Category Archives: romantic

Experience the extraordinary – the Oeschberghof in the southern Black Forrest

Extraordinary it is indeed, this jewel in the German Black Forrest. Build on its so-called 5 columns Living, Spa, Golf, Business and Event, this hotel offers something unique for any vacation wishes. No matter if you are looking for an active and sporty get-away, or just relaxation, or a surrounding, which makes creative reflection on a new business strategy possible – the Oeschberghof has it all!

It has been more than 7 years, since I first experienced the Oeschberghof myself; it was a nice gift from my mother for my birthday. She had been there before on a business trip and wanted to share the pleasant discovery with me. Nice treat, right?

Since 2008 I have become a regular visitor myself. I have given away birthday gifts to spend here, suggested the hotel for short honeymoons and brought along my best friend.

She calls this place “her own little oasis”, and is coming all the way from Italy to enjoy it.

I was contemplating for a long time, if I should actually take the Oeschberghof up in my portfolio and on my page, truly, because it is such a jewel, I didn’t want to share it with more than just my closest friends for the time being.

But now, I do believe it is time, as there is no comparable place for wellness and relax I have found in Europe so far.

Not even a one and a half hours drive from Zurich, the Oeschberghof lays close to Donaueschingen, the home of the Danube river well. It is fairly isolated though, which makes it perfect of course for the golf lovers who can currently play on 3×9 holes courses. The driving range offers 40 exercising spots, 10 of which are covered, as well as pitching and chipping surfaces and 2 putting greens to improve the short plays. There is also a 3-hole academy for beginners and the NGO association “Golffreunde Öschberghof” aims at making Golf accessible to children and youngsters to experience nature and develop concentration skills and stamina. Currently there are more than 100 young talents active.

The own Oeschberghof Golf Academy is one of 6 competitive golf-sports bases in Baden Württemberg. Even during winter time, the PGA Academy offers training possibilities in the indoor golf center or via the organized golf training trips. In case you are planning to obtain your “Platzerlaubnis” (licence to play on German courses), you can get it in only 5 days.

By 2017 there will be 2 additional 9 hole tracks and the driving range will also go through some enlargement and optimization by then.

Besides the golfing experience, there are two soccer fields available, not only frequented by amateurs. I have seen that the teams of FC Schalke 04, Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt have conducted their training camps here over the last years.

But golfing and soccer are definitely not the only reason you would come here. As secluded from noise, traffic and large crowds, the area around the Oeschberhof is also perfect for bike tours, hikes or simply enjoying nature.

However, personally once I have entered the main building area I will rarely leave it again. Why? – Two major reasons: the Spa and the Cuisine!

The spa of the hotel Oeschberghof is best described as 2500 square meters of “arrival, strengthening, relaxation and toning.” It deserves the name Dynamic Spa, developed together with the European Wellness Institute to strengthen body, mind and soul. This includes a large variety of treatments with la prairie, Horst Kirchberger or Ligne St. Barth products, as well as peelings, baths, wraps or massages. I have been pampered with Lomo-Lomi-Nui, Aroma, Hamam and Abhyanga massages so far and I couldn’t decide which the better, as they are all fantastic. Of course it is also the therapist that makes them special and I am strongly recommending Mrs. Lohr, as she has been my first choice over the last two years. All staff is excellent, but taste and needs are individual and therefore I guess you need to find your favorite therapist as well.

The beauty treatments are also very exquisite, and I was so glad to see that some of the staff have been there for years, specifically Ms. Zimmermann and Mrs. Lohr. This to me is a rather positive sign of a good working environment, which translates into the excellent service provided towards the customers.

Besides the spa treatments the wellness area also provides a 25×12.5m indoor swimming pool with Grander water, a sauna choice of 60 and 90 degrees, a steam bath, a laconium, Kneipp foot baths, holistic shower experiences as well as a snow iglu and a blockhouse sauna on the roof of the building.

There is also a Spa suite/ ladies spa including an infrared 50 degrees sauna, a sole steam bath and a Hamam with a own Hamam whirl bath.

From 12 am to 6pm you can help yourself at the Vital Bar with a choice of salads, deserts and snacks as well as drinks and coffee. One can relax on waterbeds, heat beds and hot stone loungers.

The gym offers a good choice of treadmills, cross trainers, bike ergometers and a power plate besides the kinesiswall. Courses like Aqua Fitness, Yoga etc. are being conducted daily, either in the dedicated course room on the sports terrace or the swimming pool area.

As I have come to know, there will be lots of changes and enlargements in the spa and fitness area starting in May 2016. The resort will stay open though and you might want to check for the variety of alternative offers. By the way, I can spill some of the new beans: there will be an infinity pool after the conversion.

The cuisine at the Öschberghof deserves a real thumbs up. Start with an aperitif at the Fair-Way bar or the Cheminée lounge before you have decided to dine at either the hotel restaurant, the restaurant Hexenweiher or the Övent hut.

The choice is between the romantic hotel restaurant, overlooking the golf course, serving a variety of fish, meat or vegetarian dishes, then the dolce vita experience at the Italian style Hexenweiher or the charming and naturalistic location of the Övent hut with a large outdoor deck and an interior that reminds me of a traditional hunter’s hut with lots of style. The Övent hut is also available to be booked for festivities and offers special events like “Weisswurst Breakfast”, Cigar nights, wine tastings, torch hikes etc.

Next to the main restaurant you will find an elegant vinoteque, some of the wine bottles on display are from 1955, the choice is immense either way. The two sommeliers can help you select the right wine from more than 450 local and international top quality wines.

After dinner, if you do like to enjoy an Absackerl (nightcap) accompanied by a cigar, the fireplace lounge is your place. More than 50 different cigars and cigarillos are available in the walk in humidor.

Concerning accommodation, the hotel offers 73 rooms, either in the main house or for pet lovers in the Dependance (the building is separately located between Golf course, parking and hotel). The rooms are 32 up to 48 square meters large. Rooms can also be connected for up to 6 persons with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

Most of the rooms have a balcony or a terrace and are equipped with high standard bathrooms, LCD flat screens including cable and Sky TV as well as bathrobes and the most comfortable slippers I have ever used in a hotel. Wi-Fi is available for free in the whole hotel.

In case you do not bring your pet and want to use the wellness in winter, I am recommending you book a room in the main house. This way, you won’t have to walk between the houses with your slippers and bathrobe when it’s chilly outside.

For business events the Oeschberghof offers a decent amount of 9 rooms varying in size between16 square meters up to 282 square meters. One room even has an access for cars to be driven in, in case you are planning to present your prototype or similar. A team of over 5 people is supporting business events, it seems like there are no limits to what you can get. This includes modern technology, full and all day service and high quality catering.

I still hurt a bit to give away this secret bijou… All in all, should you choose to visit the Oeschberghof assure you that you will have an unforgettable stay! I hope you will cherish it just as much as I do…

Alpes et Caetera – the magic in the Valais

The Alpes et caetera opened shortly before Christmas in 2012, only 8 months after starting the construction and bringing home a newborn baby boy. It was a dear friend who actually recommended this 
little jewel to me and I am so very grateful for the tip. 



The Alpes et caetera in short:
She – Solveig, an interior designer with experience in communications and events.
He – Nicolas Reymondin, an architect who worked in events.
And then, their two little boys adding to the young men, who also call Nicolas their father.

Together they decided to combine forces and managed to create something, which can only be described as UNIQUE.
Located at the end of a small pathway in the mountain village of Vercorin on a private estate, the Alpes et caetera cabins are allotted around the main chalet, a renovated sheep barn. 
The large terrace overlooking the valley and presenting a magnificent view of the surrounding Alps is a perfect place to enjoy a glass of local wine after a day of hiking. The view from the outdoor Jacuzzi is quite spectacular as well, while a small sauna cabin (can be booked and is for private use only) is perfect to stretch sore muscles or just enjoy. Massages can also be booked via Solveig with local therapists.

High quality in every detail!

That is what best describes Nicolas & Solveig’s little paradise. 
Starting from the composition of the rooms, the pathways between the Mazots (chalets), 
the table settings for dinner and breakfast, the food bits served on slate platters, 
the fireplace in the main house, the music in the background, basically everything Solveig and Nicolas put together – is “magique”.
This place is perfect for a get-away from the noise, no matter if in your home , at work or simply in your head.
Some very original things complement your stay at the Alpes et Caetera. The key to your Mazot is an iPhone, including apps for newspapers, radio and TV, as well as a flashlight for evening walks. The sky above Vercorin during a clear night is just breath-taking, so I was very happy that cold, white street lamps didn’t ruin that. Families who bring along their
children but would like to enjoy a peaceful dinner for two at the main house, can do so by using the provided babyphone included in the room iPhone.
Also a nice idea, Solveig and Nicolas put their own music compilations on the Mazot iPhones including 
Apéro et caetera, Blues et caetera, Classique et caetera, Jazz and Lounge et caetera. Each Mazot has a little music box which can be connected via bluetooth to the iPhone.

The mazots all have their own story and are called:

  • Le CH – the CH (dedicated to the Helvetic Confédératon (CH) with all its characteristics, objects and products)
.
  • Le e La – him and her – inspired by the Vaudoise writer Ella Maillart and dedicated to the Vaudoise literature.
  • Le BD – the comic (dedicated to the Swiss comic artist Cosey (Bernard Cosendai)
  • Le bis – the bis (bisses = historic irrigation channels of the Valais, delivering priceless water from mountain streams)
  • Le rouge et le verre – the red and the glass (as Solveig and Nicolas put it: The Valais and its wines are inseparable. This chalet is dedicated to the local produce, born from the earth, stone and hard work, and drenched in Valais sun)
  • Le pic – the peak  (Dedicated to the surrounding mountains and those who climb them)
  • Le roi – the king (The cows of the surrounding mountain areas, the Hérens are a very special race. They are known for their combative temperament and each year during a fight the winning cow is crowned queen.
this Mazot is therefore dedicated to this special cow race from the Val d’Hérens and it’s queens)
  • L’Etablis – The workshop (This Mazot has long been part of the estate and it is known that the former owner had turned it into his workshop while many of his tools still have their place there)

I can fully recommend all of them, the workshop though is quite special and sui generis in its set-up. 
The original Mazot is from the 1500 and the additional “younger” one from the 1900. With a lot of hard work and care 
the younger chalet ha been dismantled and build back into place close to the original Mazot. Quite an impressive job! The most impressive idea is however to attach the two Mazots via a bridge. The bridge out of wood, closed with glass and decorated with elegant curtains connects the old Mazot (the bedroom) to the new one (the bathroom).

The Alpes et caetera is not only a wonderful place to decelerate, but also perfect if you are looking for some quality and creative time, e.g. working on a new strategy with your team, celebrating your round birthdays etc.

For more info and wonderful support for any event you would like to have organized in Vercorin, Solveig is your person!

http://www.alpesetc.ch/en/

[BMo_scrollGallery id=37 sG_thumbPosition=bottom sG_images=1 duration=slow gallery_width=600 gallery_height=400 thumbs_width=100 thumbs_height=100 sG_caption=0 sG_start=0 sG_loop=1 sG_loopThumbs=1 sG_clickable=1 sG_opacity=40 sG_area=200 sG_scrollSpeed=2 sG_autoScroll=0 sG_aS_stopOnOver=1 sG_diashowDelay=0 sG_followImages=1 sG_responsive=1 ]

Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel – Eastern fairy tale in Crete

The driving style of the Kriti (locals) is just one of the many surprises that await you when arriving in Crete. You will see plenty of European tourists, mostly from France or Russia, and many big hotels along the marvelous beaches. But one thing that will be special even among all of the other surprises on the island, is a little boutique hotel called Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in Chania.

If you are planning to stay in Chania then the Fatma hotel is an absolute must as you really will not find anything like it in the world.
The Fatma Hanoum Boutique Hotel in the Jewish Distric Palia Poli of Chania takes you on a journey into the past.

Owners Giorgos and Marianna have managed to create a real thousand and one night fairytale with the help of local architect Dany Droianos that combines Ottoman and Venetian architecture with eastern elements including a great choice of lightning, oriental carpets, soft fabrics and high tech facilities. The concept, from the hotel’s name to the name of each of the rooms makes you feel as if you are being taken by the hand of Fatma herself into an enchanting and unique world.

The hotel, opened 3 years ago, has undergone a massive renovation. Evidence of this can be seen in the elegant entrance area, the breakfast room and the each of the 6 rooms.

Wood, stone, and glass are harmoniously combined with modern furniture and high quality products such as the i-compatible stereo, espresso machine, and the beds of Coco-Mat (natural sleep products) complete with Tempurpedic pillows. They have also included small details like essential supplies deviantly hidden in the drawers.

We stayed in the Yildiz room for the first few nights, which I personally chose because of my favorite color: green. Isolated on the second floor with it’s an own roof terrace, Yildiz is just as beautiful in reality as displayed on the hotel’s website. But then, the same could be said for all of the rooms.

Our last night (which we added after our initial booking) we stayed in the Yasmin Suite. This suite has a maisonette type room with the bed up on a mezzanine level. Like the other rooms, the wood and glass is nicely blended into the interior as well as the lighting. The only thing missing was a dedicated balcony extending out over Skoufon street. Even without the balcony, you still can admire the view through the windows and the shared roof terrace just outside the door is plenty large.

My personal favorite and the room I would book next time is the Güzel. This wide open room welcomes you in green with a small balcony overlooking the indoor patio and a walk through closet that leads to the large bathroom decorated in both green and blue with a beautiful period bathtub shielded by a glass wall.

Breakfast is served in a sunlit atrium with a beautifully placed pebble stone floor and two cozy oriental niches in the background. The buffet is set-up with a love for detail, offering local products like dakos, cheese pie, and yogurt – a certified original Greek Breakfast.

Of special note is the hostess Marianna. She really made us feel welcome and fulfilled all of our wishes. This includes everything from the morning coffee to suggestions for excellent restaurants in Chania, the surrounding mountains, or even locations as far as the most northeastern part of Crete. Her sunny and charming manner from the first moment you step into the Fatma Hotel, to the last minute, when leaving is exceptional.

Tips:

  • Book a massage with Rita
  • Eat at the  tavern Glossitses

[BMo_scrollGallery id=34 sG_thumbPosition=bottom sG_images=1 duration=slow gallery_width=600 gallery_height=400 thumbs_width=100 thumbs_height=100 sG_caption=0 sG_start=0 sG_loop=1 sG_loopThumbs=1 sG_clickable=1 sG_opacity=40 sG_area=200 sG_scrollSpeed=2 sG_autoScroll=0 sG_aS_stopOnOver=1 sG_diashowDelay=0 sG_followImages=1 sG_responsive=1 ]

Manos Small World – a wonderful small world in Santorini

It may seem very difficult to decide on where to book your hotel on Santorini, especially if you are looking for one that combines it all – perfect location, breathtaking views, quality accommodations, and the spirit or heart of the island.

After we landed on Santorini and collected our luggage, we were taken by taxi (arranged in advance by the hotel) to Manos Small World, where we were surprised to be greeted by name.  My first reaction was “Ahem, do I know you?” Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that the person who had walked up to greet us was the owner of the hotel, Thanasis. Like a modern day Hercules, he schlepped our two heavy pieces of luggage down the steps to the hotel.  Hard to imagine that he has been greeting his guests and carrying their luggage this way for over 20 years since he opened the hotel in July, 1990 at the age of 24. Today, almost 50 years of age and the father of two grown up children, he is still full of positive vibes for his small world and guests.

If you were disappointed by the drive from the airport towards Fira and the other villages, you will be very happily surprised or relieved when you arrive at the Manos Small World. This is the Santorini you have seen in pictures or heard of from descriptions of the island. It is complete with white washed cave houses decorated with blue window shades and almost blinding bright bougainvillea flowers.

Manos Small World reflects the personality of Thanasis himself – calm, warmhearted, attentive and full of positive emotions for his guests or friends, as he likes to call them. I had the privilege and honor to take a look the pictures and memos he has collected since the first day he opened his small world for business. It was very touching to read the messages left by guests who came for single visits or returned time and again. The memories include the pictures he has received from all over the world thanking Thanasis for his hospitality and the wonderful stay at his charming place.

Today, Manos Small World offers 11 rooms on three different floors, all facing the Caldera, with views of Firostefani and Fira, as well as Imerovigli and in the far north- west Oìa. The rooms are all plenty large, with a small kitchenette, a sitting area complete with a small welcome bottle of white wine, and a relaxing sofa area. The bathrooms are close to the sleeping area, equipped with hair drier, and basic amenities. Breakfast is served at your dedicated table, in front of the room, from 8am until 11am or even later. The breakfast is simple but of high quality, much better than any buffet breakfast at large hotel chains, prepared from traditional Greek dishes with care and lots of love.

Book your vacation on Santorini directly with Thanasis on www.manos-santorini.com

Thanasis is happy to help with any recommendations for lunch or dinner in any town on the island, information about which beach is good to visit (depending on the wind direction) and organization of sailing trips, rental of car or bikes or anything else you can possible imagine. If you ever think of getting married on Santorini, I am sure that Thanasis will make your dreams come true in his little world.

Tips:

  • 3-5 days on Santorini is enough time to explore the whole island, best by scooter or four-wheel bike.
  • Oìa is famous for the sunset, but beware that the whole island will be squeezing into the tight passages around the areas with a view.  Either you get there early in plenty of time to get a nice drink on one of the many terraces or prepare yourself for a mad rush that feels like “this is the last sunset we will ever get to see” situation.
  • Driving on the island is ok, although you shouldn’t trust too much on the driving rules. As long as you are safe and watch out for the other crazy drivers, you’ll be fine.
  • Santorini compared to other islands may not really offer the best Greek food.  Prices are quite high and quality is average as we found out on the three nights. Fresh fish of the day is always a good choice just beware as many of the seafood options may be frozen.
  • Ask Thanasis for restaurant recommendations to make sure you do not step into the bad tourist food trap and mistakenly take that for traditional Greek food.
  • Recommendations: Mama Thira, Remvi, Aktaion.
  • Room 8 is on the top floor at the end so you have your silence and people are not walking by your door or table. But as guests seemed to be a little like Thanos himself, calm and respectful, any other room is perfectly fine.
  • Rooms 8 – 11 are all on the top floor with the added benefit of no noise from moving chairs in the rooms above.

 

Ithaki – Athens posh restaurant with a view

The opportunity to have dinner at the locally renowned beach restaurant Ithaki in Vouliagmeni came about through pure luck, chance and the help of a very charming Swiss International Airline agent at the Athens airport named Emmanuel. Due to an overbooked flight, we were offered the possibility of giving up our seats in exchange for a free overnight stay in Athens, a generous amount of pocket money, and a return flight the following day.

Once the possibility became reality, our guide Emmanuel took us on a tour through the secret passages and corridors of the airport to retrieve our luggage and to make arrangements for our hotel and return flight.

As an added bonus, he also recommended an exceptional place for dinner. From our hotel it was only a 30 minutes taxi ride to Vouliagmeni.

There, the Ithaki elegantly presented itself right on the Kavouri Beach with a strong vibe of poshness.

Our first impression included lots of wood and glass, white table cloths, smooth lightning, a live piano player, the sound of waves, and very intimate and private tables arranged along the terraces (all facing the sea).

All in all, maybe not the cheapest place to eat in the area, but definitely a must experience. The menu was not overwhelmingly long (a pleasant experience) offering traditional Greek dishes, fresh fish and meats, as well as Sushi and Sashimi. Surprisingly, some of the fish is actually frozen (typically indicated with an *). A pity since there are plenty of fresh fish options to choose by the kilo from the local area.

The wine menu presents a good choice of Greek and international wines. Service is very polite and attentive, almost blending into the surrounding.

As a starter we selected an eggplant/cheese dish and fresh mussels in a white wine sauce. The serving process for the main dish of fresh grouper was a unique experience of presentation (rolling cart and silver bell covers to keep the food warm) and preparation (surgical removal of the bones, fins, and heads from the fish prior to serving with fresh vegetables).

Tips:

  • Booking required if you are going to typical Greek dinner hours (between 22:00 – 24:00h).
  • If you take a taxi there consider arranging a return with the same driver. As the area is well liked be Athenians, it might be difficult to find a cab for the ride back to the city.

A magical journey through time – Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg

The Germanic name for Strasbourg, “the city of the roads”, captures the essence of a city that is worth the relatively short drive to get there.  Geographically closer to Zurich and Milano than to Paris, Strasbourg offers an diverse selection of monuments and sights within its complex maze of streets making it perfect for a weekend get away. Even though it hosts the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament it is metropolitan, without being in the least bit overwhelming. The chosen hotel, Cour du Corbeau fits perfectly into the Carrefour de l’Europe (crossroads of Europe).

Located only a short walking distance from the heart of the city (near to the cathedral and Place Kléber) the Cour de Corbeau invites you to feel the magic of past times. The hotel belongs to the MGallery Hotel Group (memorable hotels by Accor – whose ambassador is Kristin Scott Thomas).

Led by our navigation system, we arrived at the hotel only to find the entrance to the street blocked by an electronically controlled pole.  Luckily, a nice man asked us where we were going, directed me to drive up to the barrier, buzzed the hotel (explaining the situation in French) and magically the pole disappeared allowing us access to the hotel entrance.  Thierry, a valet came out right away and opened my door, making me feel like I was a celebrity.  After asking where we planned to park, he offered to manage the car for us directly, took the keys, and drove off to I don’t know where leaving me with a trusting feeling that everything was in order.  The first impression of the Cour du Corbeau was magnificent. The décor was serene combining old with new, luxurious with Neo-Baroque. The welcome at the reception desk by Gregoire was very pleasant and included a surprise that we were upgraded to a junior suite. He informed us about breakfast and that the hotel didn’t have it’s own restaurant, but was happy to provide a 24 hour room service, delivered by a nearby restaurant. We asked for a recommendation for dinner in the town (a place where locals would dine) and were rewarded with an excellent choice, the Restaurant L’éveil des sens.

The hotel was renovated in 2009 after spending a number of years as a vacant building.  The “before and after” pictures in the hotel were marvelous and really highlighted the accomplishments of what the builders were able to manage.  The hotel features 57 rooms, including 19 suites. The rooms are simple, with wooden floors and a post and beam construction that exposed much of the original structure – a wonderful blend of old and new. The bathrooms contain natural stone floors and romantically styled sinks in the form of a shell.  The lighting in the room played up the violet hues and taupe colored fabrics giving everything a warm feeling while still being chic and simple, not the usual overwhelming feeling of many historical places. In short, the suite was beautiful and contained the additional surprise of a complimentary bottle of white wine (from the region Alsace) as well as a somewhat hidden door (or at least not very obvious) that led to a long, wooden porch running along the inner courtyard of the building.  Simply charming!

The staff was discrete and very attentive, and the turn down service even left a rose on our bed, as it was women’s day.  There was also a hand-written weather prediction for the following day and breakfast info placed by the night stand.  The towels in the bathroom were even replaced with fresh ones, something I really appreciate, but wouldn’t have expected at a four star hotel.

I read another review that stated the breakfast is “not to be missed” and judging by the little tables in the gallery I am sure would make an exquisite start to any day. We chose to walk across the canal into town to have fresh pain au chocolat from the local Boulangerie, which was definitely worth every minute of the wait. Before leaving the area we stopped at “Les mains dans la farine” the Boulangerie in 16, rue du 22-Novembre to load up on supplies.  The selection was excellent and we ended up with bread and pastries for a whole week.

Check out at 12:00h is very generous at the Cour du Corbeau, which allowed even more time for a stroll through the town before leaving.  The receptionist Carol was so lovely, and Anne Gerber, the manager of the hotel was also very attentive and didn’t mind helping guests with information, check in and out.

With bags in hand we called for our car which was retrieved by Sebastién, who placed a bottle of water in the center console along with a note on how to exit the area through the one way streets and around the Pl. de Austerliz and wishing us a pleasant journey home. This last little surprise was perfect and really impressed me.  Many times it is the small things that make an experience special and this was a perfect example.  All in all it was just a lovely stay at the hotel.

Silhouette Island – The essence of the Seychelles

If you are looking for the spectacular, then the scenic Silhouette Island is the place for you.  Located in the Indian Ocean nestled among the various islands that make up the Seychelles, Silhouette hosts only one resort: The Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa.

Smoothly built into the lush vegetation of the rain forest that touches the sandy beaches, the Labriz features different types of independent villas for every taste. The Garden villas are set back into the tropical forest, the Beachfront villas allow you to walk off your own porch into the sand, and the Beachfront Pool villas offer an additional private plunge pool. The Hillside pool villas have a larger pool, a spectacular view but no direct access to the beach. We chose the regular Beachfront villa and loved it.  We just didn’t see the value in having a private pool facing the ocean if you can dive directly into the real thing just a few feet away.

Our Beach villa was approx. 100 m2 with a spacious open bedroom and a private patio overlooking the sea. Depending on your exact room it is possible that the tree line slightly covers the direct view of the ocean. The bathroom was large with a walk-in shower, separate bathtub and out back, a nice little garden with an outdoor shower. The villa is well equipped with a flat screen TVs and a DVD player, although the WiFi connection was not very good.

The five restaurants of the resort include a decent variety, but since they are the only options on the island they give the resort a dining monopoly.  The Grann Kaz Plantation House restaurant serves traditional Creole food, the Portobello restaurant Italian, and the Grill & Teppanyaki Japanese cuisine with a more international flavor by blending Asian and European influences. The Cafe Dauban, the main restaurant, offers daily breakfast and varied theme dinners. The bar and pizzeria offer a lighter option for lunch. If you are booking half-board you can dine around at all restaurants at the resort, except for Teppanyaki that you will have to pay for separately. Keep in mind that you should also budget for drinks, cocktails and wine, as they are typically not included in the price. A decent bottle of wine will cost you approx. 50 euro and unfortunately you won’t have the possibility to buy anything different except what is offered at the resort owned shop, where the prices are the same. If you can, you might want to bring a couple of bottles from your stop over at the airport, it’ll be worth it.

The staff is very friendly and the room service is spectacular. Our one complaint was the in-room breakfast, which took almost 1.5 hours to arrive and was cold and not very appealing. What was nice is that after giving feedback that we were not happy with the room service, we were offered a free dinner at the Portobello restaurant, which did a lot to make up for the poor breakfast.

What I was most impressed with was the fact that the resort was built in alignment with nature and does not fight against it. The spa is the best example of the resort’s close-to-nature concept. The spa entrance is accessed by walking between a series of boulders, the treatment rooms are connected via wooden steps or natural steps built into the massive rocks, and everything is clean and elegant with an open air feel.

Even if you are staying for 2 weeks on Silhouette Island, you won’t get bored easily or feel that you can’t enjoy your privacy. This is due to the size of the beach, the 5 restaurants, available hikes to Mount Dauban (beware, the humidity is very likely to make you feel like you climb Mount Everest), excursions for diving, snorkeling and opportunities to discover the islands diverse plant and animal wildlife. It is really quite impressive: rare plant species like incense-cedar, funny looking short-tailed-jacketed bats, mini chameleon, lots and lots of crabs and giant tortoises. The whole island has been a National Part for a long time.

This resort offers high-end relaxation, luxurious spa treatments, decent swimming, spectacular snorkeling, hiking and nature. You just need to survive the exciting boat ride over to the island.

High-end design and Swiss authenticity for desk-huggers

It is ironic to think that Switzerland needs three Welshman to bring out the Swissness of the Cambrian Hotel on the noble grounds of Adelboden. Hotelliers Chris Nott, Grant and Craig Maunder managed to create a strikingly trendy hotel with the help of Designer Peter Silling in 2007, when they renovated the historic establishment from the last century.

big_157Set amid the breathtaking scenery of Adelboden’s Alps, the Cambrian combines sleek, modern design with innovative uses of natural, local materials and the Welsh touch of contemporary original paintings.

We stayed at the Cambrian during a rather special point in time, the first weekend in June, right after their spring break re-opening. It did feel a little bit like the staff hadn’t arrived yet mentally, but it only made the place more likable and less stiff. I wondered how cool and stiff the Cambrian would actually get during mid season considering the regular prices for the rooms and suites. But I do believe, that the unique mix of wooden materials and the coziness of the lounge, restaurant and rooms will bring out the harmony in most people.

The Cambrian offers 71 rooms divided into North and South facing views, with the more magnificent views to the South. The rooms and suites are stylishly furnished, combining steel, leather and wood, with white and red bed sheets, state of the art technology flat screen TVs, as well as Wi-Fi-access. The bathrooms are modern with only one downside – no ventilation system. As a consequence, we needed to vent the room using the balcony door in order to remove the steam and extra moisture. thecambrian_library1

The lounge area features a fireplace and pool table where you can take your Cambrian afternoon tea. Scott’s Bar offers a wide range of drinks and snacks and comes with the same beautiful Southern view. As a last result in case of boredom, you can always try the playroom with both a Play Station and Wii console.

The restaurant, headed by 26-year–old Austrian chef Martin Wagner offers a decent variety of dishes, combining local meats (from Simmental), and regional greens. The meat I tasted was delicious; the accompanying wine made for a great dinner experience. What I really liked about the menu is the fact that it describes the provenance of the products, most of which are local. The Cambrian is truly proud of their metric for “zero food miles”.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant, overlooking the outdoor pool and the surrounding mountains. The choice and variety is great. Options include freshly prepared eggs, fruits, marmalades, muesli, and fantastic breads. If you don’t find what you want just ask the sous chef who will try to make your wishes come true, even if it means leaving the buffet to prepare something special.

thecambrian_indoorpoolThe luxurious Spa facilities of 750m2 include a sauna, steam bath, experience shower, Kneipp pool, indoor and outdoor heated pools and relaxation area. Yoga treatments, massages, facials, and anything else you can think of in terms of beauty treatments you can get.

My personal highlights include the outdoors infinity pool and the stars on the indoor pool ceiling. You really need to experience that one for yourself.

The only thing left to wish for when staying at the Cambrian is good weather for the views.

Dreaming in Antigua

Nestled into a cliff overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, this rustic but charming Antigua resort features 26 individual wooden Caribbean style cottages, each offering a private balcony with spectacular views and showers opening to the sea.  You will definitely find peace, an opportunity to decelerate and a place for your soul to relax.  What you won’t find is a boutique environment (by European standards), but rather a charismatically rustic, simple hotel, with very friendly staff, moderate and sometimes outstanding food, and a wonderful beach with powder white sand.

cocos_beach_viewWe landed in St. John’s, happy for the warm weather and the sunshine. Our pre-booked chauffeur, John, awaited us at the airport with a name card and pleasant smile. The ride to the hotel took approx. 25 minutes and I appreciated John’s calm driving style, especially after seeing the driving style of other locals.


The staff welcomed us in a very friendly manner giving us a positive first impression of the resort. Check in took longer than expected (approximately 40 minutes) and concluded with the delivery of a letter containing information on restaurant hours, and an offer for a complimentary massage of 30 minutes. Hasani, a young employee walked us up to our cottage via a steep concrete ramp that was not really adapted to people with walking issues.  The entrance to our cottage was down a set of really steep stairs made of both stone and wood with several landings.

All cottages are build in a traditional Caribbean chattel style with natural dark wooden floors and private balconies as well as outdoors showers.

The view from the room overlooking the ocean is spectacular.

The ocean looks like a postcard and faces west towards the setting sun.  The room itself however, does not make the same first impression. The outdoor shower is as advertised with a sea view, very open, but still very private.

Due to problems with our air conditioning, the manager gave us the option to relocate to another room.  This is a cottage we can definitely recommend (room no. 5).  Although smaller than the Premium Plus we left, our new room left us with a completely different experience.  Entering the room, our first impression was that the room was tidy, cozy, and had a romantic feel (this was in large part due to the “towel swans” on the bed and in the bathroom, which also contained a small arrangement of Bougainvillea flowers.  The porch wraps around the room in an “L” shape and is only half covered, the other portion open to the sky leaving you with a panoramic ocean view that covers two sides of the room.  There is a small plunge pool, two deck chairs, and two loungers that provide a nice alternative and more privacy than the beach.  The cottage is rated a premium, although in my opinion it easily could pass for a premium plus.

cocos_beach_view

If you do not mind sleeping during a green tree frog concert (in a room like ours that had problems with the air-conditioning), but with the gentle sound of the ocean, you’ll enjoy the experience. The sunset and sunrise are spectacular and waking up to a view of turquoise water and endless sea is truly special.

Dinner is served on a covered deck with an ocean view on two sides.  Consistent with our experience at the reception, the staff is very friendly and attentive, quickly responding to almost all requests.  The menu is simple with three choices for the main dish (fish, meat, and pasta) as well as a series of appetizers.   Complimentary drinks include water, mixed drinks, beer, and house wine. The house red is a Merlot or Cabernet and it not of the Bodegas Forjas del Salnes and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Three champagnes round out the menu including a Bollinger Special Cuvee, Prosecco Brut Sartori and a Nicolas Feuillate Special Cuvee. The food is good, and uses local fish with small to moderate sized portions. The desert choice is good, with at least three items to choose from.

The beach is beautiful, the water clean, and there are enough loungers available for the guests, although not all of them have their own umbrella.

It is important to set your expectations correctly before you arrive in order to fully enjoy your stay at the Cocos Hotel.  If you are looking for a romantic and rustic get-away, are willing to adapt to the Carib easy going ways and do not need permanent pampering – this is the place you want to be at. You will definitely have the chance to step out of your everyday life and relax as much as you are able.  You will find yourself welcomed by friendly staff including the security.  You can choose to accept things as they are or voice any complaints to the hotel’s staff that will do their best to set things right.

7th Heaven in Venice – Settimo Cielo

Spend a couple of days in Venice, dive into the streams of people wandering the streets, but then retreat to the wonderfully refined boutique B&B located just a short walking distance away from major attractions like Saint Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Grassi, Accademia Galleries.

Hidden on the second and third floor of a private palazzo that dates back to the 13th century, two B&Bs share the same service, style of accommodation and a communal breakfast area as well as a delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice.

delightful roof terrace with spectacular views across the rooftops of Venice

The lower floors belong to Settimo Cielo’s,  owner Paolo Battistetti, while the upper floors belong to Bloom’s, owned by Alessandra Vazzoler. The two business partners worked with a local architect to design the B&Bs tastefully, merging old with new.

At Settimo Cielo, the B&B selected, rooms are all styled differently, each featuring elegantly original and successful mix of classical Venetian style and modern design, from rich reds and purple brocades to more calming beiges and creams.

While there’s no in-house restaurant, there are lovely areas where you eat breakfast, and, best of all, the breathtaking roof terrace with great views over piazza Santo Stefano. The rooftop is accessed via a cosy lounge, whose fridge stores complimentary bottles of Prosecco – perfect accompaniment to the sunset over Venice.