Category Archives: Luxury Travel

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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Christmas Travel Gifts

Travel focused gift giving to take you around the world in style…

 

Nars makeup always has lots on offer in limited edition Christmas sets. Their palettes are always great for travel as they offer easy options on the go. But this year, I’m excited about the luxurious mini lip velvets with a a set of three glamorous colours, great for travel.

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French luggage brand Lipault make lightweight luggage with fashion forward styling. Their latest in shop collection Miss Plume is a metallic hued trolley cabin bag, which is practical as well as tres chic. The green one is especially pretty.

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Luxury English leather goods Pickett have an elegant way to travel with your iPad. A soft leather iPad envelope in five fashionable colours to choose from.

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Want camera quality photos on your Instagram or stuck between wanting to use your smartphone or a proper camera, then the Canon M5 is a useful alternative. Smaller and lighter than a full on camera kit, but bigger and better than a point and shoot or smartphone, this camera with lens takes quality photos that can be uploaded onto your smartphone via an app and used on social media. All while keeping files for formal printing.

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If you are like me and sleep better with a humidifier, then Fancii mini portable humidifier is a lifesaver. Small and easy to carry, it requires only a plastic water bottle, and can be run on batteries or a USB connection so no need to fuss with world wide electric adapters.

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Satin pillowcases are not only luxurious but practical as it keeps both hair from going flat and the face from waking up with pillow indentations. Liberty London offers an elegant kit of satin pillow case and eye mask in one of their legendary fabric prints. Packed in its own travel bag makes it easy for taking a bit of home comfort with you and waking up looking fabulous.

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Rooms with Views: Hotel Caruso

In elegant Ravello, the Hotel Caruso feels like a castle in the air…

There are hotels and then there are exceptional hotels. Those special properties that are not just about luxury but about extraordinary travel experiences that remain a warm feeling long after you left. The Belmond Hotel Caruso atop Ravello is such a place. The Caruso embodies the elegance and exceptional natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast capturing its essence in the property’s cascading gardens, painterly views over the sea, and an infinity pool in the sky that leaves you flying.

The ease of relaxation welcomes you, the staff are extremely friendly and sincere in their kindness and smiles. Every need of the guest is done with effortless grace, from the breezy check in to the fairies who do the turn down service at the end of the day. The hotel reflects something grand and formal but with the ease of a friend’s summer home.

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The spacious rooms are decorated in period wood furniture with bright regional majolica tiles and crisp luxury linens. The bathrooms are, like so many Belmond properties, grand and well equipped. A deep bathtub as well as a large shower, and a generous supply of bath products from Penhaligons. Everything throughout feels luxurious. From the balcony you can see the sea falling endlessly into the horizon.

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Then there is the property itself. Terraced gardens, including a chef’s garden where fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are grown for the restaurant kitchen. Vaulted windows with views of the sea and coast which offer quiet corners to rest or the perfect place for a cocktail. A gourmet restaurant serving a creative menu of local specialties, of course overlooks the sea. There is even a champagne bar in one of the garden spaces or check out the grand tour fashioned bar space indoors with frescos on the walls.

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The public spaces are flawless and offer so many different choices of views and moods, one could be perfectly happy never leaving the hotel and still feel they had experienced the Amalfi Coast. But the piece de la resistance has to be the breathtaking infinity pool overlooking the sea from high above in this castle nest. The sharp blue of the pool melts into the blue sky above and the sea below that from the air you are swimming in the sea.

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Ravello is just outside the door and the main piazza short walk away. The concierge desk will arrange anything, from sightseeing tours, to custom excursions to experience the best in the area. Lemon grove tours, meeting a local artist or craftsmen, even a helicopter tour can be arranged. Ravello itself is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The Belmond Caruso is perfection. There is so much to see and enjoy along the Amalfi Coast but here is a place to also relax and savour the flavour of the area at a much slower pace. Both the property and the staff are there to bring happiness, sunshine… and even a bit of limoncello into an exceptional stay.

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In Brief…

Rooms: Spacious, many with views of the sea. Luxury bathrooms with a cornucopia of designer bath products from Penhaligons. Beds are heavenly to sleep in.

Property: Elegant outdoor and indoor spaces with balcony views and manicured gardens throughout.  Fine dining restaurant with outdoor seating in season, and a full breakfast buffet in the morning. Fresco lounge bar, or choose from the champagne bar or terrace bar overlooking the gardens. And an infinity pool floating over the sea below.

Extras: The pool must be mentioned again as it is one of the most breathtaking in the world. Should you venture out of the hotel, there is a regular shuttle service to Amalfi town, and a private boat for hotel guests.

Please note, I paid for my own stay and my review is based on my personal experiences while staying at the Belmond Hotel Caruso.