Travel Design Tips & Inspiration

Just back From: Four Seasons Serengeti, Tanzania

Africa, Family, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Oct
28
2015

This past July I traveled to Tanzania to check out the Four Seasons Serengeti on assignment for Passported.com – a new travel site dedicated to sophisticated family travel (yay!) I wrote the following for them and have re-posted it here for my readers.

FS Serengeti is a fabulous, family-friendly spot in the Serengeti National Park with unending views and true intimacy with the animals. I sincerely hope to bring my children back there someday as its programs for kids were among the best I’ve ever seen in the bush.  *All pictures here are mine.

 

FOUR SEASONS SERENGETI TRAVEL REPORT

LOCATION

Smack in the center of the Serengeti National Park with the Mara River and Kenya to the east and Lake Victoria due west, the Four Seasons Safari Lodge has one of the most privileged spots in the whole park, with open ended views out across the plains and an on-property watering hole that elephants loved. And with a sister tented camp farther east towards Kenya planned for 2017, the Four Seasons Serengeti experience will be cover both rugged and more pampered stays in tandem. Of course, this is the Four Seasons, so rugged will likely be a relative term.

LODGE

With 77 rooms and three standalone villas, plus a separate spa and fitness area, kids’ club room and precious jewelry shop, this is by far one the of the largest safari lodges I’ve ever visited and the resort-feel is apparent. Rooms sit right alongside and above one another with elevated decks connecting the buildings, so the space feels more like a traditional hotel than secluded lodge. The decor is impressively authentic, with Maasai art featured prominently throughout the hotel. Common areas are vast but thoughtful details, like the snooker table at the tail end of the second-floor lounge and the open-air fire pit in the attached Boma Grill restaurant, lend a more intimate feel. The best spot in the hotel is the Discovery Centre, where an interactive museum-style format is a magnet for the whole family. Led by the charming and well-versed Oli Dreike, there is no better place to understand and respect the enormity of the Great Migration.

WILDLIFE

Synonymous with the Great Migration (the enthralling spectacle of one million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra and 500,000 gazelles charging across the plains), the Serengeti has the highest concentration of plains animals, including all of the Big Five. Birders will be delighted with the 600-plus bird species in the park, while cat-lovers can be confident they will spot either leopard or lion, likely both, since they are in abundance in the Serengeti. During my stay, camera traps at the lodge captured both lion and leopard wandering nearby.

FOOD

With daily shipments from Nairobi and Maasai cooks in the kitchen, chef Curtis Smithen (Four Seasons Nevis alum) has created a menu that showcases local vegetables and grains like ugali (beans) and mchicha (spinach), plus chapatti, a delicious fried bread. Breakfast is a continental-style buffet with custom smoothies and an omelet station served up on the second floor, while lunch and dinner are a la carte and served down below either in the dining room or alfresco on the deck overlooking the pool. The food is impressive given the constraints of the location, with the Boma Grill’s local Tanzanian barbecue of Nyama Choma being the best meal of the stay.

HIGHLIGHT

There’s a multitude of day trip options, including fishing trips to Lake Victoria, river crossings of the Migration and visits to the Ngororo Crater, but I’d be remiss not to recommend the balloon safari. Though the departure is at the crack of dawn and the take-off is done from a slightly harrowing supine position, the experience is otherworldly as the sun rises alongside your balloon and you glide over the endless herds of animals. It was like being inside the Planet Earth film. Myself and my companions were all grinning like hyenas throughout the hour-long ride.

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Posted in: Africa, Family, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Wednesday, October 28, 2015 No Comments

Just Back From: Ballyfin, Ireland

Europe, Hotel Reviews

Sep
03
2015

Ballyfin Demense, Ireland

April 2015

Forgive me, I have sinned, and in connection to the land of my heritage. It has been too-many-to-count months since my last blog post and I have sadly let languish the review of my fairytale stay at the gorgeous property, Ballfyin, located in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the midlands of Ireland. The 614-acre, Regency property is the emblem of one family’s steadfast passion to bring elegance through careful restoration back to the Irish countryside. The manor not only does just that, but it goes further and wows its guests with an enviable art and antique collection as well as first-class service, befitting of the former gentry to which the house was once accustomed.

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Today, it is Ireland’s preeminent property, offering a truly exceptional stay in the isle of green. Even if you can visit for one night, it’s an overnight you’re likely never to forget. With twenty individually-designed rooms, ranging from suites to a cozy single, the house maintains its original feel as a grand manor, accommodating all types of guests and personality types. Given this particularity, it’s wise to check the room descriptions and images prior to visiting to ensure you are ensconced in a decor style of your liking, though fortunately no room could ever be deemed uncomfortable nor unattractive.

ballyfin_cnt_14feb12Sure, go ahead, indulge the Downton Abbey fantasies… I did. After all, you’re in the proper countryside where the amenities range from shooting and archery to horse and carriage rides or High Tea taken in a garden folly. Of course, the fantasy is best realized through the property’s very own costume room featuring a bevy of original 17th and 18th century costumes (plus accessories!) available for guests to borrow. I highly suggest dressing in costume for dinner one evening (and dressing smartly for dinner every evening, given the fare is quite high-end and the service, fittingly formal.) Plus, the wonderful woman in the costume room has the patience of a kindergarten teacher. She smiled the entire time as she witnessed our group of women deliberate for an hour over our selections. Then, she politely indulged my plea to sneak back and change my selection. I’m not sure if dining in the costumes was as much fun as the photo session prior (those ladies had tiny waistlines that clearly didn’t accommodate cheese trolleys) but somehow we managed, giggling throughout the meal having been transported if not back in time, back in our own years — a rare treat in and of itself.

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TIP: The pace is deliciously slow at Ballyfin, and with many a fireplace, overstuffed couch and the typical wet Irish weather on hand, a good book is your best travel accessory.

 

 

Posted in: Europe, Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Thursday, September 3, 2015 No Comments

Just Back From: Malliouhana in Anguilla

Beach, Caribbean, Hotel Reviews

Apr
08
2015

February 2015

Anguilla

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Following a 3 year closure and 18-month renovation, the beloved Malliouhana on Anguilla is back, and now managed by the prestigious Auberge Hotels Group. Redressed and gussied up in turquoise, shimmering accents and bright yellow frills (the pool umbrellas are indeed,frilly) the mod redo has made the hotel every bit as alluring as the glorious white sand beach and crystalline water it overlooks.

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A large nod must go to interior designer, Todd-Avery Lenahan of TAL Studio, for transforming a tired property into one that simply gleams. The mid-century, Palm Beach-esque furnishings lend a cheerful vibe to the entire resort, while maintaining a high quotient of glamour.

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Lenahan drew his inspiration from the photography of Slim Aarons, a beloved shutterbug of the rich and celebrated, who often photographed his subjects either poolside or on vacation in some of the world’s most iconic spots. A wise source indeed, as Anguilla’s heyday was during the same years of Aaron’s work’s heyday, thus the design also conjures the island’s most glamourous time in history. And clearly, the look carries timeless appeal.

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Cool fact: the wall mirror pictured here actually hides a television screen inside.

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What struck me most was how the simple addition of paint, mind-you in attractively chosen color schemes with charming application techniques – note the stripes painted on the walls in the guest rooms, made a world of difference to the concrete (hurricane-proof) walls. Instantly the mood was lifted. Pair this with palm-frond embellished furnishings, and iconic fabric prints (such as the black and white striped pool cabanas) and the senses were pleasantly satiated into a Caribbean state of mind. Of course, it helps that the views are expansive and nothing but sea on the horizon, and that the complimentary poolside smoothies are fresh and refreshing.
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The next best thing after the design, is the restaurant. Crisply nautical in design scheme (I’m a sucker for that), deliciously open-air (and with ceiling fans to ensure a breeze even on still nights) with cozy cushioned seating and panoramic views of the sea, what’s not to like? Even better; the food is delicious. Seriously, truly delicious. Unlike other Caribbean islands, Anguilla does enjoy a pretty phenomenal dinning scene, and so the Malliouhana simply had to perform here. And that they did. Likely, with the help of Auberge. By bringing in the talent from New York, who expertly created a menu that showcases the best of the Caribbean Sea’s offerings with a Mediterranean twist, I can honestly say, that each meal (and I had all three) was remarkably tasty. From the spiny lobster benedict in the morning (oh yes, I did) to the multi-course dinner, which included house-made garganelli pasta in squid ink and coconut oil plus poached grouper with jerk spiced spinach. I would go back just as much for the food as the scenery. And in the Caribbean, that’s no small feat. Kudos.malliouhana-auberge-resort-anguilla-dining-restaurant-collagemalliouhana-auberge-resort-anguilla-gallery-5

So, until my next visit, of which I’m certain there will be one, I shall dream of the cheerful resort’s stylish decor, the seaside setting and the delicious meals. And for a resort located on an island where the beach generally steals the show, I believe my recollections say it clearly: This place is exceptional. malliouhana-auberge-resort-anguilla-dining-restaurant-gallery-12

For more information and personal details regarding the Malliouhana or for questions on whether this spot would be a good fit for your  next trip, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Posted in: Beach, Caribbean, Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Wednesday, April 8, 2015 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.