Reviews, Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Miami Tips: An insider’s Guide to Doing Miami Post-Kids

‘Welcome to Miami…’

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 Watch out for the Elderly. NHYM 2015

The other day, I ran into an acquaintance with her 4 month old strapped to her Babybjorn and an Under-3 toddler running around her when I asked how she was doing. I saw that look on her face, which gave it all away, where life is a Tsunami between feeding a newborn and placating 2 year old tantrums. ‘I’m surviving’, she stammered, with an exhausted face that revealed many sleepless nights under her roof. A part of me felt her pain and wanted to hug her, but another part of me was just relieved to have emerged on the other side and have kids that were old enough that I could confidently leave them for a long weekend without feeling too guilty with my mother-in-law for an adults trip to Miami. But were we just too old to do Miami?

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Art Deco District. NHYM 2015. 

So, off I went to Miami for an ‘Adults Only’ trip to meet some of my best friends who also were ‘Kids-Free’ for the weekend. Miami is an interesting place, which causes polarised opinions. Before I went, one friend called it ‘a sterile, charmless place full of replica restaurants and hotels, but not as good as the originals,’ whereas another friend described it as ‘so much fun, just go with an open mind, where you will see plastic everywhere; lips, bums, boobs, but you can have a great time.’ I missed going to Miami in the 90s when the gays and slebs were sun drenching all over the Delano, where you would go for the weekend from New York. But since then, some would argue that it has become a little too frat-house-meets-bachelorette-party for some, but nonetheless, I went excited and open minded.

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Art Deco District, Miami. NHYM 2015. 

When I arrived in Miami, the best way I could describe it was Vegas-meets-Cuba; uber-touristy, Vegas style mega-monster hotels, bachelorette/bachelor party people, every restaurant around the globe (Nobu, Zuma, Cecconis, Smith & Wollensky’s, Hakkasan coming soon..), mixed with a Latino vibe, Cuban sounds, whirling overhead fans, sandy white beaches and blue, aquamarine waters with people dressed in the skimpiest outfit you could imagine. You would fit right in wearing a see-through Russian ice-skating leotard with sequins just barely hiding your privates. This is reminding me a little of ‘Monaco on the East Coast with better beaches.’

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Art Deco District Hotel. NHYM 2015. 

Turns out I had a great time in Miami, mostly due to the outstanding company ;), and for a few gold nuggets amongst the sea of tourist madness. The highlights: I absolutely loved the Art Deco district http://www.artdecoweekend.com/ which featured great architecture (although the restaurants were relentlessly touristic with tourists drinking margaritas at 9am), the Boardwalk where everyone guilted me into walking-workouts, the beaches which are so large and wide, unlike any in Europe and places like Espanola Way, which is a pedestrian street which reminded me that Miami was originally a Spanish colony.

The lowlights: the mega-monster hotels of Fontainebleau and Eden Roc are just petrifying, I felt like one of the kids in ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids,’ and the frat boys on the beach throwing footballs and spraying sand all over me. In any case, Miami is great fun if you know how to do it and where to go.

Here are my Top 10 Travel Tips on where to stay and eat:

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The Delano. NHYM 2015. 

1. The Delano: 

The Delano is one of the original trendy, modern Art Deco hotels which sparked off a number of knock-offs, like the Shore Club, SLS, W etc… But it was ‘the’ hotel of the 90s, where no other place in Miami was doing it like the Delano. It is slightly dated and in need of some refurb but still oozes ‘white,’ cool and trendy Miami.  Mostly an adults hotel which pumps music on Saturdays and Sundays, it turns into a day-club when its pool is filled with inflated, bikini-clad ladies, sipping fruity cocktails and loud, brash men of all ages and proportions ogling them, it is a perfect spot to see-and-be-seen. The waitresses wear only the flimsiest of white ‘bathing suits,’ barely hiding their assets, which encourages the men to keep drinking and spending. It’s got a great private beach as well, so if it’s your first time in Miami, it’s a highly recommended hotel. Just don’t look at the value for money, which only has downsides. https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/delano/delano-south-beach

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Cecconi’s Miami, Courtesy of the internet. 2015. 

2. Soho Beach House & Cecconi’s:

I just loved Cecconis, a prime example of a replicated hotel and restaurant, bringing London’s finest to the beach, but that really works. What more could you ask for than Soho House on the beach? Cecconi’s is pretty much like Shoreditch House’s rooftop terrace with its hanging lights in jars, which is already a favourite of mine https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/04/30/shoreditch-house-hotel-and-restaurant/ but in a garden on the beach with an almost identical menu as the rest of the Soho House franchise. The hotel is uber-cool and there is a rooftop pool and a bar just for the adults. It is slightly removed from the madness of prime South Beach, but that is a good thing. http://www.sohobeachhouse.com/

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Miami, St. Tropez Style at La Piagga. NHYM. 2015.

3. La Piagga Restaurant: 

With its location in South Pointe, la Piagga is a bit hard to find, but when you’ve found it, you will never want to leave. Known mostly to the locals and those in the know, you won’t find any touristy, fat, balding men with fanny packs; this is the St. Tropez of South Beach. The owners were the founders of La Voile Rouge in St. Tropez (before it burned down) but it successfully exported the St. Tropez concept to Miami. With tables in the sand, bikini ladies doing a fashion show as you eat, its own small private pool, dance music on Sundays, a delicious Mediterranean menu and grumpy, rude French waiters, I felt right at home. ‘Sunday Funday,’ is the only day to go, and I could have stayed there all day long, especially when the party really starts to kick off at 4pm. A few blocks away is Nikki Beach for the real party-goers, but for the real trend-setters, La Piagga is the way to go. http://www.lapiaggiabeach.com/

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Miami vibe at the Delano. NHYM 2015. 

4. Metropolitan by COMO

The Metropolitan would be my choice for those who like sleek, boutique style hotels. As mentioned before some of the Miami hotels are just so overwhelmingly big (ie. Fontainebleau/Eden Roc), they make me want to run away, but a few like the Metropolitan reminds me that there are some great boutique hotels here as well. It is housed in an Art Deco styled building of manageable size, so is a good alternative to the Delano. It only opened last year, but already has won the Conde Nast Award of Top 100 Hotels in the US, so it is still brand spanking new, impressive and just shows that Miami is still as trendy as ever. http://www.comohotels.com/metropolitanmiamibeach

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The Delano Lounge Area, NHYM 2015. 

5. The Setai

Another great hotel, the Setai has all the Asian influences and spot-on service that you could ask for. Stylistically, it is not very ‘Miami’, with its Asian influences of dark, brown wood instead of minimalist white, but it is nonetheless still a great hotel for its service, its three pools, and it lovely outdoors lunch area where you can watch the passerbys on the Boardwalk. The Ceviche there is un-missable, it is one of the best ceviches Mr. X has ever tasted. It is a good hotel for teenage children, since it is less club-like and therefore less debaucherous than its counterparts. It is still really gigantic in proportions, so for those who prefer an intimate setting, this one would be a ‘pass.’ http://www.thesetaihotel.com/

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Delano Pool, NHYM 2015.

6. The Shore Club

The Shore Club is part of the Morgans Group and sister hotel to the Delano, so has the same floaty, white-curtains-feel to it, although its pool is just slightly less cool. It does get points though for the in-house Nobu, which would be my go-to for comfort food in Miami. It also has the Skybar for drinks, which has 4 bars, including one which is described as an ‘outdoor living room.’ https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-shore-club-south-beach. (For the real party-goers hotel, check out the SLS which has a buzzing bar and nightclub).

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Skybar, courtesy of the Internet. 2015. 

7. Joe’s Stone Crab House

Joe’s Stone Crab is a Miami institution where you go for… crab. You don’t go for the decor, nor the ‘vibe,’ as it does fall into the ‘touristy’ definition, but if you are a crab-lady, you must go, as it has some great East Coast crab that you just cannot get in Europe. Just as with everything in the US, everything is just bigger here, including the crab. For once, it is not due to Genetic Modification. http://www.joesstonecrab.com/

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Best looking toilets in Miami. NHYM 2015. 

8. Casa Tua Restaurant 

Casa Tua is nestled in a Mediterranean-styled villa, behind wrought iron doors, which offers Northern Italian food in an outdoor-garden setting with lamps hanging from the trees. The food may be over-rated, but it is another Miami-must for the garden setting, if you want to get a feel of where the ‘exclusives’ go to. There is an upstairs loft/lounge that has welcomed Andre Balasz. And if it’s good enough for him, it’s probably going to be good enough for you. http://www.casatualifestyle.com/miami/

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Breakfast at the Delano. NHYM 2015. 

9. Prime 112 Restaurant

This one is purely for the boys: what it lacks in charm, it makes up in meat. It is a boys Steakhouse featuring huge plates of beef to satisfy any red-meat-junkie. It’s another Miami institution, although high on the tourist list, it may just be one to do just to check it off the list. Although, some of my London friends have praised it as their ‘favourite restaurant in Miami,’ so bring on the Ribs, the Ribeyes and the lobster, and your mister is sure to be pleased. http://mylesrestaurantgroup.com/

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Miami Art Deco District. NHYM 2015. 

10. Art Basel

This isn’t a place to stay or eat, but is an essential Miami event and is the perfect excuse to go to Miami (December). Sadly, we didn’t make it to Basel last year, but did manage to fit in the Miami Boat Show, which can be equally fun, trying out the new 86 Ferretti in the Miami marina and sunshine, but anyway, I digress. Art Basel is the best time to visit Miami, where there is a buzz in the air that ends the Miami year in Style. The concierge explained to me that Miami revolves around 5 big events a year including the Miami Boat Show, the Winter Music Conference, the Food and Wine Festival and Art Basel. Friends went to Basel a few years ago and ended up rubbing shoulders and befriending Pharrell Williams, this is how cool its become. Art Basel has turned Miami into more than a party town and into a cultural hot-spot, and it is one to add to the Bucket List. ttps://www.artbasel.com/

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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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

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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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Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Tips on Surviving Flights with Kids

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Nightmare definition: Flying with Kids

Having just returned from a hellish flight with my 1 year old and 4 year old, I thought to myself, why did I do that? And then a few months later, I will forget and do it all over again as if that experience weren’t bad enough to scar me for life (There must be a hormone that is released, like during pregnancy, that makes you forget the pain you must go through to travel with kids). Now, this isn’t about a 1 hour or 2 hour flight I am talking about, I am talking about a 7 to 12 hour+ transatlantic/transcontinental flight with a topping of jet lag, which pushes me over the edge.

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Baby Flying

I am now quite an expert in airports, doing some juggling at the Xray machine, immediately locating soft plays/kids areas at airports, and my eldest loves flying because she knows she will get uninterrupted hours of Mickey Mouse/Charlie & Lola/Peppa Pig. But it is my little one who is trouble. After the 2nd hour of plane travel and trying to entertain her in a very small contained area, I think to myself, when is this torture ever going to end?? Every 5 minutes feels like an hour. And her attention span is like a hamster on speed in its hamster wheel.

Some people swear by night flights, boasting that their children just fall asleep and wake up at the landing. Who are these kids and what medication have you doped them with??! My children have no interest in sleeping during night flights. Especially the little one who finds planes the most fascinating of places. I can read her mind ‘Let’s pull at the earphones, press all the buttons (including the air hostess button), and see what happens. The plane description card looks appetising, let’s lick it. The window looks like it wants a kiss. Smooch! Oh, and that floor looks really clean, let’s crawl up and down the aisle twenty times and taste all the airplane food that’s been dropped on it.’

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Older Children

Older children are easier to manage now that we have the Power of Apple: IPads, IPhones, ITouch, and now that you can leave them on during take-off and landing, it keeps them entertained the moment they sit to landing time. Once children reach the age of being entertained by electronics, you can finally sigh and start traveling ‘en toute tranquilite.’ Babies are just trickier, especially between 12 months to 2.5 years when they have learned to walk but are not focussed enough to watch a TV show. Their brains are on speed, creating 2 million synapses per second. That is a lot of synapses. This is the height of their learning ability as humans, this is the time which determines whether they will become Einstein or not, so there is no way they are going to sit quietly while you read the FT/Vogue/Grazia or BA High Life.

Some flights are dreams, some are war zones, with flying food missiles, toy bombings and deathly screams. Apart from what you already know, and for those times when nothing goes according to plan, here are my Top 10 Tips for Flying with Children:

Top 10 Tips of Travelling with Babies/Toddlers

1. Treats

For every half an hour they behave, give them a reward. Food is always a winner, otherwise be prepared in advance and use old toys that they have forgotten about and wrap them up as a present to be given every half hour. That will keep them busy for 5 minutes. Children’s magazines you can buy at the airport with toys attached are also a cheap and cheerful option.

2. Food

A friend of mine once said she kept her children happy through a LA-London flight by just feeding them constantly. Obviously, try to choose low fat/healthy snacks. If you becomes slightly desperate, try using one lollipop at the end of the flight as a reward. If all else fails, use whatever you have at hand. They may end up being obese and hating you for it, but at that precise moment, it doesn’t really matter.

3. IPads/IPhones/Computer games

As I mentioned above, the amount of Apps/Videos you can get these days is unimaginable. Download at least 1 app for every 15 minute of the flight. For the little ones, the Bubbles App is great for hand-eye coordination and can keep them entertained for another 5 minutes. I don’t care what you do in your own home, electronic babysitters are the best friend you can have on a plane, especially if your child isn’t usually allowed gadgets at home, they will want to fly just for that reason.

4. A Bag of Earplugs

Not for you or the baby, but to give to all the passengers around you who start giving you dirty looks. If they can’t take a joke, make sure your baby screams right in their ear. (We once sat next to a lady in Business who complained for half an hour even before we took off about being next to our 2 year old toddler, even though our toddler is a seasoned, traveling poster child ie. she knows where to stash her toys in the drawer by her feet, plug in the earphones and scroll through the menu to the kids shows using the touch screen menu. Soon she will recite the entire steward monologue to keep your seatbelt fastened when the seatbelt light is on. We should have slipped some sleeping pills in that lady’s champagne when she wasn’t looking).

5. A Sedative or equivalent.

Valium or Ambien will do just fine for your baby. Just kidding. That’s just for the parents and for the above, grumpy, unfriendly passengers next to you. Benadryl night time for babies if you are teetering on the brink.

6. Sanitizing wipes

Small babies love wipes. Teach them how to clean their armrest/folding tray/window with the wipes. You don’t want to know how dirty those airplane seats are and it’s never too early to start teaching them hygiene.

7. Bribes

Bribe the airplane stewardess with Cash/Alcohol/Drugs for a five minute breather if you are traveling alone. Bribe the old granny next to you for 5 minutes babysitting in exchange for that Duty Free bottle of whiskey. Bribe anyone that is willing to help.

8. Yu Yee Oil

It is a peppermint oil concoction which is apparently used to calm babies with colic. Give them a palm/sole/tummy massage to try to soothe them to sleep with it. Even if this Chinese medicine mumbo jumbo doesn’t work or isn’t your thing, that’s another 15 minutes well spent and the passengers around you will reward you for your efforts. And it is good to cover up vomit/poop/fart smells quite well.

9. Learn to Meditate

As you watch the clock every 15 minutes, visualise where you are going. If you are lucky enough to be going somewhere warm, sunny and happy, this will lower your blood pressure, calm you down, and make you smile. If you are visiting your family/in-laws that you can’t stand, don’t use this trick.

10. Just Remember: This too shall pass

It is just a period of time that will pass. No one died (or hopefully they didn’t). Just like those terrible nights when your baby just won’t sleep or the witching hour, it is just a matter of survival. And as any parent of small children knows, this is our mantra: ‘This too shall pass’.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@Nhyummymummy

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Social Commentary, Top 10, Travel

Review: The Splendido Hotel, Portofino, Italy

Quote of the Day: ‘Why Don’t I Have Prices on my Menu?’

Splendido Hotel

Salita Baratta 16, 16034 Portofino, Italy

+ 390185267801

http://www.belmond.com/hotel-splendido-portofino/

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(All Photos Courtesy of NHYM Copyright 2014.)

Overall: 4.75 stars

The restaurant: 4.5 (5 stars for the Truffle Tagliatelle, 4 for the rest).

The Room: 4.75 stars (5 stars for the Balcony of Room 101, 4.5 stars for the room)

The view: 5 Stars

The Service: 4.5 Stars

The people-watching: 4.75 stars

The ‘most expensive hotel in Europe’

Portofino

When I told my Italian friend that I was going to Portofino and staying at the Splendido for a few nights, he smiled broadly and replied; ‘Ah, the most expensive hotel in Europe!’ I cringed. This was the most expensive hotel room I was ever paying for out of my own pocket (doesn’t count when work/business/clients take you somewhere, like the time I was taken to the Byblos in St. Tropez with similar prices for a Suite). It makes the Maldives look like a good deal in comparison. One night here was equivalent to one month’s pay check at my first job after grad school. There was no way it was going to be worth it. I could probably build a whole village in Africa for this kind of money. But, it was decided, we were going to go to the Splendido for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to celebrate our wedding anniversary and make up for the honeymoon we never really had.

Splendid Splendido

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The Splendido was originally a Benedictine monastery where ascetic monks gave up all worldly desires in the name of God, until it was bought by a rich Italian family who carved its future in becoming the home of the Dolce Vita, the sweet pleasures of life. It then became a world famous hotel that welcomed the biggest stars in Hollywood; Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Liza Minelli, and other international stars like Alain Delon, Maggie Smith and Michael Caine, all who have black and white photographs hung in the corridors of the hotel. The hotel is surrounded by a gorgeous garden of rows and rows of agapanthus, rows of hydrangeas, lemon trees, 100 year old olive trees, palm trees, cacti, bougainvillaea, daisies, jasmine and all the other flowers you could think of. It is a small garden of Eden in Italy.

Inside, the hotel is decorated in a kitschy way that only Italians can pull off, with painted frescoes on the walls, my grandmother’s curtains hanging from the windows, and gold framed paintings of flowers on the walls. The hotel could use a lift, but in some ways, you are living a part of history past. The paintings and black and white photographs on the walls are all crookedly hung, but no one has fixed almost intentionally. The view is to-die-for. Watching the view for a few hours is as good as meditating for the day. It quietens the soul and instantly lifts you up. The view is of the bay in front of Portofino, inhabited by Superyachts changing daily, Invictus, Lady Joy, Elisa and Virginian (all of which can be rented for 250-500,000 Euros per week), fuelling my FOMO despite being in one of the nicest hotel I have dreamt about.

The Restaurant

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After check-in, we went straight to the hotel restaurant, La Terrazza, on a beautiful terrace with a picture perfect view of Portofino. We crossed paths with a short 65 year old man, smiling from ear to ear, accompanied by a young girl, 35 years younger and 35 cm taller. I did a double take. They looked familiar. Had I seen the same couple at the One & Only in the Maldives just a few years ago? Probably not, but it certainly set the scene of the hotel’s clientele.

Our lunch at the Terrazza was one of the best lunches we’d had in a while. It was also probably because it was 3pm and we were starving – everything tastes better when you are starving. We ordered the truffle tagliatelle, which was worthy of 5 stars. Mr. C then had the sesame crusted seared tuna, which was perfectly seared and seasoned. Next to us, we could hear an older American couple whom had probably been saving their whole life for this trip talking to another American couple. The woman asked: ‘Why don’t I have prices on my menu?’ Amateurs. (For those who don’t know, women’s menus don’t have prices in the South of France or in Italy, it is the land of machismo after all.) Two tables down, I saw Arun Nayer (50 y.o.), Elizabeth Hurley’s ex husband, with his new younger girlfriend, the model Kim Johnson (29 y.o.). This was starting to be a recurring theme.

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The dinner we had on a Saturday night was good, but by all means not spectacular. The service was slow but the view and the people watching was stupendous. An older, seasoned American couple next to us discussed their love of Business Class Flying; ‘I could never imagine flying to Europe any other way.’

The Characters

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Watching the clientele of the hotel was a theatrical show of its own, showcasing the world’s current financial and social structural hierarchy. Next to us at the pool were four Russians who wouldn’t stop talking, not the bling and brash ones seen at Les Caves in St. Tropez or Courchevel, just wealthy, upper middle class Russians. The Americans were the really loud ones, whose conversations seemed to be projected over loudspeakers and followed us everywhere. There were London Hedge Funders also in the mix, one of them that sold his fund for a cool £100 (million that is), with his original wife that needed some style tips. There were a slew of younger, more beautiful women (often Eastern European/Russians) with Gerard Depardieu look-alike boyfriends/husbands. The women were clearly with them NFHL (not for his looks) and more FHM (for his money). Although, I have to say that these couples looked happy, these women were being given lavish lifestyles and never lacked anything, whereas these older men could feel young and studly with their beautiful younger girlfriends/wives. It was an economical transaction that benefited everyone. A Japanese couple sitting at lunch read their IPad/Iphone/Samsung the entire lunch without a word exchanged. Finally, there were a few Italian and French head of industries, welcoming each other: ‘Bienvenue a Portofino!’ The only ones missing were the Chinese.

The Wedding

RoomWithAView

We happened to be staying there the same weekend of a wedding. As we saw the guests fill up the terraces, I tried to guess what kind of wedding it was. I guessed ‘second wedding, older man with younger Eastern European/Russian wife’. There were Americans, English, and Russian guests in addition to the occasional Indian and Asian guest. I guessed they were from London, since there is no other city in the world that would mix these nationalities so easily, specifically Chelsea or Knightsbridge. They must be in finance with their Blackberrys ringing and potbellies bouncing. I saw three sexy Eastern European girls with fake boobs, frolicking around each other during cocktail hour, probably the only friends of the bride. (We happened to have the best terrace of the whole hotel, Room 101, which was front row seats to this spectacle). Later that night, all my guesses were confirmed, as I saw the 50 year old groom accompanying his 6 year old flower girl daughter from his first marriage back to her room, while his beautiful, billowy, blond, bride spoke Russian to her friends and I confirmed the London location as I saw Arun Nayer and his girlfriend leaving the wedding.

Room With A View

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Can I just suggest Room 101 if at all possible? It is a corner Suite with the ‘best terrace in the hotel’, best to watch the sunrise, the sunset, the ‘flora and fauna’ of the hotel (and the flowers and gardens as well). There is a safe behind one the flower paintings hung on the wall, very Italian Job.

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One of the nicest hotel bathroom views

The Verdict: So, is it worth it? 

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This hotel is a place where prices and currencies are best forgotten. The prices should stay off both the men and women’s menus to prevent spoiling the experience. The experience is priceless, indeed, and my expectations where thankfully met (the worse is when you spend a fortune on a hotel-letdown). This is a place to fall in love, to meditate, to forget yourself and who you are, and to be happy in. It has the best view of Portofino, even better than from the Virginian or Invictus yachts, proven by the yachties who come to the hotel for the food, the view and the atmosphere. The stunning scenery and hotel are enough to wash away any worries, even if momentarily for a few days. Places like this are what dreams are made of.

Other tips:

* There is a Kids Club! Really, an actual, real kids club below the pool. Pizza and Gelato making today!

* The pianist is world famous, dressed in a blue or green sequinned jacket, singing Sinatra and Italian songs and gets those old feet moving and stomping, from 18 to 88 year old.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Top 10 Luxury Hotels in the Mediterranean

… To Celebrate Summer 2014, here are my Top 10 fave luxury, Grande-Dame, hotels in the Med:

1. The Splendido, Portofino, Italy. http://www.belmond.com/hotel-splendido-portofino/

Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare

2. The Eden Roc, Cap D’Antibes, France. http://www.hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com/eng/home/

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3. The Grand Timeo, Sicily, Italy. http://www.belmond.com/grand-hotel-timeo-taormina/

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4. Royal Riviera, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, France. http://www.royal-riviera.com/en/

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5. La Residencia, Deia, Mallorca, Spain. http://www.belmond.com/la-residencia-mallorca/

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6. Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, France. http://www.grand-hotel-cap-ferrat.com/uk

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7. Katikies, Oia, Santorini, Greece. http://www.katikies.com/

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8. Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Spain http://www.hotelartsbarcelona.com/

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9. Hotel Il San Pietro, Amalfi, Italy. http://www.ilsanpietro.it/it/

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10. Hotel Caruso, Sorrento, Italy. http://www.belmond.com/hotel-caruso-amalfi-coast/

HotelCaruso

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Top 10: Best Mediterranean-Sea-View Boutique Hotels

Looking for something to do this summer? For a little Pre-Summer Travel-Lust, check out these lesser known Top 10 Best Mediterranean-Sea-View Boutique Hotels.

(All Photos of the Hotels Courtesy of the Internet)

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1. Cap Estel, Cote d’Azur, France. http://www.capestel.com/uk/index.php. In an absolutely gorgeous setting, this feels more like visiting someone’s private villa, except with Theo Walcott and his WAG lounging next to you. Kids Allowed.

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2. U Capu Biancu, Bonifacio, Corsica. http://www.ucapubiancu.com/uk/hotel-4-etoiles-bonifacio-corse-site-officiel.php This lovely Boutique Hotel is in a wonderful location at the tip of Corsica with amazing views and has loads of charm. It is surprisingly kid friendly, with well behaved children swimming in the pool, playing with the house donkeys, and dining next to you without feeling the need to iPad them (lending the kids an iPad to shut them up during an ‘adults dinner.)’

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3. Santa Caterina, Amalfi Coast, Italy. http://www.hotelsantacaterina.it/en/index. With the freshest, most deliciously prepared pasta made at the downstairs restaurant and the cliff-top sea views, Santa Caterina won our hearts ten times over. Close call choosing this one vs. the Sirenuse at Positano, another firm favourite.

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4. Il Pellicano, Porto Ercole, Italy.http://www.pellicanohotel.com/en/ Just an hour away from Rome exists a legendary Italian hotel, with its swimming pool famously captured by Slim Aarons, Juergen Teller and John Swope. (Il Pellicano was just mentioned in this weekend’s FT How To Spend It). Amazingly delicious 2* star Michelin restaurant makes the stay all the better.

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5. Hotel des Pecheurs, Cavallo, Corsica. http://www.hoteldespecheurs.com There is only one hotel on this island so the hotel can afford not to have the grandest for what you pay, but the location, location, location is spectacular. Italy meets France on this island, where the Italians have become French and the French have become Italian, and for once it is a happy marriage.

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6. Gecko Club, Formentera. http://www.geckobeachclub.com/#/home-es Another top spot for location. Formentera makes you feel like you are in the Carribean waters and the Gecko is the only Boutique hotel on it. Let’s not forget the easy access to Juan y Andrea restaurant where you will see half of London during the August Bank Holiday and won’t need to fight for a yacht parking space.

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7. Bill & Coo, Mykonos, Greece. http://www.bill-coo-hotel.com This one is for the foodies. The restaurant at Bill & Coo has already received endless accolades, so much so, that their Head Chef successfully brought Modern Greek food to Notting Hill’s MAZI, one of NYHM local hangouts. Kids Allowed.

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8. Mystique Oia Santorini, Greece. http://mystique.gr. This one is for your 5th anniversary of ‘Life with Kids.’ Find anyone to look after your children while you pretend to be on your first trip away together and re-enact the scene in Girls when Hannah pretends to meet Adam for the first time in Series 3 (except that everything goes smoothly during your re-enactment).

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9. La Casitta, Santa Maria, Sardegna. http://www.lacasitta.com. This private island doesn’t have any hotels, so this isn’t so much a hotel rather than a luxury guest house, but it is in a stunning location for those wanting complete privacy and who can’t stand the glitzy bling of the Costa Smeralda. Let the sun do the shining here.

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10. Tahiti Beach, St. Tropez, France. http://www.tahiti-beach.com/en.php. For those who have never had the St. Tropez Beach Experience and want to get a taste of what it’s really like. This one has it’s own beach club right on Pampelonne beach where you can lunch among the St. Tropez set.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

(The below photos of Cap Estel were taken by NHYM, therefore belong to NHYM. Copyright 2014).

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Top Ten: Best Hotels in the Maldives

 

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1. Best for A-list New Year’s Eve Party: One & Only Reethi Rah 

http://reethirah.oneandonlyresorts.com

Reeti Rah is like a private island for the super-rich. As soon as you arrive on the island, you are surrounded by CEOs of investment banks, fashion houses, Formula 1 and hedge funds. (Not to mention the Russian oligarchs who leave their wives with their bodyguards while they go to another island to see their mistresses). Only on Reeti Rah Island is there a 100 person waiting list for the Christmas – New Year’s week and NYE party for those too cool for St. Barth’s and guaranteed to be paparazzi free (even Mustique has been papped, but Reethi Rah is still virgin territory). Supermodels, fashion designers, hedgefunders, and CEOs congregate for the countdown, wondering how the new year could be even better than the last. Everyone knows each other and conversations at breakfast are about international real estate, mega-yachts and private jets. Even dropping £100,000 on two Grand Beach Villas during the Easter Break and organising a lavish beach BBQ with grilled lobster and Dom Perignon flowing all night won’t guarantee a place at the New Year’s Eve party. It is a teenagers’ paradise, who can roam freely on the island, ordering cocktails on daddy’s tab, travelling on bicycles to mingle with other super-rich teenagers and staying all night star-gazing, both at Orion and real superstars.

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2. Best for Robinson Crusoe Romance: Gili Lankanfushi 

http://www.gili-lankanfushi.com/crusoe-residence

Stay in a Crusoe Residence, a 250 sqm stand alone villa in the Indian Ocean only accessible by your own motorised rowboat moored on your villa’s private pontoon (My personal favourite, although I am biased as it was my honeymoon destination). Everything can be done from your villa; snorkelling, star gazing on the upper deck, watching stingrays around your pontoons, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on the different decks, your own open air shower, and anything else you can think of… The hotel only has 45 gigantic, overwater villas in total so expect to spend days without seeing anyone else but your fiancé/husband/lover/child bride.

3. Best for Knowing what to Expect: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

http://www.fourseasons.com/maldiveskh/

One of the best Canadian exports, after Ryan Reynolds, the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is a wonderfully, lovely resort with beautifully appointed rooms, a very nice kids club and very good food (especially the grilled lobster on half board). It is perfect for the travel risk-adverse, knowing that you will get great quality without any unhappy surprises (unlike when we went to the Touessrok Mauritius resort which was a big disappointment compared to any Maldivian resort). It is popular with groups of young, 20 something, moneyed, future billionaire Chinese, who hop over for a long weekend from Shanghai or Beijing. Its only problem is that it is like Ryan Reynolds: beautiful but boring.

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4. Best for Low Key Luxury: Cocoa Island by COMO

http://www.comohotels.com/cocoaisland

‘Simple yet sophisticated, contemporary yet indigenous, and always deliberately restrained’ as described by the hotel’s website, Cocoa Island prides itself in its uniqueness and understated luxury. Instead of glamping, stay in a Dhoni suite, a villa inspired by Dhoni boats, the local fishermen’s sailboats, decorated in blues and whites reflecting the soothing colours of the Indian Ocean. With only 35 villas, this small island is perfect for intimate privacy.

5. Best for Barefoot Luxury: Soneva Fushi

http://www.soneva.com/soneva-fushi

One of the original luxury resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi is the perfect castaway island, with beachfront villas dotted around the island privatised by the surrounding jungle and trees. ‘No News, No Shoes’ is Soneva Fushi’s mantra, like all Soneva resorts, so crackberries and android phones are best left at home. It excels in rustic chic, with warm colours of orange, browns, and yellow, blending in with the birds and tree houses.

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6. Best for Huevos Rancheros Breakfast: Taj Exotica

http://www.tajhotels.com/Luxury/Exotica-Resort-And-Spa/Taj-Exotica-Resort-And-Spa-Maldives/Overview.html

Taj Exotica is one for the foodies. The Taj has the best breakfast Huevos Rancheros in all of the Maldives and its chef strives to perfect local cuisines working with local organic products. Taj Chefs have their own ‘Food Philosophy’ striving for culinary innovation ‘at the heart of the Taj Hotels dining experience’. After catching your own line-caught groupers and snappers during the sunset cruise, the chefs will prepare the fresh, grilled fish to perfection for next day’s lunch, which doesn’t get fresher and more blissful than this. (It is one of the few resorts where I would recommend the beach villas over the water villas, which are small and close together relative to the other Maldivian water villas).

7. Best for Minimalism meets the Royals: Cheval Blanc Randheli

http://randheli.chevalblanc.com/en/

LVMH’s new luxury hotel has already bagged its marketing campaign by inviting Prince William and Kate to stay at the Cheval Blanc and letting the media do the rest. It is the biggest Maldivian opening in years. Straight lines, modern art, white minimalism and exorbitant prices will appeal to the Nouveaux Riches, Royals and Russians, and is already  at the forefront as the most O.T.T. hotel in the Maldives. Alchemists, ‘genuine experience designers’, create and compose ‘bespoke and unique experiences for their guests.’ Seriously?? This is one hotel that takes itself way too seriously. Hopefully, it won’t become a ‘Russians Only’ resort, hotels so expensive that only Russian oligarchs can afford, but personally I find that the minimalist, extreme luxury takes away from the Maldivian charm, which is a real shame.

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8. Best for ‘Affordable’ Family holidays: LUX* Lighter. Brighter.

http://www.luxresorts.com/en/hotel-maldives/luxmaldives

Ok, so no luxury hotel in the Maldives is really affordable, but by booking through the British Airways combined online flight and hotel booking system, you can get a week’s stay for less than £10,000 including flights and accommodation for a family of 4, outside school holidays, which in the Maldives is a bargain. The Play Kids Club and Studio 17 Teenagers Club are open from 9am to 9pm. Need I say more? For some peace and quiet, diving and massages, the all day kiddy entertainment will keep them occupied all day long. And with 7 restaurants to choose from and 4km of beaches, they will never get bored.

9. Best for Cool and Trendy: W Retreat & Spa

http://www.wretreatmaldives.com

A playground for adults with its own resident DJ, underwater weddings, WET Pool Parties and mixologists creating signature cocktails, this is for those looking for a bit of nightlife and cool factor. Expiration Date: Kids.

10. Best for Underwater Spa: Huvafen Fushi 

http://huvafenfushi.peraquum.com

Housing the world’s first underwater treatment room, indulge in the LIME Light Crystal Ritual for 180 minutes, their signature underwater experience involving a coconut, lime and mineral massage and ice cubes, while watching triggerfish, stingrays and clownfish dancing around the lagoon making you feel like the Little Mermaid. The Per AQUUM resort and spa has ‘stand out, one-off events, bringing musicians, artists and creative stars from around the world’ each month. Currently, you can create your own Irma style Avatar with creative artist Jasmin Kherzi and view their Phantasy Fairytale Underwater art exhibition in the Spa. If that doesn’t take you out of this world, nothing will.

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