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Penny Lee

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By Penny Lee Taylor-Brown

It’s not on every trip that you get to experience multiple, contrasting parts of a country, but it’s because of the duality of Costa Rica that I fell head over heels in love with it.

If there’s one ‘big trip’ that you book this year, make it the beaches and rainforests of this Central America highlight.

Before heading to those extremities of your experiences, a stay in San Jose is an absolute must.

We arrived on a late flight from the UK, but within half an hour were welcomed warmly into the downtown haven of Hotel Presidente.

Situated in the heart of the happenings in a part of town that exudes that working-class je ne sais quoi that we appreciate from any downtown area, the Hotel Presidente gives you the perfect base to experience real life in a Costa Rican city.

Take a day here to explore the museums, parks, and exhibition centres all nearby and fall in love with the realness of the place as you go. Fruit markets bulging out from shop fronts, a steady stream of street food production from elevated graffiti covered shutters, and coffee shops colourfully adorned with deeply textured street art.

The hotel itself is housed within a former textiles company and thanks to a very clever refurbishment programme, it offers a time-travel ticket to the past with its vintage furniture and textiles-connected tchotchkes all around.

The hotel is also blessed with a quiet and peaceful rooftop area, accessible 24 hours a day. So, if you’re not eating dinner up there or enjoying cocktails, take a cup of Costa Rican coffee up for sunrise, and never experience daybreak the same again.

As rush hour silently breezes past your high-flying view of the streets, pack up your stuff and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime taking in the beaches and rainforests of a country where the words ‘simple life’ is not only a greeting, but a blessing, and a statement of intent.

Let’s go. Pura Vida.

TO THE BEACH, BABY

In the heart of the enchanting Nicoya Peninsula, a sanctuary was created that invites you to rediscover the deep bond between your soul and the natural world. Nantipa, A Tico Beach Experience, where every wave of the ocean offers a new possibility, and every inch of shore offers time to breathe.

If you like the light tones of the coast, puppies breath, and space for days- this is the place for you.

This eco-friendly resort embodies the very essence of reconnection with nature and oneself, resonating with the needs of those seeking healing, solace, and adventure.

As soon as I arrived, I was struck by the breath-taking beauty of Nantipa’s surroundings.

The resort truly embraces the idea of sustainability, from the thoughtful design of the structures that blend in harmoniously with the natural landscape to the initiatives aimed at environmental conservation. But beyond that, it was their commitment to community support and beach preservation that was truly heart-warming. Every activity offered at Nantipa is designed to minimize the impact on the environment, from surfing and yoga sessions to horseback riding along the beach.

As I entered the Numu Wellness Center, a sense of tranquillity enveloped me. The aroma of essential oils and the sound of nature’s symphony resonated in the air. The highly skilled practitioners used locally sourced and eco-conscious products to provide transformative treatments. I felt my body and spirit reawakening and strengthening as I felt the healing powers of the therapists.

Nantipa Resort also offers a range of exhilarating activities. Surging waves invitingly call out to those who want to gain balance and serenity through surfing. Adventure seekers can explore the stunning landscapes on horseback and embrace the harmony of nature, Earth, and sky. Yoga sessions strummed at the pulse of my soul, and I submitted to how being truly present in mind, body, and spirit can heal from within.

But the most poignant experience for me was witnessing the miracle of baby turtles being released into the ocean. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment reminding me of the profound interconnectedness between all living beings and the precious responsibility humanity bears to the planet.

In my journey to Nantipa Resort, I not only experienced personal healing and transformation by getting over a fear of surfing (!), but I felt a deeper appreciation for our planet’s beauty and the importance of preserving its natural wonders. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly and sustainable retreat, Nantipa Resort nurtures the soul and allows you to rediscover the harmony between nature and yourself.

OVER TO THE RAINFOREST

Hidden just a morning drive away from Nantipa, stitched within the emerald fabric of Costa Rica’s lush rainforest, Tabacon Resort is the answer to a question of solace and renewal. If you like dark tones, moody mist, and views for days, this is your bag.

Situated within view of Arenal Volcano, Tabacon reveals its magic through the healing power of its hot springs, where warm waters cascade over volcanic rocks and carry transformative rejuvenation. It was easy to acclimatise to the mineral-rich pools, with each immersion being a significant moment with the elements. And it was hard not to fall for the soul-stirring tingle awakened by the connection between my own spirit and the ancient spirit of the rainforest.

Surrounded by the symphony of chirping birds and the eye-catching blossoming flora, I surrendered to the timeless rhythms of Tabacon, allowing its power to wash away the stresses of everyday life.

Tabacon is now famous for these hot springs, thoughtfully designed and integrated into the natural surroundings, creating a place to relax and rejuvenate. Apart from the afternoon we spent propping up the swim up bar enjoying cocktails, though relaxing, that afternoon was certainly not rejuvenating!

Whilst at Tabacon, I took on a variety of activities that added to the magic of my stay. One of the highlights was a candlelit yoga session, which allowed me to connect with my inner self in a tranquil rainforest setting. It was a new moon that evening and I was due my period, so you can imagine how connected I felt to nature.

In addition to the calming candlelit yoga and the hot springs, I also had the opportunity to go waterfall rappelling, generating a hell of a lot of nervous energy within the midst of the tranquil rainforest. I’m actually a big fan of heights, so I embraced the rappelling with vigour, however, the ‘drop’ had me! You do a slight zip wire until the literally drop you into a pool. My heart.

Whatever you choose to add to your adventure at Tabacon, in my opinion nothing can compete with the resort itself. I was fortunate enough to have an entire honeymoon suite to myself with an outdoor bath and view of the volcano over the rainforest. Try and beat the sounds of howling monkeys in the distance, toucans performing at dusk outside of the restaurant, and dragon-like lizards lazing by the pool.

PURA VIDA, COSTA RICA

As I reflect on my journey through Costa Rica, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for everything I learned whilst I was there.

I threw myself into the history before going, listened to podcasts along the way, and learned all I could during my day in San Jose.

Its history is more complicated than the modern Costa Ricans would like to admit, glazing over the colonisation of its native people with the classic ‘we didn’t fight, we made love’ line.

Costa Rica is home to eight indigenous peoples. The Cabecar, Ngabe, Broran, Bribri, Brunka, Maleku, Chorotega, and Huetar. And whilst honoured as native cultures, there still persists issues with indigenous territorial rights, poverty, and the general rights of the people.

Whenever we travel, we must begin to really understand the native and indigenous history, and only then will we be able to really see the places we stay for what they are.

I was comforted that both resorts in this article do honour native traditions and language, especially Nantipa which offers a taste of the culture for every sense.

The duality of this beautiful country, with its contrasting landscapes of the enchanting beaches and the lush rainforests, has gifted me with moments of pure connection and healing.

The beaches, with their light tones and endless stretches of sand, invite you to breathe in the salty air and let the gentle lapping of the waves carry away your worries. Or your fears… as it did with me. I finally learned to surf in Costa Rica, well, I stood up on the board after plenty of tears and anxiety.

But it was in the rainforest, with its dark tones and mystical mist, that I felt the true power of nature reverberate through my soul. The ancient spirit of the rainforest enveloped me. Here, I felt a deep reconnection to the harmony of nature, a reminder of the interplay between the Earth, the sky, and my own spirit. And coffee. Very, very strong coffee.

Costa Rica really does have something for everyone’s tastes, so be greedy, take in the whole lot!

Pura Vida.

DESTINATION FACTS

Nantipa – A Tico Beach Experience

Location: Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Features:

  • Luxury beachfront boutique hotel
  • Suites and bungalows with ocean views
  • Open-air beachfront restaurant (Manzú)
  • Numu Wellness Center offering eco-friendly treatments
  • Specialises in bespoke weddings and events

Activities:

  • Surfing, yoga, horseback riding, and ATV tours
  • Nature and wildlife excursions
  • Beachfront dining and sunset views

Sustainability: Focused on reforestation, community support, and beach preservation.

Website: Nantipa Hotel

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Location: La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Features:

  • Luxurious rooms and suites
  • Natural hot springs
  • Award-winning spa services
  • Gourmet dining options
  • Exclusive Shangri-La Gardens for adults

Activities:

  • Adventure tours (horseback riding, waterfall hikes, canopy adventures, white water rafting)
  • Yoga and wellness programs
  • Cooking classes
  • Tree planting programs

Sustainability: Committed to environmental protection and sustainable practices.

Website: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

So, recently, my fiancé and I decided to shake mid-week dinners up a bit and dive into the culinary wonderland that is Six by Nico in Leeds.

Leaving the cars at work, it was the full shebang for us- wine pairings, aperitifs,  and all!

Stepping into such a beautifully decorated and friendly restaurant gives you the vibe that even to sit down at the bar you’d get a £100 charge, but Six by Nico exudes quality and luxury without the high price tag.

Greeted by attentive staff in a casual and friendly but ‘we’re on it’ kind of a way, just makes you feel special no matter who you are and what level of luxury you’re used to. It’s 5-star service at Six by Nico.

The Menu

Six by Nico

We arrived during the Street Food stint. So, every six weeks the menu changes, making the experience even more exciting for plebs like us.

This menu was a tantalizing trip around the globe with the best of every country offered up in fine-dining style. The menu promised a global flavour fiesta, and we were totally into it.

This gastronomic adventure unfolded like a masterpiece, weaving together flavours that left us utterly spellbound. We’re talking about a next-level experience that had us, a travel and food-loving couple, laughing out loud as the flavours danced around our palates. 

Course One

Our dining adventure kicked off with the Seoul-inspired Gochujang Pork Steamed Bun. The harmonious blend of flavours from the chilli oil, ginger, and pickled mushroom created a starting point from which we weren’t sure how it could get better… but it did!

Course Two

In Goa, the second course unfolded with a box-office Samosa that captured the essence of spiced onions and pickles, transporting us to the streets of India.

The vibrancy and authenticity of each dish were remarkable, it was now that we understood that this was going to be a hell of a ride!

Course Three

As we journeyed to Istanbul for the third course, the Kebab stole the spotlight. The Lamb Belly, roasted cabbage, pickled golden raisins, salsa verde, and roasted garlic foam culminated in a symphony of textures and tastes. Personally, I don’t know how I’ll be able to live the rest of my life without having that lamb again, I can’t stop thinking about it!

Course Four

Our culinary exploration continued with the vibrant streets of Mexico City, where the Fish Taco emerged as a masterpiece. The coalfish, barbecue corn, smoked jalapeno, and tomatillo salsa melded together in a medley of flavours that left an indelible mark on our palates and memories.

Course Five

The Jakarta-inspired Satay, our fifth course, showcased the kitchen’s finesse with a Chicken Satay leg roulade, shallot jam, satay sauce, peanut crumble, and pak choi salad.

But the main character of that fifth course was the ‘add-on’… the prawns. I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT EATING THE DAMN GRILLED PRAWNS. Stunning. I need these in my life at all times, please.

Course Six

Sadly, this is the only course I was let down on but my Fiancé loved the dessert. Cocoa Mousselline, Coffee, Leche & Buttermilk- all things I love… but all things I can’t have unfortunately. I was given something as an alternative but it wasn’t the best.

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

Now, the menu above was all of the things that my fiancé could eat, for me the kitchen prepared a gluten and dairy-free option for every single course, including the mac and cheese starter bites.

When I tell you I had the best dining experience still and the flavours and textures of everything (even the gluten free bao bun!) were insane. Six by Nico I am so grateful to you for that.

Six by Nico

Madly in love with the place after this visit, we find ourselves once again drawn to the allure of Six by Nico, and we’ve booked to go again.

This time indulging in the captivating “Best of 2023” menu. And yes, we’re doing the wine pairing, snacks, and the ‘add-on’ for dish number 5. And in total it’ll probably only cost us about £110 each.

From the accommodating staff to the chic ambience, and the culinary excellence that graced our taste buds, Six by Nico has established itself as a culinary gem in Leeds in our opinion. People of Leeds, please do secure your place for this unparalleled gastronomic journey.

Book now at sixbynico.co.uk.

OK we did it! We went to a festival for the music.

The things we’ve heard. The things we’ve seen. The tales of Leeds Festival that we’ve heard… didn’t fill us with much hope.

Here at House of Coco we like a creative festival that intakes a creative crowd. We like twisted installations, creatures around every corner to meddle with our fragile minds and all the lights and sparkle you’d find in a unicorn’s nest. BUT… we also LOVED Leeds Fest!

Yes it’s different to what we’re used to and yes it got a bit tedious critiquing the bands after every set but you know what… if you’re with the right people and the festival is actually good… you’ll have an amazing time!

We’re still not going to go on about the bands because that’s not what we do here, we want you to know how the festival was. But you should know that if you’re into the music on the line up… you’re going to love singing along and dancing with thousands of other people all there for that reason.

Oh and the boobs of course. And by that we mean the absolutely hilarious moment any girl on a pair of shoulders gets caught on camera… she is obliged to flash (not sexist at all if she has a choice… House of Coco boobs next year for sure… tacky but ‘when in Rome’!) and lest we forget the one poor girl who’s right boob got shy and left her very long left boob windmilling her way to infamy! Here’s to our breasts! #FreeTheNipple!

As for the other stuff… amazingly unexpected fun times! Fair enough, sometimes you kind of have to make up your own fun. Like trying to run across the dodgems without getting run over (House of Coco managed it many times. House of Cocos plus one did not! He got mowed over by a child!), trying to figure out ways of sneaking in your contraband booze… but then getting caught because they’re not stupid, the ‘getting through the crowd quickest’ game (House of Coco is the master. With a three friend hand chain we got through the crowd like a hot knife through butter) and of course… the fairground. Too expensive but hilarious after many hours of drinking.

The DJ in the woods at the campsite was a much needed injection of creativity plus the XFM DJ’s playing in what we thought was a purpose built club near the woods. The next day we found out it was simply a double layered DJ booth on a pathway. Immense. Amazing night.

Do Leeds. You can do Leeds Fest House of Coco Style. There are glamping options plus Tangerine fields but in all honesty it was great in Blue where we were.

Thank you Leeds Festival, you’ve opened our eyes.

Buy your tickets here for next year.

You’re at a festival with some friends and your man.

Weird things happen at festivals. You hug strangers, share glitter and dance together as though you’d been practicing for years.

At Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee this weekend one unsuspecting lady, standing amongst a glistening array of bubbles, began to have strangers handing her pretty flowers and flashing excited smiles.

She had no idea what was about to happen next. It’s simply beautiful. Prepare for the happy tears.

Congratulations to you both from us all here at House of Coco!

If there’s one thing that was clear from Boardmasters… it’s that Boardmasters Music Festival and Boardmasters Sports Festival are definitely two completely different things.

The music festival is situated 4 miles outside of the centre of Newquay, or Fistral Beach which is where the sports takes place. Your camping is alongside the music as with any other festival. For House of Coco… this wasn’t a problem. We booked our tents with Tangerine Fields so had little to take and little to take away, plus we took our bikes, so the daily trips into Newquay were far more epic than the rammed full shuttle buses or the sweaty walk that some people made.

Now, depending on what kind of person you are and what you go to Boardmasters for you should definitely weigh up your ticket options.

If you’re into the sports and credible music… book up a hotel or B&B early (now!) for the centre of Newquay and buy tickets for the evening sessions to party apres sports. The other option is to do the music festival and spend most of your time up at Watergate Bay making the most of the stage entertainment.

We did a bit of both… and more!

As a House of Coco reader it is strongly suggested that you buy VIP in camping. It’s worth it in so many ways. The showers, the block of clean toilets and the very small amount of difference it made when it came to the crowd.

No, at Boardmasters we had the BEST time! We got on our bikes in the morning, rode down to watch the surfing and BMX competitions, paraded ourselves round like the King and Queen of Newquay and made friends with complete strangers every step of the way. We even got invited to a wedding that was happening whilst we were there!

One of the great things about Boardmasters is the amount of things you can experience. Rather than being stuck in the arena or campsite we spent the first night in the pub down at Watergate Bay playing pool before heading down to the beach with a bottle till morning.

The next day we watched the BMX competition (see rankings below), went surfing (in the tail end of Hurricane Bertha), spent more time drinking on the beach, climbing rocks and exploring caves, went into the festival for a bit and then back to the car to drink Champagne and make objects out of the clouds.

The next day, Sunday, was the day we’d planned on spending our time inside of the music festival… but it cancelled. Half of the campsite had already left but House of Coco was going nowhere! We headed to the car in the rain to pick up the bikes and set off on a windy journey down to Fistral for the surfing. As soon as we hit the centre of Newquay… glorious sunshine. We then spent the rest of the day playing ‘Beach day’ going to the arcades, down to the harbour and finding some seals, partying in the bars and buying take outs from Tesco to party back at the tent.

That was pretty much our Boardmasters. Amazing. We’ll definitely be back. Where else can you do all of those things? Beach, town, camping, live music and cool sports?

Get your early tickets now here. (Thursday to Sunday VIP camping is only £144!!!!!!) And book Tangerine Fields here.

A massive congratulations to all of the BMX Pro Comp Competitors! One of our best moments was watching the comp.

1st – Mark Webb
2nd – Declan Brookes
3rd – Tom Justice
4th – Jack Watts
5th – Jack Clark
6th – Cam Peake
7th – Luke Padgett
8th – Ollie Palmer
9th – Phil Aller
10th – Gaz Wilson
11th – Martyn Cooper
12th – Tom Isted
13th – Josh Crosswell
14th – Chris Czako
15th – Brock Horneman

There are many things that fill us up with magical joy here at House of Coco, one of those things is a 24-hour adventure!

We were privileged enough to have been invited to the sold-out Gerry Cinnamon gig up in Aberdeen, which turned out to be Scotlands biggest ever indoor show, making us 2 of a 15,000 strong crowd.

And after all of the bouncing, singing, and drinking it was a mere 30 second ish walk back to the entrance of our hotel.

The Aloft Aberdeen TECA is part of the new world-class complex for entertainment, conferences and stays.

If you’re taking in a show in 2020, check to see if your favourite artist is playing P&J Live Arena and get yourself booked into the Aloft.

The hotel is very cool. It’s modern and new but with a very ‘downtown’ urban feel to the decor. So it’s comfortable but you feel the luxury in its newness.

It literally takes 10 minutes in a taxi or a really nice 20-minute walk from the airport to get there, so the vibrant informal check-in area with bar, dining area, and pool table make for a comfortable welcome.

Me and one of the girls checked into our twin room overlooking the arena entrance and quickly got on the technology hype of the Aloft hotels! The WIFI is super fast, so we found a Gerry Cinnamon playlist on Youtube, cast it to the massive TV, and danced around getting ready.

The rooms are incredible. They utilise a very ‘city loft’ style of design in that every bit of the space is uncompromisingly useful. There’s still plenty of space for two people with clothes and make up all over to do the obligatory pre-going-out fashion show, and pillows as fluffy as clouds to fall into post-going-out.

The Aloft Aberdeen TECA isn’t just a stay. If you’re off to a gig and you’ve got a choice of going to a venue near you or grabbing a flight up to Aberdeen, do it there instead. Book a package. Stay at the Aloft.

Enjoy the pre-gig live music they have in the bar, the up to date info they have on the screens all around you, and the absolutely banging supper snacks they have pumping out of the breakfast room to soak up the whiskey before bed.

Heres some of the P&J Live Arena events you could book for 2020:

The 1975 – February 29

Lewis Capaldi – March 15

Cirque Du Soliel: Crystal – March 22

Ru Paul’s Drag Race – May 6

And check your dates here at Aloft Aberdeen TECA. Rooms are from £98, for 2 people on the night of The 1975 gig.

Glastonbury Festival. Worthy Farm, Pilton. 25th – 29th June.

So. Who’s going? Who got tickets? No, we’re not talking about Prince (but did you?! £125!). We’re talking about Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. Or Glastonbury. Or Glasto. Or G2014. It’s been a while since it needed its full name!

With opinions forever divided over the festival, one thing is for sure, it will always sell out. In minutes. And in frustration. Even on the resale. And even with Coachella and their Woodstock memories… The Americans want Glastonbury more than anything!

Glastonbury Festival (originally Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival) is five days of music and shenanigans. So, as well as the many, many stages with an array of different genres playing, you’ll also find dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts and creative nonsense.

Started and organised by Michael Eavis on his own land (Worthy Farm in Pilton) in 1970, the festival has always been the one to watch for the big headliner (this year Dolly Parton) and line up of just about everybody popular.

Inspired by the free thinking and environmental views of the hippie, counterculture and free festival movements, Glastonbury still holds strong on these ideals. The Green Fields Area with its Green Futures and Healing Fields is one of the daytime areas that if you can make it to, you’ll experience heaven within the craziness of your party time.

The size of a large City, Glastonbury camping may seem daunting at first. But it’s simple. You get there, camp as far away from toilets so that you can’t smell them or get flooded out by them if it rains, but camp close enough so that you don’t have miles to walk to use them.

Wherever you camp, you’ll have to walk for a long time to get there from the arenas and from your transport. So take a trolley because the journey into the camp site is bad (the queues can take half a day or more) but getting out is like a living hell.

As for getting around and seeing your favourite bands, have a plan but don’t worry about sticking to it. Getting from stage to stage can be a trek but the things you’ll see and do on the way more than make up for it. Art installations and interactive theatre are everywhere and you won’t be able to contain your amazement.

Whatever you do in the day and night make sure you head right over to the late night areas afterwards.

Shangri La, Block 9, Arcadia, The Unfairground, and Silver Hayes. It’s like walking into the post-apocalyptic space circus of your wildest nightmares. Find hidden doors in walls, crawl through an abandoned office, discover secret raves and feel like you are walking through the set of a twisted 80s movie.

One major thing that you need to do is head up to the stone circle for sunrise. Head up, find a patch of grass and lay with your friends. It’s magic.

That’s it.

It’s G2014. It’s Glasto. It’s Glastonbury. It’s Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

For a list of things to take to Glastonbury Click Here.

For festival info click here.

This year’s line up

… ok, the French Royal, King Louis XVIII!

How’s your comfort zone doing? Oh, you zip lined. Oh, I see, you’ve skydived before. So you’ve challenged your ‘physical’ comfort zone. Well, how about you challenge your ‘self-belief’ comfort zone and have a bloody good weekend at the same time!

I can’t lie. As we pulled up to Hartwell House’s human-manned front gate, my guard began to shimmer as though almost ready for full-scale panic attack. “Don’t be silly” I told myself. “People are just people, be yourself and it’ll be fine. You are likeable and belong anywhere”. I’m very rarely intimidated.

Little did I realise that David at the gate was the least of my worries. I had never seen Hartwell House before so when we pulled up in our normal persons car wearing our normal persons clothes and woolly bobble hats I immediately went into survival mode!

Fake it till you make it. Remain calm. You belong here. These people do not think you’re a pleb. We’re all human beings. I am not a pleb, I’m just out of my comfort zone (and wearing a massive, mustard, woolly fucking hat with an obnoxious bobble on it and a Captain America T-shirt with a denim bloody skirt!).

Just be nice. Smile. I mean, I’ve experienced 5-star more than not because I love the finer things. I enjoy spending more money for better service and upgraded quality. But this… is… insane.

After a walk up to our bedroom guided by John (David’s brother) with a mini-tour on the way, I had a word with myself in the loo. I was being stupid. Everyone we’d met so far was absolutely gorgeous. Friendly, professional, but really friendly. It was actually all in my head.

This place though is insane.

This is the type of place you’d pay £25 each to the National Trust for a walk around and a look at all of the old stuff. It is so beautifully preserved with much of the furniture remaining, having found its way back via recent auctions following a previous clear out.

Hartwell House was once the home of King Louis XVIII when he was exiled from France. It was here, in the library, that he signed his declaration back to the throne and returned. Real, genuine royal history and we stayed in that main house.

When you arrive you are greeted by an open fire in the high ceilinged, vast lounge. Get comfortable, order a cocktail, snuggle… but don’t talk more than a whisper. And don’t attempt to speak to other patrons. It seems the place to be for a weekend escape to read the paper by the fire. It’s nice and quiet.

Dinner, on the other hand, is practically choral, with a pianist close by to provide your dinner time soundtrack, staff that come and go like ghosts, and the atmosphere of a wonderfully populated occasion.

Dinner was exquisite. Candlelit, red wine drenched and delicious beyond belief. We both choose the steak which was perfectly cooked rare and a wildly theatrical desert which was simply named ‘chocolate’. I’ve never had ‘chocolate’ that looked and tasted quite like this.

I have to say, we were not disappointed by the portions, so with full bellies and hearts in our eyes, we retreated to the bedroom… and watched Goodfellas to sleep!

Staying here feels magical. Our stay felt like we’d been taken to a different time. Given a different title. Or a special pass to a different world. The drive to Buckinghamshire from Leeds was more than worth it for the feeling.

We spent the next day wandering the grounds. I felt like we were inside the fabled secret garden. There are 90 acres to roam. Everything you ask for is included. A bridge to appear wistful on. A lake to watch the ducks go about their daily life. Swans! There are statues, random buildings, fairy-tale like paths, a strange gatehouse and a church. Our Autumn stroll was just beautiful, and upon finding a rope swing in one of the trees, my weekend was made.

I’d book Hartwell House if you have a special family occasion. Or if you and your partner want to just completely switch off for the weekend.

It’s not at all what I expected, the staff were lovely and not at all judgemental (I am covered in tattoos and have facial piercings- I know how that sounds). I was not a fish out of water. I was just in a different lake. A very, very posh one!

Visit Hartwell House online to book or dream.

As we mourn the sad loss of rock royalty Peaches Geldof, we couldn’t help but reminisce on the times the reformed mother of two got her knees dirty and her hair knotted at a festival or two.

Not one to shy away from family history, Peaches embraced the ‘Grunge’ look and always did festivals as they should be done… Messy and dirty but always on point.

This season, take your festival style inspiration from Peaches. Our festival style Queen.

For more information about the untimely and sudden death of Peaches Geldof click here

Imagine finding the playground of your dreams.

And highlighting the sometimes devastating power of nature.

Villa Epecuén was a tourist village built for that purpose in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Now it’s abandoned.

On 10th November 1985, its dam burst… it was the only thing protecting the town. The village was slowly but surely engulfed in water… and lost. And abandoned. It was lost.

Until… Danny MacAskill.