Photos, Social Commentary, the beta mum book

Brilliant Book Review of The Beta Mum by The Book Bag!

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My books have just arrived! NHYM 2017.

The Book Bag Book Review of The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land:

‘Intelligent, thought-provoking fiction that you want to keep reading.’

‘To say that Sophie Bennett didn’t want to move to London is something of an understatement. She’s a shy person who doesn’t make friends easily and the thought of losing all her support systems and having to start again fills her with dread. But, husband Michael has been offered a big job on London’s RailLink project and it’s not a chance he can turn down – even if he wanted to, and he doesn’t. So before long their three-year old daughter, Kaya, has been left with Sophie’s parents and Michael and Sophie have found a flat in west London and they’ve even, against all the odds, managed to secure a place for Kaya at London’s most exclusive nursery school. Well, when I say that they managed to secure the place, I actually mean that they required the services of a nursery consultant, who has a double-barrelled name and a friendship with the headmistress.

Sophie’s willing to try to make a go of it (it’s only for three years, after all) but the first morning’s drop off at Cherry Blossoms shows what she’s up against. It’s all celebrities, supermodels bodyguards, top end cars and power dressing. Sophie has never felt so out of place and can barely get a word of acknowledgement out of any of the mothers and all thoughts of the friendships she’d been hoping for drained away. She’s definitely a beta mum in a herd of alphas. To make matters worse, Michael has turned into a workaholic, coming home late each night and often working at weekends. Kaya’s not settling that well at nursery and getting playdates for her with the children of the rich and famous is difficult, particularly when the staff there assume that you’ve come to apply for a housekeeper’s job. Desperate for an outlet, Sophie starts a blog.

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I started reading: this is fiction for the thinking woman. Don’t be misled by the presence of celebrities and the super-rich: they have to live somewhere: why not near you? Isabella Davidson takes a sensitive and sympathetic look at issues facing us in the 21st century. In an age when everyoneseems to have hundreds of best friends and a wonderful life, how do you cope when you feel like a fish out of water? When you’re lonely? When you’re looking after a young child, but there seems to be no one to give you any support? When the only other adult you can talk to thinks you shouldn’t disturb him when he’s at work?

There’s a thought-provoking look at wealth. Sophie and Michael are well off. Michael’s job is well paid and the company is covering some of their expenses. Sophie would like to work, but doesn’t need to. By most people’s standards that’s rich, but by Cherry Blossom standards the Bennets are at the bottom of the scale. They’re never obviously judged on the basis of their net worth: they’re just judged. But when you dig deeper there are divisions within the super-rich: some hedge funds have never quite recovered from the financial crash, but the wives don’t moderate their spending to compensate.Then there’s the fact that money can’t guarantee safety. And even at Michael’s level there’s the problem of trying to get some work/life balance that might actually allow you to see your family every now and then. OK, they’re first world problems, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

As a blogger myself the most intriguing thread was about Sophie’s blog. Isabella Davidson (she blogs as Notting Hill Yummy Mummy) catches the feeling completely. There’s the obsession with followers and page views and that sense of being anonymous and being able to say what you like without there being any redress. At one point I think I stopped breathing because I was so worried for Sophie, particularly as she learned the valuable lesson that you should never press ‘send’ when you’ve had too much to drink.

You’ll have realised that I completely bought into Sophie. I wanted to give her a hug. It’s a couple of days since I finished the book, but I keep wondering how she’s getting on. She’s not alone though – all the characters come off the page and into your life. It’s a great story too: I read it in a couple of sittings. It would have been one, but work was particularly demanding! I’d like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.’

Buy The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson at Amazon You can pre-order The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson at Amazon.co.uk.
Buy The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson at Amazon You can pre-order The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson at Amazon.com.

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Beta_Mum:_Adventures_in_Alpha_Land_by_Isabella_Davidson

For other reviews, check out Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34030549-the-beta-mum-adventures-in-alpha-land

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In the Press, Photos, Social Commentary, Spotlight On...

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land is available to Pre-Order on Amazon!

 

You can now pre-order my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land on Amazon!

Pre-Order On Amazon

The Beta Mum_300CMYK

 

 

My Book Cover Revealed!

It is a strange thing to come up with a book cover, given that I am not the one who actually drew those pictures or designed that cover, yet it is the one thing that is supposed to sell my book. I did give the designers some ideas of what I thought the cover should look like, but they are the ones who came up with it.

The book, which is really like a baby to me, was conceived by me from the first word to the last (well, with some editorial help!), so when I received the book cover, it was hard to feel like it was mine. But I am now thrilled with it, and can’t wait to see the physical copy in a few weeks! The official publication date is June 20th 2017!

And here is the back cover blurb:

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet, sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha mums?

You will soon be able to purchase The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land locally on June 20th from The Notting Hill Bookshop or you can get it straight to your door with the ever so reliable Amazon from June 20th!

You can also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy on May 10th. The Goodreads Giveaway will run from May 10th to June 10th.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land by Isabella Davidson

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land

by Isabella Davidson

Giveaway ends June 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Let me know what you think!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Photos, Reviews, Travel

Hotel Review: Carlisle Bay, Antigua

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View from the water. NHYM 2017. All photos courtesy of NHYM. 

Overall: 4.2 stars

Hotel: 4.3 stars

Beach and location: 4.5 stars

Rooms: 4.4 stars

Food: 4.4 stars

Service: 3.5 stars

Value for money: 3.8 stars

As you – my readers – all know, I have a slight obsession with the Maldives (it is after all, my ‘happy place’). But this year, we decided that we needed to try something different. So, after discussions with many friends, it was decided that Carlisle Bay in Antigua would be our next destination.

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View from the beach Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

One friend said that ‘it is as close as what you get in the Maldives’ : a luxury, family friendly hotel with beach front villas, a great Kids Club, and clear, shallow waters for the kids. (But I was also told to manage my expectations, because it still isn’t quite the Maldives).

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The Beach, Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

THE HOTEL

As soon as I arrived, I realised why my friends had sent me here: beautiful hotel grounds, a restaurant right on the beach, and the incredibly beautiful and idyllic beach and bay, Carlisle Bay. The beach was one of my favourite parts of the hotel, you couldn’t fault it.

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Hotel Grounds. NHYM 2017.

Antigua is only 8 hours from London, which already gets points for being one of the closest tropical island destinations (Maldives: 10/11 hours, Mauritius 11/12 hours, Asia/Thailand 13+hours). And, you can fly there on British Airways on points.

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The Room. NHYM 2017.

It is an all-suite hotel, and we were given a family suite which was the perfect set up for a family: a large main bedroom with living area and a second bedroom with 2 twin beds for the children. This set up, I have to say, was perfect. The room was bright, clean, and crisp. It provides what you ask for. (The only thing I would comment on is that the common stairs were not cleaned regularly which is something they could work on).

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The pool Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

The pool is nice enough, but nothing spectacular. It is also set back so there is no view of the sea from the pool, something I do really love and find in most hotels in the Maldives. The other disappointment was the service around the pool was quite slow at times: ie. we ordered our children’s dinner at 5pm and it arrived at 6pm and as you can imagine, hungry children make for very irritable parents (Free children’s dinners from 5-6pm).

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View from our room. NHYM 2017.

Another annoying thing was that there was a Mercedes conference/convention while we were there, and we had to change rooms because of the noise they made one night. I would definitely check with the hotel to make sure there isn’t a conference when you are staying there, as it does change the vibe of the hotel.

ACTIVITIES

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View from Shirley Heights. NHYM 2017. 

There are plenty of activities to choose from, from visiting Shirley Heights (above), to going to Stingray cities to pet stingrays (the kids loved it), to going snorkeling on a reef nearby (complimentary). We were spoilt for choice and the hotel does a good job encouraging these activities. We missed out on sunrise yoga on the pier and a hike through the jungle. Another time.

There are also a lot of cool beach restaurants like Catherine’s Cafe and Jacqui O’s that are great fun both for parents and children.

KIDS CLUB 

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Kids Club NHYM 2017. 

Oh Kids Clubs. They can make-or-break a family holiday. But luckily for us, my children LOVE Kids Clubs. I have trained them since the age of 11 months old to love Kids Clubs. So off they went happily every morning, even though there weren’t many children because of the Mercedes convention. As my husband says, we got free babysitting by a bunch of adults.

One of the highlights was on our last night (after the Mercedes gang had left), when they organised a Pyjama Party from 6:30-9pm with music, cupcakes and games. As you can imagine, all the parents dropped off their kids and went for romantic dinners. Everyone was happy: happy kids, and happy parents. There were also great activities for older children: kayaking, going to stingray city, to water parks, tubing etc…

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Sunset while my kids were at the Kids Club Pyjama Party. NHYM 2017. 

FOOD

The food was in general very good. We have had mediocre food in the Maldives and in the Caribbean, so we were very pleased with the quality. The only slight comment was that the breakfast buffet didn’t have that much choice relative to hotels in Asia and in the Maldives, but the a la carte menu was very adequate. What was great was that the kids would be happily playing in the sand on the beach while we slowly enjoyed our cappuccino. Bliss.

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Sunrise from our room. NHYM 2017.

SERVICE

There were a lot of good things about the hotel as I mentioned above, but the service was one thing that was really hit-or-miss. We had some excellent waitresses like Georgie, who was so nice to the kids and great waiters at dinner time, but we were also faced with some waitresses that looked like I was asking them a HUGE favour to order breakfast, as if they really couldn’t be bothered. For the price we pay (it isn’t a cheap hotel), the service should be 100% top notch, but sadly it failed on a number of occasions, ie. The coconut incident: I ordered a coconut at 10:30am and was told it would take a while: it arrived at 4:30pm!!!

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OVERALL

We did have a lovely time at Carlisle Bay and the kids loved it, but we were slightly disappointed in the service, given the standard of the hotel. The beach days and activities were great, the Kids Club kept my kids happy, and the breakfast was really good (my favourite meal of the day). There are a lot of repeat guests because it is an easy hotel: easy to get to, easy to get on the beach, easy to leave your kids in the Kids Club. So as long as you don’t go when there is a Mercedes conference and you don’t order a coconut, you should have a great time.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Photos, Reviews, Top 10, Travel, Uncategorized

Hotel Review: NIYAMA, Maldives

NIYAMA’s 50 Shades of Blue

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View from our beach. All Photos taken by NHYM 2016 Copyright. Except the Tiger Shark. 

NIYAMA is a cool, understated, luxury hotel with a modern feel to it, with great original restaurants, a superb kids club and great personal touches like the in-room complimentary popcorn and island-made ice-cream.

Rating: *****5 star luxury

http://www.scottdunn.com/luxury-holidays/asia/indian-subcontinent/maldives/maldives/per-aquum-niyama

We landed in Male after surviving our flight from London (where we spotted Jemima Khan in Business Class and a ‘Lady Goldsmith’ sign waiting for her at Male airport), and were whisked away to the local Maldivian seaplane ‘terminal’ where we waited for our sea plane:

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View from Seaplane. NHYM 2016.

The views of the lagoons and atolls from above where stunning and the seaplane was a novelty for my children – and my husband – who had never been on one.

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Powdery Beach on Chill. NHYM 2016.

The Hotel

After being welcomed by our Thakuru, Vlad (our butler/personal assistant/concierge and driver all rolled into one), we were driven off for a tour of the hotel in a buggy. The hotel is set on two islands, ‘CHILL’ (for adults/older children), and ‘PLAY’ (for younger families), and is run by Per Aquum who also own Huvafen Fushi and Desert Palm in Dubai. ‘Chill’ opened in 2012 and ‘Play’ opened only just over a year ago, when they decided to cater to families. It has a high hip factor with an underwater club ‘Glow Party’ and DJs on Saturdays and fun touches like an ice-cream bar and complimentary popcorn.

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Our room keys; there were lots of cool and hip touches to the hotel. NHYM 2016. 

It tries to be different and original, bold and unique, which it succeeds in doing.

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Bananas and Bicycles in front of our room. NHYM 2016.

When we arrived to our beach hut, we were welcomed by banana trees and bicycles. This would be one of three ways of transportation; barefoot, bicycles or buggies.

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Island Path. NHYM 2016.

There is something wonderfully freeing about walking around barefoot on an island and chose to walk barefoot most of the time. The kids loved the buggy, so we often opted for it for longer rides.

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Welcome to Paradise. NHYM 2016. 

The Room

The room was everything you would hope for in a place like this; sea-facing, big enough for a whole family of 2 adults and 2 young children, modern yet welcoming, and had the biggest fridge I have ever seen in a hotel.

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Popcorn Machine! NHYM 2016. 

The complimentary popcorn and in-room, island-made ice-cream was of course a big hit for the children.

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The bathroom in itself was quite spectacular with a pond/pool and banana trees. As soon as we arrived, the kids jumped out of their clothes and into the bathroom pool.

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View from our Room. NHYM 2016.

On arrival, we were welcomed by a bottle of Moet, a fresh fruit platter and welcome canapés. Every day, we had a new fresh fruit platter and milk cartons for the kids delivered to our room. Despite the modern amenities, the room still retained Maldivian charm with its thatched roofs and a Dhoni-inspired swing.

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Our beautiful Beach Hut. NHYM 2016. 

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View from our room. NHYM 2016. 

This is what I call a proper sea view room…

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Beach hut with pool. NHYM 2016.

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General Manager’s Drinks at the 3 Bedroom Beach Pavillion. NHYM 2016. 

The Crowd

The crowd was understated cool; Wayfarer and Aviator Raybans, black rimmed glasses, Missoni style kaftans and lovely gay couples were seen around. There is less bling here than at the One & Only (am thinking of the Russian oligarch’s wife dining on her own with a bodyguard lurking around at the Japanese restaurant of One & Only and the Hedge Funders discussing their private jets or lack thereof), and is dominated by Northern Europeans while we are there. Germans are plentiful, as are Danes, Swedes and Brits. There are also quite a few young Chinese honeymooners and Christina the Marketing Manager tells me that their number 1 demographic is Chinese. The Russians have stayed away recently due to the crumbling Rouble but the Europeans have been replacing them.

It is actually a really nice crowd, everyone was very friendly and nice, and sartorially superior. There are no cheesy T-shirts and Birkenstocks here; polo shirts of Phuket, Mustique and Club 55 are more like it. One teenage girl is sporting a Club 55 bracelet, so I know where she will be this summer.

The Food

The food was overall very good, although quite expensive, so we were quite glad to have been on a half board option. Food is complimentary for kids, which is always a nice touch. The breakfast buffet, which is particularly important to me and indication of the entire catering, was stellar. There was everything you could ask for without being too over the top; from congee to gluten free, smoothies to huevos rancheros, crepes and waffles, stir fries to curry, and all the tropical fruit you could ask for; dragon fruit, mango, lychee, rambutan, jack fruit, papaya, guava, melon…

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A fruitarian Paradise. NHYM 2016. 

The restaurants in NIYAMA deserve a special accolade for originality;

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Edge Overwater gourmet dining was only accessible by boat.

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Subsix underwater restaurant was a fun, once-in-a-lifetime-experience, with nemo entertaining the girls while we savoured our Wagyu beef (only open at lunch time).

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Every Saturday and Wednesday night, Subsix turns into a nightclub where they have infamous ‘Glow Parties.’

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Nest, an Asian restaurant set in the treetops, had South East Asian cuisine with Teppanyaki downstairs in a jungle/rainforest setting. This quickly became our children’s favourite restaurant.

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Tribal, an African and South American restaurant, was excellent, dishing up tribal African dishes and Argentinian steaks. A must try.

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Pool and view from BLU. NHYM 2016.

BLU is the main restaurant on PLAY island which served a delicious breakfast buffet in the sand and a casual Mediterranean/European lunch. This is the view we had every morning and the child-friendly pool that we used most of the time.

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View from Epicure. NHYM 2016.

Epicure was the main restaurant on ‘CHILL,’ and is the biggest restaurant of them all, which was a ‘no reservations’ restaurant. Reservations are needed to all the other restaurants, so be sure to plan in advance. They were all very popular and were booked up one or two days in advance.

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Weather Station and Dune Restaurant/Bar. 

Dune Restaurant/Bar was next to Epicure, serving lunch and Cocktails.

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Also a big hit with the kids was the ice-cream bar and deli that offered snacks and sandwiches throughout the day.

The Service

The service was 5 star as expected at this level of hotel; nothing was too much, everyone was smiling and friendly, always willing to help. Our Thakuru managed everything from check-in, restaurant reservations, driving our buggy, to sorting out Disney movies for the girls. The local staff were wonderful as were the African staff at Tribal, who were very knowledgeable and friendly. Occasionally we had to wait a little for the buggy rides, but most of the time we could flag a kind buggy-driver to take us to our destination. Checkout was a little haphazard and slow, but perhaps Island-life is a little more laid-back than what we are used to.

The Activities

Outside the perfect, pristine, powdery sand beaches, there was plenty to do on the island if you chose to. The water sports centre was fully stocked with paddle boards, jet skis, para-sailing and surf boards. There were fishing trips, dolphin cruises, the Spa, Zumba, Yoga, meditation etc.. etc… etc… I didn’t manage time for the spa but did manage three dives.

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Photo of a tiger shark courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2016. 

As an avid and 20 year veteran scuba diver with 200+ dives, I am pretty particular about my diving and I am a fair weather diver. This atoll isn’t known to offer the best diving in the Maldives, but I was still very happy; I still saw lots of white tip reef sharks, turtles, schools of rainbow coloured fish and lots of eagle rays. We also saw the local pod of dolphins on our way to a dive site but the highlight was encountering a tiger shark, my first one ever, which was so enthrallingly exciting. I was in complete shark heaven, which may seem strange to you, but there is very little in life that makes me this happy…

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Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kid’s Club

Of course one of the main reasons for coming to NIYAMA was to try out the Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kids Club, which I had heard was one notch above any of other Kids Club. It is complimentary for those over 3 years old, but does take children as young as 1 y.o. It only opened 1 year ago when the island ‘Play’ was opened and is operated by Scott Dunn, meaning that Nikki, the director was recruited and trained by Scott Dunn. Nikki told me that there were over 60 children at the hotel, and the Dolphin cruise recruited 18 kids! That is an excellent turn out and shows that they are really engaging the kids. What was nice at the hotel was that even though there were so many kids, you couldn’t really see or hear them. The children were all beautifully dressed and well mannered, looking like they just stepped out of a White Company photo shoot.

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Kids Club Thatched Hut and Playground. NHYM 2016.

The Kids Club was divided in age groups, with one hatched hut for the under 5s and one thatched hut for the over 5s, but with activities for 4 age groups: 12mo-2ys, 3-4, 5-7, 7-12 years.

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Water Playground, with new friends. NHYM 2016. 

The Under 5s Kids Club was very impressive with tons of activities from making arts and crafts masks, valentine’s cards, drawing and creating treasure hunts to playing in the water playground and going to the beach to make sandcastles.

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5-12 years old kids club. NHYM 2016.

The 5-12 age range group really stood out for their well thought out and enticing activities; dolphin cruises, snorkelling, kayaking, coral conservation programmes with a marine biologist and a lecture at Subsix underwater restaurant. Every day, at 5pm they would take the kids swimming in one of the pools, led by Adam the Kids Club manager. My daughter’s highlight was the dolphin cruise when she spotted dozens of spinner dolphins playfully dancing around the boat.

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Kids Club Dolphin Cruise. NHYM 2016.

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Kids Outdoor Theatre. NHYM 2016. 

For older children over 12 years old, there was an entire ‘Active’ area with a pool table, ping pong table, video games, simulators and more that seemed busy every night.

Overall:

This is a hip, 5 star, Robinson-Crusoe, ultra-luxe hotel that caters perfectly to couples and families, providing top-notch luxury service and amenities. It was everything we could have hoped for and stood out with special touches and details. Of course there was the odd hiccup, but in true 5 star style, it is how it is dealt with that matters, and this hotel manages to live up to its award winning accolades. Kids are definitely welcome with complimentary food and an extensive Kids Club schedule, even the teens love it. The only very slight negatives would be the less abundant marine life around the island compared to other islands and a slightly longer travel time with the seaplane, but the hotel was faultless and we had a great time and can only recommend it very highly. We met another family of Notting Hillers while on the island and it was already their second time there, which shows you that if you try it once, you will want to go again. As my daughter stated as fact the day we were leaving, ‘We’re coming back next year!’

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghiillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Thank you Scott Dunn for organising this wonderful trip!! I paid for this trip with a few perks from Scott Dunn, but it was organised professionally and efficiently from A-Z by them. 

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Our ‘beach.’ NHYM 2016. 

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Photos, Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Family Friendly, Luxury Hotels in the UK

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Chewton Glen Hotel, NHYM 2014. 

1. Babington House, Somerset

For the ultra-cool media types, Babington is the ultimate London getaway. It has amenities to satisfy parents and kids alike, as little as 1 yo to 80 y.o. The only (biggest) downside is that it is incredibly difficult to book, with the hotel being booked months in advance, especially as a non-member of the Soho House Conglomerate.

For mums & dads: Cowshed Spa, indoor & outdoor pool, tennis courts, Library, Cinema, Cricket Pitch.

For Kids: Teeny House for tots 1 and up, The Loft for children 8 and up.

http://www.babingtonhouse.co.uk

2. The Grove, Hertfordshire

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The Grove Hotel Wall Artwork, NHYM 2014. 

The Grove wins tons of points for being only 45 minutes away from London, easy booking (i.e. always having availability) and having everything to please the whole family. There are a variety of restaurants, although some may criticise the main restaurant for being too ‘canteen-like’ and on the ‘WAGGY’ side. The hotel itself is modern luxury, although some of the rooms may feel somewhat corporate with its 191 rooms in the West Wing. But there are some lovely communal spaces such as the beautiful ‘adults only’ lounges and the scattered art works in its grounds. Overall, for a quick and easy family break, there are not many hotels that beat it.

For parents: Luxurious Spa for the mummies, Golf for the daddies.

For Kids: Anoushka’s Kids Club, Creche for the little ones, Kids activities, tennis courts, outdoor beach in walled garden, own kids indoor pool, with another larger swimming pool in the Spa with family swimming times, children’s food.

http://www.thegrove.co.uk

3. Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire

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The Grove Hotel Artwork, NHYM 2014

With only 35 rooms, this is ideal for those looking for a more boutique feel alternative to bigger hotels without scrimping on facilities. It has a cozy, country manor feel to it, and offers close access to the Cotswolds and all its activities nearby. It has special events such as ‘Meet-The-Author’ lunches and clay pigeon shooting.

For the Parents: Calcot Spa is a lovely haven of peace while the children are being looked after at the Creche. There is a new horse-back riding school for those looking to learn or to brush up on their riding skills.

For kids: The Playzone, Ofsted registered Creche and the Mez, for children 8 and above. There is also an outdoor heated swimming pool during warmer months and a heated indoor pool for children during Family Swim Times.

http://www.calcotmanor.co.uk

4. Chewton Glen, Hampshire

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Front courtyard at entrance of Chewton Glen, NHYM 2014. 

Chewton Glen is a Relais & Chateux Hotel that has (cleverly) become a great family friendly hotel with plenty of family friendly room options: Courtyard suites, Coach House Suites (where they will arrange for you to have children’s beds on the ground floor and a King Bed on the top floor) and its famous Family Treehouse Suites, for a true treehouse experience. It was recently voted Best UK Holiday Hotel 2014, by Conde Nast Traveller, UK edition.

For the parents: Spa, cycling for the whole family, visiting nearby fishing villages and the coast.

For the kids: There is an outdoor pool, a Kids club during weekends and school holidays, special dining times with special buffet for kids, bicycles available for the hotel family to cycle to the beach. There is also an indoor pool with family swim times.

http://www.chewtonglen.com

5. Coworth Park, Ascot

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Wisteria, NHYM 2014

Part of the Dorchester Collection, Coworth Park lives up to its reputation; it recently won the 2015 Best Hotel with Spa Award at the Conde Nast Johansens 2105 Awards for Excellence. Located in Ascot, it is close to London and with an emphasis on horses, horse-riding, and polo playing with its Guards Polo Club Academy at Coworth Park. It is ideally located near all sorts of family attractions.

For Parents: Polo and Equestrian lessons, spa, and indoor swimming pool. Rooms in the ‘Stables,’ are beautifully appointed luxurious rooms.

For Kids: Kids Club at Coworth Park 2-8 yo, and a Teen den for children 8 and above. There are a wide variety of activities from horse riding and indoor pools to Legoland, Windsor, and Thorpe Park.

http://www.dorchestercollection.com/ascot/coworth-park

6. Limewood Hotel, New Forest

Butterflyinflightnottinghillyummymummy

The Grove Hotel Artwork, NHYM 2014

Limewood loses points for not having a Kid’s Club but because of it’s cool factor, it still makes the list. With under 30 rooms, it will feel intimate and familiar. There is a heavy emphasis on fitness and wellbeing with fitness retreats for adults and a large spa/fitness centre which includes: sauna, steam room, outdoor & indoor pool, workout studio, Raw & Cured food, Caldarium etc…There are specific rooms designed to be family friends such as the Forest cottages and cabins for families.

For Parents: Everything.

For kids: Little actual organised activities, therefore best for older children who need less looking after.

http://www.limewoodhotel.co.uk/home/

7. The Four Seasons, Hampshire

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Fresh fruit salad for breakfast for the healthy-minded. NHYM 2014. 

The Four Seasons, Hampshire is ideal for the American expats around who like to know what to expect and are Four-Seasons-Loving. The brand says it all and you can expect impeccable service and grounds. It is also pet-friendly, so for the full family+pet experience, look no further. It is no longer for the child-less parents, as I was once told by a couple who found it too child-friendly for their taste, since it has become so popular with families.

For Parents: Tennis, horse-riding, dog-friendly, fishing, clay pigeon shooting and falconry. Glass covered infinity indoor pool with outdoor vitality pool. Children are welcome most of the time in the swimming pool apart from Adult Quiet Time Swimming.

For Kids: Kids For All Seasons, Kid’s Club for children 3 – 10 years old.  (Under 3 can attend with a babysitter), Pony Club for those 4 and  up.

http://www.fourseasons.com/hampshire/

** The next three hotels are part of the Von Essen Luxury Family Hotel chain which are specifically focussed on providing a luxury family holiday. These may not have the same 5 star service and immaculate rooms as the previous hotels, but are ideal for parents looking for more low key, family-centred, 3 or 4 star hotels, with country charm in its place**

8. Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

It is a self proclaimed ‘luxury family hotel’ in the Cotswolds, where ‘we put family life at the core of your luxury holiday.’ There is a family friendly spa with an indoor and outdoor pool and tots treatments, a walled garden with medicinal herbs and chicken/duck nesting boxes to collect fresh eggs. It is close to Bath and Cotswolds for family outings.

For Kids: There is a Children’s Club for babies up to 8 years old, with 2 hours complimentary childcare, baby listening and babysitting service. There is an outdoor play area with swings, climbing frames and a sandpit. The Hen house is for older children with a pool table, table football and wide screen TV.

http://www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

9. The Ickworth, Suffolk

With 1,800 acres of national trust parkland, biking, children’s playground, farm and deer-studded parkland, this is a children’s heaven. Other nearby activities include Cambridge and Colchester Zoo. There is a Family Friendly Spa with an indoor swimming pool and Mamma mio treatments for the yummy mummies.

For kids: Creche from babies to 8 years old, baby listening and babysitting services, Sunday breakfast club from 8 to 9:30am, Club Blu for older kids with table tennis, pool table, Wii & Playstation as well as a cinema 6pm screenings.

http://www.ickworthhotel.co.uk

10. Fowey Hall, Cornwall

This hotel is the furthest away from London, therefore is not for the faint hearted with 4 and a half hours of driving or flying into Newquay but has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. It is thought to have been the inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows. It is essentially a hotel for families though, so don’t expect Child-Less Clients. It is for those who love sea-side Cornish holidays by the sea, where you can imagine the Famous Five playing by the beach and on the river.

For Kids: Four Bears Creche Den, trampoline, zip wire and beach adventures. Indoor pool and outdoor hot tub, children’s high tea between 5 and 6pm.

http://www.foweyhallhotel.co.uk

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Photos, Social Commentary

‘Are you Sun or Ski? Top 10 Reasons why I choose Sun over Ski Anytime’

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Copyright NHYM 2014

There are two camps in this Battle: the Skiers and the Sunners. The Skiers tend to be athletic, sporty and have a need for an Adrenaline Rush, the Sunners, well, you could either call them the Lazy Ones or the Intellectual Ones. I’d rather call them the Intellectual Ones, who, like myself, are satisfied with the only activity of reading books while sipping a margarita cocktail on my sun lounger with waiters coming by with fresh fruit ever half hour while working on my tan.

After coming back from a week’s holiday of Skiing in the Alps, to a place we shall call Valdeblore, I am reminded that I am firmly, and always will be, in the Sunny Holiday camp. I was swayed this year into thinking that a Snow Holiday would be great for the kids, who are ready to learn to ski, just as they should learn how to swim. Very valuable asset to have. Therefore, off we went on a Ski Holiday with 2 young children in tow. I quickly realised my mistake and longed for the tropical holidays my friends were sending me messages from; ‘Happy New Year from the Bahamas!’ Hello from Hawaii!’

Top 10 Reasons why I choose Sun over Ski

1. Packing: Packing for a Sun Holiday is the easiest packing you will ever have to do: bikini, sarong, flip flops, sunglasses and you are set. Now that the Kindle exists, it is even easier, no need to lug 7 paperbacks like I used to (ave. 1 book read per day in my heydays). I can fit my clothes and two children’s clothes in just one suitcase! Amazing! This past week, I had to pack for myself and my two toddlers, my husband, my mother which meant 10 thermals, socks, 5 Snow Suits (which take up a lot of space), 5 snow boots, 5 regular boots, 5 Ski-Warm Clothes and 20 town outfits, and the list goes on until we somehow ended up with 7 suitcases, 2 backpacks (one for skiing, one for carrying children), 1 travel cot, 1 buggy, and all of our Ski equipment.

2. Equipment: Like I mentioned before, the Sun equipment necessary now really boils down to a Kindle and Sunglasses. Perhaps a Dive Computer for the Dive Aficionados. But Ski Equipment? Ski Boots, Ski Poles, Skis, Gloves, Goggles (in case you get stuck in a Snowstorm like we did last week), and then you actually have to carry it all! And your children’s. And then you end looking like a Robot from Transformers will all this gear. I watched parents struggling to carry all of their and their children’s equipment down some stairs while their children were too scared to walk down by themselves, screaming and crying out of exhaustion and cold while I watched on, feeling sorry for them but unable to help because I was already carrying my own ski equipment plus my daughter’s helmet, gloves, skis, ski boots and prayed I wouldn’t lose any of them, which could set off a world-war-3-tantrum.

3. Travel: So both require plane travel in general (except those who want to brave a 13 hour car ride with their children in the back, but no thanks, better you than me or overnight train rides. Really? Again, not for me), but at the other end, car rides are almost essential for the Skiers. For Sunners, the best case scenario is to get to your final destination by speedboat from the airport like in the Maldives, (https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/04/19/top-ten-best-hotels-in-the-maldives/ ) which frankly is just much sexier than you in an oversized 7 person Family Car rental full to the brim of ski equipment and bags falling over right, left, and centre with each turn. And you know how much I like Boats. https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/08/07/i-like-big-boats-and-i-cannot-lie/ Then to reach the mountains, it will take a few hours drive from the airport to the final destination, in what are not the most easy conditions. Windy, icy roads on a mountain’s edge which threatens you at every turn to fall into the abyss, while my children both turn Green after the third windy turn. Eldest daughter vomited on the way up, youngest daughter vomited on the way down. Cleaning up vomit in a car on the side of a dangerously freezing road with one or the other child crying is just not very fun.

4. Clothes: This is really an extension of points 1 & 2. The ease of slipping into a bikini and pareo in the morning before heading off to a luxuriant laid out tropical fruit breakfast on the beach is just so much more appealing than waking up early to make sure you’re not missing any daylight skiing and getting dressed which requires military precision: Special-Socks-to-Keep-Your-Toes-Warm, long johns, Thermal long sleeved shirt, Special-Keep-Warm-Shirt-On-Top-of-Thermals, Ski Trousers, Ski Jacket, Ski Hat, Ski Gloves, Ski Boots. Not only do I have to put on all these layers, but then I have to help both of my children put on all of these layers, which if you are a parent know how difficult dressing time can be. By the time they are all dressed up, there are so many layers, they could barely move and found it easier to slide down a snow hill than to walk. All the while, they are complaining about something; too hot, too cold, too tired, ski boots hurt, too grumpy. Why are my children never happy?!

The worst case scenario in a Sun Holiday, like the (only) time my husband was in charge of packing the kids’ bag to go to the beach, is that you forget their bathing suit, which he literally did, and which meant two frolicking naked children on the beach, which is fine if you’re in France, and is even recommended in some places, although, if you were in the US you’d probably end up in jail for child abuse, while they wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the firearm in your purse.

5. Style: Ok, so the Ski Bunny look can be cute and charming with its Furs and Fur Trimmed jackets etc… But then you’d have to fend off PETA Supporters and Avoid Tomato-Snow-Balls headed at you, but seriously, the white sun protection lip block which covers half your face and the frozen, windswept hair and bright red, coarse cheeks after a day of skiing just isn’t a good look. And most Sunglasses/Goggles for Skiing really are just not that Stylish and the suntan around them just really looks daft. Sunny Holiday Sunglasses, on the other hand, can make anyone look good. The bigger the Sunglasses, the better you look and literally anyone can look good in large sunglasses and a Melissa Odabash kaftan. ‘Nuf said.

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6. Food: Perhaps it was the Ski Station we were staying in, but Ski Food becomes quite nauseating and redundant after a while. After a few days of Tartiflette, Raclette, Fondue, Sausages, Frites, Burgers, Pizzas and More-Cheese-Than-You-Need-for-A-Year, you start to crave fruits and vegetables. The Alps evidently did not get the ‘Five-a-Day-Fruit&Veg Pamphlet from the Government Officials. Perhaps they got car sick and had to go home. But then, when I wanted vegetables or fruit, there were none to be found! In one restaurant, I asked if I could get a side of vegetables, and the waiter looked at me with a blank face, like I had asked for a rare caviar from Odessa. And don’t even think about looking for fruit, it is literally an endangered species up there. So, not only did we all gain 5 pounds and became the chubby family version of ourselves, by Day 5, I felt nauseous just looking at anything with cheese anymore. Not great for my #1 New Year’s Resolution of losing weight, ‘Fighting the Flab,’ and eating healthy.

7. The Actual Sport: For anyone who is like me, a part time exerciser, skiing is hard work. I can just about ski any colour of the rainbow, red, green, blue, white or black, but it isn’t without huffing and puffing, feeling the lactic acid buildup in my legs and being exhausted by the end of the trip. Isn’t a holiday supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating? Skiing, unfortunately, does the opposite to me; exhausting, stressful with kids who don’t want to carry their skis, and I come home more tired than I left. Another notch against the Ski Camp. Sun Holidays encompass all my favourite things in life; swimming, reading, eating well, and sleeping (whilst it is positively encouraged to wake up at 10am on a Sunny Holiday, the Die Hard skiers/snowboarders will look down at you with contempt should you try to show up on the slopes at 10am).

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Copyright NHYM 2014

8. Weather: For those who haven’t been in Western Europe for the past week, the week started out snowless. There was barely any snow in the Alps or anywhere in Europe. Even the fake snow machines couldn’t save the day and many stations were shut. The day after our arrival, beautiful snowflakes appeared outside our window, and thinking we must make good use of this fresh snow and powder, we rushed out, early morning to hit the slopes. By mid-morning, no one else seemed to be skiing apart from a few like us. When we arrived at the top of the mountain, we couldn’t even see in front of us. It was freezing at -13C and we couldn’t see anyone or even the piste in front of us. This was a definite sign to go home. By that time, I couldn’t feel my toes or my fingers, my hair was caked in snow and my lips had become so numb and frozen that I could barely form my words, I sounded like I had had too much dental anaesthetic or an overdose of Valium. The skiing was bitterly cold and unpleasant as I began to wonder why in the world we have decided to come skiing to get frostbite in the process. Later, I found out that this heavy snowfall caused massive chaos and stranded 15,000 cars, with people needing to go into emergency shelters in school halls and sports centres. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11314946/Chaos-in-the-Alps-as-massive-snowfall-traps-15000-cars.html

9. Threats to your Life: At the precise moment in time we were stuck in the blizzard I started thinking of who we would sacrifice first, me or Mr. X. I definitely decided Mr. X. This part is actually serious, but Snow & Ski holidays leads to a huge number of accidents; avalanches, head injuries, snowstorms. Unfortunately, I remember last year hearing about Michael Schumacher’s accident, while he had a helmet on, and thought that I would never go skiing again, and here I was stuck in a snow blizzard. Sun holidays do have their risks, but generally speaking and excluding exceptional natural disasters, risks of accidents Skiing vs. going to a Sunny, tropical destination don’t really compare.

10. If I were Ever Stranded…Mountains or Beach? Of course as we were skiing down the slopes literally in the white darkness, I thought about being stranded in the mountains like in the movie ‘Alive’ and about Alexander Supertramp in the movie ‘Into the Wild’, and whether anyone survived. The question of mountain or beach is a no-brainer; if I were to be stranded somewhere, I would rather be on an island somewhere off the coast of Thailand, me and Leonardo di Caprio on our ‘Beach’ (without Tilda Swindon the dictator of course), drinking coconut water (which happens to be very trendy at the moment), fishing and eating sushi everyday, with grilled banana for dessert. I can’t think of a better way to be stranded.

Eventually, we returned to the Ski station, safe and sound, I hugged my two children, thanking whoever was listening that I had made it back into one piece.  There you have it. Beach holidays always win. Even in the movies.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Photos, Reviews, Social Commentary, Travel

‘I Like Big Boats… And I Cannot Lie’

‘I like Big Boats And I cannot Lie, You Other Sisters Can’t Deny…I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring… But Boats make me so Happy, So Ladies (yeah!), Ladies (yeah!), Do you love  your Boats? Hell yeah!’

– adapted from ‘Baby got Back’ by Sir Mix a Lot, 1992

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Van Dutch (Photos all taken by NHYM Copyright 2014)

Boats vs. Cars

Boats win hands down. When I hop on a privately owned boat of any size (over 10meters long that is), I get a certain frisson that gets me going, which I know is inexcusable and I should have higher morals, how superficial, but I just can’t help it. I just love boats. I don’t give a tits ass about cars. Cars to me are just dull and predictable; the Porsche Boxter is the poor man’s Porsche that an Associate at a big bank has finally been able to afford to show off his peers from B-school, the Ferrari is the ‘mid-life-crisis’ car that divorced men rush out to buy to snap up a younger version of their ex-wives, and let’s not talk about the branded keychain men love to leave around the restaurant dinner table to show off their bling. I once knew an Italian wannabe playboy who cruised down Fulham Road in his Porsche/Ferrari/Aston Martin to pick up chicks and it apparently worked! When these men (kids) get married and have children, they become the 4×4 crowd, the Range Rover vs. the BMW X5. (And you already know how I feel about private jets: http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com/2014/05/15/quote-of-the-day-i-promise-you-will-never-have-to-turn-right-on-an-airplane). Just as men have their toys or gadgets, boats are my ‘thing.’ I can stare at them all day. Not only can they take you from A to B like a car or plane, you can party on them, sleep on them, drink cocktails on them while watching the sun set over Formentera with some vodka infused watermelons, cruise from Capri to Ischia overnight on them and do whatever else your imagination takes you.

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Sunseeker Superhawk 48

My love of boats started years ago, when as a 20 year old party girl I made friends with an Italian playboy who happened to be friends with a very wealthy 26 year old New Yorker, owner of a Sunseeker Superhawk (this owner of the Sunseeker by the way, drove us to his boat in a Porsche 911). We spent the summers on his boat, the wealthy owner made cooler by the Italian playboy, and I was the token, cool, fun and clever girl that had an open invitation, while they invited different ‘potentials’ each weekend, one which inspired my favourite line in history: ‘You are like a lobster, not a lot of meat, but very expensive.’ Thus started my love affair with boats. There is nothing like the feeling I get when I am on the water, being rocked by mother nature, inducing a release of endorphins that makes me so deliriously happy, surrounded by water and away from all our ‘problems’ for the day, or for a week. It reminds me that we are just small fish in a huge ocean. Mix that with a Mojito cocktail or Glass of Domaine Ott Rose, and a Cafe Del Mar CD, and there is not much more that makes me so happy.

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The Size of a Boat Matters: Bigger is not always Better

There is a good size to a boat, like Goldilocks’ bed, not too big, not too small. My ideal is between 10m and 40m, but it also depends on the boat. Under 10m is acceptable for a lake boat or for a Riva, Aquarama or a Ligurian day boat. Over 50m and they become like cruise-liners, which is not my thing, I’ll leave the cruises to the over 60s and to those Orange EasyCruisers. I want to be able to feel the water rocking the boat underneath me, and not feel like a floating hotel. A good boat should have plenty of space for sunbathing, drinking and eating. Then there are day boats and overnight boats to choose from. My favourite day boat is the Sunseeker Superhawk 48, as I have already mentioned before. Overnight boats need to be a certain length, so that I don’t turn green and start wretching – really not an attractive look – and to have enough space for a proper cabin and proper toilets that don’t start smelling of piss after 3 days at sea.

There is the real urban tale of the Legal Head of a major American Private Equity Firm who proudly rents a 33m sailing boat in the Caribbean for him and his family. He is feeling rather pleased with himself that he has one of the biggest boats in the bay and his teenage sons are well impressed. Until, that is, the Billionaire founder of his Private Equity Firm accosts him with his personal 62m super yacht, with helicopter and sailboat on the main deck, and his teenagers desert him in a flash for the jet skis on the super yacht.

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Invictus and Lady Joy

Sailboats vs. Superyachts

The question of Sailboat vs. Motor yachts is rather self explanatory. Sailboats are unquestionably the more beautiful and classy boat, while the Superyachts are the cool boats to have, to really show off in the land of the SuperRich. Some would say a penis extension. But whatever. They are just so cool. The FT recently covered boats as the ultimate SuperRich playthings. First comes the house, then comes the car, then the plane and finally the Superyacht. So, are you cool or are you classy?

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Boyfriends and Boats

All of my serious boyfriends understood very quickly that I loved boats and used this to their advantage. It is my weak spot! Everyone has one, don’t they?  My first serious boyfriend took me on a sailing trip from St. Martin to St. Barth’s on our third date, good effort I thought, but after three days I couldn’t wait to check-into a hotel. My second serious boyfriend took me on a friend’s Sunseeker Superhawk every summer to go from Ibiza to Formentera for the day, and managed to get me on an America’s Cup Winner Oyster during Les Voiles de St. Tropez. Not Bad. My third serious boyfriend decided to propose to me on a boat, unfortunately he didn’t receive the memo, it wasn’t on a Sunseeker or an Oyster Sailboat as I was hoping for, but a small, tin boat on a freezing cold, rainy lake. Needless to say, I still said ‘yes’. So, after all, it’s not the size of the boat that really matters.

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A ‘pizza’ boat.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

Twitter: @NHyummymummy

 

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