For more information and a list of properties, go to https://www.stlucia.org/en_UK/collectiondepepite
The Collection de Pépites is lovely a collection of a broad range of unique island properties, including local B&Bs, boutiques, inns and luxury villas. The name originates in the island’s French heritage and means a collection of small pieces or nuggets of gold.
The aim is to guide visitors through the options of staying in a property of 35 rooms or fewer, that may not be as well-known as the island’s hotels and resorts. Many of the properties offer distinct opportunities for visitors to discover culture, culinary and wellness experiences within intimate accommodation properties.
Lorine Charles-St. Jules, CEO of SLTA said “The motivations to choose a more intimate stay come from a range of reasons. It could be a desire to have total privacy, to celebrate a milestone event in a smaller setting or to bring extended families and friends together in a destination as special as Saint Lucia.”
President of the Vacation Rental Association, Thomas Leonce said, "We look forward to sharing the many compelling attributes of Collection de Pépites with holiday makers both regionally and internationally."
All participating properties have been accredited by the SLTA to provide an added layer of reassurance. Ongoing reviews and checks will take place to ensure quality control and safety management.
For more information and a list of properties, go to https://www.stlucia.org/en_UK/collectiondepepite
Wines often remind me of happy times overseas, and none more so than the fortified wines of Spain and Portugal. So I was happy to enjoy some of these delightful drinks which brought back great memories.
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla is a crisp dry sherry that reminded me of early evening drinks after hot sunny days on the beach or exploring historic sites.
Established in 1792, Bodegas Hidalgo is one of the oldest Sherry producers in existence, it is widely regarded as the deﬁnitive Manzanilla house. Passing down from generation to generation, continuity and quality have always been the most important themes for the company, which today uses only grapes from their own vineyards in Jérez Superior.
It’s an ideal pre-dinner drink that sharpens up the appetite ready for the delights to come and especially good paired with tapas and fish dishes for which Spain is renowned.
Fonseca Siroco White Port is a lovely aperitif. Fonseca shipped its first vintage Port to London in 1840, and by the mid-19th century had established the House’s wines as some of the most sought after in England.
I first came across the idea of drinking a chilled light port before dinner on a trip to the Cape Verde Islands. The archipelago consists of ten islands some four hundred miles off the East African coast of Senegal - next stop Brazil.
Cape Verde was uninhabited until 1456 when it was discovered by Portuguese explorers, and was part of Portugal until 1975 when it became independent. On my first visit, most of the hotel guests were Portuguese and the hotel bar did a roaring pre-dinner trade in chilled light port. I was an instant convert to this delicious aperitif.
Drink it on its own or poured over ice and topped up with tonic and a fresh mint leaf. Delicious.
Fonseca Bin 27 has been a long-time favourite of mine. Port is synonymous with Portugal’s river Douro and the City of Porto where the river flows into the Atlantic. This Port brought back memories of a river cruise on the Douro, its steep banks lined with vineyards and the many Quintas that supply the wine and port trade.
It also reminded me of a trip to Macao, a semi-autonomous region of China, where I was given a glass of port at the end of dinner. If this sounds strange, it is worth remembering that Macao was Portuguese for 400 years and street signs in the city centre of the city are still in Portuguese, English and Cantonese. Indeed it is claimed that the best Portuguese ‘pastel de nata’ come from a bakery in Macao that was founded by an Englishman!
This full-bodied rich traditional port is a great after-dinner drink, and is everything you want a classic Port to be, perfect with cheeses such as Stilton and ideal with dark chocolate, especially Easter Eggs.
Do you need any more excuses to try these lovely drinks?
For more information on these and many other delightful wines, visit www.mentzendorff.co.uk
St Lucia is now easier to visit than Europe!
Visitors to St Lucia who have been fully vaccinated can now enter without hassle. The requirement for online registration and document upload (PCR tests and vaccine proof) has been removed.
Vaccinated travellers must only provide a valid vaccination record as requested on check-in, boarding, and entry to Saint Lucia. To qualify as fully vaccinated, travellers must have had the last dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose vaccine at least two weeks (14 days) before travel. Unlike most European countries, boosters are not required.
In addition, travellers are no longer required to pre-register online prior to arrival in Saint Lucia. All arrivals are simply required to bring proof of vaccination status or test results as per protocols. International travellers and returning nationals just need to complete a Health Screening Form before disembarkation in Saint Lucia for ease of processing on arrival.
Sally Gunnell OBE to be godmother to Ambience Cruise Line's first ship
Ambassador Cruise Line has today announced that former British athlete, Sally Gunnell OBE has been chosen as godmother for their first ship, Ambience. Sally will rename the ship at a special ceremony at London Tilbury on 19th April.
Ambassador is the first British cruise line to launch in the UK in over a decade. Sailing from London Tilbury, the no-fly itineraries provide a premium-value, authentic cruise experience predominantly aimed at the 50-plus traveller.
Ambassador’s first ship, Ambience, will enter service on 20th April 2022 with a maiden voyage to Hamburg, followed by a further 31 sailings calling at over 90 different ports. Itineraries will include the British Isles, the Norwegian Fjords, Greenland, the Arctic and Iceland, plus several short break cruises. For the winter months, a range of exploration style voyages will sail to the Canaries, Cuba, the Caribbean, Cape Verde and Scandinavia.
Sally was born in Chigwell, Essex and is the only British woman to hold four major track titles simultaneously – Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth. Since retiring from international athletics, the 55-year-old mother of three has become an advocate for health and well-being for the over 50s.
Sally said, “I’m delighted to be godmother to Ambience, Ambassador Cruise Line’s first ship. I’ve a fondness for Ambassador’s homeport London Tilbury being in Essex, the county I was born and grew up in.
Being godmother comes with responsibility too and I’m flattered that I’ll be re-naming Ambience in April. I look forward to celebrating this wonderful occasion and ship with everyone at Ambassador, the crew onboard and all the guests”.
For more information on cruises and to book, go to www.ambassadorcruiseline.com
River cruising continues to gain in popularity and Saga is reflecting the trend by adding four new river cruise ships to its fleet.
The new ships will be called Spirit of the Moselle, Spirit of the Main, Spirit of the Elbe and Spirit of the Rhône. Starting in May 2023 the ships will operate on the rivers after which they are named.
They will join Saga’s existing new ships Spirit of the Rhine and Spirit of the Danube, which were jointly named Arnhem a week ago.
For more information, go to travel.saga.co.uk
Don’t bottle it, get canned!
Travelling to Italy is still not as easy as it was, so here’s an excuse to flavour the Italian way of life without leaving home.
Canvino is a delicious new sparkling vegan wine in a recyclable can. Easier to transport than bottles, the cans are lightweight, easy to carry and the wine stays fizzy and cooler for longer. The wine is made from grapes sourced from a family-owned vineyard that has been making wine for a century using the traditional Charmat method.
Canvino offers both Rosé and Bianco, ideal for celebrations, indoors or outside. So, no need to check your vaccination certificates or fill in passenger locator forms, just go to https://houseofcanvino.com
Stuck for something special to do on Valentine’s day? Well, here’s an idea that’s hard to beat
Cunard is offering a four-night voyage to Hamburg on the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2. You can even get married on board!
Guests will start the weekend with a welcoming bottle of sparkling wine in their room, can enjoy a plethora of activities on board and dance the night away at a spectacular gala ball.
Couples will get to spend a full day exploring idyllic Hamburg and can even leave a padlock on Love Lock Bridge!
For guests looking to tie the knot, Cunard also offers wedding packages, with unique extras such as scarlet uniformed bellboys escorting the bride to the ceremony, conducted by the captain.
Other treats on board include a couples’ seaweed massage in Cunard’s Mareel Spa, priced at $350 for 75 minutes and a decadent champagne afternoon tea, with Laurent-Perrier champagne, priced at
Queen Mary 2’s Southampton – Hamburg – Southampton voyage departs 13 February and prices are from £379 per person.
For more information, go to https://www.cunard.com/en-gb/find-a-cruise/M205PM205P
Fancy a taste of Scotland without leaving home?
Then welcome to Shore crisps, made in Wick in the north of Scotland. It’s just a few miles south of John o’Groats and on the North Coast 500, one of the best road trips in the world. Shore’s passionate team is on a mission to create an edible seaweed industry in Scotland that’s 100% sustainable.
The crisps are made from edible seaweed that is good for the coastal environment and beneficial for their local rural communities. It’s a plant-based food of the future that is naturally nutritious, tasty and, above all, kind to the planet. The local waters are clean and cool with strong tides that provide the vital nutrients for their seaweed to feast on. Shore use this natural food to produce a range of crisps, clusters, pesto and tapenades that are full of nutrients, including iodine, antioxidants and prebiotic fibre.
Taste? Well I found them delicious, light and tasty, an ideal accompaniment for drinks and other snacks. Wick’s a long way away for many people, so thank goodness they are available from Sainsbury’s, Holland and Barrett, Amazon and Wholefoods, to name just a few.
For more information and a list of outlets, visit shoreseaweed.com
With holidays to America opening up, British tourists can now get into the spirit of things, literally, with Aloha 65. The unique drink was created by Brit barman, Stephen Thorpe, to help encourage visitors to his beach bar in Florida.
Thirty years later, and after numerous attempts, he came up with a drink that met his high standards.
Aloha 65 is an all-natural spirit, 27% ABV and made from six carefully selected fresh fruits, herbs and spices. Like gin, it starts as a neutral grain spirit which is then infused with botanicals that include pineapple, lemon, ginger and Scotch Bonnet chilli.
The result is a deliciously different drink which can be enjoyed as a long drink with mixers or as an aperitif on its own with just ice.
Other recipes include Aloha Sangria, with red wine and juices, Aloha Matata, with an African twist of dark rum, lemon, cinnamon, apple juice and mint leaves, or perhaps an Aloha Mary which, as its name suggests, includes tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, lemon and black pepper.
Which every way you take it, enjoy!
For more information and to purchase, go to https://aloha65.com
Air Astana, Kazakhstan’s national airline, has been recognised as the “Best Airline in Central Asia” in the Skytrax World Airline Awards for 2021. This makes eight wins in a row for the airline.
"Air Astana continued success in being named the Best Airline in Central Asia underlines the high standards of onboard product and front-line staff service that they provide to customers. This is a fabulous achievement despite the crisis the airline industry has faced in the last 18 months” said Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax.
The airline’s President and CEO, Yorkshireman Peter Foster, added “In spite of the challenges of the pandemic, top quality service delivery has continued to be a priority. I would like to thank our customers for their loyalty, and also my colleagues, who have shown great dedication in challenging circumstances, and who, I am pleased to say, have almost all returned to full-time work.”
Foster was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for services to British aviation in Kazakhstan. Air Astana is 49% owned by BAE Systems PLC.
Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country, is not well known in the UK, yet it’s where tulips, garlic and apples come from, and it’s an amazing mix of ancient and modern.
Nur Sultan, the world’s newest capital city, is full of stunning architecture, some designed by our own Norman Foster. Baikonur, the largest and busiest space launch platform, is where the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched, as well as the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. It is still very active today, launching communications satellites and supplying the International Space Station.
The ultra-modern national museum in Nur Sultan has a jaw-dropping Hall of Gold with thousands of exhibits dating back to the 4th- 8th centuries BC. They are in wonderful condition, so much so that the Hall is reminiscent of a vast Bond Street jewellers. Exhibits even include a gold suit of armour.
It’s difficult to visit Kazakhstan at the moment but now there’s a chance to sample some of the unique artefacts from this fascinating country here in the UK, thanks to an exhibition put on in co-operation with Cambridge University.
Over the last three years, Kazakh archaeologists have continued to discover numerous items, and the exhibition centres on finds from burial grounds of the Saka people from Eastern Kazakhstan. It brings together archaeological finds and research from three different burial complexes in East Kazakhstan: Berel, Shilikti and Eleke Sazy.
One grave is that of a male teenage archer around 18 years of age, who was buried with a younger female relative. Her grave was looted, but due to a rock fall, his grave remained intact and undiscovered for over 2,500 years.
Whilst the Saka people were bold warriors, the unearthed artefacts reveal the Saka as a highly-skilled people with an advanced understanding of design, intricate engineering and technology. They were able to produce wonderful artefacts such as decorative gold micro-beads, just 1 millimetre in diameter, to be sewn onto clothing, and sophisticated weapon-belt attachments that were hinged to absorb the movement of weaponry while in motion on horseback.
The many items on show include a bejewelled gold dagger, four-leaf clovers with tiny button-holes for sewing them onto garments, dove headdress plaques in the shape of two birds, a number of deer plaques and a pear-shaped bejewelled decoration from a bow case.
Luke Syson, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said “It is hugely exciting to be announcing the loan of these incredibly important, recently discovered gold artefacts this autumn.”
Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the UK, H.E. Erlan Idrissov added, “In the coming few months, we will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence and the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of a diplomatic relationship between Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom. I find it very timely and appropriate that the Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition is coming to one of the best UK museums at such an auspicious time.”
Gold of the Great Steppe runs from 28 September 2021 to 30th January 2022 in the Mellon and Adeane Galleries at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Entry is free but tickets must be booked in advance. For more information, go to https://fitzmuseum.cam.ac.u
India may be off most people’s travel itineraries right now, but thanks to the launch of new products from Tea India, you can still enjoy the authentic flavours of this great country.
The Regional Single-Estate Tea Range consists of four new blends of regional teas sourced from some of the most established tea growers in India. The Regional Single-Estate Tea Range sits alongside Tea India’s popular range of authentic Chai Teas and is the natural next step in offering consumers a broad range of authentically Indian tea blends.
Deliciously dark and aromatic Nilgiri is grown high in the Nilgiri Hills, in the southernmost part of India. Sourced from the Craigmore Tea Garden nestled at an elevation of 5,500 feet, the mix of soil and climate provide the perfect conditions for growing some of the world’s finest teas.
Deliciously delicate and citrusy. Known as the champagne of teas, Darjeeling is grown on the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Sourced from the Badamtam tea garden, only small amounts of this medium bodied, highly aromatic tea is grown each year.
A deliciously malty and strong, single estate, Assam tea is sourced from the Margherita tea gardens -
located in the low lying plains of the Brahmaputra River delta. Being grown at low levels gives Assam tea its full-bodied, malty taste and a lovely deep coloured liquor.
Deliciously aromatic green tea with cinnamon and rose petals. Delicious Kashmiri Kahwa is a traditional drink from the Kashmir region of India. Kahwa means ‘sweetened tea’ and is an exotic blend of Indian green tea, infused with herbs and spices.
Tea India’s Regional Single Estate Tea Range is available at http://www.teaindia.co.uk and will be stocked in Ocado from May 2021, as well as in independent food stores across the U.K.
At times, conventional accommodation can be nothing more than a place to sleep, but it can also be an experience in and of itself. When an ordinary hotel isn't thrilling enough, resorts and rental companies are coming up with increasingly bizarre alternatives to satisfy our demand for exotic places to stay. If you're looking for a no-frills overnight stay, this is probably not for you, but if you want to add a bit of weirdness and wonder to your journey, here are our picks for unusual hotels in the UK.
Coombe Abbey, Coventry
Coombe Abbey's accommodation appears to be a traditional country manor in some respects, but it is actually a restored 12th-century Cistercian abbey. The elegant structure is the centrepiece of 500 acres of lushly landscaped land near Coventry, and the interior decor is equally magnificent, with period details and antique furniture. Typically, the property specialises in themed activities such as murder mysteries, ghost tours, and mediaeval banquets – for updates, visit the dedicated events page.
Every room has stunning views of the courtyard, lawns, or tree-lined drive. Each room also has satellite TV and tea and coffee making facilities. Guests can dine at the hotel's elegant à la carte restaurant. The Garden Bar serves afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream, and there is a changing Sunday lunch menu.
Every weekend, Coombe Abbey hosts a splendid mediaeval banquet. The hotel is known for its themed parties, which range from murder mysteries to ghost tours.
The Witchery by the Castle, Edinburgh
The Witchery by the Castle has a variety of extravagant suites, each with its own distinctive features. Big oak beds and 4-posters, velvet-lined walls, and flamboyant red and gold décor are among the gothic touches in the lavishly decorated suites. Separate dining areas and spacious bathrooms with free-standing silver baths are available.
The Witchery's nine suites are all unique, but walk-in dressing rooms, love seats, and tapestries set the tone. Some rooms have views of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, while others look down into Princes Street or over to the old town. Each morning, an indulgent breakfast hamper will be served in the room, or guests can opt for a cooked breakfast served in the restaurant at no extra charge.
The Witchery's seductive glamour has piqued the interest of The Times, The Telegraph, and Condé Nast Traveller, and its suites have been enjoyed by a slew of celebrity guests. The lavish restaurant serves delightful Scottish cuisine in idyllic surroundings.
Burgh Island Hotel, Devon
A hotel on its own island sounds like a spy film setup but staying here seems like you have been invited to a private oligarch's home for an evening high tea. Linked to the mainland by a sandy beach at low tide, the Burgh Island Hotel can only be accessed at high tide by its unique sea tractor, which is similar to an open train carriage hydraulically elevated over large wheels.
The hotel itself is a magnificent collection of domed ceilings and trappings from the 1930s evoking the era of Agatha Christie novels, as she wrote two books while staying here. Ballroom lessons, tennis court and swimming in a sea spring pool separated from the sea by a WWI sluice gate are all activities included. The rooms come with balconies with views of the Atlantic, gin and tonic for free
Hywel Sele Lodge, Snowdonia
Hywel Sele Lodge's self-catering cottage is definitely eye-catching, both in appearance and history. In the 15th century, nobleman Hywel Sele tried to assassinate his nephew, Owain Glyndr, Prince of Wales – who survived his arrow and killed Sele in revenge. The setting is a bit less macabre. The Tudor Gothic-style lodge, which sleeps up to three people, is located in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, near the seaside town of Dolgellau. With its fairy-tale turret, natural stonework, and grand archway, it's quite a sight in and of itself.
The Saw Mill, Aberdeenshire
As the name implies, this lovely camp is built on the site of the old sawmill on the Glen Dye estate. The incredible combination of peace and adventure packed into the private clearing in the woods is something that no name could possibly convey. From the big double bed of the 50s original Safari Caravan, you'll wake up to birdsong and the rippling of the old mill stream, then make your way to the Forester's Seed Store cabin, your lounge and kitchen, which is itself a lovingly restored 20s house.
You have a variety of cooking choices, ranging from the seed store's kitchen, which will satisfy even the most ardent chef, to the Big Green Egg oven or the wild challenge of the firepit. You can also choose how daring you want to be with your bathing.
If you have friends living in the estate's cottages, bumping into walkers on the trails is probably the only time you'll see another soul. If you want an escape into civilisation then visit Fettercairn Distillery for whisky tasting and tours, Balmoral Castle for history, or Knockburn Loch for water sports instruction. Whatever you do, the camp will be waiting for you when you return, with strings of festoon lights leading you between its treasures.
The Island, Cornwall
Would you interested in gettting lost and spend some time alone or with your loved once where there’s literally no one to disturb you? Well, we have just the right place for you.
The Island is a boutique luxury property nestled among the greenery on a rocky islet above Newquay's Towan Beach. A private suspension footbridge connects the house to the famous surfing beach and harbour, but the house is in its own world, complete with swaying palm trees and its own flag. There are three stylish bedrooms and pretty much everything where everyone will like to stay for a few days.
As The Island is located in the bay and is surrounded by sand at low tide and sea at high tide, so after a wonderful day at the beach full of white sand and gorgeous sea, you can walk back up to The Island and enjoy the beautiful gardens that wrap around the your home for the next few days.
The Rookery, London
The Rookery, on the other hand, is on the polar opposite end of the London hotel continuum, drawing inspiration for its design from Smithfield's crime-ridden history. The Bartholomew Fair was held at Smithfield Meat Market until it was shut down by police in 1855 for being a "school of vice." The hotel's dark colour schemes, carved wood throughout, red silk, and gold leaf reflect this history. The Conservatory bar has an honesty bar, and the well-stocked library is a great place to sit and read. Although there is no dedicated restaurant, but you can order baguettes, crab tortellini, and other dishes from the room service menu card.
These were the few places where you can stay for an unusual but an exciting experience. All the above-mentioned resorts are lesser-known and hence will be far from the chaos and order, also COVID-19 safe. Book your next trip to UK with best travel website Travelxp.com.
Travelxp is one of the fastest-growing travel platforms for experiential and frequent travellers. It provides travellers with a chance to watch incredible travel videos along with access to exclusive discounts on flights, hotels, and exotic holiday packages. It is part of Travelxp group operates Travelxp TV, the world's leading travel channel, broadcasting in 40+ countries with a viewership of over 500 million.
Marella Cruises will be running a number of 3-12 night UK cruises this summer which go on sale Friday 16 April.
Marella Explorer will set sail from Southampton on UK itineraries from June 25, sailing to new ports of call including, Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool. Marella Explorer 2, the cruise lines adult only ship, will also offer UK sailings from Newcastle from Saturday 10 July, with even more UK ports of call. Newcastle sailings will go on sale by the end of this month.
The all-inclusive sailings start at under £450 per person.
Anyone aged 18-years and older will be required to have had both COVID-19 jabs at least seven days before travelling. All under 18-year-olds, excluding infants under the age of two who will not be able to sail as they are exempt from testing, will be asked to have a lateral flow test.
All guests must also provide proof of a negative lateral flow test before boarding the ships at the start of the cruise.
Royal Caribbean International has announced that new UK sailings onboard Anthem of the Seas will be departing from Southampton from 7th July 2021. Families can holiday together as the cruises, which will sail with vaccinated crew, will be available to any adult guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under the age of 18 with negative test results.
UK residents can choose from a combination of 3 to 4-night Ocean Getaways in early July and 5 to 8-night British Isles cruises, starting 15th July, that feature visits to iconic destinations across the UK such as Liverpool, Belfast and Kirkwall. Bookings start on 7 April.
Click on any image to enlarge it
In recognition of the tremendous efforts of the emergency services, NHS, social care sector and armed forces over the last year, Royal Caribbean will offer 999 free staterooms onboard the first Ocean Getaways to those in these professions. Free sailings can be secured by pre-registering through the Royal Caribbean International website starting 13th April 2021. Pre-registrations will be entered into a ballot to be drawn by the end of April.
For more information, check out their website.
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