Photos, Reviews, Travel

Hotel Review: Carlisle Bay, Antigua

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

Overall: 4.2 stars

Hotel: 4.3 stars

Beach and location: 4.5 stars

Rooms: 4.4 stars

Food: 4.4 stars

Service: 3.5 stars

Value for money: 3.8 stars

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

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View from the beach Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

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

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The Beach, Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

THE HOTEL

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

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Hotel Grounds. NHYM 2017.

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

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The Room. NHYM 2017.

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

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The pool Carlisle Bay. NHYM 2017. 

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

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View from our room. NHYM 2017.

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

ACTIVITIES

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View from Shirley Heights. NHYM 2017. 

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

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

KIDS CLUB 

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Kids Club NHYM 2017. 

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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Sunrise from our room. NHYM 2017.

SERVICE

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

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OVERALL

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

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Top 10, Travel

The Ocean House, Antigua

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The Ocean House sunset. This photo is courtesy of the owner but all other photos courtesy of NHYM. Copyright 2017.

During our last two days in Antigua, we were invited to stay at The Ocean House, a new 4-bedroom villa situated on the water’s edge at the Northwest side of the island, near St. John’s, the capital.

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It was built and designed by a London luxury real estate developer who had a vision of an infinity pool falling directly into the water. This vision eventually became a reality last year, and this beautiful villa is now available for holiday rentals.

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The entrance. NHYM 2017. 

As you approach the villa by car, you could mistake it for a modest, bungalow on the side of a road, but as soon as you enter the house, you realise that it is so much more. Firstly, there is that view. A 180 degree, panoramic view where the infinity pool drops into the water, and blends into the sky, which you could stare at for days on end.

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Infinity pool. NHYM 2017.

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Living Room. NHYM 2017.

But it isn’t just the view that makes you fall in love with this house: all the small, carefully chosen details show that this was a labour of love. And it is so much bigger than it appears both on photographs or from the outside.

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Living room details. NHYM 2017.

I love all the beautiful details, the blue corals, the beach rules and the various books littered around the living room, and the white, blue and grey colour scheme which fits in with its name, The Ocean House. It is a light, spacious and airy house, which makes you feel immediately at home.

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The Dining Room. NHYM 2017.

The sea view is visible from the kitchen/dining room, the living room and the master bedroom, which all lead to the terrace and to the focal point of the house – the infinity pool.

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Outdoor deck. NHYM 2017. 

Outside, there is access to a pier, where you can be picked up by boat and taken around Antigua for the day. It was one of our favourite days in Antigua – stopping for lunch at Green Island, a deserted island where your little ones can paddle in crystal clear waters with no one but a few sailboats in sight.

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Steps down to the water. NHYM 2017. 

Down by the pier, there is paddle boarding and swimming for those looking to exercise, otherwise lazing by the pool is just as tempting.

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Guest room. NHYM 2017. 

To me, hotels exude a sort of transiency, knowing that eventually I will say goodbye. But with a house, an attachment is formed, which makes me dream of it days after leaving. So, weeks on, I am still dreaming of the Ocean House, its view, and its spectacular sunsets.

Until next time….

 

Thank you The Ocean House for hosting us!! It was absolutely fabulous! xx

 The Ocean House is available to rent through its website: http://theoceanhouse.co.uk or on https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p4237756

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

TheOceanHouseBougainvilleaNHYM

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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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