Highlights, happenings and my favourite things of 2014

by Lesley-Ann on December 4, 2014

As the end of 2014 hurtles towards us I took some time to think back over the last year. Yet again it’s been one filled with many travels both home and away and a lot of fabulous memories. Here are just a few on the highlights, all travel related of course!

An unexpected fun 24 hours in Delhi

Delhi has everything you want from a short stay in a capital city (a wealth of museums, a vibrant arts scene, great shopping, pretty parks and sophisticated nightlife) but with the added bonus of centuries of history.  It’s a city of two halves, from Old Delhi with its ancient sights and frenzy of narrow alleys to the wide boulevards and leafy enclaves of New Delhi, built by the British for unashamed Imperial display.  To visit Delhi is definitely an assault on the senses but, it’s so much fun and you’ll definitely find magic amongst the madness.

Delhi 1

Delhi 2

‘At one with nature’ at Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica

To get this idyllic riverside lodge I had to ride the rapids – the best places are never easy to get to – but it was totally worth it.  Days were spent swinging in my hammock watching monkeys play in the trees and birds dart between the exotic flowers before mustering up the energy to zip line through the rainforest canopy. With no electricity, nights were spent sipping cocktails by candle light before being lulled to sleep by the murmur of the river.

Breakfast with a view

An early morning trek with a 1,100m ascent through knee high snow brought Julian and I up close and personal with the mighty Himalaya.  The view made our hearts skip a beat as we were rewarded with the most perfect panoramic view of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak. Then breakfast was served.

Most delectable city hotel abroad – the Lodhi, Delhi

It’s not often Julian gets wooed by a hotel but the Lodhi definitely won him over.  From the private plunge pools on the balcony of every room to the impeccable, personal but discreet service, this tranquil oasis may seem imposing from the exterior – all square concrete like something from a communist nation – but inside its cosy and cosseting.  It even comes with a couple of excellent restaurants much beloved by the well-heeled folk of Delhi and perfect for people watching.

The Lodhi

Coastal walk on the wild(ish) side

This year Julian and I had our first foray to north Northumberland.  Ashamed to admit it, we’d never been to the bit of the UK that stretches beyond Alnwick (of Hogwarts fame) all the way up to the Scottish Borders. What we discovered was a coastline dotted with castles, expansive sandy beaches and big, big skies.  It was perfect for walking with our favourite being from the ghostly ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, around wide Embleton Bay and on to the tiny hamlet of Lower Newton.  After a swift pint at the local pub, the return walk took us along the wind swept sand dunes that fringed the bay, before returning to Craster for some of its famous kippers.

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My favourite new UK hotel opening

Firmdale are a small but perfectly formed collection of hotels clustered around London (plus one in New York); each is different but all come with the owner’s eclectic and quirky styling, wonderfully friendly (but efficient) service and super spoiling rooms.  This year saw the opening of the latest addition to the fold, the Ham Yard Hotel, which I’m glad to report didn’t disappoint.  The location is perfect, right in the heart of Soho with shops, restaurants and nightlife oozing from every corner.  Whilst, inside it’s a veritable pleasure dome: hot pink walls, extravagant art, a hip and vibrant bar serving delicious and unusual cocktails, a cinema, giant orange juicer (yes, I kid you not) and even an original Fifties bowling alley imported from Texas.

Ham Yard Hotel

Le Marché d’Alty

On holiday there’s nothing better than stumbling across a market selling the best of what’s grown and made locally.  Abroad they always seem to get it right but, it frustrates me no end that I can never find anything of the same calibre at home in Manchester.  Well, that was until our good friends Nick and Jen took over the running of Altrincham (“Alty”) Market and totally transformed it by bringing in some fantastic independent local food and craft people.  Now I have a bit of the continent on my doorstep, which this year had a new centrepiece in the form of Market House, where you can feast and be sociable in a relaxed ‘refectory’ style at communal tables on some of the north west’s best food and drink all served from vintage market stalls.

Alty market

My favourite picture – starry, starry nights in India’s Kumaon Valley

Julian (my talented budding photographer husband) is rather good at capturing amazing images from our travels.  This year, faced with some fabulous locations, he surpassed himself with one photograph in particular; the night sky of the Himalayas.  It took a lot of patience but even Julian surprised himself with the results!

The best shout outs from la Concordia’s lovely clients

“We would be hard pressed to think of anything that could have been done better.  It was all quite magnificent.” 

“It is the kind of personal service you expect but rarely get.”

“A part of family admin that everyone should outsource.”

“The level of service is second to none.”

 

Thank you to all of you for letting me arrange your wonderful trips this year and for following my travels.

Wishing you all the best for this festive period and happy travels in 2015.

Lesley-Ann xx

 

 

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Some Movember inspiration for your facial fuzz

by Lesley-Ann on November 6, 2014

 

As the month now known as Movember begins, I thought I’d do a big shout out to all those men who will be braving the jokes and smirks of partners and colleagues to grow a supportive ‘tache over the coming weeks.

On my travels, the one place I’ve found where perfecting the humble ‘tache is an art form is most definitely India – they certainly know how to cultivate a good one! I’ve curated a collection of my favourite ‘taches, which I’m hoping may give you some inspiration if you’re looking to add a hairy dash of decor to your upper lip this month.

But please – I beg you – bring this month to a clean shaven end! Read more

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A ski resort, alternative

by Lesley-Ann on October 9, 2014

I like skiing but I’m no powder hound. I find being in the mountains surrounded by beautiful scenery invigorating and mind clearing. I love the freedom of cruising blue and red runs. Then after a day on the slopes I like nothing better than pootling around a quaint village, indulging in some spa treatment and cosying up in front of a roaring fire in a rather nice hotel. But, I hate the endless queues for lifts, struggling with my skis and being cut up by boarders and skiers who don’t seem to appreciate I like to take skiing at my own pace. So, could Andermatt be the answer to my skiing prayers?

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Portugal’s Alentejo region – a corker of a place

by Lesley-Ann on September 4, 2014

Portuguese wine has been a revelation to me over the last few years. I’d always poo pooed it with memories of overly sweet, slightly fizzy vinho verde produced from stubby Mateus bottles – albeit the bottles did come in handy to make artful candlestick holders!

Luckily for me our local wine shop (Reserve in Didsbury) always ensures that I “try something different” and never seems to get it wrong. So, when I was offered a Portuguese white from the Duoro valley I was amazed to find it was rather good and I haven’t looked back since!  Wanting to discover more about the wines of Portugal, on our recent trip to Portugal (after discovering an alternative Algarve – read about how you do that here) Julian and I headed north to the central Alentejo region.  But to our delight we discovered more than just wonderful wineries.

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An Alternative Algarve

by Lesley-Ann on August 5, 2014

The Algarve stretches from the Spanish border nearly 100 miles to the Atlantic Coast, but most people visiting the area congregate in the central stretch west of Faro, staying in the rather large resorts that come with their perfectly manicured golf courses, dazzling array of facilities and swathes of villa complexes. In fact, the only thing these resorts don’t seem to have is anything particularly Portuguese. As well catered as you will be, let’s face it you really could be anywhere in southern European and you know what, you’re really missing out.

There’s an alternative Algarve waiting to be discovered. An Algarve less trodden where you will resolutely know you’re in Portugal. The key is knowing where to look. My tip is to do as Julian and I did on a recent trip and, on exiting Faro airport, turn your back on the crowds and instead head east towards Spain. Read more

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