Category Archives: Holidays and Festivals

Rooms with Views: Helvetia & Bristol Florence

A Christmastime stay in a very Florentine hotel…

Centrally located just a stone’s throw from Florence’s Piazza della Repubblica, the Helvetia & Bristol is quiet and tucked away. The entrance on a small side street one could easily walk past if it weren’t for the welcoming doorman and red carpet. Once inside the elegant front room is more drawing room than lobby and the decor is very much that of a traditional Florentine aristocratic house. Soft neutral colours, latticed window panes and polished wood floors are what is expected of grand European hotels.

Made all the more pretty with the Christmas tree and touches of Christmas red around the hotel. White pillar candles light up the staircase, poinsettias accent the reception and lobby. Two weeks before Christmas and a stay here made me want to spend the entire holiday here. It was so enchanting it made it easy to forget about a quick stroll down nearby Tornabuoni for a bit of shopping. I wanted to sit down, relax and have a cup of tea.

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The public spaces around the hotel are classically styled but not too dated or cluttered. The Winter Garden makes for an airy and light breakfast room in the mornings and fine dining by evening. In the summer there is outdoor seating, but right now, during the cold season, all dining is indoors and tables are decorated with sprigs of red berry branches and holly. My thoughts of tea turn to vino and the small bar area off the lobby stocks a good bar and has a European cafe feel to it.

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The guest rooms are reliably traditional if a bit simple with polished wood furniture and antiques throughout and luxurious wall fabrics. The room I stayed in was an upgrade to a bigger room so there was more space, a loveseat and a small balcony which is always a treat. However in the winter chill and rain I didn’t get to use it as much as I would have liked. The marble bathroom was quite large with the rich scented Etro bath products which are so colourfully delightful to look at with their bright bottles.

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The warm experience was further enhanced with the welcoming staff. Everyone from the concierges to the wait staff to housekeeping were helpful and always with an ease of smile. Clearly they are used to the international tourist and the quality of their service reflected their experience.

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There are many wonderful hotels in Florence and I am going to add this one to my list. It has the advantage of a great location and is close to major attractions, restaurants and shopping. While not a small hotel, it does feel intimate and cozy. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay, and especially for a festive Christmas in Florence stay.

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at the Helvetia & Bristol Hotel

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Christmastime in London

For a traditional Christmas feel, head to London and capture the spirit of the season…

The Travel Cocktail

If you fancy a bit of Christmas spirit along with a bit of shopping, skip New York and indulge in the quintessential Christmas experience in London. Elegant lights all over the city and festive cheer make for the authentic holiday experience everyone searches for. 

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Trafalgar Square

Where to feast:

Rules London’s oldest restaurant is also one of its finest. Red velvet banquets and dark wood paneling evoke the feeling of an elite private home’s sitting room. Deer antlers and estate paintings only heighten the ambiance of a bygone formal era. While it is known for serving game in season, most of the menu is a very traditional English selection with Beef and Yorkshire pudding, Steak and Kidney Pie, and Dover Sole on offer. And at Christmas time this fashionable establishment really decks the halls from head to toe. Swags of pine, a whimsical Santa’s hat on a deer’s antlers, it…

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