Category Archives: London

Discounted Tickets for Polo In The Park 8 – 10 June

Polo In The Park is celebrating it’s 10th successful year at Hurlingham Park in London next weekend.  It’s a fantastic event to enjoy with friends or family on 8 – 10 June. What’s more, when you buy tickets to the event and enter my unique code SHIPSPOLO at checkout, you get a £5 discount.

The award winning London property specialists, Chestertons are the headline sponsor for Polo In The Park for the fifth year running. I met a few of the guys from Chestertons at the team draw recently and what a great bunch they were. It was interesting to hear about the various events they get involved in with the local community. Central Sales Area Director, Corey Askew told me how he had the idea for Chestertons to organise a coat drive. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is when the employees and community donate coats which are collected and given to those in need.

As well as the London area, Chestertons also have properties for sale and rent all over the world. Even if you are not in the market to buy, sell or rent property right now, I can strongly recommend checking out their website even if it’s just to drool over the beachfront properties in the Cayman Islands. A good place to start for inspiration for your vision board is Chestertons website

Hurlingham Park

This beautiful park in Fulham is also the home of the Hammersmith and Fulham Rugby Football Club. It is thought that Fulham Football Club played here when they were still a church side boys team. The Park is located next to the famous Hurlingham Club, a private members sports and social club, which was responsible for introducing Polo to England in 1869.

Champagne Lanson Garden

Overlooking the playing field will be Lanson’s largest outdoor Champagne Garden. The perfect place to enjoy the match and a selection their finest Champagnes. From legendary full flavour Black Label and delicate Rosé, to the iconic dry White Label designed to work well with a little flavour, such as a slice of strawberry, a sprig of fresh mint or zest of orange or lemon, there is something to suit every palate. I’d certainly be willing to compare a few combinations. Some of you may remember I spent most of the day at the Cruise Show with Lanson.

If you would like to increase your knowledge of Champagne, Lanson have put together a Little Black Book of Champagne secrets, facts and anecdotes. You can order your free copy (UK residents only) here.

Kids

Polo In The Park have a fantastic Kids Club on Sunday 10 June open exclusively from 10.30 am – 1.30 pm. In fact it’s worth going just for that. They have a pitch invasion, family olympics, giant slides, tug of war, bouncy castles, obstacle courses, soft play, games, face painting and much more. Top Children’s Entertainers Eddie Catz and Sharky & George will be on hand to ensure everyone has a fantastic day. Ham Polo Club will be giving kids the opportunity to have a go at polo on their wooden horse. In addition Chelsea FC Foundation will be hosting a football skills session and giving away prizes.

Full details of the Family Day can be found here

Shopping and Food

In between games, you can visit the Shopping Village featuring brands such as Boadicea The Victorious, Robusto Cigars, Olivia and Pearl, Vintage Collectable Clothing, Parkers Cufflinks and many more.

The Grazing Paddock is an eclectic mix of London’s best restaurants and street food, so you are sure to find something to get your teeth into.

The Game

Six teams, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Zurich, London, Dubai and Kissimmee will compete over three days. There will be three matches per day and the teams will be playing under new City Polo Series Rules.

This unique format gives the game a fast and furious approach with a smaller playing field, so spectators can enjoy an exhilarating and up close experience of this incredible sport.

Full details of the game, event and timetable can be found here

The Teams

The team draws were made at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on 9 May. The hotel is also one of the proud sponsors of the event. This is how the playing looks for day one.

Lanson provided a refreshing glass of Champagne to start the proceedings.

It was a great night and if you have never been to the Mandarin Oriental at Hyde Park, here’s a little look inside it’s magnificent interior.

£5 Discount Code

To save money on your Polo In The Park tickets, enter my unique code SHIPSPOLO at checkout and get a £5 discount of each ticket.

Meet Me There

I will be there on Sunday 10 June, I hope to see you there. Come and find me, I am sure to be in the Champagne Lanson Garden, or simply tweet me @flaviagray Book your tickets here

 

Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

The London Cruise Show is just days away and I am so excited. I will be like a kid in a candy shop having all my favourite cruise lines under one roof. You will have the opportunity to visit all the cruise lines at their stands. They often have members of the Senior Management Team so you can meet them in person, plus all the latest brochures will be available for you to take home. In addition to the cruise line stands there are three theatres for interesting and informative talks, and a tasting area.

Is It For Me?

If you have never been to a Cruise Show, you are in for a treat. This year, Europe’s Largest Cruise Show, celebrates is 10th anniversary and has more to offer than ever. They have cruises for adventurers, explorers, foodies, singles, families, romantics, and even for people who don’t cruise. Yes that’s right, cruises for non cruisers. Well you will have to step onboard a ship, but Azamara Club Cruises are all about destination and experience. Don’t take my word for it, go and speak to them in person.

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

It doesn’t matter, no one is going to force you into booking. In fact those people who do want to book at the show, usually have to get in line. The Cruise Show is a great place to do your research, ask questions, collect information and get an idea of what cruising has to offer.

Maybe you want to know more about a river cruising? Get a great overview by attending the talk on river cruising in Ask The Experts Theatre at 2.00pm. It is on both Saturday and Sunday and you can also visit them at their stands to ask about itineraries, facilities and special show offers.

The Expedition Theatre offers talks on those off the beaten track cruises – from Antarctica to the Amazon. Meet The Cruise Lines allows you to take a seat while a panel of cruise experts talk to you and answer your questions.

Win A Cruise

Some of the stands will be running competitions which range from luxury gift packs to cruises. What’s the catch? There is no catch, it just means you agree to sign up to their mailing list in return for a competition entry. You can always unsubscribe if you feel you are getting too much mail from them.

I will be at the show on Saturday so will tweet about any competitions I find out about.

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

If you do want to book a cruise, I would suggest getting there early and get it done, so that you can enjoy the rest of the day. The offers at the show will be the best available for the year. You will be face to face with an expert who can guide you through the process. They will be able to go through the deck plans and help you pick the room you want.

Plan Your Day

You will get much more out of the show if you plan your day in advance. The Cruise Show has given me 25 free tickets, so you can book yours now and start planning what you want to do. This is my plan for Saturday 17th February. If you are coming along please let me know, I would love to meet you there. You can follow me on twitter on the day @flaviagray

10.00 – Say hello to the cruise lines, meet friends and enter competitions.

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

1.00 – Gin Tasting with G’Vine (see website for times and registration)

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

The London Cruise Show is offering readers of Ships & Champagne the chance to pre-book FREE tickets to the show with no added fulfilment fee or booking fee. Use exclusive code SHIPSANDCHAMPAGNE at checkout at https://cruiseshow.co.uk/london

Ocean Liners Speed and Style – V & A Exhibition 2018

The romance of the golden era of cruising is something most of us can now only imagine. So, I was honoured and thrilled to be invited to the private view of Ocean Liners Speed and Style at the V & A last week.

This new exhibition is being sponsored by Viking Cruises, and gives an insight into the history of some of our most loved ocean liners through the decades. If, like me, you love the elegance, grandeur, opulence and extravagance of cruising, you will be in your element.

It’s not all about the glamour though. The curators have also shown the dangerous aspects of cruising in those days. Items on display include belongings that have been recovered from wreckages or salvaged before disaster struck. These include a Cartier tiara saved from the Lusitania which sank in 1915, and the the exhibition’s final piece is a panel fragment from the first class lounge on Titanic, where the ship broke in half. (See bottom of page for video)

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

As you step inside the V&A’s Ocean Liners Speed and Style exhibition it feels like you have travelled back in time.

The collection consists of over 250 objects spanning the years 1850 – 1970. A simply mesmerising exhibition that covers all aspects of the ocean liner, including engineering, safety and design, promoting and advertising through the eras to high society lifestyle and fashion.

Ships featured in the exhibition include; Queen Elizabeth, QE2, Titanic, Bremen, The Great Eastern, Canberra, Normandie, Queen Mary, Olympic, France, Lusitania, Mauretania, SS United States and more.

Advertising and Promoting The Ocean Liner

An enviable 1:48 scale promotional model of Queen Elizabeth made for Cunard in 1949, is the magnificent centrepiece of the first room at the exhibit. The walls are adorned with posters advertising grand voyages. This one (above) offers a first class return ticket to Australia for £140. Sounds affordable until you realise that would be over £7000 today. The ports of call from London would typically be, Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. So that is proof that cruising is much better value for money these days as for as little as £3,000 more you can see the whole world.

“The Largest Steamers In The World” poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.

A selection of posters adorn the walls of the exhibition. Our obsession for the ill-fated Titanic is well catered for with plenty of pieces to capture the imagination.

Eerie: This poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic that tragically never happened.

The Geeky Bit

If you are more interested in the technical side of things, there is a lot for you to get your teeth into. An entire section is dedicated to shipbuilding materials, engines, propulsion, hull design, speed, safety and comfort. Detailed design drawings and models of engine systems will captivate and fascinate you.

Politics and War

Footage of Adolf Hitler walking the decks of the Robert Ley in 1939, and details of how ships were designed to be able to quickly convert into armed merchant cruisers, serves as as a reminder of how important these vessels were in times of political unrest.

Glamour and the Grande Descente

The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911

Making an entrance was an important part of the cruise culture for the First Class passengers. The Ocean Liners grand staircase leading into the dining room, was the perfect place for them to show off their most fashionable evening wear. This pre dinner ritual was often referred to as the Grande Descent.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

There is so much to see at the exhibition that I haven’t even touched half of what is there, but go and see it for yourself. This really is a charming, fascinating and enjoyable exhibit that will appeal to all ages. I am already planning a return visit with my son.

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style will be open from 3 February until 17 June 2018, at the V&A in London. It will then move to the V & A Dundee opening on 15 September 2018 until 24 February 2019.  Please purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointmen and are available at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

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Cruise International Awards 2017 at The Ritz Hotel, London

So as if it wasn’t a shock enough to be shortlisted for Cruise Agent of the Year Award for the second time, it was even more surprising when I received my invitation to the Awards ceremony. I checked the date was ok for my Mum to look after Josh and after agreeing she asked me where it was being held. I hadn’t checked the invite as these things are usually held in a nice hotel in London and I was sure this was no exception. Mum was still standing there waiting for the answer, so I rolled my eyes and checked the email.

I read the email again and grinning, I looked up and Mum and said “It’s at THE RITZ!” Mum’s jaw dropped and we turned into a couple of crazy ladies. It was so exciting. It’s times like this when you think, what other job could a single mum possibly have, that would give her the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon at the most famous and poshest (yes I said poshest), hotel in London?

Getting There

I decided to drive up to town. Mainly because I had experienced a weekday 6pm train journey from London Waterloo to Weybridge. I am sure we achieved a new world record for the amount of passengers on a train that day.  Anyway, I was not prepared to put myself through that again. So for a few extra quid and a bit of traffic, I decided to drive.

Delays

I know the traffic can be heavy in Knightbridge, but it took me 20 minutes of sitting outside Harrods to realise that the only reason the traffic was moving slightly, was due to cars turning away from the queue and trying an alternative route. I like to be early and was on track to arrive at the Ritz at 2.45. The event started at 3pm and the awards ceremony at 3.30pm, so I had plenty of time. In my mind, I had planned on having a sneaky gin and tonic at the bar somewhere before anyone else arrived. However, the sudden road closure put pay to that and it was now 3.15! Queue the brown paper bag.

Trying to stay calm and positive, I did a u-turn and drove around the back of Harrods. hoping the satnav would work things out for me. As I got closer I knew I would have minutes to spare if I was lucky, so my plan was to pull up outside the hotel and jump straight out of the car. Then I pictured the front of the Ritz and couldn’t recall there being anywhere for cars to pull up. I was frantic. How could I be late to such an event. I am shortlisted for a prestigious award at the best hotel in London and I am going to be late.

First Impressions

In desperation, I pulled up outside the front door and looked for a Concierge. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the front of the Ritz Hotel, there is no where to pull over. You simply stop dead in the middle of a busy dual carriageway, surrounded by understandable angry Uber drivers. I guess the black cab drivers are used to it. The concierge was inside the door, on the phone, facing the other way! I had no choice. I bibbed my horn and waited a few seconds. Nothing. The glass on those front doors must be pretty thick. I was so embarrassed, this was the worst thing I could have done, but I couldn’t think of any other way. After a few more beeps the Concierge turned around. I shouldn’t think they are used to guests arriving like this. I pleadingly beckoned him over and he reluctantly walked towards the car. In hindsight, I am surprised I didn’t end up being arrested. I asked him where the valet parking was. He looked at my car and it’s driver and questioned “Do you want the hotel ma’am?” I said “yes” and explained. The Concierge directed me to the hotel entrance.

I’m Late For A Very Important Date

I looked at the dashboard clock, it was 3.25. I had one shot at this otherwise I was going to be embarrassingly late. I sped down the round, turned around, apologised to a few black cab drivers and flew down the turning. It didn’t look right but I followed the instructions. Then I saw it! The entrance of the hotel and two immaculately dressed and well composed doorman in top hat and tails, standing at the top of the steps greeting guests. I quickly pulled in, oversteering and mounting the kerb. So now they had noticed me but were keeping their distance. I beckoned them over whilst bending down changing my shoes. The bravest of them approached the car with caution. I put the window down and said “I need valet parking, I need to be in there at an event and I’m late”. The poor guy, who obviously stayed polite and professional at all times, and called me ma’am, stood by the drivers door as I handed him a rather worn car key card, held together with parcel tape.

It’s De-Lovely

Finally I had made it. Many London hotels are plush but the Ritz is that and more. Walking into The Ritz makes you feel like you are royalty and is hard to put into words. For anyone looking for a memorable visit to London, afternoon tea at the Ritz has to be top of the heap.

Everything about the Ritz is legendary and fairytale-like at the same time. The grandeur, the opulence and the Britishness.

This is where afternoon tea is served.

The Music Room

I was directed to the appropriate part of the hotel, and as I entered the room I was greeted by two smiling ladies holding trays of champagne.

The guest speaker was the one and only International Award Winning Wine Writer and Broadcaster, Oz Clarke, also known for his collaboration with Celebrity Cruises. Oz was extremely funny and I thoroughly enjoyed his cruise anecdotes.

 

Whilst sipping champagne and nibbling on finger sandwiches, I couldn’t help notice the beautiful chandelier, the stunning ceiling and huge draped curtains framing the wall to ceiling windows. I had a wonderful afternoon at The Ritz and it was great to meet new people as well as catch up with a few familiar faces.

And The Winners Are…

Best Cruise Line

Princess Cruises – Winner

P&O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Luxury Cruise Line

Seabourn – Winner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Highly Commended

Best River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises ­– Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best Luxury River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises – Winner

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Activities

Royal Caribbean International – Winner

Norwegian Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best for Families

Disney Cruise Line – Winner

Royal Caribbean International – Highly Commended

Best for First-Time Cruisers

Princess Cruises – Winner

P & O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Adventure

Silversea – Winner

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Value for Money

Thomson Cruises – Winner

Saga Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Boutique Cruise Line

Azamara Club Cruises – Winner

Silversea – Highly Commended

Best for Enrichment

Saga Cruises – Winner

Holland America Line – Highly Commended

Best for Wellbeing

Holland America Line – Winner

Oceania Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Food

Oceania Cruises – Winner

Viking Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line – Winner

Disney Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best New Ship

Silver Muse – Winner

Seabourn Encore – Highly Commended

Best Product or Service

Ultimate Balcony Dining by Princess Cruises – Winner

VIP Home Departure Service by Titan – Highly Commended

Best Escorted & Specialist Tour Operator

Titan – Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best UK Port

Southampton – Winner

Liverpool – Highly Commended

Best Destination (Europe)

Dubrovnik – Winner

Norway – Highly Commended

Best Destination (World)

New Zealand – Winner

Barbados – Highly Commended

Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry

Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman, Silversea

Cruise Agent Lifetime Achievement Award

Giles Hawke, CEO, Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Avalon Waterways UK ­– Winner

Michael Wilson, Managing Director, Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Online Cruise Travel Agent

Iglu Cruise – Winner

Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agency

Bolsover Cruise Club – Winner

Iglu Cruise – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agent

Louise Thompson, Cruise.co.uk – Winner

Jane Chadwick, Go Cruise with Jane – Highly Commended

Best Blogger

Gary Bembridge, Tips for Travellers – Winner

Danielle Fear, Cruise Miss – Highly Commended

May-Fair Lady

It’s easy to get yourself out of bed when you know you are have a luxurious lunch at the Dorchester Grill Room to look forward to. If you haven’t been to the Dorchester Hotel, it is located on Park Lane in Mayfair, opposite Hyde Park. There is valet parking on site, so we just pulled up, got out of the car and walked straight in. Look for the huge Plane Tree (named one of the Great Trees of London) towering outside the front of the hotel, you can’t miss it.

One of the great Plane trees of London outside The Dorchester Hotel

Ain’t Misbehavin’

I thought I had high expectations of the most prestigious and expensive hotel in London, but these were surpassed the moment I emerged from the revolving door into the lobby.

The revolving door leading into the marble lobby at The Dorchester

Retired doorman of 50 years Ted Whitcombe, has seen some of the most famous stars and royalty arrive at the hotel. In an interview in 2008 he recalls “Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had brought cases of rare Jack Daniel’s but were asked to leave because they were misbehaving with women in the corridors. They went to the Savoy and never came back for their case. It took us ages to get through all that booze.”

Afternoon Tea on The Promenade

The Promenade at The Dorchester is famous for it’s afternoon tea

On entering the lobby you find yourself standing at the entrance to the promenade adorned with green and white blooms. We had arrived early so we walked the length of the promenade to find a coveniently located cocktail bar at the end. A refreshing gin and tonic was the order of the day, and although it was midday and quiet, within ten minutes the bar was buzzing with businessmen and ladies that lunch, as well as the occasional hotel guest.

The Grill Room

Designer Bruno Moinard worked with the Grade II Listed gold ceiling and doors to create a contemporary elegance.

Grade II listed gold doors at The Dorchester Grill Room

An ornate hand blown Murano glass chandelier hangs from the grade II listed gold ceiling in The Dorchester Grill Room

Food That’s Better Than……..

Yes, I’m not going to say it, but it’s true. I must have sounded like the lady in the Herbal Essences advert with every dish I tried (who remembers that?). It was a gastronomic delight as I worked my way through the recommendations made by Arthur, our charmingly French waiter with good looks to go with it.

I grilled him (excuse the pun) on the source of the ingredients for every dish. Since they boasts on their website of the use of finest locally sourced ingredients where possible, I wanted to know the origin of the food.

We selected the set menu which is amazing value for money. An à la carte menu is also available.

The set menu is amazing value for money.

Bon Appétit

A selection of bread includes their own recipe stilton bread. Arthur proudly informed me that some guests of the Dorchester Grill Room come to the restaurant purely because of this bread. I don’t know what they do to that bread, but with a smattering of butter, it is dangerously divine.

The Grill Room’s freshly baked stilton bread is dangerously divine

Raw and cooked beetroot and goat’s curd salad complimented with a lovely french dressing

Delicate chicken liver terrine with red oignon chutney

The 24 hour braised Scottish beef just melts in the mouth

The Dorchester Grill Room have created a sweet soufflé menu which is the first of its kind in London

Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse’s protégé, Guillaume Katola is the executive chef leading the talented Grill Room team. Thanking him for a delicious meal, he insisted it was a combined effort and gave credit to his Pastry Chef, Ludovic Cuny and the rest of the team. We were honoured to be taken for a tour of the kitchen which is so big it is on two floors has an escalator to take you down to the lower level.

Chef’s Table

If you are looking for an immersive dining experience, you can book a meal at the Chef’s Table. This is located on the lower floor inside the kitchen. The glass windows are frosted, but with the press of a button they become transparent. The entertainment for the evening is a front row seat at the creation of your meal.

A unique dining experience inside The Dorchester kitchens at the Chef’s Table

The Girl Who Had Everything

Elizabeth Taylor was a frequent guest at the hotel in the 60’s and 70’s, so much so that it was like her second home. It was during a stay in the rooftop Harlequin Suite that she received news that she was to become the first actress to be paid $1 million, for her role as Cleopatra.

Entrance to The Harlequin Suite (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

The Harlequin Suite Master Bedroom where Elizabeth Taylor’s second home (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

The Harlequin Suite living room (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

A pink marble bathroom was installed in the second bedroom especially for Elizabeth Taylor. It remains the same to this day.

The original pink marble bathroom installed especially for Elizabeth Taylor (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

You make your dining reservations at the Dorchester Grill Room via Bookatable. They offer excellent deals on all dining venues at The Dorchester Hotel, including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, one of only four 3-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK.

Hotel information:

The Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA
Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7629 8888.   Reservations: +44 (0)20 7317 6530

Recommended Reading

Christmas Lunch at Coworth Park Hotel

Next Stop Westminster

Last week I had a business meeting in Westminster, so I took advantage and arrived an hour early to take in the sights of Parliament Square.

As I stepped outside Westminster Tube Station, I looked up and saw Big Ben towering above me. It was breathtaking. My appointment wasn’t until two so I had a little time to spare. No excuse for being late around here.

Houses of Parliament

Walking alongside the Houses of Parliament gave me the opportunity to really take in the intricacies of the architecture.

The lovely old lampposts and big wooden doors wreak of days gone by.

Beautiful Golden Gates with stained glass windows.

Audio Tours start from £18.50. For more information about Parliament or to book tours visit the UK Parliament website.

Westminster Abbey

The main entrance to the Abbey is a wonder of art and architecture in itself.  You can get more information and book tours here.

Parliament Square

Big Ben, The London Eye, red double decker buses and black cabs, you know you’re in London.

This statue sits in the centre of Parliament Square. Churchill still keeping an eye on what’s going on. I have a huge fondness for Churchill. Not only was I brought up with my mother referencing his speeches and beliefs, but my late uncle, Carl Foreman wrote the screenplay to the 1972 film Young Winston.

The Cenotaph

The UK’s official national war memorial is located a few steps away from Parliament Square in Whitehall. There are flags on each side of the Cenotaph. Each one is there to represent The Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy.

How to Get There

You can get to Westminster by using the District or Circle line or simply stroll across the Golden Jubilee Footbridge from Waterloo Station, and bear left onto Whitehall. This is a pleasant 10 minutes walk. See Transport For London for more information.

Souvenirs

There are plenty of souvenir stands, but I took a little look around the official Houses of Parliament gift shop. This made me giggle.

Find Inspiration at Destinations

The internet is a great place to research destinations for your next holiday.  You have everything at your fingertips.  Sometimes however, it is nice to just be able to chat to an expert and pick up a few brochures.

At the Destinations Show, held annually in London and Manchester, you can spend a leisurely day walking around the exhibits and getting your questions answered by the experts. This year’s expert speakers included Michael Palin, Simon Reeve and Blowfish, the world’s only heavy metal marine biologist. There are plenty of other things to do such as entertainment, food samplings, experiences, competitions and more.

Don’t forget to enter my competition at the bottom of the page.

Czech Baroque

First stop for me was Czech Tourism. Ok so the lure of cold beer was part of the reason I stopped, but I was also interested to know what the Czech Republic had to offer visitors apart from a city steeped in history and stunning architecture.  Well, there are 12 stunning countryside wine trails to start with, as well as cheap local beer which attracts party groups.  Another popular activity is cosmetic surgery. Apparently the procedures are much cheaper in the Czech Republic, and as they have an amazing selection of luxury spas, it seems you get much more value for money than in the UK.

Un-interesting Fact: In 1994 I was working as a Production Runner on a film called Good King Wenceslas. It was filmed just outside of Prague in a place called Brno. Stephanie Powers was in the movie and needed a costume within 24 hours. The cheapest way to deliver it was in person. So off I went for a couple of days to Brno. I was extremely fortunate in being able to have dinner with Charlotte Chatton (Titanic) and the legendary, late Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey).  It was just the three of us and it is an evening that I will never forget.

Tempting Thailand

Next stop, Amazing Thailand. I attended one of the Thailand Roadshows last year. It was held at an amazing restaurant in Guildford, Surrey called Thai Khun. If you get a chance to eat there, you must.

The fruit carvings at the show were impressive to say the least. They were offering Thai massages on the stand as well as a lady playing traditional Persian music on a Khim.

Nordic But Nice

Now that Viking have made their mark in ocean cruising, I felt it necessary to go and get more of an insight into what they are all about. I know they have three amazing ultra luxury ships, but that was it.  So what did I find out? Firstly, and most importantly, they are all inclusive. I know we have to use that phrase carefully in the cruise industry so I will elaborate.

What’s Included:

  • Return scheduled economy class flights from London and selected local airports
  • A guided tour in each port
  • All on board meals including speciality restaurants
  • House wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board
  • Music, art, cooking, dance and history classes
  • Tea and coffee anytime
  • 24-hour room service
  • Free Wi-Fi onboard (restrictions apply)

An Alternative Way to Cruise America

Despite being a lady of luxury, the idea of travelling from town to town in an RV, really appeals to me. I guess it’s my beach bum / hippy alter ego.  It seems I wasn’t the only one finding this type of holiday appealing.  After a bit of lurking and two return visits, I was finally able to talk to the representative. Once in conversation, he explained he was out of brochures and business cards. So clearly this has been a successful event for them. If you are interested in finding out more simply go to their website Cruise America.

The World Stages

The Destinations Show has four world stages split into Africa, Europe, The Americas and Asia.  With experiences ranging from rum tasting, Eccles cakes sampling to pan pipes and traditional Chinese dancing, you could really get a sense of the destinations.

Feeling A-Mused

When my two favourite things go hand in hand, I know I am in the right place. Silversea most definitely tick the ships and champagne box.  It was great to finally see a familiar face, as I heard Silversea’s Luke Clarke call my name.

Although I have not stepped onboard a Silversea cruise ship, I couldn’t have acquired CLIA Master status, without being aware of these ultra luxurious cruise ships.  In April this year, Silversea will be welcoming their new ship Silver Muse to the fleet. Spending her first summer in the Mediterranean, some of the incredible ports appearing in her itineraries include Portofino, Venice, Monte Carlo, Saint Tropez and Bordeaux. Silversea have created a ground-breaking 360˚ virtual tour for you to Discover Silver Muse for yourself here.

The Best of the Rest

Other exhibits I visited on the day were Hurtigruten, WWF, Beaches and Sandals, Palm Springs – California, Rocky Mountaineer and Via Rail.

The Destinations Show really does offer something for everyone.  Even if you are not looking to book a holiday, it is certainly a great day out.

Competition

If you found the picture at the top of this page interesting, I have some coffee table Baroque themed magazines to give away. Simply make a comment below and I will contact the lucky winners. I will let you know when the competition is closed.

There’s A Cruise For Everyone

The London Cruise Show 2017, is promising its biggest and most exciting luxury cruise show ever.  If you don’t think cruising is for you, I challenge you to go to the show and see what’s available. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Star Clippers

There are expedition cruises, adventure cruises, luxury cruises, river cruises, family cruises, informal relaxed cruises.  You can choose your itinerary too. So if you want to have lots of days relaxing at sea, or experience a quick overview of many places, or if you prefer to take your time and immerse yourself in the local culture with a few days at the same port, it’s up to you.

If you can’t or don’t want to fly, you can cruise from the UK, choosing to take adult only cruises or family cruises. There are short breaks for a taster to see if you like it, or just a fun weekend away with your mates.

With so many cruise styles and so many destinations around the world, I will eat my hat if you can’t find something that tickles your fancy at this show.

My London Cruise Show 2017 top picks are:

  • Avalon Waterways
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Silversea
  • Star Clippers

READER’S TICKET OFFER

I am able to offer my readers reduced price advance tickets to the show with a 2 for 1 offer of just £6. Get your tickets for only £3 each (that’s a saving of £7 off the door price!!) by quoting
‘S&C’ when booking tickets online at www.cruisingshow.com or when calling 
0871 620 4024. (Calls cost 13p per minute plus network extras).

Opening Times and Getting There

 

Losing George Michael – My First Love

You Have Been Loved

A beautiful man, a talented singer songwriter, George Michael was the superstar who showed his humanity to the world.

Initially we fell in love with George because he was sexy and fun and had a rebellious side to his music.  Then with the release of Careless Whisper we fell in love with his vulnerability and his incredible voice.

George went from having “Soul on the Dole”, to the sophistication of Careless Whisper which incorporated sweeping views of Miami, five star hotels. private jets, sports cars, luxury yachts and glamorous women (no offence Pepsi and Shirley).

Everyone loved him and everyone wanted him. From those of us girls and women who emphatically denied any notion that George Michael was gay, to the entire gay community who ‘told us so’ when he came out in a way in which only George could.

Waiting For The Day

My obsession with George Michael began when I was 11.  I ripped a picture of George out of my Smash Hits magazine and placed it sideways on the wall next to my bed.  When I woke up in the morning I would be looking at him as if he was lying next to me.

I had read that his Mum lived in Coldharbour Lane, Bushey in Hertfordshire. I used to beg my relatives to drive me there so that I could wait and see if George Michael turned up.  I found out the local dialling code for Bushey and would spend hours in the phone box with my friend just trying different combinations of numbers in the hope that we would get lucky enough to get George’s Mum’s house. When the phone was answered I would ask “Is George there please?”. We were convinced we would get lucky one day. We didn’t.

Another time, Wham were playing a few dates at Wembley Arena.  I rang the box office and asked to speak to George. I said I was his sister and I needed to speak to him.  They politely told me they were not able to put me through but would pass on the message.

Then when videos first came out, I saved up my pocket money for weeks to buy the Make It Big video.  I was so proud to own it, despite not having a video player to watch it on.

Heal The Pain

I wanted to write this post about George Michael because I needed to pay my tribute to him. I know there are millions of others that are feeling the same way today.  Those of us who have been lifelong fans of his are probably agree that we wished we could have let George know how much he meant to us individually. I wished he had known that he has been with me through the most important years of my life. Puberty, adolescence, finding love, making love and breaking up. Days when you need uplifting and you dance in your room to Outside or Flawless. When you are at a club or a party and you’ve been playing it cool and acting sophisticated all evening, then you hear “da da da Jitterbug…”. You grab the nearest poor unsuspecting guest to you and head to the dancefloor mowing down anyone who dares get in your way. Or when you hear Wham Rap and you and your brainwashed teenage daughter proudly recite the rap word for word.

It ain’t no joy for an uptown boy whose teacher has told him……

Goodbye

What can really be said to make this tragic loss any less painful? Nothing. But we can share our love for George and unite as a community. He was our brother, he was there for us throughout our darkest and happiest moments. I hope he knows what a massive contribution he made to our lives and those around us. George you have been loved, you will always be loved and you will always be in our hearts and an integral part of our lives. You live on in us. xxxx

WE WILL LOVE YOU ‘TILL THE END OF TIME………

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The Spirit of Christmas Fair – London 2016

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

So on entering the Spirit of Christmas Fair, the first place we came to was the food hall. Healthy chocolate, fine wine, quince gin and toffee vodka were just some of the delightful samples on offer.

Each stall offered generous tasting of their products and I took advantage of this.  Joshua had the sweets and I had the wine, gin and cheese.

Typically British

One particular product that really stood out to me in the drink department, was the Gun Dog Gin.  The bottles were tall and slim which led me to enquire the recommended way to consume it.

The lovely gentleman enlightened me and recommended to add to champagne.  That certainly caught my attention. I asked which one he thought I should try?  “All of them” he replied. So off I went on a little Gun Dog Gin taster session trying a sip of each one (without the champagne I might add).

They were all very sweet which is why you would only add a dash to a glass of your favourite champagne or prosecco.  My favourite by far was the Quince. I love the British element of the product as well with the union jack incorporated into the label.  As well as a great way to add something special to your christmas drinks. these would make great gifts.  You can buy their products at their online store.

Healthy Chocolate

Yes, you read it right. This chocolate has “good stuff” in it. You know like Yakult, only it’s chocolate. Now I don’t really need an excuse to indulge in some chocolate, but now I have a reason to eat it everyday.

I didn’t buy any at the show, but I took a leaflet and bought mine later using their online shop.  Their packs of 14 are great value for money.  They are great stocking fillers, so I ordered a big box of these.

Be A Naked Angel

The Spirit of Christmas was certainly flowing thanks to Naked Wines.  After trying a fair few varieties of wine, I ordered a case for myself.  The wines are reasonably priced and are made by independent winemakers who are able to produce their wines thanks to the Naked Wines funding scheme.  Although you don’t have to join the scheme to purchase a wine at the show, you do get the opportunity to become an ‘Angel’.  Since when did drinking wine make me an angel? Just about the same time that chocolate became good for you. Are you starting to see why I love this show?

My favourite was this Australian Chardonnay ‘The Butterfly Effect’ by winemaker Sam Plunkett.  For more information on the scheme visit Naked Wines

Main Hall

We spent so much time enjoying the food hall.  I met one couple who had just spent £1000 on wine. Clearly veterans of the show, they gave me a tip.  In order to get the most from the show, the couple recommended focusing on a couple of items that you need and bypassing the rest.  For example, they said they had come to get wine, cheese and a Douro River Cruise.

If I’d have known this before, I would probably have had time to visit the main hall properly.  However, as we had already spent alot of time at the Luxury Travel Fair and then in the food hall at the Spirit of Christmas Fair, we were both flagging.

Buy Tickets

Don’t miss the next Spirit of Christmas Fair. Whether you are looking for a serious advantage on your Christmas shopping, or just fancy a day out you can get your tickets here

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An Invitation To The Luxury Travel Fair

First Train Ride Ever

I was thrilled when my VIP invitation to the Luxury Travel Fair popped through the letterbox. This gave me the perfect excuse to take Joshua on his first train journey. The event was held at Kensington Olympia which has a dedicated station.  It was easy from Weybridge with one change at Clapham Junction we were there in no time.

Joshua was fascinated by the train ride, asking questions throughout the journey.

The Luxury Travel Fair

The Luxury Travel Fair was in full swing when we arrived around 11.30.  I was raring to go and meet suppliers of luxury tours and travel.  Joshua was in his pushchair and during the short walk from the station to the venue, he had fallen asleep.

Celebrity Cruises branding for the Luxury Travel Fair, but no sign of the cruise line at the show.

Saint Lucia Tourist Board had a great stand and were running a competition to win a holiday.  As if that wasn’t good enough, once you had entered the competition you were given a free cocktail token.  It seemed rude not to indulge, and after all it is all part of my research as a luxury travel agent.  I took one sip and decided I should take my time with it.  It was strong!

Wandering off, rum cocktail in hand, I spotted Head of UK Sales for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Paul Beale. The stand was very busy, but Paul kindly made time to say hello to me and we had a brief chat.

Then I saw the lovely Louise Craddock, Regional Sales Manager for Oceania Cruises on their stand. She was busy chatting away to visitors who were eagerly clutching a brochures, so I didn’t stop.

The Champagne Bar, I couldn’t resist a cheeky glass of bubbles.  Just as the bartender popped the cork, Joshua decided to wake up.

Prepared with the distractions of a fruit shoot and a packet of mini cheddars, I knew I had little time to enjoy my Louis Roederer.

As expected Joshua wanted to explore, so it was time to go next door to check out the Spirit of Christmas Fair.

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A London Retreat – Kensington Roof Gardens

Events at Kensington Roof Gardens

I have been to the legendary Kensington Roof Gardens for a night out with family and friends and absolutely loved it.  So, I was interested to know what the venue would be like for a corporate event.

Getting There

Kensington is not in the congestion charge zone, so there is no need to pay for that.  There is a local NCP who were charging £35 for parking.  Then I came across this site which directed me to the The Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington. They provide 8 hours secure parking for just £25.  It was easy to find, close to where I wanted to be and the staff were very friendly.  The atmosphere in the hotel seemed nice,  and would be worth considering for somewhere to stay in the future.

The Venue

When you arrive at Kensington Roof Gardens, you need to take the lift to the 7th floor.  This takes you to the entrance of the club and location for corporate events.

The bar is conveniently located to your left on entering and was set up with teas and coffees for the delegates.  Usually the club is one big room, however for events it is divided into two areas.

Once the morning session was over we went had the opportunity to network and stretch our legs.  Outside in the gardens, I found a haven of tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of London.


After a lovely barbecue lunch outside in the heated Spanish Gardens, the conference continued. The afternoon session was broken up with a break for coffee, scones and mini doughnuts.
Cocktails and canapés were served in the Spanish Garden, with a talented Caricaturist from wickedcaricatures.com on hand, both provided with compliments by eBay.  I certainly enjoyed the day learning so much about online publishing and e-commerce from leading experts, partnered with a stunning venue with first class hospitality. It was a great networking event and good to meet people in non travel related industries.