Monday, 2 October 2017

Palazzo Avino

The thought of a 3.45am wake up call was less than appealing but experiencing the dawn concert at The Ravello Music Festival  has been on my bucket list for a long time so I ‘leapt’out of bed and headed for Gatwick in the dark, wee small hours.
Travelling Business Class is of course so much more civilised and the three hour flight whizzed by as I caught up on the inbox, making the most of some blissful, uninterrupted time. 
On arrival in Naples, along with half the population of Tel Aviv it seemed, I was thrilled to see the Palazzo Avino driver with my name board. He whizzed me through the crowds and we were soon on our way to paradise on the Amalfi Coast! 
After a warm welcome by Mariella Avino and her team, I headed for lunch on the Belvedere Terrace where my early alarm call and the Autumnal August weather became a distant memory as I soaked up the iconic view in the sunshine.

There is nothing quite like that first glass of prosecco when you arrive in the Mediterranean. I inhaled deeply, acknowledging how lucky I am.

On entering my room, a deluxe sea view, I pinched myself ! It doesn't matter how much I travel I am still very conscious of the fact that to experience places like Palazzo Avino is a privilege. Resisting the urge to just collapse onto the frette linen bedding , I quickly changed and made my way to the pool. It was lovely to hear so many different languages being spoken by the mixed clientele Italian , Russian , American and English and I spent a leisurely Wednesday embracing the rugged coastline, once again in total awe of the vista before me.

I dined at Villa Maria in Ravello that evening which has stunning views. They also run an excellent cookery course but make sure you go hungry and do not have lunch beforehand as we did, as you will savour the results of your hard work afterwards on their lovely terrace.

On Thursday morning I slept late and of course enjoyed the wonderful breakfast on the terrace at Palazzo Avino . Can anyone tell me why fresh fruit tastes so good in the Med? Every year I try to prepare a fresh fruit platter for breakfast at home during summer months, but it's just not the same.
The rest of the day was spent doing exactly what I had planned to do…nothing! A leisurely spot of sunbathing by the pool, a wander into Ravello (without sinning at the linen shop!), finishing off with delicious grilled sea bass and vegetables at the hotel's Terrazzo Belvedere. It's interesting how traveling solo on holiday can actually feel perfectly comfortable . It was a first for me (and to be honest not without some trepidation) but I need’nt have worried. Perhaps it was because they all know me, but there was another single lady who actually stays at Palazzo Avino twice a year on her own and never thinks twice about it. In an ideal world though, the Amalfi coast is made for sharing! 

Friday arrived bringing the highlight of my trip. The Concerto d'Allba ( dawn concert ) takes place every year on August 11th as part of the Ravello Music Festival ( July - Sept). Another 3.50 am wake up call! I got dressed excitedly and headed for the piazza . 
You cannot believe how lively it was at 4.15 am with  crowds of well dressed, glamorous concert goers, chatting animatedly whilst ordering much needed expresso from the cafe which had opened early for the occasion. At 4.30am we entered Villa Rufolo, which in itself is an enchanting experience, and took our seats. It was completely dark when the concert started. We sat in anticipation as the orchestra took their seats and warmed up until Antonello Venditti entered the stage to rapturous applause . 

It's hard to explain how spectacular this performance was, but let's just say it lived up to my every expectation. I would highly recommend it and ticket prices are around 60 Euro so very reasonable, though obviously hard to come by unless of course you know Antonio Ferrera , Front Office Manager at Palazzo Avino since 1997. When it comes to getting things done, Antonio is a magician! I have the greatest respect for him and his knowledge and passion for the area. Simply unequalled! 
What does one do after such an extravaganza when it's still not even 7am ! I tried in vain to go back to sleep - how could I ? 
I decided to go to Amalfi but have to say it was so crowded and hot that I made a speedy retreat back to " The Pink Palace". It's just like coming home. As I write this, I am flying back after three wondrous nights and the kind of special memories that will stay with me for a very long time .
I consider my bucket list well and truly ticked. Now, what’s next… 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Two Nights in Courchevel

You don’t have to love skiing to fall in love with Portetta Mountain Lodges. Of course, they boast all the requisite attributes of great ski accommodation, including ski-in, ski-out access to the stunning slopes of Courchevel 1650, a fully equipped boot room, a heated drive, and a roaring fire. But it’s all the other comforts and touches that make them just as irresistible to lounge lovers who appreciate the restorative delights of a luxury escape somewhere beautiful. Either way, skier or slacker (you’ll often find both represented in a family or group holiday), you won’t be disappointed.

We stayed in Chamois (named after the charming little goat-antelope that makes it home in the mountains), a slice of seven-bedroomed heaven nestled amongst the trees in the peaceful hamlet of Le Belvedere in Courchevel Moriond. Super spacious – and able to sleep up to 14 people - the lodge covers around 350 square metres, but thanks to its cosy furnishings, chamois-adorned walls and central feature chimney, it couldn’t feel more intimate and inviting.

We were welcomed into our home for the next two nights with a glass of champagne and some delicious nibbles that our lovely butler Jerome had rustled up. I have to say that they were very much appreciated and devoured with enthusiasm following our smooth two-hour transfer from Geneva airport that morning.

Much to our delight it had already started to snow and we were itching to get out on to the wooden deck and into the hot tub to take in the full winter wonderland vista that literally surrounded us. First things first though, and Laure, the lady who manages all four of the Portetta lodges with precision and aplomb, was keen to show us around and get us fitted with boots and equipment for skiing the next day.

Every one of the bedrooms has a real cosy wood-cabin feel about it with soft wool throws, crisp white sheets and plump, feather pillows. The bathrooms were large and perfectly appointed with gorgeous Bamford bath products. A feature common to all Limewood Group properties, from Pig-on-the-Beach to Portetta on the piste!
The main living area is open plan with a huge comfy corner sofa at one end and a smart well-equipped kitchen at the other. Our Alain-Ducasse trained chef was already preparing dinner and we watched in awe as he made perfect ravioli pasta parcels from scratch with the greatest of ease.

Next stop, the spa and home cinema. Yes, this place really does have it all! There’s a private treatment room for post-ski massage and a sauna to warm up the bones and get rid of any aches and pains. But by now, big, fat snowflakes were falling thick and fast and we could resist the hot tub no longer. It was magical and so worth the wait.
Dinner that evening was another magical experience, from the fresh ravioli starter to the beautiful sea bream; the melt-in-the-mouth selection of French cheeses to the wonderful chocolate dessert, all washed down with an exquisite Provencal Rose that ensured everyone slept very well that night.

We woke early to the deepest blanket of fresh powdery snow and a beautifully presented breakfast of bread, cheese, ham, fruit and yoghurt. Eggs and bacon, anyway you like them, were on offer and some of us succumbed to freshly-prepared omelette before venturing out into the biting cold and hitting the slopes. 

Our extremely skilled driver drove us to the bottom of the ski lift where the experienced skiers and snowboarders amongst us headed up to 1850. That left two novices in the capable hands of Yohan, a local ski instructor and friend of Portetta who thankfully demonstrated enthusiasm and patience in equal measure. We had a great few hours out on the nursery slopes and even made time for the obligatory hot chocolate before rejoining our teammates for a visit to the highly-recommended deli in Moribond and –of course – a spot of lunch.

I started off by saying that the Portetta lodges were a great spot whether you wanted to ski or not, and the addition of an amazing indoor water park and spa called Aquamotion, just minutes from the accommodation more than supports my theory. If you fancy a day away from the slopes; if the kids want to do something different; if you need some serious pummelling and pampering; even if you want to go surfing, Aquamotion is a brilliant. It’s a great value destination in its own right that the whole family can really enjoy. And, along with the slopes, it’s right on your doorstep.

It was great to get the ski boots off and unwind in the warm, bubbling waters of the Jacuzzi before slipping into something slightly less practical for dinner. We dined as guests of Le Portetta Hotel, which is just a couple of minutes drive from the lodges. A more welcoming, warm environment you would be hard pushed to find and if you’ve been to any of the Limewood properties in the UK, such as the Pig Hotels, you’ll recognise the rustic, relaxed ambience and immediately feel at home. The food was fabulous at Cucina Angelina, the Italian restaurant run by Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsey protégé, Angela Hartnett. There’s a lovely family atmosphere in the dining room and bar, but it remains low-key and sophisticated despite children of all ages and groups of friends swapping ski stories fuelled by the local red wine.

After another extremely comfortable night’s sleep, we headed back to Geneva to catch our flight home, but not without enjoying one more very special treat. Just five minutes from the airport, located on the picturesque shores of Lake Geneva, sits La Reserve Geneve, a wonderful, luxury hotel that boasts exceptional service, a spa to die for and Switzerland’s only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant. It’s the perfect place to spend a night or two at the beginning or the end of a skiing holiday, before flying in or out of Geneva airport. Relax in the sophisticated spa and indulge in some seriously good food in fabulous surroundings while you contemplate rejoining the real world. Talk about a perfect finish.


Friday, 20 January 2017

Swiss Not to Miss

I’d never really considered Geneva for a leisure break before – especially one that didn’t include skis - but after spending two nights at the gorgeous La Reserve Geneve I’d recommend it to anyone for a super-stylish city break in a heartbeat.

Tucked away in beautifully landscaped grounds just minutes from the city, the hotel boasts one of the fastest and easiest transfers I have ever experienced. And, of course, being Switzerland, it naturally ran like clockwork ensuring we arrived in perfect time for lunch.

Like its sister hotels in Paris and Ramatuelle, near St Tropez, the Geneva property has its own distinctive scent which greets you the moment you step into the reception, thanks to the lovely lit candles dotted decoratively around. The dark wood and cosy crimson interiors are brilliantly balanced by huge glass windows throughout the hotel, inviting the crisp, autumn sunshine and bright blue skies in. The juxtaposition creates at once a very open, yet intimate, atmosphere and I immediately felt at home.

With its giant display case of exotic butterflies in the lobby area, and magnificent wildlife portraits adorning walls throughout the property, the hotel is reminiscent of a grand African game lodge. I don’t think I would have batted an eyelid if a herd of elephants had lumbered their way slowly past the window! Touches of African influence can also be seen in the large, super-comfortable bedrooms that boast just about every modern convenience you can imagine and French doors out on to your own terrace.

The bed was a dream and the super-size flat screen TV made the thought of a night in with a Michelin-starred takeaway and a glass of the house ‘Reybier’ Champagne more than tempting. But who wants a takeaway when you can dine at Switzerland’s first-ever Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant without even having to venture outside the hotel? Yes, the already lauded Tse Fung on the lower ground floor of La Reserve, led by celebrated chef Frank Xu, has recently been awarded a very well deserved Michelin star. Moving continents from Africa to Asia, the restaurant’s decadent surroundings, inspired by a 1930’s Shanghai grand palace hotel, provided the perfect setting for an unforgettable gourmet feast that delivered melt-in-the mouth Cantonese classics like dim sum, with a new and exciting twist. It does come with a warning, however…it will ruin your appetite for the usual Friday night take away forever!

Tse Fung is one of five dining options at the hotel and they are all worth a visit. The Loti, in particular, is another really exciting restaurant with a very distinctive menu and a relaxed atmosphere. Award-winning French chef Virginie Basselot is doing it for the girls with stunning combinations of the best locally sourced produce delivering powerful and subtle flavours in equal measure, but always in perfect harmony.

Before dinner, we enjoyed impressive early evening cocktails in the sexy bar that undergoes a complete transformation from its lakeside lounge daytime persona. As well as the hotel guests, the bar attracts a young, sophisticated, local crowd who make the most of the plush, laid back surroundings – and the lengthy cocktail menu! After all that great food and wine – including an afternoon’s chocolate tasting with Swiss chocolatier extraordinaire Philippe Pascoet at his nearby village shop – a visit to the hotel’s award-winning spa was definitely on the cards for the following day.

The Nescens Spa at La Reserve Geneve is a destination in its own right. Elegant, contemporary interiors and soft, gold-hued lighting immediately plunge you into a world of essential oil aromas and pure tranquillity. Just thinking about it now slows my breath and helps my shoulders relax back to where they should be. No mean feat as I crouch over my mac on a wet winter afternoon in Hertfordshire!

A formidable menu of treatments that cover all areas of wellbeing and anti-ageing are offered using a combination of Nescens, La Prairie, specialised cosmecutical brands and a crack team of seriously qualified medical practitioners to administer them all. There’s a whole brochure of treatments dedicated purely to creating lovely legs – smooth, shapely and cellulite free – and don’t even get me started on the fabulous, age-defying facials. Really, just fabulous. There is also a gym, pool, steam room, sauna and a choice of studio classes throughout the day. I did a really good body balance class before breakfast with a very patient American teacher who managed to make it as fun as it was challenging.

The spa is also home to another of the hotel’s dining venues, the Café Lauren. Serene, clean and deliciously guilt-free (well almost, we did enjoy a glass of crisp white wine with our healthy lunch), the café boasts a lighter menu that certainly doesn’t skimp on taste or variety. Again, the spa and its restaurant attracts a laid back Genevan crowd who use the facilities as a local country health club and only add to the chic, yet welcoming vibe that greets every hotel guest.

There is so much more to tell you about La Reserve Geneve – the magical winter lodge and skating rink in winter; the lakeside outdoor dining and great family activities in the summer; the extremely stylish water taxi that provides a free shuttle across the lake to the city centre; the BEST service you will probably ever experience. I could go on, but I really think it’s time you went and checked it out for yourself.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Highlife Marketing’s Perfect Christmas Wish List

Highlife Marketing’s Perfect Christmas Wish List

It’s that time of the year again and finding the perfect present for that special someone who seems to have it all is now one less-stress your clients need to worry about. We’ve come up with our top recommendations for the most romantic Christmas gifts of all time. Easy to book, hard to beat and definitely a more satisfying way to do the Christmas shopping than hitting the streets, or waiting in for the postman. Spread the word..your clients will love you for it!

Petit St Vincent
Create lifetime memories with a loved one, friends, or family on a lush 115-acre tropical island. With just 22 spacious one bedroom cottages and two bedroom beach villas, you can enjoy the privacy you desire with gorgeous views of the Caribbean Sea at Petit St Vincent.

This is the perfect location to unplug and unwind. With no telephones, TV’s or Wi-Fi in the cottages this island is all about stopping time, putting the brakes on life and taking a second to breathe. Those looking to relax can lounge with a book on the beach without another soul in sight while sipping a fresh piña colada or spend the afternoon at the open-air treetop spa listening to the sound of the warm breeze gently blowing through the trees.

For those looking to keep active, the island has a hiking trail and two beachside yoga pavilions, and all non-motorized water activities—snorkelling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing and Sunfish or Hobie Cat sailing—are complimentary. But the dive centre is where PSV really excels. Owned and operated by Jean-Michel Cousteau, dive in and enjoy the hidden secrets of coral reefs and be dazzled by the array of colorful coral reef fishes, secretive sea turtles, graceful eagle rays and inquisitive lobsters.

PSV isn’t for everyone, but it is for those looking for somewhere completely different; somewhere that offers a true escape from the frantic pace of modern life. It could be the greatest gift you give, a chance to detach from virtual reality for a moment, re-connect with loved ones, celebrate the simple pleasures in life and soak up the beauty of Caribbean life.

Crillon le Brave
Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves our hilltop village hotel in Provence is the perfect destination for a romantic short break. The views from the rooms, terraces and gardens are simply stunning at Hotel Crillon le Brave.

They have created the package “Crillon for Two” which is the perfect gift to share with a loved one who is in need of some indulgent pampering. When you arrive at the hotel flowers, champagne and a small bottle of massage oil will be waiting for you in your room. Later, or the next day, take an unhurried ride through the surrounding vineyards and olive groves on our state-of-the-art Co-motion tandem bicycle with a picnic hamper stuffed full of special Provencal treats, a bottle of Domaine Vintur rosé and a map of suggested routes and scenic locations for a lazy picnic along the way.

And afterwards, enjoy a well-deserved 60-minute massage each in the spa des écuries. In the evening, the head chef Jerôme Blanchet, one of the finest young chefs of his generation, will prepare for you his ‘menu de saison’, served on the main terrace overlooking the Mont Ventoux or in our stone vaulted dining room, depending on the weather.

Swap white sand for white snow this year and opt for the plush surroundings of this retreat high in the French Alps. Portetta sits on the slopes of chic Courchevel 1650, moments away from a ski lift. Piste-facing bedrooms have stunning vistas, valley-facing bedrooms offer complete tranquillity, or for those with a larger budget, the luxurious lofts or mountain lodges offer the ultimate in ski-in ski-out luxury.

Enjoy the best sun terrace, lounge, bar and restaurant in Courchevel. The hotels Fire and Ice bar is right at the bottom of the main piste and has huge log burning fires, flaming torches, wood fired pizza oven, ice shots, fur snugs and heated bar seating. And for full on foodies, the hotel has partnered with Angela Hartnett to open the new restaurant Cucina Angelina which serves Italian influenced mountain food.

For more information on any of the featured properties in our wish list, including rates and availability for 2017, please contact Danielle at, or call us on 01923 286002 – we’re full of good ideas all year round!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Hotel Palacio Estoril

More than FIT for purpose

There are many great things about Portugal, not least the ease and speed with which you can get there. After an early Monday morning start from Stansted, I was already on the road from Lisbon to the small, coastal suburb of Estoril, by noon. Once the favoured resort of the Kings and Queens of Europe, Estoril is also home The Hotel Palacio, where they chose to stay, and my home for the next 36 hours.

Hotel Palacio is without question the town’s most elegant and well-connected building, sandwiched between the pretty seafront and the renowned Casino Estoril. This grande white dame may be elderly, but she is exquisitely preserved and still giving off more than a whiff of decadence and glamour. Service is strictly old school here with no stone left unturned; every guest is treated like royalty at the Palacio.

My opulent suite with a double balcony overlooking both the Adriatic and the casino, was hard to leave (especially with a tempting plate of the hotel’s famous Portuguese custard tarts awaiting me), but I was here in the pursuit of wellness. During my short stay I would be experiencing the health-promoting benefits of the hotel’s exceptional (but up until now relatively undiscovered) spa and wellness centre and sampling some of its unique facilities and treatments. I couldn’t wait.

Located in a separate, state-of-the-art building across the road from the hotel itself, the spa and wellness centre can be reached via a rather clever corridor and lift route leading directly from the hotel. So making your way from your room straight to the spa is a doddle – you can do it in your robe and slippers if you choose.

In contrast to its grandiose parent, the wellness centre is a contemporary high-rise with sharp, clean lines and a cool, slick interior. Arriving at ground level, I was greeted by the rich, warm tones and delicious jasmine oil aroma of the Banyan Tree Spa reception and given my schedule for the afternoon. An hour in the Dynamic Pool, followed by a 90-minute traditional Thai massage and relaxation – I love my job!

The Dynamic Pool was a revelation. A giant pool filled with comfortably warm water and a number of different ways to reap its benefits. From the gently soothing bubbles of the Jacuzzi at one end to the extremely powerful jets at the other, designed to pummel any shoulder and back tension into submission, this was no ordinary swimming pool. In the centre, a strong circular current enables you lay back and be transported around without the slightest effort, or alternatively you can choose to swim against the flow and get a really good workout.

Completing the Hydro Banyan Circuit there is a hammam, sauna, steam room and refreshing sensations showers, making this watery wonderland the perfect place to relax, unwind and reconnect with a work-weary body. It worked wonders for me, and when the therapist arrived to take me for my Thai massage the morning rush hour and airport chaos already felt like a distant memory.

The massage, on the other hand, is something I won’t forget in a hurry. And for all the right reasons.

Having suffered from neck and shoulder pain for sometime, I took the brave step and opted for a ‘strong’ massage, softened slightly by the rose-scented essential oils that accompanied it. All of the Banyan Tree Spa therapists are trained in Thailand in traditional techniques and you can definitely tell that you’re getting the real McCoy. After 60 minutes of serious pressure and gentle body strokes pulling me this way and that I was offered a very welcome pot of ginger tea and floated back to my hotel room in a delicious daze. I can’t remember the last time I felt so totally relaxed and after an early ‘clean’ dinner of salmon and lemon vegetables in the Bougainvillea restaurant, I fell into my big comfy bed and slept like a baby. 

Next morning I was up with the larks (and a few other willing bodies) for my 8.15am Hydrobike group fitness in the Wellness Centre. I took the lift up to the second floor, left my clothes and my inhibitions in the super-smart changing rooms and joined the rest of the class in the special healing waters of the thermapool. Much like a spin class, but with the bike and your bottom half under water for the duration, hydrobike is a great way to burn calories and strengthen leg, arm and core muscles without putting any strain on your joints. It’s certainly not a soft option, but the low impact of pedalling in water and pushing against its weight with your arms, makes it suitable (and popular) for all levels of fitness. Our enthusiastic instructor did a brilliant job of making herself understood in both English and Portuguese and we all finished feeling wide awake and ready to face the day.

Butt buffed and bingo wings banished, I was led to the epi-centre of the wellness clinic where the seriously impressive treatments take place. In direct contrast to the deep brown tones and intoxicating aromas of the Banyan Tree Spa downstairs, the Wellness Centre is a clean, white clinical space. It boasts a number of specialised treatment rooms and an outstanding role call of reputable doctors and practioners, ranging from oesteopaths to hydrologists, rheumatologists, podiatrists, nutritionists and experts in anti-ageing. Here I was treated to a jet shower that involved being blasted from a distance by something resembling a fireman’s hose. The clever therapist turned up the pressure as my body became more acclimatised to the assault and then made tiny circles with the end of the hose to give every muscle on my body a serious pummelling. Designed to improve circulation, encourage the elimination of toxins and tackle cellulite, you can feel this treatment breaking down the fat and getting your system working – I would have one very morning if I could.

Hard work over, what comes next is pure pampering. Submersion in a warm hydromassage bath filled with moisturising almond milk-enhanced water, while gently bubbling jets soothe your muscles. Then it was into the next room for an invigorating deep tissue Vichy Shower Massage conducted under warm sprinkling water to soothe away aches, pains and any lingering cares you might still have after 24 hours in healing heaven.

Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the whole experience I decided to finish my Hotel Palacio Spa and Wellness Centre experience with a group yoga class. It’s been an amazing 36 hours and as I board the plane to come home I look and feel like I’ve been on holiday for a week or more.

Hotel Palacio Estoril offers a range of superb value 3 to 7 night Spa and Wellness packages, from beauty boosters to anti-ageing, detox to weight loss, all including accommodation, treatments, classes and specified meals. To find out more contact, or click on the link:

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

La Reserve Ramatuelle Fam Trip Sept '16

Heaven is a place on earth. And it’s called La Reserve Ramatuelle.

I hadn’t been to the south of France for many years and so the opportunity to accompany six luxury tour operators on an educational to this stunning five star resort and spa was simply too good to turn down. The Cote D’Azur was even more vivid and beautiful than I had remembered and as we took the picturesque coastal road from Nice airport alongside the sparkling Mediterranean, the sky seemed to be competing with the sea for blueness.

We arrived at lunchtime to a warm welcome and a chilled glass of champagne while we took in the breathtaking views that greeted us in the lobby. White muslin curtains blew gently in the lovely breeze, bringing the outside in to the cool, contemporary reception area. A neutral palette of whites, creams and soft pebble colours combine with natural textures, like leather, local stone, terracotta and glass, to provide the perfect contrast to the vivid blues and greens of the rugged coastal landscape. There is no formal check-in to interrupt the immediate feeling of calm and relaxation that pervades as soon as you set foot in the hotel, so we enjoyed taking our time to savour our surroundings and La Reserve’s faultless hospitality. I cannot remember a more leisurely or pleasant arrival.

A ‘light’ lunch with deputy manager Veronique – and visiting counterpart from La Reserve Geneva, Claudine – proved to be an equally leisurely affair as several courses of delicious fish, chicken and salads were served in the light and airy La Voile restaurant. All accompanied by a crisp local Rose wine that looked as good as it tasted, in a beautifully decorated bottle.

Food at La Reserve Ramatuelle is fresh, natural, organic and healthy. Clean eating and general wellbeing is an important part of the philosophy here, but don’t let the idea of a ‘healthy menu’ put you off. This food is seriously scrumptious and incredibly creative. Two Michelin-starred chef, Eric Canino, manages to make the most saintly ingredients taste wickedly indulgent – it’s the dream combination. If only we could take him home!

After a longer than expected lunch (after all, what’s the rush?), we were treated to a memorable massage in the super-stylish spa. Gleaming white walls and surfaces again provide the perfect foil to the brilliant blues of the scenery that can be seen from every treatment room, thanks to large windows and lots of glass everywhere. Products used here include those from Swiss brand Nescens, which focuses on better aging, and beauty editors’ favourite, Crème de La Mer. I can thoroughly recommend the signature ‘better-aging body massage’ that left me floating back to our truly fabulous five-bedroom villa in a blissful state. I might not have looked 10 years younger after just 90 minutes, but I definitely felt it.

So, the villa…there are no words! If you’ve never witnessed a room of silent travel professionals before, you should bring them to Villa 19, it really is breath (and speech) taking. One of 16 villas here –  ranging from three to six bedroom, each different from the next – ours had five bedrooms and had recently been completely refurbished. The view from the huge living room, and two of the main bedrooms is spectacular, looking out as it does across a terraced seating area, sparkling infinity pool and perfect manicured lawns, down to the Mediterranean beyond.

We were all amazed at how big the villa was with four, more-than-generous double rooms and one twin-bedded room, each with their own state-of-the-art bath and/or shower room en-suite. The kitchen is fully equipped and, again, HUGE, with a range-style cooker, excellent coffee maker, giant fridge and separate wine chiller for all that lovely Rose. Plus, there’s a large dining table leading straight off the kitchen area for great dinner parties and family lunches.

The beauty of the villas at La Reserve is that you can self-cater, order home delivery from the hotel’s Michelin-starred chef, or pop into the picture-postcard village of Ramatuelle for a bite to eat at one of the charming (and extremely good) restaurants there. I can personally recommend La Forge after a wonderful meal on our first night. All that, and the glamour and buzz of St Tropez and its famous beach clubs just a 15 minute drive away, makes for the perfect holiday home-from-home.

Every villa has the services of a housekeeper for six hours a day who will happily prepare breakfast out on the terrace, afternoon tea and take care of the all the general household duties, including laundry. On the second morning, we also booked for one of the Personal Trainers from the spa to come up to the villa at 8am for a yoga and stretch session in the sunshine around the pool. It was a great way to start the day and while we worked out, a delicious organic breakfast of fresh fruits, warm, nutty breads, pancakes and granola was prepared and served on the terrace as our reward. Sounds wonderful, right? But the great thing is if you don’t want to be disturbed by anybody, just leave a sign on the door, or call down to the hotel, and you’ll be left in total peace.

It’s not hard to imagine a family or group of friends living here really comfortably for a couple of weeks, or even longer – it’s just such an easy place to be. Stunning, exclusive and totally private, yet completely understated and unpretentious in any way. That pretty much sums up the whole experience at La Reserve Ramatuelle. I cannot wait to return.

Friday, 17 June 2016

La Reserve Ramatuelle

To say I was excited about my trip to La Reserve Ramatuelle would be an understatement and having already visited La Reserve Geneva and the exquisite La Reserve Paris, my expectations were high! They say timing is everything and when I arrived at Nice airport to be greeted by a throng of press, I wondered if mine was not ideal!

“Of course “, I thought it’s Cannes Film Festival and they were waiting for Angelina and Brad, George and Amal, not me and my two partners in crime -  industry colleagues! Nevertheless, we were swiftly whisked away by our very friendly and efficient driver and in one and a half hours arrived at La Reserve Ramatuelle (though the journey can take up to two hours in high season).
My initial impression was “Wow”. As you enter the lobby you cannot help but be drawn to the amazing rugged coastline vista before you. It struck me how modern the property is in comparison to the other La Reserve hotels. It felt clean and crisp with white, ochre and neutral shades, very relaxed and inviting .There is no formal reception desk but attentive, smiling staff to take you to your room or villa either on foot or in a golf cart.

I checked into my Junior Suite and had that “Gosh I love my job” feeling! The Junior suite is the third room category (superior & deluxe being the lead in room types) and I would definitely suggest this room type as the best option.  The room felt huge, approximately 55 sqm all to myself, not to mention the garden terrace on the other side of the picture window. I stood for a moment taking in the ever changing hues of the Mediterranean.....even in the drizzle, it was spectacular!

There was a welcome gift of perfectly formed marshmallows, a small lemon cake and chocolate bites and a bottle of rose, all so beautifully presented that I did not dare touch them.

Lunch was calling. La Voile restaurant is close to the lobby area and very open in style with many different terraces and a small garden  which come into play in high season .Chef Eric Canino , formerly with Michel Guerard has two Michelin stars and incredibly manages to combine indulgence with balance so nothing I ate felt heavy or excessive. The lunch menu is comprehensive and the whole ethos of Eric Canino’s cuisine is to cater for those who want to enjoy healthy food without sacrificing taste and creativity. Dishes range from €30-60 for lunch.

In true French style, it was a long lunch finishing at 4.30pm (we were late arriving!) and had time to relax and enjoy the facilities before leaving the hotel to dine in Ramatuelle that evening. Ramatuelle is a quaint little, hilltop village far from the madding crowds with a handful of good local restaurants and a wonderful art gallery – well worth a visit and I can certainly recommend La Forge a family run Italian with great food and hospitality.

La Reserve Ramatuelle provides a complimentary shuttle service for guests between the resort and   Ramatuelle or St Tropez.

I slept like a baby and awoke to glorious blue skies, perhaps a little earlier than I would have liked but keen to experience the Nordic walk which starts at 8am and forms part of La Reserve Ramatuelle’s Bootcamp programme. I hasten to add that this was the only part of the programme we tried!

Our guide was eagerly awaiting us at reception so after a “green juice” off we went, all so thrilled to see blue skies and a glistening sea. The coastal walk took us though rugged terrain with spectacular views of the sea and many photo opportunities of little bays and single yachts that had moored overnight in a tranquil piece of heaven.

For those who want to explore the region, there is a plethora of activities on offer from vineyard tours in Domaine de la Tourac and local Provençal markets to golf, helicopter rides and yacht charters. 
In addition to the 28 resort rooms, there are 14 stunning villas at La Reserve Ramatuelle. I was surprised by the standard of the villas – each one could have been a privately owned stand-alone villa finished to a very high spec and with individual interiors, homely and stylish. The individuality of each means that guests can have a different experience each year as they have lots of repeat clients. Villas range from three to six bedrooms (just one) and include a housemaid six hours per day who will prepare breakfast afternoon tea, ensuring that guests are relaxed and well looked after throughout their stay. Each has its own pool, lovely garden with barbeque area so for those clients seeking total privacy, they are an excellent choice. Two new villas will open  earlier than planned on July 7th – villa No .1 (5 bedrooms) , a vintage villa dating back to the 1970s and lovingly restored maintaining many of the original features such as the tower section and Villa No .2 (3 bedrooms) a panoramic villa overlooking L’Escalet.  Guests can access all the hotel facilities and  avail of the complimentary shuttle service to St Tropez and Ramatuelle which operates between 8am and 10.30pm subject to availability.

Our last night was a gourmet sensation with the  7 course Gourmet menu in La Voile – there are not enough superlatives but unusually when dining in a  two Michelin star restaurant, I did not need a crane to lift me from the table! The lemon and lime melee for dessert was the highlight for me. I tried to recreate it at home but failed miserably.

From June onwards guests can enjoy the fabulous Roof Terrace which will welcome a new Japanese chef for this season so sushi and champagne on a candlelit terrace - it doesn’t get much more romantic and it can be privatised for proposals or private parties.

The next morning we were treated to a wonderful treatment in the anti-aging Nescens spa which is a destination spa and was recently featured in Conde Nast Traveller.

Needing all the help I can get these days in an effort to rejuvenate myself, I opted for the Better – aging body massage. The description read “Combined with the use of a lymph drainage device for the 80 minute treatment, this massage releases blockages and eases tension, while activating cell regeneration and stimulating skin oxygenation and muscle tone.” That was enough for me. I came out feeling like a new woman and did not relish the thought of packing my bags to leave this wonderful resort. I would highly recommend it whether for a family villa holiday, romantic and relaxing couple getaway or a few days rejuvenation in the spa!  

Back to reality!