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Archive for the ‘Press Trips/Reviews’ Category

Monaco – Not just for the jet setters!

Monaco is a wonderful destination for a long weekend. Buzzing with activity, wonderful architecture, cars galore and people watching. The principality is very small covering some 1.5 square miles so walking around is easy although fairly hilly. The bus service is good but taxi’s need to be booked and are expensive. A good time of year to visit is in the Spring, beautiful weather, not too many tourists and relatively few queues to the attractions. For such a tiny place there is plenty to see; the daily 11.00 am. Changing of the guard at the Palais; the Oceonographic Museum, the botanical gardens with their splendid hilltop views across the sea. If you are able to arrive in style, then the helicopter from Nice airport is the way to go. Unless you absolutely love Formula 1 and racing cars, it might be best to avoid Monaco at about the 17th May when it holds the Grand Prix. Hotel rooms at a 3* start at £7,900 for three nights (it does overlook the race track though). Best hotels are the Hotel de Paris and the Hermitage – absolutely top notch, but deep pockets are required. The Cafe de Paris opposite the Hotel, is a prime spot for people watching, although don’t have the sandwiches here at lunch time. Beer or coffee is just fine. Lunch or dinner at the Brasserie are however wonderful and a nice chance to get dressed up. Would highly recommend Monaco for a weekend break to experience something completely different.

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

A weekend out of Kensington to the beautiful Cotswolds: The Old Swan and Minster Mill at Minster Lovell

Kensington is undoubtedly a lovely part of London but sometimes it is nice to get away. Really get away. Nestling in traditional rolling English countryside amid thatched roofs and honey coloured stone homes in the heart of the Cotswolds is ‘The Old Swan and Minster Mill’, at Minster Lovell.

Part of the de Savary Family Group of Hotels, The Old Swan, a beautiful former coaching inn dating back to c1445 provides 16 rooms accessed by walking along creaking, narrow corridors with low beams. Beamed bedrooms are individually decorated in a comfortable and traditional style. 40 additional bedrooms (contemporary and larger) can be found in the adjoining Minster Mill. The former is probably not so good for those who have difficulty in walking – the main staircase to the rooms is small, windy and requires precision footwork, but in keeping with the character of the building, and (it’s good to know) that Health & Safety can’t touch it due to it being Grade II Listed.

I love log fires and here there are many (alight all day providing a warm and snug environment), the rooms filled with antiques and armories. There are lots of cosy places to have a drink/tea/coffee, read the paper or play cards/games. The emphasis is not on Smart, but rather on Good Quality Relaxing. Dogs are genuinely welcome as are children and there are lots on offer for keeping individuals, couples or families busy.

In addition to nearby picturesque Burford or Woodstock for those who want to be more energetic without using the car can make use of a wide variety of activities available within the 65 acre garden including a wild meadow and river: Tennis, badminton, croquet, boules, two giant chess sets or table tennis (housed in its own building, complete with beams and a thatched roof!) Bikes can be hired, and horse riding or canoeing are on offer. Due to the hotel being situated on a mile of the River Windrush, residents can try their hand at fly or coarse fishing (a gillie can be arranged, or for beginners a teacher is available) where fish such as Brown/Rainbow Trout, Barbel, Chub, Grayling and Pike are regularly found. Children might like to get to know ‘Betty’ and ‘Eddie’ the two resident ducks.

There are also two designated ‘play rooms’ complete with pool/snooker/table tennis, table football and more board games. The hotel has a Spa where you can have a variety of treatments and a small gym (the latter being situated in the conservatory overlooking the gardens and River Windrush). Plans are in progress to build a plunge pool and enlarged Spa area in early next year.

Food is either locally sourced or grown on site. There are three bee-hives where honey is collected for breakfast (an extensive affair) and children are encouraged to fetch eggs from the chickens and bantams. To emphasise the freshness of the produce, the kitchen does not have a freezer or microwave. Portions are generous and Georgina Prickett, Guest Host Manager, describes the food as ‘Hearty English’ rather than haute cuisine. The menu – gastro pub style – changes daily and is inspired by the season.

Wedding and civil ceremonies can take place either in the outside ‘chapel’ situated alongside the River or in one of the beamed conference rooms in Minster Mill. Family rooms complete with their own patio and fire pits are situated overlooking the River and the hotel is well placed to cater for large parties (anniversaries, weddings etc) and provides good conference facilities.

We stayed on an Autumnal weekend mixed with typical English weather, alternate clear blue or thunderously dark skies, sun or rain. Despite this we still managed a good wander around – within walking distance is the beautiful ruin of Minster Lovell Hall. We had a long walk along the river, spotted lots of pheasants and went shopping in Burford. The hotel is very happy to provide picnic hampers for those who really want to make a day of it and there are many picnic areas along the River to chose from. They can also provide guided walks if required.

There are little touches that set this hotel apart from others; upon arrival, guests are welcomed with a complimentary bottle of sloe gin, fresh fruit and shortcake biscuits in their rooms; a hot water bottle is delivered to each room every night and upon departure, guests are handed a bottle of water sourced from nearby Blenheim Palace. Newspapers are readily available, as are books and board games.

The Old Swan and Minster Mill are invited members of The Great Hotel group – one of only three in the UK. This is a ‘Great’ hotel, for a variety of reasons – great for sourcing food locally, great for welcoming children and dogs alike and above all, a great place to truly relax and get away from it all – so close to Kensington and yet so far.

You need to know:

The hotel is 1.5 hours by car from Kensington or 1.10 mins from Paddington to Charlbury station. Charlbury is about a 10 minute taxi ride from the hotel.

www. oldswanandminstermill.com
Tel: 01993 774441
Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 ORN
enquiries@oldswanandminstermill.com

Period rooms in The Old Swan from £175.00
Contemporary rooms in Minster Mill from £165.00

All prices include 20% VAT and full English breakfast

Fishing:
Grayling Season runs to March 31st
Trout Season from April 1 – September 30th
Permits are available to hotel guests. All fishing is on a catch-and-release basis.

The Old Swan and Minster Mill are offering Christmas House Party or New Year’s House Party packages – please call or email to find out more

Old Swan & Minster Mill is a member of Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection.  For more information or to book, please visit http://www.ghotw.com/old-swan-minster-mill or call 020 7380 3658.

Images and copyright;  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

www.thekensingtonmagazine.com

 

Accommodation for Truffle Hunters in the Dordogne!

During our weekend away in the Dordogne we experienced a couple of rather lovely places.  The first was Chateau de Lacan in Brive-la-Gaillarde, which although was billed as a 3* hotel, felt more. The hotel is set on the edge of the City, in a traditional stone built (small) Chateau, comprising 15 bedrooms. The bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room and sitting room are all modern in decor and spacious. We had a four course ‘Truffle extravaganza’ comprising the Black Diamond Truffle which was infinitely worthy of more than three stars (for example Sea scallops cappuccino with black truffle and Limousin beel fillet with black truffle spelt risotto and roasted wild turbot, with black truffle mashed potatoes).

Definitely worth a visit in this region is the Denoix Distillery.  Owned by Sylvie Denoix Vieillefosse and her family since 1839, this is great way to see how aperitifs and liqueurs based on walnuts, are macerated and distilled. Their speciality is L’eau de Noix Supreme Denoix – a mixture of chocolate and walnuts with an earthy characteristic – very difficult to explain, but delicious.

A must to see is Rocamadour, a mediaeval village, a short drive from Padirac. The village comprises one street with many shops and restaurants,  It’s cobbled and rather like going back in time, particularly lovely at this time of year without the ‘maddening crowds’.   Historically and today, this village is a magnet for pilgrims wishing to visit the Black Virgin and St Amadour at the church set at the top of the mountain, since the 12th century.

Later we visited Le Manoir de Malagorse in Cuzance, only a short distance from Brive Airport. This is a beautiful set of old buildings lovingly restored to accommodate couples or families. It is a testament to Anna (English) and Abel (her French husband) that they are already fully booked over the summer holidays – however accommodation is available from now to the begining of July. Rooms have been beautifully decorated with warmth and great taste. Abel who is a wonderful cook (previously having owned his own restaurant in Courchevel for 15 years)might be convinced to cook you dinner. We were lucky enough to be treated to a superb evening of (another) ‘Truffle Extravaganza’ plus superb company in their restored Manoir.  We would highly recommend this as an extremely good place to either come for holiday and have a completely relaxed time, or use it as a base for day exploration around the area.

Lucy and Margaret flew to the Dordogne by kind courtesy of City Jet (www.cityjet.com) and were guests of Chateau de Lacan (www.chateaulacan.com),  Denoix Distillery (www.denoix.com) and le Manoir de Malagorse (www.manoir-de-malagorse.fr)

Images and copyright: Lucy Elliott/The Kensington Magazine

www.thekensingtonmagazine.com