All posts from: June 2011
It’s not that I don’t like children. In fact, we tend to get on very well.
But sometimes, when I’m looking around a museum or art gallery, I can’t help thinking how nice it would be if us grown-ups didn’t have to stand aside and let the grubby-handed little dears have first dibs on all the exhibits.
London Zoo has the perfect solution: it’s running special adults-only events on Friday evenings, where you can be as grown-up or as childish as you like, and don’t have to share the animals with whiney whippersnappers.
There are animal feedings and talks, food and drink stalls, musicians and even a silent disco. Watching fully-grown adults tear around the zoo in tiger and ladybird face-masks clutching beer and wine is hilariously surreal. You aren’t allowed to wear the masks at certain enclosures though because it scares the animals (the masks aren’t that realistic, surely?!). And apparently the zoo has had to draft in extra security guards to pull out grown-ups who get stuck in the children’s viewing bubble in the meerkat enclosure.
I visited last Friday, when the rain was so torrential I went around and earmarked two of every animal to take on-board the Ark with me if it came to it. But it wasn’t raining in the Laurent Perrier tent, fortunately, and the inhabitants of the brand new Penguin Beach did not seem to mind the wet weather at all.
Nor did rain did not stop play for the two bands who were keeping spirits up with their lively performances. Samba Nova, a trio made up of a saxophonist, rhythm guitarist and Brazilian percussionist, were stationed on the lawn not far from the brand new Penguin Beach, playing Latin jazz and samba [pictured above].
The three members of Little Big Funk (pictured left) were braving the elements in a tent on the bridge over Regent’s Canal, belting out jazz funk and soul. I particularly enjoyed their bass-rich, funked-up version of Moloko’s Sing It Back.
The artists have had a mixed reaction from the zoo’s residents. Larry Pryce, manager of both groups, says the wild dogs have been really getting into the music, but that the gorillas have been rather non-plussed. There is no pleasing some primates.
Tickets for Zoo Lates are £19 when you pre-book online. On a rainy night, a VIP ticket (£33) pays dividends: as well as champagne, Bellinis and tasty canapés, you get access to the VIP lounge where hair stylists and make-up artists offer free makeovers, so I was able to do some emergency hair-straightening after the downpour. It was very fortunate that I could: if the animals were scared by a ladybird face mask, they'd have been terrified by my drowned-poodle look.
Zoo Lates is on every Friday in June and July.
Living and breathing travel like I do, every day I am bombarded with tantalizing images and descriptions of the world’s best escapes. Pretty much everywhere is on my to-do list, except for war zones and Bunol in Spain during its annual tomato-throwing festival (simply because I can't stand tomatoes).
But every so often something pops up on my radar that makes me yearn to be rich and fancy-free, so I could take off at the drop of a hat to experience it.
Last night, I added Aqua Expeditions to my “bucket list”. (Apparently so called because it’s all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”. I wish someone would come up with a better name than that!)
Aqua Expeditions has two five-star river cruise vessels on the Amazon – the newest was unveiled last night at a reception at the National Geographic Store on London’s Regent Street.
The company promises totally luxury onboard the 16-suite vessel, where guests are served gourmet meals created by a top Peruvian chef (Pedro Miguel Schiaffino) and regularly topped up with fresh exotic juices and South American wine. And to keep you entertained, Aqua’s guides take guests to the heart of the Amazonian wildlife action.
In the goody bag was a hardback Peruvian cookbook. It has Schiaffino’s recipes interspersed with descriptions of the Amazon river cruise experience from past guests. Now I am a real culprit for letting my cookbooks gather dust. But the mix of recipes with travel bites had me engrossed in the book the whole way home, and I reckon I’ll be trying my hand at some Peruvian cooking this weekend…
After four days out at ITT in Venice, I was very much in need of some R&R. But I’ve never been able to pass up the offer of a Caribbean cocktail, so when Denise Green invited me to a party on Friday night, I was there sooner than you can say rum punch. Representatives of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club and Ottley's Plantation were on the road all last week, visiting agents and operators across the country to update them on all things Kittitian and Nevisian.
I bumped into Carol Smith, a personal travel advisor for The Co-operative Travel, who won a fabulous holiday to the two hotels in a TTG competition last year. It was a poetry competition and this was her winning entry:
MY TWIN CENTRE TALE
British Airways flight BA2157
Flies to a part of heaven.
Tuesdays, Saturdays from London Gatwick
Choice of two flights, take your pick
Offering competitive prices
Choose between three seating classes.
One stop flight, 100kms from Antigua.
Arriving St Kitts SKB for NevisNEV - this trip is not meagre.
St Kitts has music festivals in June.
Reggae, RandB, Jazz, Gospel, Rap - many a tune.
Carnival, December to New Year
Always brings many a cheer.
For golfers, a recommended source
Visit Frigate Bay, The Royal St Kitts Golf Course.
Cultural, Heritage tourists, for an amazing thrill
Visit UNESCO World Heritage Fortress at Brimstone Hill
From Basseterre, see the island in a day
Take a purpose built railcar on St Kitts Scenic Railway
Nevis has Arts, History and Culture
Promote to clients for the future.
July, August, Culturama Festival celebration
Of 1830 slaves granted freedom and emancipation
Horatio Nelson Museum, tells many a story
Of this famous admiral visitor and 18th Century.
Charlestown, the capital, the place for shops.
This Colonial Era example is definately tops.
Mount Nevis Peak is perfect to climb.
Experienced guides help those in their prime.
Ottley Plantation, by Mount Liamuiga, in 35 acres.
Family owned, 23 rooms, having many takers.
Cottages with jacuzzis, private pools, panoramic ocean views
65 foot spring fed pool, all aspects to choose,
Never having to venture far
Visit Intriguingly Sensual Mango Orchard Spa.
Home of The Royal Palm Restaurant.
Caribbean food - all you want.
Work off extra pounds
Play tennis or croquet in their own grounds.
Onto Nevis, journeying short.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, a tranquil, intimate resort.
Weddings, honeymoons, romantic bliss,
Restored 1778 Great House meets every wish
The Palm Spa offering ultimate relaxation
Also at this beautiful destination.
Cast all cares to tropical breezes
Relax amongst foliage, beachfront location, whatever pleases.
A worthy winner, I'm sure you'll agree. Carol’s heading out there with her partner on June 25, the lucky thing, and will be reporting back on her trip (not necessarily in rhyming couplets) in a Caribbean feature in September. We discovered a shared passion of scuba diving and I’ve told her she must check out the wreck of the River Taw in St Kitts if she gets the chance.
Carol and I were intrigued to hear about Patterson, the maitre d’ at Nisbet Plantation, who has been collecting ties from guests for several years, and has more than 7,000. Carol is now on the hunt for the most unusual tie she can find before her trip.
I was also interested to hear about the Nevis Triathlon, as well as the Nevis ‘Try a Tri’ which is a beginner's version of the full triathlon: a 1,000m swim, 100km bike-ride and 10km run. Jamies Holmes, GM of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, is a very keen cyclist (and can take guests on cycle-tours if they wish) and he's already done the Nevis Triathlon. I have a suspicion that after several rum punches I may have agreed to go and do the Try a Tri myself....watch this space!
I joined the Bermuda Board of Tourism and some top agents at Chelsea Flower Show this week. The theme of the garden was weddings and honeymoons, as this is a sector Bermuda is promoting at the moment, and the focal point was a huge stone Polo-shaped sculpture representing the ‘moongates’ that you see around the island. These stones are said to bring good luck, and brides and grooms will often walk through them after a wedding ceremony.
On the Monday of Chelsea Flower Show, Bermuda had a bride and groom on the stand, with the bride wearing an elaborate floral hat - another Bermudian wedding tradition - that made Beatrice’s wacky fascinator at the Royal Wedding look low-key.
I had a chat with Neville, director of Bermuda’s Botanical Garden, about the flowers featured in the display and which kind of flora the island is home to. He told me the native flora is not as colourful as you might expect, but that as an English colony, a hell of a lot of roses have found their way over there.
The national flower is the deep violet flower of an unassuming herbaceous plant called Bermudiana, but my favourite flower of the display were the birds of paradise. He also told me a bit about the Botanical Garden - it’s more than 80 years old, covers 36 acres and is home to 18 collections of flowers. It’s also free of charge for visitors, so a great day out to recommend to clients. Bermuda hasn’t exhibited at Chelsea for 20 years so they were very excited to be back…and took away a silver medal for their efforts.
The Sri Lanka display also caught my eye - the beautiful orchids again took home a gold award this year. Sri Lanka also deserves an award for its celebrity count - it racked up JLS, Jane Asher, Bill Bailey, Rick Stein and Helen Mirren.
Hats off also to Grenada, which had a 'castaway' themed garden complete with sand. Grenadian-born designer Suzanne Gaywood won a gold medal - her ninth win at Chelsea. No 'Spice Island' garden would be complete without nutmeg and cinammon - there was also a huge lump of cocoa solids which smelt divine.
I loved the peaceful, tropical Tourism Malaysia garden, which was designed again by James Wong of the TV programme Grow Your Own Drugs. He said he’d taken inspiration this year from the courtyards found in urban residences or hotels in Malaysia, with a pavilion sunken down into a huge pool. I enjoyed James’s explanation of how he transported one of the rarest plants over to the UK - using a medical-grade courier that takes organs for transplants. I met Tim Johnson from Audley Travel, Nandita Patel from Funway Holidays and Peoples Travel from People’s Travel who have all launched flower and garden-themed packages following a fam trip they went on in March this year.
I also caught up with shoe-designing legend Jimmy Choo, to find out what he made of this year’s garden and ask what influence flowers have had on his design. I hadn’t realised that his first collection, that catapulted him into the spotlight, incorporated roses - “so flowers have always been associated with Jimmy Choo”, he said (read my full news story here). He was very excited to have met the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall the day before. Apparently, the Duchess of Cornwall leant over and told him: “I was wearing your shoes at the Wedding”!.