Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Just Back From: Ballyfin, Ireland

Europe, Hotel Reviews


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.


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.

lady_coote_room01_lrg 04


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


February 2015



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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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.


Posted in: Beach, Caribbean, Hotel Reviews

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

Just Back From: Ranch at Rock Creek

Family, Hotel Reviews


Montana, November 2014,

This past November, I flew to Missoula (yes, it took me two flights from NYC) and then drove an hour and change through heather-covered mountains and open valleys, all to arrive at Jim Manley’s rarefied luxe lodge, The Ranch at Rock Creek.  It was my first visit to a real working Ranch and my inner-cowboy was raring to go.


It was there, surrounded by horses, a babbling river and charming navajo and cowhide furnishings that I also enjoyed my first ever GLAMPING experience.  Given its name is derived from glamour (glamorous + camping = Glamping) I was an instant fan. Everything from the cozy canvas tent’s furnishings and temperature controlled gas fire to the sonorous natural aqua soundtrack out my door, I was smitten at first night.


Beyond the plush accommodations, the RRC provides truly commendable service with each employee more friendly than the next with a genuine passion for their job and the property they represent. The mood was one of true contentment and it was quickly translated to the guests. It also helps that the price model is all-inclusive, thus guests are presented with a bill until the very end of their stay. Better yet, it makes choosing the day’s activities – particularly for fickle kids – absent of stress and financial burden. Want to try fly fishing but not ready to commit to four hours? Not a problem. Try it for as long as you like. Same goes for shooting, the ropes course (which seriously tested my fear of heights), mountain biking, cattle ranching and riding. The options are yours for the picking and re-picking.

montana-the-ranch-at-rock-creek-2Being that the ranch is the dream-come-true / brainchild of one individual, it’s not unfair to compare bits of it to Michael’s Neverland (though far less creepy in context, of course.) Take the ranch’s saloon, for instance, which is outfitted with saddle-laden bar stools, a pool table, multiple big-screen TVs, and, perhaps most impressively, a four-lane bowling alley. It’s Butch Cassidy’s man cave. slideshow_The-Ranch-At-Rock-Creek

Then there’s the general store, or the MERC, as they call it. Never have I been so tempted to outfit myself in head-to-toe cowgirl wear. They wisely blend their comprehensive array of boots with a rainbow of Patagonia fleece, men’s plaid shirts, designer denim and charming children wear – even the t-shirts are extra comfy. If the outdoors hadn’t been just a tad more alluring (barely), I would have lost a few hours in that store.

And last, there’s the food. Again, the all-inclusive model wins here, allowing zero hesitation to ordering as much and as varied amount of items as you like. It also alleviates the inevitable frustration of a dish left half uneaten by your six year old. Fortunately, the leftovers will likely be snatched up by others as the food is that good. Sourced locally, as much as possible, the dishes are outstanding and feature local game, produce and delectable homemade soups and desserts. Good thing the multitude of hikes were easily accessible, ensuring the three square meals were effortlessly burned off.


Rollin’ with Nolan Tip: The Ranch offers guests a complimentary pair of cowboy boots to wear throughout their stay. Do not pass this opportunity up. I felt FAR more comfortable in my boots than ever imagined and quickly did away with any other shoe option for most of the stay.

If interested in booking a stay at the Ranch at Rock Creek, please email me for preferred pricing and specials.


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Posted in: Family, Hotel Reviews

Published by Meg, Friday, January 30, 2015 No Comments

about meg

About Meg


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.