MAR27

i-escape’s family travel plans 2015

 
  • 2014 was an i-escape baby boom: we welcomed 3 little ones, who have all recently turned one. Bundles of toddler energy, it’s no surprise that all 3 sets of parents are very ready for their 2015 holidays! The first to share her plans is Head of Bookings, Kate, who is mum to Flynn, 4 and Jori, 1

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    Our 2015 plans are the last for many years that won’t be dictated by school holidays. We’d usually take a late summer holiday in September when the crowds have all left and the temperatures have cooled, but this year that month will be fraught with starting-school-shenanigans for my 4-year-old. So, we’re off to our long-term favourite Muxima in June.

    Muxima

    This will be our 3rd visit to this colourful eco-retreat in sunny Portugal, which might sound boring but we LOVE it here – the beauty is in not having to waste time finding shops, the best beaches and child-friendly places to eat. As my kids get older we’ll certainly travel further afield, but, for now, short flights and an easy drive are worth their weight in gold.

    Muxima

    My oldest is full of excitement about going back to see Jorge, Sofia and their 2 boys, who he adores. He cannot wait to see the pig, donkey, goat, dogs and chickens. And after drab winter mornings learning to swim at the local leisure centre, he is full of chat about swimming with the frogs in Muxima’s natural pool.

    Muxima

    The highlights for Chris and I are the easy-going warmth of Sofia, Jorge’s delicious homemade breakfast cakes, the stunning empty beaches, and the rustic charm of the local area. We cannot wait to introduce Jori to it all; very adventurous, he’s sure to love it. And on a practical level, he’ll be all set up with a travel cot and high chair (the less stuff we have to cart with us, the better).

    Muxima

    It’s easy to be self-sufficient at Muxima: lazing by the pool, watching the kids play with other little guests in the small playground, and cooking up local fresh food in our kitchenette. Day trips are a cinch, too, driving 15 minutes to beaches and estuaries then enjoying grilled sardines, cataplanas (a Portuguese version of paella) and pasteis de nata with a cold vino verde at surfer cafes as the sun sets. Sandy feet, a dusty car, happy kids = happy days!

    Muxima

    I’ll be planning our 2016 holidays by Christmas, because in order to get the place you want at the right rates in the school holidays, you need to book early. We’d like to take the kids to Greece. Chris and I did a lot of island hopping in our 20s, and we loved the quieter islands, accessible only by ferry or hydrofoil, where the pace of life is slow.

    Casas do Coro

    Casas do Coro

    Alternatively, as flights to Portugal are cheap, we might try exploring a different region. We love the look of Casas do Coro, which we could link up with a short stay in Porto. Each apartment is set up for maximum privacy but they are very welcoming of families, and we’ve heard wonderful things about the restaurant’s food. Onar also looks to be the ideal getaway for us. Secluded, quiet, and with easy access to fantastic beaches. Whilst I love a beach holiday, Flynn would like to explore mountains, so maybe it’s time for a change of scenery…? Watch this space.

    Take a peek at Muxima and the rest of our hand-picked Kids Collection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Favourite..., Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,
MAR25

Easy Escapes for April

 
  • Everyone at i-escape loves an excuse to unwind, so this week we’ve chosen super-easy, great-value getaways to bring about inner peace and tranquillity.

    No need to thank us; all you have to do is book*. Secure your accommodation through i-escape, then follow our recommendations for travel, and voila! It’s time to start packing.

    The Cornish Coast is Calling – £190 per person (3 nights, 17-20 April 2015)

    The Old Quay House

    The Old Quay House

    An early spring break allows you to enjoy Cornwall’s beautiful coastline without the crowds. Head to Fowey, where glorious views of its famous estuary can be seen from the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle. Back in the village, browse the boutiques, stopping along the way for Cornish pasties and cream teas.

    The Old Quay House

    The Old Quay House

    Stay: at The Old Quay House, a serene little seafront hotel with delicious food and kind staff. Grab the 3 nights for 2 offer and a 3-night B&B stay in a Classic Room comes to just £190 per person, including taxes.

    Total cost: £190 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Cornwall and other accommodation options

    Calm Catalonia – £309.68 per person, (5 nights, 10-15 April 2015)

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Catalonia offers oodles of culture and tranquillity, from the fascinating Dali Triangle to the sleepy medieval villages and charming coastal towns. Spring is perfect for leisurely cycle rides around the countryside and browsing La Bisbal’s antique shops and markets.

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Rectoria de Regencos

    Stay: at monastic Rectoria de Regencos, a former rectory with free bike hire and a pretty walled garden. We’re exclusively offering 5 nights for the price of 4, making a 5-night B&B stay just £203 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: From Bristol to Gerona with Ryanair for £97 per person, departing Friday 10 April and returning Wednesday 15 April.

    From the airport: You’ll need a car to reach restaurants during your stay (there are none in the village). Car hire through Rhino starts from £19.35.

    Total cost: £309.68 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Catalonia and other accommodation options

    Zone-out in Zanzibar – £737.50 per person, (7 nights, 19-25 April 2015)

    Dhow Inn

    Dhow Inn

    Zanzibar’s tropical southeast coast is home to the dusty village of Paje, an unassuming world-class kitesurfing destination! The area also has great snorkelling, scuba diving, game fishing and bottle nose and humpback dolphin watching.

    Dhow Inn

    Dhow Inn

    Stay: at Dhow Inn, a laid-back and contemporary hideaway, a minute’s walk from a white-sand beach. Our exclusive 30% discount makes a 7-night half-board stay just £287 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: from Heathrow to Zanzibar with Ethiopian Airlines (via Ethiopia) for £422 per person, departing Saturday 18 April (overnight flight arriving Sunday 19 April) and returning Sunday 26 April (overnight flight arriving Monday 27 April).

    From the airport: the hotel offers £57 return transfers – much easier than driving.

    Total cost: £737.50 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Zanzibar and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through i-escape.com. The information on travel is provided as a service to you, and must be booked through other websites, as indicated. All prices and availability are correct at the time of publishing. The per person prices are based on 2 people in a double/twin room or an apartment for 2. Published on 25 March 2015.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
MAR23

Escape of the Week… Hotel V Frederiksplein

 
  • ‘Well-priced’ and ‘central’ are not descriptions that often co-exist when talking about hotels, but Amsterdam’s Hotel V Frederiksplein also manages to throw ‘stylish’ and ‘friendly’ into the mix. Set on the edge of Amsterdam’s horseshoe of canals, just a couple of stops from the museum district, it’s the perfect springboard into this vibrant city.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    The bigger sister to Hotel V Nesplein, Frederiksplein shows off the 19th-century building’s history while stamping its own distinct style on the interiors (hence the stunning round copper fireplace in the lobby).

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Rooms: The high-ceilinged lobby sets the tone for the 54 rooms, which all champion a minimalist but carefully curated aesthetic. There’s a pleasant purity to the exposed brickwork and distinct furniture, and large windows mean all rooms feel bright and breezy. Size can vary greatly, but this is reflected in the price. The recent addition of the V Lofts (each with its own lounge and kitchen) provides an option for those looking to spread out a bit more.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Food: In the morning, the drinks bar takes on the role of breakfast buffet. It’s lined with meats, cheeses, and baskets of croissants and pains au chocolat, plus big bowls of apples, oranges, kiwis and tomatoes – an ample selection for those looking to bolster their bellies ahead of a long day of museum-hopping. For other meals you’ll have to venture out, but that’s no chore considering the numerous eateries just a couple of bridges away. Of course, if you plump for a V Loft, you’ll have a handy private kitchen for whipping up snacks or light meals.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    When to go: Spring is the best time to visit Amsterdam. The tulips are out, the days are often sunny, and the crowds have not yet descended. That said, there is a great buzz in the city during the summer months.

    Hotel V Frederiksplein

    Customer Review: “The team were great and the hotel is in a perfect location to de Pijp, Fashion and Museum District and Dam Square. The hotel team are friendly and helpful, the rooms are excellent. We had a fabulous New Year and I would recommend this hotel to anyone.”
    Diana, United Kingdom (01.01.15)

    See the full review or read about blogger Wild & Grizzly’s recent visit

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , ,
MAR20

Meet our Bloggers: Lori of Wild & Grizzly

 
  • profileAfter introductions to Fritha from TigerlillyQuinn and Lucy from Dear Beautiful, we now welcome Lori from the lovely blog Wild & Grizzly.

    Lori is the next in line of our small selection of fantastic family and lifestyle bloggers who will be joining us to explore the i-escape collection. In fact, you can read about her recent i-escape trips to Amsterdam and Berlin on her blog.

    Your blog in one sentence…

    “Wild & Grizzly is a UK lifestyle blog where mama meets cool. It’s inspired by design, travel, interiors and style, while exploring the wilds of motherhood.”

    Wild & Grizzly

    Wild & Grizzly

    What kicked it all off?

    “I started Wild & Grizzly as a place to document my adventures with my son F and to create a space to share things that inspire me. It’s a collection of thoughts and memories which tell our story.”

    When picking a break, what are the top three things you look for in a destination?

    “I always look outside the box. I try to avoid the usual tourist traps and search for something that little bit special, whether it’s staying in a well-designed boutique hotel or apartment, or travelling to an unusual destination which most people might not think to visit with kids. For me, the location has to have a combination of style, culture and good food.”

    Wild & Grizzly

    Wild & Grizzly

    What destination is high on your hitlist for 2015?

    “I always write a wishlist at the beginning of the year to give me inspiration and set myself some travel goals. At the top for 2015 are Berlin for a fun city break; Reykjavik for a wild cultural adventure and natural beauty; Croatia or Montenegro for stunning unspoilt coastlines; San Francisco for a sunny stateside holiday with a creative edge; and Palm Springs for classic modernist design and the Joshua Tree National Park.”

    If you could pack your bags for any i-escape hotel, where would you go?

    “For relaxation I would have to pick Post Ranch Inn in California and for city excitement, I would head to New York and the stunning Greenwich Hotel“.

    Post Ranch Inn

    Post Ranch Inn

    If you could only visit one country for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

    “Oh this is a hard question! I travelled quite a bit as a child and have visited a lot of places, each offering something different. I think I would have to choose somewhere like America or Canada, as they’re so big you really could spend your whole life travelling and exploring. But as a romantic at heart, I think Italy would be a lovely place to spend my days!”

    What’s your earliest travel memory?

    “As a child we were constantly travelling and I spent my first three years living in Perth, Australia, before heading back to the UK. My parents were huge fans of island life and we visited Mallorca most years, so I have very fond memories of it. My earliest memory of Australia was paddling and playing with my dad in Kings Park.”

    Lori in Amsterdam

    Wild & Grizzly in Amsterdam

    What’re the essential items in your suitcase?

    “Sun cream, sunglasses, an oversized handbag, a good book and my portable iPhone charger.”

    Any top tips for stress-free travel with the kids?

    “Be prepared. Take puzzles and sticker books for the journey, and allow yourself time to go slowly. If travelling somewhere hot, I always try to break the day down into two parts – one half exploring with F, and the second half relaxing and letting him go at his own pace as the heat can be overwhelming.”

    Take a look at Lori’s blog or read our Q&As with Fritha and Lucy

    Posted in Family Travel, Guest Blogs, Kids. Tagged , , , , , ,
MAR18

Just Back From… Belgium, with the kid!

 
  • Each year, I take a holiday with my 7-year-old daughter Esme so she gets quality time with Mama away from her (sometimes annoying) little brother. For February half-term we resolved to take the Eurostar to Belgium. And what a breeze it was!

    Esme in Belgium

    Esme in Belgium

    We had never been to Belgium before but I sold the trip to her on the promise of chocolat, frites and gaufres (Belgian waffles). I also knew she wasn’t entirely adverse to a bit of sightseeing and history thrown into the mix. So, just 2 hours after leaving St Pancras, we arrived in Gare de Bruxelles-Midi. No queues, no hassle, and comfy seats with plenty of leg room; we are enthusiastic advocates for Eurostar!

    Gaufres Chaudes van

    Gaufres Chaudes van

    From Bruxelles-Midi we took a quick Metro ride to our first hotel, Made in Louise, just to the south of the historic centre. Immaculately run by an engaging brother (Martin) and sister (Melanie) team, the hotel’s turn of the century exterior holds 48 rooms (ours had an original fireplace), an extensive honesty bar area, a pool table and clubby sofas beside a wood-burning stove.

    Made in Louise

    Made in Louise

    Esme was immediately dragged out to sightsee. It was a Sunday and stunning weather so Martin recommended the flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle, just inside the Petite Ceinture. I had no idea Brussels was such a mecca for retro wares, but to my delight a fabulous ’70s dress soon made itself known to me and a Dutch doll with clogs stole Esme’s heart!

    Flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle

    Flea market in the Place du Jeu de Balle

    Next, fortified by a chocolate waffle (pleasingly, there’s a yellow waffle van on every touristy corner), we roamed through wonderful side streets groaning with antique shops and Art Nouveau facades towards the UNESCO-listed Grand Place, the heart of the city. Voted Europe’s most beautiful square, for its somehow harmonious marriage of Gothic and Baroque buildings, medieval guilds and gilt, it really took our breath away. The sinking sun glinting on gold ornamentation, the hum and shuffle of tourists wielding their selfie sticks around us, the size of the space.

    Grand Place

    Grand Place

    Nearby is the landmark sculpture of Brussels: the 17th-century bronze of a little naked boy peeing into a fountain – Manneken Pis. I had kept this as a surprise for Esme, just telling her we were going to see something funny. She thought it was quite funny.

    Next day, following a dutiful visit to the suitably imposing and Gothic Cathedral, we took a taxi to see the Atomium. This space-age silver sphere construction is in the shape of an iron crystal many times magnified and was built for the 1958 World Fair, when all were looking to the future. Intended to be a temporary structure, it proved such a hit that it remains open to this day as a museum.

    Atomium

    Atomium

    That night we ate at Le Chou de Bruxelles, a superb Belgian restaurant with no fewer than 30 varieties of moules-frites (book ahead!). Esme gamely ordered moules with her fettucine but decided against the flavour. Thankfully an enormous bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce presented itself for dessert.

    Le Chou de Bruxelles

    Le Chou de Bruxelles

    For our last full day we changed hotels. Hotel des Galeries’ 19th-century façade is incorporated into the beautiful Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert shopping arcade, just a stone’s throw from Grand Place. Opened only last year, its classy makeover feels refreshing and airy, with a lot of green and yellow, and signature tiles (the architect is also a ceramicist).

    Hotel des Galeries

    Hotel des Galeries

    Next, we went to the Rene Magritte museum. Esme got the message that surrealism was invented to make you think, peering at peculiar associations sometimes with amusement, sometimes with incomprehension. Then we took a train south of the city to the university town of Louvain-la-Neuve, where the fabulous Hergé Museum is located. Purpose-built in 2007 to mark the centenary of the comic strip genius, we absolutely loved the place. You get an audio tour including an exploration of his early life, introduction to Tintin and his fellow characters, and a look at how cinema influenced Hergé. Displays also show how Hergé kept abreast of scientific progress and incorporated it into his drawings. Naturally we spent considerable time and Euros in the shop.

    Hergé Museum

    Hergé Museum

    After a twilight farewell to the Grand Place (most photogenic), our final dinner was at the hotel’s very delicious brasserie-style Le Comptoir des Galeries. It was a great hit with me (black pudding with pickled cauliflower followed by sole meunière), but less so with Esme. Luckily, she perked up in time for dessert, a vast waffle and chocolate tart.

    Le Comptoir des Galeries

    Le Comptoir des Galeries

    The next day, we rolled our wheelies across cobbled streets back to the Eurostar, and London – our boxes of Belgian chocolates safely stowed, of course.

     Check out the rest of our family-friendly Belgium hotels >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , , ,
MAR16

Family Escape of the Month… Calcot Manor

 
  • Cotswold oasis Calcot Manor achieves that rare triumph of being both spoiling for adults and wonderfully engaging for children. In fact, the kids’ activities are so good that you won’t feel remotely guilty about slinking off to the rather wonderful spa…

    Calcot Manor Hotel

    Spread across a 700-year-old farmhouse and its outhouses, the family accommodation reflects the hotel’s equal commitment to grown-up decadence and child-friendly facilities. Expect Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and Hypnos mattresses alongside a 5-star selection of kids’ books and DVDs.

    Calcot Manor

    Rooms: Like all the rooms, the Family Suites are decorated in muted Farrow & Ball colours, with wall–to-wall beige carpets and cosy furnishings. They also benefit from a bunk- or twin-bedded kids’ room with its own DVD and inbuilt monitor. The slightly smaller Family Rooms have a double bed and 2 truckle beds in one large space.

    Calcot Manor Hotel

    Food: In keeping with its ‘something-for-everyone’ approach, Calcot Manor has two excellent dining options. For a country-pub ambiance with open fires, leather armchairs and ale on tap, head to The Gumstool Inn (think well-executed comfort food). For candlelit tables, wood-roasted sea bass and a comprehensive wine list, book into the Conservatory Restaurant (though you’ll want to get a babysitter for the kids – less than the price of a main course). The breakfast offers just as much choice along its 3-table buffet (supplemented by good cooked dishes), and – crucially – kids are looked after at every turn

    Calcot Manor Hotel

    Kids’ activities: It’s hard to know where to begin. There’s a playground with slides and timber towers for juniors, 2 all-weather tennis courts, bikes to borrow, an indoor and outdoor pool, and even horse-riding. Kids will also love the Playzone, which is full of great toys and wonderful carers, and older children can have a blast on the Playstations, Wii and cinema in the Mez area. Best of all, though, is the abundance of on-site activities for adults to indulge in (massages, cycling, yoga) while their kids are busy.

    Calcot Manor Hotel

    Baby equipment: You’ll find ‘baby boxes’ with changing mats, sterilisers and more, as well as baby bedding and stair gates for rooms that need them.

    Read the full review and book >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Family Travel, Kids.
MAR13

10 handy hints for awe-inspiring Instagram photos

 
  • Instagram is the go-to place to boast about what a great time you’re having on holiday. But how can you make your photos stand out from the reams of boring food shots, blurry babies and cringe-worthy selfies? We asked our Assistant Editor and resident photography nut Abi to share her easy tips for taking top Instagram images on your travels.

    Use the native camera app

    Use your phone’s normal camera, rather than the camera function within Instagram itself. You’ll have much more control over your photos, and you can take multiple snaps then choose which to upload.

    Find the light

    Find the light

    Unless you want an overexposed, rabbit-in-headlights effect, turn off the flash and shoot in natural light. Try to stand with the light source behind you or to the side so that it illuminates your subject; sometimes just turning around or moving a bit nearer a window can transform your image. If you’re struggling, tap the darkest area of your screen to add more light to your photo.

    Pick your time of day, too – the soft glow of morning and late afternoon tends to produce much better results than the harsh glare (or boring white sky, if you’re unlucky with the weather) of midday.

    Stay focused

    It may sound obvious, but hold your phone as still as possible to avoid blurring – finding a handy table or wall to steady yourself can help. And remember that on most phones, you need to tap the screen where you want to focus the shot.

    Try the rule of thirds

    Rule of thirds

    This is a technique that artists and photographers have used for centuries to add balance and interest to their work. Luckily, it’s one that anyone can put into practice – just imagine your image divided into nine segments (many phones let you add a grid to the screen to help), and position the main subject on one of the intersecting lines. Simple!

    Lead the eye

    Lead the eye

    Another sneaky trick is to draw the viewer’s eye into the photo with a line or curve – perhaps a sweep of shoreline, a road snaking into the distance, or even a diagonal wall cutting across the foreground.

    Think in squares

    Remember that Instagram uses square images, so bear this in mind when taking photos.  If you can, switch your phone setting to take images in a square format; if your phone doesn’t have an option for this, leave enough space around the subject to allow for cropping afterwards.

    Play with perspectives

    Play with perspectives

    Don’t be afraid to experiment: try searching for a different angle (perhaps though a window, from a bird’s-eye view, or looking up from below), framing your subject with foliage or buildings, or even taking a picture of a reflection or shadow.

    Look for details

    Look for details

    Small details (a quirky chair, a colourful cocktail, a weird and wonderful lamp) can be just as appealing on Instagram as an amazing view. Snap what catches your eye, and not just the obvious landmarks which everyone photographs.

    Keep things simple

    Keep it simple

    Often the simplest images are the most striking, so try to avoid too much ‘clutter’ (particularly important for Instagram photos, which are normally viewed on small screens).  And don’t overdo the editing – Instagram and other editing apps such as VSCO Cam have some fantastic tools to brighten colours, straighten wonky shots and add filters, but play around with things too much and you risk losing the essence of your photo.

    Finally, share the results!

    Taken a travel picture that you’re really proud of and want to show it off to the world? Tag your Instagram images with #iescapetrip and @iescape, and we’ll share our favourites with our followers.

    Happy snapping!

    Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram >>

    Posted in Photography, Travel Musings, Travel Tips. Tagged ,
MAR11

Spotlight on… Jamaica

 
  • Our Bookings Consultant Emily recently returned from an envy-inducing jaunt around Jamaica, bringing back beautiful snaps and a gorgeous new hotel for our hand-picked collection there. With barefoot beach days and rum cocktails swimming through our minds, we couldn’t resist shining our spotlight on this famous Caribbean island.

    Negril Beach

    Negril Beach

    Why go?

    Jamaica offers all the blue sky and stunning beaches you’d expect of a Caribbean island, but it also has lush green landscapes, intriguing history, and an infectious background reggae beat. Beyond the beaches and cities, it’s a pretty country to explore – waterfalls, botanical gardens, mountains, vibrant communities and local markets abound. But wherever you travel, life ticks over at an easy pace.

    Dunn River Falls

    Dunn River Falls

    Highlights

    After an easy direct flight from Gatwick to Kingston, Emily was soon unwinding in the lush surroundings of our newest Jamaican property, GoldenEye. One of the island’s most exclusive beachside resorts, it was once author Ian Fleming’s holiday home, where he wrote the entire James Bond series. Today, his bungalow has taken on the guise of GoldenEye’s prestigious Fleming Villa, but there’s no need to go straight to the top to enjoy a stay here; Emily’s favourite rooms were the more budget-friendly Lagoon Villas, which have private decks directly over a placid lagoon, complete with your own kayak. “The lagoon was magical; on the first morning, I woke up just before 7am and jumped straight in. It was warm, clear and full of tiny fish.”

    GoldenEye Lagoon Cottages

    GoldenEye Lagoon Cottages

    Beyond the resort, adventures are plentiful. The north coast is home to famous Dunn River Falls: cascading waterfalls stretching over a gentle 600ft incline, so you can climb up and swim in natural pools on the way. The coast itself is equally alluring; swim off the beach, snorkel the reef and paddle-board the waves. If you’re lucky, you might spot turtle hatchlings in the sands – ask around for advice and recent sightings.

    Turtles at GoldenEye

    Turtles at GoldenEye

    Heading east, Port Antonio brings unspoilt white-sand beaches and outstanding scenery – stay at super-luxe Geejam or great-value eco-hideaway Hotel Mocking Bird Hill for close proximity to Frenchman’s Cove, Boston Bay and Long Bay. The east is also home to Blue Mountains, the longest mountain range in Jamaica. Emily spent time at peaceful Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa, 3,100ft above Kingston, before trekking with one of the hotel’s guides along the Gordon Town Trail, discovering tiny villages and indigenous wildlife along the way.

    Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa

    Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa

    Blue Mountains

    Blue Mountains

    The opposite end of the island draws a fun-loving crowd. Negril’s buzzing 7-mile beach is a must-see, lined with bars and backpacker bustle. We love the romantic clifftop hideaways here: Tensing Pen and The Caves. Despite lacking on-site beaches, both have plenty of space for lounging, and ladders lead you down into the clear ocean. Feeling adventurous? Just jump!

    The Caves

    The Caves

    The Caves

    Further up the coast in Montego Bay, a Jamaican institution awaits. Back in 1952, Round Hill Hotel & Villas hosted an iconic honeymooning couple – John and Jackie Kennedy. Its colonial-chic styling still appeals to an elegant crowd, and the restaurant’s ‘sorbet tasting platter’ was a highlight of Emily’s stay!

    Round Hill Bay

    Round Hill Bay

    When to go

    With consistently warm, tropical weather, Jamaica is a popular year-round destination, but December to April is particularly nice. The official rain and hurricane season lasts from June to November, but it usually only rains for short periods in the afternoon.

    GoldenEye

    GoldenEye

    Our top tip

    Coming en masse? Peaceful Culloden Cove sleeps 4-12 in a staffed villa and smaller cottage (in a lush garden with sea-facing infinity pool and secluded private beach!) so it’s ideal for friends or multi-generational families. And this isn’t our only family-friendly haven – we’ve ranked our favourites over on the Kids Collection.

    Culloden Cove

    Culloden Cove

    See our full Jamaica guide and property collection.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , ,
MAR09

Escape of the Week… York & Albany

 
  • A sleek, refined hotel and restaurant may seem a little idiosyncratic in trendy Camden, but this boutique London base from Gordon Ramsay has all the right ingredients.

    York & Albany

    From the first-rate service to the elegant rooms to the fantastic location opposite Regent’s Park, York & Albany has nailed the recipe for succes. The restaurant is its heart, but the guest rooms are far from incidental; in fact, the gorgeous suite is one of our favourite rooms in London.

    York & Albany

    Rooms: With only 9 bedrooms, York & Albany has an intimate feel – something enhanced by the quirky and bespoke design, which features antique furniture and period prints. There’s nothing stuffy here, though: rooms come with all the mod cons, including iPod docks, DVD players, and fluffy robes and slippers. We loved our Deluxe Room with its park view and grand furnishings, but if you’re looking for a real treat, you can’t beat the sprawling suite.

    York & Albany

    Food: When a hotel and restaurant are established by Gordon Ramsay, you’re going to have high expectations of the food. Luckily, York & Albany’s relaxed and buzzy restaurant doesn’t disappoint. It’s an accessible fine-dining experience, with none of the frills and pomp of Michelin-starred cuisine. You’ll be treated to good, honest grub presented simply and served with aplomb – think steak, duck, charcuterie and other pub favourites, all executed exquisitely. 

    York & Albany

    Author’s tip: Bring comfortable shoes and walk wherever you can (you’re only 20 minutes from the West End). You’ll save a fortune in cab and Tube fares, and get a much better insight into this fascinating corner of London.

    York & Albany

    Customer Review: “The York & Albany is a lovely small hotel with an exceptional bunch of friendly staff who really offer a personal touch. The rooms are great and have everything you need, even offering limited views of Regent’s Park. The hotel is ideally situated near Camden Town tube station – which is about 10 minutes’ walk away. Highly recommend! We’re looking forward to visiting again soon!”
    Joe, United Kingdom (04.09.14)

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,
MAR06

Meet our Bloggers: Lucy of Dear Beautiful

 
  • lucydbdWe recently kick-started the introductions to our new team of i-escape bloggers with Fritha from TigerlillyQuinn. This week, we’re saying hello to Lucy from the lovely Dear Beautiful, one of the small selection of fantastic family and lifestyle bloggers who will be joining us to explore the i-escape Kids Collection and bring you the scoop on some boutique gems.

     

     

    Your blog in one sentence…

    “The story of a young family who love having adventures, making memories and living their own happily ever after.”

    Dear Beautiful

    Dear Beautiful

    What kicked it all off?

    “Blogging for me started as a way to record what my little boy got up to as a baby. Being a new mum was an amazing, all-encompassing experience and I wanted to remember every second of it. The blog has grown as our family has grown, with the addition of a little sister for our son. And it has always been about us finding our way and enjoying life to the full as a family…. and taking far too many photographs!”

    When picking a break, what are the top three things you look for in a destination?

    “Beautiful places to look at are always top of my list – be that man-made or natural, bright and colourful or muted and simple. I’m drawn to beautiful things. Water would always come pretty high up the list for us as a family, too. We absolutely adore the beach, whatever the time of the year. And we’re water babies, so if we can swim then even better. I’d also say that we love finding a hidden gem – quiet places off the beaten track, amazing little food spots, unknown beauty spots. We love the hustle and bustle of adventuring, but if we can find something special and unique then even better.”

    Dear Beautiful

    Dear Beautiful

    What destination is high on your hitlist for 2015?

    “This year is all about adventures for us, and we are so excited about discovering more of this great wide world of ours. High up on our wishlist is to take the children on their first aeroplane flight. We definitely have Cornwall in our sights, too; as such beach-lovers, it feels like a total crime that we haven’t been there before!”

    If you could pack your bags for any i-escape hotel, where would you go?

    Culloden Cove in Jamaica. It looks like absolute paradise, with the privacy of your own infinity pool, and hammocks swinging in the sea breeze above your own bit of beach. Total heaven.”

    Culloden Cove

    Culloden Cove

    If you could only visit one country for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

    “It would have to be the USA. It’s so huge that I don’t think you could ever run out of places to visit. Plus there is so much variety. With the mountains of Alaska, the bright lights of New York City, the chilled-out vibe of Key West, the history and culture of Washington DC, the fall in New England, the beautiful Californian coast, the chance to drive Route 66… I don’t think it’s somewhere that I could ever get bored of.”

    What’s your earliest travel memory?

    “I was lucky to get to travel quite a bit as a child, and our first ever trip to Orlando stands out as a highlight. When we were on honeymoon in Cuba, we visited an amazing beach called Pilar Beach, which is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. And my favourite travel memory with the children would have to be when we went to Pembrokeshire last year – we totally fell in love with that beautiful coastline.”

    Dear Beautiful

    Dear Beautiful

    What’re the essential items in your suitcase?

    “My cameras, for making lots of videos and taking lots of photos. And plenty of spare memory cards.”

    Any top tips for stress-free travel with the kids?

    “Don’t assume that children only want to do ‘children-specific’ things. My kids have had great days out ignoring the soft play area in favour of exploring somewhere new and trying different things. And take things that make them happy. We never travel without a couple of their special bedtime toys so that they can go off to sleep with that familiarity.”

    Take a look at Lucy’s blog or read our Q&A with Fritha of TigerlillyQuinn

    Posted in Family Travel, Guest Blogs, Kids. Tagged , ,