MAY01

Snapshots from… a weekend in Cornwall!

 
  • Senior Editorial Assistant Melissa takes us on a wind-swept tour of our newest Cornwall hotspots – just don’t expect any balmy beach shots!

    Before you ask: no, our springtime jaunt was not blessed with glorious sunshine. Nor were we lucky enough to escape the worst of a Friday evening on the M5 (or ‘weekender traffic hell’ as it might be better known). Instead, we were met with the full force of Cornwall’s stormy seas and many a delay.

    But did it ruin our long weekend away? Not a jot! It’s testament to the glorious hideaways in which we found ourselves that neither the weather nor the traffic could dampen our spirits, and each warm welcome ensured that our stresses fell away within moments of downing our suitcases.

    That, I’ve now discovered, is the magic of Cornwall.

    And thus it was that late one blustery Friday night we arrived at i-escape’s most recent Cornish discovery: the newly opened, utterly enchanting Trewornan Manor (near the foodie mecca of Padstow).

    Trewornan Manor

    Trewornan Manor

    The guest lounge’s roaring fire and ample honesty bar soon had us feeling warm and cosy. And by morning we felt utterly at home amongst the ancient house’s wonky doorways and towering sash windows – no doubt helped along by the excellent home-cooked breakfast.

    Trewornan Manor

    Trewornan Manor

    Being so new, this romantic adults-only boutique B&B is still fairly under the radar, so come now before its 4 bespoke bedrooms each have their own waiting list!

    Much restored by our first night on Cornish soil, we hopped back in the car to complete the second leg of our journey: a 1-hour drive to Penzance, at the very tip of the county.

    Penzance

    This time we were destined to discover the funkier side of the south west at much-loved Artist Residence Cornwall. When we heard that this vibrant guesthouse was launching its first eatery, we immediately nabbed an opening-weekend stay and prepared to indulge.

    The Cornish Barn-Artist Residence Cornwall

    And we weren’t disappointed; a smorgasbord of Deep South-inspired dishes, all created using the finest Cornish produce, filled the table of our comfy booth. Tender buttermilk chicken, sweet pulled pork and a perfect mac ‘n’ cheese were all washed down with tasty bottled beer (and a shared ice-cream sundae).

    The Cornish Barn Artist Residence Cornwall

    Thank heavens we were able to sleep off the decadence in our artist-designed loft room!

    Artist Residence Cornwall

    Artist Residence Cornwall

    But, I hear you cry, the weather! What did you do during the day if it was RAINING?! Granted, it was a shame that we couldn’t trot over to St Michael’s Mount (too windy) or blissfully stroll the local beaches (far too wet), but when the heavens opened we decided to eschew the great outdoors in favour of the much cosier indoors!

    Porthmeor Beach Cafe

    More specifically, indoors in St Ives. Boozy lunches are one of the many brilliant bonuses of being on holiday and super-chilled Porthmeor Beach Café, with it stunning beachfront setting, is now a firm favourite. We stretched an excellent lunch of tapas and bellinis out over 3 courses and nearly 3 hours – brilliant fun! Oh, and the café is right next to the Tate St Ives, so we popped in there, too.

    Fancy heading off on your own Cornish getaway? Take a look at our full collection.

    Posted in Foodie, Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , , ,
APR29

Half-term escapes

 
  • May half-term is one of our favourite times of year to holiday as a family. The weather is near perfect all over Europe, prices are within reach, and the useful Bank Holiday means UK working parents can make the most of their annual leave. Best of all, many properties which get booked out for summer still have space, including these.

    Read on for Kids Collection Editor Nadine’s pick of half-term hideaways, all with special offers or fun activities planned for the last week in May.

    The Rosevine, Roseland Peninsula, Cornwall, UK

    The Rosevine

    The Cornish Riviera – the unspoiled south coast of the county – is the stuff children’s literature is made of: sailing, cycling, adventures in secluded sandy coves. This apartment-hotel is perfectly designed for carefree family holidays by the sea. You get kitchenettes and cool bunk rooms in the chic accommodation, and there’s a fantastic restaurant.

    Rosevine1Manoir du Moulin, the Vendée, France

    Manoir du Moulin

    Great value and with charming Canadian hosts, this beautifully renovated manor house is set in a quintessential French village (weekly market! lovely restaurant!). There are just 5 spacious suites, 4 of which can sleep families, and the wonderful gardens are great for roaming kids.

    Manoir2

    Ca’s Penelope, Fornalutx, Mallorca, Spain

    Ca's Penelope

    Head inland to this lovely, uncluttered country house for 8-10, set just outside a gorgeous village. Both the lap pool and the roof terrace have superb views of the Tramuntana Mountains, and there’s a delightfully large and fragrant garden bursting with bougainvillea, jasmine and herbs.

    CasPen1

    Le Castel, Normandy, France

    Le Castel

    Kids of all ages will get a kick out of staying in a real château, bouncing on the beds in large family suites, and tearing around 4 acres of parkland and woodland. The convivial English host, Jon, has created a house-party atmosphere with lovely evening feasts for the grown-ups (kids dine at 5pm), as well as family barbecues on the terrace and a help-yourself bar.

    LeCastel1

    Masseria Prosperi, Puglia, Italy

    Masseria Prosperi

    This purpose-built contemporary country house (available by the room or as a rental for up to 18) enchants all who stay. The interiors are beautifully styled, with just the right dash of vintage married with sleek fittings, and the food is plentiful, authentically local and sublime. The friendly owners have 2 daughters of their own and live next door, so they’re on hand to saddle up the resident ponies and horses whenever suits.

    MasseriaPropsperi1

    Metairie Montplaisir, Conques sur Orbiel, near Carcassonne, France

    Metairie Montplaisir

    We reckon this sociable and stylish guesthouse would make a delightful base for a family. There’s a river at the foot of a large garden, and 5 bright and airy rooms to choose from; those wanting a bit more privacy can opt for the 2-floored apartment. Guests also rave about the food crafted from market-fresh produce.

    Metairie 2

    Levendis Estate, Ithaca, Ionian Islands, Greece

    Levendis Estate

    A magical island escape, Levendis has 4 cute 2-bedroom cottages, a stunning infinity pool and organic gardens and orchards, all set within a gated hillside estate with wonderful sea views. Families can get back to nature and feed the sheep, or stroll the 15 minutes down to the beach. Each cottage has a well-equipped kitchen stocked with organic treats for your arrival.

    Levendis1

    Chateau les Merles, near Bergerac, Perigord, southwest France

    Chateau les Merles

    Just north of the Dordogne is this large, honey-coloured château, which has had a pleasing contemporary makeover. It welcomes families in Deluxe rooms, Suites and a 2-bedroom apartment, or in one of the 3-bedroom self-catering villas a short stroll away. The food is locally sourced and really superb, with plenty of dishes to suit kids.

    Chateau1

    Villa Ippocampi, Koutouloufari, Crete, Greece

    2

    For an easy-to-reach retreat which works perfectly for primary school-age children, head to this small and friendly hotel, a mere 20 minutes from the airport. Sleep in 2- or 3-bedroom suites decked out in attractive blue-white décor, with handy kitchenettes for whipping up snacks.

    VillaIpp1

    Castello di Gargonza, near Monte San Savino, Tuscany, Italy

    Castello di Gargonza

    You can’t beat staying in a fortified medieval hilltop village, with a warren of little streets to explore and long views across thick Tuscan forest (you’re surrounded by 500 acres of protected land). There’s a range of charming rooms and apartments to choose from, a shop on site, and a restaurant if you don’t want to self-cater.

    Castello1

    Take a look at the rest of our collection with May half-term availability >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , , , , ,
APR27

Escape of the Week… The Church Street Hotel

 
  • Mexican casita meets south London bolthole at our latest Escape of the Week. Ideal for independent types who’ve already followed the capital’s tourist trail, this funky and friendly hotel in Camberwell is a great base for delving deeper into the London scene.

    The Church Street Hotel

    This is no boring beige boutique. It was opened by Spanish brothers Jose and Mel, who took 3 old townhouses and turned them into a fun hotel (complete with tapas restaurant) that’s filled with Latin American flair. It’s well-placed for exploring, too: a 30-minute train ride will get you to the vibrant South Bank, and Oxford Street and its fantastic shopping is just a bus ride away. Nearby, Brockwell Park is great for panoramic city views, while Brixton buzzes with interesting markets and live music.

    The Church Street Hotel

    Rooms: Decked out in bright hues that range from cobalt blue to lime green to red pepper, the rooms are vibrant but cosy, with solid wrought-iron beds dressed in top-quality linens and striped Mexican blankets. Spanish film posters, Romanian stained glass and gleaming tile-covered bathrooms add to the quirkiness. We loved the generous extras, too: complimentary Green & Black chocolates, L’Occitane toiletries and a small pot of hot sauce ‘a la casa’.

    The Church Street Hotel

    Food: The day starts with a delicious organic breakfast of homemade bread, boiled eggs, honey and yoghurt alongside cooked options (extra cost) such as halloumi with homemade baked beans, huge mushrooms and plantain. The fab tapas restaurant, Angels & Gypsies, is the setting for lunch and dinner, when high-quality seasonal ingredients are whipped up into mouth-watering dishes. The cod with peas and patatas pobres with sweet peppers and rosemary were absolutely delicious. The best way to end a meal is with amazing cocktails in the Communion Bar – the ‘Grind & Bubble’ (prosecco, Punt E Mes, vanilla and orange-flower infused vodka, limoncello and fresh ortanique) is our top tip.

    The Church Street Hotel

    Author’s tip: Foodies could lose themselves for hours at Borough Market (20 minutes’ walk from the hotel; open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays). It’s one of the largest food markets in London, with a labyrinth of stalls brimming with fish, meat, fruit and veg, cheese, bread, cakes, coffee and ciders from all over the UK. On Thursdays the market’s demonstration chef is around to dish out tips and advice.

    Brockwell Park, London

    Customer review: “Buzzy, fun and good value for Zone 2. Reminded me of hotels I’ve stayed in in Mexico and South America. The rooms are small but they are super-clean and light. Staff are lovely, Angels & Gypsies is GREAT. A really cool base for London.”
    Liz, United Kingdom (03.04.15)

    Special offer: 30% discount in August 2015

    i-escape gift: a bottle of Cava during your stay

    Read the full review and book The Church Street Hotel >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,
APR24

Just back from… Porto and the Douro Valley

 
  • Assistant Editor Abi shares her finds from Portugal’s second city and the tumbling vineyards of the Douro Valley, where she and her partner Chris were tasked with checking out some lovely new additions to i-escape 

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyPorto is a city of two halves. It’s one of Europe’s oldest and Ribeira, the Unesco-listed centre, is a delightfully shabby jumble of crumbling townhouses and laundry-strung lanes that has barely changed in centuries. But there’s a real buzz about the place at the moment – something which became clear as soon as we touched down at its gleaming airport, served by handy easyJet flights from London and Bristol. There’s a sparkling new metro system to whisk you into town, plenty of bold, contemporary architecture to marvel at, and an ever-increasing array of stylish boutiques, bars and restaurants to sample.

    It’s a captivating combination, and the hotels we visited allowed us to experience both sides. First up was 1872 River House, a skinny, salmon-pink mansion perched on the riverbank in the heart of Ribeira and reached via a stained-glass walkway that casts colourful shadows over the cobbles outside. Inside is a sophisticated blend of old and new, with sleek furniture alongside ornate azulejos and exposed stone walls. We were treated to a water-facing room and loved lounging in bed with our morning coffee, watching boats chug by as the Douro sploshed gently against the quayside beneath our window.

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro Valley

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro Valley

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyOur time at 1872 River House was spent getting pleasantly lost in ancient alleyways, feasting on freshly grilled sardines in neighbourhood restaurants, and hopping between the famous port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia (just across the river and easily accessed via the soaring Dom Luís bridge). We also boarded the rickety old tram, which stops right outside the hotel, and rattled out to Foz do Douro, where we lunched at a beach bar as Atlantic waves crashed onto the sand.

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyJust back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyAfter a couple of nights in Ribeira, we moved to the trendiest part of town, around the gallery-studded Rua de Miguel Bombarda, for a stay at Rosa Et Al Townhouse. Hidden behind the most unassuming of doorways (our taxi driver sped past it twice), this funky hideaway epitomises Porto’s creative spirit. It’s been imaginatively restored by brother-and-sister team Emanuel and Patrícia and centres around a sweeping staircase topped by a magnificent glass dome. We loved the laid-back atmosphere, the herb-scented garden, the lazy brunches and the delicious dinners (bacalhau rolled in spices, goey chocolate fondant). But most of all we loved the design: a striking mix of original features, mid-century modern furniture and contemporary lighting, with local art lining the walls.

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro Valley

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyFrom here, we soaked up some of Porto’s cultural gems. We started at the Portuguese Centre for Photography (housed in a former prison, complete with barred windows!), before moving onto the iconic Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the edgy Casa da Música. We also sampled a few of the innovative new eateries which are popping up all over the place, including the literary-themed Book, where menus are presented in novels, dishes are themed around chapters and the loos are papered with classic covers.

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyAfter so much strenuous reviewing  (it’s a tough job…), we were in need of some relaxation away from the city, so we picked up a hire car and headed out to the Douro Valley for a few nights at vineyard-cum-hotel Quinta do Vallado. It proved to be another wonderful mix of past and present: the family-run winery has been operating for centuries, passed down from generation to generation, and the main building is an ochre-coloured manor that dates from the 1400s. But they’ve been joined by a striking new wing in slate and schist, plus a snazzy tasting room where guests can try the tipples for free.

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyJust back from... Porto and the Douro ValleyOur days here soon fell into a lazy, wine-fuelled pattern. In the mornings, we meandered along the mighty Douro, stopping here and there to admire the views and breathe in the blossom-scented air. In the afternoons, we lounged on the terrace over a bottle of the estate’s finest, before gorging on delicious regional food as the sun set over the terraced hillsides. Not a bad way to end our trip…

    Just back from... Porto and the Douro Valley

    Browse our full collection of places to stay in Porto and the Douro Valley

    Posted in City Breaks, Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
APR22

Easy Escapes for May

 
  • Spring isn’t best appreciated amid the urban sprawl; when nature is bursting with new life, all signs point to the countryside. Whether it’s a blissful British weekend, a week in rural Provence or a truly adventurous Brazilian jaunt, we’ve got your ‘spring break’ covered.

    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.

    A Bradford-on-Avon beauty – £125 per person (3 nights, 8-11 May 2015)

    Timbrell's Yard

    Timbrell’s Yard

    Bucolic Bradford on Avon is the south west’s new village du jour for restorative weekend breaks. Look out for the 13th-century main bridge and many independent boutiques, before strolling along the river path, past the ancient Tithe Barn and weeping willows, up to the pretty canal lock. Fancy a day trip? You’re just a 10-minute train journey from Bath.

    Timbrell's Yard

    Timbrell’s Yard

    Stay: at Timbrell’s Yard, a newly opened and very relaxing riverside hotel with delicious food by Tom Blake (formerly at River Cottage). Our exclusive 3-nights-for-2 offer makes a 3-night B&B stay in a Medium Double room just £125 per person, including taxes.

    Total Cost: £125 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Bradford on Avon and other accommodation options

    Perfection in Provence – £424.40 per person (5 nights, 17-22 May 2015)

    La Maison d'Ulysse

    La Maison d’Ulysse

    In southern France’s famous Provence region you’ll find tumbling hills and vineyards, the picturesque villages of Vézénobres and Lussan, and many a marked trail leading to beautiful valley viewpoints. But don’t limit yourself to the pastures. As one of France’s best preserved medieval towns, spectacular Uzès invites lazy lunches in the shade of stone colonnades and many an hour spent shopping at the Place aux Herbes’ excellent market.

    La Maison d'Ulysse

    La Maison d’Ulysse

    Stay: at La Maison d’Ulysse, a restored farmhouse with medieval-meets-millennium guest rooms and a peaceful setting in the tiny village of Baron. With 20% off 4+ night stays (full non-refundable pre-payment required), a 5-night B&B stay in the Baron Perché room comes to just £281 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: from London Luton to Nîmes with Ryanair for £67 per person, departing Sunday 17 May and returning Friday 22 May.

    From the Airport: You’ll need a car to make the most of the area, particularly as you’ll have to drive out for dinner most evenings. Car hire through Rhino starts from £152.80.

    Total Cost: £424.40 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Provence and other accommodation options

    Make a break for Brazil – £2144.50 per person (10 nights, 11-21 May 2015)

    Reserva do Ibitipoca

    Reserva do Ibitipoca

    Hidden in the mountainous state of Minas Gerais, the Reserva do Ibitipoca is a unique sustainability initiative where nature rules. Guided daily excursions on foot or horseback explore caves, valleys and natural wonders; botanists can admire wild orchids, bot and bromeliads, and a lucky few may see muriqui monkeys, wild boar, puma or wolves. Afterwards, sink into loungers by Engenho’s Waterfall to unwind with a frosty caipirinha, the sky bright with stars.

    Reserva do Ibitipoca

    Reserva do Ibitipoca

    Stay: at one of Brazil’s best small hotels. Reserva do Ibitipoca’s private nature reserve holds an 18th-century farmhouse with exceptional food and a wonderful little spa (by far the best in the region!). Ten nights’ full-board in an Engenho Suite comes to £1707.50 per person (excluding 10% service charge).

    Fly: from London Gatwick to Rio de Janeiro International (via Madrid) with Iberia for £437 per person, departing Sunday 10 May (overnight flight arriving Monday 11 May) and returning Thursday 21 May (overnight flight arriving Friday 22 May).

    From the Airport: The hotel is offering free return road transfers from Rio (for stays of 5+ nights). Worth approximately BRL1600, this fab offer will save lots of money and hassle – making this remote hideaway a much more manageable getaway.

    Total Cost: £2144.50 per person.

    More info: Getting to Brazil 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 22 April 2015.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , ,
APR20

Family Escape of the Month… Apartment 43

 
  • From one large room in the heart of Jerez’s old town, owners Jim and Alice have cleaved a tranquil, light-filled apartment that’s perfect for those with babies or older kids. The pretty streets around it are car-free, and features such as playgrounds next to alfresco cafés make the city abundantly family-friendly.

    Apartment 43

    From the 10th to the 17th of May the city transforms when one of the most important celebrations in the municipality, the Feria de Jerez, arrives in town. During this time the streets come alive with dancing, festivities and plenty of sherry drinking. What’s more, Apartment 43 won’t charge you extra for a visit during this time.

    Apartment 43

    Rooms: The apartment has 2 lovely bedrooms, but if you’re travelling with a baby and only need space for a cot you can opt to book one only. The mezzanine king can be split into 2 single beds for older children, or you could sleep here yourselves and pop the kids in the downstairs double, which has black-out curtains. Throughout the apartment, gorgeous furnishings are illuminated by glorious south-facing windows; with large leather sofas, jazzy paintings and sleek furniture, it’s a beautiful place to unwind with a view of the sun setting over the rooftops.

    Apartment 43

    Food: The open-plan kitchen is exceedingly well stocked with all the essentials, plus many non-essential gizmos that’ll make putting a meal together even easier. You’ll also find some foodie basics, as well as a nifty map showing where to bag your groceries around the city centre. But head out to explore and your tastebuds will be rewarded: Jerez is a foodie paradise, and the streets are groaning with masses of tapas bars and some excellent new restaurants.

    Apartment 43

    Kids’ activities:  There’s plenty in the apartment to keep kids entertained, including puzzles, books and a music system, but the real family-friendly excitement is to be found in the town. Jerez has a number of pretty plazas and playgrounds, as well as a zoo. It’s also within close proximity to a waterpark (a 10-minute drive) and beaches (a 20-minute drive).

    Apartment 43

    Baby equipment: You’ll find a baby cot with bedlinen, and a high chair.

    Special offer: A free breakfast for all May 2015 bookings

    Read the full review and book >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Family Escape of the Month, Kids. Tagged , , , , ,
APR17

Spotlight on… Miami

 
  • This year Miami Beach revels in its centenary celebrations – so why not join in? Throughout 2015 there will be music concerts, art shows, children’s events and comedy festivals – not to mention the city’s ever-present Art Deco architecture and fabulous social scene to enjoy.

    Miami

    Miami

    Why go?

    This may be a particularly special year, but Miami is always abuzz. Remember the CSI trailer: sunny blue skies, palm-lined sandy beaches, a dazzling emerald ocean, and jet skis in front of a glittering skyline? Well, that’s pretty close to the reality. This famous Florida city has the perfect mix for a jet-set break: just take Latin beats, candy-coloured Art Deco buildings and funky art galleries, throw in some ultra-hip hotels, add triple shots of glitzy nightlife, and sprinkle with kitsch and glam. And now go and shake it!

    Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach

    Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach

    Art Deco on Ocean Drive

    Art Deco on Ocean Drive

    Highlights

    As you might expect, Miami is all about sun, sea and fun – and no more so than in fabulous Miami Beach, which is blessed with long sweeps of sand and clear, warm water. Glitter Beach is where the model scene hangs out; for a good swim and a relaxed stroll on the boardwalk, head to Mid Beach. And if you want city-skyline views as you sunbathe, try Key Biscayne.

    View from Key Biscayne

    View from Key Biscayne

    Fabled South Beach is always ready to party – start in the ultra-cool bar at the Shore Club, then work your way up iconic Ocean Drive (where you’ll also find the Versace mansion) and finish off at LIV Club. Fresh, no-frills Townhouse Hotel is perfectly placed for making the most of this lively area without breaking the bank.

    Townhouse Hotel

    Townhouse Hotel

    But there’s more to Miami than glitzy bars. Wander down Ocean Drive to see the world’s largest collection of Art Deco architecture, or drop into the Art Deco Welcome Centre and book a walking tour with a guide. To truly immerse yourself in the Art Deco experience, book into i-escape’s newest Miami addition, Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach. Or stay at Tides South Beach, designed by architect L. Murray Dixon, who has various other works in the neighbourhood.

    Ocean Drive

    Ocean Drive

    Tides South Beach

    Tides South Beach

    Don’t forget to spend a few hours at The Wolfsonian museum of art and design, and browse the galleries in trendy Wynwood and the Design District. Then indulge in some fine dining. South Beach is known for its excellent foodie scene: try Meat Market Miami Beach for steak served with rich butters and creative sauces, or the legendary Osteria Del Teatro for homemade Italian fare. The SoFi (South of Fifth) district is home to a range of old favourites and trendy new spots – Hotel St Augustine makes a great budget-friendly base among them.

    Hotel St Augustine

    Hotel St Augustine

    When to go

    Balmy December to April is Miami’s high season, and the best time to visit weather-wise. But don’t rule out a stay at other times: it can get humid, and hurricanes are a risk from June to November, but prices are lower and 2015’s centenary celebrations stretch across the year (check out Miami Beach 100 to get an idea of upcoming events). You might want to avoid the March spring break, when the city is packed to the rafters with scantily clad, intoxicated youngsters.

    View from Tides South Beach

    View from Tides South Beach

    Our top tips

    If you fancy a day away from the city hubbub, head to the Everglades and soak up the serene beauty of its mighty swamps by canoe or kayak. Just watch out for crocs!

    See our full Miami guide and hotel collection.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , ,
APR15

i-escape’s family travel plans 2015 (part 3)

 
  • In the third and final part of our series, Marketing Assistant Anna shares her 2015 travel plans with her toddler in tow.

    1After dipping our toes in the family holiday water last year with a couple of short seaside breaks in Devon and Cornwall, my husband Anthony and I are excited to get one-year-old Finn a passport and show him the world. Well, Europe to start with: short flight times = less time spent trying to keep a very wriggly little boy still.

    We’re planning a last-minute spring city break as we love being in the hustle and bustle of things – especially Finn who likes to wave merrily at anyone who passes his buggy. Berlin is a firm favourite of ours, and pre-baby we had a wonderful stay at Brilliant Apartments, which we know would be perfect for a family break.

    Brilliant ApartmentsWe’d opt for one of their 2-bedroom self-catering apartments rather than a studio this time so we can rustle up a leisurely dinner once the little one is in bed and not have to tiptoe around from 7pm. Cots, high chairs and baby bedding are all provided.

    The local area is great too: vibrant Prenzlauer Berg is home to numerous baby-friendly restaurants, playgrounds and a couple of Spielcafes (play cafés) for rainy days.

    Brilliant ApartmentsAlternatively, stylish bolthole Val de Grace has caught my eye. Perfectly situated for Paris’ Latin Quarter, there’s lots to explore on the doorstep but it’s also well-connected to the rest of the city by public transport. Anthony and I will both love the arty vibe and revisiting all the iconic sites, I’ve heard rumours of double-decker macarons which are definitely worth searching out and I’ve got a feeling Finn will love Jardin du Luxembourg’s boating lake and the promise of crêpes.

    Val de GraceThe apartment has all the baby kit we’ll need (including a cot, high chair and changing mat) and there’s a grocery shop next door for essentials. Owner Olivier can toddle-proof the apartment with plug covers and edging for sharp tables, which will provide peace of mind.

    Val de GraceFor a late summer break (around September when the temperatures are dropping again), I fancy exploring Catalonia. Girona is only a 2-hour flight from Bristol, and a 30-minute drive from there is colourful guesthouse, Casa Migdia. It looks so fun and relaxed, and we’d love to spend a couple of days there, wandering around the village, taking dips in the pool and perhaps venturing into Girona or taking a trip to Barcelona on the train.

    Casa Migdia
    Owners Sébastien and Mary have young children of their own, so know just what families need for a stress-free break.

    Casa MigdiaFrom there we’ll head to laid-back Hotel Aiguaclara in pretty Begur. Really welcoming to families, there’s a banner in the hallway that reads “all you need is love / love is all you need” – I love that sentiment.

    Hotel AiguaclaraWe’ll wander the village’s medieval streets, practise our sandcastle-building on nearby beaches and paddle in the sea.

    Begur beachI wonder if we can fit a cheeky UK weekend break in somewhere too…

    Find out what Head of Bookings Kate and Editor Liz are planning >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , , , ,
APR13

Escape of the Week… Monteverdi

 
  • Romance and relaxation are on the cards at this picture-perfect boutique hotel, whose rooms and villas are dotted around a living and breathing Tuscan hamlet. Surrounded by terraced gardens filled with beautifully scented flowers, it’s the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy a rosemary martini or two as you watch the sun set over the Val d’Orcia.

    MonteverdiThe local area is ripe for exploring, too. Monteverdi sits 2,000 feet up on wooded slopes criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails, while bustling Montepulciano, pretty Pienza and magnificent Siena are all within an hour’s drive.

    Rooms: The layout and décor of the rooms vary, but all have stone walls and rustic beams complemented by soft colours, fine linens and high-quality furnishings. You’ll certainly feel spoilt in the 3 Luxury Rooms with their kingsize beds and rain showers, but upgrading to a larger room or suite is well worth it. All have special features – maybe a stunning copper bath or an outside dining area. The 3 villas (with 2, 3 and 6 ensuite bedrooms apiece) have living rooms and state-of-the-art kitchens as well as some luxurious additions: a steam room in Amiata, spa tubs in Amiata and Muri Antichi, and wine cellars in Muri Antichi and San Pietro. Very grand!

    Food: The food here is a real highlight, best enjoyed on the outdoor terrace with a view over the valleys where most of the ingredients are sourced. During our stay we enjoyed pecorino cheese from Pienza and prosciutto from Siena, alongside nettle gnocchi and a very special wild-boar ragù on homemade rosemary pappardelle. Each meal left us feeling very full and very content. A post-dinner drink in the Library Bar finished the evenings off perfectly.

    Luxury room 2, Monteverdi

    Author’s tip: Chat to the enthusiastic staff about their favourite places to explore in the area. Often the smaller towns are more authentic in terms of food and atmosphere, as their shops and restaurants aren’t catering to hoards of tourists. A pizza in Siena’s main square is disappointing compared to one made fresh in Pienza or Montepulciano. Note that things are far pricier in the larger towns too, so try gelati and shop for wine and cheese in the less touristy zones.

    Monteverdi

    Press review: “One of the attractions of a stay here is the chance to mingle with permanent residents. Most visitors congregate around the diminutive square amid the sublime scenery of the Val d’Orcia. Monteverdi is a labour of love for its American owner, who in 2004 began restoring a portion of the village into three luxurious villas and a stylish hotel, which opened last year.”
    The Independent, May 2013

    Monteverdi

    i-escape gift: a free bottle of Prosecco during your stay

    Read the full review and book Monteverdi >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week, Honeymoons. Tagged , , , ,
APR10

Adult-only escapes for grown-up spring breaks

 
  • As spring-breakers across the pond get ready to party, we’ve created a ‘spring break’ collection with a sophisticated twist:  stylish, adult-only hideaways near the UK, ideal for grown-up spring-time getaways to the sun.

    From hidden hillside escapes on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast to lavish country estates in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the collection spans Europe and North Africa and offers plenty of sun, sea and R&R.

    A hillside haven – Prima Donna, Kalkan, Turkey

    Prima Donna

    Hidden in pine forest above sweeping Patara Beach is Prima Donna – a small yet perfectly formed couples’ retreat that’s brand-new to i-escape. Inspired by the prima donnas of the silver screen, the décor is wonderfully unique, with homely cedar furniture, fireplaces and sink-into sofas alongside antique radios and posters of Hollywood’s grandes dames. With just 5 suites and a laid-back restaurant, the hotel is incredibly intimate, and its glorious isolation offers serious relaxation. Each suite has a private terrace and hot tub where you can watch some of the best sunsets in Turkey, and there’s a free shuttle down to the sand.

    Prices start from £225 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Superior Suite on a B&B basis.  This includes afternoon tea and cake, a 20-minute quad bike session per guest, use of mountain bikes, a shuttle to Patara Beach, and reserved daybeds on the sand.

    A blissful sanctuary – BanSala, Peloponnese, Greece

    BanSala

    Beachside escapes don’t come much more serene than this – a collection of 5 simple yet chic cottages for 2, perched above a secluded cove in the Southern Peloponnese. Having lived in Sri Lanka and Thailand, owner Lyn has created a unique Aegean-meets-Oriental vibe, with each cottage offering light and airy interiors, a compact yet well-equipped kitchen and a terrace that gazes down to the sea. Days here are best spent relaxing by the pool, snoozing in the beautiful gardens, strolling down to the sandy cove, and enjoying a chilled white wine with nothing but the gentle buzz of cicadas to disturb the peace.

    Prices start £99 per cottage per night, based on 2 sharing a cottage on an accommodation-only basis. This includes a meze in your fridge on arrival.  

    A bijou bolthole near the Costa Brava – L’Hort de Sant Cebria, Catalonia, Spain

    L'Hort de Sant Cebria

    Boutique hotels don’t come much more elegant than this – a petite hideaway in the medieval village of Torroella de Fluvia, just 4km from a stunning beach.  The unassuming stone building houses 5 beautiful rooms, each adorned with billowing linens, calming colours and French antiques that give the feel of a classy Provençal retreat. Outside, a wisteria-covered terrace, alfresco lounge and saltwater pool provide perfect spots for undisturbed relaxation, and the distant chimes of church bells create a soothing soundtrack for sundowners before you head out to sample some of the fantastic restaurants nearby.

    Prices start from £84 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Standard Room on a B&B basis. 

    A gourmet getaway – Font Santa Hotel, Campos, Mallorca

    Font Santa

    Set against the backdrop of Mallorca’s most famous beach, Es Trenc, is the ultra-chic Font Santa Hotel – a calm oasis of white décor, billowing fabrics and incredible food. The lavender-lined gardens and sparkling pool have manicured good looks, and the 25 rooms are equipped with huge beds (some four-poster), swish bathrooms and private outdoor space. The modern Mediterranean cuisine in the restaurant is sublime, and the thermal spa (whose waters are drawn from Mallorca’s only natural hot springs) is blissfully relaxing.

    Prices start from £162 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Double Room with Patio on a B&B basis. This includes use of the spa facilities. 

    A lavish country estate – The Capaldi, Lalla Takerkoust, Morocco

    The Capaldi

    Set on a 4-hectare former olive farm in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, The Capaldi offers accessible luxury and breath-taking views. The 23 rooms all house super-kingsize beds and fireplaces, and are decorated in a chic minimalist style with traditional Moroccan splashes (think silk pillows, killim rugs and tadelakt walls). There are 2 cooling pools, a spa and a lantern-lit terrace for lazy days and romantic evenings, and the incredible French-Moroccan food draws visitors from miles around. If you want to venture out, you can trek to nearby Lake Lalla Takerkoust, cycle through local villages or head into Marrakech’s buzzing medina, safe in the knowledge that you have an oasis of calm to return to.

    Prices start from £125 per room per night, based on 2 sharing a Farmhouse Room on a B&B basis. 

    View the full spring break collection here >>

    Posted in Honeymoons, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , ,