TLC VACATION: Puente Romano Beach Resort and Spa, Marbella

After the most depressingly long hibernation, and several bouts of rotten flu, the shiniest of tickets came my way; an invitation to stay at the Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa on Spain’s Golden Mile, Marbella, where the sun shines for 320 days a year! HOORAY!  

Grabbing my friend Charlotte Cowen en route, I arrived at the most luxurious of hotels.  Designed to recreate an Andalusian village, the beachfront Puente Romano, with its endless array of restaurants, three swimming pools, Six Senses Spa and newly opened nightclub, La Suite, had everything both our mischievous and holistic desires required.   

Our room was found amongst the white-washed walls and baskets of geraniums of the grounds, and we were thrilled to find we had a gorgeous little balcony (room service locaaay sorted!) and adorable beach baskets and towels as gifts. 

Wearing: Daisy Mini Crop Set by Mochi.

Oh, I should also mention the giant plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries – soooo spoiling! 

The heavenly Six Senses Spa offers an array of treatments, and Charlotte and I were generously treated to a hugely relaxing Couple’s Massage (hilarious!) in one of the spa’s nine treatment rooms.  

The blue-tiled swimming pool, with its view of the ocean, has amazing waterfall-style windows, and the spa also features a hydrotherapy pool; a cold plunge pool; heat and ice experience showers with different types of water flow and mood lighting; herbal steam room; sauna and hammam. UTTER heaven, and you can see why people travel the distances they do to unwind and spend time being pampered there.

There is a gym and a tennis court on site, and the resort is also very close to Marbella’s old town, but given that there are nine (yes, nine!) restaurants throughout the resort, it is quite possible to spend your entire stay hopping from one to the other… I can think of worse ways to pass the time!  The Sea Grill (above) is right on the beach and where we were treated to an array of fresh seafood and sushi on our first night. 

Two-Michelin-star-holding chef Dani Garcia’s playful concept restaurant Bibo was where we spent most of the next afternoon (I’m not even kidding, we feasted for for what seemed hours – NOT that any of us were complaining!) With an imaginative menu and Alice in Wonderland’esq touches in abundance (even the list of cocktails were presented in the form of Tarot Cards, which I made each of our party choose from - best game ever?! #EveryonesAWinner) the beyond imaginative tasting menu left us defeated, but amazed (I’d fly back merely for another portion of his INSANE New York-inspired cheesecake!)

Wearing:  Gold Diamond Moon Charm Necklace and Gold Diamond Horseshoe Necklace by Missoma.

Mid-way through our amazing meal, Dani surprised us with the most amazing truffle treats in his kitchen...

We also enjoyed a delicious evening of sushi at UNI, several Turkish Delight smoothies at Rachel’s Organic Cafe (above, also my favourite spot at the hotel for sun bathing and reading) and a very healthy lunch at Celicioso, Marbella’s only 100% gluten-free restaurant (below).

Enjoying the sunset with Charlotte and our friend, the Fashion Director of Marie-Claire, Tanya Philipson.  The last time I was in Marbella was actually for Tanya's wedding, so it was great to see her, and this time with her gorgeous new son Archer!  Would you just look at those CHEEKS!!  Beyond edible. 

Wearing:  Dia White 70's Maxi Dress by Lily and Lionel.

You also might not expect to find Marbella’s hottest new club amongst the sub-tropical gardens of Puente Romano, but this hotel is full of surprises as well as palm trees.  La Suite held its glamorous launch party on our last night, and launch it we certainly did…!  With a mixture of old Roman architecture and ultra-modern touches, the club is the perfect addition to the resort and will no doubt, be well frequented by guests and local revellers alike. 

The next morning Charlotte and I were treated to breakfast (pancakes, naturally) on our balcony (I mean, this entire stay was such a romantic friend-moon!) and coconut water and lavender scented eye masks were brought to us to assist with our much needed R&R… I mean, next level thoughtful! 

Just the perfect little mini-break!  Thank you to all the lovely folk at Puente Romano! xx


TLC ON TOUR... MARBELLA SUITCASE:

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The London Chatter was a guest of Puente Romano Beach Resort and Spa for two nights. 

TLC Vacation: Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

There are many reasons as to why growing up in Kenya lead to a rather magical, privileged and enviable childhood, but one of them was almost certainly my close proximity to Giraffe Manor.  I grew up visiting it’s neighbouring Giraffe Centre, a breeding programme for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, most days after school (frequently feeding the giraffe from my mouth, driving the tourists wild, and driving my poor mother to absolute distraction!)  I would often gaze onto the Manor ahead, dreaming one day I would live there, alongside my wondrously leggy and lashy friends.

Giraffe Manor was built in 1932 by Sir David Duncan, half an hour outside Nairobi, on 12 acres of picturesque private land, next to 140 acres of forest with stunning views of the Ngong Hills.  In 1974 Jock Leslie-Melville and his American wife Betty, who founded the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW), bought the Manor, bringing with them two baby Rothschild giraffe, the first of many generations to inhabit the estate.  After Jock passed away, Betty opened the house up to visitors, and to this day staying at this colonial residence, and having giraffe poking their heads into the dining room looking to share your breakfast, is one of THE most unforgettable experiences you can have in Kenya, if not Africa. 

Well, my dream of owning Giraffe Manor sadly did not come true, but I did have two wonderful recent opportunities to visit the Manor.  Before Christmas I was invited for breakfast with my sister and my niece Willow. Willow, a New York resident, was six months old and on her first trip visiting her mother and aunt’s beloved Kenya.  Sharing darling Willow’s first meeting and greeting with my giraffe pals was so unbelievably special.  Not an ounce of fear in her little body, my niece launched forward to touch Helen’s face, who seemed far more interested in the grain pellets I had in my hand than the tiny baby poking at her eye (a relief to us all as as these gentle giants have been known to give a ferocious head butt if irritated… I unfortunately, albiet amusingly, have a couple of experiences of this!... OUCH!) 

Steering clear of the warthog, hilariously funny to watch following the giraffe around in the hope of finding discarded food, but obviously less baby friendly, we ate delicious pancakes and enjoyed fresh juice and coffee to the accompanied sounds of Willow’s excited shrieks. 

Then earlier this year, I was asked, alongside some other bloggers and journalists, to stay at Giraffe Manor for the night by The Safari Collection, the latest owners of the residence and several other luxury holiday hot spots around Kenya. I know… I say it time and time again, but my job does NOT suck.  Reminiscent of the homes existing in Kenya’s colonial heyday, a time when my grandparents were living in the country, the hotel is cosy and romantic, and a little insight into a bygone era.

After a wonderful morning visiting the elephant orphans at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we returned for a lovely lunch (munch, drool and slurp!) on the Manor's sunny verandah.  We were then left to enjoy the Manor in it’s entirety for the afternoon. There are spa services available, a gift shop and copious wildlife photography books, and famous colonial Kenyan’s autobiographies scattered around the sitting room and library for your perusal; an entirely relaxing environment.  That is, until 4pm, when non-residents can now venture in for their afternoon tea. This is a brilliant time to explore the nearby boutiques or historical attractions (feeding giraffe, as experienced with Willow, can cause extreme excitement and squeeeeals!) 

After a delicious red wine fuelled evening dinner in the candle-lit dining room we all sat by a roaring fire (Langata, and Karen where I was raised, can be notoriously chilly at night due to their high altitude) drinking our choice of tea and sharing stories. Old-school elegance at it’s best.

Sadly, no giraffe came to my window the next morning but boy, did Ed over-compensate for that at breakfast!  One of the larger males, Ed showed no desire in waiting his turn in line, as he repeatedly lunged through the dining room windows towards our plates of pancakes and fruit – totally hilarious, and yes, like I said, an unforgettable experience that only this unique property afford you.

Yes, some of the bedrooms in the main house are a little basic and could use a minor lift… Yes, the wifi frustratingly only works in the Manor’s extension, and not in the main house… BUT, lest we forget, YOU GET TO EAT BREAKFAST WITH GIRAFFE!!  And for that amazing reason, these small details are easily forgiven.  A brilliant, and beyond special, start or end to your holiday in Kenya. 

Below:  Could my giraffe-tastic SENSO IDA XI mandals beeee anymore perfectly placed?! 

TLC ON TOUR... GIRAFFE MANOR SUITCASE:

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Below:  Willow's experience at Giraffe Manor clearly stayed with her.  When back in New York she immediately went to kiss her giant toy giraffe, a trick her naughty Aunty maaay have taught her!  See below (and hover for links) on some of Willow's favourite 'Sophie La Girafe' toys and products.

FACT: One of the Manor's giraffe is called Kelly. A coincidence? I think not.

Thank you to Giraffe Manor and The Safari Collection.

To make a donation to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife please go HERE.

TLC Vacation: The Peninsula Paris

When I was young, growing up in Africa, I dreamed of Paris.  Nothing much has changed, as my ever-increasing collection of Breton striped tee’s, daily use of red lipstick and a flat peppered with French objet d’art will attest to (I have an actual Eiffel Tower shaped lamp made from an old olive oil bottle I’m particularly proud of!)  In short, I regularly imagine that I actually am un petit French fille and subsequently have supremely high expectations of Paris and visit there with extreme caution to avoid any disappointment.  You can therefore only imagine how quickly I said OUI when I was asked to travel first class on the Eurostar and stay at the Peninsula Paris for two nights. 

Above:  Distracting myself from my overwhelmingly naked passport with a handful of magazines (does EVERY blogger apart from me have a monogrammed Louis Vuitton passport cover?!)

After a 4 year, £341 MILLION makeover, the five-star Peninsula Paris, the first Peninsula in Europe, swung its gloriously immaculate doors open at the end of last year.  The original building, which dates back to 1908, is steeped in artistic and political history, with George Gershwin penning ‘An American in Paris’ within its walls in 1928 to housing the Nazi military command whilst Paris was occupied during WW2.  Located across an entire block near to the Arc de Triomph and Champs Elysees, the hotel now boasts 200 suites (starting at £800 a night), 34 suites, a penthouse suite with its own lavish rooftop garden (a mere £20,000 a night), an underground spa and 20m swimming pool, 600 incredible staff and a fleet of BMWs, Mini Coopers and two Rolls-Royces.  Yes. I was also wondering how I managed to bluff my way past their uniformed bell boys and polished, marbled lobby (Shhhhhhsh... I won’t tell if you don't!) 

After a delicious lunch (above) at the aviation-themed L’Oiseau Bleu, one of the hotel’s six bars and restaurants, named after an early French biplane and with 360˚ views of Paris, I made my way to my room.  And by room, I mean basic apartment.  Just as immaculate and glossy as the rest of the hotel, my suite had everything I could possibly need, dream of and even more.  From a Nespresso machine, to a hidden printer, a nail-varnish dryer in my dressing room (I’m not even kidding), a television in the bath tub (I had four square-eyed baths during my short stay), Oscar de la Renta amenities, and a state-of-the-art, touchscreen tablet which controlled the lighting, heating, curtains, TV and room service (dangerous!) There were complimentary international calls, a complimentary mini-bar (helllooooo!) and after an immensely busy few weeks collapsing into my giant, sumptuous bed for an afternoon disco-nap was totally dreamy.  

That evening, after cocktails in Bar ‘s randomly brilliant outdoor cabin, I dined at their increasingly famous Cantonese restaurant, LiLi.  The rich interior was inspired by the drama of Chinese and French opera and the food, although not the place I would advise a strict vegetarian to go, is prepared by the fantastic, award-winning Hong Kong chefs in their own impressive Chinese kitchen within the hotel. 

Above:  By the striking ‘Dancing Leaves’ installation consisting of 800 hand-blown twinkling crystals leaves in the hotel’s main lobby.  It really is a truly beautiful sight, especially at night. 

After yet another bath and another (far longer) sleep, the next morning entailed breakfast in the stunning, Belle Epoque’esq Lobby Kléber, where we also later sampled a traditional and spoiling Japanese tea to coincide with Japanese Spring.  After one (ok, two) sugary ‘mini’ kouglofs by the hotel’s award winning pastry chef, I went to a chocolate workshop in the impressive kitchens.  My diet when left unsupervised… WOW.  There was a real moment I actually anticipated rolling back to London…     

So frequently on work trips you are so busy running around the city, you are almost unable to enjoy the amazing room you are staying in.  After a couple of super brief spells into town (I say 'super brief' as the weather was super chilly and super wet!) I luckily, after the most relaxing and revitalising hour long, hot–stone ESPA massage in the hotel’s enormous, 1800 sq m spa, and a short spell in the relaxation room, I was able to retire to my suite for an evening of room service, movies and sleeeeeeeep.  After an incredible lie-in, followed by EVEN MORE room-service the next morning (this couldn’t have been more heavenly!) I enjoyed one last delicious lunch with the team.  I felt truly refreshed by the time I headed back to London.  

Thank you to The Peninsula Paris Hotel and Eurostar.

TLC ON TOUR... PARIS SUITCASE:

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