel plans can resume, knowing that all is well at home.

Positive moments in 2015 were work successes for both of us, seeing old friends and making new ones, and getting engaged in our spiritual home of Paris.  So, looking back on the year, here are a few of my favourite travel moments of 2015 and a peek at the exciting things that 2016 has in store…

Costa Navarino

My first trip to Greece was an epic one, staying at the beautiful south-west Peloponnese eco resort, Costa Navarino.  It was one of my favourite press trips, with the best possible travel companions, fantastic dining, breathtaking scenery and magical sunsets.  If you’re already looking ahead to a summer break, Costa Navarino should be at the top of your list.

Berlin

It had been a while since I visited Berlin, so I was excited to head back and see how much it had changed over the years.  I loved exploring the hip neighbourhood of Mitte and strolling around the leafy Tiergarten. Highlights were staying at the majestic Hotel Adlon Kempinski and discovering foodie delights at NENI, Yumcha Heroes and Princess Cheesecake.

Aix-en-Provence and Marseille

In the summer, I took a trip on the Eurostar to the south of France to explore beautiful Aix-en-Provence and the neighbouring port city of Marseille.  Aix is a really magical place and I loved strolling around the markets and visiting Cezanne’s studio, the Hotel Caumount art centre, the American Icons exhibition at the Granet Museum and taking a trip into the countryside to the must-see Chateau La Coste.

I was also pleased to revisit Marseille and really explore the historic Panier and hip Cours Julien districts, enjoy the evening charm of the Old Port and spot some of France’s best street art.

The Cotswolds

This year, I managed to visit the Cotswolds for the first time – twice in the space of a few months, in fact.  My first jaunt was to the ila spa barn to experience the new Gold Cellular Age-Restore collection at the source.  It was a very special afternoon, as I spent some one-on-one time with its inspirational founder Denise Leicester and get a rare glimpse of the ila world.

My second Cotswolds jaunt was for a festive shopping break, staying at the gorgeous Kings Head Cirencester.  It was the perfect start to the festive season, with a heavenly Lubatti treatment in the hotel’s spa, traditional turkey roast, lashings of Michael Bublé (sadly not in person) and a magical illuminated trail through the Westonbirt Arboretum.

2016 and beyond

In February, I’ll be reunited with the Celebrity Cruises Destination Bloggers as we all take on an Ultimate Caribbean Cruise in two parts.  I’ll be exploring the Caribbean with Suzanne and Elle, starting with Cartagena and then on to George Town, Grand Cayman, finishing in Fort Lauderdale.  My first trip to the Caribbean with Celebrity Cruises was so memorable, so I can’t wait to catch some much-needed winter sun and see as much as I can of these dream destinations.

In the tradition of saving the best ’til last, 20th May 2016 will be the day I get married.  Since Steven and I are both passionate about travel, we’ve decided to get hitched in one of our favourite places in the world…Central Park, New York!  It will be an intimate ceremony with just close family and any friends who are available for a spring jaunt to New York.  I’m sure there will be a few stresses to come, but so far I’ve really enjoyed planning a special trip that all of us will love and making the travel arrangements.

We will be spending two weeks in the US and will be flying with Virgin Atlantic and staying for four nights at five star Midtown hotel, The Westhouse.  I chose this forward-thinking hotel (the sister of The Quin and The Refinery) for its beautiful design, great location just a few blocks from the west side of Central Park and also its innovative amenity programme.

I’m not usually a fan of resident’s fees when hotels charge for amenities that should be included, but this one offers good value with daily breakfast, afternoon tea, evening wine and canapes and a range of drinks throughout the day, as well as the usual free wifi etc.  This clubhouse atmosphere at The Westhouse seems ideal for a breezy, luxurious stay in New York and I’m looking forward to relaxing on the terrace or in the den with our family over a glass of Champagne at the end of a busy day.

The next steps are writing vows with our wedding officiant Sarah, deciding on a restaurant for a low-key reception (any suggestions welcome) and planning those details such as a good photographer, hair and nail appointments, flowers and a fabulous cake.  We also have an extra week after the wedding to explore the East Coast and have a few ideas of how we’d like to spend it.

Here’s to a successful and inspiring 2016.  What does the new year bring for you?  Where will your next travel adventures take you to?

Photos by Chérie City (hotel images by The Westhouse)

London, Restaurants

Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar Haymarket, London

Kanada-Ya made a big impact when it launched on St Giles High Street last year and it has remained my preferred London ramen bar since.  It hasn’t always been easy to grab a walk-in seat due to its popularity and petite size, but thankfully, Kanada-Ya has met demand and earlier this month opened a second ramen bar on Panton Street, just off Haymarket.

Kanada Kazuhiro’s new ramen bar is thankfully larger and set across two floors, with two bookable tables for groups of 5-7 as well as the usual walk-in tables and counter.  Designed by Spaced Out Ltd, Kanada-Ya Haymarket has a casual, minimal feel with simple light wood furniture and red accents.  It’s comfortable enough, but is definitely the kind of place for a quick and tasty refuel, rather than lounging over drinks.

The menu has also been modestly expanded to include two more side dishes and Japanese ice cream for dessert.  The focus remains on the ramen, which is quickly served up piping hot in large bowls with a number of extras, so you can customise it to your own taste.

We visited on Monday evening just before Christmas and arrived to find an orderly queue forming outside. It didn’t take long to be seated and we started by ordering iced Oolong tea – a lovely, refreshing drink in a can without any added sugar.  For something stronger, Kanada-Ya serves a good range of bottled cocktails, Japanese craft beer, rare Japanese whiskies and wine selection.

I was excited to try Kanada-Ya’s spin on one of my favourite Japanese bites – Chicken Kara-age.  The tender chicken thigh was well-marinated in ginger, garlic and soy and fried with a little more batter than I’m used to, but still delicious and satisfying.  It was not at all greasy nor in any way spicy but the seasoning certainly packed a punch.  There’s also a side of Paolo’s Spicy Kale to choose from, if you’re after something healthier.

To follow, Steven went for the Original Ramen, which made such an impression on us the first time we visited Kanada-Ya St. Giles.  It was exactly how we remembered, with a rich, creamy 18-hour pork bone broth, plenty of springy, hand-pulled noodles, earthy wood ear fungus, finely-sliced spring onion and a large sheet of flavoursome nori.

Of course, the star of the show was the chashu pork belly with a deep honey barbecue flavour and a silky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.  This house-marinated pork really is rather special and sets Kanada-Ya apart from other from rest.

I wanted to try something new and happily, the Chashu-Men was just as tasty and comforting as I’d hoped.  The ramen base was exactly the same as the original, but the bowl was lined with generous slices of succulent chashu pork collar.  The slices of pork were larger and leaner, with hardly any fat at all, and the portion size was almost double.  The pork collar still had that sweet chashu flavour, but it was much more subtle than the intense pork belly in the Original Ramen.  Both types of pork are absolutely delicious, it just depends on your mood and hunger levels.

It’s essential that you save some room for the dreamy Matcha Soft Serve.  The smooth, not overly sweet whipped ice cream was packed full of matcha green tea, giving it a bold flavour without any bitterness.  It’s the perfect light dessert to cool down after a bowl of hot ramen and leave you with a bit of a matcha high.

There are still so many ramen bars to work my way through in London and beyond, but Kanada-Ya has set a standard that will be hard to beat (although I’m up for the challenge).  If you’re in the mood for a ramen fix, or want to see what all the fuss is about, Kanada-Ya is where you need to be.

For more information, visit: www.kanada-ya.com

Chérie City was a guest of Kanada-Ya Haymarket

Photos by Chérie City and Kanada-Ya Haymarket

Kanada Ya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Christmas

Christmas Gift Guide: For Her

It may be less than a week until Christmas Day, but there’s still time to hunt down the perfect gift.  Wish on a shooting star with Zoe & Morgan, pucker up with Yves Saint Laurent or add some adorable arm candy with Longchamp.

Here are some gift ideas for her…

Yves Saint Laurent Kiss & Love Collection Palette, £59, Debenhams
Shooting Star Necklace, £290, Zoe & Morgan
Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile Sublime eau de parfum, £86, Space.N.K
Le Pliage Miaou, £83, Longchamp
Volcano multi-coloured reactive ceramic vase, £30, Habitat
Le Specs tortoiseshell luxe sunglasses, £55, Atterley
ghd Platinum styling gift set, £165, ghd
Fresh Rose Face Mask, £46, Fresh
Nail lacquer Come to Bed Red, £12, butter LONDON
Rifle Paper Co Garance Dore social stationery set, £18.50, Tea and Kate