TRAVEL JAPAN.. KYOTO IN AUTUMN

Photography and travel: Sawako Muraoka

(Featured image: Kiyomisu-Dera Temple in autumn)

Flights: JAL from Heathrow, around £600 return London-Tokyo/Haneda airport  (Arriving at Haneda Airport is very useful as it’s only a 15 min train ride into Tokyo, it takes a lot longer from Narita. There is also a little shopping village inside the airport – useful for last minute gift buying and your final noodle fix)

Bag: The Rena bag in Moss Green

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Stayed at:

  • Self catering apartment which was fully equipped with a little kitchen and washing machine. Would especially recommend if you’re staying for a few nights as it’s a lot cheaper than most hotels and you have your own kitchen. Most hotel rooms are also very small so apartments can be more comfortable.
  • Highland Shimabara Guest House Approx. £65/night –  but this varies a lot depending on season

Dine out: Traditional meal served at a Kyoto’Ryokan’  (including the prettiest plate of pickles you’ve ever seen )food 3

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Arashiyama Bamboo Groveso beautiful and the trees are so tall!

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“Ojizo San”  is what these little statues are called , you see them a lot round shrines, they are there to protect people.

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Fushimi inari – Shinto shrine with thousands of “tor-ii” gates lining pathways up a mountain. We didn’t make it all the way!

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 Travelling around Japan – with JR Pass: this is a train pass only available to people who are not resident in Japan. You can use it as often as you like and go anywhere as long as it’s on a JR train and you reserve a seat. (It doesn’t include the fastest Shinkansen called Nozomi fyi. The second fastest is fast enough though!) It costs from around £180/week. Definitely recommend getting this if you’re going to multiple places.

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Travel Japan.. part 2 to follow!

TRAVEL… Serenity ( and gelato) at Lago Maggiore, Italy

Photography & travel: Brian Minkoff Photography

Flights: British Airways to Milan approx. £130pp

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Bag: The Islington bucket bag ( for Island hoping) The Newington clutch bag ( for fine dining)

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Stayed at: Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Rooms £200+ a night per couple

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Fine dined at: Hotel Verbano on the island of Isola dei Pescatori

Ristorante Lo Stronello

For a great value meal on a nice terrace in the centre of town:  Ristorante Pizzeria Mamma Mia, Stresa (no website)

A must….Trips to all the islands (none more than 15 minutes away by ferry boat)

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Isola Bella

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Isola Madre

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Isola dei Pescatori

The Botanical gardens on the Isola Madre are world famous and an essential visit.

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Enjoy…taking the circular ferry ride about (1 hour) without getting off at the islands is a relaxing treat.

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Eat..pasta, fresh fish from the lake ( pike, zander, perch, trout and black bass) and of course gelato. L’Angolo del Gelato was an almost daily post dinner ritual

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RE BALANCE…. INNER PEACE IN EL PUERTO

Bag: The brewer holdall as my on-board luggage and The Hoxton bag for my daily use

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Flight: London to Gibraltar, approx. 3 hours.  I had an unsettling early morning flight having been sat next to an extremely drunk and rather intimidating group, out on their stag do. Adieu Monarch, can’t say I will miss you.

Gibraltar to Cadiz: approx. 1hr 40 mins by car

Stayed at: El Puerto, 10km outside Cadiz

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Ate breakfast at: Bar Vicente, owned by 3 generations of the same family, next door to the local market so the perfect spot for people watching. Had a traditional breakfast of Pan con tomate with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice for only 4 Euros. Could sit there every day.

Ate Tapas at: Bar Apolo, recently renovated, delicious freshly cooked food and great value. Be sure to try the local cuttlefish Choco

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Visited:  Cadiz, ferry crossing to Cadiz from El Puerto takes 25 minutes and costs 2.65 Euros one way. The central market sells fish like you have never seen, but go early as they close early. Have to confess I struggled with the sharks

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Street food– plenty of choice surrounding the market, I settled for La Taperia de Lula, don’t miss it! They certainly know how to cook the most delicious regional dishes including Arroz Negro– rice with squid ink.

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Swam at: Las Redes, the best and longest stretch of beach, perfect for swimming and walking but very full at the weekends.

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Excursion: Sanlucar de Barrameda. All that you would expect from a traditional, white Spanish Village: sun washed central square, bars, cafe’s and ice cream parlours. Some lovely historic sites here as well.

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Drink: sherry out of the cask at Bodegas Obregon and why not have a small tapas whilst your at it

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Buy: Tejas ( Tile biscuits) flat , handmade almond biscuits to die for from Cien Palacios- it’s all they do and they come in beautiful tins.  A fan from the market if you really want a piece of Spain to take back home.

Hoxton-promotion

Take advantage of our 50% discount offer 22-10 to 29-10-17 bu ising code:

hoxtoncream17 at the checkout. (Free UK p&p, whilst stock lasts)

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PAMPER….FACIAL AT COWSHED

Venue: Cowshed Spa, Primrose Hill

Occasion:  special Birthday treat from a special friend

On the Menu: facial, relaxation, coffee, retail therapy

Bag: The Pimlico clutch in black and beige

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Cowshed facials start @£48.00 for a 30 min speedy and £80.00 for the full hour. Treatments rooms are So relaxing, therapists brilliant, products smell and feel so good.

Eat: There’s a great little menu, well prices with tasty snacks. Coffee £3 ,a naughty snack £2 and  then there is always a  Horny Cow Smoothie, if you’re in the mood. It’s most definitely worth taking the time out to enjoy their kitchen and people watch, they are oh so trendy in leafy Primrose Hill!

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Product: Your beautician will recommend what you need based on your skin. Cowshed toiletries smell and feel fantastic, highly recommend owning their Cleanser( I recommend Lavender Gentle Cleanser), Toner ( I recommend Chamomile Refreshing Toner) and Body lotion ( I recommend Grumpy Cow uplifting body lotion)  as part of your beauty essentials

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ESCAPE… Weekend in Sofia

My trusty travel companions were The Brewer holdall  which contained all I needed clothes wise for the weekend ( it was just an escape after all) and my Hoxton bag which was perfect for keeping my wallet and phone whilst strolling, people watching and eating of course.

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I travelled from Heathrow to Sofia with British Airways /club class £670 return /duration 3 hours ( correct at time of writing)

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Stayed at: Hotel Marinela , prices start at £100 per night for a King room with city views. Comes complete with loud peacocks in the morning ( not kidding) and loud music at night so..if you are looking for a quiet hideaway this hotel is not for you. But if you want to see some life, this hotel is quite an adventure and the rooms are nice and spacious.

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Stroll down pedestrian Boulevard Vitosha for a spot of people watching and a good coffee. If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of snow on Mt Vitosha, which hangs over at the far end of the Boulevard and looks like something out of a film set.

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Then head on round the corner to Tsar Shishman Street and Angel Kanchev Street-here you will find a complete melting pot of  the very old and somewhat run down with the very trendy and excitingly new- designer boutiques, artisan cafes, artisan eateries, speciality shops and downright traditional ones too.

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Highly recommend:

Made in Home or Made in blue– home made food, good for veggie lunches, chill vibe

The Tea House serves teas, vegetarian food and has live jazz music nights

Bistro pesto Little Italian place serving salads ,two types of pasta and that’s it  !! but who needs more?

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If you want to try the best homemade Bulgarian ‘Banitsa’ ( pie) some great bakes and perfect coffee, do not miss a pit stop at Daro  I absolutely loved this place!!

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And if you scream for Ice Cream you can queue and get the best one at Gelateria Naturale

Other things to do, which do not involve food are…

Visit the famous Alexander Nevsky Church  the interior is truly stunning, then pick up a Sofia Free Tour , they also do a free hiking and a free biking tour.

Visit the Borisova Gardina Park, for some street entertainment or a little rest, then the park in front of the National Theatre for some live Jazz

If you’re tired and need a taxi download the Taxime app and only use that, if you pick one up from the street you could be charged as much as triple

And if you want a different eating adventure come night time try Umami  complete with landscaped gardens, ponds and exotic birds… it’s an experience!

 

ESCAPE…. LES BAINS D’OVRONNAZ

If you are looking for a quick escape, scenically beautiful and restorative for body & soul, the Thermal pools at Ovronnaz Switzerland might just hit the spot.

The Rena at Lac Lemand

Ovronnaz is a sleepy, quiet village, 4,300 feet high and nestled at the foot of The Muverans mountain range , in the Valais region. On route you will pass sprawling vineyards and unspoilt valleys finally reaching the bubbling thermal springs of Ovronnaz, offset by glaciers and majestic mountains. Ovronnaz offers outdoor thermal pools and terraces as well as a full panoramic SPA, it’s an absolute treat. Open both summer and winter, with late night openings on a Friday (babies and children welcome  and children under 6 go free). This  gem of a place is surprisingly low key, quiet and a unique opportunity to be pampered at the heart of nature.

Lake Geneva

I travelled to Ovronnaz via Easyjet cabin luggage only with my Rena bag and a stopover at Lausanne and Lake Geneva

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The Rena at O'vvronaz

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Location: Thermal pools at Ovronnaz, Valais, Switzerland

Bag: The Rena bag in Dove

Travel: London Luton to Geneva with Easyjet , £127 ( at time of travel, June 2017) flight time 1hr:30mins

Train and local bus to Ovronnaz : 3hr 38mins mins from Geneva train station/ approx. £85 per person return journey ( at time of travel, June 2017)

Day pass to Spa and pools: Day passes for the outdoor pools and SPA facilities start at 50 SF/£40 per person and can be bought in advance online. Accommodation at the resort starts at SF205/£166 per person per night including SPA and pool pass.

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Out with the old, in with the new

New Year’s day feels like a day in limbo, not quite over last year, not yet started this year and for many a day of being completely hung- over and realizing that the holidays are done and the hard slog starts in earnest in just a few days’ time… just when we were getting used to chilling out.

I know us Brits are known for discussing the weather, continually as a matter of fact, but the weather in London in the run up to Christmas was as changeable as the time of year and far from what you would have expected. So whilst parts of England were under a thick blanket of snow, us Londoners were treated to crisp blue skies, bright sunny days and ice so thick at night that it turned London into a white wonderland. No doubt the plants in my garden felt the pinch, but even so they looked fantastically beautiful in the bright day light as they thawed , releasing thick plumes of vapour.

It’s cold, windy and miserable outside today, it really is,the frost is over and the plants seem to have survived the ordeal. So here’s hoping that all of us will ‘survive’ the ‘ordeal’ that is 2015, in fact here’s hoping that we all ace it. Happy New Year to all, may it be a good, happy, healthy and successful one.

X Nadia

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The stillness within

Swarovski launch events admittedly are one of the perks of my job. They are always hosted in a beautiful location and I feel like I am surround by boxes of sweets, which are in fact containers full of sparkly crystal- as beautiful as sweets without the guilt factor.

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I am always curious to see their trend forecasts and even curious to know which one will grab me the most in terms of colours, shapes and the philosophy behind it.

The key trends this time certainly reflected the signs of the times, those visible to the eye and those obvious to the soul.

As for me, finding my favorite key trend, this time  it was a no brainer. ‘The stillness within’ grabbed me immediately. The philosophy behind it?  ‘the cracks are beginning to appear in our ‘always on’ world’.  The idea being that having become complete slaves to technology we are now looking to reverse the damage. A need to reclaim our space, to be alone, to ‘shut down’, to have time away from gadgets, social media and technology.

The keywords being:  retreat, escape, unplug, simplify, tranquillity.

The colour pallete- right up my street- neutrals, opalescent whites, hints of blue and shards of grey. Frosty but sparkly.

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Now I just need some time out to decide what I am going for and to put our new winter 2015 range together!