Escape… Thailand’s Islands, Koh Samui

My travel bags: The Brewer Holdall, The Angel bag 

Angel Koh Samui

Travelled with: Thai Airways from Heathrow /£750.00 return ( Mid Feb) , 12hrs to Bangkok/13 hrs return to Heathrow. Perfect service and customer care from start to finish.

Connecting flight Bangkok to Surat Thani with Thai smile £35 single ( mid Feb ), 55 mins. Great service, you even get served drinks and a snack

Bus from Surat Thani to Don Sak port, then boat to Koh Samui approx 2 hrs, spectacular scenery and air conditioned decked cabin. I chose to sit on the deck and watch the views.

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Stayed at: Bandara resort and spa from £85 per night including breakfast. The breakfast is on the beach restaurant and quite spectacular, not to mention the views

Bo phut

Bophut fishing village is a 5 minute walking and is totally charming with a large selection of chill out cafes on the beach as well as restaurants and a weekly market selling just about everything from fried grasshoppers to suits.

Chaweng

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Optional day trips:  Chaweng, Big Buddha

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Eat: fruit- lots of it, Fresh fish- sold by weight, grilled in front of you, Phad Thai- it’s so, so good

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Drink- Coconut Cappuccino, as many fresh coconuts as you can

Relax- enjoy the sunsets

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NEXT: Escape Thailand’s Islands, Krabi and Railay

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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!

Kyoto shrine

 

 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.

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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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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!

 

Travel….Off to Lyon

Photography and content: Brian Minkoff photography

Bag: The Islington bucket bag from Not on the High Street

  • Eurostar from Kings Cross directly to Lyon: 4hrs 40 mins prices start from £90 return
  • Stayed at: The Carlton Lyon,  which thankfully had brilliant air conditioning throughout-it was 37 centigrade outside. Prices start at £195 for a double in July

 

Comfy:

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Waiting for the lift:

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Off for an iced something and a quiet read:

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  • Many, many ice creams were essential given the heat. The best was Terre Adelice,  Green Chartreuse was my favourite flavour-but was almost tempted by the Goats Cheese or Tomato and Basil, Check out  some of the flavours here

Love at first sight:

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  • Boat trips to and from the modern Confluence were a mere 2 euros each way

Dive in:

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My new friend Paul Bocuse:

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Great meals to be had at:

  • Institute Paul Bocuse –where his trainees learn the ropes ! We had a fantastic slow cooked beef rib on a bed of macaroni cheese and a shoulder of Moroccan lamb with spices were the stars. And it would have been rude not to try the Macaron desert – a macaron with a mousse of mango and passion fruit filling, with salted caramel ice cream or the Chocolate bomb with very very rich melted chocolate inside, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce !!!!
  • Le Cintra terrase, in a beautiful square near the Town Hall- where we indulged in some fantastic home cured salmon and whole sea bass.
  • It was too hot to wander the vast shopping mall but we did salad it on the Terasse of Le Paradis du Fruit , Red Mullet and Tempura Prawn salad was lovely. As was the Passion fruit smoothie.

Blending in with the locals:

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Many quirky buildings along the Confluence including The orange Cube behind the bag

 

 

DINE…. lunch at The Ivy Chelsea Garden

Location :  The Ivy Chelsea Garden, 195 -197 King’s Road, London SW3 5EQ

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The Bag: The Goldbourne in Monochrome

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Photography: Brian Minkoff

Food: British brasserie & Grill

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Eaten (and recommended): Duck salad £9.25, Whole Dover sole £37.00, Rib eye £27.95,  Char grilled Banham ½ chicken £14.95, Ivy’s ‘must have’ Signature dessert- Chocolate bomb £8.50

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Drinks: Angels Share ( highly recommended!!   a fantastic take on a Mojito with kumquats, ginger,lemon grass , Kaffir lime leaves and Havana rum) £9.50, Lavender Lady £8.00

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The space: Elegant, spacious, beautiful garden and terrace

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Service: Lively & personable

Celebrity spotting: Michael Caine, Princess Beatrice, Joan Collins

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