hotel review

chedi muscat hotel oman
Enjoy a tranquil escape from bustling Muscat at The Chedi hotel

Oman is a destination that definitely should be hit up for your next holiday. While the Middle East can often be overlooked for travellers, those who do explore the region tend to dine lavishly in Dubai or, at a push, opt to visit Petra.

Normally we’d be in the depths of winter, writing about getting those vitamin D levels up – as we all impatiently wait for the warmth to hit our skin once more. But no, no – we are in the middle of summer, friends – a time where the UK can actually be quite pleasant – and we’re all huddled up in coats with an umbrella in our bag, just in case.

But Oman offers it all, in our humble (read, expert) opinion. Stunning mountain ranges, impressive sand dunes, beautiful blue waters and a vast history packed full of culture to go along with it. While we at House of Coco have been lucky enough to wake up to the Jebel Akhdar scape and see only desert for days, this time, we’re taking you along with us to the capital, Muscat.

Where to stay: The Chedi Muscat, Oman

First thing’s first: you’re going to want to check in. Muscat isn’t a huge place and The Chedi is located close by (10-15 minutes’ drive) to both the airport and the city centre.

chedi muscat pool cabana oman beach
The Chedi Muscat boasts three pools, as well as a private beachfront

If architecture and decor are top of your list when it comes to picking a accommodation, this striking hotel is sure to satisfy. The Chedi merges authentic interiors, first evidenced as soon as you walk into the Bedouin tent design of the hotel’s lobby, with modern rooms and suites spread acoss the establishment. With the scent of frankincense a key component of the hotel’s identity, this cherished national fragrance hails from the trees of Wadi Dawkah and remains a prominent part of trading in the country today.

There are only 162 rooms and suites in total across the 21-acre property – and it truly feels idyllic and private. Adorned with beautifully intricate wooden furnishings and stunning hot tub-style baths, one thing’s for certain: your sleep will certainly be comfortable at The Chedi. The candles lit every evening were a nice touch, too.

While we visited during off-peak season, the communal areas of the hotel never once felt crowded, creating a tranquil oasis to escape from the bustling scenes of Muscat. Walk along white stone paths to your sea front villa – or one of the three pools The Chedi boasts, all of which offer a unique experience.

chedi muscat long pool oman
The Long Pool at The Chedi Muscat is te longest in the region

The Chedi Pool offers all guests a view out onto the stunning Gulf of Oman – with sun loungers on the beach itself, too. With both sun-worshipper opportunities and shaded beds and cabanas, there is also a poolside restaurant offering a Mediterranean meets Middle Eastern menu, so you can enjoy crispy falafel bites, juicy chicken shawarma and much more, poolside.

The Long Pool is the iconic symbol of The Chedi Muscat, with its 103-metre swim spot being the longest in the region. The swimming pool has its fair array of sunbeds, should you not be up for a serious workout on holiday (although we thoroughly do recommend, even leisurely, making your way to the end to look out onto the sea, and the adjacent dining area serves up delicious modern Japanese cuisine. From grilled Omani prawns, soy marinated lamb chops and crab tacos, save some space from the meal before to make this one count.

Those travelling with children should head to the Serai Pool, where guests of all ages are welcome – and the pool tiles are black, so offering warmer temperatures for those who always insist ‘it’s cold!’ Serving up a range of food, we recommend the Snapper fillet, seafood laksa and mezze platter.

chedi muscat beach restaurant seafood oman
Make sure to book The Chedi’s Beach restaurant when visiting the hotel

If you’re looking for a more romantic dining setting, then The Chedi’s beach restaurant is as idyllic as you can get. Indulge in Persian caviar, before moving onto oysters, lobster bisque, cuttlefish and orange salad or pan-seared scallops. There’s so much to choose from, you’d be forgiven for booking this spot more than once (but booking is most definitely required if you don’t want to miss out). With prawn trofie, Omani grilled lobster (or thermidor) and a gorgeous green cauliflower on the menu, while this is most certainly a seafood spot, non-fish eaters can also enjoy a delicious meal.

Get yourself The Chedi Glow when visiting the spa, with this relaxing haven transporting you even further into a world of bliss. Choose from cupping treatments or one of the many wonderful facials and massages on offer – with the steam room and sauna facilities located within the changing rooms of the health club down below.

Venture into Muscat, Oman

Muscat is no boring city, with the colourful buzz of the souqs and stunning architecture that has you peeling away from your camera lens. The concierge at The Chedi are only too willing to organise either a tour for you and your fellow guests, or your own car to take you into the city to explore.

It’s best advised to begin with a visit to the spectacular Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – free to visit until 11am every day apart from Friday, this spot is popular with tourists so getting there early is a must. Completed in 2001, it’s the largest mosque in Oman and a display of unique and traditional architecture. Covering up here is a must, however if you forget something or aren’t dressed appropriately, there’s an abaya store on-site.

Visi the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque or take a boat trip to the Daymaniyat Islands

Immediately impressive, everything is lavish – with crystal chandeliers (one being the second largest in the world) and Persian rugs (again, the Carpet of Wonder in the prayer hall the second largest in the world) adorning the space.

If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs, Fanja Souq is a local market, where you’ll be able to pick up bars of frankincense, as well as woven crafts and printed mugs. Should you be looking for jewellery or colourful kaftans, Mutrah Souq is a buzzier spot, where you’ll find such items. Head further into Old Muscat to visit the Al-Alam Palace, which is one of the Sultan’s official residences, as well as the National Museum and the stunning Royal Opera House, where the marble floors are cleaner than the carpets of our own homes, to be quite frank.

If the hot weather is getting to you a bit and you’re tired of city slicking it, head out to the Daymaniyat Islands. About a forty minute boat ride, you can snorkel with reef and whale sharks and spot turtles splashing about in the sea. Operators such as Silent Sands Oman run tours, which The Chedi can assist booking – and you can even enjoy your own private cabana lunch to seal the deal to a perfect day.

The former established Holyrood Hotel has very recently relaunched as Edinburgh Marriott Hotel Holyrood, marking the completion of an extensive £10m refurbishment. The transformation of the property is exceptional from the moment you walk through the door into the Greatroom Lobby to the newly appointed rooms and suites, spa, gym and meeting areas. Rachel McAlley checks in…

Located in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic old town, the hotel, under new ownership, has been brought up to Marriott Hotel standards with an extensive refurb. Marriott’s signature style is found throughout all facets of the property and guests can now enjoy an enriched experience with modern, inviting spaces.

We were invited to the launch following the rebrand, for an evening of fabulous food, drink and entertainment. The invite was for 24 hours in Edinburgh to experience a hosted lunch with the General Manager, Michael Falla, followed by an exclusive tour of The Scotch Whisky Experience. Also, the visit included tickets for the official Edinburgh Marriott Hotel Holyrood party, overnight stay, and traditional Scottish breakfast. Who could say no to that?

The Low Down

With nearly 600 hotels and resorts in over 65 countries and territories around the world, Marriott Hotels continues to elevate the art of hospitality. The new-look Holyrood property is synonymous with Marriott’s commitment to delivering enriching experiences, modern design, heartfelt service and timeless hospitality.

Rachel’s journey began with a heartfelt welcome into the new Greatroom lobby, the pulse of every Marriott Hotel. It was a hub of activity with the team getting ready for the night’s planned festivities. With space to connect, work, and unwind, this is a key feature of the refurbishment, a relaxed and sophisticated lifestyle space, bar, dining area and lobby.

The city’s vibrant arts scene is reflected in the art on display and carpet designs throughout. The interiors are inspired by the late Scottish artist Edinburgh-born Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi CBE RA, who is known for his sculpture and graphic work and is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of pop art.

The local influence combines with Marriott’s modern design aesthetics, with interiors based on a cool neutral palette featuring intricate multidimensional patterns and layered textures of natural materials. These materials such as marble, sand, onyx and water include rich patterns and an intriguing design tension that provides visual interest and invites reflection.

The General Manager’s lunch was taken in the Greatroom, with views over the entire hotel lobby, it was a great location to enjoy Head Chef Andy McRobert’s specially curated menu. We dined on San Marzano Tomato and East Coast Buffalo Mozzarella salad to start.

This was followed by Slowly Braised Scottish Short Rib of Beef with Haggis, Neep & Tatties, turnip fondant, and Aberfeldy 12-year-old jus. The dessert was Limoncello Cranachan with Scottish Shortbread.

The piece-de-resistance was the mouth-watering short rib, which was cooked to perfection. It fell off the bone, melted in the mouth, and when matched with the haggis was simply divine.

All of these dishes will make an appearance on the hotel’s Market Menu whenever they are in season. Keep your eyes peeled for the regular seasonal menu changes.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Post lunch we ventured to the top of The Royal Mile to spend an hour at The Scotch Whisky Experience, which certainly was an experience.

We were taken through the history of whisky, how it is distilled, what the casks are made from, and how to correctly taste Scotch Whisky. Furthermore, we even learned that there are five different areas across the whole of Scotland where specific whiskies are produced. These areas include Speyside, Highland, Islay, Lowland, and Campbeltown.

The Scotch Whisky Experience holds over 4,000 unopened bottles of whisky for every visitor to look at. They are housed at the end of the experience in glass-fronted cabinets and showcase the smallest bottles in the world to the most unusual bottles in the world.

We sampled one whisky from one of the five areas of Scotland and were taken through the correct way of drinking. Firstly, you raise the glass and look at the colour, it may be a deep amber colour or a light amber colour. Secondly, you swill the glass around to see how long the whisky line lasts.

Thirdly, you smell the aromas, as you might find it oaky, smoky, or fruity. Fourthly, you taste and smell at the same time. Finally, the long drink, where you taste the whisky and get its full flavour.

The tour was taken by an expert from The Scotch Whisky Experience, he knew every answer to any question put his way. Moreover, we ended the tour by sampling a small bar of rich dark chocolate and then drinking a matching whisky. The taste was perfection, the bitterness of the chocolate worked alongside the harshness of the whisky and they were a match made in heaven!

We strolled down The Royal Mile back to the Edinburgh Marriott Hotel Holyrood for a night of excellent food including freshly shucked oysters, live piping, and fabulous entertainment. After a night of dancing and possibly some singing it was time for bed.

The Edinburgh Marriott Hotel Holyrood

The 160 sophisticated and inviting guest bedrooms include Junior Suites, Deluxe and King Rooms with sleek wooden floors, and drench walk-in showers amongst other facilities. All rooms boast spacious en-suites, comfortable beds, cosy armchairs and 55-inch wall-mounted flat-screen TVs as standard.

Breakfast is served in the Greatroom with a choice of hot or cold buffet. Scottish Potato Cakes, Scottish Sausage Patties and everything else you can think of are included in the breakfast buffet. It’s one not to miss!

It was time to hit the spa, which is still undergoing an expansive transformation. The pool is a calmness in the midst of Edinburgh’s bustling streets. Both locals and hotel guests are able to use the facilities which include a gym, pool, and treatment rooms.

After spending an hour having an unbelievably relaxing Elemis Full Body Massage, which was then followed by half an hour in the relaxation room it was time to check out. We could have stayed in the spa all day and swam for hours, but the train sadly wouldn’t wait! Therefore, we hot-footed to Edinburgh Waverley Station to head back to England. It was a whirlwind 24 hours in the Scottish capital……. until next time!

Standard rooms at the Marriott Edinburgh Hotel Holyrood start from £209. Our writer Rachel stayed in a Deluxe King, the hotel’s leading room category is slightly more expensive. Book a room here.

An Elemis Full Body Massage is priced at £75. There are plenty more treatments to book, view the catalogue here.

For details about booking tickets to The Scotch Whisky Experience, visit here. Prices vary from £10 for a child to £21 concessions, £23 for an adult to £56 for a family of four.

So, when you next look to visit Edinburgh check out the Edinburgh Marriott Hotel Holyrood.

More Travel from House of Coco

Located along the southern edge of the Californian Central Coast is the super scenic, Monterey County.  This beautiful seaside city was made famous by writer, John Steinbeck whose novel, Cannery Row was inspired by the renowned, waterfront thoroughfare lined with former sardine factories that is now home to hotels, shops, and restaurants.

What makes Monterey worth a visit is the plethora of things to do.   Whether you are looking for adventure, want to explore the local marine life, enjoy a taste of the local wine or kick back with a book on the beach there is something for everyone.

Just further along Highway 1 (which reopens in April) is the neighbouring town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a charming picture postcard destination that packs some punch for its size. 

Carmel’s romantic cobblestone streets are brimming with art galleries, great places to eat and boutique shops.  The main stretch of road runs from downtown directly to the sugar-white beach.  The town is jam packed with culture, unique backstories and film buffs will also be excited to discover that Clint Eastwood who served as mayor of Carmel resides here, and is often seen dining in Michelin Starred, Aubergine restaurant. 

One of the best times to visit is towards the end of summer. It’s less crowded and you can still expect balmy weather.  Start in Carmel before exploring Monterey Bay and the surrounding area.

Where to stay

Just a stone’s throw from the beach and a short stroll from the shops and restaurants, is the Carmel Beach Hotel.  The hotel opened in 2023 and is one of six new boutique hotels in the town.  The vibe here is laid back luxury, this intimate property has just 26 rooms and three suites.  My room was contemporary and spacious, with fresh whitewashed walls and bedding with accents of marine blue taking inspiration from the ocean.  The large bathrooms comprise of double vanity units, shower and a free-standing roll top bath.  There’s a pretty courtyard restaurant, cocktail bar, spa and gym.  The staff are friendly and deliver a personal seamless service you don’t get from big faceless chains.  During my stay I was running late for a dinner reservation and the manager personally drove me to a local restaurant. 

The breakfast here is fabulous, both mornings I had it delivered to my room.  A cute basket of continental delights are served alongside your preferred hot dish.  The eggs were cooked to perfection, toast still warm and bacon crispy.   

The location makes it ideal for sunset walks and picnics on the beach.  

The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa sits on stilts directly above the crashing surf of the Pacific and in the prime location of Cannery Row.  The hotel is plush with lots of polished marble, soft carpet, dark wood and large ceiling to floor windows that look out over the bay.  The rooms are spacious and have a similar classic design and décor that continues throughout the hotel. 

When it comes to dining you are spoiled for choice.  There’s lobby café’s, excellent room service and for more casual cuisine guest can head to Schooners, there’s a heated deck and uninterrupted views of the ocean.   The menu includes classic American staples making it the perfect choice for breakfast or a light bite. Coastal Kitchen offers fine dining.  Executive Chef Michael Rotondo serves an ever-evolving tasting menu that showcases the culinary treasures from the region.

The adult only spa is decadent retreat for those looking to relax after a day exploring.  Located on the roof, with dramatic panoramic views from the sundeck, there are two outdoor hot tubs, a steam room and indoor sauna. There is also a gym.

Eat and drink

Chez Noir’s French inspired menu showcases innovative, seafood-centric dishes that have earned them a well-deserved Michelin star.  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.

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.  Slick service and a menu dedicated to delicious farm to table fare is what sets Lucia apart from other restaurants.  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.

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 a short drive from Monterey Bay, and 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 an abundance of 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.

What to do

While staying in Monterey you must pay a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium who are celebrating their 40th anniversary in October.  Here, you can see leopard sharks meander through kelp forests and sea turtles bobbing amongst schools of colourful fish.  Floor to ceiling tanks span two floors at one of the largest aquarium exhibits in the world.  There are interactive experiences, a variety of behind-the-scenes tours (some of which allow visitors to feed penguins) and touch pools, where you can get close to sea cucumbers, bat rays and tide-pool creatures.  This is no run of the mill aquarium, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region, it showcases more than 35,000 animals and plants representing over 550 species.   

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. You’ll be collected from your hotel by their knowledgeable guide, Steve who will keep you entertained with the inside track on all things Monterey.  Expect to stop off at some of the finest wineries along the coast, make sure you call in to Galante Vineyards tasting room to see Jack!

Monterey Bay is California’s best location for viewing whales, great white sharks and spotting an abundance of marine life including dolphins, jellyfish and sea lions.  Discovery Whale Watch trips depart from Fisherman’s Wharf daily and the team onboard are the best in business for spotting and guaranteeing whale sightings.   The three-hour tour is an extraordinary experience that allows you to get up close to these amazing creatures, I got to witness a humpback breech and a pod of dolphins escorted our boat out of the bay.   Throughout the trip the crew tee up sightings, impart knowledge and facts with passion, ensuring you have a memorable experience.

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

Shutters on the Beach or ‘Shutters’ as coined by its nearest and dearest marries the elegance and charm of an East Coast beach house with the laid back energy of its West Coast surroundings. A perfect blend of interiors that wouldn’t look out of place on the Cape with a view that takes in the Santa Monica pier and beyond, a stunning contrast of old meets new.  

Setting the scene

Beginning a trip up the Californian coastline, the iconic Shutters Hotel – named on account of its multitude of rooms boasting white wooden shutter doors that open onto sun drenched balconies with views of the ocean – seemed like the perfect starting point. Having had it saved on my ‘one day I will stay here’ list for a number of years, I was beside myself to see if she was as beautiful in the flesh as the many influencers and socialites depicted her across social media.

Pulling into the valet of the hotel, eyes already on stalks at glimpses of the iconic white woodwork and the blue ocean beyond, I felt as if I were entering another world, one of luxury, slow paced living and five star hospitality. Having spent the previous night in a very cool yet incredibly urban (think blocks of raw concrete in the middle of bedroom) hotel in downtown LA, this was the exact contrast I needed. Scooting around important media types who were taking important phone calls on the terrace, I entered into the lobby of the hotel, this couldn’t be further from the brash brutalism of the night before. Dark wood floors draped in exquisite rugs, roaring fires, sofas that invite you to fall into them and wood paneling and low lighting that created an ambience of being in your friend’s (albeit a very wealthy one) living room, which I later found out is what the hotel refers to the lobby as given its relaxed nature and palpable warmth.

The room

I mosied my way through the lobby, people watching on route, finding my way to my room, a further extension of the aforementioned friends’ Cape Cod home. Curated books and artwork line the shelves, accents of blue to mirror the ocean a mere few meters away bring the outside in, hardwood floors adorned with Tibetan rugs, soft billowy comforters placed on top of luxurious linen sheets create an extra layer of cosines. Well thought out details such as an elevated mini bar and a couples kit show why this hotel is considered one of the best in the area. 

A huge bathroom housing a whirlpool tub and flat screen TV sits beneath shutters opening into the room allowing for the most romantic of evenings and outdoor views. Touches such as Dyptique shower products mean you will smell as expensive as the hotel itself.

As eager as I was to jump on the enormous bed that needed a step ladder to go with it, I was even more eager to throw open the iconic white shutters open and see what lay beyond – as natural light flooded the room, the breeze of the Pacific whipped around me, I squealed at the miles of white sandy beach back dropped by the Santa Monica pier stretched out in front of me.

This is where things got tricky – with only 24 hours to take in this incredible place, how is one to choose between lounging at the roof top pool that boasts some of the most incredible views across Santa Monica beach, ambling up the Venice boardwalk, running straight into the ocean or sipping a cocktail at one of the hotels stunning bars. You need a good few days to drink this all up.

Opting for a walk along the beach to settle into our new surroundings, this is where the hotel came into its own. As I walked down to the soft white sand, waves crashing ahead, I turned to see where we had come from. The majesty of the hotel proudly opening itself up to the beach below genuinely took my breath away.

Bars & Restaurants

The hotel has three F&B offerings, 1 Pico the more formal of the family draws influences from Italian menus and is a seafood forward menu – perfect as the restaurant boasts even more views across the ocean. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is the place to head for some Coastal Californian dining at its finest.

Coast is the more laid back of the bunch, the perfect place to head for breakfast after a spot of morning yoga (more on that later) for great eggs and the most beautiful chia pudding I have ever seen. Outdoor seating is right on the boardwalk so prepare to watch the world go by as you sip your morning cup of Joe, we were even treated to some top notch busking on our visit. There is also a communal table inside, further cementing the laid back family dining vibe. 

Lastly, the Living Room, redefining hotel lobbies for its guests – a meeting place, a spot to have a cocktail or a coffee, somewhere to read in front of the fire or enjoy live music in the evening. Sipping a Pina Colada on the Living Room balcony, I was treated to one of the most epic sunsets as I have ever seen, as the sun slips behind the Santa Monica pier, the bar comes to life, cocktail shakers shake, guests congregate for supper, the energy is bustly yet refined, the perfect spot to start your evening – or any other part of the day for that matter. 

The pool

The pool at Shutters is nothing short of iconic. Sitting atop the roof terrace and stretching nearly the entire length of the hotel, it is flanked by cabanas and sun loungers alike, all boasting the striking white and blue colour palette like a precisely turned out army.  If you can get there early doors to secure a front row lounger with uninterrupted views of the beach below, even better but truth be told, there isn’t a bad spot here.

The beach

Santa Monica beach is known for surfing, volleyball and beautiful people. The beach concierge team is on hand to provide you with anything you might need, from parasols to bicycles. The hotel also offers beach fitness and yoga classes. Booking on to the latter the following morning as I really tried to lean into this California way of life, when my alarm rang bright and early, I was more than a little tempted to hit cancel and roll back into my memory foam supported slumber. However, a promise had been made and so I  heaved myself out of bed and onto the beach. Toes buried in the sand still cold from the night before, waves crashed, sun warmed my skin, occasional dogs ran past in a blur and surfers could be heard discussing whatever it is surfers discuss – it was truly a special moment, as the mist rolled in off the ocean and the rest of the world was near still, there was something ethereal about breathing in tandem with the ocean. I would urge anyone to do it. 

Surrounding area.

If you can drag yourself away from the hotel (near impossible but doable), walk up the boardwalk to Venice Beach which is a lovely way to spend a day. More people watching, lots of coffee sipping, oodles of shopping. A turn around the Venice canals and some serious properly lusting is an absolute must. Walk back down Abbot Kinney, a street full of independents and the chicest stores. From here we grabbed a cab back to the hotel but the walk is pleasant and takes about an hour. 

Of course, no stay here is complete without a turn around the pier – we found the best way to do it was tipsy from our cocktails, laughing our way across the beach and up on to the ferris wheel complete with candy corn and corn dog. Perfection.

I can happily confirm that Shutter’s is just as beautiful as I had been led to believe and what those little squares on instagram don’t depict is the level of service and hospitality of everyone that works here. You truly are made to feel like you are entering a home to share with the friendliest of families.

Find out more about Santa Monica.

If you’re looking for a hotel in central Stratford-Upon Avon that goes the extra mile, Hotel Indigo is a boutique option with some fantastic extras. Lauren Kate Hughes checks in for the weekend…

Living in London, I’m used to paying premium prices for hotels – and sometimes ones that don’t seem worth the price tag at all. So it’s refreshing to find a hotel in such a sought-after destination that over-delivers on its affordable price tag, with attractive extras like the free-of-charge mini-bar full of snacks and soft drinks, as well as a mini bottle of prosecco for a celebratory touch.

There’s also the acclaimed on-site restaurant The Woodsman, which is well worth a visit. Chef Mike Robinson works with local estates, food producers and foragers to craft his game-based menu. It’s exactly the kind of comfort food you crave in an old-world pub on a cold winter’s night, washed down with an excellent wine choice from our waiter. The staff were knowledgeable and attentive; I couldn’t fault the choices. This is a restaurant where every last detail has been considered. And, with its low ceilings and roaring fires, it’s a particularly cosy place to go in the winter.

What makes the flavours so distinctive at the Woodsman is that the meat is cooked over oak and alder wood for a deliciously smokey finish. Its reputation speaks for itself, with the venue packed out on a Saturday night. Staying at the hotel, you don’t even need to leave the building to reach this much-coveted spot – and you can enjoy a drink in the adjoining cocktail bar beforehand, too.

Breakfast is also worth mentioning, with a huge buffet packed with fresh fruit, juices, cereal, pastries and cakes, as well as a hot breakfast option included in the price. One of the better hotel breakfasts I’ve tried in a long time (and that’s coming from a frequent hotel visitor).

There’s also free parking available on sight for guests – a rarity for such a central hotel and a great asset when it comes to exploring the local area. If you do want to see the area on foot and leave the car safely tucked away, the front-of-house staff offer a map of the local area as well as advice on some local walks.

The rooms are also very spacious, with big, comfy beds ideal for hunkering down after a packed day’s sightseeing. Rooms fall into three categories of design; Tudor, Georgian, and Contemporary.

The bathrooms are fully stocked with aromatic toiletries that add that extra sense of luxury to a weekend away. Each of the rooms also comes with a Nespresso coffee machine, a kettle, mini-fridge, iron and ironing board, a hairdryer, a 40-inch flat-screen TV, and Wi-Fi – essentially anything you might need to stay comfortable and connected during your stay.

There’s so much to do on your doorstep, with the hotel right in the middle of the small 14km town – you’re just a five-minute walk away from the Royal Shakespeare Company itself. You can also pay a visit to where the women in Shakespeare’s life – Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden’s, Farm are two must-dos on your Stratford list.


What to do

Wander the sights

Stratford is relatively small and built for wandering, whether that means exploring the famous Shakespeare Theatre Company, taking a stroll along the River Avon, or touring the many historic pubs dotted across the market town.

Visit a butterfly farm

Explore the UK’s leading butterfly farm – Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly Farm – where you can get up close and personal with the beautiful creatures and learn more about their natural habitats.

Explore an award-winning gin distillery

The Shakespeare Distillery is the home of a boutique gin brand crafted on the outskirts of Stratford Upon Avon. Here you can learn about the history of gin, the gin-making process and also take a bottle home with you.

Hotel openings are second to none in London – fitting for a city that attracts the millions of tourists that the UK capital does. Arriving in the West End at the end of 2022, Hotel Amano Covent Garden has firmly cemented itself as a trendy spot to stay when in the city and comes complete with contemporary interiors and a moody ambience.

Complete with its own immersive restaurant – plus a rooftop bar, which offers gorgeous London views, Hotel Amano has good reason to be on your radar the next time you book somewhere to stay in the capital. From the gorgeous gold bathtub (which has no doubt graced your feeds on Instagram and TikTok) to the brass chandeliers and risqué artwork, if you’re not already convinced, continue reading to see why you should stay in this hotel during your next trip to London.

Amano Covent Garden
Why not book Hotel Amano in Covent Garden for your next trip to London?

Hotel rooms at Amano

There’s a large selection of room types at Hotel Amano, meaning whether you’re looking for a snug space to stay overnight or more space for a longer trip, this boutique hotel can cater to everyone’s needs. From ‘cosy’ and ‘comfy’ rooms to ‘roomy’ and ‘roomy plus’, whatever your preferred bed size, Hotel Amano has you covered. For anyone looking for an extra air of luxury added to your trip, the ‘goldy’ is an essential booking – as there’s nothing quite as aesthetically pleasing and opulent as a gold bathtub and shower.


Food and drink at Amano


An Israeli-Spanish fusion restaurant, Penelope’s serves up innovative dishes for its diners. With an extensive cocktail and wine list, the premium plates we recommend would have to include the nduja pork belly and the black challa calamari (this might be the tastiest calamari we’ve had in London). The beef short rib is an excellent main course – while the ‘seafood on fire’ makes for an impressive dish if you’re looking for some dinner theatre.

hotel amano penelopes restaurant food dinner
Penelope’s at Hotel Amano offers dinner and a show

Speaking of dinner and a show, Penelope’s is known for its sophisticated decor, which provides a glamorous ambience. As well as contemporary dishes, the dining experience itself is immersive – particularly come the weekend, when the restaurant hosts its famous Isramani nights. You’ve not been to a dinner party like it, with sparkler-garnished cocktails, shots straight from the bottle and belly dancers galore.


Amano Rooftop Bar

London knows a thing or two about a rooftop bar – and the terrace at Hotel Amano Covent Garden offers a gorgeous skyline view as you sit back and sip a cocktail. A unique panorama of the city, it’s the perfect place for an aperitif or post-dinner drinks. For anyone who needs a snack with their drink (our hands are raised), there’s a selection of bar bites available (coming from the kitchen at Penelope’s) so you can enjoy that gorgeous black challah calamari alongside your cocktail.

hotel amano rooftop bar london
Hotel Amano also has a hidden rooftop terrace bar

Overall, Hotel Amano is perfectly located the for typical tourists or travellers visiting London. In the heart of the West End, the hotel is just a five-minute walk from Covent Garden tube station (seven minutes from Holborn and 10 minutes from Temple). In addition to good transport links, guests will find themselves literally next door to attractions such as the Lyceum Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the London Transport Museum and a short stroll from Leicester Square. If Penelope’s isn’t the preferred dining choice, guests are spoiled for choice with restaurants and bars in the West End.

The hotel is a small boutique style – so if you’re looking for somewhere with a spa, gym and the whole works, Hotel Amano might not be for you. However, what this hotel does deliver is gorgeous decor, comfortable beds in stylish rooms, good food and a rooftop bar – on the doorstep of one of the most popular areas of London. So, what are you waiting for?

Book your stay at Hotel Amano here

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 –


Introducing you to the Dao by Dorsett West London

Combining the best of both worlds – a luxury hotel with the comforts and convenience of home, the Dao by Dorsett West London, with its thoughtfully designed apartments offers an elegant and convenient home away from home in the heart of London in Shepherds Bush. 

With the shopping mecca of Westfield mere minutes’ walk away, you are ideally situated for everything West London has to offer but is also in close proximity to Oxford Street, Notting Hill and Paddington. The building has been renovated by architects Flanagan Lawrence who have thoughtfully retained elements of the original building and have added eight storeys to the building, effortlessly blending the old with the new.

A Stylish Blend of Modernity and Elegance

From the spacious lobby with contemporary design with monochrome hues complimented with pops of jewel-toned turquoise. The lobby is also adorned with plants, funky artwork and striking features, making it a very welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The lobby is shared by the apartments and the Dorsett Shepherds Bush Hotel with the beautiful atrium area which also hosts the Jin Bar which has a cool Mexican theme.

This was my first time trying out this aparthotel-style accommodation and it didn’t disappoint. Whilst it is clearly aimed at business travellers, the accommodation (which is composed of 74 apartments) doesn’t compromise on the achingly-cool decor which includes a gold-plated bath feature in the lobby, a ten pound note artwork, framed photos of Hollywood stars of the past which included a beautiful print of the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

Checking into our apartment was a real vibe, unlike traditional hotel rooms, we had a little lounge area, a smart kitchenette which had a two-ring Smeg electric hob, oven, fridge-freezer, toaster, coffee machine and kettle (complete with a selection of premium teas). The hotel has also kindly provided a very welcome bottle of wine and chocolate-covered popcorn which was a great way to kick off our stay. There was (intriguingly) no bin in the kitchen which would have been a helpful addition, but was certainly not a dealbreaker whatsoever.

Dao by Dorsett West London

Following in a similar vein as the chairs in the lobby and shared areas, the apartment came with a decadent teal sofa which was a great place to sit back and check out the large flat-screen TV. There’s also a great selection of coffee table books to peruse including a great book on the city of London.

The charcoal-hued bathroom is pretty big for a London hotel and has a huge walk-in rainforest shower and is stocked with decadent Elemis products and a handy woven bag filled with everything that you might have forgotten for your visit – toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, hairnet, nail file, cotton pads, and a razor with shaving cream.

Tailored Experiences: Personalized Stays for Every Guest

The expansive bedroom complete with a super king-sized bed is located behind a sliding door for privacy and includes a little dressing table where some self-care goodies were waiting for me. Helpfully, each side of the bed has both electric and USB outlets built into the nightstand.

Guests at the Dao by Dorsett can choose an add-on package which they call ‘journeys’ which includes dog-friendly, family and fitness (Move Your Way, where you can work out in your apartment with an in-room Peloton bike and yoga mat).

Pups will not be disappointed with the Pet Friendly package where all your four legged friends needs to do is to turn up as the hotel provides them with a super comfy pet bed or tent for them to sleep in, lots of toys to play with, food and water bowls and a handy poo bag dispenser.

Rejuvenate and Rebalance at Dao by Dorsett

As it has been a very long week, I opted for the self care package which included a YINA bio-cellulose face mask to enhance your skin’s self-renewal, a bottle of CBD balancing oil to encourage well-being and calm, some kombucha from You & I and a very thoughtful scented Dao candle.

In addition, guests can request a sweat blanket –  which is a deeply relaxing treatment ideal for stress relief, sore joints and stiff muscles – or Red Light Therapy, which uses low wavelength red light to improve skin’s appearance. I gave this a whirl and can honestly say I feel it made a difference.

Apartments are only serviced once a week, but the staff at the Dao by Dorsett are on hand to  help with whatever you might need and everyone we dealt with at the hotel was fantastic.

Culinary Delights and Convenient Amenities at Dao by Dorsett

Truthfully, breakfast was a little bit disappointing – it wasn’t as fresh as it could be, but of course, we could have been a smidge unlucky in that respect. However, there’s a good selection to choose from the buffet which includes cold meats, fruit, cereals and pastries. Guests can also  order one hot dish from an à la carte menu.

Guests can also choose to eat in the restaurant which serves up Chinese cuisine, the Shikumen Chinese restaurant is independently operated but hotel guests can take advantage of a 10% discount.

The setting was beautiful with plants everywhere and a bar with a stunning tropical design. Looking up allowed me to take in the expansiveness of the hotel thanks to gold-plated gilded floor levels in an atrium setting.

For guests staying for longer than a few days (or for those who forgot to pack a change of clothes!) There’s a neon-hued laundrette in the basement. Following a similar design aesthetic as the other shared areas, every detail has been considered including a coffee bar and vending machines where you can enjoy a cheeky latte whilst doing your laundry.

Whilst the apartments and the surrounding hotel are ideal for business travellers, thanks to the handy working areas and the lobby space which is useful for client/colleague meetings, it is also a great option for non-business travellers who want more than just a standard hotel room whilst in London.

These sleek serviced apartments nestled in Shepherds Bush are an absolute thumbs up from me!

Check-in from £158 per night at the Dao by Dorsett.