Atlantis by Giardino, Zurich

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to readers of my blog that I read Lonely Planet magazine, nor that my bulging bookshelves contain Lonely Planet guides to far flung places such as the Amazon, Australia and Thailand.  I buy them for inspiration, education and as often as reminders of places I’ve been.

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This month, thanks to a Lonely Planet competition, I struck the jackpot and won the most amazing city and spa break in the urban retreat, Atlantis by Giardino just on the outskirts of Zurich.

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From the moment we were chauffeured from the airport in the hotel’s sparkling white Range Rover (with heated massaging seats no less!) to the minute we were whisked back to the airport after five blissful days, I can honestly say we were treated like very special friends.  Instead of having to stand at reception to check in, we were offered iced tea and hot towels whilst our details were taken.

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The rooms are beautifully appointed and equipped with everything you might need, including robes and slippers, a free mini bar stocked with local soft drinks and Swiss chocolate, a Bose sound system, Nespresso machine, flat screen TV and my personal favourite, a huge walk in rainforest shower.  Above is the view of the city from our room which had a huge balcony to enjoy in sunnier months.

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Because the hotel is just outside the city, there was no noise pollution, unless you count the tinkling of cow bells (yes- the cows really do have bells in Switzerland) or the occasional sheep calling out.  Oh, and in case you think being a couple of miles away from Zurich is a disadvantage, I should mention there is a free shuttle back and to into town at whatever time suits you.

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The hotel has the most stunning floral decorations. Orchids (real ones) everywhere plus bowls of fresh fruit dotted around should you ever feel peckish.

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The hotel has two restaurants, the two Michelin starred Ecco and the casual dining Hide & Seek where we had dinner and breakfast.  The choice was staggering at breakfast, with continental breakfast, or cooked, with eggs prepared to order.  The buffet even including a fresh honeycomb.

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We had dinner at Hide & Seek on two nights, each including a wine flight of carefully chosen wines to accompany each course. My favourite dish was this shrimp coconut bisque which tasted out of this world.

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We visited the spa every day to take advantage of the pool and Jacuzzi and the soothing Dipiu spa products.  I enjoyed an aromatherapy massage too, with Franco, who has the most magical hands! I was massaged to within an inch of my life, and as a trained masseuse myself, I can tell you he was good!

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There is so much I want to tell you about the city, that I will cover it in another blog post, but in the meantime, if you ever find yourself looking for a break in Zurich, then this is the place to book.

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Hotel Strasbourg: Review

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Our trip to Geneva was triggered by Geneva Tourism’s 1001 nights campaign, whereby you could have a free night in a hotel, but of course you pay for flights and everything else.  We checked out the prices on EasyJet and we could fly there for £165 total which isn’t bad and the cost of one night at this hotel was approx. £120 so we thought why not go for it!  We’d never been before and we could get a couple of nights at a reasonable cost, so we booked.

We chose the Hotel Strasbourg for its proximity to the railway station (only five minutes walk) and were pleased to see it was situated in an area with lots of bars and restaurants too.

On arrival, we were upgraded from a basic room to a suite, which was very kind of them.

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The décor was very eighties, but nonetheless, the space and comfort were very welcome.

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The bed was extremely comfy and the room was spotless.

Breakfast was continental and pretty much what you would expect: croissants, bread, cheese, ham, eggs, cereals, fruit.  The coffee was good too.

The only downside was the lack of aircon, although we did have a fan.

There was no bar service or restaurant but there was a mini bar and plenty of options for eating and drinking locally.

The clientele seemed to be a mix of business travellers and tourists and it’s a great option for just one or two nights.

It takes less than ten minutes to get from the hotel to the lake and maybe 15 minutes to get across to the old town.  We thought the location was perfect for a city break.

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If you would like to know what we got up to in Geneva, have a look at my blog post here.

 

 

Hotel Bardolino: Review

This pretty B&B in Bardolino, Lake Garda, is situated about fifteen minutes walk from the centre of Bardolino and about two minutes walk from the lake.

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We booked it as a last minute break for an absolute steal via Thomson Lakes & Mountains, so we were not really expecting much.  However, we were pleasantly surprised.

Although basic, the B&B offers everything you need.  The aircon was fine, the Wi-Fi, although a bit patchy at times was OK.  The breakfast was excellent with lots to choose from.

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The décor was fab.  A jumble of eclectic pieces which really worked well together.

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The hotel has no bar but you are welcome to bring drinks of your own and enjoy them in the small garden.

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If you are looking for a Lake Garda break and you’re on a budget, then this is a good choice.

The Old Swan & Minster Mill: Hotel Review

If you’re looking for some Cotswold charm without the hoards of tourists, then look no further than Minster Lovell.  It’s a pretty village, not far from Oxford, situated on the River Windrush.

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We stayed two nights at the Old Swan & Minster Mill, which is actually two separate properties.  The six hundred year old Old Swan village inn and the 18th century Minster Mill.  Our room was in the mill and looked out over the lovely gardens.

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The room, although compact, was very comfortable with thoughtful touches such as a hot water bottle, magazines and beautiful glassware.  There was a Nespresso machine, kettle and plenty of teas and coffees to choose from.  The spa was just down the corridor and the aromatherapy scent drifting down to our room was gorgeous.

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Beware if you decide to have a cuppa in the pub garden.  A pot of tea for two is £8.  Better off sticking to the cider if you want value for money.

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Dinner on both nights was at the Old Swan, and the food I thought was exceptionally good.  My dessert on night two was a chocolate and passion fruit delight and I could have licked the plate clean.  There is a dining room or you can choose to eat in the bar.  We did a bit of both for variety.  The bar is doggy friendly which appeals to me – one waitress even brought a cheeky sausage out for someone’s little Manchester terrier.

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Breakfast was self serve, which initially jarred with me as this is a five star hotel, but I have to say the quality was top notch and I was immediately converted.

The hotel has really interesting gardens for those who like a wander.  An Archimedes Screw has been installed in the grounds which harnesses the power of the Windrush and provides energy for the hotel.

There is some lovely planting, including veg and herbs.  You never know, you might even come across Parker, the pub cat, who is a real sweetie.

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Bull Hotel Bridport: Hotel Review

The Bull is one of my favourite hotels in the UK.  It has a bit of a shabby chic vibe, a bit of boho, a friendly welcome, a pretty courtyard and fabulous food!

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Let’s start with the rooms.  They are all individually styled and a lot of thought has clearly gone into comfort.  This time we had room 104 which has a free standing bath and a four poster.  Perfect for chilling out.  The Bramley toiletries supplied are proper botanicals with a real essential oil hit.

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The bed is huge, with a really snuggly appeal, a comfortable mattress and the softest velvety throw at the bottom which I was tempted to take home!

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The bathroom has plenty of space with a proper walk in power shower, thick fluffy towels and bathrobes for lounging.

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The hotel’s courtyard is just perfect for pre dinner drinks, morning coffee and lunch al fresco.  The planting is really colourful and well thought out – not just a few petunias in a tub, but an explosion of colour and a good variety of plants.

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Breakfast is a real treat.  During our three day stay, I had smoked salmon and scrambled egg, the full English, and on the final day, kippers.  There is ample fresh fruit, Dorset honey, Dorset cereals and pastries.  The apple juice is locally pressed too.

Dinner in the restaurant is a relaxed affair.  Both Steve and I chose fish as a main, but there are plenty of other options including some interesting veggie dishes.

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If you’re looking for a Dorset break, you won’t go far wrong here!

 

 

Sol House Torremolinos: Review

This was our third visit to the Sol Aloha Puerto, now renamed Sol House and it lived up to the usual expectations.

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It’s situated right on the sea front, about five minutes walk from Benalmadena harbour.  The rooms are huge (ours was a junior suite, but I think that’s pretty standard).

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Wi-Fi is fast and free and the TV has UK channels. I should say TVs, as there are two of them, one more than we have at home! You get a free safe and fridge too.

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The mojitos are delicious (as you can see it’s happy hour). The food is excellent too, lots of choice, especially in vegetables and fruit. Spanish strawberries are in season, so I indulged at breakfast and dinner!

Last month we stayed at the neighbouring RIU Nautilus and on balance I would say that this is the better hotel.  Both are four stars and priced similarly, but this suits a younger clientele (well, fifties, not seventies).

For a winter break that won’t break the bank, you can’t go far wrong with the Costa Del Sol and I’m sure we’ll be back next year.

Christine x

Hotel RIU Nautilus Torremolinos: Review

If you’re looking for some winter sunshine, but are not fussed about whether you can get into your cossie, then Torremolinos is a great place for a January break.  The weather is a bit variable and last week we had a mix of hot and sunny, plus a couple of overcast days.  Perfect for strolling about, eating out, reading and relaxing.  We stayed at the four star RIU Nautilus which is a very comfortable base.

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The hotel is modern in style and the rooms are pretty good.

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Great bathrooms too

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The food was spot on, especially if you like to stay on track and eat healthily. Great choice of fruit and vegetables.

We were half board, but there’s no shortage of great places to eat.  Larry’s Chiringuito is our favourite for great fish.

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Now to the downsides:

Unless you speak fluent Spanish, or like BBC World News, then the swish wall mounted TV is a waste of space. Shame because I do enjoy a bit of late night TV when staying in a nice hotel.

The Wi-Fi s not worth bothering with either, as you only have one hour per day which must be taken in one session.  Prehistoric by today’s standards.

As you would expect for a winter sun break, the hotel entertainment is geared towards the seventy plus market.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not to our taste.

Luckily the last three things are easily sorted.  We can do without TV.  Most bars and cafes around the hotel offer free Wi-Fi so that’s easy.  Finally, no need to stay in the hotel at night as you can pop across the road to The Full House for some conversation, a cheeky drink, access to the internet and even a cup of PG if you so desire!

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I would definitely stay at the Nautilus again.  It’s a really comfortable hotel.  Crazy that it has ultra modern décor with ultra old fashioned technology, but you can’t have everything as they say!

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