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Category — Hotels

Grace Mykonos – Mykonos, Greece

Sister hotel to the renowned Grace Santorini, the Grace Mykonos is a white-hot boutique hotel sitting above Agios Stefanos’ sandy beach and its glittering emerald and turquoise sea, less than 10-minutes north of Mykonos Town.

  • On arrival at the bijoux white oasis, guests are greeted by an eager-to-please group of staff, including the Deputy Manager (who appears to never sleep!) and offered a glass of champagne while check-in is completed before setting off on a brief tour of this perfectly formed bolt-hole.
  • The reception area has guest laptops, a print and DVD library, small art gallery and tiny shop.  Three floors up (lift available) is the restaurant and pool which has what must be the best views across the bay, over to Mykonos Town and beyond to Delos island.
  • There’s no getting away from it, the bedrooms are compact to say the least but with the glorious weather time is mostly spent outside and there’s enough space for a small desk, large wardrobe, plus the queen size beds are very comfortable.
  • All windows and doors have shutters for extra privacy and a solid night’s sleep, plus there is air-conditioning in case the infamous Cyclades Islands’ breeze blows in the wrong direction.
  • Check-in 2pm / check-out 12noon.

SCENE:

  • A surprising number of American and Australian holidaymakers, along with a smattering of British, French, Italian and Spanish.

FUEL:

  • Breakfast – The best meal of the day is available from 8-11am on the roof terrace by the pool or in-room for an extra 5€ tray service.  Menus change daily and printed versions are left in bedrooms the night before – expect creamy fresh Greek yoghurt with blueberries, honey and walnuts, fruit salad, homemade chocolate and nut cereal bars, pastries and bread, and two ‘main’ dishes: usually a savoury one such as scrambled eggs with local ham and halloumi, along with a sweet option such as fluffy pancakes with white chocolate and bananas.
  • Lunch & Dinner – A varied Mediterranean-influenced menu showcasing local ingredients is available all day long, ranging from good to outstanding, and if there’s nothing that takes your fancy, the excellent chef will also be happy to make something special.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool – The stunning turquoise-green square pool has been brilliantly designed with a shallow side which is great for sipping cocktails and paddling in, while the soft gravel stone floor slopes gently into a deeper section ideal for more serious swimming and diving.  Sunbeds around the pool look out to sea and are like gold dust, particularly at the weekend.
  • Gym – Small yet well equipped.  You can also ask for gym essentials to be available in your bedroom.
  • Shop – Highly edited collection of locally-made jewellery, Greek leather sandals and clothing.
  • Art gallery – Cool, original olive tree sculptures, paintings, wooden Greek clogs and other contemporary items.
  • Spa Hidden away behind the reception, the spa is very quiet, calm and relaxing with a good range of massage and other beauty treatments, plus there’s a gorgeous grey marble hamman and sauna.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 30 June – 5 July 2013

WEATHER:

  • Not a cloud in the sky yet a welcome breeze; highs of 28C degrees with balmy evenings dipping to around 23C.

ACCESS:

  • Mykonos airport is a 10-minute drive away and the hotel can arrange transfers (shared: 15€ per room one way; private: 30€ per room one way).

TOP TIPS:

  • Pop your name down for a lift into town one evening via the hotel’s convenient and free shuttle bus, wander the pretty small streets, buy some Greek leather sandals at Liontis (Matoyiavvi 55 / +30 22890 23482 / www.liontis-sandals.gr) and have dinner at stylish Interni which has a stunning garden and serves the fantastic Bloody Mary cocktails (Matoyiannia, Mykonos / t: +30 22890 26333 / info@interni-restaurant.gr/ www.interni-restaurant.gr)
  • Don’t expect the sea to be warm, even at the beginning of July!
  • Splurge on a Junior suite to secure a plunge pool, terrace and double-sunbed.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The staff are genuinely lovely and friendly – especially Dmitry, gorgeous Christina, Angelo and Katerina in the restaurant, plus Iliana in reservations/reception – and there’s a sense that anything is possible and certainly nothing is too much trouble; the minimalist, unfussy, clean and calming décor; the brilliant breakfasts.
  • The Bad – The wi-fi was very disappointing and a toenail clipping was found in the plunge pool.

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 ¾ 

July 21, 2013   No Comments

The London West Hollywood – Los Angeles, USA

The London is the epitome of grown up elegance.  The art deco’s all black and white with shimmering chrome, gold, mirrors, white marble and mosaic tiles yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There is a definite relaxed vibe – coffee mugs replace teacups and saucers at breakfast, British Bulldog statues pepper the communal areas and the laid back atmosphere is evident from the restaurant up to the rooftop pool.

  • All rooms are suites in terms of size, with comfy beds, duvets, soft pillows, high thread count cotton sheets, corner sofas and large desks.  Even the cheapest rooms have balconies and enormous bathrooms with double walk-in showers and giant bathtubs.
  • Kirk at Concierge is knowledgeable (he keeps a stash of adaptors and blackberry chargers available for forgetful guests) and all the staff is very helpful and polite.
  • I rarely return to the same hotel, always keen to seek out something better, but I think it’s safe to say that I’d happily return again and again.
  • Check-in 2pm / check-out 12noon.

SCENE:

  • Largely American and British 30, 40 and 50-somethings, on holiday or travelling for work – The London has an enviable knack of blending business and pleasure.

FUEL:

  • Boxwood Cafe – Continental breakfast is served every morning from 6-10:30am (from 7-11am at weekends) and is included in the room rate.  Everything is delicious and the a la carte menu offers cooked dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Full English Breakfast and Hueves Rancheros.
  • Gordon Ramsey at The London – A very British menu with local influences, the dishes are expertly executed and the 3-course set menu is a bargain at $45. 
  • Rooftop By Gordon Ramsey – A neat menu of Mexican and Asian influenced dishes including ice-cream and cocktails from the on-site bar.

PLAY:

  • Rooftop Pool – The swimming pool offers far-reaching views across Los Angeles (smog permitting!) from the 10th floor.    Busy at weekends: don’t expect a sunbed after11am.  Open from XX – XX daily.
  • The London Bar – A dark, sexy bar serving good bar meals (fish & chips) and bar snacks (grilled bread and fresh tapenade).
  • Fitness Centre – A decent gym with unparalleled views offering early morning yoga classes at the weekends and personal fitness trainers.
  • Shop – Cool and eclectic, it also sells items such as suntan lotion and magazines.
  • Beauty Hairdresser and basic beautician (no waxing).

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • The London West Hollywood – 1020, North San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, 90069, California, USA (t: +1 866 282 4560 / www.thelondonwesthollywood.com).

VISIT DATE:

  • 20 – 26 March 2013

WEATHER:

  • Highs of 24C degrees with chilly evenings dipping to around 12C.

ACCESS:

  • LAX international airport is a 40-minute drive away.

TOP TIPS:

  • Make the most of the hotel’s free calls to London.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – Free calls to London; spacious suites and bathrooms are as big as any London flat with walk-in showers and separate baths; decent business centre; Gordon Ramsey at the kitchen’s helm isn’t just great marketing – for a foodie visiting the US, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a better bet.
  • The Bad – Being asked ‘how are you today ma’am?” every five minutes can start to grate…

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 ¼      

April 5, 2013   No Comments

Le Mas de Rigoulac – Aveyron, France

A former farmhouse ruin, Le Mas de Rigoulac has been beautifully and sympathetically restored by Parisian couple, Dominique and Gilles Arnault, and given a new lease of life as a Chambres d’hotes and well-being centre in the middle of the rolling Aveyron countryside.

  • Well appointed, all five guest bedrooms are located in or accessed via the farmhouse’s now modernised barn, all with stunning views out across the green hills.  Simply furnished and in harmony with the natural stone and wood structure, shower rooms are compact but the beds are reasonably comfy and there is plenty of space for luggage.
  • Check-in 3pm / check-out 11am.

SCENE:

  • Parisian couples escaping the rat race or booked into local Michelin-starred restaurant, Bras, and French retirees keen to spend their days rambling across the Aubrac plateau.

FUEL:

  • Breakfast A continental breakfast comprising fresh croissants, fouace (regional brioche) and bread from the local bakery, jams, honey, yoghurts and homemade fruit salad, juice, coffee and tea, is served daily in the main ‘salon’ from 8-10am.
  • Table d’hotes – Dominique is an accomplished cook and dinner can be arranged for 35€ per head; a good option on Mondays or out of season when local restaurants may be closed.  In addition, picnic baskets can also be arranged, as can light uncooked snacks should you arrive late.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool & garden – Depending on the weather, a heated outdoor pool is open from May-October.  The pretty gardens are a haven for butterflies, bees and small lizards.
  • Spa – A qualified kinesitherapist having run his own massage practice in Paris for many years, Gilles’ spa offers a relaxing atmosphere with massage room, jacuzzi, hammam and well equipped gym, along with personal coaching and image optimization sessions.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 14-16 February 2012 ; 13-19 August 2012 ; 16-23 September 2012.

WEATHER:

  • February – Deep, thick snow, -6/1°C, blue skies and bright sunshine.  All runs open at nearby ski station, Laguiole.
  • August – Hot and sunny, cloudless blue skies, 26/35°C, cool nights.
  • September – Warm and sunny by day 20/26°C, fresh mornings and evenings.

ACCESS:

  • Ryan Air operates direct flights from Stansted to Rodez (1hr 25mins) on Fridays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.  It is then a fifty-minute drive to nearest town Laguiole, and a further 10-minutes drive along pretty country roads to Rigoulac.  Alternatively, after taking the Eurostar to Paris, continue onto Montpellier by fast train (TGV) for three hours.  Pick up a hire car and drive north-west for approximately, 2hrs, across the Norman Foster designed Millau Viaduct and onto Laguiole.

TOP TIPS:

  • Book a table at Michel Bras’ eponymous restaurant – one of the World’s Top Ten restaurants – and enjoy the stunning views, contemporary architecture and award-winning locally sourced produce; pick room #3 for its location furthest away from the main house and double window aspect or #1 for strong wi-fi connection; use Le Mas de Rigoulac as a base to explore the Way to St Jacques de Compostelle (Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle) pilgrim route; visit the nearby Forge de Laguiole, designed by internationally renowned creator, Philippe Starke and buy a set of the world famous knives.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The warm welcome from Dominique and Gilles; the extra touches (being greeted with an umbrella for the rainy walk from car to house); the stunning scenery and tranquility; added bonus of a lovely pool area and spa; under-floor heating in winter; scrupulously clean.
  • The Bad – Natural feather or goose down pillows and duvets would be nicer than synthetic; single duvets on what becomes effectively a double bed.

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 ¼      

            

September 30, 2012   No Comments

Titilaka – Lake Titicaca, Peru

Set on a remote peninsular on the Peruvian shores of magical Lake Titicaca, the uniquely located Titilaka Lodge has been intelligently remodelled and was re-opened in 2009 as a byword in contemporary eco-design.

The design of the 18-bedroom lodge integrates high-level architecture with stunning, almost primeval scenery; views of the immense shimmering cobalt blue lake are guaranteed from every public space and private suite, with floor-to-ceiling glazing making it difficult to distinguish lake from sky.  A boat jetty, wrap around terraces and steps down into the pristine water, create a luxurious beach resort feeling and guests constantly oscillate between excited euphoria and quiet contemplation.

The hotel uses hydroelectric power, natural gas, sources local produce and as well as employing mostly local staff, the hotel has forged strong links with the local community, allowing its all-inclusive guests a genuine and unique insight into the region’s mystical history and culture.

Room 202: Despite being one of two smallest and therefore cheapest room options, the most ‘basic’ suites are stunningly decorated, with ridiculously comfortable beds, have fantastic showers, space for two daybeds and offer glorious views of the lake.

SCENE:

  • Attracting a mix of nationalities but mostly design-conscious couples between the ages of thirty-something and 75 mainly from Great Britain, Australia, France, and the US.

FUEL:

  • Restaurant – Overlooking the water and with sunset views, the restaurant serves breakfast from 7am until noon, lunch from noon until 3pm and dinner from 7-9pm.  The menu is varied with an emphasis on fusion Andean cuisine and locally sourced produce with an international twist such as quinoa risotto.

PLAY:

  • Excursions – Short, 1/4 day activities such as walks to nearby beaches, rowing boat trips through the reeds or visits to local communities are available to all guests.  Longer, more detailed trips such as boat rides to lake highlights including Taquile and the Uros islands are available to comprehensive package guests or at an extra cost otherwise.  Every now and again staff oganise cocktails around a bonfire as the sun sets, followed by an astronomy lesson.
  • Bar – Happy Hour from 6pm each day.  Cheese boards, nuts, bruschetta and delicious wines and pisco sours; all included in guest room rates.

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • Titilaka – Chucuito, Peninsula Lago Titicaca, nr Puno, Perú (+51 1 700 5111 / www.titlaka.com)

VISIT DATE:

  • 16  20 May 2012

WEATHER:

  • 22 – 26 degrees.  Cloudless, bright blue skies and a burning sun during the day, the mornings and evenings are fresh at best with nights dropping below zero.

ACCESS:

  • A 45-60 minute drive from Puno or 90-minutes from Juliaca if arriving by plane.  The hotel can arrange transfers – if travelling with guests who have taken the comprehensive package, you may be lucky enough to snag a free transfer with them otherwise the cost is $79 pp from Juliaca and a little less from Puno.  The train trip from Cusco to Puno runs almost every other day taking approximately 10-hours and ranks as one of the most interesting and beautiful train journeys in the world.  Check out the Peru guide for more info.

TIPS:

  • Three nights is just enough but four would allow the opportunity to truly relax and enjoy the hotel’s facilities and excursions at a more relaxed pace; pick a room with a sunset view to make the most of the bedroom day beds.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The knowledgeable guides who are at guests’ disposal all day long; the hotel’s strong links to and its support of the local community; remote and real location; stunning yet sympathetic design; incredibly comfy beds; fresh flowers; oxygen on tap.
  • The Bad – The pricey airport/train transfers.

MACARON RATING:

  • OOOOO

June 24, 2012   2 Comments

Sanctuary Lodge – Machu Picchu, Peru

Undeniably expensive (in Feb ’12 the cheapest room was $825 per night) but without question this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay next door to the majestic Machu Picchu citadel.

Once there, literally EVERYTHING is included in the price – all meals (even breakfast in bed), all drinks including alcohol (even Jack Daniels!), the entire contents of the mini-bar and even all laundry.

The service is impeccable – from the moment you step off the train at Machu Picchu Pueblo/Aguas Calientas where you hand over your heavy luggage, to when you arrive to smiles, cold towels and cool drinks.

In addition, the hotel can organise passes into the Citadel in advance so that you can go straight in as soon as you arrive.

Location-wise, it’s a once in a lifetime stay and worth every penny.  It was a total luxury to be able to run in and out of the Citadel to have lunch or pick up another camera battery. Even just to seek refuge from the hot sun and have a cool drink after climbing Huayna Picchu was brilliant. It was also fantastic to be able to wander in at 6am to watch the sunset, as opposed to queuing for a bus in Machu Picchu Pueblo/Aguas Calientes at 3am in order to take the first bus at 5am.

Staying so close to the citadel allowed easy and multiple access to the ruins as well as precious time first thing in the morning (from 6:30am-10:30am) and afternoon (after 4pm) before and after the crowds from Machu Picchu Pueblo/Aguas Calientes arrive/depart. Last entrance is 4pm and you need to take your passport as well as your ticket/print out to be granted access.

Check-in 2pm and check-out 11am.

SCENE:

  • Attracting mainly retirees and honeymoon couples from the UK, US, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Brazil and Argentina.

FUEL:

  • Restaurant – In spite of the location, the in-house restaurant served excellent meals three times a day in light-filled, wooden beamed space with a tropical feel. In the evenings the room was kept warm by an open fire. 
  • Bar – Within the restaurant space, the bar is open daily and is the perfect spot to escape the heat and down a cold beer after climbing Huayna Picchu.

 PLAY:

  • Jacuzzi and garden – The lush, tropical gardens are brimming with bright flowers and hummingbirds.  Book a spot in the Jacuzzi and watch the sun go down on Machu Picchu while sinking into the relaxing, hot bubbles and sipping on a cocktail.
  • Spa – There are two massage rooms available and the staff are expert.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 9 – 11th May 2012

WEATHER:

  • Hot, sunny and blue skies by day (around 28C); cooler in the evenings.

ACCESS:

  • A 30-minute steep drive from Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes).

TOP TIPS:

  • Brezys Zavala oversees Guest Management and she is excellent – she can organise passes into the site or book the jacuzzi ahead of your arrival (brezys.zavala@sanctuarylodge.pe); don’t miss the jacuzzi!; Room 21 is one of the cheapest rooms (a Superior King, ‘non-mountain view’) but actually has a view of Huayna Picchu (along with the gates/crowds arriving….  Due to jet lag and sheer excitement, this didn’t affect our sleep as we were awake around 5:30am both mornings); TOP tip is to book well in advance – booking in February for May meant being able to stay two consecutive nights, however availability and room options were limited even then; stay for x2 nights (almost x3 days); you can arrange to pay on departure, rather than paying upfront, one month before arrival as the website suggests; get your passport stamped with a Machu Picchu stamp.
  • For more info on travelling to Machu Picchu, check out the Peru page on this blog.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – Location, location, location; outstanding service; despite occasionally being described on Trip Advisor as an ugly prefab, the building is well camouflaged and sensitively decorated.  The hotel prides itself on being environmentally friendly and its green policy is obvious throughout the hotel (x4 bins in the bathrooms for separating waste and only glass bottles used in the bar for example); web site is full of really insightful information to really help you prepare; May was the perfect time to visit.
  • The Bad – Getting over the initial shock of the price!

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 0    

                                                          

June 15, 2012   No Comments

The Clubhouse – Chamonix, France

The warm welcome extended by Sandie, The Clubhouse’s brilliant and cheery Manager, is the first indication of the overall friendliness and warmth that this boutique chalet-cum-hotel extends all of its guests.  Now in its 9th season, The Clubhouse is a triumph in art deco restoration and small yet perfectly formed – just 20-bed spaces helps create a homely feel.

Rooms are a good size, nicely decorated and the Black and Red rooms both have double showers.

Owned by Jonathan Downey (London’s The Player, Milk & Honey), the bar and lounge area is naturally the hub of the chalet with a roaring fire and beautiful lighting & furnishings echoing its 1920s origins.  The location is great – just a five-minute walk into Chamonix’s lively town centre and virtually across the road from the nursery slopes yet set back enough from the main road to ensure a good night’s sleep.

SCENE:

  • Largely British couples, groups, families and Geneva-based ex-pats of all age ranges.

FUEL:

  • Restaurant – Breakfast and dinner are served in the lounge every day (8-10am and 7.30-9pm respectively).  As well as cereals, toast, freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade bread, cheeses and meats, eggs and porridge are cooked to order to help kick-start the day.  A three-course dinner is included in the rate and this, apart from Sandie & her wonderful team, is perhaps The Clubhouse’s secret weapon.  The chef is ex-La Trompette & Chez Bruce, and it shows.  The menu is thoughtful, seasonal, a perfect blend of international cuisine with an emphasis on British and French dishes (Oysters & Roast Beef; Tarte Tatin & Lemon Posset), and for the foodie skier, it’s an absolute winner.

PLAY:

  • Bar – A beautifully mirrored bar sits at one end of the lounge and is usually manned by an expert cocktail maker brought in from one of the London clubs.
  • Massage – Locally-based Kiwi, Hattie, from Pure-Fix Massage, can be called upon to ease any post-ski aches and pains in the Clubhouse’s spa room.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 4 – 8 January 2012

WEATHER:

  • Between -1 and -4 degrees celsius – non-stop snow apart from some rain; no sunshine.

ACCESS:

  • Geneva airport and train station (3-hours by TGV from Paris) is around an hour away by road; there are plenty of companies who operate shuttle buses.

TIPS:

  • Tall people might not be suited to the low beams in the Myla Suite; the Black and Red rooms are perfect for couples; groups of friends can take over the entire Clubhouse; the bunk rooms are very nicely decorated, warm & cosy with two sets of bunk-beds and plenty of space for a family.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The hospitality and beautiful décor; incredible food; great location; a beautiful bolt-hole in the mountains; sense of home-from-home with no door keys and a chilled, relaxed atmosphere.
  • The Bad – The towels have seen better days!

MACARON RATING:

  • OOOO ¾

January 11, 2012   No Comments

Chateau Les Carrasses – Languedoc, France

 Driving through Languedoc’s undulating green and ochre-hued countryside, under deep blue skies, along the tree-lined Canal du Midi and through seemingly endless vineyards sets the scene perfectly for a truly unexpected and impressive first view of Chateau Les Carrasses.

Newly opened in July 2012, Les Carrasses is many things to many people: at once a boutique retreat, self-catering family resort, a winery and private member’s club.  And it seems to work.

Beds are super-comfy and all rooms, suites and properties are fully equipped comprising kitchen areas with top notch appliances.  Bedrooms and suites are largely housed within the Chateau itself, with more spacious properties located within the many renovated stables and various outbuildings.

The Chateau has been painstakingly restored – perhaps even beyond its former glory – and the stylish, almost urban interior design of the public areas works really well giving the overall feel a grown-up, sophisticated edge.

Staff are extremely friendly and really can’t do enough to ensure their guests have a great time (such as calling to check that everything is OK if you dine outside the Chateau and have to drive home during a thunderstorm).

SCENE:

  • A mix of thirty, forty and fifty something British, French and German couples and families with young children.

FUEL:

  • Bistro – Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on the roof terrace or in the small bistro, part of an open-plan space which acts as lounge, reception, concierge desk and boutique.  The kitchen is run by Anna whose simple lunchtime menu consists of quick snacks such as hotdogs, caesar salad and homemade soup, while her tapas dishes in the evening are varied, seasonal and locally sourced.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool – The gated pool is perfect for adults and kids alike with a huge terrace and plenty of comfy sunbeds.  Some of the larger suites and properties have their own small private pools.
  • Tennis court – The red clay tennis court can be booked by the hour at any time of day with free racquets and balls and only a small charge for floodlight usage.
  • Beach volley ball – Shaded by trees all day, the court can also be booked by the hour.
  • Kids’ Club – Daily entertainment for children over four years (additional charge).
  • Boules – Boules can be played in the Chateau’s courtyard.
  • Winery – With its first harvest expected from mid-September 2011, vines surround the Chateau and are the inspiration for weekly wine tasting quiz nights.   Local wine guru, Matthew Stubbs, who runs Vinecole based at one of the region’s best domaines, Domaine Gayda, between Limoux and Carcassonne, tests guests’ knowledge of the region’s best wines as they tuck into a delicious tapas dinner every Thursday.
  • Cycling – Bikes of all sizes are available to explore the surrounding countryside.
  • Region – Small, authentique towns and villages such as Capestang, Poilhes and Roquebrun are just a short cycle or scenic drive away, and the canal du midi is literally on the Chateau’s doorstep.  Medieval and Roman cities such as Carcasonne, Narbonne, Beziers, Perpignan and beautiful Montpelier are all within easy reach and it’s only a 20-minute drive to the dunes of Serignan plage.

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • Chateau Les Carrasses Route de Capestang, between Capestang and Quarante, near Beziers, Languedoc & Roussillon, France (+33 (0)4 67 00 00 67 / +44 (0)845 686 8067 / resa@lescarrasses.com / www.lescarrasses.com)

VISIT DATE:

  • 29 August – 4 September 2011

WEATHER:

  • 24 – 27 degrees. The preluding 41 degree heatwave resulted in moody weather, warm & humid yet cloudy with some rain and a couple of storms, and intermittent sunshine.

ACCESS:

  • A speedy four-hour TGV train journey direct from Paris Gare de Lyon, followed by a 20-minute drive from Beziers.  Montpelier receives domestic and international flights; Beziers & Narbonne receive flights from the UK.

TIPS:

  • Room number 4 has a small balcony with wonderful views across the vineyards.  The Gardner’s Cottage is situated furthest away from the main buildings with its own small pool and is perhaps the best value for money.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The wide range of activities both on site and across the region is fantastic; the Chateau is a safe haven and particularly well geared up for families with children of all ages; charming and caring staff; stunning property and well positioned; reasonable prices (there’s not a single wine on the list above 30 Euros).
  • The Bad – Conversely, while a lovely spot for couples seeking solitude yet with plenty of facilities, July & August can be a little overwhelming in terms of the large numbers of children; the landscaping was not completed and another year will give the gardens a chance to really mesh with the revitalised buildings; wi-fi is unreliable.

MACARON RATING: 0000 1/4

September 19, 2011   1 Comment

Insolito Boutique Hotel – Buzios, Brazil

  • After a three-hour bus ride from Rio de Janeiro, the iced lemon water and chilled champagne offered during check-in, and stunning views across Praia da Ferradura’s horseshoe bay, is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Perched on a headland overlooking the crescent-shaped beach, Insolito is the perfect escape – St Tropez meets Ibiza in tropical Brazil – and most definitely Buzios’ best boutique hotel.
  • Rooms vary in size and price with the smallest quite compact but with good showers and huge beds.  All rooms come with large flat screen televisions, Sky satellite boxes and DVD players; there’s a nicely edited DVD library available at reception.
  • During the day, take your pick from three gorgeous swimming pools or a small corner of the beach that is privately owned by the hotel.  While 21 rooms is a decent size for a ‘boutique’ hotel, it’s the way the place has been thoughtfully and beautifully designed – its varying levels and little hidden nooks – that gives the impression of solitude and space and the place never feels busy; it can be a surprise one afternoon to find that you’re sharing a pool with one other couple.
  • Staff are extremely friendly and go out of their way to help: when the Havaiana flip-flops left in the room as a gift were a size too small, the superbly efficient and chatty Julie from front desk instantly sent someone out to pick up the right ones.
  • Check-in at 2pm / check-out at 12noon.

SCENE:

  • The hotel’s clientele reflects the steep prices with guests leaning towards being older, wealthier couples or foreign – mainly British, French and Argentinian – honeymooners.

FUEL:

  • Restaurant – The menu’s French influence is most welcome and the food very good.  Breakfast is served from 8.30am-11am and consists of a small buffet of fresh, local fruits, breads, pastries, juices, cold meats, cheese and yoghurts, along with your choice of cooked eggs.  Lunch and dinner menus cover the gamete from risotto, Argentine steaks and chocolate mousse to local fish and ceviche.
  • Bar – Two outdoor bars serve drinks (amazing caipirinhas!) all day long and into the evening.  Both look out over the bay but neither are particularly rockin’ affairs; during late season at least, this is a place to escape to rather than party.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool & beach – The hotel boasts three swimming pools, one of which is 4m deep and fresh water, and another is heated.  All three are beautifully situated, surrounded by water fountains, sunbeds and day-beds covered in cushions and white linen billowing in the gentle breeze.  The dark wooden decking is dotted with baskets full of fluffy white towels by day and candles by night.  The scent of frangipani, bougainvilllea and citronella fills the air while the sea gently laps on the beach below, a few short steps down.
  • Wellness Centre – Every kind of massage is available from 10am until 8pm.  Irena has an exceptional talent for massage and while pricey, an hour in her hands will transport you physically and emotionally and is worth every penny.
  • Library and snooker room – A cool spot to relax away from the midday sun or chill in the evening.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 15 April 2011 – 20 April 2011

WEATHER:

  • Hot, sunny, clear blue skies, medium humidity, breezy – 28/32°C.

ACCESS:

  • A two and a half to three hours drive north East along the Costa da Sol from Rio.

TOP TIPS:

  • Take one of the two hotel boats beach hopping for the day and visit some of the more natural and isolated beaches such as Praia da Tartaruga and Azeda; make a huge saving by taking the clean, safe and organised Viaçao 1001 tourist bus from Rio, rather than the hotel’s chauffeur car service.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good Spacious and tranquil even when fully booked; excellent, friendly and attentive service; beautifully designed and furnished; good food, especially when compared to restaurants in Buzios’ town centre.
  • The Bad – The wi-fi can be rather precarious and there were several instances when dishes on the restaurant menu were not available – it is the Brazilian coast after all. 

MACARON RATING:
0 0 0 0 ½

May 30, 2011   No Comments

Santa Teresa Hotel – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Situated atop the bucolic, airy hillside enclave of Santa Teresa – a haven for Rio’s creative and artist community – sits the newly opened eponymously named hotel.  Converted by a French hotelier, the former coffee plantation lends itself perfectly to parading as Rio’s most idyllic and tropical escape.
     
  • With 41 bedrooms and suites, the hotel remains boutique at heart and the excellent service is the only thing that gives the place away as being part of the Relais & Chateaux chain.  The smallest rooms are spacious, simply yet stylishly decorated with decent sized bathrooms (great showers) and wooden floors, most coming with a terrace or balcony and almost all with a city view and even that of Christ the Redeemer on a cloudless day.
  • While building regs mean that the exterior has received nothing more than a good lick of paint, the interior has been lovingly restored and reconfigured throughout using dark, jacaranda wood and featuring Brazilian art and designer furniture.
  • Uruguayan General Manager Juan Sander and his crack team ensure an efficient yet relaxed and informative check-in and even during the busiest times when the hotel is full, their attention is undivided and unwavering.
  • Check-in 2pm / check-out 12noon (although if your room isn’t needed, a late check-out can be arranged).

SCENE:

  • Attracting a mix of nationalities, mainly wealthy Brazilians, Argentinians, lots of French and Brits, most guests are in their forties and fifties.

FUEL:

  • Restaurant – In-house restaurant, Térèze, is run by French chef, Damian Montecer and well known in Rio for its use of local and regional produce, creating a gastronomic French-Brazilian fusion experience.  Dishes such as Macadamia nut crusted tenderloin steak, pan-fried grouper filet with plantain bananas, Argentinean steak with palm hearts, cheesecake with guava juice and blue papaya cream feature on the menu
  • Bar – Voted Rio’s “Most Romantic Bar”, the beautiful fabrics covering the chaise-longues, beds and sofas give the bar a decadent Moroccan twist.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool & garden – The perfectly heated swimming pool is great for cooling off in the afternoon or for a serious morning swim.  Relaxing on the sun-beds affords a tranquil yet stunning panoramic view out across the city and up to Cristo Redentor. 
  • Spa – A relaxing, peaceful space; prices are comparable with London spa treatments including tri-dimensional massage and ofuro baths.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 19 – 24 April 2011

WEATHER:

  • Hot, sunny, clear blue skies, 29/33°C; cooler evenings.

ACCESS:

  • A 40-minute drive from Rio’s international airport.

TOP TIPS:

  • Watch out for the three-for-four night offers and if breakfast isn’t part of your package, pop around the corner to Café Cito on Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, for excellent cappuccino, delicious fresh juices and good pastries.  Ultimately, Santa Teresa is a far superior and quite different experience to staying by the over-crowed main beaches, especially Copacabana.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The stylish rooms and excellent yet friendly service; the sense of tropical escape combined with security; watching monkeys playing in the trees from the hotel garden or bedroom balcony in the morning; the fantastic concierge service from Carol, Aymeric & Sergio on the front desk.
  • The Bad – Planes leaving from the city’s domestic airport flying overhead can add to Rio’s general hum, depending on the wind; confused or cheeky chambermaids have been known to add on mini-bar extras so checking the bill thoroughly on departure is a good idea; everything is pricey from the spa treatments to the laundry service but costs appear to be in-line with overall Brazilian tourist prices.

MACARON RATING:
0 0 0 0 0

May 12, 2011   No Comments

Radisson Blu1835 – Cannes, France

  • Cannes once suffered a dirth of modern, boutique hotels, preferring to rely on her grand palace establishments to keep its hoards of visitors happy.
  • A flurry of renovations across the glamorous city has seen the Radisson Blu 1835 (formerly the 1835 White Palm) recently open on the site of the old Sofitel hotel, located on the opposite corner of the Vieux Port to the Palais de Festivals.
  • The airy lobby is spacious with lots of sofas, and the welcome is warm with the hotel’s experience manager taking time to arrange check in and give a mini-tour both of the hotel and the room itself.
  • Bedrooms have wooden floors and are nicely, but not imaginatively, decorated.  The bathrooms are cool, with sliding doors allowing the entire bathroom to open up and seamlessly become part of the room.
  • Check-out can be very flexible and as late as 4pm.

SCENE:

  • A mix of international business people and holiday-makers, mostly late thirties and upwards.

 

FUEL:

  • Café – Breakfast is served downstairs in a small café-style restaurant.
  • Le 360° – With stunning 360° views of the Vieux Port, out to sea and across Cannes, past the old town and beyond, the rooftop-level restaurant is a stylish alternative to the usual dinner spots in town.  The cosy soft grey velvet booths are especially nice.  Food is good – not amazing – and service is standard but the views make up for it.  Not much in the way of non-meat options.

 

PLAY:

  • Bar & roof terrace – With spectacular views along the coast to La Napoule, the wooden-decked terrace is a stylish refuge at the top of the hotel.  The black sun beds are comfy, with some doubles available, there is a good bar and the mirrored water feature, while sadly not a swimming pool, is soothing and attractive. 
  • Spa – Les Thermes Marins looks fantastic in the brochures, on the posters in the lift and on the website but it was never taken advantage of, in part because it was so well hidden within the hotel.  There is a daily charge, even for hotel guests.   
  • Beach – The beach, and one of the nicest swimming spots in Cannes, is literally steps away from the hotel.

 

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • 1835 White Palm Hotel – (La Croisette, 2 boulevard Jean Hibert, 06414 Cannes / t: +33 (0) 4 92 99 73 20 / www.1835-hotel.com)

VISIT DATE:

  • 1-9 October 2010

WEATHER:

  • Warm and sunny during the day at around 25C, cooler in the evenings.  Massive thunderstorm one night/day.

ACCESS:

  • Fly to Nice and either take a taxi (30-mins) or the train direct.  From Paris, take the TGV direct (5-hours).

 

TOP TIPS:

  • Get to know the hotel’s ‘Experience Manager’; stay in a de-luxe ‘mer’ room with a small balcony looking out to sea; book ahead for a good table in the restaurant.

 

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – Possibly the best modern hotel in stuffy Cannes; friendly concierge/experience manager; good location & stunning views.
  • The Bad – The lilac accent colour in the lobby; the charge for the swimming pool/spa; no business centre (although two Apple Macs available in a quiet space adjacent to the lobby).

 

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0

November 1, 2010   No Comments