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30
May 13

Celebrity Hotel Review: The Baglioni London

Big news! I’m moving to Thailand. Phuket to be precise. This may seem a bit out of the blue but if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed me (t)wittering on for the last few months about visas and form-filling, car-booting and packing boxes – with a fair amount of despair and tears thrown in along the way. At times, it’s felt like it was never going to happen but – hooray! – it’s finally all come together and it won’t be long now until  I’m blogging from the beach. But, as excited as I am to go, I’m also a little bit sad to be saying my goodbyes. The only thing for it, is to bow out of Blighty in style. So when the swanky celeb-frequented Baglioni Hotel in London invited me a long for a visit how could I say no?

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The Baglioni sits has a primo position with Hyde Park and Kensington Palace on its doorstep.

Lucky Stars: Al Pacino, Halle Berry, Will Smith and Italian film producer Dino di Laurntiis have all been spotted soaking up la dolce vita at the Baglioni. Other big Hollywood names have checked in here too but if I tell, I may find myself “sleeping with the fishes”.

The Lowdown

The the first thing I noticed as I walked into the Baglioni’s bijoux lobby, was the wonderful fragrance that wafted around me. It’s not a particularly new trend for hotels to have their own signature scent but this one was particularly inviting, kind of citrusy and warm, instantly making me think of Mediterranean climes. The decor too, was conducive to on-the-spot relaxation; all flattering lighting, polished walls and deep velvet sofas, with the sound of a tinkling wall of water cascading in the background. The crowd of at-ease guests and power-lunchers that peppered the room were a stylish bunch, lots of suited and booted business-types and raven-haired beauties – my husband straightened his back and I immediately wished I’d worn bigger earrings.

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The lobby at the Baglioni. All shiny and smelling like Sorrento.

We could get dressed up later though. For the minute all we wanted to do was rid ourselves of bags and relax. It had been a rather demanding morning, up at 5 a.m. for what turned out to be a five hour drive down from Manchester followed by a visit to Thai embassy, but equanimity was quickly restored with a friendly welcome from the reception desk. We’d arrived a little bit earlier than expected so were informed that our room wouldn’t be ready for another couple of hours. But, this was hardly an inconvenience: the hotel couldn’t be in a more desirable London location, with Kensington High Street just around the corner and Hyde Park opposite. We toddled off for a spot of lunch and a hand-in-hand stroll around the park and before we knew it we were checking into our executive suite with splendid views of the pretty green places we’d just been exploring.

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The Royal Suite at the Baglioni Hotel London

Celebrity guests usually to opt for the opulent Royal Suite, a five-bedroom, high-ceilinged number with sweeping views of Kensington and Hyde Park. We were privileged to have room 505, a spacious top-floor room with terrific park views, an enormous marshmallow-soft bed and a ridiculously decadent black marble bathroom stocked with divine-smelling Baglioni amenities. There weren’t any bedside sockets – where to charge? – and the black-out blinds had an inch gap around them making for an early rise but other than that, I lapped up the chic Italian designer feel of it all.

The Highlights

The Baglioni has 67 rooms, with 49 suites, though the smooth service and discreet atmosphere, allow you to feel like you’re the only people staying there. It was only when we returned downstairs for dinner at the glam Brunello restaurant that we remembered there was a world outside of our gold-clad cocoon of a room. The mod-Baroque dining space with its central glass bar and Murano glass chandeliers made for a rather theatrical setting for what would be an absolutely delicious meal.

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Brunello Restaurant at the Baglioni Hotel

We opted for flutes of Prosecco, and flirted with the excellent wine list before settling on a bottle of Contado Aglianico del Molise, as recommended by the very clever sommelier. Hubby was raised in Italy and is sometimes guilty of being a little bit picky when it comes to Italian food, but he couldn’t fault any of the three courses. Silky carpaccio dotted with raw baby vegetables, rocket and Parmesan, was followed by melt-in-the-mouth tortelli di burrata with burnt butter and hazelnut, and a delightfully light white chocolate mousse with passionfruit sorbet. After dinner, we really should have ventured out for a nightcap in Knightsbridge but given our classy surroundings it seemed madness to leave, so we sat outside on the terrace sipping on digestivi. Perfetto.

The next morning, we lingered over breakfast, reluctant to leave our little slice of the sweet life in London, but sadly the time to say ciao came around all too quickly – just as it seems to be doing in real life. As we walked through the revolving doors to our waiting car, we wondered what lay ahead in Thailand and thanked the Baglioni for sending us off in style.

 

Go There

Baglioni Hotel London available from £145 per person per night. Price is based on two adults sharing a double room on a B&B basis and includes VAT. For booking and further information please visit www.baglionihotels.com or call 020 7368 5700

Book car hire at www.rhinocarhire.com or call 0845 508 9845

I stayed as a guest of the Baglioni Hotel, however, my views, as always are 100% my own.

 

 


17
Apr 13

Celebrity Hotel Review: The Peninsula Shanghai

By the time I reached The Peninsula’s revolving door, I had spent nearly three weeks jumping in and out of ferociously driven cabs, had checked in and out of nine different hotels, had whirled round some twenty-odd restaurants and bars, had sipped cocktails till dawn in a nightclub boasting its own shark tank and had scouted and shopped the entire length of Nanjing Road (and then some). Burn out was dangerously close.

But I wasn’t going to let this 24/7 365-city beat me and was sure that a couple of nights at The Peninsula would be just the reviver I needed. Although, I’d never stayed at this hotel before, I have been deeply and madly in love with The Peninsula Hong Kong for a long long time. When I was a kid I used to wander through its glorious high-ceilinged lobby listening to the silver clinking and wishing I could squeeze in amongst the glamorous ladies taking afternoon tea; in my twenties I knocked back cocktails with friends at Felix; and as a grown-up (ahem) I love nothing better than a day luxuriating at what must surely be one of the finest spas in the world. So, its Shanghai sibling had a rather a lot to live up to. I checked in expecting nothing short of perfection.

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The Peninsula Shanghai

Lucky Stars: The Peninsula keeps its famous client cards clasped very close to its chest but Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Jacky Chan, Michelle Yeoh and a host of high-profile expat footballers like Nicola Anelka and Didier Drogba are a few of the big names that have been spotted here. 

 

The Lowdown

…And perfection it was. I’m sorry if this post sends you rushing for the vomit bucket, but I am going to gush. Everything from The Peninsula’s position on one of the loveliest corners in Shanghai (staring down the Bund, backing onto the former British Consulate gardens and overlooking the buzzy Huangpu River with the space-age skyline of Pudong glittering across the water) to the hand-carved soap dishes in the bathrooms had me in raptures. Walking into the hotel’s light-filled lobby was like stepping into Somerset Maugham novel – with stylish cerulean green walls, voluptuous velvet chairs, tiered chandeliers and vivid flower displays. I immediately starting speaking in a clipped accent and looked for a small boy to fan me. I was at home – or rather, a wonderful fantasy version of home.

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Deluxe River Suite at The Peninsula Shanghai. Swoon.

Better still, our room turned out to be a Deluxe River Suite, perched on the corner of the building boasting an astounding view of the city through its gracefully large windows. I hoovered it up with my eyes – window-side dining table, inches thick Chinese rugs, artworks, ceramics, little lacquer boxes filled with petite fours. Naturally, I played it cool while the reception manager was with us but the minute he left I literally leapt, skipped, twirled and squealed my way around all 1100 palatial square feet. There was a bedroom with a bed so soft and cosy it was like lying on a bundle of baby seals (I would imagine), a dressing room with a built-in electronic nail dryer and a cool little housekeeping box where you could deposit washing, for it to magically appear a few hours later without ever having had to endure the inconvenience of speaking to an actual person. The bathroom too was impressive with his ‘n’ hers sinks, a TV in the wall above the jumbo tub and tons of delicious DAVI amenities. As I swanned back into the living room, my husband gave me one of those approving marrying-a-travel-writer-paid-off looks as he sunk into the sapphire blue sofa by the fireplace. I felt more rested already.

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The Highlights

I knew I had to visit to the spa from the minute I saw this picture of the pool. I mean, come on, just look at it – what’s not to love? And, I have to say, it was even more beautiful in the flesh, all sunlight and terraces, squishy sofas and scented air. I spent my first morning here enjoying an amazing private yoga session with Kasia, the spa manager and all-round lovely person, and can now completely understand why celebrities and the super-rich fly their personal trainers around the world with them. That level of encouragement is incredibly motivating and thoroughly addictive. Topped off with a blissful Peninsula signature treatment involving ESPA perfumed oils and an otherworldly level of pressure and I was ready to take on the world again, never mind just Shanghai.

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Pool at The Peninsula Shanghai

Dining at The Peninsula was equally as memorable. At Sir Elly’s, the flagship restaurant, plate after beautifully presented plate of absolute deliciousness was served up with panache. Each one so perfectly balanced that instead of feeling bloated and sleepy halfway through, which I know from lots of important research can often happen with tasting menus, we worked our way through every bite and still found space to squeeze in some post-dinner cocktails at the rooftop bar. But then again, how could we resist this?

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Sir Elly’s: A rooftop bar worthy of any bucket list

Checking out was of course a heartbreaking experience. I really wish I could find some niggle to counterbalance my review but I’ve tried and I can’t. It was perfection from start to finish. The hotel is gorgeous, the food is sublime, the staff are intuitive to the point of being mind-readers, and the spa alone is worth travelling to Shanghai for. If you want to do this most magnificent of cities in style, The Peninsula is the place to be.

I stayed as a guest of The Peninsula, however, I also stayed in eleven other hotels in the city and this was my top pick. My views, as always are 100% my own.

GO THERE

The Peninsula Shanghai, +86 21 2327 2888; www.peninsula.com; Doubles from £270.

Finnair has daily flights to Shanghai from both Manchester and Heathrow via Helsinki. The below return fares include taxes, service and booking fees starting from:

Manchester – Shanghai Business class: £1855.36 Economy class: £542.36

London – Shanghai Business class: £1869.37 Economy class: £556.37

Tickets can be booked at www.finnair.co.uk or 0870 2414411.  For more information please see www.finnair.co.uk For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Hong Kong in China.  Finnair also fly to Chongqing and begin flights to Xi’an, China in June 2013.

Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand plus Hanoi, Vietnam beginning in June 2013.

 


14
Mar 13

Shanghai: Celebrity-style

The camera loves Shanghai. Marlene Deitrich and Anna May Wong swanned around its sultry streets whilst filming Shanghai Express way back in the Thirties. Its European-style mansions and colossal colonial buildings were as much the star of the show as a young Christian Bale in the Spielberg classic Empire of the Sun. While recent years have seen Tom Cruise leaping off the Bank of China Tower in Mission Impossible III, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis let loose in Looper and 007 arriving for the first time in mainland China in Skyfall.

And with its heady mix of bustling streets, honking cars and neon-wrapped skyscapers crossed with tree-lined boulevards, historic buildings and pretty parks it’s easy to see why this super-exciting city is catnip to movie producers, cinephiles and celebrities alike. It’s fast becoming one of Asia’s top celebrity hotspots – the last Shanghai film festival was graced by movie stars Matt Dillon, Mischa Barton, Susan Sarandon and looks set to attract more big names this year. So, on my recent visit it seemed only logical to stop by a few of the places where they regularly roll out the red carpet.

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Shanghai, a superstar of a city.

The Peninsula Shanghai

Perfectly positioned in a discreet spot at the end of the Bund, The Peninsula Shanghai hotel has seen a host of movie stars, musicians and world-class athletes stroll through its revolving doors. Renowned as one of the finest hotels in China, the vibe is old-school glamour  - as is the guest list which includes Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Jacky Chan and Michelle Yeoh, as well as expat footballers Nicola Anelka and Didier Drogba. 

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The Peninsula Shanghai, perfect in so many ways

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund

It’s been A-list all the way since this Bund-side beauty opened its doors in 2010. With its beautifully restored Art Deco architecture, swinging Long Bar and swish spa it’s easy to see why the Prince Consort of Denmark, the Crown Prince of Luxembourg and Belgium and Princess of Sweden have all given the Waldorf Astoria the royal stamp of approval. Movie stars Faye Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Susan Sarandon and Matt Dillon have all been spotted here too. As has Richard Branson, whose wife is said to have insisted on staying in the swoon-y Deluxe River Suite. Can’t say I blame her.

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Deluxe River Suite at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund

URBN

This quirky little hotel in downtown Jing An and is famous for being China’s first carbon-neutral hotel. URBN might not seem like the obvious choice for a celebrity city break but this 26-bed boutique hotel is brimming with personality and has seen Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde and Paris Hilton check-in to its environmentally-friendly confines.

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Celeb-favourite, the Courtyard Suite at URBN

M on the Bund

M on the Bund is Shanghai institution and one of the first international standard restaurants in the city, the exhaustive list of celebrities who have dined here could merit an entire blog. Everyone from Halle Berry to Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe to the crown prince of Holland have  soaked up the spectacular views of Old Shanghai from M’s AH-mazing rooftop terrace.  Other high-flying diners include the Ferragamo family, tennis star Andre Agassi, the queen of Thailand, Prince Edward and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

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Whatever you do in Shanghai, don’t miss a trip to M on the Bund

Glamour Bar

The utterly gorgeous Glamour Bar is the champagne-sipping sibling of M on the Bund. Part intellectual salon, part pink-tinged party pad, it’s a huge hit with well-heeled locals and visiting celebrities alike. It’s also the location for Shanghai’s up-and-coming literary festival and has welcomed Matt Groening, Amy Tan and children’s author HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands.

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The utterly gorgeous Glamour Bar

M1NT

A staple of Shanghai’s party scene, M1NT is packed with eye-candy from its surreal shark tank to its white-hot views of the city to its sky-high celeb count. Clive Owen, Naomi Campbell and Adrien Brody have spotted, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonzo have revved their engines at post F1 parties and the boys from Blue, Macy Gray and Justin Timberlake are just a few of the big names that have performed here.

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M1NT

Bar Rouge

With its ultra-glamorous vibe and jaw-dropping views, Bar Rouge has long been a hotbed for celebrity gawking. This rooftop roost is where Scarlett Johansson was spotted dancing up a storm and where Tom Cruise held the MI3 wrap-party. Other celebrity revellers include Quentin Tarantino, Kanye West, John Cusack, Formula One drivers and tribes of top models.

Bar Rouge

Bar Rouge

 

GO THERE

Finnair has daily flights to Shanghai from both Manchester and Heathrow via Helsinki.

The below return fares include taxes, service and booking fees starting from:

Manchester – Shanghai Business class: £1855.36 Economy class: £542.36

London – Shanghai Business class: £1869.37 Economy class: £556.37

Tickets can be booked at www.finnair.co.uk or 0870 2414411.  For more information please see www.finnair.co.uk For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Hong Kong in China.  Finnair also fly to Chongqing and begin flights to Xi’an, China in June 2013.

Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand plus Hanoi, Vietnam beginning in June 2013.

 


3
Jan 13

Mother on the Orient Express

Mum cried when I told her, I knew she would.  Being invited for a day out on the Orient Express inspires that kind of reaction. We’re talking happy tears of course, she was without a doubt overjoyed at the prospect of spending some time on the world’s most luxurious and romantic train but there was more to it than that. Her father, my grandfather, worked on the railways and she spent many happy childhood moments riding Glasgow’s old steam trains on his knee. And as Mum is as emotional as a Victorian heroine at the best of times – she pretty much cries every Saturday night for the entire ten weeks of X-factor – those warm memories along with the new mother-and-daughter ones we were about to create inspired a torrent of tears.

It wasn’t long though before sentiment was replaced with excitement. Outfits were planned and arrangements were made. Our day out was to consist of a six-hour Christmas-themed journey through the English countryside on the Northern Belle, one of the Venice-Simpleton Orient Express trains that operate day trips and weekend breaks around the UK. We were setting off from Manchester but the route was to remain a mystery until we arrived.

Brass Band at Victoria Station. The perfect prelude to a trip on the Orient Express.

Frocked up and tissues at the ready, we alighted at Victoria Station to be greeted with the glorious sight of  the chocolate and cream-coloured carriages of the Northern Belle while a traditional brass band played Christmas favourites in the background. It was all so retro and lovely, I was worried Mum might burst in to tears again. Thankfully, before I had to reach for the Kleenex, we were given the nod by a dapper OE attendant and led to our carriage.

It was hard to notice the scenery with beautiful marquetry like this on the walls.

Inside white-gloved stewards glided past bearing bottles of champagne while smartly-dressed guests rattled their jewellery as they settled into deep armchairs. Everything about it echoed the golden Thirties from the walnut veneer walls with their magnificent marquetry to the gleaming brasswear and Lalique lamps. Mum was giddy but it was clear that everyone was excited; the guests were a friendly mix of young and old, lots of couples and a more than a handful of groups of friends and were all happily chatting and snapping pictures. We found ourselves sat at a table for four, sharing our space with two stylish sisters, who by the end of the day would turn out to be new Facebook friends and post-journey drinking buddies.

Our route through Cheshire and Shropshire.

The route of our magical mystery tour was soon revealed to be a trip around the Cheshire and Shropshire countryside. Hmmm. I had assumed that we would be touring somewhere scenic like the nearby Lake District or Peak District rather than the industrial estates of Stockport and transport depots of Crewe. A little bit disappointing but not a huge deal as a trip on the Orient Express really is more about the train than anything else.

Christmas lunch menu on the Orient Express Northern Belle

As we pulled out of the station all eyes were on the Christmas menu, a suitably festive five-course feast complete with wine and Christmas crackers. The crystal and silverwear softly clinked as course after course of delicious food was deftly presented by ever-smiling staff.

Smoked gravlax with salmon mousse to start.

 

 

 

 

 

All of the food was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. Our stewards for the day, Stuart and Amy, a grandfather and granddaughter team from Manchester, did a grand job of looking after everyone.

Our lovely stewardess Amy – doesn’t she look like Reese Witherspoon?

In between courses we were also treated to some rather lively on board entertainment. First up was Lido the magician who impressed guests with a series of “how did he do that?” card tricks.

Lido the Magician

Followed by a couple of marvellous musicians playing show tunes, swing songs and Christmas favourites with the panache.

White Christmas

Throughout the day the atmosphere was refined yet incredibly friendly. Passengers chatted amongst themselves for the most part but as the wine and champagne flowed people starting leaning across the aisles telling their stories to each to each other. And everybody had a story; one of the young ladies sat with us had recently lost her father and her sister had brought her along to cheer her up; another lady was celebrating her birthday; while a long-time passenger in the next cabin told me that he has commissioned his coffin to be made in the shape of the Northern Belle! Seriously, the guy’s casket features walnut marquetry and is lined with the same upholstery material of his favourite train. Even Stuart, our steward, had a secret tale; he was in fact the brother of comedian Russ Abbott – lots of “See you Jimmys” in the carriage after that revelation. It certainly wasn’t your average train time chat.

My favourite fellow guests though were George and Frances who were sat across the aisle from us. Aged 83 and 80 respectively, they informed us that they were in their sixtieth year of marriage – apparently the secret is that you have to be friends first – and inspired us all to tears (luckily I had a substantial stash of tissues on hand). This diamond duo had also travelled all over the world – China was Frances’ favourite – had climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge and sky-dived – YES, SKY-DIVED – from 12,000 feet over Bondai Beach just two years ago. Incredible.

Mommie Dearest with our superstar steward, Stuart.

By the time our gilded chariot pulled back into Manchester, everyone had become firm friends and when it came time to say our goodbyes there were lots of hugs and best wishes all round. Full of Christmas spirit and bon homie, we bade the beautiful Northern Belle a goodbye – a tearful one of course.

GO THERE

Visit www.orient-express.com for more information.

 

 


10
Dec 12

My Parisian apartment

I love Paris. I really do. I love to walk along the banks of the Seine marvelling at the Eiffel Tower and to flutter around its giant department stores stopping for champagne and cake along the way. But I’m ashamed to say that that’s really all I’ve seen. I’ve visited three or four times over the years but have generally orbited around the big tourist attractions and then, before I know it, it’s been  time to say au revoir.

This time though, I really wanted to immerse myself in local life so during my recent vintage shopping trip to Paris I plumped for an apartment – handily the folks at Housetrip.com have thousands of properties to choose from all over the world and the booking process couldn’t be easier. For a change, I decided to venture into unchartered territory, staying near the Place de Clichy, on the edge of the city’s 17th arrondissement – just a hop, skip and a jump away from the artsy Montematre district, and a few minutes walk from the kitschy colourful Moulin Rouge. I liked the area; there were virtually no tourists but it was still buzzy with plenty of bars, cafes and quirky shops to choose from.

 

My apartment in Paris – it was really lovely. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and had to make do with my phone and Instagram.

The apartment itself was spacious with three good-sized bedrooms – the master bedroom had its own bathroom and a sauna too – quelle surprise!  It also had a smart fitted kitchen with every appliance you could possibly need, and an airy lounge with huge TV. There was a little terrace too if you fancied breakfast al fresco. Even though I arrived late at night, it was easy to check-in. I was met by one of their cheerful staff, swapped keys and got that essential wi-fi password.

My morning coffee and croissant spot in Paris.

So for the next few days, I wandered the area, hopped on and off the Metro and made the most of all those fabulous cafes on my doorstep. And although I love nothing better than staying at a gorgeous hotel, I have to say that if you really want to get under the skin of a city then an apartment is definitely the way to go.

GO THERE

HouseTrip.com has over 3,500 private rentals to choose from in Paris. The average price for a two bedroom apartment is around £84 per night, however, they have a range of apartments, houses and houseboats available starting from just £19 per night. To book a stay visit www.housetrip.com/en/Paris

15
Nov 12

Vintage shopping in Paris

Paris plus vintage shopping – could there be a more perfect travel amalgamation? I think not. And it’s certainly a favourite combination for celebrities and famous fashion faces too. Parisians, of course, take their fashion very seriously, so this is an amazing city to just stroll and shop, but if you really want to know where to go for those amazing one-off fashion finds you’ll need your own personal shopper.

Tara Munro is a vintage shopping specialist and her company Ooh La La Vintage in Paris has worked with everyone from Hollywood costume departments to TV stylists and A-list celebrities. The world’s top fashion houses including Lacroix, Karl Lagerfield, Chanel, Nina Ricci and Marc Jacobs have also come knocking at her door, seeking inspiration from Tara’s amazing retro collections.

Ooh La La’s services aren’t restricted to the red carpet and catwalk though, it’s also perfect for women who are looking for that gorgeous one-of-kind item. And at £45 for a tailor-made tour it’s not as expenses as you might think either. So,eager to sharpen my sartorial skills, I settled in for a clothing master class.

Tea and macarons set the scene

It’s entirely up to you how you arrange to spend your two hours. I was staying at an apartment in Paris with the lovely folks from Housetrip so it made sense to start our session there. While Tara set-up, we sipped tea (then champagne) and tucked into some magical little macarons.

Victorian jacket

Tara’s collection extends right back to Victorian times so not only did we get to ooh and aah over some amazing  frocks and fabrics, we also got a bit of fashion history lesson too.

Loved this shimmery number from the Twenties

The Thirties: this two-piece looks like it came straight from the set of Boardwalk Empire

Tara tells us how material was scarce during the war years but that didn’t stop fashion  - a dedicated dress-maker made this little number from discarded snooker table fabric.

Just peachy 1950s evening dress –  I so wanted to try this on and pretend I was Grace Kelly

Eat your heart out Peggy Olson.

On to the sleeker side of the Seventies.

Ending with some 1980s excess

Presentation over, we were given the chance to try on any pieces that we fancied before taking our newly-found fashion knowledge on to the street. Naturally, Tara knew all the best spots in town to bag a vintage bargain, and I have to say, there is no way I would have found these little shopping gems without her.

Mamie Blue

Mamie Blue was my favourite and the place where I picked up a gorgeous little Mad Men-esque gold lamé top for just 20 Euros. Brimming over with a dizzying array of clothes, hats, shoes, jewellery and accessories, it’s like a big decades-old dressing up box where you could easily stay for a year and still find things to play with.

 

 

 

 

 

This was definitely one of the most enjoyable days out I have had in Paris; champagne, pastries and a little bit of a history lesson all neatly tied up with the possibility of picking up a little bit of treasure for yourself at the end of the day. A winning combination indeed and not one that’s just for celebrities either.

GO THERE

HouseTrip.com has over 3,500 private rentals to choose from in Paris. The average price for a two bedroom apartment is around £84 per night, however, they have a range of apartments, houses and houseboats available starting from just £19 per night. To book a stay visit www.housetrip.com/en/Paris

 

 


21
Oct 11

Passport to the Stars: One Year On

It’s now been a year since I joined the Hello! blogging team with the Passport to the Stars blog and, oh my, what an exciting year it’s been. I kicked things off with a trip to the romantic Ritz-Carlton in Cancun and have closed my first twelve months with a trip to the stunning, star-filled La Residencia in Mallorca – look out for a super-glamorous post on this one soon! In between, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy celebrity-style stopovers everywhere from London to Hong Kong, to the Caribbean and the Cotswolds so, with so much to cover, I thought it would be fun to create a word cloud from Passport to the Stars’ entries to reflect the spirit of the blog one year on.

My word cloud was made using Wordle. It’s fab, isn’t it? I love the way it takes the text and turns the prominent words into a floaty, colourful visualisation of your work. I’ve picked some of the stand-outs to break down the best bits from the last year:

 

 

Hotel: Over the last year, Passport to the Stars has evolved to include a collection of luxe hotel reviews amongst the celebrity travel gossip. I’m regularly asked now which of these amazing hotels is my favourite and for me that’s as difficult as trying to pick your favourite child! I will always have a soft spot for The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong though. I was brought up on the island and one of my favourite childhood days out involved popping on a pretty dress and  taking afternoon tea (and a milkshake) at the Clipper Lounge with my Mum. And many years on (I’m not telling you how many) it’s still one of my favourite things in the world to do.

 

Celebrity: Of course! It’s a celebrity travel blog, and this word was bound to have a prominent cloud position. All the lovely hotels I visited had plenty of celebrity callers, but it has to be The Dorchester with its eighty years of A-listers that wins for the highest and most prestigious star count.

Suites: My (made-up) award for best suite also goes to The Dorchester. During my visit I was upgraded to the beautiful Belgravia Suite and its elegant colonial decor and balcony overlooking Hyde Park had me positively swooning. This was also one of Elizabeth Taylor’s favourite hotels – and that lady knew how to travel in style, love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spa: A visit to a luxury spa was once an occasional treat but has now become an integral part of my job – well, someone’s got to do it. I’ve become a real spa bunny and have to say that Britain has come up trumps with the most amazing new spa complexes. The light and lovely Spa at the Coworth Park (left) and the dark and decadent Blythswood Square Hotel Spa in Glasgow (right) both receive big shiny gold stars from me.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Romantic: The saying goes that “you’ve never lived until you’ve loved in Rome” and, having honeymooned at the Cavalieri, I can confirm that this is true. For its full-on romantic vibe and achingly beautiful view of the Eternal City, the Rome Cavalieri is my hotel of choice for starry-eyed lovers.

 

 

Beautiful: This is a tough one; Prague, Rome, Paris are all amazingly gorgeous destinations, and Barbados meets all the paradise island requirements but having just returned from the simply stunning La Residencia in Deia, Mallorca, I’m going to give them the prize for most scenic and serenely beautiful destination to this hillside haven of loveliness – just look at this view from my room!

 

 

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog so far. These lucky celebrities love to travel so there’s plenty more to come! Look out for the lowdown on Vancouver, otherwise known as Hollywood North, and the filming location for the Twilight films, as well as a visit to the Mandarin Oriental Prague to see where the Hollywood movie moguls have been staying during the shoot of the new Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol movie. There’ll also be some winter sun from favourite celeb destinations Thailand, Dubai and the Maldives. Also, if you spot any A-list lovelies on your travels don’t forget to leave your comments or send me a wee Tweet on @passporttostars. Thanks for following along!

 

 

 

 


5
Sep 11

The Oh-So-Cool Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

 

August turned out to be a really busy month for me! So busy, in fact, that I ended up visiting five cities, in four countries, in two weeks – phew! Jet lag aside, I had a fantastic time and I managed to fill up on loads of celebrity travel fuel for my blog. This week, it’s the latest from always-on-the-celebrity-circuit Sin City, Las Vegas, where the oh-so-cool Cosmopolitan Hotel was getting ready to add Grammy Award-winning songstress, Adele, to it’s rapidly growing celebrity guest list.

 

The Lowdown

Hot young things do well in Vegas and Sin City’s hotels are no exception. Strutting its stuff in the centre of the Strip this year’s latest looker is the brand-new achingly cool Cosmopolitan Hotel. The haute hotel started as it meant to go on with a crowd-pulling New Year’s Eve party drawing in those from the highest echelons of the celebrity galaxy. Jay-Z and Coldplay brought in the bells with a show-stopping performance at the Cosmopolitan Marquee Club, with superstar spouses Beyonce and Gwyneth Paltrow in attendance alongside Rihanna, Kirsten Dunst, Florence Welch, Blake Lively and Jennifer Love-Hewitt.

Cutting into the middle of the Las Vegas skyline, with views of the Strip, the Bellagio fountains and the Red Rock Mountains, the Cosmopolitan sits right in the centre of the action and has become a magnet for every big-time celebrity in town. VIPs can enter anonymously through a series of secret access ways and elevators but mere mortals shouldn’t feel aggrieved as the designed-within-an-inch-of-its-life hotel lobby has more than enough gloss and glamour to make you feel like an A-lister.  Entering the hotel, the brilliant sunshine of outside is replaced by the electric glow of enormous digital walls projecting avant-garde images and groovy patterns across the shiny coal-coloured floor. Glittering at the other end of the vast ground level is the world’s largest chandelier, containing more than two million sparklers, covering three floors and housing five cocktail bars within its giant crystal curtain, it was quite possibly the most ostentatious over-the-top hotel decoration I have ever seen in my life – I loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel also has no less than eleven restaurants including the wickedly popular Wicked Spoon and favourite of Jay-Z and Beyonce, Scarpetta – apparently the new-mum-to-be loves the exclusive restaurant’s authentic Tomato and Basil Pasta. Along with these well known celebrity haunts, there’s also a special discreet eatery, a nameless “secret pizza” joint hidden down an LP-lined corridor on the second floor where Justin Beiber recently managed to avoid the “fever” on a date with Selena Gomez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlights

Essentially all the rooms are suites here; designed as residential-style spaces each comes with a balcony – not easy to find in Vegas – drop-dead gorgeous designer bathrooms, kitchens and state-of-the-art electronic gadgetry. Studio, one, and two bedroom suites are available, as is the Bamboo Pool’s duplex party pad, The Lanai. Not advertised on the website though and reserved for only the highest of high-rollers and super-celebrities like Lady Gaga and Bono are the hotel’s high-flying flashy penthouse suites. These flamboyant accommodations include a multitude of magnificent rooms, as well as a private screening room, a fully-stocked and downright decadent wet bar, a pool table, spa bathrooms and a wraparound terrace for an incredible 360 degree view of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following its grand opening on New Year’s Eve 2010, Marquee Nightclub at the Cosmopolitan has become Vegas’ most spectacular space. Boasting a fifty-foot ceiling, chandeliers (of course), a four-storey wall of screens and coliseum-style seating around the central dance floor this designer hotspot has attracted all the beautiful party people you would expect – Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have both partied heartily here. Nicole Scherzinger chose to celebrate her 33rd birthday this year with an extravagant aqua-bash at the Marquee Nightclub’s Dayclub where lounging about in plush cabanas with private infinity pools, and dancing on the rooftop terraces of the triplex bungalows, was the order of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when all that partying, dancing, gambling, eating and drinking has taken its toll the hotel’s Sahra Spa and Hamman is on hand to restore your energy levels. Inspired by the desert landscape, this swanky spa is as glam as the rest of the hotel. Long dramatic hallways with double, and even triple-height ceilings, and chalky coral-coloured walls lead past glimmering pearl-studded waterfalls to cocoon-like treatment rooms where you can be buffed, rubbed, plucked, polished and pampered ready for your next Vegas night out.

 

STAR STYLE

 

 

Strut past the burly club bouncers and dance the night away in this fabulous pair of colour block suede stiletto pump from Vionnet by Zanotti

£579

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: Tel 702-698-7000; Cosmopolitanlasvegas.com. Doubles from $350

 


26
Aug 11

Kim Kardashian’s Honeymoon Night Hotel

I was planning on writing about Las Vegas this week having visited the oh-so-cool Cosmopolitan Hotel last week but Kim Kardashian’s wedstavaganza has proven to be big enough to overshadow even the bright lights of Sin City. So, look out for a post soon on Vegas’ latest haute spot but for now let’s take a wee peek at where Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries celebrated the exchange of their million dollar rings.

 

 

With a 20-carat ring, a Vera Wang wedding dress and a $1.5 million magazine deal it was unlikely that the bride-to-be-would settle for anything less than an amazing honeymoon suite. Last week it was reported that friends and family of “Team Hump” had booked up many of the guest rooms and suites at the Four Seasons Resort and Hotel, otherwise known as “the Biltmore”, near stylish Santa Barbara, California. There was, of course, a firm “no comment” from the management but the smart money was on the Four Seasons hosting the happy couple. The ceremony itself took place on Saturday at the $30 million mansion of Frank Caufield in the ultra-exclusive neighbourhood of Montecito but sure enough wily photographers did manage to get a couple of snaps of the couple exiting the hotel on Sunday morning.

 

 

Santa Barbara has long been on my lust-list of places to visit and the Biltmore looks like it would more than satisfy my California dream of staying in a Spanish colonial mansion on America’s romantic Riviera. Room and suites at the resort look charming but the stars of the biggest reality wedding ever are sure to have booked up the Ty Warner Cottage, a 2000-square-foot Iberianesque cottage hidden away in the hotel’s verdant tropical gardens, with its white-shuttered living area, large master bedroom and spa bathroom with rain shower. Sigh…

 

 

 

 

There’s going to be loads of fabulous exclusive pictures in next week’s HELLO! Out Monday 29th August.

 

 

 

 

 

 


29
Jul 11

Glamorous Glasgow: The Blythswood Square Hotel

My lovely Dad phoned me a few weeks ago to give me some inside information for my blog – Brad Pitt is apparently on his way to our home town of Glasgow! As it’s not that unusual for my Dad to say something a bit mad I wasn’t sure at first whether he’d got his facts right but, sure enough, it turns out that this August the Hollywood superstar will indeed be visiting one of the finest cities in Britain (I’m not biased) to film his new zombie movie, World War Z. Glasgow has its fair share of fabulous places to stay but my money’s on Brad visiting Glasgow’s hottest new hotel, The Blythswood Square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lowdown

The Blythswood Square Hotel has only been open just over a year but has already established itself as a major player on the Scottish hotel scene. P Diddy was the first of many celebrities to check in and has been followed a host of musical movers and shakers. As I checked in the T in The Park performers and their extensive entourages were exiting stage left and there were rumours that Beyonce herself had been admiring the cityscape from the terrace of the hotel’s privately accessed, three-bedroom Penthouse suite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located smack-bang in the centre of Glasgow’s central conservation area, the Blythswood Square is a magnificent city centre landmark. Once the former home of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, and one of the starting points of the Monte-Carlo Rally, the hotel has retained all of its va-va-va-vroom in its 21st century incarnation. Downstairs, in the swish lobby area there is an excellent restaurant, serving zingy Scottish cuisine, and a smart yet unpretentious bar. Cross the marble floored reception to the spectacular three-storey chandelier and a grand staircase – one that calls out for a sweeping entrance in an evening gown – to access the first floor Salon, a separate area for afternoon tea and charismatic cocktails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooms are furnished in cool comfortable slate grey shades with specially commission heather-coloured Harris Tweed covering everything from the lilac lampshades to the turquoise blue bolsters and buttoned headboard. Even celebrities expect wi-fi to be included – Katy Perry recently Tweeted that she wouldn’t stay in a hotel that didn’t have it – and the Blythswood ticks this box, as well as having an extensive range of free in-room movies on offer too. Marble peek-a-boo bathrooms and a selection of spicy Anne Semonin amenities make a flamboyant addition to the suites.

 

The Highlights

The Spa at the Blythswood Square is absolutely exceptional; in fact I would go as far as saying it is one of the best city-hotel spas in Britain. Hidden in the hotel’s enormous basement, the spa complex is a shadowy glamorous space where guests can unwind anonymously. Lighting is low. Nightclub low but rather than being annoying it adds to the spa’s relax-in-the-city vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spa’s USP (sorry I’ve been hooked on The Apprentice) is its exceptional “thermal experience”. A series of rooms and pools that take de-stressing to a galactic level; dip in a giant walk-in Jacuzzi, cleanse in the crystal steam room, invigorate in the vitality pool or lounge in the laconium. There’s also a series of saunas and the tranquil tepidarium with luxurious heated stone loungers to fall asleep on. The spa has also wisely steered away from the usual Asian-inspired theme and has instead fully embraced its Scottish heritage with unique treatments using aromatic indigenous ingredients. The beautifully scented oils, used during my Turus hot stone massage, were created by organic skincare specialists Ila and for sixty magical minutes evoked heather-heavy mountaintops and cedar-scented woods – bliss.

 

Star Style


 

The Blythswood Square Hotel was recently named as the official VIP hotel for this year’s MOBO Awards so channel your inner rock star with this little leather number from hot Scottish designer Christopher Kane

£2205

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blythswood Square Hotel: 0141 240 1666; www.blythswoodsquare.com. Doubles from £135

 

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