Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Luxury Ski Hotels in Europe

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Courchevel. NHYM 2017. All photos courtesy of the internet. 

Like (literally) everyone in London, I decamped to the Alps for February half term for some family skiing. Austria, Switzerland, and France became London outposts, which made for busy and fun holidays, but not exactly relaxing holidays. In our hotel, I bumped into a girl who goes to the same school as my eldest and my youngest found one of her London classmates in her ski class. This was not a holiday ‘escape;’ this was a full on London-on-Snow-Fest.

For those who didn’t make it to the Alps this year or who want ideas of where to go, here is my round up of the top luxury ski hotels in Europe:

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Le Portetta, Courchevel. NHYM 2017.

1…Best for Families: Le Portetta, Courchevel 1650. To start off the list, we need a family-friendly hotel that is accessible to NBI (Non-Billionaire-Individuals). It’s got a Scott Dunn kids club and nannies on demand, who will take your kids to their ski school so you can avoid all that ski-equipment-carrying palaver. Bliss.

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L’Alpaga, Megeve. NHYM 2017

2….Best for Foodies and Families: L’Alpaga, Megeve. People who go to Megeve don’t come here to actually go skiing; it’s so low that it often doesn’t have any snow at Christmas. But what it does have is plenty of delicious restaurants including the 3 Michelin star Flocons de Sel. Bon Appetit!

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Hotel Kulm, St. Moritz. NHYM 2017.

3…Best for Old School Luxury: Hotel Kulm, St. Moritz. With a recent spa facelift, Hotel Kulm still stands as one of the oldest and luxurious hotels in the Alps and was founded in 1856. It feels like going into your grandma’s parlour with chintz, wallpaper and gold chandeliers, so it may not be your style, but it does takes you back in time to old school glamour.

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The Alpina, Gstaad. NHYM 2017. 

4… Best for super luxury: The Alpina, Gstaad: A recently opened hotel, The Alpina is vying for ‘best luxury hotel’ in the Alps, with a number of accolades under it’s belt since it’s opening. I’ve been told by friends who recently stopped by that it is truly amazing.

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L’Apogee, Courchevel. NHYM 2017. 

5…Best for Billionaires: L’Apogee, Courchevel 1850. Courchevel has made it twice on this list, mostly because I have nostalgic memories of learning to ski on these slopes (pre-Ruskis), but it has changed a lot since these days. For the OTT/Bling Crowd, Courchevel hits the spot with its fashion designer designed gondolas and Chanel stores. But it remains a wonderful, beautiful resort with excellent skiing. L’Apogee has the biggest kids club in Courchevel and is really for the too-cool-for-school crowd.

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Stanglwirt, Austria. NHYM 2017.

6…Best for uniqueness: Stanglwirt, Going, Austria. Is it a hotel? Is it a resort? Is it a farm? Stanglwirt is a strange but beautiful place that has everything packed in one place: 4 pools, a giant, twisting slide in the children’s pool, a farm, pony rides, a big spa, and a cow restaurant (as in there’s-a-cow-eating-with-me-in-this-restaurant). It is kind of in the middle of nowhere so it’s for those who won’t mind staying in their resort for the whole trip.

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Aurelio, Lech. NHYM 2017.

7…Best for Ski-in, ski-out: Aurelio, Lech. Someone just told me that the snow in Lech is special; it falls right on Lech so it always has great snow. I don’t know if that’s true, but what is true is that Aurelio is a sexy, luxurious hotel for the fashionable. This one is definitely not for the NBIs like me, but if you are a BI, enjoy!

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La Vallee Blanche, Chamonix. NHYM 2017.

8….Best for hard core skiers: Hotel Mont Blanc, Chamonix. For the hard core skiers, Chamonix is the place to go. A friend was lamenting how easy skiing has become with easy pistes and parabolic skis. Well, she hasn’t been to Chamonix. If you want real skiing, this is where you go. Forget your Chanel moonboots and your Prada helmet, here it is about real skiing and the Hotel Mont Blanc is newly revamped. The Vallee Blanche is a must-do, a 20km, glacier, off piste ski run. One of my best skiing experiences. Ever.

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La Cordee des Alpes restaurant, Verbier. NHYM 2017. 

9….Best Boutique Hotel: La Cordee des Alpes, Verbier. Everyone gushes about the W Hotel in Verbier which is right across from the ski lifts, but apart from it’s location, it is not one of my faves. It is brand spanking new, modern and leaves me quite cold. I still like Alpine chalet luxury and La Cordee des Alpes provides just that. It has a great restaurant, spa and a great feel to it. It isn’t a ski-in/ski-out kind of place, but the concierge can arrange transport to the ski slopes.

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Hotel Christiania, Val D’Isere. NHYM 2017.

10…Best for Location (and families): Hotel Christiania, Val D’Isere. Location, location, location. Hotel Christiana is on the slopes and right in town as well. It is family run and offers child care and a swimming pool to entertain the kids. Val D’Isere has excellent skiing and a happening nightlife for those who want a good mix of both. And with prices that are more reasonable than most of these hotels, here’s finally a place for NBIs.

 

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Lake Como & The Grand Tremezzo

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Lake Como in the morning fog. Villa Melzi in the distance. All photos in this post courtesy of NHYM 2106. 

Lake Como

As is our tradition, Mr. X and I go away for a weekend on our own at the end of September, since I usually spend the entire summer running around like a clown entertaining my children and need a little ‘Ahhhhh’ breather by the end of it. Each year we choose an appropriately romantic and warm place (Sardinia last year, Santorini the year before). This year, we chose Lake Como, which had been on my to-visit list for some time, but this year it moved up to pole-position. No, I didn’t choose it for George Clooney sightings, but clearly he put Como on the map for many Americans.

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Bellagio View from the boat. NHYM 2016. 

Of course, as we all know, I love boats and being on the water, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go to Como. So, as soon as we arrived, we hopped out of the car, and into a boat to visit the lake to do some villa-lusting.

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Villa del Balbianello. NHYM 2016. 

One of the most famous villas is of course the Villa del Balbianello, which starred in Casino Royale:

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Richard Branson’s villa. NHYM 2016. 

La Cassinella, Richard Branson’s villa, is right next to Villa del Balbianello and can be rented for a mere €90,000 per week.

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Mussolini’s villa. NHYM 2016. 

This villa is purported to be one of Mussolini’s villas and near where he was executed in 1945.

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo. NHYM 2016. 

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which immediately made me think of the Grand Hotel Budapest:

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A friend recommended this hotel and I really liked it. Firstly, location, location, location. It has a 180 view of Lake Como, sitting across from Bellagio. And it mixes old and contemporary in a seamless way. The photos can tell you the rest:

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Corner room with two views. NHYM 2016. 

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View towards Bellagio. NHYM 2016. 

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Other view from our room towards Villa Balbianello. NHYM 2016. 

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Wonderful grand entrance. NHYM 2016. 

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 Beach Club. NHYM 2016.
The Tremezzo even has a trendy beach club, great for a drink or dip in the pool.

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Front Pool floating on the lake. NHYM 2016. 

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Back pool. NHYM 2016. Lovely for children. 

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Tremezzo Terrace. NHYM 2016.

From the terrace of the hotel, I was reminded of The Splendido in Portofino, one of my favourite hotels.

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Breakfast at the hotel. NHYM 2016. 

Breakfast on the terrace is peaceful and truly wonderful with a panoramic view of the lake. (The food for dinner on the other hand wasn’t my favourite). We overheard two American couples, one of which was headed to the Splendido that very day.

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Villa D’este. NHYM 2016. 

We went to dinner at the Villa D’Este one night and it did not let me down. The place is stunning, stupendous and splendid, but I don’t necessarily need to stay there: it looks like it hasn’t had a makeover since 1856 and feels like you are staying in a museum or Versailles Palace. Not so cosy or warm. And it’s definitely a ‘see-and-be-seen’ place and people were staring at us everywhere we went. Perhaps they thought we were Clooney and Amal from behind ;).

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The gardens Villa D’este. NHYM 2016. 

The gardens are really quite spectacular and feels like they are part of a palace rather than a hotel.

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Villa Carlotta. NHYM 2016. 

Villa Carlotta is conveniently located right next to the Tremezzo, another plus for the hotel and has beautiful botanical gardens from rainforests to Japanese gardens and an impressive art collection.

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Villa Carlotta Front Gardens. NHYM 2016. 

Lake Como was a wonderful escapade away from the frenetic frenzy of London and I was reminded of how much I enjoyed sightseeing and walking into a museum without two monkeys hanging off of each of my arms seeking my attention. It was gloriously peaceful and quiet and I can’t wait for next September for my next to-visit weekend.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

villacarlottaflowersnhym

 

 

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Hotel Review: Anassa, Cyprus

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Anassa Hotel. All photos by NHYM Copyright 2016. 

For my mother’s birthday this year, I decided to take her on holiday somewhere warm in April. I called up Scott Dunn, my trusted travel advisor, with my list of requests: 1) Somewhere warm 2) within 5 hours of London (I don’t need any long haul and jet-lag battles for a while) 3) kid friendly (I was taking them along after all) and granny-friendly 4) A nice spa 5) A beautiful hotel with sea views.

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Views from the main pool. NHYM 2016.

Immediately, they wrote back to me recommending Anassa, a five star, LWH (leading hotels of the world) hotel in Cyprus. I had never thought of Cyprus as a destination, but I had heard about Anassa from a few friends who had been, and had thought quite highly of it.

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View from our room. NHYM 2016. 

We arrived late night (with Sleazyjet, I know, but it had the best departure times) and woke up to a very beautiful view, as seen above and below. We had interconnecting suites, one Junior suite, and one regular studio suite, which worked very well for a family. The rooms were spacious, with neutral tones and had wonderful sea views:

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View from our room. Amazing. NHYM 2016. 

The only minor gripe I had with our room was that the pillows were on the hard side. (Who knew I would ever need a pillow menu to rectify this). The service in the room was very good, with two services per day. The rooms are not heated at this time of year, but heaters were brought to our room as soon as we mentioned this. When one of us forgot our toothbrush, a toothbrush was sent right away, indicating true 5 star service (which also came with expensive ironing services, but there you go, you pay for what you get).

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Breakfast Terrace. NHYM 2016.

The first day there, it was too cold to eat outside so we had to sit inside, next to screeching children sitting next to us and I did wonder whether this hotel was a little too ‘child friendly,’ but the next day, the terrace was open and the setting was absolutely gorgeous. Any screaming children were soon forgotten when faced with this view. The breakfast buffet was very good and offered a nice variety of fruits, pastries, omelettes etc… The cappuccino was good, which it sometimes isn’t – I was recently at a 5 star hotel that served machine-made cappuccinos – huge let-down.

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The main hotel view from the grass below the main pool. NHYM 2016.

Hotel Grounds

The hotel grounds are really beautiful, from the inner courtyard, the chapel and the amazing views from anywhere in the hotel. It is not a small, boutiquey, trendy type hotel (if you’re looking for that, it isn’t it), but it is bold, big and beautiful. Such a large hotel could be tacky and resort-y, but Anassa manages to remain beautiful and has lovely Cypriot touches.

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Inner Courtyard. NHYM 2016.

There is even a Chapel where baptisms, marriages and Easter mass take place.

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Anassa Chapel 2016. 

The location and the views are truly beautiful and are probably the best part of the hotel. Just walking through the hotel is a sublime, uplifting experience, with spring flowers blooming everywhere you look.

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Spring Flowers NHYM 2016.

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Clementine Tree with succulent, sweet clementines. NHYM 2016. 

Pools

There are three pools; two unheated pools and a small heated ‘kids’ pool. Since we were in prime Easter Holiday season, there were a lot of British families and kids at the Kids Pool. It’s a shame the kids pool is not bigger, but you can’t have everything. More on kids later…

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View from my sunbed with pool bar nearby. Feet and nails done by Margaret Dabbs, Spa NK Notting Hill. NHYM 2016. 

The views from the main pool are really quite stunning, with the sky, sea and pool all blending into one blue infinity. Once I found a sunbed with this view, there wasn’t much that would take me away from it. The only thing I would mention is that the main pool area is not very big, relative to the number of hotel rooms so I did wonder how busy it gets in the summer/high season months.

Restaurants

There are five main restaurants to choose from at Anassa. Amphora is the main, buffet-style restaurant which serves breakfast buffet and dinner. Generally, we are not huge fans of buffets, and we weren’t huge fans of the Asian buffet, but the other buffets, Cypriot, seafood and Mediterranean, were actually all very delicious and pleased all of us.

By the pool, there is a pool bar serving light lunches, as well as a more formal restaurant Pelagos, which served fresh, grilled fish and had -more- beautiful views. The snack bar menu was very light and could be more extensive, but they also served a children’s menu that we often ordered from.

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Basiliko restaurant in caves. NHYM 2016. 

For fine dining options, Helios served delicious Mediterranean options, which allows children, who were spoiled with chairs pulled out and napkins applied on their laps and who were served freshly made linguini and prawns (there weren’t very many people that night, I assume it gets busier during high season). Basiliko is the Asian fusion, romantic restaurant (no kids allowed), which served really tasty and inventive foods. The menu did not do it justice.

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Sunset on the Terrace. NHYM 2016. 

The upstairs terrace showed off 180 degree views of the stunning Cypriot coastline and could not be criticised in any way. (The inside lounge was less interesting, so I would opt for the outdoor terrace if at all possible. In April, bring jackets and pashminas for the night as it gets a little chilly).

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Indoor pool at the Spa. NHYM 2016. 

The spa was also a very grand and relaxing affair. I booked us in for some Chakra healing treatments, which ‘healed’ our chakras and left us completely relaxed and happy. My mother came out with a big smile on her face and I knew that this was a perfect birthday present.

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Rooms with private pools. Near kids pool. NHYM 2016.

I would be careful choosing a room with a private pool as they are situated around the kids pool and if you don’t want to hear kids screaming all day, I would stay away. We had lovely rooms in the main hotel, far from the pools, which were very private and peaceful. Just how I wanted it.

Crowd

The crowd was distinctly British, from SouthWest and West London (Battersea/Clapham/Fulham and even some Notting Hillers were spotted) with children called Olly/Alexander/Saskia/Izzy/Bella. As it was school holidays, there were a lot of children (it is very family friendly) so if you are traveling without children, I would come outside of school holiday time. Apart from the Brits, there was a smattering of Russians, Swiss Germans, Israelis, French and Danes. The day we left, at the end of the Easter Holidays, the demographic changed from families to couples and from Brits to the rest of the world.

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Playground in front of Kids Club. NHYM 2016. 

Kids Club by Scott Dunn

The Kids Club at Anassa is run by Scott Dunn, which does provide a high standard level of care. It is in a kid – friendly area of the hotel, with a playground and ping pong tables nearby. My children were separated in their respective age groups, and although I understand the reason for separating the groups, they were somewhat disappointed not to be in the same group. There weren’t that many children in the over – 5s group, so my eldest didn’t enjoy it as much as she could have. I think the reason was that the grounds were so family friendly that older children can easily entertain themselves in the pool/playground area without supervision. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the playground, swimming time with the kids club, playing by the beach and the arts and crafts i.e. aliens out of aluminium foil and crocodile paintings out of foot prints.

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Anassa beach. NHYM 2016. 

Speaking of beaches, there was a nice, quiet, pebbly beach at the hotel with a watersports centre nearby (not run by the hotel but they work closely together).

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View from the boat. NHYM 2016. 

There isn’t a huge amount to do outside the hotel. The hotel is the main draw of the area, but one day we ventured out on a boat trip to see Aphrodite’s rocks (where Aphrodite is meant to be born), the Cypriot coastline and the Blue Lagoon, with shallow beautiful waters. It was a lovely day out on the water.

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Translucent blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. NHYM 2016. 

Overall

We had a wonderful trip to Anassa this year. We were certainly not disappointed by the hotel, the rooms or the location. The children loved it as did my mother, so I succeeded in keeping everyone happy. To find summer sunshine in Europe in April, Cyprus is a very good option and we were lucky to have 5 out 6 very sunny and warm days, reaching 24 to 25 degrees Celsius. It really felt like summer. At Anassa, don’t expect trendy and hip, but expect very nice spacious inter-connecting rooms for families, wonderful views from everywhere in the hotel, super staff and service, and lots of great amenities, making it a granny, mummy & kiddy pleaser. My children are already asking if we can go back tomorrow. And so is my mother.

Thank you Scott Dunn for organising our trip and Anassa for treating us so well!

xx

NHYM

 

** I paid for this trip but Scott Dunn organised it and provided perks and discounts. ** 

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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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Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love The Maldives

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Scott Dunn Goodies: Two sun shirts for my children by SUNUVA, a beautiful leather passport holder by Ettinger and finally our holiday itinerary. Off to a good start!

As you know, I recently started a collaboration with Scott Dunn, who are a luxury travel agency that recently won the Conde Nast Traveller ‘Favourite Specialist Tour Operator 2015′ and have great Kids Clubs around the world. For our first trip together, Scott Dunn has arranged our half term break to the Maldives to a luxury, boutique hotel, NIYAMA, part of the PER AQUUM group and sister hotel to the oh-so-fabulous Huvafen Fushi (who are putting on a private performance by Joss Stone on February 28th!). Scott Dunn has their own Kids Club there, which I have heard is exceptional.

And we all know that I have a slight obsession with the Maldives… A friend the other day told me that she didn’t get why I wanted to go to the Maldives over and over again. ‘Doesn’t it get boring? It’s beautiful but there are plenty of other places to visit in the world. Why would you go there over and over?’ she said. That is true, but the problem with the Maldives is that once you’ve been there, you just keep on wanting to go. The Carribean are great but the hotels just don’t compare. Asia is even further away. As far as beach holidays go, there aren’t a lot of places to beat it. (Kind of like going on Business Class Flights).

And since it’s February, it’s grey, winter is never-ending, a little (a lot) of sunshine can go a long way.

So, what makes the Maldives so great? You may ask…

1. British Airways Direct London – Male.  10 hours there, 11 hours back. You can go to Miami or the Caribbean for almost the same amount of time, but for the same price, the hotels, service and food are just overall better in the Maldives. Going to Thailand is great, but it’s a longer flight and to get to any of the islands, you will need to take another domestic flight. My children already have a playdate booked on the flight coming back with friends. Guaranteed happiness for everyone.

2. The lagoons: They are shallow enough for your 12 month old to toddle, paddle and swim in. The water is crystal clear and just breath-taking. As my children call it, it’s like a ‘swimming pool.’

3. The sea life and the diving: you don’t even need to put your head in the water to catch sightings of stingrays, baby sharks, coral, legendary unicorn fish or multi-coloured picasso fish. Some of the best snorkelling is done on the hotel house reef and for diving aficionados, the Manta Ray and Whaleshark spotting will leave you speechless.

4. The sand: soft, white, powdery, just as in the dreamy postcards.

5. The sun: Even in the rainy season, you are mostly likely going to get plenty of guaranteed sunshine year round. You can still have a fantastic time despite a few hours of Monsoon rains here and there.

6. It is safe: I once lost my toddler on a Maldivian Island when she escaped the Kids Club while no one was looking – cheeky monkey. But I felt safe knowing that nothing would really happen to her. Turns out she hitchhiked a ride on a buggy with a nice Mr. Friday who brought her home to our beach hut safe and sound.

7. The hotels: The quality of the hotels is just unparalleled. What’s great about them is that most of them are relatively new so there are none of the ‘tired, old hotels.’ ie. think Italy or Barbados. And each new hotel tries to outdo the last new hotel, with underwater bars/spas/restaurants, concerts and talks, private residences and private islands. There are also now all kinds of hotels to suit all budgets. Not all are $1,000 a night, with more and more affordable hotels cropping up. After all, it is still the Maldives. The sea, sun and sand is the same wherever you stay.

8. The service: Asians just know how to do ‘service.’ They are always smiling, humble and kind. Forget grumpy French waiters, it’s all about the service here. The Maldivians are lovely, gentle, smiling people who will do everything to make your stay unforgettable.

9. Kids Clubs: For families who want a break, the Kids Clubs are outstanding. From snorkelling to turtle feeding, glass bottom boat kayaking to dolphin safaris, cinema under the stars to treasure hunts. There are even talks by marine biologists and astronomy presentations. There are activities for all ages and your children’s horizons will just keep growing.

10. Complete relaxation: This is the luxury version of Robinson Crusoe or Castaway. You can completely take a break from the hectic pace of modern life and really forget your worries just for a week… You could argue that it gets boring after a week, but to me, this is the idea of bliss.

See you on the other side.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

** Scott Dunn organised this trip to the Maldives with some perks/discounts, but I still paid for the holiday and the views are all mine**

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Top 10, Travel, Uncategorized

Top 10 Travel Tips: Sardinia in September

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Sardinia. All photos copyright NHYM 2015. 

September is a bittersweet month. On one hand, it is great to come back to a daily routine of school runs, dinners and socialising and the comfort of one’s home. On the other hand, it is good-bye to summer and outdoor BBQs, and the realisation that the next summer is 10 months away.

So, as a tradition, we try to go away every September for our wedding anniversary. This year, we chose Sardinia, because a) it is only 2 hours away (yes, I know it’s with Easyjet, but sometimes I need to temper down my inner brat) b) my mother and friends told me to stay away from Turkey because of all of the unrest (where I initially wanted to go to) c) Mr. X had never been and it’s been years since I had been. d) And finally, because it is a rather beautiful melange of rustic and chic.

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Porto Cervo NHYM 2015.

Here are my Top 10 Tips in Sardinia:

  1. Check out the beaches. There are so many to explore, but my personal favourites are in Southern Sardinia, where there are less foreign tourists and the translucent water and rocky outcroppings remind me of the Seychelles. The beaches in Maddalena are equally spectacular.
  2. Porto Cervo, home to Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Club, must be seen. It was created by Prince Aga Khan and reminds me of the Terra Cotta Hotel Byblos in St Tropez. It doesn’t have much charm, but has to be seen… as one of the most expensive real estates in Europe. Check out ‘You Porto Cervo’ for a cocktail.PortoCervo2NHYMView of Porto Cervo. NHYM 2015
  3. The Maddalena archipelago is the opposite of Porto Cervo: quiet, rustic and a has beautiful nature. I already mentioned La Casitta in another post (https://nottinghillmummy.com/2014/05/19/top-10-best-mediterranean-sea-view-boutique-hotels), best for its remoteness and seclusion
  4. Charter a motor yacht/sailboat/gulet to visit Sardinia’s wild nature and beaches and nature reserves. There’s nothing like waking up in an undiscovered cove on a boat with a cappuccino in hand…
  5. See the Grotto di Nettuno, Sardinia’s most famous cave.SardiniaViewNHYM
  6. Try one of the many Agriturismo farmhouses to get back to basics: http://www.agriturismo.it/en/
  7. Go to Phi Beach for the sunset and a cocktail. Great views and atmosphere.SardiniaBeach2NHYM
  8. The Cala di Volpe hotel, one of the most expensive hotels in the world, once featured in the 1977 ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ Bond Film. It may be the most famous hotel in Sardinia, but it seems a bit dated to me and is not by far one of my favourites. Personally, Il Splendido wins hands down. CalaDiVolpeNHYMCala Di Volpe
  9. Visit Nora in the South, an ancient Roman and pre-Roman town, where you can see a Roman theatre, temple and mosaics.
  10. Enjoy the food… It is Italy after all. Try La Gritta with views of the Maddelena, I Fratti Rossi for its seafood, or Il Pescatore purely for the best setting and view of Porto Cervo.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

PortoCervoBridge2NHYM

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Top 10, Travel, Uncategorized

Travel: Woolley Grange Hotel Review, Wiltshire

WoolleyGrangeFrontNHYM

Woolley Grange Hotel Main House. All Photos Copyright of NHYM 2015.

Woolley Grange Hotel 

Woolley Green

Bradford-On-Avon

Wiltshire BA15 1TX

Tel. 01225864705

http://www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

OVERALL RATING: 4 stars

Hotel itself: 3.75 stars

Children’s Amenities: 5 stars

Service: 3 stars

Restaurant: 4 stars for dinner, 3 stars at lunch

Room: 4 stars

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Woolley Grange Front Lawn

Let me preface this post by saying that this is NOT what I would consider a ‘family-friendly hotel’. Au contraire, I would call it a ‘child-centered’ hotel, or one that is dedicated to children and that allows parents to join if they so please. This should be clear from the outset, in case you were looking for a 5* hotel that catered to children.

I say this because:

  1. There are children everywhere. When we arrived there were children on the front lawn swinging/jumping/fishing/swimming/playing.
  2. The lunch menu for children is much more elaborate and appetising than the adult menu (For children: steak, roast chicken, spaghetti. Adults: Sandwiches & Light Bites)
  3. The ‘Movie Room’ only plays children’s movies
  4. The table settings are named with your children’s names, not yours.
  5. The ‘Candle-lit’ dinner reserved for adults still has children running all over the place while you dine by ‘candle-light’
  6. The beautiful front lawn’s view is encumbered by a trampoline, a football pitch, a mini-tennis court and plastic playground toys.
  7. Did I mention there were children everywhere?
  8. Every hotel guest here comes accessorised with at least one, two, or three mini people and possibly a granny or grandpa thrown in for good measure.
  9. In the lounges, instead of House & Garden or Country Life magazines, train sets and baby books fill the coffee tables.
  10. Activities here are children focussed: films, egg collecting, kids club etc…

So, now that I’ve gotten this out of the way, you will be prepared for a lovely children’s weekend/holiday in the country. The upside is that you don’t need to be embarrassed when your child throws a) tantrum b) hissy fit c) their food all over the floor d) a toy at their younger sister/brother/your head. As this was our first ever ‘Children’s Hotel’ it took a little adjustment. Best for children 0-9.

WoolleyGrangeMainHouseNHYM

The Main House. NHYM 2015. 

The Hotel

The hotel itself is a beautiful Jacobean Manor house that accommodates 25 rooms and suites for all kinds of family arrangements. There are interconnecting rooms that are perfect for a family of 4 or other rooms that can fit smaller families. It is old, kitschy and creaky, with thick carpets and small nooks and crannies interspersed in the house. It is not what I would call a five star hotel, with blue thick velvet carpets that show mud and crumbs left behind by children, and service that comes by to only hoover and tidy beds. (Other 5* stars generally try to tidy up clothes and toys, but not really this one).

WoolleyGrangeENtranceNHYM

Front Entrance Woolley Grange Hotel. NHYM 2015. 

In addition to the main house, there is a small spa with an indoor swimming pool, which both looked quite nice but we never managed to use the pool because it was closed while we were there. And no, I never found time to visit the spa. There is also an outdoor pool available for proper British families who braved it out in the rain and cold at 13 degrees. I mean, yes I know it is heated, but really? No, you won’t get me in that pool with this great British weather….

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The walled garden. NHYM 2015. 

Children’s Amenities

Like I mentioned before, this hotel is all about kids. For our urban-kids, there was plenty of things to enjoy at this hotel: a swing and trampoline on the lawn, a small playground out back, and a walled garden. The walled garden had toy houses, ducks, geese, hen, a tractor and apple picking.

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Woolley Grange Tractor

There was egg collecting from the hen house.

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Hen House & Chicken Laying Eggs. NHYM 2015. 

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Ducks and ducklings. NHYM 2015. 

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Pumpkins in the Walled Garden. Or are they squash? NHYM 2015. 

The Kids Club was cute, nothing to go crazy over, but available for 2 hours per day, just enough time for a coffee and a read of the newspaper. It was mostly geared towards younger children under 5 years old, but still had some jewellery making for older children and a breakfast club on a Sunday for an extra hour and a half in bed.

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Kids Club. NHYM 2015. 

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Simon the Rabbit at the Kids Club. NHYM 2015.

The Room & Service

We had a very spacious family room with 2 interconnecting rooms, which fit us perfectly. The children had their room with two twin beds while we had a large King size bed with very comfortable beds. The Service… well, let’s just put it this way: the hotel was full of Uni students working during their summer holidays to earn a little cash for the year to come. There were no professionally trained French Maitre d’ or fully trained concierges (‘Uhm, sorry, you booked Longleat tickets through us? No one told me!’) Not quite what we are used to, but very friendly and genuinely nice.

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Did I mention everything is for children here? NHYM 2015. 

Outside Woolley Grange

What the children really loved outside the hotel was Longleat Safari Park, probably the best drive through Safari Park in the UK (unlike Whipsnead which is not a proper drive through Safari Park), which also has an Adventure Park and a beautiful house to visit. You could spend days there and it is a sure hit with the kids. The Safari Park has plenty of animals to see; giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, and lots of Monkeys that love to sit on your car mirrors! The Adventure Park also has loads of fun playgrounds and more to see. The Jungle Cruise had hippos, gorillas and a chance to feed sea lions. We were there for a whole day and didn’t manage to see it all. Definitely worth a visit.

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Longleat House. NHYM 2015. 

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Nico the 55 year old Gorilla. NHYM 2015. 

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Despite the often 3* rather than 5* service, this place is great for children. It’s a quick escape from the city and a great base to explore the countryside. We saw more animals there than we have seen in all our years in London (we also managed to feed goats, pigs and ponies at a little farm in the vicinity). It’s a great place for kids, although where parents can sometimes feel like second class citizens, but since we’ve had plenty of adult time in our day (see: Santorini, Greece: https://nottinghillmummy.com/2015/08/22/travel-lusting-photography-santorini-greece/), we sucked it up ;0. There’s plenty to do around there, like visit Bath and Bradford-on-Avon, which we also enjoyed (a new rest the Weaving Shed in Bradford was a nice surprise). We would recommend it to anyone who is looking for some quality time with kids, and save the following weekend for time with the adults.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

WoolleyGrangeFlowersNHYM

 

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