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Blog, Italy, Rome

The Terrace at Hotel Raphael, Rome – DRINK

February 18, 2017
Hotel Raphael, Rome

When in Rome I am forever trying to find new bars, preferably with good views.  The terrace at Hotel Raphael goes to the top of my recommendations.  Even though it was January and fairly chilly, it was so special having this terrace completely to ourselves.  And with it the most stunning 360 degree view of Rome.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

The hotel itself is Relais & Chateaux, and has a wonderful location right behind Piazza Navonna.  I’m not quite sure if I would recommend staying there though – the interiors were modern and I felt lacked taste.  Even the (vegetarian) restaurant on the top floor lacked character or atmosphere, though it has great views.   But the multi-level terrace is something else.  I can imagine it being wonderful in the summer, where you can enjoy a warm summer evening with a cold glass of prosecco or even have dinner outside (the terrace is part of the restaurant).

Hotel Raphael, Rome

A drink with a view like this comes with a premium.  This is not the place for a cheap drink.  A bottle of prosecco will set you back about 36EUR.  But it’s worth it as the staff are wonderful, friendly and warm, and they also brought out some aperitivo.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

Hotel Raphael, Rome

We had a very special time here, and spent a number of hours drinking and enjoying the view. And watching the sun set over the eternal visit.  I would highly recommend a pre-dinner drink here.

The Terrace

Hotel Raphael

Largo Febo, 2

Rome

Blog, Croatia

DiVino, Hvar – EAT

August 13, 2016
Divino, Hvar

Croatia is not known for it’s food, but Hvar is spoilt for choice.  While Dalmatino seems to be everyone’s favourite, DiVino gave it a run for its money.  For one, DiVino’s location, setting and view is much better than Dalmatino.  Here you can really enjoy the sunset, with breathtaking views of the Pakleni Islands and the sea.  Their terrace is large and comfortable but inside is nice too if it gets a little chilly.

Divino, Hvar

This really is the place to have sea food.  While some say the food is a bit pricey here, I was not disappointed with the excellent (and massive) tuna steak I had.  It was perfectly cooked, still quite raw in the middle and unbelievably fresh.   They served it with humus and swiss chard, so it was light but still filling.   The prawn risotto was also delicious, and beautifully presented (like all the food I saw come past).

Divino, HvarDivino, Hvar

This is a very romantic spot, and a great date place.  While it’s very close to Carpe Diem Lounge Bar, it’s a far cry from the noisier and more touristy dinner spots along the marina.   Their wine list was also excellent.  Annoyingly I can’t remember what the red wine was we drank here and enjoyed so much (and then asked for at every other restaurant we ate), but it was a local Croatian wine (which are surprisingly good).

If you’re looking for a break from partying at Hula Hula and Carpe Diem, then DiVino is the place to come to for a more sophisticated, refined evening.

Divino

Put križa 1, 21450,

Hvar

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Stay, The Netherlands

W Lounge, Amsterdam

March 19, 2016
W-Amsterdam---W-Lounge---WET

I’m not really a W Hotel girl.  Yes, they are luxurious and super comfortable hotels.  But usually they are a bit flash, a bit loud and a bit ‘trendy’ for me.  But then I went up to the W Lounge (6th floor) for the new-ish W Hotel in Amsterdam and, while the interiors aren’t really my style, I could quite happily admit that this was a very cool place to come for a drink.

W Hotel, Amsterdam

Firstly, the views.  They are quite ridiculous, especially in a city which doesn’t have much of a cityscape.  With the W Hotel’s enviable location right in the centre of town, the views are directly of the Dam Palace and Amsterdam’s beautiful centre.

Secondly, the terrace.  Yes, it’s small and I can imagine it overflowing with people in the summer months.  We came on a sunny day in December and we had the whole place to ourselves.  There is a long pool, which you can swim in (guests only) and while it’s clearly not for children’s recreational use, I can’t think of a better wake up than a few laps in the pool with the view of the palace.

W Hotel, Amsterdam

And lastly, the vibe.  While I mentioned above that I find the W Hotels a bit too loud, that doesn’t mean that they’re not fun.  And the W Lounge is certainly a lively place to be in the late afternoon and evening.  Even if you’re not outside the huge windows mean you can still enjoy the views of the city, while fireplaces and comfy sofas mean it’s a great place to visit all year round.  The ideal place for a pre-dinner cocktail.

W Hotel, Amsterdam

W Hotel Amsterdam

Spuistraat 175, 1012 VN

Photo credit: W Hotel

Blog, Drink, Eat, London, Stay

Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

December 25, 2015
Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

London has had quite a few show-stopping hotel openings in 2015, but the Mondrian Hotel may be the most prominent one of all.  And for good reason – this modern beauty, with prime location in the Sea Containers building on the South Bank is worth a visit.  Whether it be for breakfast, dinner, cocktails or an overnight stay, the Mondrian will delight.

I went for dinner and cocktails about a month ago. Even your arrival is memorable – the copper, sea inspired ‘wave’ is perhaps more unique than it is beautiful, but I loved it.  The whole design of the place is to echo a 1920s cruise ship.  In my mind that description sounds like it should look hideous, but it’s far from it.

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

The restaurant – colourful and shiny – was busy in a pleasant way; the design sleek with a flashy bar in the centre of the room.  But your eyes are instantly drawn to the views.  You’re right on the river Thames and you’ve got Blackfriars Bridge and the City on your right (the Tate Modern is an 8 minute walk), and Westminster and all its glories to your left.  The food was delicious and light, presented with care.  Perhaps I chose healthy options, but I left feeling satisfied without overly full (which is sadly usually the case when you’re as greedy as I am).

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

The bar at the Mondrian is perhaps even more of a highlight than the restaurant – the decor (modern, of course) again stands out. While bright pink leather sofas may not necessarily be my cup of tea, here they fit perfectly with the emerald green walls. At night the bar is so dimly lit you don’t even necessarily notice the colours.  Again, the view drew my attention more than anything. London looks so magical at night, and from the bar (make sure you sit close to the window) the views are uninterrupted.  The cocktails too deserve a mention, the menu beautifully designed and the drinks were well crafted.

Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

The Mondrian hotel may not be for everyone – it’s daring and loud, the design is ridiculously slick and it perhaps lacks a degree coziness.  But its style is fun and original, the views phenomenal, the location ideal to see London and the pricing fair (this is all relative of course).  While I didn’t see the rooms I know some say they do feel slightly more business-like than the hotel’s communal areas, but still very comfortable with all the mod-cons you could wish for.

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

But I suppose what I liked so much about the place was that the restaurant and bar did not feel like they were part of a hotel at all.  So regardless of whether you’re a hotel guest or not, you still very much feel like a special guest in your own right.

The Mondrian Hotel

Sea Containers

20 Upper Ground,

London SE1 9PD

Malta

5 Reasons to go to Valletta

June 16, 2012

Benjamin Disreali described Valletta as “a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, when he visited it in 1830.  Since that time not much has changed.

Proud capital of Malta, Valletta is the perfect weekend destination.  Combining culture, sea and sun this UNESCO World Heritage Centre should be high on your list for a brief early summer escape.

Valletta

5 reasons to visit Valletta:

1)   The views of the Grand Harbour

I read in a guidebook I picked up from Valletta’s Information Office that the view overlooking Valletta’s Grand Harbour is one of the three most outstanding sites of the Mediterranean (along with the Golden Horn and the Bay of Naples).  It is indeed breath-taking.  The expanse of the natural Harbour, the impressive Forts of St Elmo, Ricasoli and St Angela & the Royal Naval Hospital are hard to take in all at once.   Sit on one of the benches of the Upper or Lower Barracca Gardens (lovely) and take your time to enjoy it.

View of the Grand Harbour, Valletta

View form the Lower Barracca Gardens, Valletta

2)   St. John’s Co-Cathedral

Valletta is the home of the Knights of Malta, and this stunning Cathedral is testimony of this – it was built by them and called after their official name (‘Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John’).  The simple, almost military façade contrasts sharply to its intricate, grand Baroque interior.  One of Caravaggio’s most famous works – the beheading of St. John the Baptist, hangs in the oratory.  It is the only work of art Caravaggio signed.  The audio guide comes free with entrance (€12) and is excellent.

St. John's Cathedral, Valletta

3)   Amble down Valletta’s side streets

The old town of the city is tiny and built like a grid, so very easy to get around.  I loved ambling down the sloping streets, once in a while catching glimpses of the brilliant blue sea, enjoying the tattered old facades of the buildings and their unique, Moorish windows.  Within a minute’s walk away from the tourist centre you practically can have a private view of the side streets, with only some stray cats to keep you company. Heaven.

View, Valletta

Valletta's windows

4)   Rampila

Nestled in the old city walls, this newly renovated restaurant cannot be missed.  Sit either inside in the ‘wine caves’ or outside on the beautiful candle-lit terrace with stunning views of the city walls and a pleasant breeze.  The food is, quite simply, delicious.  Try the scallops to start and  the typically Maltese braised rabbit as a main.  While it feels like a luxurious experience, Rampila is incredible value for money.  Reserve a table online.

Rampila (St Johns Cavalier, Valletta)

www.rampila.com

 Rampila, Valetta

5)   St. Julian’s: Boutique Hotels & lively bars

Rather than staying in Valletta, I recommend staying in St. Julian’s.  Its hip, there is a lively vibe and its ‘younger’ than Valletta.  It’s rife with cool little Boutique hotels and busy bars.  We stayed in the Argento hotel, which was great. St. Julian’s Bay is also absolutely lovely.  Plus its only a 20 minute bus ride from Valetta, so it’s no problem to go back and forth.

Warning: stay away from St. George’s road in Paceville: its rammed with drunken teenagers…

St. Julian's Bay

Of course you need not just stay a weekend, for apart from Valletta, Malta has much more to be explored and enjoyed.  Go diving in the North, near Mellieha and Gozo, visit more of Malta’s cultural hubs like Mdina & Mosta, or just relax on the beach and enjoy the beautiful clear waters of the Med.

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