Escape of the Week… Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

  • There’s nothing we love more than digging out stunning hidden gems that offer bags of character and luxury, but are far from the madding crowd. This superb Vietnamese beach resort on the overlooked coastline between Danang and Nha Trang is one such place. With a spa, a near-private blond-sand beach, excellent service and 300 days of sun per year, it leaves no box unticked.

    Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    Despite the luxurious isolation of the resort, snippets of Vietnamese life line the shores. The brightly lit boats of local fishing communities dot the horizon at night, and you can while away happy hours gazing at the wooded hills and nearby lobster farms.

    Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    Rooms: There are only 6 villas on the whole bay: 4 at the edge of the beach and 2 back towards the paddy fields. Our favourites are the beachside villas, as nothing quite beats the sheer luxury of padding barefoot from bed to waves, plus they’re slightly larger than the paddy-field villas. However, whichever you plump for you’ll benefit from your own 8x4m pool, as well as super-comfy kingsize beds, sunken ‘honeymoon tubs’ and cymbal-sized showerheads. Some villas have 2 bedrooms, others 1, but all are vast and provide ample space for a couple or family.

    Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    Food: Days start with a wide-ranging buffet, encompassing noodles, eggs any way, perfectly sculpted fruit, mini pastries and more. The open-sided restaurant sits under a cathedral-height thatch roof, looking out past a long strip of pool to the beach. We loved the fresh seafood (squid, tuna tartare, grilled grouper, lobster), and there are cocktails and occasional beach BBQs if you’re up for some socialising. If not, you can escape for a private dinner at a hilltop ruin lit by candles, or on the beach – very romantic. For a change of scene, staff can drive you to a floating fish restaurant a few miles away; the food isn’t fancy, but it’s definitely fun and authentic.

    Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    Top tip: Travel light: there’s a free laundry service when you get there, and a great toiletry pack including mini toothpaste and shaving foam.

    Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    i-escape gift: A bottle of sparkling wine or a 30-minute spa treatment.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , ,

New family-friendly city breaks

  • We think one of the many ways i-escape’s Kids Collection is ‘Awesome for Families’* is our extensive selection of family-friendly accommodation in cities across Europe. So if you’re planning a city break en famille, our Kids Collection Editor, Nadine, recommends these fab 5 places – all new, all super stylish, and all centrally located.

    Santiago de Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

    Santiago de Alfama

    Just opened (we were the first guests!), luxurious, and with 19 generously proportioned rooms, this 15th-century palace is now an elegant boutique hotel in Lisbon’s oldest district. Excellent for families, there’s a host of baby and toddler equipment on offer, 3 pairs of rooms are designated for families, and trams rattle past for easy exploring. There’s an all-day cafe, a bar, a destination restaurant and even a Beauty Bar. Best of all kids under 13 stay for free. Bliss.

    alfama list

    Reykjavik Boutique Apartments, Reykjavik, Iceland

    Reykjavik Boutique Apartments

    Also newly opened this year, is this trio of Scandi-chic apartments, beautifully decked out in atmospheric Nordic hues and a pleasing selection of vintage and classic furniture. The little house in the garden and the larger apartment both have a second bedroom which can be made up as a twin. The friendly owners have 2 daughters of their own and live in a fourth apartment on site; on hand for recommendations for Reykjavik and beyond. Sited right by the iconic cathedral and the main pedestrianised shopping streets, yet in a quiet residential area, everything is a 5-10-minute stroll away. And Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is a thing of wonder for adults and children alike.

    reyk list

    CasaCau, Rome, Italy


    Truly a unique find: 6 individually styled boutique apartments brimming with character and detail. Retro and vintage pieces sit alongside mod cons such as complimentary iPads and saunas in the bathrooms. Three can host families, and 2 more can interconnect. You also get breakfast, daily cleaning and kitchenettes for easy self-catering, plus you’re in the heart of Rome with the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Spanish Steps all nearby.

    casa list

    Berdoulat & Breakfast, Bath, England

    Berdoulat & Breakfast

    One of i-escape’s quirkier properties, this year-old boutique B&B (or house rental for 8) is so much more than a renovated Georgian townhouse. The English-Turkish owners have a design practice and their whimsical yet sure touch is evident throughout, from the library full of Penguin classics to the faithfully recreated wall colours and reclaimed stone fireplaces. Not only will you enjoy the homely atmosphere and excellent breakfasts (which can be tailored to kids), you’ll also find yourself in an unbeatable central Bath location.

    berdou list

    Cima Rosa Venezia, Venice, Italy

    Cima Rosa Venezia

    A couple of years ago, the Italian-American owners of this divine Renaissance palazzo transformed it into a chic 5-room guesthouse. Today, they warmly welcome families (they have children of their own) and are eager to share their top sightseeing tips. Being the world’s most famous car-free city, Venice works well for a family break – you can get about by boat, how cool is that? Italian food is manna for kids, and the city’s best ice cream shop is just around the corner.

    cima rosa list

    *We’re thrilled to have been recently named Awesome for Families Runner-Up at the Family Traveller Award 2015!

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids, Top 5. Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Family Escape of the Month… Grootbos

  • Hidden away on wooded coastal hillsides between Cape Town and the Garden Route, this is a special spot for adventurous kids (and their parents!) to play on pristine beaches, spot whales and learn about local flora and fauna on guided treasure hunts.

    i-escape: Grootbos, South Africai-escape: Grootbos, South Africa

    Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a 2,500-hectare estate filled with native fynbos vegetation and over 100 bird and mammal species, as well as a clutch of stylish suites from which nature-loving humans can enjoy it all.

    i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa

    Rooms: Rooms are split across 2 lodges, each of which has its own decorative style, as well as a restaurant and pool. Garden Lodge Suites are wooden mini-cottages which follow a contemporary chalet style (and welcome all ages). They have wood-burning stoves and half-glass walls to let the sunshine in and allow plenty of bird-watching opportunities from the living room. The One-Bedroom Luxury Suites in the Forest Lodge (which only accommodate children over 12 years) are more stylish in design: think clean white walls and chunky wooden furniture. Bedrooms have huge beds with duck down duvets and the living rooms open onto a wooden deck with beautiful views.

    i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa

    Food: There are special kids’ menus in both restaurants and snacks are on offer for younger guests. Kitchenette fridges are well-stocked and fresh fruit is delivered daily – so there’s plenty to keep little tummies happy. Up at each restaurant, dishes include peanut satay marinated duck breast and buttermilk omelette risolle with poached pears. The accompanying wine list is very good.

    i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa

    GrootbosWhen to go: Every season has its benefits: June-December is prime whale-watching time (they mate off Walkers Bay, and calve in October-November), August-November is best for spring flowers. December-March is summer: warm, sunny and busy (but the sea is still cold). April-June is autumn, a quiet time with good bird and animal viewing.

    i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa i-escape: Grootbos, South Africa

    Customer review: “We had a fabulous stay and the staff couldn’t have done more to make us feel more welcome. Our room was lovely and the food was excellent.”
    Georgia, United Kingdom (27.11.14)

    Read the full review and book Grootbos >>

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

Our favourite recipes… Vietnamese Ceviche

  • Just as the weather turned chilly and the leaves started falling outside our Bristol HQ, we received this lovely dose of sunshine from our friends at Mango Bay in Vietnam. Immediately we were transported to a sun-drenched sandy beach, the sound of gently lapping waves soothing our souls.

    This Vietnamese twist on a classic South American dish is a firm favourite from Mango Bay’s tapas menu. It features the unique aroma and flavour of Ngo Gai (Vietnamese sawtooth coriander), the heat of the bird eye chili, the freshest fish from the local market, and the world-famous Phu Quoc fish sauce.

    IMG_8638 - CopyVietnamese Ceviche


    1 teaspoon of palm sugar
    1 tablespoon of lime juice
    1 tablespoon of tamarind juice
    30g of diced mackerel
    1 piece of bird’s eye chili
    1 chopped leaf of sawtooth coriander
    1 tablespoon of sliced shallots
    1 tablespoon of diced cucumber
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce


    1. Mix the lime juice and tamarind juice together.
    2. Add the diced mackerel, stir and let it sit for a minute.
    3. Add the palm sugar, chili, sawtooth coriander, cucumber and shallots.
    4. Stir well.
    5. Add the olive oil and fish sauce (to taste).
    6. Enjoy as it is or on some toasted bread.

    IMG_3870 - Copy

    Take a look at our other tasty food-related blog posts >>

    Posted in Foodie.

Spotlight on New South Wales, Australia

  • Combine cosmopolitan cities, beautiful beaches and mystical mountains in a grand tour of Australia’s most diverse state – welcome to New South Wales.

    Why go?

    You get a lot of bang for your buck. New South Wales is Australia’s oldest site of European settlement, its most populated state and home to its largest city. From Sydney, the choice is yours: north to endless stunning beaches, seaside resorts, tropical forests and the boho-chic vibe of the Byron Bay area; south to wonderful unspoiled coasts and historic rural towns; west to the wooded escarpments of the Blue Mountains and the everlasting outback beyond.

    Paperbark CampHighlights

    Spectacular and showy, Sydney serves as the entry port for most visitors. The capital of New South Wales, it has two-thirds of the state’s population and is home to one of the world’s most recognisable harbours.

    The Langham SydneySoak up the iconic sights by touring the opera house, sailing around the harbour and climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge – 1,439 giddy steps to crest the world-famous structure (and every one of them worth it for the panoramic vistas). For something more sedate, seek out the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

    Hunter ValleyTonic HotelJust a few hours north of Sydney, Hunter Valley’s claim to fame is its wine. Specialising in Semillion and Shiraz varieties, there have been vines growing here since the 1820s, but it boomed from the 1960s onwards. Stay at romantic and restorative Tonic Hotel, whose lake and 25 acres abound with birds and wildlife. Good wineries for tastings include Thalgara, Peterson’s Champagne House, Waverley Estate, and Audrey Wilkinson (take a picnic) – all welcome the knowledgeable and novice alike.

    The Byron at ByronThe Byron at ByronFurther north still is Byron Bay, Australia’s most easterly point and an idyllic seaside retreat famed for its laidback vibe. Families love the beaches and surfers love the waves. Hidden off the beaten track, amongst 45 acres of glorious rainforest, The Byron at Byron has a relaxed atmosphere, stylish design and excellent staff. It’s also just a 10-minute walk from Tallow Beach, one of the area’s more dramatic surf beaches, with fabulous sunrises and sunsets.

    Paperbark CampIf you choose to head south from Sydney, you’ll find mile upon mile of unspoilt natural beauty. It’s an exhilarating mix of rainforests, bush, surf beaches and outback deserts, with over 40 nature reserves protecting wildlife and offering walking trails. The welcoming market towns and seemingly untouched beaches feel a world away from the city.

    Paperbark CampJervis Bay Marine Park, which covers 100km of coast, is a big draw for whale watchers. Humpbacks migrate north up the coast bi-annually; southern right whales, false killer whales, orcas and minke whales can also be found in these beautiful waters, as well as dolphins and fairy penguins. Stay at Paperbark Camp, one of Australia’s most eco-sensitive lodges, set in Jervis Bay’s virgin bush- and wetlands; no large trees were felled during construction, furniture is hand-crafted from offcuts, and the treehouse-style canvas tents are solar-powered.

    Blue MountainsIf you want a break from the coast, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are a haven of rugged bushwalking and relaxation, and an easy 2-hour drive (or train ride) from Sydney. Named after the blue haze caused by oil from the area’s eucalyptus trees, the region is famous for the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, the Katoomba Falls, the sandstone crevice of Devils Hole, and the vistas of Jamison Valley. For an unusual, rustic and relaxed place to stay, Old Leura Dairy offers 6 self-catering lodges, all cleverly converted and renovated using tin, wood and mud brick walls, and recycled materials. Pretty landscaped gardens dot the property and there’s a communal outdoor hot tub. Come here to chill out or go bushwalking, mountain biking, canyoning and abseiling in the surrounding countryside.

    Old Leura DairyWhen to go

    The Australian seasons are generally the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. Summers (December-February) are pleasant and warm, sometimes hot. It’s a lovely time to be in New South Wales, especially as the Blue Mountains offer a cooler climate if you need some respite from the coast. Equally, Easter is harvest time in Hunter Valley, and therefore very popular, with misty mornings, cloudless days and vines turning the copper colours of autumn. At Jervis Bay, humpbacks migrate north up the coast during May/June and south through October/November.

    Whale watchingOur top tips

    For a truly epic road trip, continue south down the coast to Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. It’s a stunning drive with lots to see on the way, and the city could be said to outdo Sydney with its cultural agenda. The Southbank has concert halls, theatres and the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Australian Ballet has its home here. Live music and festivals occur all year round and there’s a thriving cafe culture. If you’re short on time, the Sydney to Melbourne internal flights are quick and great value.

    Road tripFancy heading down under? Check out our full collection of New South Wales discoveries.

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

Escape of the Week… Cima Rosa Venezia

  • i-escape: Cima Rosa Venezia, VeniceWith wonderful views of the Grand Canal yet tucked away in a locals’ neighbourhood, this chic B&B is a real Venetian gem. The exceptionally welcoming owners have revived a 15th-century palazzo to create an intimate home-from-home in a city bustling with tourists.

    The renovation was an inspiring labour of love for native Venetian Daniele and his American wife Brittany, who spent months finding the right property and carefully restoring the antique furniture, piece by piece.

    Rooms: The 5 rooms are elegantly decorated in misty greys and cool blues, with original features like parquet floors and exposed beams, and no trace of over-the-top Venetian maximalism. Beds are dressed in crisp Italian linen, and air-con counters the hot summers. If you’re after a Grand Canal view, the Moro Suite, Signora Suite and Il Nobile offer just that, as well as charming sitting areas. If you’d rather total peace then choose one of the slightly darker Charming Rooms, which are tucked away up a steep flight of stairs.

    i-escape: Cima Rosa Venezia, Venice

    Food: A fantastic breakfast (not a given in this city) is served at a communal table if you fancy a chat, or smaller tables if you’re after a quieter start to the day. The coffee is great and the spread is generous, featuring freshly squeezed orange juice, plates of ham and cheese, fresh fruit salad, yoghurt and pastries. For other meals, you’ll need to venture out to sample the local restaurants – Daniele and Brittany have kindly marked all their favourites on a handy map of the neighbourhood. If you need some downtime,  a bowl of fruit, biscuits and tea and coffee-making facilities are available all day.

    i-escape: Cima Rosa Venezia, Venicei-escape: Cima Rosa Venezia, Venice

    Author’s tip: Don’t follow your map too slavishly – part of the beauty of Venice is getting lost in its cobweb of streets and seeing where you end up.

    i-escape: Cima Rosa Venezia, Venice

    Press review: “Make a beeline for the best-value, most stylish boutique B&B in Venice, created by a native and his American wife with unparalleled local knowledge and quirky ideas. Leaded windows, ancient beams, elegant antiques, slick bathrooms and a flower-filled courtyard add up to the loveliest hideaway in Santa Croce.”
    The Sunday Times, January 2015

    i-escape gift: a bottle of champagne at time of stay

    Read the full review and book Cima Rosa Venezia >>

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

An insider’s guide to… Porto

  • Porto is often overlooked in favour of limelight hogger Lisbon, but there’s a huge amount waiting to be discovered in Portugal’s historic second city. Its old centre is a Unesco-listed maze of cobbled streets, Baroque churches and skinny medieval townhouses, there’s a burgeoning culinary renaissance to enjoy, and it’s the traditional home of port. Bottoms up!



    Where to begin… Porto has become one Portugal’s most exciting destinations for feasting travellers. Grapes from the nearby Douro Valley bring forth world-class wine, and there are numerous port lodges offering tastings and tours (many of them centuries-old). They’ve been joined by a multitude of new restaurants, with innovative eateries popping up all the time. Notable options include imaginative Cantinho do Avillez and iconic Bull & Bear, which will transform your opinion of rustic ingredients like Beira blood sausage and pig trotters. Alternatively, you could skip refinement and head to one of the many family-run places lining the old quayside.

    porto food


    Porto isn’t just good for food and drink – it’s also a cultural hub with interesting events throughout the year. Try the Portuguese Centre for Photography, housed in a former prison, or catch a jazz, classical or pop performance at the striking Casa de Música. There’s also the Fundação de Serralves, a world-class contemporary museum set in acres of parkland filled with intriguing sculptures. Alternatively, get out of the city and head to Portugal’s first national park, Peneda-Gerês, which offers stunning hiking, or to the mountains of the northeast, where you’ll find the unmissable prehistoric rock carvings of the Coa Valley.


    With the Kids

    With its wine, history and great culinary scene, Porto might not be the first choice for a family trip. But there are plenty of things to see and do. Kids will love boat trips along the Douro, the lively Bolhão market and the nearby beaches. Even the port cellars, with their subterranean fascination and Harry-Potter charm, will capture their imaginations (and allow you to have a glass or two!).


    Splash out: The Yeatman

    The Yeatman

    This luxurious, light-filled hotel has beautiful panoramic views of the River Douro, Porto’s red-tiled roofs and the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge from not one but two infinity pools. Dotted around the terraced layers (which mimic the vineyards of the Douro Valley), you’ll find 82 gorgeous rooms with large balconies and indulgent kingsize beds. But the hotel’s greatest triumphs are its Michelin-starred restaurant and superlative spa; both take their inspiration from the world of wine, with a 25,000-bottle cellar in the former and a merlot scrub in the latter.

    In the middle: 1872 River House

    1872 River House

    This boutique B&B is tucked into the historic Ribeira district, which is full of sun-dappled squares, crumbling townhouses and laundry-strung lanes. It’s a beguiling location for this impeccably restored building, which has been given a new lease of life through sleek furniture, sink-into beds and swish rain showers. We struggled to take our eyes off the beautiful river views from the lounge and many of the rooms.

    Econo-chic: Boutique Apartments Porto

    Boutique Apartments Porto

    You can still get a great taste of Porto without staying in the frenetic old town. These great-value apartments for 2-5 on the dramatic Atlantic-lashed seafront make a spacious and stylish alternative to the inner-city options. The district, Foz do Douro, is still wonderfully buzzy, and this converted 19th-century mansion is equipped with everything you need to make the most of the delicious produce (and port!) for sale in the surrounding streets. Or, if you prefer, you can strike out to discover some of the numerous restaurants this up-and-coming foodie capital has to offer.

    Don’t miss

    Rattle out to the coast on the historic tram, pick a spot at one of the glam beach bars on Praia da Luz, and sip cocktails as you watch the sun set over the Atlantic.

    Take a look at our Porto city guide >>

    Posted in City Breaks, Kids, Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,

Top 5 UK foodie breaks

  • If you asked any of the i-escape team about the highlights of their latest trip, we bet all of them would mention food at least once: perhaps a decadent breakfast spread or a dessert they could’ve eaten 10 times over. If you also plan breaks around great meals, you’ll love this hand-picked list of our favourite UK foodie escapes.

    Red Lion & Troutbeck Guest House, East Chisenbury, Wiltshire

    i-escape: Red Lion & Troutbeck Guest House, UK

    Owners Brittany and Guy have been deservedly awarded a Michelin star for their Wiltshire pub, combining hard work and years of experience in top restaurants to build up its culinary reputation. We loved the superb food and unstuffy atmosphere. And, the cherry on top, there are 5 enormous, contemporary bedrooms in the accompanying  guesthouse, where you can retire after your meal.

    Highlights: We loved the light-as-a-feather goujons of Cornish lemon sole, the chicken with polenta and roasting juices, and an indulgent Valrohna chocolate mousse with fleur de sel.

    The Halkin by COMO, Belgravia, London

    i-escape: The Halkin by COMO, UK

    Well-placed for exploring all London’s highlights, this classy design hotel has a chic Belgravia address and a sleek modern Basque restaurant from the team behind San Sebastian’s acclaimed Arzak. Rooms are smart, with classic Italian design and tall windows, and there’s enough marble in the gorgeous bathrooms to sink the QE2.

    Highlights: Ametsa with Arzak Instruction arrived in 2013 under the guidance of world-renowned chefs Elena and Juan Mari Arzak. We haven’t been lucky enough to sample their “new Basque cuisine”, but with 3 Michelin stars under their belt at their original San Sebastian restaurant, we expect it to be pretty special.

    Feversham Arms Hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire

    i-escape: Feversham Arms Hotel, UK

    The delicious and refined modern British food (which has been awarded 2 AA rosettes) isn’t the only draw at this pampering hotel in pretty North Yorkshire: the 33 rooms are filled with treats like fancy TVs and underfloor heating, and the sleek glass-fronted spa has the nod of approval from Tatler. What’s more, the vibe is so relaxed that nobody would bat an eyelid if you nodded off on one of the comfy sofas.

    Highlights: Our pudding of Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger cream had us scraping the varnish off the plate. The cheese trolley and its 30-odd varieties was another star turn.

    Monachyle Mhor, Trossachs National Park, Scotland

    i-escape: Monachyle Mhor, UK

    We found it incredibly hard to leave this gourmet bolthole at the gateway to the stunning Scottish highlands. Run by siblings Tom, Dick and Melanie, it’s a truly special place. Tom the chef is also a farmer and is always searching for the very best ingredients, be it locally shot pigeon and venison, or vegetables grown in the hotel’s own plot. The 14 modern rooms are full of clever design surprises like modern artworks or deer antlers in the bathroom; a couple also have their own steam rooms for post-walk winding down.

    Highlights: The Orkney scallops (hand-dived, of course) are unmissable, and the farm’s lamb, pork and beef are superb.

    Hotel TerraVina, the New Forest, Hampshire

    i-escape: Hotel Terravina, UK

    Founded by one of the best-known Masters of Wine, Gerard Basset, and his wife Nina, Hotel TerraVina is a stylish 11-room hideaway in the beautiful New Forest. An army of staff ensure you’re very well looked after, and all the little touches are in place: reading glasses in the lounges, wellies by the door, Nespresso machines and fresh milk in the rooms. The quality of the food and wine is that usually found in the chaos of the city, but instead you’re in a quiet hamlet where ponies roam freely along quiet lanes.

    Highlights: The lengthy wine list is helpfully split into categories such as “steely and mineral” and “smooth and nutty” for whites, and “lively and fruity” and “intense and powerful” for reds. A vast range is available by the glass, and the sommeliers give honest non-upselling advice on which will best accompany your chosen dishes.

    Take a look at the rest of our favourite hotels for food-lovers >>

    Posted in Foodie. Tagged ,

Escape of the Week… Kahanda Kanda

  • Kahanda KandaIt’s a bumpy drive, but arriving at Sri Lanka’s totally indulgent Kahanda Kanda is a wonderful reward for your efforts. The hotel’s stylish and soothing design, stunning gardens and warm welcome will immediately put you into relaxation mode.

    Breathtaking views extend beyond the palms and 12 acres of working tea estate, to the distant Koggala Lake, and are visible at every turn: behind the shimmering infinity pool, mirrored in the lily-strewn ponds around the open-sided living and dining pavilions, and from your private suite.

     Rooms: The beautiful, large suites are spread among several free-standing pavilions in the garden, giving you a quiet little oasis all to yourself. The airy interiors are beautifully designed, with canopied beds, daybeds built into window bays, and pillow-strewn rattan couches for lounging about on and enjoying the views. We love the Peacock Suite with its wraparound windows, kingsize four-poster bed and romantic private courtyard with sun beds.

    Kahanda Kanda

    Food: Eating at Kahanda Kanda is a real treat. Staff will check each morning whether you plan to stay in for lunch and dinner, and the chefs will prepare delicious meals to suit your tastes. The food is fresh, healthy and very tasty, combining Sri Lankan, Western and Thai influences. Wonderful breakfasts feature a number of local delicacies such as hoppers, fruit salad with creamy buffalo curd, and coconut pancakes with pineapple or bananas.

    Kahanda Kanda

    Top tip: Southern Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world for spotting blue whales. Ask the hotel about bespoke whale-watching trips off the coast of Galle.

    Kahanda Kanda
    Customer Review: “Beautiful property where we saw a lot of birds and monkeys. It was very relaxing and peaceful, just as we wished. Bungalow was clean, elegantly decorated, with the most comfortable beds ever. Manager was great, very helpful with any enquiry and on request organised yoga teacher who was very good. If you are looking for a tranquil stay – this is a perfect place. Thanks to all who looked after us.”
    Monika, United Arab Emirates, (24.11.14)

    i-escape gift: a free room upgrade, subject to availability; and a free massage for stays of 3 nights or more

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged ,

Top 5 hidden gardens

  • We love a hotel that delivers something unforgettable, so you can imagine our excitement when we stepped through the doors of these urban hideaways to discover pockets of unexpected alfresco tranquillity. These are our five favourite oases for escaping the city…

    Number Sixteen, London
     Number Sixteen

    This dreamy ode to English elegance is tucked into one of London’s smartest residential quarters. It’s bright and contemporary but still retains its historic charm, including a beautiful tree-lined garden and an airy orangery – the perfect settings for a lengthy afternoon tea (or breakfast, for that matter).

    Riva Lofts, Florence
     Riva Lofts

    This converted mill on the banks of the Arno river is the work of a talented architect who has created flagship stores for Dolce & Gabbana. But in breathing fresh life into this old building, Claudio Nardi didn’t neglect the ample space outside – a rarity in Florence. He’s created a green and groovy garden with an inviting slim-line pool – perfect for some post-Uffizi R&R.

    Canal House, Amsterdam
     Canal House

    Canalside properties tend to lack any remarkable outside space (see the Venice entry below), but sometimes there’s a surprise hiding behind unassuming doors. Located in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, Canal House is one such surprise. Made up of three 17th-century merchant’s houses, it has a wonderfully peaceful garden which also happens to be one of the largest in central Amsterdam. In the warmer months there’s an outdoor bar behind the summer house; the rest of the year, it’s a lovely space to stroll around when the bustle of the city becomes too much.

    Primero Primera, Barcelona

     Primero Primera
    The leafy Barcelona district of Tres Torres is already a chilled escape from the frenetic buzz of the city centre, but tranquil and contemporary Primero Primera delivers the next level of relaxation. It’s a stylish home-from-home, and the pretty garden with its small pool adds a further retreat where you can while away the hours over sangria.

    Oltre Il Giardino, Venice
     Olte Il Giardino

    The garden at Oltre Il Giardino would be a captivating discovery even if it was in a less contradictory location. In its place in Venice’s San Polo neighbourhood, it’s a rare find indeed – a taste of country villa life amongst the city canals. Hidden behind a diminutive green door you’ll find an urban oasis of bamboo, lavender and (inexplicably) gnomes, with ivy-covered red-brick walls, a small window to the canal outside, and little nooks for alfresco summer breakfasts.

     Check out the rest of our city stays >>

    Posted in Top 5. Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,