Its 1200 km from Southern Spain to the South of France !

Just last week, on the 4th of June to be precise, we started a journey in our beautiful BMW that transported us over 4000 kilometres. Where you ask ? Well, from our home is Andalucía, we toured right up through Spain, stopping in Catalonia for a night, then into France where we stayed in Montpellier, Valance, Albi, Agen and lastly Rouen. Then taking the channel tunnel and arriving in Liverpool Wednesday the 14 th of June….

The reason for our trip – We are moving from Spain to France.

Let me explain a little better :

The Best Hotel Booking and research websites !

I Love Hotels. I Love Eloquent, historical, sultry, boutique hotels. Usually this dictates at least four stars. Some of my hotel requirements are :

  • Quiet and Peaceful
  • Professional Staff
  • A Bath big enough for two
  • Fine Dining Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Gardens
  • Walks

Generally, we get away for a short break maybe every couple of months. And some of the hotels we have stayed in – Oh Just Heavenly …

However, I do love to search, and research for that perfect hotel almost as much as I love the stay … Anticipation. Usually I can narrow it down quite quickly to a choice of maybe four or five hotels.

The 5 Top Reasons to Visit Spain:

I have lived in Spain over half of my life. I would not be there if I didn’t love it.

Spain is a vast country, and very varied in its culture and climate. From the far flung north with its mountainous winter snow. To the sun baked beaches of the south. My favourite region? Honestly, Catalunia. Barcelona being its capital city. But hey that’s just me, I lived in the south for more moons than I care to share. Its where I fell in love with my now fiancé, and were we started our business, and so much more ….

Anyway, you want to know why I consider Spain to be one of the best countries to visit, well here are my top 5 reasons:

Most Divine, in Hotel Du Vin ….

Again I was in Edinburgh … this time however, I had been summoned. A big family birthday bash happened, just north of the city – Which is a blog post in itself !

The very next day however, my fiance and I stole away to Edinburgh city for a night of fine dining, and self indulgence. Or more accurately – Recovery and Recuperation !

Luckily we had found the perfect place – The Catena Zapata suite in Hotel Du Vin.

Now, this hotel is set in the Old Town. And I know, all of Edinburgh city centre looks old, with its imposing great stone architecture. But the old town is obviously the ancient part that the city grew up around. And the history within the walls here is palpable.

The Beauty of Domestic Flights to our Remote UK Airports…

I recently had to fly just a few hundreds clicks from Manchester to Cornwall. It just makes me appreciate the bliss of domestic air travel. So fast, so efficient. When time is an issue there is no other way to travel, especially as you get to see the quaint , remote little airports that are dotted around the countryside.

Newquay Airstrip above.

Its almost as if we go back in time, to the era when air travel was not that common, and our main airports nowhere near the throbbing size they are today. A time when the security would take you on face value. If they thought you worthy of further investigation then, by their discretion, you and your luggage were escorted away for a private interview … or more …

My favourite Scottish Chef – Mr Graham Campbell

I Love a fine dining experience that is beautifully balanced. One that elates my taste buds with flavours and textures, to the point that my every sense is scintillating.

A delicious meal does that to me. Its more than just eating. So much more than just sustenance and nourishment. Fine dining to me is a sensory extravaganza. My whole being seems to get involved, from first reading the description of the dish on the menu, to the sight and scent of its arrival, and then finally, to the taste and texture of that exquisitely delivered dish …. Heaven ….

One of my fondest memories of such a meal was a good few years back on the Isle of Skye. My fiancé and I were on an adventure type holiday, and decided to stay at the Duisdale House Hotel. I didn’t know it then, but I had just booked my very first Michelin starred experience.

It wasn’t until we had returned home, that I discovered that the Dusidales head chef at the time was no other than Scotland’s very own (any youngest) Michelin Starred Chef – Graham Campbell.

All I knew, when seated in that dining room on the western Isles, was that the meals we were being served were far, far superior to anything we had tasted before … and very few since have lived up to!

Paardenhof Guesthouse is Heaven in a French Farmstead

Need to ferry over the channel ? Why not skip the chaos at Calais and go via Dunquerke. That’s what we did last summer. And the French hotel (or guest house) we found just down the road from Dunkirk, was a dream come true …

Paardenhof Guesthouse is a treat for the senses. The translation in English means “Horse Farm Guest House”. And yes they have an array of beautifully kept happy horses. There are even ducks complete with their pond, and a Springer Spaniel that will steal your heart …

The guesthouse is situated in a wonderful farm, which is home to your host and Hostess – Delphine and Quentin.

The rooms are situated in a beautifully renovated stable block originally built in the 18 hundreds. There are no more than two on-suite guest rooms tucked away in what would have been the hay loft. The bedrooms are brand sparklingly new, spacious, furnished with quality, durable materials and furnishings. But all done with a decadent eye on design. The bathrooms are compact but lack nothing at all. And again really lovingly designed. You can feel the depth of thought put into the design. Delphine’s has included many finishing touches that reflect a delicate French Flare !

The Waterboys, Madrid and the Opera Hotel

So the Waterboys were playing Madrid … Don’t Bang The Drum – Lets just go, that’s what I said to my man ! ….. So we did.

Got the pets all organised with sitters, and me & my Fabulous Fiancé drove our Beautiful BMW up to the very center of Spain ….

I had booked the Hotel Opera specifically …. for its bath. This bath was basically on the balcony of the room, but situated within a glass enclosure. It was a double Jacuzzi Bath … (the kind that makes you rather cautious with bubble bath) … And, it was directly opposite the Opera House. But no one could see in. We however, could see the stars as we soaked …

This magnificent bath was put to use as soon as we arrived. (All in all I think I had 4 baths in 24 hours !!!) Now this was winter, and Madrid can get cold. So cold in fact this particular December there was actually snow on the streets! Yes it can snow in Spain! But the freezing weather just made the whole Jacuzzi experience all the better. There I was, completely immersed in a very large bath of hot water and bubbles. And, just on the other side of the glass which was above, and all round me, there was ice and a very cold breeze. Fantastic!

Milano, A Chic Breath of Fresh Mountain Air …

I had never really thought about visiting Milan. But on our second trip to Venice we had to travel via Milan. And I have to tell you I now LOVE that City !
It was just a one night stop so we didn’t get much time to explore. But as our hotel was right around the corner form the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the cathedral, we didn’t do too badly …

We arrived at our lovely chic hotel – Una Maison Milano – at check-in time. And we were elegantly received by a host of beautiful staff, who replenished us with refreshments in a lovely little waiting area while they registered us in. White and airy was the main theme of the room, which featured and a balcony where we could watch Italian shopping at its finest.

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We wasted no time in freshening up and getting out into this beautiful city scape. The first thing that hit me as we stepped out of the building into the street was the cleanliness of the air. There are no cars in the city center, just trams and taxis. This allows for an air which is almost sweet by comparison to other European city contemporaries.

Restaurant Cortijo La Herradura – Mijas Costa

What a night … Fabulous food, Brilliant service, and music that my feet just couldn’t stop tapping to.

Where you ask ? – Cortijo La Herradura on the “Camino de Coin” (Opposite the garden centers)

So, last Friday night we needed to get out of the office/house for a bit. The rain had started, which I love, but we were beginning to feel a tad confined, after almost a full week of downpours. A good meal and glass of wine (or three) seemed to be in order.

You know when you get that feeling that you just can’t put your finger on – as if someone is whispering – “Put on your dancing shoes, it is going to be one of these nights” … it was almost as if the rain was singing to me …

Anyway – Our local haunt, surprisingly was closed. So we decided on the Steak House slightly further down the road – Namely –  Cortijo La Herradura !

It changed hands just this month (Nov 2016). And you can sense the difference straight away. There is a much more elegant air about the place, more confident. And the aroma from the kitchen was simply mouth-watering. The young waiter who received us was much more diligent than is normal for this part of Spain too. The delightful young chap informed us that there was to be Live Jazz tonight …… Now we Love Jazz ….

All things were pointing towards a Very attractive evening …

The Duisdale House Hotel on the Magical Isle of Skye …

One searing hot summer’s day in the south of Spain (where we lived for more moons than I care to count) I said to my fiancé … Darling, I need rain …

Off we set, north, back to the homeland … To Scotland in search of rain – Not a difficult quarry given our destination!

This would be the first time we had ventured a holiday on the west coast, amongst Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. I had visited before but never actually stayed a while. I was enthralled …

We landed in Glasgow, picked up our car, and headed straight to our booked place of rest –The Duisdale House Hotel on the Magical Isle of Skye. The drive up past fort William is listed by the AA as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. Green, lush, historic and grandiose in all its mountains. So very breath-taking. And the air – Sweet as a freshly flowing clover.

The bridge to Skye is a god send. No more waiting for big smelly ferries, just a seamless jaunt across the water from mainland to isle. Note – Skye is the only island with such a bridge !

Our Hotel was there patiently awaiting us.

Easily found on one of Skye’s “Main Roads”, but nestled into the side of a hill of woodland and moss … What a Lovely Stone Clad Country Manor House. Gardens, Views across the sea to the mainland. Perfect. I felt at home before I even got out of the car. The delightful staff welcomed us with their beautiful west coast lulling accents. And we were shown to our room.

What happens when a film crew need fed ?

Ever wondered how a vast cast and crew are fed? Well I have to confess it’s not something I pondered on either. But I recently found out when I accidently strolled straight into a film set and tried to order a cup of coffee from some film caterers in London! Interestingly enough I was served and not charged.

It was in Kensington park. Somehow I had unwittingly walked right through the security lines past where they were actually filming, and up to what I thought was a kinda “Pop up” food truck.

It was not !

The cuisine of Spain at its finest

I have lived and worked in Spain for quarter of a century now ! And having traveled through most of Europe I can quite honestly tell you that the Spanish cuisine is not only one of the healthiest, it is most definitely one of the tastiest.

Spain didn’t really catch on to the mass marketed processed food until quite recently. And even today if you look in the shopping carts going around a super market you will see much more fresh produce than processed. The restaurants too, seem to focus mainly on fresh produce. I used to say that every “Venta” (roadside country restaurant) had the families’ granny in the kitchen.

So on the whole the Spanish are a healthy eating lot that take fresh produce for granted, and don’t mind spending time preparing fresh meals at home.

Let me introduce you to some of my favourite Spanish delights …

Tortilla:

This is the omelette to match all omelettes. Usually 2 – 3 inches thick and a dinner plate of circumference. Made with potatoes, onion & egg. Sometime stuffed, my mum for example used to put red roasted peppers in the middle …. Mouth watering. And quite often served with homemade garlic mayonnaise ….

Take a stroll around the City of Edinburgh

Recently my fiancé and I were in Scotland. I took the opportunity to introduce the love of my life to an old, ever burning flame, My Edinburgh.

This is beyond a shadow of anyones doubt, one of The most beautiful city’s in the world.

Yes, it is cold, yes it may rain, but as Billy Connolly says – “yir in Scotland wear a raincoat!” I would also suggest sensible shoes … just don’t forget to take your heels out for dinner.

With that said, let me take you through the old stone Edinburgh streets, no need for a rain coat where I am sitting !

Edinburgh has a glorious history full of the normal betrayal & beheadings. Every one fighting for power, land, and favour with the crown … But what that turmoil of past has left us with, is a city of Harry Potter architecture. Exquisite little turrets pop out high in the stone corners of buildings.

Venice in April, no need for rain

Ahhh Venezia … if you haven’t been you simply must go. This is a city of water, wonder, love and so much romance. But be careful. There is not a map in existence that truly charts her streets, as my fiancee and I discovered … ! That however, just makes it all the more romantic. You can get lost in Venice and be assured of your safety upon her islands. Venice has the lowest crime rate in Europe, and therefore the smallest police presence. She is …. goodness words fail me …. She, Venice, is the shear definition of grace, elegance and unique beauty.

I have been twice now, and I would go again this afternoon if I could. I just Love Venice. We went in April. Lovely temperature and not too busy. Although if you truly want to see St Marks square, and the surrounding architectural wonders, you have better do it at 7 am. In these early morning hours there is no one about but the dedicated staff who service Venice in all her unique needs.

How about a night in La Rioja (hic!)

A few weeks ago, we were traveling through la rioja region of Spain. And did we have a lovely hotel to stay in ? Why yes we most certainly did !

Palacio Casa Fuerte …

A divine find … the hotel is a 15th century palace that was in fact still inhabited by the family of the Duke and Duchess Fuerte until recently. It was then sold and converted – very sympathetically into a hotel with no more than 5 rooms …

Suite La Gloria

hotel room bath jacuzzi la rioja spanish wine

This family run gem is an absolute steal at the prices they charge for the rooms. We stayed in Suite La Gloria … Wow, Double jacuzzi bath, beautiful comfortable 4 poster bed. And a small balcony. All designed with the original ancient stone wall interior. The photos on the website do not do this room justice at all ….

We had a wonderful stay. Arriving in the afternoon just in time for a late siesta, after sampling the local wines of course (and the bath). Later we awoke in time to bathe again before dinner … not allowed to say too much there, but I can assure you this bath is well big enough for two and the jets work beautifully !

The Beauty of a well-timed Hotel …

I don’t know about you but I LOVE a well timed hotel break … One that comes along at just the right time … You know what I mean …

You are stressed, people are bugging you, but you have a couple of days you can escape with and you actually can put everything else one hold …

Where would you go?

I can tell you exactly where I would go …

If I were in the south of England

Barnsley House Hotel – The Secret Garden Suit …. Heaven …

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It’s a suite set in the Gardens detached from the hotel. Gardens which were designed and tended by the great Garden Designer Rosemary Varey no less (The hotel was originally her home!) This achingly beautiful suite houses a Great Egg Shaped Stone bath (where you can comfortably fit more than 2 should you desire…) A Fabulous, and massive shower. A lovely sitting room, and obviously, a bed made for dreaming …. As space is not at a premium here, the suite sits inside a private walled garden complete with pond ! It truly is heaven. So difficult to leave ….

Relax at the Marbella Club Hotel, Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol golf breaks are one of the most popular vacation options for many Europeans. Where else in the world can you enjoy award-winning golf, beautiful sandy beaches and a thriving entertainment option? If you are looking for a truly relaxing resort to base your Costa del Sol vacation, consider the Marbella Club Hotel.

hotel costa del sol luxury

Golf Course

The Marbella Club Hotel is home to an 18-hole golf course that was designed by Dave Thomas. The golf course is a private course protected for only resort guests to use, so you will be able to enjoy a round of golf without the crowds. The friendly resort staff will carry your clubs to your buggy for you, so playing this course is truly relaxing. The course has waterfalls and carefully maintained fairways to provide a beautiful local for the game. New players can learn from British PGA Professional instructor Gary Vaulter, who offers lessons at the resort. If you wish to play the more famous Marbella Club Golf Resort course, a complementary shuttle is available.

Costa del Sol to Be Host to the European Senior Tour

When it comes to golf holidays, Spain and its Costa del Sol have been at the top of the list for vacationers for many years, but those on holiday are not the only ones who enjoy the charm of this region. The list of prestigious tournaments that spectators on the Costa del Sol can enjoy continues to grow, and now the European Senior Tour is added to the ranks. In the first week of October of 2009, the European Senior Tour will be held in Benahavis, Spain at the La Quinta Golf and Country Club.

The Costa del Sol offers golfers the chance to golf near unparalleled views, and in this tournament, the golf legend who designed the La Quinta course, Manual Piñero himself, will be golfing alongside other great players. Piñero is a three times world champion golfer. It was through his efforts that the tour came to Benahavis, and the Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, Andy Stubbs, applauded the work of both Piñero and the officials of the Benahavis region for their efforts in helping bring to light the benefits of hosting a tournament at the La Quinta Resort.

Getting a Discount on a Spanish Golf Vacation

Perhaps you have been putting off your Spanish golf holiday because of the expense. Maybe you assume that golf breaks to Spain have to be expensive. Well, they can be, but if you are a smart shopper and give yourself time to plan, you can get an affordable golf holiday in Spain, particularly on the Costa del Sol, one of the most popular golf destinations in the country. These tips will help you land a great deal.

Plan Early

The earlier you plan your golf holiday, the more of a chance you have of finding a good deal, because you will have the chance to shop around for a good price. Also, you have a greater chance of finding room in the hotel or resort you want to stay in the most. Shopping early will give you the chance to make alternate arrangements if the course of your dreams is booked.

Consider Last Minute Travel

This tip seems to contradict the first one, but if you are not set on a certain golf course, resort, or location, you might be able to find a discount by traveling last minute. If resorts have extra rooms available, they are often willing to discount them in order to get someone in them, rather than losing out altogether. You need to be flexible in your travel dates to take advantage of these last-minute discounts, of course.