The Dorchester: A Five Star Luxury Getaway Awaits

The Dorchester: A Five Star Luxury Getaway Awaits


Check-in for a long weekend of luxury at one of the world’s most iconic hotels.

For our London Fashion Week interview and photoshoot with Leonie Hanne, founder of OhhCouture.com and one of Instagram’s most enviable and inspiring fashion accounts, team Marie Claire was generously hosted by the iconic The Dorchester Hotel. Fashion photographer Kyle Galvin photographed Leonie within the luxurious Mayfair Suite – one of the hotels most beloved rooms.

Photo Credit: Kyle Galvin

Nestled into the east corner of Hyde Park, from the minute I arrived at The Dorchester I felt myself relax. Despite being at the hotel for work the team and I all shared how welcomed and calm we felt there. The incredible concierge team assisted and coordinated everything with ease and the kind of knowledge, you knew you would be able to call upon, to assist you with everything from securing a last minute theatre booking to a private gallery viewing.

Here’s everything you need to know about The Dorchester:

The hotel:

Favoured by royalty and Hollywood’s A-list, The Dorchester has hosted numerous state banquets and legendary parties. Steeped in London’s history and a destination in itself the iconic five star hotel is grade-II listed. With 250 rooms and three penthouse suites to choose from, a luxurious spa and 3 Michelin starred Alain Ducasse restaurant to indulge in there’s never been a better time to treat yourself (and a loved one) to a weekend getaway.

The rooms:

From Deluxe Queen Rooms to palatial suites (overlooking their historic namesake The Mayfair Suites are available from £1,7650) and extraordinary penthouse suites (The Harlequin’s clean lines, colour pops and clever use of glass provide glamour and celebrity intrigue) each feature handmade Vispring beds, combining the finest materials (with individually pocketed springs) to ensure you have a great night’s sleep in ultimate comfort. Ideal for a suite escape.

115 of the 250 rooms have views across to Hyde Park. Adorned in an eclectic mix of opulent, chintzy decor with traditional features celebrated by decadent palettes. Comfort levels are high with the gorgeous marble and chrome bathrooms a real highlight – the deep baths are considered among the best in London.

The food:

Since The Dorchester’s grand opening in 1931 the Afternoon Tea at The Promenade has been part of the heart of the hotel. Hosted in the drawing room of the Mayfair it’s a decadent experience full of tradition, indulgence and the hotels delicious cakes. Ideal for a celebration of a loved one, generations have fallen in love with the grandeur and indulgence – it’s the true definition of a day well spent in London that you’ll always remember.

With The Grill at The Dorchester relaunched in November of last year under one of London’s finest young chefs, Tom Booton leading his personal (and coveted) interpretation of modern-day British grill with signature dishes from homemade stout bread to prawn Scotch eggs and lobster thermidor tart. The delicious ‘Pudding Bar’ a firm favourite amongst guests for a truly indulgent experience you can reserve a spot for two (click here) to enjoy a final course of delectable desserts in new surroundings at the countertop with the opportunity to interact with Tom and his chefs as they create your pudding in front of you.

The spa:

A glamorous art deco pampering destination, you’re likely to have seen the luxurious setting of The Dorchester Spa on your Instagram feed. Offering a wide range of treatments from award-winning international facialist Adeela Crown’s high-performance facials, available only at The Dorchester Spa, to champagne manicures.

The Dorchester Rose:

Seven years in the making, the entire hotel was transformed to celebrate the arrival of ‘The Dorchester Rose’ and the opening of ‘Florist at The Dorchester’. Internationally renowned for his floral arrangements which adorn the hotel florist Philip Hammond showcases the new variety of rose in the most spectacular displays.

Designed to complement the interior tones of The Dorchester the shape and hue of the pale blush rose is entirely unique, with the pink tones developing as the rose opens. With the rose set to be celebrated throughout the year – Philip estimates that around 50,000 stems will be used to create displays. in the public areas, rooms and suites.

Visit the boutique ‘Florist at The Dorchester’ to shop signature and bespoke arrangements.

Book now:

You can book via The Dorchester site, with a Deluxe Queen Room rate starting at £463 a night.

53 Park Lane
Mayfair
London
W1K 1QA

020 7629 8888

The post The Dorchester: A Five Star Luxury Getaway Awaits appeared first on Marie Claire.



You can now stay at this stunning Airbnb castle for just £13 a night

You can now stay at this stunning Airbnb castle for just £13 a night


airbnb castle
Credit: Airbnb

Whatever you look for in an Airbnb, there is quite literally something for everyone – did you know that you can book in to a dog-shaped Airbnb? Or settle into Bella Swan’s Twilight house? You can also stay in a llama and alpaca treehouse or treat yourself to a night at Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s beautiful wedding venue.

Oh, and Harry Potter’s childhood home is also listed on the home rental website if you’re a witch/wizard who likes to get away on the weekend.

If, however, you feel like you were born for the boujee life and you’ll settle for nothing less than a castle – you’re in luck. You can now rent an entire castle in Wiltshire, UK and it looks absolutely incredible.

It’s time to head to Longs Park Castle in West Ashton and enjoy the games barn, clock house and Rapunzel’s tower. There’s a lounge and conservatory, study, drawing room, library, and great hall, as well as a dining room with a table big enough to sit twenty guests.

Just 14 miles from Bath, it’s also near to the city if you need a day of hustle and bustle in between living out your dream of being a Game of Thrones extra.

It sleeps up to 16 people: six double bedrooms with four poster beds, most en-suite and two double beds in the Clockhouse.

Best part? Well, there are lots of reasons to check in. However, one big pull is the fact that if you round up 15 friends it’ll only cost £13 a night. Bargain.

The listing states it’s the perfect location for ‘for a medieval-themed feast, banquet, murder mystery weekend venue’.

However, it’s a ‘rare find’ meaning that if you want to book you’ll have to check the dates in advance.

So what are you waiting for? Get booking ASAP.

The post You can now stay at this stunning Airbnb castle for just £13 a night appeared first on Marie Claire.

A Weekend North of The Border

A Weekend North of The Border


Words: Sarah Hayman

What to See

For Edinburgh first timers then it would be rude not to tick off the trusty favourites. Pop on your boots and climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat for views across the city, take a quick pit stop and drop in to the Sheep Heid to enjoy one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs complete with skittle alley. (If you’re more Manolo than Millets then the view from Carlton Hill is less strenuous and almost just as rewarding).

Check out the Parliament buildings and Palace of Holyrood: The Queen’s official Edinburgh residence has stately rooms open to the public and there’s almost always a decent art exhibition to please the culture vulture inside.

The Royal Mile runs from the Palace to the Castle and it’s worth a saunter, taking in the tourist traps, sampling some whisky and securing your souvenir fix. Get a pic of the castle for the gram and then head to one of the mile’s many cafes for a well-earned rest bite.

Edinburgh though is really the city built for ambling. Take a stroll across the bridges, chill out in Princes Street Gardens, wander the cobbled streets of Victoria Street and The Grassmarket, and get your shopping fix in the upmarket streets of New Town.

The Food & Drink

Start as you mean to go on with breakfast or brunch at the New Town Fox. Devour generous portions of your favourite classics whilst mixing with locals, tourists, young and old in this friendly local eatery.

Carnivores should head to the Chop House, Market St, for melt in your mouth steaks. The meat is dry aged in-house, cooked on their josper grill and then served up in a stripped back, modern setting that’s all exposed brick and industrial fittings. The cocktails aren’t bad either!

For cosy laid-back gastro pub vibes, but where the food is still top notch, head to Edinburgh’s trendy Stockbridge and sample the local fayre at Scran and Scallie. Brainchild of Michelin starred chefs Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack, the changing seasonal menu and pies don’t disappoint.

Splash the cash and celebrate in style at Michelin Starred Martin Wishart’s venture The Honours, serving up a classic French menu with the finest Scottish ingredients. Inside and cocooned in chocolate and gold interiors, Edinburgh’s bustling streets seem a million miles away. Start with a glass of champagne and the haggis bon bons to really whet your appetite.

If you’re after a fiesta then start your night at El Cartel for the freshest Mexican street food washed down with naughty mezcal cocktails. If you’re still standing at the end of your night then stop by newbie Lady Libertine’s art deco basement bar with strong DJ line up.

Veggies and Vegans are well catered for at Indian favourite Dishoom, family run trattoria Novapizza or try the healthy salad bar at Hendersons

Where to stay

No newcomer to the Air BnB scene there’s a myriad of choice, whether you want a modern city penthouse, an old school tenement or a posh new town townhouse Edinburgh delivers. This Royal Mile loft took our fancy, check it out here.

Topping and tailing Edinburgh’s North Bridge are the city’s most famous hotels, The Balmoral and The Scotsman. Both deliver sumptuous rooms and the perfect mix of modern luxury sensitive to their historical backdrop. The opulent interiors of the Scotsman’s Grand Café are not to be missed and with doors open to non-residents we’d suggest sampling the Afternoon Tea, a steal at £29.95 including champagne.

Getting there

Trains to Edinburgh Waverley leave London Kings Cross every half an hour, take around 4 and a half hours, and drop you right in the city centre.

Alternatively British Airways and Easy Jet both fly several times a day, take the convenient airport bus (£4.50/£7.5) or jump in a taxi (£20-25) to be in town within 30 minutes.

 

For more travel updates follow @haymans_adventures

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Here's why Ibiza is still the world's ultimate party destination, and more

Here's why Ibiza is still the world's ultimate party destination, and more


Ibiza has a well-deserved reputation as the world’s best party destination, but this island has so much more to offer from world-class cuisine to intrepid hikes

Ibiza

Why go to Ibiza …

Whether you’re seeking sunset yoga or all night hedonism (or both) this magical island delivers. Its little wonder the tiny Balearic paradise draws seven million visitors each year and so many of us come back again and again. Just two hours from the UK, there really is no better weekend escape to recharge or indulge yourself this summer. But with so many hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from, how to choose between them all? Don’t sweat, we’ve done it for you.

When…

The best time to travel to Ibiza is from May to October, but there is something happening on the island all year round and if you go at the beginning or end of the season, you’re guaranteed warm sunny days, lively bars and perfect sunsets without the crowds.

Stay at…

ibiza

(Photo Credit: La Mimosas)

The new boutique hideaway La Mimosas hotel, a 4-star hidden gem in San Antonio Bay, just 3KM outside the centre but a haven of tranquillity. Tucked away in a residential area and a popular lunch and dinner spot for locals, this is the chilled respite you’ll want after a crazy night out clubbing. Las Mimosas has been completely renovated by the Anadon family, owners of Café Mambo. With clean minimalist rooms in neutral colours that overlook a central pool with day beds, its vibe is more akin to a luxury villa.

ibiza

(Photo Credit: La Mimosas)

This place has just the right amount going on, with a buzzing restaurant and bar plus great DJ’s popping in on weekend afternoons to get the party started around the pool. And yet it’s quiet enough not to be woken up with thumping beats in the early hours if you’re the ‘yoga at sunrise’ type. The icing on the cake? You’re only a 5 minute walk from the beaches of Es Pouet and Pinet Playa, and a short drive to Cala Bossa and Cala Conta. The legendary Café Mambo (arguably the best place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset on the entire island) is also just a 10 minute drive away.

ibiza

The Sunset at Café Mambo (Photo Credit: Egnyte)

Eat and drink…

The food in Ibiza is as legendary as the night life and the island is awash with great restaurants and bars, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better lunch spot in Ibiza (or anywhere else for that matter) than Cala Gracioneta El Chiringuito in St Antonia. Once a tiny beach shack serving beer and snacks, this place has evolved since 1999 and now serves staggeringly good food overlooking the most crystal clear and picturesque little bay on the island (perfect for a post lunch swim). The vibe is relaxed and friendly, the service impeccable and the seafood paella the best we’ve tasted… ever. We also loved the sharing platters, perfectly cooked whole sea bass and the octopus house special. All were surprisingly reasonably priced too and beautifully presented. Make sure you have one of the cocktails. The Ibizan Sour (Spanish brandy shaken with the island’s herbal liqueur Mambo Hierbas, fresh lemon juice and cane sugar) is a must.

ibiza

(Photo Credit: Cala Gracioneta)

For dinner, book your table in advance at Casa Maca hotel and restaurant. You’ll be very pleased you did. This romantic cliff top hotel and farm just outside Ibiza old town, is a really special place, and the restaurant is hands down the best place for a relaxed dinner before hitting the clubs for a night out just 10 minutes drive away. 300 years old and situated high up above the town, its worth a visit just for the view of the imposing Delta Vila skyline from its tables out on the alfresco terrace. Its little wonder that it serves as a popular wedding venue. The USP of the restaurant here is its grill, an impressive and theatrical open fire at the centre of the restaurant where chefs can be seen cooking an array of fresh meat, seafood and farm-grown vegetables. Dinner is accompanied by live music from local artists and international DJs, while cocktails are served from an aluminium airstream caravan out back. The vibe is achingly cool, and the views to die for. Discovering Casa Maca is like being let in on a well-kept secret that feels too good to share. Open all year round, Casa Maca – which translates to beautiful house in the local Ibizan dialect – offers the truly authentic Ibiza experience.

ibiza

(Photo Credit: Casa Maca)

Don’t miss…

The Parties! Our pick of the bunch are at Hi. This award-wining club regularly hosts the biggest DJ’s and musicians on the planet and draws hundreds of thousands of revellers every year. From the beautiful design of the indoor and outside areas, to the quality of the sound systems and light displays, it’s the most sophisticated and all round brilliantly fun night out in Ibiza. Try to catch South African DJ Black Coffee if he’s in town on a Saturday night. Sunday nights it hosts the fabulously camp Glitterbox. Both are outstanding.

While you’re there…

Seethe island by boat. Sunset Boats Ibiza offer a range of trips for up to 10 people including water sports – a great way to while away the afternoon or blow your hangover away.

 

 

Book now:

There are many airlines who fly to Ibiza but we recommend flying with British Airways, for a quality travel experience without the queues and bun fight for seats. Trust us, your body will appreciate it on the way home and fares are very reasonable from around £80 return if you book in advance.  Junior suites at Las Mimomas are from £190.

The post Here's why Ibiza is still the world's ultimate party destination, and more appeared first on Marie Claire.

Affordable and sustainable holidays: where to go in 2020

Affordable and sustainable holidays: where to go in 2020


Want to save the planet while simultaneously slipping on your OOO? We hear you. Nicola Moyne’s edit of the most environmentally-friendly destinations that won’t cost the earth is what your passport’s been waiting for

sustainable holidays
Zero Estate

Sustainable travel is something of an oxymoron these days. We all know that hopping on a flight or buying a new capsule wardrobe for a week in the sun is bad for the environment. Yet, on the flip side, travel can also serve as the driving force for positive change in developing countries, and help to protect some of the world’s most endangered wildlife and habitats.

So how can you ensure that your getaway is helping to preserve rather than pollute the planet – while also avoiding those super-splurge eco hotels and costly conservation packages?

According to the experts, one of the most effective ways to travel more sustainably is to support countries leading the charge to ‘go green’. The latest Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks each country based on its efforts to address – and enforce – environmental issues that have the biggest impact on health and sustainability worldwide, such as how it’s tackling climate change and pollution, as well as its performance in water resources and agriculture. What’s more, the top 10 are practically on our doorstep, with direct routes – by plane, train or boat – from UK shores. Here’s the lowdown on seven of the most affordable, sustainable hotspots for 2020 and how to amp up your eco credentials while you’re there…

Go beach hopping in Malta

sustainable holidays

Unsplash

Sunburnt landscapes, azure-blue lagoons and historic, medieval hilltop towns: it’s not hard to fathom Malta’s rise to ‘must-see’ in recent years. But, for a true island escapade in the Med with serious sustainability points to boot, it’s best explored by boat. Home to miles of blonde coastline, honey-coloured coves and some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkelling spots, Malta offers up the perfect sailing conditions for those who fancy a private charter. Need to build up your sea legs first? Fear not: the boutique ferry from Cirkewwa will transport you to neighbouring Gozo’s sprawling red-sand beaches, or you can hop aboard a sunset sail to cruise the island’s beautiful bays and pretty fishing ports.

Book: Short-break yacht charters from about £425 per day. Visit maltasailingexperiences.com

Take the high (-voltage) road in Switzerland

sustainable holidays

Zero Estate

Voted number one in the EPI report for its ongoing commitment to sustainability, the rolling Swiss Alps and snaking woodlands provide a haven for hikers, bikers and adventurers looking to go off-grid for their very own Sound of Music moment. But if mountain-hugging hikes don’t quite tick the box, hit the (electric) ‘grand road trip’ instead. Unlike the gas-guzzling highway heroes of America, Switzerland has just launched a new road trippers’ route for electric vehicles, offering up 300 charging stations across more than 1,900km through some of the Europe’s most stunning scenery. The road runs through five glorious Alpine passes, past 22 gin-clear lakes, and the inviting vineyards of Montreal Riviera. In short, refuelling  really won’t be a problem for you, or the car.

Book: See eurocar.ch for car hire and myswitzerland.com for further details on the route. While there, check out Zero Real Estate, too. This art-meets-accommodation project promises the ultimate open-air experience with a luxurious kingsized bed nestled in the Swiss countryside and mountainscapes for miles – all, of course, energy-neutral. From £230; locations vary, visit toggenburg.org/en

Explore the cultural charms of Normandy

sustainable holidays

Unsplash

With Brittany Ferries set to launch a more eco-friendly fleet from Portsmouth this summer, sailings to the Normandy coast are a low-carbon option for ferry fans. This patchwork of sleepy seaside villages along the rugged northwestern coast of France has long attracted aristocrats, writers, artists and artisans. Today, the region’s rolling hills and lush meadows dotted with half-timbered farmhouses continue to draw in fashionable crowds searching for a rich glass of red and splash of French culture. Head to the soon-to-open La Villa du Temps Retrouve for a Balbec retrospective in Marcel Proust’s favourite seaside resort, Cabourg, or visit neighbouring Deauville for Les Franciscaines– a museum complex displaying more than 500 artworks in a restored convent.

Book: Honfleur’s beautifully restored Le Loft. Room from £110. Ferry crossing from £60 return, brittanyferries.com

Go glamping in the British countryside

sustainable holidays

Canopy and Stars

From idyllic lakeside cabins to beautifully-crafted tree houses cradled high in woodland hollows, there’s a wealth of premium UK glamping options for stylish staycationers right now, which means you might not even need to leave the county to get away this year. Check out the covetable edits offered up by Canopy & Stars and Glampingly – two leading companies that specialise in unique, luxurious spaces that are also highly sustainable. Our pick? This West Sussex-based cabin comes complete with its own private lake for the best wild-water swimming opps this side of summer.

Book: Ditchling Cabin sleeps 4 and costs from £320 per night. See canopyandstars.co.uk

Book the slow train through Sweden

sustainable holidays

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Gently winding its way 850 miles north from central Sweden to Swedish Lapland, the Inlandsbanan rail journey is one of the most scenic in Europe. Chugging through miles of dense pine, spruce and birch forests into arctic Sweden’s most iconic wildernesses, this nostalgic carriage ride into the Land of the Midnight Sun is one of the most magical – not to mention environmentally friendly – ways to travel. Hop off for a refreshing swim in one of the glassy trackside lakes; explore the nomadic reindeer-herding culture of the Sami en route; or simply recline Business-style and drink in the slow, quintessentially Swedish vistas.

Book: A 6-day itinerary starts from £630 per person. Visit res.inlandsbanan.se/en/package-tours

Do a wildlife safari in Scotland

sustainable holidays

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Leading the charge for sustainable adventure tourism in the UK, Wilderness Scotland offers up year-round nature-based holidays for the active traveller. Think birdwatching, hiking, pony trekking, sea kayaking and dolphin watching, as well as wild foraging and coastal explorations. Check out its popular Rewilding Retreat to explore the highlands’ lost tapestry of Scots pine, rowan and hazel forests; discover soaring sea eagles and roaming red deer; then hunker down for the night in a secluded Scottish lodge nestled deep in the moss-cloaked glens.

Book: The Rewilding Retreat starts at £1,325 per person for 6 nights. See wildernessscotland.com

 Learn to surf in Portugal

sustainable holidays

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With high-speed train options from London to the Algarve on offer, you don’t even need to set foot on a plane to duck and dive the long Atlantic rollers in Portugal. For the most sustainable of sun-soaked days, book yourself into the latest retreat from Soul & Surf, which already runs hugely popular programmes in Kerala and Sri Lanka, and donates one per cent of its profits to leading marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage. Days are spent learning to master your board on the beginner breaks, while balmy evenings are all about making the most of the meditative yoga shala back at the rustic farmhouse. Expect Soul & Surf’s signature laid-back vibes, shared platters of healthy local fare, and pro-taught surfing and yoga schedules. This is sustainability served up with style.

Book: A 4-night Weekday Escape starts at about £350 per person, including surf and yoga tuition and most meals. See soulandsurf.com

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Social enterprises, stylish boutique stays and sun-soaked lap pools: the cosmopolitan rise of Cambodia and Laos

Social enterprises, stylish boutique stays and sun-soaked lap pools: the cosmopolitan rise of Cambodia and Laos


While the Tomb Raider connotations of Angkor Wat still prevail, a fresh wave of cutting edge start-ups and swanky independents is reshaping the must-see cities of Siem Reap and Luang Prabang

Cambodia and Laos

Standing knee deep in shards of soft Laos light, I can feel tiny chunks of my toes being nibbled away. It’s not an unpleasant feeling. The dead skin is being stripped and repurposed by beautiful shoals of native garra rufa fish and, as my tired feet wilfully succumb to nature’s picturesque pedicure, I turn my focus to the emerald waters at Kuang Si Falls – a cinematic-worthy series of pools and waterfalls nestled deep in the lush-green boughs of Luang Prabang.

This is a Laos that celebrates gin-clear coves and independent cafes and local social enterprises and boujee boutique hotels. It is not the Laos that friends recall from their backpacking days through a haze of cheap rice whisky. And I’m glad to have discovered it later in life. I missed out on the ‘gap yah’ that defined so many twenty-somethings’ travels, choosing instead to tend to the delicate matter of earning a living. So, now, 15 years later, I’m embarking on a more authentic, more cultured, and infinitely more stylish traverse of Cambodia and Laos in a soul-enriching sojourn in the sun.

‘As I weave my way through a tangle of strangled stonework and towering vines, the true beauty of Siem Reap is revealed’

First stop: the bustling Cambodian social hub that is Siem Reap. I’m staying at the luxuriously reappointed FCC Angkor by Avani hotel – a hip, heritage-style base steeped in both swanky interiors and historical kudos. Following last year’s extensive £5.5million renovation, this former mansion of the French colonial governor and renowned Foreign Correspondence Club (FCC) once popular with bohemian media sets, is now the perfect boutique pad for intrepid travellers. If you favour indulgent lap pools, mark golden hour with sundowners on the terrace, and covet a home in the heart of the city – this is your tribe.

Cambodia and Laos

Poolside at Siem Reap’s FCC Angkor by Avani

Once I’ve gotten over the thrill of having a typewriter in my colonial-chic room (very FCC) and discover the curved redwood bar’s heady Asian-fused cocktails, I head out to explore the city – a buzz of cool cafes, independent lifestyle stores and local life. Just a ten-minute stroll from the hotel, Kandal Village offers up fresh juices at Vibe bar, eclectic tassel earrings at Wild Poppy, and delicious basket-weave bags at Paradise (where I also snap up a palm-print cushion and teal wall carving), before perusing Sanya Art for handmade silk scarves and Cambodian spices, then hitting nearby Sister Srey Cafe to survey my wares.

Run by two sisters from Melbourne, this social enterprise hangout in the French Quarter opened its doors in 2012 to serve great coffee, delicious veggie platters, and create an empowering support network for locals – particularly women, who were struggling to juggle education with financing their families. Now, eight years on, the cafe donates a large chunk of its profits to APOPO, too – an innovative, humanitarian landmine clearing organisation that is driving positive social change in Cambodia. Iced coffees and sweet potato fries don’t come better than that.

Another boutique brand I’m excited to discover is Ammo Jewellery. Working from a small, unassuming studio in the bustling centre of Siem Reap, local artisans here craft beautiful, bespoke pieces of jewellery from recycled brass bullet casings – and they’re proud to be alleviating issues of poverty in the process. Headed up by Brit and pro designer, Madeline Green, Ammo’s ethos is simple: offer young, disadvantaged Cambodians an apprenticeship with fair wages to help decrease poverty and empower students. It here, while partaking in a jewellery-making workshop, that one former apprentice, Nary, helps me to (quite literally) hammer out a Laura Lee-esque pendant. My attempt at sun beam engravings might miss the mark, but Nary’s enthusiasm for her trade is infectious.

Cambodia and Laos

Ancient ruins and A-list status: Angkor Wat’s labyrinth of vine-strangled temples magically combine both worlds

But, keen to fuse the old with the new on this cultural collective, I make my last stop the UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. Spanning 400sq km of ancient ruins dating back to the 12th century, this cavern of gigantic, crudely exposed tree roots and moss-sheathed masonry was once crowned the capital of the triumphalist Khmer empire.

Now a labyrinth of crumbling temples and camera-wielding crowds, it’s more commonly championed for its starring role in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – the film that kickstarted Angelina Jolie’s much-documented love affair with Cambodia – than its Hindu heritage. Yet, as I weave my way through the tangle of strangled stonework and towering vines, I stumble upon an orange-cloaked monk quietly blessing two pilgrims. Dousing them with water at dusk under the elegant spires of this ancient stone city, the background sea of selfie-shooters wash away, and the true beauty of Siem Reap is revealed. My iPhone immediately slips back into my pocket as I take a slow meander back through the colossal remains of Angkor in peace.

‘Food markets are part of the well-trodden travel narrative in Luang Prabang. But buffalo dairy farms? Not so much’

Touching down in Cambodia’s nearby cousin, Laos, I resolve to see more of the same: I want hip new start-ups, cultural heritage sites and trend-setting sisterhoods. My hotel, Avani+ Luang Prabang — an intimate, design-led hideaway in the heart of Luang Prabang’s old town — suggests nearby Laos Buffalo Dairy… I’m not convinced. But after pulling up on the farm (and a firm promise of cheese), I can see why this is an inspiring stop.

Founded by ex-pats Susie, Steven, Rachel and Matt back in 2016, this is Laos’ first ever buffalo farm and it rents 15 hectares of land from local farmers to home around 100 hungry buffalo (who love a good back scrub). I help Susie hose down one of the dairy’s beautiful beasts before tucking into some of the most delicious mozzarella, feta and blue cheeses I’ve ever tasted – buffalo or otherwise.

‘We saw an opportunity here to create something important,’ Susie tells me over lunch. ‘We’d been to Sri Lanka and knew how popular buffalo milk was there so, when we realised that no one was milking buffalo in Laos, we decided to introduce it. Now, we’re at the heart of the community and we’re tackling poverty in the process.’

This hugely successful social enterprise has helped rural communities to realise that, through milking, buffalo can provide direct access to a more nutritious diet. ‘One in four live below the poverty line here, so we help to educate; we put our profits back into vaccinating and caring for the buffalo; and we also run free English lessons for the kids – boys and girls,’ she stresses. ‘When we first started them up, only boys would come because the girls were expected to go home and help with the domestic chores, so we put a stop to that: the girls come too or the classes don’t run.’ It’s this straight-talking, can-do attitude that’s put Laos Buffalo Dairy firmly on the tourist trail and, as I say goodbye to the pigs and the rabbits (‘Oh, we take everything in!’), I’m genuinely surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it. Waterfalls and food markets are part of the well-trodden travel narrative in Luang Prabang. But buffalo dairy farms? Not so much.

Cambodia and Laos

One for the lounge lovers: Avani+ Luang Prabang gives good design details

Back at the hotel, I spend a couple of hours poolside soaking up the blazing midday sun before popping into the spa for an indulgent signature massage. Soothing aromatherapy oils and a firm-handed de-knot soon ease my jet lag and I’m eager for the evening’s activity: a calming cruise along the Mekong river. Winding through the mountains of northern Laos, the Mekong is a Mecca for sunset sails and, as I board the Mekong Kingdoms’ traditional ‘Monsoon’ shuttle boat, settle myself on one of its plush daybeds, and sip a chilled glass of crisp white wine, I can wholeheartedly see why.

The glass-like water is disturbed only by the birds as they dip and dance in their own reflections. I spy majestic Mount Phousi rise in the distance as the valley becomes cloaked in a deep, golden glow. Tomorrow, I’ll take part in the ‘morning alms giving’ on the steps of the hotel – a Buddhist tradition dating back to the 14th century that sees monks line the streets in saffron-coloured robes, collecting sticky rice in their alms bowls as they pass. But, for now, I’m happy to remain right here in a world caught between the old and the new; the day and the night.

My sunny sojourn through Cambodia and Laos has been exactly what I hoped for: soul-enriching. And what’s more? You can do it in style.

Where to stay: Rooms at FCC Angkor by Avani, Cambodia, start from £115 per night; a stay at Avani+ Luang Prabang, Laos, costs from £160 per night, including breakfast. For further details, or to book, visit avanihotels.com

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Going flight-free in 2020? Try these cool Euro breaks minus the carbon footprint

Going flight-free in 2020? Try these cool Euro breaks minus the carbon footprint


From the foodie scene in Lyon to wellness wins in Turin, here’s Marie Claire’s edit of Europe’s hottest hangouts all with no-fly adventure guaranteed

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Lyon for foodie fans  

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A city seemingly made for adventurous gourmands, this French culinary capital boasts more restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on earth. From Michelin-star must-tries (book Paul Bocuse’s Auberge du Pont de Collonges, La Rotonde, and La Mère Brazier) to traditional Lyonnais bouchons’ (recommended: L’Ébaucheand Le Garet), food fans should plan to pack elastic waistbands only. But beyond the feasting, Lyon serves up some pretty tasty cultural highlights, too. Take a roof-top tour of the basilica Notre-Damede Fourvière for picturesque views across the Rhône valley, then hit the vibrant just-sprung arts quarter in La Croix-Rousse for eclectic homewares.

Estimated journey time: From 5 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Lillie Europe, then a train from Lille Europe to Lyon Part Dieu

Where to stay: Okko Hotel Lyon Lafayette

Antwerp for architecture addicts

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With boutique-studded streets, baroque masterpieces and medieval palazzos cradled by a labyrinth of cobbled lanes, Antwerp is a vibrant pint-sized port city brimming with fairy tale charm. Museum buffs can make their way to MoMu for fashion-focus exhibits or explore Rubens House for original Flemish portraits by Antwerp-born artist Pieter Paul Rubens. Our tip? Keep the pace casual and soak up the city’s rich coffee culture at Buchbar and Kolonel at regular intervals.

Estimated journey time: 3 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels, then change for Antwerp

Where to stay: Hotel Indigo Antwerp

Isles of Scilly for nature lovers

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This dreamy archipelago off the coast of Cornwall may rest less than 30 miles from Land’s End, but it feels a world away from grey and grim Brexit Britain. Its whitewashed sands and emerald coves have earned it the moniker ‘Caribbean of the UK’ and we’re inclined to agree. Stroll the heathlands of Tresco, sail to Bryher, and snorkel with seals in the turquoise waters that fringe St Martin’s before stopping for a salty fish supper at Seven Stones inn for views that stretch beyond the bay’s lighthouse.

Estimated journey time: 3 hours

How to get there: Sail the Scillonian Ferry from Penzance to St Mary’s, then take a short boat transfer to Bryher

Where to stay: Hell Bay Hotel

Rotterdam for hot hipsters

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Having reinvented itself as a sassy European design destination, Rotterdam is hot on the heels of its northern neighbour Amsterdam for stylish city breakers. Cutting edge architecture and futuristic flair has become intrinsic to this Netherlands metropolis and, from the ashes of post-war industrialism (Rotterdam was all but flattened during WWII), a cool coterie of craft-beer breweries, sleek boutiques and creative studios now stand. Stop at Katendrecht, the red-light-district-turned-foodie-Mecca; Groos, a hipster design store; and Vessel 11 for sun-deck cocktails and dancing till dawn. Word of warning: dubbed the Dutch Brooklyn, you’d be wise to book your break now and avoid the Insta crowds later.

Estimated journey time: 3.5 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar direct from London St Pancras to Rotterdam

Where to stay: Mainport Hotel

 Val Thorens for thrill seekers

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Whether you head here for winter’s crisp carpets of fresh snow, or the French Alps’ lush green mountain trails, this popular resort in Les Trois Vallées offers up scenic slopes for those seeking an active break. Swish your way down 600km of soft white powder for a jet-set skiing holiday to remember, or take a hike, bike or buggy ride along hill-hugging paths in high summer to discover the perfect picnic spot (fondue kit, obligatory). Either way, you’ll be back and raring for another adventure next year.

Estimated journey time: 7.5 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Moûtiers, then a 50-minute taxi or bus ride

Where to stay: Altapura Hotel

Dublin for the craic crowd

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When it comes to live music, buzzy bars and a dynamic pub culture, nowhere quite matches the Irish capital. Synonymous with high-spirited nights out and even better beer, you can be in the beating heart of the action in about three hours thanks to direct ferry routes from Holyhead. Dock before brunch and head straight to Dublin 8 for Fumbally’s famous eggs with Middle Eastern heat. Refuelled, check out Cow’s Lane Designer Market in Temple Bar for the latest labels; browse the National Gallery and Francis Bacon Studio for your art-scene fix; then grab a booth in Brazen Head – Ireland’s oldest pub for a hearty Irish stew and traditional Celtic ballads and banter.

Estimated journey time: 3.5 hours

How to get there: Sail direct from Holyhead to Dublin with Stena Line or Irish Ferries

Where to stay: The Dean

Turin for the spa set 

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Fringed by the Alps and rich in aristocratic grandeur, this charming Italian city is the epitome of slow travel – a fact further evidenced by the 8-hour rail journey from London. But for those desperate to unwind, fear not: now you can combine scenic riverside strolls with a luxurious spa break thanks to the Turin Palace Hotel – an elegant property set in the centre of ‘Italys Paris’. Delivering the perfect blend of baroque architecture (head to the historic Piazza San Carlo square) and modern wellness wins (the hotel’s treatment menu includes harmonic, essential oil-based massages and Hydra Plus facials), off-the-radar Turin will feel like a breathe of fresh air as soon as you plant your feet on the platform.  

Estimated journey time: From 8 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, change to Paris Gare de Lyon, then take the TGV to Torino (Turin)

Where to stay: Turin Palace Hotel

Champagne for drink connoisseurs

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Renowned for its superior sparkling magnums and vineyard-linedvistas, the Champagne region northeast of Paris is a classy weekend hop for the fizz aficionado. Mix tastings at big-name houses (hello, Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët and Pol Roger) on the iconic Avenue de Champagne with appointments at smaller, independent producers (Leclerc Briant is exceptional) to get a real flavour of the grape-to-glass journey. Also: end the trip on a high (literally) with a Ballon Captif flight over Epernay – where panoramic views, a morning quaff of bubbles, and your very own ‘Champagne supernova in the sky’ moment come as standard.

Where to stay: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa

Estimated journey time: 5 hours

How to get there: Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then make the 10-minute walk to Paris Gare de l’Est to catch the TGV to Champagne-Ardenne

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Why planes are always pretty cold when you fly

Why planes are always pretty cold when you fly


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Whether you’re a frequent flyer or you jet of once in a while, tips and tricks to ensure you make the most of your flight are always welcome. For example, did you know that this is how to sleep on a plane and make sure you get a good snooze? Or that that this is the most popular plane seat (so book it if you can)? How about the fact that you should never drink water on a plane according to flight attendants?

And when it comes to the aircraft itself, there are a few questions we’ve already answered – like why you need to open your window blind during take off and landing, and why we show our boarding passes at the airport.

But if there’s one thing that makes travelling that bit less comfortable is the temperature of the plane. Ever noticed how chilly it can be? Of course you have. Whether or not your neighbour has the aircon on full blast, jumpers and blankets are essential – especially on a long haul.

Why?

Apparently, there are a few reasons that you feel the chill when you fly.

study by ASTM International reviewed why passengers faint during a flight. It found that a ‘deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues’ is more likely to happen during a flight due to the cabin pressure. If the aircraft is too warm, it can also increase the likeliness of passengers passing out.

Secondly, in a report commissioned by the House of Lords, Airbus found that appropriate ventilation keeps the plane fresh, explaining: ‘The heat given off by passengers in a fully occupied cabin is considerable. Incoming air needs to be at or below the required cabin temperature if that temperature is to be maintained.’

Lastly, flight attendant Monserrat Andujar-Geacoman added to Insider that planes are kept cool to ‘accommodate emergency equipment and cockpit instruments.’

So now you know.

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Here's why there's no beating a weekend in the Cotswolds

Here's why there's no beating a weekend in the Cotswolds


Why go

Nothing says cosy like a weekend in the Cotswolds, and The Lygon Arms is the epitome of this. In the middle of the so-quaint-it’s-not-even-funny Broadway, it is set in a 17th-century coaching inn, and retains all of its historical charm.

Stepping into the hotel is a little bit like stepping into Hogwarts, but even cosier (and quirkier). Wood panelling, dark stone floors, plenty of tartan and roaring fires? It’s hard to imagine a more perfect winter break, though I’m sure it’s pretty lovely in summer too.

The room

There are six types of room at The Lygon Arms, from the cosy to the master suite, and each carries on with the ‘country bolthole’ theme in its unique way. Expect antique furniture, original paintings and plenty of period features, with the all the mod cons of course: king beds, TV and wifi and gigantic bathtubs and showers.

We stayed in one of the gorgeous Coach House suites, which had an added living space which was perfect to snuggle and watch daytime Christmas movies in (don’t judge).

The vibe

The hotel describes its own atmospheric vibe perfectly on its site: ‘Imagine a hotel where roaring log-burning open fireplaces hint at its roots dating from the 1300’s. Picture a Great Hall with a vaulted ceiling and original wood panelling built in the seventeenth century. Visit a hotel that has been coloured by the characters of history.’

There are so many nooks and crannies, it’s all too easy to lose an hour or two escaping from all your worries, perhaps nestled in a comfy leather chair, reading a book by the fire.

The food

Apologies for yet another Harry Potter reference, but the main Lygon bar & grill restaurant is not unlike the Great Hall. When we visit, it is dominated by a gorgeous Christmas tree, but its many oil paintings, hunting paraphernalia and statement fireplace are the main event all year round.

The food is what you’d expect from a luxury country hotel: a seasonal British menu that uses the highest-quality local produce in an imaginative way. We feasted on beef wellington, glazed carrots and mac ‘n’ cheese, and whilst we were too full to manage a dessert, the menu looked very tasty indeed.

The spa

It wouldn’t be a proper country break without a spa now would it? You wouldn’t think it from the outside, but the hotel has an idyllic little spa tucked away near the private gardens. The main pool area is something out of a Wes Anderson film, thanks to pastel tiles and retro details. Make sure you fit in time for a massage, as they are heavenly.

How to book

Nights from £250 per night per person. Book here.

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I have an extreme fear of flying and this course helped me

I have an extreme fear of flying and this course helped me


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‘I can’t get on the plane, I just know it’s going to crash and we’re all going to die, I just know it.’

That was me earlier this year, when my fear of flying turned into a full blown panic attack in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. After several Google searches which confirmed travelling back by boat from French Polynesia to the UK just wasn’t viable (unless work was willing to extend my leave by a few weeks), I saw a doctor who prescribed some anti-anxiety medication.

This, paired with a hefty amount of red wine, many tears and much hand crushing (sorry husband), allowed me to manage the very long two flights back. I had always been a nervous flyer, but got a little better thanks to a lot of travel through work, before suddenly getting worse again.

The thing is I didn’t want my crippling fear to stop me from going on holiday, or going on important work trips, so I decided to try CBT (which helped a little), and then the British Airways Flying With Confidence, which had been recommended by a few people.

The course was founded and is still run by BA pilot Captain Steve Allright and his team, and lasts a full day. Here’s what to expect.

Who should go on the flying course

Throughout the day, you are encouraged to chat to fellow passengers, as well as cabin crew, to share your experiences and fears. This taught me that aerophobia can hit anyone, at any time, and that it really does help to talk about it. I spoke to a 60-something year-old woman who had never been on a flight, but wanted to attend her son’s wedding in Japan early next year.

Another woman, like me, suddenly developed anxiety and a fear of flying which affected her relationship with her partner. One businessman flew so much that he was a Gold member, yet hated every minute of it. Another lady needed to relocate to Australia, where her husband was already, and was too scared to take the long flight.

This weirdly reassured me, as I realised that more often than not, I’m not the only one on the plane who’s scared (a quarter of people are affected), and that there is often someone worse off than you.

Fear of flying course

The day is split into three parts, with regular breaks including lunch.

Session 1: The first session is conducted by two pilots, who explain everything there is to know about how planes work (knowledge is power, and in this case it really is true).

Not give away too many spoilers, but there were several things that pilots Steve and Jay said that reassured me no end. Firstly, Steve said that being on a plane is where he feels safest, that for him it’s just a regular day in the office. Secondly, I learned that flying is the most regulated profession in the world. All pilots are retested and retrained in a flying simulator every six months, to make sure they can deal with any emergency imaginable. They are also evaluated psychologically, and are still payed even if they have to take time off due to say, a depression, meaning there is no point in them lying about it.

Lastly, it is that nothing is left to chance. From extra engines to wing testing and even air traffic control and fuel, every tiny aspect of the plane is tested and planned for. If an engine fails, there is one to take over, if two engines fail (which never happens) then the plane can still glide on its own for several hundred feet. And wings will NEVER break off during turbulence.

Understanding turbulence

When Steve asked the room who was afraid of turbulence, practically everyone raised their hands. He then goes on to explain what causes turbulence, from jet streams to storm clouds and surface wind, or a slight air disruption caused by a jet taking off before yours. He introduces us to what will become our mantra: ‘Turbulence is uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous’. Throughout the day, we repeat this aloud, and it’s something that many of us will keep repeating to ourselves any time we experience it.

How to deal with anxiety or panic attacks on a plane

Session 2: The afternoon session is held by a psychologist, who explains what causes our brains to panic, and how we can combat anxiety and relax. The thing is flying is still a very unnatural thing for humans to do, so that’s where the panic comes from, and is often couple with claustrophobia. We are taught mindfulness and breathing techniques to help.

If you tend to catastrophise, visualise the positive outcome of the flight. If you find yourself panicking, think of something to distract yourself (one nervous flyer imagined he was on a purple pillow dangling from a piece of gold rope). It’s also important to occupy yourself, be it with a book or tv show.

As for breathing techniques, try breathing in for four seconds whilst clenching your buttocks, then breathing out for four seconds and releasing your muscles. Repeat this until you start relaxing.

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The flight

Session 3: The final session of the day is an actual 45-minute flight (we flew from Heathrow to Portsmouth and back), accompanied by the entire crew. Surprisingly, every single person on the course managed to board the plane, survived (of course!) and walked off the plane with a big smile on their faces.

During the flight, we were encouraged as much as possible to walk around and experience the flight properly. It was actually quite a turbulent one (though we were told that was nothing, it always seems worse in the main cabin), but I weirdly wasn’t scared, because Steve kept a running commentary of what every sound was. I learned that we were simply going through a rain cloud and that it was totally normal.

The crew were incredible, holding the hands of the more nervous flyers, reminding them to do their breathing exercises, and telling us what a good job we were all doing.

One big takeaway for me was that there is no shame in being afraid of flying, and that it’s always worth telling the crew when you board, as they’ll always be more than happy to check in with you regularly.

How to book the course

British Airways Flying With Confidence courses run from various airports across the UK throughout the year. Book in advance from £249.

Does the fear of flying course work?

The short answer is yes, but it’s important to realise that it’s not a magical solution. What you leave with are the foundations which will help you get better with flying over time. I actually had to get on a flight just a few days later, and for the first time I didn’t cry at take off. I remembered to breathe and recognised what some of the noises meant.

As long as you carry on working on this, you will be fine, and perhaps stick to short flights until you feel more confident.

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