If you haven’t heard of renowned Colombian chef, Juan Manuel Barrientos, you will very soon. He is affectionately known as ‘Juanma’ by locals and at the very young age of 40 is already the founder of a hospitality group that includes restaurants and hotel across the Americas. He was named one of the 50 best chefs in Latin America and there is no doubt you will see his empire extending into Europe in the not-too-distant future.

His original restaurant is based in Medellín. It is now situated inside his boutique El Cielo Hotel. You can appreciate his popularity with a visit to his fabulously inventive restaurant there. With an open kitchen, you can see all the staff in action. They are all dressed in white lab coats with hair nets and meticulously beavering away at their workstations. You can be excused for thinking you’ve walked into the world of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory.

Their tasting menu includes more than 15 courses or ‘moments’ as they like to call them in the restaurant. They like to create a sense of mystery with their menu. If you look online, you’ll find a long list of mostly single words, which don’t describe the ingredients of the dish. They are in fact, different regions of Colombia and your gastronomic journey at El Cielo is a whirlwind tour of the different regions of the country. What is important to note is this tasting menu is only available at the Medellín branch. If you visit their Michelin-starred restaurants in Miami or Washington DC, only some of the highlights might be on their menu.

The moments are designed to stimulate your senses. The restaurant is well-known for its choco-therapy, so for one course, you’ll be crushing a chocolate truffle ball with your hands. Then you will be enjoying the delights without the use of cutlery. It will bring back innocent childhood memories when dining was less rigid and formal.

This is also the case for another course, where diners are offered edible balloons with helium inside. That is the cue for a chorus of Donald Duck voices reverberating around the restaurant. What makes their concept so successful is they take the seriousness out of fine dining and with every course, they bring a heartfelt smile to everyone’s faces.

Although not advertised on their website, they do cater for dietary requirements. They can readily prep for a vegetarian version of the tasting menu. For example, when they present locally cured charcuterie, they can offer smoked peppers instead.

Dishes are nevertheless always exquisitely presented. The “tree of life” is a case in point, it’s a crunchy canopy of yucca bread presented in a tree trunk structure that made it resemble a bonsai tree.

You might have thought the “tree of life” would represent the Amazonas course. Instead, it is the fish course that contained arapaima. It is the largest freshwater fish in the world and is found in the Amazon River. The dish is presented with burning charcoal and you do wonder whether it is intentional to represent the long-suffering rainforest. The Arapaima has a rather firm texture reminiscent of cod. Another seafood course is the Cartagena-inspired sausage course that is made with crab meat and white fish.

If you are a meat lover, your main course will be paradise. It’s a confit duck served with a peach sauce along with a duck reduction sauce. It’s a surprise you see a lot of menus offering duck and orange but rarely see duck and peach paired together.

The meal is also interactive. For one of the dessert courses, you are a paleontologist looking for an ammonite, as you brush away the edible powder to reveal your dessert. History is never far away from your experience. With the petit fours, it is presented alongside a replica of the Muisca raft, which is the most famous artefact from the Gold Museum in Bogota.

Coffee is an integral part of the Colombian dining experience. The cafetal course includes the use of liquid nitrogen before your coffee is served to resemble the misty conditions of the coffee-growing regions of Colombia.

Throughout the meal, the kitchen excels in showing its mastery of molecular gastronomy. The full experience generally takes at least 3 hours, so make sure you plan either a full afternoon or evening for your meal. ‘El Cielo’ means heaven in Spanish and you will be in gastronomic heaven by the end of your meal.

For more information on the restaurant, please visit –


If you follow travel content creators on social media, there is a very high chance you would have seen the unique town of Guatapé in Colombia. The Rock of Guatapé with the iconic zig-zagging staircase features prominently on the likes of Instagram and TikTok. Surprisingly, the monolithic rock is a natural formation. It takes a short 15-20 minutes to ascend the rock, and climbing the 740 steps to reach the summit will offer a great cardiovascular workout. The panoramic 360º views of Guatape Lake and the El Peñón region as you reach the pinnacle are worth the endeavour.

The town itself is filled with ‘zocalos’, which are vibrant, colourful murals that surround the cobbled streets of Guatapé. The paintings often depict local life or concealed messages about local beliefs and products. This is one town where you want to ensure you have enough storage on your camera phones to ensure you capture countless photo opportunities.

If you want to know where to stay in Guatapé, I would highly recommend booking a glamping experience with Bosko. This is glamping with a capital G. Their ‘tents’, the Mush.Rooms are geodesic structures that resemble globe lanterns in the nighttime.Their concierge service is on par with any 5-star hotel in the country. They can arrange a private transfer for you from José María Córdova International Airport in Medellín. It’s an approximate 2-hour drive through some of the most scenic parts of the country.

On arrival, you are offered a detoxifying welcome drink immediately and this is followed by a coffee exfoliation ritual to cleanse your hands. Unsurprisingly, Colombians are fervent coffee connoisseurs and don’t just use it for drinking but in all aspects of their lives. Next, you are led to your Mush.Rooms, which are scattered throughout the property and provide maximum privacy. The pathways are relatively narrow but thankfully their staff team will assist with luggage transfer. There are three types of accommodation: deluxe, golden and presidential.

If you want a bucket-list experience, I would strongly suggest booking for the presidential Mush.Room. It is surprisingly affordable if you are comparing it to other presidential suites at 5-star hotels. The pièce de résistance is getting your private thermal pool with jaw-dropping views of the surrounding forest and lake. If you enjoy taking selfies, you will be in seventh heaven. Even if you are camera-shy, this is sheer paradise.

The Mush.Room also offers high-speed WiFi, internal heating including an electric blanket on your bed and a fully-stocked minibar including exquisite wines. The dark wood interior is smartly designed and resembles a showroom in a high-end interior design store rather than a camping site in a rainforest. They offer an open-sky shower with luxury amenities from L’Occitane.

For those staying in the other Mush.Rooms, they do have a general sky pool for you to relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery. They helpfully have signs posted throughout the grounds which highlight the animals you might encounter such as the great trush or the sparkling violet ear. There is also a QR code for you to hear what the birds sound like.

Dining at Bosko is a hidden gem, which you won’t read much about even on their website. Breakfast is cooked to order and delivered to your tent at no extra charge. It is delivered in one of those luxurious hampers which you suspect might be floatable in your thermal pool. You can opt for traditional options like sunny-side-up eggs on toast or Colombian specialties like freshly baked arepas with Colombian-style red beans. Naturally, Colombian coffee is served along with an exotic fruit platter selection.

If you don’t feel like heading into town, their restaurant is a superb option for lunch and dinner. They have an eclectic selection that caters for all tastes. Typically, they offer western dishes with a hint of Colombian flavour such as pork tenderloin served with mashed potatoes and a sweet and sour coffee sauce. The dishes are all exquisitely presented and wouldn’t look out of place in a 5-star hotel. For vegetarians, they have stronger options in the starters and finger food section such as empanadas with homemade aji sauce. and creamy sweet corn with cheese and tajin. In your travels in Colombia, you are more than likely to come across their love of cheese. They even enjoy hot chocolate with cheese.

If you want to offset some calories post-meal, they have kayaks and paddle boards for hire free of charge by the lakeside. The vast Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir is a man-made phenomenon rather than a natural lake. It was built in the 1980s as part of a hydroelectric project that powers up to 30% of the electricity supply of Colombia. You can paddle to your heart’s content as long as you return by 17:00, which is when the lake closes for water-sporting activities.

If you prefer the luxury James Bond-style experience instead, you can book a private speedboat tour instead and see more of the lake area. Your guide will show you the famous houses owned by the likes of footballers from the Colombian national team and Pablo Escobar’s former mansion. If you are lucky, you might be allowed to drive the boat at some point during your trip.

Whether you are a nature lover, a thrill-seeker or just want a tranquil wellness break, there is something to offer for everyone in the magical town of Guatapé.

For more information on the hotel, please visit –

It’s no wonder why Cartagena de Indias captivates locals and tourists alike. This medieval walled city on the Caribbean coast boasts charm, culture, vitality, and a vibrant nightlife scene. Explore its narrow, colorful streets lined with boutique shops in one of the best-preserved old cities in the Americas.

Cartagena de Indias

Discover Historic Elegance at Casa San Agustín in Cartagena de Indias

There is a more modern part of the city, filled with glass-laden high rises, which is reminiscent of Miami. However, I would recommend staying in the old city to soak up the magic of Cartagena. Staying in one of the refurbished, grand colonial homes from the 17th and 18th centuries is the best way to discover the city.

Casa San Agustín is one such property and it is situated in the heart of the action at Plaza de los Estudiantes. The refined boutique hotel was created from three meticulously restored 17th-century mansions. It has only 20 guestrooms and 11 suites, so attentive service from the staff is guaranteed. It seamlessly blends modern comforts with authentic Colombian features. You’ll notice the original frescoes in the library where they serve complimentary afternoon tea. In the guest rooms, you’ll see their iconic wood-beamed ceilings that are centuries old.

Accommodations at Casa San Agustín, Cartagena de Indias

The main feature of the hotel is a 300-year-old aqueduct that serves as a backdrop to the main plunge pool. It is precisely because of the existence of boutique hotels like Casa San Agustín that helps to keep these important relics well-preserved. Plenty of greenery such as palm trees surround the public areas to offer a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the old town.

The rooms are relatively spacious even at the entry-level deluxe rooms, which range from 409 and 839 sq. ft. They provide luxurious Frette linens as well as renowned Ortigia amenities from Sicily. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the eye-catching Suite Prestige. They are duplexes with an area between 1539 and 1732 sq. ft. They include two bedrooms which is ideal for families and close friends to share. All the rooms offer a complimentary mini-bar that includes soft drinks and beer. The combination of dark wood, polished marble and ornate painting tiling in the bathroom adds to the colonial grandeur of the surroundings.

Their sister property, Casa Pestagua offers a similar level of comfort and sophistication. It is known as “the most beautiful house in Cartegena”. It belonged to the powerful 18th-century aristocrat, Count of Pestagua. It had undergone a major 15-million-dollar refurbishment and had only reopened last April. Now you can live the life of a count too, when you book in to stay at Casa Pestagua. The hotel is a proud member of the Relais & Chateaux group, the only hotel in Colombia awarded with that honour.

You might feel even more exclusive at this property with only 10 spacious suites and 6 deluxe rooms. The laid-back charm is very similar to Casa San Agustin. The central plunge pool is ideal for escaping the occasional sweltering Caribbean heat. The shaded sunbeds underneath the tropical palm trees are an ideal spot for catching up with your reading list. You’ll notice plenty of Moorish-inspired arches around the boutique hotel that recount the colonial times of previous centuries.

Indulge in Culinary Excellence

The rooms have a light and airy design, no doubt helped by the double-height ceilings and excellent use of natural lighting. You’ll find sturdy-looking light wooden beams on the ceiling of all the rooms. Similar to the sister property, the entry-level room is deluxe and includes luxury linen and ever-reliable Ortigia amenities. Having been refurbished recently, the decor is marginally fresher looking than her sister property but both boutique hotels are maintained to the highest of standards.

The restaurant offering at both hotels is headed by renowned Chef Heberto Eljach, who is one of the most celebrated chefs in Colombia. At Casa Pestagua, we have the culinary delight of AniMare. The menu is a journey of Colombian cuisine with modern touches. It takes in both influences from the Caribbean and the Pacific side of the country. You’ll get to savour local classics such as shrimp and snail cocktail Cartagena style. Typically, such a dish is found as street food in the local streets of the city, but here it is served in a much-elevated format, with avocado and homemade bread. Their seafood casserole main course is equally elevated with treasures of the sea served up in lobster cream and coconut milk sauce along with fried plantain chips. At Alma situated in Casa San Agustín, you’ll enjoy a similarly extravagant fine dining experience. They are particularly proud of showcasing the best of Colombian cuisine and cater for all kinds of dietary requirements from gluten-free to vegetarian needs.

For those looking for a beach holiday, you can enjoy that as well whilst staying at both hotels. They have a private beach club at ACASĪ on Isla Barú. You can immerse your feet on the white sandy beaches and swim in the turquoise waters of the beach. The hotel can arrange a private round-trip boat charter that takes about 45 minutes and you can admire the picturesque coastline along the way. It will be a different experience to the history and culture of the old town.

Photography by stephane louesdon .

Finally, if you want to relax further, they have the Aurum spa. You can enjoy everything from a detoxifying body scrub in the hammam to a gold wrap to help nourish the skin. Aurum is the Latin word for gold.

For a holiday where you can enjoy both a city break and a beach holiday. One where you can embrace history and modernity. Make sure you check out the romantic city of Cartagena.

For more information on the hotels, please visit –

The best London restaurants offer a culinary journey through diverse flavors, from traditional British fare to innovative international cuisine. Whether you’re seeking Michelin-starred elegance or trendy street food, the best London restaurants cater to every palate and occasion. Don’t miss the chance to experience the vibrant dining scene that makes these establishments stand out. As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve you want to be celebrating somewhere in style.  Here’s our roundup of the best restaurants in London to see in the New Year.

Best London Restaurants

A Unique German Festive Experience

German Gymnasium, is set to treat visitors with a uniquely German festive experience, inside their iconic Grade ll listed restaurant. Nestled in the heart of King’s Cross, with its rich history and distinctive interiors, it captures the very essence of German traditions.

For a truly German New Year’s Eve affair, guests can treat themselves to the set menu in the Restaurant. With 8 courses of local favourite dishes such as Seeteufel Rauchmantel, Letscho – (Monkfish, Tyrolean speck, rustic tomato & paprika sauce) or Kalbsroulade, Steinpilzfüllung, Serviettenknödel, Schwarze Nüsse – (Veal roulade with cep stuffing, red cabbage, poached bread dumpling & pickled walnuts), this menu will see the year out with a bang.

Looking for the perfect spot to welcome the New Year in London? Check out our restaurant ideas, offering a delightful mix of flavors and a festive atmosphere for a memorable celebration with friends and family.

A Vintage New Year’s Eve

This festive season, Quaglino’s, the renowned restaurant in the heart of St James’s, has delved into the allure of the Prohibition era, bringing guests a delicious menu specially crafted for an enchanting New Year’s Eve celebration.

Step back in time and welcome in the New Year with an unforgettable prohibition-style party. The evening will commence with dinner service at 5:30pm (with two seating options available), with the celebrations running into the early hours. Guests are encouraged to embrace the vintage flair of the 1920s with music from the Brooklyn Shakers and by dressing in 1920s attire.

A New Year’s Extravaganza by the Riverside

Get ready for an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration at Skylon with magnificent views of the River Thames, a live performance by ‘The Revellers’ and a seven-course tasting menu designed to keep guests entertained to the stroke of midnight. The evening kicks off with a celebratory welcome Chambord Kir Royale, setting the stage for a lavish night. For those seated in the River View area, there’s a chance to catch a glimpse of the Mayor’s fireworks display, with the option for all guests to head down to the South Bank* for an up-close view. Skylon offers two options for the evening: the Early Bird Dinner, a three-course feast for £125pp, available from 5:30pm to 7pm, and the New Year’s Eve Main Event, priced at £375pp. The New Year’s menu features seven-courses showcasing mouthwatering morsels such as BBQ lobster, Heirloom beetroot, and a delicious trio of duck. The festivities receive an extra boost with a pre-dessert gin and tonic sorbet. When the clock strikes midnight, the fireworks display will light up the London skyline, providing a breathtaking backdrop to the New Year’s celebration. It’s an evening of live music, indulgent dining, and fantastic views – an incredible way to welcome the New Year in London’s prime riverside spot.

(*Weather and security allowing, as organised by South Bank)

A New Year’s Sky-High Celebration

At 14 Hills, guests are invited to reserve their tables for a grand New Year’s celebration, waving goodbye to 2023. Whether seeking a lively party or a memorable dining experience, 14 Hills offers the perfect choice. Indulge in an unforgettable evening with panoramic views of London, exceptional cuisine, dancing, dazzling entertainment, and a resident DJ, all set 14 floors above the City. For early seating between 5:30 pm-7:30 pm, you can enjoy a meticulously crafted Five-Course Tasting Menu priced at £90pp, accompanied by an optional wine pairing at £65. The menu features delights such as Lobster, Langoustine bisque, kohlrabi, blood orange, and Fillet of beef Rossini with wild mushroom and Périgourdine sauce. For the entire evening, 7:15 pm-22:00 pm, the indulgence continues with a Six-Course Tasting Menu priced at £140pp, accompanied by an optional wine pairing at £95pp. This extended menu includes additions such as Scottish halibut, scallop chou farci, caviar fish velouté. As the night unfolds, guests can end the night on a sweet note, with the Valrhona chocolate marquise, yuzu, honeycomb, and sesame.

Celebrate New Year’s in the Heart of Battersea Power Station

Nestled in the historic Battersea Power Station, Fiume extends a warm invitation to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Guests can bid farewell to 2023 with a crafted four-course menu, priced at £85pp, complimented by a glass of bubbles to set the festive tone. Prepare for an exceptional dining experience featuring dishes that include succulent Beef tartare, Lobster linguine, Roast duck breast or Poached monkfish, and a velvety Chocolate mousse. Fiume is collaborating with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto this festive season for a delicious cocktail menu. Guests can immerse themselves in the spirit of the season with the Grande Eleganza, a delightful blend of Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto, Malfy Gin Originale, Smoked Rosemary Aroma, Lime Juice, Mediterranean Tonic, Sugar Syrup, finished with a sprig of rosemary. See in 2024 with an Italicus Spritz, a perfect fusion of Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto, Prosecco, Soda, and Lemon. The festive cocktail menu also includes the Itoddycus, Negroni Bianco, and Salute!, each offering a unique and delightful combination of flavours. After dinner and cocktails, guests will be only be a short walk from the iconic Battersea Park firework show. A visit to Fiume is not to be missed.

A New Year’s Night to Remember

Embracing the allure of Mayfair, Sartoria invites guests to welcome 2024 with a grand Italian feast priced at £150pp. The journey kicks off with a glass of Franciacorta and a delicious amuse-bouche. The evening features dishes such as a fresh lobster salad, artfully presented in a catalana style with caviar, and an exquisite Burrata Tortelli, generously infused with truffle and grana padano. The star of the night, Black Cod, takes centre stage, accompanied by Tropea onion and liquorice, promising a harmonious blend of flavours. Concluding this feast is a Chocolate cake paired with passionfruit mango sorbet, ensuring a sweet send-off to the year. Over the winter season, Sartoria is partnering with Cambridge Distillery to create a new menu focusing on their Cambridge Truffle Gin, adding a touch of decadence to the festivities. Guests can indulge in truffle-infused cocktails like the Truffle Vesper, Truffle Negroni, Truffle Margarita, and Truffle Bellini.

Spend This Festive Season in Luxury at The Royal Horseguards Hotel

For those looking for the ultimate festive experience, The Royal Horseguards Hotel is offering a luxury New Year’s Eve menu providing guests with the most opulent black-tie experience. Dinner at One Whitehall Place includes a selection of canapes to start, steamed halibut with keta caviar or a pan-fried fillet of beef in Madeira juice with raspberry sorbet or peach puree to refresh. From 7 pm – 2 am, from £450 per person

When it comes to Christmas shopping it can be overwhelming, finding a unique gift for your bestie, girlfriend or mum is not easy. The good news, we have you covered. Here’s our edit of the best gifts for her.

Create a Bespoke Lipstick

Code 8 is a make up range that has been curated with all skin tones in mind. The brand’s Burlington Arcade pop-up includes a Colour ID lab, where you can create your own bespoke lipstick, as well as makeup artist and brow grooming services.

To book an appointment, call the store or email

No Bad Hair Days

For super sleek hair this Christmas get the Dyson Airwrap Multi-Styler and Dryer with Presentation Case & attachments.

£399.99, from John Lewis

Upgrade your Stack

Astrid & Miyu is synonymous with style and their Gold Heart Pavé Charm Huggies are a must have for any jewellery lover. Wear alone, or stack with other huggies and hoops.

£65, Astrid & Miyu

Personalise your Gift

The Addison Ross collection is the perfect addition to any home. Capture a 2023 memory in their stylish gold tortoise shell photo frame.

£78, Addison Ross

Dreamy Skin

Pamper your skin with the Farmacy Honey Dewy Duo, this gift set features a honey rich duo designed to hydrate the complexion and brighten the delicate eye contour area.

£57, Cult Beauty

For the Travel Lover

The Smythson romance-inspired Scarlet Red gift box is perfect for the jet setter in your life. It includes a Luggage Tag, Panama Notebook and Correspondence Cards.

£195, Smythson

For the Wellness Enthusiast

Cold water therapy fans will love the LUMI Recovery Pod. With so many wellbeing benefits, it’s easy to assemble and is fully insulated, keeping water at the optimum temperature.

£85, LUMI

Beauty Cult Favourites

The RMS Clean and Bright Kit is the perfect stocking filler. It includes Liplights Cream Lip Gloss in Crush, Eyelights Cream Eyeshadow in Luster, and Straight Up Volumizing Peptide Mascara in HD Black.

£46, from RMS Beauty

Sink into Serenity for the Body and Mind.

The Soothing Signature Blend Candle from ESPA features mellow Myrrh, heady Rose Geranium, and warm Frankincense. This relaxing candle is crafted from pure essential oils, hand-poured natural wax.

ESPA Soothing Candle, £40

From quaint brunch spots to unique wineries and Michelin Star dining, Monterey County, CA has a diverse, vibrant culinary scene. Here’s our guide to some of the best foodie experiences in Monterey County.

Best Foodie Experiences in Monterey County

Michelin Star Dining

The cool coastal town of Carmel by the Sea is quickly becoming a firm favourite with foodies.  This postcard-pretty town is home to top-notch wineries and Michelin-starred restaurants.  Chez Noir’s French-inspired menu showcases innovative, seafood-centric dishes that have earned them a well-deserved Michelin star.  The restaurant comes from husband and wife duo, Jonny and Monique Black, both of whom bring their experience of working at Michelin-starred restaurants to the project. Jonny previously cooked at restaurants including Per Se, Atelier Crenn, and Quince. 

Tucked away down a quiet street in Carmel, Chez Noir is a true haven for food enthusiasts seeking a unique and intimate dining experience. The velvet corner booths and open buzzy kitchen set the stage for a memorable meal. The menu boasts a fusion of flavours, from tantalizing appetizers to decadent desserts. Highlights include their perfectly seared scallops and the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate fondant. The staff’s knowledge and passion for each dish add a personal touch, making Chez Noir a must-visit for those who appreciate culinary artistry.

Craft Beer Paradise

For beer aficionados, Alvarado Street Brewery is a pilgrimage site in Monterey. The industrial-chic setting exudes a laid-back vibe, creating the perfect backdrop for sipping on innovative craft brews. From hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, the beer menu is a testament to the brewery’s commitment to quality and creativity. The friendly staff are more than happy to guide you through their extensive selection, ensuring you find the perfect pint to pair with the bar food. Alvarado Street Brewery is a haven for beer lovers and a testament to Monterey’s thriving craft beer scene.

Coastal Elegance with a Culinary Twist

Just a stone’s throw from the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf, Jacks Monterey at the Portola Hotel & Spa, is the epitome of coastal elegance.  Tall bar tables, as well as plush lounge-style sofas surround the full-length bar that stretches across the back of the restaurant.  Unlike some hotel restaurants, this is contemporary and cosy.  At one end is an open fire and the lobby entrance features a tree adorned with twinkly lights.  While the setting is fabulous, the menu and service are excellent.  The menu showcases locally sourced ingredients, transforming them into exquisite dishes that capture the essence of the region. The Jacks Famous Chowder is a standout, a hearty bowl of the local dish is brimming with clams, dungeness crab, organic corn, artichoke hearts and bacon.  For mains choose from fresh salads, pizza or larger plates like their Short Rib Ravioli served in a silky tomato, mushroom and sherry cream sauce with shaved parmesan.  The drinks menu features some fantastic local wines like the Bernardus Griva Sauvignon Blanc and Imagery Pinot Noir.  There is a great selection of cocktails too.   With its stylish interior and prime location, Jacks Monterey stands out as a top-notch dining destination on the Monterey Peninsula.

Sip, Savor, and Cruise

Embark on a wine adventure like no other with Kombi Wine Tours, where vintage style meets exquisite vintages. Board the classic VW Kombi, ‘Sweet Pickle’ and journey through the scenic vineyards and wineries of Monterey, indulging in a curated selection of wines from the region. Their knowledgeable guide, Steve is full of local tit-bits and banter which makes the tour not just educational but thoroughly entertaining.

Carmel by the Sea is home to husband and wife wineries, Dawn’s Dream and Galante Vineyards.  Jack Galante heads up Galante Vineyards, what Jack doesn’t know about wine is not worth knowing.  He is Mr Carmel by the Sea (the town was founded by his great grandfather) and his knowledge and passion are infectious.  His wines are rich, full bodied and include Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as limited amounts of estate grown Malbec, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and several other blends.  Every bottle has a ‘cowboy philosophy’ on the label, which is very Jack.  He also commissions local artists to create unique pieces of art on bottles which can be refilled or saved as an investment.

Meanwhile Jack’s wife, Dawn, is serving up some outstanding tipples over at Dawn’s Dream Winery which is tied to non-profits for women and children. Her dedication to producing her ‘wines with a purpose’ has been revolutionary in the industry, supporting many great causes each year.  The microclimate in the region is perfect for crips Pinots and Chardonnay.  Dawn has dedicated three of her Pinots to each of her daughters, Rachel, Alyssa and Nicole.  I loved Jack’s style but Dawn’s wines were my favourite.

Just along from Carmel is Corral Wine Co.  Their tasting room has a ‘casual, local wine bar’ feel and this is reflected in their motto, ‘we aren’t fancy, we just make good wine.’  Corral’s young winemaker Adrien Valenzuela is creative and, on a mission, to produce well balanced wine with a lot of flavour. He says that sourcing grapes from some of the regions very best vineyards is ‘key to their success.’ His wines are exceptional, the Sauvignon Blanc is vibrant and crisp with lemon blossom notes and a pleasant minerality.  Their Rose wine is also a big hit, it’s light and delicate, with aromas of strawberry and orange blossom.  

Puma Road Winery is a family operation who use grapes grown in Apex vineyard soil which gives their wines a unique taste.  Expect crisp Blanc de Blancs, cool Chardonnays, and light Pinot Noir.  All their wines are crafted from grapes direct from their own estate and they reserve five percent of the output to create exclusive wines for their label.  Their wine tasting room is close to Fisherman’s Wharf and offers wine by the glass and bottle, small bites, and often has live music.

Whether you’re a wine novice or a seasoned connoisseur, Kombi Wine Tours tailor the experience to ensure you get the most out of each tasting.

Seafood Extravaganza

For a seafood feast that celebrates the bounty of the ocean, Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette is the place to be. This award-winning upscale seafood restaurant is perched above the marina dunes at the Sanctury Beach Resort.    The space is carved out into three distinct dining spaces, a buzzing bar and lounge, perfect for pre-dinner drinks, an expansive dining room that faces an open raw bar and for long summer evenings there’s an al fresco dining patio.

Located a short drive from Monterey Bay, this restaurant exudes coastal charm with a menu that pays homage to the region’s maritime heritage. The raw bar is a standout, featuring an array of oysters and seafood. The wood-fired grill adds a smoky richness to dishes like the grilled octopus and honey glazed duck. The casual yet sophisticated atmosphere, coupled with the welcoming staff, makes Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette a go-to spot for those craving a seafood extravaganza.

Quaint and Quirky Culinary Haven

Tucked five minutes from Cannery Row is Happy Girl Kitchen, a quaint and quirky culinary haven with a focus on organic, vegan and vegetarian options.  The menu, filled with farm-fresh ingredients, reflects the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and community. The avocado toast is a must-try, showcasing the simplicity and excellence of Happy Girl Kitchen’s approach to food. The team here specialise in making jams and pickles so you can stock up on rich tasty preserves when you visit.  Whether you’re in the mood for a brunch or a take-away lunch, Happy Girl Kitchen delivers a fresh, seasonal menu that celebrates the beauty of wholesome unpretentious food.

Enjoy the stunning Californian vistas

Lucia restaurant at Bernardus Lodge and Spa is nothing short of spectacular.  Situated in the Carmel Valley it’s nestled on the grounds of rolling vineyards, olive orchards and 28 acres of fragrant lavender.  With beautiful vistas, tables at Lucia are sought after. 

The main dining room, located just off the lobby is contemporary. French wooden floors, soft cream furnishings, chandeliers and a focal, showpiece fireplace set the scene for a culinary cache.  The patio doors open onto an al fresco dining terrace.

The day I visited the Californian sun was shining so the outdoor terrace was bustling with ‘ladies who lunch’ and while it’s a popular spot, it still has an air of calm and tranquillity. 

Slick, seamless service and a menu dedicated to delicious farm-to-table fare is what sets Lucia apart from other restaurants.  There’s a great selection of small and large plates to choose from.  The wood brick pizzas are divine, the seasonal salads are served like a work of art and the larger plates source prime cuts of meat and market fish. Choose from a selection of wines from the Bernardus vineyard to accompany your meal.

After lunch you can wander around the gardens or enjoy a game of bocce or croquet on the lawn.

House of Coco travelled to Monterey County courtesy of See Monterey.

Aqua-Tox is a luxury wellness destination, just 30 minutes outside central London offering some of the latest technology and science backed facilities for ultimate health optimisation.  Based in Hertfordshire, they focus on four pillars; wellness, recovery, laser and aesthetics.  There are very few clinics outside of London that you could call a true wellness destination offering treatments from the Hyperbaric Hydroxy AirPod that speeds up the body’s healing process, a whole body Cryotherapy Chamber, to enhanced recovery treatments such as their Infrared Sauna and NormaTec compression therapy. 

The team here know their stuff, whether you are looking to recharge your inner battery, recover from an intense training session or perk up a dull complexion there’s a slew of preventative and regenerative treatments.  I’d recommend starting with a consultation with one of the therapists who will then design a carefully curated treatment plan.

But let’s talk about what really sets Aqua-Tox apart – their skincare game.  Aqua-Tox has highly effective skincare programmes for a wide range of skin concerns including acne, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. I was looking to combat a lack lustre complexion that was dry and in need of a glow up.  I had a skincare consultation with their in-house nurse prescriber and skincare expert, Lucy who recommended a customised series of treatments and personalised skincare advice including Dermalux LED phototherapy and Obagi Blue Peel facials.  Alongside this Lucy provided me with an at-home skincare regime using the Obagi Medical range which is used during all their facial treatments and can be purchased from the clinic. 

The Obagi Blue Peel Radiance, is a light chemical peel that includes deep pore cleansing, mild exfoliation and moisturisation to help rejuvenate and improve your complexion. This peel enhances skin smoothness and radiance to reveal tighter, brighter, glowing results. Following the peel Lucy popped me under an LED mask to accelerate the results.

LED masks are working their way into our beauty routine and with Victoria Beckham a firm favourite LED light therapy is fast becoming a quick way to supercharge your skin.  The Dermalux treatment at Aqua-Tox is the gold standard.  It’s large and arcs across all the face and neck.  Using three shades of light, combined, they stimulate the skin’s cellular functions.

Blue light has an antibacterial action, preventing breakouts from forming while red light boosts cell renewal, promoting the production of collagen and elastin. Near-infrared travels all the way to the subcutaneous tissue, where it increases circulation, increasing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells.    The results are great and after just two sessions I noticed that my skin looked less red and calm.

The great thing about Dermalux LED phototherapy is that the results are cumulative, the more treatments you have the better your skin looks. It also compliments some of the other skincare treatments Aqua-Tox provides like dermal fillers, Profhilo and Polynucleotides due to its ability to accelerate healing and calm inflammation.

After eight sessions, alongside using the Obagi products, I’d achieved the glow I was after.  My skin was brighter, tighter and smoother.  The best bit, others had noticed, my other half said I had a healthy glow and my sister asked me if I’d changed my products as my skin looked great.  if you’re looking to invest in your skin over the winter then a visit to Aqua-Tox is a must.  I’ve already recommended friends and my sister booked a consultation as soon as I let her in on my secret.

To book your skin consultation contact Aqua-Tox

Emirates, renowned for its commitment to providing unparalleled luxury and comfort in air travel, has unveiled its latest offering to enhance the passenger experience – the Premium Economy service. Aimed at bridging the gap between Economy and Business Class, this new class, Emirates Premium Economy, promises a harmonious blend of affordability and enhanced amenities House of Coco Wellness Editor, Anji McGrandles was given the VIP treatment on a recent trip from London Heathrow to the Maldives, and it didn’t disappoint.  Here’s why upgrading to Emirates’ Premium Economy service is a game-changer for discerning travellers.

Priority Boarding and Lounge Access

Every holiday starts at the airport, streamline your pre-flight experience with the convenience of a dedicated check-in area and priority boarding, ensuring you have extra time to settle in and relax. For an additional cost, Emirates’ Premium Economy passengers can also gain access to select airport lounges, providing a tranquil and exclusive environment to unwind before the flight. After a browse around the shops, you can retreat to the lounge away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne and a bite to eat as well as access to Wi-Fi and shower facilities.

emirates premium economy

Enhanced Comfort and Spacious Seating

Once onboard sit back and relax on one of the buttery soft cream leather seats that are 19.5 inches wide, with a pitch of up to 40 inches and additional legroom, allowing you to stretch out and catch up on your sleep.  A wood panel finish similar to Business Class sets the cabin’s mood, and each seat is designed to provide optimal comfort and support with 6-way adjustable headrests, ensuring a comfy space to unwind during long-haul flights. 

Their cosy, sustainable blankets are made from recycled plastic bottles, and their generously sized pillow, is perfect for a mid-flight snooze. Customers can also refresh themselves with the complimentary amenity kits which come in reusable, sustainable bags, and contain items which are all made with some element of recycled or sustainable materials.

Exquisite Dining Experience

Elevate your culinary journey at 30,000 feet with Emirates‘ Premium Economy dining service. Indulge in a curated menu of delectable dishes inspired by global cuisines, made with seasonal ingredients. All meals are served on chinaware, accompanied by stainless steel cutlery wrapped in a linen napkin. Passengers can enjoy complimentary beverages, including premium wines and a sparkling Chandon wine. This dining experience adds a touch of sophistication to the travel experience, setting Emirates apart as a leader in premium air travel.

Generous Baggage Allowance

Emirates’ Premium Economy service comes with a generous baggage allowance, allowing passengers to pack more without the worry of excess fees. This added benefit is especially advantageous for those who prefer to travel with extra comfort items or require additional space for shopping and souvenirs. A hassle-free baggage experience is just another way Emirates ensures your journey is as seamless as possible.

Cutting-Edge In-Flight Entertainment

Stay entertained throughout your flight with Emirates’ cutting-edge in-flight entertainment system, featuring a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music, and games. The expansive, high-resolution 13.3” screen and noise-cancelling headphones provide a cinematic experience, turning your seat into a private entertainment haven. With an extensive library of 5,000 channels, catering to diverse preferences, Emirates ensures there’s something for every passenger to enjoy during their journey.

On a four-class Emirates A380, the Premium Economy cabin is located at the front of the main deck with 56 seats laid out in 2-4-2 configuration. On the Emirates Boeing 777, up to 24 Premium Economy seats will be installed in a dedicated cabin section between Business and Economy.

Anji travelled to the Maldives via Dubai.  London Heathrow to Male return is £1,749. This is based on Premium Economy from London Heathrow to Dubai and then Economy from Dubai to Male. Prices subject to change. 

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.

After a long day, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to unwind in the lap of luxury, surrounded by plush fabrics and a serene ambience. If you are looking to shed stress, eat clean and chill out then retreat to the secluded, less commercial south side of Mauritius for a rejuvenating wellness break at Anantara Iko Resort. With powder-white sandy beaches and lush tropical landscapes, guests seeking the ultimate wellness escape can take their foot of the gas, switch off and relax by taking full advantage of the three- and five-day wellness experiences.
This tranquil resort is located on the authentic, untouched southeast coast of the island which is a million miles away from the west coast where you’ll find back-to-back resorts and street vendors. Here the vibe is laid-back and serene, surrounded by the ocean and nature it’s the perfect place for weary travellers to unwind.

Inspired by nature, it has been designed to complement its stunning surroundings by using lots of natural, locally sourced materials around the property. Recycled stone, driftwood and water features set the calm tone and as soon as you arrive at Anantara you feel the pace of life slowing down.

The new wellness programmes use restorative Ayurveda treatments alongside local ingredients such as Tamarin salt from the village on the western coast and spices including turmeric and ginger. Self-healing, restoration, improved energy flow and calming rituals are the foundation of each wellness package, created with the health and well-being of conscientious travellers in mind.

The five-day wellness programme incorporates the following treatments:

Day 1:

Start the day with a traditional Tai Chi session to connect the body and mind. This moving meditation enhances muscular strength, and joint flexibility, calms the senses and soothes the soul.
Supporting the actions and benefits of Tai Chi, a restorative 90-minute Ayurveda massage follows. Benefits of Ayurvedic massages include improved blood circulation to help blood reach nerve endings, toning of muscles, calming the brain and body, lubricating and strengthening joints, and increased mental alertness.

Day 2:

Known for its self-healing benefits, the touch therapy of Abhyanga massage aims to balance dosha types using oils mixed with herbs for maximum benefits which stimulate the nervous system, and enhance coordination between sensory organs, while strengthening muscles. This massage supports healing, boosts energy, reduces recovery time after an injury, eases pain, and enhances relaxation, mood, and well-being.

Day 3:

The ancient self-healing practice of Qi Gong creates a calmness of the mind while powering the body with movements that improve joint flexibility and muscle strength. Qi Gong also supports balance and harmony within the body, improves digestion, and can be an effective treatment for insomnia and many other sleep disorders.

Day 4:

The Ayurvedic therapy Shirodhara, which is a Sanskrit word coming from shro (head) and dhara (flow), involves gently pouring herbal oils over the forehead. This is ideal for those with a vata-pitta imbalance as it can harmonise the body’s energy, awaken intuition, improve memory, support sleep, focus attention and improve concentration.

Day 5:

Round up the five-day programme with a choice of Tai Chi or Qi Gong to absorb and reinforce the full benefits of the wellness programme. Through moving meditation, you maximise the calming effects on the mind and physical benefits to the body.

Embrace the outstanding views of Le Chaland Beach and nourish your body with fresh, organic, vegan cuisine at Bon Manzer restaurant. This clean-eating restaurant will inject some joy and flavour into your palate. There’s an extensive offer of healthy dishes, all freshly prepared in front of you, using local, sustainable produce. Choose from wheat- and gluten-free options, as well as low-calorie wines, raw foods and nutritious smoothies and juices.

The stylish, contemporary, island-chic resort offers a range of activities outside of the programme so you can continue your wellness journey. Take a bike ride along the stunning, unspoilt coastline, soak up the sapphire hues of the ocean with a beach walk or if you‘d rather take some time out to relax then make the most of the hotel’s 30-metre ozone-based swimming pool, one of the many sustainability initiatives at the property.

Each of the 164 stylish rooms and suites is spacious and sophisticated with clean lines and minimal décor enhanced with a splash of ocean blue and wood making it feel relaxing and calm. Start your day taking in the views of the Indian Ocean or flourishing tropical gardens directly from your day bed on the balcony. Just 100m from the beach and with an array of facilities to help you dial it down a notch, Anantara is the ultimate chill-out destination.

A room at Anantara Iko Mauritius starts from £335 per room per night on a half-board basis. Wellness packages start at £330.