Monday, 1 September 2014

A Room With A View: Man Made vs Natural

In the classic novel, A Room with a View by EM Forster, the heroine Lucy Honeychurch bemoans her poor view from her room in Florence, all she can see is the courtyard rather than the beautiful Arno River. When she finally swaps rooms she is totally delighted to have the view that she has been craving. Like Miss Honeychurch, I think it's so important to have a room with a beautiful view of the country that you're visiting. Having that view not only offers you a picture of beauty but it allows a connection with the country that you're staying in. Ever the English Literature student, when Emma, Kelly and Rebecca asked me to suggest topic for this month's travel link up I took inspiration from Forster's novel....

I've stayed in some hotels with absolutely incredible views and through their windows or from their balconies and terraces I've seen many wonders both of the natural landscape and of man-made iconic architecture. With that in mind, I thought I structure my post around those two very different types of view. 

Man Made

Il Salviatino, Florence

Like Lucy Honeychurch, I thought I'd start my story in Florence...

Mr Silver and I took a fabulous mini-moon in Florence and from the beautiful suite in our hotel, Il Salviatino, we could see the incredible Renaissance cityscape and the iconic Duomo, the cathedral. Views in Florence are so beautiful and romantic but are made even more wonderful by the rich sense of history, culture and intricate architecture. If you visit Il Salviatino, book a Dome View Room so that you don't miss out on a panoramic view of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

For me, one of the most iconic landmarks that I'd always dreamed of seeing was the Sydney Opera House, so when Mr S and I made our dream trip to Australia, I ensured we would have the perfect view of the pearly white sails. 

From the majestic and towering Shangri-La hotel you have a view across the whole of the Sydney Harbour, encompassing the bridge too. Dine in the Shangri-La's superb restaurant, Altitude, which has floor to ceiling windows allowing a full panoramic view of the harbour. Book an Opera House City view to ensure that you are the right side of the hotel for a view of this masterpiece of modern architecture.

Read my full review of The Shangri-La

Cavallo Point, Sausalito

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic structures in the United States and one of the wonders of the modern world. The famous orange-hued bridge connects San Francisco to Marin county and is an amazing 2,737 metres long.

The picture above was the view from our room in the fabulous historic hotel, Cavallo Point. The hotel was converted from an army barracks into five star luxury accommodation and is located in a National Park close to the foot of the bridge, you couldn't really be staying much closer. For a sweeping view of the Bridge choose one of the contemporary lodgings, and for something extra special go for a room with a deck or patio so that you can sit out and enjoy a glass of wine with your view. 

You've got to love a beautiful skyline and when I think of the most famous ones: New York, London and Paris all spring to mind with the glory of the Empire State Building, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower. But actually a different city tops my list for boasting the most impressive Sky Line: Hong Kong.

Apologies for the terrible photo quality but in the interest of authenticity I wanted to use a picture of the actual view that we had from our room at The Intercontinental in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, while we were there the weather was very bad and foggy.., but I think you get the idea! 

Architects have made the most of the lack of space in the city by building vertically and Hong Kong ranks first in world for the number of skyscrapers it contains, boasting four of the fifteen tallest buildings in the world. The surrounding mountains make a stunning back drop to the city and add to the feeling of height.

When we stayed at the Intercontinental we had the perfect view of the harbour and skyline. Pop down to the bar at 8pm and you can watch the famous Symphony of Lights, a sychronised light and laser display that illuminates the exteriors of the building lining both sides of the Victoria Harbour. 

The Encore, Las Vegas

You don't get much more man-made than Vegas, with its neon lights, sky scrapers and crazy shaped hotels...Vegas isn't for everyone but I love it!

The Encore is right at the heart of the Strip and from our towering room in the sky scraper you can see some of the most well-known hotels and landmarks.


Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur

1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, seemingly precariously perched on the cliff side is Post Ranch Inn, labelled one of the best hotels in the world.

From your incredibly cosy and luxurious, yet rustic, cabin you can view the most beautiful natural views.

From our side of the hotel we could see sweeping mountain tops and tall trees which we could enjoy from our balcony whilst sipping champagne in our hot tub or drinking fresh coffee and eating home made cookies on our loungers. From the other side of the hotel the view is of the eternal ocean beautifully expanding as far as the eye can see. Eat at the restaurant and you'll feel like you're suspended in mid-air over that deep blue sea.

Silky Oaks, The Daintree Rainforest

A treehouse perched high in the canopy of the Rainforest is not for the faint of heart...but when you peer from you're balcony and see this view, you'll certainly forget any fears.

I'm terrified of creepy crawlies and flying things but I screwed up all my courage to stay in this once-in-a-lifetime hotel in the middle of all this natural beauty. Staying right in the rainforest allowed me to really discover the Daintree and the Mossman River, and getting so close to nature wasn't so scary after all! 

Read my full review of Silky Oaks

I've stayed at many hotels with a beautiful view of the sea but none quite so stunning as The Four Seasons Bora Bora. 

I've never seen the sea so azure blue and an island so emerald green. Bora Bora is a totally beautiful and completely unspoilt island brimming with life and colour. The picture above was the stunning sea view that we saw from our bed when we woke up in the morning. As we were lucky enough to have a villa right an the end of the pavilion, our view was completely unobstructed and we were in our own little world together on our honeymoon. 

My form of travelling may not involve a backpack and youth hostels but I love the once in a life time experiences that you can have while travelling to distant lands. One of the most incredible places I've ever stayed in is the Four Seasons Tented Camp which is located in the bamboo jungles of Chiang Rai in Thailand. The reason the hotel is so unique is that it is home to four elephants meaning that you can interact with these gentle giants on a daily basis: watching them bathe in the morning, feeding them breakfast, and going on treks. 

The photos above depict the view from our luxury tented accommodation in the hotel. Not only were we staying in the heart of the jungle but the murky lake that you can see above is where the elephants bathed every morning. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of the elephants' morning bath but the experience of having a shower myself whilst watching the elephants spray water over themselves is truly an unforgettable one. 

I've saved the best for last...a natural wonder and one of Australia's most recognised landmarks, Ayers Rock, or, to give the sandstone mountain it's Aboringal name, Uluru. The fantastic hotel, Longitude 131, is made up of fifteen luxury tents and every one has perfect view of The Rock.

Each room is fronted with special glass; you can see out but no one can see the morning we could watch the sun rise over the Uluru. The rock is known for changing colour with the different times of the day and it glows a brilliant red at dawn and at sunset. The rock is sacred to the aboriginal people and being in its presence is strangely indescribable. Magical and mysterious, a visit to Ayers Rock is an unforgettable one. Just ask Will and Kate who recently stayed at Longitude 131 on a romantic break. 

Whether the view is natural or man-made it really can give a connection while in a foreign land and create a feeling of the sense of place. What's the most interesting view you've seen from your room whilst travelling? It can be beautiful, funny, weird or bad or if you don't have one, what do you aspire to see from your window? 

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Friday, 29 August 2014

SilverSpoon on Honeymoon: Le Taha'a - The Vanilla Island

The island of Le Taha'a is shaped like a flower and the fragrant scent of vanilla drifts gently through the breeze, can you imagine a more heavenly paradise? 

Our hotel, Le Taha'a Island Resort and Spa, is one of the only places to stay on the island and because of this, honeymooners can find themselves in the splendid isolation that they crave. 

The resort itself is much smaller than the Four Seasons Bora Bora and it includes only 57 villas.

 The villas are constructed in the pure Polynesian style made from bamboo and wood with a thatched roof. While in Bora Bora we'd enjoyed an incredibly luxurious experience, Le Taha'a was gorgeous but felt more authentic.

The sea below was very shallow and the large panels in the floor allowed us to see straight to the ocean floor. 

 Again we had our terrace...

Perfect to dive off...

...and for watching sunsets.

And spotting sting rays!!

There are three restaurants at Le Taha'a: Le Vanille is the hotel's main restaurant perched in the treetops and it is open for breakfast and dinner. 

For lunch most guests dine at La Plage, located right on the beach and by the pool.

Once again I have to say, unfortunately food was a disappointment at this hotel but they did serve a great poisson cru presented in a coconut:

I had high hopes for Le Ohriri, the hotel's fine dining restaurant but even that let us down. I've not included the food pics as, to be honest, they didn't look great! Plus poor lighting didn't help either.

However, we did have one meal that totally knocked our socks off! Though it wasn't because of the food...

The hotel arranged for us to enjoy a motu dinner on our own private islet! We arrived at reception to meet our guide:

We were then led down to shallow water to an outrigger canoe which would transfer us over to our romantic haven under the stars...

It was our mini-private island for two with a table beautifully set us for us to enjoy. We also had a waiter who waded through the shallow waters to bring us every course. 

We toasted with Taittenger, which is a champagne that is very special to us as it is what we were drinking when Mr Silver proposed in Australia.

As we ate our five-course dinner a Polynesian band entertained us with their relaxing twinkly guitars and traditional music.

More members of the band came along with some hula dancers...

Then the fire dancers!! Mr S and I looked on nervously, it was very windy and there were lots of low hanging palm fronds.

Here's a video of the dance...please ignore our silly voices in the background!

We pointed this out to the dancer but he seemed pretty confident that it would fine. 

But soon the fire was extinguished and the group joined together for a hakka dance.

We had such a large troupe entertaining us, we couldn't believe it was all for just us two!

They even got us in on the act! We love the whole motu dinner experience and I can safely say it was probably my favourite evening of the honeymoon! Everything felt so special and we were completely looked after by our waiter and the entertainment crew!

It was fabulous to escape to the remote island of Bora Bora and Le Taha'a. It's certainly very relaxing and you couldn't be more isolated and away from it all. Mr Silver absolutely loved it and felt he could have been marooned on the island for weeks on end! I, however, started to feel a little stir crazy and began to crave not only the glamour of the city but the variety of activities that you can do in New York and LA. Though, I totally fell in love with the beauty of French Polynesia, I don't think I could have stayed there longer than the eight days that we did. But it was back on to the glamorous lights of LA...

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Talking weddings and blogs at Caravan King's Cross

I never really wrote about my religion before blogging about my wedding. I think religion can be a sensitive subject for many and not a topic for a light-hearted food and travel blog! But I was overwhelmed with the great response to my wedding blog, particularly how much everyone enjoyed reading about the traditions of a Jewish wedding. 

While neither Mr Silver or I are particularly religious, planning a traditional wedding meant that we had to get our Jew hats on...visiting synagogues, listening to Hebrew choirs and planning a menu that wouldn't offend our Kosher relatives. Weddings are a big deal in the Jewish community but a lot of couples use the same suppliers as each other and the weddings can up being a little cookie cutter and characterless. We wanted ours to be a bit different and more contemporary and to include exciting twists that our friends had never seen before. Cue my search for Jewish wedding blogs, and my discovery of Karen Cinnamon's wonderful website, Smashing The Glass

I was instantly drawn in by the clever name of the website, which refers to the symbolic act in a Jewish wedding ceremony where the groom breaks a glass under foot to symbolise the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. 

On her website, Karen 'smashes' traditional ideas and the norm of standard Jewish weddings by providing inspiration and innovative ideas that will make a Jewish or Jew-ish wedding stand out from the crowd. Once hooked on each other's blogs, Karen and I started chatting via social media, blogs and email and were keen to meet up. 

Karen suggested Caravan, one of her favourite dining destinations, well known for their excellent coffee and brunch offerings as well as a fantastic lunch menu that fuses Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. 

The restaurant is based in a converted grain store and the decor is industrial-chic with a high unfinished ceiling, open pipe work and concrete floor. The look is similar to Caravan's neighbouring restaurant, Grain Store, which I review earlier in the year and absolutely loved!! Smells of coffee and freshly baked bread drift around the restaurant and despite the urban decor, it still manages to be homely. 

The menu is packed with unusual ingredients, many of which neither of us had heard of. I love menus like that, where you're almost certain to be trying something new. I opted for a starter and main course, whereas Karen, who prefers to graze, chose a selection of small plates. 

Karen started with heritage carrots, ras el hanout, kale, goat's cheese and sultanas. We both agreed that we would have never guessed that it was a plate of carrots! Karen enjoyed the starter, which was quite piquant but the goat's cheese helped to neutralise the spice. 

I chose smoked salmon with apple jelly. For me this dish was incredible, a generous portion with a very light dressing and the added spice of a bit of pepper. The apple jelly didn't add much in terms of flavour but it did make the plate even prettier. 

Karen and I had so much to talk about, our own weddings, developing our blogs and our love of nice hotels! We discussed the stories behind some of the real weddings that appear on her blog and some of her beautiful creative ideas for decor, stationary and food that really add personality to a wedding. 

Mr Silver grew up in North London, the hub of the Jewish community, and has many close friends who are Jewish. I grew up in leafy Buckinghamshire and attended a Church of England School and so grew up with very few Jewish friends. Now when I meet a fellow Jewish person, I immediately feel an affinity with him or her, there's shared sense of humour and culture and that comes from being part of our minority race. Karen and I didn't stop chatting from the moment we sat down until we had to rush off at the end. I have no doubt this will be the first of many ladies lunches.

Chorizo and octopus was the first of Karen's small main courses and unfortunately she found it a little too spicy to eat. I also noticed there was very little octopus and it was rather heavy on the Spanish sausage.

Her second small plate was a soft boiled duck egg, served with baba ghanoush. The Middle Eastern dish fared better and the egg opened to a perfect runny yolk complimented by the mildly spicy chilli oil and coriander.

My main course was a black sea bream with a balsamic glaze, orange pesto and a side salad of fennel. The zesty and refreshing dish went down a treat for me and the combination of flavours is a favourite of mine.

Karen needed to get back to relieve her babysitter of duty so our lunch flew by all too quickly. We really enjoyed most of the food but the end of the meal was spoilt a little as the staff were very slow to bring the bill and we were in a hurry to leave. I had been very keen to try the famous coffee from Caravan but because of our rush I had to take it away instead.

It was fantastic to meet Karen and to find out we have masses in common! I loved Caravan too, despite some patchy service, and I'm keen to come back to try the famous brunch and salted caramel hot chocolate!

Caravan King's Cross
1 Granary Square
020 7101 7661

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