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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!