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Blog, UK - Outside London

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

April 2, 2017
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Southampton is not the first place you’d think to go for an English weekend break.  And had the Pig in the Wall not been there, I would not have recommended it.  However, the Pig in the Wall is the perfect ‘gate way’ to the New Forest and so ideal for a Saturday night stay.   Apart from that, the Pig in the Wall is nestled in what remains of Southampton’s 12th century city walls, and so has a lot of charm in itself.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Those of you who have not been to the Pig are in for a treat.  The original of the now five Pig hotels is the Pig at Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire.  I stayed here for the weekend over three years ago, and absolutely loved it.  The problem is, everyone loves it and so it’s always fully booked.  Solution?  Book the Pig in the Wall (often with much better availability AND lower prices).

You’re only a 15 – 20 minute drive from the New Forest from here (having a car is ideal), so you can spend the whole of Saturday walking / biking in the New Forest (here are some ideas) and then you can head back to the Pig in the Wall in the afternoon to freshen up and enjoy their lovely rooms.  They also have a wonderful sitting room/cafe/lobby, where you can sit by the fire in the winter or on their terrace outside in the summer.   They serve delicious (and very strong) coffees / drinks / snacks all day long, and the best continental breakfasts in the morning.  I absolutely loved this room, it really feels like you’re a guest at someone’s (stunning) home.  The staff are beyond friendly.

The Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe pig in the wallThe Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe Pig in the Wall, Southampton

There are twelve bedrooms here, all individual.  We had the Snug room which was undeniably very snug (the Cosy room is a bit bigger, for £20 more).  But also with a lot of character, under the eaves.  Our room had the Pig’s signature very comfortable beds, and fantastic power shower.  They use space cleverly, so you really have everything you need.   And with prices starting from £120, it’s good value.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

One of the other perks of staying at the Pig in the Wall is the complimentary Land Rover ‘shuttle service’, where they will drive you to the Pig at Brockenhurst for dinner (book this far in advance!), and pick you up afterwards.  So you can enjoy a drink or two without worrying about how you’re going to get back.  And I highly recommend this.  The Pig at Brockenhurst was even lovelier than I remembered, with now an expanded organic vegetable garden and a phenomenal restaurant.  And after dinner we could even still enjoy a few night caps by the fire.

The Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new Forest

Bottom line: the Pig hotels remain some favourite British hotels.  And I’m keen to visit their newest two (the Pig on the Beach, and the Pig at Coombe) soon.

The Pig in the Wall

8 Western Esplanade



Blog, Italy, Sicily

Noto, Sicily

November 8, 2016

Noto is generally known as the prettiest of the Baroque towns in the area, and it is undeniably so, in a slightly ‘chocolate box’ kind of way.  It’s richer and more touristy than its neighbours, but also much smaller and felt less ‘local’.  The main sightseeing area is the long Corso Vittorio Emanuele with one beautiful building or church after another.  It’s definitely worth straying from the beaten path and climbing the stairs up (towards Crocifisso).  You’ll get some fantastic views of the rooftops and palaces below.

Noto, SicilyNoto, Sicily


Noto is known to be quite ‘foodie’ and I was quite excited to explore the restaurant scene here.

We went in search for a recommended restaurant – which took us up steps and more steps (it is a common theme in the area) in the burning sun.  And then we reached Crocifisso.  Which was shut for lunch (don’t believe the websites).  NOTE: It appears that Noto is a better place to visit for dinner, when the likes of Manna (brand new, modern – my ideal kind of place) and Dammuso are open.  Food is meant to be exceptional here.  Having said that, Dammuso is usually open for lunch, just not when we were there.

We did find a place for lunch (Marpessa), where the food and stunning presentation surprised us (the gazpacho was brilliant) and despite the heat we had a fantastic meal.  Though it’s cooler inside, sitting in the shade on their charming little terrace outside is much nicer.

Marpessa, NotoMarpessa, Noto

After lunch we were recommended ‘the best ice cream in the world’ at Caffe Sicilia (it was delicious, but DiVini in Ragusa was still better).  Caffe Sicilia is a quirky, colourful and in many ways very traditional Italian Gelateria, worth grabbing an ice cream for on the go.

Caffe Sicilia, Noto


There are plenty of terraces for sundowners, but if you want something different the Anche Gli Angeli concept store also offers a cool bar under red brick arches.  Not only can you have a drink here, but it’s great for a little browse too.  This is not a party town, it’s more cute and sophisticated than buzzing.

Anche Gli Angeli, Noto, Sicily

On a different note, a short drive from Noto (25 minutes) you’ll find some beautiful beaches – and the Agua Beach Bar which is meant to be worth a visit.

Blog, Cape Town, South Africa

Bree Street’s best cocktail bars, Cape Town

January 17, 2016
Bree Street, Cape Town

Bree Street has transformed over the past decade, and is now, along with Kloof Street, one of Cape Town’s hottest culinary streets.  I found the further down the street you walked (away from the Waterfront), the more restaurants, bars and cafes popped up.  They all looked super appealing, but we settled for a little stretch with a number of cocktail bars all in a row, in different coloured houses.  So cute.  It’s as hipster as Cape Town gets here.

Bree Street, Cape Town

These were my favourite bars on Bree:

DOOR 221

This tiny bar is relatively new on Bree street, and it’s where we spent most of our afternoon, sitting in the warm sun at one of their few tables on the street, watching Cape Town go by.  Their whisky sours are wonderful (and about £2 a pop), and Rob enjoyed their various beers.  Apparently they serve great tacos too.

Door 221, Cape TownDoor 221, Cape Town


If you’re a gin lover this is the place for you.  Serving various types of gin and tonics, with fun interiors and a friendly vibe, this is one of the most populars bars on Bree Street.

Mother's Ruin, Cape Town


Annoyingly this was shut when we went (but it was the reason we discovered Door 221 and Mother’s Ruin).  This speakeasy bar apparently mixes some of the best cocktails in town.  The interiors are vintage in style, and they offer sharing platters too if you get hungry.

Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, Cape Town

In terms of restaurants, for coffee I’d recommend the Hard Pressed Cafe, for breakfast Jason Bakery (incredibly pastries) and Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room (I love the look of the interiors here), for lunch Chefs Warehouse (with a wonderful tapas menu), for dinner Bistro Bizerca (blog to follow).  For beer lovers the Brewers & Union, with a lovely outside terrace, is the place to be.

For a comprehensive list of all the incredible dining and drinking venues on Bree Street, Eat Out have written a fantastic article.

Blog, Bordeaux, France

Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

August 15, 2015

Saint-Emilion sits proudly on a hill, surrounded by never-ending vineyards and chateaux.  This blonde stoned beauty is possibly Bordeaux’s most famous town, and we found while the surrounding countryside was largely devoid of people and cars, it seemed Saint-Emilion was where everyone was concentrated.  Yes, it is touristy, full, noisy – but perhaps only really in and around the main square. And the car parks. If you wander off down a cobbled side street, or climb some stairs up the hill suddenly you find yourself alone.  And you can observe this beautiful town in peace and quiet.


Saint-Emilion is prime wine country, so you can expect a huge amount of wine shops. On every street, round every turn, there will be a wine shop. Or somewhere to do wine tasting.  So that’s definitely something you should do. Whether you are buying or drinking, there is a huge amount of choice – from the Grand Crus to the Grand Cru Classé.  Other than that wander up to the watch tower for sublime views of the town and its surroundings. Or take a look at some of its simple but charming churches.



Hostellerie de la Plaisance is Saint-Emilion’s Relais & Chateaux hotel. The place to stay (rooms from about £300) but it also hides the most stunning terrace with heavenly views.  While very centrally located, just above the main square next to the church, it feels worlds apart from the heaving square below. If you can afford it, have lunch here. If not, have a ‘café au lait’ (or a glass of wine) and enjoy the views in relative peace. The service, coffee and complimentary chocolate biscuits are phenomenal.

Hostellerie de la Plaisance, St EmilionHostellerie de la Plaisance, St Emilion

As the town is so touristy, avoid most of the restaurants close to the square. Prices are high and the food tends to be OK (this is France after all), but you can certainly do better.  Instead, wander a little further to Les Delices de Roy. It’s quieter here and the food (and prices) is good.  But if you really want a bargain, and something a little more authentic, drive 9 minutes down the road to the river side town of Branne. While the town itself is nothing special, Cafe de Cuisine is worth the journey. You’re not really here for the setting – views from its shaded terrace are of a metal bridge over the Dordogne river and a road – but the food is simple and delicious.  Classic French food, and 17 Euros for a three course menu scrawled on a blackboard. The service is brisk but friendly and we noticed lots of French here too.  We had a chicken pate to start, followed by a light and zesty cod and cold cauliflower salad. The puddings may have been the best of all – my chocolate gateaux was everything you’d expect from a French pudding, and Rob’s lime panacotta with red fruit couli was delicious.  Add a glass of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru for 5 Euros and you’re sorted.

Cafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, Branne

Otherwise L’Atelier de Candale at Chateau de Candale (2km from Saint-Emilion) is also meant to be delicious, and very peaceful.  They have a lunch menu for €15.

For more tips of the Bordeaux region, check out A weekend in the Medoc.

All photos mine, mostly from my Instagram.

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