Photos, Reviews, Travel

Florence…With Kids!

FlorenceSanMicheleViewNHYM

Florence view from Villa San Michele. All photos NHYM 2017

As we all know, traveling with kids is just not the same as travelling without kids. I laugh at my friends with young babies who tell me ‘But, holidays are just not holidays with kids!’ And then the children grow up a bit and you can leave them in the Kids’ Club and have a few hours of peace on the beach with a book and cocktail in hand. I am now at the age where my children are – just about – ready for cultural holidays.

VillaSanMicheleNHYM

So this summer, we decided to take the plunge and take a ‘plane-car-boat-train-road-trip’ from Florence to France. Florence, I thought, would be a great place to start exposing them to sight-seeing and cultural holidays. It’s rich in culture, art, architecture and history, while being quite manageable in size. Oh and it has some great hotels and great food.

VillaSanMicheleFacadeNHYM

The one thing about getting older – and I am – is that it’s the time to fulfil your dreams. As children and as we grow up, we create our dreams in our minds, but as an adult, you get to make those dreams – hopefully – happen (or so I tell myself so I don’t get too depressed about getting older). Villa San Michele is one of those places I had read about twenty years ago and always wanted to go. It is an old monastery with a facade by Michaelangelo, which was converted into a luxury hotel. It is one of these places where you feel like you are absorbing history just by staying there. Some people may find it too old/cold, not-as-great as-it-once-was, but I loved it and was very happily not disappointed. It has the most wonderful views of Florence and is up in the hills where it is cooler than the valley where Florence resides.

RoomVillaSanMicheleNHYM

We loved our room, a Garden Suite, which we got as an upgrade and it was huge and perfect for a family of four. Not sure how or why we got such a great upgrade, but it ended up being the most value-for-money hotel we stayed in for the entire trip.

SwimmingPoolVillaSanMicheleNHYM

The trick I realised with cultural holidays, is that you should spend 3 – 4 hours sightseeing with the children, and then make sure there is a pool at the hotel where they can spend the rest of the day. It was the perfect balance for them and for us.

ChiesaItaly

Top 5 Activities To Do With Kids in Florence: 

  1. Ride a Tuk Tuk or any other kind of fun transportation through Florence to see the main landmark places such as the Piazzale Michaelangelo, the Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio so you don’t have to hear ‘I don’t want to walk anymore!’ http://www.tuktukflorence.net/tuk-tours
  2. Do a treasure hunt through the museums and palaces like the Palazzo Vecchio with a tour guide looking for flowers, turtles and mystical creatures. (Dr. Alessandra Bernabei is great – although on the expensive side +393398517317)PizzaMakingFlorenceNHYM
  3. Learn how to make your own pizza and gelato. And then eat them for dinner. https://www.florencetown.com/161-pizza-gelato-cooking-class.html
  4. Take a trip to surrounding areas such as Chianti, Forte Dei Marmi or Cinque Terre. http://www.marklimotours.com – Mark speaks perfect English and will take you anywhere you want.
  5. This one’s not really for the kids but has to be done. Leave the kids in front of a DVD and have a romantic dinner at La Loggia restaurant in Villa San Michele. Utterly beautiful views and sunset to try to get a little romance back. SunsetVillaSanMicheleNHYMThe children learned about the history of the Romans, the Medicis, about architecture and religion, about pizza and gelato making and about Michaelangelo and the Renaissance. It was a really culturally enriching trip and fun for the whole family. For anyone thinking about going to Florence, I highly recommend it!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Recommended hotels:

Villa San Michele

https://www.belmond.com/villa-san-michele-florence/

Four Seasons Florence

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In the Press, Photos, Press, Spotlight On..., the beta mum book

The Beta Mum Book Launch Party!

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Book Launch Party June 20th 2017. NHYM. Photos copyright NHYM and Walter C. 

If you measure the success of a book launch party by the number of people waiting to get their book signed by the author – my book launch was a huge success. I didn’t even have time to sign all the books that were sold that night!

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Balloon Sculpture hanging from the ceiling at the Notting Hill Bookshop by my incredibly talented friend Vanessa. NHYM 2017. 

The Notting Hill Bookshop, where the party was held, has been so incredibly supportive and it was the perfect place to host my book launch party. It is an iconic bookstore that literally everyone in the world knows and still photographs on a daily basis.

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My day started at the bookshop, where I found a beautiful window display of my books.

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Next came my hair appointment. RUSH Westbourne Grove offered to do my hair – how could I say no? And they did a wonderful job! Thank you RUSH for my hair!

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I was wearing this super cool leather jumpsuit designed by Patricia Gomez Gracia, a super talented designer, who dressed me that night. Here I am with her manager Zara Ward!

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Beautiful mum reading my book. 

The crowd was so supportive and wonderful, from all my beautiful yummy mummy friends to my writing class to Instagram stars, mummy bloggers and magazine founders, and fantastic film makers and writers.

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Wonderful Mummy friends who came out to support me! Thank you!!!

BooksigningSusan

I spent the night signing books – it was a shame that I didn’t even get a chance to sign everyone’s book.

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It was a wonderfully warm – literally and figuratively – evening, which included my writing class friends who came to support me. Champagne and Chika’s nuts – made famous by Dragon’s Den – were the drinks and nibbles of the night. Thank you Chika!

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Super mums! And super nice ones too… 😉

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Friends from all over the world came to support me – all the way from New York!

YummyMummy!

I even got a new, little fan!

IsisEveIsabella

Instagram star, The Smart Fashionistas, and my cousin graced us with their presence.

TheFantasticFilmMakers

Superstar film makers, writers, producers Vanessa and Andrew Porteus, and Melissa and David Koepp.

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Gorgeous Swedish friends/models who also happen to be just the nicest people ever… 🙂

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My very emotional speech!

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Fellow novelist Midge Blake and my editor Donna Hillyer.

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The crowd spilled onto the streets on a beautiful, warm night.

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My super talented friend Vanessa created this amazing balloon/cloud sculpture! Thank you!

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And thanks to Walter C., my amazing photographer, who is seriously brilliant. Amazing job! For all his photos of the night look here: http://www.bywalterc.com/the-beta-mum/

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But the work didn’t stop after the launch party when I had my first live TV interview with London Live News this past weekend…

 

And finally…my photo was also chosen as one of the ‘Pictures of The Week’ in The Bookseller Magazine, which is the biggest publishing magazine in the UK:

http://www.thebookseller.com/insight/pictures-week-573996

(Yes, me and Twiggy)

It has been quite an adventure, with its ups and downs, and I now can’t wait to go on holiday day next week for some well deserved down time!!

Have a great summer everyone! And don’t forget to get your summer read on Amazon!! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beta-Mum-Adventures-Alpha-Land/dp/1781326525

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

Instagram: Notting Hill Yummy Mummy

 

MarcileetMoiBookLaunch

Family resemblance…

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In the Press, Photos, Press, the beta mum book

A Response To The Saturday Times Magazine Article

SatTimesMagazineCover

If  you were in the UK last weekend, you may have come across my interview with the Saturday Times Magazine. When the Times first emailed me asking if I wanted to do an interview with them, I jumped for joy. Who wouldn’t want that kind of exposure for their debut novel? During the interview, I decided to be so saccharinely sweet with the journalist, thinking that if I was nice to her, she was going to be nice to me, right? Well, when I read the article this past weekend, that’s when I realised that I was a complete novice at this ‘press’ game.

It appears that she was ‘disappointed’ when she met me. Well, I want to clarify my disappointments with the article.

Firstly, I was disappointed that the points I wanted to discuss during our interview were not mentioned at all:

  1. The point that pushy mums need to be careful about pushing their children into anxiety and other mental health issues.
  2. The point that we should all be nicer to each other and that there is no need for female bitchiness. Women and mothers should support each other and stop with the bitching. We are all mostly trying out best. #womensupportingwomen
  3.  The point that women still haven’t figured out the right balance after becoming mothers. The working mums still feel guilty about not being home with their kids and the stay-at-home mums still have to figure out how to keep their identity. And their sanity.
  4. Motherhood is challenging today, whether from isolation, loneliness, feeling lost or from all the competitiveness. We should give each other a break.  #strongwomen

I was also disappointed that they mentioned that I had ‘Asian’ features. I am not sure how it is relevant that I have Asian features or how I look, and I am sure that the gorgeous woman on the cover of the Saturday Times Magazine (above) was not described as having ‘Caucasian’ or ‘very white’ features in her interview. And if we are going to mention racial backgrounds, then perhaps it would have been more appropriate to write about the fact that there are so few minority, female authors, especially in the UK. Or we could have had a comparative discussion on the Syrian Refugee Crisis versus the Vietnamese Refugee Crisis.

Was she disappointed that I wasn’t tall, skinny and blonde? (the journo was skinny and blonde) Because a few lines later, I am described as ‘certainly no Elle McPherson.’ Well, I was disappointed in the article which decided that that this was their ultimate standard of beauty. I am not tall, I have brown hair and brown eyes and everyone knows that I am NOT a supermodel! And well, there is only one Elle McPherson. Elle McPherson. No one is asking Elle McPherson to assist in a liver transplant in a third world country, or to diagnose an 18 year old with a lymphoma or to write a book. And so they shouldn’t.

I was also disappointed by my make-up. They put way too much make up on me! And I didn’t like the stylist’s choices of outfits. But I was such a novice that I let them do my make-up and style me anyway they wanted and I was stupid enough not to put my foot down and speak out. A friend remarked of the second picture of me in black, ‘I know it’s you but it doesn’t look like you,’ because I ended up looking like a scary dominatrix. (Now I get how divas become divas). Again, when the Times says jump, you just jump.

I was disappointed with the fact checking. There was none. I do not have a medical degree from an Ivy League university. I have one degree from an ivy league university AND another medical degree from a UK medical school AND I spent almost 10 years of my life in the NHS, so would like some recognition for my hard work. Let’s not start with house prices and household-name billionaires.

Finally, I was disappointed in myself for being so naïve. I knew there was going to be a high likelihood that the article was going to be controversial. And perhaps I was just given a dose of my own medicine.

But, still, I received so many kind and congratulatory emails, texts and messages, that perhaps it was all worth it in the end. And now, since the interview, I can see on Amazon that ‘Customers who bought this item (on pre-order) also bought Tommee Tippee Sangenic Refills.’ Hilarious.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beta-Mum-Adventures-Alpha-Land/dp/1781326525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496351559&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beta+mum

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

CarlisleBayViewfromBeachNHYM

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).

CarlisleBayBeachNHYM

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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