An Urban Oasis of Luxury at AKA, the Perfect Place for a Longer Los Angeles Stay

Los Angeles is a great town, but that comes with a few hiccups: it’s also noisy and it can even feel altered. The iconic California city might be full of palm trees and have the joy of places by the ocean, but it’s no less a great metropolis. So, while it’s a lovely vacation spot, it can be a little tricky to find peace here, particularly for a couple travelling with a baby.

We needed to stay at a place where we could enjoy the vibe of the City of Angels without compromising a quiet time. We weren’t just craving luxury, we needed a lodging that we could call home, even entertaining guests. AKA gave us exactly what we craved, and then some.

The AKA Collection specializes in creating luxury accommodations for long-term stays, and they have venues in a few major U.S. cities as well as London. There are two AKAs in Los Angeles: one is in Beverly Hills and the other in West Hollywood. We stayed at the latter, and couldn’t have asked for a better location. We were in the midst of the thriving L.A. life, and we had no problem reaching the nearby local hotspots, from Mel’s Diner to Fred Segal. It’s one of the most walkable areas in L.A., so it was easy for us to get around without spending time in traffic – plus, of course, reducing our carbon imprint if only a little. Still, it wasn’t the prime location that made me fall in love with this place, but rather its truly cosy feel.

Our stay at AKA was absolutely incredible. First of all, the staff is among the most wonderful I’ve ever encountered in any kind of lodging. Every single person who works at AKA has a real dedication to service, from the reception to the cleaners. Everyone was very professional and friendly, making an effort in giving us the feeling of home. I was with my husband and our baby of eight and a half months, and when you’re with a small child, you need all the comfort you can get. The staff was quick to remember our preferences, always going the extra mile to make our stay as pleasant as possible. Read more…

The Quiet Cambridge Life at Athena

Cambridge will always be my home, even if I haven’t lived there in quite some time. It’s the town I was born in, where I took my first steps and where I started to become the person I am today. When I was a teen looking to move to the big city, the quiet and academic feel of Cambridge may have seemed almost provincial… but age is the best of life’s teachers. These days, I’m living between two hectic metropolises, London and Los Angeles, with a busy work life and a small child, and I crave the peace of a smaller town. Cambridge seems to be calling me, and I keep coming back to my hometown and reconnecting with it.

I spent last Christmas back there, blissfully accompanied by some of my favorite people in the world. I was surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful house, as we connected through food and kind words, as so many generations have before us. A winter wonderland surrounded us in the deceptively peaceful Cambridge surroundings. The city is a little quieter during the holidays, as many students are back home with their families, yet Cambridge remains a meeting point of cultures from all over the world.

Cambridge is a beautiful place to grow up in, and the university is betting on future generations to choose the town as a place to settle down. The uni partnered up with Hill, one of the biggest house builders in the UK, to create sustainable homes for the next generation of Cambridge dwellers. I’ve written about this project before, which is called Athena, but I keep circling back to its wonderful premise. It’s such a modern concept in a town well known for its ancient buildings and customs, and such a wonderful prospect for people looking to set up a home in Cambridge.

Athena is lifetime homes and apartments inspired by the city’s historic character, built to award-winning designs. Part of an ambitious project by the University of Cambridge to deliver a new neighbourhood for its city; the new district is known as Eddington; so named after the renowned astronomer, mathematician and physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, a Cambridge alumnus and resident in the local area in the early part of the twentieth century. Read more…

Lydhurst Cottages: Sustainable Retreats without boarding a plane

The last long-bank holiday past I was determined to make something of the 3 days of expected blistering sun. Let’s face it, when the sun hits the UK it brings out a different side of people and makes everyone friendlier and way more approachable. No longer able to safely board a flight, I set about looking for country retreats with a focus on the natural and sustainable. Why should boarding a plane always equate a holiday? Even when you approach it from the sustainable side of the conversation, driving a few hours outside of London and setting up camp for equal doses of heat and tranquillity is a hugely reduced carbon footprint compared to that of boarding a plane (even if for a short flight). Especially if you are covering countryside miles in a TESLA.

Take our destination of West Sussex for example, where you still get the perks of endless miles of coastline, picture perfect treks and popular beach locations – Bracklesham Bay looks out onto the Isle of Wight and the English Channel – but with less time spent travelling for a 3 days or so our bank holidays usually afford us. I am not against the idea of flying away for bank holidays, but I wish more people would look closer to home because this was a truly magical experience for all of us. Armed with books, games, a car full of friends, food and trekking gear, we made the short drive of 1.5 hours to Warninglid and set up camp in The Farmhouse at Lydhurst.

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The Medieval Fairy-Tale Town in Belgium: Feel the Spirit of Brugge

A perfect destination for celebrating the New Year’s Eve, Christmas, or this holiday spirit in general, Bruges (or Brugge in Dutch) is a small town in Belgium where time has stopped for good. Cascading colorful houses, peaceful canals, greenery in abundance, and of course, ample beer, chocolate and famous Belgian waffles, among other things will make you weak in the knees as soon as you catch a glimpse of this vivid city and its diverse tastes.

Bruges seems to be a town made to tease your palate, pamper you with a lush stay in a boutique hotel that gives you an even more profound feeling of time coming to a full stop, and treat you to a voyage into the past with its numerous museums, galleries, horse-drawn carriages and streets cobbled to perfection. But don’t be fooled – this little town is well-versed in all things modern and advanced, as well! Read more…

Give Your Fashionista Soul a Gift – A Luxurious Travel Experience in Southern Greece

Time-trodden and soaked in sun, Greece is a Mediterranean Eden that has become a holiday hotspot for lovers of fine wine, culinary wonders, and sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. A less-known fact, however, is that this ancient country is home to some of the most opulent experiences in the world, and yet it still manages to remain on the wallet-friendly side without jeopardizing any of its rustic, untamed charm.

Among a plethora of its resorts and famous coastal towns, there are a handful of spots that remain unspoiled by crowds, especially during the late days of spring, and early summer. One such place is in the South of the Peloponnese peninsula, the region called Laconia, where a little piece of land is detached from the main coast, and is known by the name of Monemvasia. What may be considered one of Greece’s best-kept secrets, this jewel of a town is a slice of heaven for those who seek to relax and enjoy life to the fullest, the only way Greeks know how!

Fairy-tale-worthy accommodation

Perched atop the hills with a commanding view of Monemvasia, Kinsterna Hotel remains in its essence a castle, a remnant of the Byzantine era, and perfectly restored to meet the needs of the modern traveler, with an extra pinch of luxury. In the embrace of dreamy vineyards, olive and orange groves, as well as the Mediterranean Sea, the mansion strives for immaculate self-sustainability in every aspect of its existence. They boast their own herb and vegetable garden, which makes their every meal in their all-day restaurant a feast for the senses – if you’re ever there, do try the Greek breakfast, it’s to die for.

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When in Rome…Villa Spalletti Trivelli

There’s a special warmth to Italy. It’s an old country, one that has stood by its traditions for many centuries, deeply in awe of its heritage. The Italian lifestyle, with its love of food and wine, may seem disconcerting and even downright magical for those of us from harsher climates. Rome stands proudly in the middle of the Italian boot, acutely aware of its strength and enduring permanence in the west. It is a proud capital; one of the proudest in the world. History is present in every step of the Eternal City, and it’s the kind of feeling I want my Roman lodging to encompass.

Villa Spalletti Trivelli offers one of the most luxurious experiences I’ve ever encountered. Situated on one of the original Seven Hills of Rome, Quirinale, it’s rich in history from past millennia. It’s right across from the Piazza del Quirinale, which in turn faces one of the official residences of the Italian President. Villa Spalletti is right at the heart of Rome, with all the weight that implies: it’s minutes away, by foot, to many of the most iconic landmarks in town, most notably the Fountain of Trevi.

The mansion may be of relatively recent built, in the early 20th century, but the area has been at the gist of things for millennia. Back in Ancient Rome, one of Cicero’s closest friends lived across Quirinale Palace: Titus Pomponius Atticus, a famed editor of his time. The hill has been an area full of ideas and innovation for many centuries, a trait shared by so many spots in the ancient Italian capital. Read more…

Oakley Court Windsor

I recently had the honour of staying at Oakley Court, a historic country house which overlooks the River Thames and sprawls over a 30 acre ground. The exterior presents a Gothic façade and endless sprawling gardens, with the garden’s centre-piece fountain and the surrounding rejuvenated orchards delivering unforgettable wow-factors. The 4-star residence hosts an award-winning restaurant, tennis courts, croquet lawn, and an indoor pool with stunning rover-bank views of the Thames. If you decide to wander outside the luxurious grounds, a brisk 10 minute walk will lead you to Windsor City Centre or Windsor Castle, or go a little further for Ascot and Thorpe Park, but you will always love returning to this gorgeous estate as your base. As expected with an estate dating back to 1859 and built as a home by Sir Richard Hall-Say, High Sheriff of Berkshire, the decor is unyieldingly traditional. Still, it offers a few surprising splashes of modern decor – notably the three riverside boardrooms – or slightly offbeat artwork, particularly the driftwood sculptures by James Doran-Webb.

During our stay, a favourite experience – second to soaking up the view – was the food. The menu is led by Head Chef Damian Broom whose second year saw the 2AA rosette award winning restaurant, The Dining Room, rewarded with two distinctions: Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year for 2015. The dinner was fresh and delicious, prepared from scratch like all the meals served up in The Dining Room. In part, the richness of the dishes can be traced back to the kitchen gardens which provide seasonal, high quality and local organic produce. Read more…