02
Jul 12

15 Reasons to Visit Hong Kong

Courtesy of the HKTB

I’m sticking with Hong Kong this week, not only because I LOVE it but also because the 1st of July 2012 sees the fifteenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule. To mark the occasion, I’m giving you 15 reasons to visit one of the world’s most exciting destinations.

ATTRACTIONS

FIREWORKS 

The Chinese invented fireworks and they still know how to do it best. Every year, tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars are spent on elaborate exhibitions, usually lasting over 20 minutes with laser lights and music thrown in for added effect. Time your trip right and you can join the half a million people oohing and “waaah-ing “on the waterfront. Four big events include  New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, the 1st of July anniversary of the handover and 1st of October National Day celebrations.

VICTORIA PEAK

This should always be at the top of everyone’s HK visit list. Affectionately know as The Peak, it is the island’s most famous tourist attraction and one that is loved as much by the locals as it is by the millions of visitors it receives each year. Yes, the Peak Tram will be crammed, the cafes will be packed and you’ll have to politely line-up to get that postcard-perfect picture but my goodness, it’s worth it.

@Lee_Cobaj

OCEAN PARK

Hong Kong’s much-loved old theme park has recently undergone a massive refurbishment and is now firmly back where it should be as one if the island’s top visitor attractions. Cascading across the Aberdeen hillside, Ocean Park is split into two levels; the “lowland” with animal attractions like aviaries, animal enclosures, an aquarium and, the stars of the show, two pairs of adorable Pandas and the “headland” which takes in a marine show and a series of high-octane thrill rides. Both sections are connected by a cable car that bobs up and around the rocky shore and affords amazing views of the south side of the island. Don’t miss it!

The view from the Ocean Park cable cars

HARBOUR LIFE

Most visitors to Hong Kong take a trip on the Star Ferry, and that’s great, you should definitely do that, but there are some other options for a fun float about Victoria Harbour. One of my favourites is the 45 minute glide on the glamorous Chinese junk Aqua Luna. With its three traditional red sails lit up in the evening and a chic bar installed for dispensing cocktails, there can’t be many better ways to soak up that exquisite skyline.

Aqua Luna

GO GREEN

People are always surprised when I tell them that more than 70% of Hong Kong is undeveloped  and not only that, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are large areas of rolling mountains, wildlife-packed wetlands and miles of unspoiled coastline. Not to mention the gentle little outlying islands like Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau, which offer a more traditional slant on this shiny big city.

ACCOMMODATION

DESIGN HOTELS

Hong Kong has a long and strong reputation for being at the forefront of new developments in design, architecture and technology so it’s no surprise that this applies to its hotels too. In the last couple of years, new arrivals like The Upper House and it’s hip business-orientated baby sister, East, with their apparently effortlessly cool ethos, sublime service and achingly chic decor, have thoroughly shaken-up Hong Kong’s hotel scene. While Hong Kong’s latest design darling, the Hotel Icon, has shot to the top spot on TripAdvisor’s highly-competitive Hong Kong hotel listings.

There’s a dinosaur in my room! Not the kind of thing you say every day. At the East Hotel

THE WORLD’S HIGHEST HOTEL

The Ritz-Carlton, at the top of the International Commerce Centre, claimed the title of world’s highest hotel when it opened last year. As you might expect from a hotel slotted between floors 102nd – 118th floors, the views are spectacular but it’s a dazzler in every sense; the design is opulent and up-to-the-minute, the bars and restaurants are stellar and the service outstanding. If you can’t stretch to a stay, you should at least stop by for a visit to the ESPA spa or rooftop bar, Ozone.

CITY SPAS

There’s no doubt about it, some of the world’s best spas can be found in Hong Kong. The city’s denizens are quite simply obsessed with health and beauty which means the standards are incredibly high and the choice mind-boggling. The most luxurious spas, however, are generally to be found at Hong Kong’s most luxurious hotels. My most memorable experiences have included the Oriental Essence massage at the Mandarin Oriental, a Bamboo massage at the Angasana, an age-defying Carita facial at the Plateau Spa, the Chakra Balancing experience at The Peninsula and a 90-minute Thai massage in the Crystal suite at the Four Seasons which reduced me to a Nirvana-like state of bliss (My, I’m spoiled!).

The couples suite at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hong Kong is well-worth a splurge

COOL HOTEL SWIMMING POOLS

So, I’ve already mentioned the pretty amazing rooftop pool at the Ritz-Carlton but Hong Kong has plenty more cool hotel pools to choose from. Making the biggest splash in the city is the lagoon-like offering with waterfalls and split-level sun decks at the Grand Hyatt. While on the other side of the harbour, many a memory card (mine included) has been empty with shots of the Intercontinental’s trinity of infinity pools. The Hotel Icon scores major points with its space-age-y outdoor swimming space. The Peninsula boasts a supremely decadent Roman-inspired pool, the Four Seasons a chic, ultra-exclusive harbour-side swimming deck and for a Vegas-style pool party check out “WET”, the 76th floor pool at the W.

The spa infinity pools at the Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong

SUNDAY BRUNCH BUFFETS

In a city that likes to eat, and eat well,  hotel buffets are big business. As far as Hong Kongers are concerned there are few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than ploughing through course after course of exquisitely prepared food. Most hotels offer buffets in one form or another, take a waterside seat at the Harbourside at the Intercontinental, pull up at the poolside for a barbecue buffet at The Grill at the Grand Hyatt or pop on your best frock for lunch amid the palm trees at the Verandah at The Peninsula.

PERSONAL FAVOURITES

ROOFTOP BARS

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ve probably cottoned on to the fact that I like the occasional rainbow-coloured cocktail (or two) and where better to kick-back and enjoy than on a rooftop terrace with some killer city views. Hong Kong stand-outs include Sevva, Armani Prive, La Terrazza at Lupa, Sugar at the East Hotel, The Lawn at the Upper House, Wooloomooloo and Ozone – one for every night of the week.

One of my all-time favourite rooftop bars: SEVVA, Hong Kong

DIM SUM

There are few things in life that make me happier than tucking into some really good dim sum. I love to try new places when I’m in town and this trip’s finds include some seriously good Har Gau (prawn dumplings) at the off-the-tourist-radar Chung’s at Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing, the tastiest, juiciest, most delicious Char Sui (barbecue pork) at Tin Lung Heen on the 102nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton, delicate turnip pastries at Man Wah and succulent Shui Mai (pork and prawn dumplings) at Yan Toh Heen. And a long-time favourite that’s always worth a visit is the aptly-named Dim Sum in Happy Valley – home of the best crispy pork belly in town.

LINGUINE FINI

I tried lots of great new restaurants while I was out in Hong Kong but one that really stood out was the bodacious little Linguini Fini.

Linguini Fini

There are so many things to like about this place it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, this New York-Italian-style eatery has got a cracking location at the top of Central – an ideal jumping off point for a night on the town. The decor is utilitarian-chic with street art covering the walls, the staff are friendly and stay on the right side of cool and, surprisingly for Hong Kong, there’s no annoying service charge added. Billed as an “authentic” Italian restaurant, it really does live up to this title (where so many else fail) with specialities that include “nose-to-tail” cuisine (using the whole of the animal) and just-like-mama-makes home-made pastas. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET

I never miss a trip to Temple Street when I’m in Hong Kong. Cutting its way through central Kowloon, it has the colourful, crazy, ghetto-tastic Chinatown feel so often portrayed in the movies. Under the strings of bear lightbulbs, hawkers sell everything from Mao Clocks to counterfeit handbags to oil paintings and underpants. Dai Pai Dongs (outdoor food stalls) rustle up tasty street food, off-duty Opera troupes occasionally wander by, while fortune tellers tout to tell you your future. The best bargains are to be had early in the evening when the market opens (it’s considered good luck to make that first sale) and when it raining (for obvious reasons).

SHANGHAI TANG

Every time I’m in Hong Kong I take it trip to Pedder Street for some aspirational window shopping at Shanghai Tang. However, this year I was dismayed to find that the flagship store had been ousted from its most-glamorous of locations by a (yawn) Abercrombie and Fitch. Thankfully though Shanghai Tang has found a gorgeous new three-storey home just a stone’s throw away on Duddel Street. As before, you can smell the heady scent of its signature ginger lily fragrance long before you arrive, while inside it’s a design-lovers dream brimming with beautiful ready-to-wear pieces and sino-chic homewares.

 

 

 

 

 

GO THERE: 

Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong. 

The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:

Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00

London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00 

For more information call 0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China.  Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.

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19
Jun 12

Best Hong Kong Hotels for Celeb-spotting

If you’ve ever read my bio you’ll know that if there is one place in the world that I love above and beyond all others, that place is Hong Kong. I grew up on this spectacular little island and spent much of my childhood skipping between school and the pool,  spending my pocket money in street markets and occasionally celeb-spotting – my most memorable being a city-wide search for Madonna while she was in town filming of Shanghai Surprise.

Hong Kong Harbour @Lee_Cobaj

Well, it seems twenty-odd years on I’m still doing the same, only this time I’m flitting between spas and rooftop pools, splashing my hard-earned cash (still mainly at the street markets) while searching the city’s haute spots for the latest celebrity sightings. And try as they might to hide behind oversized sunnies and burly bodyguards, celebrities are often spotted leaving their lavish hotels. Along with the legendary Mandarin Oriental (which I’ve featured previously) and the iconic Peninsula (which I will no doubt feature at some point) here’s a handful of other great Hong Kong hotel’s for star-spotting:

THE UPPER HOUSE

It’s been A-list all since the Upper House hit the Hong Kong hotel scene in late 2009. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow stayed here while filming her scenes for Contagion and loved the Upper House so much she recommended it on her everything’s-lovely lifestyle blog Goop. I have to agree with her choice, this chic city-centre hotel is swoon-worthy at it every turn. The design is both subtle and sensational with chic minimalist interiors made up of great swathes of Italian limestone, bamboo panelling and stunning sculptures. The rooms are HUGE by Hong Kong standards and all come with show-stopping spa-bathrooms overlooking the city or harbour, ultra-luxe modernist furnishings and a truly incredible range of amenities – think an entire range of REN goodies including eye-cream and night cream, as well as yoga mats, iPod Touches….the list goes on. Along with a spectacular Michelin award winning restaurant (be warned, you’ll need to book well in advance) it’s clear to see that the Upper House will be providing all-star service to the rich and famous for a long time to come.

Cool woods, cashmere soft carpets, one-off sculptures and a corner view to die for. I want to live here. Forever.

Just look at this bathroom. Amazing. And did you spot the REN Rose Otto bath oil on the side? There’s also a monsoon shower and celeb-style dressing room out of shot.

The Upper House Atrium with the most dizzyingly beautiful art installation by Japanese artist Hirotoshi Sawada

The stunning sky-walkway to Cafe Gray Deluxe – Gwyneth’s order of a club sarnie doesn’t do the Michelin award winning menu justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RITZ-CARLTON HONG KONG

The Ritz-Carlton is another new kid on the celebrity-hotel block and has become something of a superstar itself, having achieved the lofty title of the World’s Highest Hotel. So it comes as no surprise then that a hotel of this stature would have equally amazing guests to match. Lady Gaga chose the Ritz as her hangout of choice when she was recently in Hong Kong – in fact I seem to be inadvertently  stalking her at the moment, having followed in her footsteps via the The Dorchester, the Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver and The Setai. Anyway, the lady has clearly got great taste in hotels and the Ritz-Carlton is no exception. There is so much more to it than its record-breaking status suggests: cutting-edge contemporary décor meets unadulterated luxury, sublimely good service and some of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. I had read a previous review of the hotel which suggested the hotel’s stratospheric  positioning made Hong Kong feel distant and dislocated. But for me it had entirely the opposite effect; Hong Kong had never looked more beautiful, more jewel-like and lovely. The cityscape meandered across the South China Sea, as the Kowloon West harbour bustled below while the mountains lazed in the haze. I just wanted to put my arms around it and tell it how much I loved it. Sigh.

The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. The world’s highest hotel soaring between the 102nd and 118th floors. One for everyone’s Bucket List!

There’s no doubt Lady Gaga would have checked herself into the best room in the house, the Ritz-Carlton Presidential Suite. Taking up the nearly the entire 117th floor, this heart-stopping haven features swathes of crystal chandeliers, walls inlaid with mother-of-pearl and this incredible bathroom.

The World’s Highest Swimming Pool on the 118th Floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Quite possible the coolest pool in the world.

 

THE FOUR SEASONS

This is where Victoria Beckham chose to stay on her recent trip to Hong Kong. And how do I know this? Because when I popped along for a visit, I noticed an uncanny resemblance between the view I was seeing and the one that VB recently tweeted! See for yourself in the pics below.

The Four Seasons is of course renowned as one of the best hotels in the city. Located front and centre of Hong Kong harbour it too offers spectacular views of the harbour and city. The design is much more contemporary than you might expect from the suave Four Seasons brand with a MOMA-like lobby, high-ceilinged super-chic restaurants and large, luminous, ultra-luxurious spa. I didn’t get the chance to stay over (this time) but I did stop by for a splendid Thai massage in a suite overlooking the Star Ferry terminal – heaven – and very special dinner at the extraordinary Caprice – think posh frocks, a ballet-like service and food that tastes even more divine than it looks. Highly regarded by Hong Kong hotshots there’s no doubt that the Four Seasons will be staying on the celebrity circuit for the foreseeable future.

The Fabulous Four Seasons Hong Kong

 

“LOVE Hong Kong!!! Check this view out!!! X VB”

And check out this view! Pretty much the same as Victoria’s. Definitely the fabulous Four Seasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caprice is another great place for celeb-spotting, also mentioned by Gwyneth Paltrow in her Goop blog and said to be a favourite of Nicole Kidman’s too. A Hong Kong must do.

 

THE LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL

Even though VB chose the Four Seasons on this occasion, the sleek and tres chic Landmark Mandarin Oriental is the usual crash-pad for the fashion pack. Stella McCartney and Georgia Armani are both known bedded down between its 400-thread-count sheets – although not together of course – while models, muses, buyers and bigwigs fill the tables at O Bar and Amber. Sitting pretty, slap-bang in the middle of the city the Landmark’s main draw is its high-design concept and easy access to all the essential A-list shopping Hong Kong has to offer – Harvey Nichol’s is next door and every big name luxury brand from Bulgari to Vuitton are just a (precious) stones throw away. Inside, the hotel is intimate and self-assured. Rooms are spacious and stylish with the likes of shamelessly-decadent soaking tubs and three (!) plasma TVs. With no time to spare, all I could manage was  a quick tour and an exquisite lunch at Amber – the only HK hotel to make it onto the S.Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the world list – but that little taste was enough to have me longing for more.

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s L900 Suite with its catwalk-like corridor is the preferred choice for the fashion set

L900 Suite Bathroom – another swoon-worthy Hong Kong Hotel tub

 

Have you spotted any celebrities in Hong Kong? Stayed at any of these A-list hotels? I’d love to hear your comments!

 

GO THERE: 

Finnair flies daily from Manchester and London Heathrow to Hong Kong. 

The below fares are ‘starting from’ return fares and include taxes and service fees:

Manchester-Hong Kong: Business class: £2326.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2076.00 Economy class: £667.00

London LHR-Hong Kong: Business class: £2321.00 Business class Campaign for Mid Week travel: £2067.00 Economy class: £658.00 

For more information call 0870 2414411 or visit www.finnair.com . For up to date offers and news please follow us on twitter @finnairuk. Finnair also have daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai in China.  Finnair began flights to new destination Chongqing, China in May 2012. 

Finnair also fly to 7 other Asian cities too in Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.

 

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21
May 12

Best In-Flight Beauty Products

If you take to the air as often as I do, it’s really important to be prepared for the havoc that the in-flight environment can cause on your beauty routine. Between the hundreds of people you’re sharing the dried-up recycled air with and the onboard liquid restriction, it can be a tricky time for any beauty regime. With the right preparation and products though, it is still possible to arrive at your destination looking well-rested and refreshed. I actually quite enjoy the whole beauty ritual of settling into my seat and winding down with a glass of wine and some lovely products. Here’s some of my top picks.

CLEANSE

It goes without saying, that aircraft cabins have an extremely dehydrating effect on the skin. So the first part of your in-flight beauty regime should be to remove anytoxins or make-up and allow your skin to breathe. Cleansing wipes are the most practical way to go.

 

 

 

 

Elemis Fresh Skin Make-up Away Cleansing Wipes will remove every last trace of make-up while nourishing the skin with elderflower extract and chamomile.

 

 

 

 

 

Ideal for more sensitive types are these organic wipes from Beauty Works West which are extremely refreshing and contain aloe vera and pomegranate to sooth and detoxify the skin.

 

 

 

 

Halo Eye Make-up Remover Pads are really hard-working when it comes to shifting the likes of black mascara or the usually immovable Mac liner. And at just £1.99 from Superdrug they’re an in-flight beauty bargain too!

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort Zone‘s Everyday cleansing milk and hydrating softening toner are two of the products you’ll find in the Globe Trotters Travel Kit. All can be used in board and come in a handy security-ready bag. The products are some of the best I’ve come across for a long time, all are really luxurious but gentle. I’m an absolute convert.

 

 

 

 

Kahina Toning Mist is really gentle and can be used to tone skin or be spritzed throughout the flight to keep your complexion soft and dewy. Moroccan desert rose and argan oil work to reduce irritation – and smell lovely too. It also comes in a flight-friendly 50ml.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking of which, a hydrating spray is a great way to combat the drying effects of the aircraft cabin. Paul Mitchell’s multi-tasking Awapuhi Moisture Mist comes in a compact 100ml size and can be used to revive dry, tired skin as well as giving a boost to thirsty hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOISTURISE

Keeping your skin moisturised is key if your hoping to disembarking with a glowing (as opposed to glowering) complexion. Drink lots and lots (and lots) of water and apply moisturiser regularly – more than you would normally on the ground.

 

 

 

Hydramemory Cream Gel 24h from Comfort Zone has the kind of deep lasting moisture that makes it perfect for in-flight. The cream plumps up skin and eliminates dry patches and can also be added as one of your Globe Trotter products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cell Dynamic Travel Set from cult- beauty brand Nubo contains three ultra-luxurious formulas to boost the skin’s moisture and radiance levels. There’s no need to pack any other moisturisers for you trip as this travel-trio is so rich it will easily last for a fortnight.

 

 

 

 

 

Another luxury offering comes from celebrity-favourite, Rodin. Devotees include Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and SJP. A divinely-scented blend of flowers and botanicals leave skin incredibly soft and supple. Slather it on as a moisturiser or use it on your hands, it can even be shared with your other half as a soothing aftershave.

 

 

 

EYES AND LIPS

A little bit of extra of attention will help you arrive at your destination bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Best to invest in a decent eye product to keep bags at bay, and a good lip balm to maintain a perfect pout.

 

 

 

Benefit’s It’s Potent Eye Cream helps reduce dark circles and brighten the eye area. It also contains apple extract to enhance hydration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angelica Eye Roller Gel from L’Occitane is wonderfully cooling and light. It couldn’t be easier to apply and makes for the perfect pick-me-up at the end of a long flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another lovely flier-friendly product from L’Occitane is the Organic Shea Butter Lip Balm. Packed with super-softening ingredients which means a little goes a long way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you really want to indulge then Nubo’s Lip Perfection is the one for you. It is a super-luxurious cocktail of high-tech (yet chemical-free) cosmeceutical ingredients that not only nourishes and protects lips but also softens and plumps them. One for the wish list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVEL SETS

Prefer to have everything all organised for you? Then along with the Comfort Zone Globe Trotters set, you might also like…

Suki Complete Care for Calm Skin is a great mini-travel pack that has everything you need to cleanse, tone and moisturise on-the-go. Particularly good for very dry and easily irritated skin. From www.thepureemporia.com

Elemis Travel Collection is bursting with the brand’s best-loved products including Pro-collagen Marine Cream and Exotic Cream Moisturising Mask – perfect for a post-flight treat.

Liz Earle’s Skin Savers-Kit contains four lovely little travel miniatures. Containing a moisturiser  packed with Vitamin E and other nourishing ingredients as well as a skin tonic spritz, hand cream and balm.

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30
Apr 12

Magical Mauritius: Shanti Maurice

This week I’m exploring another peaceful celebrity hideaway in the Indian Ocean, the beautiful fantasy-land that is Mauritius. Famous faces seen on the island include royalty – Prince Harry and Princess Caroline, celebrities – Kylie Minogue, Russell Brand, Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes and Catherine Deneuve, and sports personalities Rafael Nadal, Michael Schumacher and Zinedine Zidane to name just a few. It’s not difficult to see why the A-list adore this island with its other-worldly beauty, spellbinding sense of spirituality and  stunning five-star hotels – it certainly didn’t take me long to fall head-over-heels in love with the place. Here’s a snapshot of my time at the wonderful Shanti Maurice. 

Quite possibly the prettiest swimming pool I have ever seen.

The Lowdown

The first thing that struck me on my arrival at Shanti Maurice was what a special place it was. Sitting in a plum position on the South coast with a travel brochure beautiful beach surrounded by 35 acres of colourful tropical gardens, it was impossible not to be immediately won over. The hotel originally started life as an Ayurvedic spa retreat and has evolved over the years to become a tres chic luxury boutique where the spa experience now comes with a delicious side order of sunshine and champagne. The 61 oceanfront villas and suites are dotted around the resort and are kitted out in cool, comfortable shades of cream with local hardwood furnishings and cavernous spa bathrooms. The 17 villas also come with their own private pools affording celebrity guests like Thandi Newton and Liz Hurley the utmost privacy.

Plenty of Wow-factor at the two-bedroom villas with private pool

Then there’s the rest of the hotel, which I have to say, had me swooning at every turn. At its centre is a shimmering slate infinity pool (where I found myself spending every spare moment swimming like a contented Koi carp around its pretty fish fountains and floating gardens). Fanning out from this focal point are a series of handsome thatched pavilions which house the reception and lounge area and two wonderful restaurants; Stars and Pebbles. There’s also a cracking kid’s club on site (although it’s tucked away so you never hear a peep) and,of course, the star of the show, the Nira Spa.

 

The Highlights

My experience of the Nira Spa went well beyond the usual holiday massage and without veering into dodgy “Eat, Pray, Love” territory, I really did find it to be a truly inspirational experience. The Nira Spa is the biggest (and arguably the best) spa in the Indian Ocean and takes the holistic approach to health and well-being to a whole new level. I eased myself in with my first ever Qi Gong class where  we performed a series of gentle movements in the spa gardens while the sun set over swaying fields of sugarcane and magical mountain vistas. Sheer bliss.

The Nira Spa Yoga Pavilion

 

After such a lovely start, I dedicated the next day to the full Shanti experience with a morning yoga class, steam, sauna and swim (there’s another beautiful serene pool within the spa grounds) followed by a healthy lunch. Physical needs attended to, it was now time to see to my spiritual side with a consultation with the the resident Ayurvedic doctor.

 

I didn’t know much Ayurvedic philosophies beforehand and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – and I certainly didn’t anticipate bursting into tears halfway through the appointment!  Cringe. Thankfully though this it turned out to be a perfectly normal and fairly common reaction. Ayurveda is all about treating the mind, body and soul and although my Glaswegian sensibilities initially rallied against it, after getting over my intense sense of embarrassment, it actually felt pretty amazing to get it all out and reflect on my seriously-neglected spiritual side. I left my consultation feeling intensely uplifted and by the time I had finished my sixty-minute Africology massage I had reached a Zen-like state of tranquillity. For a few days at least, life felt a little bit less complicated.

The relaxation pavilion at the Nira Spa which is surrounded by a pretty lily pond which is most probably filled with the tears of guests!

The wonderful thing about Shanti Maurice though is that you can dip in and out of the whole wellness thing as and when you like. Another not-to-be-missed, and slightly naughtier, option is the  the twice-weekly Fish and Rhum Shack, where a remote stretch of beach is transformed with tiki torches and driftwood furniture into a hedonistic sea-side hangout. On the menu is a selection of ridiculously large lobster, giant prawns and juicy organic meats, all of which can be washed down with a rum punch while the wild Indian Ocean crashes in the background and a squillion million stars shimmer above.

The Fish and Rhum Shack – Not to be missed

 

There are plenty of hotels around the world that have fabulous facilities, stunning views and sublime service but it’s a pretty rare thing to find one that has character to match, a hotel where you just can’t imagine being anywhere else. Luckily for me this was one of them.

 

Star Style

 

 

 

Long-haul flights, air-conditioning, blazing sunshine and ice-cold air-conditioning all conspire to reek havoc on my skin so to prevent dry patches, I like to use a super-moisturiser on top of my regular skincare products. Always in my in-flight bag (and Emma Watson’s apparently) is Comfort Zone’s Hydramemory 24h Cream Gel.

www.comfortzoneskincare.com

£30 50ml

 

 

 

 

Go There

Shanti Maurice, Mauritius:Tel: +230 603 7200; www.shantimaurice.com; Junior Suites start from €555, including breakfast and 15% VAT, per room per night. Air Mauritius flies non-stop from Heathrow to Mauritius 5 times per week. Call 0207-434-4375 for more information or visit www.airmauritius.com. HolidayExtras.com offers Meet and Greet car parking at London Heathrow from just £66.20 for 8 days. To book visit to www.holidayextras.com  or call 0800 1313 777.

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05
Apr 12

The Maldives: Hollywood’s Favourite Hideaway

Next stop, the Maldives. After three non-stop days and nights in Dubai it was time to leave the Middle Eastern metropolis for the swaying palm trees and tranquillity of this most beautiful of island nations. I had been to the Maldives before with my husband to celebrate our first anniversary – the Maldives is of course one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations for A-list lovers – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, and Fergie and Josh Duhamel have all jetted in Male before slinking off across the bright blue waters of the Indian Ocean to the seclusion of private islands, far from the prying eyes of the Paparazzi – but this time I’m here with my friend, Shelley so would these private isles turn out to be blissful or boring with only the bright blue sea and each other for company…

The Velassaru, Maldives

The Lowdown

The answer was no, it wasn’t boring in the least! Shades on, wind in our hair, turquoise seas twinkling all around us, our arrival at the Velassaru Resort on the back of a gleaming white speedboat couldn’t have been more glamorous. Just a four-hour flight down from Dubai and a thrilling twenty-five minute whirl across the Indian Ocean and we were setting foot on our own little slice of island paradise. Despite our adrenaline-filled arrival as soon as we stepped onto the chic sun-weathered pier and felt the warm afternoon sun on our back, it was time to relax. Cold towels and cocktails were on hand, as were warm smiles and friendly chat, and after a seamless check-in it was apparent that this little resort had more to offer than just being another romantic bolthole.

Beach Perfect

Swaying palm trees, shimmering silver-white sands and picture perfect coral reef cradled a sleek infinity pool, restaurants, bars, a library and spa. We had seven different room types to choose from; some on the beach, some with private gardens and some stilted over the sea. A Water Villa was our haven. As the name suggests, it’s built hovering over the sea, a wooden walkway curling across glimmering fish-filled water leading to the door. But that wasn’t the only means of entry, as soon as we set our bags down it was time for a Wonder Woman-style quick change into our bikinis and we were off down our private snorkel staircase for a quick dip before the sun went down.

Back in the room, the overall feel was spacious and simple with bright flashes of Missoni-esque brilliant orange and cobalt blue adding an edge to the decor. Under its cavernous thatched roof, there were comfy sofas, a vast bed, a dressing room and bar area so we never felt we were crowding each other. Sliding doors revealed a monster-big bathroom with a tub big enough for two (although we didn’t test that theory!) while a vast wall of window could be manoeuvred open to reveal a huge deck and the real star of the show – an uninterrupted view of the iridescent Indian Ocean.

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05
Mar 12

An Arabian Adventure

As difficult as it was to leave the cosseted confines of the gorgeous Desert Palm, we only had three days to enjoy our girlie break in Dubai so after sailing across the city, scaling skyscrapers, hitting the shops and sampling the spa, we just had time for one last adventure – and as it was also BF’s birthday it had to be something special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There really has to be a very good reason for setting your alarm clock for 3am whilst on holiday but the prospect of seeing the sun rise over the desert sands from the vantage point of a hot air balloon has got to be one of them – and I think you’d agree it makes a pretty good start to any birthday. So following a measly four hours sleep, we rose, put on some sensible shoes for the first time in two days and headed over to a Dubai car park for our early morning pick-up.

It’s wasn’t long before an A-Team style van pulled up and a stocky bearded man in a red jumpsuit leapt out and (with far more energy than four in the morning should afford anyone) introduced himself as Captain Attila – “like the Hun”, he added cheerfully.  Suitably amused, we hopped in and joined the other dozen or so day-trippers who were seizing the opportunity to snooze on the hour long drive to the isolated sands just north of Al Ain.

It was still pitch black when we arrived, the only light cast coming from the two other vehicles that had joined us from Oman and Abu Dhabi. But as the sun started to break over the horizon tingeing the indigo star-filled sky with streaks of pink and peach, we could see in the distance a team of maybe a dozen or so men energetically pushing, pulling, unfolding and positioning the mass of material and large laundry basket that was soon to be our aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The realisation that we were about to glide across the desert suspended by what was essentially a flimsy layer of fabric and an oversized hamper started to dawn – was a terrifying plummet towards the dusty earth really the gift I wanted to give my pal for her birthday? Surely such a thing could end what had so far been a beautiful friendship? Thankfully though, Captain Attila inspired confidence, rounding up his twenty-two passengers from nine different nations while barking out a safety briefing and deftly overseeing the fiery inflation of our balloon. If the birthday girl was nervous she was hiding it well so I tried to do the same.

Moments later, as the cherry-red sun is started to burst across the distant dunes, the balloon’s magnificently rotund form filled our eyes and the basket tipped towards its upright position ready to go. Attila, who had clearly had some kettling training in the past, ordered us to climb aboard (climb being the operative word – a maxi dress is not suitable attire as one of the passengers soon learned) and before we knew it, we were off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were a cheerful bunch of passengers, made up of groups of friends, loved-up honeymooners and intrepid solo travellers. Everyone was happy and for the first few minutes the basket was full of excited chatter and the sound of camera shutters. There was no scary swaying or ominous lurches, instead we ascended dreamily, smoothly and surprisingly quickly. We soon passed a thousand feet, and then two thousand when suddenly everyone seemed to realise that our aircraft was made of wicker, and tried to take a step inwards. There was of course no where to go and as we swept upwards past the height of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to our hovering altitude of three thousand feet, the friendly chatter that had previously filled the air was replaced by nervous smiles, lame jokes, yoga-like breathing exercises and then ultimately silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the scariest part of the ride. Everyone may well be smiling in this picture but believe me behind the mask there was nothing but butt-clenching fear. It was incredibly beautiful though, it wasn’t just the height that made my heart race, the sandy sea of burnt amber, coral and orange below was truly phenomenal.

My favourite part of the journey though was definitely the descent and landing, which turned out to be as close to a magic carpet ride as you can get. After drifting down to a less wee-inducing level, we swept across the endless undulating dunes passing the occasional Sheikh’s palace and Bedouin tribe, startling stray gazelles before one taking one final lunge across a huge herd of wild camels and coming into land with an almighty (and super-exciting) bump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we soon realised that we had a celebrity in our midst, well certainly a future celebrity anyway. In the front left corner of the group balloon photo you can see a young guy called Lyrican. Turns out he lives just up the road from me in Manchester and is one of the UK’s up-and-coming rap stars, opening for the likes of Jay-Z , Eminem and 50 Cent on their UK arena tours. He was out in Abu Dhabi to film this music video -

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PF3PZtuiSA&sns=tw

 

So there we go, a birthday trip with Star Style from start to finish and one that had left us as exhausted as an eight-year-old after a day a Disney. We’d certainly packed in the delights of Dubai and now it was time for our next, and sure-to-be more relaxing stopover in the Maldives.

Arabian Adventures offers Hot Air Balloon Rides in Dubai from AED 995 per person (£175 per person).  The operator can also arrange a host of other memorable experiences such as Dubai desert safaris.  For further information and reservations visit www.arabian-adventures.com or call            +971 4 303 4888      .

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14
Feb 12

Dubai’s Chicest Boutique Hotel: The Desert Palm

Well the snow has finally arrived (boo!), so it seems like the perfect time to chase away those winter blues with a visit to a warmer corner of the world. This week I’ve sought out some much needed sunshine with a girlie break to the sparkling city of Dubai. Along with Prague, Tom Cruise chose this Arabian Gulf city as one of the filming location for his latest flick, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is there plenty of opportunity to soak up the sun and shop till you drop, but there’s also a wealth of chic places to eat, cool spots for cocktails and some seriously super-luxe hotels. Eager to discover the best that the city had to offer I checked-in for some fabulous off-the-radar rest and relaxation at the city’s chicest boutique hotel, the Desert Palm.

At more than 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world

The Lowdown

My stay at the oasis-like Desert Palm Dubai had me cooing with delight from the moment we were picked up from the airport by a chauffeur driven car decked-out with iced-towels, Voss water and deep leather seats. Even though I knew beforehand that the Desert Palm was home to a world-class polo club as well as an haute hotel, it still came as a something of a surprise to pull up to its frangipani-filled gardens and vast green fields peppered with show-ponies. Far from the madness of the metropolis, while still being close enough to be able to see the cityscape twinkling in the distance, it was obvious why camera-shy celebrities, royalty and visiting Emirati choose the Desert Palm for as their Dubai hideaway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hotel was not at all what I expected in this city of superlatives; Dubai boasts the world’s biggest shopping mall, the world’s tallest fountain, as well as the world’s highest bar, highest restaurant and highest swimming pool. All of these are housed in the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa which Tom Cruise was brave/mad enough to jump off in his recent flick and they can be reached via the world’s highest elevator. In a city that clearly likes to show-off, it wasn’t unreasonable for me to expect a lot of big city bling and over-the-top ostentation. Not so at the Desert Palm though, instead of showy affectations the hotel has opted for low-key luxe in the form of sleek creamy-coloured marble floors, shiny dark woods, and tactile furnishings which cleverly highlights its collection of perfectly-positioned artworks and equine sculpture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First impressions had left me suitably impressed but after a seven-hour night flight and a four-hour leap forward in time we were in dire need of a big bed and a wee sleep. Our room, a Palm Suite, was as swish as the rest of the hotel and surprisingly spacious – spacious enough in fact for two ladies with 50kg of luggage between them to not fight over wardrobe space. And we needn’t have worried about sharing a bed too as it was enormous enough for us both to sprawl out without ever risking waking the other. Along with these winning features, our room also had a stunning spa bathroom with monsoon shower and plenty of REN amenities, a baffling array of technology and view over the open-plan lobby and pretty green polo fields.

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlights

For a small hotel its highlights are many. Days can be spent lounging by the temperature controlled infinity pool – warmed in winter and chilled in summer for optimum swim conditions – walking or jogging around the perfectly manicured grounds, horsing around at the resident riding school or simply sitting on the terrace watching polo whilst indulging in a spot of cream tea. Tucked away on the lower level of the main building there’s also the wonderful LIME Spa which managed to lure us away from all ground-level activities for a whole afternoon with its wonderful massage treatments and hot and cold therapy rooms and showers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s when the sun goes down that the Desert Palm really comes into its own though. The hotel’s fantastic foodie credentials and buzzing bar pull in an eclectic crowd of trendy expats, in-the-know out of towners and local urban prince and princesses. We booked into Rare, which as the name suggests features a menu of rare meats and prized game, and despite our best efforts to show some restraint ended up nearly bursting out of our frocks after sampling some of the finest steaks we’d ever had the pleasure to try. Although our room was within waddling distance we couldn’t resist the warm ambiance and cool vibe of the terrace and ordered up some champagne and shisha at Red Bar. With the city glittering in the distance, the smell of fruity tobacco in the air, and the prospect of three more days at the Desert Palm ahead of us, we agreed that we were experiencing the dreamiest of Arabian adventures.

Outdoor dining at Rare

 

Champagne and Shisha on the Terra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Style

 

 

 

Make a confident and stylish entrance to any hotel lobby with this gorgeous trolley case. Luxury Italian luggage label Brics have teamed up with Missoni to create this limited edition travel candy which will make you the envy of all other guests. Available from www.caseluggage.com

 

 

 

 

Go There

Emirates Tours www.emiratestours.co.uk offers a 3 night package to Desert Palm, Dubai www.desertpalm.com from £695 per person. Based on two people staying 3 nights in a Palm Deluxe Room with breakfast daily. It includes return Emirates Economy Class flights from London Gatwick and return private car transfers. Valid for travel from 1st July to 15th September 2012.

 

 

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03
Feb 12

Celebrating Chinese New Year in London

If I could have transported myself to any place in the world last week, that place would have been Hong Kong. I would have spent my days soaking up the city’s spectacular Chinese New Year celebrations with a wander around Victoria Park, where I would have fill my arms with fresh flowers and maybe a picked up a miniature orange tree for good luck. I would have stopped by the Man Mo Temple for a reading with Harmung, my favourite HK fortune teller, and would have feasted on some sublime Cantonese food before watching the fabulous flash, bang of the New Year fireworks display from my brother’s roof terrace in Happy Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, I was not to return to my beloved Hong Kong for this year’s festivites, some 6000 miles and a packed work schedule had seen to that. So, when an invitation from Cathay Pacific arrived in my inbox to attend the Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square, I was on the train quicker than you could say “Kung Hei Fat Choi”.

 

This year is, of course, the Year of the Dragon and is traditionally thought to be a prosperous year, a year when magical, unexpected things can happen. The dragon is a powerful, strong and wise animal and these traits that are said to bring good luck.

 

 

 

The celebrations began with an early morning parade featuring floats, dance troupes and performers winding their way through the tightly-packed streets of Chinatown. Beneath the strings of lucky red lanterns that lined the route, thousands upon thousands of people joined in the fun. Fierce looking Money Gods wandered through the crowds, children delighted in throwing tiny “snap” firecrackers and being the Year of the Dragon street-sellers proffered the fiery creatures in every form imaginable from paper to inflatable to furry.

 

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26
Jan 12

Time out at the Titanic Spa

Eager to keep-up with my new keep-fit philosophy to eat blueberry pancakes, learn to not humiliate myself at Zumba, and to spa as often as possible, I decided to keep my January motivation going with a bit of guilt-free pampering – much better than calorie-counting and carrot sticks. Sadly, I don’t have the fabulous Canyon Ranch on my doorstep but what I do have, less than an hour away from me, tucked away on the edge of the Pennines in the pretty little mill town of Huddersfield, is one of the UK’s leading eco-friendly retreats, The Titanic Spa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon at arrival at the handsome old mill, the elegant lobby was brimming with well-to-do ladies swanning around in cosy chocolate-coloured bathrobes. Happily, and much to the relief of my spa-shy husband, there were a few men bobbing about too, hairy legs unashamedly on show. I had a quick nose to see if I could spot any celebrities – the cast of Corrie and North-West WAGs are known to regularly stop by – but today it seems to be mostly couples and mother and daughter teams cashing in on their Christmas presents. After quickly checking-in to our massive apartment (which could easily accommodate up to eight people), we threw on our bathrobes and rushed down to the soak up the spa facilities before our treatments. There was much to choose from but we opted to start our spa journey with a swim in the salt-regulated pool, filled from a natural spring a hundred metres below the building.

 

Post-swim, cobwebs blown away and once again bedecked in our superbly-soft bathrobes, we slipped over to the other side of the spa for our treatments. Unlike the pool area which is bursting with natural light, the treatment area is a serene sanctuary of subdued lighting, squishy seating areas and luxuriant rooms. The Titanic’s environmentally-friendly stance means that they only use skincare companies that share a similar ethos; Decleor, Elemis and Carita all make the cut, but we opted for to try the 100% natural and organic Pinks Boutique range. Now, I don’t want to cause any unnecessary envy but the treatments were wonderful. We were greeted by two genuinely warm, friendly and as it turned out extremely talented therapists who led us to the VIP suite. Here we blissed out for an hour, me with a heavenly facial that combined the perfect amount of head, neck and shoulder massage with aromatic face creams and a mask, and hubby with a massage of such skill that he slid off the table like a ribbon at the end of the session.

 

That would have been enough for the most slavish of sybarites but it seemed even more delicious spa treats lay in wait. So after a quick break over some champagne and chocolates it was time to tackle the Titanic’s signature Heat and Ice Experience. Here, we melted any lingering stresses as we moved between the penetrating heat of the Crystal steam room to the cooling Experience Shower, on to the Herbal Infusion hammam to a shriek-inducing cool down under an ice-cold bucket of water. Brrr… On we went to the sauna, saunarium, and aromatherapy room via the chilled plunge pool (which I wasn’t brave enough for but my part-penguin husband loved) to end our day in the Egyptian Mud Chamber.

 

 

We drew mud love hearts on each other (not really)

 

Stepping into our private hammam we were presented with what looked to be a bowl of ice-cream scoops and told to apply the various organic muds to our bodies. Each “scoop” worked on a different area with a white moisturising face mud, a clay-coloured body mud and a black exfoliating scrub mud for the legs. So there we were, in a steaming room, stripped bare, and rubbing sweet-smelling sludge on each – not your average Monday afternoon. After we had gotten over the hilarity of the situation, we did manage to relaxed into our intense twenty minute steam session. Whoa! it was hot (not in that way) and just when we thought we couldn’t take much more we were saved from collapsing in a naked muddy heap by a tropical rain shower bursting from the ceiling. Sweet relief and I have to say, I don’t think my skin has ever been left so soft following a treatment.

 

 

 

 

All that was left to do was change into some clothes and stop by the Titanic bistro. This was my one and only niggle, as after enjoying a flawless spa day it was a real shame that the food just didn’t live up to the same high standards. The menu items may well be all natural, organic and locally-sourced, with consideration given to vegetarians and vegans, but unfortunately it was also rather uninspired and lacking in flavour. The dining area itself is pleasant enough but it’s probably not a good idea to have an open show kitchen when microwaving is your main mode of culinary operations.

 

Apart from that one let down though, the Titanic Spa is fabulous and I would highly recommend it. The staff are as good as you would find in any five-star London Grande Dame, the spa and treatments exquisite and the apartments comfortable and relaxing.

 

 

 Titanic Spa, Huddersfield: Tel 0845 410 3333; www.titanicspa.com ; Overnight Spa packages available for £109pp

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16
Jan 12

Detoxing Celebrity-style at the Canyon Ranch Miami

 It would be fair to say that after three back-to-back trips in less than a month, followed by a Christmas and New Year feasting frenzy, I could now happily weigh-in alongside a team of Russian shot-putters and am a prime candidate for gout, in fact if I carry on at this rate I will have no feet by February. So, something has to be done and I’ve come to the shocking conclusion that I am going to have to eat less and move more. And where better to start this radical new regime than at the Canyon Ranch Miami Beach, Hollywood’s favourite wellness retreat.

Now, I do love a trip to the spa but I’ve never really felt the urge to use my holiday time to detox. It just doesn’t sound much … fun really, but with a guest list that includes Shakira, Eva Longoria, Terri Hatcher, January Jones, as well as Jason Statham and Gerard Butler (spas aren’t just for the ladies any more!), the Canyon Ranch promised to be more than your average health spa. There may be 230 classes a week, resident doctors, nutritionist and physiotherapists, and a lofty keep-fit philosophy but there are also lashings and lashings of luxury and a fair amount of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival, I was pleased to see that the lobby was definitely more Kenzo than Tenko, showcasing original Art Deco features of the original Carillon Hotel alongside the upscale elegant designs of New York architect David Rockwell. The rooms too were plush, inviting and surprisingly large – even by American standards – each with vast living rooms and kitchens, spacious spa-style bathrooms and broad balconies overlooking the ocean.

So far, so good. And after a good night’s sleep in my jumbo bed I’m up and at ‘em. The Canyon Ranch does have a reputation for taking a serious approach to health and fitness though so I fully expected warm cabbage-water and wheatgrass for breakfast but no, instead – and much to my delight – I’m presented with a plentiful plate of organic blueberry pancakes, coming in at less than 300 calories, including the syrup! So this is how those celebs manage to stay so skinnylicious! Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out yourself (you really should). And if you love this recipe as much as I do, you can find more here

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Fruit
Ingredients
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/4-1/2 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup berries or chopped fruit  (Blueberries and bananas work well in this recipe.)
12 tablespoons pure maple syrup Instructions1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
2. Lightly coat a griddle or large sauté pan with canola oil. Place on burner over medium heat until hot. Portion approximately 3 tablespoons batter on griddle and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon berries or chopped fruit. Cover fruit with 1 additional tablespoon batter and cook until bubbles form. Flip and cook other side to golden brown.
3. Serve 3 pancakes topped with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.Serving Information
Makes 6 (3-pancake) servings, each containing approximately: 365 calories, 70 gm. carbohydrate, 6 gm. fat, 54 mg.cholesterol, 10 gm. protein, 469 mg. sodium, 4 gm. fibre.

Loving the idea that eating healthily could taste so good (this Canyon Ranch even allows alcohol, unlike its sister resorts in Tuscon and Lenox, but, of course, here the cocktails are organic, the beer biodynamic and the red wine green) I’m now convinced the keep-fit side of things will be a breeze too.

 

 

 

 

 

I bypassed the enormous indoor rock climbing wall, the spectacular state-of-the-art gym overlooking the ocean, and the four swimming pools and instead opted for my first ever Zumba class. Zumba was invented in Miami and claims to be an easy-to-follow, Latin inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness party. Sounds fun right? I thought so. I like a party and, although the only time I really dance is on nights-out when copious amounts of alcohol seem only to serve to enhance my natural dancing ability, I felt sure I could hold my own. Not so. My first ever Zumba turned out to be a somewhat humiliating experience as within moments I came to the sudden, stark and sober realisation that – I can’t dance! While the rest of the class, including a couple of nip-tucked octogenarians, pranced around the room in a series of highly-coordinated hip-shaking movements, I found myself flailing about like a mad jellyfish, facing the wrong way (more than once) and gasping for air like a guppy. Strangely though, I loved it and by the end of the sessions I was caught up in the feverish good fun of it all and happily ran around the room high-fiving strangers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was only one thing to remedy this sudden outburst of American-like enthusiasm and that was to head to the spa for some calm downtime. A 70,000 sq.ft shimmering, mosaic-covered sanctuary awaited me. Two floors of gently-lit sumptuous rooms, tropical “experiential” showers, pools of healing waters, thermal cabins, soaking tubs, laconiums, and an igloo (yes, really) made for a fabulous A-list experience. The massage too (just about) lived up to its $240 price tag with a hundred minutes of pounding, pressing and pulling inspired by ancient techniques used on Thai warriors.

Needless to say, as I enter into 2012 I believe that these celebrities have got the right idea and from now on I will be stuffing myself with pancakes, embarrassing myself at Zumba and all-day spa-ing wherever possible. Who’s with me?

GO THERE

Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa, Miami Beach: Tel 305-514-7000; http://www.canyonranch.com/miamibeach/; From $400

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