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BEST OF 2016: MY FAVOURITES

January 1, 2017
City Turtle 2016

2016 was another busy year of travel.  I enjoyed a record number of European city breaks (Rome, Prague, Bologna, Istanbul, Marbella, Paris, Amsterdam) and a few brilliant longer trips to Miami, New York, Hvar, Andalucia and Mexico.  Hopefully all my blogs have been useful for those travelling to these destinations.

Here are my favourites of 2016:

Most Spectacular Hotel: Hotel Esencia, Mexico

I promise I’ll stop banging on about this hotel, but this boutique design hotel stands out for me as one of the best places I have ever stayed.  Its stretch of beach is so peaceful, the sand so white and the sea gloriously turquoise. The rooms are white washed, minimalist and super comfortable.  Morning yoga is the best way to start the day there, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.  It’s no wonder Conde Nast voted it as one of 2016’s best hotels.

Esencia, Mexico

Runner up: Finca Cortesin (and I shockingly still have not written a blog about this place).  Hands down one of Europe’s most beautiful properties, high in the hills 30 minutes from Marbella, with sea and mountain views.  The interiors are so elegant, the swimming pools vast and the spa to die for.

Finca Cortesin, Spain

Favourite new discovery: South East Sicily

A week of exploring all the Baroque-rich towns and cities of South Eastern Sicily is such a treat.  Each of the towns, from Ragusa to Modica to Note are all so individual, with good restaurants, a few fun bars, and lots of pretty streets to explore.  Our seafood lunch at Taverna Cialoma in Marzamemi was one of the big highlights of our trip.  And we learnt that the very underestimated city Catania is also worth a stop.

Ragusa, Sicily

Favourite new London restaurant: Foley’s

With so many restaurant openings in London this year, it’s hard to pick a favourite.  But everything from the divine alfresco bar (with the best Espresso Martinis), to a menu where you literally want to eat every dish (and we did), to the friendly, helpful staff, meant that Foley’s wins the 2016 prize.  A place I know I’ll return to, again and again.

Foleys, FItzrovia

Runner up: The Ninth and Clipstone.  Both of these relatively new openings in London have a lot in common: excellent food, reasonable pricing and great atmosphere.  The Pain Perdu at the Ninth is the best pudding I’ve had this year.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

Favourite Bar – International: The Living Room, at the Faena, Miami

Wow, the new(ish) Faena hotel in Miami is a true showstopper, rich in colour and gold and opulence.  And walking into its main bar, The Living Room, is like stepping into Gatsby’s 1920s.  I loved every moment of being in this crazy, vibrant, colourful place, where you don’t know where to look or which cocktail to pick from their indulgent menu.  The Faena’s restaurant Pao was also a highlight of my visit.

Photo credit: https://luxuriavacations.com/destinations/usa/faena-hotel-miami-beach

Runner up:  The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel, New York. This hotel is so fantastically blingy, as of course you’d expect considering the owners.  It’s a stunning hotel (the rooms are far more toned down than the public areas), but the bar really stood out.  It’s always packed with very glamorous people, the cocktails are fantastic and the interiors are fabulous.

Photo credit Baccarat Hotels

Favourite English Countryside retreat: Foxhill Manor, the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of my favourite areas of England; the countryside is so breathtakingly beautiful here and the villages are all so picturesque, with so many pretty Cotswold stone cottages, lovely cafes and restaurants and fantastic country walks.  So staying at the exclusive five star Foxhill Manor (Dormy House’s sister property) was one of the highlights of 2016, the ultimate country house hotel.  The food was amazing here, our suite the size of my house in London, and the views of the Cotswolds out of this world.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Favourite Restaurant – International: Quintonil, Mexico City

Chosen not because it’s voted as the 12th best restaurant in the world, but purely because it was a magical experience, and I’ve never had Mexican food like it.  It’s incredible value for money, and the amuse bouches we had here were some of the best I’ve had.  That said, its Mexico City competitor Pujol deserves a mention too, also for its creative food and noteworthy tasting menu.

Quintonil, Mexico City

Runners up:  This is such a tough one, as I have eaten at some seriously wonderful restaurants this year.  Still, if I had to choose, I loved Marzapane in Rome because it is was so different, so modern and so un-Roman.  At the same time, Sansho’s tasting menu in Prague was exceptional, and fantastic value.  And last but not least, Dalmatino in Hvar, Croatia was unexpected and their squid ink truffle gnocchi mind-blowing.

Marzapane, Rome

Favourite beach: Tulum, Mexico

Who knew Mexico’s Riviera Maya had such incredible beaches?  The beach at Tulum is possibly the most perfect beach I’ve been on.  Lined with palm trees and eco hotels (no building is higher than the tallest palm tree), white powdery sand and warm welcoming turquoise waves, it really is a paradise beach.  Plus, it stretches on and on, and makes for the best walk at sunset, Margarita in hand.  Especially the beach at Nomade (photo below) was phenomenal.

Tulum, Mexico

Runners up: Dubovica Beach on Hvar, Croatia and South Beach, Miami.  These two beaches couldn’t be more different, but each has it’s own bit of wow.  Dubovica beach is small, pebbled and one of the prettiest European beaches I’ve seen.  It has a lovely beach bar too and it’s generally not too full of tourists.  South Beach Miami is of course heaving with people, but that doesn’t stop it from being ‘wow’ in its own way.  It’s one of the most fun beaches I’ve been to, great for people watching, with so much going on.

Dubovica Beach, HvarMiami Beach

Favourite Afternoon tea: Petersham Nurseries

I don’t know how I only managed to visit this heavenly place until so recently, but I fell head over heals for Petersham Nurseries.  Even on a cold (but beautiful) winter afternoon the Cafe was so warm and cosy, the cakes so delicious and the selection of teas ideal.  I can’t wait to return in the spring and the summer.

Photo Credit: http://friendlynettle.com/day-petersham-nurseries-%E2%99%A5/

Favourite city break: Prague

People warned me that yes, the city is beautiful, but it’s touristy and the food isn’t good.  Well, yes, I’d agree that’s it’s busy, but it’s hard to avoid tourists these days.  And, after all, I’m one too.  But I’d disagree that you can’t eat well.  One of my favourite restaurants of the year, Sansho, was here.  Plus Field was excellent too, as was CottoCrudo at the Four Seasons.  There’s lots to do and see, and it’s incredibly affordable too.  Win win.

a-prague-top-ten-sights

Runner up was Bologna, with so much charm and beauty, and excellent Italian food and wine.  Our experience at Drogheria della Rosa was absolutely one of the most memorable of 2016.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna

And what has 2017 got in store for me?  Definitely more European city breaks, with Rome and Stockholm already booked, a trip back to Andalucia and Italy this summer for sure, and Mallorca in September.  I’d also really like to return to Vienna, explore Porto and maybe go to some of the Greek islands…  Let’s see where 2017 takes me!

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

July 10, 2016
Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

We came to Teresina on our last day in Bologna.  It had been raining all morning and we were departing that afternoon.  So I already had the slight ‘Sunday blues’ feeling.  But then we had lunch here, and the ‘Bolognese’ was so good, it instantly cheered me up!

In the summer, Teresina’s terrace must be a lovely place to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner al fresco.  While the terrace doesn’t have any views as such, it is set back from the street, so it’s quiet.  Inside is also pleasant: simple like you’d expect from a local trattoria.  The staff are helpful and friendly, and the service quick and professional.

While Italians aren’t known for their bread, the bread here was excellent.  Warm and soft, I couldn’t resist a few slices to add to the carb fest that had been our weekend in this magical city.

Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

They have all the traditional, local dishes you’d expect in Bologna.  The tortellini broth, various fresh pastas, and a few meat and seafood dishes.  While no trattoria would ever serve what we know as ‘spaghetti Bolognese’, they do serve fresh tagliatelle with a Bolognese Ragu.  I’d highly recommend it.

Rob’s parents liked it so much they returned for dinner after Rob and I departed.

Restaurante Teresina 

via Oberdan 4, 40126

Bologna

 

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Caffe Terzi, Bologna – DRINK

July 10, 2016
Caffe Terzi, Bologna

I love scouting out the best places for coffee.  In Italy it’s not hard to find a good coffee.  But Caffe Terzi offers a very cute venue as well as excellent, beautifully presented coffee (or tea, if you prefer).   And you know you’re in the right place when all the locals are lined up at the bar sipping Espressos.

Caffe Terzi, Bologna

But Caffe Terzi isn’t just a place to shot an Espresso and go.  Its colourful red and yellow striped wall paper and small but cosy sitting area makes it a pretty place to stop and rest your weary feet after a morning of sightseeing.  Even the biscuits you are served with your coffee are phenomenal. Terzi reminded me a bit of a cross between a Viennese Cafe and an Italian one.  The staff are all exceptionally friendly and helpful, and I’d happily have stayed here all morning sampling their various coffees and teas.

Caffe Terzi, BolognaCaffe Terzi, Bologna

It’s tiny, so blink and you might miss it.  But make sure you make the effort to come here for at least one coffee, because it truly is the best coffee in town.

Caffe Terzi

Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d

 

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Vineria Favalli, Bologna – DRINK

May 22, 2016
Vineria Favelli, Bologna

Wine bars are my favourite places to drink, and Italians get them so right.  As we wandered through the winding streets of Bologna we came across a charming looking wine bar, which seemed ideal for a pre-dinner drink.

We seemed to have picked the right place.  This is really a local hangout, right in the centre of town.  We got lucky upon arrival as a table just came available, but it’s tiny and you definitely want to sit in the front room (there are more tables at the back, but it’s a bit quiet and lacking of atmosphere).  A lot of people just stood by the bar sipping wine, and they could have done with another member of staff.

Vineria Favalli, Bologna

But the wines were excellent, and it had such a wonderful, upbeat, authentic Italian feel.  Further more, the setting was delightful, and you’re in the best location for dinner afterwards (Cesarina is 2 minutes walk, and Drogheria della Rossa probably about 5 minutes).

Definitely one of the best – and non-touristy – bars we came across.

Vineria Favalli

Via Santo Stefano, 5/A

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Ristorante Cesarina, Bologna – EAT

May 22, 2016
Cesarina, Bologna

Bologna is full of beautiful squares and countless stunning churches, but the one square that stands out is the Piazza Santa Stefano, famous for having seven churches.  At night it’s incredibly atmospheric, and so there are few places like Cesarina in Bologna: where you can eat delicious food and (weather permitting) sit outside and enjoy the view of the square.

Cesarina, Bologna

We were not so lucky with the weather, so sat inside – a lovely and refined dining room, very Italian, simple but elegant.  I would always encourage you to book, and if possible to book a table outside, under the charming portico which Bologna is so famous for.

It was here that we enjoyed a dish we had long been waiting to try, Bologna’s signature dish: the tortellini in ‘brodo’ (chicken broth).  We all had this as a starter and it was well worth the wait.  I then continued carb loading and had a wonderful asparagus risotto, which the Italians do so well.  The rest of the party had a mixture of beef and other pasta dishes.  The food was really good, the prices fair and the service excellent.

Cesarina, Bologna

To finish with, while some of us had sambuccas, I was very tempted by the pistachio semi freddo, which I called the leaning tower of Bologna.  A little like panna cotta, but not quite as soft, it was exquisite, and a wonderful end to the dinner.  Rob and I then headed into the more student part of town for a drink at Le Stanze (a bar in a church, worth it for a drink).

Cesarina, Bologna

Cesarina

Via Santo Stefano, 19/B,

40125 Bologna

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna – EAT

May 22, 2016
Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna

Only in Italy will you find a place like this. Dinner here is not like a normal dinner; it is a unique and memorable experience, for most people will be one of the many highlights of Bologna.

It’s probably fair to say this is not for everyone. If you like being in control of your evening, when and what you eat and if you prefer to be left alone to enjoy your dinner, then you may not like Drogheria della Rossa. Having said that, I’m a bit of a control freak, yet totally loved it.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
The owner is very much present throughout the evening, getting steadily more merry as the evening proceeds.  You’re warmly welcomed and shown to your table, in a small, cosy, eccentric space, which used to be an old pharmacy.  There is bric a brac everywhere, and a rose on every table. You’re instantly served a glass of prosecco and swiftly afterwards your aperitivo arrives. After half an hour we still hadn’t seen a menu, despite asking for it.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
Eventually the wine list arrived and we ordered a wonderful Barbera D’Asti, so smooth and easy to drink. Then the owner showed up and listed the pasta options.  Tortellini with courgette flowers, ravioli with aubergine filling, tagliatelle with the famous Ragu. We ordered all of them and were delighted – once it eventually arrived.  Instead of a ‘secondi platti’ we ordered dessert.  I had a typical cake from Bologna, with chocolate and nuts. Rob had an incredible chocolate flan.  Rob’s father had an orange semi Freddo and his mother strawberries in the most incredible cream.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
At this point the owner was back and had grabbed a chair to chat with us. Noting our wine was finished he promptly ordered another bottle of Barbera – on the house.

Drogheria della Rossa, BolognaDrogheria della Rossa, BolognaDrogheria della Rossa, Bologna
It was a very merry evening, with fantastic food and a lovely atmosphere. The owner transforms the restaurant into one big dinner party, whereby the guests end up meeting and interacting with each other.

When we left we were presented with a rose each from the charming owner, something which is apparently quite common, yet he absolutely had the ability to make you feel very special as guests. An absolute must go.

Drogheria della Rossa

Via Cartoleria, 10, 40124 Bologna

 

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