Out of Kensington: Hartwell Hotel & Spa

Sitting in 90 acres of sweeping fields, landscaped gardens, ha ha’s and a lake is the beautiful Hartwell House – an Historic House Hotel, one of only three in the UK, owned by the National Trust.

Just an hours car journey from London this historic house, built in the seventeenth century, now provides a true respite from the rush of London life. In the past carriages would have bought you to the huge wooden front door via the mile long avenue of Lime trees. Today you approach via a sweeping drive to be met by a statue of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The door opens and you are immediately in the Jacobean Great Hall – where high ceilings, works of art, antiques, traditional furnishings and a large wood burning fire place greet you.

Over the years, various architectural additions have been made resulting in architectural styles such as Jacobean, Gothic revival, Victorian and Georgian interiors. The gardens, in the style of Capability Brown, have also received various designs. As an example, and in addition to the ha ha’s, there are statues, gazeebos, follies – and the mid-section of the bridge originally formed part of Kew Bridge.

Leading to the rooms in the main house is a fine example of a Jacobean staircase complete with statues. Rooms are large with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the countryside and gardens. Our room, The Queen’s Bedroom comes complete with four poster bed, his and hers walk-in wardrobe, floor to ceiling windows, artwork, antiques, multiple sofas and armchairs. This room originally belonged to Queen Josephine when she and King Louis where exciled from France and lived at Hartwell House from 1809 – 1814.

Hartwell House is clearly a popular destination for both residents and non-residents – many were enjoying formal Afternoon Tea, and the restaurant at dinner was full with couples, groups and those attending a corporate event. Chef Daniel Richardson is locally known as the chef who bought Aylesbury Duck back on the menu – traditionally quite a difficult bird to cook and one which takes skill, especially as it is quite a fatty bird. Sadly, not being in season on our visit, we were still able to chose from an extensive menu: Pan friend scallops with apple and fennel salad, accompanied by cauliflower and lime leaves; Veloute and pan friend fillet of Hallibut with crushed potatoes, artichokes, saute leeks and crab sauce or Beetroot macaroon with goats cheese mouse as examples. Deserts were equally exotically named.

Walking around the grounds on a beautiful Autumn’s afternoon is a real treat. If walking does not give you enough excerise, there are tennis courts and a croquet lawn. The converted former stables provide elegant space for a gymnasium, large swimming pool, together with sauna, spa and beauty rooms. Again non-residents are very welcome with day spa packages being popular and a smart cafe/restaurant is on-site overlooking the pool area.

Hartwell House is well situated being close to London and Oxford and is ideal for overnight or longer stays, combining with other attractions in the area. It provides a relaxing break from London in old traditional surroundings, comfortable and classy with no bling in sight!
Lucy and Stephen were guests of Hartwell House

Hartwell House Hotel & Spa, Oxford Road, Nr Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 8NR
www.hartwell-house.com 01296 747444


Images: Copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

‘One night at Kensington Palace’ with Joy Sigaud and the Philharmonia Orchestra

Kensington Palace and The Orangery provided a wonderful backdrop for an exclusive charity event to raise monies for the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and Alpha Boys School.  ’Inspirations’ founded by Joy Sigaud, is an organisation raising funds for various charities, through music events.


Guests were treated to champagne and canapes in the Stone Room in the Palace prior to moving on to The Orangery for the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by John Gibbons (Joy’s mentor) to perform a collection of Joy’s compositions selected for chamber orchestra.  ‘One Night at the Palace’ showcased Joy’s talent as a composer.


Born in England of Jamaican parents, Joy tells a story through her music of the movement of peoples in both an historical and contemporary context, bought to life by the passionate playing of the orchestra.  As a child she learnt to play the piano age 4 and has been composing since the age of 10.


The large audience comprised friends and family, together with dignitaries. Her Excellency Aloun Assamba High Commissioner of Jamaica gave an impassioned speech.  Supporters of the evening included The Jamaica High Commission, Tiffany & Co, Boodles, Donna Karan, Belgravia Gallery and many more.  A wonderful and very memorable treat for all who were lucky enough to be present.

Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott / www.lucyelliottphotography.com






Beautiful, historic St. Moritz… A little bit of Narnia

St. Moritz, high up in the Swiss Alps, feels like entering Narnia.  Travel via the UNESCO Rhaetian Railway, the most scenic route imaginable and a few hours later reach St. Moritz.  Be greeted by liveried staff from Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and enter a different time, a different experience.  The hotel, built in 1896 epitomises luxury – an historic building filled with antiques, discrete staff, beautiful views and various restaurants to suit all types of requirements.

Most people visit in the winter months, but the summer months also have a lot to offer – plenty for all to see and do.  Try a trip on a horse drawn carriage complete with picnic hamper, to the mountain lake and swim in what must be one of the world’s most beautiful pools…. learn to make cheese in an Alpine lodge, try your hand at sailing in the ‘Badrutt’s Palace’ their own 6-person sailing boat, with the wind flying in your hair.  Shopping is provided in the hotel’s own Palace Galerie – a Bond St. in the mountains.  In addition to the hotel restaurants you can also try Chasa Veglia, a rustic style restaurant housed in one of the oldest farmhouses in St. Moritz.

For foodies, a Chefs Dinner in the kitchen, complete with silver service, followed by a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ pudding experience in the Dessert Kitchen, is a must and will delight adults and children alike.   As for the bedrooms they are large and it is well worth trying for one overlooking the lake, which with the morning mist, looks spectacular.  Breakfast can be taken inside or on the verandah, the latter being very picturesque with flowers and again, over looking the lake.  Of course many famous people visit Badrutt’s Palace Hotel but even the less famous are treated as special. A real gem of a place and a diamond experience.

Lucy Elliott was a guest of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

Images: Copyright; Lucy M Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com







Sophisticated Slapstick, gymnastic artistry and innocent fun reminding you of childhood: Giffords Circus, Chiswick House

The summer season comprises Garden parties, rowing, cricket and tennis. Added to this should be a compulsory visit to a vintage family-run circus. Giffords Circus performing ‘Moon Songs’ at nearby Chiswick House is a wonderful evenings entertainment for all (and not necessarily just families). Tremendous, heart-in-the-mouth acrobatic and gymnastic feats, a bear riding a horse being led by a small dog, magic you really can’t believe, canon blowing clowns and tiny boys juggling. Candyfloss, ice-cream and pizzas are sold and after the show you could have your own picnic. Another option is to have supper in the UKs only travelling restaurant: ‘Circus Sauce’ – a marque decorated in bunting and country flowers, providing four courses of delicious home made (comfort) food served on communcal oak tables. An evening of Sophisticated slapstick, gymnastic artistry, goofy clown – pure innocent fun reminding you of your childhood.Tickets are priced at £22 for adults and £14 for children with the exception of Chiswick House and Gardens.  Tickets for these performances are priced at £25 per adult and £15 per child.  Under 3s are free to all shows if they are sitting on a lap.  www.giffordscircus.com


Images:  Lucy Elliott, www.lucyelliottophotography.com



Jazzing it up in Paris!

I am never quite sure why people fly to Paris, when Eurostar is so convenient, not least to mention quick, especially from Kensington. Premium Standard offers wide seats, snack meal accompanied by wine, tea and coffee. The fields of England and France pass by in a jiffy and within 2.25 hours you are in Paris.

Once you have arrived, and taken a short metro trip is the 5* Hotel La Tremoille situated in the ‘Golden Triangle’ between Avenue George V, the Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne, where, in addition to the top end retailers, are also many restaurants – modern, traditional (Belle Epoque style), expensive and otherwise.

The hotel, built in the Haussmann style in 1883 originally as a private home is an architecturally grand building. In the 1960s both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington stayed there, placing the hotel in the centre of Jazz life in Paris, where every June/July the Paris Jazz Festival is held.

It well known that hotel rooms in Paris are characteristically small (indeed some are tiny). We
were lucky enough to have a room at the top of the hotel, overlooking the Golden Triangle complete with two ceiling height French windows leading onto an original wrought iron balcony and from which, armed with Gin and Tonics at night, we could see the sun going down. One unusual feature of the room was that it had its own service hatch, so breakfast could be sent to the room without staff intruding. Although the hotel is so centrally placed it sits in a quiet street and also offers a spa and wellness centre.

The restaurant, ‘Louis’, on a Monday evening, was (as befalls most hotel restaurants) rather quiet, which was a shame as the tuna tartar with avocado mousse was excellent, as was the risotto and guinea fowl breast.

So what’s to do in Paris? Well being so central – only a few minutes walk from the Champs Elysees and hence the Metro it is easy to be anywhere within a short space of time. Shopping is an obvious pastime, a boat trip down the Seine affords an excellent way to see the highlights of Paris from the river frontage and learn about its history. A particular recommendation and
despite having visited Paris many times previously, we had never visited, was the Ile St Louis – a delightful, authentic village built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Comprising narrow one way streets, two bus stops and no metro, it is a residential village with beautiful traditional architecture and small shops (mostly selling ice cream or home made chocolates).

With the speed of Eurostar and the centrality of the hotel, even a short break in Paris can seem like a true holiday.

Lucy and Stephen were guests of Eurostar and Hotel La Tremoille

Travel Information:
La Trémoille, 14, rue de la Trémoille, 75008 Paris,
Rates start from €360 (£256) per room per night including a continental breakfast and wi-fi. For further information or to book visit www.hotel-tremoille.com or call +33 156521400.

Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with return fares from £69.
www.eurostar.com/ or 03432 186186

Fast and convenient check-in – passengers are requested to arrive only 30 minutes before departure

The extra baggage allowance you get on Eurostar vs planes (Eurostar offers each person 2 bags/suitcases and 1 piece hand luggage)


Dame Judi Dench at the Unveiling and Dedication of ‘The Conversion of St Paul’

Dame Judi Dench delighted guests at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden by formally launching the sculpture by renowned Bruce Denny.  The 80 yr old, resplendent in a beautiful cream outfit,  commented that although she’d been unable to see the eclipse earlier that morning, she was pleased to see the sun now shining and declared it was ‘…  a wonderful way to welcome Bruce Denny’s lovely statue’.  The cutting of the ribbon followed a formal service held in the church, commonly referred to as The Actor’s Church, with the Rev’d Richard Syms and the Rev’d Simon Grigg in the presence of the Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowen Williams, and numerous actors/actresses.


Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott


British Soldier takes on gruelling 20 days of fitness exercise to raise money for Royal Hospital Chelsea


Staff Sergeant Stephen Hughes (27) who is currently serving in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in Kabul undertook a gruelling 20 days of 20 different physical challenges to raise money for Royal Hospital Chelsea.  The ‘Reps to Remember’ 20 tough physical exercises were chosen to mark the number of British Forces operational tours of Afghanistan, and to repeat them 453 times, equating to the number of British Soldiers who lost their lives in the region.

Stephen said of his fundraising challenge in Kabul, “The ‘Reps to Remember’ challenges were extremely tough; far harder than I had anticipated. Thinking about the Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where my comrades and I may live in our retirement and the 453 service personnel who sadly lost their lives in Afghanistan definitely got me through it. I’m really pleased that 240 people were moved to donate to this great cause.”

Kate Marsh, Fundraising Manager at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, said, “Now that Stephen has completed these challenges we are even more in awe of his efforts than we were before. He is a true inspiration and we are delighted that the public got behind him to very nearly reach his target of £5,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea.” (To date Stephen has raised £4,734. Donations are still being accepted at http://bit.ly/reps2remember).


Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com




Gravetye Manor: Hotel, Restaurant and World Renowned Garden

Gravetye Manor is a small Elizabethan country house set in 1000 acres of the Sussex Downs. Built by Richard Infield for his bride Katherine in 1598 it is a beautifully proportioned house, with 17 bedrooms individually decorated in contemporary furnishings, but with large windows, wood panelled walls, and some with fireplaces and four-poster beds. There are several cosy sitting rooms, private dining rooms for families/larger parties all complete with roaring fires and abundant simple but beautiful floral arrangements.

Gravetye Manor is a delight for those interested in architecture, food or traditional English Gardens and is a member of Relais et Chateaux and Pride of Britain. It is rapidly gaining a fast reputation for the standard of food offered on the menu, prepared by Head Chef George Blogg and his team. Produce is supplied by local suppliers (mainly from Sussex) or in the case of most of the required fruit or vegetables, from their own kitchen garden or glass houses.

The 35 acres of garden really developed in 1884 when William Robinson redesigned the gardens, incorporating a more informal ‘English Garden’ look, than the previously traditional, formal Victorian garden. The garden is looked after by Head Gardener Tom Coward and his team of five full-time gardeners. It includes one of the oldest semi-circular walled kitchen in Europe (1.5 acres), glasshouses, lake and various different ‘gardens’ including a wild meadow. Great banks of flowers include snowdrops (and of course, the Gravetye species), daffodils, tulips, roses, clematis, rhododendrums, bluebells etc. feature throughout the 35 acres.

The Manor holds events throughout the year such as champagne/wine tasting, floral arrangements, and guided walks/talks around the gardens. It is within close proximity to East Grinstead or Gatwick airport and thus makes it highly convenient to visit from London, either for the day or a weekend. Guests who wish to visit Glyndbourne whilst staying at Gravetye are guaranteed tickets – usually highly sought after and difficult to obtain.

Gravetye looks beautiful throughout the year, but the gardens are particularly magnificent in April/May when the spring bulbs show through. When we visited we were lucky enough to wake up to snow – completely magical.

We would highly recommend this beautiful, small and personal country house hotel. A true escape from London and yet within a short space of time, you can be in a completely different world. A world where courtesy, charm, tranquility and professionalism are all taken as a matter of course.

Lucy & Stephen were guests of Gravetye Manor



Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

HRH Duchess of Cornwall visits Holland Park School and meets winner of Creative Writing Competition by First Story

HRH Duchess of Cornwall delighted staff and students last week by visiting Holland Park School in Kensington. Shown around the futuristic looking new school by Head Teacher Coliin Hall, she clearly enjoyed seeing the building and popping in to join in various classes. Admitting that neither Latin nor Science were her particular favourite, it was clear she was more comfortable in the English classes. In addition she visited three classrooms holding ‘creative writing’ classes with schools from across the country, participating in the charity, First Story of which the Duchess is Patron. She was clearly at ease and didn’t just speak with children at the front of the class but ventured to the very back, ensuring every child could claim to have met the Duchess, in years to come. Those who were invited to speak to read out their work, were in the main, rather nervous, but with her encouragement and genuine enthusiasm, nerves were soon dispelled and children from disadvantaged background proved that with the right type of care and nurturing, anything is possible.

The Duchess then attended a synopsis of the Staff production of Much Ado About Nothing, at the end of which she announced and met the winner of the creative writing competition 2014-15. In turn she was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a professionally produced anthology of work by the pupils of First Story. Finally she gave a speech in which she surmised that due to the high standard she had seen that morning, it could well be that one of these pupils may be a famous writer in the future. Inspiration indeed!



All images and copyright: Lucy Elliott

Classic but contemporary: The Oyster Box Hotel, Durban, South Africa

The Oyster Box Hotel on the ocean coast of Umhlanga (exotically pronounced Umshlanga) is a colonial but modern, beautiful hotel just outside Durban. Conveniently located for the airport, it is clearly making a name for itself, both as a hotel for visitors, and a destination for locals. The famed ‘Lighthouse Bar’ was packed the evening we visited – overlooking the Lighthouse, with the waves crashing on a summers balmy evening it seemed a far cry from our very cold and chilly London.

Equally busy was lunchtime on the Terrace, overlooking the pool and the ocean. Staff wearing colonial type uniform, beaming away, carrying plates of huge salads, skewers of fish or curries (for which the hotel is famous). Afternoon tea is provided inside and comprises a huge table filled high with cakes, biscuits, scones and sandwiches. So much so this was providing the backdrop for many couples having a romantic and traditional English Tea.

We visited The Oyster Box some 15 years ago – it was a rather sad hotel clearly lacking love or attention. Taken over by Red Carnation Hotel in 2009 it now has both and doesn’t need the beacon of the lighthouse to make it stand out from the crowd. With only 86 rooms and some 600 staff, customer service is top notch, professional and well executed.

There is a separate building for the Spa, individual ‘villa or loft type’ rooms and a Presidential Suite – secluded and offering all the privacy the celebrities or VIPs who stay, need. Weddings are very popular here and the hotel has a special outside area to host these prior to sitting down in splendour in one of the huge dining rooms.

Children are well catered for and made very welcome, with children’s clubs and films, held in the hotel’s very own Cinema Room, complete with popcorn.

If you ever only go to one hotel in Durban, make it the Oyster Box – classic, classy, contemporary and convivial.


Images and copyright:  www.lucyelliottphotography.com