Every year since I started this blog I’ve written a round up of my favourite hotel stays and experiences of the year. Though this year has been much quieter on the travel front, I didn’t want to break with tradition and I still thought I’d put together this post as I do love looking back over them.
Disclaimer: Apologies if this post offends anyone. I know it’s difficult to talk about travel in these times but do be rest assured that any international travel was done before the March lockdown and that UK travel was Covid compliant.
1. Naturhotel Forsthofgut, Austria (January)
Ah… January 2020, doesn’t it feel like a lifetime ago? That was our first trip of the year when whisked 6 month old Oscar away on his first ski trip to the Naturhotel Forsthofgut near Salzburg in Austria. I honestly can’t believe how naive we were in not knowing what a crazy year this would turn out to be!
We just loved this hotel with it’s cosy alpine interiors, juxtaposed with a sleek modern look. It’s the perfect hotel for families due to the fantastic family rooms, kids club and ski kindergarten, family spa and brilliant restaurants. We took Oscar swimming for the first time, he saw snow and we took him up the mountain for an amazing lunch.
But I also loved the fact the hotel was perfect for parents who fancied a bit of ‘me-time’ as there was also an adult only spa, gourmet restaurant and bar.
For the ski fans among you, the hotel was just steps away from the slopes of Leogang! It’s a place that will definitely be on my list as somewhere to return to once Oscar is old enough to ski.
2. Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman (February)
I am so so grateful that we got to have our big holiday in February. When we went on this trip the situation in the UK had just started to get a little questionable and I was wondering whether we should go at all… anyway we did get on that plane armed with plenty of Dettol wipes and hand sanitizer, all ready for Oscar’s first trip out of Europe. And honestly it was the right decision as we have chosen not to leave the country since and I’m glad Oscar got one really amazing holiday. We just loved the Six Senses Zighy Bay and I’d probably say it was one of my favourite hotels of all time!
Even before I knew I was pregnant with O, I decided I wanted to have a much slower style of travel now and Six Senses Zighy Bay was the perfect place to go. Staying in a gorgeous beach villa in a barefoot luxury, rustic chic style meant we could go off for our breakfast and come back to give O a morning nap while Mr S and I enjoyed the villa pool. Then we could go for our lunch in the resort whenever we fancied.
With a location that encompassed sunshine, craggy mountains and crystal clear water, it was the perfect scenery for beach trip for our family. Plus it was a relatively easy journey for some winter sun in February.
Though we never left the hotel, we were also never lacking for places to eat – one day we’d be eating International cuisine at the Summer House restaurant, another day Omani food at Spice Market, a Bedouin dining experience at the Shua Shack, an in villa barbecue and fine dining on a mountain at Sense on the Edge were all on the agenda.
I was also blown away by the number of activities available; sailing on a Dhow boat, an outdoor cinema, meeting camels and chilling at the spa were all our fun but laid back activities. There was also a hugely comprehensive kids programme.
3. The Burj al Arab, Dubai (February / March)
Often cited as the world’s only seven star hotel, the Burj al Arab with it’s unique sail like structure, fleet of Rolls Royces, lavish gold leaf interiors and butler for every room is also described as the most luxurious hotel in world. I was super curious to stay there as part of our February trip but I was concerned the glitz, glamour and luxury of the place would actually be more garish than classy. My worries were unfounded though as we ended up loving Dubai’s most famous hotel!
From the moment we stepped in and admired the 180metre atrium with it’s jumping fountains and aquarium walls, I was blown away.
Our room was an epic duplex suite, one of the most incredible I’ve ever seen! With an stunning living space, sweeping views of Dubai and lots of amazing touches such a Dyson hairdryer, an Apple Mac computer, Hermes bath products (luxury baby products for O) and a bottle of Louis Roederer on arrival.
Elsewhere in the hotel we loved the two gourmet restaurants Al Mahara (a seafood restaurant set in an aquarium) and Al Muntaha (a French restaurant at the peak of the hotel) which we visited on two nights experiencing our first date nights without O. We were also wowed by Gold on 27, an adults-only bar covered in 1,790sqm of 24-carat gold leaf.
The pool deck, a fairly new addition to the hotel, was the perfect place to spend a relaxing day. We even hired a Cabana one day which was great fun!
And finally a trip to the Talise Spa at the top of the hotel was an unmissable treat and we managed to have the pool to ourselves.
4. The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent, UK (September)
You don’t need me to tell that what started as a three week lockdown ended up going on much longer than we anticipated and with travel shelved we were left grounded. I can honestly say this didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would be as I began to miss the simple pleasures a lot more than the more extravagant ones (I dreamed of Pret coffee in the first lockdown lol). More than anything I missed my family and friends and lack of travel wasn’t a problem. However, as lockdown eased I was excited to tentatively book a few trips nearby (easier said than done as everything got booked up really quickly) and enjoy British summertime.
I actually wasn’t able to get a booking anywhere until the end of September but that did mean our trip to The Pig at Bridge Place coincided nicely with Mr S’s birthday. Regular readers will know I love the Pig group of hotels, having visited two of their properties, and the new Pig at Bridge Place is only an hour and a half drive away and has stunning family friendly rooms too.
We absolutely loved our ‘home-away-from-home’ cottage which included a full working kitchen / dining living space downstairs and two full size bedrooms upstairs.
Follow Pig fans will know, this place is all about the restaurant and operates the hotel’s signature ’25 mile menu’ meaning all the food is sourced locally, much of it in the hotel’s own kitchen garden. Kent is bountiful in produce including fantastic local wine, fish and meat.
After enjoying the incredible food guests can just slow down, take a seat or a slow wander around the place and enjoy the idyllic location.
5. The Fish, The Cotswolds, UK
I’d been wanting to stay in a treehouse for so long and I got my wish with our final stay off the year! The Fish Hotel, part of the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds, is a truly magical retreat. We absolutely loved our treehouse for three, especially being able to enjoy the twin bath tubs outside whilst Oscar napped peacefully inside.
Another highlight of the hotel was Hook, the onsite seafood restaurant serving the most incredible menu in a sophisticated Scandi-style setting.
Oscar just loved the adventure playground and the food on the kids menu!
Those are my top five hotels of year! I hope that you squeezed in some travel during less restricted times and here’s hoping for a happy 2021!